Showing posts with label drought. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drought. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Nimbin CWA receives gift of fridges and freezers to assist with feeding local & out of town firefighting crews


NSW state MP for Lismore Janelle Saffin, Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Woolworths gave practical support to the firefighting effort in the Nimbin region last week....


The bushfire burning in Nightcap National Park area, east of Nimbin, is now more than 6,200 hectares in size.

According to NSW Rural Fire Service on 19 November 2019 this fire which has been burning for over nine days is still "expected to burn for several weeks or until there is significant rainfall. During this time, the fire may burn close to properties".

Sunday, 17 November 2019

One of the many calls from northern NSW for urgent national climate change action, that the Morrison Government appears determined to ignore


A cry from the heart......

The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 November 2019:

On Friday I lost my beautiful home. I am thankful we are all alive and safe and for the few possessions we were able to salvage. Many others in the small community of Nymboida, near Grafton, where I have grown up, were not even that lucky. They have lost pretty much everything.
I feel numb. It all feels so unreal but the fire was unstoppable. I know the firefighters did everything they could to protect our house and other homes and to them I am extremely grateful.
The fires that joined up and devastated our community were not normal bushfires. For weeks and weeks fires had been burning and community efforts had been unable to get them under control.

Fires burnt for weeks in the regions around Grafton. AAP

But the nightmare really began with the sky changing colour. The blue changed to an orange glow as the fire advanced over the hill. We watched from our veranda as it got progressively darker. It felt like an apocalypse and by 4.30pm it was dark as night. We evacuated from our home on Friday afternoon, following our carefully prepared bushfire action evacuation plan.

I haven’t returned home yet (I still call it home even though it’s gone). The fires are still burning and there is still a huge threat hanging over many places. I and many of my friends don’t want to return home yet; we’re not ready to see the results of the devastation. For many of us, this is where we have lived our entire lives; the only homes we have ever known, filled with memories, have been ravaged by a firestorm that has left only the ghosts of our past.

From what I know more than 45 houses have been lost in Nymboida, it could easily be more. I’ve heard from those who witnessed it that walls of flames 40 or more metres high ravaged the landscape. Catastrophic. 


We are devastated, but we are a strong community, we’ll support each other and get through this together. So many people have been so supportive, kind and helpful; it is incredible, we are so thankful. 

Australia is on fire. The federal government must take urgent action on climate change. Scientists and firefighters have been warning about the consequences of doing nothing for so long. Surely now, with multiple fires burning throughout NSW and Queensland, Scott Morrison must realise that doing nothing is not an option any longer. 

I’m heartbroken at what’s happened but I’m also angry. I’m angry that the government is not adequately addressing the climate crisis. We thank you for your thoughts and prayers Prime Minister, but we need action. 

I am thinking at this moment of everyone in other communities affected by these fires. Please, stay safe. 

Shiann Broderick is an 18-year-old year 12 student.

Australian cardiologist Arnagretta Hunter: “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"


The Guardian, 14 November 2019:


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 Images

The 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”.
“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.”“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.
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. [my yellow highlighting]

Read the full article here.

The 2019 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change, 13 November 2019, can be found here.
  

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Tweets of the Week


Thursday, 14 November 2019

This political comment says it all.......

David Rowe

Australian Politics 2019: bushfire blame shifting is a tedious business which is intended to distract the electorate from considering the impacts of climate change


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Australia's climate has warmed just over 1 °C since 1910 leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events….There has been a decline of around 11 per cent in April–October rainfall in the southeast of Australia since the late 1990s….There has been a long-term increase in extreme fire weather, and in the length of the fire season, across large parts of Australia….The year-to-year changes in Australia’s climate are mostly associated with natural climate variability such as El Niño and La Niña in the tropical Pacific Ocean and phases of the Indian Ocean Dipole in the Indian Ocean. This natural variability now occurs on top of the warming trend, which can modify the impact of these natural drivers on the Australian climate.”  [Australian Bureau of Meteorology, State of the Climate 2018]
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On the morning of 13 November 2017 New South Wales awoke to a state still under siege from climate change and drought induced bushfires.

The NSW Rural Fire Service reported 79 fires at 4.13am, with 4 at Emergency Warning level (out of control), 12 at Watch And Act level and 50 at Advice level.

The largest Emergency fire was in the Clarence Valley local government area (148,120 hectares), largest Watch And Act fire in Kempsey local government area (223,047 hectares) and largest Advice fire in Armidale local government area (113,900 hectares).

