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(AU) Coalition Inaction On Climate Change And Health Is Risking Australian Lives, Global Report Finds

Lethal Heating - 16 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Urgent national action is needed to prevent serious declines in public health from climate change, the multi-institutional Countdown study says
Bushfire smoke blankets the morning sky in Glen Innes, NSW, on 11 November. Respiratory illnesses are rising as a result of air pollution from this week’s fires, cardiologist Arnagretta Hunter says following the release of the latest Countdown report on climate change and health worldwide. Photograph: Brook Mitchell/Getty ImagesThe federal government’s lack of engagement on health and climate change has left Australians at significant risk of illness through heat, fire and extreme weather events, and urgent national action is required to prevent harm and deaths, a global scientific collaboration has found.
On Thursday, international medical journal the Lancet published its Countdown report, a multi-institutional project led by University College in London that examines progress on climate change and health throughout the world.
Its first two assessments were published in 2017 and 2018, with annual assessments continuing until 2030, consistent with the near-term timeline of the Paris climate agreement. Findings relating to Australia were tracked and published by the Medical Journal of Australia.
Australia was assessed across 31 indicators divided into five broad sections: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation, planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; finance and economics; and public and political engagement.The report found that while there had been some progress at state and local government levels, “there continues to be no engagement on health and climate change in the Australian federal parliament, and Australia performs poorly across many of the indicators in comparison to other developed countries; for example, it is one of the world’s largest net exporters of coal and its electricity generation from low-carbon sources is low”.
“We also find significantly increasing exposure of Australians to heatwaves and, in most states and territories, continuing elevated suicide rates at higher temperatures,” wrote the authors, led by Associate Professor Paul Beggs of Macquarie University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
“As a direct result of this failure, we conclude that Australia remains at significant risk of declines in health due to climate change, and that substantial and sustained national action is urgently required in order to prevent this … This work is urgent.”
Spokeswoman for Doctors for the Environment Australia, Dr Arnagretta Hunter, agreed Australia was poorly prepared for the health challenge of climate change.
“Doctors around Australia are already seeing multiple health effects from climate change,” Hunter, a cardiologist, said.
“On the coast of NSW this week we know there are more respiratory illnesses, heart attacks and strokes as a consequence of the terrible air pollution from the fires. Doctors see the mental health effects of drought in rural communities. Patterns of infectious diseases are changing.
“Average summer temperatures in Australia have risen by 1.66C in the past 20 years, with the intensity of heatwaves rising by a third. And with the increasing temperatures over summer we know there has been increased hospital admissions with ill health. Mortality rates are also affected.”
In 2014, Melbourne experienced temperatures over 41C from 14 to 17 January, as well as 167 excess deaths and a new record set for the highest number of calls for ambulance services ever received in a day, she said. Hunter described Australia as the developed country with the most serious vulnerability to climate change through heat, fire, water shortages and extreme weather events.
“Doctors for the Environment Australia joins the loud chorus across Australia calling for the federal government to acknowledge the risk and act in proportion to the magnitude of the threat,” she said.
In 2019, the Australian Medical Association, Doctors for the Environment Australia and the World Medical Association recognised climate change as a health emergency.
Public Health Association of Australia senior policy officer Dr Ingrid Johnston said the priorities of the fossil fuel industry had been placed ahead of the health of Australians.
“No one can dispute that climate change poses significant immediate, medium-term and long-term risks to the health of Australians and communities around the world,” she told Guardian Australia. “And yet the government appears to believe that climate change is not a mainstream health issue. This is tragically wrong. The issues cannot be siloed.”
She called on the prime minister, Scott Morrison, to issue a statement unambiguously acknowledging the link between climate change and health.
Johnston said the activities of the federal government’s disaster and climate resilience reference group – a group of senior officials which considers the risks and opportunities arising from climate change and natural disasters – had not been transparent in its work.
“The public has a right to know what that working group is doing,” she said. “How much information is the government giving consideration to regarding climate impacts in national assessments of health?
“Australians are crying out for genuine, smart and empathetic national leadership. The above cannot happen without a well-resourced and national effort to reduce future threat levels from fires and drought.”
She said the Public Health Association of Australia wanted a Coag health and climate change forum consisting of ministers with responsibility for health, environment, energy and other portfolios.
“No area is untouched by climate change,” Johnston said. “This Coag working group would incorporate academic expertise on how to adapt the health system to a changing climate with more natural disasters, with adequate funding for proposals. The sniping politics has to stop so we can get on with working for health and the national interest.
“Finally, we call out the policy that does exist. It is a policy that places the fossil fuel industry above the health and wellbeing of all Australians. It backs subsidies for fossil fuels and subverts tough environmental planning for mines and gas projects.”
General practitioner Dr Peter Tait, who also has a master’s degree in climate change and is involved with health and environmental groups, said there was no mechanism in the national health system to collect information about climate-related illnesses other than in a random or anecdotal way.
“Even in emergency departments where the severe end of these conditions go, data collection is dependent on the treating doctor using a code to identify heat stress or natural disaster effects, and apart from the obvious ones, like burns, they don’t,” he said.
“We do know that the mental health toll from destructive fires and other natural disasters will be high. This is a supernatural disaster occasioned by decades of purposeful neglect by governments and as that dawns on people, anger and distress will rise.”

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Climate Explained: How Growth In Population And Consumption Drives Planetary Change

Lethal Heating - 16 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Conversation

The growth of the human population over the last 70 years has exploded from 2 billion to nearly 8 billion, with a compounding net growth of over 30,000 per day. We all breathe out carbon dioxide with every breath. That equates to about 140 billion CO₂ breaths every minute. Isn’t it logical that atmospheric carbon will continue to increase with the birth rate regardless of what we do about fossil fuel reduction?
Rapid population growth and increased consumption are now seen as the main drivers of environmental changes. from www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-ND This question touches on the core of our impact on planetary change. It highlights the exponential growth in the human population, but also homes in on the potential direct input of carbon dioxide from humans, through respiration.
As I explain in more detail below, our breathing does not contribute to the net accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But population growth, combined with an increase in consumption, is now seen as the main driver of change in the Earth system.

Humans: a moment in geological time
Earth has been around for 4.56 billion years. The earliest evidence for life on Earth comes from fossilised mats of cyanobacteria that are about 3.7 billion years old.
From around 700 million years ago, and certainly from 540 million years ago, life exploded into its present myriad forms, from molluscs to lung fish, reptiles, insects, plants, fishes and mammals – culminating in hominids and finally Homo sapiens. Genetic studies suggest hominids evolved from primates around 6 million years ago, with the oldest hominid fossil dating from 4.4 million years ago in East Africa.
Our species appeared around 200,000 to 300,000 years ago, a blink of an eye in geological terms. From Africa, Homo sapiens migrated through Europe and Asia and spread across the world, at lightning speeds.
Part of the question is about a putative link between human biological functions and climate. Homo sapiens is one of more than 28 million living species today, and some 35 billion species that have ever lived on Earth. There has always been a link between life and Earth’s atmosphere, and perhaps the clearest indicator is oxygen.

Life, carbon and climate
Cyanobacteria were the first organisms to master photosynthesis and began adding oxygen to Earth’s early atmosphere, producing levels of 2% by 1 billion years ago. Today oxygen levels are at 20%.
While people inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide (billions of tonnes each year), this does not represent new carbon in the atmosphere, but rather recycled carbon that had been taken up by the animals and plants we eat. Furthermore, the hard parts of human skeletons are potential carbon stores, if buried sufficiently deep.
There is a constant cycling of carbon between geological, oceanographic and biological processes. Homo sapiens is part of this carbon cycle that plays out at the Earth’s surface. Like all living organisms, we derive the carbon we need from our immediate environment and give it up again through breathing, living and dying.
Carbon is only added to the atmosphere if it is taken out of long-term geological stores such as carbon-rich sediments, oil, natural gas and coal.

Planetary impact of humans
But the remarkable growth in human population is surely the critical issue. Ten thousand years ago, there were 1 million people on Earth. By 1800, there were 1 billion, 3 billion by 1960 and almost 8 billion today.
When these figures are plotted on a graph, the growth line looks almost vertical from the 1800s onwards. Population growth may eventually flatten out, but only at around 10-11 billion.
Alongside the unprecedented population growth of humans has been the loss of many non-human species (10,000 extinctions per million populations per year, or 60% of animal populations since 1970), the rapid loss of wilderness habitat and consequent growth in farmed land, over-fishing (with up to 87% of fisheries fully exploited), and a staggering growth in global car numbers (from zero in the 1920s to 1 billion in 2013 and a projected 2 billion by 2040).
The world production of copper is an instructive proxy for human global impacts. As with many commodity curves, the trend from 1900, and particularly from the 1950s, is exponential. In 1900 around half-a-million tonnes of copper was produced worldwide. Today it is 18 million tonnes per year, with no sign of lowering consumption rates. Copper is the feedstock for much of modern-day and future green technologies.
Most parts of the world now experience material consumption as never before. But serious inequality remains, with over 3 billion living on less than US$5.50 a day, and a tiny percentage who own so much.
Some argue that it is not the numbers of people on Earth that count, but rather the way we consume and share. Whatever the politics and economics, the gross consumption level of billions of humans is, surely, the main cause of planetary change, especially since 1950. Present-day atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are one of many symptoms of human impact.

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(AU) Former Australian Fire Chiefs Say Coalition Ignored Their Advice Because Of Climate Change Politics

Lethal Heating - 15 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Former heads of state fire services say government ‘fundamentally doesn’t like talking about climate change’
A coalition of former Australian state fire and emergency chiefs says the government ‘doesn’t like talking about climate change’ and politics was why it was ignoring their advice. Photograph: Darren Pateman/AAPA coalition of former fire chiefs have said the government “fundamentally doesn’t like talking about climate change” and that politics is the reason the government was ignoring their advice.
Former heads of the New South Wales, Queensland, Victorian and Tasmanian fire services met in Sydney on Thursday after fires that killed four people tore through the the Australian east coast this week.
They said the climate crisis was making bushfires deadlier and bushfire season longer, and the federal government needed to act immediately.
“Just a 1C temperature rise has meant the extremes are far more extreme, and it is placing lives at risk, including firefighters,” said Greg Mullins, the former chief of NSW Fire and Rescue. “Climate change has supercharged the bushfire problem.”
“Bushfires are a symptom of climate change,” said Neil Bibby, the former chief executive of Victoria’s Country Fire Authority.“Firefighters are the immune system that gets rid of that symptom. But [the problem is] still there.”
Mullins said he and 23 other fire and emergency chiefs had been trying to have a meeting with the prime minister, Scott Morrison, since April because they “knew that a bushfire crisis was coming”.
Instead, he said current fire chiefs had been locked out of discussions and were “not allowed” to mention climate change.
Former emergency services chiefs – Bob Conroy, Lee Johnson, Mike Brown, Neil Bibby and Greg Mullins – say the government “fundamentally doesn’t like talking about climate change”. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP“This government fundamentally doesn’t like talking about climate change,” Mullins said. “We would like the doors to be open to the current chiefs, and allow them to utter the words ‘climate change’. They are not allowed to at the moment.
“The Grenfell fire in London, people talked about the cause from day one. Train crashes they talk from day one. And it is OK to say it is an arsonist’s fault, or pretend that the greenies are stopping hazard reduction burning, which is simply not true.
“But you are not allowed to talk about climate change. Well, we are, because we know what is happening.”
Bibby, who was in charge during Victoria’s Black Saturday, said politics was the reason the government was ignoring the former fire chiefs’ advice.
Other interstate fire chiefs were outspoken about the effect global heating has on bushfires.
Lee Johnson, the former commissioner of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, wanted immediate action.
“I’m here for my children and grandchildren,” he said. “In Queensland in the last couple of weeks we have seen unprecedented fires … The fires are impacting on areas that haven’t known fires for millennia.
Mullins said the bushfire emergency was underlaid by a climate emergency.
“On the 6th of September, southeast Queensland and NSW experienced record fire weather, never before experienced in September. On the 8th of November, again we had record-breaking fire weather in NSW.
“And on the 12th of November, for the first time ever, Sydney experienced catastrophic fire danger. Fires are literally off the scale on this warming planet.”
The link between climate change and bushfire risk became a political flashpoint this week.
On Monday the Nationals leader and deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said it galled him when “inner-city lefties” raised climate change in relation to bushfires.
“We’ve had fires in Australia since time began, and what people need now is a little bit of sympathy, understanding and real assistance – they need help, they need shelter,” he told ABC Radio.
“They don’t need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time, when they’re trying to save their homes, when in fact they’re going out in many cases saving other peoples’ homes and leaving their own homes at risk.”
The NSW Nationals leader, John Barilaro, said it was “a disgrace” for anyone to talk about climate change during the bushfires.
But on Wednesday the Liberal MP and NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, said climate change “is a real issue” and “requires a decisive response”. He said science was clear that “our changing climate is seeing more extreme weather events”.
In an escalating political debate, Greens senator Jordon Steele-John branded major party politicians “arsonists” for supporting the coal industry.
“You are no better than a bunch of arsonists – borderline arsonists – and you should be ashamed,” he told the Senate.
The former fire chiefs had two requests for the government: more resources for firefighters; take on “the fundamental problem” of climate change.
Mullins said he was told the energy minister, Angus Taylor, would speak to him and the water minister, David Littleproud, has set a meeting.
“None of us can understand why climate change in Australia is so political,” he said. “In the UK, the conservatives, Margaret Thatcher, said years ago this is a major problem.”

