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(AU) The Bizarre, Apocalyptic Effects Of Australia’s Extreme Heat

Lethal Heating - 29 December, 2019 - 04:00
Quartz - Alexandra Ossola

Thirsty Koala. Oakbank Balhannah CFS via APIt’s just the beginning of Australia’s summer, and the heat has already been breaking records. On Dec. 18, temperatures rose to a national average of 40.9°C (105.6°F)—and it doesn’t look like the heat will relent anytime soon.
There are some predictable effects for extreme heat, such as drought, the increased frequency of wildfires, and poor air quality. And such heat is, of course, dangerous for humans, who risk heat stroke and dehydration.
But there are also other effects on animals and the environment that are already proving surprising. This is likely a sign of things to come, as researchers anticipate that climate change will make extremely hot periods like this one more common in Australia.

Koalas are dehydrated
The animals, of which there are only an estimated 100,000 left, live in what are now some of the hottest parts of the country. They consume water by eating leaves. As Fast Company reports, one effect of climate change is that those leaves now contain less water than they used to. Some koalas have reportedly come up to humans to drink water out of a bottle. Others have been trapped in habitats that have been subject to wildfires and have had to be treated for burns on their fur and paws.

Cows can no longer mate
In the Sydney Morning Herald, veterinarian Gundi Rhoades details the effects of extreme heat she has seen on the cattle industry in New South Wales. “They are becoming infertile from their testicles overheating. Mares are not falling pregnant, and through the heat, piglets and calves are aborting,” she writes.

Large numbers of wild animals are dying off
An incomplete list of animals that have died en masse in recent years: bats, fish, and horses. Many more were killed on purpose—after 90 feral horses were found dead next to a water source that had dried up, another 50 horses were so dehydrated that they were considered too weak to be relocated and had to be killed. Ranchers in western Australia shot at least 2,500 camels that, according to NPR, “threatened to drain ranchers’ [water] reserves for cattle.”

Birds are grounded
A garden designer told the New York Times earlier this month that he saw lots of birds seeking shade under trees instead of their typical position perched atop them. “I’ve been walking around the parklands, turning on the taps at the bottom of the trees. [The birds] with their beaks open, [were] all gasping for air,” he said.

Tropical fish are exploring new coasts
Last year, the Queensland grouper, which usually lives in the coral reefs off the coast of Australia’s northeast state, was seen off the uncharacteristically warm coast of New Zealand, 3,000 km (1,800 miles) away.

Fruit is baking on trees
It’s likely not surprising that crops aren’t doing well in the extreme heat. But earlier this year, Kris Werner, head of Dried Tree Fruits Australia, told ABC that his peaches and nectarines have been cooking on the tree branches where they grew.

A strange hot ocean blob appeared
Among the least explained phenomena is a patch of warm water, 1.5 times the size of Texas, that has appeared off the southeast coast of New Zealand. Researchers aren’t quite sure how it formed and what its effect is, according to the Guardian, but they suspect it’s a natural variation that hasn’t been dispersed because there hasn’t been much wind.

A man cooked pork in his car
Stu Pengelly, a resident of Perth, noticed that temperatures would get real hot in his Datsun Sunny. So he put a piece of pork on a pan on the seat of the car. Over the next 10 hours he monitored the temperature, which reached 81°C (178°F). “My warning is do not leave anyone or anything precious to you in a hot car, not for a minute,” he wrote on Facebook.

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The Biggest Lesson About Climate Change From 2019

Lethal Heating - 28 December, 2019 - 04:00
OneZero - Bryan Walsh

We need to change how our economy is powered — and that will require politics



On December 11, two things happened that caught the attention of those invested in the fight against climate change, which at this point should include all of us. TIME magazine named 16-year-old Greta Thunberg its 2019 person of the year, lauding her for “creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change.” And, Saudi Aramco — Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company and the largest producer of crude oil in the world — had the biggest initial public offering on record, raising more than $25 billion and ending its first day of trading with a valuation of $1.88 trillion, $600 billion more than its nearest competitor, Apple.
More than anything else, these two events — the recognition of a truly fresh voice and the market’s embrace of the company with the single largest carbon footprint in the world — tell us where the world stands on climate change. Thunberg, who this time last year was holding a lonely vigil outside the Swedish Parliament as part of the nascent “School Strike for Climate,” represents the rise of a strong climate activist movement, one that has embraced increasingly radical tactics and is backed up by growing public support. Aramco represents how entrenched fossil fuels remain in the global economy, despite all that effort. Thunberg shows us how far we came in 2019, while Aramco’s multi-trillion dollar valuation shows us how far we still have to go.
Spend long enough reporting on climate change, and you can develop a nasty case of deja vu. Every year ends with a UN climate summit — 2019’s edition stumbled to a close in Madrid in mid-December — where the same fights are had between developed and developing countries, between Europe and the United States. Carbon dioxide emissions will likely they hit a record high in 2019, and with them, the same warnings that we have only a few years left to drastically cut CO2 emissions or face global catastrophe. Scientists and environmentalists employ the same messages, doomsaying marbled with glimmers of hope. There are a few extreme weather events linked to climate change, like December’s record-breaking heat in Australia, presaging worse to come. And the next year, the cycle renews, as atmospheric carbon concentrations keep ticking up, now higher than they’ve been in millions of years.
There’s a reason that the Oxford Dictionaries named “climate emergency” as the word of the year for 2019.The scientific news about climate change in 2019 was mostly bad, as it tends to be. The 2010s will almost certainly go down as the hottest decade on record, and July 2019 was the single hottest month on record. Sea ice levels in the Arctic — a key symptom for the rate of warming — keep dropping, with 2019 tied for the second-lowest levels on record. Ice in Greenland is melting seven times as fast as it was in the 1990s, directly contributing to rising oceans and putting the world on track for the highest projected figures for sea level rise by the end of this century. As the seas become hotter and more acidic, coral reefs — the nurseries of the oceans — suffer, and could be essentially gone by 2050. Extreme rainfall — one of the clearest effects of global warming — pounded much of the world, with the lower 48 U.S. states experiencing what’s likely to be the wettest year on record. Animal extinctions, droughts, wildfires — there’s a reason that the Oxford Dictionaries named “climate emergency” as the word of the year for 2019.
But more notable than the raw meteorological records broken in 2019 was the way that the knock-on effects of climate change on human society began to become clear. In October, amidst unusually hot and dry weather, California’s largest utility PG&E made the unprecedented decision to proactively cut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers, with little warning, to reduce the risk that live power lines could spark wildfires, as happened catastrophically in 2018. Teasing out the influence of warming temperatures on wildfires is tricky, and other factors — like growing human population in fire-prone areas — may play a larger role than climate change. But a hotter world is one that will likely experience more extreme weather, and the preemptive blackouts in California show what happens when the rickety infrastructure designed for a calmer climate meets a wilder future.
So that’s the bad news on the scientific front — and things weren’t much better politically. In November, President Trump began the process of formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the 2015 international deal in which nearly 200 nations pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support poorer nations as they dealt with the effects of climate change. Trump’s move was a long time coming, and it was merely one part of his administration’s efforts to backtrack on climate action whenever possible, whether that meant working to revoke California’s authority to regulate emissions from automobiles or rolling back Environmental Protection Agency rules on greenhouse gases.
But while Trump may be willfully pulling the United States in the opposite direction of meaningful climate action, those countries that have remained faithful to the Paris Agreement haven’t done much better. Only seven countries — based on their carbon emission reduction pledges and current policies — are on track to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, which is the overall goal of the agreement. And when the nations of the world met at the annual year-end UN climate talks in Madrid, little was achieved. The United States and other large polluters like Australia, India, and China blocked even a nonbinding measure that would have encouraged — not mandated — countries to take on tougher emission reduction pledges next year. The bar had been set low for the negotiations, officially called the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. It still wasn’t cleared.
******Ten years ago, the near-collapse of the UN climate talks would have fed a narrative of failure on global warming action. I know, because I was at the 2009 Copenhagen summit, where expectations for a true global deal on climate change were high, only to be dashed when those expectations met the reality of global politics. The U.S. president was different then, but the essential issue was largely the same — domestic politics, not international ones, ultimately drive what countries are willing to do on climate change.
And this is where the good news begins to trickle in, ever so slowly. Despite Trump’s pledges that he would bring back coal, global demand for the single biggest source of human-made greenhouse gas emissions fell for the first time in two years, thanks in large part to the continued closure of coal plants in the United States. (Less good is the fact that new coal plants continued to be opened in Asian countries like India and China, where the demand for new electricity generation is ravenous.) Solar power is getting cheaper — the average cost has declined 65% over the past five years — and is growing rapidly, as are other renewable sources of energy. Cheaper clean energy makes climate action more painless, and in turn more popular, enabling policies like Canada’s move to establish a federal price on carbon.
So too does the steady movement of public opinion in favor of climate action. A 2019 Pew poll found that people in most countries listed climate change as one of the two top global threats, while another recent Pew survey concluded that the percentage of Americans who believed climate change was a major threat to the well-being of the United States grew from 40% in 2013 to 57% this year. In Greta Thunberg, the climate movement has found a symbol to rally around, one whose genius lies in her ability to articulate the key injustice of climate change: the mortgaging of the future by the present. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” Thunberg told delegates at a UN climate summit in New York in September. “And if you choose to fail us, I say — we will never forgive you.”
The real obstacle to meaningful climate change action in 2020 and beyond is power — and I mean power in two ways. The first is power in the technical sense: How do we create new kinds of cleaner power production that will rapidly reduce carbon emissions while ensuring everyone on the planet has the resources needed to live a developed lifestyle? It’s an exceedingly tough problem, because it requires us to replace an entire global industrial energy system, and do it while the clock is running. It will require innovation on a scale we haven’t yet begun to approach. For all the growth in renewable energy in recent years, we’re not making progress nearly fast enough, in part because while clean power is on the rise, the world still remains highly dependent on energy from dirty sources like oil and coal. The fact that a company like Aramco, which exists to pull a highly polluting substance out of the ground, can be worth more than Apple and Facebook combined proves that fact.
If that’s going to change, it will require power of a different source — political power. In 2019, it became impossible to ignore that climate change had become an utterly partisan issue. Those Americans in the Pew survey who now believe that climate change is a major threat? Nearly all of them are self-identified Democrats. Republican attitudes were largely unchanged — 43% of moderate to liberal Republicans said they were worried about climate change, a figure that dropped to just 19% of conservative Republicans. By comparison, 94% of liberal Democrats and 75% of moderate to conservative Democrats saw climate change as a major threat.
But general public opinion matters less than the opinion of those actually making policy. Here, the partisan divide is much greater. According to data collected by the nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters (LCV), since Trump’s election Republicans in Congress have voted for pro-environment legislation just 5% of the time, compared to 92% of the time for Democrats. That’s not a political divide — that’s the Grand Canyon.
2019’s climate legacy will ultimately be decided by what happens in the elections of 2020, and beyond.It wasn’t always this way. As the LCV’s data shows, back in the 1970s the two parties generally voted along the same lines for clean air and water protection. The EPA was created under and the Endangered Species Protection Act was signed by Republican President Richard Nixon. And many green groups, I think, still picture a country where the environment and climate is nonpartisan issue. But those days are long gone, and they’re no more likely to come back than we’ll see global carbon concentrations dip back below 400 ppm.
What’s true in the United States is true of the rest of the world. The Conservatives who just solidified their grip on power in the U.K. may not be as uniformly opposed to climate action as their Republican counterparts, but they won’t be as motivated to do something as the opposition Labour party. In Australia, one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters on a population basis, the country’s conservative government refuses to admit the reality of climate change — even as the nation is literally on fire. In Brazil, home to more of the Amazon than any other nation, President Jair Bolsanaro has slashed protections against deforestation.
The reality is that the most important action that can be taken isn’t putting solar panels on your roof or switching to paper straws or sharing a hashtag on social media. It’s not even marching through the streets with Greta Thunberg. It’s supporting efforts to put politicians who are willing to act on climate change into office. 2019’s climate legacy will ultimately be decided by what happens in the elections of 2020, and beyond.

