Australia Fire Crisis: PM Morrison Cuts Vacation Short After Two Firefighters Die
Two firefighters died Thursday battling wildfires fueled by a record-breaking heat wave in Australia, prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to return home from a Hawaiian vacation he had been much criticized for taking.
The firefighters were 32-year-old Geoffrey Keaton and 36-year-old Andrew O'Dwyer, and both of them had young children, The New York Times reported. They had been battling blazes southwest of Sydney when their truck struck a tree and rolled off the road, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) said in a statement. Three other firefighters traveling in the truck were also injured.
"Our hearts are breaking," NSW RFS association president Brian McDonough said in a statement reported by The New York Times.
The 2 firefighters killed in a vehicle accident last night are Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton 32yrs & Firefighter A… https://t.co/lJwU9BXEed— NSW RFS (@NSW RFS)1576793235.0
The two men were the first firefighters to die during this Australian spring's historic fire season, according to The New York Times, but their deaths bring the total fire death toll in New South Wales up to eight since October, Reuters reported. Ten firefighters were also seriously injured Thursday.
The news prompted Morrison to announce he would return from a family vacation in Hawaii.
Morrison's absence sparked protests outside his residence in Sydney Thursday. One protester carried a sign reading, "ScoMo, where the bloody hell are you?" borrowing a slogan from a popular Tourism Australia ad campaign. #wherethebloodyhellareya also trended on Twitter, according to The New York Times.
Let’s face it. This is what @ScottMorrisonMP really thinks!! #Nero #NotMyPM #bullshitboy #wherethebloodyhellareya https://t.co/xTsgnWYDtM— bmac (@bmac)1576805532.0
Morrison announced he would return soon after the firefighters' deaths were made public.
"Over the course of the past week I have been taking leave with my family. Our leave was brought forward due to the need to cancel our scheduled leave in January because of our official government visit to India and Japan at the invitation of PMs Modi and Abe," Morrison said in a statement reported by The New Daily. "I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time."
But it isn't just Morrison's absence that has some Australians upset. It's also his lack of action on the climate crisis that makes extreme temperatures and fire seasons more likely.
"We're not offended. We're terrified and we're furious," Greenpeace Australia Pacific wrote in a Facebook post responding to Morrison's return. "The country is on fire, the sky is poison, it's the hottest day we've ever recorded and you're failing us. This is climate change. Do something about it."
Australia is one of the top greenhouse gas emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal, and the government approved a new coal mine in the state of Queensland in June that will be built by Adani Enterprises, Reuters reported.
Fires have been burning in Australia for months and have consumed more than 700 homes and millions of hectares since September, BBC News reported.
But this week's blazes have been made worse by record-breaking heat. The country broke its record for hottest day on Tuesday when it recorded an average temperature of 40.9 degrees Celsius. It then broke that record the next day, recording an average temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius, The Guardian reported.
Based on preliminary analysis, yesterday, Australia recorded its hottest day on record. The nationally-averaged max… https://t.co/MmlIFhFY0u— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@Bureau of Meteorology, Australia)1576734744.0
"It is frightening and a little frustrating, but this is what climate scientists have been saying for decades," University of New South Wales climate scientist Dr. Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick told The Guardian of the extreme heat. "I'm bordering on saying 'I told you so' but I don't think anyone really wants to hear that."
New South Wales is the state most impacted by the fires, according to BBC News, and a state of emergency has been declared there as around 100 blazes burn. Fires also ignited in Victoria and South Australia Friday when temperatures reached higher than 47 degrees Celsius in some places. In South Australia, asphalt on roads even began to melt, The New York Times reported.
Also on Friday, smoke from the New South Wales fires reached Melbourne in Victoria for the first time, according to BBC News.
Smoke is extending over #Victoria this morning from the #nswfires and the Gippsland fires, reducing visibility to a… https://t.co/1BOtEjDR09— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria)1576800617.0
"It's come a very long way to get here," a Bureau of Meteorology spokesman told The Australian of the smoke.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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