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(AU) Australia Bushfires Renew Anger Over Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 15 November, 2019 - 04:00
Agence France-Presse

The bushfire season has started earlier than usual, raising fears of a terrible summer ahead. AFP / PETER PARKS
Unprecedented bushfires in eastern Australia have turbocharged demands the country's conservative government do more to tackle climate change, and have rekindled an ideological fight over the science behind the blazes.
The huge fires have touched communities up and down the east coast, killing four people and affecting millions of Australians -- threatening homes and blanketing major cities in hazardous smoke.
For many, the scale and intensity of the conflagrations, weeks before the Australian summer, have brought the dangers of climate change home.
"The whole east coast is on fire," said Julie Jones, who almost lost her house in the Blue Mountains. "I think it's climate change."
A group of ex-fire chiefs on Thursday warned climate change is "supercharging" the bushfire problem and they challenged Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his failure to confront the issue.
"I am fundamentally concerned about the impact and the damage coming from climate change," former fire chief Lee Johnson said.
"The word 'unprecedented' has been used a lot, but it's correct."
For days Morrison has refused to address the link between climate and bushfires, arguing the focus should be on victims -- despite being heckled about climate change while touring fire-ravaged areas.
AFP / Laurence CHU
Morrison has made no secret of his support for the country's lucrative mining industry, which accounts for more than 70 percent of exports and was worth a record Aus$264 billion ($180 billion) in the last financial year.
He once carried a lump of coal onto the floor of the Australian parliament and recently proposed banning environmental boycotts of businesses.
His government insists Australia will meet its Paris climate agreement target of reducing emissions by 26-28 percent on 2005 levels by 2030.
But the approval of vast coal mines like the controversial Adani project -- which will ship most of its product overseas to be burned -- make global targets of keeping warming below 1.5 Celsius more difficult.
- 'Woke greenies' -
Until now that has been good politics for the Liberal leader. His party unexpectedly won re-election in May, in part by framing the climate debate as a choice between jobs and higher energy costs in places like coal-rich Queensland.
Morrison's allies have also deployed the issue as a potent wedge issue to divide the electorate.
AFP / Jonathan WALTERWhen the Australian Greens attacked the government response to the bushfires this week, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack went on the offensive.
"We don't need the ravings of some pure, enlightened and woke capital cities greenies at this time, when (people) are trying to save their homes," he said.
But the scale of the bushfire crisis has made it more difficult for Morrison to dismiss his political foes as out-of-touch lefty city slickers.
And after several exhausting days of spearheading crisis response, commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said Wednesday the New South Wales Rural Fire Service acknowledged the new reality.
"We are mindful that the science is suggesting that fire seasons are starting earlier, and extending longer," he said.
Politicians who refuse to discuss climate change have been heckled as they tour areas destroyed by fire. AFP / WILLIAM WESTThe government's own Bureau of Meteorology has acknowledged human-caused climate change is "influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions".
Scientists say the link between climate change and bush fires is complex, but undeniable.
Wind movements around Antarctica and sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean can also help determine fire-friendly conditions in Australia.
But warming provides key ingredients for fires to thrive: high temperatures, low humidity, strong winds and drought.
"Bushfires are not directly attributable to climate change," said Janet Stanley of the University of Melbourne. "However, the fast-warming climate is making bushfires more frequent and intense."
"The mountain of irrefutable evidence linking global warming to bushfires makes the federal government's failure to act -- or even talk about the problem -- extremely hard to explain," she said.
Away from the political bickering, a growing number of Australians appear to agree.
A 2019 survey by think tank The Australia Institute found 81 percent of people are concerned climate change will cause more droughts and flooding, while 64 percent want the government to set a target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Claire Pontin, a deputy mayor in badly-hit northern New South Wales, told the ABC it was "always" the right time to discuss climate change.
"It's not going to go away if we bury our heads in the sand."

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(AU) Australia's Climate Response Among The Worst In The G20, Report Finds

Lethal Heating - 15 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Brown to Green report highlights Australia’s poor response on deforestation, transport, energy supply and carbon pricing
Scott Morrison with his lump of coal during a parliamentary debate in 2017. A comparison of G20 countries has found Australia’s response to the climate crisis has been among the worst. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP Australia’s response to climate change is one of the worst in the G20 with a lack of policy, reliance on fossil fuels and rising emissions leaving the country exposed “economically, politically and environmentally”, according to a new international report.
Australia’s progress to meeting its already “unambitious” Paris climate targets was third worst, fossil fuel energy was on the rise and policies to tackle high transport emissions and deforestation were also among the worst across the G20 countries.
The Brown to Green report, now in its fifth year, takes stock of the performance of G20 countries on climate change adaptation and mitigation across key sectors, and in the finance sector.
The chief executive of Climate Analytics, Bill Hare, an Australian co-author of the report, told Guardian Australia: “Australia is behind [on] climate action in nearly every dimension. Australia’s emissions are increasing and there’s virtually no policy in place to reduce them.”
Some 14 non-governmental groups, thinktanks and research institutes compile the report, funded by the World Bank, the US-based ClimateWorks Foundation and Germany’s environment ministry.
Across the G20, the report said, limiting global heating to 1.5C would cut negative impacts by 70%, compared with allowing global temperatures to rise by 3C. Currently, extreme weather events were costing G20 countries about US$142bn annually.
While the report doesn’t provide an overall ranking, Australia appears consistently among the worst performers in the report’s analysis.
India and Australia were the only two G20 countries that had not introduced, or were not considering, policies to price greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.
Only South Korea and Canada were further away than Australia from meeting the pledges that formed their Paris climate commitments.
On deforestation, the report said Australia was the only developed country that was a “deforestation hotspot”, but had no policies to tackle it.
Australia was ranked third worst for transport emissions per capita, and the report found “Australia, in particular, lacking significant policy” in the transport sector. Per capita emissions from aviation were 53 times higher than India’s.
Australia, along with Russia, had no policies to move away from petrol-powered cars, no policies to decarbonise the heavy-duty vehicle sector and no policies to shift people onto public transport, the report said.
Australia, along with the US and Saudi Arabia, had high emissions from the building sector. Australia had no building codes covering renovation of older buildings.
All this lack of action, Hare said, was leaving Australia and its people exposed on climate change “economically, politically and environmentally”.
Hare told Guardian Australia: “The leadership of the country is effectively telling lies about their performance, and contradicting their own government’s information.
“The country is led by politicians who in one way or another deny either the science or are de facto denying it, and actively and wilfully opposing or obstructing climate policies.”
Referring to the current Liberal-led Coalition government, Hare said this was the same political party that had repealed climate legislation, such as the carbon pricing mechanism, and “since then has done all it can to undermine any level of action”.
He said the country’s position was in contrast with its opportunities in renewable energy, which it had not exploited as fully as it could.
“Australia has one of the best solar energy potential and wind potential in general of any of the G20 countries,” he said.
“Australia is not transforming its energy system and is focused on building coal and gas, and has not paid any attention to the need to transition to a zero-carbon economy.”


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Greta Thunberg Catches Lift To UN COP25 Climate Summit In Madrid With Australian Sailing Couple

Lethal Heating - 14 November, 2019 - 04:00
ABC NewsRhiannon Shine | James Carmody

Riley Whitelum, Nikki Henderson, Greta Thunberg and Elayna Carausu with her son Lenny on their yacht preparing to set sail. (Facebook: Greta Thunberg)Key Points
  • Greta Thunberg is one of the world's highest profile environmental activists
  • She was stranded in the US after travelling there to attend a UN climate summit
  • She will travel to the new summit location in Spain with an Australian couple
Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg will make the COP25 UN climate summit after hitching a ride back across the Atlantic with an Australian couple travelling the world.
The 16-year-old had travelled from her native Sweden to California by boat, train and electric car and was planning to continue on to the next round of climate negotiations, originally scheduled to be held in Santiago, Chile in December.
The Santiago summit was cancelled by Chile's government because of political unrest in the South American country and moved to the Spanish capital of Madrid.
Ms Thunberg refuses to fly because of the carbon emissions involved and had been searching for an environmentally-friendly way to travel back to Europe to attend the summit.


Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg lands in New York City following 14-day trans-Atlantic trip (ABC News)

"As #COP25 has officially been moved from Santiago to Madrid I'll need some help," Ms Thunberg tweeted earlier this month.
"Now I need to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November … If anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful."

Australian couple to the rescue
A week ago, South Australian Riley Whitelum, who travels around the world in a 48-foot catamaran called La Vagabonde with his West Australian partner Elayna Carausu and their son Lenny, responded to the tweet with an offer of help.
As #COP25 has officially been moved from Santiago to Madrid I’ll need some help.
It turns out I’ve traveled half around the world, the wrong way:)
Now I need to find a way to cross the Atlantic in November... If anyone could help me find transport I would be so grateful.
-> https://t.co/vFQQcLTh2U— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) November 1, 2019Ms Thunberg posted to her Instagram page earlier today saying she had accepted the offer from the couple, who will take her from Virginia to Spain with the help of professional yachtswoman Nikki Henderson.
"So happy to say that I'll hopefully make it to COP25 in Madrid," Ms Thunberg said.
Greta Thunberg (centre) and British sailor Nikki Henderson (second right) are joining the couple on the catamaran La Vagabonde. (Facebook: Sailing La Vagabonde)"I've been offered a ride from Virginia on the 48ft catamaran La Vagabonde. We sail for Europe tomorrow morning!"
Ms Thunberg said she expected the voyage to take three weeks.
"If I get to the COP25 in time then I will participate in that because I received an invitation to do so. And then I will go home," she said.

A voyage funded by YouTube
Mr Whitelum and Ms Carausu have been sailing around the world since 2014, filming their adventures and posting them to YouTube where they have amassed more than 1 million followers.
"We've suffered terrifying storms, pirate scares, financial breakdowns, equipment failures, water shortages and other interesting mishaps, but we wouldn't trade living on the sea and traveling wherever the wind takes us for anything," their website states.


Sailing La Vagabonde — 'Our TINY HOME on the Ocean'
Ms Carausu posted to Instagram that the crew would set sail from 7:30am US eastern standard time tomorrow.
Ms Thunberg rose to prominence last year after she started spending her Fridays protesting outside Sweden's parliament.


Greta Thunberg angrily denounced world leaders for failing to tackle climate change. (ABC News)
Her action has grown into a global campaign, with an estimated 300,000 Australians taking part in climate change rallies around the country in September.
Ms Thunberg's zero-emissions expedition has been highly publicised and has included travelling by boat, train and an electric car borrowed from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Final preparations underway
Speaking to ABC Radio Perth from aboard La Vagabonde docked in Virginia, Mr Whitelum said he was surprised when he heard back from Ms Thunberg, but he thought they were suitable travel companions.


The YouTube couple landed a million-dollar yacht in a deal with a catamaran manufacturer
"Elayna and I responded [to Ms Thunberg's tweet], and about a week later here we are about to sail 3,000 nautical miles across to Europe," he said.
"It sort of came back through to us through a back channel and they just said, 'are you available, do you think you can do it? We've been let down a couple of times, are you sure you would be able to do it?'"
The voice of a generation?Greta Thunberg inspired a global movement for climate action, but some haven't welcomed her message.
Mr Whitelum said after confirming they were up for the challenge, he and Ms Carausu had been busy preparing for the trip and getting to know Ms Thunberg.
"When I met her I wasn't ready for quite how young and short she would be," he said.
"We've been hanging out basically for the last five or six days getting the boat prepared.
"She's smart, kind of powerful and independent, she's a good person to have around."
Mr Whitelum said while he and Ms Carausu had crossed the Atlantic twice before as well as the Pacific Ocean, and had about 70,000 nautical miles of sailing under their belts, getting to Madrid would be no mean feat.
"The journey is long and fairly complicated. The northern Atlantic at this time of year is fairly treacherous," he said."We're working with some of the best weather routers in the world.
"On this particular trip the first 500 or 600 nautical miles are super important, so it's good that we've been able to choose our window, which is tomorrow morning."

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(UK) A Legal Approach To Fighting Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 14 November, 2019 - 04:00
New York Times - Farah Nayeri

Gillian Lobo is the senior lawyer for ClientEarth, an environmental law charity. 
Gillian Lobo, outside the entrance to the High Court in London, uses the law to fight for environmental justice. “If you don’t get the fundamentals right, these problems are going to get worse and worse.” Credit...Suzanne Plunkett for The New York TimesLONDON — What does Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour have in common with the London-based environmental law charity ClientEarth?
Quite a lot, as it happens. Mr. Gilmour sold his guitar collection for $21.5 million at Christie’s New York in June — and donated every penny to ClientEarth to help it fight climate change.
For a nonprofit with rock-star benefactors, ClientEarth is fairly low key. It operates in the background, incrementally and strategically, much like the lawyer who set up its climate team four years ago, Gillian Lobo.
Ms. Lobo, a Briton of Indian descent who spent the first six years of her life in Tanzania and Kenya, started her legal career at a private practice in Croydon (outside London), then became an in-house lawyer for Royal Mail, the postal service.
From 2006 to 2015, she worked for the British government, mostly as a litigator in military cases. Starting in 2010, she was part of the team that defended the Ministry of Defense against negligence claims linked to the deaths of three British servicemen and the serious injuries of two others in “friendly fire” episodes in Iraq.
She joined ClientEarth in 2015 and has been busy taking the British government to court pretty much ever since.
While the bulk of her career has taken place in Britain, she also spent six months volunteering for the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda in 2002, eight years after the genocide. In the following conversation, which was edited and condensed, she began by recalling the experience.

