Australia’s Summers Are Now Twice as Long as Its Winters
The climate crisis has now stretched Australia's summers twice as long as its winters, a new report has found.
The report, published by The Australian Institute Monday, comes after the country experienced its warmest and driest year on record, as well as a devastating wildfire season that killed 33 people and more than one billion animals, BBC News pointed out.
"Following the hottest Summer on record, it commonplace to hear older Australians claim Summers aren't what they use to be. And they are right," Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program Director Richie Merzian said in a press release. "Our findings are not a projection of what we may see in the future. It's happening right now."
“Our findings are not a projection of what we may see in the future. It's happening right now. Summers have grown l… https://t.co/ZoEvD1WByk— Australia Institute (@Australia Institute)1583131041.0
The researchers looked at Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) temperature data from 70 weather stations across Australia, The Guardian reported. First, they compared temperature data from 1999 to 2018 with data from 1950 to 1969. They found that, between the two periods, summers had gotten 31 days longer while winters had gotten 23 days shorter. Then, they looked at data for the last five years and found that summers from 2014 to 2018 were around twice as long as winters.
This has major implications for the health and wellbeing of Australians. Extreme heat waves are the deadliest extreme weather events in the country, responsible for more deaths than all other hazards combined, Merzian said. Shorter winters also mean there is less time to implement strategies for managing bushfires during the off season.
One region that suffered during the most recent wave of wildfires has also seen its summers extend significantly: Port Macquarie in New South Wales, where the Lindfield Park Road fire burned for almost seven months starting in July 2019, is now seeing 48 more days of summer, ABC News pointed out. Fires in Port Macquarie also devastated koala habitats.
"[T]he catastrophic 2019 fires near Port Macquarie occurred before summer as defined by the calendar, but well within the new summer as caused by climate change," the report said, according to ABC News.
The report predicted that these hotter conditions would likely continue unless greenhouse gas emissions were reduced and ultimately zeroed out, according to The Guardian. Australia has seen one degree Celsius of warming so far, but is on track for three to four degrees of warming based on its current emissions targets.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced criticism for failing to act on the climate crisis, BBC News reported. Australia is one of the highest carbon dioxide emitting countries per capita because of its reliance on coal.
"According to numerous modelling exercises, including those commissioned by the federal government, it is in Australia's national interest and economic interest to put in place a strong policy to reduce emissions," Merzian said. "The Australian Government's current policies only serve to further fuel the climate crisis."
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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