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(AU) Cattle Have Stopped Breeding, Koalas Die Of Thirst: A Vet's Hellish Diary Of Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 28 December, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Gundi Rhoades

Gundi Rhoades
Gundi Rhoades is a veterinarian, scientist, mother, beef cattle farmer and member of Veterinarians for Climate Action.  Bulls cannot breed at Inverell. They are becoming infertile from their testicles overheating. Mares are not falling pregnant, and through the heat, piglets and calves are aborting.
My work as a veterinarian has changed so much. While I would normally test bulls for fertility, or herds of cattle for pregnancy, I no longer do, because the livestock has been sold. A client’s stud stock in Inverell has reduced from 2000 breeders to zero.
Gundi Rhoades is a member of Veterinarians for Climate Action based in Inverell. I once assisted farmers who have spent their lives developing breeding programs, with historic bloodlines that go back 80 years. These stud farmers are now left with a handful of breeders that they can’t bear to part with, spending thousands keeping them fed, and going broke doing it.
Cattle that sold for thousands are now in the sale yards at $70 a head. Those classed as too skinny for sale are costing the farmer $130 to be destroyed.
They are all gone and it was all for nothing. The paddocks are bare, the dams dry, the grass crispy and brown. The whole region has been completely destocked and is devoid of life.For 22 years, I have been the vet in this once-thriving town in northern NSW, which, as climate change continues to fuel extreme heat, drought and bushfires, has become hell on Earth.
Here, we are seeing extreme weather events like never before. The other day we had about eight centimetres of rain in 20 minutes. These downpours are like rain bombs. They are so ferocious that a farmer lost all of his fences, and all it did was silt up the dam so he had to use a machine to excavate the mud.
Most farmers in my district have not a blade of grass remaining on their properties. Topsoil has been blown away by the terrible, strong winds this spring and summer. We have experienced the hottest days that I can remember, and right now I can’t even open any windows because my eyes sting and lungs hurt from bushfire smoke.
For days, I have watched as the bushland around us went up like a tinderbox. I just waited for the next day when my clinic would be flooded with evacuated dogs, cats, goats and horses in desperate need of water and food.
The impact of the drought on wildlife is devastating to watch, too. Members of the public are bringing us koalas, sugar gliders, possums, galahs, cockatoos and kangaroos on a daily basis.
The koalas affect me the most. To see these gorgeous, iconic animals dying from thirst is too hard to bear. We save some, but we lose just as many.
The whole town is devastated. My business has halved. But with no horses to breed, no cattle to test and care for, what am I going to do? I have worked day and night to build a future for my family, but who would want to buy our property out here? Who would want to buy a vet clinic in a town where there are no animals to treat because it’s too hot and dry? Where the cattle become infertile from the 40-degree heat. All this on black, baked ground.
I am 53 years old. Can I start again?
Climate change for us is every day, and I am not suffering on the same level as my friends, my clients and the helpless animals I treat. As a veterinarian I am becoming more and more distressed, not just about the state of my town, but the whole world.
Bushfire smoke moves over Inverell.  Personally, I have had weeks when I just cry. It just bloody hurts me. I also have times when I get really angry and I start to swear, which I have never done in my life.
I also have times when I think about the potential this country has to create a renewable future with clean, green energy, and end our reliance on fossil fuels.
You only have to look at how resilient our farmers are in the face of devastating, extreme weather conditions to understand that we can make a powerful, meaningful difference to our future.
The government has no idea what it’s like for us. It has no empathy. Its members don't know how much it hurts when they just say yes to another coal mine.
I would invite Scott Morrison to come and see what life in Inverell is like. In case he chooses not to, I'll paint this picture for the country and hope people can start to realise and understand the devastating impact climate change is having. I hope they will take a stand for the people, the places and the animals whose voices are too small for him to hear.

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A Year Of Resistance: How Youth Protests Shaped The Discussion On Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 28 December, 2019 - 04:00
The Conversation | 

Millions of youth have participated in climate strikes, negotiations, press conferences and events, demanding urgent climate action this year. (Shutterstock)
Greta Thunberg made history again this month when she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. The 16-year-old has become the face of youth climate action, going from a lone child sitting outside the Swedish parliament building in mid-2018 to a symbol for climate strikers — young and old — around the world.
Thunberg was far from the first young person to speak up in an effort to hold the powerful accountable for their inaction on climate change, yet the recognition of her efforts come at a time when world leaders will have to decide whether — or with how much effort — they will tackle climate change. Their actions or inactions will determine how much more vocal youth will become in 2020.
Thunberg coined the hashtag #FridaysforFuture in August 2018, inspiring students globally to hold their own climate strikes. Many of them argued that adults were not doing enough to address the climate catastrophe. Today’s youth saw themselves on the generational front lines of climate change, so they walked out of their schools to demand transformative action.
Students take part in a climate protest in London in March 2019. AP Photo/Matt DunhamThe strikes spread throughout the fall and winter, and spilled over to 2019. Students in the United Kingdom joined the movement on Feb. 15, 2019 with a mass mobilization, on the heels of Australia, Switzerland, Germany, Japan and many other countries around the world. They skipped school because they felt there was no point to school without a future, and their resistance took their grievances around generational injustice directly to elected officials.
Fridays for Future now estimates that more than 9.6 million strikers in 261 countries have participated in climate strikes. And Thunberg herself has met with hundreds of communities and numerous heads of state. While Thunberg’s celebrity has paved the way for the climate strikes to scale up — her work rests on decades of climate activism that have made this year’s mobilizations possible.

Environmental justice momentum
Youth climate activist Isra Hirsi will be 27 in 2030, the year that scientists say the planet will be stuck on a path towards dangerous warming.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn MartinIndigenous activists like Vanessa Gray, Nick Estes, Autumn Peltier, Kanahus Manuel and many others whose work bridges sovereignty and environmental damage have also played an important role. They have helped shift the climate movement toward the framework of climate justice, which acknowledges the intersections of colonialism, racialization, capitalism and climate change.
This moment also builds on environmental justice movements. Young activists like Isra Hirsi, Cricket Cheng, Maya Menezes and others have been building movements where a racial justice lens brings the climate movement into focus.
While these leaders may not have been recognized with Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, their work has significantly reshaped the climate movement. They are helping politicize a new generation of climate activists who understand climate change not as an isolated phenomenon, but one with roots in a capitalist system that is inherently racist, colonial, sexist and ableist.

Indigenous-led resistance
This year has also seen Indigenous-led resistance to climate change and the related oil, gas, fracking, hydro and other natural resource extraction too.
Secwepemc leaders and their allies have built tiny houses to prevent the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from being forced through unceded Secwepemc territory. In Mi'kmaqi and Wolastoqey territory, there’s been resistance to fracking. Across northern Manitoba, Cree and Nishnaabe communities are resisting hydro projects they say will devastate their communities.
In British Columbia, nations have fought the Site C dam, which threatens to flood communities, change watersheds and escalate violence against women through work camps filled with men. Inuit and Cree communities in Labrador have resisted the Muskrat Falls hydro project.
The construction site of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric facility in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew VaughanThis mirrors Indigenous-led environmental action against colonial energy projects around the world, including work in Karen communities in Thailand, Indigenous peoples in Colombia, Waorani peoples in Ecuador, among Saami peoples and countless other Indigenous nations.

Rejecting adult inaction
The climate strikes are an example of youth becoming politicized, rejecting adult inaction and demanding more from governments. In the coming years, we can expect the climate movement to keep growing, become even more politicized and escalate the intensity of tactics.
When governments resist reasonable requests, decades of social movements teach us that activists escalate. We can look at the histories of the HIV/AIDS movement, the Civil Rights movement, African liberation struggles and “poor people’s movements,” which show us that when people get pushed out, they turn up the pressure.
That escalation is necessary to win substantive change. Escalation is not usually seen by the public as nice as polite entreaties, but research clearly shows that direct action leads to change.
Greta’s recognition by Time Magazine will continue to inspire more young people to join their peers in demanding bold climate action like the Green New Deal and to use the legal system as a tool by suing governments over climate inaction.
If elected officials fail to act, we can expect these young people to adopt more disruptive tactics and do the work on the ground to elect new leaders. Even if they can’t yet vote themselves, there are many ways they can- and will continue to- shape our politics and our future.

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5 Key Questions About Climate Change In The 2020s

Lethal Heating - 27 December, 2019 - 04:00
CBS News - Jeff Berardelli*

Climate change and its impact on lives and livelihoods worldwide will no doubt be one of the biggest issues confronting us in the decade ahead. Here are five key questions and answers about the problem and what can be done about it.


Climate Change Brings Opportunities And Risk

Can we stop climate change and how will innovation help?
In short, yes, there are things we can do to help stop climate change, but it won't happen overnight. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we need to reduce our emissions 45% by 2030 if we want to keep global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. There is very little chance of that happening. However, there is no cliff at 1.5 degrees Celsius — meaning the closer we keep warming to 1.5 degrees, even if we overshoot, the better off we'll be. The bottom line is we can still avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Here is the good news: Unlike many other big problems in life, we know how to fix this — by reducing our use of fossil fuels. And by aggressively combating this problem we can make an even better life for ourselves and future generations. Instead of focusing on denial or avoidance, we can embrace this as an opportunity. Combating climate change will inevitably create vast new industries — it already has — and millions of jobs, a rebirth of American ingenuity and a jolt to the U.S. and world economies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fastest growing occupations in this upcoming decade are solar and wind technician. With median salaries of $42,000 to $55,000 per year, these are good paying jobs, already being created right now all over the nation. Per unit of energy, for every one job in fossil fuels you need several jobs in solar — so this is a net creator of opportunity. Even with larger employment, because solar and wind are technologies and not commodities like oil, the prices keep falling. In many cases sustainable energy is already cheaper, and certainly cleaner, than fossil fuels.

Where could we see rapid change over the next decade?
One big concern is tipping points. There are three primary areas climate experts are watching:
  1. The Amazon rain forest is close to a tipping point because of the way land is being abused, combined with climate change. The forest is drying out. That is because rain forests create their own rainfall. The more they are fragmented and burned, the more they dry out and lose the ability to create their own source of rainfall. This means the Amazon is in danger of turning into a savanna — an ecosystem with far less tree-cover. If that happens, the capacity of the forest to absorb heat-trapping carbon dioxide is lost. We really need the Amazon to help lessen the impact of climate change worldwide.
  2. Permafrost, the frozen ground in the Arctic, is thawing fast and releasing carbon that has been locked up for thousands of years. Just this year it seems to have crossed a threshold from being a sink, storing carbon, to being a net emitter of carbon, acting as a feedback to warm the Earth even faster. This feedback will be critical to monitor this decade to see how fast permafrost melts.
  3. Loss of ice — both sea ice in the Arctic and land ice in Greenland and South Pole — is accelerating. Ice helps cool the Earth. The more we lose the faster the climate heats up which is another feedback loop. In addition, monitoring ice shelves on glaciers for instability will be a big telltale sign of how fast sea level will rise in the coming decade.

Arctic Report Card Reveals Alarming Effects Of Climate Change

What does this mean for the economy and homeowners?
This is where climate change hits us in the wallet. As CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reported in November, homeowners are already seeing situations in California where insurance companies will not insure homes in the fire zone, or they are charging exponentially higher, unaffordable rates. As the impacts of extreme weather and sea level rise get worse, it is going to become more difficult for people who are exposed to risk to obtain 30-year mortgages to buy homes.
This pertains not only to fire-prone areas, but also to homes near sea level and along river basins at risk of flooding. When sellers or buyers can no longer obtain a reasonable mortgage or insurance, home values will plummet.


Wildfire Evacuations

Can the younger generation turn their ambition into policy?
This is what gives me hope. The younger generation is energized and engaged by this issue. They realize they will have to deal with what we adults helped cause. And they are not likely to give up until they get what they want. In one year, youth activists organized tens of millions of people all over the world in protest. They accomplished in one year what adults were not able to do in 30 years. Imagine what they can do in a decade!


Time Person Of The Year

What impacts are people most concerned about?
I asked people on Twitter about their climate-related concerns. The No. 1 answer was migration and refugees. I agree. Climate change is going to continue to cause more extreme heat waves and droughts. Farms in vulnerable areas will turn from crop producing into deserts. Later this century, parts of the Earth near the equator will become so hot as to be uninhabitable, or at the very least not supportive for people to make a living. Millions will be forced to move to survive. Some scientists say we are already witnessing this happen. The concern is that even more widespread migration will create a massive international humanitarian and security issue.

*Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli is a CBS News Climate & Weather Contributor.

