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Hazardous Sydney smoke turns up heat in Australia's climate politics

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Hazardous Sydney smoke turns up heat in Australia's climate politics

By Colin Packham

 

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Pedestrians are seen wearing masks as smoke haze from bushfires in New South Wales blankets the CBD in Sydney, Australia, December 10, 2019. AAP Image/Steven Saphore/via REUTERS

 

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Devastating bushfires that blanketed Australia’s largest city with hazardous smoke this week have heightened public anger and raised political pressure on the government to do more to battle climate change.

 

While cooler weather eased fires and haze around Sydney on Wednesday, the previous day’s thick shroud of smoke triggered protests and prompted one conservative lawmaker to break with his party by directly tying recent weather to carbon emissions.

 

“We are in the middle of the worst drought in living memory, this is the second hottest year on record,” New South Wales Environment Minister Matt Kean, from the center-right Liberal-National coalition, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

 

“Yesterday smoke was causing some of the worst air pollution in Sydney that we’ve ever seen - this is climate change.”

 

People had choked in Sydney on Tuesday as more than 100 fires raged across the east coast, turning the daytime sky orange, obscuring visibility and disrupting public transport services as air quality plunged.

 

On Wednesday, temperatures dropped by more than 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), and winds eased, improving the air quality, although it still held at levels considered hazardous.

 

Amid mounting public anger, Australia’s Liberal-National government defended its policies in tackling climate change and downplayed its links to the unprecedented early arrival and severity of the fires. “Certainly, climate change is a factor, there is no question, but also it is important to note that most of these fires have been caused by ‘Little Lucifers’,” Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told ABC, referring to arsonists.

 

Australia’s fires have killed at least four people since November, burnt about 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush and destroyed more than 400 homes.

 

While police are investigating what triggered some fires, firefighters and scientists have said the bulk of the blazes have been caused by soaring temperatures and three years of drought that left bushland tinder-box dry.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said his government is committed to fighting climate change, insisting that Australia will meet a pledge to cut emissions from 26% to 28% by 2030, versus 2005 levels.

 

But critics accuse the government of merely paying lip service to climate concerns.

 

As many Sydneysiders finished work, several thousand protesters, many wearing masks, marched through the main business district to demand stronger action.

 

Many carried signs, with a group of four pregnant woman holding up a banner that read, “Stop burning our babies’ future.”

 

“They (the government) are to blame for our largest city being poisoned and rather than taking meaningful action, they are fast tracking new coal mines,” said Chloe Rafferty, an organizer for the Uni Students for Climate Change group holding the march.

 

Australia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal-fired power plants. In June, it approved a new coal mine in Queensland state by India’s Adani Enterprises that is expected to produce 8 million to 10 million tonnes of thermal coal a year.

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-12-11

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While police are investigating what triggered some fires, firefighters and scientists have said the bulk of the blazes have been caused by soaring temperatures and three years of drought that left bushland tinder-box dry.

 

Does this mean that the bulk of the blazes have resulted from spontaneous combustion due to high temperatures? I think not.

 

Whilst dry and hot conditions make it easier for fires to start and spread rapidly with the help of a strong wind, the initial cause of most of the fires are due to human activities such as throwing cigarette buts out of the window when driving, glass bottles lying around which can magnify the sun's rays and cause combustion in very dry conditions, falling or arcing power lines, accidental ignition during agricultural clearing, or grinding and welding activities, or sparks from machinery, foolish behaviour of kids playing around and starting fires for the fun of it, campfires that get out of control, deliberate arson, and so on.

 

The percentage of fires started by lightning strikes is probably small.
 

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There's no fire these days without the smoke and mirrors used by climate change activists to maximise their publicity potential. The real story of the Australian bush fires is more complex than the alarmist version of events would suggest.

 

https://climatechangedispatch.com/greta-wrong-australian-bushfires/

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Without coal the australian economy.dies. so no chance of that changing.

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21 hours ago, snoop1130 said:

Australia is one of the world’s largest carbon emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal-fired power plants. In June, it approved a new coal mine in Queensland state by India’s Adani Enterprises that is expected to produce 8 million to 10 million tonnes of thermal coal a year.

Rather amazing that Australia is still relying on coal when most developed economies have been phasing it out.  Perhaps some politics going on down there.  

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2 hours ago, Berkshire said:

Rather amazing that Australia is still relying on coal when most developed economies have been phasing it out.  Perhaps some politics going on down there.  

maybe Trump gave them the secret for 'beautiful, clean coal'....

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