I avoid reading certain blogs run by imperious autocrats because they only annoy me, but every now and then someone will send me a link and I'll feel compelled to visit. That's what happened this morning. Tamino has an absolutely tortured post about wildfires and bark beetles and dead trees in the Black Hills. Here is one of his graphs indicating an increase in frequency of large fires of over 200 acres:
"Clearly, the Black Hills region, like most Western U.S. forests, is at greater risk of wildfire than during most of the 20th century. But there is little, if any, evidence to implicate pine beetle infestation as the culprit in that increased risk. Other factors, including drought, changing climate conditions, and perhaps changes in forest management (including fire suppression) are at work, and their impact seems to overwhelm the results of pine beetle infestation."
I relented to temptation and wrote the following comment and - shock! shock! - he didn't let it out of moderation:
At the top of page 4 in this report is a graph that also correlates with the increase in wildfires.
It's from Japan, I chose it at random. There are endless versions from any number of government agencies and academia.
Also, you might want to consider this new research published in January from Princeton which investigates the global reductions in annual crop yield and quality from transboundary ozone pollution.
It seems worthy of consideration that since ozone is toxic to vegetation, and the rising constant background concentrations are responsible for diminishing annual crops by significant amounts, that wild perennial plants and trees will sustain cumulative damage by absorbing it season after season. This explanation offers far more than mere correlation, after all. It explains causation, specifically, two proven facts from repeated controlled fumigation experiments:
1. plants and trees with compromised immunity from exposure to ozone are more susceptible to attacks from insects, disease and fungus; and
2. plants and trees injured by exposure to ozone allocate less energy to their roots, making them more vulnerable to drought and wind.
Also pertinent is the now-documented fact that, indeed, forests are in decline everywhere on earth. See [New York Times article "With Deaths of Forests, a Loss of Key Climate Protectors"]
Tamino's post is based on his own research paper, Pine Beetle Infestation and Fire Risk in the Black Hills, which he was commissioned to write by the Friends of the Norbeck. It's quite fascinating that he couldn't find a link between bark beetle damage and wildfires, meaning something else is definitely causing an increase in fires. From the conclusion:
"Why then the extreme public fear of re hazard due to pine beetle tree kill? An obvious reason is simple intuition, the notion that standing dead trees under any circumstances create a "tinderbox primed for wildfi re" which is destined for conflagration. This intuition is shared by a number of professionals in forestry and fi re fighting. Yet in the specifi c case of mountain pine beetle infestation, the available data do not support this interpretation and much recent research actually contradicts the idea. Another is the recent increase in wildfi re activity within the Black Hills National Forest. Yet this increase is not unique to the Black Hills region. Its occurrence in the mid-1980s coincides with a similar increase in wildfi re activity throughout the Rocky Mountain region, at a time which is well before the latest pine beetle attack. Yet another is the fact that the increase in wildfi res during the mid-1980s was followed by a further increase in the early 2000s, which is strongly perceived as coinciding with a strong increase in pine beetle infestation. However, the extreme wildfi re seasons of the early 2000s commence in the year 2000 itself, which is a year before the dramatic increase in pine beetle tree kill observed in 2001."
Well! I don't know what would persuade Mr. Tamino to actually "Open" his mind and think about the possibility that the rise in toxic air pollution has been killing trees (and other vegetation!) making burns more frequent, since I thought the comment was polite, brief on topic and linked to impeccable sources.
I had actually intended to write about something very different before I got caught up in that, which is a disturbing article called "Way Beyond Greenwashing - Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?" I sent a comment to a group of people who were discussing the video embedded in the prior post, about Robert Bryce, as to whether he could possibly believe in his own preposterous denialist screed. I said, people usually believe what they are paid to believe, don't they? It was pointed out that could just as well be said for climate change activists who are employed by "green" groups. Exactly.
I was thinking about this parallel this morning while looking at a painting I bought many years ago. It occurred to me that the visage mirrored in the head reminds me of the inescapable dictates of human nature as expressed by the the parallels between the "Merchants of Doubt" of Oreskes fame - those professionals paid to thwart regulations by first casting doubt on the science of tobacco, then acid rain, and more recently climate change - and the "Merchants of Hope". By that I refer to those environmentalists, scientists, and activists (the vast majority of them) who carefully avoid reference to the truly dire results we can expect to dominate the future, and instead slant their writing to encourage people to believe in that feathered thing that perches on the soul. They promise their donors that they will work with them to develop clean energy. They run campaigns to persuade us to change our lightbulbs, recycle, write our senator, protest and be arrested, as though that will save us. The needle on the clock is always just before midnight, and we have five years left to avert catastrophe. Right.