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Australia fires: nation braces for ‘most dangerous bushfire week ever seen
New South Wales faces an unprecedented fire danger on Tuesday amid high temperatures and strong winds
(The Guardian) Fire chiefs in Australia have warned [that] New South Wales – the country’s most populous state – faces an unprecedented “catastrophic” fire day on Tuesday
Sixty fires are currently burning in across the state, 40 of which are running out of control. There are also nearly 50 fires burning in Queensland, and fires in Western Australia and South Australia.
Across NSW, three people have already died, and more than 150 homes have been razed. An extreme and persistent drought has left much of the region tinder-dry. The conditions, combined with temperatures in the high 30s and strong winds, are expected to present about 1,300 volunteer firefighters from across the country with life-threatening fires on Tuesday that will be impossible to stop.
Even as emergency authorities were making their preparations, the federal government’s refusal to discuss the role of climate change in worsening the fire risk attracted condemnation, after the deputy prime minister Michael McCormack on Monday dismissed such concerns as the “ravings of … inner-city lunatics”.

19 September
Australia’s capital city switches to 100% renewable energy
Canberra will be the first major region in the Southern Hemisphere to purchase all its energy from renewable sources.
From 1 January 2020, Canberra will join seven other districts around the world that produces or purchase the equivalent of their total electricity consumption from renewable sources, according to a report released on 18 September by policy think tank the Australia Institute in Canberra.
The report analysed data on more than 500 regions around the world with populations greater than 100,000 people.
The district of Rhein-Hunsrück in Germany became the first area to go 100% renewable, in 2012; two German states, three states in Austria and one region in Spain followed.

18 May
Australia Election Results: Prime Minister Scott Morrison Seizes a Stunning Win
(NYT) Scott Morrison, Australia’s conservative prime minister, scored a surprise victory in federal elections on Saturday, propelled by a populist wave — the “quiet Australians,” he termed it — resembling the force that has upended politics in the United States, Britain and beyond.
The win stunned Australian election analysts — polls had pointed to a loss for Mr. Morrison’s coalition for months. But in the end, the prime minister confounded expectations suggesting that the country was ready for a change in course after six years of tumultuous leadership under the conservative political coalition.
By granting Mr. Morrison his first full term, Australians signaled their reluctance to bet on a new leader, choosing to stay the course with a hardworking rugby lover at a time when the economy has not suffered a recession in nearly 28 years.
Australia’s ruling Coalition claims election victory in major upset
It was billed as the climate change election, and the climate lost.
(The Guardian) Despite enduring its hottest year on record and a series of environmental calamities that have brought the climate emergency into sharp relief, Australia has voted for the centre-right Liberal party and its coalition partner, and against taking forceful action on the climate crisis.
The election was framed as a great climate showdown. The Coalition has held power over a tumultuous six years, during which two prime ministers have been toppled and it has suffered from catastrophic infighting, largely over energy policy, as it has has been unable to agree on taking action on the climate crisis or even agree as to its reality.
The Coalition offered few policy proposals throughout the campaign, save for tax cuts, instead attacking the cost of Labor’s broad suite of policy offerings, which included tax reforms and increased spending on health, education and the environment.

17 May
We all smell the smoke, we all feel the heat. This environmental catastrophe is global
Alexis Wright
(The Guardian) How do you find the words to tell the story of the environmental emergency of our times? No one in this country escapes the realities of this man-made global warming catastrophe that is creating before our eyes unprecedented heatwaves, out-of-control fires, immense slow-moving rain systems, freakish cyclones, floods creating inland seas, warming seas, coral bleaching, and the fast pace of losing necessary ecosystems through the demise of native flora and fauna that cannot keep up with the changing environmental conditions. All in one year?

15 May
Australia’s biodiversity at breaking point – a picture essay
by and
Land clearing, deforestation, emissions, drought and warming oceans are all worsening the attack on Australia’s threatened species
Read more of our coverage of the issues in Our wide brown land series

14 February
Australia’s Burning, Flooding, Disastrous New Normal
We are a land of proudly resilient people. But in an age of climate change, we can’t just hike up our Stubbies and move on.
By Kim Mahood
(NYT op-ed) Although many Australians share deep concerns about climate change, just as many have been apathetic or resistant to the need for action. There are signs that things are changing. In a factoid-saturated, opinion-polluted media environment, the emotion and outrage of hard-bitten outback farmers, a breed more commonly associated with skepticism and understatement, has an authenticity that no amount of scientific evidence or talking heads can project. Not inclined toward rhetoric and panic, Australian farmers are now on the front line of climate change. Once convinced that the time for action has arrived, there is no group better equipped to mobilize and make things happen, and there’s a groundswell of protest at the lack of leadership from government.

