Bushfire smoke pollutes Australian Open tennis


This 14 January 2020 video says about itself:

Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupović has been forced to retire during her qualifying match at the Australian Open after suffering from severe coughing fits. The poor air quality in Melbourne already delayed the start of the qualifying rounds as smoke from surrounding bushfires smothered the city. Jakupović claimed the first set 6-4 against Swiss player Stefanie Vögele and looked likely to secure the second but collapsed on court before retiring,

Dutch NOS radio reports that Ms Jakupović cried as she had to give up because of the global warming bushfires. Many other players also complained about the foul air.

GERMAN engineering giant Siemens said today that it would continue infrastructure work on a coal mine in Australia despite protests from climate change activists: here.

Pedophile billionaire Epstein’s death, suicide or murder?


This 3 December 2019 CBS TV video from the USA says about itself:

Sharyn Alfonsi joins “CBS This Morning” to talk about Sunday’s upcoming 60 Minutes report on the death of Jeffrey Epstein.

This 6 December 2019 CBS TV video from the USA says about itself:

Pathologist hired by Epstein’s family says autopsy may point to murder

After a five-month investigation, 60 Minutes obtained photos of Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy and the cell where the convicted sex offender was found dead. Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, who was hired by Mark Epstein to investigate his brother’s death, joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss new details in the case and why the autopsy may point to a homicide, not a suicide.

On Sunday the CBS television news program “60 Minutes” revealed important new details about the conditions before and after the death of millionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York City on August 10. The details both substantiate and add to already existing evidence that Epstein did not commit suicide in his cell as determined by the New York Medical Examiner’s Office, but was, in fact, murdered: here.

US candidate Andrew Yang, not that progressive


This 31 December 2019 video from the USA is called Andrew Yang: “Medicare For All Is Not The Name Of A Bill” (Yes It Is).

It is the name of a bill by United States senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Andrew Yang is one of many candidates for the Democratic party nomination for the 2020 presidential election. He calls himself Not Left, Not Right. He advocates what he calls ‘Human-Centered Capitalism’. Polls say that he attracts much less support than, eg, Bernie Sanders. Still, he has some support among voters who consider him progressive. As he is younger than other candidates. As he is not a professional politician, but, like Donald Trump in 2016, an ‘outsider’ millionaire businessman in the artificial intelligence business.

So, candidate Yang turns out to be not that progressive on medical care.

He is not that progressive on civil liberties either.

This 1 January 2019 video from the USA is called Andrew Yang: Julian Assange Should Stand Trial.

The United States Trump administration plans a kangaroo court trial against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, for ‘espionage’. That might cause the death penalty or life imprisonment in a torture prison for Assange. While Assange is not a spy, but a whistleblower about war crimes. Spies sell secret documents to foreign governments for money. While WikiLeaks publicises these secret documents about governments misbehaving. So, candidate Yang agrees with the Trump administration on this persecution for whistleblowing on war crimes.

It looks like if of Mr Yang’s slogan ‘Not Left, Not Right’ only the first part is true.

CASTRO DROPS OUT OF 2020 PRESIDENTIAL RACE Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro ended his campaign. Castro, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, would have been the first Latino president, had the voters rallied behind him. He was the first Texas Democrat to run for president since 1976. [HuffPost]

Australian bushfire disasters get worse


This 30 December 2019 video from Australia says about itself:

‘When will this nightmare end?’: Inside Mallacoota’s bushfire ‘apocalypse’ | ABC News

Thousands of residents of Mallacoota in Victoria’s east are enduring a terrifying time dealing with a massive bushfire that’s hit the popular tourist spot.

With much of the town surrounded by flames, hundreds of people were forced to evacuate to the wharf.

But concerns remain with reports that some people were not able to get to the relative safety of the beach.

Read more here.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

On the run from the fire: thousands of Australians to the beach

Thousands of people have fled to the water in coastal towns in south-east Australia because of the fires that became worse and worse. At Mallacoota, 4000 people are stuck on the beach, including many tourists.

Some have fled to the water with boats, others are on jetties. Residents also went to the sea at Bermagui and Batemans Bay.

“The images are incredibly intense”, said correspondent Eva Gabeler in the NOS Radio 1 Journal. “This morning at 9.30 am it was completely dark due to the fires. About ten minutes later, the sky was bright red again. And people also hear loud bangs. That’s because it is a holiday area and camping gas bottles that people have left behind on their flight, explode.”