What was Rwanda like?
It was a real eye-opener. I went out to all the projects — schools, medical institutions, places that trained people in agriculture. You could see how local people, given the knowledge and the ability, could actually do a lot for themselves, how effective projects could be.
I also saw how powerless people are treated. The authorities can abuse street children in any way, hit them, and no one can step in.
I saw a little boy being beaten in Kigali. We were trained to be careful not to enter into situations that we didn’t know the outcome of. You can go in and try and protect that child, and once you’re out of there, the police are going to take out any humiliation that you’ve heaped on them on that person. That was really important training.
It’s about being strategic. It’s pointless just tampering at the edges: You need to change important infrastructures.

Why did you choose climate as a field?
If you don’t get this sorted out, all of the development work that you ever wanted to do is never going to get off the ground. It’s all linked to droughts, water supply, how people work. The places that are being impacted are the ones that can least afford it: the droughts, the rains, the typhoons, the hurricanes, the increased heat that’s going to reduce the nutrient value of food growing in soil.

One could argue that what you do will produce benefits in the future, but won’t put bread on people’s table now.
We should be doing both. If you don’t get the fundamentals right, these problems are going to get worse and worse. If you build carefully and strategically, you can have an immediate impact.
You want to stop subsidies going to companies producing fossil fuels. You want subsidies going to renewables, or for it to be a level playing field — meaning no subsidies. Then renewables can increase, and immediately that money can go to something that’s going to protect the environment. It can also create jobs at a local level. People can be a bit more self-sufficient and have control of their lives.
Ms. Lobo is clear about her mission: “My aim is to make the world a fairer place.” Credit...Suzanne Plunkett for The New York TimesWhat is the impact of climate change on women?
The impact is big, because the women most affected are generally poor women. They’re disproportionately impacted by extreme weather events and droughts. They’re usually the ones who have to go and collect water, and if there’s a drought, they have to go further. They’re the ones who collect wood, who feed the children. As the men go to the cities, they’re left on their own. And women, through wars and everything else, are more vulnerable — physically, sexually. It just makes everything a lot worse.

What is women’s role in fighting climate change?
Fundamental. They need to be part of the discussion, because they’re the ones on the ground. They’re seeing what’s happening. They can feed in far more valuable information about what’s happening to the land, what’s happening to the water, what improvements can be done, and how things are changing around them.
These women have cultural knowledge. They have practical, actual knowledge on the way to deal with climate change. That’s what you need.

What do you see as your own role in the world?
I can help develop the lawyers of the future, to work with these lawyers who are so bright but not necessarily experienced enough, and give them the tools and empower them.

To do what?
My aim is to make the world a fairer place. I believe in fairness, I believe in justice. I do recognize that the law is about tactics, strategies, doing the right thing at the right time. It can be seen as game playing. Don’t get me wrong, I quite enjoy it. But it’s not always about justice.
I believe in the rule of law and the need to maintain it. So much is being stripped from it across different states.
I also work on access to justice in the U.K. We’re trying to ensure that the cost for N.G.O.s and individuals bringing claims in order to protect the environment are kept as low as possible.

Where would you like to be in 10 or 20 years?
I’d like to have left a legacy where the law is safeguarded from fickle arbitrary executive decisions; where people can access and protect their environment, which is so important; and where we protect the world as much as we can from climate impacts.

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Climate Visuals Photography Award 2019: Winners And Shortlisted

Lethal Heating - 14 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Climate Visuals is a project that aims to create a new visual language for climate change. Images of polar bears, melting ice and factories do not convey the urgent human stories at the heart of the issue. Based on international social research, Climate Visuals provides insights for a more compelling visual language for climate change. It has recognised existing and outstanding images with impact for its inaugural photography awards. The project is run by Climate Outreach, Europe’s leading climate communication organisation, which celebrated its 15th anniversary on 7 November
Winner
2019 Climate Visuals Photography Award
Solar Power
Ann Johanssen

Shohida Begum poses for photographs lit by a solar powered lantern in a slum where she lives in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. Date taken: 11/11/2018Runner-up
2019 Climate Visuals Photography Award
Climate Refugees
Ricardo Funari
A family of drought refugees from the semi-arid region of north-eastern Brazil known as Sertao, trying to escape to the distant Sao Paulo megalopolis. Date taken: 29/10/1998Runner-up
2019 Climate Visuals Photography Award
Infant Health
Siegfried Modola

A Mongolian mother, Obgerel, cries as she holds her baby daughter Suikhan in a pediatric emergency unit. Suikan suffers from a respiratory illness in one of the most polluted capital cities in the world, Ulaanbaatar. Date taken: 21/01/2019Shortlisted
2019 Climate Visuals Photography Award
High on Tide Mousuni Island
Sumit Sanyal

A man collecting water from a hand pump while huge waves caused by high tides strikes the edges. Where the pump is located, the wall has been destroyed due to erosion from tidal flooding. Date taken: 11/10/2018Shortlisted
2019 Climate Visuals Photography Award
Destroyed Shoe Shop
Kianoush Saadati

Severe floods struck Golestan province of Iran in March and affected 10 cities: Gorgan, Bandar Turkman, Azad Shahr, Aq Qqala, Gonbad-e Kavus, Bandar-e Gaz, Ali Abad, Kalaleh, Kordkuy, and Minodasht. The heavy rain in Golestan was unprecedented, with 70% of average annual rain falling in the first 24 hours. In Golestan and Mazandran provinces, 11 people were confirmed dead and an estimated 20 people injured. Over 60,000 people were affected by the flooding, with at least 10,000 people are provided emergency shelter in stadiums, exhibition areas, schools. Date taken: 21/03/2019Shortlisted
2019 Climate Visuals Photography AwardLooking Through The Doorway

Greta RybusA man looks through a doorway, which just hours before lead to another room in his home. The sea, which has been rising and eroding the shore, chewed into the home’s foundation and it crumbled into the sea. The United Nations named Saint Louis as the area most at-risk from climate change in Africa. Guet Ndar, where this family called home, is highly populated fishing community. The fishermen have noticed huge changes. They say the ocean used to be a long distance across the beach during low tides; now it laps at their homes. And, they’ve seen an increase in strange winds and storms, making their work at sea more dangerous and volatile. Many people have lost their homes. Date taken: 19/03/2015Shortlisted
2019 Climate Visuals Photography Award
Water World Child
Jashim Salem

In the past few years, tidal surge – water levels rising significantly above the tide levels that astronomy predicts – has begun to affect the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong as much as twice a day, resulting in frequent flooding of residential and business areas. If things continue to worsen, most areas of Chittagong could become completely submerged in the near future. Here we see Saraf, eight, sitting on a submerged car at their home flooded by the tidal surge. Date taken: 29/08/2015Links
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Scientists looked at sea levels 125,000 years in the past. The results are terrifying

Lethal Heating - 13 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Conversation |  | 

A polar bear wandering on melting pack ice in Canada, north of the Arctic Circle, during the summer 2017. Scientists say the last interglacial offers lessons for future sea level rise. Florian Ledoux/The Nature Conservancy Sea levels rose 10 metres above present levels during Earth’s last warm period 125,000 years ago, according to new research that offers a glimpse of what may happen under our current climate change trajectory.
Our paper, published today in Nature Communications, shows that melting ice from Antarctica was the main driver of sea level rise in the last interglacial period, which lasted about 10,000 years.
Rising sea levels are one of the biggest challenges to humanity posed by climate change, and sound predictions are crucial if we are to adapt.
This research shows that Antarctica, long thought to be the “sleeping giant” of sea level rise, is actually a key player. Its ice sheets can change quickly, and in ways that could have huge implications for coastal communities and infrastructure in future.
Aerial footage showing devastation caused by severe storms at Collaroy on Sydney’s northern beaches in June 2016. UNSW Water Research LaboratoryA warning from the past
Earth’s cycles consist of both cold glacial periods - or ice ages - when large parts of the world are covered in large ice sheets, and warmer interglacial periods when the ice thaws and sea levels rise.
The Earth is presently in an interglacial period which began about 10,000 years ago. But greenhouse gas emissions over the past 200 years have caused climate changes that are faster and more extreme than experienced during the last interglacial. This means past rates of sea level rise provide only low-end predictions of what might happen in future.
We examined data from the last interglacial, which occurred 125,000 to 118,000 years ago. Temperatures were up to 1℃ higher than today - similar to those projected for the near future
Our research reveals that ice melt in the last interglacial period caused global seas to rise about 10 metres above the present level. The ice melted first in Antarctica, then a few thousand years later in Greenland.
Sea levels rose at up to 3 metres per century, far exceeding the roughly 0.3-metre rise observed over the past 150 years.
The early ice loss in Antarctica occurred when the Southern Ocean warmed at the start of the interglacial. This meltwater changed the way Earth’s oceans circulated, which caused warming in the northern polar region and triggered ice melt in Greenland.
Dogs hauling a sled through meltwater on coastal sea ice during an expedition in northwest Greenland,June 2019. STEFFEN M. OLSEN/DANISH METEOROLOGICAL INSTITUTEUnderstanding the data
Global average sea level is currently estimated to be rising at more than 3 millimetres a year. This rate is projected to increase and total sea-level rise by 2100 (relative to 2000) is projected to reach 70-100 centimetres, depending on which greenhouse gas emissions pathway we follow.
Such projections usually rely on records gathered this century from tide gauges, and since the 1990s from satellite data.
Most of these projections do not account for a key natural process - ice-cliff instability - which is not observed in the short instrumental record. This is why geological observations are vital.
When ice reaches the ocean, it becomes a floating ice-shelf which ends in an ice-cliff. When these cliffs get very large, they become unstable and can rapidly collapse.
This collapse increases the discharge of land ice into the ocean. The end result is global sea-level rise. A few models have attempted to include ice-cliff instability, but the results are contentious. Outputs from these models do, however, predict rates of sea-level rise that are intriguingly similar to our newly observed last interglacial data.
Antactica was long thought to be the sleeping giant of sea level rise, but is now considered a key driver. Australian Antarctic DivisionOur work examines records of total sea-level change, which by definition includes all relevant natural processes.
We examined chemical changes in fossil plankton shells in marine sediments from the Red Sea, which reliably relate to changes in sea level. Together with evidence of meltwater input around Antarctica and Greenland, this record reveals how rapidly sea level rose, and distinguishes between different ice sheet contributions.

Looking to the future
What is striking about the last interglacial record is how high and quickly sea level rose above present levels. Temperatures during the last interglacial were similar to those projected for the near future, which means melting polar ice sheets will likely affect future sea levels far more dramatically than anticipated to date.
The last interglacial is not a perfect scenario for the future. Incoming solar radiation was higher than today because of differences in Earth’s position relative to the Sun. Carbon dioxide levels were only 280 parts per million, compared with more than 410 parts per million today.
Crucially, warming between the two poles in the last interglacial did not happen simultaneously. But under today’s greenhouse-gas-driven climate change, warming and ice loss are happening in both regions at the same time. This means that if climate change continues unabated, Earth’s past dramatic sea level rise could be a small taste of what’s to come.

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(AU) Drought And Climate Change Were The Kindling, And Now The East Coast Is Ablaze

Lethal Heating - 13 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Conversation | 

Multiple large, intense fires are stretching from Australia’s coast to the tablelands and parts of the interior. AAP Image/Supplied, JPSS | LARGE IMAGELast week saw an unprecedented outbreak of large, intense fires stretching from the mid-north coast of New South Wales into central Queensland.
The most tragic losses are concentrated in northern NSW, where 970,000 hectares have been burned, three people have died, and at least 150 homes have been destroyed.
A catastrophic fire warning for Tuesday has been issued for the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter, Shoalhaven and Illawarra areas. It is the first time Sydney has received a catastrophic rating since the rating system was developed in 2009.
The fire danger tomorrow is now expected to be worse than originally forecast. The Illawarra/Shoalhaven is now forecast to experience a Catastrophic fire danger, as will Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter. More info here: https://t.co/RQyA5UAi8x #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/1xlwByvpMz— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 11, 2019No relief is in sight from this extremely hot, dry and windy weather, and the extraordinary magnitude of these fires is likely to increase in the coming week. Alarmingly, as Australians increasingly seek a sea-change or tree-change, more people are living in the path of these destructive fires.

Unprecedented state of emergency
Large fires have happened before in northern NSW and southern Queensland during spring and early summer (for example in 1994, 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2018 in northern NSW). But this latest extraordinary situation raises many questions.
It is as if many of the major fires in the past are now being rerun concurrently. What is unprecedented is the size and number of fires rather than the seasonal timing.
The potential for large, intense fires is determined by four fundamental ingredients: a continuous expanse of fuel; extensive and continuous dryness of that fuel; weather conditions conducive to the rapid spread of fire; and ignitions, either human or lightning. These act as a set of switches, in series: all must be “on” for major fires to occur.
Live fuel moisture content in late October 2019. The ‘dry’ and ‘transitional’ moisture categories correspond to conditions associated with over 95% of historical area burned by bushfire. Estimated from MODIS satellite imagery for the Sydney basin Bioregion.The NSW north coast and tablelands, along with much of the southern coastal regions of Queensland are famous for their diverse range of eucalypt forest, heathlands and rainforests, which flourish in the warm temperate to subtropical climate.
These forests and shrublands can rapidly accumulate bushfire fuels such as leaf litter, twigs and grasses. The unprecedented drought across much of Australia has created exceptional dryness, including high-altitude areas and places like gullies, water courses, swamps and steep south-facing slopes that are normally too wet to burn.
These typically wet parts of the landscape have literally evaporated, allowing fire to spread unimpeded. The drought has been particularly acute in northern NSW where record low rainfall has led to widespread defoliation and tree death. It is no coincidence current fires correspond directly with hotspots of record low rainfall and above-average temperatures.
Annual trends in live fuel moisture. The horizontal line represents the threshold for the critical ‘dry’ fuel category, which corresponds to the historical occurrence of most major wildfires in the Bioregion. Estimated from MODIS imagery for the Sydney basin BioregionThus, the North Coast and northern ranges of NSW as well as much of southern and central Queensland have been primed for major fires. A continuous swathe of critically dry fuels across these diverse landscapes existed well before last week, as shown by damaging fires in September and October.
High temperatures and wind speeds, low humidity, and a wave of new ignitions on top of pre-existing fires has created an unprecedented situation of multiple large, intense fires stretching from the coast to the tablelands and parts of the interior.

