Spreading like Wildfire

Twice we’ve examined the fakery from George Will about the danger of wildfire in the U.S. and its relation to global warming. It’s hard to imagine being more ignorant about this issue than George Will. Or, is he simply willing to mislead people deliberately, to expose our nation and our people to extreme danger, just to push a political agenda? Or … both?

This much is certain: George Will is completely wrong about wildfire risk in the U.S. But he is oh so right about propaganda! To create doubt about the scientific truth of increased wildfire risk, all you need to do is say whatever you want. No matter how wrong, it will be repeated by those who push your same political agenda. Doubt is their product.


Case in point: Fox “news” is repeating Will’s claim as though it had any relevance at all to the issue. Media Matters reports the whole thing, including video.

This is how denial works. Create doubt, either based on a fact which is irrelevant to the truth of the matter, or based on an outright lie. Push that doubt along, by repeating what you’ve heard from uninformed, ignorant, biased sources again and again. Whether or not it’s relevant at all, whether or not it’s even true at all, makes no difference. Just make sure the doubt spreads — like wildfire.

What I noticed of interest in the report from Media Matters was this graph, showing that acres burned per fire by wildfire in the U.S. increased from 1983 through 2008:

Acres_per_fire

I tested this data for statistically significant trend, using both least-squares and non-parametric (Theil) regression:

acre_per08

Solid blue shows a least-squares regression fit. Dashed blue shows a Theil regression fit. Both are statistically significant. The red line is a lowess smooth.

But, the graph shown in the Media Matters report is out of date, only going as far as 2008. We’ve witnessed four more years since then. And what have those years brought? This:

acre_per

Although 2012 didn’t have as many wildfires as 2006 (or many other years for that matter), it still brought tremendous wildfire damage because in 2012 the acres burned per wildfire was far more than any previous year. In fact, by any trend you care to use, a least-squares regression line, or a Theil regression line, or the lowess smooth, the trend has more than doubled acres burned per fire since 1980.

Of course, in 2012 the acres burned per fire was extra high because it also showed an upward fluctuation. But that upward fluctuation was on top of an upward trend — and when that happens we’re in real trouble.

If we give any credence to the climate science fakery constantly spewing forth from George Will and from Fox “news,” then we’re in even worse trouble.

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51 responses to “Spreading like Wildfire

  1. We’re probably far from this happening, but I wonder at what point the acres burned number will start flattening or going down — simply because there is not enough unburned (in the past 4 or so years) forest left?

    • The future doesn’t look very rosy, which is understating things a bit, but when we have nothing left to burn except dried grass, we’ll be in REAL trouble.

      • Meant to say…”when THERE IS nothing left to burn…”, otherwise it might give the impression of intent to go out and burn the countryside. Having said that there is a lot of “prescribed burning” done in Australia, especially in WA, which they do routinely every year to reduce flammable material. I don’t know to what extent they do something similar in the US, and whether the amount of prescribed or preventative burning has changed over the years. Would that be a factor to take into account?

      • No, the future does look rosy. The latest rose colour is known as “wildfire red”…

  2. Where can I find the time series data?

    [Response: Google "National Interagency Fire Center"]

  3. Thanks for following this and keeping the bastards honest providing some true media balance.

  4. A serious question from someone with no doubt about climate change (so please, don’t start calling me a heretic).

    Can any of the increase in burned acerage be attributed to a change in attitude from “Fire bad!!” to “Fire is a natural process for renewal and quite beneficial”? Are wildfires being allowed to run their course (while protecting lives and property) to a greater extent than in the past?

    Thanks

    • No. Throughout the west after a century of fire suppression efforts there are now several factors that are combining to make fires ever more complex and destructive: the fire suppression has been if anything, too effective, many forests have been impacted more by the absence of fire than the Smokey bear effect, there are accumulations of too much fuel, this is complicated by a climate change trifecta, earlier snowmelt, longer hotter summers and insect infestations leading to extensive stands of dead and dying trees. This was true for several of the 2012 fires which had extensive stands of impacted Lodgepole Pine, but these conditions extend throughout the Central and Northern Rockies well up into Canada. Add to this the vast number of people who’ve moved into the “wildland urban interface”, cutbacks in the Forest Service and the aging air tanker fleet and you can see it’s going to be loooong hot summers far into the future..

