Australia’s Marine Animals Are the Fires’ Unseen Victims

As wildfires ravage Australia’s land and forests, so far killing an estimated one billion terrestrial animals, researchers worry marine and freshwater species will become invisible victims.

More than 17.1 million hectares of land have burned across the country, with the worst fires currently raging in New South Wales and Victoria, states in the nation’s southeast, according to Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy (DEE). Adrian Meder, a marine campaigner at the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), says these fires are leaving behind a huge number of charred plants and a massive amount of ash.

Though Australia is in the midst of a massive drought, when the rain inevitably returns—as it already has in some regions—this organic matter will rush into rivers and flow into coastal lakes, estuaries, and seagrass and seaweed beds.

The free-flowing silt will get into fish’s gills and block sunlight that seagrass and seaweed beds need for photosynthesis, efectively strangling them. “It’s essentially like putting a shade cloth all over the entire system,” says Leonardo Guida, a shark campaigner with AMCS.

The slurry of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen will se alga in the water to bloom. The algae will consume the oxygen in the water, suffocating species that rely on it.

The fires have also torched many forests near the coast, destroying plants that filter silt and excess nutrients. The ecosystems are adapted to the low nutrient flows from the land, Meder explains. But “these fires have effectively clear-felled areas on a scale that hasn’t been seen before.”

Many commercial aquatic species, such as flathead, snapper, prawns, and various shellfish, begin their lives in coastal lakes and seagrass and seaweed beds. These coastal habitats are also spawning areas for species, including seahorses, and their degradation could send ripples throughout the larger ecosystem, the researchers say.

Some of these effects are already being felt. In southern New South Wales and Victoria and on Kangaroo Island, the fires are causing problems for fisheries and aquaculture, according to DEE.

When the rain began in the Central Coast region of New South Wales, members of the Darkinjung, a local Aboriginal land council, set up barriers to keep the deluge of silt- and ash-filled water out of the region’s rivers, lakes, and estuaries. According to Kelvin Johnson, a senior land management officer with the Darkinjung, they have already seen some dead fish in nearby rivers.

The wildfires and their aftermath have caused and could continue to cause cultural damage as well, Johnson says.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples, Johnson says, use sacred songlines—a complex mix of celestial references, songs, oral history, and physical and cultural landmarks—to navigate terrestrial and aquatic routes. Though it’s too early to know the extent of the damage, Johnson says if the fires harm oysters, crustaceans, flathead, or mullet, that would mark a loss of these cultural touchstones.

Last week, Australia’s federal government announced an AU $50-million (US $35-million) recovery fund (part of its AU $2-billion bushfire fund) to restore and protect damaged ecosystems and wildlife. But there has been no funding dedicated to marine and aquatic areas, Guida says. DEE notes that some of those funds may go to emergency interventions, such as erosion control, to stem sediment flows into aquatic ecosystems.

The ocean and the coast need dedicated help, Guida says. Though the devastation on land is much more visible, the health of the ocean and the land are intrinsically tied together.

A Red Flag Warning has been put into effect for Central and Eastern Montana.

GREAT FALLS – A Red Flag Warning has been into effect for Central and Eastern Montana.

The Red Flag Warning went into effect around 3 am with expected wind gusts of at least 75 miles per hour.

The warning will last over the next two days and during this span, areas with little to no snow cover will be at an increased risk of being able to catch a spark.

“We have to talk about fire danger in the middle of Winter here with these Chinook wind events but it’s definitely not something that happens every year that’s for sure,” said Francis Kredensor, Meteorologist, National Weather Service Great Falls.

This week we already saw a 22-acre grass fire start-up and the strong winds will also be putting high profile vehicles at risk when traveling on highways.

If you are traveling this weekend remember to take extra precautions so you can avoid any unnecessary risks.

A couple of easy things to remember for this weekend is to avoid doing any burning during the strong winds, prepare an emergency kit should a fire spark in your area and prepare a family communications plan in case of an emergency.

You can find links to the Weather Service and the Red Flag Warning here.

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

Revealed: emails show Trump and appointees tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires

A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California.
 A massive smoke plume, powered by strong winds, rises above the the Woolsey fire on 9 November 2018 in Malibu, California. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.

The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.

The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change.

James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”.

Scientists who reviewed the exchanges said that at best Reilly used unfortunate language and the department cherry-picked data to help achieve their pro-industry policy goals; at worst he and others exploited a disaster and manipulated the data.

A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging.
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 A trail through the Tongass national forest, where Trump proposed allowing logging. Photograph: Rafe Hanson

The emails add to concerns that the Trump administration is doing industry’s bidding rather than pursuing the public interest. Across agencies, top positions are filled by former lobbyists, and dozens of investigative reports have revealed agencies working closely with major industries to ease pollution, public health and safety regulations.

