Doctors and farmers turn up heat on Morrison ahead of Glasgow


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraMultiple doctors’ organisations, led by the Australian Medical Association, and a major farm lobby have called on the federal government to boost Australia’s climate change ambition, as pressure mounts on Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce to finalise a deal ahead of the Glasgow conference.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the AMA, Doctors for the Environment Australia and many of the country’s medical colleges say: “Medical leaders across the country are calling on your government to urgently take much greater action to avert a further deterioration of the current climate crisis”.

Meanwhile, a report from economic consultants Ernst & Young commissioned by Farmers for Climate Action, which says it has more than 6000 farming supporters, lays out a pathway to zero emissions by 2040 without shrinking Australia’s agriculture, the cattle herd or the sheep flock.

The calls come as Morrison prepares to visit Washington next week for the meeting of the QUAD – leaders of the US, Japan, India and Australia – which will focus on security issues.

While there, Morrison will have a bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden at which climate change and the Glasgow conference would be expected to figure prominently.

Australia is under strong pressure from the US to embrace a net-zero by 2050 target, and to improve its short term ambition.

Morrison and Joyce are in negotiations about what Australia can put forward for Glasgow. But these are not expected to reach an outcome before Morrison leaves for Washington, according to sources.

The doctors’ letter says that with the conference weeks away, “Australia must significantly lift its commitment to the global effort to bring climate change under control in order to save lives and protect health”.

The letter is pointed in saying: “Australia must talk less about aspiration, and focus on firm and binding commitments that are aligned with the science”. The AMA and other medical groups are mapping a path towards emissions reductions in their sector.

“As doctors, we understand the imminent health threats posed by climate change and have seen them already emerge in Australia,” the letter says, referencing the 2019-20 bushfires, saying “that climate disaster” took more than 30 lives as a direct result of the fires.

The doctors’ organisations called on the government to:

  • commit to an ambitious national plan to protect health by cutting emissions this decade, including “significantly increasing Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement … in line with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • develop a national climate change and health strategy to facilitate planning for future climate change health impacts
  • establish a national Sustainable Healthcare Unit to support environmentally sustainable practice in healthcare and reduce the sector’s own significant emissions.

Medical colleges signing the letter were: The Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, The College of Intensive Care Medicine of Australia and New Zealand, The Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, The Royal Australasian College of Physicians, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

Signatories to the AMA letter.
AMA, Author provided

The Farmers for Climate Action group says in a statement that “farming families do not want to miss the opportunities good climate policy presents for them”.

The consultants’ report includes methods of reducing net emissions such as improved pasture management, selective breeding, feed supplements which reduce stock’s methane output, and “carbon and biodiversity” crops.

“Much of what needs to be happening – planting trees and ground cover on non-productive land and within productive systems, adopting best practice grazing management – is already underway. We just need to scale it up,” the group says.

A case study in the Queensland region of Maranoa (where deputy Nationals leader and agriculture minister David Littleproud has his seat) found an extra 14,000-17,000 jobs and $2 billion to $2.4 billion could be added to the local economy over the next decade while agriculture reduced its net emissions.

Farmers for Climate Action is urging:

  • expanding payments to farmers for biodiversity work into a nationwide program
  • funding research and development for methane emissions reduction technologies
  • strong emissions cuts across energy and transport this decade, to allow all the abatement pathways to achieve their full potential.

Australia has about 83.000 farm businesses.

The group notes research by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) showing climate change is already costing the average Australian farming family nearly $30,000 a year.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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

There she blows: the internal ‘magma filter’ that prompts ocean island volcanoes to erupt


Laura Becerril, Author provided

Teresa Ubide, The University of QueenslandThe volcanoes we see on Earth’s surface are just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface, they are fed by a complex network of conduits and reservoirs that bring molten rock, called magma, to the surface.

When the magma erupts, it can generate lava flows that cool down to become volcanic rocks. These rocks hold key clues about volcanoes’ inner workings, and what triggered them to erupt in the past. But decoding these clues is a puzzling task.

Our new research, published in the journal Geology, reveals previously hidden information in the chemistry of erupted lavas. Intriguingly, we discovered that many volcanoes have an internal “filter” that prompts them to erupt.

If we can detect magma at this crucial tipping point inside the volcano, it might even help us detect when an eruption is imminent.

Hotspot volcanoes

Most volcanoes, such as those in the Pacific Ring of Fire and the mid-Atlantic, are at the boundaries between tectonic plates. But some volcanoes, including the ones that created the Hawaiian islands, occur where hot plumes from deep inside Earth reach the surface. These are known as “hotspot” volcanoes.

Australia hosts the longest track of hotspot volcanoes in a continental setting. Over tens of millions of years, volcanoes such as The Glass House Mountains in Queensland, or Wollumbin (Mount Warning) in New South Wales, tracked the movement of the Australian continent over a stationary hotspot.

In the oceans, hotspots build chains of paradise islands such as Hawaii, the Galapagos or the Canary Islands. These ocean island volcanoes were previously thought to have been made of magma that welled up from tens of kilometres beneath the surface, deep in Earth’s mantle.

But our new research suggests ocean island volcanoes may erupt magma that has been filtered and modified at shallower depth.

