ICYMI – eco news round up, 3 May 2019

Young people won’t accept inaction on climate change, and they’ll be voting in droves

This week saw young Aussies taking part in the second Climate Strike for 2019 and that’s not the only place they’ll be using their voice. The Australian Electoral Commission has reported record high numbers of youth enrolment, and climate change will be at the forefront of their minds when many take to the polls for the first time, choosing sides based on issues and specific policies, rather than lifelong party alliances,

Social media has allowed young people to share their political views with each other freely. Generation Z doesn’t need a town hall meeting or front bar at the Union Pub to get up to date information on their communities. Online communities mean they can find their tribe and pinpoint the political issues they care about, like climate change.

While protests are an ancient tradition, Climate Strike is being led entirely by school students. Greta Thunberg, now aged 16, began the School Strike for Climate movement after attracting press to a then solitary protest at Swedish parliament in 2018.

By March 15, 2019, the movement had grown to over 1.4 million students in more than 300 cities worldwide.

After weeks of protests, UK becomes first country to declare ‘climate emergency’

It seems finally governments are listening to the masses. After weeks of protests in London by the Extinction Rebellion, including a number of arrests, the UK has become the first country in the world to declare a national climate emergency.

Although the declaration on its own does not mandate action on climate, it was the first of the protester’s three demands, along with reducing emissions to net zero by 2025, and creating an assembly of citizens to lead the government on climate issues.

The proposal, which demonstrates the will of the parliament on the issue but does not legally compel the government to act, was approved without a vote. The UK media has also mentioned climate change more in April than it has at any other time in the last five years – including during the Paris Agreement negotiations in 2016.

Editors Note: “A poll published this week found that nearly 63 per cent of the British public supported the UK declaring a climate emergency and 76 per cent would vote differently to protect the planet against climate change.” Even if politicians don’t seem to care about the planet, they sure as hell care about votes. Make sure yours counts. #VoteClimate

Environmental protesters from the Extinction Rebellion in London on April 15, 2019.

Signs of faster melting in world’s largest ice shelf

The study of the Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf reveals that one area is melting 10 times faster than the rest, shedding light on how it might respond to climate change. The Ross Ice Shelf is a huge frozen block about the size of France that floats in the southern portion of Antarctica’s Ross Sea. In some areas, it can be about 750m (2,450ft) thick. Ice shelves like this one are formed continuously by glaciers which feed them. In turn, the shelves act as a “brake” on the glaciers and also moderate the amount of melting that occurs on the glaciers’ surfaces.

Scientists have spent several years recording how the north-west sector of the ice shelf interacts with the ocean beneath it. “The stability of ice shelves is generally thought to be related to their exposure to warm deep ocean water, but we’ve found that solar-heated surface water also plays a crucial role in melting ice shelves,” said co-author Dr Craig Stewart from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) in New Zealand. The findings are important because the Ross Ice Shelf stabilises the Antarctic Ice Sheet by blocking the ice which flows into it from some of the world’s largest glaciers. These findings therefore have implications for sea-level rise in the future.

Federal government accused of ‘false’ climate claims

Australia’s federal government has been accused of keeping Australians “in the dark” about climate change, according to a new report by environmental information group the Climate Council. The report, entitled Climate Cuts, Cover-ups and Censorship, argues that the government’s lack of action on climate change was a defining feature of its 10 years in power as it fights to maintain its place at the May 18 election.

“The coalition government has slashed climate science funding, censored important information and repeatedly made false claims,” Climate Council CEO, Amanda McKenzie said. The council said the government censored a UNESCO report on climate change and World Heritage sites by convincing the UN agency to delete all references to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. The report also states that the government “repeatedly” tried to avoid scrutiny by releasing greenhouse gas emissions data just before Christmas or on the eve of football grand finals, when fewer people are paying attention.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously promised to invest $3.5 billion in climate policies and has committed to reduce greenhouse gases by 26% by 2030 under the Paris agreement sponsored by the UN. However, Climate Council member Professor Will Steffen said “Australia is unlikely to meet its weak 2030 emissions reduction target. And yet senior ministers continue to falsely claim that emissions are going down and that our Paris targets will be met”.

Climate change damage to Queensland’s world heritage rainforest ‘as bad as Great Barrier Reef’

The area’s management authority claims that the world heritage site in north Queensland has suffered damage “equivalent” to coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change. The authority’s board said that some of the area’s unique species were at risk of extinction as the tropical rainforest is experiencing “accelerating decline”.

The statement said, “Extreme heat is the wet tropics world heritage area’s coral-bleaching event equivalent, with some mountain-adapted species, like the lemuroid ringtail possum, unable to survive even a day of temperatures above 29C”. The authority was due to release a climate change adaptation plan this June, but says its observations this past summer, the hottest on record, have heightened its urgency.

Monitoring has found declines in bird and possum species have continued apace and are “reaching alarming levels”. The authority said, “While understandably the Great Barrier Reef has received significant funding to address climate change impacts in recent years, investment in terrestrial world heritage areas has not been commensurate with the urgency for mitigating climate impacts on their world heritage values.” However, The Australian Conservation Foundation said the statement showed climate change was not a “game of costs”.

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