Unlike the rest of the region, Mallacoota was not evacuated. Yesterday, the authorities thought it was too late and too dangerous to proceed with evacuation.

Surrealistic photos of Mallacoota are on social media.

In the states of Victoria and New South Wales huge fires have been going on for weeks. In both states, emergency warnings have been issued for multiple areas. The death toll caused by the fires has risen to twelve. Today, police found the bodies of a man and his son in a house in Cobargo, New South Wales.

The Prime Minister of Victoria has since asked for help from the Australian army. This could be used to evacuate people and bring food, water and electricity to remote areas. Victoria also asked Canada and the United States to send seventy firefighters.

The end of the fires is not yet in sight. 200 fires have been added since yesterday. The highest warning level applies to sixteen fires.

Fireworks show

Because of the forest fires, the fireworks show in the capital Canberra is cancelled today. In Sydney, traditional fireworks will be set off, despite protests by Australians who believe that the money can be used better, it is inappropriate. A petition against the lighting of these fireworks has been signed a quarter of a million times.

“I also find it uncomfortable to go and look at the fireworks,” says Gabeler. “Four million euros is being shot in the air, while elsewhere the fire brigade has to fight hard against the fires.”

This 30 December 2019 video says about itself:

Holidaymakers flee to water as blaze hits town

Thousands of people have fled into the water at a beachside town in Australia to seek shelter from a massive bushfire bearing down on the area.

Residents said the blaze moved into the Victorian town of Mallacoota on Tuesday morning, throwing embers towards homes.

Online, people posted pictures of a deep-red sky and reported “complete darkness” and choking smoke.

Several popular holiday spots along the coast between Sydney and Melbourne are currently under threat from bushfires.

The most serious “emergency level” blazes span a 500km (310 miles) stretch from Batemans Bay in New South Wales to Bairnsdale in Victoria.

Residents in other beachside communities, including Bermagui in New South Wales, were also reported to have sought shelter in the water, local media reported.

Authorities have told people in these regions – many of them tourists – to stay put because it is too late and dangerous to evacuate.

The major highway in the region has also been closed off.

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said authorities held concerns for four people missing in the region.

“We do have real fears for their safety. They’ve been in active fire environments and we can’t account for them,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

It was a “freakish weather event” that killed a volunteer firefighter on Sunday, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS).

Powerful winds near the New South Wales-Victoria border lifted his 10-tonne truck off the ground and flipped it over, the service said.

Samuel McPaul, 28, was a newlywed who was expecting his first child.

Earlier in December, two volunteer firefighters died while battling a blaze near Sydney.

“To lose one of our own in such extraordinary circumstances is just tragic,” said RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons of the latest death.

Mr McPaul died at the scene, while the driver received minor burns and a third person suffered more serious burns.

A second vehicle was also blown over in the same area and the firefighters on board were taken to hospital, the service said.

Meteorologists say a climate system in the Indian Ocean, known as the dipole, is the main driver behind the extreme heat in Australia.

Temperatures exceeded 40C (104F) in every state at the start of the week, with strong winds and lightning strikes bolstering the flames.

By Mike Head in Australia:

Fires create hellish conditions across Australia

31 December 2019

Samuel McPaul, a 28-year-old volunteer firefighter whose wife is expecting their first child in May, lost his life yesterday fighting the fires that are raging across much of Australia. He was killed when the truck from which he was working was flipped over by what officials described as “cyclonic winds” generated by a “fire tornado” to the east of the regional city of Albury-Wodonga, on the border between the states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. A 39-year-old member of his crew was severely injured and burnt, while the vehicle driver suffered minor injuries.

Samuel McPaul was the third volunteer firefighter to lose their life in the months-long Australian fire disaster, which is reaching a new level of intensity this week due to searing heat, intense winds and electrical storms. Official fire maps show blazes threatening lives and homes in every state and territory.

A mass evacuation order on Monday affecting an entire eastern region of Victoria underscored the severity of the bushfire and heatwave conditions. The state’s Country Fire Authority (CFA) broadcast the order on Sunday: “Everyone in East Gippsland must leave the area today due to the fire danger forecast for tomorrow. Do not travel to this area. It is not possible to provide support and aid to all the visitors currently in the East Gippsland region.”

