Inbox and environment news: issue 609

December 10, 2023 - January 20, 2024: Issue 609


Pittwater's Environment: The Good, Bad, Ugly Of 2023

Baby Ringtail. Photo: Stop Wildlife Roadkill Group

The Good

As in previous years the thousands of hours given by volunteers as part of bushcare sites remains. Council states Bush regeneration works continued in over 260 sites, including planting 19,900 local native plants and over 2,800 trees. Almost 26 thousand hours were given in bush care in Pittwater alone.

The total budget spent on bushland management activities in 2022/23 was $4,018,486. This excludes further bushland management which is undertaken as part of separate grant related works including part of the NSW Governments Save our Species program and Crown Reserves Improvement fund.

A further $247,000 was spent of bushland management activities conducted with coastal sand dune areas across the LGA.

Council's 2022-2023 Annual Report 'Major Contracts lists some of these projects in bush regeneration or others in environmentally sensitive areas (al figures ex-GST):

  • Apunga; Burnt Bridge Creek bushland restoration contract - $208,000.00
  • Australian Bushland Restoration Pty Ltd; Ingleside Chase bushland restoration - $182,000.00
  • Australian Bushland Restoration Pty Ltd; Attunga Nareen bushland restoration - $212,000.00
  • Australian Bushland Restoration Pty Ltd; Narrabeen Elanora bushland restoration - $225,200.00
  • Australian Bushland Restoration Pty Ltd; Jamieson Park bush regeneration and hazard reduction - $269,600.00
  • Azbuild Pty Ltd; Snapperman Beach Reserve seawall reconstruction works - $362,100.00
  • CC Pines Pty Ltd; Design and construction of Morgan and Oxford Falls Road Bridge -$367,592.00
  • Civotek Pty Ltd; Proposed stormwater improvement works, Park Street & Pittwater Road - $393,085.00
  • Haskoning Australia  Pty Ltd; Mona Vale Beach outlets upgrade - $198,125.00
  • Complete Urban Pty Ltd; Design service for Frenches Forest Town Centre Park upgrade - $465,272
  • Dragonfly Environmental; Forestville & Killarney area contract - $274,500.00
  • Green Options; Turf wicket and sports field maintenance - $2,633,880.00
  • Kelbon Project Services Pty Ltd; New footpath - Crescent Road, Newport – stage 1 and 2- $264,960.00
  • National Trust Of Australia (NSW); Minor reserves and powerful owl project - $162,000.00
  • Ozpave (AUST) Pty Ltd; New footpath – Annam Road, Bayview - $150,312.00
  • REES Electrical Pty Ltd; Kitchener Park lighting renewal - $376,000.00
  • Specialised Pavement Services Pty Ltd Street sweeping in former Pittwater $429,821.00
  • Skyline Landscape Solutions Parks and reserves mowing services $1,026,000.00
  • Image Property Detailing Parks and reserves mowing services $1,630,361.00
  • Marsupial Landscapes Pty Ltd Parks and reserves mowing services $1,380,000.00
  • Standby Forty-Six Pty Ltd Parks and reserves mowing services $1,085,350.00
  • Steelworks Engineering Pty Ltd Design and construct of Fern Creek pedestrian bridge $618,310.00
  • Terroir Pty Ltd Manly Life Saving Club and precinct redevelopment project – architect appointment $2,366,149.00
  • Toolijooa Pty Ltd: Deep Creek area reserves project $182,000.00
  • Turf Drain Australia; Kitchener Park, Frank Gray Oval, Mike Pawley Oval design and construct drainage systems $373,905.00
  • Waratah Eco Works; Seaforth Balgowlah Heights bushland restoration project $244,228.00

Another Good happening this year has been running a series of 'Ringtail Posses' each month, with a few to come. With over 5000 wildlife species rescued and rehabilitated by local trained people from Sydney Wildlife Care and WIRES annually, and the heartbreak that comes with the loss of these other residents, sharing how much so few do for so many each year has brought some new understanding about how we can all look after our local wildlife a little better and support those whop dedicate their time 24/7, along with large chunks of their hard earned dollars, to save our wildlife.

The name comes from the fact that the 'common' ringtail possum is not so common anymore in our area - thousands of these are lost each year as people cut down their home nesting trees or they are attacked by peoples pets; their cats and dogs. The 'posse' element is a group of friends or people with some common interest - which, as it turns out, would be 99% of us if feedback so far is anything to go by.

There is a problem with the lost of food for natives locally as well - wildlife carers have stated that this past Spring many of the animals coming into care were starving as they had not been able to get enough to eat. We all need to plant more native species for food and habitat.

We all need to slow down on local roads as well - every single day wildlife is being struck by people going too fast in back streets and even in areas where there is signage and slower speeds to limit the loss of mums carrying bubs across the road.

Carers are also asking that we all put in a submission to the Wakehurst Parkway changes mooted calling for wildlife to be taken into account as this is a wildlife corridor long before a road was put through their homes. See: Wakehurst Parkway Upgrade: Please Speak Up For Local Wildlife In Your Feedback - Submissions now Close December 20

When it is hot, as it is forecast to be this Summer, carers ask that we put out water bowls on the ground under trees or up higher, with twigs or stones for wildlife to be able to get in and out, and to keep our pets on leash when out and about as wildlife will come down closer to the ground to cool off during hot spells.

Those run so far are listed below.

Ringtail Posses 2023

The Bad

Leaving Fishing Gear on the shore

Residents continue to call for help to catch local seabirds and estuary birds impaled with fishing hooks or tangled up in fishing line. Despite the launch of Rig Recycle this year, visitors, or residents, are still leaving hooks and line where these species live. Another killer of local aquatic species are the bait bags discarded in the environment after use. 

Rig Recycle was developed and trialled as part of Tangaroa Blue Foundation's ReefClean program, removing and preventing marine debris and litter impacting the Great Barrier Reef. 

The aim is to divert specified recreational fishing items and packaging accessories from becoming litter in the environment or being disposed of in landfill by changing the recycling behaviours of consumers and retailers.

The Rig Recycle program is an Australian-first program that collects selected recreational fishing and packaging items and diverts them from landfill through an innovative repair, reuse and recycle framework. The project connects recreational fishers, community clean-up participants, recreational fishing retailers and suppliers, social enterprises and community partners in a holistic and truly circular program that fills a current recycling gap. 

The NSW launch took place as part of the Volvo Ocean Lovers Festival at Bondi, March 15-19, 2023 with Heidi Tait from Tangaroa Blue Foundation taking part in the Ocean Plastic Action Forum on March 15, speaking about the initiative and the work of the Foundation. The Ocean Plastic Action Forum was a one-day special event filled with interactive panel discussions providing valuable insights into the impact of ocean plastic pollution, delving into the science and issues surrounding ocean plastic, exploring current innovation and reviewing future solutions to purge plastic from our ocean.

CEO, Heidi Tait travelled to Bondi to take part in panel discussions at the Ocean Plastic Action Forum. Along with other industry professionals, they discussed the current state of plastics in our oceans and what is currently being done to reduce the impact on our oceans.

This was also a great opportunity to showcase the Rig Recycle bins that are currently rolling out across NSW as part of a NSW Recreational Fishing Trust grant. Heidi is pictured here with Anita and Brad with thanks to them and the organising team for supporting the NSW launch. This is the first version of the Rig Recycle bin - new improved one below. Photo: RigRecycle

How does it work?

  1. Take your recreational fishing items to a Rig Recycle bin near you
  2. The items get collected, audited and entered into the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) Database
  3. The items are either repaired for reuse or recycled

What can you put in the bin?

  • Fishing line
  • Plastic line spools (that you buy your line on)
  • Handline spools
  • Hooks - preferably in good condition (not rusty)
  • Sinkers - lead or other, in any condition
  • Swivels - preferably in good condition (not rusty)
  • Lures
  • Floats

What can't go in the bin?

  • Bait packaging, or any other smelly item
  • Soft plastic packaging, recyclability is variable
  • Soft plastic disposable body/tail
  • Rods and reels
  • Life jackets
  • Flares. These should be disposed of appropriately - see your State or Territory guidelines

You can also download the Recycle Mate app, put in your location and the item and it’ll tell you where to recycle it!

Soft plastics scourge

The supermarket-based REDcycle scheme stopped operating in November 2022 after it was revealed that the company was unable to process the mountains of soft plastics it had stored around the country. 

The Environment Protection Authority has since handed out and then withdrawn charges against the company that went insolvent in February. 
In the meantime, most Australians have been left without a way to recycle 70 billion pieces of soft plastic consumed every year.

A Soft Plastics Taskforce comprising Coles, Woolworths, and Aldi was set up in the wake of REDcycle's collapse. It has taken responsibility for the company's roughly 11,000 tonnes of soft plastic across 44 locations Australia-wide. These sites have now been consolidated to 12 in total, almost half of which are in Victoria. 

Around 10,400 tonnes of soft plastic remains in storage, with around four per cent of the original stockpile sent to landfill, according to the taskforce. A total of 120 tonnes has been processed to date.

The taskforce's October update revealed that only Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia have, or are working on, soft plastics recycling facilities. It reports that waste from Tasmania will be transferred to Victoria, NSW will take responsibility for Queensland's waste, and that SA will receive materials from the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Even before the issues with REDcycle, Australia's recycling sector was in crisis with the production of new plastics far outstripping the demand for recycled materials. It is time for government to incentivise businesses to move away from soft plastics by offering things such as tax breaks to those that do.

On June 30 2023 the ACCC announced it has granted conditional authorisation to allow the major supermarkets to continue their collaboration to manage the soft plastics stockpile and resume in-store collections after REDcycle suspended its recycling operations.

The ACCC previously granted conditional interim authorisation to Coles, Woolworths and ALDI in November 2022, which allowed the supermarkets to collaborate via the Soft Plastics Taskforce. A result of this collaboration was the Taskforce’s Roadmap to Restart plan which is an interim plan to restore community access to soft plastics recycling through Australian supermarkets.

“We have granted this final authorisation to allow supermarkets to continue their discussions around the issue of in-store collections, as outlined in the Roadmap to Restart,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

“We believe this conditional authorisation is in the public interest, reflecting public concern about the stockpiling of soft plastics and the need to divert soft plastics from landfill and inform consumers about the resumption of in-store collections.”

“The authorisation has been granted with conditions that ensure there is continued transparency on the progress towards the roadmap and that the public are kept up to date,” Mr Keogh said.

The ACCC may grant an authorisation to companies for any conduct that could raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act when it is satisfied that the likely public benefit from the conduct outweighs any likely public detriment. For this authorisation, the ACCC has decided to specify conditions which relate to the provision of information, progress reporting requirements and the termination of arrangements upon expiry of authorisation. 

“This authorisation is for 12 months and the supermarkets would need to apply for further authorisation for any longer-term solutions that involve collaboration between the supermarkets,” Mr Keogh said.

“The ACCC has also been engaging with industry stakeholders and representative bodies to ensure transparency in communications to minimise the risk of consumers being misled by representations on packaging about the recycling of soft plastics.”

More information is available on the ACCC’s public register. 

REDcycle was an industry-led program developed and implemented by the RG Programs and Services Pty Ltd, a Melbourne-based consultation and recycling organisation. Since 2011, it had been the only return-to-store, soft plastics recovery program in Australia, facilitating the collection and processing of soft plastics into a variety of durable recycled plastic products. Soft plastics include food packaging, plastic bags, cling wrap and bubble wrap.

Product manufacturers and the major supermarkets partnered with REDcycle to run the program. REDcycle provided some initial processing and then delivered the materials to its partner recycling facilities to process the soft plastics into new recycled plastic products, or otherwise utilise the recovered materials.

The scheme had been running in nearly 2000 supermarket outlets across the country, with collection points in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets, and more recently since July 2022, in ALDI stores.

On 9 November 2022 REDcycle announced that it was suspending its soft plastics collection program as its recycling partners had temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics. The suspension of the REDcycle program removed the only established and widespread recycling pathway for consumers and created significant concerns about existing stockpiles and how consumers can recycle soft plastics.

Following REDcycle’s announcement, Coles and Woolworths each announced that they would be suspending soft plastics collections from their stores until further notice.

On 25 November 2022, the ACCC granted interim authorisation to the supermarkets.

On 26 February 2023, the supermarkets assumed responsibility for the REDcycle stockpiles.

On 27 February 2023, REDcycle was declared insolvent and a liquidator was appointed.

On 7 March 2023, the Soft Plastics Taskforce, chaired by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, issued a Roadmap to Restart for the resumption of in-store collection. 

On 30 March 2023, the ACCC issued a draft determination proposing to grant authorisation for 12 months.

Council's Soft Plastics Collection Days Would Not Be Needed If Supermarkets Brought Back Butchers' Paper

Council has also tried to mitigate the soft plastics problem residents have, running Soft Plastics collection days at Avalon, Frenchs Forest and Dee Why in June 2023, but with limited amounts and kinds of packaging, and no as yet announced plan to expand this or make it permanent.

The best result here is for everyone to take more responsibility for their own consumption of products that use any kind of plastic packaging and extend Plastic-Free-July to a 12 month ban - which may be hard with youngsters who want lollies and supermarkets that refuse to bring back butchers paper - but could entail shopping locally again at a fruit and veg store in your own neighbourhood and a fishmongers and butchers who will give you back that butchers paper again - which can then be recycled by children for drawing and painting, or for teenagers needing that BIGGER sheet of paper to map out an essay or woodwork project design and steps. 

The Ugly

The ugly continues to be the wilful destruction of heritage listed trees (at Palm Beach!) and elsewhere for 'views' or the deliberate destruction of bushcare sites volunteers have spent decades restoring  for mountain bike tracks. Even uglier are the verbal and physical assaults that are threatened or carried out by those against anyone who challenges them.

Residents are expecting the Council and local Police to 'step up' on this. They're fed up with the deliberate destruction, the sound of helicopters and ambulances as another child is airlifted to hospital,  the impact on wildlife, which is literally introducing running over them where they live, in the bush, and the excising of what belongs to everyone for the benefit of a few - and residents have been fed up for years. 

People are hoping those who destroy the bush by building illegal tracks are encouraged to work with bushcarers in pulling out weeds so a track can appear before them where those weeds once were, and plant out species which would make for a much pleasanter ride along tree dappled paths with bush flowered bright colours at the corner of every eye.

The positives of this great sport could lead to positives in the community; 'it just needs to be flipped' one resident states.

There also needs to be some steps taken to provide local facilities for those that love this sport that won't entail killing the bush. 

Mountain Bike Incidents On Public Land: Survey

This survey aims to document mountain bike related incidents on public land, available at:

Sent in by Pittwater resident Academic for future report- study. The survey will run for 12 months and close in November 2024.

In better news around this subject, a Bush area recently destroyed by illegal mountain bike tracks and jumps built at Elanora has been restored this week. Hopefully the rare plants known to have grown here also come back; -

Photo supplied


A Huge Win For Pittwater's Environment! Pittwater To Keep Its Conservation Zones

from Councillor Miranda Korzy: December 13, 2023

All those sessions on the street with maps showing where Pittwater's natural treasures sit, petitions, forums, letters and meetings with council have paid off! 

The NSW Planning dept. has recommended we keep all our Conservation Zones - and all others on the Northern Beaches too! 

It's a big change from Northern Beaches Council's Draft Conservation Zones Review last year which proposed changing 3,613 (of the former Pittwater Council's 10,469) properties in our C-zones to residential. 

This means that these environmentally sensitive areas should be immune to the state government's proposals to increase density in residential zones - particularly R2 and R3. 

Many thanks to community members who campaigned so hard on this - and to the council staff who heard our message and secured this outcome.


The community and councillors were assured by council staff that no environmental values would be sacrificed from any former council areas in the harmonisation of the Pittwater, Warringah and Manly LEPs and DCPs.

However, the Draft Conservation Zones Review proposed removing 3,613 properties from the former Pittwater Local Government Area’s Conservation Zones and making them Residential Zones, with their controls undefined. This contrasts with the loss of only one property with a Conservation Zoning from the former Warringah LGA. This scenario was, in fact, not harmonising zones across the new council area but aligning them with the former Warringah zonings, Cr. Korzy said.

Pittwater NSW MP Rob Stokes had also tried to reassure Pittwater residents about protection of its environment. In a letter to the Avalon Preservation Association of December 5, 2017, Mr Stokes discussed the introduction of Local Strategic Planning Statements. In it he said:

“The development of these statements will see councils and communities formulate the forward vision for land use in the local area - capturing and respecting the local characteristics that need to be preserved and articulating what local residents want in the future. This will include where and how any changes should occur.

These statements will be formally recognised in Legislation and reflected in councils’ Local Environment Plans and development controls. Councils will be able to tailor the statements to specify land use priorities on a ward by ward basis.”

However, the previous Northern Beaches Council chose not to utilise this process, opting instead for an LGA-wide LSPS. A ward based LSPS would have revealed the special characteristics of Pittwater and all other wards, and the differences between them. We can see the result of this in the Draft Conservation Zones Review, in which consultants have failed to recognise the importance of, for example, wildlife corridors and tree canopy. This would have a major impact in Pittwater - but also across the entire LGA.

Further, the previous NBC council made the decision to adopt one LEP across the LGA without any explicit discussion about the reasons for this or necessity to do so. At the November 27, 2018 meeting, councillors voted to accept the Local Environment Plan Review and one LSPS.

However, the report from staff did not mention the fact that there is no legislation that requires one LEP or any ministerial directive to that effect either. This issue was never placed before councillors or the community, and we were told that the state government required us to introduce one LEP.

The NSW Government changed the name of Environment Zones across NSW to Conservation Zones. The new names commenced on 1 December 2021. 

It was stated at the time this change was of name only. Land uses that were currently permitted and prohibited in the environment zones would continue once they are renamed conservation zones. Only the name of zones is changing.

The Government stated; ''By renaming these zones to reflect the ‘conservation’ land use function more clearly, the focus, purpose, and intent of these zones is clearly signalled. The purpose is to conserve the environmental values and qualities in areas where this land use zoning is applied.

The naming also aligns better with the objectives of the zones as being about conservation.''

There were now 4 types:

  • Zone C1 – National Parks and Nature Reserves (previously E1)
  • Zone C2 – Environmental Conservation (previously E1)
  • Zone C3 – Environmental Management (previously E1)
  • Zone C4 – Environmental Living. (previously E1)

Northern Beaches Council conducted a Conservation Zones Review in 2022, that was publicly exhibited, proposing the former Pittwater Area lose thousands of C4 Conservation Zones blocks, compared to 54 in the former Manly and just one in the former Warringah Council LGA.

Staff received 935 public submissions regarding the review, 60 per cent of which were from residents of the former Pittwater area. 

In Pittwater, the former C4 zoning for the Pittwater Council LGA allowed low impact developments (generally single dwellings) in areas with special ecological, scientific or aesthetic value while in Manly, blocks of flats were allowed in the C4 zone.

Planners told councillors they estimated that in the former Pittwater LGA, 3,613 properties would move from a C zone to an R (residential) zone, and 1,328 from an R zone to a C zone, resulting in an overall loss of 2,285 properties from C zones.

Most residents are aware of massive excavations from boundary to boundary and multiple storeys down in E4 zones - Environmental Living Zones now known as C4 for Conservation Living Zones - across the former Pittwater Local Government Area. These include sites at Palm Beach and Whale Beach, Avalon, Bayview and Church Point - where massive homes are built, sometimes up to six storeys down the block.   

Councillor Korzy introduced a Motion at the February 2023 Meeting. The Motion called for the briefing to include reference to excavation, tree removal/retention, protection of endangered ecological communities, hard surface to landscape ratios, and other relevant matters. Cr. Korzy also asked for it to discuss how compliance with conditions of consent and relevant legislation is assessed and enforced in these zones. 

''Finally, I asked about options for protecting the environment in our C4 zones as part of the new Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan currently being drafted for the whole Northern Beaches Local Government Area. The new LEP and DCP are required in councils amalgamated in 2016.'' Cr. Korzy stated

The Pittwater LEP states that its particular aims include: “to promote development in Pittwater that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable … (and) “to protect and enhance Pittwater’s natural environment and recreation areas”. 

Objectives of the E4 Environmental Living Zone were then defined as: 

  • To provide for low-impact residential development in areas with special ecological, scientific or aesthetic values. 
  • To ensure that residential development does not have an adverse effect on those values. 
  • To provide for residential development of a low density and scale integrated with the landform and landscape. 
  • To encourage development that retains and enhances riparian and foreshore vegetation and wildlife corridors.”

The DCP provided detail on how these objectives should be achieved. It includes extensive controls related to the natural environment, including for specific ecological communities and 16 locality specific controls. 

Amongst them are numerous controls on development in environmentally sensitive sites, such as: 

“Development shall not have an adverse impact on Pittwater Spotted Gum Endangered Ecological Community.” 

For land adjoining bushland reserves it states that: “Development shall not result in a significant loss of canopy cover or a net loss in native canopy trees.” And for heathland/woodland vegetation: “Development shall not reduce or degrade habitat for locally native species, threatened species, endangered populations or endangered ecological communities.” It also explicitly lays out Pittwater’s well-known 60:40 ratio for the building envelope on Pittwater’s C4/E4 zones, stating for a number of suburbs that: “The total landscaped area on land zoned R2 Low Density Residential or E4 Environmental Living shall be 60% of the site area.” 

Experts who reviewed the Biodiversity Planning Review paper stated it should be opposed as such a huge potential loss of conservation zones represents the most serious incursion into the existing Pittwater LEP/DCP rules. These guidelines have contributed to the protection of Pittwater’s character, landscape, and scenic quality to date.

In total, the former Pittwater would have had 7,447 properties zoned C3 or C4 and 9,347 properties in residential zones.

The move from C4 to Residential would result in more development in these areas and a huge loss of natural landscapes including canopy. The rezoning from C4 to Residential would also trigger the application of the July 1st 2022 amended NSW Housing SEPP to the newly created Residential zones. 

Under the changes made to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Housing) 2021 all seniors living, including independent living unit developments, will be allowed in R2 Low Density Residential zones. The building height will also change, allowing up to 9 metres, excluding any basement works.

It's also worth noting that under the Council's Local Housing Strategy the then NSW Department of Planning told the Council it must proceed with planning work that will lead to rezoning of one or more of the following as outlined in its LHS to compensate for housing not delivered by the Ingleside precinct:

  • One of the following Centre Investigation Areas for Brookvale, Dee Why, Manly Vale or Narrabeen; 
  • Two or more of the Housing Diversity Areas centres; and/ or
  • other proposed rezonings in the LGA that have arisen since the preparation of the LHS that will enable delivery of substantive and new housing supply. 

The planning proposals for one or more of these alternatives were required to be submitted to the NSW Planning Department for Gateway determination by or before December 2022.

Further, the Council is required to submit proposal(s) for two or more of the Centre Investigations Area are to the Planning Department for Gateway determination to facilitate dwelling delivery within the 2021 to 2026 period. 

Council was also required to expedite the following LHS actions under Priorities 2 and 5 to ensure housing supply, diversity and affordability outcomes are secured before 2026:

  • Planning analysis and LEP updates for Brookvale, Dee Why, Mona Vale, Manly Vale and Narrabeen that do not reduce the permissibility or density of existing permissible uses.
  • Annual reporting of development by centre to track yields and housing mix.
  • Adoption of a social and affordable housing target.
  • Continue to implement council’s affordable housing contribution scheme (AHCS).
  • Review and seek lower parking requirements for boarding houses for R3, R4 and B4 sites in centre investigation areas.

Council's LHS Centre investigation areas identified Brookvale, Dee Why, Mona Vale, Manly Vale and Narrabeen along the existing B-Line as centre investigation areas in the medium term, and Forestville and Beacon Hill in the longer term, subject to a future B-Line route (future B-Lines along Warringah and Mona Vale Roads).

Housing diversity areas identified through the Council's LHS were Avalon, Newport, Warriewood, Belrose, Freshwater, Balgowlah and Manly as areas to support housing diversity in the form of dual occupancies, seniors housing and boarding houses.

In July 2018 the NSW Government introduced new planning controls through the Low-Rise Medium Diversity Housing Code (the Code) under State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development), which also applied to the NBC LGA.

The Code allows for the development and subdivision of dual occupancies; multi-dwelling houses (including terraces), manor homes under a fast track complying development approval process where those land uses were currently permitted with development consent from Council.

This approval can be issued by a private certifier within 20 days if the application complies with requirements in the Code. 

Residents already know the former Pittwater LGA is under increasing environmental pressure. This trend has seen people building way over their 60 percent of land area, needlessly removing trees and exceeding existing height limits with variations being permitted.

There have also been a number of proposed developments out of keeping with Pittwater. One still before the Land and Environment court, with hearing dates set for later in October, seeks to build flats and develop the whole block in an area where this would ruin the local amenity at Palm Beach.

There have been ongoing calls for a Heritage Listing for the whole of Pittwater since the plans were first made public.

Professor Richard West AM, President of the Palm Beach-Whale Beach Association, which has as its main aim to preserve the unique environment in which we live, has echoed other residents associations which state these changes represent a threat to Pittwater. 

Prof. West told Pittwater Online then that 'special consideration should be made to preserve these qualities'.

These zonings will feed into the upcoming, single Northern Beaches Local Environment Plan, despite it having been pointed out again in 2023 that Pittwater could retain its own LEP, something which had been spoken of even before Pittwater was forcibly amalgamated with Warringah Council.

A single LEP would regulate development for the whole council area. So for those wanting to protect the scenic bushland habitat, it was important to read the multiple documents made available and let the Council know what you thought. 

The Council wanted to know if residents agreed with the approach and criteria used in the review to identify and map core habitat areas, biodiversity corridor areas, threatened ecological communities, and threatened flora and fauna species habitat.

Conservation zones, previously called Environmental zones in the former Pittwater LEP, “are used to protect and conserve areas with special environmental values or where there are known hazards eg bushfire, (and) coastal inundation”, planning staff noted in their motion to place the draft on exhibition. 

The four conservation zones in the new LEP align with those identified and renamed by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment as follows: 

  • C1 National Parks and Nature Reserves - existing and newly proposed national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas - as identified and agreed by the NSW government. 
  • C2 Environmental Conservation - for areas of high ecological, scientific or cultural values.
  • C3 Environmental Management - Special ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic attributes or environmental hazards/processes. 
  • C4 Environmental Living - special environmental or scenic values; low impact residential development.    

The challenge for Council staff has been that four LEPs are currently operational across the Northern Beaches Council area and the state government required that they be 'harmonised' after the forced amalgamation of the former Manly, Warringah and Pittwater councils. (ie Pittwater’s LEP; Manly’s; Warringah’s; and a second one in that former council area for land where zoning was never finalised by the NSW government).

Alike the Rates Harmonisation of the forcibly amalgamated former Councils that saw an increase for Manly and Pittwater implemented from July 1st 2022, and a reduction for the former Warringah area, despite an amendment to the Local Government Amendment Bill 2021 which allowed up to eight-years to harmonise rates for councils that were amalgamated in 2016, and which had been preceded by Warringah Council's seeking approval from IPART in 2014 for a cumulative increase of 26.2 per cent over four years and was instead allowed an increase at 19.7 per centthe former council area that will be impacted most by an 'LEP harmonisation' would be Pittwater and the Pittwater environment.

Pittwater residents at February 2023 Council Meeting

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Johnson Brothers Hardware Mona Vale Launches E-Waste Recycle Program

Johnson Brothers have become a FREE e-waste recycling collection point at our Mona Vale store.

The bins for disposal are at the start of the parking for our Trade customers, but it’s free for all to use (during business hours).

From December 4th 2023, you can drop off any unwanted electrical items at Johnson Bros Mitre 10 Mona Vale for recycling by our e-waste management partner, Sircel

E-waste is anything with an electrical plug or battery. This includes electric power tools, household appliances, computers and mobile phones.

We cannot accept gas, petrol or diesel appliances.

When you bring your stockpile of old power tools, tablets and TVs to our e-waste collection bins, what happens then?

Our recycling partner, Sircel, collects the waste each week and transports it to a facility in Western Sydney. There, Sircel deploys their world-leading and proprietary refining solution to: 

  • Triage all electronics that may have a future useful life, such as TVs and computers
  • Securely data-erase all electronics to remove all information in preparation for reuse
  • For products with no viable future use, Sircel safely removes any batteries and sends them downstream to a dedicated, authorised battery recycling partner
  • All e-waste is then mechanically destroyed
  • Individual commodities are recovered and returned to the circular economy for re-use as regenerated resources.

Give your old power tools, household appliances and computers a new life in the circular economy. 

Plastic tool casings could become bench seats, copper cabling could become a new copper pipe, and the gold, silver and palladium in your old phone could be transformed into fuel cells in your car.

Together, we can make finite resources infinite.

Johnson Brothers Family

Reporting Seabird Mortalities To Adrift Lab: This Event May Impact Other Seabirds, Persist Until End Of Summer With Warming Eddy Current Off Our Shores  + Scientists Voyage To The Southern Ocean To Investigate How Climate Change Impacts The Planet's Strongest Current

October 2013 at Station Beach: This poor starving bird picked up and shook this gum leaf - clearly wanting something to eat. Now this happening again.

The Bureau Forecasts An Unusually Warm Summer

The The Australian Bureau of Meteorology's summer long-range forecast shows a high chance of warmer than usual days and nights across Australia, below average rainfall likely for much of the tropics and Western Australia, and a more neutral rainfall signal for the rest of the continent.

After a drier than usual Spring and Winter for much of Australia, the more neutral Summer rainfall forecast outside of the tropics may mean Summer rainfall is closer to average for those areas.

Bureau of Meteorology National Manager Climate Services Dr Karl Braganza said our forecasts leading into summer started to suggest the chance of average rainfall for large areas of eastern Australia.

"The forecasts suggested the chance of average rainfall for parts of the east towards the end of spring and early summer, and we have seen some decent rainfall in November to finish off the spring season," he said.

"Compared to outlooks issued mid year, the dry signal has continued to ease across the eastern half of the continent outside of the tropics."

But Dr Karl Braganza noted that summer is typically a drier time of year across the southern half of the continent and Western Australia has continued to see very dry conditions throughout spring, with no relieving rains.

This summer there's an increased risk of:

  • extreme heat
  • heatwaves
  • bushfire weather
  • marine heatwaves

Most of the continent has an increased chance of unusually high temperatures possibly in the top 20% of records for this time of year.

El Niño is predicted to continue over summer when its influence varies across the continent.

“El Niño is typically associated with a drier than average wet season in parts of Australia's tropical north while its influence on rainfall over southern parts of Australia wanes over summer,” Dr Braganza said.

Dr Braganza said the dry and warm conditions over much of spring along with the warm Summer forecast were still contributing to an elevated fire risk this Summer, and we have already seen significant fire activity across Australia, and more recently significant impacts in Western Australia.

“This summer all communities across Australia are urged to prepare for bushfire and monitor local conditions."

Despite the widespread storms in the second half of November Australia's overall Spring rainfall is tracking to be around 23% below average.

Much of Australia has experienced a drier and warmer Spring than usual, which is typical of El Niño and positive Indian Ocean Dipole events.

Stay up to date with weather warnings on the Bureau's website and the BOM Weather app.

If you're travelling, update your location on the BOM Weather app to get warning notifications.

Sun protection is recommended during summer. You can check the Ultraviolet (UV) radiation index on the website or BOM Weather app.

Bushfire outlook

Australia's fire agencies have identified an increased risk of fire this summer for most of Queensland, large areas of New South Wales and the Northern Territory and pockets of Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. More detail is in AFAC's Summer 2023–24 Bushfire Outlook

Climate influences

The Bureau's climate model takes into account influences from the oceans and atmosphere when generating its long-range forecasts.

Current climate drivers influencing the long-range forecast include the El Niño, a positive Indian Ocean Dipole and record warm oceans globally.

The positive Indian Ocean Dipole is likely to weaken in December and typically ends when the Asian monsoon shifts into the Southern Hemisphere, which is likely around early January.

Global sea surface temperatures have been the highest on record for the months of April to October 2023.

The oceans play an extremely important role in global climate, including the climate of Australia.

Tropical cyclone season

We have now also entered the tropical cyclone season for the Australian region, running from November to April, and northern communities should be prepared.

The overall number of tropical cyclones is likely to be fewer than usual this season, but Australia has never had a season without at least one tropical cyclone crossing the coast since reliable records began in the early 1970s.

Spring 2023 recap (based on preliminary data)

Australia's overall spring rainfall is tracking to be around 23% below average and the national mean temperature around 1.7 °C above the 1961–1990 average and tracking in the top 5 warmest Springs on record.

All states and territories had below average spring rainfall. November rainfall for Australia is tracking more than 30% above average, with widespread showers and storms across eastern and northern Australia, particularly in the last 2 weeks of the month.

Australia's mean temperature for Spring was above average across most areas with highest on record spring temperatures for large parts of Western Australia.

Overall, Western Australia is on track to have its warmest Spring on record which included prolonged heatwaves for south-western areas. Significant fires have already impacted Western Australia including northern Perth in November.

Most of the country had very much above average daytime temperatures and large areas had above average night-time temperatures.

All states and Territories are expected to be in their top 10 warmest on record for this time of year, except the Northern Territory which was still warmer than average.

A warm Spring follows Australia's warmest Winter on record. However, 2023 overall is not expected to be one of the country's hottest on record, partly due to a cooler start to the year.

At the end of the Spring, the majority of Australia's water storages are more than 70–80% full. Although in comparison to last year, water levels have dropped at many storages. The Murray– Darling Basin storages are at 87%,11% less than last year. Similarly South Australian Gulf and Western Australia's South West Coast storages have decreased by 23% and 11% respectively.

Summary information about Spring conditions are on the Bureau's website:

D'harawal Season: Time Of Burran 

Time of Burran; January-March

Gadalung Marool—hot and dry 

The behaviour of the male kangaroos becomes quite aggressive in this season, and it is a sign that the eating of meat is forbidden during this time. This is a health factor; because of the heat of the day meat does not keep, and the likelihood of food poisoning is apparent.

The blooming of the Weetjellan (Acacia implexa) is an important sign that fires must not be lit unless they are well away from bushland and on sand only, and that there will be violent storms and heavy rain, so camping near creeks and rivers is not recommended.

The D'harawal Country and language area extends from the southern shores of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to the northern shores of the Shoalhaven River, and from the eastern shores of the Wollondilly River system to the eastern seaboard.

Mountain Bike Incidents On Public Land: Survey

This survey aims to document mountain bike related incidents on public land, available at:

Sent in by Pittwater resident Academic for future report- study. The survey will run for 12 months and close in November 2024.

Communities And Industry To Have Their Say As NSW Accelerates Renewable Energy Transition

The NSW Government has released new draft guidelines to accelerate the planning approval and construction of wind, solar and transmission infrastructure.

Feedback is being sought on draft guidelines which are designed to promote faster decisions, provide certainty to investors and industry, and improve transparency for communities.

The draft guidelines provide clarity on how noise, visual and other community impacts should be evaluated and managed through the development assessment process.

They also propose new benefit-sharing arrangements through planning agreements with councils across NSW. Renewable energy projects are expected to deliver more than $400 million to support local government initiatives over the next 25 years.

This is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars available under the NSW Government’s Community and Employment Benefit Program in Renewable Energy Zones.

The draft guidelines are aligned with recommendations made by the Electricity Supply and Reliability Check Up and the NSW Agriculture Commissioner’s report on renewable energy generation and agriculture.

A range of draft tools to help landholders considering hosting renewable energy development are also on public exhibition.

Development of large-scale solar and wind energy projects are critical to delivering a secure and affordable supply of electricity and achieving NSW’s Net Zero targets.

All stakeholders including industry, councils and residents are encouraged to have their say on the draft guidelines before Monday, 18 December 2023.

The Department of Planning and Environment will review submissions and finalise the proposed guidelines in early 2024.

Minister for Energy Penny Sharpe said, “We want communities and industry to provide feedback so we can crack-on with delivering the renewable energy NSW needs.

“The draft guidelines are critical to delivering renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The guidelines also suggest how communities can benefit from the transition. Community feedback is essential and we look forward to it.”

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully stated:

“It’s vital that the planning system adapts and evolves so we can deliver the energy generation and transmission infrastructure our state needs into the future.

“These proposed new guidelines will support faster decisions and clearer rules that will increase certainty for the industry and communities.”

Next Steps To Beat Plastic Pollution In NSW: Have Your Say

Whale shark about to eat a plastic bag: photo supplied

The NSW Government states it is ramping up efforts to tackle plastic pollution by inviting the public to have its say on helping to prevent 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste produced each year from causing harm to the environment and human health.

Industry, businesses and the community are encouraged to share their feedback on the ‘NSW Plastics: Next Steps’ discussion paper as we move to reduce plastic litter by 30 per cent by 2025, curb the impact of microplastics and align with other states and territories.

Plastics are an important part of many products we rely on, but not all plastics are essential. Often, they are produced in unsustainable ways to be used only once and then discarded.

Only 12 per cent of plastic waste is recycled and once thrown away, these products don’t disappear. Instead, they pollute the environment, harm wildlife, pose a risk to human health and contribute to climate change.

‘NSW Plastics: Next Steps’ identifies and addresses items and materials that:
  • Are frequently littered or release microplastics into the environment;
  • Contain harmful chemical additives; or
  • Are regulated or proposed to be in other states and territories.
  • Items containing plastic such as lollipop sticks, cigarette butts, bread tags and heavyweight plastic shopping bags are some of the problematic products that could be redesigned or phased out.
Consultation is open for 14 weeks from 29 October 2023 to 4 February 2024. To participate in the future of plastics, visit:

All feedback will inform further actions to tackle problematic and unnecessary plastics.

Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe said: “By 2050 there may be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Plastic has become so widespread that we are constantly eating, drinking and breathing it in. NSW alone generates 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year and only 12 per cent of it is recycled.

“We must act. By working together, we can make a real difference and leave the environment in a better state for our children.

“The NSW Government wants to hear your thoughts on what plastic items we should target to minimise harmful impacts on the NSW environment, animals and communities.”

Wakehurst Parkway Update: REF For Proposed Works Available - Feedback Closes December 20

Transport for NSW (Transport) proposes to carry out road improvements along Wakehurst Parkway between Frenchs Forest Road, Frenchs Forest and Pittwater Road, North Narrabeen.

These include intersection upgrades and focus on improving safety and capacity for this key road link in Sydney’s northern beaches. 
A Review of Environmental Factors (REF) including Biodiversity Development Assessment Report (BDAR) has been prepared for the proposal. These documents outline the proposed work, potential construction and environmental impacts and mitigation measures. 

The documents will be available for viewing on the project webpage from Monday 6 November. 
Formal submissions about the proposal are welcomed by emailing by December 20 2023

The Wakehurst Parkway project team will be at Oxford Falls Main Hall at Oxford Falls Peace Park on Thursday 16 November from 3pm to 6pm, and at Bilarong Community Hall on Saturday 18 November from 10am to 2pm.

Sydney Local Native: Pittwater Edition Published 

Written by Scotland Island resident, botanist Hazel Malloy, this is a must-have guide for gardeners who want to plant natives in the Pittwater area, full of tips and info.  
Each page contains a plant profile with photos and information including height, form, soil, light, flower season, best features, propagation, native to, distribution, other notes. 150 plant species in total.

The plants are arranged in alphabetical order with handy tables at the end. 
Despite the in-depth info, it's an easy and enjoyable read. 

We are advised that the book can be found locally at:

Harvest Seed Nursery 
281 Mona Vale Rd, Terrey Hills 02 94502699
Indigo Native Plant Nursery 
56 Wattle Rd Ingleside 02 99708709
(Mon-Fri only)
Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden Nursery 
Off Mona Vale Rd, St Ives 02 94490353

More than 150 profiles of Australian native plants that are native to the Sydney Basin and are easy to grow and attractive in a garden context. Particular emphasis is given to species that are components of Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest (PWSGF), an endangered plant community that is found around Pittwater in the Northern Beaches local government area, and on Scotland Island.

Each species is given a thorough and detailed profile including average maximum height and width, a description of the plant's form, flowers, and flowering season, an overview of the plant's best features, its preferences for soil, water and light, where it is naturally distributed.

Each species is illustrated by one or more photographs. There is a handy index by growth form (e.g., shrubs, small trees and grasses), and comparison tables. 
This edition of the book focuses on the Pittwater and northern beaches region; other editions may be forthcoming later. In addition to the distribution information, every plant's profile states whether the species is native to the Sydney region and also to Scotland Island, and whether or not the species is a component of Pittwater Spotted Gum Forest (PWSGF). Scotland Island contains the largest area of conserved PWSGF on public land. 

To a gardener, both of these pieces of extra information are valuable to help in selecting candidates for your garden, especially if your garden is located on land that was formerly vegetated with PWSGF or similar forest community prior to clearing for development. Species that are naturally found on Scotland Island and are part of PWSGF are likely to do very well in local Pittwater gardens. In some cases, especially where the species is not found on Scotland Island or is not a component of PWSGF, locations are given where the species can be seen on local bush walks. In other cases, the location is given where the nearest wild-collected herbarium specimen was collected; generally this will have been prior to clearing for residential settlement. If your garden is on similar land to these locations, it provides a strong indication that the plant may do well in your garden.

Each species is given a thorough and detailed profile including:
  • average maximum height and width
  • a description of the plant's form
  • flower colour and flowering season
  • an overview of the plant's best features
  • its preferences for soil, water and light
  • where it is naturally distributed.

Please Look Out For Wildlife During Heatwave Events

New South Wales is experiencing significant heatwave conditions.

These prolonged weather conditions can cause native wildlife to become heat-stressed as they suffer from high temperatures; here is how you can identify a heat-stressed animal and how you can help.
Always remember:

If you find an injured, orphaned or sick native animal, call WIRES on 1300 094 737 or Sydney Wildlife Rescue on 9413 4300.

These hot days are tough on our wildlife - please put out some water in a shaded location and if you come across an animal that is in distress, dehydrated or injured - please contact your local wildlife rescue group:  Photo: Bronwyn Gould

Palmgrove Park Avalon: New Bushcare Group 

Palmgrove Park Avalon is a remnant of the Spotted Gum forest that was once widespread on the lower slopes of the Pittwater peninsula. This bushland’s official name and forest type is Pittwater and Wagstaffe Endangered Ecological Community, endangered because so much has been cleared for suburban development. Canopy trees, smaller trees and shrubs, and ground layer plants make up this community. Though scattered remnant Spotted Gums remain on private land, there is little chance of seedlings surviving in gardens and lawns. More information HERE

A grant to PNHA from Council in 2021 funded revegetation of a section between Dress Circle Rd and Bellevue Rd. The tubestock planted there late in 2022 by students from Avalon Primary and bush regeneration contractors is flourishing.

More tubestock was planted on National Tree Day on July 30 2023.

A new Bushcare group will now be working there from Saturday, starting at 9am and working for up to three hours. Your help would be wonderful.

Contact Pittwater Natural Heritage Association on to find out more.

Report Fox Sightings

Fox sightings, signs of fox activity, den locations and attacks on native or domestic animals can be reported into FoxScan. FoxScan is a free resource for residents, community groups, local Councils, and other land managers to record and report fox sightings and control activities. 

Our Council's Invasive species Team receives an alert when an entry is made into FoxScan.  The information in FoxScan will assist with planning fox control activities and to notify the community when and where foxes are active.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Group On The Central Coast

A new wildlife group was launched on the Central Coast on Saturday, December 10, 2022.

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast (MWRCC) had its official launch at The Entrance Boat Shed at 10am.

The group comprises current and former members of ASTR, ORRCA, Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, WIRES and Wildlife ARC, as well as vets, academics, and people from all walks of life.

Well known marine wildlife advocate and activist Cathy Gilmore is spearheading the organisation.

“We believe that it is time the Central Coast looked after its own marine wildlife, and not be under the control or directed by groups that aren’t based locally,” Gilmore said.

“We have the local knowledge and are set up to respond and help injured animals more quickly.

“This also means that donations and money fundraised will go directly into helping our local marine creatures, and not get tied up elsewhere in the state.”

The organisation plans to have rehabilitation facilities and rescue kits placed in strategic locations around the region.

MWRCC will also be in touch with Indigenous groups to learn the traditional importance of the local marine environment and its inhabitants.

“We want to work with these groups and share knowledge between us,” Gilmore said.

“This is an opportunity to help save and protect our local marine wildlife, so if you have passion and commitment, then you are more than welcome to join us.”

Marine Wildlife Rescue Central Coast has a Facebook page where you may contact members. Visit:

Watch Out - Shorebirds About

Summer is here so watch your step because beach-nesting and estuary-nesting birds have started setting up home on our shores.
Did you know that Careel Bay and other spots throughout our area are part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP)?

This flyway, and all of the stopping points along its way, are vital to ensure the survival of these Spring and Summer visitors. This is where they rest and feed on their journeys.  For example, did you know that the bar-tailed godwit flies for 239 hours for 8,108 miles from Alaska to Australia?

Not only that, Shorebirds such as endangered oystercatchers and little terns lay their eggs in shallow scraped-out nests in the sand, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Threatened Species officer Ms Katherine Howard has said.
Even our regular residents such as seagulls are currently nesting to bear young.

What can you do to help them?
Known nest sites may be indicated by fencing or signs. The whole community can help protect shorebirds by keeping out of nesting areas marked by signs or fences and only taking your dog to designated dog offleash area. 

Just remember WE are visitors to these areas. These birds LIVE there. This is their home.

Four simple steps to help keep beach-nesting birds safe:
1. Look out for bird nesting signs or fenced-off nesting areas on the beach, stay well clear of these areas and give the parent birds plenty of space.
2. Walk your dogs in designated dog-friendly areas only and always keep them on a leash over summer.
3. Stay out of nesting areas and follow all local rules.
4. Chicks are mobile and don't necessarily stay within fenced nesting areas. When you're near a nesting area, stick to the wet sand to avoid accidentally stepping on a chick.

Possums In Your Roof?: Do The Right Thing

Possums in your roof? Please do the right thing 
On the weekend, one of our volunteers noticed a driver pull up, get out of their vehicle, open the boot, remove a trap and attempt to dump a possum on a bush track. Fortunately, our member intervened and saved the beautiful female brushtail and the baby in her pouch from certain death. 

It is illegal to relocate a trapped possum more than 150 metres from the point of capture and substantial penalties apply.  Urbanised possums are highly territorial and do not fare well in unfamiliar bushland. In fact, they may starve to death or be taken by predators.