12 February
‘We have death and devastation at every turn’: the flood massacre of Queensland cattle
Almost overnight we have transitioned from drought to a flood disaster zone. There are kangaroos dead in trees, birds drowned in drifts of silt and our beloved bovine family perished in huddled piles
by Jacqueline Curley and Kate Hunter
Queensland floods: satellite images before and after reveal devastation
(The Guardian) After what can only be described as an environmental massacre of mammoth proportions throughout the whole of north-west Queensland, the people of this country are heartbroken.
We live on a family cattle station 60km north of Cloncurry, where we have just received 700mm-plus of rain over seven days, with the majority of that falling over four days. This extreme weather event, equivalent to an inland cyclone, has decimated much of our native wildlife, along with our domestic livestock. They were constantly exposed to wind and cold driving rain for far too long. The majority of the country was either covered in flood water or churned into a bog, making their feed inaccessible.
The scale of devastation here and throughout the north-west is impossible to put into words. There are estimates of hundreds of thousands of domestic livestock having been lost so far during this disaster and it is impossible to put into numbers the impact on the region’s native wildlife. In some of our paddocks we are facing a 95% loss and on average we are estimating approximately 50% losses over all of our family’s flood-affected properties, encompassing approximately 120,000 acres.

3 February
3 February
Australia’s banks offer mea culpa ahead of royal commission report
Anna Bligh admits industry has failed customers as Labor goads Morrison government
Australia’s big banks have launched a public mea culpa ahead of the release of the long-anticipated, likely scarifying, findings of the banking royal commission, acknowledging they have failed their customers, and arguing the Hayne report is a chance to reset the sector.
There is widespread anticipation the report could flag legal actions as a consequence of the litany of horrors unveiled during the royal commission process, and could also recommend reform of regulation across the financial services sector, as well as action on controversial remuneration and reward structures inside institutions.

2 February
Scott Morrison and his inner circle fight for their political lives
The Prime Minister has a mountain to climb just three months out from an election where voters are widely expected to install Bill Shorten as Australia’s seventh prime minister in just eight years.
(Sydney Morning Herald) The Coalition’s precarious grip on the hung Parliament means it cannot afford to lose a single seat in May and must actually snatch seats from Labor to survive due to some unfavourable boundary changes. With national opinion polls consistently pointing to a loss of up to 20 seats, Morrison’s time in The Lodge could be one of the shortest in modern political history.

1 February
Australia’s extreme heat is sign of things to come, scientists warn
Hottest month ever shows temperatures rising faster than predicted, say climate experts
(The Guardian) Australia sweltered through the hottest month in its history in January, spurring mass deaths of fish, fire warnings and concerns among climate scientists that extreme heat is hitting faster and harder than anticipated.
For the first time since records began, the country’s mean temperature in January exceeded 30C (86F), according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), which said daily extremes – in some places just short of 50C – were unprecedented.
“There’s been so many records it’s really hard to count,” said Andrew Watkins, a senior climatologist at BoM, after January registered Australia’s warmest month for mean, maximum and minimum temperatures.
This followed the country’s warmest December on record, with heatwaves in every Australian state and territory. With colour-coded heat maps of the country resembling blazing red furnaces for much of the month, the authorities have recently issued a special report on the extraordinary heat.

31 January
Behrouz Boochani: detained asylum seeker wins Australia’s richest literary prize
Guardian writer on Manus Island wins $125,000 after sweeping non-fiction prize and Victorian prize for literature at Victorian premier’s literary awards 2019
Behrouz Boochani, whose debut book won both the $25,000 non-fiction prize at the Victorian premier’s literary awards and the $100,000 Victorian prize for literature on Thursday night, is not allowed into Australia.
The Kurdish Iranian writer is an asylum seeker who has been kept in purgatory on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for almost six years, first behind the wire of the Australian offshore detention centre, and then in alternative accommodation on the island.
Now his book No Friend But the Mountains – composed one text message at a time from within the detention centre – has been recognised by a government from the same country that denied him access and locked him up.

The Alarming Allure of Australia’s Brumbies
The environment is being sacrificed for a national myth.
By A. Odysseus Patrick, senior correspondent at the Australian Financial Review.
(NYT) Since this country’s founding in the early 20th century, the packs of untamed horses that roam freely through our beautiful and hostile alpine landscape have captured the public’s imagination. The savage grace and freedom of the horses — known here as brumbies — have made them into a popular symbol of the national spirit.
Today, environmentalists want the brumbies shot.
Not since cattle roamed the mountain parks (before a ban in the 1950s) have animals done such damage to the alpine regions that Australians proudly call the “high country.”
A 2014 survey estimated there were more than 9,500 wild horses in the Australian Alps. Some of the horses descend from animals that belonged to settlers in the early 1800s.
The brumbies eat fragile alpine moss. Their hooves trample the banks of creeks, killing vegetation that stops silt from building up. They destroy peat that takes thousands of years to develop. Campers report the fear of being trampled by herds in the middle of the night.

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