* As I’m writing, the air is putrid and acrid. A fog of death has cloaked Washington, Oregon and California. Climate fires have incinerated about five million acres – a once-in-a-generation-event – and they are far from over.
The enormity and ferocity of these man-made, global heating fires is gobsmacking. The climate has reached a planetary tipping point. The only unknown is how we survive it – especially with Republicans intoxicated on Trumpism, recklessly reassured by Rupert Murdoch’s science-denying talking heads.
*My upcoming book Gen Z Emergency has chronicled the hideous 2019-2020, worst-ever, Australian climate fires. More than one billion of our brethren and sistren, the animals, were cremated. This does not include frogs and insects, which would have elevated that number into several billions.
In 2020, the heat in the Arctic, particularly on the Russian side, has been unrelenting. From January to April, Russia was 11F above normal. On May 22, Khatanga, Siberia (in the Arctic Circle), recorded 78F, about 46F above normal. On the summer solstice, June 20, the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk (~3,000 miles from Moscow) registered 100.4F. It’s likely the highest Arctic Circle temperature ever measured since the inception of fastidious record-keeping in 1885.
Concurrently, the world’s largest forest, Russia’s taiga, is burning up, along with its unending Arctic ‘zombie’ (peat) fires that began in the spring of 2019. For the second consecutive year, the Arctic has experienced its worst climate fires, releasing over one-third more heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than 2019.
Firestorms are raging across the Amazon, the planet’s largest tropical old-growth rainforest. There were 28 percent more fires in July compared to the same period last year.
Droughts, higher temperatures with longer lasting heatwaves, have run roughshod over the West. Over the Labor Day weekend, 48 hours of climate fires in Washington charred nearly 300,000 acres, more than the previous 12 years.
On Sept 11, 2020, a million acres of firestorms across Oregon, have burned double the normal year’s average, bestowing the world’s most polluted air upon Portland. Two million, seven-hundred thousand residents gasped for air.
In the third week of August, the temperature of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California spiked by 17F. At the same time, almost 11,000 dry lightning strikes kick-started mega wildfires across the state. Meanwhile, an astounding temperature of 130F occurred in Death Valley (which may have been the topmost on Earth).
On September 5, 2020, the Greater Los Angeles area (Woodland Hills) reached its highest-ever temperature of 121F. Eighteen million people attempted to exist amid ferocious deadly heat.
Five of California’s ten largest historic climate fires are still burning. More than three million acres are in ruins and there are months of fire season ahead.
We have crossed yet another planetary threshold, an ecological tipping point. Billions of Russian, Amazonian, Washingtonian, Oregonian and Californian animals were roasted alive in 2020 hellfires.
This much we know: the man-made climate catastrophe in the Age of Extinction is going to get a helluva lot worse in this third decade of the 21st century.
Join the Gen Z non-violent, disobedient climate strikes. It’s time to force societal change and attain a zero-combustion global economy while we still have a chance.
Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.
Dr Reese Halter’s upcoming book is