Thursday, July 2, 2015
Heatwave: hottest July day on record for Britain, Records broken in France, Red alert for Switzerland
Currently in Europe a blocking high, called an Omega Block, is situated over Western Europe due to a large bend in the jetstream causing heatwave conditions in England, Spain, Portugal, France, etc, with conditions likely to continue for at least several days.
What causes the increased waviness in the jetstream? The reduced temperature differential between the Arctic and mid latitudes. These conditions are similar to the 2003 heatwave that killed 70,000 people. People are more alert now, but there is still a high health risk, and of course an elevated fire risk. I reported on how climate change is affecting extreme weather including more intense heatwaves in Arctic amplification, the Jet stream and Extreme weather in Northern Hemisphere in March 2013.
A recent study published this year found that Seventy Five percent of heatwaves now attributed to climate change on a global level. Cities are also to get much hotter as heatwaves amplify the Urban Heat Island Effect.
On Wednesday 1 July the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) jointly issued guidance on heat health alert systems. While France adopted a heat health warning system after the 2003 heatwave that killed 14,000 French citizens (over 70,000 heatwave related deaths across Europe), many countries still have no heatwave alert warning system and health risk education program. Indeed, we have just seen over a thousand reported deaths in the heatwave in Pakistan, and over 2,000 deaths in a heatwave in India in May and June.
“Heatwaves are a dangerous natural hazard, and one that requires increased attention,” said Maxx Dilley, Director of WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch, and Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “They lack the spectacular and sudden violence of other hazards, such as tropical cyclones or flash floods but the consequences can be severe.”
Friday, June 26, 2015
On Tuesday in Washington State King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill issued a judgement ordering the Washington Department of Ecology to reconsider a citzen petition on rulemaking for greenhouse gas reductions according to the best available science.
The petition (PDF) was brought by eight children and their legal guardians for a Department rule to recommend to the State Legislature an effective emissions reduction trajectory that is based on best available climate science, and will achieve safe atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide by 2100.
The petition for rule making was lodged with the Ecology Department in June 2014, but was denied by the Department in August 2014, which provided no argument disputing the scientific arguments in the children's petition. The Children lodged an appeal which was heard by Judge Hollis.
Their petition recommended that Washington’s minimum statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits should be updated according to the best available climate science for climate recovery to achieve a four percent annual reduction in overall carbon dioxide emissions in the state so that a target of 31 per cent reduction is achieved by 2020, 62 percent reduction by 2035, and 80 percent reduction by 2050.
The Pacific Declaration for climate Justice signed by several Pacific Nations on June 8, 2015, threatens legal action to recover damages against major climate polluters.
Developed nations and corporations that have contributed substantially to greenhouse gases and carbon pollution enhancing climate change impacts may be subjected to litigation brought by Pacific Island Nations.
Forty representatives of several Pacific Island Nations gathered in early June on the azure waters of Port Vila, Vanuatu, on board the Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior. They were attending a Human Rights and Climate Justice Workshop.
President of Vanuatu, Baldwin Londsdale, and representatives from Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji and Solomon Islands met and signed a declaration seeking "climate justice". They were joined by representatives from the Philippines, including former national climate negotiator Mr. Naderev “Yeb” Saño and the Mayor of Dolores, Samar, Mrs. Emiliana Villacarillo.
"It is now more important than ever before that we stand united as affected communities in the face of climate change, rising sea-levels and changing weather patterns. Let us continue to stand and work together in our fight against the threats of climate change," said Vanuatu President, H.E Baldwin Lonsdale.
The declaration for climate justice declared
"We commit to holding those most responsible for climate change accountable. By doing so, we send a message of hope that the people and not the polluters are in charge of humanity’s destiny. We commit to bring a case that would investigate the human rights implications of climate change and hold the big carbon polluters accountable to appropriate international bodies or processes."
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
A Dutch court in a landmark legal case has just handed down a verdict that the Netherlands Government has the legal duty to take measures against #climate change. Further, the court ordered that a 25% reduction of CO2 emissions, based on 1990 levels, must be accomplished by 2020 by the Dutch government in accordance with IPCC scientific recommendations for industrial countries.
The Urgenda Foundation filed a lawsuit against the Dutch Government for not taking sufficient measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause dangerous climate change. According to the Urgenda website, it "is the first case in Europe in which citizens attempt to hold a state responsible for its potentially devastating inaction. It is also the first case in the world in which human rights are used as a legal basis to protect citizens against climate change."
More Reports: The Guardian | RTCC | New York Times | BBC
Pakistan is suffering a scorching heatwave with temperatures reaching in the high 40s away from the coast. The port city of Karachi has recorded temperatures of 45 degrees with an escalating death toll now numbering up to 800 people according to Al Jazeera.
The National Disaster Authority has been mobilised to assist people and to educate people on how to prevent heat stroke. Military forces have also been mobilized to establish emergency camps to help with rehydration and treatment of heatstroke, according to a Government of Pakistan report published at the United Nations Reliefweb.
