In Australia, News Corp has been criticised by some politicians, scientists and members of the public in recent years for airing the views of commentators who deny that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet.
They are the most powerful media dynasty in the world and now a very public division is opening up in the Murdoch family over how their companies cover climate change.
In Australia, News Corp has been criticised by some politicians, scientists and members of the public in recent years for airing the views of commentators who deny that humans are contributing to the warming of the planet.
And this morning, Rupert Murdoch’s son, James, has attacked the company’s reporting on the issue in light of Australia’s bushfire crisis.
Duration: 4min 22secBroadcast: Wed 15 Jan 2020, 12:22pm
Jim Rutenberg, New York Times journalist Tony Koch, retired journalist
James Murdoch slams News Corp for denying climate facts
James Murdoch and his climate activist wife Kathryn slammed News Corp for perpetuating climate myths. Photo: Getty/ TND
As his country of origin burns, Rupert Murdoch is being slammed for how his businesses promote coverage and commentary that ignores – or totally contradicts – facts about man-made climate change’s role in the bushfire catastrophe.
Now, in what is perhaps a sign the smoky winds of change are blowing within the powerful media empire, Murdoch’s youngest son has broken ranks to call out the untruths.
James Murdoch, 47, joined his climate activist wife Kathryn in publicly shaming media giants News Corp and Fox News for their coverage on Australia’s bushfire crisis.
In a rare public statement, the couple expressed their deep disappointment with the Murdoch media empire.
“Kathryn and James’ views on climate are well established and their frustration with some of the News Corp and Fox coverage of the topic is also well known,” a spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
“They are particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.”
There has been a growing chorus of voices calling out Murdoch-owned mastheads for reporting and commentary that downplays manmade climate change’s role in the ferocious fires burning across Australia’s eastern seaboard.
Commentary in Murdoch-owned mastheads – The Australian, the Herald Sun, and The Daily Telegraph – as well as Sky News, has repeatedly included references to climate concerns being “alarmist”.
The Australian has repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past – a claim which scientists have slammed as untrue.
Rupert Murdoch said at last year’s annual general meeting there were no climate change deniers in the News Corp ranks. But the words of high-profile commentators printed in the pages of the Murdoch mastheads and spouting denialist views on Sky tell a different story.
And Australians, and audiences overseas, are increasingly connecting dots between the rhetoric and misinformation in the Murdoch press and the federal government’s response to the bushfires.
Not everyone on the News Corp payroll is denying climate change, of course. Just the loudest voices, the well paid who are put up in lights.
Staff have told The New Daily about a deep discomfort with the way bushfire stories are being covered.
Just last week, News Corp finance manager Emily Townsend hit out at News Corp executive chairman Michael Miller after he sent a company-wide email spruiking how much the company had been helping bushfire-affected communities.
Daily Beast claimed the $9 million in donations by Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch and News Corp to Australian bushfire relief efforts were only made after the news site contacted them for a response to James’ statement.
An unnamed News Corp executive was quoted as saying the couple was deliberately out to attack the Murdoch family, especially considering James’ older brother, Lachlan, is currently in charge of overseeing the Fox News Channel.
“They are pissing inside the tent and that’s unusual. It’s evidence of how high tensions are within the family over climate change. The majority of people who work here agree with James.We are hoping this may be the tipping point,” the executive said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Photo: Penrith farmlands in December 2009: From Farmlands to Suburbia in 10 Years
TEMPERATURES rise dramatically in urban environments during heat waves from the west.
Compounded by thermal mass and poor city design.
PENRITH has become hotter because of the thermal mass from overdevelopment … the “heat island effect”.
Collecting not only pollution but all the heat from the entire city of Sydney in a basin bounded to the east by the Pacific Ocean and to the south, west and north by elevated terrain.
AND … it is evident that Penrith is becoming a thermal mass wasteland due to the higher density rezoning, motorways, airport construction along with the removal of trees (less than 6% of the Cumberland Plain Woodland remains!), and loss of farmlands …. vegetation!
SUSTAINABILITY would be about adapting … following this disaster of overdevelopment … some might go as far to say that Sydney needs to be bulldozed … redesigned once the awfulizers, the mafia of developers are done with Sydney and run off with Billions in their pockets.
The image from April 2018 shows the completed construction with rows of identical homes. Photo: Nearmap.com.au
BUSHFIRE and NATURAL HAZARDS CRC
“Heatwaves are dangerous and have killed more people in Australia than all other climate related disasters combined.
Urban environments are considered especially vulnerable to heatwaves due to the Urban Heat Island effect. Increasing death rates from heatwaves are predicted to become one of Australia’s most detrimental impacts of climate change (IPPC 2014) with major implications for emergency services and public policy development.
The catastrophic dimensions of heatwave mortality are not spread evenly across society but are concentrated among specific population groups. Older people, especially women, are overrepresented in heatwave related excess mortality statistics internationally.