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The 2010s Were Another Lost Decade On Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 27 December, 2019 - 04:00
MIT Technology Review

The only measurement that matters is greenhouse-gas emissions—and they continued to rise.
PixabayWe’ve lost another decade on climate change.
Even as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere race toward levels that could lock in catastrophic warming, the world continued to pump out more. Our collective failure to begin cutting emissions over the last 10 years almost certainly shatters the dream of halting rising temperatures at 1.5 ˚C. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine achieving the pace and scale of change now required even to prevent 2 ˚C.
Among other sharply escalating dangers, that half-degree difference could doom the world’s coral reefs and regularly expose nearly 40% of world’s population to staggering heat waves.
There were faint signs of progress. Renewables and electric vehicles finally took off, and nearly 200 countries committed to cutting their emissions under the landmark Paris climate agreement in 2016.
But nations are already falling behind on their pledges, and the US is in the process of pulling out of the deal entirely, at a point when much deeper cuts are required. And for all the momentum behind clean energy technologies, they’ve done very little so far to displace the power plants, cars, factories, and buildings polluting the atmosphere with more emissions each year.
The charts that follow reveal how much ground we lost on climate change during the last 10 years.

Rising CO2 concentrations
The measurement that ultimately matters on climate change is global emissions. And they continued to rise.
There was a brief hope that greenhouse-gas pollution had finally plateaued. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, which makes up about 90% of total emissions from human activities, was relatively flat from 2013 through 2016.
Improving energy efficiency, rising use of renewables, and the shift from coal to natural gas likely drove much of this, particularly in wealthy economies like the US and European Union. But emissions have surged in the years since, driven largely by economic growth and increasing energy demands in emerging nations, led by China and India.
Fossil-fuel emissions rose an estimated 0.6% to a record 37 billion metric tons in 2019, capping three straight years of growth, the Global Carbon Project reported in early December.
These trends, plus additional emissions from land-use changes and other human activities, added up to steadily rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere throughout the 2010s.



Reaching the peak
When we reach peak emissions matters. The longer we take, the deeper we'll need to cut carbon pollution in the coming years if we hope to avoid dangerous warming thresholds, as the charts below show.
To get a sense of how much harder we've made the job of halting warming at 1.5 ˚C by frittering away the last decade, click on the chart and compare the steepness of the slope shown if we had plateaued in 2010 with what is projected should we reach the peak in 2020.



These charts were produced by Zeke Hausfather for Carbon Brief, using data and the original figure from Robbie Andrew at the Center for International Climate Research.

We’ll have to radically accelerate emissions reductions to have any hope of limiting warming to 2 ˚C as well.


In addition to aggressive emissions cuts, most models now find we'll also need to use trees, plants and other methods to remove and store vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to stay below these temperature targets. But achieving these so called "negative emissions" on a large-enough scale will be incredibly costly, and compete directly with other crucial land-uses, most notably the farming needed to feed a growing global population.

Environmental impacts
Decades of rising emissions continued to do what scientists have long warned they would: make the world hotter.
In early December, the World Meteorological Organization announced that 2019 is likely to be the second or third warmest on record, capping a “decade of exceptional global heat.” Average temperatures for the preceding five- and 10-year periods will almost certainly be the highest on record.



This chart, using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, clearly highlights the rise in global land temperatures above the 20th-century average. Note the particularly pronounced increase in the last 10 years.



Ocean temperatures rose as well, and warmer water expands. That plus the accelerating loss of ice sheets and glaciers pushed up ocean levels further, as this chart from NASA satellite data highlights.
Indeed, the 2010s mark the decade when the impacts from climate change became unmistakable, at least for any objective-minded observer. As temperatures rose, Arctic sea ice melted far faster than models had predicted. The world’s coral reefs suffered widespread and devastating bleaching events. And regions around the world grappled with some of the costliest, deadliest, and most extreme droughts, hurricanes, heat waves, and wildfires in recorded history.
Since carbon dioxide takes years to reach its full warming effect, and we have yet to even begin cutting emissions, we’ll face even starker dangers in the coming decade.

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Nine Things You Love That Are Being Wrecked By Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 27 December, 2019 - 04:00
The Conversation

If coffee and wine are things you love, then you need to pay attention to climate change. Shutterstock/Ekaterina PokrovskyThere are so many stories flying around about the horrors already being wrought by climate change, you’re probably struggling to keep up.
The warnings have been there for decades but still there are those who deny it. So perhaps it’s timely to look at how climate change is affecting you, by wrecking some of the things you love.

1. Not the holiday you hoped for
We often choose holiday destinations with weather in mind. Sadly, climate change may see your usual destinations become less inviting, and maybe even disappear entirely.
Lizard Island, in Queensland, is a popular tourist destination but it’s coral has been affected by bleaching. AAP Image/XL Catlin Seaview SurveyBut there’s more to think about than your favourite beach retreat being drowned, or the Great Barrier Reef decaying before you see it.
Now we have to worry that “extreme weather events pose significant risks to travellers”. The warnings here range from travel disruption, such as delayed flights due to storms, through to severe danger from getting caught in cyclones, floods or snowstorms.
Simply getting where you need to go could become an adventure holiday itself, but not a fun one.

2. Last chance to see some wildlife
There are more and more examples of animals falling victim to climate-change induced extreme weather events, such as the horror of mass “cremations” of koalas in the path of recent Australian bush fires or bats dropping dead during heatwaves.
Hundreds of bats dropped dead during a heatwave in Campbelltown, NSW, after temperatures reached 45C in 2018. AAP Image/Supplied/Help Save the Wildlife and BushlandsOn top of that, news of the latest climate-related animal extinctions are becoming as common as reports of politicians doing nothing about it.

3. History and heritage at risk
The Italian city of Venice recently experienced its worst flooding since the mid 1960s, and the local mayor clearly connected this with climate change.
Aside from the human calamity unfolding there, we are seeing one of Europe’s most amazing and unique cities and a World Heritage site devastated before our eyes.
Tourists and residents wade through a flooded Venice, Italy, in November 2019. EPA/Andrea Merola










Climate change threatens more than 13,000 archaeological sites in North America alone if sea levels rise by 1m. That goes up to more than 30,000 sites if sea levels rise by 5m.UNESCO is worried that climate change also threatens underwater heritage sites, such as ruins and shipwrecks. For example, rising salinity and warming waters increases ship-worm populations that consume wooden shipwrecks in the Baltic sea.

4. Taking the piste
Warming temperatures have already had negative impacts on the US snow sports industry since at least 2001.
Enjoy the skiing while the snow lasts. Yun Huang YongCC BYIn Australia, ski resorts are expected to see significant drops in snow fall by 2040 and, as temperatures warm, they will be unable to compensate for this by snow-making, because it doesn’t work if ambient temperatures are too high.Perhaps recent efforts to make artificial snow will give us a few more years on the slopes, but I’m not holding my breath.

5. Too hot for sport and exercise
It’s not just snow sports that will be affected. As temperatures warm, simply being outside in some parts of the world will not only be less pleasant, but more harmful, causing greater risk of heat stress doing any sport or exercise.
The summer heat already causes problems for fans and players during the Australian Open in Melbourne each January. AAP Image/Julian SmithThat also means lower incentives for – and greater difficult in undertaking - incidental exercise, such as walking to the bus stop.

6. Pay more for your coffee
As the climate changes, your coffee hits will probably become rarer and more expensive, too.
Start saving up for your next coffee. Flickr/Marco VerchCC BYA report by the Climate Institute in 2016 suggested coffee production could drop by 50% by 2050. Given how rapidly negative climate predictions have been updated in the three years since, this might now be considered optimistic. Yikes.

7. You and your family’s health
As the climate changes, the health of your children, your parents and your grandparents will be at greater risk through increases in air pollution, heatwaves and other factors.



It can be heartening to see the strong, intelligent and positive action being taken by the world’s youth in response to the lack of climate action by many governments.
But the fact this is a result of literal, existential crises becoming a normal part of every day life for young people is utterly horrifying.

8. Home, sweet home
The recent bush fires in Australia and the United States reveal how dramatic and destructive the effects climate change can be to where you live. Hundreds of houses have already burned down in Australia this fire season.
The ruins of a house destroyed by bushfire near Taree, NSW, November 9, 2019. AAP Image/Darren PatemanFires are getting more frequent and more ferocious. The seasonal windows where we safely used controlled burning to clear bushfire fuel are shrinking. It’s not only harder to fight fires when they happen, it’s becoming harder to prevent them as well.
Fires aren’t the only threat to homes. All around the planet, more and more houses are being destroyed by rising seas and increasingly wild storms, all thanks to climate change.

9. Not the wine, please!
Still not convinced climate change is wrecking things you love? What if I told you it’s even coming for your wine.
Less water, soil degradation and higher temperatures earlier in the season all lead to dramatic negative effects on grapes and wine-making.
The grape harvest is getting earlier each year, which experts attribute partly to climate change. AAP Image/Lukas CochOne small upside is that disruption to traditional wine growing regions is creating opportunities to develop new wine growing areas. But there is no reason to believe these areas will maintain stable grape growing conditions as climate change progresses.

So, what now?
It’s easy to be sad. But to change our trajectory, it’s better to be mad. In the words of that great English singer songwriter John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), “anger is an energy”.
So maybe use this list as motivation to think, talk and act. Use it as fuel to make small, large or a combination of changes.
Share your concerns, share your solutions, and do this relentlessly.
What’s happening right now is huge, overwhelming, and also inevitable without concerted action. There’s no sugar-coating it: climate change is wrecking the things we love. Time to step it up a notch.

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(AU) Home Affairs Warned Australian Government Of Growing Climate Disaster Risk After May Election

Lethal Heating - 26 December, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Exclusive: Department’s brief said that ‘coordinated national action’ was needed to ward off increasing disruptions
Home affairs warned Australian government of “more frequent and severe heatwaves, bushfires, floods, and cyclones”. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AP The government was warned by the Department of Home Affairs after the May election that Australia faced more frequent and severe heatwaves and bushfires, and that livelihoods would be affected without effective action on climate change.
The department’s incoming government brief to the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, warned of “disasters” exacerbated by climate change.
“The physical effects of climate change, population growth, and urbanisation mean that without effective action more Australians’ livelihoods will be impacted by disasters into the future and the cost of those disasters will continue to grow,” the brief stated.
“Coordinated national action to drive efforts to reduce these risks and improve national resilience is required.”
The brief, obtained under freedom of information, said disasters were only going to get worse.
“Life in Australia is increasingly disrupted by disasters. Australians will experience – as we did this summer – more frequent and severe heatwaves, bushfires, floods, and cyclones. These will increasingly occur concurrently.”
The brief quoted Deloitte Access Economics figures putting the cost of disasters to the Australian economy at $18.2bn a year, rising to $39bn by 2050.
Scott Morrison has ruled out a change in climate policy in response to the bushfire crisis. Since returning to Australia from a holiday in Hawaii on Saturday night, Morrison has been touring fire-affected regions of New South Wales.
While those defending the prime minister’s decision to take leave have frequently referred to the bushfire and disaster response as primarily a state issue, a chart put together by the department in the brief puts the prime minister on equal footing with state premiers and chief ministers when it comes to crisis coordination arrangements.
Incoming government brief for home affairs showing crisis coordination arrangements. Photograph: Home AffairsThe brief noted that while state and territory governments are considered the first responders, the federal government’s role is to support the governments through national coordination of efforts in the event crises cross state borders, as well as developing and implementing national mitigation policies.
“The Australian government provides support to the states and territories when coordinated assistance is requested [or] jointly manages a crisis with state and territories if the crisis has the potential to affect, or has affected multiple jurisdictions.”
The document said the federal government had responsibility for a national crisis coordination centre for hazard monitoring across the country, as well as responsibility for the national aerial firefighting centre.
In April the government set up the national disaster risk reduction framework with $130.6m set out over five years to help state and territory governments implement the strategies in the framework.
The framework identifies climate risk as part of the overall national disaster risk, but strategies are focused on identifying potential disaster risks and collecting data on disasters, rather than specific action on climate change.