More people in harm’s way
Many parts of the NSW north coast, southern Queensland and adjacent hinterlands have seen population growth around major towns and cities, as people look for pleasant coastal and rural homes away from the capital cities.
The extraordinary number and ferocity of these fires, plus the increased exposure of people and property, have contributed to the tragic results of the past few days.
Communities flanked by forests along the coast and ranges are highly vulnerable because of the way fires spread under the influence of strong westerly winds. Coastal communities wedged between highly flammable forests and heathlands and the sea, are particularly at risk.
As a full picture of the extent and location of losses and damage becomes available, we will see the extent to which planning, building regulations, and fire preparation has mitigated losses and damage.
A firefighter defends a property in Torrington, near Glen Innes, Sunday, November 10, 2019. There are more than 80 fires burning around the state, with about half of those uncontained. AAP Image/Dan PeledThese unprecedented fires are an indication that a much-feared future under climate change may have arrived earlier than predicted. The week ahead will present high-stakes new challenges.
The most heavily populated region of the nation is now at critically dry levels of fuel moisture, below those at the time of the disastrous Christmas fires of 2001 and 2013. Climate change has been predicted to strongly increase the chance of large fires across this region. The conditions for Tuesday are a real and more extreme manifestation of these longstanding predictions.
Whatever the successes and failures in this crisis, it is likely that we will have to rethink the way we plan and prepare for wildfires in a hotter, drier and more flammable world.

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(AU) 'Old hat': Is there a link between climate change and bushfires?

Lethal Heating - 13 November, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Hannam

As Sydney braces for its first ever day of catastrophic fire danger, it's worth recapping what scientists think about the links between bushfire risks and a warming world.
Is there a link between climate change and more severe and frequent bushfires?
The aftermath of fire in Rainbow Flat near the Pacific Highway on November 9. Credit: Dean Sewell


How do scientists measure fire danger?
The likelihood of hostile extreme weather can be measured in a range of ways. For bushfires, scientists look at the McArthur Forest Fire Danger Index, developed in the 1960s by CSIRO scientist A.G. McArthur to forecast how weather would affect fire behaviour.As the name suggests, the gauge examines the risks to woodlands from fire using a combination of rainfall or drought conditions along with predicted wind speeds, temperature and relative humidity.
Typically, winter and spring see the highest ratings on this fire danger index in the north and these move southwards as spring makes way for summer.

How bad is catastrophic then?
Fire and emergency authorities started to review response plans in 2008 to adjust to "the growing intensity and severity of recent bushfire experiences across the country".
Then Black Saturday's bushfires erupted in Victoria on February 7 in 2009, leaving 173 people dead. That event "brought into sharp focus the possibility that the current legislation, systems, practices and processes to support effective community safety outcomes may no longer match the increasing levels of risk and expectations", a bushfire warning taskforce report noted.
The highest fire danger rating was set as "catastrophic" for index readings of 100 or more. (In Victoria, they are dubbed Code Red.) The basic message was boiled down to: "For your survival, leaving is the best option."The dire assessment is because some fires on such days are likely to become "uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving" and "there is a very high likelihood that people in the path of the fire will die or be injured", the taskforce said.
Melbourne reached an index reading of about 150 on Black Saturday, according to Ross Bradstock, director of the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires at the University of Wollongong. For Sydney to exceed 100 on the index could be a first, at least for its Observatory Hill and Sydney Airport sites, where the weather is measured.

Does climate change play a part?
Yes, there is a link between climate change and the prevalence and severity of fires. In fact, the research identifying a link between fires and climate change is "old hat", says Professor Bradstock. "The research has all been done. We don’t need to keep doing it."
As the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO pointed out in last year's latest State of the Climate report, the number of the most extreme 10 per cent of fire weather days based on the fire danger index "has increased in recent decades across many regions of Australia, especially in southern and eastern Australia".
How fire danger risks are rising in Australia
Source: Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO
"There has been an associated increase in the length of the fire weather season," it said. "Climate change, including increasing temperatures, is contributing to these changes."Or, as Hamish Clarke, a former NSW government scientist and now with the University of Wollongong, puts it: "Across the country, at a number of high-quality long-term weather stations, there had either been an increase, or no change [in the fire danger index]. We didn’t find a significant decrease anywhere."
In general, one consequence for fire authorities is that the fire season is getting longer. In eastern Australia, that means fire risks start to increase earlier in the spring and last longer into the autumn. The window for hazard-reduction burning is shifting into winter – if it's not too damp to do it.
How human activity and natural climate variability factored in bushfire ratings increases from 1973 to 2017 was the focus of research by Sarah Harris, from the Victoria's Country Fire Authority, and Chris Lucas in September.
Firefighters north of Forster near the junction of the Pacific Highway on November 8. Credit: Dean SewellWhile rainfall changes from one year to the next, with phenomena such as El Ninos in the Pacific and shifting Indian Ocean conditions playing a role, the researchers' findings were conclusive:
"We propose that anthropogenic [human-led] climate change is the primary driver of the [upward trend in the fire danger index], through both higher mean temperatures and, potentially, through associated shifts in large-scale rainfall patterns."
How unusual is this year?
Depending on where you are, very unusual. NSW, for instance, could see a million hectares burned so far this fire season within days – if it hasn't already done so. That is about the same as the past three fire seasons combined – and summer is yet to arrive.
Rainfall deficiencies – or what most of us call "drought" – are already the worst on record for northern NSW and parts of southern Queensland. And it has also been hot.

Fires will take off when forests are as dry as this
Median live fuel moisture content, Sydney Basin

2013 saw Sydney's last major fires.Source: R.H.Nolan, M.M. Boer and R.A. BradstockAccording to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia posted its hottest January-October in records going back to 1910 for maximum temperatures. It looks like only a cool spell, which is not on the forecast charts, will stop 2019 being the hottest year on record for daytime readings.
Of particular concern for this week is how very dry areas are around big population centres such as Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Temperatures are likely to reach the mid- to high 30s on November 12 at a time when moisture levels in plants – a gauge of how quickly they will burn if fire breaks out – are tracking below those of the big fire season of 2013 in the Sydney area, and the worst since 2002.Professor Bradstock published research in 2009 that predicted how the fire danger index would track to 2030 and 2050, using CSIRO data from 2007.
"The current predictions [for Sydney on November 12] are beyond what we predicted back in 2007," he says. "That's not good."
The Hillville fire on November 8. Credit: Dean Sewell Links
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Regional Mayors Criticise Politicians For Failing To Link Climate Change And Deadly Bushfires

Lethal Heating - 12 November, 2019 - 04:00
ABC NewsJenya Goloubeva | Nour Haydar


Deputy PM Michael McCormack needs to read the science: Glen Innes Mayor responds to comments on climate change. (ABC News)

Key points
  • Coalition politicians have criticised people for linking deadly bushfires and climate change
  • Mayors from fire-ravaged NSW have hit back at that, saying climate change is contributing to fires
  • Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks says politicians need to believe the scientific evidence on climate change
Mayors from fire-ravaged areas of New South Wales have said there is no doubt in their minds that the devastating blazes tearing through their communities are a result of climate change.
Their comments are a rebuke to senior leaders within the state and federal governments, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy PM Michael McCormack, who have criticised people for linking the current deadly bushfires to climate change.
Three people died in fires across the state at the weekend, with the State Government declaring a state of emergency amid predicted catastrophic conditions and predictions that the coming days will see "the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen".
"What people need now is a little bit of sympathy and understanding and real assistance, they need help, they need shelter," Mr McCormack said on ABC Radio National this morning.
"They don't need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they are trying to save their homes."


Firefighters drive through the middle of the Hillville bushfire near Taree, on the NSW mid-north coast, on Friday. (ABC News)

Carol Sparks, the Mayor of Glen Innes, where two people died at the weekend, called on Mr McCormack to refer to scientific evidence before commenting further.
"I think that Michael McCormack needs to read the science, and that is what I am going by, is the science," she said.
"It is not a political thing - it is a scientific fact that we are going through climate change."
Responding directly to the comments made by the Deputy PM this morning, Mid Coast mayor Claire Pontin said she felt "cranky" when she heard Mr McCormack say that "we've had fires in Australia since time began".
"They need to get out and have a real look at what's happening to this country," Ms Pontin said.
"We've not had situations like that. Fifty years ago, this would never happen."
Ms Pontin said the issue went beyond politics and said it was essential to talking about climate change when considering how to respond to the bushfires,
"We don't have capital city greenies around here, we have farmers coming to us and saying, "look what's happened to my farm, I can't afford to feed the cows anymore because I've been buying feed for the last 18 months." she said.
"It's just ridiculous.
"It's not going to go away if we bury our heads in the sand."The Bureau of Meteorology has said that "climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia."
Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt said the weekend fires demonstrated that "the Government does not have the climate emergency under control".
"Scott Morrison has done everything in his power to increase the risk of catastrophic bushfires and sadly we are now witnessing apocalyptic scenes that none of us — none of us —want to see in Australia,” he said.
But Mr McCormack accused the Greens of exploiting the issue to score a "political point."
"That's what Adam Bandt, and the Greens, and Richard Di Natale, and all those other inner-city raving lunatics — and quite frankly, that's how he was carrying on yesterday — that's what they want, we're not going to go down that path."Michael McCormack dismissed concerns the bushfires were linked to climate change. (AAP: Lukas Coch)
Mayor says Deputy Prime Minister needs to read the science
Former NSW Fire and Rescue chief Greg Mullins has been trying to set up a meeting with the Prime Minister and his team to address the bushfire emergency.
These are the letters sent by former NSW Fires Chief Greg Mullins and 22 other former emergency chiefs to the Prime Minister in April and September predicting a bushfire crisis and requesting a meeting. #nswfires #auspol pic.twitter.com/djhHjHknAe— Zoe Daniel (@zdaniel) November 9, 2019Mr Mullins and 22 other former emergency chiefs wrote a letter to Mr Morrison earlier this year predicting a bushfire crisis and calling the Prime Minister to the table to come with an action plan. The meeting has not been held.
"The numbers don't lie, and the science is clear," he wrote in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Unprecedented dryness; reductions in long-term rainfall; low humidity; high temperatures; wind velocities; fire danger indices; fire spread and ferocity; instances of pyro-convective fires "fire storms - making their own weather); early starts and late finishes to bushfire season." An established long-term trend drive by a warming, drying climate," he wrote.
Mr Mullins cited previous examples when federal politicians shut down the climate change discussion saying it was inappropriate while fires are still burning. "But if not now, then when?" he asked.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is another politician who has said now is not the time, lashing out at people for raising the issue of climate change.
"For any bloody greenie, lefty out there that wants to talk about climate change when communities are at risk — and over the next 48 hours we may lose more lives — and if this is the time that people talk about climate change they are a bloody disgrace," he said.
Fires also burned across Queensland at the weekend, such as this one near Yeppoon. (Facebook: Anthony Carter)But Ms Pontin dismissed that.
"It's always the time to be talking about it," she said.
"Every level of government needs to recognise that there is a big issue and it's almost too late to act, but we've got to start doing something now."
What remains of a fire that tore through Rainbow Flat. (ABC News: Mridula Amin)
 
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Meltdown: Chilling Proof Of Global Heating

Lethal Heating - 12 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

An arresting exhibition from activist charity Project Pressure uses conceptual photography to capture the decline of the ice caps
The Lewis Glacier, Mt Kenya by Simon Norfolk. The line of fire shows where the glacier used to extend to. Photograph: Simon Norfolk/Project Pressure