While Sydney Wildlife Rescue does not provide a service to remove possums from your roof, we do offer this advice:

✅ Call us on (02) 9413 4300 and we will refer you to a reliable and trusted licenced contractor in the Sydney metropolitan area. For a small fee they will remove the possum, seal the entry to your roof and provide a suitable home for the possum - a box for a brushtail or drey for a ringtail.
✅ Do-it-yourself by following this advice from the Department of Planning and Environment: 

❌ Do not under any circumstances relocate a possum more than 150 metres from the capture site.
Thank you for caring and doing the right thing.

Sydney Wildlife photos

Aviaries + Possum Release Sites Needed

Pittwater Online News has interviewed Lynette Millett OAM (WIRES Northern Beaches Branch) needs more bird cages of all sizes for keeping the current huge amount of baby wildlife in care safe or 'homed' while they are healed/allowed to grow bigger to the point where they may be released back into their own home. 

If you have an aviary or large bird cage you are getting rid of or don't need anymore, please email via the link provided above. There is also a pressing need for release sites for brushtail possums - a species that is very territorial and where release into a site already lived in by one possum can result in serious problems and injury. 

If you have a decent backyard and can help out, Lyn and husband Dave can supply you with a simple drey for a nest and food for their first weeks of adjustment.

Bushcare In Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367 or visit Council's bushcare webpage to find out how you can get involved.

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                 3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 
Catalpa Reserve              4th Sunday of the month        8.30 – 11.30
Palmgrove Park              1st Saturday of the month        9.00 – 12 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                            8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                        9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                       8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                    8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday +3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     2nd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                          9 - 12noon

Friends Of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment Activities

Bush Regeneration - Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment  
This is a wonderful way to become connected to nature and contribute to the health of the environment.  Over the weeks and months you can see positive changes as you give native species a better chance to thrive.  Wildlife appreciate the improvement in their habitat.

Belrose area - Thursday mornings 
Belrose area - Weekend mornings by arrangement
Contact: Phone or text Conny Harris on 0432 643 295

Wheeler Creek - Wednesday mornings 9-11am
Contact: Phone or text Judith Bennett on 0402 974 105
Or email: Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon Catchment :

Gardens And Environment Groups And Organisations In Pittwater

Ringtail Posses 2023

Launch Of Australia’s First National Health And Climate Strategy

December 4, 2023
Australia’s first National Health and Climate Strategy was launched by Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney, at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

The strategy outlines priorities to:
  • address the health and wellbeing impacts of climate change in Australia
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the health system.
With more frequent and extreme climate events, climate change presents a serious health and wellbeing challenge to Australians. The World Health Organization has described climate change as the greatest threat to global health this century.
Australia’s first National Health and Climate Strategy sets out an ambitious whole-of-government plan aimed at addressing the health and wellbeing impacts of climate change and outlining priorities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the health system.
The National Strategy brings together actions from across the Australian Government and partners around the world to set out an ambitious vision for healthy, climate-resilient communities, and a sustainable, resilient, high-quality, net zero health system.
The National Strategy incorporates feedback provided from over 270 submissions made by stakeholders in the health and aged care sectors, First Nations organisations, civil society groups, academia, and industry, as well as consultation from workshops and roundtables attended by more than 300 stakeholders.
Australia has endorsed the COP28 Declaration on Climate and Health to be released at the Climate-Health Ministerial and has joined the Alliance for Transformative Action on Health, which will provide more opportunities to exchange knowledge, coordinate access to climate finance and enhance cooperation on climate and health.

It is guided by a vision to shape healthy, climate-resilient communities and a sustainable, resilient, high-quality, net zero health system.

The strategy will help ensure Australia’s health system is prepared and has a plan to manage the impacts of climate change.  

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney MP said,  
“With more frequent and extreme climate events, climate change is a serious challenge to the health of Australians. After a decade of inaction and dysfunction, we are taking decisive action to protect our health system.
“From extreme heat to more frequent bushfires, climate change is forever changing our environment and how we live. Australia needs a health system that is prepared for these challenges.
“Our National Strategy on Health and Climate lays the foundations for all of society to work together to address the impacts of climate change on Australians' health and wellbeing.
“We are working with other nations in addressing one of the most fundamental challenges facing the world. Part of this is reducing emissions from the health system – a key component of the National Strategy.
“As part of the National Strategy’s development, Labor consulted with First Nations groups to harness their wisdom and knowledge. Labor is committed to working with First Nations communities on the issues that affect them.
“Australia will work with international partners in addressing the impacts of climate change on our world’s health. I look forward to working with our friends and partners – including our Pacific neighbours – in the Alliance for Transformative Action on Health in the years ahead”.

No New Fossil Fuel Projects, No Fossil Fuel Money In Politics: AMA

December 2023
The Australian Medical Association is calling on Australian governments to do everything possible to mitigate the effects of climate change including an end to the approval of any new fossil fuel projects. 

In its One Health position statement released ahead of the United Nations Conference of Parties meeting on climate change; the AMA also called for an end to donations from the fossil fuel industry to political parties and for fossil fuel subsidies to be transitioned to renewable energy.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said detrimental health outcomes are already occurring because of climate change and more devastating health impacts will occur if more is not done to tackle the rise in temperatures.

“The AMA recognises climate change is a health emergency, with clear scientific evidence indicating severe impacts for humanity right now, and worsening into the future,” Professor Robson said.

“It is imperative that governments protect the health of all Australians. Only recently we’ve seen reports that the federal government is falling behind in reaching its target.

“It is time to put an end to the major contributors to climate change. We must end our reliance on fossil fuels.”

One Health is a concept that recognises that human, animal, and environmental health are inextricably linked. The AMA’s position statement also calls for the planned Australian Centre for Disease Control (CDC) to adopt a One Health approach to protect environmental, animal, and human health.

Professor Robson said a multidisciplinary approach was needed to tackle the massive challenge of protecting Australians’ health from climate change.

“The health of Australia’s population is put at risk by extreme climate events like fires and floods, but it’s vital we look at other threats, including biodiversity loss, food and water security, and the looming threat of antimicrobial resistance,” he said.

Professor Robson recently interviewed Professor Hilary Bambrick (ANU Director, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health) on his Doctorama podcast in which these issues were discussed at length.

“Experts such as Professor Bambrick are telling us just how important it is that we tackle the myriad risks to population health,” Professor Robson said.

“We’re hearing the same thing from all the experts — we must act now if we want a world habitable for generations to come.”

Hard-fought COP28 agreement suggests the days of fossil fuels are numbered – but climate catastrophe is not yet averted

Matt McDonaldThe University of Queensland

As negotiators stagger towards their beds in Dubai and another year’s climate talks come to a close, it’s time to take stock. Did COP28 achieve the big breakthrough the world needs on climate change?

Probably not. But the final agreement – met with an ovation – includes a first call for nations to transition away from fossil fuels. It’s a step short of a commitment to phasing the fuels out, as some delegates had pushed for. But the development suggests the days of fossil fuels are numbered.

The overriding question the world now faces is whether the broad commitments nations agreed to are enough as climate change gathers pace. The answer, alarmingly, is no.

UAE: Controversial Hosts

This year’s talks were controversial from the start.

The role of oil man Sultan Al Jaber as COP28 president fuelled concerns about the hosting role of the United Arab Emirates – a country with significant interests in sustaining a fossil fuel economy. Then came reports Al Jaber had questioned the scientific rationale for phasing out fossil fuels to tackle climate change, amid reports of fossil fuel trade negotiations on the sidelines of negotiations).

On top of this, unprecedented numbers of fossil fuel lobbyists and geoengineering advocates attended the talks. This did not create the ideal conditions for action on climate change.

‘Loss And Damage’ Breakthrough

To their credit, the organisers had an early win with an agreement to establish a “loss and damage” fund whereby richer nations compensate poorer nations for the effects of climate change. The creation of this fund is one of the big outcomes of the talks. It’s taken a long time to get here, after initially being suggested by Vanuatu in 1991 and supported in principle in last year’s talks in Egypt.

Why is it needed? Because developing states are particularly vulnerable to the damage done by climate change, and have limited ability to meet the cost of repair and rebuilding. The fund also points to the particular obligations of developed states and significant emitters who have largely caused the problem.

But there are still big questions about the measure – most importantly, how well it will be funded. Despite the fanfare, just US$700 million has been committed so far to the fund aimed at compensating states for damage that, according to recent estimates, already runs into the hundreds of billions per year.

There are also concerns over having the fund administrated by the World Bank, which has questionable environmental credentials and a patchy record on transparency.

Of course, the fund itself is an admission of failure. It’s needed only because the international community has failed to stop climate change from happening, and is unlikely to prevent it reaching dangerous levels.

Deckchairs On The Titanic?

As the talks went on, they got harder. The tricky topic: fossil fuels. It may amaze outsiders, but this, the 28th annual climate talks, is the first time nations have directly addressed phasing out fossil fuels. Last year, nations agreed to accelerate the exit from coal – the dirtiest fuel – but said nothing of gas or oil.

For days, debate raged over whether to apply phrases such as “phasing out” or “phasing down” or the term “unabated” to fossil fuels. Even the word “could” became controversial, when tied to the suggestion countries might consider limiting fossil fuel production and consumption. To victims of climate change, the arguments might look like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

Some nations were prepared to acknowledge the need to eliminate fossil fuels. Others noted the need for a future transition without compromising their need to develop or earn export income. Still others suggested the effects of fossil fuels might be minimised through technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

All 198 participating countries needed to approve any final declaration. So you can see the difficulty in reaching consensus.

More than 100 countries have pushed for a global commitment to a total phase-out of fossil fuels. But nations that profit immensely from fossil fuels – such as Russia, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia – opposed any mention of fossil fuels in the final document.

The first draft of the declaration did not go down well.

Host negotiators attempted to broker a deal between the competing interests by omitting any reference to phasing “out” or “down”. Instead, they suggested countries “could” consider reducing production and consumption of fossil fuels. The compromise text produced by COP28 president Al Jaber and his team seemed to err on the side of fossil fuel interests. Despite this, the fossil fuel backers were still opposed.

Outcry was swift from advocates for strong climate action. The draft was labelled a “death certificate” by vulnerable small island states, while a withering attack) came from concerned states, NGOs and even states with patchier climate records such as Australia, the United States, Canada and Japan.

An Agreement - But Is It Enough?

As talks extended well beyond the original deadline, it came as some surprise that the final document was endorsed relatively swiftly.

The final version was more strident on the contribution of fossil fuels to climate change, and some advocates saw this as a significant signal. It asserted that the transition from fossil fuels needed to take place quickly, though “in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”.

It says something about the glacial pace of climate talks since they began in 1992 that this is the first time the contribution of fossil fuels to climate change has ever been acknowledged in a final COP document. And here, critics lamented the lack of detail over how goals would be implemented or commitments realised.

The conference also delivered important commitments to tripling renewable energy, expanding nuclear power, and a new pledge to cut emissions from cooling technologies such as air conditioning, which will become increasingly important as the world heats up. The talks also saw recognition of the increasingly significant role of the agricultural sector in contributing to climate change.

But more must be done. In 2023, temperatures are already spiking past the crucial threshold of 1.5°C. The global stocktake of emissions cuts released in advance of the talks shows our current efforts are not enough to stop further warming. Countries such as Australia advocated stronger language on ending fossil fuels while maintaining a steady pipeline of new fossil fuel projects at home. It’s little wonder, then, that the lead negotiator of the the Alliance of Small Island States said “the process has failed us”.

In short, and despite the diplomatic achievement of an agreement that looked unlikely only hours earlier, it’s still hard to say the international community is taking this enormous challenge as seriously as it should.The Conversation

Matt McDonald, Associate Professor of International Relations, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Koalas suffer in the heat – here’s how to help this summer

Yatra4289, Shutterstock
Edward NarayanThe University of Queensland

As we brace for an unusually hot summer, spare a thought for koalas. They will be out and about in search of love, food and water in the searing heat.

Mother koalas with pouch young are especially vulnerable. Many will be killed or injured on our roads as they attempt to cross. Sometimes joeys are orphaned in the process, but even if they make it to one of Australia’s rehabilitation centres these young koalas can be stressed by well-meaning visitors such as potential donors and media.

Hot and dry conditions make gum tree leaves less nutritious, so koalas tend to seek additional water sources. Some diseases can also damage their kidneys, making them drink more.

As habitat loss pushes koalas into our cities, people frequently encounter these wild animals on roads, in parks and sometimes even in their backyards. So it’s worth knowing how to help keep koalas healthy and what to do if you encounter a koala in distress.

What To Do If You Encounter A Sick Or Injured Koala

  1. Put clean water out in a shallow bowl such as an ice-cream container at the base of a gum tree. Thirsty koalas will gently lap up the water using their tongue. Never give a koala water from a bottle because koalas can choke if their heads are tilted back while drinking.

  2. Avoid any interaction with wild koalas. Leave this to veterinarians, wildlife officers, researchers with permits, and licensed rehabilitators. Koalas have strong arms, sharp claws and a very tight grip. They also find the presence of humans very stressful.

  3. If you find a koala on the ground and it lets you approach, there must be a problem. Call your local koala rescue group. The name of the organisation will vary depending on your location. If you don’t know where to begin, Google “wildlife rescue near me”. Dial the number and follow the instructions from the koala rescue team. Do not try to touch, handle or pick up the koala. Also discourage other people from gathering to look on, as it can do more harm. Distressed koalas produce the stress hormone cortisol, which can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate variability and make recovery and rehabilitation more challenging.

  4. Keep dogs on a leash when you are out and attend to any barking at home. Train your dog to respect wildlife. Ensure the dog will come to you when called. Reward good behaviour.

  5. Koalas can end up in suburban backyards with or without food trees. You might like to install an “escape pole” such as timber log placed vertically against the fence in your yard. Follow these handy koala-sensitive design guidelines.

  6. Secure swimming pools so koalas are less likely to fall in and drown. Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organisation, WIRES, suggests draping something over the edge of the pool so animals can climb out. A length of heavy-duty rope or even a bodyboard, secured at one end to something heavy outside the pool, works well because it does not absorb water and provides a platform for an exhausted animal to rest on. You can also place bricks or large stones to the side of each step, to make it easier for animals to gain a foothold and climb out.

Understanding Stress In Koalas

Koalas are well adapted to life in Australian forests. They have insulating fur and an ability to adjust body posture when exposed to environmental challenges –  such as rolling up in a ball in high wind and covering their ears. They can stay in the trees even in very windy conditions.

If you wander into the bush at night during breeding season – from spring through to autumn – you may hear the deafening bellowing of male koalas trying to attract females.

Breeding season is a stressful time for wild koalas because there is so much activity involved, including energy expended in the search for mate.

Koalas generally keep to their family groups. Mum and joeys usually stay together in the treetops. Adult males father many joeys, sometimes with different females.

The diseases chlamydia and koala retrovirus are among the biggest threats to koalas’ survival. Chlamydia is a bacteria found in many species of bird and mammals worldwide. Koala retrovirus is thought to cause koala immune deficiency syndrome (KIDS), an AIDS-like immunodeficiency that leaves infected koalas more susceptible to infectious disease and cancers.

A lack of appropriate food trees is another source of stress, because koalas rely on fresh gum leaves to maintain their body’s water balance.

Ask An Expert: How Extensive is Chlamydia? (Koala Life)

Be A Friend To Koalas

Habitat loss, bushfire, drought, heat and pressure to find a mate mean koalas are frequently on the move. Here’s how to help keep them safe and well:

  • watch out for koalas on the road and slow down

  • put local koala wildlife rescue group contact numbers in your phone so you know whom to call in an emergency

  • report urban koala sightings to your local rescue group – it’s likely to indicate an ongoing problem. Well-informed koala rescue groups can better manage the situation and put appropriate action plans in place

  • ask your council about programs available for koalas in your local area and volunteer for food tree planting days and other activities

  • support local koala hospitals and donate if you can

  • share this article with family and friends.The Conversation

Edward Narayan, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Two charts in Australia’s 2023 climate statement show we are way off track for net zero by 2050

Adwo, Shutterstock
John QuigginThe University of Queensland

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has announced Australia is “within striking distance” of the government’s 2030 emissions reduction target.

The good news was in the 2023 Climate Statement he tabled in parliament late last week.

Our commitment under the Paris Agreement is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 43% relative to 2005 levels by 2030, and to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Unfortunately, a closer look at the statement suggests Australia is unlikely to achieve net zero by 2050 in the absence of radical policy changes. The problem can be seen in the following charts, included in the statement.

The Devil In The Detail

At first sight, the picture looks encouraging. Total emissions, represented by the yellow line, have declined greatly since the peak just after 2005. The trajectory looks consistent with net zero by 2050. The red dotted line, taking account of additional measures planned by the government, but not yet committed, lowers emissions a bit further.

A closer look leads to a gloomier conclusion. Nearly all of the reduction arises from just two categories: electricity and “LULUCF”, which stands for “land use, land-use change and forestry”.

This can be seen by turning to the original source of the data. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water provides a graph showing the same data, but with the different sources of emissions shown separately, rather than being stacked as they were in the previous graph.

The decline in electricity emissions reflects the rapid replacement of coal and gas-fired electricity by renewables (mainly solar power, wind and hydro, firmed by battery storage). This transition is well underway, and likely to continue.

The bad news is the transition to renewable electricity will be complete around 2035, after which there can be no further reductions.

The other main source of declining (in fact, negative) emissions is a grab bag of measures such as reductions in land clearing. There is debate over whether reductions from this source are genuine and sustainable. But the big decline in emissions from land use, land use change and forestry was over by 2015. As with electricity, there is little hope of future emissions reductions from this source.

How Can We Further Reduce Emissions?

The biggest remaining sources of emissions are transport, stationary energy (heating and burning fuel for industry), “fugitive” emissions from coal and gas production, and agriculture.

All of these are projected to remain roughly constant between now and 2035, and there is little reason to expect sharp declines after that, at least under current policies. So, on our current trajectory, we are unlikely to get much below 50% of 2005 emissions, let alone net zero, by 2050.

Looking at the sectors individually, emissions from agriculture are difficult to reduce, unless we also reduce production, particularly of meat. There have been lots of proposals to reduce emissions of methane from ruminants (mostly belches), but none has appeared practical so far. That means deeper reductions will be needed in other sectors.

In the case of transport and stationary energy, there are few technological obstacles to the achievement of drastic emissions reductions. The technology to electrify land transport, heating and most industrial processes is readily available. But there seems to be little government urgency to implement this technology.

As far as households are concerned, the crucial requirements are to replace internal combustion engine vehicles with electrics, and to replace gas for home use with electricity. Both are entirely feasible and, if we made a determined start today, the transition could be complete before 2050.

But that would require a rapid end to the purchase of new vehicles with internal combustion engines and of new gas connections for households. Neither seems likely.

The government’s National Electric Vehicles strategy released in April, included a commitment to a Fuel Efficiency Standard for new light vehicles. The draft standard was supposed to be released this year, but has not yet appeared.

Unless the standard is considerably more stringent than appears likely at present, the dominant position of polluting vehicles in new sales is likely to persist for some time.

The government rejected the recommendations of the Climate Change Authority in this area. The authority proposed a standard for heavy vehicles, and an end to polluting light vehicle sales by 2040. On this basis, there will be millions of dirty cars and trucks with internal combustion engines still on the road by 2050.

A Disturbing Pattern Of Inaction

The same pattern of inaction applies to electrification of home energy. The Victorian government has taken the lead on banning gas connections, and the Authority recommended adopting a national approach. But Bowen declined, saying “the government does not support a national ban on gas connections to new homes”.

Even more concerning are projections for fugitive emissions from coal and gas production. These are effectively flat, implying the government expects production to continue at current levels indefinitely into the future. In turn, this implies that, as well as failing to deliver on its own 2050 net zero pledge, the government is betting the world as a whole will fail at this. Sadly, they may be right.The Conversation

John Quiggin, Professor, School of Economics, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A home among the gum trees: will the Great Koala National Park actually save koalas?

Tim CadmanGriffith University and Danielle ClodeFlinders University

It’s a visionary idea: a national park for koalas. Conceived over a decade ago, the idea gained prominence after Labor took the idea to three successive elections in New South Wales. Now they’re in office and have finally begun putting commitment to action.

The original idea is simple: a park stretching from Grafton to Kempsey in northern NSW, drawing in over 300,000 hectares of state forest and existing national parks. Covering prime koala habitat, the park would be a safe haven for the now-threatened koala as its numbers on the east coast dwindle.

But will it be enough to save the koala from extinction?

A Park With Logging And Plantations?

Since the idea was canvassed, the megafires of the 2019–2020 summer have affected more than a third of the proposed park, and killed many hundreds – or even thousands – of koalas. Even so, policy is driven by the original park boundaries and koala population data collected before the fires.

burned koala in tree
The megafires of the Black Summer hit tree-dwelling koalas hard. JohnCC BY-ND

When you see the phrase “state forest” on a map, it means logging is usually allowed. In National Parks, of course, it’s not.

The Great Koala National Park covers a number of state forests, where logging has continued.

In 2018, the previous state government extended the state’s Regional Forest Agreement logging laws for another twenty years. But this extension did not consider the impacts of climate change on forest management, meaning logging levels were not reduced to reflect changing environmental conditions.

In fact, the government went the other way, loosening logging rules to permit larger trees to be cut while koala management prescriptions were weakened. The removal of natural habitat trees up to 140cm diameter were permitted. If a koala was sighted in a tree, that tree could still be removed if the koala moved on.

Despite ongoing calls from scientists and citizens, the current state government has allowed logging in the proposed park to continue largely unchecked.

Even when the government has intervened, it has been too little, too late. The recent suspension of logging of 8,000 hectares of forest in so-called koala “hubs” with high population density will not be enough to offset the damage from ongoing logging. Worse, some of the hubs have already been logged.

When you look at the provisional park boundary – which includes the hubs – you can see all plantations inside the park are excluded.

This, too, doesn’t make much sense. That’s because koalas, as eucalyptus leaf-eating specialists, actually like hardwood plantations. Similarly, many areas now zoned as plantation were never actually logged and replanted. Instead, they’re a mix of original native forest and regrowth, or mixed species of local stock indistinguishable from the natural forests of the region.

These plantations are mostly on prime soils on the coast and consist of moist eucalypt forest and rainforest – ideal food and habitat for the koalas.

But when these areas are clearfelled, they are usually replaced with monoculture coastal blackbutt, which koalas do not like to eat.

As a result, these plantation areas – whether real or just on the map – are critical to the integrity of the park. Koalas cannot read maps, and do not understand human zoning. If their habitat in plantations is cleared, they die – just as we’ve seen in Victoria, where deaths of koalas in blue gum plantations have made national news.

Bring The Plantations Into The Park

As Victoria and Western Australia fast-track the end of native forest logging, New South Wales has so far not followed suit.

But this may change, as efforts grow within the federal Labor party to end native forest logging altogether.

If this happens, where will we get timber from? The obvious answer is from plantations. The problem for the NSW Labor government is that the plantations on the mid north coast are prime koala habitat.

For a koala-protecting National Park to actually protect koalas, it must be based on the identification and reservation of high value habitat – such as hardwood plantations.

If we leave all plantations out, some of the best habitat in the park will continue to be logged. Without plantations, the park will be filled with holes, severing critical corridors and hampering the movement of koalas.

What Should We Do?

We have to restore the areas lost to logging and the Black Summer bushfires and flag more forested areas for inclusion – especially unburnt habitat.

And the government has to end logging within the proposed park area. If we want a viable alternative, the government should begin new plantations outside the park area and buy out existing logging contracts inside the park. Logging and koalas do not mix.

aerial photo of logged area with intact forest behind
Inside the proposed park, many areas of prime koala habitat have already been logged. This shows Tuckers Nob State Forest after logging. Google/AirbusCC BY-ND

We should give up on the idea of protecting koala “hubs”. Instead, we should prioritise the protection of koala populations unaffected by fire and in untouched forest areas wherever they are, whether inside or outside of these hubs.

Every bit of habitat on public land should be ruled in, as this is what counts, not zoning. Local communities – not just the forest industry and environment groups – need to be included in negotiations. The government should also consider community efforts to seek World Heritage protection for these forests.

If the proposed park is to live up to the “Great” in its name, it has to be as big and as well connected as possible. Ruling out some of the best koala habitat in the area is not a great place to start.The Conversation

Tim Cadman, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow with the Law Futures Centre and the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law, Griffith University and Danielle Clode, Associate Professor (adjunct) in Creative Writing, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Can the government’s new market mechanism help save nature? Yes – if we get the devil out of the detail

Patrick O'ConnorUniversity of Adelaide

Australians woke up this morning to discover they had a nature repair market, after the legislation passed late last night.

Except it won’t be called a market, after amendments by the Greens, and it won’t include biodiversity offsets.

Many experts have been highly sceptical of using market forces to reverse the damage we’ve done to nature. There is some truth to this. Markets seek to find the point of exchange between sellers (here, farmers and landholders) and buyers (fund managers, government and philanthropic organisations). When a government invents a market, it can try to make it appealing to politics, principles and buyers, while buyers work to drive prices and standards down, and volumes up.

But as someone who has run nature-based market mechanisms in Australia for 20 years, I regard the passing of this legislation as a tentative step forwards. Market mechanisms can work, if done right. The sheer scale of what we have done to nature means we need large-scale action. Giving nature repair projects a tradeable value and government-backed quality assurance could help – if it works for both nature and investors.

Even though the bill has passed, there is much detail we are yet to see. And as we all know, the devil is in the detail.

Can A Bill Like This Work Without Offsets?

When first proposed, conservationists criticised the nature repair bill’s allowance of offsets – essentially, if you clear land for a development in one place, you have to revegetate or protect a similar amount of land elsewhere. That’s because offsets can be seen as an easy solution – pay money and you can still trash nature. Or a developer might rip out scarce threatened species habitat and replant acacias, of which we have a vast amount.

Now the offsets are gone. Or are they? This bill is not the end of the line. The harder debate is yet to come as the government prepares reform of the far bigger Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – the main environmental protection laws we have at federal level, and widely regarded as not currently up to the task.

The government is likely to include offsets in this act rather than the Nature Repair Act. Why? Because development of any kind involves making changes to nature – and we will need a lot of new infrastructure as we work towards net zero, such as transmission lines for renewable energy projects.

The government will want to use offsetting to compensate nature for losses from new infrastructure. If there are no offsets available, you either do the development without trying to repair nature, or don’t do the development at all. The fight over offsetting may only have been kicked down the road.

So What Do We Have That We Didn’t Have Yesterday?

We will now have a market framework that will make it possible to buy and sell certificates generated by certified nature repair projects.

For example, for koala habitat this could include reducing stock grazing, managing weeds and pest animals and agreeing to a covenant on the land to prevent future habitat loss due to development.

This isn’t the first time we’ve tried to use market forces for nature. Auctions for biodiversity gains, for instance, have worked well in the past and are working now in New South Wales.

There are lessons to learn from the problems the carbon credit market has faced around integrity. But we don’t have to make the same mistakes for a biodiversity market.

recent review I coauthored of pilots for the previously proposed biodiversity market points to important lessons from earlier efforts. These include the vital importance of reducing upfront costs for landholders who want to get involved and building trust and confidence in the supporting arrangements.

This will require some public investment to support landholders to meet the measurement and planning costs to participate in the market.

Australia needs to act and act quickly to protect and restore nature where further degradation would be difficult or impossible to reverse. We have recognised the need for action and signed up to international commitments to protect and restore 30% of the continent’s lands and waters by 2030.

Why Would Investors Plough Money Into Nature?

Many reasons. The main one is the growing recognition of how the health of nature underpins the global economy and traditional investment assets such as agriculture. The World Economic Forum estimates biodiversity credit values could reach A$3 billion by 2030 and $104 billion by 2050.

Demand is rising, driven by regulation, corporate reputation and mission, market edge and attractiveness to investors. Organisations like the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures are driving work on nature-related risks and opportunities for finance globally.

greenhouse with berries, bush in background
Agriculture and other sectors rely on the health of the natural world. Shutterstock

While there has been scepticism about whether the market really exists for nature repair in Australia, there are some signs investors are ready. For instance, Western Australia’s first green bond was greatly oversubscribed at its launch this year, promising to invest in projects with environmental benefits such as energy transition.

We won’t see investing in nature repair ramp up until all necessary laws and regulations are in place, projects begin to generate credits and the risks and opportunities are clear. This could take a couple of years, but could take longer if the reforms to the environment act are held up.

The design of the new market remains unclear and its success in channelling private funds into genuine nature repair will depend on the standards and rules still to be set.

We should set the standard high and make the most of our expertise in good governance, technology and innovation to make Australia’s natural world an attractive place to invest.The Conversation

Patrick O'Connor, Associate Professor, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COP28: Turning the tap off slowly – why Australia’s decision to end overseas fossil fuel finance matters

Christian DownieAustralian National University and Maxfield PetersonAustralian National University

Until recently, financing fossil fuel projects has been relatively easy.

But that is slowly changing. At the COP28 climate negotiations yesterday, Australia announced it will sign the Glasgow Statement and will no longer finance international oil, gas and coal projects. Domestic projects are not part of the agreement.

Major Australian allies such as the United States and United Kingdom, as well as 32 other nations and five public banks, made this commitment in 2021. It’s an agreement between governments and public financial agencies such as development banks and export credit agencies to end all new public financing for unabated fossil fuel projects.

By joining, Australia will make it harder to mobilise finance for fossil fuel projects that produce millions of tonnes of emissions, and make it easier to fund renewable energy projects that produce very little.

It’s the latest in a welcome series of signals that the international community is slowly turning off the tap for new fossil fuels.

LNG tanker moving through ocean
Giant LNG projects can’t happen without finance. Shutterstock

Phasing Down Or Phasing Out?

Australia’s decision to join the agreement comes amid intense negotiations at COP28 in Dubai this week over whether governments will commit to “phasing out” or “phasing down” fossil fuel use.

It might sound like quibbling, but this linguistic distinction carries major implications for global climate change. Phasing out means ending the routine burning of fossil fuels entirely. Phasing down means we will keep burning them but at a reduced rate – and that means some level of fossil fuel investment will continue.

Under the International Energy Agency’s 2050 net zero plan, there are no new oil, natural gas or coal projects beyond those already approved in 2021.

Even reduced levels of fossil fuel investment will derail the possibility of averting global warming’s worst consequences.

Why Does International Public Finance For Energy Matter?

If the world is to limit global average temperature rise to 2°C, we will need financial institutions on board. That’s because current estimates suggest we need A$2.3 trillion every year to 2030 to meet existing targets to build low-carbon and climate-resilient infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries alone.

To source that kind of finance means we need all financial institutions – including state-backed banks which often favour new coal, gas or oil projects – to pull finance out of new fossil fuels and pump it into clean energy.

Australia is a relatively small player when it comes to public energy finance. Our research shows Australia’s official export credit agency, Export Finance Australia, invested $11.45 billion in fossil fuel projects from 2009 to 2021. That sounds like a lot, but it’s peanuts compared with the US and Canadian equivalents, which shelled out A$348 billion and A$560 billion respectively over the same period. Japan, South Korea and China’s agencies each spent more than $100 billion in that period – and show no indication of ending their fossil fuel investments.

Even so, Australia’s commitment is significant because it adds to the growing number of public and private banks internationally that are reconsidering their investment in fossil fuel infrastructure such as new oil pipelines, gas platforms and coal-fired power plants. The move also places greater pressure on Japan and South Korea, the other wealthy democracies in the Asia-Pacific yet to sign the agreement.

This Is Welcome – But Long Overdue

As climate change damage has intensified over the past two decades, export credit agencies and development banks have been busy pouring tens of billions of dollars a year into fossil fuel projects. It’s not small change – from 2006 to 2022, these funds amount to more than $1.5 trillion. That money has directly led to the construction of countless dirty energy projects around the globe.

In 2020, for instance, the US, UK, Japan, Italy and other nations financially backed Total’s controversial multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique, including long-term infrastructure such as offshore drilling wells, offshore pipelines, and port facilities.

petrol station in Mozambique
Total’s giant gas project in Mozambique relied on funds from public banks. Shutterstock

Once built, these fossil fuel infrastructure projects can lock in carbon-intensive futures for developing nations. As scientific research has shown, international public finance for coal-fired power plants early in a country’s energy development leads directly to a long-term reliance on fossil fuels.

Worse, as global population growth is heavily concentrated in less developed countries, these are the countries that will have to dramatically increase energy production to meet the needs of their societies. They cannot be locked in to fossil fuels.

To avoid this, green investment must accelerate and displace brown (fossil fuel) investment to avoid a rapid escalation of fossil fuel dependency across the Global South.

In better news, every dollar public banks turn away from fossil fuel projects is a dollar towards the trillions we need invested every year to meet the world’s global clean energy infrastructure goals.

Publicly backed banks play a crucial role in attracting private investment by taking on riskier debts than the market will, especially in developing countries where risk insurance is often needed to help get projects across the line.

Australia’s commitment will be welcomed by our acutely climate-exposed neighbours in the Pacific and give us a stronger position to lead on climate in our region.

The next step will be much harder, but also more significant: making the same commitment at home and actually drying up the pipeline of new gas and coal projects.The Conversation

Christian Downie, Associate Professor, Australian National University and Maxfield Peterson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Harnessing the oceans to ‘bury’ carbon has huge potential – and risk – so NZ needs to move with caution

Rebecca J McLeodUniversity of Otago and Cliff LawUniversity of Otago

Climate change might not be high on its immediate agenda, but New Zealand’s new government does have one potentially significant and innovative policy.

Recognising the marine environment’s ability to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂), it has pledged to consider bringing wetlands into the emissions trading scheme, and to investigate the potential of kelp farms to sequester CO₂.

New Zealand’s current sequestration plans rely heavily on planting forests and buying international carbon credits to offset emissions.

Emissions reduction and the removal of atmospheric CO₂ are both needed to keep global temperature increase to less than 1.5°C. But the country is still far from on track to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement, and the national goal of net zero by 2050.

At the same time, New Zealand has the world’s sixth largest exclusive economic zone, with unique oceanographic features for CO₂ removal that are attracting international interest. The ocean is Earth’s largest carbon sink, having removed around 30% of global CO₂ emissions to date.

New Zealand also has the scientific expertise to research the potential for harnessing its seas to help achieve national net zero ambitions. But it lacks a clear strategy for assessing risk and developing the most beneficial solutions.

Benefits And Risks Of Marine CO₂ Removal

Around the world, projects are under way to restore coastal wetlands by “re-wetting” drained land and planting mangroves, seagrass and other coastal plants. These “blue carbon” projects aim to restore the carbon burial properties of wetlands, with related benefits for biodiversity and coastal resilience.

A growing number of countries are including coastal wetlands in their climate accounting and reporting. Increasingly, these projects are tied to carbon credit schemes – which seems to be what New Zealand’s new government is also signalling.

But the ways in which the nation’s marine environment could help lower atmospheric CO₂ extend far beyond coastal wetlands. There is great interest in enhancing natural oceanic processes, known as “marine carbon dioxide removal”, or mCDR.

In the open ocean, mCDR aims to increase CO₂ uptake via giant seaweed farms, enhancing seawater alkalinity, and fertilising areas of the ocean to promote algal blooms.

The appeal of mCDR lies in the ocean’s potential capacity to draw down enormous amounts of carbon. But while the potential gains are large, there are gaps in our knowledge. More investment is needed to determine the net carbon benefits – and potential ecological risks – of intervening in nature in these ways.

Carbon Burial At Sea

Plants in the sea – mangroves, seaweed, and microscopic phytoplankton – capture CO₂ through photosynthesis, just like their counterparts on land. But permanently removing that carbon from the atmosphere means burying it in the deep sea or the seafloor.

This presents challenges. It is relatively easy to measure the carbon uptake by a seaweed farm, for example, but much harder to track the path of that carbon into a permanent reservoir.

Similarly, we need more accurate accounting for increased CO₂ uptake from ocean fertilisation or alkalinity enhancement, and the ultimate fate of that carbon in the vast and remote ocean environment. This will be crucial for ensuring the integrity and credibility of such approaches.

A recent seafloor carbon map has highlighted the parts of New Zealand’s marine environment, such as the deep ocean and fiords, that are important carbon reservoirs.

But we also need to consider the vulnerability of these reservoirs. If disturbed, they may store less carbon, or even release it.

Lessons And Opportunities

There are already well-established projects focused on the blue carbon potential of coastal wetlands in New Zealand. But overall the country lacks a clear plan for marine carbon removal, or indeed for its oceans in general.

A comprehensive approach to evaluating marine CO₂ removal has to be informed by scientific research. And while major funding of research and development is happening elsewhere, New Zealand’s limited resources mean it must be strategic about where it invests.

The many blue carbon and mCDR solutions being considered internationally are a good place to start. Applying this knowledge to New Zealand’s unique environmental and cultural settings will involve weighing up each solution before committing to a strategy.

Importantly, international climate policy and governance needs to be developed in parallel with scientific advances. Right now, coastal wetlands are the only marine environment included in the International Panel for Climate Change guidelines for greenhouse gas inventories. More work will be needed to apply those guidelines to New Zealand’s coastal wetlands.

There are good working models already in the blue carbon forums established in Scotland and the United Kingdom. These distil scientific information, develop strategies and plans, and act as conduits between scientists, policy makers and politicians.

A similar approach in New Zealand would help advance a nationally coordinated framework of research, policy and environmental management that strategically considers all blue carbon and mCDR options.

Such a strategy will consider the net carbon benefit versus the risks and possible ecological side effects, particularly for mCDR.

But the country is well positioned to explore how the ocean might contribute to its climate goals. The scientists are ready, the government has pledged action – it’s time to get moving.The Conversation

Rebecca J McLeod, Senior Research Fellow in Marine Ecology, University of Otago and Cliff Law, Principal Scientist, National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), University of Otago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Helping the Pacific financially is a great start – but Australia must act on the root cause of the climate crisis

Fiji was flooded by a severe cyclone in 2016. ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock
Wesley MorganGriffith University

The federal government has announced an extra A$150 million for climate finance – including $100 million for the Pacific to help protect its people, housing and infrastructure from the escalating impacts of global warming.

It comes as Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen lands in Dubai for international negotiations at the 28th United Nations climate summit. At the end of the hottest year on record, these talks focus on accelerating climate action in line with the Paris Agreement.

While new funding is undoubtedly important and can go a long way to supporting community-led resilience-building efforts in the region, Australia will be under growing pressure to do more.

A growing number of countries, including the European Union and Pacific island nations, want to see global agreement at COP28 for a managed phase-out of fossil fuels.

Many observers are sceptical that COP28 can deliver consensus on shifting away from coal, oil and gas, because host nation the United Arab Emirates is a major oil exporter. This is a problem Australia also faces – having volunteered to host UN climate talks in 2026, in partnership with Pacific island countries. Today, Australia exports almost three times as much fossil fuels as the UAE. Dozens of new coal and gas projects are lining up for approval.

Today’s announcement must not be a substitute for addressing the root causes of the climate crisis. Australia must stop approving new coal, oil and gas projects. And we must back agreement at COP28 for the phase-out of fossil fuels.

What’s In Today’s Announcement?

Australia will kickstart the Pacific’s first resilience financing facility with $100 million, and rejoin the Green Climate Fund with a $50 million contribution. As the government says in today’s joint statement:

Climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of climate vulnerable countries and regions, including the peoples of the Pacific.

Sea-level rise, stronger cyclones, marine heatwaves and increasingly acidic oceans pose existential threats to many Pacific islands. Low-lying atoll nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are especially vulnerable.

Australia certainly has a responsibility to help Pacific communities adapt. Supporting the Pacific-led, owned and managed Pacific Resilience Facility is an important step.

The facility was proposed by island leaders as a regional fund that would help island communities build resilience to climate impacts, and would be driven by Pacific priorities.

It was established partly in response to concerns that other large multilateral funds are difficult for Pacific island countries to access, and are not geared to support community-scale projects. These locally driven solutions and community projects deserve our support.

The Australian government says it will support locally led, small-scale projects:

This includes grants for climate adaptation, disaster preparedness, nature-based solutions and projects which respond to loss and damage.

Note the words “loss and damage” – the sole mention of those words in today’s announcement. Bowen has so far been hesitant to make any commitment to the new global Loss and Damage Fund, to be administered by the World Bank.

Rejoining The Green Climate Fund

The world’s largest global climate fund, the Green Climate Fund, was set up in 2015 as part of the Paris Agreement. It has approved projects across 128 countries.

Australian diplomat Howard Bamsey was previously Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund and Australia was able to direct the multilateral fund to support initiatives in our region.

But the Morrison government withdrew Australia from the fund in 2018. We should never have left. It was a rash decision, announced by the then Prime Minister Scott Morrison live on air while talking to radio host Alan Jones.

Rejoining the Green Climate Fund makes good sense for Australian diplomacy and relations with countries in our region. By rejoining the fund, Australia can effectively advocate for funding to meet Pacific needs.

Australia Should Contribute To The New Loss And Damage Fund

Providing finance to help Pacific communities deal with growing climate impacts is a positive step, but Australia also needs to contribute to the newly established fund to address loss and damage that is now unavoidable.

The establishment of the global Loss and Damage Fund at the beginning of COP28 last week was a major breakthrough, and a real win for Pacific island countries.

Vanuatu first proposed a global fund in the early 1990s. The idea was polluters would pay for the damage they were causing.

This is different to climate finance for adaptation. It is meant to deal with things you really can’t adapt to, such as loss of lives after a major cyclone, or damage to crucial infrastructure after coastal inundation.

Finalising such a fund means wealthy nations and major emitters must now allocate funds to address these forms of loss and damage in the Pacific.

With other nations – including the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, the UAE and Germany – already making announcements to contribute to this new Loss and Damage Fund, Australia must also do its part.

Australia should be supporting our Pacific neighbours by actively contributing to this global fund and recognising our responsibilities as a major fossil fuel producer.

Committing To Fossil Fuel Phase Out Key To Winning Pacific Support

The only way to actually stop harming communities in the Pacific is to stop adding fuel to the fire. That means stopping the approval of new coal, oil and gas projects and committing to a managed phase-out of fossil fuels.

Australia has put up its hand to host COP31 with Pacific island countries in 2026. To be a successful host of the UN climate talks, Australia will need to actively support the Pacific’s fight for survival. We can’t just keep throwing money at the problem. We need to be part of the solution.The Conversation

Wesley Morgan, Research Fellow, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate ‘tipping points’ can be positive too – our report sets out how to engineer a domino effect of rapid changes

fran_kie / shutterstock
Steven R. SmithUniversity of SurreyCaroline ZimmInternational Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and Tim LentonUniversity of Exeter

A young boy is forced to sit at a dinner table with grown-ups talking endlessly about grown-up stuff. He’s bored. He finds it hard at first, to push with his feet against the table frame, tip his chair onto its back legs, and straighten his legs. But towards the pivot point it becomes an almost effortless, floating experience, requiring only the slightest toe poke, now and then.

And then … disaster. One toe poke too many is all it takes to pass the point of no return and the boy crash lands on his back.

The boy had gone past the “tipping point” after which change became inevitable. And on a much larger scale, this same process can see glaciers suddenly disappear or rainforests dry up.

man falls backwards off chair
Once past the tipping point, change becomes inevitable. MattBigFat / TenorCC BY-SA

We are part of an international team of over 200 authors to have contributed to the new Global Tipping Points Report launched at the COP 28 climate change talks in Dubai.

At least five tipping points in the Earth system require only a slight toe poke to be triggered – including the collapse of major ice sheets, and coral reefs, and an abrupt shift in North Atlantic ocean circulation. These “negative” tipping points are now so close that urgent action needs to be taken to prevent them.

Fortunately, tipping points with good outcomes – “positive” tipping points – are also possible in human technology, economics, politics and social behaviour. In fact, they’re already happening, in areas ranging from renewable energy and electric vehicles, to social movements and plant-based diets. Our report sets out ways to intervene in these systems to enable positive tipping points to be triggered – for example by making the desired change the cheapest, most convenient or morally acceptable option.

Multiple systems can even tip in a domino effect of cascading beneficial change. For example, as we cross the tipping point that sees electric vehicles become the dominant form of road transport, battery technology will continue to get better and cheaper.

This could trigger another positive tipping point in the use of batteries for storing renewable energy, reinforcing another in the use of heat pumps in our homes, and so on. And there are what we call “super-leverage points” – places where we can deliberately intervene with information campaigns, mandates and incentives to create widespread change across sectors.

Two workers in an electric car battery factory
Improvements in electric car batteries can in turn make it easier to heat your home sustainably. NamLong Nguyen / shutterstock

These actions might sound rather effortless, a final little toe poke that nudges a system past its point of no return and accelerates it towards a new (in this case desired) state. “Just” make the desired technology the cheaper option; bring in a new regulation or mandate; invest in new infrastructure; create new institutions; change habits or social norms; and wait for the system to tip.

But, returning to the image of our young boy, this overlooks all the demanding legwork, especially at the beginning, that it takes to get to that final, pivotal threshold. Any typical example of transformative change that one cares to point to – whether it’s Denmark’s transition to wind power, Columbia’s signature on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, or Ecuador’s vote to ban oil drilling in the Amazon – involves a much longer backstory of political struggle.

Curiously, in the case of Norway’s pioneering transition to electric vehicles (EVs) – over 80% of new car sales in Norway are now fully electric – it also involves the pop band a-ha, best known internationally for their 1985 hit Take On Me, appropriately enough for what followed.

The A-Ha Moment

Back in the late 1980s a-ha’s lead singer Morten Harket and keyboardist “Mags” Furuholmen teamed up with a professor of architecture, Harald Røstvik, and environmentalist Frederic Hauge, and together they began sowing the seeds of a Norwegian transport revolution. Beginning with a campaign to get the public on their side, the group travelled to Switzerland to take part in the solar EV race, the Tour de Sol, with the Norwegian press in tow. They also test-drove a converted electric Fiat Panda: range, 46 kilometres.

Suitably impressed, they set about importing a similar specimen into Norway. They exploited every photo opportunity, and campaigned to make EVs the cheapest, most convenient option by abolishing importation, registration and company car taxes for EVs, exempting EVs from VAT and road tolls, and giving them free access to bus lanes and ferries.