A USGS spokesperson said Reilly’s emails were “intended to instruct the subject matter expert to do the calculations as quickly as possible based on the best available data at the time and provide results in clear understandable language that the Secretary could use to effectively communicate to a variety of audiences.” The agency added that it “stands by the integrity of its sience”

When forests burn, they do emit greenhouse gases. But one expert said the numbers the interior department put forth are significant overestimates. They say logging wouldn’t necessarily help prevent or lessen wildfires. On the contrary, logging could negate the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide humans are emitting at record rates.

Chad Hanson, a California-based forest ecologist who co-founded the John Muir Project and a lawyer who has opposed logging after fires, called the strategizing revealed in the emails a “blatant political manipulation of science”.

Mark Harmon, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, said while it’s normal for the department to want to quantify emissions from fires, it’s unclear whether they began the process with a particular figure in mind.

He said the resulting quotes from top officials and press releases from the department are “about what you would expect from agencies trying to justify actions they already decided to take with minimal analysis”.

Harmon added that “the effect of logging on fires is highly variable,” depending on how it is done and the weather conditions.

Not long after the interior department came up with its carbon emission estimates from the 2018 California wildfires, Trump issued an executive order instructing federal land managers to significantly increase the amount of timber they harvest. This fall, he also proposed allowing logging in Alaska’s Tongass national forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America.

Trump has also tweeted multiple times about wildfires, saying they are caused by bad land management or environmental laws that make water unavailable.

Monica Turner, a fire ecology scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “it is climate that is responsible for the size and severity of these fires”.

An Interior department spokesperson said the department’s role is to follow the laws and use the best science and that it continues “to work to best understand and address the impacts of an ever-changing climate.”

Agency officials started emphasizing wildfire emissions data as a talking point as early as August 2018.

In an email chain that month, Reilly was asked by interior’s former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes to sign off on a statement that fires in 2018 had emitted 95.6m tons of CO2.

“Interesting statistics,” Reilly responded, noting that emissions would vary based on the types of trees on the land. “…We assumed woodlands mix since we don’t currently have details on the overall land cover types involved. Any variance to the fuel type will still leave it in the range to make the comparison, however. I’ll use this one if you don’t object. Makes a good story.”

Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California.
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 Homes leveled by the Camp fire at the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park retirement community in Paradise, California. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP

Reilly, who was confirmed to his position in April 2018, later asked career scientists at the agency for updated numbers, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I need to get a number for total CO2 releases for the recent CA fires and a comparison against emissions for all energy in US … Tasker from the boss; back to me ASAP,” he said on 10 October 2018. His boss at the time was the former interior secretary Ryan Zinke.

The job fell to Doug Beard, the director of the National Climate Adaptation Science Center, and Bradley Reed, an associate program coordinator in the Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program, who responded with numbers from his team that afternoon.

In November 2018, Reilly once again asked for the same estimates of carbon dioxide generated by two devastating fires that fall in California – the Camp and Woolsey fires.

“The Secretary likes to have this kind of information when he speaks with the media,” Reilly said in a 16 November email to David Applegate, the associate director for natural hazards.

Applegate directed Beard to get the numbers, and Reilly chimed in, asking Beard: “Can you have [the scientists] gin up an estimate on the total CO2 equivalent releases are so far for the current 2 fires in CA?” He said he wanted to compare the figures to the carbon pollution caused by transportation in California.

“That would make a decent sound bite the Sec could use to put some perspective on it,” said Reilly.

Just a week earlier, the ferocious Camp fire had destroyed Paradise, California, killing dozens and becoming the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. The scenes detailed were horrific.

Conservatives have insisted that the wildfires are happening because environmentalists have overzealously encouraged the conservation of forests. Trump has battled with California – the face of the American progressive movement he opposes – over a multitude of other issues, including the state’s longstanding climate policy of requiring new cars to go farther on less fuel.

The new emails show communications staffers and political appointees using government scientists as foot soldiers in those battles.

‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said.
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 ‘There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,’ Zinke said. Photograph: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Now, under the leadership of the former lobbyist David Bernhardt, the agency has sought to remove consideration of climate change from many of its decisions, while expanding oil and gas drilling on federal land. Multiple whistleblowers have accused the department of stifling climate science.

Bernhardt in a May 2019 hearing told lawmakers there are no laws obligating him to combat climate change.

After Reilly asked his staff to calculate the wildfire emissions numbers in November, an interior spokeswoman emailed him asking for the same information so she could put out a statement from Zinke. A few days later, the agency published a press release on Zinke’s behalf, with the title “New Analysis Shows 2018 California Wildfires Emitted as Much Carbon Dioxide as an Entire Year’s Worth of Electricity.”