Using a critical perspective, this paper aims to present a literature review exploring current research on social vulnerability of older women during urban heatwaves. It will illustrate how heatwave vulnerability is largely socially constructed through the intersection of deeply entrenched gender inequality with systemic socio-economic disadvantage.
The review will highlight the need for heatwave intervention to be guided by a social justice perspective, to avoid older, poorer women becoming the shock absorbers of the climate crisis.
This paper is part of my PhD research project at Monash University:
‘Denaturalising heatwaves: gendered social vulnerabilities in urban heatwaves and the use of public cool spaces as a primary heat health measure’. The research has ethics approval.”
CAAN: AN AERIAL VIEW OF THE DEVELOPER MAFIA DRIVEN HEAT ISLAND EFFECT
Photo: From Farmland to Suburbia: Penrith 2018: A recent shot shows the suburb completely transformed into new homes
AUSTRALIA NEEDS TO TALK … and not be Silenced!
WHAT CAAN wants you to do … COPY AND PASTE THIS into an Email for your Contacts … EVERYONE needs to know … in Sydney, New South Wales … across Australia ... we all need to be talking about this!
The recipients can then forward the email onto their contacts …
FOLLOWING this why not ask the people in your street, club, community to write to The Editor of all the papers … of your Objections to the higher density of the Medium Density Housing Code of 10 terraces on a 600 M2 lot or the Greenfields Housing Code of tiny lots: 200Mx X 6M wide! With no room for a tree!
AND demand that our Governments … act in the interests of Australian Constituents … for a change!
Many communities across the country have been told to boil their drinking water because of contamination linked to bushfires — either by ash, such as in Tenterfield, or by the mixing of water supplies during firefighting, as has happened on the NSW south coast.
And that’s the case for the communities that have not simply just run out of water.
There are concerns that Sydney’s water supply could be severely affected in months to come if the ash from huge areas of burnt out bush around Warragamba Dam, which provides 80 per cent of Sydney’s water, runs into the dam after heavy rainfall.
The bizarre state of our national conversation
It’s hard to take pictures of closed highways, or compromised water supplies.
If it was sabotage that had closed our major arterial highways — like the Eyre or even the Princes Highway down the east coast (as it was in multiple locations for many days) — you can imagine the sort of political rhetoric and hysteria that would have been going on at the moment.
But instead, we continue to have this bizarre situation continuing where a few belligerent types in politics — and very noisy ones in the media — seem to set the limits of our conversation.
It’s hard not to listen to these interviews though, and get the sense that he is rattling off an alibi; that he remains on the defensive.
On Melbourne radio on Friday, for example, he was asked whether this might be the new normal — very long fire seasons, affecting many different parts of the country — which might require a new permanent mechanism to deal with it
These were obviously issues to be considered, Scott Morrison said.
“I mean, we stood this [the ADF reservists] up last Saturday,” he responded.
“We had it moving several days before. We’d actually run a trial process for the call out back in November to ensure that we were in a position to be able to roll that out should that become necessary. And it did become necessary.
“I mean, the scale of these fires going across two very large jurisdictions reached an unprecedented level and that required an unprecedented response at that time and one was delivered and delivered very quickly.”
Shockwaves keep going wider
The economic impact of these fires has not been limited this time around to people who have lost homes or businesses, or even small communities.
Businesses in towns like Braidwood and Bungendore, which have long prospered on the holiday traffic from Canberra to the coast, say their streets are like ghost towns.
The newly appointed recovery coordinator for southern NSW, retired deputy police commissioner Dick Adams, told a local paper this week: “Eden has lost their mill, Mt Selwyn has lost their whole resort, softwood plantations in Tumut, dairy in Bega, apple orchards in Batlow…
“What we’ve found, is when bushfire is impacting these areas and people are evacuated out, some may not return. We need to work to get people back.”
There is some emergency financial assistance from the Federal Government for people who have lost everything, and grants to local governments who have to repair roads. And state governments provide some low interest loans for small businesses in trouble.
But the shockwaves keep going wider.
Even in Canberra, where luckily fires haven’t yet hit, hotels are reporting that around 15 per cent of bookings for January have been cut because the national capital has become infamous for literally having the worst air quality in the world thanks to bushfire smoke.
Excuse the cynicism, but doesn’t a possible royal commission — whatever its ultimate virtues — provide the perfect response in the short term for any question you don’t want to answer?
Photo: Macro Business
For example, “well that will be a matter for the royal commission to determine”.
A Government that has held on, at great cost to rational policy making, to a budget surplus now stuck together with sticky tape, will at least have an honourable reason to not meet its surplus target if it does actually start spending money because of our burning summer.
But the sort of ripple effects we are talking about here on the economy suggest very tough times ahead for the country as a whole — with the only really obvious positive a fire-led building boom.
