climate change reporting
(Image: Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

HOTTER, DRIER, FASTER, STRONGER

Major climate change is inevitable, irreversible, and unequivocally caused by humans, the IPCC report has concluded.

The planet has already warmed 1.09 degrees since pre-industrial times (and faster since 1970 than at any other time in recent history). We are on track to hit the 1.5 degrees global warming threshold by 2030 — less than a decade away. The rise of sea levels and melting of glaciers cannot be undone. Under current scenarios, the report says, our seas could rise by 2m by 2100, and up to 5m by 2150. Entire Pacific nations could disappear in the next 100 years. In Australia, our climate could warm by 4 degrees or more this century, causing aggressive and dangerous bushfires, floods and drought. Already, the East Australia Current (which runs down the entire east coast) is warming at a rate of four times the global average. It cannot be put more plainly: “Climate change is not a problem of the future, it’s here and now and affecting every region in the world,” said Friederike Otto from the University of Oxford, one of the report’s authors.

There is hardly any good news in some 3900 pages — but there is a sense of hope, scientists say. There is still time to avoid the worst of it. So what can we do? Environmental activist David Suzuki has a few suggestions: eat more meat-free meals, choose transport options that don’t include a car, invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels. David Attenborough suggests switching to green energy providers, buying sustainably caught seafood, and avoiding palm oil products altogether. Greta Thunberg says don’t buy any more mass-produced “fast fashion” and shop more consciously instead. And of course, place pressure on our politicians. The Climate Council has some great advice about how you can write to your local MP to urge them to act now.

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VAX AND FIGURES

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he doesn’t support mandating vaccinations in any other industry except aged care and quarantine. He said government intervention would basically make it a mandatory vaccination program “by stealth”. But that’s leaving employers in limbo, Andrew McKellar from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry told Guardian Australia, “and at the whim of the courts when deciding whether they can legally require employees to be vaccinated”. In NSW, the state government is considering mandatory jabs for all health workers after the fatal Liverpool Hospital outbreak, where five patients have died so far, ABC reports. At present, health staff (including students and food delivery) are already required to be vaccinated for illnesses like hepatitis B and chickenpox.

Morrison’s comments come as a Newspoll showed the government trailing Labor 53-47, while the prime minister’s approval rating is in negative territory. Also in the Newspoll, 11% say they will flatly refuse to get jabbed, The Australian ($) says, meaning our 70% vaccine target remains realistic — if we can get the vaccines, that is. Moderna was officially approved by the TGA yesterday, and enough doses to inoculate 5 million Australians are headed our way next month. ABC has an explainer breaking down common questions about Moderna.

VROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Minister for Communication Paul Fletcher says the car parks spreadsheet can’t be revealed for 20 years, the SMH reports. The spreadsheet, which shows the top 20 marginal seats and how much money they would get for car parks at train stations, is a “cabinet document”, Fletcher argues, and its publication would make it difficult for future governments to make tough decisions. Like whether or not they should pork-barrel, one assumes.

More than half of the $660m in overall funding was allocated the day before Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the election, the SMH reported in June. Just three of the 47 car parks have been built since the funding has been allocated, while six projects were cancelled and one was deemed ineligible.

The Senate is expected to vote today on whether to open a full inquiry into the car park funding program. The Greens told The New Daily that they’ve got the numbers for a majority and say taxpayers deserve to know just how far the Coalition’s rorting goes. Alan Tudge, who was the urban infrastructure minister at the time, was accused of quite literally running away from questions last week. He reckons he didn’t know about the spreadsheet, Guardian Australia says.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Well, the science is in: rats love to be tickled. That’s according to a team of researchers in Canberra who made international news for tickling their wily subjects. The idea behind the tickle is to improve their emotional wellbeing, The New York Times says, and make them better participants in research. Researchers undertook a four-week tickle project, tickling the rats every day. “Another control group went, sadly, untickled,” writes reporter Yan Zhuang.

It’s the first time Australian researchers have tickled rats. And it worked really well — they found tickled rats responded better to human handling and were less afraid. But it wasn’t done by amateurs — the Times spoke to Carlee Mottley, a laboratory animal technician at the University of Wollongong and also a certified rat tickler. She studied a course to learn how to tickle rats, folks. “There is a right and wrong way to tickle a rat,” she said. You can tap the back of their neck, or use their front legs to flip them in a (gentle) WWE-esque move. You can tickle them on their chest when they are pinned. Mottley said the rats are simply overjoyed by the tickle, and often want more.

Hope something (or someone) tickles you pink today.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Give people the opportunity, have the vaccines, and if people like myself who hasn’t had the vaccine, then I get COVID-19 and I died from it, that’s my choice.

Pauline Hanson

The senator made incorrect statements that the vaccine had not been tested properly (Nick Coatsworth said it is actually one of the most thoroughly tested vaccines in history), before she declared that people should be allowed to catch COVID and die, if they want to.

CRIKEY RECAP

Christian Porter, Ken Wyatt and their uphill battle in the one-party state

“Even before the polls started to go bad for the federal government, ministers Christian Porter and Ken Wyatt faced a battle to retain their seats. And now with the latest polls showing a 4% average two-party preferred gap between the Coalition and Labor, Porter’s seat of Pearce and Wyatt’s seat of Hasluck will be the centre of fierce campaigns. This is because — whether the federal election be this year or next — it will be fought in a context where the WA Liberals have been rendered virtually voiceless in the state parliament and the electorate.

