Monday, February 4, 2019

Politician responses to the record extreme heat for Australia January 2019


I've done some tracking on twitter across the political divide on climate and the heatwave events, going back to 22 December 2018 (the start of Christmas/New Year 1st heatwave event). December and January were record hot for Australia.


On the Federal level both ALP and Green politicians have made the link between climate change and extreme heat events. Bill Shorten and Mark Butler for the Labor Party, and Richard Di Natalie and Adam Bandt for the Greens have all used twitter to make this connection. Mark Butler put out a media release on: Heat wave, Climate Change and Power Outages.

At the State level politicians have been more circumspect and more focused on emergency, safety and heat health. Particularly strong heat health messaging from Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos.

Labor politicians, particularly in Victoria are promoting the building of solar and wind farms to increase the level of renewables in our grid. During the end of January heatwave it was ageing coal that came under stress and failed, forcing load shedding.

NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley came out at the peak of a heatwave promising a pilot program for use of public buildings for extended hours as cool refuges, particularly for those more vulnerable who don't have air conditioning.

"Unfortunately, these soaring temperatures are set to continue and they hit the young and the elderly the hardest. Many families are simply unable turn on air conditioning due to crippling electricity costs.

A Daley Labor Government will trial opening air-conditioned government and council buildings such as art galleries and libraries, as 'respite cooling centres’ to help the vulnerable during heatwaves." Michael Daley said on Facebook. This was reported by SBS news.

The NSW Liberal Government Minister for Health Brad Hazzard was totally absent in messaging on twitter on heat health during extreme heat or heatwaves over December and January.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Federal Environment Minister Melissa Price were notably absent in any mention of climate change and only Greg Hunt warned in passing of leaving children in cars during extreme heat.

The one conservative MP that did have a slightly higher profile, warning of heat health impacts of extreme heat in one tweet was Ken Wyatt, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Minister for Indigenous Health. Ken Wyatt also attended a strategy session in Canberra with the Climate and Health Alliance and launched the Climate and Health Alliance publication: Framework for a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Wellbeing in June 2017. (See article on tri-partisan support for this strategy at Croakey News)

The overall poor interaction on climate policy heatwaves and health by the conservative side of politics is why we need the Federal election to be held by May 2019 to be a climate election.

Conservative politicians continue to ignore the climate science, the public health and safety need to rapidly address climate action. We are already in a climate crisis, it is a climate emergency and the Liberal and National Parties have utterly failed to take necessary action to ensure our safety into the future.



Bill shorten (Labor Leader)
January 24 tweet linking the numerous heat records broken in Adelaide and South Australia with climate change: "Adelaide’s hottest day. How hot does it have to get before the current government does something on climate change?"


Not specifically on climate change, but definitely heatwave implicated: On January 20 Bill Shorten tweeted: "I’ve asked the Australian Academy of Science to provide the Opposition with scientific advice on the recent fish kills in the Murray-Darling. They’ve agreed. They will report back to me before Parliament returns."


And a follow up to a Jan 14 tweet on the Darling River fishkill: "I’m calling for Scott Morrison to convene an emergency scientific taskforce to investigate the shocking fish kills in the Murray Darling & recommend actions to improve the health of the river. This is an ecological disaster & an unfolding emergency. It should be treated as such."


A couple of announcements on renewables on 31 December but only one made an overt mention of climate change and neither mentioned heatwave


Mark Butler MP (Labor climate spokesperson)
tweeted on Jan 25 the BOM special climate statement on the heatwaves: ".@BOM_au ‘s Special Climate Statement details an extraordinary summer of heat - even before this week’s scorchers! 7 of the 10 highest max and 8 of the 10 highest average temperatures in Oz ever have all happened this summer. And still the Morrison Govt fiddles on climate change."


Butler followed that up with a tweet on January 25 and media release on the need to retire ageing coal plants: "We have known for years that we need to plan for the replacement of ageing coal power stations with the most affordable and clean replacement generation possible. All experts agree that is renewables backed by storage and firming technology."


HEAT WAVE, CLIMATE CHANGE AND POWER OUTAGES

Today, Victorians are experiencing power outages as the result of a record breaking heatwave and outages at ageing coal fired power stations.