For many years the Norwegian government remained unmoved by a-ha’s demands. In response, a-ha refused to pay the tolls and parking fines. Eventually the car was impounded and auctioned off, to the delight of the national press, who took front row seats. Someone sympathetic to the cause made the winning bid and promptly handed the car back to the pop group.

This cycle was repeated, over and over, until in 1997 EVs were exempted from road tolls in Norway. By 2009, all the campaigners’ demands had been met and the government began investing heavily in public EV charging infrastructure. All the enabling conditions for a positive tipping point had been met and from 2011 Norway’s EV car market started to grow very rapidly.

To limit global heating to as near to +1.5°C as possible we need rapid, exponential change. The whole world needs to replicate Norway’s rapid tipping of the EV market across all sectors and domains of society. The Global Tipping Points Report offers a blueprint for how to achieve a more sustainable future.

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Steven R. Smith, Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), University of SurreyCaroline Zimm, Research Scholar, Transition to New Technologies, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and Tim Lenton, Director, Global Systems Institute, University of Exeter

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A great year to be a cabbage white butterfly: why are there so many and how can you protect your crops?

Christian Mueller/Shutterstock
Nigel AndrewSouthern Cross University

Cabbage white butterflies – Pieris rapae – are one of the most common garden visitors across southern and eastern Australia. The butterfly looks elegant in white with black dots on its wings: females have a pair of black spots and males a single spot on each forewing. But their velvety green caterpillars are ravenous beasts on brassicas – the plant family that includes common vegetable crops such as cabbages, cauliflowers, broccoli, kale and bok choy.

The species was accidentally introduced into Melbourne in 1929 from Europe. Since then, cabbage whites have spread all over Australia, finally reaching Perth in 1943.

Because of their caterpillars’ addiction to eating brassicas, it is one of the most pervasive pests of any crop worldwide. Recent conditions have been favourable, resulting in large numbers of cabbage whites.

One female can lay up to 800 eggs. When they hatch, the caterpillars prefer densely planted hosts in moist, warm habitats. The caterpillars’ biomass can double each day, making them one of the fastest-growing cabbage-feeding caterpillars.

A female cabbage white butterfly on yellow flowers
One female cabbage white can lay up to 800 eggs that hatch into very hungry caterpillars. Anna N Chapman/Wikimedia Commons

Why Are There So Many This Season?

Cabbage whites’ ability to exploit the moist and warm conditions over the past winter are one reason they are so pervasive at the moment.

A leafy green plant ravaged by caterpillars
In a mild year caterpillar numbers build up quickly and can badly damage crops. Scott Nelson/Flickr

They can also cope with cold. The pupae – the stage in which a caterpillar metamorphoses inside a cocoon into an adult butterfly – can survive temperatures as low as -20°C. Their cells can produce antifreeze proteins, which lower their freezing point if it does get cold.

Milder winters mean the overwintering pupae emerged and mated early. The female adults soon started to lay their eggs on planted brassicas.

The next generation of caterpillars can then start feeding without being predated on as their natural enemies take longer to emerge after milder weather. Cabbage white numbers then build up extraordinarily quickly.

What’s The Appeal Of Brassicas?

The caterpillars are attracted and addicted to chemicals found in brassica leaves. These are the mustard oil glucosides (glucosinolates) – particularly sinigrin, which initiates caterpillar feeding.

Adult females are attracted to brassicas by another glucosinolate – glucobrassin – which prompts them to lay their eggs on the leaves. Females can “taste” these chemicals with hairs on their front legs.

The females also prefer greener plants – which they’ll find in well-watered and fertilised vegetable gardens – to lay their eggs.

A female cabbage white lays her eggs on the leaf of a brassica plant
Female cabbage whites prefer greener plants to lay their eggs. bramblejungle/FlickrCC BY-NC

How To Live With Them

A key way to control the caterpillars is to deny them access to your crops in the first place. Once the leaves start developing, cover the crop with insect-proof mesh. You can use garden hoops or bamboo as a supporting frame for the mesh.

When you remove the mesh to water or weed, do it in the early morning or late afternoon when the adults are not flying.

White butterfly decoys suspended on sticks generally don’t work to stop females laying their eggs. There is no evidence cabbage white females are territorial.

It can be useful to provide a “sacrificial” plant. Leave these out in the open to attract the adult female to lay her eggs.

As caterpillars increase in numbers, they will start to attract beneficial predators and insect parasitoids that lay their eggs on the caterpillars. Parasitoids are primarily wasps and can be very effective biocontrol agents. Their larvae feed on the bodily fluids or the internal organs of the host caterpillar, eventually killing it.

These beneficial insects need a nectar source to stay active. They will be attracted to gardens that are a bit “messy” with different habitats and flowers.

Remember, some green caterpillar-like animals are good guys. So, if you are fond of squishing the caterpillars, make sure they are the ones eating the foliage; not the voracious predators, especially aphids, eating the herbivores.

Just to make things more interesting, caterpillars, in general, that are feeding are about 100 times more likely to fall prey to predators and parasites than caterpillars that are hiding. Longer caterpillar feeding bouts usually happen on plants with lower nitrogen levels – so if you have a sacrificial plant, don’t fertilise it.

It can also help not to plant all your brassicas together. Mix up your vegetables and herbs. This provides your prized kale with companion plants and makes it harder for caterpillars to move from one plant to another.

Companion planting allows beneficial insects to find hiding places closer to the caterpillars, and also makes it harder for the female butterflies find your brassicas.

cabbages planted in among flowering marigolds
Companion planting helps protect brassicas from cabbage whites while also attracting beneficial insects. VeMa/Shutterstock

Avoid Pesticides As Much As Possible

Don’t spray your garden plants with pesticides unless you desperately need to feed lots of family or are a serial entrant in the fruit and vegetable exhibition at your local show. The cost is huge relative to the benefit the chemicals bring you. In most cases you will be killing off many beneficial creatures in your garden.

If you must, the least harmful spray for humans and other natural enemies of the cabbage white is Dipel. This is an insecticidal product containing toxins derived from a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Btk), which occurs naturally in soil and on plants. But it may be toxic to other butterflies and moths that pollinate your veggies, so be very careful where and when you spray.

Protecting your patch with mesh, rather than spraying, and providing space and food for natural enemies are great ways to keep the diversity up in your garden. Allowing a little bit of damage to your prized backyard crops enables some interesting biological interactions to occur in areas where it may have been missing for decades.The Conversation

Nigel Andrew, Professor of Entomology, Southern Cross University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What happens after net zero? The impacts will play out for decades, with poorest countries still feeling the heat

Liam CassidyThe University of MelbourneAndrew KingThe University of MelbourneJosephine BrownThe University of Melbourne, and Tilo ZiehnCSIRO

Humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases have caused rapid global warming at a rate unprecedented in at least the past 2,000 years. Rapid global warming has been accompanied by increases in the frequency and intensity of heat extremes over most land regions in the past 70 years.

While human activities cause emissions of a number of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO₂) stands out as the leading culprit. This is because of its relatively long atmospheric lifetime and because human activities cause much higher emissions of CO₂ than other greenhouse gases.

To avoid reaching unsafe global temperatures, climate scientists have concluded we can’t prevent continued global warming without reaching a state of net zero CO₂ emissions.

But how might climate extremes change after net zero CO₂? There is limited research on this. Our new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, uses a collection of models to address this gap. We found temperatures would respond very differently in various parts of the world, and heat extremes might continue to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations.

The Greenhouse Effect And Net Zero Emissions

The world’s land and oceans have taken up most of the carbon humanity has emitted over the past six decades. However, land and oceans are incapable of absorbing 100% of CO₂ emissions.

The remaining CO₂ emissions over the past 60 years have been absorbed by the atmosphere, leading to an enhanced greenhouse effect. This has caused the especially rapid warming we’ve observed in the recent past.

To stop the continued enhancement of the greenhouse effect, we need to reach net zero CO₂ emissions. Achieving net zero means reaching an overall balance between the CO₂ emissions humans produce and the CO₂ humans remove from the atmosphere.

The urgency of reaching net zero CO₂ emissions has sparked the use of state-of-the-art climate modelling techniques to answer the question – how does our climate change after net zero?

What Lies Beyond Net Zero CO₂?

To try and answer this question, we used climate simulation models with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Then, CO₂ emissions are “turned off” and simulations continue for 100 years more. This simple experimental setup allows us to compare the climate before net zero to climate patterns we might see after a transition to net zero.

There are regions where projected climate change patterns after net zero CO₂ are very uncertain. However, we saw several strong patterns:

  1. land cools after net zero CO₂ is achieved, while the ocean takes a bit more time to respond with some areas cooling and others warming;

  2. the Southern Ocean continues to warm after net zero CO₂;

  3. global temperature change (-0.23°C) is not always a good representation of regional temperature changes.

Change in regional temperature after net zero carbon dioxide emissions. Cross-hatching indicates areas where we are confident that regional temperatures increase (red hues) or decrease (blue hues). Author provided

Heat Extreme Patterns After Net Zero CO₂

Currently, less economically developed regions experience disproportionate loss and damage from climate extremes. Should we expect this to persist after net zero CO₂ emissions, or will the inequality of climate change be resolved by net zero?

We explored this issue by investigating if there are any changes in how often local heat extremes occur 100 years after net zero compared to how often they occur before net zero.

We then compared our results to maps of the Human Development Index – a measure of socioeconomic development where regions with a high rank have higher incomes, more access to education and longer life expectancy. Other similar development indicators include the Multidimensional Poverty Index.

Although there are widespread decreases in how often heat extremes occur after net zero CO₂ emissions, regions with a relatively higher human development index such as North America and western Europe experience larger reductions in heat extremes than regions with a lower rank, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia.

Top: change in how often heat extremes occur regionally after net zero. Cross-hatching indicates areas where we are confident that heat extremes become more frequent (green hues) or less frequent (purple hues). Bottom: human development index in 2015. Author provided

Preparing For A Post Net Zero World

We need to reach and sustain net zero CO₂ emissions to halt continued global warming. Models that emulate the transition to net zero CO₂ project large-scale cooling over land, and widespread reduction in land-based heat extremes.

However, post-net zero reductions in heat extremes favour regions with a higher human development index over regions with a lower index. This means the inequality of climate change may persist even after net zero CO₂.

Our study represents a step toward understanding climate extremes after net zero CO₂ emissions are achieved. For now, it is imperative that humanity works without delay to achieve net zero emissions to avoid the most severe climate change impacts affecting future generations.The Conversation

Liam Cassidy, PhD Candidate, The University of MelbourneAndrew King, Senior Lecturer in Climate Science, The University of MelbourneJosephine Brown, Senior Lecturer, The University of Melbourne, and Tilo Ziehn, Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why the world’s first flight powered entirely by sustainable aviation fuel is a green mirage

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner landing at Heathrow international airport in London. Fasttailwind/Shutterstock
Gareth DaleBrunel University London and Josh MoosLeeds Beckett University

A Boeing 787 Dreamliner is set to take off from Heathrow on November 28 and head for JFK airport in New York, powered by so-called sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). According to its operator, Virgin Atlantic, the world’s “first 100% SAF flight” will mark “a historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonisation”.

It is proof of concept, we are led to believe, of the dawn of “guilt-free” flying. Unfortunately, we have been here before, and the results last time were anything but green.

Based on our research into how wealth and power shape the environment, we argue that continued growth of the aviation sector, as with the economy in general, is incompatible with preventing runaway climate change. The technology currently being developed by the aviation industry has zero chance of changing that. And the fuels being used in Virgin’s latest experiment are not significantly more sustainable than those in its previous attempt.

Virgin’s sustainability initiative dates back to the 2000s, when British business magnate Richard Branson was at the helm. In 2008, to some fanfare, a Virgin aircraft flew from London to Amsterdam using a fuel derived in part from palm oil and coconuts. Technically, the mission was a success, but the sustainability claims were laughable.

To have fuelled that short hop with 100% coconut oil would have consumed 3 million coconuts. The entire global crop would supply Heathrow for only a few weeks — and it is one of 18,000 commercial airports worldwide. Following this stunt, Virgin gave up on coconut oil.

Virgin’s latest flight is simply a repeat of 2008. It’s a smoke-and-mirrors exercise to convince governments that SAF will enable aviation to continue its relentless growth on a sustainable basis – and in this, it is succeeding.

Even Waste Products Aren’t Sustainable

Virgin’s defence rests on the claim that its new SAF no longer comes exclusively from crops. It is blended with waste products. One of the main suppliers for Virgin’s transatlantic flight is Virent, an organisation based in Wisconsin. Virent makes SAF from conventional sugars such as corn, mixed with wood, agricultural waste and used cooking oil.

As with coconuts, any crop grown for fuel competes with foodstuffs and pushes the agricultural frontier further into forests and peatlands, with large releases of carbon.

But what of the waste products? Surely reusing cooking oils offers a sustainable solution? Unfortunately, in a notoriously unregulated market, it seems not.

Another of Virgin’s suppliers, Neste, collects cooking oils from sources worldwide, including McDonald’s restaurants in the Netherlands and food processing plants in California, Oregon and Washington. The US Department of Agriculture alleges that some trade in SAF feedstocks – including from Indonesia to Neste’s refinery in Singapore – may be “fraudulent”.

Neste has denied the claim. But, even if its used cooking oil is entirely legitimate, there is still an allegation that palm oil from plantations responsible for tropical deforestation is being marketed as used cooking oil.

Virgin Atlantic maintains that the SAF it uses is made entirely from used cooking oil. However, if the aviation industry bets big on used cooking oil, it is feared it will turbocharge tropical logging and the extermination of the orangutan and countless other endangered species.

Orangutan in the rainforest on Borneo island with trees and palms behind.
More tropical logging would threaten the orangutan and countless other endangered species. Michail_Vorobyev/Shutterstock

The real kicker is that even if all used cooking oils were traceable and sustainably sourced, they are not scalable. The US collects around 600,000 tonnes of used cooking oil each year. If every last drop were diverted to SAFs, it would meet at most 1% of America’s current aviation demand.

Capturing The White House

The problems of scalability, the competition of agricultural inputs with foodstuffs, forests and wildlife, and the carbon emissions that result from land use change are just three of the shortcomings that ensure SAFs will not be the magic bullet that the aviation industry would have us believe. Despite this, SAF fever has won over the White House.

The Inflation Reduction Act set targets for SAF production at 3 billion gallons by 2030 and 35 billion by 2050. These targets are fantasies. But, to the extent that they are approached, they will only add to the pressure on food prices and wildlife.

That SAF is being touted so zealously attests to the shortage of alternative technologies. Battery-powered planes are viable but only as short-haul “flying taxis” that compete with ground transport. The other panacea, hydrogen, confronts colossal technological and infrastructural barriers, problems of scalability, competing uses, and environmental concerns.

Tinkering with aircraft technology, such as engine size or wing shape has also faced diminishing returns. Efficiency improvements lag far behind the sector’s growth, which is why aviation emissions are still soaring.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Ahead of the 2008 coconut-fuelled flight, Virgin’s chief executive Steve Ridgway explained its logic. He said the aviation industry needs “to be seen to be doing something”. Fifteen years on and the playbook remains the same.

The Virgin Atlantic SAF flight promises to rescue the airline from the threat of climate change, allowing them and their passengers to “keep calm and carry on”. In buying into this fantasy, governments give themselves an excuse to avoid taking climate breakdown seriously – an emergency that requires radical action if the planet is to remain habitable for humans.

There is the potential to create a good life for all within planetary boundaries. But getting there requires clipping the wings of the aviation industry.

This would begin, for short-haul, with ground-based alternatives. Within the US, many flights could be swiftly replaced by coach travel, and over a quarter of flights between EU destinations could be replaced by high-speed rail. For long-haul, the first step is demand management, which will expedite the use of virtual conferencing, marine transportation and other alternatives.

Modern high-speed train driving past a station in a city.
Many flights could be replaced by high-speed rail. aappp/Shutterstock

Developing alternatives would be practical, efficient and create jobs. And now is a good time to begin. Americans have been “falling out of love with flying” in recent years, in part due to large numbers of flight cancellations following bad weather, which is only likely to increase with climate breakdown.

As the weather chaos worsens, the aviation industry will find it harder to shrug off its responsibility through PR stunts and greenwashed gimmickry.

In response to this article, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said that the organisation is committed to achieving net zero by 2050, and has set interim targets, including 10% SAF by 2030. It sees SAF as a mid-term solution for decarbonising aviation, and that Flight100 aims to demonstrate the safe use of 100% SAF within existing infrastructure. Virgin Atlantic referred to a Sustainable Aviation report, which indicates that there is sufficient feedstock to meet the government’s 2030 target without environmental impact or competition with crop production.

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Gareth Dale, Reader in Political Economy, Brunel University London and Josh Moos, Lecturer in Economics and Politics, Leeds Beckett University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why are people still flying to climate conferences by private jet?

Carole RobertsUCLMark MaslinUCL, and Priti ParikhUCL

Rishi Sunak, David Cameron and King Charles are just three of the more than 70,000 delegates from nearly 200 countries at the latest UN climate summit in Dubai, COP28. But they are among hundreds who will have travelled there by private jet. In fact, the UK prime minister, foreign secretary and king even travelled in three separate planes.

At COP27 in Egypt last year, around 315 private jet journeys took place. This is an extraordinary statistic, especially as fewer world leaders attended that COP, as many were busy at a G20 summit in Bali.

That’s why we set up a team of academic experts to estimate the carbon footprint of travel to this year’s meeting, COP28 in Dubai, for different modes of transport including private jets. We ultimately want to empower attendees to make informed climate-conscious travel choices.

We also compared the carbon footprints for the past three COPs to help see where the conferences could be located in order to dissuade attendees from using private jets, unless absolutely essential for security. The use of private jets last year – and presumably this year too, though we don’t yet have full data – suggests this is becoming the new norm and has moved beyond just essential world leaders.

Carbon Footprint Of Transport Modes

Flying is already one of the most carbon-intensive forms of travel both due to emissions from burning jet fuel and because vapour trails help create high altitude clouds which trap more heat in the atmosphere. It’s also particularly hard to decarbonise – there aren’t electric planes we could simply use instead.

Private jet travel is the most polluting mode of all, consuming lots of fuel yet carrying few passengers. French economist Thomas Piketty argues they are an example of class inequality and must be tackled if we are to deal with climate change.

Their use by high-profile people clearly undermines the goal of a climate conference and symbolises a disconnect between environmental concerns and individual actions and a lack of commitment to sustainable practices. This in turn risks shaping and influencing public opinion. Previous research suggests members of the public take climate action less seriously if they feel that their leaders are not doing their bit.

We started by looking at the use of private jets for COP27 in Egypt (our results are available as a preprint ahead of formal peer-review). Most private flights were short-haul, often just an hour between the capital Cairo and the conference venue in Sharm El-Sheikh. Over shorter distances, planes are even less efficient as take off and landing burns more fuel compared to cruising.

So avoiding short flights and private jets is a must. With this in mind, we explored a range of travel options to get to COP28 in Dubai for participants from the UK, where we’re based.

For a journey from London to Dubai, private jet travel is 11 times more polluting than a commercial aircraft, 35 times more than train and 52 times more than coach travel (even after factoring in a flight from Istanbul, since you can’t go all the way to Dubai by train or coach). For those flying from the UK, the longer flight to Dubai compared to Egypt means emissions will be higher this year.

Carbon intensity (grams of CO₂equivalent) of transport from London to COP28:

Bar chart
Flight emissions are based on journeys from London to Dubai. Car, train and coach emissions are based on journeys from London to Istanbul and then a flight. Private jet emissions are based on a Cessna 680 Citation Sovereign (most common in COP27 data), commercial flight emissions are based on an Airbus A380-300 and car journeys are calculated for a Vauxhall Corsa. Roberts et al (2023)CC BY-SA

Location Of COP

Some of the blame for flight emissions must lie with the UN body which decides where COP meetings will be held, the UNFCCC. Dubai is surrounded by conflict zones, which block land routes from Europe, Asia and Africa and makes flying there essential.

While most delegates will want to travel sustainability, their actions will depend on the accessibility of alternative forms of travel such as safe land routes and for those coming from further away at least the option of direct flights to minimise their carbon emissions.

In this respect Dubai is a good choice as it is a major airline hub and so there are many direct flights and less need for second or internal flights.

Our analysis highlights the need to consider very carefully the carbon footprint implications of travel to COP meetings. Ultimately policymakers will need to identify host locations for climate change meetings which can help to minimise the carbon footprint of the participants.

Private jets are still not advisable, however. Their carbon footprint is substantially higher than other forms of transport, they exacerbate existing inequities at climate negotiations and send the wrong message to the world.

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Carole Roberts, Researcher, Carbon Footprint of Transport, UCLMark Maslin, Professor of Natural Sciences, UCL, and Priti Parikh, Professor of Infrastructure Engineering and International Development, UCL

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China is already paying substantial climate finance, while US is global laggard – new analysis

Sarah ColenbranderOverseas Development Institute

Finance is poisoning international cooperation on the climate crisis.

There is no longer any credible debate about the need to act on climate change, but tensions are flaring around the question of who should make the immense investments necessary to phase out fossil fuels and adapt to a more hostile climate.

The rift between richer and poorer countries has consequently revived and the negotiations have once more descended into acrimony. How can the finance fight be resolved?

Back in 2009, developed countries at the Copenhagen summit committed to provide developing countries with US$100 billion (£78.9 billion) of climate finance a year from 2020.

US$100 billion a year is just a fraction of the US$1.8 trillion that low- and middle-income countries need each year to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

But it is symbolic: it represents redress for the outsized share of the global carbon budget that developed countries have gobbled up, leaving the rest of the world both battered by climate disasters and constrained in terms of the carbon that they can emit as they pursue a better quality of life.

Despite the political importance of the US$100 billion pledge, developed countries did not deliver it in 2020 or 2021. They may meet the goal in 2022, but the self-reported data has not yet been verified.

The broken promise of climate finance has stoked resentment in developing countries, compounded by vaccine hoarding and debt hangovers.

Many of these countries insist that the US$100 billion a year must be met before other aspects of the climate negotiations can continue in good faith.

Yet many developed countries look askance at these demands from some of the increasingly wealthy and polluting economies – like the Gulf states or China – that sit within the developing country bloc. This bloc has no obligation to provide climate finance under the international regime.

Posturing by both sides overlooks the huge amount of climate finance that many developing countries already contribute.

Unsung Heroes?

Most countries pay into multilateral development banks, which are set up by governments to help poorer countries access cheaper finance and advisory services.

While fighting climate change is rarely a country’s primary motivation for investing in these banks, their contributions nonetheless help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. For example, the banks might provide a low-cost loan to countries looking to enhance their wastewater systems to cope with more rainfall, or to build a public transport network that avoids emissions from private cars.

Developing countries do not seek or receive credit for this climate finance, as they are not obliged to report their contributions to the UN climate convention. In a first of its kind analysis, the global affairs thinktank ODI has revealed that developing countries already provide large amounts of climate finance through these banks.

China is the 11th largest provider of all countries, contributing US$1.2 billion a year. India (17th), Brazil (19th) and Russia (20th) are also notable donors.

Even these figures understate developing country contributions, as they do not include climate finance channelled bilaterally between countries, rather than through multilateral development banks or UN agencies, and are only available for a handful of developing countries, including China.

Drawing on these databases, we calculated that China provides an estimated US$1.4 billion of public finance bilaterally. If we combine this figure with the US$1.2 billion of climate finance that it channels through multilateral development banks, China is the seventh largest provider of climate finance between Italy (sixth) and Canada (eigth).

These figures make a mockery of US and EU demands that China begin contributing climate finance – particularly given the track record of the US to date.

Unfair Share

Our annual “fair share” report attributes responsibility for the US$100 billion target among developed countries based on their historical emissions (which continue to fuel global warming), income and population size.

Based on these metrics, we found that the US is overwhelmingly responsible for the climate finance shortfall. The world’s largest economy should be providing US$43.5 billion of climate finance a year. In 2021, it gave just US$9.3 billion – a meagre 21% of its fair share.

For context, the US accounts for around a fifth of historical emissions but just 4% of the global population. Its economy is four times larger than Japan’s, five times larger than Germany’s and eight times larger than that of France, yet it provides less climate finance than any of them.

Although China has 17% of the global population, it is responsible for just 11% of cumulative emissions. China is also much poorer per person than the US – or indeed, any of the developed countries expected to provide climate finance. Nonetheless, China gives US$2.6 billion of climate finance a year.

If Not China, Who?

Countries are assembling in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the next round of climate negotiations. The new climate finance goal, which will replace the current target of US$100 billion a year, and the new loss and damage fund, will both be under the spotlight.

We propose two criteria to determine when countries should be obliged to provide climate finance: that they are at least as rich per person as the average developed country at the start of the 1990s, when international climate negotiations began, and that they have produced as many historical emissions per person.

Six countries meet our criteria: Brunei Darussalam, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. The Czech Republic, Estonia and Qatar already voluntarily provide additional climate finance on top of their contributions to multilateral development banks. Brunei Darussalam, Kuwait and the UAE – which is presiding over this round of climate negotiations – do not.

Closing The Climate Finance Gap

So, how can the deadlock be broken?

The fastest way to restore trust in the international climate regime would be for the US to step up with its fair share of climate finance. Without it, the Europeans are on track to close the gap by meeting and exceeding their fair share of the US$100 billion.

Only once the developed countries have fulfilled their longstanding promise does a conversation about new climate finance contributors become politically possible.

The world has just endured the hottest 12 months on record. Let us hope that these extreme temperatures light a fire under diplomats and negotiators, igniting a joint commitment to finding the finance to avert climate catastrophe.

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Sarah Colenbrander, Guest Lecturer, Climate Change Economics, University of Oxford & Director, Climate and Sustainability Programme, Overseas Development Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why renewed China-US cooperation bodes well for climate action

Melnikov Dmitriy / Shutterstock
Yixian SunUniversity of Bath

The relationship between the US and China is the most important in the world, and it has been unstable and sometimes under extreme stress in recent years. But a recent meeting between presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping in California may bring new momentum for global climate action.

Climate change is a priority area of cooperation for the two countries, and a key document was released just ahead of the presidents’ meeting. The Sunnylands Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Address the Climate Crisis reaffirms the two countries’ support for climate action and further institutionalises their cooperation.

The leaders of both countries understand that solving the climate crisis requires global collective action – especially from the world’s two largest polluters, who between them account for 44% of the world’s carbon emissions. Even during crisis time in their bilateral relations, the US and China still tried to maintain regular exchanges on climate change thanks to strong personal ties between their climate envoys.

With Israel-Gaza and the long-lasting Ukraine-Russia war both creating problems for US foreign policy, Biden wants to rebuild the relationship with China. At the same time, China eagerly wants to reduce tensions in order to remove trade and investment restrictions imposed by the US. Climate change is a way for the two countries to rebuild trust.

Strengthening Climate Cooperation

The Sunnylands statement notes a working group will be set up to accelerate climate actions. This group was initially planned in 2021, but stalled after senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in summer 2022. Its establishment will provide additional guarantees to continue cooperation on climate change amid possible political turbulence in both countries, especially around next year’s presidential election in the US.

The statement also supports cooperation between cities, provinces and states in China and the US. Several Chinese provinces have already learned from California’s experiences in order to set up emissions trading programmes of their own, while California has signed agreements with various cities and provinces – including Guangdong province on industrial decarbonisation, and Jiangsu province on offshore wind. Agreements like these can ensure climate action continues when cooperation at the national level is interrupted, perhaps due to future political changes.

Don’t Forget Methane

Plans to reduce non-CO₂ greenhouse gas emissions also represent important progress. Most important of these is methane, which has strong greenhouse effects.

The US has been pushing China to address methane since 2021 – and just a week before the Biden-Xi meeting, China announced its first methane action plan. The Sunnylands statement sent a signal to the rest of the world that the planet’s two largest emitters intend to make more efforts to reduce these emissions.

Implications For COP28

The statement also reaffirms the two superpowers’ support for the UN’s official climate processes, including the Paris agreement – the success of which depends on the ambition of each country’s pledge to reduce emissions. Crucially, the two biggest emitters have reaffirmed their determination to be more ambitious when the pledges are next updated in 2025.

The current UN climate conference, COP28 in Dubai, will also conclude the first global “stocktake”, which is likely to find there has not been enough progress towards the goal of limiting warming at 1.5°C. That’s why many countries and other stakeholders – even including big businesses – have called for a global agreement to phase out fossil fuels to be made at the conference.

The success of this initiative is likely to depend on the political will of China, which – despite already burning the most coal in the world – has continuously expanded its coal-fired power plants.

While the Sunnylands statement has no explicit mention of ending fossil fuels, it says both countries intend to “sufficiently accelerate renewable energy deployment in their respective economies […] so as to accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation”. As China is also a global leader in clean technologies with the largest solar and wind capacity in the world, further cooperation between the two countries on renewables is good news.

The two countries also agree that the global stocktake should “send signals with respect to the energy transition”. This implies they may be willing to discuss the phaseout of fossil fuels at COP28, and potentially support an agreement.

Finally, being respectively the largest developing and developed countries in the world, China and the US have also shown commitment to building consensus in contentious negotiations on climate finance – money paid to poorer countries to help them adapt to climate change or cut their own emissions.

On the first day of the conference the establishment of a so-called loss and damage fund was announced, to help more vulnerable countries cope with the consequences of climate change. This is a good start. This is a good start. However, existing pledges remain insufficient, and funds will still need to be equitably distributed to developing countries impacted by climate change. Cooperation between the two superpowers will be instrumental in building effective and just institutions to deliver that money.

As China and the US have restarted their climate cooperation with strong commitments, the world can raise their expectations for COP28. Global policymakers must seize their last remaining opportunities – and this is a promising start.

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Yixian Sun, Associate Professor in International Development, University of Bath

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Emissions inequality is getting worse – here’s how to end the reign of the ultra-polluters

Nicholas BeuretUniversity of Essex

Climate change is overwhelmingly a problem of wealthy people. The wealthiest 1% of humanity produce over 1,000 times the emissions of the poorest 1%. In fact, these 77 million people are responsible for more climate-changing emissions than the poorest 66% (5 billion people) of humanity.

Since 1990, the personal emissions of the world’s wealthiest have exploded. They are now 77 times larger than the level that would be compatible with a 1.5°C warming limit – a threshold beyond which whole island nations will possibly disappear.

If we are to keep future climate change to under 2°C then we must find a way to massively reduce economic inequality and redistribute both economic power and wealth.

Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute have recently set out the scale of global carbon inequality. Carbon inequality is a measure of the difference in carbon pollution across society. It measures the degree to which someone is responsible for generating climate change through their consumption and control over social and economic resources.

The report sets out the vast scale of the disparity between the super-wealthy and the rest, arguing it would take approximately 1,500 years for someone in the bottom 99% to produce as much carbon as a single billionaire does in a year.

The Great Carbon Divide

The wealthiest 10% of humanity are responsible for half of all emissions. And the poorest 50% are responsible for just 8% – a decrease of 2% from the previous report in 2019, meaning carbon inequality has worsened over the past four years.

Who are these super-polluters? The richest 1% are billionaires, millionaires and people earning over US$140,000 (£110,000). The threshold to join the rarefied club of the top 10% is US$41,000 (£32,000), including most of the middle class in wealthier countries.

Elon Musk looking directly at the camera.
South African billionaire, Elon Musk. Frederic Legrand - COMEO/Shutterstock

But these figures can be misleading. They don’t really tell us what the average person in these groups earns (the average person in the top 10% earns US$90,000 per year), nor do they tell us where they live or why their emissions are so high.

Most of the 10% live in a small number of countries – Australia, Canada, the EU, US, UK, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and China. One-third of the emissions of the richest 1% come from the US, while 40% from the richest 10% come from the US and the EU. Another 20% come from individuals in China and India.

But as stark are the inequalities within countries. In fact, over the past 30 years, there has been a major shift from carbon inequality primarily being a consequence of differences in emissions between countries (62% in 1990) to differences within countries (64% in 2019).

The wealthiest 10% in most countries now produce five times the emissions of the average person, and vastly more than the poorest. As inequality between countries has decreased (although it is still significant), inequality within them has increased.

What Causes This Extreme Level Of Pollution?

Being rich is essentially about having more stuff in general, including bigger houses. For the remaining 10% this also holds true. For example, if SUVs had not become widely adopted largely as a status symbol for the global middle classes, emissions from transport would have fallen by 30% over the past ten years.

For the largest class of SUVs, six of the ten areas of the UK registering the most sales were affluent London boroughs like Kensington and Chelsea.

A similar pattern holds for air travel. The richest people in the UK produce more carbon emissions from air travel than the poorest do through every aspect of their lives.

Range Rover parked in front of apartment buildings.
SUVs have become a status symbol for the global middle classes. Vadi Fuoco/Shutterstock

But the super-rich are responsible for climate change well beyond consumption-based emissions. The super-rich, by and large, run major companies, direct investments and shape national and international laws. They have an oversized and controlling impact on our media and public opinion, including through advertising and ownership of media outlets. And they directly shape policy through lobbying and paid-for influence.

While their money and power make them overwhelmingly responsible for climate change, they are also insulated from the worst impacts. They are less affected by increased food prices and climate disasters, can afford insurance and to move from one place to another, and have greater resources to draw on in times of crisis.

It is the poorest – those least responsible for climate changing emissions – who suffer the most. They suffer higher losses, live in the most impacted regions, and have little to no access to savings, public support or welfare when crisis strikes. They are also least able to exercise their rights as they are the least powerful and less well represented politically.

What Can We Do?

There are two things we can do to address global carbon inequity. The first is to institute wealth and income taxes to reduce damaging social inequality and the carbon pollution of the super rich.

Oxfam’s report found that a 60% tax on the richest 1% could cut the equivalent of the total emissions of the UK. We could go further still and introduce a progressive land and inheritance tax as well as introduce maximum wages in industries to further reduce inequality.

The second is to curb high-polluting forms of extreme consumption, from SUVs to short-haul air travel, as well as excessive meat and dairy consumption. For this to not be regressive, it would have to be accompanied by massive investment in public services and provisioning, as well as action on insulation and fuel poverty.

Ultimately it is not just the consumption of the super-rich that needs to be massively reduced. Control over major industries and sectors needs to be moved out of private hands into public ownership. An economy run for the benefit of a wealthy minority will never be socially or environmentally just.

In order to close the great carbon divide we must transform private excess into public control and wealth.

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Nicholas Beuret, Lecturer in Management and Ecological Sustainability, University of Essex

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The climate change we caused is here for at least 50,000 years – and probably far longer

Jan ZalasiewiczUniversity of LeicesterColin WatersUniversity of LeicesterJens ZinkeUniversity of Leicester, and Mark WilliamsUniversity of Leicester

In February 2000, Paul Crutzen rose to speak at the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme in Mexico. And when he spoke, people took notice. He was then one of the world’s most cited scientists, a Nobel laureate working on huge-scale problems – the ozone hole, the effects of a nuclear winter.

So little wonder that a word he improvised took hold and spread widely: this was the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological epoch, representing an Earth transformed by the effects of industrialised humanity.

The idea of an entirely new and human-created geological epoch is a sobering scenario as context for the current UN climate summit, COP28. The impact of decisions made at these and other similar conferences will be felt not just beyond our own lives and those of our children, but perhaps beyond the life of human society as we know it.

The Anthropocene is now in wide currency, but when Crutzen first spoke this was still a novel suggestion. In support of his new brain-child, Crutzen cited many planetary symptoms: enormous deforestation, the mushrooming of dams across the world’s large rivers, overfishing, a planet’s nitrogen cycle overwhelmed by fertiliser use, the rapid rise in greenhouse gases.

As for climate change itself, well, the warning bells were ringing, certainly. Global mean surface temperatures had risen by about half a degree since the mid-20th century. But, they were still within the norm for an interglacial phase of the ice ages. Among many emerging problems, climate seemed one for the future.

Heat danger sign, desert background
Death Valley in California recently recorded one of the highest temperatures ever. travelview / shutterstock

A little more than two decades on, the future has arrived. By 2022, global temperature had climbed another half a degree, the past nine years being the hottest since records began. And 2023 has seen climate records being not just broken, but smashed.

By September there had already been 38 days when global average temperatures exceeded pre-industrial ones by 1.5°C, the safe limit of warming set by the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the Paris agreement. In previous years that was rare, and before 2000 this milestone had never been recorded.

With this leap in temperatures came record-breaking heatwaves, wildfires and floods, exacerbated by other local human actions. Climate has moved centre stage on an Anthropocene Earth.

Why this surge in temperatures? In part, it’s been the inexorable rise in greenhouse gases, as fossil fuels continue to dominate human energy use. When Crutzen spoke in Mexico, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were about 370 parts per million (ppm), already up from the pre-industrial 280 ppm. They’re now around 420 ppm, and climbing by some 2 ppm per year.

In part, the warming results from cleaner skies in the past few years, both on land and at sea, thanks to new regulations phasing out old power stations and dirty sulphur-rich fuels. As the industrial haze clears, more of the sun’s energy makes it through the atmosphere and onto land, and the full force of global warming kicks in.

In part, our planet’s heat-reflecting mirrors are shrinking, as sea ice melts away, initially in the Arctic, and in the last two years, precipitously, around Antarctica too. And climate feedbacks seem to be taking effect, too. A new, sharp rise in atmospheric methane – a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide – since 2006 seems to be sourced from an increase in rotting vegetation in tropical wetlands in a warming world.
There is about 50% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere compared to before the industrial revolution. Bilanol / shutterstock

This latest warming step has already taken the Earth into levels of climate warmth not experienced for some 120,000 years, into those of the last interglacial phase, a little warmer than the current one. There is yet more warming in the pipeline over coming centuries, as various feedbacks take effect.

recent study on the effects of this warming on Antarctica’s ice suggests that “policymakers should be prepared for several metres of sea-level rise over the coming centuries” as the pulse of warmth spreads through the oceans to undermine the great polar ice-sheets.

This remains the case even in the most optimistic scenario where carbon dioxide emissions are reduced quickly. But emissions continue to rise steeply, to deepen the climate impact.

Controls Have Been Overridden

To see how this might play out on a geological timescale, we need to look through the lens of the Anthropocene. A delicately balanced planetary machinery of regular, multi-millennial variations in the Earth’s spin and orbit has tightly controlled patterns of warm and cold for millions of years.

Now, suddenly, this control machinery has been overridden by a trillion tons of carbon dioxide injected into the atmosphere in little more than a century.

Modelling the effects of this pulse through the Earth System shows that this new, suddenly disrupted, climate pattern is here for at least 50,000 years and probably far longer. It’s a large part of the way our planet has changed fundamentally and irreversibly, to become comparable to some of the great climate change events in deep Earth history.

So will this particular COP meeting, with fossil fuel interests so strongly represented, make a difference? The bottom line is that attaining, and stabilising carbon emissions at “net zero” is only a crucial first step.

To retrieve the kind of climate optimal for humanity, and for life as a whole to thrive, negative emissions are needed, to take carbon out of the atmosphere and ocean system and put it back underground. For future generations, there is much at stake.

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Jan Zalasiewicz, Professor of Palaeobiology, University of LeicesterColin Waters, Honorary Professor, Department of Geology, University of LeicesterJens Zinke, Professor of Palaeobiology, University of Leicester, and Mark Williams, Professor of Palaeobiology, University of Leicester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Fossil CO₂ emissions hit record high yet again in 2023

Pep CanadellCSIROCorinne Le QuéréUniversity of East AngliaGlen PetersCenter for International Climate and Environment Research - OsloJudith HauckUniversität BremenJulia PongratzLudwig Maximilian University of MunichPhilippe CiaisCommissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA)Pierre FriedlingsteinUniversity of ExeterRobbie AndrewCenter for International Climate and Environment Research - Oslo, and Rob JacksonStanford University

Global emissions of fossil carbon dioxide (CO₂), in yet another year of growth, will increase by 1.1% in 2023. These emissions will hit a record 36.8 billion tonnes. That’s the finding of the Global Carbon Project’s 18th annual report card on the state of the global carbon budget, which we released today.

Fossil CO₂ includes emissions from the combustion and use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and cement production. Adding CO₂ emissions and removals from land-use change, such as deforestation and reforestation, human activities are projected to emit 40.9 billion tonnes of CO₂ in 2023.

The world’s vegetation and oceans continue to remove about half of all CO₂ emissions. The rest builds up in the atmosphere and is causing increasing warming of the planet.

At current emission levels, the remaining carbon budget for a one-in-two chance to limit warming to 1.5°C will likely be exceeded in seven years, and in 15 years for 1.7°C. The need to cut emissions has never been so urgent.

Emissions From Every Fossil Source Are Up

Fossil CO₂ emissions now account for about 90% of all CO₂ emissions from human activities. Emissions from every single fossil source increased this year compared to 2022:

  • coal (41% of global CO₂ emissions) up 1.1%
  • oil (32%) up 1.5%
  • natural gas (21%) up 0.5%
  • cement (4%) up 0.8%.
Line graph showing emissions from fossil fuels, land-use changes and total emissions from 1960 to 2023
All fossil fuel sources are driving the increase in total CO₂ emissions. Global Carbon Budget 2023/Global Carbon ProjectCC BY

Although global emissions have increased, the picture for individual countries is more diverse. There are some signs of progress towards decarbonisation.

China’s emissions (31% of the global total) increased by 4% with growth in all fossil fuel sources. The highest relative growth was from oil emissions. This was in part due to the transport sector’s recovery after COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.

The United States’ emissions (14% of global) are down by 3%. The rapid retirement of coal-fired power plants drove most of this decline. US coal emissions are the lowest since 1903.

India’s emissions (8% of global) increased by 8.2%. Emissions for all fossil fuels grew by 5% or more, with coal the highest at 9.5%. India is now the world’s third-largest fossil CO₂ emitter.

European Union emissions (7% of global) are down by 7.4%. This decline was due to both high renewable energy penetration and the impacts on energy supply of the war in Ukraine.

During the decade of 2013-2022, 26 countries had declining fossil CO₂ emission trends while their economies continued to grow. The list includes Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Romania, South African, United Kingdom and USA.

Emissions by individual countries from 1960 to 2023
Individual country performances vary widely, but there are some signs of progress towards decarbonisation. Global Carbon Budget 2023/Global Carbon ProjectCC BY

Total CO₂ Emissions Are Near A Peak

While fossil CO₂ emissions continue to increase, net emissions from land-use change, such as deforestation (CO₂ source), minus CO₂ removals, such as reforestation (CO₂ sink), appear to be falling. However, estimates of emissions from land-use change are highly uncertain and less accurate overall than for fossil fuel emissions.

Our preliminary estimate shows net emissions from land-use change were 4.1 billion tonnes of CO₂ in 2023. These emissions follow a small but relatively uncertain decline over the past two decades.

The declining trend was due to decreasing deforestation and a small increase in reforestation. The highest emitters are Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These three countries contribute 55% of net global CO₂ emissions from land-use change.

When we combine all CO₂ emissions from human activities (fossil and land use), we find very little trend in total emissions over the past decade. If confirmed, this would imply global CO₂ emissions from human activities are not growing further but remain at very high record levels.

Stable CO₂ emissions, at about 41 billion tonnes per year, will lead to continuing rapid CO₂ accumulation in the atmosphere and climate warming. To stabilise the climate, CO₂ emissions from human activities must reach net zero. This means any residual CO₂ emissions must be balanced by an equivalent CO₂ removal.

Nature’s A Big Help, With A Little Human Help

Terrestrial vegetation and ocean absorb about half of all CO₂ emissions. This fraction has remained remarkably stable for six decades.

Besides the natural CO₂ sinks, humans are also removing CO₂ from the atmosphere through deliberate activities. We estimate permanent reforestation and afforestation over the past decade have removed about 1.9 billion tonnes of CO₂ per year.

This is equivalent to 5% of fossil fuel emissions per year.

Other non-vegetation strategies are in their infancy. They removed 0.01 million tonnes of CO₂.

Machines (direct air carbon capture and storage) pulled 0.007 million tonnes of CO₂ out of the atmosphere. Enhanced weathering projects, which accelerate natural weathering processes to increase the CO₂ uptake by spreading certain minerals, accounted for the other 0.004 million tonnes. This is more than a million times smaller than current fossil fuel emissions.

The Remaining Carbon Budget

From January 2024, the remaining carbon budget for a one-in-two chance to limit global warming to 1.5°C has been reduced to 275 billion tonnes of CO₂. This budget will used up in seven years at 2023 emission levels.

The carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.7°C has been reduced to 625 billion tonnes of CO₂, with 15 years left at current emissions. The budget for staying below 2°C is 1,150 billion tonnes of CO₂ – 28 years at current emissions.

Reaching net zero by 2050 requires total anthropogenic CO₂ emissions to decrease on average by 1.5 billion tonnes of CO₂ per year. That’s comparable to the fall in 2020 emissions resulting from COVID-19 measures (-2.0 billion tonnes of CO₂).

Without additional negative emissions (CO₂ removal), a straight decreasing line of CO₂ emissions from today to 2050 (when many countries aspire to achieve net zero CO₂ or the more ambitious net zero for all greenhouse gases) would lead to a global mean surface temperature of 1.7°C, breaching the 1.5°C limit.

Renewable energy production is at a record high and growing fast. To limit climate change fossil and land-use change, CO₂ emissions must be cut much more quickly and ultimately reach net zero.The Conversation

Pep Canadell, Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO Environment; Executive Director, Global Carbon Project, CSIROCorinne Le Quéré, Royal Society Research Professor of Climate Change Science, University of East AngliaGlen Peters, Senior Researcher, Center for International Climate and Environment Research - OsloJudith Hauck, Helmholtz Young Investigator group leader and deputy head, Marine Biogeosciences section a Alfred Wegener Institute, Universität BremenJulia Pongratz, Professor of Physical Geography and Land Use Systems, Department of Geography, Ludwig Maximilian University of MunichPhilippe Ciais, Directeur de recherche au Laboratoire des science du climat et de l’environnement, Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace, Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA)Pierre Friedlingstein, Chair, Mathematical Modelling of Climate, University of ExeterRobbie Andrew, Senior Researcher, Center for International Climate and Environment Research - Oslo, and Rob Jackson, Professor, Department of Earth System Science, and Chair of the Global Carbon Project, Stanford University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COP28 president is wrong – science clearly shows fossil fuels must go (and fast)

John Hanson Pye/Shutterstock
Steve PyeUCL

According to the president of COP28, the latest round of UN climate negotiations in the United Arab Emirates, there is “no science” indicating that phasing out fossil fuels is necessary to restrict global heating to 1.5°C.

