Australia; Wildfires Engulf World's Largest Exporter of Coa l, 70 Green Groups Urge Obama to Act on Climate Change
Australia on Fire: Record-Shattering Heat, Wildfires Engulf World's Largest
Exporter of Coal
ANNA ROSE: " I took our former finance minister on a four-week journey
around the world. And when we started, he had said that climate change might
be happening, but that humans were not responsible, and he was quite opposed
to any kind of action on climate change. We traveled for four weeks. I took
him to the United States, then met some people in the U.K. We talked about
human rights implications. By the end, I did get him to a point where he
said, in his words, "Climate change is happening, and humans have probably
caused part of it." And I was also able to convince him, somewhat, of the
need to switch to renewable energy, because we need to make this transition
right away towards clean energy, towards wind and solar, because if we
don't, we are going to see more and more of these devastating extreme
weather events that are hurting not just Australia, but people all around
Democracy Now: Wednesday, January 9, 2013
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin our show in Australia, where hundreds of bush fires
continue to rage amidst the country's fiercest heat wave in more than 80
years. It's so hot, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has taken the
unprecedented step of adding two new colors-deep purple and pink-to its
weather maps to show temperatures between 122 and 129 degrees Fahrenheit.
On Monday, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured fire-ravaged
Tasmania, where some 50,000 acres of forests and farmland were destroyed in
PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD: We live in a country that is hot and dry and
where we sustain, you know, very destructive fires periodically, so there is
always going to be risk. And, you know, whilst you would not put any one
event down to climate change-weather doesn't work like that-but we do know,
over time, that as a result of climate change, we are going to see more
extreme weather events and conditions. So we live with this risk, and we
need to have the best systems to manage it.
AMY GOODMAN: While Australia is suffering from record-shattering heat, here
in the United States the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
announced 2012 was by far the hottest year on record for the continental 48
states, the average temperature 55.3 degrees, one degree above the previous
record and 3.2 degrees more than the 20th-century average.
Well, for more, right now we're going to Sydney, Australia, where we're
joined via Democracy Now! videostream by Anna Rose. She is the co-founder
and chair of Australian Youth Climate Coalition, as well as the author of
Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic.
Anna Rose, welcome to Democracy Now! What's happening in your country, this
record-shattering heat, it's being described as a dome of heat, your country
literally on fire. For people around the world who are not following this,
just describe what's happening in Australia.
ANNA ROSE: Well, right now in Austria, we're having record-breaking heat
waves. There are fires burning in almost every single Australian state and
territory. People have been evacuated. Some people have lost their homes;
they've lost everything. Our Bureau of Meteorology has come out and said
that these are the kind of heat wave conditions that are absolutely
unprecedented in our history in terms of the duration, the ferocity. And
it's expected to continue into the weekend and to get worse.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Anna Rose, can you say something about how these fires
follow on all that happened, in climate terms, in 2012 in Australia? There
were extreme floods; much of Queensland was submerged. Can you talk a little
ANNA ROSE: The last two years have been really rough in terms of extreme
weather events in Australia. In Queensland, we had big floods that covered
an area bigger than the size of France and Germany combined. We had entire
towns that were really destroyed by this flooding. But we also-I come from a
farming background, and we're starting to see the impacts in agriculture all
over the country. And when you talk to farmers, they'll tell you that it
rains less often, but when it does rain, it all comes down at once, because,
essentially, what we're doing to our climate system is we're messing with
the water cycle. And so, when we know that warmer air holds more water
vapor, which means there's less vapor in the soil, when it does come down,
it all comes down at once.
It's not just Australia. We've seen huge droughts in China, massive floods
in Pakistan. Obviously there was Hurricane Sandy in the United States. All
around the world-in Russia, the Kremlin, a couple years back, had to ban
wheat and corn exports in 2011 because they were having such extreme heat
waves that they couldn't export them anymore. And then we saw the price of
grain go up threefold around the world, which caused huge food insecurity.
So, the key message from all of this, and what our weather agencies are
telling us, is that this is the new normal. This isn't just some freak
extreme weather event. Actually, we've seen a trend over the last few
decades of extreme weather events on the rise, getting worse and worse, as
we pump more and more carbon pollution into the atmosphere and make climate
AMY GOODMAN: You were just in-you were just in Antarctica? Can you describe
going from Australia to Antarctica and back?