“There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said. “Proper management of our forests, to include small prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and other techniques, will improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, while also helping curb the carbon emissions.”

Hanson, the forest and fire ecologist, said that in addition to using the government data for political purposes, the department numbers overstated the carbon emissions from forest fires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels.

He said that the carbon emissions numbers generated by USGS and released to the public were an “overestimate” that “can’t be squared with empirical data” from field studies of post-wildfire burn sites in California. Other scientists the Guardian spoke with did not dispute the government’s data, but did find fault with the way it was presented to the public.

“The comparison of fire to electrical emissions [in California] was not explained or justified”, said Harmon, the Oregon State University scientist. “Picking other sectors would have left an entirely different image in the reader’s mind…If the comparison had been made nationally it would have been found that fire related emissions of carbon dioxide were equivalent to 1.7% of fossil fuel related emissions. So it is hard to escape the conclusion that some cherry picking was going on.”

Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the emails are another example of the administration “trying to find ways to tell a story to achieve industry goals”.

“As wildfire experts have repeatedly explained, you can’t log or even ‘rake’ our way out of this mess,” O’Neill said. “The Trump administration and the interior department are pushing mystical theories that are false in order to justify gutting public land protections to advance their pro-industry and lobbyist dominated agenda.”

Police in Australia charged 24 people for deliberately lighting bushfires

Small spot fires still burn on January 05, 2020 between Orbost and Cann River along the Princes Highway, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia — The New South Wales Police Force has taken legal action against more than 180 people for bushfire-related offenses since late last year. That number includes 24 people who deliberately lit bushfires.

Nationwide, at least 25 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes, which have so far scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, the Associated Press reports.

Wildfires are common during the southern hemisphere summer, and Australians generally take a pragmatic view of them. But this year’s fires arrived unusually early, fed by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record.

Rain and cooler temperatures on Monday were bringing some relief to communities battling the fires. But the rain was also making it challenging for fire crews to complete strategic burns as they tried to prepare for higher temperatures that have been forecast for later in the week.

Ecologists say half a billion animals may have been killed by Australia wildfires: ‘Entire species are being wiped out’

Ecologists at the University of Sydney are estimating that nearly half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s unprecedented and catastrophic wildfires, which have sparked a continent-wide crisis and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in desperation.

News Corp Australia reported Wednesday that “there are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began.”

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“Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been lost since September,” according to News Corp. “That figure is likely to soar following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the [New South Wales] South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded.”

The horrifying figures come as images and videos of animals suffering severe burns and dehydration continue to circulate on social media.

Mark Graham, an ecologist with the National Conservation Council, told the Australian parliament that “the fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.”

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Koalas in particular have been devastated by the fires, Graham noted, because they “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away.”

As Reuters reported Tuesday, “Australia’s bushland is home to a range of indigenous fauna, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats, and echidnas. Officials fear that 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country’s northeast coast, or between 4,500 and 8,400, have been lost in the recent fires.”

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Half a billion animals perish in Australian bushfires

A staggering 500 million animals are believed to have died in bushfires since September.

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Australia’s coal-touting Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced growing scrutiny for refusing to take sufficient action to confront the wildfires and the climate crisis that is driving them. Since September, the fires have burned over 10 million acres of land, destroyed more than a thousand homes, and killed at least 17 people—including 9 since Christmas Day.

On Thursday, the government of New South Wales (NSW) declared a state of emergency set to take effect Friday morning as the wildfires are expected to intensify over the weekend.

“We’ve got a lot of fire in the landscape that we will not contain,” said Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service. “We need to make sure that people are not in the path of these fires.”

Blood-red skies loom over southeast Australia after deadly bushfires bring ‘one of worst days ever’

(CNN)Skies turned blood red above parts of southeast Australia on Sunday as residents sought refuge from deadly bushfires, and a senior firefighter described the previous 24 hours as “one of our worst days ever.”

Photographs of Pambula, in the state of New South Wales, showed an eerie, smoke-filled landscape, with deserted streets illuminated by an otherworldly, blazing red sky.
About 30 kilometers (19 miles) south, blood-red skies loomed over the town of Eden. There, hundreds of residents were seeking shelter on the beach on police advice, one Eden resident told CNN. Many houses have been destroyed in the area, and officials said they feared there would be fatalities.
A total of 146 fires are burning across the state, with 65 uncontained, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS). About 2,700 firefighters were tackling the blazes on Sunday.
“Conditions have eased today and firefighters have gained the upper hand on several dangerous fires. There are no total fire bans in place for Monday,” the NSWRFS posted on Twitter.
A blood-red sky looms over Eden, New South Wales, on January 5, 2020.