The onset of the Heatwave occurred as the Festival of Ramadan commenced which mandates fasting for healthy adults during daylight hours. Forgoing food and water with scorching temperatures poses additional health risks, especially to more vulnerable people such as the elderly, the young, or those already sick.
Friday, June 5, 2015
Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio talking up Labor's positive climate action on energy, while ignoring the elephant in the room, Victoria's brown coal - June 3, 2015
Victoria is taking steps to lead on climate change action, according to the Victorian Premier Dan Andrews. In an announcement on Thursday the Premier said an independent review of the Climate Change Act 2010 would be established to report to the government before 31 December 2015, and tabled in early 2016 along with a Government response.
Environment Minister Lisa Neville said “Climate change is already happening, and it is threatening to irreversibly affect our communities, our environment and our way of life.”
The committee will propose options to strengthen the Act, so it can provide a strong foundation for Victorian action on climate change. The original Act was passed with the support of opposition parties. After the election of the Baillieu Government most of the measures and targets were wound back or abolished in the legislation.
This article was published in it's original form at nofibs.com.au.
Australia's climate targets and climate action mechanisms were under the international microscope in Bonn today and found to be very unambitous, with veiled criticism of the inadequacy of Australia's policies in terms of comparative global action and failure to address fair and equitable global outcomes.
In the leadup to Paris climate conference in December there are a number of preparatory meetings and a multilateral assessment process whereby countries can ask questions of each other's climate targets and climate action mechanisms. Going into the climate conference in Bonn, Australia had a list of 29 pages of questions and answers, far more than any other nation. There were further questions asked in person at the session, and mostly very inadequate responses by Australia.
I actually felt sorry for the Australian diplomats led by our UN ambassador Peter Woolcott. They earned their salary today arguing a very unambituous government policy that denigrates Australian diplomacy on climate at the United Nations. You can see their despondency in their body language in the photo below:
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
On Saturday I dragged myself out of bed early to catch a 7am train to Southern Cross station. I had committed myself to journeying with a party of Greens supporters, including the State MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell and the Federal MP Adam Bandt, to the town of Morwell in the heart of the LaTrobe Valley. This is where much of Victoria's electricity is generated from three huge thermal power station complexes and three huge open cut mines where lignite is easily extracted.
I travelled to Morwell to listen to members of the local community on the future of coal, and their concerns over health and economic transitioning. Some of them understand that the future of coal is coming to an end and requires transition planning, and this needs to be done actively on a local community level.
Morwell is a town of 14,000 with the Hazelwood open cut pit within a few hundred metres of the south side of the town. On the south side of the pit sits Hazelwood power station, owned by GDF Suez Australian Energy. About 100,000 people live within 20 kilometres of this mine. A major mine fire at Hazelwood in February-March 2014 that became one of Victoria's worst industrial disasters, provided a wakeup call to the local community.
Hazelwood is one of the most polluting power stations, not only in Australia but in the industrial world, according to the OECD, both in regard to the toxic cocktail of chemicals it daily emits into the air and water, and the carbon emissions intensity it spews into the air of the Latrobe Valley. Carbon emissions are currently 15.5 MT CO2e per year, with carbon intensity of 1.4 Tonnes CO2/MWh. Just this one facility produces about 15 per cent of Victoria’s total carbon emissions. The power station is also a major consumer of water: 1.31 megalitres of water is consumed per gigawatt hour of power generated.
While ensuring the growth of renewables is important, ultimately closing the ageing power stations like Hazelwood that generate high carbon emissions is essential to ensure a safe climate for ourselves and future generations. To ensure we stay under the two degree Celsius limit that all government's that are signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), including Australia, agreed to do at Cancun in 2010.
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
India swelters through deadly heatwave while awaiting monsoon arrival. With heat wave temperatures continuing to hit 46C and 47C across parts of India, heat related deaths are quickly rising. The death toll as of Friday 29 May stands at over 1800 official heat-related deaths and rising, most from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. While India awaits arrival of the monsoon, the lack of thunder storms and clear skies has allowed temperatures to rise, with UV radiation reaching dangerously extreme levels, as the heat blows in from Pakistan. With rising temperatures associated with climate change, extreme heatwaves are expected to start earlier in the pre-monsoon season, last longer and be more intense.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Green roofs can substantially improve attention response and productivity of nearby people, according to new research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
The study, conducted by University of Melbourne researchers, assessed the impact of a 40 second micro-break comparing a city green rooftop vista with one of city concrete rooftop structures. Subjects who viewed the green rooftop vista performed tasks with significantly less errors than those who viewed the concrete rooftop vista.
Study lead researcher Dr Kate Lee, of the University of Melbourne Faculty of Science, outlined in a media statement that just a moment of seeing some green nature can provide a boost for tired workers.
"We know that green roofs are great for the environment, but now we can say that they boost attention too. Imagine the impact that has for thousands of employees working in nearby offices," Dr Lee said. "This study showed us that looking at an image of nature for less than a minute was all it took to help people perform better on our task."