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(AU) How To Lose Friends And Influence The Security Of Your Nation

Lethal Heating - 26 December, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Clive Hamilton*

It’s uncomfortable when a belief you have long held is contradicted by new facts. Even more so if an entire worldview comes under pressure from the evidence. Psychologists call it "cognitive dissonance" and it explains why it is so hard to change our minds even though we flatter ourselves that we base our opinions on the evidence.
The evidence linking bushfires to climate change is overwhelming. Credit: Nick MoirIn the political domain, perhaps the most powerful source of discomfort is the fear that if we change our views and express a new opinion then we will be cast out of the community of those who share and reinforce our beliefs. When worldviews are at stake, this community can actually give us our identity. They are "my people".
It’s not surprising that most people most of the time find ways to explain away or ignore evidence that contradicts their beliefs. So we talk to those who agree with us, limit ourselves to media that confirms our biases, and attack those presenting contradictory evidence as somehow disreputable or purveyors of fake news.
As a person from the political left, when I decided to write a book about Chinese Communist Party interference in Australia, I found myself experiencing this cognitive dissonance. As I researched and wrote the book, Silent Invasion, my worldview underwent an upheaval.
I had to discard and replace many of the assumptions and biases I had developed since my teenage years. My beliefs about modern China, the role of the United States in the world, the US alliance, intelligence agencies, the functioning of democracy and national identity – all underwent dramatic change.
The attacks on me came thick and fast, mainly from my colleagues on the left, criticisms that often upset me. One prominent left-wing intellectual began a commentary on my book by asking how a "principled, progressive writer like Clive Hamilton" could write a book like Silent Invasion. As if deciding to remain baffled, he didn’t consider the obvious answer, spelled out over the book’s 100,000 words; that is, the evidence.
Instead, many on the left believed that for some inexplicable reason I had become an anti-Chinese racist. For them, my long record of anti-racism, the fact that Silent Invasion was launched by Chinese-Australians, and the fact that it is now being read widely in a Chinese translation, defy explanation and are best ignored.
Like everyone, through my life I have clung to beliefs well after they had been disproven by any cool assessment of the facts. But in the case of Chinese Communist Party interference in Australia, I decided to confront the facts head-on and take the pain. The pain was more than I anticipated. Apart from the vicious social media and the slanders from various public figures, I lost friends, including my most valued political supporter.
For over 20 years before turning my attention to China, most of my work, including five books, was focused on climate change. When in the mid-1990s I first began reading what the climate scientists were saying I could see the enormity of the implications. For many years only a handful of people were ready to face up to the facts. Even the major environment groups, much to my frustration, took years before they worked climate change into their established patterns of thinking.
Many people on the conservative side of politics have found the evidence from scientists too threatening for their worldviews to accommodate. The more environmentalists began to raise the alarm, the more resistant they became, because accepting the facts would mean conceding political ground to their mortal enemy. So they adopted various ways of downplaying, reframing or just denying the evidence.
The Prime Minister and Opposition leader continue their tours of bushfire-affected communities.


The Prime Minister and Opposition leader continue their tours of bushfire-affected communities.

The scientists continued to go about their work, which not only confirmed their earlier analysis but showed the situation was worse than they thought and the calamities initially anticipated for later decades were arriving much sooner.
Some conservatives constructed conspiracy theories to explain why so many of the world’s top scientists and eminent scientific bodies had concocted the story of climate change or seriously exaggerated its effects. Rejecting climate science had become a core political belief. It defined who they were.
Now, any conservative who begins to think the scientists might be right risks accusations of betrayal and a kind of excommunication. Few people have the stomach for that. However, to keep one’s self-respect, when the facts become overwhelming, anyone other than a pure ideologue must sooner or later confront them, despite the discomfort and pain.
The evidence that the catastrophic bushfires ravaging our country have been intensified by climate change is overwhelming, and consistent with everything climate scientists have been warning about for more than 20 years. Nothing is more important for the future of our country than to face up to the implications of what the climate scientists have been telling us, and to take far-reaching action.
So I am appealing to the many conservatives who have admired my "courage" for tackling the issue of Chinese Communist Party interference to reassess their beliefs about climate change. I can’t promise it will be easy to undo deeply held opinions and rearrange your worldview. It means conflict with your political confreres. You may lose friends.
But the reason for opening yourself up to the evidence could not be more compelling – doing our best to save what we value above all else, our country, and the future of our children.

*Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University.

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(AU) How Is Australia Tackling Climate Change?

Lethal Heating - 26 December, 2019 - 04:00
BBC Reality Check - Jack Goodman

Australia's fire season has been unprecedented in its danger. Getty ImagesThe Australian government is facing criticism over its climate policies as the country deals with devastating bushfires and a historic heatwave.It has contributed to the long-running debate about the country's approach to climate change. So what is it doing to reduce carbon emissions?
Australia is one of the world's biggest per capita greenhouse gas emitters.
Under the Paris Climate Agreement, created to tackle rising temperatures, Australia set a target of a 26-28% reduction in emissions compared with 2005 levels by 2030.
These goals have been criticised for being too low, and last year the United Nations (UN) reported that Australia was not on track.
The UN found that: "There has been no improvement in Australia's climate policy since 2017 and emission levels for 2030 are projected to be well above the target."
About half of the G20 countries (those with the biggest economies), including Australia, are falling short.
Bushfires have killed at least nine people and razed hundreds of homes. Getty ImagesThe Climate Change Performance Index ranked Australia last out of 57 countries responsible for more than 90% of greenhouse gas emissions on climate policy.
It highlighted the country's no-show at a UN climate summit in September and its withdrawal from an international fund to tackle climate change.
However, the Australian government maintains it is on course to meet its 2030 commitments.
Australian emissions will be 16% lower than 2005 levels in 2030, according to projections published in December.
But it says it will meet the 2030 targets by counting the quantities of carbon already reduced under the previous international climate agreement, the Kyoto Protocol.
Source: International Energy Agency BBCMore important than specific targets - Australia as a fossil fuel producer has so far failed to acknowledge the need to plan for a world of net zero emissions, says Prof Myles Allen, a climate change expert at the University of Oxford.
Net zero means balancing carbon emissions with carbon removal.

The coal industry
Australia is among the world's largest exporters of iron ore, uranium, coal and natural gas.
It was the fourth largest producer of coal in 2017, according to the International Energy Agency.
Phasing out coal is considered crucial to limiting global warming to within 1.5C, but the Australian government is continuing to back the industry for the role it plays in the economy.
Facing criticism over his handling of the bushfires and response to climate change, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said he will not make "reckless" cuts to the coal industry.
The government recently approved the construction of a controversial new coal mine - which could be the biggest in the world and would export coal to India.

What are some of the government's climate policies?
A central climate plan is the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).
The government put forward an additional A$2bn (£1bn) spread over 15 years to help businesses and farmers reduce emissions, bringing up total investment to $4.5bn. The government says it will deliver 100 million tonnes of emissions reductions.
Though aspects of the ERF have been praised, "Australia has adopted a piecemeal approach to emission reduction," said the OECD (an economic body which monitors richer, industrialised nations) in a 2019 report.
The government needs to show how existing instruments, such as the ERF, can be scaled up to reach Paris Agreement goals, added the report.
Analysis - Roger Harrabin
Scientists round the world are looking aghast at the politics of climate change in Australia.
It's one of the most vulnerable countries on the planet to rising temperatures, yet there is still denial about the impacts of rising CO2 levels on events like the current wildfires.
There is no serious doubt among scientific institutions that rising global temperatures are leading to record heat.
The heatwaves are driven by a natural phenomenon but they are adding to an already over-heated planet.
In the election, the victorious Liberal (conservative) Party categorised climate change as a metropolitan fad for urban professionals, and gained support for the world's biggest coal mine.
Coal is the dirtiest fuel and scientists say we shouldn't be building more coal-fired power stations if we want to stabilise the climate.

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(AU) Richard Flanagan: Aloha, Little Scotty From Marketing, Is It Resurrection You’re Looking For?

Lethal Heating - 25 December, 2019 - 04:00
The New DailyRichard Flanagan*

Richard Flanagan has called out Australia's "gaslighter in chief". Photo: TNDThe return of Nero was scripted by Scotty from Marketing and embellished and blown up by his colleagues in Publicity over at News Corp.
Admittedly, as some may have whispered at his office’s Xmas drinks, Scott really only had one line in copywriting, but it had in the past worked well – or well enough.
These days though all his old lines were becoming national jokes so well known even Lara Bingle was in on them.
And no matter how many cuddles would be splashed in coming days over every News Corp paper as our Prime Minister would be photographed with the bereaved and the exhausted, the soot smeared and the tear stained, none of it seemed to quite paper over the growing sense of moral failure at our nation’s centre.
The worry was Scott – who had worked so hard on his image, even inventing his own bizarre moniker, ScoMo – might now be on the way to becoming the national joke himself. Engadine Scott. Smoko. Scummo. Sooty. Smirko. The quiet Hawaiian.
Aloha? Was anyone home?
No. Australia’s answer to the Griswolds had been on Christmas vacation in Hawaii, inadvertently feeding the nation some of the most insulting images it has suffered since the days of Aboriginal ash trays: Scott in boardies, arms around some beery mates, throwing a hang loose shaka while homes burnt and people died. Scott and Jenny at a beachside café, checking, yes, their phones. Scott, alone.
And it was this last image that perhaps reveals more about where Scott was and where we had got to as a nation.
Scott Morrison at a cafe in Hawaii on the weekend after saying he’d rush home.The café looked joyless and Scott looked overwhelmingly sad and lost.
At some point, a leader and his nation had lost sight of each other. Scott was texting, not waving; for reasons that escaped him for much of the week away the nation was burning, not cheering.
It was a problem. It was, it had to be said, a growing problem.
His return – what should have been a triumph, what should have been moving, what should have been a victory of faux humility the likes of which hadn’t been witnessed since his comrade-in-flames Rupert Murdoch fronted an English parliamentary committee investigating the horrors of his journalists’ phone hacking, and declared that it was the humblest day of his life – wasn’t working.
Scott was similarly sorry.
He invoked his wife more, one suspects, as protection so any who criticised his decision to take a holiday was criticising his family who were, of course, private and off bounds except for when Scott made them public and in bounds – just like his religion.
It was confusing, one thing meaning another thing and nothing all at the same time. That was Scotty from Marketing though. He and Jenny were sorry. He understood. And so on.
Somehow it felt as hollow as did a nation that had slowly been brought to the realisation by Scott’s holiday that it was led by people who seemed to care little about the national tragedy that was affecting millions, to say nothing of the dead, the newly homeless, the devastated business and lives, the continuing terror that still has months to be endured and hopefully survived.
His ‘everybloke’ lines were beginning to approach panicked derangement (going to Hawaii was like taking a plumbing contract on a Friday afternoon?) and every second item trending on social media seemed to involve some further humiliating take down of the Prime Minister. 
There was something vaguely Ceausescu-like about a complacent leader coming out on a platform to be cheered, only to be met with boos. His masks of concern and compassion couldn’t hold a candle to the grief and rage that was everywhere.
Almost every journalist had got the holiday to Hawaii wrong. It wasn’t the issue, they told Australia.
Australia begged to disagree.
It was the very heart of the issue.
Was the country run by leaders or by perk bludgers permanently on undeclared leave? It humiliated people to be reminded that no matter what they suffered and what they felt, no matter what they feared nor what greater horrors today awaited tomorrow, there now seemed only one certainty: Your government had abandoned you.
By the time Gretel Killeen stole the Sunrise show by stating what almost every journalist seemed to have missed, that in times of national emergency our leaders were meant to lead, Scott’s Big Hawaiian Adventure was its own bushfire.
And now, like the real thing, it was not so easily put out.
Scott Morrison has received heavy criticism for leaving the country while the rest of Australia faces devastating bushfires. pic.twitter.com/hoIaJpgybT— Sunrise (@sunriseon7) December 20, 2019Not content with not being there, not satisfied with his office having lied about where he was for some days, and determined to remind everyone back in the country he ostensibly led that not a word he said had any meaning on this or any other planet, he promised on Friday morning he would return as a matter of urgency only to not make it back until Saturday evening. It was just one day before he was going to come home anyway.
Morrison has never been accused of lacking political calculation in his decisions.
And by taking his holidays in the middle of a national emergency, wasn’t he saying that this too was normal, as bushfires have always been with us and always will be? It was a supreme act of show, not tell.
The problem was that it showed something other than what, we can only presume, he intended: It revealed that Morrison is wholly indifferent both to the immediate crisis and more fundamentally to its root causes, climate change.
It symbolised a contempt for all Australians.
In one sense, politics is only symbols, but symbols become reality. By showing he didn’t care, he was showing he wouldn’t act. It may be our problem – our homes, our lives, our futures – but it was not the problem of his government.
Having on Sunday been finally forced to pay lip service to the notion that climate change was part of the problem, he immediately doubled down on the government’s complete dereliction of responsibility to act on climate change, continuing to mouth the now very stale lie that Australia will meet its Paris targets, that emissions are falling, and then seeking to bring the story back to one he could control, one of Just Another Bloke.
The creepy gaslighter-in-chief was soon in full pitiful mode, trying to guilt the nation over denying Jenny and the kids a family holiday just because of an unprecedented global catastrophe.
Still, he was comforted by the fact:
"… that Australians would like me to be here simply so I can be here alongside them as they go through this terrible time.’’
Scott Morrison
Really, Scott?
Don’t be scared, he had told us when he had so infamously brandished a lump of coal in Parliament.
But the nation was terrified, he had no answers, he was another door-to-door salesman selling his sham evangelism. No, he said repeatedly, he wouldn’t hold a hose – but he would, one feared, arrive at where your front door had been until yesterday wanting to hold your hand.
“I don’t expect him on the hose, he’s pathetic at everything. He would be useless at it,” Susan Alexander told ABC News in front of the smouldering ruins of her home.
“I don’t expect him on the comms, but I do expect him to lead.”
Back at the RFS headquarters, in the absence of rain, Scott from Marketing continued to rain down the sort of patronising nonsense that offended almost everybody.
“You may want to think of dropping off some toys for the children of the firefighters,” he was now saying, “who may not have had time to go out and buy some this Christmas because they have been too busy.
“These are things that people can do constructively. Australians, we need to rally together. The time for argument is not now.”
Certainly, from Scott’s point of view, it wasn’t the best of times for reflection on what his government had done constructively about the crisis these past few weeks.
Other than being absent, other than Michael McCormack suggesting that exploding horse sh-t was also to blame for the fires (which, in a sense, every time I hear Michael McCormack speak, I am inclined to think may well be the case), there was one supreme act of bastardry that was best avoided.
Morrison’s government had only the week before played a leading role in scuppering any significant agreement at this year’s international meeting on climate change action in Madrid.
It was no small achievement, one even meriting global criticism –strange, really, given we are frequently told by Scott from Marketing that we are the Little Nation that Can’t.
But it had – at this moment of, as everyone acknowledged, unprecedented catastrophe – been doing all it could to ensure the next catastrophe would be that much worse and that much more unprecedented. And who better for the task than a man whose entire political career has been serial head on collisions with reality, the boy who cried Woolf himself, Angus Taylor?
For the hapless energy minister had managed in Madrid the one success of his ministerial career to date and that was to discredit our nation in the eyes of the world by being in cahoots with such colleagues as a nation led by medieval butchers, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, a nation led by a latter-day vivisector, exactly the sort of pariah states any democratic country feels proud to have as allies.
“That is why,” Scott from Marketing continued, “Australia is the best country in the world and that is the country I am proud to lead.”  
Really?
Actually, out of 57 countries recently rated on climate change action Australia is ranked 57th. Which is not best. Which is last. Which gives us the claim to be the worst country in the world on the most important problem facing mankind. Thanks Nero. Thanks Angus.
And, in any case, is it the best country for those people whose towns ran out of water months ago? Whose insurance premiums are about to become unaffordable? Whose farms are now, according to a recent report, 22 per cent less profitable because of climate change? For those millions fearful for their children’s health, or, for that matter, their own as the smog continues?
For the hundreds of thousands more who have several more months of fear as to whether their home might be next, before the ever-shrinking respite of winter and then the return of the next and now inevitably worse fire season?
The fire season is well and truly here – and it’s just the beginning. Photo: GettyCelebrating the resilience and strength of individual Australians is the cruellest insult if our government’s only policy is leave them to perish, to choke, to burn and, if fighting the fires, having to crowd fund such basic equipment as face masks.
The science is long in as to what is happening, why it is happening, and how to resolve it. And given this knowledge, why do the highest officers in our land, charged by us to act in our interest, continue to act in defiance of that knowledge, knowingly complicit in destroying lives, homes, and livelihoods?
Are they criminal in their dereliction of responsibility? As the law stands they are not. But the law needs to change.
Before this cruellest of summers is over more innocent people will be dead. More homes will be lost. More families and friends will be grieving. More towns and farmers will have no water. More people will have lost their livelihoods.
Australia will have become become Ground Zero for global heating and Scott from Marketing will have moved on to booking his next family holiday with Jenny and the kids.
Morrison’s Pentecostal faith teaches that the end of days is signalled by a time of fire, flood and famine, known as the Tribulation. This is a wonderful time for the elect, who ascend to heaven in the Rapture.
If Morrison is genuine in such beliefs, is he in any way a fit person to lead our country at this time of crisis that his religion sees as a joyous moment? Either he is sincere in his faith or he is sincere in his oath to office, but he cannot be both.
Which is it, Prime Minister?
This fundamental question matters and cannot be fobbed off with the line that religion is private. When an election was in full flight and votes were needed, his religion was very public.
Award-winning author Richard Flanagan: ‘Scott Morrison is no leader’. Photo: GettyAnyone who thinks Morrison will change, that he will genuinely address Australia’s grave climate crisis, is grievously mistaken. In January he goes to India, where he will meet Gautam Adani. What promises will be made there, what further subsidies of our money offered, in order that our fires grow bigger and our droughts worse?
His government will not change its criminal course of inaction on climate change. It can’t and it won’t, in part because many of its leaders are climate change denialists, in part because of the curious, inexplicable hold the fossil fuel industry has over it, and in part because it owes Clive Palmer big time, and he wants his giant Galilee Basin coal mine in return for buying Morrison his one-seat majority.
And in part because, when all is said and done, it’s winning.
Labor appears Morrison-lite, and there is no effective political expression for the growing national anger about the climate catastrophe and our political leaders’ determination to make it worse.
When they are up against a megafire, firefighters don’t say I’m only one man or one woman, or that our crew are only six people. They do their bit. They stand up. They fight. They make a difference. Where’s the fight in Scott Morrison?
He’s a small man, a man who uses his wife and children as cover for his own bad decisions, who runs away when the heat is on.
He’s no more or less than a shill for the coal industry. When they gave him the only clean coal on the planet, a carefully varnished piece of black rock, he was a big man in Parliament waving it in all our faces: His dark master, our black future.
But when the gates of hell opened, he was in Hawaii, a little man making hang loose signs, reportedly saying fires were a state, not federal, issue.
He may be our elected Prime Minister. But he is no leader. And no matter how many die this summer his position will not change.
It is we who must.