What is it about those melting glaciers and desperate polar bears that makes us want to look away?” the activist and author Naomi Klein asked in 2015. In her book This Changes Everything, she laid the blame on powerful global corporations and acquiescent governments, which both simultaneously underplay the scale of the climate emergency and exploit our collective sense of helplessness in the face of it. Since then, a new urgency has driven climate activism, most successfully in the disruptive protests of Extinction Rebellion. Can art, though, have a meaningful role in raising awareness of that urgency?
A forthcoming exhibition, Meltdown: Visualising Climate Change, at the Horniman Museum in London sets out to answer that question in the affirmative. It focuses on the fate of the world’s glaciers through the prism of art, photography and film. “We are using art as a kind of seduction to draw people in, then shock them,” says photographer Simon Norfolk, one of the artists involved.
Why glaciers, though? Norfolk points out that, while severe floods and forest fires are in some ways more dramatically visual, “they can leave you open to the charge of not being scientific”. Glaciers, on the other hand, are one of the key and irrefutable indicators of climate change. “Through photography and film, you can record over time the ways in which they are receding, and by how much,” he says. “Plus, they are just so visual.”
The Lewis Glacier, Mt Kenya, 1963 (A), 2014. The image traces a line where the glacier’s front was in 1963 while showing where it is now. Using scientific maps and GPS, Norfolk marked out the older  line using hidden flashlights. ‘I walked along the line dragging my burning stick, joining up the dots of the flashlights. It took about 20 minutes, which was hard work at altitude. The exposure for the mountain and the stars continues for the rest of the hour. I wanted it to be all in camera because climate change is surrounded by loons who will claim I faked it all.’By way of illustration, his arresting image The Lewis Glacier, Mt Kenya, 1963 shows a line of fire snaking along the rocky slope of a once completely snow-covered mountain skirting close to some scattered wooden buildings. It is one of a series of photographs he made using long, slow exposures on a mounted camera to track him as he ran along a meandering line on the mountain holding a flaming torch. (You can see him collapse with altitude exhaustion in a short film documenting the making of the work shot by the Observer photographer Antonio Olmos.) “I use old maps to trace the exact line where the front edge of the glacier existed in previous years,” he explains. “My starting point was 1963, the year I was born, and I have made similar images for selected years ever since. It is a way of photographing the absence of something, in this instance a few kilometres of ice that have disappeared in the intervening years.” The series won Norfolk a Sony World Photography award in 2015.
Ice Cave, Vatnajökull, 2014. Richard Mosse used a large-format plate-film camera and infrared film to photograph the ice cave under the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. Glacier caves usually form when air enters where water flows underneath the ice, the warm air slowly creates melting and forms a cave from beneath. The dynamic process is becoming more unpredictable as the weather changes and cave access may become impossible in the future.Meltdown is curated by Project Pressure, an activist charity that, since 2008, has commissioned artists to work with climate scientists on often ambitious projects that highlight the earth’s increasingly unstable environment. Their partners and sponsors include Nasa, WGMS (World Glacier Monitoring Service), Hasselblad and the UN Climate Action Summit. “When we began in 2008, climate change was not high on the activist agenda in the way that it is now, but we understood the urgency,” says the founder of the project, Danish photographer Klaus Thymann. “For centuries, landscape has been one of the classic themes of great art, so it makes sense to use art as another means to make people aware of the climate emergency and hopefully help instigate institutional and behavioural changes.”
From a purely artistic perspective, what is most interesting about the Meltdown exhibition is that, though it includes the work of a few documentary photographers, it is a reflection of the broad range of conceptual strategies being adopted by contemporary activist artists: from Richard Mosse, winner of last year’s prestigious Prix Pictet, to Noémie Goudal, a French artist whose photographic installations, a hybrid of the real and the created, are made in often elemental landscapes.
Glacier 1, 2016, by Noemie Goudal. French conceptual artist Goudal is interested in the meeting of the organic and the manmade. This work was made on the Rhône glacier, where Goudal constructed a large-scale photographic installation printed on biodegradable paper that disintegrates in water. ‘All my work is about the fragility of the landscape,’ she says.For Meltdown, Mosse used a large-format plate camera to photograph an eerily beautiful ice cave underneath the Vatnajökull glacier in Iceland. It was formed by air entering beneath the ice cap, and, in Mosse’s blue-tinged prints, resembles a sci-fi landscape, all smooth curves and jagged icicles, made all the more unreal by his use of infrared film.
Goudal specalises in elaborate interventions with the landscape. For this commission, she photographed the Rhône glacier in the Swiss Alps, before printing the results on large sheets of biodegradable paper. She then mounted the prints, which are 3.5 metres tall, on to plastic canvas using “a children’s glue that disintegrates on contact with water”. The prints were then suspended in front of the landscape she had photographed and, throughout a single day, she shot around a hundred frames of the disintegrating image.
“I am primarily interested in the choreography of the landscape and how it moves and changes continually,” she says. “I want to alter our perception of it through images that show the organic and the artificial blending and clashing. In this instance, I kept on shooting until the scene reverted to the original landscape.”
Mt Baker, 2014, by Peter Funch. Danish artist Funch uses old tourist postcards and historic photos as source material for his series Imperfect Atlas. In this case the images are re-creations of vintage postcards of Mount Baker [in Washington state, US] found on eBay ‘I located the positions from which the original postcard images had been made,’ he says, ‘and re-shot the glaciers from those positions to create comparative juxtapositions of then and now.’I had assumed that Goudal’s disintegrating prints were a visual metaphor for the effects of global warming on the glacier, but she insists that her art “does not really fit into a discourse about environmental issues” and is more about the ways in which artists and scientists “observe and interpret” the environment. “Geology and astronomy are important elements in my work,” she says, “but, apart from this commission, there is really no big eco-subtext in the rest of my work.”
Other artists have turned to the past to make sense of our present ecological dilemmas. Peter Funch uses vintage tourist postcards and historic images of Mount Rainier and Mount Baker in the North Cascades in Washington as raw material for his series Imperfect Atlas. Using maps and satellite images, he pinpointed the exact spot from which the original pictures were taken so that he could photograph today’s mountain glaciers from the same position. Funch also employed an old-fashioned technical process called RGB tricolour separation, in which red, green, and blue filters are used to create three separate monochrome images, which are then combined to make a single full-colour image. The process was invented in 1850, a decade after the first recorded evidence that the mountain glaciers were receding. As his work makes clear, even the earliest 19th-century photographs of glaciers were visual documents of their slow decline.
Bone from 4000 BC, Switzerland, 2017: Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin make photographic still lifes of the often perfectly preserved objects revealed by shrinking glaciers, such as this human bone which remained intact in the ice for thousands of years.“In the exhibition, we use glaciers as a symbol,” says Thymann. “But some of the work is about what makes a surprising story. The artists Broomberg and Chanarin photographed objects that were found inside the ice of melting glaciers. Simon and myself collaborated on Shroud, which uses photographs and film to portray the attempt to slow down the melting of the Rhône glacier by wrapping a vast section of it in a thermal blanket.”
These images are desperate and deathly, like a Christo installation gone wrong. It turns out that the owners of a popular tourist attraction, an ice grotto, have spent 70,000 euros to try and preserve their site. These kinds of measures are symptomatic of what Thymann calls a kind of belated “adaptation anxiety” – “What are we going to do? How can we adapt to this?”
Shroud, 2018, by Simon Norfolk and Klaus Thyman: in an attempt to arrest the melting of the ice at an ice-grotto tourist attraction at the Rhône Glacier, local Swiss entrepreneurs paid for it to be covered up with a thermal blanket. ‘We chose the title,’ says Norfolk, ‘because it looks like they have created a shroud for the glacier’s death.’That, of course, is a crucial question at the heart of the exhibition – and our global climate emergency. As Norfolk points out: “It is the poorest, who caused the least amount of damage to the environment, that will suffer the most. The rich will build higher flood walls around the financial district in Manhattan, but what will happen to people in Bangladesh?”
The point of Project Pressure is to create change though art. “This is not a time for helplessness or looking away,” says Thymann. “The mission is to use art to help accelerate change.” Norfolk nods his head in agreement. “It’s not about making another fancy photobook or beautiful exhibition, it’s about making trouble, starting arguments.”

• Meltdown: Visualizing Climate Change is at the Horniman Museum, London, from 23 November to 12 January 2020

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(UK) Climategate 10 Years On: What Lessons Have We Learned?

Lethal Heating - 12 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian -

A series of leaked emails was leapt on by climate-change deniers to discredit the data, but their efforts may have only slowed the search for solutions
Since the first images were taken in 1979, Arctic sea ice coverage has dropped by an average of about 34,000 square miles each year. Photograph: David Goldman/APThe email that appeared on Phil Jones’s computer screen in November 2009 was succinct. “Just a quick note to encourage you to shoot yourself in the head,” it said. “Don’t waste any more time. Do it today. It is truly the greatest contribution to mankind that you will ever make.”
Nor was it very different from the other emails that were arriving in Jones’s inbox. Others described the climate scientist as the scum of the earth. Some authors promised to kill him themselves. Most of the messages were riddled with obscenities. All made troubling reading.
Professor Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia. Photograph: Chris Bourchier / Rex Features As to the cause of this outpouring of hatred, that was straightforward. Jones headed the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, from which a tranche of emails had just been hacked and made public. These, it was claimed, showed that he and fellow researchers were faking the evidence that suggested our planet was heating up dangerously.
The affair was dubbed Climategate by those who deny the existence of global warming and it remains one of modern society’s most troubling affairs. Many observers believe it helped delay measures that might have slowed climate change and given humanity more time to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, its key cause.
Climategate marks its 10th anniversary this month – an opportune moment to reflect on just how serious was its impact on society, and to look at the effect it had on those who were trying to stop Earth from being ravaged by rising seas, spreading deserts, disappearing coral reefs and suffocating heat.
At the time, climate-change deniers were desperate to find ways to undermine the idea that global warming was real, and as Jones’s unit had provided key data that supported this notion – by showing how land temperatures on Earth had been rising sharply in recent decades – his work was considered fair game. So they responded gleefully by ransacking his hacked emails for signs he may have been fiddling results and asserted, in blogs, they had found telltale signs.
These claims were then picked up by media outlets hostile to global warming. “Scientist in climate cover-up told to quit” ran one headline. “Scientists broke law by hiding climate data”, claimed another.
Jones was vilified. “Within a day or two reporters were outside my house, knocking on my neighbours’ doors, digging for dirt,” he recalls. “I got hundreds of abusive and threatening emails. I knew the accusations were nonsense. But as someone used to being in control I buckled at the loss of it. My health deteriorated. I found it difficult to sleep and eat. I was under intense, spiralling pressure and felt I was falling to pieces. Looking back I suppose I was having some kind of a nervous breakdown.”
So what had Jones said in his emails to trigger these attacks? In one message Jones says he would be emailing a journal “to tell them I’m having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor”. This was interpreted as being a bid to suppress academic criticism. “We’re choosing the periods to show warming,” he says in another email that seems to suggest he was fiddling his data.
A dried pond in drought-stricken Fuyang, Anhui province, eastern China in October 2019. Photograph: VCG/via Getty Images
And then there was his remark that he was going to employ “Mike’s trick” to use data that would “hide the decline”. In other words, he was going to cover up data that showed the world was really cooling and was not warming, it was claimed.
The Mike in question was Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, who had worked with Jones for years. His “trick” was no more than a simple technique to combine the records of temperatures measured directly by thermometer with estimates made from tree rings (which roughly reflect temperature variations).
“In fact, the email was an entirely innocent and appropriate conversation between scientists,” Mann states in this week’s BBC Four documentary, Climategate: Science of a Scandal. He and Jones were merely trying to find appropriate ways of illustrating a graph of global temperature changes.
This view was not shared by Sarah Palin: the former US vice-presidential candidate wrote a Washington Post op-ed article that claimed the emails “reveal that leading climate ‘experts’ … manipulated data to hide the decline in global temperatures”.
British climate science was subjected to huge scrutiny by the world’s best journalists and it stood up to the test
Fiona Fox, Science Media Centre
Subsequent investigations by journalists showed these claims were unsupportable, however. Guardian writer Fred Pearce studied the leaked emails and produced a book, The Climate Files, from his research. “Have the Climategate revelations undermined the case that we are experiencing made-made climate change? Absolutely not,” says Pearce. “Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet.”
Pearce was writing for the eco-friendly Guardian, but his views were supported by many others, such as Mike Hanlon, former science editor of the Daily Mail. “Scratch and sniff as we did, there was no smoking gun, no line that would show that there had been a conspiracy to fabricate a great untruth,” he said later. Thus, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, the notion that Climategate represented “the worst scientific scandal of a generation” – as one UK newspaper had claimed – was found in the end to be unsupportable.
This point is emphasised by Fiona Fox, head of the UK’s Science Media Centre. “British climate science was subjected to huge scrutiny by the world’s best journalists and it stood up to the test. If you look at where we are now in terms of public trust in climate science, it’s hard to sustain the argument that Climategate was fatally damaging to the field.
“Climategate also tells us that front page rows about science are an opportunity as well as a threat and the scientists who stood up in that febrile environment and soundly defended science also did a great job. We need to remember that.”
New Yorkers brave the severe thunderstorms that hit the city among tornado warnings in May 2018. Photograph: Peter Foley/EPASeveral official UK reports on the affair also supported Jones. One inquiry – by Sir Muir Russell, a senior civil servant – specifically praised the “rigour and honesty” of Jones and his colleagues while another, chaired by Lord Oxburgh, found “no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice”. The only real criticism was the suggestion that the researchers had not always shown a “proper sense of openness” in dealing with data inquires.
Jones and colleagues were also backed by the US Environmental Protection Agency which heavily criticised American politicians and energy groups who had tried to use the leaked emails to dismiss the risks facing our overheating world. These individuals had “routinely misunderstood or mis-characterised the scientific issues, drawn faulty conclusions, resorted to hyperbole, impugned the ethics of climate scientists in general and characterised actions as ‘falsifications’ and ‘manipulation’ with no basis or support,” said the agency.
Other powerful support was provided by physicists at University of California, Berkeley, who decided to test if deniers had been right to question Jones’s temperature charts. Led by Professor Richard Muller and backed by funds that included a $150,000 grant from noted climate-crisis denial supporters, the Charles Koch Foundation – the team re-analysed more than 1.6bn land temperature measurements dating back to the 1800s – and came to exactly the same conclusions as Jones: the fairly level temperatures that had continued through the past few centuries began to spike sharply a few decades ago as atmosphere carbon levels rose.
“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with warming values published previously,” said Muller. “This confirms these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate-change sceptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”
Such powerful endorsements might have been expected to end deniers’ claims about Climategate. However, they have continued since 2009 to accuse Jones and others of collusion and fraud.
Former Times columnist and climate contrarian Matt Ridley is typical. The “scandal” showed scientists were “conspiring to ostracise sceptics, delete emails, game peer review and manipulate the presentation of data”, he wrote in 2017, ignoring the many reports and studies that in the interim have shown this was not the case.
Note also that since Climategate we have had eight of the warmest years on record; carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise inexorably; and Arctic sea ice levels in summer have reached record lows over the past decade. Occurrences of heavy rainfall and heatwaves have also increased dramatically. The world has continued to heat up dangerously. Yet humanity has done very little to tackle the crisis.
And that raises a critical question: did Climategate play a role in this failure to act? Some observers believe it did and, as an illustration, point to the fate of the Copenhagen climate summit – organised under the UN framework convention on climate change – which took place only a few weeks after the leaking of the CRU’s emails.
A sheep farm in New South Wales. The drought across the Murray Darling Basin is now officially Australia’s worst on record. Photograph: David Gray/Getty ImagesThe Copenhagen summit is widely regarded as a failure. Instead of agreeing on a legally binding treaty to limit carbon emissions as hoped, delegates chose merely to “take note of” an accord drawn up by a core group of heads of state.
So did the leaking of the Climategate emails have a pernicious influence there? Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, doubts it. “Essentially the conference was badly managed. Climategate had very little impact.”
On the other hand, says Ward, climategate did damage public policy-making in the UK and in other western countries. “Rightwing politicians, allied with fossil fuel companies, used their influence to spread false claims about the emails and to argue against policies to cut fossil fuel use. That propaganda campaign still continues today.” The use of illegally hacked emails in Climategate also shows deniers will resort to all sorts of underhand methods to confuse the public, Ward added. “I am sure they would do the same again today – so scientists are going to have to remain vigilant and be ready to fight back at any time.”
This point is backed by Mann, who has fought vociferously to defend climate science in the US. Although the past few years have seen a significant growth in the public’s belief that the world is heating dangerously, climate-change denial has not gone away.
“Hard denial has evolved into something more pernicious,” he says. “Attention has been deflected from imposing policy solutions towards stressing that changes should be made in individual behaviour – people’s diet, methods of travel and other lifestyle choices. It is a classic industry manoeuvre: put the onus on individuals to change things and ignore the need to impose systemic solutions and make policy reforms.
“Of course, individual action needs to be part of the battle, but not as a substitute for policy reform. It should be as an additional component. We must also be aware how the forces of denial are exploiting the lifestyle change movement to get supporters of action against climate change to argue with each other and engage in behavioural shaming. So yes, we will be vigilant in future.”