“In the state election earlier this year, the party was reduced to only two seats in WA’s Legislative Assembly, the house that delivers government. The party was humiliated by the loss of leader Zak Kirkup’s seat and, even worse, formal opposition status going to the National Party.”


Why is it taking so long for Australia to get the Moderna vaccine?

“First, the advice from the scientific and technical advisory group was Australia needed one mRNA vaccine. Hunt recently said there was no deal available last November other than the one struck with Pfizer. But again, other countries were far more aggressive in pursuing Moderna. Britain bought 5 million doses on the day its interim results were released in November. The US bought 100 million doses in August.

“Australia’s regulators have also moved more slowly. When Moderna is inevitably approved, it will have taken about two months for the TGA to decide. Generally, the TGA takes 120 days longer to approve drugs than the US’ Food and Drug Administration. Another reason for the delay is Australia still insists on the TGA granting full approval, as opposed to emergency authorisation, which is the level of approval most countries are happy with (although the UK granted Moderna full authorisation months ago).”


Misleading expectations for vaccine coverage set to make Morrison look good

Scott Morrison, still hurting from his infamous prediction that 4 million Australians would be vaccinated by March (it happened in early August), continues to mislead Australians — but this time in the opposite sense. The increasingly unpopular PM continues to maintain that the Doherty Institute’s challenging 80% adult vaccination target will not be reached until 2022 while the phase B target (70% of adults) will happen by Christmas.

“Morrison may be under-promising to allow himself to claim some sort of victory later in the year — the government’s vaccine pipeline and the Doherty roadmap both imply that Australia is likely to reach 80% of its eligible population vaccinated by mid-November). But current rollout pace is understated because the vaccination rate is increasing daily and will increase even more in September.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Energy stored in electric car batteries could power your home or stabilise the grid — and save you money (ABC)

Australia to prioritise returning citizens over repeat visits by expats: PM (The Australian) ($)

Defiant Belarus leader shrugs off sanctions, says athlete was ‘manipulated’ (The SMH)

Frydenberg passes sharemarket disclosure changes (AFR)

Telstra, Optus and TPG sued over broken NBN promises (The New Daily)

Suspect in Nantes cathedral fire held over French priest’s killing (BBC)

Andrew Cuomo’s alleged victim said what he did was a “crime” as lawmakers are discussing impeaching him (Buzzfeed News)

Watching America’s crack-up (Quillette)

Black real estate agent and clients handcuffed at house viewing (The New York Times)

Taliban claim capture of more Afghan provincial capitals (Al Jazeera)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Census a chance for a rational debate on religionPaul Monk (The Australian) ($): “But how should we regard the role of religion in 21st-century (Australian) society? Surely we can agree that we wish that role to be subject to general principles of rational governance, sound debate on public policy, tolerance of intractable diversity and consistent with natural justice.

“And surely we would want an accurate idea of the state of belief and practice in our society. The census is a means to that end. Census data has been showing for some time now that religious belief, which means chiefly Christian belief in this country, is in secular decline, so to speak. I have opted, in my adult life, for Greek and Enlightenment philosophy in place of Catholic dogma. But I’m no one’s idea of a militant leftist.”

Here’s why your efforts to convince anti-vaxxers aren’t workingBrooke Harrington (The Guardian): “To understand the phenomenon, [sociologist Erving Goffman] identified a cast of characters: first, the ‘operator’, who perpetrates the con; second, the ‘mark’, the target of the con; and third, the ‘cooler’, an ally of the con artist who attempts to console the victim once the fraud has become apparent ‘in a way that makes it easy for him to accept the inevitable and quietly go home’.

“Goffman observed that all ‘marks’ eventually come to understand that they have been defrauded. But strangely, they almost never complain or report the crime to the authorities. Why? Because, Goffman argues, admitting that you have been conned is so deeply shameful that ‘marks’ experience it as a kind of social death — the painful end of one of the many social roles we all play. Instead, many ‘marks’ simply deny the con, claiming they were ‘in on it’ the whole time. This saves their pride and cheats social death, but it allows the con to continue unchecked, entrapping others.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • The NSW Smart Energy Summit will be held online, with talks from NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean, NSW Roads and Transport Minister Andrew Constance, businesswoman and former Sydney lord mayor Lucy Turnbull, and federal Labor climate and energy spokesman Chris Bowen.

  • Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull will speak on the challenges posed by China’s rise with La Trobe University’s Bec Strating via webinar.

  • The 2021 Victorian state final of the Plain English Speaking Awards will take place via webinar, where six teenagers share their words and wisdom.

  • Author Michael Robotham will talk about his latest novel, When You are Mine, in a webinar for Readings.

Perth

  • National Science Week launches with WA Chief Scientist Peter Klinken and director of the Royal Perth Hospital burns unit Fiona Wood at the WA Museum Boola Bardip.

Adelaide

  • SA Infrastructure Minister Corey Wingard and shadow minister Tom Koutsantonis will debate SA’s infrastructure projects and spending.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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