The unprecedented order covered an area half the size of Belgium, including national parks, villages and towns whose population at this time of the year is swelled by more than 30,000 holidaymakers. People had just hours to pack up and leave.

More than 10 bushfires are burning in East Gippsland, with emergency warnings issued yesterday for dozens of small communities where residents are in danger. “Multiple properties” have been destroyed, according to Victorian authorities. Between 4,000 and 5,000 people in the coastal town of Mallacoota have sought safety on the beach as fire threatened homes and visibility was less than 50 metres.

On Monday, 40-plus degree heat was registered throughout Victoria, along with wind change gusts of up to 80 kilometres per hour and dry lightning strikes. Fires damaged homes in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, the state capital, forcing evacuations.

Fears that the Gippsland fires could close the Princes Highway, the only major road left open in the region, prompted Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp to issue the order to leave East Gippsland.

Crisp said 550 state forest firefighters and 300 CFA volunteers were standing by, as well as 70 helicopters and water-bombing aircraft, but “there isn’t enough trucks to go around.” He warned residents: “So don’t count on a fire truck protecting your particular house. You need to get out of there.”

Crisp’s order, issued with the backing of the state’s Labor Party government, also highlighted the inadequacy of the fire-fighting resources provided by the state and federal governments, which continue to largely rely on exhausted volunteers to deal with one emergency after another.

It was considered too dangerous to send firefighters into the burning forests, so they were confined to protecting key assets and communities. Even then, Gippsland fires incident controller Ben Rankin said not all the properties and small towns were “fully defendable.” If the fire behaved in a particularly aggressive way, even tourist towns could be at risk.

People in Victoria were the most endangered yesterday because of high temperatures, high winds, low humidity and tinder-dry forests, but the crisis has spread throughout the continent since September.

Australia’s record for average maximum temperatures across the country has been broken twice already this month—by more than a degree—adding to the scientific evidence of the complex but undeniable connection between climate change and extreme weather and catastrophes such as fire.

Hellish conditions are being experienced by millions of people, both the residents of areas directly threatened by walls of fire and those in the major cities, including Sydney, where smoke has produced dangerously poor air quality, exceeding official “hazardous” levels, often for days on end.

More than five million hectares have burnt out this “fire season”, with months still to go. More than 1,000 homes have been lost and 10 people have died, including three volunteer firefighters. New South Wales (NSW) has been the worst-affected state so far, with 911 homes destroyed, along with 72 facilities and more than 2,000 outbuildings.

At least 100 fires are burning around the state, with more than 40 uncontained. “Mega-fires” have burnt for weeks to the northwest, west and southwest of the state capital, Sydney, Australia’s largest city with a population of five million. A map published by the Rural Fire Service graphically shows the vast area that has already burnt out and how fire is encroaching ever closer to major towns and the suburban outskirts of Sydney itself. [See map]

The worst fire danger in NSW is expected to come today, as a severe wind change was due to move north up the coast. Conditions in the entire coastal stretch of NSW from the Victorian border up to the greater Sydney region, then moving inland to the Hunter Valley, are rated as extreme.

Yesterday, the temperature in parts of every state and territory soared past 40 degrees Celsius (104F). That included Tasmania, the southern island state closest to Antarctica, where the gauges recorded maximums of 40.2C by midday, breaking century-old heat records.

Tasmanian Fire Service chief officer Chris Arnol warned on Monday that even homes built to the most modern standards could be indefensible as the fire danger reached “extreme” in parts of the state.

In South Australia, firefighters are battling catastrophic fire conditions in the Adelaide Hills, Kangaroo Island, the state’s mid-north and Yorke Peninsula.

Despite recent patches of rain, dozens of fires are still burning in Queensland, where areas of rainforest, previously thought to be immune to fire, have been destroyed in recent months.

Fires are also threatening lives and homes in Western Australia, thousands of kilometres away. Blazes broke containment lines north of the port city of Albany, after blackening more than 16,600 hectares since being sparked by lightning on December 26. Another fire is posing a threat to people south of the Western Australian goldfields, after already burning through 148,000 hectares since mid-December.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison caused outrage earlier this month when he rejected calls for greater resources and for financial assistance for volunteer firefighters. He insisted that volunteers “want to be out there defending their communities.”