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Opinion: Current Proposals To Plant Trees To Fight Climate Change Are Badly Misguided

Lethal Heating - 11 November, 2019 - 04:00
EnsiaWilliam John Bond

llustration by Kelsey KingTree planting is a popular strategy for reducing carbon in the atmosphere to help combat global warming. But is it being thought through sufficiently? I think not.
In recent years, the neighborly act of planting a tree in the backyard has morphed into major geoengineering projects marketed as key interventions for managing global carbon. Important examples are the Bonn Challenge, started in 2011, which set out to plant 3.5 million square kilometres (1.4 million square miles) of trees by 2030, and the United Nations’ Billion Tree Campaign.
Africa has been targeted by the Bonn Challenge as a key area for “forest restoration.” It has vast areas of grasslands and savannas where the climate could grow forests. AFR100, an offshoot of the Bonn Challenge, plans to plant at least 1 million square kilometers (400,000 square miles) of trees in Africa by 2030. Already, 28 countries have signed up, each required to pledge its own target area, with some countries setting aside as much as one-third to three-quarters of their total land area for trees.
It is surely time to pause and ask questions of tree planting and its consequences. The assumption underlying all this is that Africa’s grassy ecosystems are degraded and deforested landscapes “that deliver limited benefits to both humans and nature.” But we know that African savannas are ancient — much older than the human societies that cut down forests. They support the continent’s spectacular grass-dependent wildlife along with thousands of other plant and animal species that prefer sunlight. And they support human societies.
The tree-planting plans ignore the fate of the savanna’s current inhabitants. And they bring the risk of raging megafires as well as adversely altering stream flows. By fixing set targets by a set period, they are forcing rapid land use change on a massive scale. It is surely time to pause and ask questions of tree planting and its consequences.

Climate Benefits
One motivation for global tree-planting plans is to reduce atmospheric carbon by storing emissions from industrial nations in the ecosystems of the less industrialized nations. But how effective will it be? Current emissions are adding an extra 4.7 billion metric tons (5.2 billion tons) of carbon to the atmosphere every year. How will planting 3.5 million square kilometers of trees reduce this annual increase?
Estimates of carbon storage by planting trees are surprisingly divergent and uncertain, with one study giving a maximum of 42 billion metric tons (46 billion tons) if the Bonn Challenge restored 3.5 million square kilometers of natural forest by 2100 (reforestation) but only 1 billion metric tons (1.1 billion tons) if tree farming with plantations is used instead (afforestation). The optimistic scenario would cover less than 10 years of growth in emissions at current rates. If the AFR100 target is reached, my colleagues and I estimated in a recent study, the annual growth of CO2 would drop by a mere 2.7%.
Why are the estimates so uncertain? Different tree species grow at different rates, with natural forest trees growing far more slowly than plantation trees such as pines and eucalypts. Trees also grow at different rates in different climates. And carbon accumulation slows to zero net gain as the trees mature. To continue storing carbon, plantations have to be felled and replanted, and the wood has to be stored so the accumulated carbon isn’t lost to the atmosphere.
Not only that, but tree canopies are usually darker than the grassland they replace. That means they absorb more sunlight and therefore having a warming effect. This and other biophysical effects of planting trees to replace grasslands have yet to be fully evaluated in the tropics and subtropics.

The Costs of Tree Planting
The urgency invoked by the international agencies promoting tree planting has given little time for the implementing countries to consider the pros and cons of long-term land use change.
The downside is the tying up of land to forestry for the foreseeable future, with limited options for crop farming, livestock grazing or conservation of grassy ecosystems. AFR100 is being financed by the World Bank (US$1 billion) and other funders, including forestry companies (nearly half a billion dollars) by 2030. That works out as US$10–15 per hectare (US$4-6 per acre), a real bargain for what is effectively a long-term land lease. Nevertheless, the incentive of an injection of foreign currency is a strong incentive for host countries to sign up. The short-term gains of wealth for some, jobs for others, new primary industries and even some reversal of erosion would be appealing.
The downside is the tying up of land to forestry for the foreseeable future, with limited options for crop farming, livestock grazing or conservation of grassy ecosystems. It could increase the risk of disastrous wildfires, and it’s reducing water supplies because of reduced streamflow.

Out of the Mess
A major problem with current afforestation projects is the setting of fixed area targets by fixed dates. If we really want to restore degraded and deforested areas, we first need to locate them; identify what is possible given social, economic and ecological restraints; and plan accordingly.
Restoring forest in areas that were historically forests, or are currently degraded forests, makes good sense for carbon storage, biodiversity and restoring some goods and services. But the global targets were set without reference to the vast naturally nonforested areas, with their own biota and distinct land use practices.
Much better methods are being developed that target tropical forests, not savannas, for tree-planting, and score areas on the likelihood of restoration success, carbon storage potential, and likelihood of sustaining forest into the future. Though only a fraction of the AFR100 target, the restoration of such areas would make a real contribution to global carbon storage and help maintain intact tropical forests while respecting the development needs of the host countries.

Recommendations
Given the limited benefits of large-scale tree planting and the long-term costs to the host countries, my colleagues and I believe that the Bonn Challenge and other major projects based on tree planting need urgent re-evaluation.
In the longer term, restoring the carbon storage function of ecosystems will be essential for reducing CO2. But tree planting is a slow and minor contributor to reducing greenhouse gases. The larger, more immediate need is to reduce emissions, primarily by reducing fossil fuel use and by drastically reducing land clearing and deforestation.
If you really want to make a difference to your future, rather than contributing to a tree-planting program, consider supporting the planting of wind towers, solar energy and hydropower, or conserving existing high-carbon ecosystems and help Africa’s transition to a more urban, industrialized continent less dependent on fossil fuels. You are sure to have a much larger effect on global warming than tearing up grasslands to plant trees.

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Loud Environmental Protests Are A Great Australian Tradition

Lethal Heating - 11 November, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning Herald - Editorial

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s threat to outlaw certain forms of protest by environmentalists against coal and gas mining companies might be good short-term politics but it would be a dangerous move for Australian democracy.
Mr Morrison announced last week in Queensland that he planned to crack down on what he described as a new “absolutist” and “anarchist” trend where environmentalists impose “secondary boycotts”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he is working on legal measures to outlaw the "indulgent and selfish practices" of protest groups that try to stop major resources projects. Credit: AAPIn these actions, climate change protesters do not target the mining companies directly but instead they target businesses and firms who provide goods or services to them.They organise picket lines, social media campaigns, consumer boycotts and the like to pressure banks and insurance companies to stop providing finance to the miners and they try to scare away the contractors who build the mines.
Clearly the environmentalists’ tactics annoy mining companies and perhaps also Mr Morrison’s “quiet Australian” voters in regional areas but there is something bigger at stake here for all Australians.
The right to protest and, yes, protest loudly is what separates Australia from countries like China. It must be protected.
Mr Morrison is wrong if he thinks that secondary boycotts are a new trend or that they are only used by environmentalists against mining. They have long been a widely used tool for many social protest movements.For instance, anti-slavery group Walk Free, founded by miner Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, organises protests against fashion houses such as Zara and Gucci, to force them to stop buying cotton from farmers who exploit their workers.
In fact, Australian competition law already bans secondary boycotts and is widely used in industrial disputes against unions.But the law rightly includes a specific exemption for campaigns where the dominant purpose of the secondary boycott is environmental or consumer protection.
The oil and gas and forest industries among others complained about the exemption at a review into the law in 2015.But the panel, led by Reserve Bank of Australia board member Ian Harper, found the exemption for environmental and consumer action was justified because it was up to businesses and consumers to make up their own minds about how to respond to the protests.Protests only succeed if they win the support of consumers and shareholders. It is called the free market.
There must be some limits on protests, for instances where they disrupt traffic or commit vandalism. But public advocacy should not be a crime.Even if the government scrapped the exemption for advocacy in the competition act, that would not be the end of the story. Any new law would be open to challenge as an infringement of the qualified right to freedom of political expression which the High Court has repeatedly found in the constitution.Given all the practical difficulties of drafting the law, Mr Morrison may not actually want it to pass. He may just see it as a useful wedge issue in areas affected by drought and dependent on mining jobs.
But it will be increasingly clear that the real threat to the coal and gas industries is not urban elites or environmental protesters but climate change.Banks and finance companies are being told by their shareholders and customers that they must do something. Regulators like the Reserve Bank of Australia are warning them.
Banks are doing the numbers and realising that the mounting global pressure to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will inevitably cut demand for fossil fuels and undermine the business case for new mines. That is the problem that Mr Morrison should face.

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Examining The Viability Of Planting Trees To Help Mitigate Climate Change

Lethal Heating - 11 November, 2019 - 04:00
NASA - Alan Buis


It’s an intriguing premise: what if we could reduce the severity of global climate change by planting hundreds of billions of trees to remove excess carbon from our atmosphere? A recent study published in the journal Science sought to provide answers by estimating the global potential of restoring forested lands as a possible strategy for mitigating climate change.
The international research team, led by Jean-Francois Bastin of ETH-Zurich in Switzerland, used direct measurements of forest cover around the world to create a model for estimating Earth’s forest restoration potential. They found Earth’s ecosystems could support another 900 million hectares (2.2 billion acres) of forests, 25 percent more forested area than we have now. By planting more than a half trillion trees, the authors say, we could capture about 205 gigatons of carbon (a gigaton is 1 billion metric tons), reducing atmospheric carbon by about 25 percent. That’s enough to negate about 20 years of human-produced carbon emissions at the current rate, or about half of all carbon emitted by humans since 1960. The study attracted worldwide attention, as well as some criticism within the science community.
Is the concept of planting trees to help combat climate change really going out on a limb, so to speak, or might it take root? Sassan Saatchi, a senior scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believes it has some merit. But while he says there’s potential for using reforestation as a climate mitigation tool, he cautions there are many factors to consider and that planting trees will never be a substitute for decreasing fossil fuel emissions.
“I feel there’s a strong possibility a significant portion of these lands can be reforested to their original forest cover,” said Saatchi, an expert in global forest carbon stocks and dynamics. “It’s definitely not a solution by itself to addressing current climate change. To do that, we need to reduce human emissions of greenhouse gases. But it could still have some partial impact on our ability to reduce climate change.”
A multi-country-led effort called the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) is working to reforest 100 million hectares of land in Africa by 2030. Credit: Andrea Borgarello for TerrAfrica/World Bank Saatchi says the study establishes a reasonable estimate of global forest restoration potential and addresses the issue more directly than previous work. The researchers used new satellite-based land cover and land use maps, along with other climate and soil data and advanced techniques to arrive at their results. He says their conclusions on tree restoration aren’t that different from the recommendations made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018, which suggested that 950 million hectares (2.3 billion acres) of new forests could help limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5-degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by 2050. However, he says, “the devil is in details.”