Earlier, NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told a news conference that Saturday was “one of our worst days ever on record.”
A “considerable number” of properties were lost across NSW on Saturday, Fitzsimmons said, adding that a 47-year-old man had died from cardiac arrest while fighting a fire threatening his friend’s home in Batlow. The man is the 24th person to die nationwide this fire season.
Separately, four firefighters in NSW were hospitalized due to smoke inhalation, heat exhaustion and hand burns. They have since been released.
Fitzsimmons said that conditions could worsen again in the coming days. “Today will be a relief — psychological relief but not what we need,” he said.
Fire-induced thunderstorms over New South Wales, seen from a flight on January 5, 2020.

Australia’s flag carrier Qantas canceled all flights to and from the country’s capital, Canberra, on Sunday due to smoke and hazardous weather conditions.
An airline passenger spotted huge clouds caused by the fires over NSW during a flight from Sydney to Melbourne on Sunday. They are pyrocumulonimbus clouds — fire-induced thunderstorms — which form when hot air rises from a ground based fire, according to CNN meteorologists. The air cools and condenses as it ascends, causing a cloud to form.
“This process is similar to the development of a thunderstorm,” said CNN Weather’s Derek Van Dam. “As such, a downdraft forms within the base of the pyrocumulonimbus cloud, allowing for embers to be picked up and carried to form new fires.”
In the neighboring state of Victoria, three fires have combined to form a single blaze bigger than the New York borough of Manhattan. The fires joined overnight Friday in the Omeo region, creating a 6,000-hectare (23 square mile) blaze, according to Gippsland’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.
The country’s capital, Canberra, smashed its heat record of 80 years, reaching 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday afternoon, according to the country’s Bureau of Meteorology. In the western Sydney suburb of Penrith, the mercury climbed to 48.9 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) — setting a new record for the whole Sydney basin.
Victoria has declared a state of disaster, and NSW has declared a state of emergency — both granting extraordinary powers and additional government resources to battle the fires.
It marked the first time Victoria has activated these powers since the 2009 Black Saturday fires, the deadliest bushfire disaster on record in Australia with 173 people killed and 500 injured.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was another difficult night across the country — in particular in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
Morrison — who in December faced criticism for taking a vacation to Hawaii during the fires — said the government’s response was the most significant and comprehensive ever to a natural disaster.
An eerie, smoke-filled landscape in Pambula, New South Wales, on January 5, 2020.

“I believe that’s where we need to focus our attention, and we are seeking to communicate that directly to Australians to ensure they have comfort that the response is matching the need,” he said.
“Sure there’s been a lot of commentary, there’s been plenty of criticism. I’ve had the benefit of a lot of analysis on a lot of issues. But I can’t be distracted by that, and the public, I know, are not distracted by that.
“What they need us to focus on, all of us actually, all of us focusing on the needs there and getting the support where it needs to go. That’s very much where my focus is, and that’s where it will continue to be.”
In a news release on Sunday, the Australia Defence Force (ADF) said it was significantly increasing its support in fighting the massive fires and had called up 3,000 army reserve forces and others with specialist capabilities.
An Australian army soldier helps people evacuate onto a Black Hawk helicopter in Omeo, Victoria on January 5, 2020.

They will also provide aircraft, ships and its largest vessel, HMAS Adelaide, with helicopter landing capabilities.
One priority for the ADF will be to assist in evacuations of people in isolated communities. HMAS Adelaide, the Australian Navy’s largest ship, arrived off the coast of Eden on Sunday as evacuations took place there.
Some ADF bases will be opened to house those displaced by the fires. Troops will also help move material and supplies, support recovery centers, and aid in fire trail clearance.
New Zealand and Singapore have also offered military support, and the ADF is assessing where they can help, the news release said.
Members of the UK royal family sent their “thoughts and prayers” to Australians affected by the massive bushfires through social media accounts on Saturday. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip issued a message of condolence expressing thanks to emergency services. “I have been deeply saddened to hear of the continued bushfires and their devastating impact across many parts of Australia,” the Queen wrote in a statement published on Twitter.
On their Instagram account, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were “shocked and deeply saddened” by “the fires that are destroying homes, livelihoods and wildlife across much of Australia,” posting a photo of a kangaroo with a burning building in the background.
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex urged support for those affected by the environmental crisis in an Instagram post linking to a number of Australian fundraisers, such as the Australian Red Cross, the Country Fire Authority and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Half a Billion Animals May Have Been Killed by Australia Wildfire

Ecologists at the University of Sydney are estimating that nearly half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s unprecedented and catastrophic wildfires, which have sparked a continent-wide crisis and forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in desperation.

News Corp Australia reported Wednesday that “there are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began.”

“Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles have been lost since September,” according to News Corp. “That figure is likely to soar following the devastating fires which have ripped through Victoria and the [New South Wales] South Coast over the past couple of days, leaving several people dead or unaccounted for, razing scores of homes and leaving thousands stranded.”

Mark Graham, an ecologist with the National Conservation Council, told the Australian parliament that “the fires have burned so hot and so fast that there has been significant mortality of animals in the trees, but there is such a big area now that is still on fire and still burning that we will probably never find the bodies.”

Koalas in particular have been devastated by the fires, Graham noted, because they “really have no capacity to move fast enough to get away.”

As Reuters reported Tuesday, “Australia’s bushland is home to a range of indigenous fauna, including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, possums, wombats, and echidnas. Officials fear that 30 percent of just one koala colony on the country’s northeast coast, or between 4,500 and 8,400, have been lost in the recent fires.”

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The new normal, except it isn’t.

It’s going to get much worse.

And the longer we delay climate action, the worse it will gethttps://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=12297648 

Half a billion animals perish in Australian bushfires

A staggering 500 million animals are believed to have died in bushfires since September.

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Claire Gorman@ClaireGorm

I am mourning the loss of wildlife and of the irreparable changes that are happening on the Australian continent. Entire species are being wiped out. https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/half-a-billion-animals-perish-in-bushfires/news-story/b316adb4f3af7b1c8464cf186ab9f52c 

Fears entire species of plants and animals lost to bushfires

There are real concerns entire species of plants and animals have been wiped out by bushfires following revelations almost 500 million animals have died since the crisis began.

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Australia’s coal-touting Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced growing scrutiny for refusing to take sufficient action to confront the wildfires and the climate crisis that is driving them. Since September, the fires have burned over 10 million acres of land, destroyed more than a thousand homes, and killed at least 17 people — including 9 since Christmas Day.

On Thursday, the government of New South Wales (NSW) declared a state of emergency set to take effect Friday morning as the wildfires are expected to intensify over the weekend.

“We’ve got a lot of fire in the landscape that we will not contain,” said Rob Rogers, deputy commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service. “We need to make sure that people are not in the path of these fires.”

Half a Billion Animals May Have Been Killed by Australia Wildfire

Thousands of koalas feared dead in raging Australia wildfires, officials say

Thousands of koalas are feared to have died in the wildfires raging in parts of Australia, with officials saying they believe up to a third of the iconic marsupial population may have been lost.

The mid-northern coast of New South Wales was home to up to 28,000 koalas before the blazes began scorching the region last month.

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Sussan Ley, Australia’s environment minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday that “up to 30 percent of their habitat has been destroyed.”

In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia. Around 200 wildfires were burning in four states, with New South Wales accounting for more than half of them, including 60 fires not contained. (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP)

In this image made from video taken on Dec. 22, 2019, and provided by Oakbank Balhannah CFS, a koala drinks water from a bottle given by a firefighter in Cudlee Creek, South Australia. Around 200 wildfires were burning in four states, with New South Wales accounting for more than half of them, including 60 fires not contained. (Oakbank Balhannah CFS via AP)

“We’ll know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made,” she added. “In the meantime, I’ve convened experts, scientists, people who understand koala behavior, to work out how we build those corridors in the habitats and how best we reintroduce koalas from the hospitals.”

KOALA RESCUED FROM AUSTRALIA WILDFIRES DIES AFTER INJURIES WORSEN

Koalas are native to Australia and are one of the country’s most beloved animals. However, their natural habitat, Eucalyptus forests, has been threatened by wildfires and a years-long drought.

The dramatic rescue of a koala in New South Wales last month captured the hearts and attention of people around the world. A video of a woman pulling the badly burned, wailing koala from a brushfire and dousing it with water went viral.

But the severely injured koala, named Lewis by Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, woud die days later.

Images shared on social media in recent days showed koalas drinking water out of tubs and bottles after being rescued.

“I get mail from all over the world from people absolutely moved and amazed by our wildlife volunteer response and also by the habits of these curious creatures,” Ley said, adding that other native animals have also been heavily impacted by the fires.

AUSTRALIA WILDFIRES EXPECTED TO WORSEN AS ANOTHER ‘EXTREME HEAT WAVE’ LOOMS

Officials said more than 12.35 million acres of land have burned nationwide during the crisis. Nine people – including two firefighters – have been killed and more than 1,000 homes destroyed.

The fire danger in New South Wales – just north of Sydney – was upgraded to “severe” Saturday, as temperatures topped 100 degrees in parts of the region.

