Did the Earth Just Lose Australia’s Climate Election?
Australia re-elected its conservative governing Liberal-National coalition Saturday, despite the fact that it has refused to cut down significantly on greenhouse gas emissions or coal during its time in power, The New York Times reported.
The result was a surprise, as polls and media accounts suggested that this would be Australia's "climate change election." The opposition Labor Party, which campaigned on reducing emissions 45 percent by 2030, had taken the lead in every opinion poll since mid-2016, according to The Guardian. And, in the annual Lowy Institute Poll, more than 60 percent of Australians agreed that "Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant cost," as University of Queensland School of Political Science and International Studies associate professor Matt McDonald wrote in a post-mortem for Australia's ABC News.
Instead, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who once brandished a piece of coal during a parliamentary debate and urged student climate strikers to stay in school, will remain in charge.
It’s been a tough few days for climate action, but we can assure you: now is not the time to give up. Climate was a top election issue and now it cannot be ignored. Our resilience is renewable - we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we intend to fight harder than ever before. pic.twitter.com/6p2HVwc8Sz— Climate Council (@climatecouncil) May 20, 2019
"We have lost Australia for now," Penn State climatologist Michael Mann wrote in an email to ThinkProgress. "A coalition of a small number of bad actors now threaten the survivability of our species."
Mann said that coalition included the fossil-fuel funded Murdoch media channels, Saudi Arabia, Trump's America and Morrison's Australia.
The results come despite the fact that Australia is extremely vulnerable to climate change, as The New York Times explained. The country just had its hottest summer on record, marine heat waves have devastated the Great Barrier Reef in recent years and farmers are struggling with drought. But the governing coalition was able to win thanks to older, economically conservative voters and residents of coal-producing Queensland, where the controversial Carmichael coal mine would be built. Adani, the company behind the project, has promised thousands of jobs.
"Clearly on climate action, amongst others, parts of our nation remain deeply divided," opposition leader Bill Shorten said in a concession speech reported by The Guardian. "For the sake of the next generation, Australia must find a way forward on climate change."
Climate advocates in Australia did see some wins. Tony Abbott, a former prime minister who opposed climate action, was defeated by an independent candidate who ran on the issue, according to The New York Times.
Morrison has said he would act on climate, and the coalition promised a fund to pay polluters to reduce emissions, though experts question whether this will be enough to meet Australia's commitments under the Paris agreement, The Guardian reported. But the governing coalition won partly by painting Labor's more ambitious climate commitments as an economic liability, as The New York Times explained:
The coalition successfully made cost the dominant issue in the climate change debate. One economic model estimated that the 45 percent reduction in carbon emissions proposed by the opposition Labor Party would cost the economy 167,000 jobs and 264 billion Australian dollars, or $181 billion. Though a Labor spokesman called the model "dodgy," Mr. Morrison and his allies used it to argue against extending Australia's existing efforts to reduce emissions and invest in clean energy.
Green Member of Parliament Adam Bandt, who retained his seat, argued in a Twitter thread that progressives needed to reject logic that associated climate action with a loss of jobs, especially since, he said, Adani ultimately hopes to automate.
"The only way out of this cul-de-sac is with a plan for real jobs in new industries located in these coal communities. Let's build new solar thermal, or put people to work on building new transmission lines in Queensland, or subsidise a new manufacturing plant in these areas," he wrote.
A ‘green new deal’ can be picked up and applied across party lines and can work as well in Melbourne as in Capricornia if it’s believable. But if people within Labor, both MPs and their backers, keep sticking with ‘coal=jobs’, everyone loses. /10— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) May 20, 2019
Meanwhile, Australian National University Centre for Climate Economics and Policy Director Frank Jotzo wrote for The Guardian that international pressures would force Australia to change its climate plans, despite Saturday's election results.
"The world has started the transition to a low-carbon energy and industrial system," Jotzo wrote. "Australia's best bet is to make use of our tremendous opportunities for low-carbon energy production. Hanging on for grim death to the high-carbon industries of the last century is no economic strategy. The world will not carve out a niche for Australia to continue prospering as a 20th-century style high carbon economy. Global demand for coal will fall. The future for our energy industries is in cheap renewable energy."
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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