*Richard Flanagan is an award-winning Australian writer. His achievements include journalism prizes for his essays and the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. This is his first piece for The New Daily
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    (AU) Why Australia’s Prime Minister Just Defended Coal, Even Though The Country Is ‘On Fire’ And Voters Fear Climate Change

    Lethal Heating - 25 December, 2019 - 04:00
    Washington PostRick Noack

    Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison flies in a military helicopter over bush fires in New South Wales on Monday. (Adam Taylor/Australian Prime Ministers Office/AFP/Getty Images)As devastating bush fires continue to rage across parts of Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a message to the nation on Monday: Let’s stick to coal.
    “What we won’t do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching targets which are being sought,” Morrison told Australia’s Nine network. He was responding to demands for a stronger embrace of alternatives to coal, which is the country’s most valuable export and accounts for 75 percent of the country’s electricity generation. However, coal is a key factor in global warming, which studies indicate is exacerbating fires and natural disasters worldwide.
    Morrison’s stance on coal has drawn comparisons with that of President Trump, who announced in 2017 that he was pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord. But Australian coal and climate politics are more complicated than that. Even though Morrison publicly defends the coal industry, he has stuck to the Paris agreement, which seeks to rein in that industry. And although the majority of Australian voters fear climate change, Morrison has made electoral gains by backing coal.
    To make matters more complicated, Australia is far from being only a top coal-producing country. It’s still unclear whether Australia will be able to meet its emissions targets, but the country is now outperforming other developed countries in switching to more climate-friendly alternatives. Between 2018 and 2020, its wind and solar power capacity is set to grow almost three times faster than Germany’s, for instance, according researchers Matthew Stocks, Andrew Blakers and Ken Baldwin.
    “Australia is demonstrating to the world how rapidly an industrialised country with a fossil-fuel-dominated electricity system can transition towards low-carbon, renewable power generation,” they argued. Some of this is certainly due to the fact that Australia — with vast and sunny stretches of land — doesn’t exactly have to try hard to generate solar energy.
    Australia’s shifting role in the production of renewable energy does not come as a coincidence. Sixty-four percent of Australians viewed climate change as “a critical threat” in a Lowy Institute poll this year — a figure that’s up almost 20 percentage points since 2014.
    Sixty-one percent also expressed support for more action in the same survey, even “if this involves significant costs.” In 2012, 36 percent of respondents agreed with that assertion.





    So, if Australians favor tackling climate change, why would Morrison want to be seen as the defender of the coal industry?
    While most Australians agree on the threat that climate change poses to their country, they vehemently disagree over who should carry the economic burden of trying to counter it.
    When Morrison defied polls and celebrated an upset victory during elections in May, his center-right Liberal Party’s surprise success was attributed to his tough line on immigration and promises of tax cuts, as well as to a pledge to withstand demands for more decisive climate action. The country’s coal industry — drawing from the world’s fourth-largest coal reserves — employed at least 35,000 people last year, and Morrison promised to protect those jobs.
    The opposition Labor Party, meanwhile, proposed a more decisive shift toward renewable energy, aiming to produce 50 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. (Some researchers have said Australia is already on track to meet that threshold by 2030.)
    But similar to Brexit in the United Kingdom, climate change cuts across party lines in Australia: Regional party leaders muddied the national leadership’s message. The Labor Party premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, sought to advertise his state as a gas and oil haven. Other Labor politicians similarly emphasized the role that natural resources would continue to play.
    That approach backfired in two major ways during spring elections: In states dependent on the coal industry, Labor lost crucial votes to the center-right party. But Labor also struggled in urban districts, where it alienated liberals who believed that Labor was not insistent enough on action to protect the environment and who voted for alternatives such as the Greens.

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    (AU) Australia’s Bushfires Have Exposed Its Leaders’ Failings

    Lethal Heating - 25 December, 2019 - 04:00
    Financial Times - Editorial

    Scott Morrison must face up to the challenge of climate change
    People swim in Sydney Harbour as smoke envelops the city. Scott Morrison's government stands as a reproach to any leaders tempted to follow its lamentable response to climate change. © Joel Carrett/AAP/dpa
     
    A haze of smoke has made the skies over Bondi Beach look more like those in New Delhi. The death toll has risen. Bushfires have raged across Australia amid a heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring to record levels more common in the Middle East. The scale of the country’s wildfire emergency has few precedents. But it has been exacerbated by a regrettable lack of leadership from the prime minister, Scott Morrison. Beyond Australia’s shores, his government stands as a reproach to any leaders tempted to follow its lamentable response to the deepening threat of climate change.

    Mr Morrison has long been a cheerful volunteer in the divisive climate battles that have ravaged the political landscape in Australia, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters. One of his predecessors, Tony Abbott, made history in 2014 by repealing a national carbon tax. Mr Morrison made international news himself in 2017 when as Treasurer, he brandished a lump of coal on the floor of the parliament to taunt critics he claimed had a “pathological fear” of the fuel.

    He became prime minister last year after a coup in his centre-right Liberal party ousted the cosmopolitan former investment banker Malcolm Turnbull, whose agenda had included a greener energy policy. This year, Mr Morrison confounded expectations by leading his coalition government to yet another election victory, having campaigned in favour of a vast Queensland coal mine.

    Against this background, when blazing bushfires broke out across eastern Australia, Mr Morrison stumbled. Eager to play down scientists’ warnings that a hotter, drier climate would help to make fires more frequent and intense, his ministers’ initial response to the fires smacked of politically calculated complacency. The deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said Australia had endured fires “since time began” and victims did not need the “ravings” of “woke capital city greenies”. Two weeks ago, when Sydney was blanketed in a thick haze of smoke, Mr Morrison gave a press conference in the city where he appeared more eager to discuss a religious freedom bill than bushfires.

    As the fires blazed on last week, Mr Morrison abruptly disappeared to parts unknown. “Where the bloody hell are you?” asked critics, using a campaign slogan commissioned when Mr Morrison ran the government’s Tourism Australia agency. Bizarrely, his office initially said reports he was on holiday in Hawaii were wrong. As anger surged over his absence, and two firefighters were killed, the prime minister broke cover to say he had indeed been in Hawaii but was coming home.

    This sorry domestic spectacle has been compounded by Mr Morrison’s behaviour on the international stage. At UN climate talks in Madrid this month, his government was accused of trying to weaken rules for the 2015 Paris agreement and making feeble efforts to meet its emissions targets.

    Mr Morrison often argues that Australia accounts for just 1.3 per cent of global carbon emissions. Setting aside the fact that its per capita emissions are among the world’s highest, it is true that cutting pollution in Australia alone would not physically prevent its bushfires, or the devastating floods and drought it has endured in recent times.

    Global warming requires a global response. But that response will never come if wealthy nations such as Australia continue to behave as if climate breakdown is a problem for others. Mr Morrison is now paying a political cost for his inaction. A far higher price will be paid in future for the bleak litany of climate failures his government represents.