In this Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, photo, NSW Rural Fire Service crew fight the Gospers Mountain Fire as it impacts a property at Bilpin, New South Wales state, Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday, Dec. 22, apologized for taking a family vacation in Hawaii as deadly bushfires raged across several states, destroying homes and claiming the lives of two volunteer firefighters.(Dan Himbrechts/AAP Images via AP)

In this Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, photo, NSW Rural Fire Service crew fight the Gospers Mountain Fire as it impacts a property at Bilpin, New South Wales state, Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday, Dec. 22, apologized for taking a family vacation in Hawaii as deadly bushfires raged across several states, destroying homes and claiming the lives of two volunteer firefighters.(Dan Himbrechts/AAP Images via AP)

The high temperature in Sydney was expected to reach 88 degrees Sunday and 95 on Tuesday.

Canberra, Australia’s capital, peaked at 100 degrees Saturday, with more oppressive heat expected throughout next week.

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The hot weather, which has come in the first part of Au

Shelter Animals Displaced By California’s Wildfires Are In Desperate Need Of Safe Homes

The state of California is currently on fire in several locations. As a result, residents are having to deal with blackouts and evacuations. The wildfires are a result of high winds – and they’ve already ravaged hundreds of acres of land, destroyed dozens of structures, and injured at least two firefighters. Of course, the human residents aren’t the state’s only affected victims. As reported by ABC 10, displaced cats and dogs rescued from the blaze are desperately in need of safety and homes.

Over the weekend, the Kincade Fire blazed through Sonoma County located in northern California. As a result, the local animal shelters had to evacuate. The Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) stepped in and took in the 20 dogs and 22 cats who were in need of shelter. Now, the SPCA is asking people to adopt pets.

“These animals were all in [the Humane Society of Sonoma County’s] care or already available for adoption prior to the fires, so there is no risk these animals were originally displaced by the fires,” the Sacramento SPCA posted to a Facebook post.

The pets looking for homes range in age, from little kittens to a 19-year-old cattle dog mix named Ace. The SPCA will be updating more information on their website about each animal, they’re just waiting for all of them to receive their medical check-ups. For now, you can visit the nonprofit’s adoption page and see what information is there.

Adopting vulnerable pets rescued from natural disasters is always one way of helping a community deal with the aftermath. However, the animals in California aren’t the only ones needing loving forever homes.

Also, please note that because of volume , we are unable to respond to individual comments, although we do watch them in order to learn what issues and questions are most common so that we can produce content that fulfills your needs. You are welcome to share your own dog tips and behavior solutions among yourselves, however Thank you for reading our articles and sharing your thoughts with the pack!

As Earth faces climate catastrophe, US set to open nearly 200 power plants

A new climate report, Volume II of the National Climate Assessment, says that the effects of global warming are intensifying and getting costlier. USA TODAY

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Powerful hurricanes. Record-breaking heatwaves. Droughts that bring ruin to farmers. Raging forest fires. The mass die-off of the world’s coral reefs. Food scarcity.

To avoid a climate change apocalypse, carbon dioxide emissions need to fall by as much as 45% from 2010 levels by 2030,  according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Instead, utilities and energy companies are continuing to invest heavily in carbon-polluting natural gas. An exclusive analysis by USA TODAY finds that across the United States there are as many as 177 natural gas power plants currently planned, under construction or announced. There are close to 2,000 now in service.

All that natural gas is “a ticking time bomb for our planet,” says Michael Brune, president of the Sierra Club. “If we are to prevent runaway climate change, these new plants can’t be built.”

It also doesn’t make financial sense, according to an analysis by the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based think tank that focuses on energy and resource efficiency. By the time most of these power plants are slated to open their doors, the electricity they’ll provide will cost more to produce than clean energy alternatives.

By 2023, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the average cost of producing a megawatt hour of electricity will be $40.20 for a large-scale natural gas plants. Solar installations will be $2.60 cheaper and wind turbines will be $3.60 cheaper.

Catastrophic effects ahead unless we make changes

The world needs to reduce its carbon emissions rapidly – by 50% within the next decade – or face the prospect of a global temperature rise of more than 2.7 degrees within decades, said Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Pennsylvania State University.

That’s enough warming to kill off the coral reefs, melt large parts of the ice sheets, inundate coastal cities and to yield what Mann calls “nearly perpetual extreme weather events.”

“By any definition, that would be catastrophic,” he said.

We’re seeing the start of it now. There’s strong data to suggest that global warming is already causing changes in the jet stream and other weather systems. That can cause hurricanes to slow down and wreak devastation in single areas for longer, said Marshall Shepherd, director of the atmospheric sciences program at the University of Georgia.

“With Dorian, we saw it stall over the Bahamas. We saw that with Harvey in Houston and Florence in the Carolinas,” he said.

More gas = more carbon dioxide

Adding dozens of new natural gas plants in the coming decades is going in the exact opposite direction of what we need, clean energy advocates say.