The economy and national security are supposed to be the Coalition’s strong points.
Yet even in the face of a catastrophe that shows our infrastructure vulnerable, and the economy under threat, we are still overwhelmed with political management.
Laura Tingle is 7.30’s chief political correspondent.
‘ … … I hope it’ll recover. I hope that Indigenous knowledge & expertise takes precedence in the forward management of natural environments. This requires Indigenous people & systems leading the process, not being tacked on, or our knowledges excerpted & cropped into failing models ‘
Strength from perpetual grief: how Aboriginal people experience the bushfire crisis
Jessica WeirSenior Research Fellow, Western Sydney University
Vanessa CavanaghAssociate Lecturer, School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, University of Wollongong
How do you support people forever attached to a landscape after an inferno tears through their homelands: decimating native food sources, burning through ancient scarred trees and destroying ancestral and totemic plants and animals?
The fact is, the experience of Aboriginal peoples in the fire crisis engulfing much of Australia is vastly different to non-Indigenous peoples.
Colonial legacies of eradication, dispossession, assimilation and racism continue to impact the lived realities of Aboriginal peoples. Added to this is the widespread exclusion of our peoples from accessing and managing traditional homelands. These factors compound the trauma of these unprecedented fires.
As Australia picks up the pieces from these fires, it’s more important than ever to understand the unique grief Aboriginal peoples experience. Only through this understanding can effective strategies be put in place to support our communities to recover.
Aboriginal peoples live with a sense of perpetual grief. It stems from the as-yet-unresolved matter of the invasion and subsequent colonisation of our homelands.
While there are many instances of colonial trauma inflicted upon Aboriginal peoples – including the removal of children and the suppression of culture, ceremony and language – dispossession of Country remains paramount. Dispossessing people of their lands is a hallmark of colonisation.
Australian laws have changed to partially return Aboriginal peoples’ lands and waters, and Aboriginal people have made their best efforts to advocate for more effective management of Country. But despite this, the majority of our peoples have been consigned to the margins in managing our homelands.
Oliver Costello is chief executive of Firesticks Alliance, an Indigenous-led network that aims to re-invigorate cultural burning. As he puts it:
Since colonisation, many Indigenous people have been removed from their land, and their cultural fire management practices have been constrained by authorities, informed by Western views of fire and land management.
In this way, settler-colonialism is not historical, but a lived experience. And the growing reality of climate change adds to these anxieties.
It’s also important to recognise that our people grieve not only for our communities, but for our non-human relations. Aboriginal peoples’ cultural identity comes from the land.
As such, Aboriginal cultural lives and livelihoods continue to be tied to the land, including landscape features such as waterholes, valleys and mountains, as well as native animals and plants.
The decimation caused by the fires deeply impacts the existence of Aboriginal peoples and in the most severe hit areas, threatens Aboriginal groups as distinct cultural beings attached to the land. As The Guardian’s Indigenous affairs editor Lorena Allam recently wrote:
Like you, I’ve watched in anguish and horror as fire lays waste to precious Yuin land, taking everything with it – lives, homes, animals, trees – but for First Nations people it is also burning up our memories, our sacred places, all the things which make us who we are.
For Aboriginal people then, who live with the trauma of dispossession and neglect and now, the trauma of catastrophic fire, our grief is immeasurably different to that of non-Indigenous people.
Bushfire recovery must consider culture
As we come to terms with the fires’ devastation, Australia must turn its gaze to recovery. The field of community recovery offers valuable insights into how groups of people can come together and move forward after disasters.
But an examination of research and commentary in this area reveals how poorly non-Indigenous Australia (and indeed, the international field of community recovery) understands the needs of Aboriginal people.
The definition of “community” is not explicitly addressed, and thus is taken as a single socio-cultural group of people.
But research in Australia and overseas has demonstrated that for Aboriginal people, healing from trauma – whether historical or contemporary – is a cultural and spiritual process and inherently tied to land.
The culture-neutral standpoint in community recovery research as yet does not acknowledge these differences. Without considering the historical, political and cultural contexts that continue to define the lives of Aboriginal peoples, responses to the crisis may be inadequate and inappropriate.
Resilience in the face of ongoing trauma
The long-term effects of colonisation has meant Aboriginal communities are (for better or worse) accustomed to living with catastrophic changes to their societies and lands, adjusting and adapting to keep functioning.
Experts consider these resilience traits as integral for communities to survive and recover from natural disasters.
In this way, the resilience of Aboriginal communities fashioned through centuries of colonisation, coupled with adequate support, means Aboriginal communities in fire-affected areas are well placed to not only recover, but to do so quickly.
This is a salient lesson for agencies and other non-government organisations entrusted to lead the disaster recovery process.
The community characteristics that enable effective and timely community recovery, such as close social links and shared histories, already exist in the Aboriginal communities affected.
