Next 4 years likely to be extremely hot! #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal @SciNate #Drought #Heatwave

Extreme temperatures ‘especially likely for next four years’

Cyclical natural phenomena that affect planet’s climate will amplify effect of manmade global warming, scientists warn

Jonathan WattsWed 15 Aug 2018 01.00 AEST

The world is likely to see more extreme temperatures in the coming four years as natural warming reinforces manmade climate change, according to a new global forecasting system.

Following a summer of heatwaves and forest fires in the northern hemisphere, the study in the journal Nature Communications suggests there will be little respite for the planet until at least 2022, and possibly not even then.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions are steadily adding to the upward pressure on temperatures, but humans do not feel the change as a straight line because the effects are diminished or amplified by phases of natural variation.

From 1998 to 2010, global temperatures were in a “hiatus” as natural cooling (from ocean circulation and weather systems) offset anthropogenic global warming. But the planet has now entered almost the opposite phase, when natural trends are boosting man-made effects.

“Everything seems to be adding up,” said the author of the paper, Florian Sévellec of the French National Centre for Scientific Research. “There is a high possibility that we will be at the peak of a warm phase for the next couple of years.”

The scientist built his forecasting system by statistical “hind-casting”. This crunches the data from previous climate models to measure which combination was most effective in predicting past temperature trends.

Based on this analysis, Sévellec says the statistical upward nudge from natural variation this year is twice as great of that of long-term global warming. Next year, it is likely to be three times higher.

He cautions that this should not be seen as a prediction that Europe will definitely have more heatwaves, the US more forest fires, South Africa more drought or the Arctic more ice melt. The likelihood of these events will increase, but his model is on a broad global scale. It does not predict which part of the world will experience warming or in which season.

But his data clearly suggests that water in the oceans will warm faster than air above land, which could raise the risks of floods, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.

“Natural variability is a wriggle around the freight train that is global warming,” he says. “On a human scale, it is what we feel. What we don’t always feel is global warming. As a scientist, this is frightening because we don’t consider it enough. All we can do it give people information and let them make up their own mind.”

He said his model should not be seen as the final word, but be taken alongside other forecasting systems, including those that look in more detail at what is happening on a regional level.

Dr Sam Dean, chief climate scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said the paper indicated mankind will have to rely less on “fortuitously cool years” from natural processes. Instead of the cooling La Niñas experienced in the first decade of the century, he said there have been more warming El Niños since 2014 and this trend looks set to continue.

“While we can’t be sure exactly how things will play out, at the moment the odds are higher for hot years,” he said.

Other scientists praised the paper but concurred on the need for wider analysis. “The findings suggest it’s more likely we’ll get warmer years than expected in the next few years. But their method is purely statistical, so it’s important to see what climate models predict based on everything we know about the atmosphere and the oceans. Those are more expensive to run but also use more climate physics and observational information,” said Prof Gabi Hegerl of Edinburgh University.

Professor James Renwick of Victoria University of Wellington said the new forecasting system was clever, but its value will only be clear in the future. The broader trend, however, was clear.

“If the warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions continues, years like 2018 will be the norm in the 2040s, and would be classed as cold by the end of the century,” he wrote.

Press link for more: The Guardian


Talanoa Dialogue Builds Momentum #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani Demand #climateaction #NEG #ClimateChange



The Talanoa Dialogue is building momentum as more and more stakeholders begin to participate in this new approach to urgently increasing the ambition of countries’ , known as “NDCs.”

Through its leadership of the COP23 Presidency, Fiji is taking a Pacific concept of grassroots storytelling, consensus building and decision making to the world.

The Talanoa Dialogue represents a radical departure from the formal negotiating process by creating an open space where countries, cities, businesses, civil society, faith-based organisations, indigenous communities, youth groups and others can share their ideas and experiences and learn from each other without fear of finger pointing or recrimination.

Speaking at the second Climate Action Pacific Partnership Conference, COP23 President Frank Bainimarama said, “More and more people are opening their minds to the possibility that talanoa might be a better way of deciding what we can all deliver under the Paris Agreement than pointing the finger at someone else or engaging in self-defeating arguments.”

The Talanoa Dialogue is carried out in two phases: the preparatory phase, which runs until the beginning of COP24 in December, and the political phase, which will take place during COP24 amongst political leaders.

During the preparatory phase, all stakeholders are invited to submit written inputs that respond to one of the three central questions that guide the Talanoa:

• Where are we now?

• Where do we want to go?

• How do we get there?

To date, more than a thousand stories have been shared as part of the formal process. There are already 33 published inputs from Parties and 240 published inputs from Non-Party stakeholders, with the Presidencies encouraging everyone, especially the Parties, to provide written submissions. On top of these, more than 700 stories were shared during the Talanoas at the May Sessions.

But beyond the written submissions, the Presidencies have also called on stakeholders to organise events in support of the Talanoa Dialogue, to help prepare their submissions and to approach these important questions in the spirit of talanoa. In other words, share your stories in an inclusive and positive atmosphere focused on finding common solutions rather than laying blame. The ultimate goal is to share your story, listen to the stories of others and, hopefully, inspire greater ambition and action on the ground.

The Fijian Presidency is very pleased by the amount of Talanoa activity already taking place around the globe. Important multilateral events such as the  European Union Talanoa,  and African Climate Week have been convened, with other regional talanoas, such as the African Climate Talks, the EU-Serbia Talanoa, the Asia-Pacific Climate Week Talanoa  and the Pacific Leaders’ Talanoa, taking place worldwide.

Other important alliances and networks have also readily embraced the concept. The Cities and Regions Talanoa Dialogues, coordinated by ICLEI, are taking place in more than 40 countries around the globe. And the Global Adaptation Forum met earlier in the year to help shape its contribution.

At the national level, talanoas have already taken place in France, Serbia, Estonia and many other countries. A number of very productive discussions have also taken place as part of larger gatherings, such as ICC Talanoa Dialogue Roundtable held on the margins of SB48 in Bonn, the Talanoa on gender at CBA12 in Malawi, and the Talanoa Dialogue at the World Farmers Organization General Assembly, to give but a few examples.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, with many others holding talanoas within their sectors, within their professional networks, and even with their clients.*

As this momentum continues to grow, we encourage anyone with a stake in the global campaign against climate change to consider how they can participate in a Talanoa of their own, whether it is within your own organisation, within your network, with your local or national government, within your local community, or even informally with your friends.

The Talanoa Dialogue is ultimately based on the notion that no single actor can solve the climate challenge on their own – that the whole world must join together in a collective effort to make the transition to net-zero emissions as quickly as possible. This will only work with a solid foundation of trust and cooperation between all stakeholders, and we believe that the Talanoa Dialogue is how we start building this foundation.

Press link for more: COP23

You can’t help farmers if you won’t tackle #climatechange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal @SciNate #Drought #Wildfires #Heatwave #NEG

You can’t help farmers if you won’t tackle climate change, farmer tells government.