      • There is also research on the effect of pine beetle-killed trees and fires. At the moment what research I’ve read is equivocal as the trees drop their needles (reducing risk) yet dry out (I should think eventually, at least, increasing risk over time in dry areas). In any case it’s another global warming effect as warming is increasing beetle range very significantly and should interact with fires over time.

    • Funny. Those with “no doubt” don’t usually use religious descriptors like “heretic”. I won’t call you a “heretic”. “Concern troll” might be a better term.

      • Please don’t respond like this. He was asking a reasonable, polite and unloaded question so what he says should be taken at face value. This sort of stuff needs to be discussed openly and non-confrontationally right up to the point when people are obviously being seriously confrontational; trying to read too much into people’s choice of words doesn’t help.

      • Agree with Ed Davies on this one “He was asking a reasonable, polite and unloaded question so what he says should be taken at face value”. (although I, and perhaps Ed?, appreciate why you may be aggressive to such questions – trolls are real).

        A response like K Mckinney seems more appropriate (nice job Kev, always appreciate refs to PR studies).

      • Forgive my scepticism.

      • Thanks, Jake. I try to stay with the mindset that questions (even ones from known trolls, which Paul is not as far as I can tell) are great occasions to provide information. (Actually, come to think of it, I take the same attitude with respect to assertions, insinuations and snide quips, too.)

      • But I do think it worth pointing out that the use of ‘heretic’ was inappropriate. This is an idea which has been propogated by people who want to discredit those who argue for action to tackle anthropogenic climate change. It makes me sceptical of Paul’s motives in asking the question and is not conducive to reasonable discourse.

    • Paul, this is one of those cases where “Google is your friend.” I ran this search: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=wildfire+and+climate+change&btnG=&as_sdt=1%2C11&as_sdtp=

      The search engine was Google Scholar, and the search terms were “wildfire and climate change.” 37,000 results were obtained, so you can see this question has been studied a fair amount. Just on the first search page I found the following citations.

      Flannigan & Wagner, 1991, Canadian Journal of Forest Research:
      http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/x91-010#.UQpywaVOS-I

      This study investigates the impact of postulated greenhouse warming on the severity of the forest fire season in Canada. Using CO2 levels that are double those of the present (2 × CO2), simulation results from three general circulation models (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Oregon State University) were used to calculate the seasonal severity ratings for six stations across Canada. Monthly anomalies from the 2 × CO2 simulation results were superimposed over historical sequences of daily weather. Then, seasonal severity ratings of the present were compared with those for 2 × CO2 using five variations involving temperature, precipitation, and relative humidity. The relationship between seasonal severity rating and annual provincial area burned by wildfire was explored. The results suggest a 46% increase in seasonal severity rating, with a possible similar increase in area burned, in a 2 × CO2 climate.

      An early study on the question: note the term “postulated greenhouse warming”; in ’91 scientists did not, in general, claim that warming had actually been detected.

      Pinol et al, 1998, Climatic Change:
      http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1005316632105?LI=true

      A climatic series (1941 to 1994) from a Mediterranean locality of NE Spain was used to calculate two wildfire hazard indices based on daily meteorological data. Both fire hazard indices increased over this period, as a consequence of increasing mean daily maximum temperature and decreasing minimum daily relative humidity. These trends were observed in both mean values of the indices and in the number of very high risk days. Annual data on the number of wildfires and burned area also show an increase from 1968 to 1994, and are significantly correlated with both fire hazard indices. Although other non-meteorological causes (e.g., human activities, fuel accumulation) have likely contributed to the observed increase of wildfires, an effect of climatic warming on wildfire occurrence is supported by this relationship.

      “Sauce for the goose,” Spanish style.

      Westerling et al, 2006, Science:
      http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5789/940.short

      We compiled a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forests since 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data. Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.