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    (AU) Australia Fires: PM Rejects 'Reckless' Calls To Limit Coal Industry

    Lethal Heating - 24 December, 2019 - 04:00
    BBC News

    The fires razed scores of homes across two states on the weekend. EPAAustralian PM Scott Morrison says he will not make "reckless" cuts to the nation's coal industry, despite criticism of his response to climate change and a deadly bushfire crisis.Australia is being ravaged by bushfires which have killed nine people and razed hundreds of homes since September.
    As the crisis escalated last week, Mr Morrison faced a backlash for deciding to take a family holiday to Hawaii.
    On Monday, he reiterated he would not adjust his policies through "panic".
    The nation has steadfastly backed coal-fired power for its economic value, despite the recommendations of a major report on climate change.
    "What we won't do is engage in reckless and job-destroying and economy-crunching targets which are being sought," Mr Morrison told local broadcaster Nine on Monday.
    Many Australians have accused his government of inaction on global warming, with criticism growing as a heatwave broke records across the country and worsened the fires.
    One town was largely destroyed and scores of homes were razed amid catastrophic conditions on the weekend.

    What did Mr Morrison say?
    Mr Morrison said tackling climate changes was "as important now" as it was earlier this year, before the fire emergency.
    Mr Morrison has conducted a media blitz since returning from holiday. EPAHe said his nation was on track to meet its emissions reduction commitments - an assertion previously disputed by the UN.
    "I don't accept the suggestion that Australia is not carrying its weight," he said on Sunday.
    And he further tried to explain his Hawaii holiday - for which he has apologised - by comparing it to a decision made by a working parent.
    "Whether it's on a Friday afternoon and you are deciding to take that extra plumbing contract and you said you would pick up the kids - or something at my level - these are things you juggle as parents," he said.

    What's the latest with the fires?
    Firefighters are struggling to contain bushfires burning across several states amid dry and hot conditions.
    New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there was "not much left" of the small town of Balmoral, south-west of Sydney, after fires at the weekend.


    The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil says "the destruction is absolute" in Balmoral 

    Residents are currently not allowed to return to the town, and an unknown number of homes have been destroyed.
    No fatalities were reported in the town, but several firefighters were reportedly injured. More than 800 homes have been destroyed in NSW since the fire season began.
    Just before 11pm, there are 98 bush and grass fires burning in NSW, 50 are still to be contained. More favourable conditions today have allowed firefighters to work on assessing the damage from the last couple of days and focus on containment options. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/up84cgPwCz— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 22, 2019Elsewhere, at least 86 houses were destroyed in the Adelaide Hills area of South Australia - where a 69-year-old man was found dead at his property on Saturday.
    Officials said they were hoping to exploit cooler conditions over the coming days to try to contain the fires.

    At the scene - Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Balmoral
    Burned forest. Scorched patches of ground with the twisted remains of homes. And equally remarkably - properties untouched by the flames. Balmoral is an eerie and desperately sad sight.
    We met volunteer firefighter Russell Scholes whose house burned down as he battled to help others.
    "I loved my house. But my family are safe. My animals are safe and we helped protect the community and that's more important than the house," he says. "We'll move on and rebuild."
    Balmoral Fire Station is awash with that spirit of kindness. As exhausted firefighters continue to tackle spot fires, volunteers busily process donations of food, clothes, toiletries and bedding.
    And perhaps more important, emotional support. Even among the stoicism of rural Australia you get a sense that's what is needed here in the days and weeks ahead.
    One family of three whose home was destroyed sat in the station's kitchen, struggling to process their loss. Tears of shock and grief came in waves.
    But there were also tears of gratitude, as the community rallied round them with hugs and warm words - even when there are none.

    What is driving the fires?
    A combination of record temperatures, low humidity and strong winds have worsened the struggle to deal with the bushfires.
    Scientists have long warned that a hotter, drier climate would contribute to Australia's fires becoming more frequent and intense.
    "We are in a period of unbelievable drought and some areas haven't seen rain for more than 12 months," NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd told the BBC.


    Australia fire evacuees in Mittagong used a car park as a shelter.

    "These fires are likely to continue to spread well past Christmas."
    Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters: "We will not get on top of these fires until we get some decent rain - we have said that for weeks and months."
    Rain is forecast in some fire-struck parts of NSW on Tuesday and Wednesday - but another period of dangerously hot weather is expected next week.
    Weather officials say no major rainfall is expected in the next two months.

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    Landmark Ruling That Holland Must Cut Emissions To Protect Citizens From Climate Change Upheld By Supreme Court

    Lethal Heating - 24 December, 2019 - 04:00
    The IndependentAndy Gregory

    Decision ‘provides a clear path forward for concerned individuals to undertake climate litigation’
    Marjan Minnesma (second on right), director of environment NGO Urgenda, holds a banner outside the Supreme Court prior its ruling in the Urgenda case on 20 December in The Hague. (AFP/Getty)The highest court in the Netherlands has upheld a landmark ruling that defines protection from the devastation of climate change as a human right and requires the government to set more ambitious targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions as a result.
    Hailed as an “immense victory for climate justice”, the supreme court rejected the government’s appeal against earlier rulings, handing environmental activists a final victory in a gruelling six-year legal battle.
    The Dutch government will now have to cut emissions by at least 25 per cent by the end of 2020 from benchmark 1990 levels.
    “This is the most important climate change court decision in the world so far, confirming that human rights are jeopardised by the climate emergency and that wealthy nations are legally obligated to achieve rapid and substantial emission reductions,” said the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, Dr David Boyd.
    Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said he guaranteed his government would do everything it could to reach 2020 target, without elaborating on possible measures.
    Climate change: Decade's defining issue in pictures
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    Athens, GreeceIn this decade, humans have become ever more aware of climate change. Calls for leaders to act echo around the globe as the signs of a changing climate become ever more difficult to ignore. AFP/Getty“It’s complicated,” said Mr Rutte. “We have to close the remaining gap in a very short time.”
    It is now more than four years since a court in The Hague first ordered emissions to be cut in a case brought by Dutch organisation Urgenda, which spawned similar legal challenges in courts around the world.
    The government appealed that verdict, saying that courts should not be able to order the government to take action. The government lost the appeal in October 2018, but appealed again, this time to the supreme court.
    Friday’s ruling rejected that appeal, saying the Dutch government must act “on account of the risk of dangerous climate change that could also have a serious impact on the rights to life and well-being of residents of the Netherlands.”
    “Those consequences are happening already,” Justice Kees Streefkerk, the chief justice, said in the decision.
    The court found that, based on the European Convention on Human Rights, the government had a legal duty to protect its citizens from climate breakdown, and should shape policy accordingly.
    Experts said this paved the way for activists in all 47 member states on the Council of Europe to use the courts to ensure their governments took appropriate measures to prevent climate breakdown.
    “This landmark ruling provides a clear path forward for concerned individuals in Europe — and around the world — to undertake climate litigation in order to protect human rights, and I pay tribute to the civil society groups which initiated this action,” said the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet.
    The 2015 ruling was the first anywhere in the world ordering a government to curb emissions, and of 1,442 climate lawsuits around the world, Friday’s “was the strongest decision ever”, Michael Gerrard, director Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law told the New York Times.
    There have since been lawsuits in countries ranging from South Africa to Germany, with mixed results.
    Earlier this month, three German farming families said they won’t appeal a court’s decision to dismiss their climate change lawsuit against Angela Merkel’s government.

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    'How Is This Possible?': Greta Thunberg Weighs In On Australia's Bushfire Crisis

    Lethal Heating - 24 December, 2019 - 04:00
    SBSAAP - | SBS

    Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg has hit out at a lack of political action in the wake of Australia's bushfire 'catastrophe'.
    Ms Thunberg has questioned the political response to Australia's bushfire crisis. Getty/AAPTeenage climate warrior Greta Thunberg has accused Australia's politicians of "failing to make the connection" between rising temperatures and extreme weather events.
    The 16-year-old Swedish environmentalist is spending Christmas with her family but weighed in on the bushfire emergencies still gripping Australia in a social media post on Sunday.
    "Not even catastrophes like these seem to bring any political action. How is this possible?" she tweeted to her 3.7 million followers.
    The tweet has already garnered thousands of likes and retweets.
    Not even catastrophes like these seem to bring any political action. How is this possible?
    Because we still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and increased extreme weather events and nature disasters like the #AustraliaFires
    That's what has to change.
    Now. https://t.co/DQcZViKJQz— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 22, 2019Scott Morrison has defended his government's response to the bushfire crisis and stressed the need for climate change action, but claims "reckless" moves like ending coal exports and setting a stricter emissions target will have no "meaningful impact" on the global climate.
    In an op-ed in The Daily Telegraph, the prime minister lauded the efforts of the various authorities at the state and federal levels, from the various fire services to the Emergency Management Agency and defence forces, in fighting the bushfires.
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian are briefed during a visit to the Wollondilly Emergency Control Centre in Sydney. AAPHe also listed current policies around preventing bushfires, such as hazard reduction and land clearing laws as well as " how we can best sustain our extensive volunteer fire fighting effort", saying they will be reviewed after the present emergency ends.
    Mr Morrison conceded there was need for "real action on climate change" across all levels.
    "There is no disagreement and there has not been any denial of this critical factor, either by the federal government or any state or territory government.
    Prime Minister Scott Morrison greets firefighters from Canada at the NSW Rural Fire Service control room in Sydney. AAP"But to suggest that increasing Australia's climate targets would have prevented these fires or extreme weather events, in Australia or anywhere else, is simply false."
    The prime minister pushed back against more stringent action, including calls to end coal exports and set an emissions target.
    Today I visited the Picton community in NSW to offer my support to some of the families who’ve lost everything in these terrible bushfires.
    It’s days like these when you see the best of Australia - friendship, neighbours looking after each other, simple kindnesses being extended. pic.twitter.com/4rngBvHmOw— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) December 22, 2019"We won't embrace reckless targets and abandon our traditional industries that would risk Australian jobs while having no meaningful impact on the global climate," Mr Morrison said.

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    Earth's Hottest Decade On Record Capped By Years Of Extreme Storms And Deadly Wildfires

    Lethal Heating - 23 December, 2019 - 04:00
    InsideClimate News -  Bob Berwyn

    As global warming intensified, people and ecosystems felt the climate changing, from the hurricane-ravaged coasts to the fast-warming Arctic.
    Rescues during flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Credit: Jabin Botsford/Washington Post via Getty ImagesDeadly heat waves, wildfires and widespread flooding in 2019 punctuated a decade of climate extremes that, by many scientific accounts, show global warming kicking into overdrive.
    As the year drew to a close, scientists were confidently saying 2019 was Earth's second-warmest recorded year on record, capping the warmest decade. Eight of the 10 warmest years since measurements began occurred this decade, and the other two were only a few years earlier.
    Arctic sea ice melted faster and took longer to form again in the fall. Big swaths of ocean remained record-warm nearly all year, in some regions spawning horrifically damaging tropical storms that surprised experts with their rapid intensification. Densely populated parts of Europe shattered temperature records amid heat waves blamed for hundreds of deaths, and a huge section of the U.S. breadbasket region was swamped for months by floodwater.
    And wildfires burned around the globe, starting unusually early in unexpected places like the UK. They blazed across country-size tracts of Siberia, fueled by record heat, flared up in the Arctic and devastated parts of California. Again and again, scientists completed near real-time attribution studies showing how global warming is making extremes—including wildfires—more likely.
    Even more worrisome, scientists warned late in the year that many of these extremes are linked and intensify each other, pushing the global climate system ever-closer to tipping points that could lead to the breakdown of ecological systems—already seen in coral reefs and some forests—and potentially trigger runaway warming.
    "Every decade or half-decade we go into a new realm of temperature. When you look at the decadal averages, it becomes pretty obvious that the climate of the 20th Century is gone. We're in a new neighborhood," said Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.
    "When I look at the patterns, the thing that always comes back to me is, we share one atmosphere, one climate system with people we will never meet. When we poke it here in our part of the world it can have mammoth consequences elsewhere," he said.
    The record heat and weather extremes are affecting millions of people worldwide, said Omar Baddour, who helped compile a World Meteorological Organization report showing that more than 10 million people were displaced by climate extremes in just the first half of 2019. In addition to extreme weather, warming can increase the risk of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, rising sea levels and erosion can make coastal areas uninhabitable, and increasing heat can harm agriculture and water supplies communities rely on.
    "It's really serious. We are getting into a self-sustained loop of global warming that could lead to 3 to 5 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 9°F) of warming by the end of the century," he said. "We have been recording 2,000 to 3,000 excess deaths from heat waves. This is really becoming a disaster. Humans are suffering."