“If the current pipeline of gas plants were to get built, it would make decarbonizing the power sector by 2050 nearly impossible,” said Joe Daniel, a senior energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

An analysis by the Rocky Mountain Institute published Monday looked at 88 gas-fired power plants scheduled to begin operation by 2025. They would emit 100 million tons of carbon dioxide a year – equivalent to 5% of current annual emissions from the U.S. power sector.

The institute calculated the cost of producing a megawatt-hour of electricity of a clean energy portfolio in each state that would provide the same level of power reliability as a gas plant. It determined that building clean energy alternatives would cost less than 90% of the proposed 88 plants.

It would also save customers over $29 billion in their utility bills, said Mark Dyson, an electricity markets analyst who co-authored the Rocky Mountain Institute paper.

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“If you look at how things pencil out, we’re at a tipping point,” he said. “Here’s evidence that the switch from gas to clean energy makes economic sense and is compatible with utility companies’ need for reliability.”

More power plants coming to a state near you

USA TODAY compiled its own list of 177 planned and proposed natural gas plants through August, using data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, which tracks power plants that have been officially announced, and the Sierra Club, which tracks proposed plants.

Of those, 152 have a scheduled opening date of between 2019 and 2033, though only 130 have specific locations chosen. An additional 25 are part of companies’ long-term planning processes and don’t have estimated opening dates yet.

The plants are a mix of large-scale installations meant to provide lots of electricity much of the day and smaller plants used for short periods when demand for energy is particularly high.

Texas has the most proposed plants, with 26. Next is Pennsylvania with 24, North Carolina with 12, Florida with 10, California with nine and Montana with eight.

Not all will be built. Power companies are required to estimate future needs and plan as much as 15 years out, and this list includes plants which the companies may eventually decide they don’t need.

But the numbers show that greenhouse gas-producing natural gas is still on the table for many power producers, despite warnings that the energy sector needs to be quickly moving away from carbon-producing power sources.

Another concern raised by clean energy advocates is that once built, natural gas plants typically have a 30-year lifespan. Many of these plants will end up as “stranded assets,” unused because they’re too expensive to run, while consumers will still be on the hook for the cost of the construction, said Daniel.

It’s also true that power companies are building out solar and wind generation. Over the next two years, clean energy is expected to be the fastest-growing source of U.S. electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Even so, that will only bring the share of wind and solar in the United States electricity market to slightly under 11%.

By 2020, EIA expects natural gas will make up about 36% of U.S. electricity generation. In comparison, coal is at 23%, nuclear at 20% and hydroelectric at 7%.

Why are we still building natural gas plants?

If natural gas plants contribute to global warming and most of them are going to be more expensive, why are so many still on the drawing board? The reasons are varied.

Energy companies say gas is more reliable than renewables and cheaper and less carbon polluting than the coal it often replaces.

But renewable energy advocates say the incentives for utilities and energy producers aren’t always in line with those of consumers.

For regulated utilities, one of the easiest ways to make money is to invest capital in large building projects, such as natural gas plants. Regulators allow utilities to set rates so that they get a return on invested capital of about 10%, Dyson said. That gives energy companies an incentive to build as much as possible.

In contrast, utilities that procure wind and solar power via commonly available purchase contracts earn no returns for these projects.

“There’s a perverse incentive for some utilities to build as big as they can, rather than to build as smart as they can,” said Ben Inskeep, an analyst with EQ Research, a clean energy policy consulting firm in Cary, North Carolina.

Companies also focus on reliability. Duke Energy, a power company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has more than 7 million customers. As it transitions away from coal, it has embraced natural gas, announcing last week that it was considering as many as five new gas plants.

Today 5% of Duke Energy Carolinas’ electricity comes from solar, a percentage it plans to increase to between 8% and 13% by 2034, according to its most recent filing with state regulators. The state has almost no wind energy because of laws restricting the placement of wind turbines.

“We know our customers and communities want cleaner energy, and we’re doing our part to deliver that,” said spokeswoman Erin Culbert.

But she emphasized that Duke doesn’t believe solar and wind can be cost-effective and reliable enough to meet all its customers’ energy needs.

“Continued use of natural gas is key to our ability to speed up coal retirements, and its flexibility helps complement and balance the growing renewables on our system,” she said.

Government regulators favor gas

Another hurdle for renewable energy, some supporters say, is a combination of state-level rate-setting requirements and regional market rules that have led to a compensation structure for companies that favors coal and natural gas.

Who sets those rules depends on where the plant is.

In states where retail utilities own their own power generation facilities, the rates are approved by public utility commissions. Commissioners are typically appointed by state governors.

The process is less clear in the Midwest, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, California, and Texas, where utilities buy and sell their power through organized markets run by regional transmission organizations.