By Ben Potter

Goondiwindi grain and cattle producer Peter Mailler says heat and inconsistent rain have made farming so tough he thinks his parents’ five MW solar farm could be a better bet. Wayne Pratt

Peter Mailler, a third-generation grain and cattle grower who sent pregnant cows for slaughter this week because he can’t feed them all, has a message from drought-stricken northern NSW to the Turnbull government.

It is aimed especially at the Nationals and their former leader Barnaby Joyce – against whom Mr Mailler ran in last December’s byelection – as well as ex-PM Tony Abbott and other coal power-friendly Coalition figures.

First, don’t pretend to champion drought-struck farmers if you’re not prepared to tackle climate change – because the increasing frequency of extremely hot, dry weather is compounding the effects of drought by impairing crops’ ability to use what rain they do get.

Second, don’t talk about giving coal-fired power “a free kick” in the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) when a full accounting of its environmental costs will tell you not that we can’t afford to close coal plants but that “we can’t afford to run one tomorrow”.

Peter Mailler says agriculture is working towards becoming carbon neutral but it is a challenge because it uses so much diesel fuel for machinery and transport. Wayne Pratt

Third, don’t lean on high-risk, struggling industries like agriculture for deeper carbon emissions cuts when the stable, regulated electricity industry can obviously bear a larger share of the burden.

Last, the impacts of climate change on farming families threaten the survival of the Nationals’ support base in rural and regional Australia, so it is time for the Coalition to dispense with “undermining science” and have an honest debate about climate change.

“In a normal year we produce enough grain to feed about 7000 families and I am flat out educating my kids,” Mr Mailler tells The Australian Financial Review from his near 2420-hectare property near Goondiwindi on the NSW-Queensland border.

“I actually don’t see a pathway for my kids to come back – and some of them want to.” His parents built a five-megawatt solar farm on their property when they retired and he thinks this could be a better bet.

Mr Mailler says the conversation needs to be more robust. “If Turnbull and his cohort are nor prepared to diligently install some truth in the debate then what’s the point?” he says.

Coal-friendly coailtion MPs Craig Kelly, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and Kevin Andrews are doing farmers no favours, Peter Mailler says. Alex Ellinghausen

First, “you cannot fix the energy problem if you are going to ignore climate … because you are working on the wrong set of assumptions”, says Mr Mailler, who trained as an agricultural scientist before returning to his parents’ farm and then striking out on his own.

A ‘free kick’ for electricity

That makes it “disingenuous” and “hypocritical” for Mr Joyce to stand shoulder to shoulder with farmers and say “we have got to do something about the drought and not say we have got to do something about climate change”.

Mr Mailler says politicians have the resources to find out the truth “yet we have politicians who spend all their time trying to undermine science and create doubt”.

Moree in northern NSW sweated through an unprecedented heatwave in January and February of 2017. Supplied

“The science [of man-made global warming] is pretty unequivocal and the idea that you can subvert it and create doubt is not just irresponsible, it’s diabolical,” he says.

“They are talking about trying to claw back more emissions from agriculture and they are talking about giving electricity a free kick. It’s ridiculous.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg will propose a “coal-friendly” side deal for the NEG at Tuesday’s party room meeting to try to win over climate change sceptics.

Critics say the NEG is already too coal-friendly because it only requires a pro rata 26 per cent carbon emissions cut from the electricity sector. CSIRO advised the government that grid emissions would have to be cut by 52 per cent to 70 per cent for Australia to meet the government’s Paris pledge for an economy-wide 26 per cent cut because it is much more costly to cut emissions in other industries.

Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will try to win backbench sceptics over the NEG with a coal-friendly side-deal. Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Mailler says agriculture is itself working towards becoming carbon neutral but it is a challenge because agriculture uses so much diesel fuel for machinery and transport.

“The hardest thing to solve is transport. The simplest thing to change is static electricity. If you look at it, coal-fired power generators are coming to the end of their life. The idea that you could have politicians effectively saying we should build more of them and have them for another 50 years is absurd.”

Heat and rain: Double whammy

Mr Mailler’s position is influenced by bitter experience as well as science. In January 2014, the nearest Bureau of Meteorology station at Moree recorded a record high of 47.3 degrees Celsius, and everyone said it was “a one-in-a-hundred year event”.

Yallourn coal-fired power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. Carla Gottgens

That one day wiped out crops and cost the region hundreds of millions of dollars in production, he says. But it didn’t get the same attention as losses from cyclones, which are more visible.

In February last year the one-in-a-hundred year event happened again, only this time it came with a record run of days over 35 degrees.

Biochemical reactions like photosynthesis are optimised at 37-38 degrees. But at extreme high temperatures plants go into shock and the photosynthesis process is degraded.

As well, rain is increasingly coming in big dumps followed by dry spells, which make it harder for young plants to get going than if less rain falls more frequently.

“In some of those scenarios we have adequate moisture but we can’t handle the heat. People are unable to get ahead. Even though some of those years before we have had significant rainfall, the way it’s fallen in big dumps has been problematic and the heat has meant we are not able to use that rainfall as effectively as we have in the past.”

Recent analysis in the McIntyre Valley indicates that irrigators’ water use efficiency is down 30 per cent, and for dryland farmers 60 per cent, Mr Mailler says. Another measure is the inability to get consecutive good years or even one in five – the minimum to build resilience – for more than 20 years.

The last really good year in his region was 1996, Mr Mailler says – which gave him the confidence to strike out on his own.

“I have no doubt that in my lifetime weather patterns have shifted significantly. I don’t know many farmers who would dispute that the climate has changed,” he says.

“And it’s obviously going to get worse.”

Press link for more: AFR.COM

#ClimateChange denial won’t even benefit oil companies. #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal

Climate change denial won’t even benefit oil companies soon | Phil McDuff

Phil McDuffTue 31 Jul 2018 18.00 AEST

The year 2018 is on track to be the fourth warmest on record, beaten only by 2016, 2015 and 2017. In other words, we have had the warmest four-year run since we started measuring.

According to data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), June 2018 is the 402nd consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average.

The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee has warned that we could see summer temperatures reaching 38C by the 2040s, leading to a potential 7,000 heat-related deaths a year.

One hot summer does not a changing climate make, but the trend in the global data is now irrefutable.

When Michael Mann published the “hockey stick” graph back in 1998, there was vociferous public pushback, yet the observed temperature rises match what Mann had predicted.

Today’s hockey stick graph isn’t a forward projection but a historical record.

The world has been getting hotter, and it will continue to do so.

The only question now is how much hotter it gets.

The mechanisms behind this are not difficult to understand.

Over a period of millions of years, carbon became trapped in deposits under the Earth’s crust, as coal, oil and natural gas. As the great engines of industrialisation came online across the planet, humanity developed an insatiable hunger for this trapped carbon. Burning it powered the machines that drove economic growth and development, which in turn raised the demand for more machines and more carbon. Carbon that took millions of years to trap has been released into the atmosphere at a rate that is, in geological terms, almost instantaneous.