Yesterday, however, it was revealed that the number of volunteer firefighters has fallen by about 18,000 over the past decade. Volunteer groups blamed dissatisfaction with an atmosphere of bullying, as well as an ageing cohort, rural population decline and changes to operations.

In NSW, only one in 10 Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers is aged 25 or younger, and the median age of volunteers is more than 50. The destruction of full-time jobs and the reliance of millions of people on on-call contract, casual and temporary employment has made volunteering for fire service untenable for many younger workers.

For weeks, volunteer brigades have complained of poor equipment, especially smoke masks, to cope with such fierce and protracted fires. Some have defied the fire authorities by conducting fund-raising activities to buy better gear.

In an attempt at political damage control, Morrison announced on Sunday the federal government would compensate some NSW volunteer firefighters up to $6,000 each. The backflip came after weeks of demands on the Liberal-National Coalition government to ease the strain on volunteers, some of whom have been fighting fires continuously for months with no financial assistance.

NSW RFS firefighters who are self-employed or work for small or medium-sized businesses can apply for $300 a day, but only after 10 days on the front lines, up to a maximum of $6,000, representing the equivalent of just 20 days’ emergency leave.

Victoria’s Labor government opposed even paying those meagre amounts. Victorian Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said: “This is against the spirit of volunteerism. This is not their second job. This is something they contribute their time, their energy, their commitment to and it’s not about payment.”

Neville echoed Morrison’s initial indifference toward the volunteers, reflecting the longstanding bipartisan policy of imposing the burden of rural and semi-rural firefighting on volunteers.

In another sign of popular disgust, more than 260,000 people have signed a petition to call off tonight’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display on Sydney Harbour, with the funding redirected to drought and bushfire relief. However, both the federal, NSW and local governments declared the need to proceed with the display, which generates some $130 million in revenue for the tourism industry.

Morrison stated: “I think it is important to send a message to the world … We will keep doing what we do normally.” City of Sydney spokeswoman Tanya Goldberg told the media: “Cancelling would seriously hurt Sydney businesses, particularly in the wake of reports of a weaker retail season.”

Millions of people in Australia and internationally, however, are increasingly aware that corporate profit interests is the primary factor blocking any serious action to address climate change and its consequences, including the fire crisis.

Australia’s lethal climate change bushfires


This 30 December 2019 video says about itself:

Elderly man protests [against] climate change | Nine News Australia

A 91-year-old man says he is determined to change the future for his great-great-grandchildren by attending Extinction Rebellion protests [and getting arrested there] to raise awareness of climate change.

2020 is ‘last chance’ to save the planet. ‘We need to change the way we live,’ environmental campaigners warn.

Translated from Dutch daily Trouw, 30 December 2019:

Australia’s right-wing conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison refuses to recognize climate change and extreme weather conditions as the main cause of the fires. Morrison also clearly states he will not tighten climate policy. He said so this month after he had returned early from a family vacation in Hawaii. He received a lot of criticism of the trip because the pleasure trip coincided exactly with the worst fires.

Forest fires are as old as Australia itself, politicians and opinion leaders on the right side of the political spectrum say. They call the forest fires part of a natural cycle that belongs to the country. At the same time, right-wing politicians point the finger at The Greens. The environmentalist party supposedly impeded with stricter rules an important fire-fighting technique: preventative burning.

Right-wing politicians: preventative burning is the cause

For decades, preventive burning of forest parts has been the most important method in Australia to combat the fire hazard. With controlled fire, experts remove the layer consisting of dead leaves and dry branches. This dry biomass is fuel for forest fires. With preventive fires, the amount and composition of that fuel can be temporarily reduced.

The right-wing politicians claim that forest fires are not caused by climate change, but by a lack of preventive fires. But it turns out that in the past year, even more hectares have been preventively burned than the target in New South Wales – the state where the fires are worse than ever before.

And the state government of New South Wales is a coalition of two right-wing political parties, the Liberals (Morrison‘s party) and the National Party; so, not the Greens.

Politicians on the left flank see climate change as the main cause of the fires and propose structural solutions. Eg, the reduction of CO2 emissions in Australia as laid down in the Paris Agreement.

A longer fire season

Meanwhile, leading Australian researchers and scientific institutions are trying to bring their results to attention. The Center for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires (CERMB) sees that higher temperatures and drought due to climate change ensure a longer fire season.

