I started reading an article about what’s going on in Tasmania and Australia. The apocalyptic heat. The fires. The dying animals. The dying giant kelp. Dead koalas falling from the trees. I got about halfway through the article and couldn’t read anymore.
I am trying to keep my hopes up but it’s hard going. We are having a non-winter. A few days of cold, a bit of snow, then the temperature zips up to shirtsleeve levels again. And still, the idiot in the White House keeps making it worse. Then there’s the moron in Brazil burning down the rain forest because things aren’t bad enough.
That was the most depressing newspaper article I’ve ever read. If you have any doubt that climate change is real, check it out for yourself. Following is just a piece of it. If you are subscribed to the Washington Post, you can use the link under the title to read the whole thing. Otherwise, these are sections. Maybe as much as you can handle.
BRUNY ISLAND, Tasmania — Even before the ocean caught fever and reached temperatures no one had ever seen, Australia’s ancient giant kelp was cooked.
Rodney Dillon noticed the day he squeezed into a wet suit several years ago and dove into Trumpeter Bay to catch his favorite food, a big sea snail called abalone. As he swam amid the towering kelp forest, he saw that “it had gone slimy.” He scrambled out of the water and called a scientist at the University of Tasmania in nearby Hobart. “I said, ‘Mate, all our kelp’s dying, and you need to come down here and have a look.’
“But no one could do anything about it.”
Australia is a poster child for climate change. Wildfires are currently raging on the outskirts of its most iconic city and drought is choking a significant portion of the country.
Nearly 100 fires are burning in New South Wales, nearly half of them out of control. Residents of the state, where Sydney sits, wear breathing masks to tolerate the heavy smoke, which has drifted more than 500 miles south to the outskirts of Melbourne.
This is happening even though average atmospheric temperatures in Australia have yet to increase by 2 degrees Celsius.
The ocean is another story.
A stretch of the Tasman Sea right along Tasmania’s eastern coast has already warmed by just a fraction below 2 degrees Celsius, according to ocean temperature data from the Hadley Center, the U.K. government research agency on climate change.
The bats, called flying foxes, cannot survive temperatures above 42 degrees Celsius. Another 10,000 black flying foxes, a different species, also died. Bodies plopped into meadows, backyard gardens and swimming pools.
A month later, more than 100 ringtail possums fell dead in Victoria when temperatures topped 35 degrees Celsius for four consecutive days.
The warming waters off Tasmania are not just killing the giant kelp, but transforming life for marine animals.
Warm-water species are swimming south to places where they could not have survived a few years ago. Kingfish, sea urchins, zooplankton and even microbes from the warmer north near the mainland now occupy waters closer to the South Pole.
“There’s about 60 or 70 species of fish that now have established populations in Tasmania that used not to be here,” said Craig Johnson, who leads the ecology and biodiversity center at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. “You might see them occasionally as sort of vagrants, but they certainly did not have established populations.”
But the region’s indigenous cold-water species have no place to go. Animals such as the prehistoric-looking red handfish are accustomed to the frigid water closer to the shore. They cannot live in the deep-water abyss between the bottom tip of Tasmania and Antarctica.
“It’s a geographic climate trap,” Johnson said. Marine animals unique to Australia — the wallabies and koalas of the deep — could easily vanish. “So there’s going to be a whole bunch of species here that we expect will just go extinct.
“You know, it’s not a happy story.”
“It’s getting hotter and that heat, it’s affecting not only the giant kelp, but the color of the abalone is changing,” Dillon said.
“We just take too much out of the Earth and we don’t put it back,” Dillon said. “Australia is one of the worst if you know about coal. How much coal do we need to dig up? And we’re too stupid to see what this is causing . . . because we make money out of it.”
And now, Australia is caught in a record-breaking heatwave.
The heartbreaking video went viral late in November: A koala bear slowly walked through wildfire.
The marsupial, euthanized days later because its burns didn’t heal, was just one victim of the many wildfires that started burning in the Australian spring and are still going at the start of summer.
At least nine people have died and 700 homes have been destroyed. One woman in New South Wales took a few of her house’s charred remains to Australia’s Parliament in early December with a message for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“Morrison, your climate crisis destroyed my home,” Melinda Plesman wrote in bold red letters.
Morrison is an ardent supporter of coal excavation in a country that produced 44 million tons in 2017. Australia is the world’s leading exporter of coal, mostly to Asia, and the fourth-largest producer.
A few weeks before the koala — nicknamed Lewis — was euthanized, the newly re-elected prime minister took his advocacy for coal to a new level. He pledged to outlaw environmental demonstrations, calling the protests a “new breed of radical activism” that is “apocalyptic in tone.”
One month later, a Sydney Morning Herald headline described conditions in Australia’s most iconic city as “apocalyptic,” as residents choked in a smoky haze from bush fires. A coalition of doctors and climate researchers declared it a public health emergency.
The bush fires have arrived amid record heat and particularly dry conditions that experts say are being made more common thanks to climate change.
The country experienced a five-day heatwave in the state of Victoria that shattered records. The Friday before Christmas was the hottest December day on record, measuring 47.9 degrees Celsius at the Horsham weather station.
Rescuers searching for human survivors in the scorched remains of forests have discovered koalas, a creature found only in Australia, burned to death in eucalyptus trees where they sought shelter. At the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where Lewis was put down, it was called “a national tragedy.”
The tragedy playing out underwater is much worse, but invisible to most.
There is quite a bit more and these are clips, not the entire piece. If for some reason you are still convinced that this is some kind of overblown rhetoric by a crazy bunch of scientists, take a look at maps and see if you are living in an area that has already met or exceeded the 2 degree Celsius limit. This area already has. New Jersey has.
So I’m going to try and not think about this right now. I’m going to try to believe that we can fix this. Somehow, some way. Because the time we thought we had isn’t really there. This is terrifying information and it affects ALL of us. You can make yourself a billionaire, but when the world is on fire, your money won’t make the flames disappear.