    Globe-Spanning Heat Waves
    It was clear long before the decade started that human activities were driving global warming. The inexorable heat-trapping effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is heating Earth dangerously, and there is no slowdown in sight. Record CO2 emissions were reported again this year, due largely to the burning of long-buried carbon, in the form of coal, oil and gas.
    That CO2 can linger in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. Before the industrial era, the atmospheric CO2 concentration was around 280 parts per million. In 2010, it passed 390 ppm. This year, it reached 415 ppm at its seasonal peak, a level not seen on Earth since at least 3 million years ago, when global temperatures were 3 to 4 degrees Celsius warmer than now, sea level was 65 feet higher and evidence suggests beech trees grew near the South Pole.


    Perhaps nothing points more clearly at the link between greenhouse gases and global warming than the surge in heat waves during the past decade, starting in 2010, when North America, Europe and Asia all experienced extreme record-high temperatures at the same time.
    In its 2010 global State of the Climate report, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described the event as a global heat wave lasting from June through October, with record high temperatures spanning the Northern Hemisphere. In June of that year, well-above normal temperatures spanned the globe.
    The U.S. was hit by extreme heat waves the next two summers, and a year later, Australia experienced what became known as the "Angry Summer," with a seven-day span when the country's average temperature stayed above 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The 2013 heat wave in Australia was one of the first, but not the last, to be linked directly with global warming. By 2017, when the Lucifer heat wave blazed across Southern Europe, scientists said it was made 10 times more likely by global warming. By the end of the decade, climate attribution studies showed that extreme heat events in 2018 and 2019 wouldn't have been possible without global warming.
    Research during the 2010s also showed the links between heat waves and droughts, like the dry spell that gripped California for five years, as long spells of above-average temperature lead to massive evaporation of moisture from soils and plants.

    'Like the World Was on Fire'
    Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann singled out fire as a gut-wrenching manifestation of the changing climate.
    "It literally felt like the world was on fire," he said. "The unprecedented extreme weather events we saw once again that were undoubtedly fueled by human-caused planetary warming. The year 2019 really drove that home."
    "My alma mater (UC Berkeley) was closed down due to the California wildfires at the same time the location of my upcoming sabbatical (Sydney, Australia) was blanketed in smoke from simultaneous brush fires. Australia and California aren't supposed to have simultaneous fire seasons. But now they do," he said.
    Global warming dries out forests, making them more flammable and enabling flames to spread faster. Warmer nighttime temperatures in recent decades also mean that fires don't die down after the sun sets, and warmer temperatures contribute to fire conditions lasting longer.

    Wildfires are normally rare in the frozen realms of the Arctic, but the relentless retreat of reflective sea ice cover has enabled the sun to warm the Arctic Ocean and adjacent land areas. That dries the vegetation, making it susceptible to ignition, and the warmer atmosphere is triggering more storms with fire-igniting lightning strikes in the region.
    As a result, CO2 and other emissions from Arctic wildfires were above average for several weeks in a row in 2019, said Mark Parrington, who tracks the fires for the European Union's Copernicus Earth Observation Programme.
    "The most unusual, and unexpected, fires in 2019 were poleward of the Arctic Circle," he said.

    The decade started with unprecedented wildfires in Siberia from July through September, fueled by a heat wave that climate researchers at the time called a black swan event, "well beyond the normal expectations in the instrumental record."
    The years since have brought more record blazes and devastation, including California's deadliest wildfire season, in 2018.
    This year, Europe saw its worst wildfire season on record. California was once again scorched during what should have been the start of the rainy season, and large parts of Australia were wracked by weeks of wildfires in November and December during a very early start to the fire season. Wildfire activity also surged unusually far north in Alaska, as climate researchers again warned that there is no reason to think the trend toward bigger and more destructive fires will change any time soon.

    Intensifying Hurricanes and Record Rainfall
    On the other end of the climate spectrum from fire is extreme rainfall and flooding, and there was plenty of that in 2019, which was on track to be the United States' wettest year on record, said NOAA's Arndt.
    "I think this year is an exclamation point of what we've seen a lot this decade. We're having big rainfall storms, whether they are tropical or stuck weather systems," he said.
    Increasingly, scientists are linking extreme rainfall from tropical storms with global warming, including this year's Hurricane Dorian, which picked up more moisture in the human-warmed atmosphere and pounded the Bahamas for nearly three days, stuck in a stagnant weather pattern that may have been caused by global warming, scientists said.
    Hurricanes draw energy from warm ocean water, as Florida saw in 2018 when Hurricane Michael exploded in strength before hitting the town of Mexico Beach with 160 mile-per-hour winds. The hyperactive 2017 Atlantic hurricane season had been the most destructive on record with Hurricane Harvey, which flooded Houston with days of record rainfall, and Category 5 storms Irma and then Maria, which devastated Dominica, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

    The links between inland flooding and global warming are also becoming increasingly clear, with several studies this past decade showing how a warmer atmosphere can bring more extreme rainfall and even change flood patterns. The Midwest saw what that can mean in 2019, when the region's wettest January-to-May period on record brought record high water that devastated farms in several states.
    Scientists said they also expect intensifying atmospheric rivers to increase flood risks during the West's winter rainy season, while warming spring temperatures are raising the danger of rain-on-snow floods.

    The Big Melt in Greenland and Antarctica
    Earth's icy realms are especially sensitive to global warming, and they're adding to sea level rise that puts coastal areas around the world at risk.
    "It's a disaster in slow motion," said climate scientist Jason Box, who focuses on the Greenland Ice Sheet. "We're hearing a coherent signal across the board. The whole hydrological system across the Arctic getting hyperactive. There's more rain, more snow, more melting, higher humidity and lower sea ice. But we're not internalizing this enough," he said.
    "Is it denial? I don't know. Is the human frog in the pot analogy? There's an argument that humans have not evolved to deal with the long-term threats," he said, adding that the human response to global warming seems to support that thesis.

    In 2019, Greenland saw widespread melting. It began with a very early start of the melt season followed by record warm air later in summer.
    The rate and magnitude of Greenland Ice Sheet mass loss, and of ice loss globally, has been dramatic, said Twila Moon, a climate researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
    Various feedback cycles that hasten melting have become more visible, she said, "for example, when winter snow has melted around the Greenland edge, it reveals darker glacier ice. That darker ice more easily absorbs energy and more melt is created."
    "It was only a couple of decades ago that we were realizing we needed to pay attention to the big ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica on shorter timescales," she said. "This decade also brought a richer understanding of how the ice sheets interact with the ocean. Warm water at depth is very destructive for ice sheets."
    Warming oceans, in combination with shifting currents and winds, have started melting West Antarctica's ice shelves from below, which can speed the flow of the land ice behind them to the sea and accelerate sea level rise. If just the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt, it would raise global sea level by more than 10 feet, and there is now strong evidence that human-caused warming is accelerating that process, said ice sheet researcher Mike MacFerrin.

    Antarctic sea ice, which hit a record low in 2019, has also been an interesting story, said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
    For the first part of the decade, Antarctic sea ice expanded, "contrary to what one expects in a warming environment, he said. "However, in 2016, things completely reversed and by 2017 there was a record low minimum and a record low maximum extent, and 2018 followed with the second lowest minimum and fourth lowest maximum."
    "What happens in the future is hard to say, but with continued warming, the trends in sea ice will start to turn negative," he said.
    The last decade is also notable for Arctic heat waves and repeated low Arctic sea ice levels, Meier said. The past 13 years had the lowest Arctic sea ice extent in the satellite record.

    Global warming took a big bite out of the world's mountain glaciers in 2019, as well, with extreme melting especially evident in the European Alps, where scientists are closely tracking the retreat. Even after heavy winter snows, Swiss glaciers once again lost a record amount of ice.
    "The biggest thing that emerged looking back over the last decade is the number of extreme years that seems to go completely beyond natural variability," said Swiss glaciologist Matthias Huss. Nearly every year of the decade into the extreme melt category. Even massive, sometimes record-setting winter snowfall, can't offset the melting from summer heat, he said.
    In the Swiss Alps, about 20 percent of the total ice volume has been lost since 2010, reflecting a trend across the entire Alps. A study published this year showed if the current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory continues, more than 90 percent of the Alpine ice will be gone by the end of the century, affecting water supplies and power production as it disappears.

    Tying It Back to Global Warming
    The 2010s were the decade that attribution science, which analyzes the connections between global warming and extreme events, came of age, particularly through the work of the World Weather Attribution program.
    The program's international team of scientists looked at a wide range of extreme events in the last few years. Every time they analyzed a heat wave, they found global warming fingerprints.
    They found that the then-record setting global heat of 2014 was made 35 to 80 times more likely by global warming. In another study, they found that if global greenhouse gas emissions aren't capped, heat waves like 2017's "Lucifer" in the Mediterranean region will be the new normal by the middle of the century, and that the summer of 2019's extreme temperatures in France would have been nearly impossible without global warming.

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    (AU) Can Morrison's 'She'll Be Right' Strategy On Climate Work Forever?

    Lethal Heating - 23 December, 2019 - 04:00
    The Guardian*

    The government has an opportunity to pivot in 2020 – to actually do something rather than pretending to
    ‘What I don’t know is whether the current community concern will be transient, vanishing once glorious Sydney harbour reverts to sparkling.’ Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty ImagesIt’s hot as I write this final column for 2019, the day is creeping towards 40C. It’s dry. The ground is like concrete, and dust is obscuring yellowed grass on my parched suburban block. Bushfire smoke has rolled in and out of Canberra. Smoke is the last thing I smell before going to sleep and the first thing I smell as I wake up.
    With the summer stretching out in front of us and no significant rain forecast before April, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, December and January promises extreme weather, burning bushland, eerie blood-red sunsets. Towns are on the brink of running out of water. Instead of resting and recharging with their loved ones, emergency services workers are spending their days toiling in a hellscape.
    Long dries are dangerous times for Coalition governments, politically. The public furore over Scott Morrison’s ill judged mini-break in Hawaii while parts of the country were battling a national disaster – and Morrison’s attempt on Friday to clean up the damage – points to the political difficulties the government faces.
    Long dries create negative feedback loops for centre-right parties in Australia. The Nationals find themselves besieged by furious constituents. Rural independents position themselves to challenge major party incumbents. Far-right populists preen and circle – Pauline Hanson, the Shooters party. As a consequence of the unwelcome competition, Nationals want to flex their muscle within the government and be seen to be delivering, which can create difficulties for the Liberals in urban areas.
    Water politics (as my wise colleague Gabrielle Chan put this, predictively, in August) is in hyperdrive in regional Australia. The irrigators engaged in an existential fight to preserve their livelihoods (like the group that came to Canberra during the final sitting weeks of the parliament and camped outside the main entrance and outside the National Farmers Federation HQ, a protest convoy demanding an audience) – want more of the scarce water. They feel wedged between the ecology, the speculators and a basin plan they evidently associate with misery.
    But in cities, progressive Liberal voters fret about persistent government inaction on climate change. Restiveness about a lack of climate action puts pressure on the other arm of the government, the arm inclined to worry the Coalition has lost control of the climate change narrative.
    A prelude to this summer nocturne played out during the last federal election, when Nationals found themselves under significant challenge in seats with direct exposure to the Murray-Darling. It gets forgotten, because the government has been entirely successful in projecting the sweetest victory of all post-election narrative, but Sussan Ley, the Liberal member for Farrer, suffered a negative swing on primaries of 7%. A high profile independent contesting the seat got almost 20,000 votes in the seat. National Mark Coultan had a similar experience in Parkes – a negative swing on primaries, and a bump for an independent.
    In the cities, climate-related anxiety swung votes too. Tony Abbott lost his seat, Josh Frydenberg suffered a negative swing of over 8% and Tim Wilson a negative swing of 3.66%. In Trent Zimmerman’s seat of North Sydney, the Labor candidate got a positive swing of over 8%, while in Brisbane, Trevor Evans had a negative swing of 2% and the Greens a positive swing of nearly 3%.
    While the May election was fought on a range of issues, certainly not climate and environment alone, the election result tells us the Coalition did a better job than Labor of straddling its split constituency, neutralising and weaponising where required; and was more effective in channeling the inevitable protest votes back to the Coalition.
    So it is possible – Christmas holiday SNAFU and abject prime ministerial apologies notwithstanding – that Team Morrison will end the year resolved to maintaining the status quo with its actions and messaging. It’s possible the Coalition will try and wait out the backlash. After all, what problem needs to be fixed here? The negative swings in May happened in seats the government holds by a large margin, so what’s the case for a course correction? On this benign view Morrison can go on managing the different aspirations among the Coalition’s supporters by walking every side of every street.
    To recap quickly, the Coalition’s formula for neutralising the climate backlash in May was campaign calm down in the cities. Morrison told voters he was not Abbott, and the Coalition would meet its international commitments with sensible practical policies that wouldn’t crash the economy. In the regions, Morrison was also for the coal industry, for the farmers, for everyone immediately in front of him.
    The government lost bark, but speaking out all sides of its mouth worked earlier this year. Everyone apart from the unmourned apex wrecker Abbott hung on, and while Labor and the Greens picked up votes on climate change in some parts of the country, a majority of voters either rejected Bill Shorten’s plans to take corrective action, or didn’t particularly but prioritised another set of issues when casting their votes.
    So the Morrison et al political strategy prevailed. It absolutely did.
    But will it work forever? And by work, I mean continue to command a national majority of 50% plus one.
    Will Australians continue to either vote against climate action, or prioritise other things, when they are experiencing the practical consequences of policy failure in their daily lives? To frame this thought another way, if sanguine, or she’ll be right mate (our natural default in Australia), is a piece of string, just how long is that piece of string?
    I’m not asking this question rhetorically. I’m asking it because I don’t know the answer.
    I do know this. Australia’s climate is changing, there are practical consequences associated with warming and these consequences are now too present to be ignored.
    A new authoritative study published this week found that climate change has reduced the average annual profitability of farms by 22% over the past two decades (and yes, I know effective climate action is a global imperative, not just a local one). Cropping farms have been the worst hit, with revenue down 8% or around $82,000 a farm, and profits down 35%, or $70,900 for a typical cropping farm. Regional Australia is well aware it is now engaged in an adaptation exercise, because agribusinesses deal with that reality every day.
    One of the small fascinations of the year, certainly for me, and I suspect for a number of us that live outside Sydney, has been watching the perils of climate inaction becoming a major national story largely because Australia’s largest city was inconvenienced by noxious bushfire smoke. All of a sudden, the issue gained traction and surround-sound coverage – television, radio, digital, print – at least in outlets that still perform journalism.
    I know the government has just endured a pretty spiky and uncomfortable month. You can only imagine how ropable Morrison would have been when it became obvious he would have to eat humble pie on Friday. You can actually picture that scene, or at least I can, quite vividly.
    What I don’t know is whether the current community concern about the lack of leadership will be transient, vanishing once glorious Sydney harbour reverts to sparkling, and people resume bushwalking in the Blue Mountains without masks and asthma inhalers, or whether the summer of 2019 and 2020 will be remembered in the future as an awakening of sorts.
    Obviously, I hope it’s the latter. In the spirit of good cheer, generosity and hope, I also hope that Morrison and the government he leads will take the opportunity of shifting on climate policy in 2020, and by shifting I mean actually doing something rather than pretending to be doing something.
    The government has an entirely viable opportunity to pivot in 2020, to end the domestic war of political convenience in the new year, because the world will be contemplating what fresh emissions reduction commitments to offer between now and 2050. Opportunity beckons.
    I am often tough on this prime minister, because he furnishes plenty of reasons to be. But I’ve said before, and will now say again, I think Morrison is capable of finding a 50% plus one on climate change that is about more than winning a single election at a particular point in time, but about actually trying to fix a problem that requires fixing.
    But first he has to make some decisions. Morrison has got to decide whether he covets power for its own sake or whether he wants to use the power Australian voters have given him to do good.
    He’s got to decide whether he’s a chess grand master or a prime minister. These are two different callings.
    Morrison can be feckless and shallow, possibly without serious negative consequences. It is the political age for feckless and shallow. Populists and charlatans litter the landscape.
    So he can do that, and he won’t lack company when he struts and frets on the world stage. Or he can find the courage and the moral purpose to do some good in the world, and leave a legacy that benefits future generations.

