Australia's Fires Emitted Half of the Country’s Annual CO2 Emissions
The bushfires that have been tearing through New South Wales and Queensland, decimating koala habitats, taxing the water supply, and choking the air since August have claimed six lives. Now, new NASA data shows that the fires have emitted 250 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of half thee country's annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to The Guardian. In 2018, Australia's total greenhouse has emissions was 532 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Dr. Niels Andela, a scientist at the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and a collaborator in the Global Fire Emissions Database, gave the data to The Guardian Australia.
Usually, bushfires are considered carbon neutral, because when vegetation regrows it absorbs the carbon dioxide the fires have emitted. However, scientists are predicting that the scale of this year's fires coupled with drought-stricken forests will make it impossible for the vegetation to absorb the carbon, as The Guardian reported.
"Drought-stressed trees recover less well – carbohydrates reserves are exhausted – and under climate change tree growth may be slow and fires more frequent, meaning less tree biomass and even loss of forest cover," said David Bowman, a fire ecologist at the University of Tasmania, to the Guardian. "This is a nasty negative feedback cycle of a biosphere carbon sink becoming a source [of carbon]."
Pep Canadell, a senior research scientist at the CSIRO Climate Science Centre, told the Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Australia's forests had more in common with the Amazon than people would think.
"We're talking about very different sizes, of course. [There] are more carbon-dense forests in Amazonia than in Australia," said Canadell. "Having said that, a lot of [bush areas] burning now in NSW are actually exceptionally carbon-dense — they're very tall and quite dense forests. So from a per square meter or hectare level, we're certainly not shy away from what is happening in the Amazon."
The bushfires have already burned over 6.7 million acres of land and they could last through the Australian summer, until March or longer, as Gizmodo reported.
The fires follow the pattern of the Amazon fires and the California fires that create a carbon feedback loop, where human activity compromises Earth's ability to absorb carbon as we emit more of it, according to Gizmodo. These events are becoming more common as the Earth warms. It's especially evident in melting permafrost, which releases a tremendous amount of trapped carbon as it thaws, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Arctic Report Card found.
"This pulse of fire emissions should indeed be of concern. Any additional carbon emissions to the atmosphere, with no guarantee that it will be removed back by regrowing vegetation in a later stage, is of concern, particularly in an Australia under climate change," said Canadell, as The Guardian reported. He added, "Thus, it is important to understand both risks – the emissions from fires but also the potential long-term loss of CO2 sink capacity of the terrestrial vegetation due to the incomplete recovery of burned landscapes due to permanent degradation. These emissions are very significant."
"The nightmare scenario is that because of climate change, the forest isn't able to recover itself," said Bowman to ABC. "Once we actually know for certain what's happening, it's going to be too late. And this is a big thing to be wrong about."
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By Brett Wilkins
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the meatpacking industry worked together to downplay and disregard risks to worker health during the Covid-19 pandemic, as shown in documents published Monday by Public Citizen and American Oversight.
<div id="13077" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="11b9fe5ff48ebc437353df6df9c2c892"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1305915938148147205" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Just a week before the Trump administration issued an executive order aimed at keeping meat packing plants open, th… https://t.co/DkbXgPm4YR</div> — ProPublica (@ProPublica)<a href="https://twitter.com/propublica/statuses/1305915938148147205">1600189597.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="36e4c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e7c8048c2755109629a3b3072fcb3261"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1304424041814593539" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Meatpacking union @UFCW, which reps workers at this plant (four of whom died), slams OSHA for the small $13k fine a… https://t.co/tnhfKd89ab</div> — Dave Jamieson (@Dave Jamieson)<a href="https://twitter.com/jamieson/statuses/1304424041814593539">1599833901.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents Smithfield Foods workers, <a href="https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2020/09/10/osha-fines-smithfield-foods-sioux-falls-south-dakota/5768786002/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=f7bf3f03-ce98-4df4-9c45-f44d9a6a5890" target="_blank">slammed</a> the fine as "insulting and a slap on the wrist."</p><p>"How much is the health, safety, and life of an essential worker worth? Based on the actions of the Trump administration, clearly not much," said UFCW president Marc Perrone.</p><p>"This so-called 'fine' is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic," Perrone added. </p><p>Other critics, including vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights and environmental advocates argued that the accelerated spread of Covid-19 from meatpacking facilities is but the latest compelling argument in favor of reducing—or eliminating—meat consumption.</p><p>"We know that Covid-19 originated in a meat market and that previous influenza viruses originated in pigs and chickens," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-shortage-slaugherhouses-go-vegan/" target="_blank">said</a> in April amid news that a Foster Farms slaughterhouse in Livingston, California was <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/coronavirus-covid-19-slaughterhouse-meat-concerns/?utm_source=PETA::Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=0420::veg::PETA::Twitter::Workers%20Blame%20Major%20Pig%20Slaughterhouse%20600%20Infected%20COVID-19::::tweet" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ordered closed</a> by local health authorities due to a Covid-19 outbreak that killed eight employees.</p>
<div id="28490" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="48ddd3480a2beb42597d9516ef652f0f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1252416495990140929" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! @SmithfieldFoods allegedly took NO PRECAUTIONS to protect the safety of its workers, leaving o… https://t.co/viAJ026pLy</div> — PETA (@PETA)<a href="https://twitter.com/peta/statuses/1252416495990140929">1587434336.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"It's not a matter of <em>whether</em> using and killing animals for food will give rise to another disease outbreak—it's a matter of <em>when</em>," said PETA. "There has never been a better, more obvious time for businesses to put an end to their dirty trade of slaughtering animals for their flesh." </p>
By Andrea Willige
More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and most future population growth is predicted to happen in urban areas. But the concentration of large numbers of people and the ecosystems built around their lives has also been a driver of climate change.