ANNA ROSE: So I just got back to Australia yesterday from Antarctica, where
I was talking to people there about the impacts of climate change. Now,
western Antarctica, it's still very cold, but it's actually the most quickly
warming land mass. So the Arctic is warming very quickly, but it's an ocean.
West Antarctica has warmed three times the global average. And that's
starting to have some impacts on penguin populations, on marine life, and
also starting to see the impact of ocean acidification, because we can all
see what's happening on land and in the air, but the other big changes that
are happening are in our oceans, particularly with the formation of calcium
carbonate, which is a really important substance for little marine
organisms, which feed fish, which then provide protein for much of the
world. So, when it comes to climate change, sometimes you hear people
talking about polar bears or rainforests, and those things are important,
but really we're starting to see the impacts, and we have for a while now,
on human health, human infrastructure, on food security and on our
day-to-day lives. That's certainly what's happening here in Australia.
People are starting to see the impacts in a very practical and a very scary
way in our everyday lives.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Anna Rose, the U.N. climate summit just concluded last month
in Doha, Qatar. Given what you've outlined of what we've seen of extreme
weather events, can you give us your assessment of that conference and how
that world body is dealing with this problem?
ANNA ROSE: Well, the United Nations climate conference will never aim higher
than what the governments attending demand. And those governments will never
aim higher than what their people demand. So, I won't-I don't believe we'll
have significant progress at the international level until we're able to
build an even stronger movement in Australia, in America and around the
world. And that movement has certainly begun. There is an enormous climate
justice movement all over the world. And particularly the youth part of that
movement, which is what I've been working with for the last few years, has
just grown exponentially as the scale of the crisis grows.
In Australia, we have now a carbon price, and we are investing $10 billion
in renewable energy to start the shift away from fossil fuels and towards
clean energy, like wind and solar. But we still have a lot of work to do,
particularly on things like our coal exports from Queensland. I know in the
United States you have similar issues with the power of vested interests in
politics. So, the U.N. climate talks will continue, countries will continue
to make incremental steps, but we won't achieve the really genuine,
significant, deep cuts in carbon pollution until we're able to get to work
to build an even stronger movement for climate justice in 2013.
AMY GOODMAN: The U.N. climate summit will be taking place in Poznan, Poland,
a country massively reliant on coal. But Australia is the world's largest
exporter of coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. The Guardian writes
her> , "Australians now burn, on average, slightly more carbon per capita
than the citizens of the [United States], and more than twice as much as the
people of the United Kingdom." Anna Rose, talk about the state of the
environmental movement. As you say, nothing will happen until the people
push their so-called leaders. But has this massive catastrophic heat wave in
Australia, bringing you to temperatures, well, in American language, more
than 122 degrees Fahrenheit-how has it changed the movement?
ANNA ROSE: Some parts of the media are connecting the dots between extreme
weather and climate change. And certainly, as climate campaigners and people
who try to help people understand what's happening to our country and to our
planet with climate change, we've been trying to encourage the movement to
have those conversations to be able to connect the dots. But, of course, we
have some other elements of the media who simply aren't making the link at
all, and that's where we need to come and remind people that this is a
tragedy, what we're seeing here in Australia, and we need to be able to come
together as a community not just to deal with the short-term impacts, but
also to look ahead at what Australia is facing in terms of our extreme
weather events, our food security, our health, our infrastructure, and what
we can do to reduce our carbon pollution, because, as you say, Australia is
the highest per-capita carbon polluter out of all of the OECD countries. And
right now, the movement, the climate movement in Australia, is focusing a
lot of its attention towards the coal exports issue, particularly in
Queensland, where we have two mining billionaires who want to export huge
amounts of coal through our Great Barrier Reef. And what we need to be doing
instead is developing clean technology and exporting that to the rest of the
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Anna Rose, very quickly, before we conclude, could you talk
a little about your book, Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a
Climate Sceptic, which documents your journey around the world trying to
persuade the former Austrian finance minister of climate change science?