Climate change isn’t happening, they said, and even if it is happening it’s nothing to do with us

We have known about the probable impact that this sudden release of carbon into the atmosphere would have on the Earth’s climate since the middle of the last century.

However, we have been unable and unwilling to do anything about it.

To pull that carbon out of the ground we created giant corporations whose sole role was to find it, mine it and sell it.

Our demand led to vast profits for these companies, and unfathomable riches for the people running them.

This meant that when the research showed that our insatiable carbon demand needed to be curbed for the good of the planet, there was a very powerful interest group in place with a vested interest in keeping it going.

We know now that the fossil fuel extraction industry has known about climate change since at least 1977, when James L Black, a scientist at Exxon, gave a presentation to the company’s board detailing his research into global warming.

A year later, in 1978, Black would write a memo saying: “Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

But by the time this 10-year window closed in 1988, the energy companies had been pouring money not into reducing carbon but into denying the reality of climate change.

Through well-orchestrated media campaigns and lobbying efforts, a standard narrative of denial had been firmly entrenched as common knowledge.

Climate change isn’t happening, they said, and even if it is happening it’s nothing to do with us, and even if it is something to do with us it would be too expensive to change it.

The fossil fuel lobby managed to convince lawmakers and huge swaths of the broader public that this was a battle between “business” on the one hand, and a coalition of corrupt scientists and hippies on the other.

A fracking site in California: energy companies have poured money not into reducing carbon but into denying the reality of climate change. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

But not all businesses are energy companies.

Every business and every person lives on the planet now, where costs will rise because of climate change.

A study by the Economics of Climate Adaptation (ECA) working group found that losses due to climate change could reach up to 19% of GDP in some parts of the world by 2030.

For all our talk of climate denial being the “business” position, we’ve strangely ignored the insurance industry, especially the climate research branches of the major reinsurance firms.

Swiss Re is part of the ECA working group, and Munich Re’s geo risks research department has been in place since 1973, four years before Black wrote his memo.

This is not because reinsurance is some enclave of liberal hippies nestled in the bosom of capitalism, but because their industry, by definition, can’t rely on kicking the can down the road and letting someone else pick up the pieces.

If we get floods, famines and droughts leading to mass migration events, they’ll be among the ones paying out.

It was easy to let ourselves believe that what was good for energy companies would be good for us all, because the immediate upsides of the cheap carbon windfall were so compelling.

There was no problem that couldn’t be solved by throwing more fossil fuels at it, and the reality of climate change threatened to tell us what it cost.

The fossil fuel industry told us that we could take out an interest-only mortgage against the future of the planet and prices would always go up, interest rates would always go down and there would never be a reckoning.

We now find ourselves facing repayments on the scale of trillions of dollars. That does not even cover the human costs that these dry figures obscure: the lives lost, the homes flooded, the farms wasted away to drought.

It is impossible to map the path not taken.

Perhaps a commitment to reducing carbon consumption could have spurred innovation in alternative sources of energy. Or maybe the path we are on is an inevitable result of an economic system that cannot stop unless it crashes. We’ve seen the “Minsky cycle” of speculation leading to crash play out time and again in the financial sector; perhaps climate change is a centuries-long Minsky cycle we could never hope to stop. Maybe we are destined to become the civilisational equivalent of Monty Python’s Mr Creosote, a man who gorged himself until he literally exploded.

Regardless of the alternative histories and the might-have-beens, it may be too late to stop it, but we still need to learn an important lesson. If a CEO tells us that it would be bad for business if they weren’t allowed to pump poison into the air and water, then that’s too bad for them: one business is not an economy, and it certainly isn’t a biosphere.

We’d have survived the crisis of an oil CEO missing out on his fifth yacht, but many won’t survive the consequences of letting them lead us by the nose into disaster.

• Phil McDuff writes on economics and social policy

Press link for more: The Guardian

Young People Convincing Politicians to Stop Taking Fossil Fuel Money #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #Heatweek #NEG #Divest

Sunrise Movement rally in Philadelphia.

Photo: Dave Levitan

PHILADELPHIA—The temperature reached a sticky 92 degrees on Wednesday, and hadn’t cooled much by the time the climate action rally started at 5 o’clock. About 50 people gathered in the inner courtyard of City Hall, holding “No Fossil Fuel Money” and “Our Time to Lead” signs. The leaders of the rally, from a youth-led climate group known as the Sunrise Movement, still sported the City Hall visitors stickers they wore to drop off a petition to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office.

“I heard Mayor Kenney was a climate champion,” said Madison Roberts from the makeshift stage. “As of right now, all he has made are promises.”

Roberts, a 2017 Virginia Tech graduate who acted as the rally’s emcee, was one of several Sunrise fellows in attendance.

The petition they brought to the Mayor urged him to sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, a promise to not accept contributions of over $200 from fossil fuel interests.

The pledge has over 800 signres at this point, including numerous local, state, and national-level candidates, as well as current office holders such as Bernie Sanders and House members Tulsi Gabbard and Barbara Lee.

The Sunrise Movement is a national organization aimed at “building an army of young people” with the goal of stopping climate change.

Founded in 2017, they are focused on a grassroots effort to get the fossil fuel money out of politics, through local organizing and supporting candidates committed to the massive shifts required to stave off warming’s worst effects.

This particular event was part of #HeatWeek, a set of rallies, sit-ins, and other actions across the country.

“If you aren’t going to stand up for our health and safety then we’re going to vote you out of office.”

Along with lawsuits against the federal government and a recent series of youth climate marches, the Sunrise Movement reflects the growing engagement of young people in the climate fight.

They didn’t make this mess, but they seem more inclined than anyone else to try and clean it up.

And the youth-led climate movement doesn’t seem to care which party it takes aim at. Kenney, a Democrat in a thoroughly blue city, has signed Philadelphia on to a pledge to transition to 100 percent renewable energy, but hasn’t offered a response to the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge just yet. According to Sunrise’s media liaison, a recent Swarthmore College graduate named Sophia Zaia, Mayor Kenney has not responded to numerous requests for meetings. On Wednesday, Zaia said the door to his office was closed on the group until eventually a representative emerged to listen and accept the petition.

Though Sunrise is specifically geared toward climate action, the rallies and events often have a local angle that grounds it more firmly in the community. At City Hall, along with the fossil fuel money pledge, the rally-goers were there to oppose a proposed natural gas combined heat and power plant, slated for construction in North Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood.

Activists say the plant, which will be built by SEPTA, the Philly transit authority, isn’t necessary and will worsen air quality in the area. Nicetown is a predominantly African-American neighborhood, with asthma rates already well above both city and national averages. SEPTA has claimed the plant will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by generating their own power for rail and bus needs rather than pulling from the grid, but its local emissions could pose more of a problem. In a May 2017 filing, SEPTA estimated nitrous oxides emissions of almost 22 tons per year for the new project, placing it just shy of a “major” source of this ozone precursor. Ozone can make asthma worse, among other harmful effects.

