Australian news, and some related international items

Scott Morrison’s govt under pressure for its lack of climate policy

Australia bushfires: PM’s climate stance criticised as thousands flee blazes
Scott Morrison’s government under pressure as fires feared to have killed 17 people,
Guardian,  Ben Smee , Calla Wahlquist Helen Davidson in Sydney and Jon Henley– 2 Jan 2020

Navy ships and army aircraft have been dispatched to help fight devastating bushfires on Australia’s south-east coast that are feared to have killed at least 17 people, amid a spiralling debate over the government’s stance on the climate emergency.

Thousands of people have fled apocalyptic scenes, abandoning their homes and huddling on beaches to escape raging columns of flame and smoke that have plunged whole towns into darkness and destroyed more than 4m hectares of land.

Thousands of firefighters were still battling more than 100 blazes in New South Wales (NSW) state and nearly 40 in Victoria on Wednesday, with new fires being sparked daily by hot and windy conditions and, more recently, dry lightning strikes created by the fires themselves.

At the end of Australia’s hottest-ever decade, Canberra, the capital, was blanketed in a cloud of dense smoke that left its air quality more than 21 times the hazardous rating and could be seen more than 1,200 miles (2,000km) away, on the South Island of New Zealand, where it turned the daytime sky orange.

Fanned by soaring temperatures, strong winds and a terrible three-year drought, huge blazes have ravaged a tinder-dry landscape, causing immense destruction: since November, more than 900 homes have been lost in NSW alone.

With three months of the summer still to go, the early and devastating start to the country’s fire season has led authorities to rate it the worst on record and prompted urgent questions about whether the conservative government of the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has taken enough action on global heating.

Polls show a large majority of Australians see the climate emergency as an urgent threat and want tougher government action, but Morrison has focused instead on the nation’s response to the bushfire crisis and defending Australian business, while other government officials have publicly disparaged climate activists.

In his New Year’s Eve address to the nation, Morrison did not make any connection between the bushfires and global heating, suggesting that while they were a terrible ordeal, Australians had faced similar trials throughout history.

Past generations had “also faced natural disasters, floods, fires, global conflicts, disease and drought” and overcome them, the prime minister said in a video message. “That is the spirit of Australians, that is the spirit that is on display, that is a spirit that we can celebrate as Australians.”…….

Criticism of the Morrison government’s climate stance has intensified as the fires have raged. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquefied natural gas, but the prime minister, who won a surprise election victory in May, last month rejected calls to downsize Australia’s lucrative coal industry.

His government has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% by 2030, a modest figure compared with the centre-left opposition Labor party’s pledge of 45%. The leader of the minor Australian Greens party, Richard Di Natale, demanded a royal commission, the nation’s highest form of inquiry, on the crisis.

“If he (Morrison) refuses to do so, we will be moving for a parliamentary commission of inquiry with royal commission-like powers as soon as parliament returns,” Di Natale said in a statement…….

January 1, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics

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