    *Katharine Murphy is Guardian Australia’s political editor

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    (AU) Prime Minister, You Need A Credible Climate Policy. It's Too Dangerous To Keep Pretending You Have One

    Lethal Heating - 23 December, 2019 - 04:00
    The Guardian*

    Scott Morrison’s press conference on the Australian fires was just more talking points and spin. The country needs more than words
    NSW fires: Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is briefed by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons in the NSW Rural Fire Service control room on Sunday after returning from holiday in Hawaii. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAPScott Morrison says this is not a time for division, or partisanship, or point scoring. He says we should unite in response to the current crisis. That’s certainly true. We have been.
    But prime minister, this is also time to stop pretending. Talking about Australia’s woefully inadequate climate policy at this time is not partisan, it is essential. And, with respect, the same same old talking points you rolled out on your return from Hawaii just don’t cut it any more.
    As you acknowledged, we are facing Christmas with dread. The immediate losses – of loved people, homes, safety, breathable air, passable highways upon which to drive to holiday, blue summer sky – those are deeply unsettling and sad.But the realisation that this is how Christmas may often be for our children, not carefree like the long summers we remember, but orange-skyed, fearful, choking and desperate – that is dreadful in the truest sense of the word.
    As you said, we are all grateful for the firefighters’ selfless efforts, but you’re right, we need to ask whether we can really expect this from them year after year, and those questions become more urgent if we face up to the fact that this is now the way things are going to be more often.
    You ignored the desperate, and as it turns out prescient, warnings from the former fire and emergency chiefs in the lead-up to this season. Your acting prime minister, just this weekend, again dismissed those experts because they had been funded by the Climate Council. Surely it is now time to put those political talking points aside and start to listen.
    This isn’t about an adjustment to your language, it requires an adjustment to your policyWe know global heating is fuelling this unprecedented fire emergency; we’ve been warned this would happen for decades. We know it is also contributing to the drought. Not directly causing, but certainly exacerbating.
    Surely it is time for your government to face these facts, instead of reciting Dorothea Mackellar or diverting blame to self-combusting manure or falsely claiming “greens” are somehow to blame by preventing hazard reduction burning. They haven’t, just for the record, and those former fire chiefs you refused to meet actually had some advice about hazard reduction burns, had you chosen to listen.
    That requires something more than just agreeing there is a link between global heating and fires, as you now have done.
    This isn’t about an adjustment to your language, it requires an adjustment to your policy, it requires a credible policy, the kind of policy we know could benefit us economically, that business is begging you to enact so that they can invest. And we know that would mean we could fight for effective international action rather than continue to act as a hindrance.
    We know we can’t solve the heating that is exacerbating this crisis on our own, so please don’t insult our intelligence again with that “1.3% of global emissions” argument like you did at the start of this fire season. Given the consequences we are suffering, we should be doing everything we can, and we know that we are not.
    You’ve just kept pretending.
    We’ve watched your Coalition immobilised by its climate denialist faction for more than a decade, destroying repeated political efforts to do something. We watched it dispense with Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister to avoid implementing a policy that was supported by industry and green groups alike. We watched you, prime minister, hold up a coal-industry supplied lump-of-coal prop in the parliament and urge us all not to fear it, but then go to the election with a policy that was little more than a sham, enough to appease the electorate’s concerns but with fine print that didn’t promise to do anything much to reduce domestic emissions, and that didn’t offer any explanation of how you would do the things you did promise, like reduce vehicle emissions.
    We’ve watched our domestic emissions continue to rise, or flatline because of the terrible impact of the drought, according to the latest accounts.
    We’ve watched Angus Taylor act against reaching an agreement at the most recent climate talks in Madrid, by insisting – against howls of international protest – that Australia be allowed to continue using an accounting trick to meet our emission reduction obligations.
    Days later, there he was again, interviewed against the orange backdrop of his own burning electorate, still mouthing the same discredited talking points about Australia “meeting and beating” its emission reduction target by the use of that loophole. You just used the same line yourself.
    It’s too close now, too terrifyingly dangerous and loud in the fire regions, too unendurably long in the regions parched by drought, to keep pretending like this.
    We need to know how you’re going to transition our economy. We understand that’s a complicated long-term process, so don’t treat us like idiots, as your deputy did on Saturday with the straw-man argument that those concerned about climate change are asking for all coalmining to cease tomorrow and risking the lights going out.
    Katharine Murphy spelled out your political choices in her final column for the year –you could once again try to damp down our fears and hope the backlash from this summer of fires will ease when the skies do eventually clear, or you could change policy course.
    On your return from holidays you seemed to choose the former, which is a tragedy, because there really is no more time to waste. We are past the point where the absence of credible policy can be papered over with talking points and spin. Your predecessor knows it, your former departmental head knows it, business, unions and farmers know it, scientists and environmentalists have known it for decades.
    You asked us all to be kind to one another, and we certainly should be. One kind thing you could do now is to finally stop pretending.

    *Lenore Taylor is Guardian Australia’s editor

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    (AU) Australia 'Absolutely' Must Take More Action On Climate Change: Michael McCormack

    Lethal Heating - 22 December, 2019 - 04:00
    The AgeDana McCauley

    Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack has agreed Australia must increase its efforts to tackle climate change and says the bushfires gripping NSW and other parts of the country have increased community fears about global warming.
    In a final press appearance while filling in for Prime Minister Scott Morrison - who is on his way home from an abridged family holiday in Hawaii - Mr McCormack agreed that "further action" was needed to contribute to global efforts to lower emissions.
    "Yeah I do, absolutely - I do agree entirely," he told reporters in Wagga Wagga on Saturday.
    Michael McCormack says Australia needs to do more on climate change. Credit: AAPAsked if he accepted that "community sentiment on climate change" had shifted as a result of the catastrophic bushfires raging across NSW and South Australia - and that "the fear has increased as a result of these fires" - Mr McCormack responded: "Yes."
    However, he would not be drawn on specifics of how the government would respond. "We will have those discussions, of course," he said.
    "The important thing is that we put the fires out. The important thing is that we wrap our arms around people who've lost loved ones," he said.
    "The important thing is that we make sure that we've got the proper resourcing and that we fully address these fires as they're occurring ... it's going to be a long, drawn-out fire season."
    Mr McCormack criticised environmental activists who called for an end to coal mining, saying the sector "provides two-thirds of our energy needs" and was a $62 billion export industry that provided jobs for tens of thousands of Australians.
    "For all those people running around saying we should abandon coal right now, what are they going to do with our electricity needs this summer if we stop all our coal fired power stations?" Mr McCormack asked.
    "Yes, the discussion can be had [but] there's been a lot of hysteria around climate change. Climate change isn't the only factor that has caused these fires."
    He named dry lightning strikes, arson and "self-combusting piles of manure" among the causes.
    Firefighters responding to a flare up at a property previously impacted by a bushfire earlier in the week between Tahmoor and Bargo. Credit: Alex EllinghausenAsked why he was in his electorate and not at the RFS headquarters as acting Prime Minister, Mr McCormack said he had received a telephone briefing early on Saturday morning.
    "You don't want to get in the way of these professional people doing their job," he said. "I'm doing what I can from where I am ... I've already been there this week."
    Mr McCormack said Mr Morrison had expressed regret over the timing of his Hawaiian holiday and was "on his way back" and "will be back today", which was "a good thing".
    "No one could have envisaged what has transpired this week ... everyone is entitled to a holiday," he said.
    He said Mr Morrison had "been getting briefings every day whilst he's been on leave".
    Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said the government should heed public concerns and International Energy Agency executive director Fatih Birol's call for Australia to "take steps in line with [its] reputation" as "a responsible country" to reduce its emissions.
    "A pragmatic politician will start to say,'We have to listen to all of this,' " Mr Wood said, predicting that Mr Morrison would "start to steer the ship a bit differently" in the wake of the bushfires.
    When public sentiment reached a critical tipping point, he said any "sensible government" that wanted to stay in power would "have to pay heed" to the calls for change.
    Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said the Morrison government was "steadily shredding Australia's international reputation as a responsible global citizen" by "actively ... slowing down global action on carbon reduction".
    "Morrison is the Prime Minister. It's about time he acted like one," Mr Rudd said.
    Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said "any rational observer" would conclude that "Australia has not handled climate and energy policy for the past 15 years".
    "The time has come for governments and industry, along with key sectors like transport and agriculture, to knuckle down to calmly and sensibly work towards our 2050 Paris goals."
    Mr Willox said no matter what had caused the bushfires, they along with the drought "should make these objectives front of mind".
    Mr McCormack said he contacted NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday morning to discuss further federal assistance to the state's fire fighting effort.
    He extended his sympathies to the families of Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer, the firefighters killed while battling a blaze south-west of Sydney on Thursday night.
    "Our hearts go out to the Keaton and O'Dwyer families for the loss of Geoffrey and Andrew, two young men in the prime of their life - in their 30s, with young children - who have lost their lives volunteering so that others can save their properties and potentially save their lives.
    "Geoffrey and Andrew were mates and their spirits will always be with us."

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