Australia’s ‘black summer’ provides glimmer of hope for climate policy action
Australia’s deadly wildfires have opened up a small window of opportunity for the country to break a decade-long impasse on climate policy, as some politicians and big business push for major change.
Independent politician Zali Steggall this week unveiled proposed legislation to target zero carbon emissions by 2050, aiming to take advantage of a subtle shift in rhetoric from the conservative Liberal-led coalition government, Reuters reported.
“Eighty percent of the public wants to see us addressing climate change. The impacts are real. We are experiencing them now,” Steggall, who plans to introduce the bill into parliament next month, told Reuters.
Steggall and other crossbench politicians are pushing for all lawmakers to be allowed a conscience vote on the bill. That would enable members of the Liberal Party and main opposition Labor Party who oppose building new coal-fired plants and have constituents pressing for more climate action to unite to pass the legislation.
But it will be an uphill battle as Prime Minister Scott Morrison faces fresh calls by some in his conservative government to fund new coal-fired power stations, a policy popular with some voters because it stabilizes jobs, boosts power supplies and keeps a lid on energy prices.
Without substantial support from Labor and moderates in the Liberal-led coalition government, the bill is unlikely to pass.
The issue of climate change has plagued leaders of Australia for the past decade, contributing to the downfall of at least three prime ministers. As the world’s biggest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas and one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters per person, Australia has also come under fire from global climate activists and the United Nations for not taking more responsibility to curb global warming.
Morrison acknowledged last week climate change was a factor in what he has dubbed Australia’s “Black Summer”, in which bushfires have killed 33 people, charred nearly 12 million hectares (29.7 million acres) of land and wreaked billions of dollars in damage.
That was a slight shift from remarks made as recently as January, when he largely blamed a lack of preemptive burn-off to clear hazardous vegetation and a three-year drought for the devastating bushfires.
“What it shows is there’s a recognition that climate change is problematic for Australia and we need to take more action to protect ourselves against the consequences,” said Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) is backing Steggall’s proposed legislation, which includes a call for
five-year plans to meet specific emissions budgets, to create certainty for investors.
“If we could get the two political parties to agree to that and legislate it, we would have made a massive advance in this country, because we would know where we’re going,” BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said on Australian television on Monday.
The quandary for politicians is that Australia’s big manufacturers are heavy power consumers, in turn dependent on the country’s abundant, but heavily polluting, coal and gas supply.
Protecting those sectors and keeping energy prices down has led to a decade of flip-flops on climate policies. That has left the country on track to miss its emissions reduction target under the Paris Climate Accord, according to the government’s own projections.
Labor, which failed to oust the coalition government in an election last May after alienating voters in coal mining-heavy districts, urged Morrison to allow debate on Steggall’s bill but stopped short of endorsing it.” Labor welcomes any constructive effort to progress climate action and looks forward to continuing to engage with Zali Steggall about her Climate Change Bill,” the shadow minister for climate change and energy Mark Butler said in a statement.
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor did not directly answer questions from Reuters about whether the government would support the bill, but said he expects to deliver a long term emissions reduction strategy before the next UN climate summit in Glasgow in November.
“The pathway to meaningful impacts on global emissions is through development and deployment of new technologies. The answer is not a new tax or more bureaucracy,” Taylor said in emailed comments.
For Australia to meet its Paris Accord target of cutting carbon emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, it needs to cut annual emissions to 462 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-e).
Despite Morrison repeatedly boasting that Australia will meet that “in a canter”, the government forecast in December that Australia’s emissions would fall to 511 Mt in 2030, only 16 percent below 2005 levels.
Making the challenge even harder, emissions are growing from Australia’s largest industrial facilities, offsetting reductions in the power sector since 2005, research firm RepuTex said.
“The tension gets higher and the need to act gets more pressing, but the fundamentals that have slowed governments to date haven’t gone away,” said Matthew Warren, a former energy industry leader working as a consultant with the BCA. “That’s what we’re trying to wrestle with.”
How ‘terribly sophisticated’ find in 27,000-year-old cave stunned experts
Archeologists were stunned after making a “terribly sophisticated” find in a 27,000-year-old cave, leaving one expert to claim “they were us”.
The discovery was along the south coast of France in what is now known as the Cosquer Cave, after its finder Henri Cosquer. The cave contains various prehistoric rock art engravings, first found 1985, but was not made public until 1991, when three divers became lost in the cave and died. A huge proportion of the cavern, including some of the wall art, was permanently or periodically submerged and destroyed by seawater, express.co.uk reported.
Only 150 pieces of art remain, including several dozen paintings and carvings dating back to the Upper Paleolithic, corresponding to two different phases of occupation of the cave.
Archeologist Alexander Marshack, who passed away in 2004, featured among a group of experts in World History’s “Cave Beneath The Sea,” where he detailed his theory on the cave.