The agency in charge of leading the recovery in bushfire-affected areas must begin respectfully and appropriately. And they must be equipped with the basic knowledge of our peoples’ different circumstances.
It’s important to note this isn’t “special treatment”. Instead, it recognises that policy and practice must be fit-for-purpose and, at the very least, not do further harm.
10 Thankfully no one was hurt here & it’s not where we currently live thus have the comforts of home, & knowing that others are not so lucky. I Shared this experience with my kids & their cousin who was evacuated from his home on sth cst. Son asked if the bush will grow back
11 I hope it’ll recover. I hope that Indigenous knowledge & expertise takes precedence in the forward management of natural environments. This requires Indigenous people & systems leading the process, not being tacked on, or our knowledges excerpted & cropped into failing models
If agencies and non-government organisations responsible for leading the recovery from these fires aren’t well-prepared, they risk inflicting new trauma on Aboriginal communities.
The National Disability Insurance Agency offers an example of how to engage with Aboriginal people in culturally sensitive ways. This includes thinking about Country, culture and community, and working with each community’s values and customs to establish respectful, trusting relationships.
The new bushfire recovery agency must use a similar strategy. This would acknowledge both the historical experiences of Aboriginal peoples and our inherent strengths as communities that have not only survived, but remain connected to our homelands.
In this way, perhaps the bushfire crisis might have some positive longer-term outcomes, opening new doors to collaboration with Aboriginal people, drawing on our strengths and values and prioritising our unique interests.
The Conversation serves society by making knowledge accessible to everyone, not just a select few. Our only agenda is a better informed public. If you care about what we do please make a donation now and help secure our future.
I’m surprised that state governments haven’t acted to curb News Corp i rresponsibility. Australian states are treated no better than South American countries by this American libertarian agency. Not only do they engage in character assassination of anyone leading positive change, we can now see they deliberately frustrate state governance, seed false arguments and destroy community wellbeing. This is an emergency, the planet and our capacity to transform human behaviour is at stake.
Mary-Anne Well said Paul. That self-entitled evil old man and his corrupt spawn should have the numbers 666 stamped on their foreheads. Australian citizens should demand the re-introduction of media concentration laws because no single person/organisation should ever be allowed to exert so much influence/manipulation over the national conversation. He has succeeded in stiffling important debate and dividing this nation by promoting tribalism rather than sensible rational discussion.
Brian You are forgetting how beholden our state and federal governments are to Rupert Murdoch and their dependence on him for re-election. We no longer have a free press in this country with the domination of News Corp.
Kate Thank you Emily Townsend. If only Murdoch journalists had your strength of character. They could join forces against their errant bosses. Surely they couldn’t all be sacked?
Belinda Maybe we should start a GoFundMe to financially liberate any News Corp reporters and staff who want to speak out. I think it would go nuts, imagine if even half the staff could quit and speak out without fear of losing their income. Imagine the truth that could come out.I think it would spread throughout other News Corp owned countries.
The email was highly critical of News Corp’s reporting.
A News Corp employee has slammed the organisation for spreading “climate change denial and lies” through “irresponsible” and “dangerous reporting” on Australia’s catastrophic bushfires.
In an email, obtained by The New Daily, Emily Townsend, a commercial finance manager at the company, hit out at executive chairman Michael Miller after he sent a company-wide email talking up all the ways News Corp is helping communities affected by the bushfire crisis.
In the email addressed to Mr Miller, which was was distributed to all News Corp Australia staff, Ms Townsend said she was grateful for the company’s fundraising efforts, but added that it did “not offset the impact News Corp reporting has had over the last few weeks”.
“I have been severely impacted by the coverage of News Corp publications in relation to the fires, in particular the misinformation campaign that has tried to divert attention away from the real issue which is climate change to focus on arson (including misrepresenting facts),” Ms Townsend wrote.
I find it unconscionable to continue working for this company, knowing I am contributing to the spread of climate change denial and lies.”
The email was reportedly deleted from New Corp staff inboxes within an hour of it being sent.
Four hours later on Friday afternoon,News Corp issued a statement to The New Daily on behalf of Mr Miller.
The statement claimed Ms Townsend had resigned in December and was due to leave News Corp shortly.
“We respect Ms Townsend’s right to hold her views, but we do not agree with them,” the statement reads.
“Our coverage has recognised that Australia is having a serious conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” it said.
“However, it has also reflected there are a variety of views and opinions about the current fire crisis. The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, therefore, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.
“Contrary to what some critics have argued, News Corp does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat. However, we – as is the traditional role of a publisher – do report a variety of views and opinions on the issue and many others that are important in the public discourse on the fires.”
Rupert Murdoch’s influential newspapers and television stations have been widely criticised in recent weeks for spreading misinformation about climate change during Australia’s out-of-control bushfires.