In an emailed statement, a representative from the Mayor’s office said said the city’s Department of Public Health, Air Management Services has “completed a thorough review” of the plant, and determined it would comply with emissions requirements. Still, the statement said that the department is “aware of, and sensitive to, the community’s concerns,” and that stringent monitoring and emissions testing will be required once the plant is completed. (The city directed questions regarding the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge to the Mayor’s campaign; we will update if the campaign responds.)

Zaia called the proposed gas plant a clear example of environmental racism — a position that has found its way to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s opinion pages, as well. From the stage, Roberts got her biggest cheer with this line: “A zip code should not determine any citizen’s right to breathe clean air!”

Photo: Dave Levitan

Other local activist groups, including the Center for Returning Citizens and 350 Philadelphia, joined in the rally, and the show was stolen by a crew of adorable preschoolers from a neighborhood adjacent to Nicetown who showed up carrying their own set of clean air-related signs.

Zaia, who is originally from Austin, Texas, said she first started learning about climate change as a teenager living through increasingly intense droughts. “I thought, ‘why aren’t more people talking about this?’” she said. At Swarthmore, she joined the fossil fuel divestment movement, and has kept up the fight after college.

“Youth are really tired of seeing politicians answer to the money from the NRA, or Wall Street, or fossil fuel billionaires, and [we are] standing up to say enough is enough,” she said, noting that Pennsylvania has outpaced every other state with a huge increase in millennial voter registrations since the Parkland shooting in February. “If you aren’t going to stand up for our health and safety then we’re going to vote you out of office.”

The group seems unafraid of the fight, no matter how entrenched the opponent. Several Sunrise members were arrested during a sit-in at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office this week, another Democrat who has had trouble distancing himself from fossil fuel money. His opponent in the governor’s race, Cynthia Nixon, has signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge. Sunrise has endorsed a range of candidates in the 2018 midterms, as part of “phase 2” of its founding four-year plan. Along with Nixon these include Randy Bryce, running for Paul Ryan’s seat in Wisconsin; Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As the rally wrapped up, the organizers steered people toward a few volunteers to lead a brief canvassing expedition. One of the volunteers sported a particularly relevant t-shirt: “Who Says Youth Don’t Vote?”

Dave Levitan is a journalist, and author of the 2017 book Not A Scientist: How politicians mistake, misrepresent, and utterly mangle science. Find him on Twitter and at his website.

Press link for more:

Facing $17 Billion in Fire Damages, a CEO Blames #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #NEG #auspol #qldpol @SciNate

Facing $17 Billion in Fire Damages, a CEO Blames Climate Change

Mark Chediak

It was California’s biggest fire yet.

In late July and August, wildfires devastated an area north of San Francisco far bigger than New York City, destroying more than 100 homes and injuring 2 fire fighters.

It’s just one in a rash of fast-spreading blazes that have killed at least 56 people this year and last in the Golden State.

Firefighters battle the Medocino Complex fire near Lodoga, California on Aug. 7.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Authorities don’t yet know the cause of some of the fires, but the region’s giant utility, PG&E Corp., sees a culprit at work — climate change.

The blazes in recent years, it said, are the latest example of how global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions that spawn more frequent and intense fires. “Climate change is no longer coming, it’s here,” Geisha Williams, chief executive officer of PG&E, said in an email. “And we are living with it every day.”

Scientists tend to agree with that assessment. But California’s biggest utility has an especially compelling reason to link the fires to the environment.

State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes in October that in total destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people.

It faces damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, and possible financial ruin — its stock is down about 37 percent since the fires — unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the company’s problem is, in fact, a climate change problem.

Green Mantle

Invoking the environment is a clever strategy in a state that’s taken on the green mantle in the face of a skeptical Trump administration. (Indeed, President Donald Trump offered his own reason for the fires last week, blaming a lack of water and bad environmental laws.

It was roundly dismissed.) Williams’s battle cry — don’t blame us, blame climate change — is catching on.

PG&E’s neighboring utilities, Edison International and Sempra Energy, are echoing the defense, and it may well serve as a blueprint for utilities worldwide as global warming produces extreme weather events such as hurricanes that have slammed Texas and Puerto Rico.

Williams is deploying the argument in a lobbying campaign she’s waging to shield PG&E from liability. California law holds that property owners can collect compensation from utilities linked to fires — even if they weren’t negligent. She argues that because of the increasing frequency of fires, utilities shouldn’t be held responsible each time a tree branch falls on a power line during a storm if it followed all safety rules. Instead, the test should be whether the utility acted “reasonably” in trying to prevent fires, things like trimming trees and brush around lines, she contends.

In that case, insurance or government agencies would pick up the damages.

Photographer: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg

“No one is suggesting the utilities should get a free pass if they were negligent,” Williams said. But the current legal policy of unlimited, strict-liability has the potential to financially cripple companies, she said.

Widespread Burn

California wildfires have destroyed 630,000 acres this year, eclipsing the 5-year average

Source: California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection

Note: Does not include fire totals from U.S. Forest Service

Some California lawmakers insist PG&E hasn’t even met the reasonable standard, pointing to signs that in some cases PG&E allegedly violated fire safety rules, according to reports by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. “Climate change and the so-called new normal do not ignite fires,” said California State Senator Jerry Hill, a frequent PG&E critic. “The Cal Fire findings show that suspected negligence by PG&E did.”

PG&E says it believes it has met the state’s high safety standards.

The utility hasn’t been blamed for any of this year’s fires, but it’s got plenty of financial worries dealing with the ones from 2017.

On a recent investor call, Williams raised the stakes by saying PG&E has brought up the prospect of bankruptcy with lawmakers unless the state changes the law. It’s already taken a $2.5 billion charge stemming from the October fires. PG&E has shown that it won’t shy away from court protection. It entered bankruptcy in 2001 after incurring $9 billion in debt by buying power for more than it could charge customers. It emerged three years later.

Suspended Dividend

The $17 billion in potential liabilities today, as estimated by JPMorgan Chase, are significant, representing about 75 percent of its market capitalization of $22 billion. PG&E suspended its dividend in December as it tries to assess damage costs. Some consumer advocates are skeptical of the bankruptcy warnings. (Creditors seem to agree. While prices have dropped since last year’s fires, they are nowhere near distressed levels.)

Williams is winning some adherents, including California Governor Jerry Brown. He’s proposed a bill that would lesson utilities’ exposure to damages from fires, citing climate change. Brown echoes Williams in contending the utility needs to be financially healthy in order to invest in renewable energy and help the state meet its climate goals.