These are run by boards that by law must be independent. They are typically composed of people from the business and energy world and are chosen by complex systems. In some cases they are voted on by existing board members.

The boards set the rules, which are then approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Ultimately these commissions and boards are supposed to decide what’s cost-effective for both the companies and ratepayers, said Scott Hempling, an adviser to regulators, law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and author of two books on public utility law and regulation.

“A utility’s preference for profit is neither surprising nor wrong. But it’s not the utility’s job to balance its self-interest against the customers’ interest. It’s the job of regulators to constrain the private profit impulse with public interest principles,” he said.

It’s not news that there is bias towards profit, which can disadvantage customers. “The question is why it’s allowed to persist,” he said.

There are signs that what clean energy advocates have called an automatic rubber stamp for natural gas is beginning to change.

In April, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission denied a permit for a southern Indiana utility named Vectren South to build a $780 million natural gas plant. The regulators weren’t convinced the utility had chosen the best option to ensure its customers weren’t in danger of being “saddled with an uneconomic investment” in the future, it said.

In Michigan last year, local utility DTE won a bruising battle to build a 1,100 megawatt natural gas plant that will open in 2022 and cost nearly $1 billion. Critics complained the projections DTE used to make its case to regulators made wind and solar look less attractive.

The three members of the Michigan Public Service Commission, who are appointed by the governor, ended up approving the project. But the board’s 136-page opinion was not complimentary toward the utility, noting it was “concerned” about the constraints DTE built into the models it used to estimate whether renewable energy would be a viable alternative.

Some utilities choose clean energy

Not every utility company is ignoring warnings about the planet’s health, or customers’ pocketbooks.

Michigan utility Consumers Energy decided last year not to build new natural gas plants and instead focus on a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy and batteries, which it says will be cheaper for customers.

The company, which has more than 4 million customers, plans to use 90% clean energy by 2040, said Brandon Hofmeister, senior vice president for governmental, regulatory and public affairs.

When the utility was putting together its existing energy plan, it took a new approach, balancing the cost to consumers and to the Earth.

“Honestly, there was some pushback. There were several pretty tense meetings,” Hofmeister said. “You’d hear someone ask in a meeting, ‘Is that really the right thing to do for Michigan and the planet?’”

A similar story played out in Indiana, one of the nation’s top 10 coal-producing states. A few years ago, Northern Indiana Public Service Company, based in Merrillville, Indiana, was getting ready to retire its old, expensive coal-fired power plants. An analysis in 2016 said they should be replaced with natural gas plants.

To be on the safe side, Joe Hamrock, president and CEO, checked again last year.

“We knew this is moving pretty fast and we needed to take a new look. A 30-year bet on a gas plant is a long time,” he said.

When his team sat down to look at the 90 project proposals that had come in, the answer came as a shock – natural gas wasn’t even in the picture anymore.

“The surprise was how dramatically the renewables and storage proposals beat natural gas,” Hamrock said. “I couldn’t have predicted this five years ago.”

The company is now set to retire all its coal-fired power plants, which produce 65% of its electricity today, and replace them all with renewables. In nine years, it expects to get 65% of its electricity from renewables and 25% from natural gas.

What will U.S. energy look like in the future?

Electricity generators counter that it’s impossible to get entirely away from natural gas because solar and wind are intermittent. When it comes time to turn on the lights, consumers can’t wait for the sun to come up or the wind to blow.

“We believe that natural gas has a role in a clean future because we believe it will be needed to balance out renewables,” said Emily Fisher, general counsel for the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C. EEI is the trade association that represents investor-owned electric utilities in the United States.

“But we’ve also got to make sure the power supply stays affordable and reliable,” she said.

Electricity generators have a point, say energy analysts who aren’t necessarily in the pro-renewable camp. But those same analysts suggest a lot less natural gas is needed than we’re using today.

“The cheapest way to reduce carbon is to replace coal with a combination of renewables and as little natural gas as you can get by with to keep the lights on,” said Arne Olson, a senior partner with Energy and Environmental Economics, a San Francisco-based energy consulting firm that works with multiple states to craft energy plans.

That makes getting to the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change – cutting greenhouse gas emissions at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025 – not quite so daunting. The United States initially pledged to join the agreement but President Donald Trumpsaid in 2017 that the nation would not uphold the deal.

In fact, the electric industry is already undergoing a major restructuring. Largely because of the rapid rise of cheap natural gas, coal went from producing almost 45% of U.S. electricity in 2010 to a predicted 23% next year, according to EIA data.

The energy sector has shown it can move quickly when the prices are right, said Dyson of the Rocky Mountain Institute. And, he said, it’s imperative that a similar shift happen now with natural gas – and fast.

“Constructing these gas plants is incompatible with a low carbon future,” he said.

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