The Australian has repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past – a claim which scientists have slammed as untrue.
Ms Townsend’s decision to write a damning letter condemning News Corp’s coverage has been welcomed by some current and former employees of the company.
The New Daily is aware of a growing discomfort among News Corpemployees with how reporting on the crisis is being handled.
While afraid to speak openly for fear of reprisals from the company, some News Corp employees were quietly cheering their colleague’s stance.
One current employee described it as “huge”, while another said it was “amazing”.
“We’re all pretty thrilled,” another current news reporter said.
So far, more than 12 million acres have burned, and more of New South Wales has been burned in 2019 alone than the previous 15 years combined.
This week, an independent study also found online bots and trolls had been exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian that made similar claims started trending on the newspaper’s website.
READ … it is self-evident … bleedin’ obvious that the ‘Limited News’ message is making headway … with what it has also done in the United States and Britain – shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.
-once those seeds of doubt are planted it stops an important conversation from taking place
-with Murdoch outlets condemning protestors; editorials arguing against radical climate change policy; emphasising the need for more back-burning
–echoing between officialdom and Murdoch media that has many people so concerned
RELATED ARTICLE:NEWS CORP: DEMOCRACY’s GREATEST THREAT
Australia would be a better country without News. Of course it would be. Either it changes, or we do.
Deep in the burning forests south of Sydney this week, volunteer firefighters were clearing a track through the woods, hoping to hold back a nearby blaze, when one of them shouted over the crunching of bulldozers.
“Don’t take photos of any trees coming down,” he said. “The greenies will get a hold of it, and it’ll all be over.”
*The idea that “greenies” or environmentalists would oppose measures to prevent fires from ravaging homes and lives is simply false.
*But the comment reflects a narrative that’s been promoted for months by conservative Australian media outlets, especially the influential newspapers and television stations owned by Rupert Murdoch.
*And it’s far from the only Murdoch-fueled claim making the rounds. His standard-bearing national newspaper, The Australian, has also repeatedly argued that this year’s fires are no worse than those of the past – not true, scientists say, noting that 12 million acres have burned so far, with 2019 alone scorching more of New South Wales than the previous 15 years combined.
*And on Wednesday, Murdoch’s News Corp, the largest media company in Australia, was found to be part of another wave of misinformation. An independent study found online bots and trolls exaggerating the role of arson in the fires, at the same time that an article in The Australian making similar assertions became the most popular offering on the newspaper’s website.
*It’s all part of what critics see as a relentless effort led by the powerful media outlet to do what it has also done in the United States and Britain – shift blame to the left, protect conservative leaders and divert attention from climate change.
*“It’s really reckless and extremely harmful,” said Joëlle Gergis, an award-winning climate scientist at the Australian National University.“It’s insidiousbecause it grows. Once you plant those seeds of doubt, it stops an important conversation from taking place.” *
News Corp denied playing such a role.
“Our coverage has recognised Australia is having a conversation about climate change and how to respond to it,” the company said in an email. “The role of arsonists and policies that may have contributed to the spread of fire are, however, legitimate stories to report in the public interest.”
*Yet, for many critics, the Murdoch approach suddenly looks dangerous. They are increasingly connecting News Corp to the spread of misinformation and the government’s lacklustre response to the fires.
*They argue that the company and the Coalition led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison are responsible – together, as a team – for the failure to protect a country that scientists say is more vulnerable to climate change than any other developed nation.
Editors and columnists for News Corp were among the loudest defenders of Mr Morrison after he faced blowback for vacationing in Hawaii as the worst of the fire season kicked off in December.
In late December, ‘the Oz’, as the News Corp-owned paper is known in Australia, heavily promoted an interview with the government’s energy minister, Angus Taylor, warning that “top-down” pressure from the United Nations to address climate change would fail — followed by an opinion piece from Mr Taylor on New Year’s Eve.
Other News Corp outlets followed a similar playbook. Melbourne’s Herald Sun, for example, pushed news of the bushfires to Page four on New Year’s Eve, even as they threatened to devastate towns nearby and push thick smoke into the city.
Days later, residents in a town nearly flattened by the fires heckled and snubbed Mr Morrison during a visit to assess the damage. A new hire for Murdoch’s Sky News channel, Chris Smith, branded them “ferals”.
As is often the case at Murdoch outlets around the world, there have been exceptions to the company line — an article about Australian golfer Greg Norman’s declaration that “there is climate change taking place”; an interview with an international expert who explained why this year’s fires are unique.
*The Australian Greens party has made clear that it supports such hazard–reduction burns, issuing a statement online saying so.
*Climate scientists do acknowledge that there is room for improvement when it comes to burning the branches and dead trees on the ground that can fuel fires. But they also say that no amount of preventive burning will offset the impact of rising temperatures that accelerate evaporation, dry out land and make already-arid Australia a tinderbox.