President Sultan Al Jaber is wrong. There is a wealth of scientific evidence demonstrating that a fossil fuel phase-out will be essential for reining in the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. I know because I have published some of it.

Back in 2021, just before the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, my colleagues and I published a paper in Nature entitled Unextractable fossil fuels in a 1.5°C world. It argued that 90% of the world’s coal and around 60% of its oil and gas needed to remain underground if humanity is to have any chance of meeting the Paris agreement’s temperature goals.

Crucially, our research also highlighted that the production of oil and gas needed to start declining immediately (from 2020), at around 3% each year until 2050.

This assessment was based on a clear understanding that the production and use of fossil fuels, as the primary cause of CO₂ emissions (90%), needs to be reduced in order to stop further heating. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that net zero CO₂ emissions will only be reached globally in the early 2050s, and warming stabilised at 1.5°C, if a shift away from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources begins immediately.

Hands lowering solar panels into place on a roof.
Humanity has figured out how to cheaply capture and use the Sun’s energy. Tsetso Photo/Shutterstock

If global emissions and fossil fuel burning continue at their current rates, this warming level will be breached by 2030.

Since the publication of our Nature paper, scientists have modelled hundreds of scenarios to explore the world’s options for limiting warming to 1.5°C. Many feature in the latest report by the IPCC. Here is what they tell us about the necessary scale of a fossil fuel phase-out.

Fossil Fuel Use Must Fall Fast

A recent paper led by atmospheric scientist Ploy Achakulwisut took a detailed look at existing scenarios for limiting warming to 1.5°C. For pathways consistent with 1.5°C, coal, oil and gas supply must decline by 95%, 62% and 42% respectively, between 2020 and 2050.

However, many of these pathways assume rates of carbon capture and storage and carbon dioxide removal that are likely to be greater than what could be feasibly achieved. Filtering out these scenarios shows that gas actually needs to be eliminated twice as fast, declining by 84% in 2050 relative to 2020 levels. Coal and oil would also see larger declines: 99% and 70% respectively.

In fact, oil and gas may need to be eliminated even quicker than that. A study by energy economist Greg Muttitt showed that many of the pathways used in the most recent IPCC report assume coal can be phased out in developing countries faster than is realistic, considering the speed of history’s most rapid energy transitions. A more feasible scenario would oblige developed countries in particular to get off oil and gas faster.

A Fair And Orderly Transition

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has added to evidence in favour of phasing out fossil fuels by concluding that there is no need to license and exploit new oil and gas fields, first in a 2021 report and again this year.

This latest IEA analysis also estimates that existing oil and gas fields would need to wind down their production by 2.5% a year on average to 2030, accelerating to 5% a year from 2030 (and 7.5% for gas between 2030-40).

A separate analysis of the IPCC’s scenarios for holding global warming at 1.5°C came to the same conclusion. Since no new fields need to be brought into development, global production of oil and gas should be falling.

This message was reinforced by the UN’s recent production gap report, which concluded that producer countries including the United Arab Emirates need to be moving towards a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels, not expanding production. Instead, the report estimated that in CO₂ terms, planned fossil fuel production in 2030 is projected to be 110% higher than the required phase-out trajectory to meet 1.5°C.

The evidence for a fossil fuel phase-out is clear. The debate should now turn to executing it.

A fair and orderly transition from fossil fuels must acknowledge the differing capacity of countries: developing countries are more economically dependent on fossil fuels and have less money to switch to cleaner technologies. Some investment in oil and gas will be needed for existing infrastructure. This would maintain the minimum level of production necessary for a carefully managed transition. Overall though, fossil fuels should now be in rapid decline.

Rich countries need to phase out fossil fuels now and raise the funding to help developing countries make the transition.

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Steve Pye, Associate Professor in Energy Systems, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COP28: how bad is climate change already and what do we need to do next to tackle it?

Olga Gordeeva/Shutterstock
Piers ForsterUniversity of Leeds

As the latest UN climate change summit (COP28) gets underway in Dubai, conversations around limiting global warming to 1.5°C will confront a harsh reality. Global temperatures have surged over the past year, with the monthly global average surpassing 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels during the summer. Some days in November have even breached 2°C of warming for the first time.

Since the Glasgow Climate Summit in 2021, the UN has been conducting a review of our progress towards limiting temperature rise in line with the Paris Agreement. This review, which is set to conclude in Dubai, aims to make countries ratchet up their emission reduction commitments.

The evidence from this two-year “stocktake” is now available, and it shows just how far off track we are. To restrict global warming to 1.5°C, countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% by 2030, yet emissions are currently on the rise.

Countries around the world have borne the human and economic toll. The United Arab Emirates itself is one of the latest countries to be hit by severe flooding, with parts of Dubai under water for the first time. This has led some, including the legendary climate scientist James Hansen, to speculate that climate scientists have underestimated the pace of change.

The evidence itself presents a more balanced view. Climate change has indeed accelerated, but this uptick in pace was entirely predicted by climate models and is expected due to greenhouse emissions being at an all-time high.

The potential for confusion as we approach 1.5°C of global warming makes it all the more crucial to track rising temperatures and climate change as they develop between the comprehensive Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments. The next assessment isn’t expected until around 2030.

A Broken Record

As the global stocktake has found, policies on cutting emissions remain a long way off what is needed to hold temperatures to well below 2°C – let alone 1.5°C. The recently published 2023 UN emissions gap report, which tracks our progress in limiting global warming, echoes the same concern. The report revealed that the world is on track for 2.9°C of global warming, and maybe considerably more, before the end of this century.

If this sounds like a broken record – as emphasised by the report’s cover art – it is. The message that we need urgent action and stronger emissions cuts to avoid the worst climate impacts is far from new, but still somehow needs to hit home.

The front cover of the UN's 2023 emissions gap report.
The emission gap report’s cover art. UN Environment Programme / Emissions Gap Report 2023CC BY-NC-SA

The UN emissions gap report finds that 80% of climate change can be attributed to G20 countries, a group consisting of the world’s major economies. Within the bloc, western countries generally have ambitious emissions reduction targets, but are failing to deliver on them. By contrast, countries including China, India, Mexico and Indonesia are largely overachieving much weaker targets, but are failing on ambition.

This divide is evident in national submissions to the global stocktake process. Western countries are urging the rest of the world to increase ambition, while other nations are urging western governments to deliver on their finance and other commitments, especially in providing sufficient funding to help developing countries adapt to the harmful effects of climate change.

Inequalities in how emissions vary across a country’s population were highlighted in the UN Emissions Gap report and also in a dedicated report by Oxfam. The report revealed that the world’s wealthiest 1% account for 16% of global emissions. These wealthy people each emit more than 100 tonnes of CO₂ every year, 15 times the global average.

Inequality drives vulnerability. The same report showed that floods kill seven times as many people in countries with higher levels of inequality than they do in more equal ones.

A Crucial Period

The gloomy picture places a clear focus on the need for transformative progress at COP28 and beyond. In a report that was released ahead of COP, the International Energy Agency places the challenge firmly at the door of the oil and gas sector.

This report found that only 1% of clean energy investment comes from the industry, and that oil and gas use needs to decline by 75% or more to be compatible with net zero targets. The industry needs to undergo radical change.

If oil and gas firms urgently remove emissions from their operations, especially around methane leaks, and invest in trebling global renewable energy capacity by 2030 instead of extraction, they can be a force for change.

Discussions around the role of oil and gas will be a recurring theme both at COP28 and at future climate change summits. But concerted efforts to reduce methane emissions, build renewable energy infrastructure, roll out electric vehicles and halt deforestation globally could also see emissions fall significantly by 2030, consequently slowing down the rate of warming.

Aerial view of a huge solar power plant in the UAE.
Investment in global renewable energy capacity needs to be trebled by 2030. SkyMediaPro/Shutterstock

Whether the discussions in Dubai lead to the transformative change we need remains to be seen. However, it is essential to continue offering independent, expert and respected advice to governments through organisations like the UK Climate Change Committee, which I currently chair, and the International Climate Councils Network. This effort is crucial in advocating for transformative change across all sectors and in providing consistent and ambitious national emission reduction policies that are based on evidence.

As we approach 1.5°C of global warming, we need to work even harder. To quote from a recent article in US magazine Scientific American: “Declarations that 1.5°C is dead make no sense. Global temperature limits don’t die if we surpass them. People do.”

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Piers Forster, Professor of Physical Climate Change; Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Unprecedented drought in the Amazon threatens to release huge stores of carbon – podcast

Gemma WareThe Conversation

As world leaders and their climate negotiators gathered at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai in early December, on the other side of the world, Brazil was experiencing an unprecedented drought in the Amazon. Scientists fear it could release of billions of additional tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

In this episode of The Conversation Weekly podcast, we speak to an ecologist who has spent 45 years living in and studying the Amazon for causes of drought, why it’s so dangerous for the planet, and what can be done to protect the rainforest.

Philip Fearnside lives in Manaus, a city of around 2 million people in Brazil’s Amazonas state. A professor at the country’s National Institute of Amazonian Research, he explains that right now, the region is suffering from a severe and unprecedented drought:

It’s the lowest water levels at Manaus since data started being recorded in 1902, so 121 years. The trees are dying. There’s a big cannelier tree in my front yard that just died from one day to the next.

The drought also leads to fires, with smoke causing pollution levels in Manaus to soar. Elsewhere, the Amazon river bed is being exposed, making life difficult for people who live and work near the river. Animals are also suffering: in September, 150 river dolphins were found dead in Lake Tefé, where water temperatures had reached 39°C.

Fearnside explains that the drought is caused by three interlocking factors. Two are El Niño climate patterns caused by warm water in both the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. The third is what’s called an Atlantic dipole: a patch of warm water in the north Atlantic Ocean which, combined with colder water in the south Atlantic, affects rainfall patterns in the Amazon:

It won’t be until May or June that the probability of having normal water temperature in the centre of the Pacific Ocean at least passes 50% … so we’ve got a long time with droughts ahead of us.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause of this particular drought as climate change, Fearnside says the frequency of El Niños and Atlantic dipoles “is much much greater because of climate change”.

Climate Tipping Point

The Amazon holds enormous stores of carbon. Its trees alone store around 80 billion tonnes of carbon, with another 90 billion in the first metre of soil. Fearnside likens this to a latent bomb that could explode unintentionally, because the droughts and the forest fires could destroy those carbon stores and release more CO₂ into the atmosphere:

Everyone hears about how much deforestation there is every year, and how much greenhouse gases are emitted, but this big store of carbon that isn’t being emitted isn’t talked about so much. And that could really be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of global climate. Just a fraction of that going into the atmosphere in the space of a few years could push the climate over this tipping point. So it’s essential not to let that happen.

Fearnside has a message for climate negotiators at the COP28 climate summit: that it’s obvious the use of fossil fuels must be reduced immediately and “eventually eliminated”.

For Brazil, he says the government should not be expanding new gas and oil fields in the mouth of the Amazon river, and has to work in a joined up way to eliminate all deforestation in the Amazon by its stated target of 2030.

Listen to the full interview with Philip Fearnside to find out what else needs to be done to protect the Amazon on the The Conversation Weekly, and read an article he wrote here too. A transcript of this episode will be available soon.

This episode was written and produced by Katie Flood with assistance from Mend Mariwany. Gemma Ware is the executive producer of the show. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl.

Newsclips in this episode from WIONUOL and Reuters.

You can find us on X, formerly known as Twitter @TC_Audio, on Instagram at theconversationdotcom or via email. You can also subscribe to The Conversation’s free daily email here.

Listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, download it directly via our RSS feed or find out how else to listen here.The Conversation

Gemma Ware, Editor and Co-Host, The Conversation Weekly Podcast, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A Peruvian farmer is trying to hold energy giant RWE responsible for climate change – the inside story of his groundbreaking court case

Noah Walker-CrawfordUCL

On a crisp, sunny day high in the Peruvian Andes, two German judges gaze across a mountain lake to the towering white glaciers in the distance. Dark spots are visible on the pristine ice and, in quiet moments, the cold wind carries the sounds of creaking and cracking.

The judges, from the German city of Hamm, have flown more than 6,500 miles to witness the melting glaciers for themselves. It is May 2022 and their visit has taken more than three years to organise – and some intensive diplomatic negotiations between Peru and Germany. Also here, more than 4,500 metres above sea level, are five German and Austrian scientific experts flying drones to assess whether Lake Palcacocha poses a significant risk of flooding to the thousands of people in the valley below.

A throng of local Peruvian officials have tagged along too, to share their concerns about glacier hazards with the judges. Around two-dozen international journalists and four documentary film teams are in the area to cover the event. But the judges have requested they stay away from the lake so the court can do its work.

A high-altitude blue lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
Lake Palcacocha is fed by the region’s accelerating glacial melt. Alexander Luna/GermanwatchCC BY-NC-ND

The deep-blue water glistens ominously in the sunshine. The lake is fed by the region’s accelerating glacial melt, powered by warming temperatures that were long ago shown to be the result of human climate emissions.

Lake Palcacocha is the subject of an unprecedented climate justice lawsuit. On one side, a German energy giant that is said to be responsible for 0.47% of the world’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions. On the other, a Quechua-speaking farmer who had never travelled outside Peru until he joined this groundbreaking legal challenge.

The Unlikely Plaintiff

The Cordillera Blanca mountain range in the northern Peruvian Andes is a region shaped by disaster. In 1941, Lake Palcacocha’s banks broke, probably due to an avalanche, devastating the city of Huaraz downstream and killing around 2,000 people.

The region’s most devastating disaster occurred three decades later in 1970, when an earthquake caused another massive avalanche that destroyed the town of Yungay and nearby villages, burying 30,000 people (although many of the town’s children survived because they were attending a nearby circus show). The disaster left a deep impact on the area’s social and cultural fabric. Yungay was permanently relocated and authorities stepped up their efforts to monitor glacial hazards.

As well as being a farmer, Saúl Luciano Lliuya works here as a mountain guide, leading tourists up the icy peaks year after year. Now in his early 40s, he came of age at a time of unprecedented environmental change in his homeland. Avalanches and glacial floods happen more and more often, and he has lost a number of colleagues and friends. Flood modelling studies show that Luciano Lliuya’s family home is in the danger zone if another large avalanche was to fall into Lake Palcacocha, causing its banks to burst.

As in many parts of the world, climate change has intensified existing vulnerabilities in the rural Andes while creating new dimensions of risk. Luciano Lliuya comes from an Indigenous population subjugated by Spanish colonisers that still faces marginalisation today. He grew up speaking Quechua at home and faced discrimination at school in Huaraz. Teachers only used Spanish and beat children for speaking their Indigenous language.

This article is part of Conversation Insights
The Insights team generates long-form journalism derived from interdisciplinary research. The team is working with academics from different backgrounds who have been engaged in projects aimed at tackling societal and scientific challenges.

In recent decades, an upsurge in mountain climbing tourism has created new opportunities for villagers such as Luciano Lliuya, who have traversed high altitudes since an early age. To them, mountains are more than just boulders and ice. “A mountain is a geological formation,” he says, “but another perspective is that the mountains nurture us. They are powerful beings of some sort … For me, the mountain is someone who gives you everything.”

Many of the local people make tribute payments to these mountains, hoping to avoid their wrath and guarantee plentiful harvests. Up at Lake Palcacocha, the villagers who oversee an early-warning flooding system installed by the Ancash region’s government also present ritual offerings to the mountains every month. They say that when they missed one in 2017, an avalanche crashed into the lake causing waves of several metres – but that time, the old safety dams held steady.

Luciano Lliuya too feels a deep responsibility for the mountains that are suffering as they lose their white covers. Before summiting a peak on a climbing tour, he pays respect by laying coca leaves on the glacial ice. If he fails to show respect, he fears the mountain will show its anger.

Almost ten years ago, Luciano Lliuya was introduced via his father to a group of climate activists from the environmental NGO Germanwatch. They discussed the chance to ask one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, German energy giant RWE, to make a tribute payment to these mountains too.

If the case succeeds, it could set a global precedent to hold major polluters responsible for the effects of climate change, even on the other side of the world. Already, it has had a significant impact. After the case was declared admissible by the German judges in November 2017 – meaning that Luciano Lliuya had won a key legal argument, if not yet the scientific ones – RWE’s stock value took a hit. This reflects a broader trend: international companies and their investors are waking up to the financial risks posed by climate litigation.

Taking On A German Energy Giant

Meeting Luciano Lliuya in his tiny village of Llupa, you’d hardly think he’d become something of a climate justice celebrity. The case has taken him to German courts and international UN summits. Having once been nervous about speaking at his local village assemblies, he has now addressed thousands of people at major climate marches and given countless interviews to the world’s press.

At home, his quiet life is periodically disturbed by visiting film teams. He says he doesn’t care much for stardom, but appreciates the interest in his legal case:

I want people to know what we’re facing here in Peru. The people in wealthy countries like Germany should understand how climate change is making our lives more dangerous. Perhaps that will motivate them to stop polluting so much.

I first visited his two-storey family home in December 2014, when I was asked to interpret for three representatives from Germanwatch (I’ve since worked with Luciano Lliuya as a legal strategist, scientific adviser and academic researcher). We were treated to a special meal of guinea pig and potatoes with red chilli sauce. Half-way through, he smiled and glanced around the table at his fellow diners including his father, Julio. Then he told us all quietly: “I’ll do it. I’ll do the claim.”

Peruvian man standing amid mountains.
Saúl Luciano Lliuya in his mountain home. Alexander Luna/GermanwatchCC BY-NC-ND

That moment marked a transformation of Luciano Lliuya’s life – and mine. In the run-up to the 2014 UN Climate Summit (COP20) in Peru’s capital, Lima, Germanwatch employees had been taking an interest in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range – a region of particular concern for its vulnerability to climate change. Having recently lived in Peru, I joined the team as they looked for local people in the Andes to help voice this concern.

A Peruvian friend who was working with local farmers in the region suggested Julio Luciano Lliuya, who had recently told him how badly climate change was affecting their community’s livelihood. Following two weeks of intense UN negotiations at the COP20 summit, I embarked on an eight-hour bus ride to Huaraz with three Germanwatch representatives.

Father and son met us in the city with their rickety old Toyota van. Navigating uneven dirt-track roads, they took us on a tour of the mountains and told us about their climate-related concerns: in the short term, glacial retreat causing disastrous avalanches and floods; in the longer term, water scarcity threatening their very way of being.

Keen to show us the glaciers up close, Julio’s only son Saúl took us on a six-hour trek up to Lake Palcacocha. The hike was so strenuous that two of my colleagues had to turn around halfway, struggling with altitude sickness. Whatever breath I had left was taken away when I first glimpsed the lake, with those shiny white glaciers framing its deep blue water.

A mountain lake and the glaciers that feed it.
Lake Palcacocha has previously flooded the valley below with catastrophic results. GermanwatchCC BY-NC-ND

Walking along the lake’s edge, a distant crash broke the silence. “It’s just a small avalanche – that happens all the time,” explained one of the villagers working for the local government who are present here around the clock to watch over the lake. Far away on the glacier, I spotted a flurry of falling snow. “You see? This one didn’t even reach the lake.” I wondered about the consequences of a bigger avalanche on the residents of the valley below, including the Luciano Lliuya family.

Back down in the village over our guinea pig lunch, Julio (who was in his seventies) explained he had transferred his property in the flood danger zone to his seven children. To our surprise, the youngest of them, Saúl, offered to make the claim against RWE.

“All right then,” said Christoph Bals, Germanwatch’s policy director. “We’re going to court!”

An Outlandish Idea

When I began working on this project nearly a decade ago, holding a major emitter responsible for climate change occurring across the world seemed an outlandish idea. German lawyers had come up with the idea of bringing a claim under the country’s neighbourhood law (part of the extensive German Civil Code) – but this idea had yet to be tested in court.

When Saúl Luciano Lliuya first heard about this option, he said his preferred option was to confront a major polluter, so we settled on a claim against the German multinational RWE. Based some 6,500 miles away in the industrial city of Essen, RWE has produced coal-fired energy since it was founded in the 19th century. Much more recently, its plans for the huge new Garzweiler open-cast coalmine in western Germany have been met with sustained protests and some controversy about RWE’s relationship with the regional police.

Over the past 25 years, the energy company has diversified into renewable energy, and states that it will be “climate neutral by 2040”. A 2014 study, commissioned by the Climate Justice Programme in Australia, estimated that RWE had produced 0.47% of all the world’s industrial greenhouse gas emissions between 1854 and 2010.

In Luciano Lliuya’s homeland, the local government plans to build a new dam and drainage system at Lake Palcacocha to reduce the risk of flooding, at a projected cost of about US$4 million. Luciano Lliuya, via the lawsuit, wants RWE to cover 0.47% of that sum, or around US$20,000.

The case’s central argument is simple: that climate change makes everyone in the world potential neighbours – so, RWE should be a good neighbour and accept its responsibility for contributing to climate change impacts in Peru.

Judges and photographers in a German courtroom
Judges hear the climate lawsuit against RWE in Hamm’s higher regional court, November 2017. Alexander Luna/GermanwatchCC BY-NC-ND

Initially, a lower court in Essen ruled (in December 2016) that the lawsuit against the energy giant was unfounded. However, the following November, this was overruled by the Higher Regional Court in Hamm, which declared the case admissible and began examining the evidence.

The requested sum of US$20,000 is a symbolic amount of money, of course – RWE’s legal costs are likely to go much higher. Yet, when the judges suggested an out-of-court settlement at a hearing in 2017, the company’s lawyer refused, stating: “This is a matter of precedent.”

The estimated cost of future climate-related claims extends into the billions.

The Legal Strategy

“This feels like we’re at 5,000 metres in the Andes,” remarks Saúl Luciano Lliuya as, fighting a biting wind, we walk to the Essen courthouse. It is November 2015 and this is his first trip outside Peru – accompanied by his father. Acting as guide and interpreter, I freeze alongside them in my thick winter coat while these two hardy Peruvians sport only light jackets.

A TV crew is filming as Luciano Lliuya enters the courthouse with his lawyer to submit the claim against RWE. They emerge a few minutes later, and he gives a statement to the awaiting journalists and TV cameras:

I’m making this claim because the mountains in Peru are suffering. The glaciers are melting. We haven’t caused this problem – it’s big companies like RWE. Now they must take responsibility.

Speaking to the press is a new and nerve-wracking experience for him. But when he thinks about the mountains and why he is taking this action, a fire seems to light up inside.

Two Peruvian men outside a courthouse, one holding a large envelope.
Saúl Luciano Lliuya and his father Julio file the lawsuit at Essen courthouse, November 2015. Hubert Perschke/GermanwatchCC BY-NC-ND

Later that day, after we escape the cameras, I ask what his neighbours back in Peru think about the lawsuit. His only aim, after all, is to benefit his community in the face of dramatic changes to their Andean environment. He seeks no personal gain; only that RWE covers part of the costs of a public infrastructure project to reduce the risk of flooding from Lake Palcacocha.

“I don’t know what [my fellow villagers] think,” Luciano Lliuya replies. “I haven’t told anyone.” Acknowledging my surprise, he says he isn’t sure how to explain it to them:

They live with climate change in their own way, but they don’t all have the scientific facts. I’m afraid that some people might not understand how me going to Germany helps us in Peru.

It turns out that his fear is well-founded. When his neighbours find out about his legal claim – whether from news reports, social media or word of mouth – some are confused by it. Rumours begin to spread: that he is making lots of money from the claim, or selling the lake to the Germans. Upon his return home, he explains to his neighbours that nobody is paying him to make the claim, and that success would ultimately help them all. Still, many remain suspicious.

The irony that this case, revolving around neighbourhood law, risks upsetting his own neighbours in Peru is not lost on Luciano Lliuya. The lawsuit applies nuisance law, which is typically applied in neighbourhood disputes, to climate change impacts.

Imagine this: your neighbour has a wall that borders on your property. The wall is old and crumbling, and you’re afraid it could fall over and damage your house. If that happens, you can sue your neighbour for damages. But you’d rather not wait – you don’t want to live with the uncertainty. So instead, you sue your neighbour using the nuisance law. If you win, the court will order them to fix the wall – or in Luciano Lliuya’s case, get rid of the flood hazard.

Around the world, others have attempted similar lawsuits before, to no avail. In 2008, for example, the Native Alaskan community of Kivalina filed a claim against ExxonMobil and other oil majors in the US. Their village is threatened by rising sea levels, so the complainants demanded support for adaptation costs – but that case was dismissed on the grounds that climate change is a political issue that should not be resolved in the courts.

Since then, political progress has proved largely inadequate in mobilising support for those who are most vulnerable to climate change. At the same time, climate science has evolved rapidly, drawing ever more precise links between major emitters and impacts around the world.

Since 2017, around 40 US states and cities have filed lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, arguing that companies such as ExxonMobil knew about the dangers of climate change decades ago but hid this knowledge from consumers. The plaintiffs have included cities such as New York and San Francisco that are threatened by sea level rise and have demanded billions of dollars to cover their adaptation costs. Their actions have received support from US president Joe Biden’s administration, and earlier in 2023, the Supreme Court ruled the cases should be heard in state rather than federal courts. Many legal analysts believe these cases have a better chance of success in state courts, and they are likely to go to trial soon.

After Dutch NGO Milieudefensie filed a lawsuit against the oil and gas multinational Shell, in 2021 a Dutch court ordered that the company should reduce its emissions by 45% by 2030. (There are, though, enforcement challenges with multinational corporations, and since the verdict Shell has moved its corporate headquarters from the Netherlands to the UK.) Lawsuits in numerous countries have forced governments to increase climate action. But, almost eight years after he delivered the complaint to the snowy Essen courthouse in November 2015, Luciano Lliuya’s case has made it furthest of all.

Most fossil fuel companies are no longer engaging in climate denial. RWE acknowledges the dangers of global warming and claims to be “at the leading edge of the shift to sustainable energy.” Yet the company is still making massive profits with fossil fuels, and refuses to pay up for damage caused by past emissions.

A Battle Over The Science

I know of no other case where attribution science is so important. This is a real battle of science. (Roda Verheyen, Luciano Lliuya’s lead lawyer)

In early 2021, Luciano Lliuya’s legal team submitted a new piece of impartial evidence: a scientific study linking flood risk in the Peruvian Andes to global warming. It found that around 95% of the glacier’s retreat at Lake Palcacocha is due to human-made climate change. One media article called it a “smoking gun”.

After RWE’s lawyers challenged the legal validity of the study, in July 2021 the court acknowledged it as a piece of independently produced evidence, meaning it is “of higher value than private expert opinions commissioned by the parties”.

In response, RWE’s legal team presented a study in the scientific journal Remote Sensing, which analysed satellite data for the glacier above Lake Palcacocha and found there was “no evidence of significant glacial instability” within a three-year observation period. RWE’s lawyers used this study to argue that a large avalanche is unlikely – a position that has been strongly contested by Luciano Lliuya’s legal team.

RWE states that as well as modernising its coal-fired power plants to reduce CO₂ emissions, it has invested billions in renewable energy, reflecting Germany’s policy to phase out fossil fuels. Within an article about the case on the climate investigations website SourceMaterial, RWE spokesperson Guido Steffen commented:

Individual emitters are not liable for universally rooted and globally effective processes like climate change. It is judicially impossible to relate specific or individual consequences of climate change to a single person.

‘This Close To Winning’

In the years since I first met Luciano Lliuya in 2014, as well as working with him as a legal adviser and strategist, I’ve also completed a PhD on how climate change affects people in the Peruvian Andes, linking their concerns with legal and political discussions across the world. But the case is still far from over: legal proceedings move slowly, and the next hearing is due to be held in the first half of 2024.

But the case has already inspired other claims: in July 2022, Indonesian islanders threatened by sea-level rise filed a similar lawsuit against the Swiss cement producer Holcim. A recent case in Italy asks for a declaration of responsibility for climate damage from ENI, an Italian oil company. And in September 2023, the European Court of Human Rights heard a legal action posed by Portuguese young people aged 11-24 against 33 European governments over what they claim is a failure to adequately tackle global heating.

Meanwhile, the plight of Luciano Lliuya’s community has been covered by media outlets across the planet. When his lawsuit began, it felt to all involved that victory was nearly impossible – we might get past a few legal hurdles, then move on to the next case. Almost a decade on, we never imagined we’d get this far, and be this close to winning the case.

Back in Luciano Lliuya’s village, the criticism of his motives has slowly subsided. “A big step was when the court came to visit us [in 2022],” Luciano Lliuya explains. “People saw that this is something serious. It wasn’t just me.”

Community leaders joined the court’s inspection at Lake Palcacocha and shook the judges’ hands. At the same time, Luciano Lliuya has helped establish a local NGO that supports farmers in adapting to climate change through sustainable agriculture. The organisation is called Wayintsik – Quechua for “our house”.

Peruvian man with grassy mountains behind.
Luciano Lliuya says he feels responsibility for the mountains that are suffering as they lose their white covers. GermanwatchCC BY-NC-ND

While the legal process moves slowly on, they have no choice but to adapt – and not just to the threat posed by the lake. Weather patterns are becoming less reliable. The Peruvian Andes usually have a dry season from May to August, and farmers rely on the first rains in September to plant their crops. Now, the rains sometimes begin too early, or not until November. New pests are also harming their potato harvests – the warming climate has brought rats to higher altitudes, for example.

In the long term, climate change could have even more devastating impacts on Luciano Lliuya’s community. Glaciers are natural water storage devices so, as they disappear, the people here will face water scarcity. “If there’s no more water,” he says, “we’ll lose our livelihoods. There will be nothing left.” No water for the fields, no glaciers to climb.

But Luciano Lliuya is stubborn. In the face of malicious rumours and unwanted attention, others might have given up. He just climbed more mountains.

After attending COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in November 2022, he went on an all-night trek which included climbing Mount Sinai, following in the steps of Moses. The sandy landscape was a sharp contrast to the glaciers and green pastures he is used to in Peru. Squinting into the rising sun, he reflected on the perils of life on a warming planet.

He said it made him imagine a bleak future in which the whole world resembles these surroundings: “That’s why I’ll continue fighting – so that our mountains back home don’t turn to desert too one day.”

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Noah Walker-Crawford, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Political Science, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Climate tipping points are nearer than you think – our new report warns of catastrophic risk

lugazzotti / shutterstock
James DykeUniversity of Exeter and David Armstrong McKayStockholm University

It’s now almost inevitable that 2023 will be the warmest year ever recorded by humans, probably the warmest for at least 125,000 years.

Multiple temperature records were smashed with global average temperatures for some periods well above 1.5°C. Antarctic sea ice loss is accelerating at frightening rates along with many other indicators of rapid climate change. Does this mean 2023 is the year parts of the climate tip into a much more dangerous state?

Most people expect that if a system, like someone’s body, an ecosystem, or part of the climate system, becomes stressed, it’ll respond fairly predictably – double the pressure, double the impact, and so on. This holds in many cases, but is not always true. Sometimes a system under stress changes steadily (or “linearly”) up to a point, but beyond that far bigger or abrupt changes can be locked in.

An example of such “nonlinear” changes are “tipping points”, which happen when a system is pushed past a threshold beyond which change becomes self-sustaining. This means that even if the original pressure eased off the change would keep on going until the system reaches a sometimes completely different state.

Think of rolling a boulder up a hill. This takes a lot of energy. If that energy input is stopped then the ball will roll back down. But when the top of the hill is reached and the boulder is balanced right at the very top, a tiny push, perhaps even a gust of wind, can be enough to send it rolling down the other side.

The climate system has many potential tipping points, such as ice sheets disappearing or dense rainforests becoming significantly drier and more open. It would be very difficult, effectively impossible, to recover these systems once they go beyond a tipping point.

We along with 200 other scientists from around the world just published the new Global Tipping Points Report at the COP28 UN climate talks in Dubai. Our report sets out the science on the “negative” tipping points in the Earth system that could harm both nature and people, as well as the potential “positive” societal tipping points that could accelerate sustainability action. Here we look at the key messages from report sections on tipping points in the Earth system, their effects on people, and how to govern these changes.

Tipping Points In Air, Land And Sea

Having scoured scientific evidence of past and current changes, and factored in projections from computer models, we have identified over 25 tipping points in the Earth system.

Six of these are in the icebound parts of the planet (the “cryosphere”), including the collapse of massive ice sheets in Greenland and different parts of Antarctica, as well as localised tipping in glaciers and thawing permafrost. Sixteen are in the “biosphere” – the sum of all the world’s ecosystems – including trees dying on a massive scale in parts of the Amazon and northern boreal forests, degradation of savannas and drylands, nutrient overloading of lakes, coral reef mass mortality, and many mangroves and seagrass meadows dying off.

Finally, we identified four potential tipping points in the circulation of the oceans and atmosphere, including collapse of deep ocean mixing in the North Atlantic and in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, and disruption of the West African monsoon.

Human activities are already pushing some of these close to tipping points. The exact thresholds are uncertain, but at today’s global warming of 1.2°C, the widespread loss of warm water coral reefs is already becoming likely, while tipping in another four vital climate systems is possible. These are Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheet collapse, North Atlantic circulation collapse, and widespread localised thaw of permafrost.

Beyond 1.5°C several of these become likely, and other systems like mangroves, seagrass meadows, and parts of the boreal forest start to become vulnerable. Some systems can also tip or have their warming thresholds reduced due to other drivers, such as deforestation in the Amazon.

It can be hard to comprehend the consequences of crossing these tipping points. For example, if parts of the Amazon rainforest die, countless species would be lost, and warming would be further amplified as billions of tons of carbon currently locked up in trees and soils makes its way into the atmosphere. Within the region, this could cause trillions of dollars of economic impacts, and expose millions of people to extreme heat.

Given the sheer scale of risks from tipping points, you may assume that economic assessments of climate change include them. Alas, most assessments effectively ignore tipping point risks. This is perhaps the most frightening conclusion of the new report.

Human Societies Could Tip Into Something Much Worse

There is also the potential for negative tipping in human societies, causing further financial instability, displacement, conflict or polarisation. These would hamper our efforts to limit further Earth system tipping points, and could even bring about a shift to a social system characterised by greater authoritarianism, hostility and alienation that could entirely derail sustainability transitions.

White coral with fish
When water gets too hot, coral can ‘bleach’ and die. Sabangvideo / shutterstock

A further risk is that most of Earth’s tipping systems interact in ways that destabilise one another. In the worst case, tipping one system makes connected systems more likely to tip too. This could produce a “tipping cascade” like falling dominoes.

The Global Tipping Points Report makes clear that climate change is a key driver for most of these tipping points, and the risk of crossing them can be reduced by urgently cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero (which “positive tipping points” could accelerate). To help prevent tipping points in the biosphere, we’ll also need to rapidly reduce habitat loss and pollution while supporting ecological restoration and sustainable livelihoods.

Ambitious new governance approaches are needed. Our report recommends international bodies like the UN’s climate talks urgently start taking tipping points into account. Their understanding of dangerous climate change needs a serious update.

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James Dyke, Associate Professor in Earth System Science, University of Exeter and David Armstrong McKay, Researcher in Earth System Resilience, Stockholm University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Billions have been raised to restore forests, with little success. Here’s the missing ingredient

Yaroslav Astakhov/Shutterstock
Dhanapal GovindarajuluUniversity of Manchester

Protecting and restoring forests is one of the cheapest and most effective options for mitigating the carbon emissions heating Earth.

Since the third UN climate change summit, held in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, different mechanisms have been trialled to raise money and help countries reduce deforestation and restore degraded forests. First there was Koyoto’s clean development mechanism, then the UN-REDD programme initiated at COP13 in Bali in 2008. Voluntary carbon market schemes came into effect after COP21 in Paris in 2015, but all met with limited success.

In some cases, these schemes interfered with communities that have tended and nurtured forests for generations, restricting their access to the forest for fuel, grazing and food. Meanwhile, deforestation has proceeded under the aegis of global markets hungry for beef, palm oil and other commodities.

The world is far off track to reduce deforestation to zero by 2030, or meet its target of restoring over 350 million hectares.

At the current climate talks, COP28 in Dubai, Brazil has proposed a “tropical forests forever fund” with an outlay of US$250 billion, which would pay countries to conserve or expand their forests. But how can the world be confident that the result will be different this time?

The work of one academic, Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom, can tell us why previous efforts to restore forests have failed – and what a more effective approach might look like.

Bundles Of Rights

Nearly 295 million people in developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America live on land that has been identified as ripe for forest restoration. The right to extract timber or plant trees ultimately lies with the state in these places, so it is up to the state to set targets for increasing tree coverage or how much carbon the land stores, regardless of how it affects the communities living there.

Over 73% (about 3 billion hectares) of global forested land is under state control. One of the arguments for allowing governments to retain ownership of these forests, including the right to manage them, is the notion of the “tragedy of the commons”: in the absence of an all-powerful governing entity, people will overuse shared resources.

Three rangers in military-style uniforms standing in a tropical forest thicket.
Strict state control is not always a recipe for success in conservation. JordiStock/Shutterstock

In fact, Ostrom’s work on the commons in forests, fishing grounds and grazing pastures shows that communities tend to protect and sustainably use common resources – provided they have rights, tenure, and the ability to decide rules for managing them.

A recent study examined forest commons in 15 tropical countries, where governments own the forest but have allowed local communities informal or customary rights of use and management. The authors noted that these forest commons had a high variety of tree species, and offered enough fodder and fuel wood to sustain livelihoods in the local community. The wealth of biomass in these forests indicated a lot of carbon was also being stored.

These findings seem to affirm that forests used and managed by Indigenous and rural communities can support global objectives for carbon and biodiversity, while meeting the needs of local people.

Ostrom’s research identified five important bundles of rights that allow communities to sustainably manage a parcel of land in such commons. These are: access, withdrawal, management, exclusion, and alienation.

Access and withdrawal rights are the minimum required for communities to go into a forest and collect timber, flowers, leaves and grasses for their subsistence and to sell commercially. The most important of these rights, at least in terms of forest restoration, is management rights, including the right to decide where and what type of trees to plant in order to restore a forest.

But Ostrom found that these rights are worthless unless imbued with secure “tenure” – in other words, confidence that land users would not be arbitrarily deprived of their rights over particular parcels of land.

Attempts by governments to provide partial management rights to local communities in recent decades have disappointed when it comes to restoring forests. For example, India has attempted to revive degraded forests since 1991 through its joint forest management programme, which offers partial rights to communities that are invited to help prepare a management plan. But without legally binding rights or secure tenure, this approach has shown limited success.

In contrast, India’s forest rights act 2006, the first of its kind globally, provided local communities that had traditionally used an area of forested land with full management rights and secure tenure. The result has been restored forests and communities benefiting from increased sales of bamboo and tendu (leaves for rolling tobacco), improving livelihoods.

Two women making bidi cigarettes out of tendu leaves.
Indian women making bidi, traditional handmade cigarettes. Parikh Mahendra N/Shutterstock

Empower Forest Communities

To restore Earth’s forests and mitigate climate change, states should devolve management rights to the communities in these land parcels and grant them secure tenure.

But how should these commons be governed? Ostrom’s many years of research are, again, a useful guide. She advocated for clear boundaries defining the community’s rights, rules for forest use, the rights of all members of a community to participate in making those rules (including women and marginal communities), collective decision-making on managing resources, effective monitoring, graduated sanctions for rule violations, conflict resolution mechanisms, and a nested governance structure when multiple communities have rights over the same resources.

There are clear limitations on Indigenous and forest-dependent communities to access the finance that might aid them in their restoration work. Brazil’s proposed fund, and existing climate finance mechanism such as REDD+ and the green climate fund, must be made accessible to these forest communities. This would be easier if they had secure rights and tenure, with a clear set of management rules.

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Dhanapal Govindarajulu, Postgraduate Researcher, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why iconic trees are so important to us – and how replacing those that fall is often complicated

The Sycamore Gap tree on Hadrian’s Wall, UK. Mark Godden/Shutterstock
Helen ParishUniversity of Reading and Ewan MacdonaldUniversity of Oxford

An ancient kola tree has been cut down in southern Ghana. Local tradition held that the tree had grown on the spot where spiritual leader Komfo Anokye had spat a kola nut onto the ground three centuries previously.

Anokye was a fetish priest – a person believed to act as a mediator between the living and the spirit world – and the tree that took his name was reputedly able to cure ailments and lift curses.

These legends, and its location on a major road, turned the Komfo Anokye tree into a tourist attraction and a symbol of ancestral roots. Its loss is historically, culturally and ecologically significant.

The felling of the iconic tree prompted an outpouring of anger and grief, and a desire to repair the damage done. But what is it about the loss of a tree that provokes such an emotional response? Why is it that single trees are so important to us? And why might our instinct to repair the damage by planting a new tree prove unexpectedly complicated?

Tree Felling As An Emotive Issue

The felled tree, and the outpouring of emotion that followed, is one of several such high-profile instances. In late October 2023, the decision was made to cut down the 550-year-old Darwin’s Oak in Shrewsbury. The Woodland Trust described the felling as a “death sentence”.

The felling of the Sycamore Gap tree in September 2023, which was located next to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, was described in similarly emotional language.

The deliberate cutting down of trees is highly emotive because they are central to how we perceive ourselves within our environment. Trees are living archives, recording the past of our planet and our own personal histories.

Individual trees are steeped in storytelling and symbolism. Some cultures believe that the spirits of the ancients and family members reside within Africa’s climate-vulnerable baobab. And the Ankerwycke yew at Runnymede in Surrey is described as the last surviving witness to the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215.

The Sycamore Gap tree was also an iconic image. Its fall prompted local and global reaction on such a scale that we might be forgiven for concluding that felling one tree elicits a more visceral reaction than the destruction of entire rainforests.

While Sycamore Gap was grabbing the headlines, the latest state of nature report showed the UK to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. This juxtaposition exemplifies the different ways in which people ascribe value to nature.

Our research from 2021 explored the different ways that people prioritise their relationships with nature. Some protect nature for human benefit and others seek to protect nature for its own sake. At the same time, some people prioritise the conservation of species and ecosystems, while others focus on the wellbeing of individual specimens.

Iconic trees are a prime example of this contrast. The action we take to protect iconic trees, or to replace those that fall, may satisfy the moral imperative to “do something”. But it is often energised by a greater concern for individual organisms than for the need to protect the wider environment.

Replacing Iconic Trees

Tree planting has political capital as a way to tackle climate change. But rushing to replace lost nature on our own terms and without effective management can lead to poor outcomes.

Neither a single sapling, nor many, will directly replace the unique ecosystem of a 300-year-old tree – at least not for another 300 years. If we treat nature as easily replaceable, we embrace the “quick fix” and ignore the impact of human actions on ecological succession and the vast complexity of the ecological system.

Ecological succession is the natural and never ending process of change in an ecosystem. It is what allows a healthy woodland to regenerate itself, for example, after forest fires.

Human intervention can disturb this process. The planting of single species or non-native trees can undermine the ecosystem, accelerate soil erosion and increase vulnerability to pests and disease.

The felled tree at Sycamore Gap was removed and stored pending a decision on what to do with it. But, similar acts of removal elsewhere in the wild can disrupt ecosystems too. Dead trees are a vital component of any woodland as they recycle nutrients, support the growth of fungi, and provide a home for a diverse array of birds, insects and mammals.

The tree at Sycamore Gap stood in isolation, but the loss of a single tree is still not without consequence. The complexities inherent in replacing the ecological value of lost trees must not blind us to their wider and equally important cultural significance. In the words of the British-American poet, W.H. Auden: “The trees encountered on a country stroll, reveal a lot about a country’s soul.”

Conservation debates should be about more than economic or functional human benefits. They should integrate history, culture and values into our relationship with the natural world.

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Helen Parish, Visiting Professor of History, University of Reading / Worcester College Oxford, University of Reading and Ewan Macdonald, Senior Research Fellow in Conservation Geopolitics, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How bird feeders help small species fight infection

Great tits are familiar visitors to gardens. allanw/Shutterstock
Hannah WatsonLund University

Every day, throughout the world, people put huge quantities of food out at feeding stations for birds and other wild animals.

Although we know that connecting with nature benefits human health and wellbeing, scientists still know relatively little about the consequences of providing food for wildlife. My team’s most recent research, however, has found that feeding garden birds in wintertime seems to make them more resilient to infection.

Winter can be tough for small birds. During cold winter nights, small birds reduce their body temperature by several degrees. While this would be lethal for a human, it saves lots of energy, helping birds to survive particularly cold nights. However, reducing body temperature is risky, and hypothermic birds are slow to wake and respond to a predator.

A reliable food supply at bird feeders can help small birds avoid starvation and survive the harsh winterOur previous research showed that birds with access to feeders do not need to reduce their night-time body temperature as much as birds that did not have access to feeders. The extra energy birds get from human-provided food means they don’t have to take the risk of becoming severely hypothermic.

Supplementary feeding is controversial since it can also negatively affect wildlife. Birds congregate at feeders, often in large numbers, coming into close contact with one another. Some studies suggest bird feeders have contributed to the spread of infectious diseases such as trichomonosis, which caused huge greenfinch mortalities in the UK in the mid-2000s.

Some people are also concerned that bird feeders may discourage birds from learning to forage for themselves. However, research suggests that supplementary food makes up only a small portion of birds’ diets, and that birds do not become dependent on human-provided food.

Two garden birds perch on the rim of a metal feeder.
A great tit is joined by a robin at a bird feeder. DJTaylor/Shutterstock

We were curious about whether the frequent use of feeders could boost birds’ immune systems, making them better equipped to fight an infection.

Vaccination readies our bodies to tackle a disease by delivering a small dose of a virus or bacterium. Similarly, regular exposure to low doses of pathogens at feeding stations – as a result of infected birds depositing pathogens on to feeders – could better prepare birds to fight an infection.

So, we investigated whether supplementary feeding could make great tits more tolerant to an infection. In a forest in southern Sweden in October 2022, we set up bird feeders that were routinely visited by large numbers of great tits along with lower numbers of blue tits, chaffinches and crested tits. These bird feeders were refilled every few days to ensure a constant supply of peanuts and sunflower seeds throughout the winter.

In late winter, after birds had been visiting bird feeders for several months, we captured great tits at sunset and gave them a “fake infection” – injecting them with a small amount of material from the cell wall of a bacterium. This triggered the great tits’ immune system to think it was being attacked by an invading pathogen, without introducing any of the harmful components of the bacterium.