The daughter of Cuban political refugees, the 57-year-old Williams is the nation’s first Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company. After first working at Florida Power & Light, she joined PG&E in 2007 and became CEO in March last year — just seven months before the big wildfires in October.

Now, as she deals with the existential threat posed by the fires, she’s bolstering PG&E’s wildfire prevention activities, including stepping up aerial patrols of its power lines, setting up a new wildfire operations center that works round the clock and expanding a network of weather monitoring stations. Still, Williams understands that the Holy Grail is a change in the liability law. At a recent energy conference in Houston, she said — jokingly — that if she fails to do that, “I won’t be here in two years.”

Press link for more: Bloomberg

Heat: the next big inequality issue #ClimateChange #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #Drought #Heatwave #Wildfire #auspol #qldpol @SciNate

When July’s heatwave swept through the Canadian province of Quebec, killing more than 90 people in little over a week, the unrelenting sunshine threw the disparities between rich and poor into sharp relief.

While the well-heeled residents of Montreal hunkered down in blissfully air conditioned offices and houses, the city’s homeless population – not usually welcome in public areas such as shopping malls and restaurants – struggled to escape the blanket of heat.

Benedict Labre House, a day centre for homeless people, wasn’t able to secure a donated air-conditioning unit until five days into the heatwave. “You can imagine when you have 40 or 50 people in an enclosed space and it’s so hot, it’s very hard to deal with,” says Francine Nadler, clinical coordinator at the facility.

Fifty-four Montreal residents were killed by this summer’s heat.

Authorities haven’t so far specified whether any homeless people were among them, but according to the regional department of public health, the majority were aged over 50, lived alone, and had underlying physical or mental health problems.

None had air conditioning.

Montreal coroner Jean Brochu told reporters that many of the bodies examined by his team “were in an advanced state of decay, having sometimes spent up to two days in the heat before being found”.

Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked.

It’s pure torture … this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone

It was the poor and isolated who quietly suffered the most in the heat – a situation echoed in overheated cities across the world.

In the US, immigrant workers are three times more likely to die from heat exposure than American citizens.

In India, where 24 cities are expected to reach average summertime highs of at least 35C (95F) by 2050, it is the slum dwellers who are most vulnerable. And as the global risk of prolonged exposure to deadly heat steadily rises, so do the associated risks of human catastrophe.

Last year, Hawaiian researchers projected that the share of the world’s population exposed to deadly heat for at least 20 days a year will increase from 30% now to 74% by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to grow. (It will rise to 48% with “drastic reductions”.) They concluded that “an increasing threat to human life from excess heat now seems almost inevitable”.

“Dying in a heatwave is like being slowly cooked,” said lead author Professor Camilo Mora at the time of publication. “It’s pure torture. The young and elderly are at particular risk, but we found that this heat can kill soldiers, athletes, everyone.”

The year 2018 is set to be among the hottest since records began, with unprecedented peak temperatures engulfing the planet, from 43C (109F) in Baku, Azerbaijan, to the low 30s across Scandinavia. In Kyoto, Japan, the mercury did not dip below 38C (100F) for a week. In the US, an unusually early and humid July heatwave saw 48.8C (120F) in Chino, inland of Los Angeles. Residents blasted their air conditioners so much they caused power shortages.

Urban areas are reaching these killer temperatures faster than those that are less populated. Cities absorb, create and radiate heat. Asphalt, brick, concrete and dark roofs act like sponges for heat during the day and emit warmth at night. Air conditioning is a lifesaver for those who can afford it, but it makes the streets even hotter for those who can’t.

“Urban heat islands, combined with an ageing population and increased urbanisation, are projected to increase the vulnerability of urban populations, especially the poor, to heat-related health impacts in the future,” a US government assessment warned.

The World Health Organisation says that 60% of people will live in cities by 2030, and the more densely populated they become, the hotter they’ll get.

Considering that recent predictions warn temperatures in South Asia will exceed the limits of human survival by the end of the century, every degree counts.

Even this year, 65 people have perished from nearly 44C (111F) heat in Karachi, Pakistan – a city used to extreme heat.

These problems are worse for vulnerable or low-income populations living near traffic in poor housing with no air conditioning

Tarik Benmarhnia, public health researcher

But the impact is not evenly distributed.

For example, there is a strong correlation between an area’s green spaces and its wealth; when shade from tree canopies can lower surfaces’ peak temperature by 11–25°C, “landscape is a predictor for morbidity in heatwaves”, says Tarik Benmarhnia, public health researcher at University of California San Diego. A review paper he recently co-authored found that people living in less vegetated areas had a 5% higher risk of death from heat-related causes.

In 2017, researchers at University of California, Berkeley were able to map racial divides in the US by proximity to trees. Black people were 52% more likely than white people to live in areas of unnatural “heat risk-related land cover”, while Asians were 32% more likely and Hispanics 21%.

Air pollution is more deadly in these areas, too, as nitrous oxides generate ozone when heated by the sun, inflaming airways and increasing mortality risk. “These problems are worse,” says Benmarhnia, “for vulnerable or low-income populations living near traffic in poor housing with no air conditioning.”

But air conditioning will remain out of reach for many, even as it increasingly becomes a necessity.

In 2014, Public Health England raised concerns that “the distribution of cooling systems may reflect socioeconomic inequalities unless they are heavily subsidised,” adding that rising fuel costs could further exacerbate this. And when we need to use less energy and cool the planet, not just our homes and offices, relying upon air conditioning is not a viable long-term plan – and certainly not for everyone.

‘In Cairo everything is suffocating’

Most of the research into heatwaves and public health has focused on western countries; Benmarhnia says more studies have been done on the city of Phoenix, Arizona, than the entire continent of Africa. But the problem is global, and especially pronounced across urban slums such as the ashwiyyat in Cairo, where temperatures during the city’s five-month-long summers have peaked at 46C (115F).

Traditionally Egyptians built low buildings close together, forming dense networks of shaded alleyways where people could keep cool during summer. But the rapid construction of high-rises and decreasing green spaces have made one of the fastest-growing cities in the world increasingly stifling. Subsidy cuts have brought about a rise of 18-42% in electricity costs, affecting many poor residents’ options for cooling down.

Um Hamad, 41, works as a cleaner and lives with his family in a small flat in Musturad in the city’s north. Though he considers them lucky to live on the relatively cool first floor, “in Cairo everything is suffocating”, he says. Hamad use fans and water to keep cool inside, but the water bill is becoming expensive . “There’s always that trick of sleeping on the floor, and we wear cotton clothes ,” he says. “The temperatures are harder to deal with for women who wear the hijab, so I always tell my daughters to wear only two layers and to wear bright colours.”

In a tight-knit cluster of urban dwellings in Giza, to Cairo’s south, Yassin Al-Ouqba, 42, a train maintenance worker, lives in a house built from a mixture of bricks and mud-bricks. In August, he says, it becomes “like an oven”. “I have a fan and I place it in front of a plate of ice so that it spreads cold air throughout the room. I spread cold water all over the sheets.”