Even fire officials report that most of the offseason burns they want to do are hindered not by land-use laws but by weather — including the lengthier fire season and more extreme precipitation in winter that scientists attribute to climate change.
Still, the Murdoch outlets continue to resist. “On a dry continent prone to deadly bushfires for centuries, fuel reduction through controlled burning is vital,” said an editorial published Thursday in The Australian.
*It went on to add: “Changes to climate change policy, however, would have no immediate impact on bushfires” — a stance that fits hand in glove with government officials’ frequent dismissals of the “bogey man of climate change.”
*It’s that echoing between officialdom and Murdoch media that has many people so concerned.*
“Leaders should be held to account and they should be held to account by the media,” said Penny Sackett, a physicist, astronomer and former chief scientist for Australia.
Of course, it is often hard to know just how much influence any media company has.
Gerard Henderson, a columnist for The Australian, said he didn’t think there was much need to address climate change because it was already a focal point across the rest of the media.
“It’s hard to distract from climate change because it’s spoken about constantly,” he said.
*But there are signs that the Murdoch message is making headway – at least in terms ofwhat people make a priority.
*Many firefighters working the smoky hills south of Sydney hesitated to state their views on climate change this week (some said senior leaders had told them to avoid the issue). But they were quick to argue for more back-burning.
Similarly, in Bairnsdale, Tina Moon, whose farm was devastated by the fires, said she was mostly furious about the government’s failure to clear the land around her property.
HYDROPANELS will eliminate the need for prohibitively expensive AND ENVIRONMENTALLY damaging plants for Desalinated Water …
FOR anyone who questions the viability of water produced by HYDROPANELS … this comment from a CAAN Contributor:
‘My dehumidifier is producing litres of water with humidity over 80% (atm 84% 10 January 2020) it needs to be on. I am putting it on the garden. Free water.’
SHARE to ensure WE keep what remains of our family budgets and quality of life in Australia … so that we maintain our independence from the Harbourside Huxters, the Banksters and pollies having signed an ‘historic’ memorandum of understanding on water cooperation back in November 2019 between Israel and NSW … that appears to have been set up by Baird back in 2016!
PLEASE FORWARD this to your local MPs and Political Party Candidates …
View: A ‘historic’ memorandum of understanding on water cooperation was signed this week between Israel and New South Wales.
Water is one of the world’s most precious resources.
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HOW TO FIND WATER WHEN YOU’RE STUCK IN THE DESERT
US-based company Zero Mass Water creates Source hydropanels that use sunlight and air to produce drinking water, and regional towns throughout Australia have been tapping into its benefits.
Zero Mass Water founder and CEO Cody Friesen told Business Insider Australia the idea was to create “the world’s first fully disintermediated, infrastructure-free source of water” which doesn’t require electricity or a pipe input.
When coming up with the hydropanels, Friesen said the company started to think about how it can apply the principles of renewable energy – using local resources and sunlight to produce things in a sustainable way – and how it can do for water what solar did for electricity.
“What we end up with inside of SOURCE hydropanels is effectively distilled water,” he said. “We’re distilling that water vapour off of those materials and we make absolutely pure water.”
Inside the panels, the water goes through a mineral block which adds minerals such as calcium and magnesium to give the water a “soft mouthfeel” and a “crisp finish”.
Friesen said it takes roughly 15 minutes to set up the panel and after about a half an hour it will start producing drinkable water.
He added that for the first time, the panels are “making renewable water that doesn’t invoke an extractive process and [is] not taking water from somebody else.”
Friesen, who did his PhD in materials science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), explained that his background is in renewable energy. He said that when people talk about renewables, a lot of them focus on renewable electricity.
“I think everybody, when they say renewable energy, what they really mean is renewable electricity,” he said. “But the reality is that only about 20% of the global energy mix [goes into] electricity. 80% is transportation and embedded energy in the stuff we buy, the food we eat and the water we drink.”
And what exactly is embedded energy? Friesen uses the example of a drinking glass.
“It started out as sand, the sand had to be refined, melted, made into glass beads and then eventually formed into this glass. So all of that supply chain and all that transportation, all the things that were happening, that’s energy at each of the steps.”
Friesen added, “In fact, the embedded energy in the food we eat is far bigger than [our] electricity needs. The embedded energy in water is huge.”
Friesen explained there’s a deep connection between energy and water – for example, the use of desalination plants which remove salt from water to make it drinkable. But in order for people to become more resilient in terms of climate change, companies like Zero Mass Water “have to get much more aggressive about decoupling traditional energy sources from our water.”
Zero Mass Water in Australia
Source Hydropanels are available in 34 countries including Australia.
Zero Mass Water has installed panels regional and rural areas in Australia including Murrurundi in New South Wales and Thulimbah, 15km north of Stanthorpe in Queensland. It also has them at schools such as the Cunnamulla State School in Queensland.