Many Unanswered Questions
Before a global forest restoration effort is undertaken, Saatchi says, numerous questions must first be addressed to assess the concept’s feasibility, scientific soundness, cost-efficiency, risks and other considerations. “We need to understand not only whether it’s possible to do such a thing, but whether we should do it,” he says.
“The paper has sparked a healthy debate in the science community, which has now come forward to begin to address issues that the paper did not,” he said. “The science community has been looking at these questions to some extent for a long time, but there’s more urgency to address them now, since we no longer have the same climate conditions we had 50 or 100 years ago, when humans began massive deforestation for agriculture and human settlements. Since then, Earth’s population and land use have increased drastically. In some parts of the Northern Hemisphere, countries have been able to save more forests, but other areas, such as the tropics, have seen massive deforestations because of the need to feed larger populations.”
Areas of degraded rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi Saatchi outlined a few of the many questions scientists and others will want to investigate. For example, how realistic are the study’s estimates of how much carbon can be sequestered through reforestation? How long will this approach take to make a dent in atmospheric carbon concentrations? Can grasslands and savanna ecosystems sustain increased tree cover? How might converting non-forest land to forests compete with food production? How much time, money and resources will it take to implement a global forest restoration of this magnitude? How do the costs of adopting such a climate mitigation strategy stack up against its potential benefits? How much carbon would be released to the atmosphere by restoring forests? How will global climate models respond to a massive forest restoration? Will an Earth with a billion hectares of new forests actually be cooler?
Fire suppression tactics have allowed this forest at the edge of a savanna in Gabon, Central Africa, to regenerate naturally. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi “Planting a billion hectares of trees won’t be easy,” he said. “It would require a massive undertaking. If we follow the paper’s recommendations, reforesting an area the size of the United States and Canada combined (1 to 2 billion hectares) could take between one and two thousand years, assuming we plant a million hectares a year and that each hectare contains at least 50 to 100 trees to create an appropriate treetop canopy cover.”
Even once the trees are planted, says Saatchi, it will take them about a century to reach maturity. Most forests in the United States are less than 100 years old because they are recycled constantly. Trees in tropical regions take a little bit longer to reach maturity, but sequester carbon much faster. We know it will take time for new forests to absorb atmospheric carbon.”
Saatchi says scientists will want to do a comprehensive evaluation of all potential effects a mass reforestation may have on Earth’s climate and the global carbon cycle.
Currently, Earth’s forests and soil absorb about 30 percent of atmospheric carbon emissions, partially through forest productivity and restoration. While deforestation has occurred throughout human history, the practice has increased dramatically in the past 50 years. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, about 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) of forest are lost every year, and roughly half of Earth’s tropical forests have already been cleared. In the continental United States, an estimate from the University of Michigan found that 90 percent of indigenous forests have been removed since 1600.
Over time, the ocean and land have continued to absorb about half of all carbon dioxide emissions, even as those emissions have risen dramatically in recent decades. It remains unclear if carbon absorption will continue at this rate. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 
Degraded landscapes in Colombia’s Choco region. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi As deforestation has ramped up, Earth’s climate has changed significantly. Warmer, more adverse climate conditions are creating more difficult growing conditions for forest ecosystems.
Key questions scientists will need to address are how global reforestation might affect Earth’s surface albedo (reflectivity) and evapotranspiration. In the near term and locally, says Saatchi, forest restoration may actually have a warming effect. As the trees mature, the new forest canopy cover would presumably make Earth’s surface albedo darker, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere during periods of snow cover, causing it to absorb more heat. Increasing forest cover, particularly in the tropics, will increase evapotranspiration, causing a cooling effect. With Earth already warming significantly due to greenhouse gas emissions, will forest reforestation on a global scale have a net warming or cooling effect on our planet, and will the benefits of reforested areas absorbing more carbon outweigh their increased heat absorption? These effects may vary geographically from tropical to boreal regions and may depend largely on water and light availability. In addition, how might these changes impact climate change patterns?
“Recent Landsat satellite-based analyses show that close to 400 million hectares (988 million acres) of forests have been disturbed in this century alone (2000-2017), either by human activities or through droughts and fires – that’s almost 50 percent of the area recommended for reforestation by the authors of the new study,” he said. Some of these areas have gone back to being forests, but a large amount of these degraded forests located in tropical and subtropical regions are suitable targets for restoration.
Map of global tree loss/tree gain since the early 1980s derived from NASA Landsat and NOAA AVHRR optical imagery, revised by Sassan Saatchi from Song et al., 2016. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi Another science question concerns biodiversity. Will ecosystems in reforested areas revert to their previous conditions and maintain their ability to sequester carbon? While ecosystems that existed before areas were deforested may have been highly diverse, reforesting them with only a single type of species (known as monocultures), might result in ecosystems that won’t function as efficiently as they did before – in other words, they may not grow the same or stay as healthy over time. Saatchi says each region of the world will need to address this question for itself. But restoring a region’s original biodiversity or its natural forests may not be easy. For example, the region’s soil health may have changed.
Yet another concern is something Saatchi calls climate connectivity. When ecosystems become too fragmented, they begin losing their natural functions. “In Earth’s tropical regions, a combination of deforestation and climate conditions may have actually changed the system so much that climate connectivity is reduced,” he says. “Once this connectivity is lost, it becomes much more difficult for a reforested area to have its species range and diversity, and the same efficiency to absorb atmospheric carbon.”
Saatchi says scientists are already studying some of these questions. He believes that by the end of the next decade, better results from satellite observations and modeling will likely enable us to determine whether a global forest reforestation will produce the carbon and climate benefits suggested by the new study, and whether it should be undertaken. In the meantime, stopping further deforestation and restoring these areas to their original forest cover of 50 years ago may be the most effective mitigation strategy.

Looking to Space for Answers
Saatchi says a number of current and planned satellite missions from NASA and other space agencies can make valuable contributions to these research efforts:
  • Instruments on NASA satellites, such as the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite, continuously monitor the energy balance of Earth’s land surfaces, measuring their albedo, a key climate parameter that would be impacted by reforestation.
Map created from data from the CERES instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite, showing how the reflectivity of Earth—the amount of sunlight reflected back into space—changed between March 1, 2000, and December 31, 2011. This global picture of reflectivity (also called albedo) appears to be a muddle, with different areas reflecting more or less sunlight over the 12-year record. Shades of blue mark areas that reflected more sunlight over time (increasing albedo), and orange areas denote less reflection (lower albedo). Credit: NASA's Earth Observatory 
  • NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the agency’s Aqua and Terra satellites provide a suite of measurements on global forest cover change, fire and forest carbon cycling function.
  • NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment (ECOSTRESS) aboard the International Space Station, launched last year, measures evapotranspiration and stress on ecosystems, providing valuable information on how Earth’s energy, water and carbon cycles interact in ecosystems in a warming climate.
NASA's ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) imaged the stress on Costa Rican vegetation caused by a massive regional drought that led the Central American nation's government to declare a state of emergency. The image was acquired on February 15, 2019, then processed to generate the evaporative stress image. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

  • NASA scientists conduct research to map the functional traits of ecosystems. Models, combined with satellite observations, can examine whether ecosystems will absorb more carbon if we plant new trees.
  • A new NASA mission in development for launch in the next decade called Surface Biology and Geology (SBG) would give scientists a global view of the functional traits and diversity of ecosystems and their efficiency in absorbing carbon, water and energy. Other space agencies also plan to make similar measurements.
  • NASA’s recently launched Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) aboard the space station is conducting high-resolution laser ranging of Earth’s forests and topography to study how deforestation has contributed to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, how much carbon forests will absorb in the future, and how degradation of habitats will affect global biodiversity.
NASA’s Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) mission created this image of a South Carolina woodland. Darker green colors show where the leaves and branches are denser, while the lighter areas show where the canopy is less dense. Credit: Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory, Bryan Blair / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Michelle Hofton and Ralph Dubayah / University of Maryland 
  • The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, a dedicated U.S./Indian interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) mission scheduled to launch in 2022, will be able to measure the woody plants and forests that make up 80 percent of Earth’s living terrestrial biomass. NISAR’s global, detailed maps of above-ground woody biomass density are expected to cut in half current uncertainties in estimates of carbon emissions resulting from land use changes.
  • The European Space Agency’s BIOMASS mission, launching in the early 2020s, will map the global distribution of above-ground biomass in forests to reduce uncertainties in estimates of carbon stocks and fluxes in the terrestrial biosphere, such as those linked to changes in land use, forest degradation and forest regrowth.
“With these new missions, we should be able to monitor how every patch of forest around the world is absorbing carbon, and how carbon absorption is changing, on a monthly and annual basis,” said Saatchi.

Seeing the Forests for the Trees: The Big Picture
Saatchi says the study’s results can help address policy-relevant questions. In accordance with the Paris Agreement, after 2020, the global community has agreed to major emission reduction programs. Reforestation can complement these emission reduction strategies.
“With the Paris Agreement, governments around the world committed to reduce emissions by adopting low-carbon pathways in accordance with nationally determined contributions,” he said. “As a result, it’s become more urgent than ever to have realistic estimates of each country’s capacity to increase its forest cover and health. While it’s likely the burden of restoring forests will fall primarily on the shoulders of the world’s large and economically-developed countries, the developing world can also contribute by reducing land use change and deforestation.” He adds governments will need to decide which land areas to target first and which will have the least negative economic impacts to both society and individual communities, such as indigenous populations.
A Baka woman in central Gabon makes products from non-timber forest materials. Without forest conservation and restoration, indigenous forest people will be forced to re-establish themselves outside of forest areas. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi If it’s determined that a global reforestation effort can be successful, will the world’s governments have the will to do it? Saatchi pointed to some recent examples that show what might be possible.
Over the past 15 years or so, China has planted millions of trees and created millions of hectares of new forest cover, much of it in areas with marginal agricultural potential. “China’s land use policy increased forest cover in southern China between 10 and 20 percent, turning these areas into intense managed forests,” he said. “As a result, they created close to a carbon sink (an area that stores carbon) in their forests, almost doubling their carbon uptake. The effort has offset 20 percent of China’s annual fossil fuel emissions, and since 2012 that percentage has increased to 33 percent. So that’s a success story.”
Managed activities to increase the carbon sequestration of forests have also taken place in other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia, he says. He believes it’s possible to increase them even further and to extend the area or the capacity of these forests to sequester more carbon. In fact, he says, some foresters have been doing so for decades.
“U.S. forests have actually been a net sink for carbon for many decades,” he says. “A paper published a couple of years ago showed that reforestation could reduce U.S. annual carbon emissions from all sources by 10 to 15 percent. Imagine if we do that? It’s possible. We just need to study the cost-to-benefit ratio – is it economically feasible to plant those trees compared to how much carbon they would offset?”
The U.S. Forest Service is restoring this longleaf pine forest in Alabama. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Sassan Saatchi Another region Saatchi says is low-hanging fruit in terms of its potential to extend global tree cover is the Amazon, where large wildfires have made headlines recently. Between the 1970’s and 2010, 20 percent of the Amazon basin was deforested for land use activities — more than 100 million hectares of trees. But prior to last year, Brazil had significantly reduced deforestation for nearly a decade. “Restoring these Amazonian forests, if possible, would certainly absorb more carbon from the atmosphere,” he said.
The Amazon rainforest near Manaus, Brazil. Fragmented landscapes in Earth’s humid tropics are suitable locations for restoration of native forests. Credit: Neil Palmer, Flickr Creative Commons / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Ultimately, should a global reforestation effort be deemed feasible, the biggest question may be whether it will be in time to make a difference for climate change. Saatchi is hopeful.
“We know business as usual will be disastrous,” he said. “We’ve already identified some solutions for reducing carbon emissions in parts of our society, such as in transportation and agriculture, and we’re working on ways to transform our energy consumption. So why not restore our ecosystem as well? Half of what comes out of car tailpipes stays in the atmosphere; the rest gets absorbed by the ecosystem. That’s a huge absorptive capability that must be saved.
“Maybe we’ll find we don’t need to plant a billion hectares of trees,” he continued. “Perhaps we can restore existing, degraded ecosystems to their natural state, especially in the tropics, and invest in maintaining their diversity and services. But I believe a global reforestation effort can have a gradual climate mitigation impact. What happens to Earth 100 years from now depends on the choices we make today.”

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(AU) Activism And Secondary Boycotts

Lethal Heating - 10 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Saturday Paper - Mike Seccombe

Although the Coalition is talking tough about criminalising consumer advocacy, legal experts say any attempt to do so will be hamstrung by reality. 