Thankfully, changing weather conditions over the day saw the Emergency Warnings reduced to Watch And Act and the number of serious fires reduced to 69 sites

What the general public also awoke to that morning was a continuing attempt to blame shift on the part of federal and state Liberal and Nationals politicians.

They quickly focused on NSW hazard reduction rules – conveniently forgetting that it was Liberal-Nationals Coalition state governments which last amended the relevant legislation.

They blamed the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian Greens political party, - shockingly in one instance it was even implied that victims of these fires were themselves to blame because they likely voted for the Greens.

In this they have been aided and abetted by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp metropolitan and regional newspaper empire as well as members of that climate change denying lobby group the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

What these rightwing politicians refuse to publicly admit is that in Australia climate change is intensifying heat, reducing rainfall, increasing water evaporation rates, raising the severity levels of drought, lengthening fire seasons and causing bushfires to morph into mega fires.

Nor would these politicians admit that since 2013 the national response to climate change has become insufficient for the scale of problems now facing the country.

Here is how media is presenting this issue. Leading the pack is a News Corp journalist who happens to also be an enthusiastic climate change denier…...

The Daily Telegraph, 13 November 2019, p.13:

For eighty years, inquiries have found reducing hazards is the best, most immediate way to prevent bush fires, but green policies have led us to learned helplessness
Even a hippie in Nimbin knows that greenies are to blame for the power and ­intensity of NSW’s latest bout of tragic bushfires.
“The Greens have to cop it on the head — they have been obsessed with no fires and no burning,” Michael Balderstone told the Australian as bushfires engulfed the north coast.
Wiser words have never been spoken in that Northern Rivers town. Yet Greens leader Richard Di Natale and Melbourne MP Adam Bandt still insist that the culprit is climate change.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They oppose any sensible land ­management that is proven to ­reduce the severity of routine ­regular summer bushfires.
And when the inevitable happens they blame climate change.
Their aim is to scare people into buying their climate “emergency” hyperbole so that government is under pressure to enact suicidal policies which drive electricity prices through the roof.
But it is not climate change which turns fires into unstoppable lethal infernos. It is green ideology which blocks removal of fuel loads in national parks and prevents landholders from clearing fire hazards around their homes.

The Guardian, 13 November 2019:

Bureaucrats from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment were sent an email soon after the AdaptNSW 2019 Forum began, causing consternation among some attendees who saw it as tantamount to gagging them.

The email said: “For those attending AdaptNSW today, public affairs has issued advice not to discuss the link between climate change and bushfires.

Refer questions in session and plenaries to bushfire reps.”

What are the links between climate change and bushfires? – explainer
Read more
Former NSW fire commissioner Greg Mullins was one of the attendees.

But the participants also included scientists and experts who are developing policy and advising the Berejiklian government on adaption measures the state could take in relation to land use, planning and dealing with the risk of bushfires.

SBS News, 12 November 2019:

What does the science say?

The overwhelming scientific consensus is that Australia's fire season is growing longer and more intense due to the effects of climate change.

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) stated in a report last year that Australia's climate has warmed just over 1°C since 1910.


The report said climate change has seen an increase in extreme heat events and increased the severity of natural disasters, such as drought.

"There has been a long-term increase in extreme fire weather and in the length of the fire season across large parts of Australia since the 1950s ... Climate change, including increasing temperatures, is contributing to these changes," it said.

Some in the federal government have attributed the increased risk on newly-imposed restrictions on hazard reduction burning - low-intensity burns to remove vegetation so bush or grass fires are less intense.

It is different to backburning, which specifically refers to the starting of small, controlled fires in the path of a bushfire to reduce the amount of fuel available……

Are hazard reduction restrictions to blame?

Some in the federal government have attributed the increased risk on newly-imposed restrictions on hazard reduction burning - low-intensity burns to remove vegetation so bush or grass fires are less intense.

It is different to backburning, which specifically refers to the starting of small, controlled fires in the path of a bushfire to reduce the amount of fuel available.

But David Bowman, director of the Fire Centre Research Hub at the University of Tasmania, said restrictions on hazard reductions are not entirely to blame.

"At the very core, we have a climate signal. There's extreme drought, extreme fire weather conditions - fire weather that you would expect in summer, not in spring,” he told the ABC on Monday.

"Yes, there is a role for managing fuels with hazard reduction burning - but would hazard reduction burning programs on their own stem this fire crisis? No, absolutely not."

What can we expect now?

The BOM said 2017 and 2018 were Australia's third and fourth-hottest years on record.

In April, a group 23 former fire chiefs warned climate change is worsening extreme weather and putting people in danger.

In September, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC) released its annual seasonal bushfire outlook, describing the east coast of Australia as having "above normal fire potential".