Climate change also endangers the effectiveness of preventive fires. The persistent drought and heat influence the moments when controlled fires can be carried out, says Matthias Boer, professor at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University. Because of extreme weather conditions, it is often too wet or too dry to burn off pieces of forest safely and effectively: it is simply not possible.

Forest areas of millions of hectares

“Australia is the global leader in preventive burning. Both to protect people and houses and to safeguard biodiversity“, says Boer. “The problem is that the favourable conditions that we need for preventative fires are there only for a limited number of days per year. And that limits the size of the area where this management can be performed.”

That means little good for the future. Boer explains that the effectiveness of preventive burning in the future is very likely to decrease. He points to the vast surface of the continent. “We are talking about forest areas of millions of hectares. Suppose you want to treat 5 percent forest with preventative burning, then many days are needed to do that. Preventive burning no longer helps to reduce the number or size of fires if the drought caused by climate change continues in wooded areas.”

Sharnie Moran and her 18-month-old daughter Charlotte look on as thick smoke rises from bushfires near Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour, Tuesday, November 12. There were more than 50 fires burning around the state of New South Wales, with about half of those uncontained

Translated from Eva Gabeler in Dutch daily Trouw, 29 December 2019:

The fires in the Sydney region have never been more intense than this year. Life in the city is changing now that the state of New South Wales is struggling with an unprecedented long burning season.

Tinke Wesseling (39) is no longer surprised by a burning smell in the living room. “When you get up there is a very specific smell,” she says. ”And small black ash particles gather on the windowsill when the windows are open or ajar. It makes me realize that climate change is no longer an abstract concept.”

Wesseling lives within walking distance of one of the most famous beaches in the country: Bondi Beach. She is used to spending a lot of time outside, but has hardly done so in recent weeks. Very often the city is covered in a thick layer of smoke. Since November, Sydney experienced around forty days when the air quality was poor. Twenty days were downright dangerous.

Australia is experiencing a disproportionately long burning season with a real fire hazard from October to March. That is two months longer than before the turn of the century. In terms of size, this year’s forest fires in New South Wales, the state where Sydney is located, are an absolute record. Never before has such a large percentage of the East Australian forest area been destroyed by fire in a single year.

A collective of 29 experts in the field of emergency and fire fighting services already warned the government at the beginning of this year. Their message: due to climate change, the fires start earlier, they are fiercer and rage in more places in the country.

Australians blame Prime Minister Scott Morrison for not listening to the advice of the so-called “Emergency Leaders for Climate Action” in April. Early intervention would have given the government the option of renting more fire extinguishing aeroplanes, for example. They could have helped with the hundreds of fires.

Bothered by the smoke

Nine people died, more than a thousand homes were destroyed and thousands of outbuildings were swept annihilated. Hundreds of people had to evacuate. Taken together, an area larger than the Netherlands burned down in Australia.

… Sydneysiders, as the inhabitants of the city are called, regularly suffer from smoke. Prolonged exposure to smoke and ash particles is harmful, warns a group of more than twenty doctors. They call the consequences of the smoke an emergency for public health.

The smoke comes from the mountain area at Gospers Mountain. There, five forest fires have merged into one large, unquenchable fire. Only substantial rainfall can still extinguish the flames. But that rain is not expected before February.

Not all days are equally harmful to health. Sydney is smoke-free in a south wind. But even on lesser days, the poor quality of the air penetrates Wesseling’s home. Suddenly, mouth caps appear in the streets of Sydney and air filter systems are completely sold out. On bad days, the quality of the air is worse than in cities such as Delhi and Beijing.

Apocalyptic

Wesseling also purchased a dust mask when the air quality deteriorated for a long time. She works as a managing director in the business area of ​​the city, an area similar to the Amsterdam Zuidas with many head offices of large companies and law firms.

She says that the dust masks have been distributed in the office and the normal work rhythm on smoky days is being adjusted. “When air pollution got worse and the air became apocalyptic, we got dust masks for everyone at the office. Safety and health are paramount. That means that travelling on bad days can be limited or cancelled as much as possible.”

More large offices took that measure in early December. Public life came to a standstill for one day. Fire alarms went off everywhere because of the smoke that stuck in the city. The ferry service was stopped. Schools were closed. Wesseling: “At the place where we work, the quality of the air was ten times worse than the limit that is considered dangerous.”