In tropical Manila in the Philippines, where highs above 30C are intensified by stifling humidity, air conditioning is a luxury even for those in medical care. The Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital is said to have one of the world’s busiest maternity wards, with free contraception only recently made available in the predominantly Catholic country.

An air-conditioned private room costs 650 Philippine pesos per night – less than £10, but far beyond the means of most mothers-to-be, who end up in wards reliant on fans buzzing softly on wall mounts. “These fans work nonstop 24 hours a day, so they never last a year,” says Maribel Bote, a nurse at the hospital for 28 years.

The problem is compounded by regular overcrowding: in the maternity ward, known as ground zero of the country’s overpopulation crisis, as many as five mothers have been forced to share one bed. “It gets hellish in the summer – the fans blow hot air,” says Bote. “You’ll see the mothers using paper fans to cool themselves.”

In Cambodia, which has seen devastating heatwaves and drought in recent years, surviving the heat is as much a question of status for prisoners as it is for civilians. In the early 2000s Chao Sophea, 30, spent more than two years at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison after being convicted on drug charges, which she denies. At the time she was three months pregnant; Sophea’s child spent its first year in an overcrowded cell designated for pregnant women and new mothers.

We slept like smoked fish on a skewer. There was no air conditioning, not even a fan

Former Prey Sar prisoner

“It was actually a steaming room,” says Sophea today. “I was using a fan made of a palm leaf to cool my baby down – that was what I could afford. There was a tiny hole in the wall, but can you imagine how much air you would absorb in such a crowded space? We made a request for an electric fan, but it never arrived.”

An environmental activist who wishes to remain anonymous says he shared a cell of about four square metres with at least 25 other men when he was held in Prey Sar’s men’s wing earlier this year. “We slept like smoked fish on a skewer. There was no air conditioning, not even a fan.”

Others may be able to secure better conditions. A 2015 report by the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights stated that “some prisons reportedly house ‘VIP cells’ for well-connected prisoners or those able to pay for single-cell accommodation,” and these are believed to be air conditioned.

Compounding the threat posed by the changing climate is the refugee crisis. The two are intimately linked, with extreme weather events often a factor in social, political and economic instability. A paper published in the journal Science in December found that if greenhouse gas emissions were not meaningfully reduced global asylum applications would increase by almost 200% by the end of the century.

On a plain north of Amman, some 80,000 Syrians live in the Za’atari refugee camp, a semi-permanent urban settlement set up six years ago and now considered Jordan’s fourth-largest city. Hamda Al-Marzouq, 27, arrived three years ago, fleeing airstrikes on her neighbourhood in the outskirts of Damascus.

Her husband had gone missing during the war, and she was desperate to save her young son and extended family. Eight of them now live in a prefabricated shelter, essentially a large metal box, which Al-Marzouq says turns into an oven during the summer.

It’s suffocating. We soak the towels and try to breathe through them

Hamda Al-Marzouq, Za’atari camp resident

“It’s a desert area, and we’re suffering,” she says by phone from the camp. “We have different ways of coping. We wake in the early morning and soak the floor with water. Then we sprinkle water on ourselves.” There is no daytime electricity, so fans are useless. When power does arrive at night, the desert has already cooled.

Many days, her family will wait until the evening to walk outside, wrapping wet towels around their heads. But the biggest problem are sandstorms, which can arrive violently during the summer months and engulf the camp for days. “We have to close the caravan windows,” she says, adding the room then gets hotter. “It’s suffocating. We soak the towels and try to breathe through them.”

Al-Marzouq’s five-year-old son suffers respiratory problems and keeps getting infections, while asthma is rife across the camp.

Water has also been an issue, with demand in northern Jordan – one of the most water-scarce countries in the world – surging following the refugee arrivals. A Unicef-led operation will see all households connected to a water network by October, which Al-Marzouq says has been a significant help.

“We used to collect water with jerry cans and had to carry it for long distances. Now, with the water network being operational, things are much easier. We don’t have to fight in a long queue to get our share of water. Now there is equity.”

A plan for the future?

Across the board, lack of equality has been found to feed the urban furnaces. The US researchers who in 2013 uncovered the racial divide in urban heat vulnerability discovered that the more segregated a city was, the hotter it was for everyone. Rachel Morello-Frosch, one of the co-authors, told the LA Times at the time that “this pattern of racial segregation appears to increase everyone’s risk of living in a heat-prone environment”.

Treating cities as a whole, ghettos and all, is a more effective way to tackle extreme urban heat, they found. Researchers recommended planting more trees and increasing light-coloured surfaces to reduce the overall heat island effect, adding that urban planning to mitigate future extreme heat “should proactively incorporate an environmental justice perspective and address racial/ethnic disparities”.

Cities will have to rethink how we prepare for these emergencies and what we’re able to offer to all of our citizens

Francine Nadler, Benedict Labre House

Working to break social isolation, says Benmarhnia, “is a win-win situation”, with the added benefit of bringing the “invisible” people most at risk – like the homeless, and illegal immigrants – back into the community, where they can be looked after.

In at least one of the world’s hottest countries, steps are starting to be taken. India recently announced that a series of common-sense public health interventions have led to an enormous reduction in heat-related deaths – from 2,040 in 2015, to a little over 200 in 2017. Successful measures included unlocking the gates to public parks during the day, distributing free water, and painting the roofs of slum communities white, knocking 5C off internal temperatures.

Halfway to boiling: the city at 50C

Montreal first implemented a similar heat action plan in 2004, reducing mortality on hot days by 2.52 deaths per day, but as the heat waves intensify, it is likely that this will need to be reassessed. Nadler says the devastating impacts of global warming are only just beginning to dawn on everyone. “Cities will have to rethink how we prepare for these emergencies and what we’re able to offer to all of our citizens – from the most affluent, to the most vulnerable.”

Additional reporting by Ruth Michaelson with Adham Youssef in Cairo, Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem, Carmela Fonbuena in Manila and Holly Robertson in Phnom Penh

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Cognitive Dissonance in the Big Dry #auspol #qldpol #nswpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #NEG #ClimateChange #Drought

LESLEY HUGHES. Cognitive Dissonance in the Big Dry

8 August 2018

Climate change is worsening the drought now affecting huge swathes of the continent, bringing gut-wrenching misery for farmers and the communities they support. And what have some of the parliamentary representatives of those regions been up to? They have been trying to convince the Japanese to invest in more coal-fired power generation in Australia.

Drought has now been declared over 99 percent of NSW, and over almost two thirds of Qld. Soil moisture levels are also below or very much below average across the eastern half of Victoria, significant pastoral areas in South Australia, southern coastal Western Australia and the Kimberley. Last July was the second warmest on record for daytime temperatures and the driest since 2002, with overall rainfall only half the average. Australia’s food bowl, the Murray Darling Basin, received about a third of its average rainfall, NSW received about 20 percent, and QLD 30 percent. The outlook for spring is no more optimistic, with below average rainfall predicted for most of eastern Australia, along with above average temperatures.

