Can You Believe the Fires in California?

Actually, yes, I can.

One of my fellow residents asked me about this at lunch the other day, when we both decided to skip noon conference. A series of wildfires in California have destroyed 1500 homes and displaced close to a million people.

“Can you believe the fires in California?” he asks. Can I believe them? Absolutely.

Satellite image of wildfiresNASA satellite photograph of California wildfires, 23 Oct 2007. See very high-resolution image. Taken from Wikipedia.

This is a tragedy. People have died. People have lost their homes. People are living in shelters. Utilities are interrupted, roads are closed, and the air is unsafe.

But am I surprised? Hardly. What, exactly, did people think was going to happen as the climate warmed? Global warming is not some theoretical problem confined to the scientific journals. It’s not the extreme scenario if we continue to pollute. It’s here, it’s happening now, and it’s going to get a whole lot worse.

Was global warming the cause of the California fires? No, of course not. A lot of factors contribute to these, and wildfires are naturally occurring events. But climate change will be making the weather in California hotter and drier, increasing the chance of—and severity of—wildfires. (See LiveScience, for example.) While our president debates the economic costs of cutting carbon emissions, people will continue to lose property and life in natural disasters.

We’ve made our bed; now we’ll have to lie in it. Welcome to the 21st century.

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THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE FOR 2007

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 is to be shared, in two equal parts, between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.

Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.

Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.

Al Gore has for a long time been one of the world’s leading environmentalist politicians. He became aware at an early stage of the climatic challenges the world is facing. His strong commitment, reflected in political activity, lectures, films and books, has strengthened the struggle against climate change. He is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted.

By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC and Al Gore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is seeking to contribute to a sharper focus on the processes and decisions that appear to be necessary to protect the world’s future climate, and thereby to reduce the threat to the security of mankind. Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.

Oslo, 12 October 2007

Source: Norwegian Nobel Committee. I am ecstatic.

Please Write About the Environment Tomorrow

Blog Action Day

I wanted to let all my friends who read this about a great initiative—over 15,000 bloggers, including several top 100 blogs and many of the Google blogs, will write about the environment on October 15th. This initiative is called “Blog Action Day”:

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

This initiative is intended for all blogs. The post can be about any environmental topic bloggers wish; it can be off-topic for one’s blog or one may write about an environmental aspect of the blog’s traditional topics. Personal blogs could discuss thoughts, reflections, hopes, fears, or anything else about the environment.

Please join in and write about the environment tomorrow! Quite a few major blogs have already registered. If you like, you can register your blog though that’s not necessary. Please help bring environmental issues to the forefront of discussion.