      Tamino cited this one, if I’m not mistaken. What was true in Canada and Spain turned out to be true in the good old USA, too. And note that they explicitly considered the question of “land-use histories.”

      Scholze et al, 2006, PNAS: http://www.pnas.org/content/103/35/13116.short

      We quantify the risks of climate-induced changes in key ecosystem processes during the 21st century by forcing a dynamic global vegetation model with multiple scenarios from 16 climate models and mapping the proportions of model runs showing forest/nonforest shifts or exceedance of natural variability in wildfire frequency and freshwater supply… High risk of forest loss is shown for Eurasia, eastern China, Canada, Central America, and Amazonia, with forest extensions into the Arctic and semiarid savannas; more frequent wildfire in Amazonia, the far north, and many semiarid regions…

      Interesting because this is not empirical at all; it’s a pure modeling study (if I’m reading this aright.) The full implications of “dynamic global vegetation model” are not clear to me, but this appears to be saying (implying) that the mechanisms by which warming creates fire risk are understood to some degree, allowing quantitative projections.

      Marlon et al, 2008, PNAS
      http://www.pnas.org/content/106/8/2519.short

      It is widely accepted, based on data from the last few decades and on model simulations, that anthropogenic climate change will cause increased fire activity. However, less attention has been paid to the relationship between abrupt climate changes and heightened fire activity in the paleorecord. We use 35 charcoal and pollen records to assess how fire regimes in North America changed during the last glacial–interglacial transition (15 to 10 ka), a time of large and rapid climate changes. We also test the hypothesis that a comet impact initiated continental-scale wildfires at 12.9 ka; the data do not support this idea, nor are continent-wide fires indicated at any time during deglaciation. There are, however, clear links between large climate changes and fire activity. Biomass burning gradually increased from the glacial period to the beginning of the Younger Dryas. Although there are changes in biomass burning during the Younger Dryas, there is no systematic trend. There is a further increase in biomass burning after the Younger Dryas. Intervals of rapid climate change at 13.9, 13.2, and 11.7 ka are marked by large increases in fire activity. The timing of changes in fire is not coincident with changes in human population density or the timing of the extinction of the megafauna. Although these factors could have contributed to fire-regime changes at individual sites or at specific times, the charcoal data indicate an important role for climate, and particularly rapid climate change, in determining broad-scale levels of fire activity.

      And of course, this is the other route that you can go: look at the paleorecord. Just as in the vexed question of climate sensitivity, you can look at what paleodata you have and see if you can tease out an association between ancient temps and ancient fires. While the timescales cited don’t preclude a human influence per se, the association with “intervals of rapid climate change” don’t support a human influence.

      • The peaks and troughs of the wildfire graph, as far as a layman looking for correlations can tell, might have something to do with ENSO (although I agree that the trend does not) : http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensostuff/ensoyears.shtml has the ENSO data.
        If you check, you will see El Nino fire damage troughs in the late 80s, early 90s, 2003 and 2010; also La Nina peaks in 1988, 1996, 1999-2000, 2005-2006 and 2012.
        Of course, there are exceptions: 2004 and 2007-2008 don’t fit the pattern.
        Someone should look into this.

    • Paul,

      I think dhogaza’s reply gets at what you want: a controlled burn is not a wildfire unless it gets out of control.

      • Susan Anderson

        Unhappily, there have been too many controlled burns turning into wildfires lately. Yet another symptom …

  5. In the Poisson regression plots of fire counts in your previous post, it seems there could be a significant time trend even controlling for monthly temperatures — plausibly caused by increasing fuel loads, population density or other cumulative drivers. Any thoughts on including a time trend with such models, possibly trading off against fewer monthly terms to keep it simple?

  6. Paul, I’m not familiar with procedures or policies in the USA, but in Australia we’ve been much more aggressive in controlling initial outbreaks – well, trying to anyway. What a review of bushfire fighting showed was that a couple that had turned into monsters a few years ago had been put on ‘watch and wait’ status because of the “natural cycle” and they were nowhere near residences or farming properties at the start. And the rotten things went completely and wildly out of control. And farmers and householders many kilometres from the start lost a lot.