At the same time, we simulated infection in great tits from another part of the forest, where there had been no access to feeding stations during the winter.

Supplementary-Fed Birds Are More Tolerant

One of the first responses of the body to fight off an infection is to raise body temperature and develop a fever. While the “infected” great tits slept, we measured their body temperature throughout the night. We compared the fever responses of great tits that had visited bird feeders throughout the winter with those of great tits that had not visited feeding stations.

We found the great tits that had been using feeders did not increase their body temperature as much as the great tits that didn’t have access to feeding stations. Although fever is important in helping the body fight infection, raising the body’s temperature requires a large investment of energy. Fever and associated inflammation also cause some damage to the body. The best immune response is a careful balance of mounting defences strong enough to tackle the invading pathogen while minimising damage to the body.

So, the supplementary-fed birds seemed to adequately fight the “infection” without using up their precious winter energy supply.

The Effects Of Bird Feeding Are Complex

While we found that the use of feeding stations made great tits more tolerant to an infection, this could also enable infected great tits to stay active, spreading infection between birds.

On the other hand, the greater risk of disease transmission at feeders may be countered by the stronger immune systems these birds could develop due to better nutrition from the food provided by people in parks and gardens.

You can reduce the risk of disease by keeping feeding stations clean. Follow wildlife charities’ guidelines of how to set up a feeding station and what food to put out – and what food to avoid. Great tits are a common visitor to gardens in Europe, so there’s a good chance a bird feeder could attract these colourful birds to your home.The Conversation

Hannah Watson, Researcher in Evolutionary Ecology, Lund University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Don’t applaud the climate summit’s loss and damage fund deal just yet – it might not warrant that standing ovation

Shannon GibsonUSC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Shortly after the opening ceremony of the 2023 United Nations climate negotiations in Dubai, delegates of nations around the world rose in a standing ovation to celebrate a long-awaited agreement to launch a loss and damage fund to help vulnerable countries recover from climate-related disasters.

But the applause might not yet be warranted. The deal itself leaves much undecided and has been met with criticism by climate justice advocates and front-line communities.

I teach global environmental politics and climate justice and have been attending and observing these negotiations for over a decade to follow the demands for just climate solutions, including loss and damage compensation for countries that have done the least to cause climate change.

Several dozen older men in suits walk with al-Jaber, who is one of a few men in traditional Middle Eastern dress. There might be six women  in he photo, all, including Ursula von der Leyen, near the back.
COP28 President Sultan Ahmed al-Jaber, center, walks with world leaders and representatives of countries to the climate summit’s opening ceremony. The loss and damage fund was one of the first items approved. Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images

A Brief History Of Loss And Damage

Breakthrough” was the term often used to describe the decision at 2022’s COP27 climate conference to finally construct a loss and damage fund. Many countries rejoiced at this “long-delayed” agreement — it came 31 years after Vanuatu, a small archipelago in the Pacific, first proposed compensation for loss and damage for climate-caused sea level rise in earlier negotiations.

The agreement was only a framework, however. Most of the details were left to a transitional committee that met throughout 2023 to forward recommendations on this new fund to COP28. A United Nations report outlined at the committee’s second meeting found that funding from wealthy nations to help poorer countries adapt to the ravages of climate change grew by 65% from 2019 to 2020, to $US49 billion. That’s still far below the $160 billion to $340 billion the U.N. estimates will be needed annually by 2030.

As the meetings went on, developing nations, long wary of traditional financial institutions’ use of interest-bearing loans, which have left many low-income countries mired in debt, proposed that the fund be independent. Developed nations, however, insisted the fund be hosted under the World Bank and held up the recommendations until right before COP28.

Devil Is In The Details

While any deal on funding for climate disaster damages was sure to be portrayed as a historic win, further investigation suggests that it should be welcomed with hesitation and scrutiny.

First, the fund contains no specifics on scale, financial targets or how it will be funded. Instead, the decision merely “invites” developed nations to “take the lead” in providing finance and support and encourages commitments from other parties. It also fails to detail which countries will be eligible to receive funding and vaguely states it would be for “economic and non-economic loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events.”

So far, pledges have been underwhelming.

Dozens of tents line a road with floodwater on both sides.
Extensive flooding from extreme rain destroyed homes and livelihoods across Pakistan in 2022. Residents set up tents along a stretch of dry land. Fida Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

Calculations of early commitments total just over US$650 million, with Germany and the United Arab Emirates pledging $100 million and the U.K. committing $75 million. The United States, one of the largest climate change contributors, pledged only $17.5 million in comparison. It’s a shockingly low starting point.

Also, any notion that this fund represents liability or compensation by developed countries — a major concern for countries with long histories of carbon pollution — was removed entirely. It in fact notes that loss and damage response is based on cooperation instead.

In a rare win for the developing world, funds were made available — even at subnational and community levels — to all nations, though with yet-undetermined performance indicators.

Additional concern has been raised about the fund’s interim host – the World Bank. In fact, deciding on a host institution was one of the sticking points that nearly derailed earlier talks.

On one side, the United States and other developed nations insisted the fund be hosted by the World Bank, which has always been led by an American and has historically spread pro-Western policies. Developing countries, however, resisted the World Bank’s involvement based on their historical experiences with its lending and structural adjustment programs and noting the bank’s role for years in financing oil and gas exploration as cornerstones of development efforts.

Banga, wearing a turban, and von der Leyen talk while sitting on the edge of a desk in a conference room.
World Bank President Ajay Banga speaks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at COP28 in Dubai on Dec. 2, 2023. Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Following a stalemate and U.S. attempts to block a consensus, a compromise was reached to host the fund under the World Bank for four years, with guardrails to ensure its independence and impact. After this window, the host structure will be reviewed, leading to either a fully independent fund or continuation under the World Bank.

The concern for critics with this route is that the compromise risks ending up as a permanent hosting situation.

And there are more issues, such as the fund board’s composition, which only allows for national representatives, not civil society representatives such as from Indigenous groups, as developing countries requested. The scope of funding that will be allowed is also still up in the air. In the fund’s vague state, it opens the door for countries, as part of their loss and damage funding commitments, to count private loans, conditional import credits and even funding from the fossil fuel industry at the same time the industry continues to fuel climate damage.

What Happens Next, Starting In 2024

To date, the international climate community does not have a solid track record when it comes to climate finance promises. Each successive fund — from the Green Climate Fund that supports green projects in the developing world to the Adaptation Fund that builds climate resilience for the most vulnerable nations — has been woefully undersourced from inception.

In 2021, the entire climate finance ecosystem, from national commitments to private investment, totaled $850 billion. Experts indicate that this sum needs to be closer to $4.3 trillion.

That target represents 20% year-over-year growth until the end of this decade – a significant ramp up from recent years.

From 2011 to 2020, total climate finance grew at just 7% annually. If this trend continues, not only will developing and most vulnerable countries lose faith in this process, but the very need for loss and damage funding will only grow.

The new fund board is mandated to hold its first meeting by Jan. 31, 2024. While this early start time is laudable, droughts will continue killing crops, and storms will continue flooding homes while the new fund engages in another series of meetings to determine who will qualify, how they can apply and how and when funds will actually be dispersed.

Researcher Will Erens, a student at the University of Southern California, contributed to this article.The Conversation

Shannon Gibson, Associate Professor of International Relations and Environmental Studies, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why dozens of North American bird species are getting new names: Every name tells a story

Birders participate in the Christmas Bird Count on Theodore Roosevelt Island in Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2017. Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Jared Del RossoUniversity of Denver

This winter, tens of thousands of birders will survey winter bird populations for the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, part of an international bird census, powered by volunteers, that has taken place every year since 1900.

For many birders, participating in the count is a much-anticipated annual tradition. Tallying birds and compiling results with others connects birders to local, regional and even national birding communities. Comparing this year’s results with previous tallies links birders to past generations. And scientists use the data to assess whether bird populations are thriving or declining.

But a change is coming. On Nov. 1, 2023, the American Ornithological Society announced that it will rename 152 bird species that have names honoring historical figures.

A gray-blue bird with black markings perches on a branch, eating a berry.
A Townsend’s Solitaire, one of the species to be renamed. Jared Del RossoCC BY-ND

Soon, Christmas bird counters will no longer find Cooper’s hawks hunting songbirds. They won’t scan marshes for Wilson’s snipes. And here in Colorado’s Front Range, where I’ll participate in a local count, we’ll no longer encounter one of my favorite winter visitors, Townsend’s solitaires.

New names will take the place of these eponymous ones. With those new names will come new ways of understanding these birds and their histories.

Names Matter

In my time birding over the past decade, learning birds’ names helped me recognize the species I encounter every day, as well as the ones that migrate past me. So I understand that it may not be easy to persuade people to accept new names for so many familiar North American species.

But as a scholar of politics, culture and denial, I also know that language shapes our understanding of history and violence. This includes bird names, as I’ve learned through my ongoing research into one iconic species’ place in American culture: the Eastern whip-poor-will.

Eastern whip-poor-wills are nocturnal birds who nest in forests of the eastern U.S. and Canada. English colonialists named the species for their distinct, repetitive call, which sounds like a malicious command to inflict punishment: “Whip poor Will, whip poor Will, whip poor Will.”

An Eastern Whip-poor-will’s distinctive call.

This naming had consequences. Generations of poets and naturalists, like John Muir and Mabel Osgood Wright, associated the species with whippings. Their writings often tell us as much about 19th and early-20th century Americans’ views of morality and punishment than about this remarkable bird.

What’s Wrong With Eponymous Names

The whip-poor-will’s name translates the species’ song, leaving room for interpretation. Eponymous names based on a specific person, like Audubon’s oriole or Townsend’s solitaire, are less descriptive. Even so, these names shape how people relate to birds and the history of ornithology.

Many of these names honor people, usually white men, who engaged in racist acts. For example, John James Audubon owned slaves, and John Kirk Townsend robbed skulls from Native American graves. Changing these names helps separate birds from this harmful, exclusionary history.

But for multiple reasons, the American Ornithological Society is changing all eponymous names, not just those linked to problematic historical figures. First, the organization decided that it did not want to make judgments about which historical figures were honor-worthy. Second, it recognized that all eponymous names imply human ownership over birds. Third, it acknowledged that eponymous names do not describe the birds they name.

Change As A Constant

While birders certainly will have learning to do once these changes become official, change is a constant in how people relate to birds.

Consider the technologies birders use. In the early 20th century, binoculars became more affordable and readily available. As Texas A&M historian Thomas Dunlap has shown, this helps explains why birders now “collect” birds by spotting them, rather than by shooting them, as Audubon and others of his time did.

Field guides, too, have come a long way. Early guides often relied on dense written descriptions. Today, birders carry compact, smartly illustrated guides, or we use smartphones to check digital guides, share sightings and identify birds from audio recordings.

Names, too, have long been open to revision. When the American Ornithological Union, the predecessor of today’s American Ornithological Society, created an official list of bird names in 1886, it erased untold numbers of Indigenous names, as well as local folk names.

Since then, some names have come into use and others have fallen out of fashion, especially as ornithologists lump and split species. Consider the ongoing adventure of just one species: Wilson’s snipe, a round marsh bird whose name will be among those changed.

In the American Ornithological Union’s original checklist of North American birds, Wilson’s snipes were a distinct species from the Common snipes of Europe and Asia. Then, in the mid-1940s, the Union decided the two were one, and Wilson’s snipes became Common snipes. In 2000, the Common snipe was split back into two species, and Wilson’s snipes again became Wilson’s snipes.

Either way, many early accounts of the North American species simply call these birds “Snipes.” This is the name Alexander Wilson, for whom the bird is named, himself used in his account of them.

Watercolor of three brown and white snipes, a type of shorebird, in a marsh.
John James Audubon’s illustration of American snipes, from ‘Birds of America.’ Courtesy of the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove, Montgomery County Audubon Collection, and Zebra Publishing

Names Reflect New Knowledge And Values

Science has greatly expanded human understanding of birds in recent decades. We now recognize that birds are intelligent, with rich emotional lives. Radar, lightweight transmitters and satellite telemetry have helped scientists map the transcontinental migrations that many bird species make each year.

Trading eponymous names, which treat birds as passive objects, for richer descriptive names reflects this sea change in our understanding of avian lives.

Our thinking about race and racism has evolved dramatically as well. For instance, we no longer use folk names for birds based on racial and ethnic slurs, as Americans of the 19th and early 20th centuries did. The decision to change eponymous bird names reflects this shift.

It also reflects broader efforts to reckon with the legacies of racism and colonialism in our relationships with the natural world. There is increasing recognition that legacies of racism shape our natural landscapes. Just as public monuments can have “expiration dates,” so can names for species, geographic features and places that no longer reflect contemporary values.

Birders no longer live in Audubon’s world. We rarely consult his heavy, multi-volume folios. We celebrate that we list birds that we have seen in the wild and left unharmed, rather than collecting their bodies as specimens.

Soon, we’ll also stop using some of the names that this world gave to birds.The Conversation

Jared Del Rosso, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology, University of Denver

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COP28: 7 food and agriculture innovations needed to protect the climate and feed a rapidly growing world

Managing methane from belching cattle is a top innovation priority. Lance Cheung/USDA
Paul WintersUniversity of Notre Dame

For the first time ever, food and agriculture took centre stage at the annual United Nations climate conference in 2023.

More than 130 countries signed a declaration on Dec. 1, committing to make their food systems – everything from production to consumption – a focal point in national strategies to address climate change.

The declaration is thin on concrete actions to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions, but it draws attention to a crucial issue.

The global food supply is increasingly facing disruptions from extreme heat and storms. It is also a major contributor to climate change, responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. This tension is why agriculture innovation is increasingly being elevated in international climate discussions.

Women farmers work as rain falls from a storm cloud.
Farmers work in a field during monsoon rains in Madhya Pradesh, India. Rajarshi Mitra via FlickrCC BY-ND

At present, agriculture provides enough food for the world’s 8 billion people, although many do not have adequate access. But to feed a global population of 10 billion in 2050, croplands would need to expand by 660,000 to 1.2 million square miles (171 million to 301 million hectare) relative to 2010. That would lead to more deforestation, which contributes to climate change. Further, some practices widely relied on to produce sufficient food, such as using synthetic fertilizers, also contribute to climate change.

Simply eliminating deforestation and these practices without alternative solutions would decrease the world’s food supply and farmers’ incomes. Fortunately, innovations are emerging that can help.

In a new report, the Innovation Commission for Climate Change, Food Security and Agriculture, founded by Nobel-winning economist Michael Kremer, identifies seven priority areas for innovation that can help ensure sufficient food production, minimize greenhouse gas emissions and be scaled up to reach hundreds of millions of people.

I’m an agriculture economist and executive director for the commission. Three innovations in particular stand out for their ability to scale up quickly and pay off economically.

Accurate, Accessible Weather Forecasts

With extreme weather leaving crops increasingly vulnerable and farmers struggling to adapt, accurate weather forecasts are crucial. Farmers need to know what to expect, both in the days ahead and farther out, to make strategic decisions about planting, irrigating, fertilizing and harvesting.

Yet access to accurate, detailed forecasts is rare for farmers in many low- and middle-income countries.

Our assessment shows that investing in technology to collect data and make forecasts widely available – such as by radio, text message or WhatsApp – can pay off many times over for economies.

A man stands in a rice field in Mozambique after a storm.
Forecasts by text message can help farmers prepare for extreme weather and time their planting and harvesting. Wikus de Wet/AFP via Getty Images

For example, accurate state-level forecasts of seasonal monsoon rainfall totals would help Indian farmers optimize sowing and planting times, providing an estimated US$3 billion in benefits over five years – at a cost of around $5 million.

If farmers in Benin received accurate forecasts by text message, we estimate that they could save each farmer $110 to $356 per year, a large amount in that country.

More sharing of information among neighbouring countries, using platforms like the World Meteorological Organization’s Climate Services Information System, could also improve forecasts.

Microbial Fertilizers

Another innovation priority involves expanding the use of microbial fertilizers.

Nitrogen fertilizer is widely used to increase crop yields, but it is typically made from natural gas and is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Microbial fertilizers use bacteria to help plants and soil absorb the nutrients they need, thereby reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer needed.

Studies have found that microbial fertilizers could increase legume yields by 10% to 30% in healthy soil and generate billions of dollars in benefits. Other microbial fertilizers work with corn, and scientists are working on more advancements.

Soybean farmers in Brazil have been using a rhizobia-based microbial fertilizer for decades to improve their yields and cut synthetic fertilizer costs. But this technique is not as widely known elsewhere. Scaling it up will require funding to expand testing to more countries, but it has great potential payoff for farmers, soil health and the climate.

Reducing Methane From Livestock

A third innovation priority is livestock, the source of roughly two-thirds of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. With demand for beef projected to rise 80% by 2050 as low- and middle-income countries grow wealthier, reducing those emissions is essential.

Several innovative methods for reducing livestock methane emissions target enteric fermentation, which leads to methane belches.

Adding algae, seaweed, lipids, tannins or certain synthetic compounds to cattle feed can change the chemical reactions that generate methane during digestion. Studies have found some techniques have the potential to reduce methane emissions by a quarter to nearly 100 percent. When cattle produce less methane, they also waste less energy, which can go into growth and milk production, providing a boost for farmers.

The method is still expensive, but further development and private investment could help scale it up and lower the cost.

Gene editing, either of livestock or the microorganisms in their stomachs, could also someday hold potential.

Scaling Up Agriculture Innovation

The Innovation Commission also identified four other priorities for innovation:

  • Helping farmers and communities implement better rainwater harvesting.

  • Lowering the cost of digital agriculture that can help farmers use irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides most efficiently.

  • Encouraging production of alternative proteins to reduce demand for livestock.

  • Providing insurance and other social protections to help farmers recover from extreme weather events.

While promising agricultural innovations exist, commercial incentives to develop and scale them up have fallen short, leading to underinvestment, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

A man flies drones to spread fertilizer on a field in Kenya.
Providing farmers with information and technology that can increase their resource efficiency are common themes in agriculture innovation. Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

However, innovation funding has a track record of generating very high social rates of return. This creates an opportunity for public and philanthropic investment in developing and deploying innovations at a scale to reach hundreds of millions of people. Of course, to be effective, any potential innovation must be consistent with – and driven by – national strategies and planned in conjunction with the government, the private sector and civil society.

Two decades ago, global leaders, frustrated that lifesaving vaccines were not reaching hundreds of millions of people who needed them, created Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. They invested billions of dollars to scale up these innovations, helped to immunize over 1 billion children and halved child mortality in 78 lower-income countries.

This year, officials at COP28 are aiming for a similar global response to climate change, food security and agriculture.The Conversation

Paul Winters, Professor of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weedkiller Roundup, is showing up in pregnant women living near farm fields – that raises health concerns

As suburbs encroach on farmland, residents’ risk of exposure to farm chemicals rises. Carly Hyland
Cynthia CurlBoise State University and Carly HylandUniversity of California, Berkeley

Living near farmland can significantly increase people’s exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, new research shows. This chemical has been connected to health concerns, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma and a higher risk of preterm birth.

We are environmental health scientists who study pesticide exposures in human populations. In our newly published research, we tracked glyphosate levels in pregnant women for 10 months.

We found that those who were living within about a third of a mile (500 meters) of an agricultural field had significantly higher levels of glyphosate in their urine than those who lived farther away. Importantly, we only saw those differences during the time of year when farmers spray glyphosate on their fields, further suggesting agricultural spray as the source of this exposure.

Our research also found that eating organic food, produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, could reduce glyphosate levels in women living far from farm fields – but not in women who lived near farm fields.

Together, the results provide new insight into how people are exposed to this common and potentially harmful chemical.

Why It Matters

Glyphosate is the single most heavily used agricultural pesticide in the world. Its use grew dramatically over the past two decades with the increase in production of genetically modified, herbicide-resistant crops. These crops are engineered to withstand the weed-killing effects of herbicides like glyphosate, which means that an entire field can be sprayed with these chemicals, eliminating the weeds without harm to the crop itself. This is a change from previous practices, where herbicide applications had to be more targeted.

While herbicides like dicamba and 2,4-D are known to become airborne, glyphosate is not volatile, so there has been less concern over its potential to drift when it is sprayed on crops.

However, our research provides evidence for the first time that agricultural use of glyphosate still reaches people living nearby.

A corn field with a road sign reading: 'This road to be extended in the future.' That extension is to build houses in the middle of what is currently a farm field.
Rural communities have dealt with risks from agriculture chemicals for many years. Carly Hyland

It is important to note that there is no consensus on whether or not this widely used herbicide causes cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, has determined that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that it is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” This debate is playing out in courtrooms across the U.S., with mixed results.

In addition to concerns about cancer risk, four recent human studies found that glyphosate exposure during pregnancy was associated with reproductive effects. These effects included preterm birthshortened gestational duration and reduced fetal growth.

However, scientists know very little about levels and sources of glyphosate exposure among pregnant women. The potential risk and that lack of data is why our study focused on this group.

How We Did Our Work

We collected 1,395 urine samples from 40 pregnant women living in southern Idaho. This included weekly urine samples from February through December 2021. Among women living near fields, we found that urinary glyphosate levels were about 50% higher during the pesticide spray season – May through August in southern Idaho – than they were during the rest of the year.

For two weeks in June, we also provided study participants with a week of organic food and a week of conventional food, in random order, and collected daily urine samples. Glyphosate levels decreased by about 25% from the conventional to the organic-food week for participants who lived far from fields. But for the women who lived near fields, the shift to an organic diet didn’t change their glyphosate levels.

The results suggest that, for people living in cities and towns, an organic diet can be an effective way to reduce glyphosate exposure. However, for people living near farms, exposure from nearby agricultural applications may matter more.

What Still Isn’t Known

Our finding that living near agriculture is associated with higher glyphosate levels in the body provides important new insights about who is exposed to this herbicide. However, we still don’t know exactly how this exposure is occurring.

While many pesticides are transported by airborne drift, it is possible that glyphosate travels in a different way. For example, it may adhere to soil that is blown or tracked into homes.

Understanding this is pivotal to reducing human exposure to chemicals in agricultural areas. It is also important as urbanization takes over land that was previously farmed. As new subdivisions and residential areas expand into and fragment agricultural areas, homeowners are finding themselves with farm fields, and their chemicals, as neighbors.

The Research Brief is a short take on interesting academic work.

Leia em português.The Conversation

Cynthia Curl, Associate Professor of Public and Population Health, Boise State University and Carly Hyland, Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension, University of California, Berkeley

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Inert’ ingredients in pesticides may be more toxic to bees than scientists thought

A honeybee approaches a sunflower at Wards Berry Farm in Sharon, Mass. John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jennie L. DurantUniversity of California, Davis

Bees help pollinate over a third of the world’s crops, contributing an estimated US$235 billion to $577 billion in value to global agriculture. They also face a myriad of stresses, including pathogens and parasites, loss of suitable food sources and habitat, air pollution and climate-driven weather extremes.

recent study has identified another important but understudied pressure on bees: “inert” ingredients in pesticides.

All pesticide products in the U.S. contain active and inert ingredients. Active ingredients are designed to kill or control a specific insect, weed or fungus and are listed on product labels. All other ingredients – emulsifiers, solvents, carriers, aerosol propellants, fragrances, dyes and such – are considered inert.

The new study exposed honeybees to two treatments: the isolated active ingredients in the fungicide Pristine, which is used to control fungal diseases in almonds and other crops, and the whole Pristine formulation, including inert ingredients. The results were quite surprising: The whole formulation impaired honeybees’ memory, while the active ingredients alone did not.

This suggests that the inert ingredients in the formula were actually what made Pristine toxic to bees – either because the inerts were toxic on their own or because combining them with the active ingredients made the active ingredients more toxic. As a social scientist focusing on bee declines, I believe that either way, these findings have important implications for pesticide regulation and bee health.

Threats to bees include single-crop agriculture, habitat loss, air pollution and pesticide exposure.

What Are Inert Ingredients?

Inert ingredients have a variety of functions. They may extend a pesticide’s shelf life, reduce risks for people who apply the pesticides or help a pesticide work better. Some inerts, called adjuvants, help pesticides stick to plant surfaces, reduce pesticide drift or help active ingredients better penetrate a plant’s surface.

The “inert” label is a colloquial misnomer, though. As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notes, inerts aren’t necessarily inactive or even nontoxic. In fact, pesticide users sometimes know very little about how inerts function in a pesticide formula. That’s partly because they are regulated very differently than active ingredients.

Measuring Bee Effects

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, the EPA oversees pesticide regulation in the U.S. To register a pesticide product for outdoor use, chemical companies must provide reliable risk assessment data on the active ingredients’ toxicity for bees, including the results of an acute honeybee contact test.

The acute contact test tracks how honeybees react to a pesticide application over a short period of time. It also aims to establish the dose of a pesticide that will kill 50% of a group of honeybees, a value known as the LD50. To determine the LD50, scientists apply the pesticide to bees’ midsections and then observe the bees for 48 to 96 hours for signs of poisoning.

In 2016, the EPA expanded its data requirements by requiring an acute honeybee oral toxicity test, in which adult bees are fed a chemical, as well as a 21-day honeybee larval test that tracks larval reaction to an agrochemical from the egg to their emergence as adult bees.

These tests all help the agency determine what potential risk an active ingredient may pose for honeybees, along with other data. Based on the information from these varied tests, pesticides are labeled as nontoxic, moderately toxic or highly toxic.

A Chemical Black Box

Despite this rigorous testing, much remains unknown about how safe pesticides are for bees. This is particularly true for pesticides that have sublethal or chronic toxicities – in other words, pesticides that don’t cause immediate death or obvious signs of poisoning but have other significant effects.

This lack of knowledge about sublethal and chronic effects is problematic, because bees can be repeatedly exposed over long time spans to pesticides on floral nectar or pollen, or to pesticide contamination that builds up in beehives. They even may be exposed through miticides that beekeepers use to control Varroa mites, a devastating bee parasite.

Complicating the issue, symptoms of sublethal exposure are often more subtle or take longer to become apparent than acute or lethal toxicity. Symptoms might include abnormal foraging and learning ability, decreased egg laying by the queen, wing deformation, stunted growth or decreased colony survival. The EPA doesn’t always require chemical companies to perform the tests that could detect these symptoms.

Inert ingredients add another level of mystery. While the EPA reviews and must approve all inert ingredients, it does not require the same toxicity testing as for active ingredients.

This is because under FIFRA, inert ingredients are protected as trade secrets, or confidential business information. Only the total percentage of inert ingredients is required on the label, often lumped together and described as “other ingredients.”

A box shows that a pesticide has 0.375% active ingredients and 99.625% 'other' ingredients.
Sample pesticide ingredient label from an EPA training guide, showing that just 0.375% of ingredients are disclosed and tested for bee safety. EPA

Sublethal Weapons

A growing body of evidence suggests that inerts are not as harmless as the name suggests. For example, exposure to two types of adjuvants – organosilicone and nonionic surfactants – can impair honeybees’ learning performance. Bees rely on learning and memory functions to gather food and return to the hive, so losing these crucial skills can endanger a colony’s survival.

Inerts can also affect bumblebees. In a 2021 study, exposure to alcohol ethoxylates, a coformulant in the fungicide Amistar, killed 30% of the bees exposed to it and caused a number of sublethal effects.

While some inerts may be nontoxic on their own, it’s hard to predict what will happen when they are combined with active ingredients. Research has shown that when two or more agrochemicals are combined, they can become more toxic for bees than when applied on their own. This is known as synergistic toxicity.

Synergism can also occur when inerts are combined with pesticides. Another 2021 study showed that adjuvants that were nontoxic on their own caused increased colony mortality when combined with insecticides.

A bee in flight, covered with yellow pollen grains.
A sweat bee (Halictus ligatus) covered with pollen. Sam Droege, USGS/Flickr

A Better Testing Strategy

Mounting evidence on the toxicity of inerts points to three key changes that could better support bee health and minimize bees’ exposure to potential stressors.

First, environmental risk assessments for pesticides could test the whole pesticide formulation, including inert ingredients, to provide a more complete picture of a pesticide’s toxicity to bees. This is already done in some cases but could be required for all outdoor uses where bees are at risk of exposure.

Second, inerts could be identified on product labels to enable independent research and risk assessment.

Third, more testing could be required on pesticides’ long-term sublethal effects on bees, such as learning impairment. Such research would be especially relevant for pesticides that are applied to blooming crops or flowers that attract bees.

Researchers and environmental groups have been arguing for changes like these since at least 2006. However, because pesticide regulation is dictated by federal law, changes require congressional action. This would be challenging politically, since it would increase the regulatory burden on the chemical industry.

Nonetheless, rising concerns about bumblebee declines and beekeepers’ significant annual colony losses make a strong case for a more precautionary approach to pesticide regulation. With a growing world population and food supplies under increasing stress, supporting bees’ contribution to agriculture is more important then ever.The Conversation

Jennie L. Durant, Research Affiliate in Human Ecology, University of California, Davis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why dimming the Sun would be an effective tool in the fight against climate change

Peter IrvineUCL

It’s becoming increasingly clear that we will fail to meet our climate goals. We were already at 1.26°C of warming in 2022 and are on track to blow through 1.5°C in the mid-2030s. Research even suggests that current climate policy will lead to more than 2.5°C of warming by the end of this century.

Warming of this magnitude would devastate vulnerable communities and ecosystems around the world. It’s time we consider something radically new that could stop climate change in its tracks.

After powerful volcanic eruptions, like Tambora (Indonesia) in 1815 and Pinatubo (Philippines) in 1991, global temperatures dip for a few years. Major eruptions create a hazy layer of microscopic particles in the upper atmosphere that last for several years, dimming the Sun temporarily. We could copy this effect to fight climate change.

The Earth is warmed by the Sun, but it is kept warm by greenhouse gases that trap the heat our planet gives off. The warming effect of our CO₂ emissions could be countered by creating a persistent, artificial haze like those seen following major volcanic eruptions. Research has found that we would only need to dim the Sun by around 1% to cool the planet by 1°C.

This may sound unlikely. But every engineering assessment to date has concluded that it would be feasible and relatively cheap to do using a fleet of high-flying jets to release reflective particles into the upper atmosphere.

So we could dim the Sun – but should we?

Ash cloud of Pinatubo during the 1991 eruption.
Ash cloud of Pinatubo during the 1991 eruption. Dave Harlow / US Geological SurveyCC BY-NC-SA

Cooling The Planet Would Work

Dimming the Sun wouldn’t perfectly reverse climate change. The Sun’s warming effect is strongest during the day, in the summer and at the Tropics, whereas greenhouse gases warm everywhere and at all times.

However, we could create an even cooling effect across the world by adjusting where we release the particles. Research suggests that such an approach would greatly reduce climate risks.

Rising temperatures really matter. Species around the world are on the move, tracking familiar temperatures polewards as the planet warms up. But many won’t be able to keep pace with the changing climate and others have nowhere to go, so extinctions are projected to increase.

We are also seeing extreme heat that is edging closer to the absolute limits of the human body, putting lives at risk and limiting outdoor work.

As the planet heats up, warmer air is drawing more moisture from the soil in dry times, and dumping more out at once when it rains. This is making dry regions drier, wet regions wetter, and is intensifying both droughts and floods across the world.

Dimming the Sun would offset this effect. But it would still alter global wind and rainfall patterns.

Research indicates that this would mean smaller rainfall changes overall. However, a small minority of places could see more pronounced changes in rainfall compared to what they would face under climate change. Climate models disagree on the details of regional rainfall changes, so it’s unclear at this stage which regions would see the greatest change.

Blocking some sunlight would also be an effective way of keeping icy parts of the world frozen. Rising temperatures are causing the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets to melt at an accelerating rate, driving up the global sea level. Climate change is also thawing permafrost (frozen soil that stores vast amounts of carbon) leading to the emission of more of methane and CO₂.

Broken pieces of Arctic sea ice.
Melting ice can accelerate the pace of global warming. US Geological SurveyCC BY-NC-SA

Side Effects

Although dimming the Sun could keep the Earth cool, it would not deal with the root of the climate problem: the buildup of CO₂ and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. CO₂ not only warms the planet, it also acidifies the ocean, making it harder for corals and other creatures to form their shells. Dimming the Sun wouldn’t change this.

It would bring about some side effects as well. This hazy layer of particles would make the sky a little whiter. And if we copy volcanic eruptions by releasing sulphate particles to the upper atmosphere, then we’d also be adding to the acid rain problem.

These particles could impact the ozone layer too, which protects us from harmful UV rays. Research suggests that adding more sulphate particles to the upper atmosphere would delay the slow recovery of the ozone hole.

These side effects are a concern. But they pale in comparison to the impacts of climate change. A recent study found that the benefit of reduced extreme heat for human health could outweigh the health impacts of these side-effects by more than 50 to 1.

Paul Crutzen, who won a Nobel prize in 1995 for solving the chemistry of the ozone hole, was well aware of these side effects but nevertheless argued that we should start taking the idea of dimming the Sun seriously. In an article from 2006, he stressed that it would be best to cut CO₂ emissions rapidly so that we wouldn’t need to consider dimming the Sun at all. However, he lamented that “currently, this looks like a pious wish”.

Symptoms Matter

It’s becoming increasingly clear that this “pious wish” isn’t coming true. Since Crutzen’s 2006 article, CO₂ emissions have surged by more than 15%. We just aren’t cutting emissions fast enough to prevent climate change from wreaking terrible damage.

Dimming the Sun would not address the root cause of the climate disease, and we must keep pushing to cut emissions, but a growing body of evidence suggests that it would work surprisingly well at treating the symptoms.

However, this is not so surprising. Ice melts when it is warm, hotter air carries more moisture and heat has a direct impact on life. We are far from knowing enough to recommend dimming the Sun today, but if countries don’t start taking this idea seriously we may miss a valuable opportunity to reduce the risks of climate change.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
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Peter Irvine, Lecturer in Earth Sciences, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australian homes can be made climate-ready, reducing bills and emissions – a new report shows how

ronstik, Shutterstock
Gill ArmstrongClimateworks Centre and Michael AmbroseCSIRO

Millions of homes were built before Australia introduced housing energy efficiency standards in 2003. They’re leaky. Gaps around windows, doors and between building materials allow air to move in and out. So people tend to compensate, with more heating and cooling. It’s costly and damaging for the environment.

Using a national sample of 102,000 Australian homes across all 69 climate zones, we identified the most common housing types. Then we worked out how to make them “climate ready” and what benefits would flow.

Our new report released today makes a strong case for a renovation wave across Australia.

By combining thermal upgrades with electrifying hot water and cooking appliances, households can shave up to $2,200 a year off their energy bills. And the nation will be closer to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

Paying For Poor Performance

Australians are paying for low-performing homes through their energy bills, and the cost extends well beyond the kitchen table.

Low-performing homes draw more energy from the grid as heating and cooling systems work in overdrive to keep indoor temperatures safe or even comfortable.

Home interiors often look stylish, which contributes to making us feel comfortable. But there’s more to it than that.

A home’s performance, and its energy bills, comes down to just a few appliances. That is, those used to heat the hot water, and to heat or cool individual rooms.

In summer, air conditioners need to run for long periods if the ceilings, floors, walls and windows cannot stop the cool from escaping or the Sun’s heat from building up inside.

Multiply poor energy performance across Australia’s housing stock of nearly 11 million homes, and you start to see the scale of inefficiency before us.

We clearly need to improve the energy performance of all low-performing homes.

What’s The Solution?

To reach net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, all sectors of the economy need to rapidly cut emissions. According to the latest Climateworks Centre modelling, decarbonising buildings – responsible for 10% of national emissions – is vital if Australia is to uphold its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

In 2050, most Australians will be living in homes that already exist today, making renovations an essential part of achieving net zero.

We worked together for more than a year to understand Australia’s residential building stock, how these homes perform and what it would take to get them to a zero-carbon standard.

With 69 separate climate zones and millions of homes, Australia’s housing profile looks different depending on the city or town you live in. Townhouses in Brisbane, freestanding houses in Darwin and apartments in Perth can all be made climate-ready, but they can get there in very different ways.

We analysed data from 102,000 homes, examining floor, wall and building materials that are key to energy performance. We found just 16 types of homes make up most Australian housing stock.

The most common “archetypes” can be turned into net zero carbon homes with either a quick fix, modest or full climate-ready upgrade. The Renovation Pathways project allows us to show how 80% of houses and townhouses, and most apartments, across Australia’s climate zones can be made climate-ready.

Our analysis shows a “thermal-first” approach – improving air tightness and insulation in roofs, walls and floors – optimises benefits from rooftop solar and electrification.

For example, freestanding houses represent 70% of Australian homes. Houses with lightweight walls such as weatherboard or brick veneer – along with a framed roof and either a concrete slab or suspended timber floor – make up nearly half of the total housing stock and are among the worst performing.

Upgrading the thermal performance of such houses across the country offers the biggest opportunity to reduce emissions, as well as significant household savings.

Show Me The Money

When combining thermal upgrades with electrifying hot water and cooking appliances, people living in detached houses could save on average between $1,850 and $2,200 a year off their energy bills.

Occupants of townhouses could save between $1,270 and $1,480 a year, and occupants in apartments between $1,030 and $1,200 a year.

As well as much-needed emissions savings for Australia, zero-carbon homes would deliver much-needed savings to residents as living costs continue to rise.

Even low levels of insulation combined with the switch from gas to electric space conditioning can save more than two tonnes a year of CO₂-equivalent per house, compared with a low-performing home built to pre-energy efficiency standards.

Improving home energy performance also has positive effects for Australia’s energy grids. Efficient homes that reduce the need to turn on heating and cooling appliances for long stretches during heatwaves and cold snaps also reduce demand on the energy grid. Each low-performing home upgraded to climate-ready would contribute to reducing peak demand by between 1.4 and 3.5 kilowatts.

Multiple Benefits

As more energy sources become electrified under the net zero transition, reducing peak demand will both help to prevent brownouts, blackouts and unexpected power outages, and reduce electricity network costs for consumers.

The catch is that at today’s energy prices, it would takes more for residents to break even on climate-ready upgrades. But it is an area ripe for government support.

Two key planning documents the federal government has committed to releasing – an update to its Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings and a sectoral plan for the built environment – provide the government with the opportunity to embed policy that will support a wave of energy performance upgrades.

If policy supports a “go fast and go all-out” approach to energy performance upgrades in homes, a self-sustaining renovation wave will ensure more and more households live in resilient, climate-ready homes.The Conversation

Gill Armstrong, Researcher in architecture and urban planning, Climateworks Centre and Michael Ambrose, Research Team Leader, CSIRO

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Councils are opening the door to tiny houses as a quick, affordable and green solution

Hing-Wah ChauVictoria University

Soaring rents and home pricesincreasing mortgage stressrecord immigration and a growing population are fuelling a housing crisis and increasing homelessness. In the face of this pressing need, tiny houses offer an alternative housing option.

Tiny houses have become popular in the United States. Their popularity is growing in other developed countries such as the UK and Canada. In Australia, however, planning and housing regulations present many barriers to using tiny houses as permanent homes.

Dire statistics highlight the need to find homes for Australians quickly and cheaply. The unmet need for social housing has been estimated at 437,000 households. The 2021 census counted 122,494 people as homeless. By 2022, more than 640,000 households’ housing needs were not being met.

Some local councils now see tiny houses as part of the solution to these problems. They are taking steps to make it easier for people to live in them.

Australia Is Trailing A Global Movement

The tiny house movement is built on several values. These include a preference for smaller homes, the pursuit of minimalism, the desire to live more sustainably and a rejection of the prevailing consumer culture.

The 2018 International Housing Code defines tiny houses as dwellings of 400 square feet (37 square metres) in area or less. In Australia, dwellings under 50 square metres are commonly regarded as tiny houses.

The two main types are tiny houses on foundations and tiny houses on wheels. The latter is built on a trailer and must comply with road-legal dimensions and vehicle regulations.

Tiny houses have long been used as dwellings overseas. Faced with high property prices and land scarcity, those who enjoy the convenience of city life with a minimalist lifestyle have embraced tiny homes.

Examples include micro-homes in Tokyo. Japanese micro-homes are often sited on irregular leftover pieces of land.

In the US, the Occupy Madison Village is a tiny house commune in Madison, Wisconsin. It provides housing, communal living and community-based decision-making for homeless people to promote their sense of belonging and social participation.

Tiny house villages have been built across the United States.

What’s Happening In Australia?

In Australia, the various barriers to tiny house living include local government planning schemes, time limits and other restrictions on occupancy and connection to utilities. Over the past year, local councils have begun to make it easier to live in a tiny house.

The Shire of Esperance in Western Australia was the first local council in the country to recognise tiny houses as permanent dwellings in December 2022.

Mount Alexander Shire Council in Victoria removed the permit requirement for residents to park tiny houses on wheels on properties with existing dwellings in June 2023.

The Shire of Capel in Western Australia adopted a tiny house policy to allow ancillary dwellings and tiny house communities in August 2023.

The Surf Coast Shire in Victoria is starting a two-year trial of domestic use of tiny houses on wheels in 2024.

These changes are likely to help people who are struggling to find an affordable home and those on long waiting lists for social housing.

A Cheaper And Faster Way To House People

Tiny houses offer a cost-effective and prompt solution to the issues of affordable housing and homelessness. Their small size means they can be built more quickly and cheaply.

The construction cost of a tiny house is typically A$80,000-$160,000. The median house price for Australian capital cities is now more than $900,000 – and around $650,000 for units.

On average, it takes four to 12 months to build a house in Australia after the purchase of land and design approval. It takes only about four weeks to build a tiny house commercially.

The average new house size in Australia is the biggest in the world. Average floor area has been between 230 and 246 square metres for the past 20 years. Large houses use more materials and energy to build and run, adding to living costs.

Shrinking Our Environmental Footprints

Tiny houses promote liveable space downsizing and simpler lifestyles. They also demonstrate a stronger responsibility for environmental stewardship. Some have rainwater tanks, composting toilets, solar panels and batteries and can operate completely off-grid.

Because tiny houses use fewer resources, their occupants’ environmental footprint is smaller. They represent a shift towards more sustainable living by prioritising lower energy use (heating, cooling and lighting) and greenhouse gas emissions. These signify a commitment to limit climate change and global warming by moving towards Australia’s net-zero carbon emission target by 2050.

The global tiny house movement represents a concerted effort to reduce the huge environmental footprint of the building and construction industry. At the same time, high-performing, energy-efficient tiny houses cut occupants’ living costs.

Tiny houses do not cater for all households. They suit certain demographics, especially single and partnered people with no children or retirees.

Tiny houses can add much-needed diversity to Australians’ housing options. As councils are recognising, they’re a way of quickly expanding the affordable housing supply in a community. Lower running costs and a smaller environmental footprint are added bonuses.The Conversation

Hing-Wah Chau, Course Chair in Building Design & Senior Lecturer in Built Environment, Victoria University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How a hybrid heating system could lower your bills and shrink your carbon footprint

Hybrid systems combine two or more technologies to heat a house. ThomsonD/Shutterstock
Jovana RadulovicUniversity of Portsmouth

To heat your home without damaging the climate, you will need to replace your gas boiler. UK government advisers recommend switching to appliances that run on electricity.

However, if a root-and-branch conversion to electric heating is too expensive, even a partial shift to “hybrid heating” can cut your energy bills and household emissions relatively quickly – although phasing out gas and oil is still essential in the long run for averting climate breakdown.

A hybrid heating system combines two or more technologies to heat a building. Typically, this involves pairing a conventional gas boiler with a renewable alternative like an electric heat pump. But there are other possibilities. For instance, roof-mounted solar panels can generate electricity to help run an immersion heater, or solar-thermal panels can complement your heat pump or boiler by making hot water.

A diagonally mounted solar panel with a white cable.
Solar-thermal technology can convert solar energy into heat. Antlio/Shutterstock

Gas boilers supplied 92% of home heating across the UK in 2017. Emissions from the average boiler are equivalent to 2.2 tonnes of CO₂ a year, making residential heating one of the country’s biggest contributors to climate change. The UK government will stop the sale of new gas boilers from 2035.

Meanwhile, heat pumps are slowly gaining popularity through the government boiler upgrade scheme, which offers grants of up to £7,500 (US$9,400). Electric heat pumps convert electricity to heat very efficiently by extracting heat from the air or ground outside and transferring it to water that is pumped through radiators.

The International Energy Agency says that installing a heat pump can significantly lower household emissions, especially when the electricity powering it is from a renewable source like wind or solar.

Is Hybrid Heating Right For You?

Hybrid heating systems can bring a number of advantages: a smaller carbon footprint as well as lower bills, while increasing the energy efficiency and value of a property.

From 2026, hybrid heating systems will become a standard replacement for gas heating in the Netherlands. In Germany, the heating industry favours a more gradual shift from oil and gas using hybrid heating systems.

Heat pumps can be difficult and expensive to install in some houses. This is because they generate heat at a lower temperature to gas boilers, so larger radiators and underfloor heating may be necessary to heat a home as efficiently on particularly cold days (especially if your house is poorly insulated).

Complex renovations that are often necessary to install heat pumps require additional investment and can deter homeowners, obstructing the roll-out of low-carbon heating.

If insulating your home is particularly expensive or arduous, installing a heat pump and keeping a gas boiler as a back-up for particularly cold days could still slash your household emissions while maintaining the standard of heating you’re used to. It may also give you time to save up for renovations that can help you make the final shift to an all-electric system.

A worker in overalls unrolls a yellow insulating foam in a wooden lattice.
Energy-efficiency improvements, like installing insulation, are unavoidable for heat pump-only properties. Serhii Krot/Shutterstock

How Do Hybrid Systems Compare?

A 2021 study found that a hybrid heating system consisting of an air-source heat pump and a condensing gas boiler reduced a typical UK household’s greenhouse gas emissions from heating by 30%.

A hybrid heat pump requires less remedial work: you may keep the original boiler and radiators. Cavity-wall and other forms of insulation will help you retain heat and use less energy, and these changes are essential for heating a property with a heat pump alone. Compared with an oil boiler, a hybrid heat pump system (combined with energy-efficiency measures) consumed roughly 70% less energy according to one study – similar to a standalone heat pump.

A case study in Ireland also showed that hybrid heat pumps have 7% lower annual operating costs than a gas boiler alone, and 23% lower than an electric heat pump on its own. The disparity is because electricity can be a lot more expensive than gas, depending on fluctuating energy prices and how long the heat pump operates.