And all this is happening in a non-El Niño year, but perhaps not for long – the Bureau has indicated there is about a 50 percent chance of an El Niño event developing by late spring.

There remains extraordinary reluctance, bordering on refusal, of many in the government to link the worsening drought conditions to anthropogenic climate change. The Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, for example, claimed on Q&A this week that such a link was “a big call” and that he does not “give a rats if it’s man-made or not”.

But the science is clear –  warming has contributed to a southward shift in weather fronts from the Southern Ocean, which typically bring rain to southern Australia during winter and spring. As these weather fronts have shifted, rainfall in southern Australia has declined, increasing the risk of drought conditions, including in agricultural heartlands such as the Murray Darling Basin and the Western Australian wheat belt. These regions have also experienced increasing intensity and frequency of hot days and heatwaves over the past 50 years, in turn increasing drought severity. In summary, climate change is likely making drought conditions in southwest and southeast Australia worse.

Sceptics often point to the “droughts and flooding rains” argument – that Australia has always had droughts. But recent analysis by a team at the University of Melbourne indicates that the most severe droughts since the late 1800s, the Federation Drought (1895–1903), the World War II drought (1939–1945) and the Millennium Drought (1996–2010), are without precedent in at least the past 400 years in terms of their concurrent spatial extent.

Looking ahead, CSIRO and the Bureau project that by 2030, winter and spring rainfall could decrease up to about 15 percent across southern Australia. Later in the century, rainfall is projected to decline by 20–30 percent, depending on the greenhouse pollution scenario, with some important regional exceptions. Drying is projected to be most pronounced over southwest WA, with total reductions in autumn and winter precipitation potentially as high as 50 percent by the end of the century. The combined effect of increasing temperatures and declining rainfall mean that without deep and rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, there is high confidence that the time spent in drought will increase in coming decades in southern Australia.

These ideas are not new – scientists have been bleating on about climate change increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events for decades now. And it seems everywhere we look, predictions are now observations, whether it be the deadly heatwaves across Africa, the Middle East, the US, Europe, Canada and Japan, or the wildfires ravaging Sweden, Greece and California.

Meanwhile, back home, we have been treated to the recent spectacle of a delegation of politicians to Japan, seeking investment in new coal-fired power stations.  Among the group was the whip-cracking George Christensen, like a latter-day imperial emissary bearing letters from his Emperor, the Minister for Clinging-To-Coal-With-His-Fingernails Matt Canavan. The letters were to be hand-delivered to the heads of Japan Oil, the Gas and Metals National Corporation, and the director of the coal division of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The Japan trip was funded by the Minerals Council-linked organisation Coal 21, which according to their website, is dedicated to building community confidence in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. Top of the list of excursions for the pollies was an inspection of the so called High Energy Low Emissions (HELE) Isogo Thermal Power Station in Yokohama, operated by J Power. Isogo has been lauded as the most advanced commercial coal-fired power station in the world.

So how “clean” is this plant? According to the company’s website, by using “ultra-super-critical” (USC) technology that operates at temperatures of 600 – 620oC, Isogo emits 17% less carbon dioxide than it did using the older technology. 17%! Is that the definition of “clean” these days? It’s like hiring someone to clean your house and being satisfied if they vacuum one bedroom and give the kitchen bench a bit of a wipe.

Christensen is keen that the Japanese invest in HELE coal-fired power stations in Collinsville, Mackay, Townsville, and the Burdekin. Together with four other government backbenchers, Tony Pasin, John Williams, Craig Kelly and Ken O’Dowd, he has criticised the latest report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) for having “an ideological worldview” that favours renewables. The electorates represented by three of these lower house members, Dawson (Christensen), Barker (Pasin), and Flynn (O’Dowd) contain substantial rural areas currently drought-declared, and John Williams, a NSW Senator, represents a state that is almost entirely parched.

Setting aside the breathtaking irony of the use of the word “ideological” by this gang of five, it’s remarkable that they have such a poor grasp of simple economics. Bloomberg New Energy Finance research has found the cost of energy from a new HELE coal-fired power station would be more than double that of new wind or solar, with a build time of about 6-8 years. And despite hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars that have been thrown at “clean coal” technology in Australia over the past two decades, no commercially viable project has been developed.

The woefully poor representation of farmers’ interests by the Nationals in particular, at least with respect to climate change impacts, has not been lost on their constituents.  In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, NSW farmer Robert Lee wrote of his astonishment that resistance to climate action was coming from the party purporting to represent rural and regional communities. “The Nationals obviously don’t understand the implications of climate change and what it is doing to Australian farmers right now”.

Lee is not the only farmer at the frontline of climate change impacts dissatisfied with his political representation. In 2016, the Farmers for Climate Action Group commissioned a survey of farmers attitudes to climate change and renewables. Ninety percent of the 1300 farmers surveyed indicated their concern about the changing climate, and 88% wanted their political representatives to do more. Eighty percent supported Australia moving towards 100% renewables.

Life on the land in Australia is hard, and climate change is making it harder. Any politician representing a rural or regional electorate who is continuing to pursue the oxymoronic absurdity of “clean coal” and/or attempting to slow the transition to renewables, is actively working against the interests of their principal constituents.

Our farmers and their communities deserve, and should demand, so much more.

Lesley Hughes is Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University and a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia.

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Reef Handout raises murky questions #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #SaveTheReef from #ClimateChange #CoralnotCoal

Look who’s in the Australian newspaper today!


Surprise reef handout raises murky questions


In Queensland’s north, where more than 24,000 full-time jobs depend on the Great Barrier Reef, the imbroglio over the Turnbull government’s record allocation to a charity founded by corporate leaders is about more than partisan pointscoring.

Cairns scuba-diving instructor Tanya Murphy said reef workers were “shocked and disappointed” that Canberra would consider granting any charity $443.8 million without a competitive process, let alone one whose major benefactors included companies blamed for degrading the reef.

“It’s fantastic to see money being allocated to the reef, but it would be a better outcome for the reef if the government had gone through the correct tender process so that other organisations could have applied for the money,” said Ms Murphy, 32. “I’m just questioning why the government has done it like that. It seems a bit shady.”

Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden has said the charity drew on the “unique expertise” of its major benefactors, including firms such as Rio Tinto and BHP, but those companies had “absolutely no influence” in selecting or designing the group’s programs.

“We are the lead fundraisers for the Great Barrier Reef and over 18 years have raised over $90m for the reef,” Ms Marsden said.

“We also strive to keep our administration and fundraising costs low — 80c in every dollar goes to reef projects.”

Ms Marsden famously described the grant as like having “just won lotto” with her organisation then having only six fulltime and five part-time staff.

Ms Murphy, the founder of the Reef Divers for Conservation advocacy group, said the government’s own Reef 2050 plan acknowledged climate change was the single biggest threat to the reef.