    So now we try to get control right from the start, even when the fire itself is inaccessible. Burning or bulldozing firebreaks in places that are accessible long before the fire gets anywhere near vulnerable or valuable properties or infrastructure.

    • That’s my take on Oz too (albeit from the not-always-trustworthy news). Our firefighters said they have been increasing their efforts to put out the smaller fires before they turn into monsters. They also said we are adapting and have learnt lessons from the past tragedies (therefore, like I believe is happening with studies on hurricane damages, future analysis may ignore that we are already adapting to threats that may (or may not) be amplified by climate change).

  7. Are wildfires being allowed to run their course (while protecting lives and property) to a greater extent than in the past?

    Nearly all wildfires are still fought. All large-scale fires are, they’re too unpredictable to let burn. Smaller fires are sometimes allowed to run themselves out after they’re contained if it’s not too dry, if there’s little wind, etc. This has been true for a couple of decades now and shoudn’t impact any analysis of acres burned over that timeframe.

    The change towards in attitude is reponsible for increased use of intentional burns (lit by firefighters!) as a tool for management, but of course acres so treated don’t count towards the wildfire total.

    There’s been plenty of myth spun around “let it burn” policies that might lead one to think that it has been responsible for some increase in huge fires, but that’s just the typical resource extraction industry response to any reasonable scientific management technique that’s not solely targetting increased logging etc.

    So, for instance, you may read that “let it burn” was responsible for the huge 1988 Yellowstone fire. The reality was that it was a horrible wildfire year in the West, the fire blew up amazingly quickly, the even-aged pine forest goes through stand-replacement burns of this time every 200-300 years, etc. It blew up so quickly that even if a large firefighting force had been available immediately (none was, firefighting resources were already stretched extremely thin across the west fighting other major fires), the chance of them containing it quickly was pretty much zero. Regardless, it was the number of wildfires being fought elsewhere and limited firefighting resources, not “let it burn”, and extremely favorable burn conditions that led to the quick expansion of the fire (which overall has been good for the park, anyway).

    But if you’ve done some casual dabbling on the internet you might’ve run across stories leading you to believe that “let it burn” has led to a notable increase in huge, uncontrolled wildfires.

  8. Like naming a hurricane, perhaps the next really big fire will be called the George Will fire.

  9. You’ve shown a statistically significant trend, but you don’t even attempt to attribute it to warming. Wildfire is one of those areas where multiple human causes are at play, including changing forest management practices. You might want to look at the excellent paper by Littell et al, 2007 “Climate and wildfire area burned in western U.S. ecoprovinces, 1916–2003″ [google it] for a longer term view. It turns out there were large areas burned in the 1920′s — as large as in the 2000′s. A clear dependence on climate emerges from their analysis, but the importance of warm temperatures as a determinant of acres burned differs from region to region.

    [Response: I've seen it. They establish a clear dependence on climate. Temperature is a major factor in the impact of climate on wildfire, both from directly drying out the land, and from altering the timing of the water cycle (snowmelt runoff timing is a huge factor). And, Littel isn't the only research on this issue. Westerling et al. established the wildfire-temperature connection directly. As for other factors being in play, of course they are. But Westerling et al. noted that the biggest changes in wildfire in the western US were in those areas *least* affected by those "other factors."

    Nobody in his right mind denies that, but deniers like George Will use it to create doubt about the effect of man-made climate change. Don't get suckered by his bullshit. And the idea that global warming has not effect, or a negligible effect, is bullshit.

    Again, the fact that the effect of temperature varies from region to region does not mean that the effect of temperature is absent or negligible. That's just more bullshit.]

  10. Will’s cherry-picking is so obvious. Couldn’t someone who lives in the USA file charges against him?

  11. Horatio Algeranon

    “Misses Doubtfire”
    – by Horatio Algeranon

    Misses Doubtfire
    Beats his breast
    Doubtsis fire
    Fox at best

    To see how he doubtsis fire watch the Mrs. Doubtfire movie trailer at 1:35

  12. I wonder what a graph of George Will’s pants fires would look? :O

  13. Back in the day, I used to think of Will as a thoughtful and well-reasoned conservative journalist. That was before he started commenting on science. So, I really wonder whether he is aware of the debunking of his opeds. Not sure where he gets his ideas. Does he actually read some of the science but have a point of view that trends and longer term data are irrelevant? His comparisons seem off-the-wall, but often seem to have some specific data that is not part of a widespread “talking point,” at least according to what I have read.