Labor’s thoughts are with the people of Victoria affected by power outages as they struggle with the record breaking heat that impacted South Australia yesterday.

We urge all Victorians to take the necessary steps to keep cool, and to ensure their family, friends and neighbours are safe.

While it is incredibly hard to attribute any single event to climate change, There can be no doubt this heatwave is exactly the type of impact from climate change that scientists have been warning about for years.

The Bureau of Meteorology has already issued a special climate statement in response to the heatwaves we’re seeing this summer, noting this past December was the warmest December on record and that 8 out of the top ten average temperatures in Australia have occurred this summer.

In these conditions, it is no surprise that ageing coal fired power stations fail, putting incredible stress on the NEM and ultimately leading to power outages.

We have known for years that we need to plan for the replacement of ageing coal power stations with the most affordable and clean replacement generation possible. All experts agree that is renewables backed by storage and firming technology.

Yet the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government has presided over unprecedented energy policy chaos for 5 years, because they simply cannot overcome their ideological, anti-renewable crusade.

Rather than delivering national energy policy that will give certainty to investors to move ahead with the investment we need to modernise our electricity system, they threaten forced divestment and taxpayer funded new coal plants.

Energy Minister Taylor has already used today’s events to spruik his plan for taxpayer funded new coal plants.

To respond to the impacts of record heatwaves on the electricity system by arguing for more, let alone taxpayer funded, coal plants is the height of climate change denialism, irresponsibility and cynicism.

It shows a blatant and dangerous disregard for the advice of scientists, energy experts and common sense.

It needs to stop, and it will only stop with the election of a Labor Government.

Richard Di Natale (Greens leader)
retweeted Bill Shorten's tweet on January 24 on heat records being broken, raising the coal export issue. "80% of the coal Australia digs up is shipped off overseas. We’re the world’s biggest coal exporter. How hot does it have to get before we do something about our biggest contribution to global warming?"



Adam Bandt - (Greens - Melbourne) Greens Climate spokeperson
January 26 - "Coal helps makes it hotter but then can’t handle the heat. 100% renewables + storage needed as quickly as we possibly can. #Greens"


January 24: "IT’S THE COAL THAT IS MAKING IT HOTTER"



Sarah Henderson MP (Liberal - Corangamite)
Had Environment Minister Melissa Price visit on January 22. "Thank you @Melissa4Durack for visiting the #Otways to investigate Labor’s mismanagement of the Barwon Downs Borefield. Excessive water extraction has caused terrible environmental damage & worsening flows in Barwon River. The acquifer must be closed."
https://twitter.com/SHendersonMP/status/1087627018991132673

Melissa Price has not mentioned on twitter the Darling River Fishkill or death of wild horses in central Australia, or environmental impact of the heatwaves.

My comment:



Greg Hunt (Liberal - Flinders) Minister for Health
No mention of climate, heatwave or heat health issues, or adopting a national climate and health strategy. About as close as Hunt came on heatwave and health was a warning on January 4 against leaving kids in cars on hot days. "Every year in Australia more than 5000 children are rescued after being left alone in hot cars. The temperature inside a parked car could be 20-30 degrees hotter than outside. With Mornington Peninsula temperatures to be above 40 today, don’t risk it!"


Ken Wyatt (Liberal - Hasluck) Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Minister for Indigenous Health
One would expect that as senior Australians and those in aged care are vulnerable to heat health impacts there would be some social media on twitter regarding heatwave warning. Ken Wyatt attended a strategy session by the Climate and Health Alliance a couple of years ago.

January 20: retweeted from Neil Bennett a tweet on hottest day in Perth: "Max temp for #Perth today was 42.1°C. Hottest day in Perth since 21st Dec 2016 when 42.4°C was recorded. #PerthWeather. Hottest in #WA today was Shark Bay Airport with 46.8°C. http://www.bom.gov.au/places/wa/ "


January 15: "With this nation-wide heatwave, make sure to check on you loved ones; whether it’s your neighbours, family, or friends! Seniors are at a higher risk of heat-related Illness. Remember to stay hydrated and remain indoors or in a cool place
@LASANational @ACSANational @COTAAustralia"



He also retweeted Greg Hunt's January 4 tweet on not leaving children in cars.