In addition to that, the company has worked with Indigenous communities such as those on Stradbroke Island – also known by the Indigenous name Minjerribah. Zero Mass Water installed an array of 30 panels at the Island’s community centre, which will produce more than 3000 litres of water a month.
Friesen believed the Source panels aren’t just a sustainable way of getting clean water, but also a way to reduce plastic and protect Indigenous land.
“Minjerribah is a World Heritage Site, a beautiful preserved island right there off of Brisbane – and yet tourists show up and they buy bottled water, and then you have a plastics problem,” Friesen said.
“So honouring Indigenous peoples is not just about going in to see their land and their places, but also in returning in some way to a more sustainable way forward. More sustainable doesn’t mean less, necessarily. More sustainable means making decisions and using the technology at our fingertips to… make progress.”
In 2019, Aussie NBA basketball player Patty Mills partnered with Zero Mass Water to donate panels to remote Indigenous communities. Mills’ organisation, The Community Water Project, together with National Basketball Players Association and Australian Indigenous Basketball brought hydropanel arrays to six remote communities in Australia.
Friesen speaks passionately about supporting Indigenous communities through this technology. Upon winning the 2019 $US500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for invention, he said at the time he would donate it to a Conservation International project that provides clean drinking water to a community in Colombia using Source Hyrdopanels.
“I set out to develop a technology that really would provide social equity and ultimately lift people up,” Friesen said. “And now for us, our ability to do that in a real way is, you know, awesome.”
While Friesen doesn’t see Zero Mass Water as having competitors per se, he said its “incumbents” are bottled water, filtration and rainwater catchment systems.
“Our vision is to perfect water for every person, every place,” Friesen said. “We have the technology that entitles us to that crazy vision. The technology can do that. Now it’s about us executing.”
Twelve years ago, economist Ross Garnaut made a prophecy that has devastatingly come true.
The insurance damage bill from the bushfires that began in September has risen to $700 million
Conservative estimates put the final cost well into the billions of dollars
Australia’s tourism industry could suffer, health costs could spike and there are warnings about more climate-related litigation
In the 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review, which examined the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy, he predicted that without adequate action, the nation would face a more frequent and intense fire season by 2020.
Speaking to the ABC about the latest bushfires and the potential economic fallout, Professor Garnaut refrained from taking a direct shot at policymakers who ignored many of the review’s calls for action.
But he noted: “If you ignore the science when you build a bridge, the bridge falls down.”
“If you ignore the science when you build a plane, the plane crashes.”
The initial damage bill from Australian bushfires that began in September has risen to $700 million, according to Insurance Council of Australia estimates, and is likely to grow.
ICA’s Campbell Fuller told ABC News that 1,838 homes have been destroyed across Australia since September and there have been 8,985 insurance claims for fire-related damage and destruction.
But insured losses are just a small part of wider economic losses.
The total cost of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires was estimated at $4.4 billion.
Conservative estimates put the final cost of the current Australian bushfires well into billions of dollars, while some analystssay it could cost the economy $20 billion in lost output.
Economist says cost could hit $3.5 billion
The head of economic analysis at SGS Economics and Planning, Terry Rawnsley, has done some early estimates on the economic cost of the bushfires.
Based on previous modelling of the Tathra fires in 2018, and taking account of $700 million worth of insured losses, the economic fallout from the latest fires could be as high as $3.5 billion, he said.
Between $2 billion to $3 billion includes the direct costs to fire-affected regions such as the loss of tourism and retail income, and the impact on agricultural production.
He predicts that some of the worst-affected communities will never fully recover.
And smoke haze in major capital cities could be an additional $500 million drag on the economy.
“These are places not directly impacted by bushfires, but people aren’t out and about, and people are calling in sick with respiratory and asthma illnesses,” he said.
Mr Rawnsley said while SGS Economics had modelled the loss of income from livestock such as sheep and cattle being destroyed, it had not modelled the actual loss of the assets (the loss of the sheep and cattle itself).
Professor Tom Kompas, one of three chief investigators in the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA) at the University of Melbourne, said the economic cost of the bushfires would be “massive”.
He said he intended to do precise modelling on the impact later this month.
Other bushfire insurance losses (normalised to 2017 dollars):
Black Saturday (2009): $1.76 billion
Ash Wednesday 1983 (Vic, SA, NSW): $2.46 billion
Canberra 2003 bushfires: $839.4 million
Victorian Alpine Bushfires 1985: $854 million
(Source: Insurance Council of Australia)
His earlier research on economic impacts of climate change had predicted $1.2 trillion in cumulative damages from now to 2050 assuming a global temperature increase of 3.8-4C by 2100.
But the $1.2 trillion in losses looks at infrastructure lost due to sea-level rise, losses in agricultural and labour productivity and limited human health and biodiversity impacts.