A projection of Scott Morrison as he addresses the Queensland Resources Council last week. Credit: AAP Image / Darren England Every so often political leaders give speeches that address the great issues of their times, and in doing so define their own values and crystallise perceptions of their personal characters.
Take Lincoln’s 272 perfectly chosen words at Gettysburg, or Churchill’s World War II appeal to British stoicism: “We shall fight on the beaches”. Or Barack Obama’s nuanced “A More Perfect Union” dissertation on race in America, Ronald Reagan’s Berlin entreaty – “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” – or Robert Menzies’ “Forgotten People” speech.
Scott Morrison gave such a defining speech last week when he addressed the greatest issue of our time: climate change. And he encouraged the polluters to pollute more and committed his government to finding new ways to punish those who would stand up against the polluters.
His speech to the yearly lunch of the Queensland Resources Council, a group largely made up of fossil fuel interests and companies that service them, is already being widely seen as definitive of the man: belligerent in rhetoric, authoritarian in tone, divisive in intent, unimaginative in vision, deceptive and insubstantial in content.
The language was strong. Morrison warned his audience: “A new breed of radical activism is on the march. Apocalyptic in tone, [it] brooks no compromise, all or nothing. Alternative views not permitted.”
City-based activists, he said, were “sneering” at working people in the regions, and intent on destroying their livelihoods.
“Absolutist activism” and “anarchism”, he called it, manifested in disruptive street protests, or in acts of trespass and vandalism. Even more “insidious”, though, was an escalating trend of environmental groups targeting businesses they didn’t like with boycotts.
As a result, Morrison said, “some of Australia’s largest businesses are now refusing to provide banking, insurance and consulting services to an increasing number of firms who just [provide] support through contracted services to the mining sector and the coal sector in particular”.
“Protest does not prevent trade or commerce, and we all have the right to call on other people not to spend their money with businesses of which we disapprove.”
He categorised action of this type as “secondary boycotts”, and assured his mining audience, “This is not something my government intends to allow to go unchecked. Together with the attorney-general, Christian Porter, we are working to identify a series of mechanisms that can successfully outlaw these indulgent and selfish practices.”
Morrison directed his threats not only at protesters who chain themselves to mining equipment or engage in other acts of civil disobedience – actions for which legal sanctions already exist. He was, in the words of Professor Kate Galloway, who is an expert in property and consumer law at Bond University, threatening to make illegal “the simple exercise of consumer power through public advocacy”.
Professor Galloway tells The Saturday Paper that such exercise, and even peaceful protest against companies, does not fit within the long-established definition of a secondary boycott. Under section 45D of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) 2010, a secondary boycott is defined as conduct that prevents the supply of goods or services to a person, causing substantial loss or damage to a business. The legislation includes a specific exemption for consumer or environmental boycotts.
The secondary boycott laws, she says, go back decades to the days of the Fraser government and the desire to stop unions from blockading businesses.
“You can understand that,” she says. “If the wharfies wouldn’t unload goods off the dock, that is a clear example of a secondary boycott.
“But protest does not prevent trade or commerce, and we all have the right to call on other people not to spend their money with businesses of which we disapprove.”
Indeed, that right is now exercised more often than ever.
“These days,” says Galloway, “you get an app that tells you whether Target or Sportsgirl or Myer or whoever uses sweatshop labour in making the clothes they sell. We now have a rating system on Google My Business. What if you go on and write them zero stars?
“Christian Porter is a smart guy, a pretty switched-on lawyer, but I find it really difficult to believe that there is a viable means of regulating this.”
On October 3 this year, Sydney radio shock jock Alan Jones went on air and delivered payback to one of the scores of companies that had pulled their ads from his program following his misogynistic comments directed at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
His target was the supermarket giant Coles. The people who wanted to “occupy the high moral ground” on the Ardern issue, he fumed, were “corporate hypocrites”.
“Is this the same mob who have been ripping off dairy farmers by screwing down the processor who then screwed down dairy farmers on the farm-gate price?” he said. “Is this the same Coles?”
Jones called for his listeners to boycott Coles, much like activist groups – principally one named Sleeping Giants – had called on advertisers to boycott his show.
“We can both play the same game,” said Jones. “So, I can tell my listeners to give Coles supermarket and their petrol stations a very wide berth.”
Jones was not the first to make the call against Coles, either. In an interview on 2GB back in February, Water Resources Minister and Nationals MP David Littleproud invited consumers to “vote with their wallets” and “stick it up these guys”.
So, which of these amounts to a secondary boycott?
Professor Graeme Orr, an expert in the law of politics at the University of Queensland, suggests that while Littleproud may be in the clear, Sleeping Giants may not.
It depends, he says, on whether the threat of a boycott is directed at a primary or secondary target.
“The Sleeping Giants example is a good one,” Orr says, “because in a sense they’re not targeting Jones. They’re trying to put pressure on someone who’s an intermediary – the meat in the sandwich – in this case, the advertisers.”
But it’s a hard line to draw. Jones’s tirade also targeted milk processors – although he didn’t name them – who are the intermediary between Coles and dairy farmers. And what about the case of George Christensen, another Nationals MP, who has called for a boycott of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream because of its opposition to the Adani coalmine in Queensland? Can such a reactive boycott be considered a secondary boycott?
Like Galloway, Orr questions the government’s ability to legislate in this area: “It’s one thing to say it’s an offence to try and incite others to commit a clear wrong, like invading property or property or trespass, but quite another to go after people just for encouraging other people to think about social values when they make commercial decisions.”
He poses the question: “What about non-quiet shareholders?”
This government has tried before – and failed – to stifle dissent in this way.
“Under Tony Abbott,” says Galloway, “the government asked the Harper review of competition policy to examine whether environmental protests could be classified as secondary boycotts. Harper found not one example of a secondary boycott. It characterised what was going on as public advocacy.”
“In the absence of such evidence,” the Harper report said, “the Panel does not see an immediate case for amending the exception [to section 45D].”
The Saturday Paper contacted Ian Harper, now dean of the Melbourne Business School, about the government’s renewed attempt to legislate against environmental boycotts. He reiterated his conclusion in his reply: “Submissions to the review made it clear that, absent an exemption on environmental and/or CP [consumer protection] grounds, an outright ban on secondary boycotts could set the CCA in tension with common law rights to protest and perhaps contravene the broader public interest in doing so.”
Paul Oosting, national director of GetUp!, perhaps the government’s least favourite progressive activist group, sees the prime minister’s latest threat as part of a wider effort to silence dissent.
“Morrison talks about quiet Australians because he wants Australians to be quiet,” says Oosting.
“This is a government that raids media outlets, seeks to crush whistleblowers, shut down unions, silence people seeking to engage in political debate through a whole range of mechanisms.”
He continues: “I think last week’s speech was a defining one. [Morrison] made it quite clear he is a populist, authoritarian leader. He set out to try and pit cities against regions, workers against workers, and he showed his intention to take away free speech and democratic rights and deliberately divide the country.”
The speech certainly divided Australia’s leaders in business. Some Liberal Party loyalists and leaders of fossil fuel companies applauded him. But Mike Cannon-Brookes, billionaire co-founder of the tech company Atlassian – who is reinvesting hundreds of millions in low-carbon ventures and renewable energy ventures – accused Morrison of threatening Australia’s future.
“The government can’t legislate to stop the decline of coal and the rise of solar and wind,” said Cannon-Brookes. “Shutting down debate is a strike against our democracy. Instead of attacking people who just want good policy, we should look at the upside: Australia can be a winner in a carbon-constrained world.”
David Ritter, chief executive of Greenpeace Australia, views Morrison’s speech as essentially a piece of theatre, and the threat of punitive new laws as an attempt to distract from the government’s inability to offer solutions to “a wide range of massive structural problems facing Australia”.
He ticks some off: a stagnant economy, falling living standards, rising power prices, price-gouging banks, a crisis in aged care, general stress and social anxiety in the community and, above all, the existential threat of climate change.
“It almost seems that, in the absence of any positive agenda, the one central organising principle for the Coalition government has become the defence of the fossil fuel industries,” Ritter says.
In his Twitter feed this week, Ritter posted links to two powerful statements, one being the Morrison speech. The other was a piece published a few days later in the journal BioScience and signed by more than 11,000 climate scientists.
The scientists were unequivocal: the world is facing a climate emergency and without an immense increase in our efforts to address it, including the abandonment of fossil fuels, we all face a future of “untold suffering”.
They made their case with a wealth of empirical data – in stark contrast to Morrison, who made his with populist rhetoric and hollow legal threats.
Ritter posed a simple question: Who will you believe?

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(AU) Morrison Is Being Transparently Political In Targeting Climate Groups

Lethal Heating - 10 November, 2019 - 04:00
Sydney Morning HeraldDavid Crowe

Condemning a protest is easy. Passing a new law to limit free speech is another matter altogether.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is being transparently political in targeting climate groups like Extinction Rebellion in the hope he can tap into a resentment against activists who disrupt everyday life.
A blockade during a protest against the International Mining and Resources Conference in Melbourne. Credit: AAP
But he is yet to prove he can act on his tough talk when his own side of politics is supposed to stand for individual liberty. Would his own party room approve a law that forbids someone organising a boycott?Isn't it free speech to urge your fellow citizens to ban a product or boycott a store or transfer their savings to a bank that will not lend to a controversial coal mine?
Morrison uses hard language that borrows from the populism of US President Donald Trump without going all the way. He also takes a lesson from former prime minister John Howard in starting a culture war and wedging an opponent.
Perhaps it can work. Morrison succeeded with a similar ploy in September when the Senate passed a bill to outlaw "farm invaders" including vegan activists who disrupted beef and poultry farmers.
The bill divided the Labor caucus because many believed existing trespass laws were strong enough, so Morrison was able to wedge his opponents. The law was eventually passed after the Labor leadership worried about the political risk of rejecting the bill, so Morrison gained a second victory.
No wonder he wants to try again.
But something is different this time. The government has a complaint but not a solution. It cannot say which law it would change and how it would change it. It merely says it is "early days" and the proposal would be worked on next year.
The Australian Forest Products Association has an idea, at least. It says the best step is to change Section 45DD of the Competition and Consumer Act, which forbids secondary boycotts by unions but explicitly allows them for "environmental protection" or "consumer protection".
Prime Minister to outlaw extremist demonstrations which cause chaos.


Prime Minister to outlaw extremist demonstrations which cause chaos.

This sounds simple. But how far should it go? What happens if farmers want to boycott a company drilling for coal seam gas on their land? Perhaps a law designed to wedge Labor could divide Liberals and Nationals as well.
There is no great philosophy to underpin this plan. Morrison talked on Friday of the danger of "progressivism" but this merely sounded like former prime minister Kevin Rudd complaining about "neo-liberalism" a decade ago. These are the labels of lazy arguments. Politicians scale the summit of the bubble when they wage war against "isms" like these.
For now, Morrison can talk tough every time Extinction Rebellion makes the news, while challenging Labor to make up its mind on his (unspecified) new law. This means the protesters will probably help the Prime Minister every time they stop traffic.
Whether the politics work for Morrison cannot be known until he puts the law to Parliament. Few issues splinter the conservatives like free speech, as the Section 18C racial discrimination dispute showed five years ago. The tougher Morrison talks, the harder it becomes to put his pledge into law.

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(US) 'Nobody Works Like Jane': Hundreds Join Fonda At Latest Climate Protest

Lethal Heating - 10 November, 2019 - 04:00
The Guardian

Activists of all ages join actor in Washington for her fifth ‘Fire Drill Friday’, focused on the military
Jane Fonda (center, in red) leads hundreds of people in a march from the US Capitol to the White House. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images





Hundreds of protesters joined the celebrity activist Jane Fonda in Washington DC for her fifth Friday urging radical change to fight the climate crisis.
In front of the US Capitol, Fonda spoke of the “urgency of the climate crisis and need for activism on an unprecedented scale”.
“We cannot leave it to young people to fight this fight for their future by themselves,” Fonda said.
Donning her signature vivid red coat – which she says will be the last she will ever buy, in an effort to be more sustainable – she swayed and sang protest songs while embracing an anti-war activist, Jodie Evans, the co-founder of Code Pink.
Fonda, 81, has been leading protests at her “Fire Drill Fridays” for more than a month, and she has been arrested four times. Her climate action has followed the work of youth protesters around the world who have been striking from school on Fridays, including the 16-year-old Swedish climate advocate Greta Thunberg.
Fonda had not been arrested as of 3pm ET on Friday, but she is scheduled to appear in court over previous arrests later this month.This week’s protest theme was about how the war and military contribute to the climate crisis. The US military is one of the biggest emitters of carbon in the world.
“I started in the streets with Jane in 1970, 49 years ago. And I’ve never ever seen her lose her passion or energy. Nobody works like Jane. She does put her body on the line and she is not afraid to be uncomfortable,” Evans said.
Fonda is a longtime political activist with roots opposing the Vietnam war. She gained the nickname “Hanoi Jane” in the 1970s when she was photographed atop a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun on a visit to Hanoi. A conservative counter-protester, walking alone alongside those who marched with Fonda to the White House, shouted “four more years, Hanoi Jane,” at the group.
A large contingent of activists urging the impeachment of Donald Trump also joined the march, as did veterans of the Vietnam war.
Surreal moment as protestors supporting DACA dreamers cross paths with the #FireDrillFriday #climate march (merged with the impeach Trump march) and cheer each other on. Sign of the times for political activism in America. pic.twitter.com/vWlmZNPHck— Emily Holden (@emilyhholden) November 8, 2019At one streetcorner, the Fonda protest encountered a separate group marching in support of undocumented migrants who arrived in the US as children, known as Dreamers. The two crowds sang each others’ chants.
Fonda’s protest attracted teenagers and seniors alike. Two first-year college students said they had been introduced to Fonda through her Netflix show, Grace and Frankie, and were drawn to her climate message.
“When you read climate studies and see Greta Thunberg and all of these other young activists at work, and then you see someone older also making an effort to try to do something about climate change, it just kind of compels you. You need to be there. You need to have your voice heard,” said one of the students, TJ Boland.
But many of the protesters were at the march for more than the climate. They expressed frustration with a system of governance that they see as exploiting the poor and people of color in order to benefit the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the environment.
Julie Heffernan and Anne Landsman, two friends in their early 60s, traveled from New York City for the protest.
“I’ve been very angry ever since Trump was elected about the fact that we have somebody who is lacking in every quality that I consider as important for a leader, starting off with just basic decency. He’s a misogynist, he’s a racist, he is just everything I despise,” said Landsman, who came to the US from South Africa during apartheid.
“The thought that I’d emigrated and moved to a country that I thought was some bastion of decency and just see it just take this dive down has been incredibly upsetting.”
Ruth Zalph, 89, who traveled from North Carolina, was protesting against the climate crisis and militarism. She said if money was spent on the “military industrial complex”, it could not be spent on ending poverty and fighting rising temperatures.
“I have a great-granddaughter who is six months old, and I’d like to see her grow up in a safe world where people are not having to fight for water and food,” Zalph said at the beginning of a roughly two-mile march to the White House.

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