Warragamba, the largest water collection area in the city, is also threatened by the surrounding fires. A risk is on the one hand direct damage to the pumping station by the flames, on the other hand, the contamination of the water with ash, resulting in the growth of algae.

Wesseling is impressed by the emergency services around the forest fires. Australia has the largest voluntary fire brigade in the world. “So they are people who are extinguishing fires for weeks next to their paid job. I also have a number of colleagues who are committed to helping during the forest fires. I find that very special.”

Apps

Wesseling has now downloaded two apps on her phone that she views several times a day. One app gives her information about the status of the forest fires, the other about the air quality. “If the air quality turns out to be poor, for example hazardous, I try to minimize exposure to the polluted air. A strange sensation, because many people here – including myself – can normally be found outside during the summer in Sydney. I really hope that the fires will come under control quickly and that we can prevent such a situation in the future.”

But for the time being the fires have not been extinguished and the burning season continues, currently most intense in the states of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. Although 80 millimetres of rain fell in some places after Christmas, the rainfall in the places with the most severe fires was minimal.

A little bit of rain provides temporary relief, but does not offer a lasting solution, says the Bureau of Meteorology, the national weather institute of Australia. When the hot, dry wind blows again, the flames flare up again.

This 21 December 2019 video says about itself:

Bushfires are common during the summer in Australia, but firefighters say this year’s conditions are catastrophic.

At least eight people have been killed since September, including two firefighters who died on Thursday when their truck was hit by a falling tree.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison cut short his holiday to Hawaii and issued a rare public apology in response to mounting anger.

Australia’s not alone in having to deal with ferocious fires this year. There were more than 16-hundred recorded in Europe, large parts of the Amazon rainforest have been destroyed, and tens of thousands of hectares of land and hundreds of buildings in California.

And we’ve seen wildfires in the Arctic too – more than 100 – a sign of warming conditions in one of the coldest places on Earth.

Is the political will there to tackle the problem?

Presenter:

Folly Bah Thibault

Guests:

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University.
Martin Wooster, professor and chairman of Earth Observation Science at King’s College London.
Emmanuel Raju, associate professor of disaster risk management at the University of Copenhagen.

By James Cogan in Australia, 30 December 2019:

Worsening Australian fires pose the need for urgent action on climate change

30 December 2019

The risk to life and property posed by the fires burning across large swathes of the Australian continent will increase over the coming days, due to a combination of extreme heat, electrical storms and the over-stretching of largely volunteer emergency services.

In the state of Victoria, authorities issued evacuation warnings yesterday to residents and some 30,000 holiday makers in the entire East Gippsland district—an area the Guardian observed that is half the size of Belgium. The southern island state of Tasmania is predicted to experience its hottest day in well over a century and possibly since records were taken. The state of South Australia will once again bake in heatwave temperatures well over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, will also face temperatures over 40C. The city of five million is ringed by fires that have been burning, in some cases, since September. The internationally admired New Years’ Eve fireworks display over Sydney Harbour may yet be cancelled due to the heightened fire risk. In parts of the country, including the capital Canberra, music festivals and fireworks have already been called off.

The “fire emergency”, as it has been dubbed, has brought into stark relief the consequences of climate change caused by long-term carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. For millions of working-class people, especially younger people, the issue is no longer considered the subject of a legitimate debate. They not only want action to assist their communities prepare for, and respond, to immediate challenges, but the long-term, worldwide change needed to reduce the threat posed by global warming.

Global temperatures have increased by approximately one degree Celsius since the end of the 19th century, with the largest rise taking place since the mid-20th century. Climate scientists do not claim that global warming is the “cause” of weather events that dramatically impact on the lives of millions of people—whether it be drought, fire, flood, snowstorms, wind, or hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones. They have insisted, however, that it is amplifying the scale, intensity and destructiveness of such events, and their warnings are being verified.

While the Australian continent has always been dry, hot and prone to fires, a fundamental shift in climate is taking place. As of 2018, nine of the 10 hottest years on record had occurred since 2005. This year continued the trend, with the hottest daily record being broken on December 16 and then broken again on December 17, with an average temperature across the country of 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Rainfall averages have fallen in the south-east of the continent, where most people live, leading to more intense droughts and a longer fire season. In contrast, in the tropical north, rainfall averages have increased, leading to more intense monsoons. In just 12 days in January–February 2019, more than 2,000 millimetres of rain fell in parts of the northern state of Queensland, causing devastating flooding.