The 2018 series revealed: “They look like all kinds of signs, cabalistic scribblings, designs and patterns, people usually just dismiss them as the scribblings of a primitive mind.
“But I saw patterns in these scratchings, so I did all kinds of tests and finally, I came to the conclusion that they were recording the passage of time.
“This is what the analysis by microscope indicated.”
Professor Marshack believed the engravings were made as some kind of ancient calendar to mark the start of summer and winter solstice.
He added: “Every change of color is a different set of marks made by a different tool, there would be a series of marks for six months, down then back for another six months.
“They had a structured sense of space and time and the caves were part of that structure.
“They went into the caves at the right time to make the right image, they went to their habitation site at the right time to do the right things to prepare for the winter, have rituals and ceremonies.
“They weren’t living at random, they were not primitive, they were us and terribly sophisticated, though they were technologically primitive.”
Among the surviving drawings is 65 hand stencils when dating back 27,000 years and also newer art which dates back 19,000 years.
They include animals such as bison, ibex, and horses, but also marine animals such as auks and a man with a seal’s head.
The cave can now be accessed by divers through a 175-metre long tunnel, the entrance is located 37 meters below sea level, which has risen since the cave was inhabited.
During the glacial periods of the Pleistocene, the shore of the Mediterranean was several miles to the south and the sea level up to 100 meters below the entrance of the cave.
Cosquer Cave is significant because it is situated in an area where no Paleolithic art had ever been found before.
This underlines the possibility that many prehistoric coastal caves around the Mediterranean in France, Italy and Spain have been lost to rising sea levels, along with all their cave paintings and other artworks.
Archeologists estimate that if Cosquer had remained above sea level, it would now contain something like 600-800 animal images alone.
A humanitarian crisis looms in Africa unless we act fast to stop the desert locust
By Qu Dongyu & Mark Lowcock*
A colleague at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) tells a terrifying story about the desert locust.
In 2005 she visited farmers in Niger as they prepared to harvest their crops. Just hours later, a swarm of locusts swept through the area and destroyed everything. One month later, truckloads of families were forced to leave their homes because they had nothing to eat.
A year before that the UN had launched an appeal for $9m (£6.9m) to help Niger and neighboring countries control the locusts. The response was slow and six months later the appeal reached $100m. The maths was simple: The locusts were faster than the international response.
History is now in danger of repeating itself. But on a much bigger scale.
The worst outbreak of desert locusts in decades is currently underway in the Horn of Africa. It is the biggest of its kind in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia — and the worst Kenya has seen for 70 years. The impacts of the outbreak in these countries are particularly acute as pastures and crops are being wiped out in communities that were already facing food shortages.
As we write, the swarms have just crossed into Uganda and Tanzania, and moved within 50km (31 miles) of South Sudan. Djibouti and Eritrea are also affected. And Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, and Pakistan are fighting their own serious infestations.
The desert locust is considered the world’s most destructive migratory pest. A single locust can travel 150km and eat its own weight in food — about two grams — each day. A swarm the size of New York City can consume the same amount of food in one day as the total population of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
What we are seeing in East Africa today is unlike anything we’ve seen in a very long time. Its destructive potential is enormous, and it’s taking place in a region where farmers need every gram of food to feed themselves and their families. Most of the countries hardest hit are those where millions of people are already vulnerable or in serious humanitarian need, as they endure the impact of violence, drought, and floods.
We have acted quickly to respond to this upsurge. Local and national governments in East Africa are leading the response, and our respective offices are working closely together to keep this outbreak under control. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released $10 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund to fund a huge scale-up in aerial operations to manage the outbreak.
The FAO is urgently seeking $76 million from donors and other organizations to help the affected countries fight the outbreak. The amount required is likely to increase as the locusts spread.
But the window to contain this crisis is closing fast. We only have until the beginning of March to bring this infestation under control as that is when the rain and planting season begins. The swarms are highly
mobile; the terrain often difficult; the logistical challenges immense. But left unchecked — and with expected additional rains — locust numbers in East Africa could increase 500 times by June.
We must act now to avoid a full-blown catastrophe. And we will. At the same time, we need to pay attention to a bigger picture. This is not the first time the Greater Horn of Africa has seen locust upsurges approach this scale, but the current situation is the largest in decades. This is linked to climate change. Warmer seas mean more cyclones, generating the perfect breeding conditions for locusts.
Together, we express deep solidarity with the people and communities affected. And we call on the international community to respond with speed and generosity to control the infestation while we still have the chance.
* Qu Dongyu is director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization; Mark Lowcock is the UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.
The above article was taken from the Guardian.
Ocean currents have been speeding up over the past two decades as the planet warms, according to new research, nbcnews.com reported.