  14. Denialist reasoning is pretty much the Chewbacca defense. It’s so hard to grasp and fight back that it’s nearly invincible.

  15. Theo van den Berg

    Hello Tamino. This is not a reply to a post, but a suggestion for a new post with a possible title of

    “The benefits of being a Global Warming skeptic”

    In short, I come from a matter-of-fact no-hokus-pocus no-religion family. I have now worked in the IT industry as a systems programmer for more than 40 years supporting IBM mainframes. A very logical factual field, where a problem exists or does not, but there are no in-betweens. As a hobby, I have dabbled in Artificial Intelligence, a very exciting and possibly hopeful persuit. But since early this century, my “hobby” focus has been on Global Warming and to me the facts are clear that humanity is currently wrecking this globe. Me, constantly communicating this fact, has alienated my family, friends and even my work colleagues.

    Recently, my oldest son, has made a clear request, to keep all that negative stuff about humanity, out of our conversation. He is in a starting/stopping relationship and some of my communications are very destructive to that relationship. Not having kids cause the world is falling apart, does not please the lady. Likewise my second son now takes my GW ramblings with a grain of salt and redirects the conversation to more positive topics. He has just married his lady, is about to sign for a big mortgage and will be cooking me some grandchildren soon. In a commercial environment, politics and religion, and now, global warming, should not be discussed. The company wants to grow and make even more profit, so they would certainly not have me on their board.

    If instead, I was a champion skeptic and used my highly respected logical reasoning, that it is just a lot of crap, then I would be loved by my friends and family, and many doors would stand wide-open in my profession.

    Do any of you global warming “fanatics” have this same problem and if so, what can we do about it ?

    • Basically, don’t overplay your hand. None of us know the future (however much we may be convinced that climate change will play a big role in it.) W
      Ergo, we should not (in my opinion) be attempting to influence our children’s decisions to reproduce (or not.) We should not be haranguing them constantly, nor boring them with the latest finding about, say, the Greenland Ice Sheet.

      In other words, ‘moderation in everything’–even (or perhaps especially) Noble Causes. That doesn’t mean lukewarmism, but it does mean being (visibly) a human being, not a caricature activist.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        Well, you asked for it, Kevin

        “The Humbler”
        – Horatio’s parody of “The Gambler” (Kenny Rogers)

        You got to know when to scold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
        Know when to mock away and know when to pun.
        You never count your converts when you’re sittin’ at the table.
        There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the denyin’s done.

      • I did?!?!

        Oh, well, gratefully received!

    • Lets say you are a Christian. You believe that non-believers are going to hell. But if you want to have friends other than your fellow Christians, you don’t talk about it all the time.

      Same deal with climate change. The future of the world may depend on it, but we have to live both now and for the future, so don’t alienate people now!

      But you do raise an interesting point. How do we talk about global warming so that we influence people rather than alienating them? Tamino does it by clear logical exposition, which is what the readers of his blog want. But most people aren’t actually interested in the same way we are. So really you have to engage with people at the level they are happy with.

      For some people, if it comes up, you just need to say that you are convinced it is a serious problem. Don’t try and convince them. In future if they have to make up their mind they will remember your conviction and take it into account.

      Others might actually be interested in some aspect of global warming. If you know about it, tell them your understanding, but don’t preach. Include any unknowns or doubts. They’ll be happy to know more about the world, and they will draw the conclusion that if you could explain that one thing well, the chances are that the rest of it also makes sense.

      And if you know someone is a denialist, just don’t talk about it, other than to mock them gently ;-)

    • Theo, First, my sympathies. I think we who have grasped the magnitude of the problem can all relate. However, I would disagree that your lot would be any brighter if you were a denialist–they tend to go on and on about conspiracies and hoaxes and thereby alienate their family as well.