In the drought-affected areas of the continent, major blazes broke out from late August–early September, including in rainforests in southern Queensland and northern NSW where fire generally does not take hold. As the year draws to a close—and with the traditionally hottest and most dangerous summer months of the fire season still to come—well over three million hectares of forest have gone up in flames and over 1,000 homes destroyed. Sydney and other densely populated cities have been repeatedly blanketed with toxic smoke for days on end, with as yet unknown long-term health implications.

No region or nation-state on the planet is immune to the impact of climate change.

This month’s annual report by the organisation Christian Aid on “climate disasters”, for example, identified 15 events in 2019 that caused over $1 billion in damage. They include floods in South America, Australia, the US, Iran, China, North India and Spain; the windstorms, hurricanes or typhoons that tore across southern Africa, the Indian subcontinent, northern Europe, China, Japan, and the Caribbean and southeast US; and, in the closest parallel to the current situation in Australia, the wildfires that ravaged California.

Fire has also engulfed millions of hectares of forest in Siberia this year, as well as large areas of rain forest in the Amazon and Borneo.

The statistics published on the extent of ice melt in the Arctic and Antarctic are among the most alarming, due to the implications for sea-level rise and the potential inundation of regions populated by hundreds of millions of people. Preliminary reports published in recent days by the University of Liege suggest that November–December 2019 has witnessed the largest ever recorded daily surface ice melts in Antarctica.

The challenges and threat posed by climate change will only become more acute over the coming years. Despite decades of warnings and endless promises to take action, the capitalist classes and their governments continue to preside over an ongoing increase in carbon emissions. If current trends are not checked, the consensus among scientists is that the planet will continue to warm rapidly and exponentially.

Scientific study has established what needs to be done to stem global warming to manageable levels. The use of fossil fuels as the main source for energy generation and transportation must be radically reduced, combined with reforestation and the large-scale deployment of artificial means of capturing carbon—promising examples of which are in advanced stages of testing.

The obstacles to carrying out what is necessary on a world scale are also identifiable. The chief one is the subordination of economic life to the accumulation of private profit for the capitalist class. The future of billions of people is literally being put at risk for the short-term profit interests of the financial and corporate oligarchy that owns and controls the productive forces.

The latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates that the fortunes of the richest 500 individuals increased this year by a total of $1.2 trillion, a 25 percent rise over 2018. Their collective net worth now comes to $5.9 trillion. Much of this unearned wealth is derived, either directly or indirectly, from the 100 or so transnational energy conglomerates that are responsible for 70 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and which have used their influence to hinder or outright block a transition to non-carbon forms of energy generation and transportation.

At the same time, the outmoded division of world into rival nation states has blocked the development of an international, scientifically based plan able to address the dangers of climate change. Each nation-state, and particularly the major powers led by the United States, has worked instead to protect the profitability of “their” corporations and wealthy elites at the expense of their rivals.

One of the clearest expressions of the irrationality of the capitalist nation-state system is the dedication of vast scientific resources and trillions of dollars to the preparation of war, while summit after summit on climate change ends in token measures, recriminations, handwringing, and paralysis.

The social force that is capable of taking control of the productive forces on a world scale out of the hands of the capitalist oligarchy and its political servants—before they drag humanity into the abyss—is the international working class. Through socialist planning and the reorganisation of economic life and a vast redistribution of wealth to meet human needs rather than private profit, the challenges posed by climate change can be met.

Murdoch’s Fox News helps measles epidemic


After the contribution to a sometimes lethal measles epidemic by the right-wing Ukrainian government; after the contribution to measles in the Caribbean by the Scientology cult; now the contribution by the Rupert Murdoch empire. This video says about it:

Fox News Pedals Measles Propaganda

Fox News is promoting the false notion that measles isn’t really a big deal. John Iadarola discusses on The Damage Report.

Measles erases the immune system’s memory. Beyond the rash, the infection makes it harder for the body to remember and attack other invaders: here.

6,000 DEAD FROM MEASLES OUTBREAK IN CONGO The death toll from a measles epidemic in Congo has surpassed 6,000, the World Health Organization said as it warned that more funds are needed to save lives during the world’s worst outbreak of the infectious disease. [AP]