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Christian Group Gives Coal-Loving Australian Prime Minister 'Clean Energy 4 Christmas'
In the last year, Australia has earned a lamentable reputation as a country going rapidly backward on addressing climate change. After Tony Abbott was elected prime minister in 2013, his huge man crush on coal impacted the country in numerous ways, as it repealed its carbon tax, dumped its Renewable Energy Target and gave encouragement to big new environment-destroying, greenhouse gas-emitting coal projects. It dragged its feet on contributing to the Green Climate Fund, saying it wouldn't do so and then finally making a pledge during the recent climate summit in Peru.
But some Australians aren't taking this lying down. A group called Common Grace, who describe themselves as "thousands of Christians from various denominations who are passionate about Jesus and justice," have been collecting donations to buy solar panels for Kirribilli House, Australia's equivalent of the White House. And they announced last week that they have met their goal of $6,000, crowdfunding the 12 panels in just four days.
"The solar panels are a gift for the nation, from the nation, to symbolize public support for a clean energy future," said Common Grace participant the Rev. Dr. Michael Frost. "We know that 89 percent of Australians support a strong Renewable Energy Target. By giving solar panels to Kirribilli House, Christians are adding their voice to a chorus of Aussies who want to see a vibrant renewables industry. Our message to the Prime Minister is: don’t knock renewables until you've tried them."
A group of Christian leaders delivered the gift with a Christmas card to staff members who promised to pass it along to Abbott. And Solar Council, the association for Australia's solar industry, offered to install them for free.
“As we all know, solar panels need to be professionally installed," said Solar Council CEO John Grimes. "Therefore the Solar Council is adding to this gift. We will install the solar panels at Kirribilli House for free."
“We've just launched Common Grace and we’re learning what it looks like to live out the beauty, generosity and justice we see in Jesus as the earth heats up at an unprecedented rate," said Common Grace's climate justice campaigner Jody Lightfoot. "We’re learning what it means to love our neighbors who are at the front lines of climate change and how we can be stewards of the earth in the face of our ecological crisis,” he said.
Jacqui Remond, director of Catholic Earthcare Australia and part of the delegation that delivered the gift, added, “As Christians, we recognize that the Earth is a gift and I want to pass on a clean energy future to our children and grandchildren climate change isn't just an environmental issue—it’s a matter of justice. It’s about people in poverty, particularly indigenous populations, who are being hit first and hardest for what they've contributed to least. It’s also about Australians who are preparing to face more intense and frequent bushfires as we approach what could be the hottest summer on record."
If the prime minister declines the panel, Common Grace said they'll be offered to the Davidson Brigade of the Rural Fire Service of which Prime Minister Abbott is a long time member.
"Fire fighters are on the front line of climate change fighting increasingly frequent and intense bushfires," the group said. "It’d be a small way we can say thank you for what they do."
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Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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