      Where I think that we in the reality based community come up short is that we discount the value and importance of hope, sometimes even dismissing it as self delusion. This is a mistake. Hope is integral to human psychology and human survival. Humans can persevere with little probability for success. They perish when they lose hope. And there is even a speck of wisdom in this–even a zero probability event is not impossible (per the frequentists, at least). Hope is not self delusion, but rather a courageous, conscious decision to persevere in the face of all dangers we face. It is not helped, however, by emphasizing those dangers and not concentrating on solutions.

      We need to start talking about ways forward, about what the new energy infrastructure is going to look like, about how we are going to mitigate the effects of the climae change to which we are already committed, and about how we will construct an economy and a society that does not rely on extraction of ever greater resources as prerequisite for well being. We need to construct a hopeful narrative for how we get there and how things will be better when we do. Hopeful narrative is the important thing, because narrative is how humans understand the world and hope is how they survive it. We who tend to understand the world in terms of equations and models would do well to remember this.

      [Response: Well said.]

      • Ray, you’ve made a lot of good comments over the years, but that one is probably the best. I can only echo Tamino.

      • Thank you, Tamino and Kevin. I have to say that this is advice I also need to learn to follow myself. Equations are always clearer to me than stories. My wife one time dramatically improved the smoothness of my driving by suggesting I add more cubic spline.

        [Response: Smooth move.]

      • We need to move as much forward as we can where we can establish common ground with the uncommitted: renewable energy is the most fruitful thing at the moment. I would support and I see the possibility of getting “economic conservatives” to also support the ending the subsidization of flood insurance. There are many grass roots efforts over zoning, some of which are actually using science as a basis. In each of these cases, the positive economics of these matters is what appeals to the wider audience.

        As for the rest, I fear we are just going to have to wait until the effects really do obviously lead to gigantic negative economics. It is really hard to find historical examples of societies successfully dealing with long term trends inimical to their own society: Easter Islanders really did cut down all their trees, apparently. People really do start exercise programs…AFTER a heart attack.

        In the meantime maintaining a clear, reality-driven approach as tamino and others here do is the only possible way forward IMO. But consider the story of Cassandra: No great transformational change is going to happen until the need for such change is patently, in-your-face obvious to the average person, I fear.

      • Sorry: this belongs here:
        Oh…and we Newfoundlanders really did catch almost the last cod.

  16. For hope see http://www.geofflawton.com/sq/15449-geoff-lawton
    Also just posted this with some comments on Eli’s latest post. Another title for that post might be “There’s no such thing as a free lunch!”

  17. Theo van den Berg

    Thanks for your comments guys, but I think that the effects of being pro or contra global warming go much deeper. If you truly believe that humanity is destroying our environment, then your actions will be coloured by that belief. Like it would be silly to buy a beach house in an area likely to be affected by sea level rise.

    I put my money where my mouth is. In 2007 (the first big melt ), I ran away from the city and bought my own forest. One where they can not take the trees down and suitably remote, giving protection from the hordes, when the shit hits the fan. And I say when, not if, cause so far, it does not look promising that humanity will get its act together. Yes, we will survive, but we are looking at adaptation, not mitigation. When extreme extremes are predicted to become the norm within our lifetimes, what advise do you give your friends and family. It might be a happier life, just joining those frogs waiting for the pot to boil.

    As it turns out, I am really enjoying this pioneering thing and wish that global warming had inspired me to do this much sooner. Even solved my original bugbear of overpopulation by living in the middle of nowhere.

  18. Theo, while I understand the desire to stand away from the fan when the caca hits it, in this case, the fan is truly global. When the environment degrades in the cities, it will also degrade in the countryside. The streams or wells you depend upon for water will degrade or become depleted as other sources are degraded.

    I do not feel that it would be possible to run away from this crisis even if it were desirable, for the simple reason that I do not expect my fellow humans to stand by stoically as they and their children suffer and die. They will burn the last tree, drain the last river, devour the last fish, fowl or game.