Michael Daley (NSW Labor Opposition leader)
January 17: NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley promises heat refuges pilot..."Unfortunately, these soaring temperatures are set to continue and they hit the young and the elderly the hardest. NSWLabor will trial opening air-conditioned public buildings as 'cooling centres’ to help the vulnerable during heatwaves.


On January 16 Daley retweeted NSW Labor tweet on air-conditioning for regional areas: "Regional communities are missing out on air conditioning thanks to another Berejiklian Government bungle"


On January 11 Daley retweeted NSW Labor on cool schools policy of air-conditioning all schools in NSW: "Labor wants children to have the best learning environment possible as part of a world class education system. ❄️ That means they aren't fatigued in a sweltering classroom in the height of summer."


Early to Mid January: Daley made numerous tweets on the Darling river and Menindee Lakes fish kills and water mismanagement (also associated with heatwave conditions and change in temperature)

Late January: numerous tweets on increasing number of firefighters due to increase in bushfires (implied by increase in heatwaves and fireweather)

Gladys Berejiklian (NSW Premier)

January 9 announcement on air conditioning Bomaderry High School: "Pleased to announce Bomaderry High School will be receiving air–conditioning for all it’s classrooms as part of the NSW Government $500 million program to cool thousands of classrooms across the state. @garethjward #coolclassrooms #BomaderryHighSchool"


and another announcement air-conditioning at Goulburn High school on January 16: "Temperature at Goulburn High: 35°🌡 Goulburn High is one of more than 900 schools that will be getting cooler classrooms as part of our $500 million investment - the largest investment of its kind in NSW history.@PruGoward"


January 17 heatwave warning to stay cool: "As NSW continues its heatwave until the weekend. I want to encourage everyone to stay cool, stay well hydrated and where possible limit outdoor activity during the middle of the day."


Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews
On January 4 retweeted an Ambulance Victoria tweet: "2 degrees today ☀️ Extreme heat kills more Australians than any natural disaster. Don’t leave kids or pets in cars, keep your fluids up and remember that the young and old are at risk. We’ll have your backs today but you can help us by looking after yourselves and each other."


Also on January 4 retweeted the Victorian Emergency Commissioner tweet: "We have a lot of firefighters and emergency management personnel across the State ready to manage today’s challenges. State Response Controller Tim Wiebusch has briefed those in the State Control Centre about our focus on fire and heat. Take care today."

There were several tweets on large solar panel and wind farm announcements made.

On January 25 a tweet on the hottest day since Black Friday in 2009:


Victorian Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio

December 26 retweeted Forest Fire Management on the extreme heatwave: "SEVERE HEAT WAVE conditions are forecast for most of Victoria from today extending in to the weekend, with the possibility of EXTREME HEAT WAVE conditions in the north east of the state over the coming days. Beat the heat with these 5 tips https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/heat #survivetheheat"

Numerous tweets on bushfires, solar and wind farm announcements.

January 25 Lily D'Ambrosio describing the failure of coal power generators in the extreme heat causing load shedding to be implemented.


Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos

December 24: retweeted Vic Emergency tweet on preparing for extreme heat and bushfires: "We're in for a hot week! Temperatures are expected to hit 40 degrees and above over the coming four to five days, particularly in areas north of the divide. Plan ahead for the heat, and if you're camping extinguish your campfires properly."

January 1: retweeted Bureau of Meteorology tweet on extreme heat: "A summer scorcher expected on Friday! Temperatures 44 to 46 deg in the north, 40 -42 in the south. A gusty southwest change late Friday leading to a cooler weekend. Check the forecast here: http://ow.ly/VJ0h50k4Dp8 #MelbWeather"

January 14: retweeted Department of Health tweet on extreme heat and human health. This was one of several original messages and retweets:


January 22: Ministerial statement on extreme heat


January 25: extreme heat impact on human health:


Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Treasurer Josh Frydneberg

Mo mention of climate policy or heatwave in late December and all of January on their twitter timelines. The Federal Government is absent on taking effective action on climate change.

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