While insulating homes and replacing gas heating systems with electric alternatives should remain the goal, installing a hybrid heating system can reduce bills and emissions quickly, especially when government support for upgrading your heating is insufficient.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?
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Jovana Radulovic, Head of School of Mechanical and Design Engineering, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Golden mole that swims through sand is rediscovered in South Africa after 86 years

De Winton’s golden mole was in November 2023 through environmental DNA tracking after being not being sighted since 1937. JP Le RouxCC BY
Samantha MynhardtStellenbosch University

The De Winton’s golden mole was last seen in 1937 on the north-western coast of South Africa, and later declared officially lost. This iridescent blind mole with hearing superpowers evades contact with humans and “swims” through sand dunes, making it very difficult to locate. But in November 2023, a team of conservationists and geneticists from the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Stellenbosch University and the University of Pretoria found the mole after tracking its environmental DNA through the sand dunes. Molecular biologist Samantha Mynhardt was part of the team that found the mole. We asked her about it.

How Did This Mole Species Stay ‘Lost’ For So Long?

Golden moles are elusive little animals that spend nearly their entire lives underground. They are very seldom seen by humans. Some species will occasionally come to the surface to forage on insects, typically only at night. In most cases, the only sign of golden mole activity is a raised ridge on the surface of the ground, indicating a shallow tunnel underneath. For the sand-dwelling species, such as De Winton’s golden mole (Cryptochloris wintoni), even these ridges are hard to find, since the subsurface tunnels collapse in the soft sand.

A tunnel dug by a tiny mole under a vast stretch of sand on a South African beach
A tunnel used by the De Winton’s golden mole in Port Nolloth, South Africa. Samantha MynhardtCC BY

De Winton’s golden mole has been severely affected by diamond and mineral mining activities on the South African west coast and we suspect that the population has declined substantially over the past century. The species was last detected in 1937 at the small harbour town of Port Nolloth on the north-western coast of South Africa. For the next 86 years, it eluded scientists, probably because of difficulties in locating and trapping it and because a similar looking mole, Grant’s golden mole (Eremitalpa granti), was still present in the area.

How Long Does A Species Have To Be Missing Before It’s Said To Be Extinct?

Lost species are those that have been lost to science for at least 10 years, and often much longer. Extinct species are different: a species is presumed extinct when it has not been detected for more than a generation of its lifetime, despite exhaustive surveys of its habitat. Although De Winton’s golden mole had not been seen in over 80 years and was presumed extinct, no comprehensive searches had taken place and therefore it was still considered “lost”.

How Did You Rediscover The Mole?

In 2020 we conducted a pilot study in Lambert’s Bay, where De Winton’s sister species, the endangered Van Zyl’s golden mole (Cryptochloris zyli), lives. This study showed that our techniques for detecting golden moles would work.

A group of four scientists and a border collie dog standing on some rocks on a beach looking cheerful and holding up a re wild banner
Jessie the border collie and the human team who discovered the lost De Winton’s golden mole. From left: Esther Matthew, Cobus Theron, Samantha Mynhardt and JP le Roux. Nicky SounessCC BY

In July 2021, we began our expedition along the west coast to Port Nolloth, the only site where De Winton’s golden mole had ever been found. We surveyed sites along a 300km stretch of coastline, from the Groen River mouth northwards to Alexandra Bay. Our team of five, including border collie Jessie and I, conducted surveys on foot for a week, exploring 18km of dune habitat every day. Jessie had obviously never encountered a De Winton’s golden mole before, and was not trained to sniff out the species. However, she had been trained on other golden moles and we knew she would indicate to us if she picked up the scent of these more common species. When the team found golden mole tunnels, and Jessie wasn’t interested, we had a good idea that we had found something “new”.

How Did You Collect The Mole’s Environmental DNA?

We collected over 100 soil samples from the insides of their underground tunnels. Animals shed their DNA into their environment, typically in the form of skin cells, hair, excretions and secretions. This environmental DNA (eDNA) is so tiny it is invisible to the human eye. We later extracted the eDNA from the soil in the lab, and barcode-sequenced it. The DNA sequence matched a De Winton’s reference sequence, which had been generated in 2010 from a museum specimen housed at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History.

What Made You Go Looking For This Mole?

I had been looking into alternative non-invasive means of studying golden moles, having faced the immense challenge of trapping them in nature to collect genetic samples. The Endangered Wildlife Trusts’s Drylands Conservation Programme received funding from Re:wild, a non-profit organisation founded by a group of renowned conservation scientists together with Leonardo DiCaprio, who had listed De Winton’s golden mole as one of the world’s Most Wanted Lost Species. So we teamed up to search for this mole.

Though many people doubted that De Winton’s golden mole was still out there, we had good faith that the species had not yet gone extinct. We were convinced it would just take the right detection method, the proper timing, and a team passionate about finding it. We have now tapped into a way of finding other lost or imperilled species through eDNA tracking.

How Many De Winton’s Golden Moles Still Exist, Do You Think?

Golden mole activity was particularly abundant on the beach at McDougal’s Bay in Port Nolloth, so it is likely there is a healthy population there. We also detected De Winton’s golden mole presence at additional sites, indicating that the species may be more widespread. Unfortunately we are not able to estimate the population size at this stage, but future research should aim to do so.

Although we were hopeful of finding eDNA evidence of De Winton’s golden mole, we did not expect to see a live animal. But we did capture one golden mole at Port Nolloth, and confirmed that this was a De Winton’s golden mole after taking swabs and sequencing the DNA. We’ve since found a second De Winton’s golden mole in the same area.

We are incredibly excited about this discovery. The rediscovery of De Winton’s golden mole offers us the chance to learn more about this fascinating and poorly understood small mammal. It also offers an opportunity to reinvigorate conservation efforts for threatened golden moles, and gives us hope of finding other species presumed to be extinct.The Conversation

Samantha Mynhardt, Molecular biologist, Stellenbosch University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How a thumb-sized climate migrant with a giant crab claw is disrupting the Northeast’s Great Marsh ecosystem

Male fiddler crabs are small, with one oversized claw. David S. Johnson
David Samuel JohnsonVirginia Institute of Marine Science

Nine years ago, I stood on the muddy banks of the Great Marsh, a salt marsh an hour north of Boston, and pulled a thumb-sized crab with an absurdly large claw out of a burrow. I was looking at a fiddler crab – a species that wasn’t supposed to be north of Cape Cod, let alone north of Boston.

As it turned out, the marsh I was standing in would never be the same. I was witnessing climate change in action.

The Great Marsh is on the Gulf of Maine, the piece of the Atlantic that extends approximately from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Nova Scotia, Canada. The marshes along the gulf are critical breeding sites for many bird species. But the water there is warming faster than almost anywhere else on the planet. And with warming water comes warm-water species.

A view of a marsh with grasses growing along a creek at sunset.
Marsh grass is essential for both habitat and adapting to sea-level rise in the Great Marsh. David S. Johnson

Maryland blue crab and black sea bass, both southern species, are now being caught in Maine lobster traps. And fiddler crabs, whose charismatic males have oversized claws to attract mates and defend against rivals, are marching up the Eastern Seaboard.

This rapid migration is due, in part, to their young. While adult fiddler crabs scuttle on the mud, their young swim in the water and are carried by the currents. Warming waters allow them to complete their life cycle, and currents carry the next generation farther north.

As a marine ecologist who has worked in the Great Marsh for decades and studies climate migrants – species that have shifted or expanded their ranges due to climate change – I want to know how these migrations affect the ecosystems they move into. I was surprised to find fiddler crabs in the Great Marsh, but I was more surprised by how they affected the marsh.

A canal through a marsh, with boats on it.
The Rowley River in Rowley, Mass., at low tide in the Great Marsh. Marshes are critical for recreational and commercial activities such as clamming, fishing, boating and birding. David S. Johnson

Fiddler Friend Turns Foe

Salt marshes are grasslands flooded daily by the sea. Imagine a Midwest prairie as oceanfront property.

South of Cape Cod, decades of research has shown that when fiddler crabs are present, grass is more productive. Fiddler-crab poop and burrows release nutrients and fuel plant growth. They are the earthworms of the salt marsh – they help plants grow.

But in the Great Marsh, it isn’t working that way.

Digging by fiddler crabs reduced the biomass of shoots and leaves in the Great Marsh by 40% and roots by 30% over the course of the summers of 2020 and 2021. That’s the opposite of what we would predict for summer growth.

I was surprised because the crabs were coexisting with the same plant species, Spartina alterniflora, in the Great Marsh as they were south of Cape Cod.

Why the different impacts? One reason is that while they may be the same species, these plants haven’t evolved with fiddler crabs as their southern kin have. Fiddler crabs don’t eat the grass, but when they dig, they damage Spartina’s roots. Plants in southern areas have adapted to this damage and now benefit from it, but plants in the North have yet to adapt.

A Chain Reaction Through The Ecosystem

The harm from this disruption can go well beyond the grasses to affect the rest of the Great Marsh food web.

Insects, spiders, snails and small crustaceans all rely on the grasses for food. These animals, in turn, are food for fish, shrimp and crabs. Less plant biomass could lead to fewer fish and shrimp. The many birds that breed in the marsh and stop there during migration rely on that food web.

Will this harmful relationship with crabs last forever for the plants? Probably not. Spartina has been able to adapt to new conditions within decades. Plants in the Great Marsh, and the rest of the Gulf of Maine, will likely adapt to the fiddler’s presence over time, too.

In the meantime, however, fiddler crabs may magnify the impacts of climate change in the area.

A woman in a US Fish and Wildfire uniform kneels beside a ditch in the marsh.
Nancy Pau, a wildlife biologist at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, north of Boston, points to salt marsh grasses, which are essential for building up soil to help marshes survive sea-level rise. Margie Brenner/USFWS

Accelerated sea level rise driven by warming temperatures already threatens to drown the Great Marsh. Salt marshes have kept pace with sea-level rise for millennia the same way you might deal with rising water threatening your house – by building up. Plants build marshes by trapping sediment brought in with each tide. Less grass could mean less marsh, and the marsh could drown.

Fiddler crabs also reduce the Great Marsh’s ability to store carbon. Salt marshes are giant compost piles that take centuries to rot, if ever. Every gardener knows that temperature and oxygen get a compost pile cooking. This is why you turn your compost.

Each year, dead plant roots are buried in soils with no oxygen. As a result, decomposition is greatly slowed, allowing the “compost” and carbon to build up and be stored. Because of this, salt marshes are critical as places that store carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere where it would contribute to climate change. However, burrows from fiddler crabs stimulate decomposition. The dead plants begin to rot, and carbon, once buried, is released.

Climate Migrants Are Found Worldwide

Fiddler crabs are just one of thousands of climate migrants we’ve seen worldwide. While ecosystems will adapt as climate migrants arrive, they will likely never be the same.

In Australia, when an herbivorous sea urchin expanded its range south, plant and animal diversity plummeted after kelp forests were stripped bare. In California, a predatory nudibranch (aka a sea slug) reduced the local population of other nudibranchs when it migrated north. In Antarctica, krill are shifting south. Krill are the primary diet for whales, penguins and seals, so this shift could disrupt the Antarctic food web.

A krill swims through dark water off Antarctica feasting on phytolankton.
Shrimplike krill are essential food for many species, including whales. They make up about a quarter of the Gentoo penguin’s diet in Antarctica. Beth Simmons/Palmer Station LTERCC BY-SA

But it’s not always bad news when climate migrants show up.

When mangroves replace marshes in the southern United States, they store more carbon. Climate migrants can also benefit fisheries.

My lab studies the blue crab, famous in the Chesapeake Bay, which generated over US$200 million in dockside landings in 2022. Now that blue crabs are being found in lobster pots in Maine, a fishery could be developed in northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. However, it’s unknown how blue crabs and lobsters will get along.

In Virginia, warming waters have brought an abundance of white shrimp along with a new fishery. To the delight of anglers, the snook – a fun sportfish – has expanded into the Big Bend of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.

More Migration Is Still To Come

The year 2023 set a record for heat waves in the world’s oceans, and with greenhouse gases emissions still rising, warming will continue.

While climate migrants are not considered invasive species, they can change ecosystems, as we’re already seeing in the Great Marsh. It’s important to understand how that happens, and whether ecosystems can adapt as species continue to change their ZIP codes.The Conversation

David Samuel Johnson, Associate Professor of Marine Sciences, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Summer Break 2023-2024

Please note that Issue 609, the final full Issue for 2023, will be published Sunday December 10. 

Notices and reports will be added into this Issue, and instantly published, with an Issue 609.5 sent out should 5+ reports accumulate between Issue 609 and 610 (just in case one of those announcements that happen on Christmas Eve or New Years Day that impacts on the community is made - that will define requirement for a 609.5 mail out).

Issue 610 will be published Sunday January 21 2024.

Pittwater Online staff will still be in Pittwater attending events/surf carnivals/interviewing Profilees - so we'll see you all on the beach or bush tracks this Summer break.

Thank you all very much for your contributions and support this year - it wouldn't be a decent news service without you!
Please look out for and after each other this Summer break - remember; we're not here to tear each other down, we're here to lift each other up.

We remain For, About and BY Pittwater

History This Issue: Summer Films About Here

Call Of The Surf.
From the National Collection. Directed by Jack Fletcher 1932. Shot of famous Avalon Beach and Bondi Beach, the film reflects on the prominence of beach culture in Australia. It includes demonstrations of surf lifesaving and carnivals as well as recreational pastimes such as body surfing, or "body shooting" as it is referred to here, rubber surf mats and early wooden surf boards with reference to their Hawaiian origins. Another unusual pastime is that of "duck diving" where the the participant hurls themselves on the hard, wet sand and slides along on their stomach.

Famous Beach is Popular Summer Playground. Australian Diary 16

As the first day of the Australian summer looms, the temperature soars and the seas turn ominously red with a mysterious bloom, we look back to 1948 and take a day trip to Manly Beach. Made by The National Film Board 1948.

School's Out

Made by the National Film Board 1954.  Produced and Directed by H. M. Scales. Australian school summer holidays in the mid 1950s. It demonstrates some of the activities of school children during their holidays and something of the efforts which have been made by a variety of clubs and societies to keep them from playing on the streets. Footage of National Fitness Camp at West Head. This film was screened at the inaugural Sydney Film Festival in 1954.

Paper Run

Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1956. Directed by Malcolm Otton. A panorama of scenic beauty unfolds as the newspaper delivery man works his run along the beaches of Newport and the Palm Beach area.

Surfing Is Sydney's Favourite Summer Pastime. Australian Diary 55.

From the Film Australia Collection of the National Film and Sound Archive. Made by the National Film Board 1959. Directed by Jack S Allan. A typical 1950s weekend at Manly Beach, swimming, surfing, sun baking and life savers.

Life In Australia: Sydney

From The Film Australia Collection.  Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1966.  Directed by Joe Scully. Episode 12 of the Life in Australia series.  This series was made to encourage immigration to Australia and to highlight the various social activities, employment and educational opportunities and lifestyles of the various cities and regional centres throughout Australia. Footage of Palm and Bilgola Beaches etc. in 1966.

The Water Dwellers

From the Film Australia Collection. Made by the Commonwealth Film Unit 1967. Directed by James Jeffrey. A study of the people living and working in the Pittwater area 25 miles north of Sydney. Probably not Summer in this one as they're not dressed for it, but interesting nonetheless.


Enrolments now open
Applications Close;  Semester 1 - 4 Feb, 2024 Semester 2 - 21 Jul
NB: Scholarships close at various times - check out what's available and closing dates at:

TAFE NSW 2024 Semesters

Closing Date: 31 Dec 2023
The NSW Government's new Smart and Skilled Fee-Free Scholarships mean that students can get the skills they need to get the job they want and their course fees will be covered.

Young people (aged 15-30) who meet the Smart and Skilled Fee-Free Scholarship criteria are eligible for a government subsidy which covers their Smart and Skilled course fee.

Eligible students can receive a single Fee Free Scholarship in a financial year, and two Fee-Free Scholarships across 4 financial years.

Who is eligible for a Fee-Free Scholarship?
To be eligible, you must first meet the Smart & Skilled eligibility criteria. You must be:
  • An Australian citizen, Australian permanent resident, Australian permanent humanitarian visa holder or New Zealand citizen; and
  • No longer at school; and
  • Living or working in NSW; and
  • Aged 15 years or over, and
  • be either a Commonwealth Welfare recipient or the dependant of a Commonwealth Welfare recipient
  • A NSW apprentice or new entrant trainee undertaking a qualification on the NSW Skills List.
You must also be:
  • Aged between 15 and 30 years old when you start your training, and
  • Enrolling into a Smart & Skilled qualification at Certificate I, Certificate II, Certificate III or Certificate IV level on the NSW Skills List, or
  • Be aged 15-17 years old and currently in out-of-home care or aged 18-30 years old and previously been in out-of-home care (Social Housing residents)
Scholarships for people who have experienced domestic and family violence
If you do not meet the above Smart & Skilled Fee-Free Scholarship criteria, you may still be eligible for a Fee-Free Scholarship

If you are experiencing or have experienced domestic and family violence, you and your dependants may be eligible for a government subsidy which covers your Smart and Skilled course fee.

This Fee-Free Scholarship will give you the opportunity to train and get back into the workforce.

Who is eligible?
To be eligible for this scholarship you must:
  • meet the Smart and Skilled personal eligibility criteria.
  • start training on or after 1 July 2016
  • enrol in a Certificate I, Certificate II, Certificate III or Certificate IV level full qualification on the NSW Skills List on the Training Services NSW website.
  • be able to disclose when enrolling that you meet the domestic and violence Fee-Free Scholarship criteria.
What are the Domestic and Family Violence Fee-Free Scholarship criteria?
  • You must be 15 years or older and be experiencing or have experienced domestic and family violence or be the dependant of a person who is experiencing or has experienced domestic and family violence.
  • You must have a letter of recommendation from a domestic and family violence service, refuge or other support agency. Examples of these services are listed in a fact sheet on the Smart and Skilled website
How do I apply for this scholarship?
You do not need to apply. 
If you do not meet the Fee-Free Scholarship eligibility criteria (see above), we will ask if there are other circumstances where you may be eligible for a Fee-Free Scholarship.
You will need to advise us if you believe you are eligible under the Domestic and Violence Fee-Free Scholarship criteria.

How much is the scholarship worth?
The Fee-Free scholarship covers the student course fee you would normally pay.

How do you apply for a Fee-Free Scholarship?
You do not need to apply.
If you meet the Fee-Free Scholarship eligibility criteria (see above), we will tell you if you are eligible when you enrol.
You can receive and/or have one Fee-Free Scholarship in a single financial year, and a maximum of two scholarships over four financial years. 

What does "NSW Social Housing" mean when applying for a Fee-Free Scholarship?
NSW Social Housing includes tenants of:
  • Public housing (owned and managed by the NSW government or managed by a community housing provider)
  • Community housing (owned and/or managed by community housing providers)
  • Aboriginal housing (owned and/or managed by the Aboriginal Housing Office and Aboriginal Housing Providers)
  • Clients receiving crises accommodation/supported accommodation (Specialist Homelessness Services)
  • Clients receiving private rental assistance funded by Family and Community Services (e.g. private rental subsidy, rental bond loans, tenancy guarantees).
  • More information is available on the Smart and Skilled website.
You have a responsibility to provide true and correct information when you enrol at TAFE NSW. You will be asked to provide documentary evidence, where required, to support and confirm the information you provide which supports your eligibility to NSW government subsidised training.

2024 Youth Parliament NSW Applications Now Open

The next generation of youth leaders is invited to apply to participate in the Y NSW's Youth Parliament program in 2024 with submissions now open.

Young people in Years 10, 11 and 12 (or equivalent age) in all 93 NSW state electorates are invited to express interest.

The Y (formerly YMCA) Youth Parliament provides a unique platform for individuals to actively participate in the democratic process and advocate for issues that they are passionate about.

The Y NSW is calling on young people from across the state to get involved. No experience is required, and people from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply, with financial sponsorships open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people living with a disability, individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+, those experiencing financial hardship, living in out-of-home care or rural areas, and refugee and asylum-seekers.

"At the Y, we believe in the power of inspired young people and Youth Parliament offers the opportunity for our youth to learn about the parliamentary system, develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, and engage in constructive debates about issues that matter to them and their communities," explained Executive Director/Interim CEO of the Y NSW Prue Warrilow.

"Participants will have the chance to draft, debate, and advocate for mock youth-focused legislation, gaining invaluable insights into the workings of government and policy development.

"Young parliamentarians also participate in a training camp in April and a sitting held in July in NSW Parliament next year. The Y then works actively to coordinate opportunities for the participants to present their Youth Bills to Ministers and other community leaders for consideration," continued Ms Warrilow.

Youth Parliament has supported more than 1,000 participants over the last decade with 97 per cent of participants surveyed saying they felt more empowered to advocate for issues in their local communities. Testament to the value of the program, former Youth Parliamentarians have gone on to become Members of Parliament and community leaders of influence and return to the Youth Parliament program as guests and mentors.

"We are particularly excited to welcome and encourage participation from young leaders of diverse backgrounds and those living in rural and remote communities, whose unique perspectives and experiences play a crucial role in shaping the discussions and policies at the Youth Parliament," added Ms Warrilow.

"Their active engagement and representation are vital in ensuring that the voices of all youth, regardless of location, are heard and considered in the decision-making processes that will affect our collective future," she continued.

17-year-old Cooma local Josh Abrokwah represented the Snowy Manaro region in the 2023 program and worked on a bill that addressed issues faced by migrants relocating to rural areas. Josh said he hopes the experience will enhance his academic career ambitions in international relations and praised the program for providing "activities such as mock debates, the chance to better our public speaking skills, and develop our parliamentary knowledge".

17-year-old Parramatta local, Rachel Lao was a 2023 Youth Parliament participant and is passionate about gender quality. Rachel was part of the NSW 2023 Women's Committee who put forward a bill to support mothers' reintegration into the workforce after maternity leave.

"The Youth Parliament program provides the unique opportunity to not only connect with people who have various perspectives, but who are willing to debate diplomatically about social issues," explained Ms Lao.

"I think that it's really encouraging to see the activism of our generation. Youth Parliament teaches participants how to lead and engage in debate that is productive and has the potential to make change.

"The connections and friendships I have made through Youth Parliament this year are invaluable and I know that my peers will be using their voices and actions to make change beyond their involvement in this program," she continued.

To apply to take part in the 2024 Youth Parliament, young people should visit and submit their application before 9 February 2024. 

School teachers and Members of Parliament can also nominate a young person.

Surfing Australia Announces A Major Shakeup Of Its 2024 Surfing Australia Junior Series

December 15, 2023
Surfing Australia is thrilled to announce a major shakeup of its 2024 Surfing Australia Junior Series incorporating National Junior Rankings, with the highest rankings points ever awarded to a Surfing Australia event, more live broadcasts and an exciting new seeding process.

In a major boost to the junior pathway, 2024 will also introduce a rolling seeding system. Under this system, an athlete’s seed will be determined on a list of their best three results from a rolling 12-month period. For instance, if an event takes place in April, a surfer’s seeding will consider results from April of the previous year to March of the current year. This rolling seeding will be live and updated after each event and will serve as a valuable tool for event promoters in establishing heat draw seedings, without affecting National Junior Rankings.

Surfing Australia Event Specialist, Rohan Fell said: “We’ve been working closely with our state branches, serving as our event partners, as well as with LiveHeats to create the best pathway Australian junior surfers have ever experienced. The new series will offer more opportunities for junior surfers to compete by introducing new events and expanding the formats of existing events to meet the growing demand we’re witnessing nationwide. Additionally, our third party event promoters play a vital role in connecting this pathway from participation events through to the nation’s premier surfing events.”

The major updates for the 2024 Surfing Australia Junior Series include:

• 2024 Australian Junior Surfing Titles
– Elevated to 12,000 ranking points (up from 10,000)

• Taj Small Fries
– Elevated to 10,000 points (up from 6,500)

• More 10,000 rated events across Australia than ever before
– Taj Small Fries – WA, January 2024
– Sunshine Coast Junior Pro – QLD, April 2024
– Billabong Occy Grom Comp – QLD, June/July 2024
– Skullcandy Oz Grom Open – NSW, July 2024
– Phillip Island Junior Pro presented by Bass Coast Shire – VIC, October 2024
– South Australia and Tasmania – TBC 2025

• All 10,000 rated events will have a live broadcast showcasing Australia’s best juniors

• All 10,000 rated events will have minimum two-person heats from the semi-finals

• All Woolworths Junior State Titles elevated to 7,500 ranking points (up from 5,500)

• U8’s Mixed and U10’s will no longer have ranking points associated to their divisions (effective January 1, 2024)
– Under 12s divisions will be the first to start accumulating ranking points towards the Australian Junior Series

• International competitors are still able to compete however, they will now be excluded from collecting ranking points

The Surfing Australia Junior Series winner in the Under 16 and 18 Male and Female divisions will earn a spot on the Irukandjis team and represent Australia at the ISA World Junior Championships.

Further details HERE.

The Woolworths Australia Junior Surfing Titles is being elevated to 12,000 ranking points. Image: Noah Clifford / Surfing Australia

Interior Design Expert Unveils Christmas Decor Trends For 2023

As Australians prepare to spend an estimated $11 billion on Christmas celebrations, nearly 70% planning to decorate their house, and 8% planning on decorating more than usual; TAFE NSW interior design expert and educator offers insights into trends that can create homes that invoke joy and relaxation.

“My fundamental advice is to choose a specific theme to give your home interior a well-considered and cohesive look.  This year, themes embrace Coastal Grandmother, Christmas Village and Minimalist Naturalism and focus on setting an intentional space that marries festivity with environmental consciousness,” said Tanya Ivanchenko, Head Teacher of Interior Design, TAFE NSW Design Centre Enmore.

“Christmas is one of the few times in the year that we can go ‘all out’ with decorating our house, and whether you’re an aspiring interior designer or simply Christmas obsessed, enhancing a festive atmosphere comes down to manipulation of design elements and principles - the crux of creating beautiful interior spaces.”

Those who’ve found inspiration in creating intentionally joyful and beautiful spaces can study a range of interior design courses from short courses to a Bachelor degree under Tanya’s guidance at TAFE NSW.  With Interior Designers hitting the national skills shortage list this year, and employment expected to grow 19.1% over the next five years, studying with expert Interior Designers at TAFE NSW gives students a steppingstone into the industry, with courses combining theory and invaluable access to their teacher’s contemporary industry experience and Little Black book of industry contacts.

Tanya spotlights three key trends for a memorable Christmas.

“The iconic 'Australian coastal holiday' remains a strong theme for 2023. Bold wreaths of driftwood, seagrass, sea glass, and Capiz shell bring a touch of nostalgia with low impact, natural materials used as the core design element, which work well with a #CoastalGrandmother style.

“The ‘Christmas Village’ theme incorporates quaint mini-houses, made from ceramic and other craft materials. Mixing and matching of these sculptural and minimalist forms give the opportunity for customised story telling while celebrating the comfort of being home for the holidays,” she continued.

“The 'Minimalist naturalism' theme supports a sustainable Christmas and focuses on cost effective eco-friendly materials, such as sustainable timber trees, raffia, DIY painted timber beaded baubles, dried botanicals and aromatic herbs. Neutral tones and raw materials add to sustainability as the displays can be used all year round,” said Ms Ivanchenko.

With sustainability and affordability concerns increasing for many Australian households, Tanya offers advice to embrace a sustainable Christmas while remaining stylish and on-trend.

“Choose decorative items that add value and can be adapted and used all year, building on core items – such as vases, tableware and cushions – as a base.  When purchasing, buy the highest quality items you can afford and crafted, timeless materials such as ceramic, glass and timber in neutral and subdued colour palettes and simple forms.

These can then be decorated to complement the season, adding a ribbon or other seasonal highlight for occasions throughout the year.

“Alternatives to Christmas greenery, such as dried botanicals or unusual and unexpected foraged, natural elements, mushrooms, berries, seedpods, ornamental grasses offer sustainable options that can continue to be used throughout the year.

“Christmas is about families, friends, and community, so prioritise high quality handcrafted materials to become investment pieces and memories for families to cherish.  Integrating personalised and sentimental decorative elements adds unique storytelling and family tradition opportunities.

“Create new family traditions with your festive décor by foraging for nature-based decorations or sharing the fun of shopping for vintage decorations for a retro vibe.

“Experiment with recycled paper as a cost-effective material, using intricate folding and collapsible design forms to create stunning paper lanterns or lampshades, or folded paper pyramid Christmas trees,” Tanya suggests.

Tanya highlighted how intentional interior design and decorating can make a difference to people’s Christmas experience.

 “Design affects our emotions, so take a moment this year to reflect the kind of experience you want this holiday season,” Tanya said.

Her top advice:
  • Focal points can be used to anchor holiday decor and decorations placed strategically to draw emphasis to specific areas such as the Christmas tree, dining table setting, fireplace mantels and staircases.
  • Use warm colours, soft textures, and comfortable furnishings to create a cosy, inviting space that makes a home feel warm and welcoming for the festive season.
  • Traditional Christmas colours incorporated cohesively into an existing colour scheme help to create a visually pleasing environment. Red and green creates a complementary harmony that can be uplifting and exciting, and a glimmer of gold adds glamour.
  • Arrange furniture and display for easy movement and flexibility to accommodate large gatherings of family and friends. Create comfortable seating areas to encourage conversation and interaction.
  • Soft and warm lighting helps create a cosy and festive ambience. String lights, and candles help to add a magical and festive glow.
  • Create balance and harmony and avoid overcrowding or visual clutter to detract from focal points. Harmony in design is about a space that feels cohesive and aesthetically pleasing. Group objects in odd numbers of 3 and 5 for asymmetric balance.
  • Consider sensory elements and incorporate scents and sounds that evoke the sensory experience of Christmas.

Entries Open For Aussies 2024 On The Sunshine Coast 

Entries for the 2024 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships (The Aussies), the pinnacle event on the surf lifesaving sports calendar, are now open with entries numbers expected to exceed 6,500. 

Queensland’s Sunshine Coast will host the largest surf sports carnival in the world next April (13-21) with local Surf Life Saving Club’s Alexandra Headland, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba and Coolum all hosting the more than 500 beach and water events across Youth, Open and Masters age categories. 

Surf Life Saving Australia’s Sport Manager Wayne Druery says the event promises to be bigger than 2023, particularly with the inclusion of some new events. 

“The Australian Surf Life Saving Championships is the pinnacle for surf sports athletes and something that competitors, club members and families look forward to every year,” said Druery. 

“It is a time when the surf lifesaving community comes together to test their surf and rescue ready skills, as well as catch-up with friends from all around the country. 

“We are excited to announce that for the first time, we will be offering dedicated Adaptive Surf Sports events for competitors with a disability. These events have been designed following an extensive consultation process over the past two years, and as part of Surf Life Saving Australia’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.”  

Ocean Events including ski, swim, board and ironperson will be held at Maroochydore, surf boat and lifesaving events will be at Alexandra Headland, board riding at Coolum with Mooloolaba hosting the ocean swim and beach events. 

Early Bird entries close February 11. Standard entries close 31 March.  

Entries are open via the SLSA Sports Event Management System (SEMS).  

School Leavers Support

Explore the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK) as your guide to education, training and work options in 2022;
As you prepare to finish your final year of school, the next phase of your journey will be full of interesting and exciting opportunities. You will discover new passions and develop new skills and knowledge.

We know that this transition can sometimes be challenging. With changes to the education and workforce landscape, you might be wondering if your planned decisions are still a good option or what new alternatives are available and how to pursue them.

There are lots of options for education, training and work in 2022 to help you further your career. This information kit has been designed to help you understand what those options might be and assist you to choose the right one for you. Including:
  • Download or explore the SLIK here to help guide Your Career.
  • School Leavers Information Kit (PDF 5.2MB).
  • School Leavers Information Kit (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • The SLIK has also been translated into additional languages.
  • Download our information booklets if you are rural, regional and remote, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or living with disability.
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (DOCX 1.1MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Download the Parents and Guardian’s Guide for School Leavers, which summarises the resources and information available to help you explore all the education, training, and work options available to your young person.

School Leavers Information Service

Are you aged between 15 and 24 and looking for career guidance?

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337).

SMS 'SLIS2022' to 0429 009 435.

Our information officers will help you:
  • navigate the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK),
  • access and use the Your Career website and tools; and
  • find relevant support services if needed.
You may also be referred to a qualified career practitioner for a 45-minute personalised career guidance session. Our career practitioners will provide information, advice and assistance relating to a wide range of matters, such as career planning and management, training and studying, and looking for work.

You can call to book your session on 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) Monday to Friday, from 9am to 7pm (AEST). Sessions with a career practitioner can be booked from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.

This is a free service, however minimal call/text costs may apply.

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) or SMS SLIS2022 to 0429 009 435 to start a conversation about how the tools in Your Career can help you or to book a free session with a career practitioner.

All downloads and more available at:

Word Of The Week: Summer

Word of the Week returns in 2023/2024 simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 


the warmest season of the year, in the northern hemisphere from June to August and in the southern hemisphere from December to February.


spend the summer in a particular place.

From Middle English somer, from Old English sumor "summer," from Proto-Germanic sumra- (source also of Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old High German sumar, Old Frisian sumur, Middle Dutch somer, Dutch zomer, German Sommer). This is from PIE root *sm- "summer" (source also of Sanskrit sama "season, half-year," Avestan hama "in summer," Armenian amarn "summer," Old Irish sam, Old Welsh ham, Welsh haf "summer.

Australia’s first mobile cooling hub is ready for searing heat this summer – and people who are homeless helped design it

Jane CurrieQueensland University of TechnologyJo RiverUniversity of Technology Sydney, and Timothy EnglishUniversity of Sydney

Heatwaves are a major public health hazard. Socially disadvantaged people are especially exposed to extreme heat and other impacts of climate change. Many people experiencing homelessness – more than 120,000 on any given day in Australia – are exposed to extreme temperatures sleeping on the street, in cars or tents, or in overcrowded and substandard housing.

Researchers are working with people experiencing homelessness, St Vincent’s Hospital and the City of Sydney to design, deliver and evaluate a mobile “cooling hub” this summer. The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting an unusually hot summer. The pilot project in Surry Hills will use low-cost strategies, including misting fans, to keep 54 people at a time cool on the hottest of days.

We’ll use the HeatWatch app, developed by the University of Sydney, to know when to set up the cooling hub. It’s the first time the app, as a preparedness tool, and a mobile hub like this have been deployed in Australia. Renewable energy will power the hub, so this response isn’t itself contributing to climate change.

Map of Australia showing chances of exceeding median maximum temperatures in summer
The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting a hotter-than-usual summer across Australia. Bureau of MeteorologyCC BY

Homelessness Increases Heat Risks

Climate change represents a health emergency. The extremes of climate change can be devastating for the health of people experiencing homelessness. They are more exposed to heat as it can be very hard for them to find cool spaces, particularly in cities.

People in this situation are also more likely to be vulnerable to the impacts of heat, as many have chronic health conditions, such as heart disease. Some medications, for both physical and mental health conditions, can reduce a person’s ability to regulate their body temperature.

Extreme heat places enormous strain on a person’s body, including their heart. It can lead to serious illness and even death.

Severe heat also creates significant costs. In a 2020 Sydney heatwave, the cost of treating heat illness in just two people who were homeless was A$70,184.

The World Health Organization estimates climate change will cause 250,000 deaths a year from 2030, at a cost of US$2-4 billion ($A3-6 billion).

Ensuring The Hub Meets People’s Needs

Our team plans to help hundreds of people stay cooler and safer in Sydney this summer. The cooling hub has been co-designed with people experiencing homelessness. This process will help ensure the hub meets the needs of the people it’s meant to assist at times of extreme heat.

People with experience of homelessness worked with researchers and health workers to determine where to set up the cooling hub, what to include inside, how to make the community aware of the service, and how to reach out from the hub and bring people to it. For example, for many people experiencing homelessness, being able to access health care, connect with others, bring their pets and store belongings are all important.

The cooling hub will be set up at Ward Park, Surry Hills, and will be open in the daytime during extreme heat. It will comprise a marquee and low-tech equipment that maximises cooling and health support. The hub can be set up quickly and easily and relocated as required.

Nurses, doctors and peer support workers of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Homeless Health Service and City of Sydney public liaison officers will staff the hub. They will provide evidence-based cooling strategies and monitor body temperature, blood pressure and heart and breathing rates to identify early signs of heat illness.

People who are at high risk of heat illness will leave the hub with a pedestal or handheld fan and water spray bottle. All will receive information on how best to stay cool.

Hub users will be advised to stay hydrated and in the shade, limit activity in the heat of the day and remove heavy clothing. Each of these measures can be very effective in keeping cool.

The hub will also offer food and opportunities to access social and housing supports.

Creating A Blueprint For Others

In 2021, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney and others set up a vaccination hub for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID pandemic. The lessons from that initiative were written into a blueprint for others to use.

Our evaluation of the cooling hub will include satisfaction and experience surveys along with environmental and health data to estimate its acceptability, effectiveness and cost efficiency. This will include its impact on attendances for heat illness at St Vincent’s Hospital emergency department.

Drawing on what is learned, we will write a cooling hub blueprint for other services to apply.

Climate Justice In Action

People experiencing homelessness are poorly represented in disaster planning. The consequences can be devastating. Yet simple preventive strategies, carefully applied with communities, are likely to reduce the health impact of heatwaves.

Heat is one of the many impacts of climate change that are not felt equally. People who are most disadvantaged bear the greatest cost.

A climate justice response to climate change is essential, one that works with the most disadvantaged people in our community to meet their needs. Our initiative will provide a blueprint for co-designing a cooling hub with disadvantaged people and responding to their needs in the climate crisis.The Conversation

Jane Currie, Professor of Nursing, Queensland University of TechnologyJo River, Associate Professor, Mental Health Drug and Alcohol, UTS & Northern Sydney LHD, University of Technology Sydney, and Timothy English, Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We thought we’d find 200 species living in our house and yard. We were very wrong

Dot-underwing moth (Eudocima materna) found in the researchers’ yard. Matthew HoldenCC BY-NC
Matthew H. HoldenThe University of QueenslandAndrew RogersThe University of Queensland, and Russell Q-Y YongThe University of Queensland

We are biodiversity researchers – an ecologist, a mathematician and a taxonomist – who were locked down together during the COVID pandemic. Being restricted to the house, it didn’t take long before we began to wonder how many species of plants and animals we were sharing the space with. So we set to work counting them all.

We guessed we would find around 200–300, and many of our colleagues guessed the same.

There was nothing extraordinary about our 400 square metre block of land in Annerley, a suburb of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. Roughly half the block was occupied by a three-bedroom house.

What was extraordinary was the number of species we discovered there. As revealed in our just-published study, starting on the first day of lockdown and continuing over the course of a year, we catalogued 1,150 species on our inner-city property.

Familiar Faces And Rare Recluses

Many of the species were what any east coast suburban Australian would expect: ibises, brush turkeys, kookaburras, possums and flying foxes. But, surprisingly, others had rarely been recorded.

In fact, three of the 1,150 species had never been documented in Australia’s leading biodiversity database at that point. This included a rare mosquito, a sandfly and an invasive flatworm that can cause populations of native snails to decline.

We found common foes, but also many friends. That rare mosquito was just one of 13 mosquito species we found. The cupboards accommodated pantry moths and grain weevils, but also spiders to prey on them (we recorded 56 species).

Our lack of assiduous garden-tending meant weeds were prolific; of the 103 plant species we documented on the property, 100 were non-native.

Apart from weeds, however, the vast majority of species were actually native. Our two massive lilly-pilly trees provided shade, shelter and food, magnets for numerous pollinators and other species.

Bees And Butterflies

A photo of sleeping bees hanging on a plant stem.
Blue-banded bees sleep grasping plant stems with their mandibles. Andrew Rogers

The yard was filled with pollinators. For example, there were hoverflies which, at a quick glance, you’d think were wasps. We had ten species of those, a fraction of the more than 109 species of flies we found.

Native blue-banded bees and fluffy teddybear bees roosted in the hedges under our windows at night. They were just two of more than 70 bee and wasp species we observed.

We also counted a mindblowing 436 species of butterflies and moths. A few were as large as a human hand, but most were tiny and barely noticeable. Some were brightly coloured, while others – like the vampire moth Calyptra minuticornis – seemed boring until we began to study their behaviour.

The moth Scatochresis innumera is another interesting one: as a caterpillar, it lives inside a single possum poop before emerging as an adult.

The caterpillars of Parilyrgis concolor, yet another moth, live in spiderwebs, surviving on the spider’s food waste, while the adults can be found hanging bat-like from the spiderwebs. It is not known how they avoid getting eaten by the spiders.

A photo of a brown moth hanging from a spiderweb.
The caterpillars of the moth Parilyrgis concolor live in spiderwebs, and adults often hang from webs like bats. Russell Yong

Wasps And Beetles

We recorded ten species of lycaenid “blue” butterflies, many of which use ants to protect their caterpillars from predators, including certain wasp species which would lay eggs in them if they got a chance.

These wasps are called parasitoids – meaning their young develop in other organisms, eventually killing them. Some of these wasps even parasitise other parasitoid wasps. Our urban homes are clearly complex ecosystems.

A photo of a small orange and black bug on a thin tree branch.
A tiny Braconid wasp that parasitises other insects. Matthew Holden

We were surprised to only find just under 100 beetle species (the fourth most common group of organisms in our study). Beetles are widely believed to be the most diverse order of insects on the planet.

Our finding may be a sign of declining beetle populations, which has been observed around the world. On the other hand, it may just have been a bad year for beetles in our neighbourhood.

An Urban Environment Teeming With Life

Overall, we found far more species than we expected, and we showed that even urban environments can be teeming with wildlife.

A big reason for that was surely the vegetation: the shrubs, trees and weeds in the yard. The monotony of perfectly tended lawn and heavily sprayed and manicured flowerbeds may be nice to look at and for the kids to play on but, as habitat for urban wildlife, it is lacking.

Our own laziness meant we did little work in the garden. However, by giving the mower and pesticides a break, and by sacrificing some lawn for native trees, shrubs and flowering weeds, we ended up with something much more valuable.

But no matter what you do to maintain your home, definitely check your porch or balcony light tonight, and keep your eye out for urban wildlife around your home. You too can experience some pretty amazing nature, no matter how urban the environment you live in.The Conversation

Matthew H. Holden, Lecturer, School of Mathematics and Physics, The University of QueenslandAndrew Rogers, PhD student, The University of Queensland, and Russell Q-Y Yong, PhD candidate, Marine Parasitology, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

I’m an expert in diplomatic gift giving. Here are my 5 top tips for the best Christmas present exchange

Samantha HappéThe University of Melbourne

As we get closer to Christmas, your family will probably have some kind of gathering. You will reunite with people who you might not see any other time. There will be some awkward small talk, everyone will start off on their best behaviour, there will be too much food, and presents will be exchanged.

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, there are mismatched or underwhelming gifts that can lead to subtle tensions, which persist throughout the day.

But there is a field of academic research that can help with your gift giving. “Diplomatic gift studies” blends material culture studies with history and sociology. It considers gifts being “lost in translation” as they move across cultural spheres. It can explain everything – after all, what is a Christmas gathering if not a type of diplomatic mission?

Here are five things you can keep in mind to smooth things out and help you have the best gift-giving experience this Christmas.

1. Understand The Group’s Traditions

Picture this: it’s the first time at your in-laws’ Christmas. You bought a playful Secret Santa gift just perfect for your own family – a large box filled with a packet of prunes, toilet paper rolls and yesterday’s news.

Turns out, the gathering you’ve just walked into plays by a whole different set of rules. Awkward, right?

This happened to a friend of mine who was unaware of his in-laws’ tradition of thoughtful heartfelt gifts. Instead, he had chosen something that worked with his family custom of joke presents.

These situations are the most common with people who are – like my friend – newcomers to a gathering. They didn’t grow up with the same kind of Christmas you had and don’t have the same traditions.

Make sure you brief anyone who is new to your gathering about what your family generally does. If you are the newcomer, ask what they typically do for presents.

2. Don’t Assume Presents Based On Someone’s Age

Navigating the gifting landscape across different generations is like cracking a complex code. This is made more difficult if you don’t know the person well. To solve this, you might end up buying something you think someone their age typically likes.

As a teenager, a close friend once received a mini handbag from a distant aunt – a few years after they were popular. By the time the “cool” gift idea traversed the generational gap and reached the aunt, it was outdated.

A grandfather embraces their grandchild.
Think about what the person you’re shopping for would like – not what ‘someone their age’ would like. Shutterstock

Sometimes, our assumptions about different age groups can go awry. Ask someone who knows the person about what they specifically like.

3. Give A Gift They Want – Not What You Want

We’ve all unwrapped that one present where we’ve wondered where on earth it fits into our lives. I once received a large, ceramic bowl for Christmas. I had nowhere to put it – my husband and I didn’t entertain or hold dinner parties. It was way too large for the two of us and not suited to our tastes.

I thought about the person who gave it to me – did it match their own interests and preferences? In this case, they’d shopped from their heart, forgetting their taste didn’t necessarily align with mine, and had bought something that they personally liked and wanted. They meant well.

4. Think About Value In The Long Term

Gift giving is ideally an equal exchange: you give and receive presents of the same approximate value. At the end of the day, when it’s time to go home, there is balance.

Friends exchange gifts.
It’s not just about the presents on this day – but about everything else you give your friends. Shutterstock

But sometimes the balance tips. You receive something more expensive than what you gave. It can make you feel like you are in that person’s debt, and you feel pressured to match their present the next time.

Before stressing, consider the bigger picture. What did you gift them last year? Or did you help them out in another way and they’re showing their appreciation now?

Sometimes, it’s about evening out the scales over time.

5. Reflect On The Intentions Behind A Gift

One year, when I was 15, I received a set of shower products from a relative. Was this a subtle hint about my personal hygiene? Perhaps. Or was it a well-meaning attempt from someone who just didn’t know my style and bought something smelling nice, which a teenage girl could use?

It’s important to peel back the layers and understand the intentions behind a gift. Think about the person who is giving it, not just the present itself. That way, you avoid jumping to conclusions and appreciate the gesture for what it is.

End-of-year family gatherings can be a wonderful time, where we slow down and relax. We eat, drink and make merry with people who we care about. We give presents with the best of intentions, but some will probably miss the mark.

If this happens, remember it’s the thought behind them that truly counts.