“While funds to tackle other issues like poor water quality and plagues of coral-eating crown-ofthorns starfish are certainly welcome, that investment will be for nothing if the government doesn’t take serious action on climate change,” she said.

Australia needed to sharply cut its domestic greenhouse gas emissions and accept greater responsibility for emissions from fuels exported overseas, such as coal.

“We can’t just ship it off and say it’s someone else’s problem, because whether it’s burned here or overseas, it still contributes to global climate change which is threatening to kill the Great Barrier Reef in less than a century,” she said.

The foundation repeatedly said climate change was the reef’s greatest challenge. But environmentalists note this appears to be inconsistent with a recent call by board member Grant King — the Business Council of Australia president and former Origin Energy chief executive — to expand coalmining and increase shipping of coal exports from Gladstone. — with Tanya Murphy.

In Queensland’s north, where more than 24,000 full-time jobs depend on the Great Barrier Reef, the imbroglio over the Turnbull government’s record allocation to a charity founded by corporate leaders is about more than partisan pointscoring.

Cairns scuba-diving instructor Tanya Murphy said reef workers were “shocked and disappointed” that Canberra would consider granting any charity $443.8 million without a competitive process, let alone one whose major benefactors included companies blamed for degrading the reef.

“It’s fantastic to see money being allocated to the reef, but it would be a better outcome for the reef if the government had gone through the correct tender process so that other organisations could have applied for the money,” said Ms Murphy, 32. “I’m just questioning why the government has done it like that. It seems a bit shady.”

Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden has said the charity drew on the “unique expertise” of its major benefactors, including firms such as Rio Tinto and BHP, but those companies had “absolutely no influence” in selecting or designing the group’s programs.

“We are the lead fundraisers for the Great Barrier Reef and over 18 years have raised over $90m for the reef,” Ms Marsden said.

“We also strive to keep our administration and fundraising costs low — 80c in every dollar goes to reef projects.”

Ms Marsden famously described the grant as like having “just won lotto” with her organisation then having only six fulltime and five part-time staff.

Ms Murphy, the founder of the Reef Divers for Conservation advocacy group, said the government’s own Reef 2050 plan acknowledged climate change was the single biggest threat to the reef.

“While funds to tackle other issues like poor water quality and plagues of coral-eating crown-ofthorns starfish are certainly welcome, that investment will be for nothing if the government doesn’t take serious action on climate change,” she said.

Tanya Murphy a Cairns Climate Warrior

Australia needed to sharply cut its domestic greenhouse gas emissions and accept greater responsibility for emissions from fuels exported overseas, such as coal.

“We can’t just ship it off and say it’s someone else’s problem, because whether it’s burned here or overseas, it still contributes to global climate change which is threatening to kill the Great Barrier Reef in less than a century,” she said.

The foundation repeatedly said climate change was the reef’s greatest challenge. But environmentalists note this appears to be inconsistent with a recent call by board member Grant King — the Business Council of Australia president and former Origin Energy chief executive — to expand coalmining and increase shipping of coal exports from Gladstone. — with Tanya Murphy.

#Drought: On climate inaction, it is time to say enough #StopAdani #NoNewCoal #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol #nswpol @SciNate

I feel so sorry for the dire situation many farmers are in because of the drought.

I wish it were not so, but when I look back, it has been all so predictable.

When I saw a map on TV news showing the drought area covering a huge proportion of south-east Australia, I was struck by the similarity to a map I was shown 26 years ago when I visited CSIRO’s Atmospheric Research Division.

The 1992 map showed modelling of changing rainfall pattern over a 30-year cycle.

I was shocked at the time, but even more so when I was told that the modelling included a delay factor – an increase in carbon dioxide takes 20 years or so to show an effect on climate patterns.

The implication is that the current drought may be the worst ever, but we can expect it to become the norm.

Then I find myself reflecting on the distractions that prevented action.

The denial, the arguments about cost, clinging to the old ways; the political failure to act, trashing the carbon tax to satisfy one man’s ambitions.

The National Party, supported by many farmers, fought valiantly against conservationist policies.

We were told climate action in Australia could wait.

How much longer will it be before we say, “Enough” – stop fooling with Adani and get on with de-carboning our energy industries and our transport systems?

David Lamb, Kew East

We’ll just use the desal plants … oh right

So there’s another predictable dreadful Australian drought?

Just wait a moment and all those coastal desalination plants, built by the federal government, will be turned on and all the drought areas will be irrigated.

That’s what intelligent government is all about.

It’s called planning.

Paul Drakeford, Kew

You can’t grow crops in cement

Understandably we are all concerned about the plight of farmers who are suffering in the drought-ravaged country as a consequence of the real effects of climate change.

However, successive governments of all persuasions are allowing developers to buy up vast tracks of arable land upon which to build houses.

Surely there are better solutions to solving housing shortages than plonking these buildings on land that could be used to grow food.

After all it is very hard to prepare an evening meal using bricks and mortar.

Ian Gray, Benalla

George Goyder, come back

In 1865, George Goyder, the assistant surveyor-general of South Australia, drew a line across the state north of Adelaide that became known as the Goyder Line.

After extensive surveys, Goyder claimed that because of consistent patterns of low rainfall farming would not be viable above the line.

However, over the next few years there was a higher than usual rainfall across South Australia.

Ignoring Goyder’s warning settlement grew and farms were established north of the line.

The problem was that after several years the rainfall returned to its past figures of little more than four inches a year.

Farmers went bankrupt and whole towns were deserted as anyone who has visited the Flinders Rangers can attest.

I wonder what would have happened if Goyder were the surveyor-general for the commonwealth?

Perhaps large tracts of the country would have been set aside for other purposes than agriculture.

By all means we must assist the drought-affected farmers, but with the effects of climate change already biting perhaps we need another Goyder Line.

Lance Sterling, Burwood

Salvation is in the pipeline

Instead of tax cuts, the government should start drought proofing Australia by installing a network of pipelines from desalination plants. Farming is essential to the economy and the drought is driving people off farms.

Zona Severn, Mount Martha

Little soil renewal

Suggestions that the drought in NSW may mean that the viability of agriculture is being affected by climate change are nothing new.

However, seldom said is the fact that agriculture in Australia is fundamentally unsustainable regardless of technological improvement.

Australian soils have experienced negligible renewal for 300 million years, whereas most soils in Europe, East Asia and the Americas are constantly renewed by the weathering of rising mountains and their glaciers.

Australian soils are thus a non-renewable resource, and thus agriculture in Australia should be treated like fossil fuels – something whose phase-out is a requisite for sustainability.

Although many Australian farmers would suffer from mass revegetation, many more in Eurasia and the Americas would gain opportunities for a new potentially sustainable livelihood that is now uneconomic, and many ancient Australian species threatened by land clearing and climate change would recover.

Julien Benney, Carlton

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