"What all the evidence is showing us (is) that the temperature is sitting about one degree above long-term averages. That is leading to a much earlier start fire season around the world. That is internationally noted,” BNHCRC CEO Richard Thornton said.

"We are also seeing the cumulative amount of fire danger during a fire season going up - the time between these really extreme fire years will get shorter and shorter and shorter.

"We will see these conditions come around more frequently."
The Guardian, 12 November 2019:
So what are the claims?
The chief accuser is Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce who says “greens policy” gets in the way “of many of the practicalities of fighting a fire and managing it”.
Among Joyce’s claims, made in several interviews this week, are that Greens policies have made hazard reduction activities more difficult.
This claim, just to be clear, is about the policies of a party that has never been in government.
Joyce also blamed the Greens for “paperwork” that made it harder to carry out hazard reduction activities….
It’s not burning because they burnt off, it’s burning because they didn’t burn off,” Joyce told SkyNews.
According to Bradstock, Joyce’s claims are familiar but “without foundation.”
It’s simply conspiracy stuff. It’s an obvious attempt to deflect the conversation away from climate change.”
A former NSW fire and rescue commissioner, Greg Mullins, has written this week that the hotter and drier conditions, and the higher fire danger ratings, were preventing agencies from carrying out prescribed burning.
He said: “Blaming ‘greenies’ for stopping these important measures is a familiar, populist, but basically untrue claim.”
The Australian, 12 November 2019:

A fierce feud has ignited between NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the National Parks and Wildlife Service following revelations the number of rangers, who perform hazard reduction burns, has been cut by a third since the Coalition came to power in 2011.

The Public Service Association has accused Mr Barilaro of gross hypocrisy after the Deputy Premier blamed the department for contributing to the state’s catastrophic fire conditions by failing to carry out extensive hazard reduction in the lead-up to bushfire season, labelling his comments “worse than an insult”.

Apart from last financial year, the NPWS has not met its annual hazard reduction target of 135,000ha since 2016.

PSA industrial manager Nathan Bradshaw blamed the failure to meet targets on severe cuts to staffing levels, saying that since 2011, the department’s 289 rangers, including 28 senior rangers, had been trimmed to 193.

Following a restructure in 2017, the NPWS’s number of area managers was cut from 50 to 37, he said.

Mr Bradshaw said the Office of Environment and Heritage’s budget had been further depleted by $80m this year, and the NPWS was absorbing part of the cut.

He said the cutbacks had directly affected the department’s ability to operate efficiently.

In 2012-13, the NPWS was involved in 208,000ha of hazard reduction; in 2016-17, that was just 88,136ha, and just 95,589ha in 2017-18. However, the government said the amount of hazard reduction had increased in 2018-19, with “NPWS undertaking 137,500ha of prescribed burns, which is above its target of 135,000ha”.

Crikey, 12 November 2019:

A new report has found Australia’s response to climate change is among the worst in the G20noting a lack of policy, reliance on fossil fuels and rising emissions, The Guardian reports.
As politicians argue over whether the “unprecedented” bushfires ravaging NSW are linked to climate change — or whether it’s appropriate to bring it up at all — the latest Brown to Green Report ranked Australia third-worst in terms of progress toward meeting its Paris goals. The report states Australia is not even on track to meet its “insufficient” 2030 targets, and highlights a poor response on deforestation, transport, energy supply and carbon pricing. The international report was compiled by 14 NGOs, thinktanks and research institutes.
A STATE OF EMERGENCY
About 600 schools will be closed across NSW today, with a week-long state of emergency declared, as the east coast braces for an unprecedented and “catastrophic” fire risk, the ABC reports.
More than 60 bushfires continue to burn across the state, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting “hot, dry and gusty winds” that “will generate very dangerous fire conditions”. The NSW Rural Fire Service is warning that firefighters will not be able to help everybody if a fire takes hold, releasing a statement declaring “if you call for help, you may not get it”. NSW RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers says the situation is worse than he could have imagined, telling reporters: “If someone came to me and said ‘let’s do one of the scenario role-plays’, I would be saying, ‘let’s try to keep this a bit more realistic’”.
BACKGROUND

NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS), Hazard Reduction Standards:

Fire Trail Standards.pdf (PDF, 5.6 MB)



Terms used by NSWRFS:


Emergency Warning: An Emergency Warning is the highest level of Bush Fire Alert. You may be in danger and need to take action immediately. Any delay now puts your life at risk.

Watch and Act: There is a heightened level of threat. Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family.

Advice: A fire has started. There is no immediate danger. Stay up to date in case the situation changes.