This piece is for my late husband, Christopher Lee, who suggested my research could apply to Christmas gift giving. Miss you.The Conversation

Samantha Happé, Graduate researcher in art history and material culture studies, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Taylor Swift: Person of the year and political influencer

That’s a lot of potential voters behind Swift at her Denver concert on July 14, 2023. Tom Cooper/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management
Matt HarrisPark University

Even before Taylor Swift was named “Person Of The Year” by Time magazine, politicians courted Swiftie voters.

Call me a Swiftie, too. Like any millennial pop music fan active on social media, I followed Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour – the surprise songs, the scramble to get tickets, her brief romance with that guy from The 1975 with a history of racist comments.

But as a political scientist, I was intrigued by something else: reaction to the tour by government officials. New Jersey renamed the state’s famed Taylor ham, egg and cheese in her honor – it’s now the “Taylor Swift Ham, Egg, and Cheese” official state sandwich.

Pittsburgh’s mayor briefly renamed the city “Swiftsburgh” when her tour hit town.

And in my neck of the woods, Swift Street in North Kansas City was temporarily rebranded “Swift Street (Taylor’s Version).”

Local or state governments have lauded Swift in some way at virtually every stop on her tour. While these honors make for great photo opportunities for Swifties, the politics of these moves is worth examining. Do politicians have something to gain in appealing to Swift’s fans?

Celebrities Can Help Politicians

Unlike many celebrities, Swift does not involve herself much in politics. One particular tool of politicians looking to boost their numbers is to get celebrity endorsements. But Swift’s use of endorsements has been limited, save for backing two Democrats in her adopted home state of Tennessee: Phil Bredesen in his Senate race and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper in his 2018 reelection campaign. Swift also endorsed Joe Biden in 2020.

Bredesen’s peak in Google search interest from 2010 to the present coincided with Swift’s endorsement in October 2018. Cooper saw more Google search traffic with Swift’s endorsement than at any point since his vote for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010.

A chart shows the Google search interest in Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper peaking with Swift's endorsement
Google search interest in Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper peaked with Swift’s endorsement. Matt HarrisCC BY-SA

While the specific impact of Swift’s endorsements is difficult to assess, an Emerson College poll of Tennesseans in 2018 found that 11.7% of those surveyed said Swift’s endorsement would make them more likely to support Bredesen – a number unlikely to make a difference in a race Bredesen lost by nearly 11 points despite Swift’s support. Cooper easily won reelection in his heavily Democratic Nashville-based district.

Although Swift’s endorsements likely did not sway these particular races, celebrity endorsements can matter in close races, particularly when the celebrity making the endorsement is viewed favorably – a likely scenario in Swift’s case.

Fawning = Attention

slight majority of Americans consider themselves at least something of a fan of Swift’s music – that includes me – and a June 2023 Echelon Insights poll showed 50% of likely voters view Swift at least somewhat favorably. This is a higher favorability rating than Joe Biden, Donald Trump and both major political parties.

We’re not talking about endorsements here, though – we’re talking about politicians aligning themselves with Swift with no reciprocity. One clear benefit to public officials fawning over Swift? Attention – not unlike that seen for Bredesen and Cooper in 2018.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s tweet declaring the “Taylor Swift ham, egg, and cheese” garnered 5,700 likes; his next unrelated tweet had fewer than 100.

A cursory analysis of social media data seems to support the idea that the use of Swift’s name in honorary government actions produces a result similar to that of Swift’s endorsements: it drives engagement. Murphy’s Instagram post lauding Swift garnered the most likes on any post of his in 2023, with the exception of an early June post on the state’s air-quality crisis.

OK, so politicians need publicity, and they can use Taylor Swift’s name to get it. But what about Swifties as a voting bloc?

The idea that Swifties might be a key demographic in future elections is not far-fetched given their location and age. A majority of Swift’s fans live in the suburbs, the swing territory of American politics. Further, most are Gen Zers or Millennials. These groups encompass an increasing share of the electorate with each passing year – up to 31% in 2020. Swift’s favorability among those ages 18 to 29 stands at 72%, and by one poll’s estimate, 21% in that age cohort say they would vote for Swift over Trump and Biden.

Taylor Swift Post Office?

World leaders from numerous countries have taken to social media to ask Swift to bring her tour to their countries. There’s an economic angle to this, of course, as a Swift tour stop can generate huge sums in consumer spending. In the U.S., however, the honorifics bestowed upon Swift have come since her tour dates were confirmed.

There is a question of whether these Swift-adjacent stunts boil down to campaigning thinly disguised as official government action. This is perhaps best demonstrated in Canada, where a member of Parliament filed a parliamentary grievance over the singer’s lack of Canadian tour dates.

Such behavior is perhaps analogous to, on a larger scale, the renaming of post offices in the U.S. Congress. While generally innocuous and locally meaningful, these moves still require government resources and staffers to put their attention toward them as opposed to substantive policy matters.

Taylor Swift is an enormously popular figure, particularly among demographic groups that will be increasingly important in future American elections. In close races, voices such as Swift’s could prove critical – not necessarily because she influences how fans vote, but because her voice provides attention and credibility to candidates.

This is an update to a story originally published on July 24, 2023, to reflect Swift being named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.The Conversation

Matt Harris, Associate Professor of Political Science, Park University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Seven original 1970s skateparks that show why these urban treasures should be protected

The snake run at Southsea Skatepark near Portsmouth, UK, built during the late 1970s. Patrick QuinnCC BY-NC-ND
Patrick QuinnUCL and Iain BordenUCL

Historic Environment Scotland – whose function to date has largely been confined to protecting standing stones, cairns and castles – is proposing to add to its roster the Livingston Skatepark near Edinburgh, signalling an interest in heritage of an altogether newer kind.

Designed by local architect Ian Urquhart, the Livi, as it is known, put the small Scottish town on the skateboarding map, when it opened in 1981. Visits from luminaries including American superstar Tony Hawk and the Bones Brigade have nurtured a still-vibrant local skate scene.

When polyurethane wheels were introduced in 1973, they ushered in what historians term skateboarding’s “second wave”. Skaters in California began to emulate surfing moves in sloped school yardsdrainage ditches and empty swimming pools. The first skateparks appeared shortly thereafter, with hundreds following across the US, the UK and beyond.

The Livi was one of the last to built before the sport’s booming popularity waned in the early 1980s. Our recent study notes that most have since been bulldozed, infilled or just forgotten about. Here are seven originals that demonstrate the immense wider cultural, architectural and historical value these rare structures wield.

1. The Rom, London, UK

Built in 1978 in Hornchurch, on the outskirts of London, this is the world’s largest remaining original skatepark. Local skaters restored it after a fire in 2018, but the structure remains at risk.

Its centrepiece is a smooth white bowl based on the fabled keyhole pool at Skateboard Heaven in Spring Valley, California and the San Diego Soul Bowl. Other features include a half-pipe, a massive “performance” bowl, a four-part “cloverleaf” bowl, a slalom/downhill run, a sinuous “snake run”, moguls (concrete versions of the eponymous ski feature) and a large open reservoir, inspired by the empty water-storage structures favoured by skaters in the early days.

Outside of the US, the UK was the biggest hotspot for skatepark building in the 1970s and now has the highest density of relics, including big parks in Harrow, Southsea and Stevenage.

2. The Kennington Bowl, London, UK

This modest 1978 bowl, tucked away in the corner of a south London park, is a rare extant example of an above-ground construction. Prefabricated concrete parts were ordered from the Radical Banking catalogue, craned on to a flat surface and bolted together.

Developed by the UK-based Great Outdoors Company, this modular system was an innovative response to rampant demand from local councils to build skateparks, during the short-lived 1970s boom.

The Kenny is currently being renovated, its metal feet – designed to level out the structure over time – having long since seized up.

A technical drawing of a skatepark structure.
The Radical Banking system of prefabricated concrete skateparks. The Great Outdoors CompanyCC BY-NC-ND

3. The Bro Bowl, Tampa, US

This small, shallow concrete bowl opened in 1979. In 2013, local skaters campaigned for it to be added to the US National Register of Historic Places – a world first. That recognition did not mean protection, however. The following year, the site was redeveloped – but not before its precise curves and humps were scanned.

The replica Bro Bowl opened nearby, in 2016, to mixed reactions. The fact that it lives on, though, is testament to the power of the skateboard community. The Long Live Southbank campaign to save the Undercroft, much favoured by skateboarders at the South Bank Centre in central London, is another notable example.

4. Pista De Skate Do Marinha, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Built on the banks of the Guaíba lake in 1978, this long concrete half pipe gradually deepens into a large bowl and is well suited to the early surf-inspired skating, as emulated by the legendary Zephyr Team. AKA the Z-boys of Santa Monica, these skaters brought crouched, flowing moves to waves of concrete and asphalt.

Skateboarding has long been popular across Latin America (check the mind-blowing street moves of Argentinian pro skater Milton Martinez). Notable other survivors across the region include the Nova Iguaçu, near Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the Parque Bustamante in Santiago de Chile, and Pista du Gaúcho in Cuba.

5. The Snake Run, Albany, Australia

Pupils at the local high school in Albany, western Australia, campaigned for this 150m winding downhill snake run to be built. When it opened, in February 1976, US pro Russ Howell famously rode down it doing a handstand on his board.

Howell then visited again for the park’s 40th anniversary, as documented in the 2016 film The Snake Run. That same year, the park was added to the Heritage Council of Western Australia State Register of Historic Places.

Modern skateparks tend not to feature these sinuous free-form snake runs, so popular in the 1970s. Other notable examples include the Seylynn in Vancouver, Canada, and the Netherlands’ Oldenzaal park.

6. Automobilen Skatepark, Falkenberg, Sweden

Tucked away by a rural junkyard is a unique pretzel-shaped concrete creation that is quite possibly Scandinavia’s only remaining original skatepark.

Renowned US pro rider Tony Alva – the godfather of skateboarding – is thought to have visited it while touring Europe the year it was built, in 1978. This makes it a must for any determined skate tourist wishing to connect with the early years of the sport.

The intervening decades have seen the privately built park largely abandoned; it now lies flooded for much of the year. An application to have it heritage listed in 2010 was rejected on the grounds that it was too decayed.

7. The Surfin’ Turf Skatepark, Milwaukee, US

The multiple bowls of this large indoor skatepark, built in 1979, would still be challenging today’s riders had they not been infilled and the building demolished in the 1990s.

Groundworks for an adjacent road junction exposed part of the buried park in 2010. Local skaters painstakingly dug out one of the bowls by hand. After intense campaigning, the rest of the park was excavated in 2020. Plans are afoot to turn it into a rideable museum.

Similar efforts to resurrect Spain’s first skatepark, Arenys de Munt, near Barcelona, are documented in the 2012 film Digging. And in 2015, parts of the bulldozed Del Mar Skate Ranch were unexpectedly uncovered during earthworks. Legends including Tony Hawk, who had honed his skills there in the early 1980s, came down to skate it.

Second-wave skateparks are unique sporting heritage structures. They’re also rideable relics of a phenomenon whose indelible influence in urban design and contemporary culture far exceeds the sport itself. Protecting them matters.The Conversation

Patrick Quinn, Principal Research Fellow in Archeology, UCL and Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Disinformation is rampant on social media – a social psychologist explains the tactics used against you

Disinformation campaigns use emotional and rhetorical tricks to try to get you to share propaganda and falsehoods. hobo_018/E+ via Getty Images
H. Colleen SinclairLouisiana State University

Information warfare abounds, and everyone online has been drafted whether they know it or not.

Disinformation is deliberately generated misleading content disseminated for selfish or malicious purposes. Unlike misinformation, which may be shared unwittingly or with good intentions, disinformation aims to foment distrust, destabilize institutions, discredit good intentions, defame opponents and delegitimize sources of knowledge such as science and journalism.

Many governments engage in disinformation campaigns. For instance, the Russian government has used images of celebrities to attract attention to anti-Ukraine propaganda. Meta, parent company of Facebook and Instagram, warned on Nov. 30, 2023, that China has stepped up its disinformation operations.

Disinformation is nothing new, and information warfare has been practiced by many countries, including the U.S. But the internet gives disinformation campaigns unprecedented reach. Foreign governmentsinternet trolls, domestic and international extremistsopportunistic profiteers and even paid disinformation agencies exploit the internet to spread questionable content. Periods of civil unrestnatural disastershealth crises and wars trigger anxiety and the hunt for information, which disinformation agents take advantage of.

Meta has uncovered and blocked sophisticated Chinese disinformation campaigns.

Certainly it’s worth watching for the warning signs for misinformation and dangerous speech, but there are additional tactics disinformation agents employ.

It’s Just A Joke

Hahaganda is a tactic in which disinformation agents use memes, political comedy from state-run outlets, or speeches to make light of serious matters, attack others, minimize violence or dehumanize, and deflect blame.

This approach provides an easy defense: If challenged, the disinformation agents can say, “Can’t you take a joke?” often followed by accusations of being too politically correct.

Shhh … Tell Everyone

Rumor-milling is a tactic in which the disinformation agents claim to have exclusive access to secrets they allege are being purposefully concealed. They indicate that you will “only hear this here” and will imply that others are unwilling to share the alleged truth – for example, “The media won’t report this” or “The government doesn’t want you to know” and “I shouldn’t be telling you this … .”

But they do not insist that the information be kept secret, and will instead include encouragement to share it – for example, “Make this go viral” or “Most people won’t have the courage to share this.” It’s important to question how an author or speaker could have come by such “secret” information and what their motive is to prompt you to share it.

People Are Saying

Often disinformation has no real evidence, so instead disinformation agents will find or make up people to support their assertions. This impersonation can take multiple forms. Disinformation agents will use anecdotes as evidence, especially sympathetic stories from vulnerable groups such as women or children.

Similarly, they may disseminate “concerned citizens’” perspectives. These layperson experts present their social identity as providing the authority to speak on a matter; “As a mother …,” “As a veteran …,” “As a police officer ….” Convert communicators, or people who allegedly change from the “wrong” position to the “right” one, can be especially persuasive, such as the woman who got an abortion but regretted it. These people often don’t actually exist or may be coerced or paid.

If ordinary people don’t suffice, fake experts may be used. Some are fabricated, and you can watch out for “inauthentic user” behavior, for example, by checking X – formerly Twitter – accounts using the Botometer. But fake experts can come in different varieties.

  • A faux expert is someone used for their title but doesn’t have actual relevant expertise.
  • A pseudoexpert is someone who claims relevant expertise but has no actual training.
  • A junk expert is a sellout. They may have had expertise once but now say whatever is profitable. You can often find these people have supported other dubious claims – for example, that smoking doesn’t cause cancer – or work for institutes that regularly produce questionable “scholarship.”
  • An echo expert is when disinformation sources cite each other to provide credence for their claims. China and Russia routinely cite one another’s newspapers.
  • A stolen expert is someone who exists, but they weren’t actually contacted and their research is misinterpreted. Likewise, disinformation agents also steal credibility from known news sources, such as by typosquatting, the practice of setting up a domain name that closely resembles a legitimate organization’s.

You can check whether accounts, anecdotal or scientific, have been verified by other reliable sources. Google the name. Check expertise status, source validity and interpretation of research. Remember, one story or interpretation is not necessarily representative.

It’s All A Conspiracy

Conspiratorial narratives involve some malevolent force – for example, “the deep state,” – engaged in covert actions with the aim to cause harm to society. That certain conspiracies such as MK-Ultra and Watergate have been confirmed is often offered as evidence for the validity of new unfounded conspiracies.

Nonetheless, disinformation agents find that constructing a conspiracy is an effective means to remind people of past reasons to distrust governments, scientists or other trustworthy sources.

But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Remember, the conspiracies that were ultimately unveiled had evidence – often from sources like investigative journalists, scientists and government investigations. Be particularly wary of conspiracies that try to delegitimize knowledge-producing institutions like universities, research labs, government agencies and news outlets by claiming that they are in on a cover-up.

Basic tips for resisting disinformation and misinformation include thinking twice before sharing social media posts that trigger emotional responses like anger and fear and checking the sources of posts that make unusual or extraordinary claims.

Good Vs. Evil

Disinformation often serves the dual purpose of making the originator look good and their opponents look bad. Disinformation takes this further by painting issues as a battle between good and evil, using accusations of evilness to legitimize violence. Russia is particularly fond of accusing others of being secret Nazispedophiles or Satanists. Meanwhile, they often depict their soldiers as helping children and the elderly.

Be especially wary of accusations of atrocities like genocide, especially under the attention-grabbing “breaking news” headline. Accusations abound. Verify the facts and how the information was obtained.

Are You With Us Or Against Us?

A false dichotomy narrative sets up the reader to believe that they have one of two mutually exclusive options; a good or a bad one, a right or a wrong one, a red pill or a blue pill. You can accept their version of reality or be an idiot or “sheeple.”

There are always more options than those being presented, and issues are rarely so black and white. This is just one of the tactics in brigading, where disinformation agents seek to silence dissenting viewpoints by casting them as the wrong choice.

Turning The Tables

Whataboutism is a classic Russian disinformation technique they use to deflect attention from their own wrongdoings by alleging the wrongdoings of others. These allegations about the actions of others may be true or false but are nonetheless irrelevant to the matter at hand. The potential past wrongs of one group does not mean you should ignore the current wrongs of another.

Disinformation agents also often cast their group as the wronged party. They only engage in disinformation because their “enemy” engages in disinformation against them; they only attack to defend; and their reaction was appropriate, while that of others was an overreaction. This type of competitive victimhood is particularly pervasive when groups have been embedded in a long-lasting conflict.

In all of these cases, the disinformation agent is aware that they are deflecting, misleading, trolling or outright fabricating. If you don’t believe them, they at least want to make you question what, if anything, you can believe.

You often look into the things you buy rather than taking the advertising at face value before you hand over your money. This should also go for what information you buy into.The Conversation

H. Colleen Sinclair, Associate Research Professor of Social Psychology, Louisiana State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Netballers may have a new pay deal, but the sport remains in a precarious position

Hunter FujakDeakin University

While 2023 was a watershed year for Australian women’s sport due to the Matildas’ stirring run at the Women’s World Cup, netball is going through its worst period ever.

Netball Australia and the sport’s players have reportedly agreed to a new pay deal following a period of bruising negotiations, which is expected to modestly increase pay and introduce a revenue-sharing component.

But the good news comes as the federal government has indicated it will withdraw nearly $18 million in funding to netball to reallocate to other sports. The reason: a failure by Netball Australia to deliver a “sufficiently robust” plan for its use.

The loss of federal funding would come as a huge blow to an organisation saddled with $4.2 million in debt.

In addition, it’s been reported that netball’s broadcast partner, Foxtel, is concerned about the sport’s lack of strategic direction. This has some concerned it may not renew its broadcast rights at the end of its current deal.

For a sport that has historically boasted the highest rate of female team sport participation in Australia, and with a national league predating nearly all other women’s sports, how has netball fallen into such a precarious position?

COVID Funding Hole

Many of netball’s current financial woes can be traced back to the onset of the COVID pandemic four years ago.

Due to the waiving of membership contributions and higher operational costs related to running Super Netball hubs during the pandemic, the sport lost $2.8 million in 2020. The next year was even worse: a loss of $4.4 million.

This saw Netball Australia’s net available funds diminish 98% from $7.3 million in 2019 to just over $158,000 by the end of 2021.

By June 2022, Netball Australia had to publicly deny it was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Netball’s financial precariousness became more acute in October 2022 after billionaire Gina Rinehart withdrew her $15 million sponsorship from the sport. This came after concerns were raised about the wearing of Rinehart’s company logo on the team’s uniform, stemming from comments her father had once made about Indigenous people.

Worse news was to come when Collingwood Football Club announced its shock withdrawal from the Super Netball competition during the 2023 season.

An Erosion Of Player Trust

A key challenge over the past few years has been a significant erosion in trust between players and management.

Just last month, for example, players publicly blamed Netball Australia for being responsible for the implosion of the sponsorship deal with Rinehart – not them.

But the relationship had started to sour back in 2020 when Netball Australia introduced the two-goal “super shot” to the Super Netball competition only six weeks prior to the start of the season, which players roundly criticised.

Netball Australia made a similarly unilateral decision to sell grand final hosting rights to Western Australia two weeks prior to the conclusion of the 2022 season. The players’ association decried the move, saying players were “devastated”.

Then came the bruising negotiations over the new collective playing agreement, which seemed to receive more headlines than any on-court exploits in 2023.

Prior to the Netball World Cup in June, for instance, Netball Australia initially refused to announce its squad until players had signed agreements, which was described by former head coach Lisa Alexandra as a “ransom”.

In recent weeks, Netball Australia issued legal notices reminding players of their obligation to attend an awards function. Stories also emerged of netballers being forced to sleep in their carsretiring to play other sports and being brought to tears over their financial insecurity.

Thankfully, an in-principle agreement appears to have reached. Now, the hard work of rebuilding the sport’s public image can hopefully begin.

Increasing Competition Among Women’s Leagues

Netball has been the centre of women’s sport in Australia for over a century. Today, however, it must compete with a number of other women’s sports for prominence.

My research has estimated a staggering 17 million Australians watched the Matildas semifinal fixture in the World Cup, for instance. When the Diamonds went on to win the Netball World Cup, however, it went largely unnoticed and uncelebrated.

The AFLW and NRLW continue to grow, too. This year’s NRLW grand final attracted a national audience of more than one million viewers. And the AFLW, which has historically poached netball talent to develop its league, was able to expand to an 18-team competition for the 2022-23 season.

So, where does this leave netball? While the recent news may appear grim, there are reasons for optimism.

The 2023 Super Netball season broke attendance records, for example, while broadcast viewership was also slightly up.

Netball participation has also remained robust across the country, despite the widening of sport choices for women and girls.

What Netball Must Do Now

Netball Australia faces two immediate challenges it must address.

First is achieving unity across the game following such a fractious period. Unity with players is particularly vital, as they represent Super Netball’s best marketing asset to achieve desperately needed growth.

The apparent inclusion of revenue sharing in the new player agreement ensures athletes will be genuine partners with a vested interest in commercially growing the league.

Unity would also help with netball’s second immediate challenge: breaking the perpetual cycle of negative sentiment surrounding the sport.

Negative sentiment causes fans and sponsors alike to disengage. Positive sentiment, by contrast, is a propellant. Look no further than the contrast between the Wallabies and Matildas at the moment.

At a strategic level, Netball Australia and its players need to properly assess whether the sport is heading in the right direction. That both the Australian Sports Commission chair and federal minister for sport have both publicly criticised Netball Australia should serve as a wake-up call.

A reevaluation of netball’s strategic direction must acknowledge that the cultural landscape has shifted. Women’s sport has gone mainstream and netball must find a way to broaden its audience, similar to the Matildas and football codes.

As Sports Minister Anika Wells put it, “netball is too important for it to not be successful”.The Conversation

Hunter Fujak, Lecturer in Sport Management, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Intellectual humility is a key ingredient for scientific progress

Would technologies like the airplane ever get off the ground without people balancing commitment to their vision with openness to new ideas? HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Michael DicksonUniversity of South Carolina

The virtue of intellectual humility is getting a lot of attention. It’s heralded as a part of wisdom, an aid to self-improvement and a catalyst for more productive political dialogue. While researchers define intellectual humility in various ways, the core of the idea is “recognizing that one’s beliefs and opinions might be incorrect.”

But achieving intellectual humility is hard. Overconfidence is a persistent problem, faced by many, and does not appear to be improved by education or expertise. Even scientific pioneers can sometimes lack this valuable trait.

black and white photo of man with white beard
William Thomson, known as Lord Kelvin, poses in 1902 with his compass. Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Take the example of one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, Lord Kelvin, who was not immune to overconfidence. In a 1902 interview “on scientific matters now prominently before the public mind,” he was asked about the future of air travel: “(W)e have no hope of solving the problem of aerial navigation in any way?”

Lord Kelvin replied firmly: “No; I do not think there is any hope. Neither the balloon, nor the aeroplane, nor the gliding machine will be a practical success.” The Wright brothers’ first successful flight was a little over a year later.

Scientific overconfidence is not confined to matters of technology. A few years earlier, Kelvin’s eminent colleague, A. A. Michelson, the first American to win a Nobel Prize in science, expressed a similarly striking view about the fundamental laws of physics: “It seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have now been firmly established.”

Over the next few decades – in no small part due to Michelson’s own work – fundamental physical theory underwent its most dramatic changes since the times of Newton, with the development of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics “radically and irreversibly” altering our view of the physical universe.

But is this sort of overconfidence a problem? Maybe it actually helps the progress of science? I suggest that intellectual humility is a better, more progressive stance for science.

Thinking About What Science Knows

As a researcher in philosophy of science for over 25 years and one-time editor of the main journal in the field, Philosophy of Science, I’ve had numerous studies and reflections on the nature of scientific knowledge cross my desk. The biggest questions are not settled.

How confident ought people be about the conclusions reached by science? How confident ought scientists be in their own theories?

colored etched plate illustrating Earth with planets orbiting around it
Eventually astronomy moved past the geocentric model of the universe with Earth at its center, which had stood for centuries. VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

One ever-present consideration goes by the name “the pessimistic induction,” advanced most prominently in modern times by the philosopher Larry Laudan. Laudan pointed out that the history of science is littered with discarded theories and ideas.

It would be near-delusional to think that now, finally, we have found the science that will not be discarded. It is far more reasonable to conclude that today’s science will also, in large part, be rejected, or significantly modified, by future scientists.

But the pessimistic induction is not the end of the story. An equally powerful consideration, advanced prominently in modern times by the philosopher Hilary Putnam, goes by the name “the no-miracles argument.” It would be a miracle, so the argument goes, if successful scientific predictions and explanations were just accidental, or lucky – that is, if the success of science did not arise from its getting something right about the nature of reality.

There must be something right about the theories that have, after all, made air travel – not to mention space travel, genetic engineering and so on – a reality. It would be near-delusional to conclude that present-day theories are just wrong. It is far more reasonable to conclude that there is something right about them.

A Pragmatic Argument For Overconfidence?

Setting aside the philosophical theorizing, what is best for scientific progress?

Of course, scientists can be mistaken about the accuracy of their own positions. Even so, there is reason to believe that over the long arc of history – or, in the cases of Kelvin and Michelson, in relatively short order – such mistakes will be unveiled.

In the meantime, perhaps extreme confidence is important for doing good science. Maybe science needs people who tenaciously pursue new ideas with the kind of (over)confidence that can also lead to quaint declarations of the impossibility of air travel or the finality of physics. Yes, it can lead to dead ends, retractions and the like, but maybe that’s just the price of scientific progress.

black and white photo portrait of man in tailcoat
Ignaz Semmelweis used antiseptic measures to slash death rates in his hospital. Universal History Archive via Getty Images

In the 19th century, in the face of continued and strong opposition, the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis consistently and repeatedly advocated for the importance of sanitation in hospitals. The medical community rejected his idea so severely that he wound up forgotten in a mental asylum. But he was, it seems, right, and eventually the medical community came around to his view.

Maybe we need people who can be committed so fully to the truth of their ideas in order for advances to be made. Maybe scientists should be overconfident. Maybe they should shun intellectual humility.

One might hope, as some have argued, that the scientific process – the review and testing of theories and ideas – will eventually weed out the crackpot ideas and false theories. The cream will rise.

But sometimes it takes a long time, and it isn’t clear that scientific examinations, as opposed to social forces, are always the cause of the downfall of bad ideas. The 19th century (pseudo)science of phrenology was overturned “as much for its fixation on social categories as for an inability within the scientific community to replicate its findings,” as noted by a group of scientists who put a kind of final nail in the coffin of phrenology in 2018, nearly 200 years after its heyday of correlating skull features with mental ability and character.

masked man in scrubs washing at sink
Today’s health care workers follow careful sanitary protocols – long after Semmelweis first advocated them. Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Intellectual Humility As A Middle Ground

The marketplace of ideas did produce the right results in the cases mentioned. Kelvin and Michelson were corrected fairly quickly. It took much longer for phrenology and hospital sanitation – and the consequences of this delay were undeniably disastrous in both cases.

Is there a way to encourage vigorous, committed and stubborn pursuit of new, possibly unpopular scientific ideas, while acknowledging the great value and power of the scientific enterprise as it now stands?

Here is where intellectual humility can play a positive role in science. Intellectual humility is not skepticism. It does not imply doubt. An intellectually humble person may have strong commitments to various beliefs – scientific, moral, religious, political or other – and may pursue those commitments with vigor. Their intellectual humility lies in their openness to the possibility, indeed strong likelihood, that nobody is in possession of the full truth, and that others, too, may have insights, ideas and evidence that should be taken into account when forming their own best judgments.

Intellectually humble people will therefore welcome challenges to their ideas, research programs that run contrary to current orthodoxy, and even the pursuit of what might seem to be crackpot theories. Remember, doctors in his time were convinced that Semmelweis was a crackpot.

This openness to inquiry does not, of course, imply that scientists are obligated to accept theories they take to be wrong. What we ought to accept is that we too might be wrong, that something good might come of the pursuit of those other ideas and theories, and that tolerating rather than persecuting those who pursue such things just might be the best way forward for science and for society.The Conversation

Michael Dickson, Professor of Philosophy, University of South Carolina

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Five tips on talking politics with family without falling out – from a conflict resolution expert

Majbritt Lyck-BowenUniversity of Winchester

Family gatherings can be difficult, especially when politics enters the conversation. If you feel anxious about discussing divisive issues and falling out with people you love, you are not alone.

The war between Israel and Gaza, climate change, culture wars, immigration, LGBTQ+ issues and upcoming elections in the US and UK are all likely to be on the table for discussion and disagreement this holiday season.

I’m an expert in conflict resolution, and my work can help you find ways of discussing these contentious issues without damaging your relationships.

Safe Spaces And Brave Spaces

You may have heard of “safe spaces” at universities or workplaces, where discussion is intended to be free of bias, criticism and conflict. These have become controversial in some circles due to concerns that they stifle free speech.

I suggest instead that we turn our family gatherings into “brave spaces”, where discussion of controversial issues is welcomed and respectful. The concept of brave spaces was proposed by education researchers Brian Arao and Kristi Clemens in 2013 as an approach to discussing diversity in educational settings.

How do we create these spaces? This was the central question in a recent research project conducted with my colleagues Ulrich Schmiedel (University of Edinburgh) and Ryszard Bobrowicz (Lund University). We are part of a research team working with A World of Neighbours, an interfaith group supporting refugees and migrants throughout Europe.

We held focus groups with members of the group about how to discuss controversial issues in a productive way. We then compared our findings with other research in this area to come up with a set of guidelines on creating brave spaces.

Conversations can quickly turn into arguments. But they can also be opportunities to build trust, challenge the biases, stereotypes and prejudices that we hold, and to repair and deepen relationships. Instead of shying away from difficult topics, here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you discuss them.

1. Don’t Assume You Are Right

It may seem odd to turn to a theoretical physicist for advice on conflict resolution, but the late David Bohm’s understanding of dialogue is incredibly helpful in creating brave spaces. Bohm argued that we should not enter conversations thinking that we are definitely right about everything, aiming to convince the other that they are wrong and need to change their mind.

Instead, see these conversations as opportunities to can gain new insights of each other’s convictions, beliefs, experiences and opinions. Through dialogue, you develop a deeper understanding of not only the other person but also of yourself.

2. Treat Controversy – And Each Other – With Respect

Recognise and appreciate that opposing opinions and controversy are important, legitimate parts of the complexity of the issues you are talking about.

You must respect your conversation partner for who they are and what they bring to the conversation. You can show respect through listening actively, being curious and politely asking clarifying questions.

Be aware of how your own opinions and previous experiences with family members affect what you are hearing and how you are reacting.

3. Own Your Intentions

When you talk about controversial issues, you must commit to not hurting the other person intentionally. However, words and actions can still have unintentional negative effects on the other person’s wellbeing.

If this happens, you must take responsibility and think carefully about how to react. This may mean acknowledging that the other person has been hurt and offering them emotional support.

A young woman seated at a dinner table looks unhappy, resting her head on her fist, as the man seated next to her speaks while gesturing with both of his hands
In brave spaces, people feel empowered and comfortable sharing their opinions. Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

4. Challenge And Be Challenged

In a brave space, you must be willing to momentarily leave your comfort zone and step into a potentially uncomfortable space. Your opinions may be actively challenged while opposing points of views are explored.

You must also recognise that participation in these challenging conversations is voluntary. Everyone should have the right not to participate, to pause or to leave the conversation at any time.

5. Do Not Insult Or Threaten Each Other

No matter the circumstances, you should not tolerate shouting and insulting, or threatening language or behaviour. It might be hurtful to participate in these conversations – sharing personal information and opinions can leave you feeling vulnerable. But this is often a price worth paying for deepening conversations and strengthening relationships.

Finally, no matter how difficult these conversations become, remember the importance of the relationships with the people you are speaking to. Even if you disagree on a topic, you can still show compassion for each other, and have a happy and loving time together.The Conversation

Majbritt Lyck-Bowen, Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Reconciliation and Peacebuilding, University of Winchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Rats are more human than you think – and they certainly like being around us

Tobias LinnéLund University

Rats have a somewhat unfortunate tendency to enjoy living where people live. That’s how a biologist tried to explain people’s hatred for the rodents in a television news feature about rats gnawing electrical cables in parked cars in the southern Swedish town of Malmö.

The brown rat, Rattus norvegicus, is one of the species best adapted to modern society. These rats have followed humans around the world to become one of the most abundant mammals, spreading from their native distribution in northern China and Mongolia and reaching Europe in the 1500s, possibly even earlier. Black rats, however, arrived in Europe as early as the 1st century AD.

Today almost all wild brown rats are synanthropic, meaning they live in close association with humans, eating our leftovers and using human structures for shelter. The relationship between rats and humans is one of commensalism, a word derived from the Latin term “commensal”, meaning “eating at the same table”.

Throughout the centuries, rats have been cast as humanity’s dark shadow. Rats have had an enormous impact on human civilisation, not least through the spread of diseases. They have long been associated with dirt, death and destruction. In medieval Europe people loathed rats for their so-called brutishness, seemingly limitless sexual appetite and fecundity. But their huge numbers and adaptability mirrors humans’ evolutionary success.

They have spread with wars and European imperialism to colonised territories in the Americas as well as Africa and Australia. Rats thrive in the trenches of modern warfare even today.

A Social And Empathetic Animal

Real rats are far from the despicable creatures they often are made out to be. Several studies have shown that rats have powerful empathy.

These animals can share the emotional state of others, which in psychology is called emotional contagion. Research has shown that when a rat sees another rat in distress, the neural structures activated in that rat’s brain closely resembles those activated in humans brains when feeling empathy for pain of others.

One experiment showed that rats will release a fellow rat from an unpleasant cage even if they are not rewarded for it. And if given chocolate treats afterwards, the free rat would usually save at least one treat for the former captive.

This selfless behaviour comes from rats’ socially complex lives in family groups of multiple generations. They form lifelong bonds with other rats and share socially learned skills, such as foraging techniques, across generations. This means rats have a form of culture.

A study from 2023 even showed that rats can imagine places and things that aren’t in front of them at the time. In experiments rats were shown to navigate a space in their thoughts, that they have previously explored. As in the studies of empathy, researchers demonstrated this by comparing the regions in the rat’s brains that were activated to those that are activated when humans think about navigating their way through places they have visited.

This ability to imagine also suggests that rats have a sense of past and future.

Living And Dying With Rats

With this in mind, human ways of dealing with rats seem cruel. The most common chemical method for rat control is anticoagulants, which cause fatal internal bleeding one to two weeks after a rat eats the poison. Since rats are both socially intelligent and cautious, they prefer to sample unfamiliar food and then wait to see if it makes them or other rats sick.

It’s called poison shyness. With anticoagulants however, the time between consumption of the bait and the rat dying is so long that they don’t usually associate it with their feeding habits.

The human motivation for learning about rats has often been the desire to kill them. The foremost experts in wild rat behaviour are their exterminators. And yet, current methods for controlling wild rat populations are not very effective.

Some rats have developed resistance to the poisons and are able to eat it and survive. Trapping them is notoriously difficult, and they often recolonise the territory from which they have been removed.

Global urbanisation is probably only going to bring humans into closer contact with rats, and killing rats the way it is done today isn’t ethical.

Rat poking its head up from a black iron hatch/
It’s time to consider if there are less violent ways of living alongside rats. TashaBubo/Shutterstock

Instead, we should consider other strategies, like the ones explored by the Urban Rat Project at the University of Helsinki. Here researchers from different disciplines are trying to get a deeper understanding of conflicts between rats and humans. They are studying both species and their interactions, in hope of a future with less bloody human-rat relations. The project has spotted that places in urban areas where people feed birds tend to attract rats as well – which people then try to eradicate using poison or traps.

Research has also suggested that with increased knowledge about rats and their behaviour people tend to develop a more positive attitude towards them. So more knowledge of wild rats’ social behaviour is needed. And humans need to manage their own behaviour to avoid conflict with rats.

A good place to start would be reducing food waste and stop leaving leftovers out unsecured. Less rats around human food sources, for example, and more knowledge about their behaviour would mean a lower risk of diseases spreading from rats to humans, as well as from humans to rats.

Humanity’s future is with the rat, a social and empathetic animal. So it’s time we understood our shadows.The Conversation

Tobias Linné, Assistant Professor in Media and Communication Studies, Lund University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Elliott Erwitt: Jewish photographer who fled facism and spread a little joy in a post-WWII world

Graeme OxbyUniversity of Lincoln

“Photography has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them,” Elliott Erwitt once said.

Erwitt, who was one of the most celebrated photographers of the 20th century, died on November 30 at the age of 95. In a career spanning more than 70 years, his witty, gentle and beautifully observed images beguiled generations of admirers and propelled him to become one of the best known – and well paid – photographers of the 20th century.

Born Elio Romano Erwitz in Paris in 1925 to Jewish-Russian parents, he migrated with his family to the US in 1939 to escape the fascism spreading across Europe as war broke out.

He taught himself photography at school and by 1950 – now as Elliott Erwitt – he was commissioned by the US government to produce a photo essay that documented mid-century Pittsburgh.

In 1953, legendary war photographer Robert Capa invited Erwitt to join Magnum. It was the world’s first photo agency, founded in 1947 by four European photographers including Capa, Henri Cartier-BressonGeorge Rodger and David “Chim” Seymour.

The agency popularised the term “photojournalism” and produced work to satisfy the insatiable demand for images produced on small, handheld cameras like the 35mm Leica. As a Magnum photographer Erwitt went on to take pictures for LIFE magazine and many other publications during that golden era of illustrated journals.

Working With The Greats

Capa and Cartier-Bresson had a profound influence on the young Erwitt. Capa redefined war photography by following his own guiding principle that “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”.

Cartier-Bresson influenced Erwitt through his pursuit of geometric compositional methods and exploration of “the decisive moment”: the concept of the critical moment to press the shutter. This is seen in one of his most famous photographs, Behind the Gare St Lazare (1932), capturing a stocky man leaping over a large puddle, exquisitely mirrored by his reflection.

Erwitt’s work straddled commercial photography, photojournalism and personal work that he made on his way to and from the studio. He said that distinctions between commercial and personal work were less important than the similarities. He employed techniques such as bold graphic composition, humorous and ironic juxtapositions and storytelling through use of the “decisive moment”.

Lucky Breaks And A Good Eye

It was in 1959, while working for Westinghouse Refrigerators at a trade fair in Moscow, that Erwitt had the opportunity to take his world-famous photograph of then US vice-president Richard Nixon jabbing a finger into the chest of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

In a single moment, Erwitt created an image that symbolised the tensions between Russia and the US – and it was published all over the world. To an American audience it represented the US standing up to Soviet aggression. For audiences in the Soviet Union it was a symbol of American intimidation.

Like French humanist photographer Robert Doisneau, Erwitt was not beyond employing an element of staging in his personal pictures. This becomes evident when comparing Doisneau’s picture The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville (1950) and Erwitt’s California Kiss (1956).

Both images have become an indelible part of the visual language of 20th century photography and arguably, the wider culture, through print sales, postcards and publication.

It is this element of organised visual storytelling, combined with his undoubted skill with the camera that resulted in Erwitt creating such well known and celebrated images. He must also have been keenly aware of the commercial possibilities when choosing his subjects.

He photographed dogs and their owners frequently, making five very popular books on the subject, saying: “I take a lot of pictures of dogs because I like dogs, because they don’t object to being photographed, and because they don’t ask for prints.”

His photographs have become much more widely known and valued than some of his contemporaries. Larry Fink, another American photographer who died five days before Erwitt, for example, received far fewer column inches in praise of his grittier, social documentary pictures.

Telling Stories

Erwitt was both a gifted visual storyteller and hugely successful commercially. He reached audiences beyond the illustrated magazines, the art world and the photojournalism of newspapers. His work – if not necessarily his name – became known to the general public in the US and beyond, a feat not achieved by his contemporaries William KleinRobert Frank or even the recently discovered Vivian Maier.

The breadth and financial success of Erwitt’s work across several genres remains an inspiration to the generation of photographers who have followed. British photographer Martin Parr, for example, like Erwitt uses humour, juxtaposition and a very identifiable style to great effect. He is also a member and, like Erwitt, a former president of Magnum.

Other British photographers who might be said to owe a debt of gratitude to him would be Matt Stuart, who has published several books of his own street photography and Dougie Wallace, who has made two successful books with dogs as the subject.

In many ways, it would be impossible to repeat the success of Elliott Erwitt. His career could only have flourished in post-war New York. He helped to define what the city’s creative culture was and would be in the aftermath of the second world war.

The idea of “humanist photography” was readily consumed by a war-weary generation. The addition of humour and uncontroversial subject matter found a ready audience who were captivated by his superlative and often humourous photographic storytelling techniques.

Elliott Erwitt’s deeply human images have endured over decades and still find favour with photographers and the public alike today – because we all recognise and enjoy a virtuoso performance when we see one.

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Graeme Oxby, Senior Lecturer/Programme Leader BA & MA Photography, University of Lincoln

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Erwitt in 2014. Photo: Alessio Jacona from Rome, Italy

Technology is stealing your time in ways you may not realise – here’s what you can do about it

Damir Khabirov/Shutterstock
Ruth OgdenLiverpool John Moores UniversityJoanna WitowskaThe Maria Grzegorzewska University , and Vanda ČernohorskáCzech Academy of Sciences

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. Smart phones provide a palm-size window to the world, enabling us to do almost anything at the touch of a button. Smart homes look after themselves, and virtual meetings mean that for many, time spent commuting is a thing of the past.

So we should have more free time. Time which is now spent sleeping, relaxing or simply doing nothing – right?

If the idea that you have more time than ever before is making you choke on your coffee, you are not alone. There is growing evidence that while digital technology may help us to save some time, we end up using that time to do more and more things.

We recently interviewed 300 people across Europe to understand how they used digital devices in day-to-day life. This research showed that people want to avoid empty periods of time in their lives, so they fill those periods performing tasks, some of which wouldn’t be possible without technology.

Whether it was waiting for a bus, waking in the morning, or lying in bed at night, our participants reported that time which would previously be “empty” was now filled with brain training apps, creating lists of things they should do or try based on their social media feed, and other life admin.

It seems that quiet moments of people watching, imagining and daydreaming are now filled with tech-based tasks.

The growth in digital tasks is happening, in part, because technology appears to be changing our perception of what free time is for. For many people, it is no longer enough to simply eat dinner, watch TV or maybe do an exercise class.

Instead, in an attempt to avoid wasting time, these activities are performed while also browsing the web in search of the ingredients for a more perfect life and trying to develop a sense of achievement.

On the face of it some of these tasks may seem like examples of tech saving us time. In theory, online banking should mean I have more time because I no longer need to go to the bank in my lunch break. However, our research suggests that this is not the case. Technology is contributing to a denser form of life.

Social media may at times inspire, motivate or relax people. But our research suggests people often feel a sense of guilt, shame and regret after filling their free time with online activities. This is because they perceive online activities to be less authentic and worthwhile than real-world activities.

It seems that people still see going for a walk or actually being with friends as more valuable than being online. Maybe if we put down the phone a little more, we would have the time to actually cook those recipes we watch online.

Why Is Technology Creating Work?

Changing working patterns are also thought to be intensifying work. Home and hybrid working, enabled by video conference technology, have blurred the boundaries between work time and personal time. Now that the office is in the spare room, it is all too easy to think: “I’ll just pop into the study and finish up after putting the kids to bed.”

Emails seems to explode out of laptop as man hides behind office chair
Scared of your inbox? It could be communication overload.

Digital technologies are speeding up the pace of life. Take email and online meetings. Before they existed we had to wait for responses to voicemails and letters, or travel to places to speak to one another. Instead, we now have back-to-back online meetings, sometimes without enough time in between to even nip to the toilet.

And email creates exponential growth in communications, which means more work to read and respond to it all. Poorly designed technology can also force us to do more work because of the inefficiency that it creates. We’ve all been there, entering information into system A only to learn that because system A and B don’t talk to each other, we have to enter it all twice.

By doing more, we may end up achieving less and feeling worse. As time becomes more pressured, stress, exhaustion and burnout all increase, resulting in greater absence from work.

How Do We Slow Down And Take Back Our Time?

Reclaiming the time “saved” by technology may require a shift in the way in which we proportion time. To break free of the habit of filling time with more and more tasks, we must first accept that sometimes it is OK to do little or nothing.

In the work environment, employers and employees need to create an environment in which disconnection is the norm and not the exception. This means having realistic expectations about what can and should be achieved in a normal working day.

But developing legislation that enshrines the right to disconnect may be the only way to ensure that technology stops taking over our time. Several European countries such as France and Italy already have right to disconnect legislation.

This specifies that employees are under no obligation to be contactable outside of their working hours, and that they have the right to refuse to take digital work home with them.

It is also possible that technology itself may hold the key to reclaiming our time. Imagine if, rather than telling you stand up and move around (yet another task), your smart watch told you to stop working because you’d completed your contracted hours. Maybe when technology starts to tell us to do less, we will finally regain time.The Conversation

Ruth Ogden, Professor of the Psychology of Time, Liverpool John Moores UniversityJoanna Witowska, Assistant Professor of Psychology, The Maria Grzegorzewska University , and Vanda Černohorská, Postdoctoral Researcher, Czech Academy of Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Friday essay: blind people are often exhausted by daily prejudice – but being blind is ‘inherently creative’

Amanda TinkWestern Sydney University

Andrew Leland was in his thirties when he had to stop driving at night – and then stop driving at all. Next, he had to start using a cane in public. As the cycle of decreasing vision became familiar, each absent sliver of vision required more adjustment to how he navigated the world.

