The frequency and extent of wildfires are increasing all over the world. In South America, Brazil has had the highest incidence of forest fires in recent years. In 2019, during the first year of Jair Bolsonaro’s government, fires in the Amazon made headlines around the world. For the first time on record, the smoke from the forest fires in the Amazon reached São Paulo, the largest city in South America, more than 1,600 miles to the southeast of the burned regions. And in 2020, one third of the Pantanal wetlands biome was burned (11 million acres), leaving an estimated wildlife death toll of over 17 million animals. Despite the large fires of 2019 and 2020 associated with higher deforestation rates in the Amazon, the Brazilian government has not instituted any additional public policy to fight forest fires.
San Francisco - Pacific Gas & Electric was charged Friday with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes after its equipment sparked a Northern California wildfire that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of homes last year, prosecutors said. It is the latest legal action against the nation’s largest utility, which pleaded guilty last year to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter in a 2018 blaze ignited by its long-neglected electrical grid that nearly destroyed the town of Paradise and became the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century. Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett announced the 31 charges, including 11 felonies, against PG&E, saying it failed to perform its legal duties and that its “failure was reckless and criminally negligent, and it resulted in the death of four people.”
Portland, United States - Hunter Bombadier has spent the better part of the past year protesting for an end to police violence and anti-Black racism – and supporting communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. That is how the 33-year-old member of Symbiosis, a network of left-wing organisations across the United States, was ready to help when massive wildfires broke out south of Portland, Oregon, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. “We were able to use the programming and infrastructure we already had,” Bombadier told Al Jazeera in a recent phone interview.
On this episode, we have a special report from Perilous Chronicle, about how prisoners are directly impacted by the climate change fueled wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. This audio report is based on an article on the unfolding situation, which can be read here. Next up, we have an interview with the Portland chapter of Symbiosis, an autonomous anti-capitalist group organizing dual power programs and initiatives in the Pacific Northwest. In the wake of the spreading wildfires, the group began to organize mutual aid fire relief efforts along with a network for many other organizations.
Portland, Oregon is one of the epicenters of the rebellion against police violence that broke out after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Portland has a long history of racism and abusive police. David Rovics, a composer, performer, organizer and activist, joins Clearing the FOG to speak about the history of Oregon as a "Whites Only" state, the resistance there, the murder of Michael Reinoehl, the current fires and his work to develop Eviction Defense Squads. Eleanor Goldfield joins Margaret in the first half of the show to discuss current news.
August besieged California with a heat unseen in generations. A surge in air conditioning broke the state’s electrical grid, leaving a population already ravaged by the coronavirus to work remotely by the dim light of their cellphones. By midmonth, the state had recorded possibly the hottest temperature ever measured on earth — 130 degrees in Death Valley — and an otherworldly storm of lightning had cracked open the sky. From Santa Cruz to Lake Tahoe, thousands of bolts of electricity exploded down onto withered grasslands and forests, some of them already hollowed out by climate-driven infestations of beetles and kiln-dried by the worst five-year drought on record.
For many years, even decades, before the current global pandemic, environmental advocates have waged a war against single-use plastic. We’ve been winning that war. More and more consumers are carrying reusable bags for groceries and other shopping items, asking restaurants to use more sustainable materials for take-out containers, and using fewer plastic straws. Homeowners are even rethinking and replacing plastic PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in everything from home siding to piping. As with so many other things in 2020, the full-out war against plastic has abated.
More than 3.1 million acres have burned in California this year — some 3% of the state — with many wildfires still at zero containment and months of fire season left to go. This far exceeds the previous record set in 2018, when 1.7 million acres burned, including the town of Paradise. These raging fires, some exacerbated by the blistering heat last weekend, are the direct result of climate change. The planet is currently 1.0°C to 1.2°C (about 2°F) hotter than it ought to be. This excess heat is entirely due to humans, mainly from burning fossil fuels and destroying forests.
More than half a million Oregonians have been forced to flee their homes, as wildfires continue to ravage the West Coast of the United States. Amid record-breaking temperatures, the wildfires, which have charred one million acres of land, have caused the sky to turn a terrifying shade of red, with many comparing it to Mars, hell, or the apocalypse. Air quality in Portland, the state’s largest city, is currently the lowest in the world, below even that of infamously polluted cities like Delhi and Beijing.
Pack billions of the same-age trees close together, wait for dry-lightning or another ignition source, and you have an unnatural firebomb. The cause of thousands of annual catastrophic hot fires around the world are tree farms created by timber industry clear-cutting and fire suppression to prevent timber inventory loss. I have seen it happen. About five years ago, driving home on Interstate 5 North of Lake Shasta, a dry-lightning storm began. It looked like the finger of God came down as lightning struck a conifer and it burst into smoke.
In the last 40 years, 663 disasters linked to climate change in the United States killed 14,223 people. The total cost: an estimated $1.77 trillion, a bit more than Canada's Gross National Product in 2018. Economic losses in Europe resulting from climate-linked extreme weather from 1980 to 2017 were lower, totaling $537 billion. The difference was the cost of tropical storms, which don't affect Europe but accounted for nearly half of the U.S. total costs. The report analyzed data going back to 1980 from several sources, including a database of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that catalogs climate disasters with costs of $1 billion or more and is continually updated. Only disasters with costs of that magnitude were included in the analysis.
The wildfires that exploded over the past few days in California and Colorado show clear influences of global warming, climate scientists say, and evidence of how a warming and drying climate is increasing the size and severity of fires from the California coast to the high Rocky Mountains. They may also be the latest examples of climate-driven wildfires around the world burning not only much bigger, hotter and faster, but exploding into landscapes and seasons in which they were previously rare. For tens of thousands of Californians enduring evacuations, and millions more suffering through smoke that has brought some parts of the state the worst air quality in the world, the recent fire weather has seemed almost biblical. The entire state and much of the rest of the West has been, for the last week, in the grip of a "heat dome" that has brought temperatures of 129.9 degrees Fahrenheit to Death Valley, perhaps the hottest temperatures ever recorded on the planet.
NASA satellite images of fires in eastern Siberia depict an inferno of monstrous proportions, nothing in modern history compares. And, as of July, it’s intensifying. Should people be concerned? Answer: Yes, and double yes. According to Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts: “What has been surprising is the rapid increase in the scale and intensity of the fires through July, largely driven by a large cluster of active fires in the northern Sakha Republic.”
January 6, 2020 – The Australia Institute has welcomed the Government’s $2 billion bushfire recovery fund announcement, but has questioned why regular Australian taxpayers are being asked to pay when a levy on fossil fuel producers would be a more appropriate way to raise the required funding. “Regular Australians should not be forced to pay while fossil fuel producers are being let off scot-free,” says Ebony Bennett, Deputy Director of The Australia Institute.
Catastrophic fire conditions exist today throughout much of Australia, from the southwest of Western Australia, across South Australia, to Victoria, the island state of Tasmania, and New South Wales (NSW), to the southeast of Queensland and areas of the tropical north. Another severe heat wave is moving across the continent, generating temperatures that may breach historical records that were broken only a few weeks ago. New fires are expected to ignite, while strong winds are predicted to fan the hundreds of blazes that are already burning.