Australia’s Deadly Inferno

I’m off to Australia in a couple of days, for the publication of Forecast there. The first stop will be Melbourne, scene of last weekend’s bushfires–the deadliest in the country’s history.

AT Global Post today I ask to what extent the disaster should be blamed on our emissions.

It begins:

After its deadliest bushfires ever, Australia is in mourning.

Television reports flicker around the world, depicting walls of flames tearing through suburban towns outside Melbourne in southeastern Australia.

The scenes of destruction are reminiscent of a war zone.

At least 135 people died in the infernos, many of them burned in their homes or overtaken in their cars as they tried to flee. The toll is expected to rise as rescue workers explore the ash-covered devastation.

“This is of a level of horror that few of us anticipated,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Australian television. “There are no words to describe it other than mass murder.”

Read more.

[update: the death toll has now reached 171]

For Which it Stands

Check out my contribution to Global Post’s package on America on the eve of a new administration.

It begins:

SAN FRANCISCO — Bangladesh may be the place in the world most threatened by climate change.

A desperately poor population—half the size of the United States’—crams into an area a little smaller than Louisiana. With most of its territory within six yards of sea level, the country is uniquely vulnerable to rising seas and stronger storm surges.

If nothing is done, much of the country could go under water. Millions will be driven from their homes. Yet, the people of Bangladesh are among those least responsible for the greenhouse gases that could one day destroy their way of life. Very few of them drive cars, run air conditioners, or consume many factory-made goods. Many don’t even have access to electricity.

In contrast, the United States is relatively insulated from the early impacts of climate change. Far wealthier, we’re well positioned to absorb shocks in the price of food, to adapt to disruptions in the weather, and to respond when diseases expand their reach. But as one of the most industrialized countries in the world, we’re disproportionally responsible for the warming of the world.

Read the rest here.