He moves through the same steps in the same sequence each time, but each loss is unique, and uniquely stressful. And he can still see the disdain of sighted people, which makes him long to lose all his vision at once:

I thought about my periodic desire for the eye disease to just get it over with, and take the rest of my sight. I wanted to be relieved of seeing the way people look at blindness: the scorn, the condescension, the entitled, almost sexual leer. Skepticism, pity, revulsion, curiosity. I know I’ve looked at blind people this way too […] But I was a different person then: I didn’t really think of myself as blind.

A man with glasses and dark hair, smiling, wearing a polo shirt over a black t-shirt. Leafy branches in background.
Andrew Leland was in his thirties when he started to lose his vision.

Blindness, Creativity And Memoir

Responding to the idea that James Joyce’s blindness influenced his writing of Finnegans Wake, his biographer Richard Ellmann asserted:

The theory that Joyce wrote his book for the ear because he could not see is not only an insult to the creative imagination, but an error of fact. Joyce could see; to be for periods half-blind is not at all the same thing as to be permanently blind.

What Ellmann presents as a fact is actually a common myth. 85% of permanently blind people have sight. (I am one of the 15% of blind people who is totally blind, and the even smaller minority born this way.) And the line between blind and sighted is not straightforward. The results of a number of tests, and other factors, are taken into account.

Ellmann sounds like he is uncomfortable with thinking of Joyce as blind, and thinking of blind people as creative.

By contrast, during the writing of Finnegans Wake, Joyce himself was relaxed about the losses and gains of his situation. Responding to a letter from a friend on this topic, he wrote: “What the eyes bring is nothing. I have a hundred worlds to create, I am losing only one of them.”

Review: The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight – Andrew Leland (Penguin Press), Life Unseen: A Story of Blindness – Selina Mills (Bloomsbury Academic)

These tensions of identity and creativity between those who are sighted and those who are blind existed long before Joyce, and are still prevalent a century later. They are explored with candour and thoughtfulness in two recent memoirs, by Selina Mills and Leland.

Like Joyce, their versions of blindness mean they have sight that gradually decreases over decades. And they are writers – both are journalists.

Blind writer Selina Mills explores the tensions of identity and creativity in her memoir.

While their memoirs are obviously written from personal vantage points, Mills and Leland detail much more than their own stories. Interwoven with their experiences of becoming blind are the experiences of blind writers, performers, teachers, activists, inventors and so on.

Mills, who is from the UK, researched blind women throughout European history. The few famous blind women she mentions are from outside Europe (which demonstrates the need for her research). One of them is American activist and author Helen Keller (1880-1968). Another is Tilly Aston (1873-1947), also known as “Australia’s blind poet.”

As Mills’ own sight decreased, she felt surrounded by sighted people’s stereotypes of blindness. She was compelled to research the real members of her community, for herself and her readers. As she writes:

so much of our knowledge of blind people has relied on how sighted people have interpreted blindness. […] We fear it, we punish with it, we find it powerful and alluring all at the same moment and have done so for centuries. Principally, we rarely hear the voices of blind people themselves. Why not? Who were these blind people who lived and died, who were not just heroes or burdens of the sighted world?

Similarly Leland, who lives in the US, concentrates on the recent and present US blind community in order to encourage both himself and his audience to develop a more nuanced understanding of what it means to be blind:

I met people who said that their blindness meant nothing to them – that it was a mere attribute, like hair color – and others whose blindness utterly defined and upended their lives. […] I sympathized with all of these positions, even as I wondered which attitudes I would adopt for my own life. I tried to understand how blindness was changing my identity as a reader and a writer, as a husband and a father, as a citizen and an otherwise privileged white guy.

What Blind People Have In Common

I was drawn to both books by their exploration of historical and philosophical questions. But as I read, Leland and Mills’ experiences of being blind with some sight also became compelling for how universal they are.

I have talked with many people losing sight as they transition to blindness, and am well aware of the shape of the sight-loss journey. Yet these books emphasised to me the significant number of experiences blind people have in common, regardless of how much sight we have, or where we live, or when we were born.

Mills and Leland have both been losing sight for two decades now. But they began at different levels of sight and the cause was different for each of them.

Leland’s sight loss began as night blindness when he was a teenager. His research on the early internet suggested the cause was retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative condition where night blindness is followed by peripheral vision loss, then central vision loss, sometimes ending in total blindness. After his first year of college, he went to an eye clinic where his self-diagnosis was confirmed.

Leland’s interest in understanding blindness as an identity develops another dimension when he learns his retinitis pigmentosa is part of his Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. He discovers that throughout history, blind people and Jewish people were often denigrated in similar ways.

Medieval literature and disability studies researcher Edward Wheatley points out, for example, that both groups were branded as greedy, lazy, and dishonest. And both groups were said to be responsible for their marginalisation by Christian society – Jewish people for refusing to convert, and blind people for sinfulness.

Significantly, both blind people and Jewish people were early and constant victims of the Nazis. And the threat multiplied if you belonged to both groups.

The Borderlands Between Blind And Sighted

Mills’ sight began to decrease in her early thirties. However, she was already accustomed to living in the borderlands between blind and sighted: she was born with no sight in one eye.

Growing up, she attended mainstream schools. Her childhood, though, had many experiences in common with other blind children. Teachers incorrectly assumed that she had learning difficulties when she was six and she got a prosthetic eye when she was ten. She was left to drift rather than being supported throughout her schooling and she finished school without having been taught braille or how to use a cane.

Having only spent time with sighted people, she was used to thinking of herself as similar to them, even though she was often exhausted and they were not.

In her twenties, she became a journalist and travelled throughout Europe. She only sometimes carried a cane, just as a precaution. Mills was in her early thirties when bus numbers and step edges became difficult to see. This prompted her to go to an ophthalmologist, who discovered she had an inoperable cataract.

Other People’s Prejudice

Mills and Leland have to manage a range of emotions that accompany losing sight, as well as the reactions of their families and friends. But the most difficult aspect of being blind, they discover, is other people’s prejudice.

Echoing the experiences of the blind people whose lives they explore, they are exhausted by the frequency and variety of prejudice they have to manage in their daily lives.

Sometimes it is overt: being denied education or work, being told to not have sex or have children, being refused entry to a venue if not accompanied by a sighted person. Sometimes it is questions disguised as concern – about whether you can cook, or how you are sure you have performed a work task properly, or whether you actually need to learn braille.

It always contains the message that being sighted is superior to being blind, and blind people should feel envious of sighted people and ashamed of who we are.

I suspect it was this prejudice Joyce was reacting to when he said, “What the eyes bring is nothing.” I don’t think he meant he had no use at all for the tiny amount of sight he had. I think he was exasperated by so many people continuing to insist it must be more difficult for him to write as a blind person. Certainly, he felt sight was not a prerequisite for creativity and that blindness had enhanced his writing.

This prejudice even extends to sighted people believing they have the knowledge to distinguish between blind and sighted strangers within seconds of seeing them. And they believe they are entitled to call out anyone they are convinced is faking it.

This happens to Mills at a train ticket barrier when the guard asks her for her ticket, then for her disabled person’s travel card. Like most blind people, she keeps the card in a specific place in her wallet, ready for these occasions. But the guard associates blindness with slowness and incompetence, so takes her organisation as evidence she is faking blindness:

“How did you get that then?” “Get what?” “Your disability travel card? – I mean, you can see all right, can’t you?” Having learnt to be patient with other non-believers, I was calm. “Oh, I know, but I have only got about 20 per cent vision on a good day. The doctors tested me.” Unconvinced, the guard continued: “You think you can get your card, and just get away with it. I saw you walking down the platform, bright and breezy. You are faking it!” He was quite proud of his little diatribe and seemed unkeen to let me through unless I confessed to my high crimes and misdemeanours.

Fortunately she has an irrefutable piece of evidence – her prosthetic eye, which she removes and presents to the guard:

“ The queue gasped. I was shaking with fury. You really think I had my real eye plucked out and went through the pain of having a false eye made, just to get a discount on my f*king train ticket?

Blind people are harassed in this way regardless of our level of sight. As a totally blind person, I have many similar anecdotes. However, these experiences can have a particularly devastating effect on someone adjusting to blindness.

Both Mills and Leland discuss how incidents like this make them reluctant to use a cane. "Sometimes I left the cane behind, just to have a day off from the reactions, but the falling over and bashing into lampposts is not always worth it,” writes Mills. “The more I need to use my cane to find curbs and doorways, the more patronizing and intrusive (and sometimes hostile) strangers become,” echoes Leland.

Blind Women From History

Connecting with other blind people helps both Leland and Mills not just accept, but value their blindness. The blind people they encounter show them how to minimise the effect of sighted prejudice on their identity, and to understand that being blind is inherently creative.

Mills connects with blind women from history who deserve to be better known. And it is thrilling to learn about them with her, and to know that details of their lives are finally more publicly accessible.

A painting of Saint Odile, bowing in a gold robe, among greenery
Saint Odile of Alsace, a blind woman, founded two monasteries. Wikipedia

They include Saint Odile of Alsace (an area now occupied by France and Germany), born in 660 AD, who travelled throughout Europe and founded two monasteries. Therese-Adele Husson, born in 1803, was a French writer of children’s books and romantic fiction. And Maria Theresia von Paradis, born in 1759 in Austria, was a talented pianist from a young age.

As an adult, Maria Theresia’s life was divided between being subjected to one horrific so-called cure after another and performing throughout Europe. She was friends with Haydn, as well as Mozart – who composed a piano concerto for her. She was a composer herself, of more than five operas and more than 30 sonatas, and in Vienna she established one of the first schools for blind musicians.

As Mills points out, “unlike Mozart and Haydn and a few other known women composers, who died penniless or unpublished, she had what few musicians had in the age – a successful profession and an income.”

Developing A Blind Identity

Leland feels connected to a number of 20th-century blind writers, such as James Joyce, and to many current blind writers, as well as advocates, engineers and artists.

Many blind people devoted years of their lives to argue for the rights of all disabled people to have equal access to public spaces, education, employment and more.

Meanwhile, so much technology in everyday use over the last century has been created or enhanced by blind people, from long-play records to internet chat forums. And every step of the way, many blind people generously shared their knowledge to help others who were still developing their skills.

One of the people who shared their knowledge with Leland was American activist and teacher Barbara Loos. Leland met Loos at a blindness convention. She encouraged him to attend the residential training course that later accelerates Leland’s cane skills and confidence.

She then pinpoints the problems with how he’d been taught to read braille. This sets him on the path to reestablishing and reinvigorating his identity as a reader by learning to read braille correctly and obtaining a braille display – a device that connects to a computer and displays the screen one line at a time.

once I’d finished my last course, I brought it [the braille display] out again, and fell in love. Reading on the braille display was a palliative against my anxiety about going blind. The more facility I gained with it, the more I could imagine a rich life for myself as a blind reader.

Reading these books, and the lives and work they explore, I feel extremely proud of my community.The Conversation

Amanda Tink, Adjunct Research Fellow, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Book Of The Season - Summer 2023-2024: Come In Spinner, 1951

Come In Spinner is an Australian novel by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James, originally published in 1951 and set in Sydney at the end of the Second World War.

The title refers to a phrase used in the Australian gambling game of two-up. "Come in spinner" is the call given by the game manager when all bets are placed and the coins are ready to be tossed.

The book tells the story of three women, Claire, Guinea and Deb, who are co-workers in the beauty salon of an exclusive Sydney hotel. The story weaves together these characters with their familial and romantic relationships, as they struggle to manage the realities of working for the privileged upper classes, to whom no rules apply, while their own families cope with wartime deaths and losses, rationing, government manpower recruitment and stiflingly conservative attitudes surrounding the role and perception of the "acceptable" behaviour of women.

From 1945 to 1947 Florence James, her two daughters, and Dymphna Cusack and her niece shared a rented cottage 'Pinegrove' at Hazelbrook in the Blue Mountains. It was there that they collaborated on a children's book Four Winds and a Family and Come In Spinner, which was to become the most successful book about life in wartime Sydney.

Dymphna Cusack and Florence James, working at Dymphna’s dictaphone. Photo: University of Melbourne Archives.

Cusack and James entered their manuscript in the Daily Telegraph's £1000 novel competition, whose closing date was October 1946. It was judged the winner and the prizemoney handed over, but no announcement was made, and The Telegraph reneged on its commitment to publish the novel, which covered such topics as abortion, adultery, prostitution and sexual assault, as well as promiscuity and the black market. Heinemann published an expurgated version in 1951. 

The book was reworked from the original MS by Florence James, and was republished in 1987 for Richard Walsh of Angus and Robertson, partly due to the interest caused by the development of a television adaptation of the book. Cusack was not able to take part in this restoration or witness the renewed popularity of the novel as she passed away in 1981.

Ellen Dymphna Cusack AM (21 September 1902 – 19 October 1981) was born in Wyalong, New South Wales, and educated at Saint Ursula's College, Armidale, New South Wales and graduated from the University of Sydney with an honours degree in Arts and a diploma in Education. She worked as a teacher until she retired in 1944 for health reasons. Her illness was confirmed in 1978 as multiple sclerosis. Dymphna passed away at Manly, New South Wales on 19 October 1981.

Dymphna Cusack, 1947. Photo courtesy State Library of NSW

Cusack wrote twelve novels (two of which were collaborations), eleven plays, three travel books, two children's books and one non-fiction book. Her collaborative novels were Pioneers on Parade (1939) with Miles Franklin, and Come In Spinner with Florence James.

Her younger brother, John, was also an author, writing the war novel They Hosed Them Out under the pseudonym John Beede, which was first published in 1965; an expanded edition under the author's real name, John Bede Cusack, was published in 2012 by Wakefield Press, edited and annotated by Robert Brokenmouth.

Cusack advocated social reform and described the need for reform in her writings. She contributed to the world peace movement during the Cold War era as an antinuclear activist. She and her husband Norman Freehill were members of the Communist Party and they left their entire estates to the Party in their wills.

Cusack was a foundation member of the Australian Society of Authors in 1963. She had refused an Order of the British Empire, but was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1981 for her contribution to Australian literature. In 2011, Cusack was one of 11 authors, including Elizabeth Jolley and Manning Clark, to be permanently recognised by the addition of brass plaques at the Writers' Walk, Sydney.

Florence Gertrude James (2 September 1902 – 25 August 1993) was an Australian writer and literary agent, born in Gisborne, New Zealand. She moved with her family to Sydney in 1920, studying at Sydney University 1923–26, and it was there that her friendship with Dymphna Cusack began. They were both involved in debating and theatre; they shared a feminist, unionist and pacifist outlook. Both became opponents of nuclear weapons.

Around 1930 she moved to London, working as a journalist, briefly sharing a room with Christina Stead. While there she married lawyer William J. "Pym" Heyting in 1932 and had two daughters, Julie and Frances, by him. They returned to Sydney in 1938. He joined the RAAF as an Intelligence officer, and became a Wing Commander.

She worked as Public Appeals Officer for The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital from 1940 to the end of 1944, when she resigned.

She returned with her daughters to London in 1947 to join her husband who was stationed there. They divorced in 1948. She remained there until 1963, working as a literary agent, initially for Constable and Company, where authors she signed included Mary Durack, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Colin Johnson (aka Mudrooroo Narogin). She became active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, participating in the Aldermaston March and activities of Bertrand Russell's Committee of One Hundred.

Florence returned to Australia in 1963 and joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1968. In 1984 she restored the unexpurgated MS of Come In Spinner for Richard Walsh of Angus and Robertson. Florence passed away in 1993 at the Wesley Heights retirement village at Manly, where her friend and collaborator Dymphna Cusack had passed away twelve years earlier.

Family Of League Christmas Function

Brian Friend OAM attended the Family of League (formerly Men of League) Christmas function at North Narrabeen Surf Club on Friday December 1st. Sea Eagle players attended who were interviewed and spoke about what it's like to be a 1st Grade Rugby League player belonging to the Mighty Sea Eagles. 

Brian reports:
Many raffles were held with prizes donated from  many supporters of this group that has been holding their Xmas function at the surf club for many years. MOL (as we call it) has donated many health benefits (including electric wheel chairs) to people through out NSW who have given their precious time to Junior Clubs and have not had the chance to play at top level but still get involved with the juniors (Avalon Bulldogs for instance)
The Avalon Bulldogs JRLFC last year raised money to support this wonderful group and handed over $2,000 after a raffle was held. 
At the Bulldogs Annual General Meeting just recently held, the motion was put forward by the committee and members to donate $1,000 (of their hard earned $) this year and for every year there after at the same function.

About FoL
Family of League exists to ensure those most in need in the rugby league community can access financial, social and emotional support. Our foundation is the charitable heart of rugby league, proudly caring for the everyday heroes who keep our game thriving at the grassroots.

First established as Men of League by rugby league greats Ron Coote, Jim Hall and Max Brown in 2002, Family of League is built on this same foundation of teamwork and giving back. Our independent grassroots organisation was created to offer a helping hand and a shoulder to lean on for those doing it tough within the rugby league community.

For 20+ years, we have been providing over 10,000 hours of volunteer service and $10 million of financial support to those in need. Funds for our wellbeing initiatives are raised through a combination of grants, sponsorships, membership fees, public donations and fundraising initiatives.

Since the first meeting at New South Wales Leagues Club, the Family of League has grown to a network of more than 6,500 members and volunteers, who come together for the game, and for each other. Whether you are an ex-player, an administrator, referee, or club volunteer; whether you are a man, woman or child, Family of League protects and enhances lives while respecting each individual’s dignity. The Foundation provides assistance with everything from surgery, rehabilitation, equipment and specialist care to wellbeing visits to homes and hospitals to address social isolation and promote mental health.

Our 39 dedicated volunteer committees across New South Wales, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria are run by, and for, the rugby league community supported by our small team of dedicated staff in our Sydney and Brisbane offices.

Family of League welcomes all who share a passion for the game. Whether you’re a fan, member, donor, partner, or sponsor there is space at our table for all who love the game of rugby league.

The vision was to build a foundation that provided practical assistance and social support, and this vision has been realised.

Our foundation is the charitable heart of the rugby league community, caring for those in need.

Congratulations Bill!

Congratulations to Bill Hamilton #172 on being elected as the 64th Life Member of MWRLFC.

In his 10 seasons in First Grade for Manly, Herman has appeared in four Manly Grand Finals, including our inaugural Premiership in 1972. In that year, Bill also won the Best & Fairest player of the year.

Thank you to all those that were able to attend the 2023 MWRLFC AGM, most notably Max Krilich, Max Brown, Warwick Bulmer, Kerry Sibraa, Sea Eagles Pathways Manager David O’Donnell & CEO Tony Mestrov.

Join MWRLFC now at:
Go Manly!

Manly-Warringah Rugby League Football Club

Bill "Herman" Hamilton (born 12 February 1945) is an Australian former rugby league footballer who played in the 1960s and 1970s. Known as Herman by teammates after his resemblance to popular television character Herman Munster, he played in the New South Wales Rugby Football League premiership as a front rower for the Manly-Warringah and North Sydney clubs, winning the 1972 and 1973 premierships with the Sea Eagles. He also gained selection for the Australia on the 1973 Kangaroo Tour though he only played in eight minor matches and didn't play a test.

At the end of 1974 he went on to captain the North Sydney Bears, bringing much needed discipline to a club regarded as 'easybeats'. Hamilton captain-coached the club to their last major trophy the Channel 10 Challenge Cup in 1978.

In 2010 he was named at prop forward in Kurri Rugby League Club's team of the century.

A retired policeman, Bill Hamilton lives in Tea Gardens on the NSW Mid North Coast where he has given a lot of his time to the Men of League Foundation.

Superannuation In Retirement Consultation: Federal Government

December 4, 2023
The Government has released a discussion paper seeking community and industry views on how the superannuation system can best provide the security and income Australians need as they live longer and healthier lives in retirement.

More Australians are looking to their super to play a greater role in providing for their retirement. Over the next 10 years, the number of retirees with a super account will more than double, with an estimated 2.5 million Australians set to retire.

While there is recognition of super’s importance in building nest egg savings, there has been less attention on optimising its role in retirement.

This discussion paper increases the focus on the retirement phase by examining three key areas:
  • Supporting members to navigate the retirement income system,
  • Supporting funds to deliver better retirement income products and services, and
  • Making lifetime income products more accessible.
The Government welcomes views from all interested parties, with submissions open until 9 February 2024. 

You can submit responses to this consultation up until 09 February 2024. Interested parties are invited to comment on this consultation.

While submissions may be lodged electronically or by post, electronic lodgement is preferred. For accessibility reasons, please submit responses sent via email in a Word or RTF format. An additional PDF version may also be submitted.

All information (including name and address details) contained in submissions will be made available to the public on the Treasury website unless you indicate that you would like all or part of your submission to remain in confidence. Automatically generated confidentiality statements in emails do not suffice for this purpose. Respondents who would like part of their submission to remain in confidence should provide this information marked as such in a separate attachment.

Legal requirements, such as those imposed by the Freedom of Information Act 1982, may affect the confidentiality of your submission.

View our submission guidelines for further information.

How To Respond
Online – preferred method

Address written submissions to:

Retirement Advice and Investment Division
Langton Cres
Parkes ACT 2600


COTA Welcomes Federal Government Consultation On Retirement Phase Of Superannuation

December 5, 2023
The Federal Government’s release of a consultation paper on the retirement phase Australia’s superannuation system is a positive step towards reforming the system to ensure it provides all Australians with the security and income they need to have the dignified retirement they deserve.

COTA Australia – the leading advocacy organisation for older Australians – Chief Executive Officer, Patricia Sparrow said consulting with the people who matter most when it comes to superannuation – Australians themselves – is critical to ensure we get the system right.

“Every Australian deserves a strong superannuation system that delivers an income that provides for a dignified retirement,” Ms Sparrow said.

“As Australians live longer and healthier it’s appropriate that we ensure the retirement phase of superannuation is set up to better support older Australians, with information and products that help deliver the promise of a dignified retirement.

“Getting our super system right is one of the biggest challenges facing Australia. It’s a challenge for superannuation funds but also for the Federal Government as the regulator of the system.”

Ms Sparrow said COTA Australia will be ensuring the voice of older Australians are heard in the consultation process.

“We know the best policies are made in consultation with the people impacted. We’ll be ensuring older Australians are given every opportunity to feed into this consultation process – both those planning or transitioning into retirement and those who have already started their next life phase.”

Ms Sparrow said COTA will be advocating for more steps to be taken to ensure superannuation is paid on every dollar earned.

“COTA long advocated for superannuation to be paid on pay day, as opposed to quarterly, and the fact Federal Government has already taken action to mandate that change is important. It’s certainly a very sensible step forward, but of course it won’t solve all the problems people face when it comes to retirement income.

“We’re looking forward to being part of the discussion about what else needs to be done to improve the system for every Australian, including women who we know still retire with balances lower than men.”

ED Wait Times And Surgery Waiting Lists Soar: New Data 

December 6, 2023
Data out today paints a grim picture of Australia’s public hospitals with nearly one in two patients spending more than the recommended time in emergency departments, while the planned surgery waiting list soars past 850,000 people.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data is further proof that Australia’s public hospitals are struggling more than ever with an under-resourced system in logjam around the country.

The AIHW data shows 44 per cent of patients who presented to EDs spent more than four hours waiting and receiving treatment before either being admitted to hospital or being discharged in 2022–23, a five per cent increase compared to the previous year, and an 11 per cent increase compared to 2021–22.

It was worst in Tasmania, where almost four in five (78 per cent) patients spent more than four hours in EDs before being admitted to hospital. In NSW, it was 75 per cent.

Australian Medical Association President Professor Steve Robson said a lack of capacity in hospitals had led to people waiting years for essential surgery, long waits in EDs and ambulance ramping.

“Australia’s public hospital performance is at its worst since the AMA started tracking the data 20 years ago,” Professor Robson said.

“Public hospitals are inadequately funded and resourced. The outcome is ambulance ramping, patients spending far too long in EDs and a surgery waiting list that is nudging close to one million people.”

The AIHW data reveals a significant uptick in the number of people waiting for surgery. In 2022–23, 855,528 patients were on the surgery waiting list, compared with 787,715 in 2021–22.

“The number of people waiting more than a year for hip and knee replacement surgeries has quadrupled since 2018–19. It’s important to remember that behind each number are real people whose lives are being severely impacted by serious health conditions that require surgery,” Professor Robson said.

“We are seeing more and more Australians die waiting for these essential surgeries, with more than 12,000 deaths in 2022–23, up from 9,000 the year before. While these deaths may not have been because of delayed surgery, it is an alarming increase.”

Professor Robson said major reform to the National Hospital Funding Agreement was needed along with an urgent injection of funds to address immediate issues.

“The AMA continues to call for an immediate urgent injection of funds to address the current logjam and reform to the National Hospital Funding Agreement, including a 50–50 funding split between the states and territories and the federal government, and funding for performance,” he said.

More than a third of people with dementia don’t know they have it – what to do if you suspect your partner has the condition

LightField Studios/Shutterstock
Kate IrvingDublin City University

Around 36% of people in England with dementia are unaware they have the condition, according to a new report from the Dementia Commission.

The report suggests things health and care professionals can do to improve spotting early signs of dementia. But what can you do if you think your partner has the condition? And how can you broach the topic with them?

If you are worried about your partner having dementia, here are some useful things to know.

Dementia is a term for a range of diseases (for example, Alzheimer’s) which develop over time (months and years) and cause problems with memory and reasoning, communication, changes in personality and a reduction in a person’s ability to carry out daily activities, such as shopping, washing, paying bills or cooking.

Dementia can present very differently in each person, so it’s about knowing what’s normal for your loved one. A person who has always been conscientious and organised starting to unravel is very different from a scatterbrained person just being slightly more scatterbrained.

Grief and stress can affect memory yet not be the start of dementia. But they can also mask the start of dementia: we call this “diagnostic over-shadowing”.

There are also age-related changes to cognition. For example, we take longer to learn when we get older. But a one-off event – no matter how dramatic – is not necessarily dementia. It’s about looking for a pattern of decline.

If you see these changes happen in a short space of time (weeks or days) it is unlikely to be dementia and could be something more serious. This requires urgent investigation by a doctor.

Greatest Fear

Dementia is one of the greatest fears of our age. The horror of perceived loss of self can cause people to avoid discussing the issue, discussing it in an unhelpful way (such as criticising or inadvertently humiliating) or discussing it with other relatives, but not the person they are noticing changes in.

Over time, this can cause a lack of trust to develop. Discussing memory problems openly with the person at the point of a memory failure or if they raise the concern is best. Of course, it takes courage and makes us face our own vulnerability.

Sometimes the person will be in denial or lack insight into the memory problems (this can be a symptom of dementia, but isn’t always). If someone raises a concern about their memory issues, I would urge you not to minimise this, as it probably took courage to admit their concerns.

I heard a relative say to my mother: “Oh, you left the pot on the stove. I lost the car in the multistory the other day.” My mother had dementia – the relative did not.

If they are adamant that they do not have concerns, this is harder to deal with. One approach is to say: “I know you are not concerned, but I am concerned and I wonder if you would see a doctor to ease my worries?”

Also explaining that memory problems can at least to some extent have reversible causes means a visit to the doctor to at least rule these out is an important step. It may also be encouraging to say to the person: “If there is something with your memory that will get worse over time, would you want to know?” (Most people answer yes to this).

A female doctor and an elderly male patient.
Most people would want to know if they have dementia. fizkes/Shutterstock

Seeing A GP

If your partner agrees to visit a GP, it is helpful to prepare by filling in a diary for a week with the kind of memory (or other) problems experienced, what was happening at the time and the effect of the memory failure. This can be shared with a GP to help them to understand the issues.

When people hear even the suggestion of the word dementia, they are faced with the uncertainties of what will become of them, of what they will lose, what they can keep up and where they will end up. These uncertainties are often shared with family members. But research shows that positive aspects of timely diagnosis outweigh fears over time.

At the same time, there are often ongoing stresses to do with memory impairments or confusion. With these stresses, everyday life can be troublesome, family relationships can suffer, and people can find it difficult to be supportive of each other.

Being honest and open is the best policy. Stating that we are in this together, I want to help, let’s meet whatever happens head on, can help. If a person becomes resistant, it may be there is another family member who might better assist the person.The Conversation

Kate Irving, Professor of Clinical Nursing, Dublin City University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nobody reads T&C’s – but the High Court’s Ruby Princess decision shows consumer law may protect us anyway

James D MetzgerUNSW Sydney

How many times have you booked travel - like a cruise or a tour - and simply clicked that you’ve read and agreed to the terms and conditions for your trip without actually reading them?

What if something went wrong on your trip and it turned out the terms you didn’t read prevented you from suing in certain courts?

This was just one problem faced by some of the passengers on the now infamous Ruby Princess cruise ship, which was supposed to be making a pleasant trip from Sydney to New Zealand and back in March 2020, but instead became the location for one of the most well-known early outbreaks of COVID.

Now, the High Court has found that consumers can be protected even if they haven’t fully read their terms and even if they were outside Australia when they accepted them.

Class Action Against Cruise Lines

As a result of the outbreak, Susan Karpik brought a class action suit in the Federal Court of Australia against Carnival plc and Princess Cruise Lines Ltd, the owners and operators of the ship.

The suit alleged that Princess had not taken appropriate safety precautions to best ensure passengers did not get COVID while on board. Karpik won her suit on her own claims, with the Federal Court finding Princess was liable to her, including for damages related to her husband’s death from COVID.

This was also a win for the other 2,600 passengers, who can now rely on the Federal Court’s ruling that safety precautions were not taken.

Karpik and most of the Ruby Princess passengers were subject to Australian terms and conditions for their travel. However, nearly 700 passengers were subject to US terms and conditions.

These terms stated that any lawsuit related to travel on the Ruby Princess could only be brought in US Federal Court in Los Angeles, California, and that passengers were not allowed to sue in a class action - known as a class action waiver.

This means any lawsuit could only be brought individually, something that could be very expensive for each of the passengers. Princess argued that these passengers were bound by the US terms and therefore could not be part of the Australian class action.

International Complications

The 700 passengers were represented by Patrick Ho, a Canadian citizen who had booked his cruise through a Canadian travel agent. He argued he was not made sufficiently aware of the US terms for them to apply. He also argued the class action waiver was unfair under Australian law and so could not be enforced.

Judge Stewart of the Federal Court agreed with some of these arguments and found the class action waiver was unfair under the Australian consumer law and that Ho could remain in the class.

But Princess then appealed to the Full Federal Court, which disagreed with Judge Stewart and found Ho had sufficient notice of the US terms before taking his trip and had agreed to them.

The court also found no unfairness in any of the terms under Australian law. This meant that Ho - and the 700 other passengers - could not be part of the Australian class, or any other class action.

The passengers then appealed that decision in the High Court.

What Did The High Court Decide?

Yesterday, the High Court unanimously ruled in favour of the passengers. In so doing, it put companies doing business in Australia on notice that Australia’s consumer protection laws apply both inside and outside the country’s borders.

It decided the class action waiver was unfair to the passengers. This was because Australian consumer law prohibits unfair consumer contracts and because the express terms of that law apply to companies doing business in Australia, regardless of whether they are headquartered in Australia or overseas.

As the High Court explained, a price of a company doing business in Australia is that it must adhere to Australia’s consumer protection laws.

As the High Court made clear, the consumer laws exist for the protection of people who enter into contracts with companies.

Parts of those contracts may be considered unfair where there are terms that are one-sidedly beneficial for the company, where that benefit is not necessary to protect a legitimate interest of the company, and where the consumer is harmed in some way by the existence of the benefit.

All these elements were present in the US terms as applied to Ho.

As the High Court found, the class action waiver was only beneficial to Princess. The only interest served was to reduce passengers’ ability to sue as a class (and therefore Princess’s need to defend itself against such a suit) and that Ho would be harmed by not being able to be a part of a legitimate Australian class action.

The High Court further found that since the class action waiver was unfair, there were good reasons not to enforce the additional term that all suits had to be brought in US courts in California.

This decision stands as a strong protection for consumers entering into agreements with companies doing business in Australia. It also makes class actions in Australian courts more available for consumers who might benefit from the protections the Australian consumer laws offer.

It is still a good idea to read your terms and conditions before agreeing to anything. But as the High Court has just ruled, you may not be completely out of luck if you don’t.The Conversation

James D Metzger, Senior Lecturer in Law & Justice, UNSW Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

And THANK YOU for all your help, advice and input in 2023!

Mrs Masek's Marionettes
By Lyn Levy

This is a wonderful biography penned by locals and about locals - teachers, former students and parents of students at Barrenjoey High School may recognise the name.

Iva Masek was born in Czechoslovakia in the short but tumultuous period of history between Nazi occupation and Soviet domination. Nurtured by her extended family and a system set on raising strong children, she grew up to become a national representative in gymnastics. 

While her sheltered upbringing prevented awareness of the corruption and brutality of the Communist regime, when she fell in love with a young man whose family have suffered deeply as a result of opposition to the regime, the truth became apparent. 

Following the 1968 Soviet invasion of her homeland, the couple were arrested for participating in an anti Communist demonstration, and their life plans were shattered. They made the decision to seek freedom and safety in another country. While determined to emigrate, they could not have realised what they stood to lose by leaving or foreseen the troubles which lay ahead. 

By sheer chance she lands in Australia, with no English, no money, and pregnant. The letters Iva wrote to her childhood friend in Czechoslovakia reveal a vibrant young woman, homesick and struggling to find her place in a strange new land. Having three children in as many years, the first premature and profoundly deaf, she endures trauma, grief and isolation. 

It is over a decade before she finally gains the opportunity to carve out an identity for herself and is able to share her skills, wisdom and passion, enriching the lives of thousands of young people. 

Just as she approached the time in which she might reap the rewards of her decades of dedication, she is confronted with yet another daunting challenge which would overturn her hopes for the future. She would need to summon the strength to adapt to her new circumstances and work to retain the spirit of joy and optimism that has underpinned her life.

Lyn Levy and Iva Masek at the launch of Mrs Masek's Marionettes At Palm Beach RSL, December 1, 2023. Pic: A J Guesdon

Free 2024 Calendar + Diary For Seniors

2024 Legal topics for seniors calendar(Calendar)
The 2024 Legal topics for seniors calendar will be available from 1st December 2023. Pre orders are open on 1 November 2023. Contains essential legal information for older people, including scams, neighbour disputes, consumer rights and owning and renting your home.

2024 Legal topics for seniors diary (Diary)
The 2024 Legal topics for seniors diary will be available from 1st December 2023. Pre orders are open on 1 November 2023. Contains essential legal information for older people, including scams, neighbour disputes, consumer rights and owning and renting your home.

Congratulations! Seniors Stories Volume 9 2023

The 2023 and 9th Volume of Seniors Stories was released on Thursday November 23 - filled with wonderful insights. 

Congratulations to Sybille (Nigi) Lechner Fairlight (Story: We Were Different), Bernadette Astill Manly (Story: Losing Control – Remotely) Sylvana Augustyniak Dee Why (Story: Ageing and Life Lessons) and Karen Conlay Elanora Heights (Story: The Stockbroker’s Father) whose short stories have been included in this edition.

The Hon. Jodie Harrison MP, NSW Minister for Seniors, states in her foreword;

''Telling stories is an age old tradition in all cultures; it’s how we pass down knowledge and history through generations. By writing and telling stories, we gain an appreciation of the diversity that exists in our local communities.

The NSW Government recognised that by inviting Seniors Card and Senior Savers Card members to contribute an original story around the theme ‘Ageing and Life Lessons’. We were overwhelmed by the literary talent of seniors across the state who submitted their stories.

Seniors’ Stories Volume 9 is just one way of recognising and valuing the experiences of NSW seniors and building connections between the young and old and encouraging older people to stay active, healthy and socially connected.

I am incredibly proud to undertake the responsibilities of Minister for Seniors and represent your voice in government. Our community is stronger thanks to the contributions made by our seniors. When seniors are active and involved in the community, everyone benefits.
Whatever your age, I hope you enjoy and are inspired by this wonderful collection of short stories.

The 2023 edition is available to download now at:  HERE

Government States Ambitious Aged Care Reforms Delivering

December 6, 2023
The Australian Government has stated its aged care reforms are already delivering with the latest financial outlook showing a sector providing more minutes of care per resident, while recovering to a more stable and sustainable setting.

The latest Aged Care Quarterly Financial Snapshot (QFS) shows the overall financial performance of residential aged care providers improved throughout the 2022-23 financial year. This follows the Albanese Government’s immediate introduction of the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model, which came into effect 1 October 2022.

The snapshot shows that residential aged care providers delivered an average of 194 minutes of care per resident per day in the final quarter of 2022-23, an increase of 4 minutes. The Labor Government’s 200 mandatory care minutes came into effect from 1 October 2023.

The QFS shows that 70 per cent of residential providers reported positive year-to-date earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA), up 1.6 per cent from the previous quarter.

A more sustainable and financially stable aged care sector means better care for older Australians and better conditions for our frontline workers.

The proportion of profitable residential providers has continued to increase, with 49 per cent reporting a year-to-date net profit before tax (up by 0.3 percentage points on the third quarter). This is significantly higher than the first quarter of 2022-23, when only 34 per cent of providers were profitable.

The in-home care sector continued to perform strongly with year-to-date EBITDA increasing to $4.59 per recipient per day, up $0.42 on year-to-date figures for the third quarter. 

The year-to-date percentage of profitable home care providers increased, with 74.7 per cent reporting a year-to-date net profit before tax (up from 74.5 per cent in the third quarter). 

The snapshot now also reports on wages for aged care workers, with new wage data collected from the fourth quarter of 2022-23 and again in the first quarter of 2023-24.

This will allow the government to monitor implementation of the 15 per cent pay rise and ensure that the wage increases are being passed on to aged care workers.

This is the fourth release of the QFS since Quarterly Financial Reporting began in July 2022, and is a point-in-time snapshot of the financial performance of residential and home care providers, demonstrating the Albanese Government’s commitment to enhance transparency in aged care.

Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells stated:

“When the Albanese Government came into office, the aged care sector was hurting from a lack of investment and innovation but in just 12 months there is now an optimistic outlook for the financial performance of the sector.

“I am particularly pleased to see care minutes increase to 194 minutes for the last quarter of the year, showing that the sector average of 200 care minutes is well within grasp.  

“The positive trend seen across the last four Quarterly Financial Snapshots show Labor’s reforms to aged care are working.

“Looking ahead, we expect to see continued improvements in the viability of the sector, supported by additional Australian National Aged Care Classification funding.

“Through these reforms we are creating a stable and sustainable sector, that delivers high-quality care that older people can access when and where they need it.”

The enduring wartime spirit that powers classic Christmas songs

Dominic Broomfield-McHughUniversity of Sheffield

Eighty years ago this week, Judy Garland walked into an MGM studio and recorded Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas for the first time. It was written for the musical Meet Me in St Louis (1944), only part of which is set at Christmas – but no matter. Its music and lyrics by Hugh Martin have come to represent the epitome of the classic Christmas song.

Eighty-two years ago this week, the bombing of Pearl Harbor drew the US into the second world war. Sixteen million Americans signed up to the armed forces, and many American women responded to the Rosie the Riveter campaign by joining workplaces for the first time. Family life was profoundly changed: there was a sense of displacement, absence and loss.

Popular music responded with conventional war songs (see Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition by Frank Loesser of Guys and Dolls fame) but it was the Christmas song that best expressed the heartache.

Irving Berlin added White Christmas to the score of his Bing Crosby movie Holiday Inn in 1942. He’d drafted it a couple of years earlier but now its opening line that evoked snowy holidays “just like the ones I used to know” was the perfect sentiment to tug at the heartstrings of a nation receptive to the idea of a nostalgic past, rather than a fragile present.

A Question Of Morale

A year later, Crosby recorded I’ll Be Home for Christmas, a number by Walter Kent and Kim Gannon that more explicitly addressed the zeitgeist.

It’s laid out in the form of a letter from a soldier writing home to his family. The strained optimism of the opening line (“I’ll be home for Christmas”) gives way to a shopping list of seasonal cliches (snow, mistletoe, presents on the tree) before the shattering final line (“if only in my dreams”) that addresses the truth: it was all unlikely to happen.

The sentiment was so on point that the BBC banned the song from broadcast, worrying that it might lower morale.

Bing Crosby’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

But it was Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas that best tapped into the feeling of wartime winters. Ironically, Hugh Martin’s original lyric to the song was so drastic that there was no way it could be released to a nation in collective mourning. It read: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last. Next year we will all be living in the past.”

Garland and the director Vincente Minnelli agreed that she would seem like a monster if Garland’s character Esther sang those words to her much younger sister Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) in a moment of upset, so Martin tweaked them to: “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the yuletide gay. From now on our troubles will be miles away.”

And whereas the original said that “Faithful friends who are dear to us will be near to us no more”, the revised version became “once more”.

Judy Garland sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in Meet Me in St Louis.

America needed the poignancy of a hopeful message delivered through tears (as in Garland’s performance in the movie), not defeatism. Yet the song’s final phrase expresses how close to the surface the separation of family was in November 1944, when the movie was released: “Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

Rewriting Classics

Few would disagree that Judy Garland’s original performance of the song in Meet Me in St Louis is definitive. But 13 years later, Frank Sinatra requested a few tweaks to the words for his 1957 holiday album A Jolly Christmas.

When Sinatra released his album, Dwight D Eisenhower was in office. The president was a war hero, and his mantra was “pessimism never won any battle”.

Thus Sinatra’s musical version of a 1950s American Christmas was firmer, less poignant. For him, Martin replaced the line about “muddling through” with a new, neutral one: “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.” He even changed “Someday soon we all will be together” to “Through the years we all will be together”, removing the equivocation of the future “someday”.

The Phoebe Bridgers version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

After Sinatra’s erasure of the emotive wartime spirit of the original, subsequent cover versions of the song often opted for jolly (Ella Fitzgerald, 1960), lush (The Carpenters, 1978) or dramatic (The Jackson 5, whose 1970 version almost sounds like a James Bond theme in places) tones.

But it’s striking that in the 21st century, several leading artists who are not at all associated with the classic American songbook returned to the sadder feel of the original. Indeed, ColdplaySam Smith and Phoebe Bridgers’ versions are almost bleaker than Garland’s – fragile music for a fragile world.

Professor Dominic Broomfield-McHugh will be giving a lecture on the Christmas classic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas at St Paul’s Church, London, December 6 at 18:00

Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation

Dominic Broomfield-McHugh, Professor of Musicology, University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

4 tips to help your loved one with dementia enjoy the festive season

Ground Picture/Shutterstock
Nikki-Anne WilsonUNSW Sydney

The festive season is fast approaching, and if you’re organising celebrations with family or friends, you might be grappling with a seemingly endless to-do list. But as you make these plans, it’s important to consider how you can best include any friends or loved ones living with dementia.

While no two people experience dementia in the exact same way, dementia often affects the way people process and respond to their environment. Too much stimulation – like a lot of noise and activity at a Christmas party – can be overwhelming and may cause confusion or agitation.

Finding ways to create a safe environment at home for your loved one with dementia will help maximise the chances everyone has a good time.

1. Plan Ahead, But Be Flexible

Planning celebrations can be overwhelming for everyone involved, and having excessive expectations can raise stress levels. Try to keep expectations realistic and in line with the current needs of your friend or loved one living with dementia.

For example, people with dementia may experience changes in their appetite or food preferences, or difficulties chewing and swallowing. These changes might make some of the things on your festive menu unappetising or difficult to eat. Be guided by the needs and preferences of the person with dementia and keep options limited to one or two special foods if larger banquets are likely to be overwhelming.

Things can change quickly for people living with dementia and their abilities will likely vary from day to day. Try to be flexible and have a backup plan in place. For special events, plan to record speeches or ceremonies to share when things are quieter.

If you’re planning a large event, consider having a smaller gathering with your loved one with dementia and just a few special people.

A family eating a meal.
Many families will celebrate the festive season with a relative who has dementia. DisobeyArt/Shutterstock

2. Stick To The Familiar

The sudden appearance of lots of decorations may be overwhelming for a person with dementia and trigger a negative sensory reaction or distress. Ensure decorations are safe and familiar and put them up slowly over a period of a few days.

Try to also stick to familiar traditions and routines. Daily routines are an important way of supporting people with dementia and sudden changes may result in agitation and distress. Stick to routine eating, bathing, and rest times where possible throughout the holiday period.

For many people with dementia, long-term memories are less affected than more recent memories. Familiar family traditions can therefore be a good way to reminisce. Family keepsakes or memory books can also help connect with stories from past celebrations.

3. Have A Quiet Space

Try to have a quiet place where the person living with dementia can go if things become overwhelming. Designating a support person who can stay with them throughout the day and take them to a separate room or area away from the action can help to keep things calm.

Having some familiar objects or quiet music in the space can be a good way to block out the noise of activities and reduce agitation.

4. Make Sure Everyone Has A Part

Everyone wants to feel a part of the activities on a special day, including people living with dementia. Ensuring everyone has a role to play may mean modifying tasks to suit the abilities of the person with dementia.

For example, if you’re hosting an event at home, try to get your friend or relative with dementia involved in the kitchen by tossing the salad or helping to set the table.

People with dementia are still the same person, even if their abilities have changed or they can no longer communicate their needs and feelings like they used to. It’s important to treat everyone with dignity and try to include your friends and loved ones with dementia in celebrations whenever possible.

A young man with a senior man chopping vegetables in the kitchen.
Think about how you can include your loved one in the day’s preparations. fizkes/Shutterstock

Sometimes, You Can’t Be Together

Despite the best laid plans, sometimes it won’t be possible to share in festive celebrations with your loved one living with dementia. More advanced dementia, aged care visitor restrictions or even just distance can keep many of us apart from our loved ones.

Be prepared for this separation to bring up your own feelings of grief or sadness. Look after your mental health as well as the person with dementia.

Caring responsibilities still largely fall to women and it’s important to share the load. Where possible, the holidays can be a good time to think about giving primary carers a break to help them recharge for the year ahead.

If you’re caring for someone with dementia and need support, Dementia Australia or Carer Gateway offer useful resources.The Conversation

Nikki-Anne Wilson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), UNSW Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the