ANNA ROSE: I took our former finance minister on a four-week journey around
the world. And when we started, he had said that climate change might be
happening, but that humans were not responsible, and he was quite opposed to
any kind of action on climate change. We traveled for four weeks. I took him
to the United States, then met some people in the U.K. We talked about human
rights implications. By the end, I did get him to a point where he said, in
his words, "Climate change is happening, and humans have probably caused
part of it." And I was also able to convince him, somewhat, of the need to
switch to renewable energy, because we need to make this transition right
away towards clean energy, towards wind and solar, because if we don't, we
are going to see more and more of these devastating extreme weather events
that are hurting not just Australia, but people all around the world.
AMY GOODMAN: Anna Rose, we have just 30 seconds. How significant is the
position of the United States on the issue of climate change?
ANNA ROSE: It's incredibly significant. You can't overestimate how important
what America does is for countries like Australia and countries around the
world. The rest of the world has started to act on climate change. Europe
has been doing it for a long time. In New Zealand, Australia, we have carbon
prices now. We certainly have a lot more work to do, but those big steps
won't happen until we get the United States to put a price on carbon, to
significantly invest in renewable energy, and to start moving away from
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Anna Rose, I want to thank you very much for being with
us, co-founder and chair of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, author
of Madlands: A Journey to Change the Mind of a Climate Sceptic, speaking to
us from an extremely hot country right now, the hottest in 80 years. We're
talking to her in Sydney, Australia, with record-shattering temperatures.
This is Democracy Now! We'll be back in a moment.
* * *
70 Green Groups Urge Obama to Act on Climate Change
By Tina Gerhardt,
The Progressive: January 9, 2013
Last Friday, the League of Women Voters in Hawaii sent Obama back to D.C. on
his last day of family vacation in his native Hawaii with a reminder that
his action or inaction on addressing climate change will have a great impact
on the island's future. The group ran a full-page ad in the local Honolulu
Star Advertiser, urging him to take action to address climate change,
especially to use existing executive authority under the Clean Air Act, to
On Monday, a broad coalition of over 70 environmental, civil, health and
labor groups <http://www.progressive.org/scot/greenletter.pdf> signed and
sent an open letter to President Obama, demanding he take action on climate
change during his second term in office.
They referenced his September 7, 2012, speech in Chicago, when on the
campaign trail, when Obama stated, "climate change is not a hoax. More
drought and floods and hurricanes are not a joke. They're a threat to our
children's future. And we can do something about it."
Discussing the letter, Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources
Defense Council, wrote: "When I first started working on climate change a
decade ago, we spoke in terms of distant forecasts and long-range impacts.
Now we simply look out the window to see what climate change can do to our
communities ... We no longer have the luxury of time. We must act now to
prevent more Americans from feeling the pain of los jobs, destroyed homes
and shuttered businesses."
The groups demanded that President Obama take three steps to curb carbon
1. Raise his voice. Elevate the issue of climate change and solutions in the
public discourse by connecting the dots between carbon pollution and extreme
2. Use his executive authority, in particular, by using the EPA's existing
authority under the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions from power plants;
3. Reject dirty fossil fuels, especially when climate science tells us that
80% of the existing fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground.
These steps, the groups delineated, can be taken without the vote of the
divided Congress. The groups urged that climate change be put at the "top
tier" of his agenda.
In particular the groups stated that the "Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is
not in our national interest because it would unlock vast amounts of
additional carbon that we can't afford to burn."
Environmental groups are awaiting the final decision on the Keystone
Pipeline from the State Department. (The decision lies with the State
Department since the project crosses the national border into Canada.) With
the nomination of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State to replace
Hillary Clinton, some green groups are optimistic about the administration's
commitment to climate change.
In an interview with The Progressive, Bill McKibben, Executive Director of
350.org, said, "The first thing President Obama should do is block the
Keystone Pipeline. If he does, he'll have a big army of environmentalists
ready to help him move forward on other fronts."
350.org and the Sierra Club are calling for a national day of action on
President's Day weekend to urge President Obama to address climate change.
(Day of action: Sunday, February 17; President's Day is Monday, February 18,
2013.) For more information: http://act.350.org/signup/presidentsday
Tina Gerhardt is an independent journalist and academic who covers energy
policy, climate negotiations and related direct actions. Her work has
appeared in Alternet, Grist, The Nation, The Progressive and the Washington
Monthly, as well as Business Green, Climate Progress and TreeHugger.
No virus found in this message.
Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
Version: 2013.0.2805 / Virus Database: 2637/6019 - Release Date: 01/08/13
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]