The devastating bushfires in Victoria, Australia, this week underscores the dangers of not developing thermopower, which is capable of climate modification. In fact, according to Nature,
Climate models do suggest that Australian summers will get warmer and drier as the century proceeds, and there is little doubt that this will have an effect on fire risk.
"Heatwaves and fires are virtually certain to increase in intensity and frequency," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in its most recent Fourth Assessment Report in 2007.
By 2080, average temperatures in central Australia could increase by up to 8C, according to the IPCC's most extreme regional prediction. Within 400 kilometres of the coast, the continent could still warm by up to 5.4C, and the amount of rainfall could decrease by up to 80%.
In southeast Australia, the frequency of very high and extreme fire danger days is likely to rise by 425% by 2020 and by 1570% by 2050, according to the IPCC's report.
Other regions exposed to high wildfire risk, including southern Europe, South Africa and the southwestern United States, face similar changes. Increased fire frequency could lead to vegetation changes that would reduce plant growth, decreasing the amount of carbon that plants remove from the atmosphere --- further exacerbating greenhouse warming by carbon dioxide.
Clearly, the time to act is now. With thermopower, the outback can be a virtual paradise. Without it, it may turn into a hell on Earth.