    Given that we cannot run away, the only option is to fight to avoid the worst. You can do that from the woods as easily as from the city.

  19. I wish I could do the same, Theo-san. Unfortunately, my life depends on high-tech medicine, so when civilization goes, I will go with it.

  20. Theo van den Berg

    Snarkrates, I agree that the countryside will suffer too, when the world turns pear-shaped, but there are some places better to hang out than others. The cities are full of fragile infrastructures, which can be broken just from one extreme. Sandy took power and communication from thousands. The cities are also full of millions of greedy citizens and when that infrastructure breaks, they will be at each other like a scene out of a Mad Max movie. I’ve build my own infrastructure and that can fail as well, but I am here to fix it and I have many spares. Any rain falls on my side of the mountains and has no input from anybody else. I live in a humpy, designed to flow with the weather and will leave almost no footprint, when it burns down. Because it will burn down one day, I have started designing a bunker. One of the first breaks in the fragile chain will be our food supplies, both to the cities and to country towns. I am trying to be self-sufficient with my food, but that is a big ask and requires a lot of adjustment. No silly city luxuries like TV, aircon, hairdryers and microwaves, but I do have a laptop mainly to do my IT job, but also to keep in touch with what is happening out there. And yes, I have two very old diesel 4WD utes, which do some heavy 4WD duties and get an 80km outing to town every two months. You might say, you must be rich, but I am not. Here in AUS, you can buy 2 square km of bush for less than the price of a garage in Sydney. Unfortunately most of my IT income goes on gadgets that say they will, but they won’t. I laugh at people wanting to run Sydney on solar, cause I am lucky to stay connected 24×7 with my laptop and a fridge on the side on 3kw of very good sunshine. Thus finally, running away, maybe not, but it pays to be in the right place at the right time.
    Sorry, Tamino, totally off topic other than a bit of fire, bush & bunker ? I did try to inspire you for one of your deeper posts examining the merits of being a global warming skeptic.

  21. Totally, TOTALLY OT, but perhaps Tamino will indulge me this once (and it will be once) on the grounds that there are some known music buffs on this site who may be interested. I’ve joined the WordPress crowd, blogging on music (theory and composition, mostly), kicking off with the musical parlor game “What Would Johann Do?” ‘Playas’ welcome…

    http://snowonmusic.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/wwjd-1-1/

  22. Kind of following on from what Ray said above (well said about having hope, BTW). But on the mitigation side of things. It would do well for people to get a grip on the fact that our rampant consumerism is as big a problem as digging up and burning all the fossil fuels we can get our hands on. Here’s a nice video that drives home the extent of the problem:

    The Story of Stuff

    Tall order to do anything about it though. Most of us here are part of the problem. It would take a sea change to get the western world as a whole to consider a radical lifestyle re-think. Especially in an economical climate that expects unlimited growth as a given.

  23. It would take a sea change to get the western world as a whole to consider a radical lifestyle re-think.

    But everything has to start somewhere. One of my younger relatives has a household that lives the “typical” aspirational lifestyle, but in a hot inland area. Her new house’s first quarterly power bill of over $1000 was a wakeup call – not to change their extravagant (in my view) use of airconditioning and multiple gadgetry. They basically covered the whole roof in solar panels – and now produce more power than they use. In a state that gets 25% of its power from wind anyway.

    I’m a bit annoyed that my daughter hasn’t yet taken advantage of the fantastic solar deals available here for her new house, but she is starting her own vegetable garden. I’m pretty sure they’ll be installing PV within a year or so as well. And the other daughter will do the same when she gets around to buying her own home.

    Unlimited growth? Many people are now getting to see that they can live a pretty good life that is net positive resource production, near neutral, or the most common – highly net negative resources. Once it’s common to get bragging rights in one’s social circle for claims of “paid nothing for … ” power, transport fuel, vegetables, whatever, for a month or a year it will be easier and easier for people to adopt similar strategies for their own households and lifestyles. We don’t need to live in caves gnawing on uncooked root vegetables to have sustainable or resource producing lives.