climate change

When thousands of people hit Melbourne's streets on May 1 to protest planned closures of Aboriginal communities, the Herald Sun followed up its front page denunciation of a similar April 9 protest as a “selfish rabble” with a special double page-spread under the headline: “Still Selfish. Still A Rabble.”

Politicians, both Labor and Liberal, have spent years defending this county’s pitiful efforts on tackling climate change with the excuse that Australia “can’t go it alone” — it has to wait for other countries to commit to action on climate change. The same excuse was often echoed in the media.

In particular, the lack of action by the US and China were cited as the reasons why Australia should commit to doing little or nothing.

Why would a 54 year-old woman make a decision to lock herself onto the train tracks of the world’s biggest coal port?

Annette Schneider, an artist and farmer from Monaro in NSW, explained to Green Left Weekly that her action on March 31 was a direct result of her fear of catastrophic climate change.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has released a report titled Australia’s top 10 climate polluters. It reveals that these 10 polluters — and it’s no surprise that most are electricity suppliers - are responsible for generating nearly one-third of greenhouse gases through their production and use of energy.

Malaysia is still reeling from the impact of the worse monsoonal flooding in decades over December and early January. Five people have been killed and the number of people displaced has exceeded the previous record of 100,000 in the 2008 monsoonal season. Ordinary people responded quickly and generously to the floods and civil society groups and individuals pulled together relief campaigns while the government response was slow.

Breakthrough 2014, National Climate Restoration Forum, held over June 21 to 22 in Melbourne, brought together scientists, economists, engineers, business leaders and climate activists.

In some regards, the forum represented an important step forward for the Australian climate movement. It highlighted the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis and discussed the possibility of restoring a reasonably safe climate in which human civilisation could continue.

Another round of United Nations climate talks were being negotiated in Warsaw, Poland, this week when the strongest typhoon recorded to hit land swept across the Philippines before moving on to Vietnam.

Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, has killed an estimated 10,000 people in the area of Tacloban, mostly from the strong tsunami-like storm surges that accompanied the typhoon. Entire villages were flattened and a large rescue effort is underway to evacuate survivors.

The gulf between the science and the politics of climate change has never been wider. Consider the Arctic ice cap, which has lost half its volume in the five years from 2005. Experts say the Arctic ice cap is now in a “death spiral”. The region is warming two to four times faster than the global average.

James Hansen resigned from his position as director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in April to devote more time to campaigning to cut global carbon emissions. In addition to his scientific research on climate change, Hansen has been arrested several times in recent years at protests against coal mining and tar sands mining. Bravo James Hansen — precious few scientists and academics live and breathe their politics as he does.

As this century progresses, the record high temperatures experienced across Australia in the past few months will no longer be dangerous departures from the norm, but a regular feature of Australian summers. This is one of the conclusions reached in a draft of the fifth assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was leaked and published online last month.

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