*“It does not include the cost of bushfires on infrastructure and resulting increases in insurance premiums,” he said.
“It also does not include damages from human health effects due to pollution and smoke-related illnesses, losses in tourism, losses to major environmental assets … or the costs of emergency management, recovery and relocation.”
Estimated $20 billion could be wiped off GDP
AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver estimated a reduction of between 0.25 and 1 per cent in the level of national economic output as a result of the fires, which he forecast would show up mostly in the March quarter.
Based on Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) of about $2 trillion, a 1 per cent drag could equate to about $20 billion.
Still, even a lesser 0.25 per cent hit would be a major drag on economic growth, in an already slowing economy.
“The economic costs will clearly run into billions of dollars,” Dr Oliver said.
Everyone would pay to some degree via higher premiums as insurance claims spiked, he said.
And while the Federal Government’s $2 billion cash injection was helpful and would assist rebuilding efforts, he said this lift in growth would not become apparent until the June quarter or even later in the year.
Economists at JP Morgan said in a research note that the immediate impacts on GDP remained hard to identify, but there would be a cost based on disruption to infrastructure and productive capital.
It said the Grattan Institute estimated that 80 per cent of Australia’s GDP comes from 0.2 per cent of its land mass (generally its most densely populated areas), while major bushfires mostly occur “in non-productive, non-residential, and non-cleared land”.
JP Morgan said there also could be “temporary offsetting positives to GDP”, for example, excess hours worked by public servants, increased outlays by charitable organisations and government transfers.
Domestic and international tourism to take a big hit
Tourism Australia was reluctant to provide early economic estimates, with a spokesman saying the organisation was still gathering feedback from industry and monitoring impacts on future bookings.
But he said based on past severe weather events and natural disasters, “tourism is an extremely resilient sector”.
Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) executive director Simon Westaway estimated the cost to the tourism industry could be hundreds of millions of dollars.
He said it was too early to know the exact cost, as there could be a six to nine-month lag.
The bushfires have impacted many parts of Australia during the peak of the holiday summer period, and could also hurt international inbound tourism due to global media coverage of the fires.
“We’re getting early indications people are cancelling their bookings,” Mr Westaway said.
“A number of our members are getting enquiries from Europe, with people asking whether it is safe to travel here [to Australia] three months down the track.”
According to data released by Tourism Research Australia in December, Australia welcomed more than 9 million overseas visitors in 2018-19, and the total spend by domestic tourists and international visitors was $146 billion.
Tourism is Australia’s fourth-largest export earner (behind iron ore, coal and natural gas), contributing $39.1 billion to Australia’s economy in 2018–19.
GDP from all tourism was $60.8 billion in 2018-19, an increase of 6 per cent on 2017–18.
“It [tourism] is a major industry and perception is really important,” Mr Westaway said.
More than 1 billion animals may be affected
Professor Chris Dickman at Sydney University has estimated more than 1 billion mammals, birds and reptiles may be affected by the bushfires.
He told the ABC that animals had been killed either directly by the flames, or could be killed indirectly by the lack of food, water and shelter resources in the burned environment, as well as predators such as feral cats and red foxes.
WWF-Australia chief executive Dermot O’Gorman said this heart-breaking loss included thousands of koalas on the mid-north coast of NSW, along with other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, potoroos, cockatoos and honeyeaters.
The WWF also noted other losses including that of pollinators such as bees, moths and other insects, and the loss of trees.
“Many forests will take decades to recover and some species may have tipped over the brink of extinction,” Mr O’Gorman said.
There are also more emissions being released into the atmosphere from the bushfires themselves.
A spokeswoman for the CSIRO told the ABC: “As the fires are still burning across vast areas of Australia, an accurate analysis of the total carbon dioxide emissions released from the bushfires is not possible.”
Health impacts and climate-related litigation could rise
Dr John Iser from Doctors for the Environment, a group of medical professionals concerned about the health impacts of climate change, also said it was hard to predict the economic cost of the latest bushfires.
He said air pollution had risen above hazardous levels in many states, “but we really won’t know the outcome of all the recent pollution exposure for some months”.
“The particles in smoke get through to the bloodstream and there are other chemical compounds that are harmful for people who are prone to asthma and cardiovascular disease,” he said.
Dr Rebecca Patrick, co-lead of the Health Sustainability Research Group at Deakin University, predicted the start of a new decade could see the rise of climate litigation.
*She expected more human rights and environmental justice lawsuits to be filed against fossil fuel companies and high-emission sectors.
The Reserve Bank of Australia, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission have also cited risks posed by climate change as a major concern for the economy and financial stability.
Professor Garnaut is reluctant to put a dollar figure on the latest bushfire catastrophe.
“Any quantitative estimates just scratch the surface,” he said.
“And most Australians would feel that even greater than economic losses, are the loss of beautiful places of Australian historical significance.”