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Yes, arsonists started some of Australia's fires. No, it doesn't mean climate change is fake
Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash

With vast swaths of Australia up in flames, debates are raging over what has caused the unprecedentedly intense fire season. And along with those debates, a slew of disinformation is swirling around the internet, clouding people's understanding of what's happening in the land down under.

Recent headlines about people being arrested on arson charges have only added confusion to the chaos. So let's clear a few things up.


The New South Wales police department has stated that 183 people, including 40 juveniles, have been arrested on fire-related charges during the 2019/2020 bush fire season. The police department noted:

  • 24 people have been charged over alleged deliberately-lit bushfires
  • 53 people have had legal actions for allegedly failing to comply with a total fire ban, and
  • 47 people have had legal actions for allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land.
New South Wales has been hit hard by the fires, as has the state of Victoria. However, a Victoria spokeswoman told The Guardian, "There is currently no intelligence to indicate that the fires in East Gippsland and the North East have been caused by arson or any other suspicious behavior."
However, media outlets ran with '183 people arrested for arson!' (or the more exaggerated '200 arsonists arrested!)' headlines, which bots and trolls and people who don't actually read articles started sharing as fact. Climate change deniers began pointing to such headlines as proof that claims of climate change contributing to the out-of-control fire season are bunk. Conspiracy theorists started claiming that environmentalists and eco-terrorists are the ones starting the fires as a way to push the big, bag climate change agenda.

Oof, people. Let's look at what we know.

RELATED: Climate change is not a partisan issue. So, let's stop treating it like one.

Yes, some fires in Australia were started by arsonists. That's actually not unusual. More fires appear to have been started by people being negligent—also not unusual. Fires in remote areas are most likely to be caused by lightning. In fact, there are nine causes of fire ignition recognized by fire investigators—and no, climate change is not one of them. But that doesn't mean climate change isn't a contributing factor.

What some people seem to be missing is that no one is claiming that climate change itself is igniting fires. That doesn't even make logical sense. Where climate change plays a role is in setting the stage for fires to start and spread easily. Intensely dry, hot conditions—which are exacerbated by global warming—create a virtual tinderbox out of the landscape.

Stefan Rahmstorf, climatologist and lead author of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report, says the bushfires have been exacerbated by two factors that have "well-established" links to climate change: drought and record heat. Last summer was the hottest on record in Australia, and the country has also seen record-low rainfall this season.

"Due to enhanced evaporation in warmer temperatures, the vegetation and the soils dry out more quickly," Rahmstorf told Time. "So even if the rainfall didn't change, just the warming in itself would already cause a drying of vegetation and therefore increased fire risk."

RELATED: Want to see stronger climate change policies? Elect more women as lawmakers

People pointing to the arson headlines seem desperate to downplay the role climate change is playing in the bushfires, but scientists aren't having it.

"There are now disingenuous efforts to downplay the clear role of climate change in worsening the intensity and severity of the Australian fires, or to blame 'arson' as a way to distract from the growing threat of climate change," Peter Gleick, climate scientist and co-founder of Pacific Institute in California, told Time. "These efforts should be called out for what they are: gross climate denial."

So yeah. Fires start for many reasons, including arson and negligence. That's not debatable. But fires spread faster in certain conditions, and the fire conditions in Australia this season are linked to climate change. That's not debatable, either. Arson arrests aren't any kind of proof that climate change isn't real. Not even close.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

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