Crystal-rich, not crystal clear

Volcanic lavas often contain crystals from inside the volcano, that were mixed in with the erupting magma. The crystals tell us a lot about the volcano’s insides, but they can also disguise the chemistry of the lava itself.




Read more:
Volcano crystals could make it easier to predict eruptions


Think of it like rocky road chocolate. If we want to analyse the ingredients of the chocolate itself, we first need to disregard the marshmallows and nuts.

Microscopic image of crystals in magma.
Microscopic image of crystals in magma.
Author provided

We can do this by analysing rocks made from crystal-free lavas. In our study, we compared crystal-free and crystal-rich magmas from El Hierro volcano in the Canary Islands, which last erupted in 2011.

It turns out that the crystal-free magma from these volcanoes is very similar across millions of years of volcanic activity, and across many ocean island volcanoes around the world, including the Canary Islands and Hawaii. This is how we realised the magma was not pristine and coming directly from great depth, but rather filtered at shallower depths.

And if the magma from hotspot island volcanoes is so similar, the chances are their eruptions are triggered by common mechanisms too.

The ‘secret volcano filter’

When crystals form inside the volcano, this “steals” chemical elements from the magma. In turn, this alters the composition of the leftover magma, almost as if it had been passed through a sieve.

This filtering process makes the magma less dense, and increases its gas content. This gas can then bubble up and propel the magma to the surface, just like the cork popping from a bottle of champagne.

In ocean island volcanoes, the magma can reach this “tipping point” at the base of the Earth’s crust, just a few kilometres beneath the surface, rather than at depth.
This means that if we detect magma at this depth with the help of earthquake monitoring equipment, an eruption might follow. This is exactly what happened when El Hierro erupted in 2011.

Does this make it easier to forecast eruptions?

If we could open a volcano like a doll’s house, we would be able to track the movement of magma towards the surface. It’s a pity we can’t, although we can try to “see” this journey indirectly, by monitoring earthquakes, deformation and gas emissions, all of which can indicate magma rising inside a volcano.

But to assess whether a volcano is likely to erupt, or whether a dormant volcano is reawakening, we also need to compare current observations with information about what triggered eruptions in the past.

This is where our new discovery could prove especially useful. If the eruption triggers happen at similar depths in ocean island volcanoes globally, warning signs from such depths may be particularly important to monitor and consider as the precursory signs of eruption.




Read more:
Australia’s volcanic history is a lot more recent than you think


The Conversation


Teresa Ubide, Senior Lecturer in Igneous Petrology/Volcanology, The University of Queensland

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

View from The Hill: Barnaby Joyce falls (sort of) into step for the ‘net zero’ march


Lukas Coch/AAP

Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraThe Coalition brigade is assembling, readying for the final march to a place it once regarded as enemy territory and poisoned ground, too dangerous to approach.

Josh Frydenberg waved the flag on Friday. Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, a conscripted officer, is reluctantly falling (sort of) into step. Angus Taylor will be purchasing the requisite boots.

Scott Morrison, the general, will announce the arrival. But not until the details of a deal, heavy with technology and trade offs and pay offs, are landed with Joyce.

The Prime Minister wants – “needs” would be a better word – Australia to support a 2050 net zero emissions target at the November Glasgow climate conference.

No if or buts or qualifications. No having to say net zero “preferably” by 2050, as the government has been doing.

Morrison and Joyce have been talking at length about this imperative, because without the Nationals the journey – which seems so short to outsiders but so very arduous for the Coalition – cannot be completed.

Frydenberg on Friday delivered the blunt message that if Australia doesn’t step up to world expectations on climate policy, it will have trouble getting the capital it needs from overseas, in sufficient quantity and at the cheapest cost.




Read more:
Net-zero, carbon-neutral, carbon-negative … confused by all the carbon jargon? Then read this


The Treasurer’s speech was focused on finance, rather than the environment as such. He pitched his push for the firm target so as to appeal in hard-headed economic terms. It’s the markets (not the greenies) that are requiring us to do this, was the message.

Frydenberg is battle-hardened for the task. As energy minister, he was then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s lieutenant when they carried the standard for a National Energy Guarantee, the NEG.

That succumbed to an ambush from a group of rebel troops, leaving Turnbull mortally wounded. Morrison has better armour; anyway, the Liberal sceptics aren’t heard from nowadays. The noise comes from Nationals.




Read more:
Scott Morrison has embraced net-zero emissions – now it’s time to walk the talk


On Friday morning Joyce did his bit on ABC radio. His doubts were evident, as he pointed to power price rises and collapsing energy companies in Britain.

But he came through with the vital central line. Asked, “do you support net zero by 2050?” he replied, “I’ve got no problems with any plan that does not leave regional areas hurt”.

Later in the day he said: “Now, when people say do you support it and they don’t tell you how they’re going to do it, they’re opening themselves […] to a crisis like they’re experiencing in Europe, like they’re experiencing in the UK”.

Joyce will have problems with some of his followers, especially his one-time staffer, now senator, Matt Canavan, who can remind his leader how he not so long ago trashed the target.

But he’ll get plenty of loot for the Nationals in the final package. Even Frydenberg seems to have stopped worrying about the appallingly high cost of political living these days.

In Washington, Morrison was asked whether the government had made a decision on net zero.

“No, if Australia had made such a decision, I would have announced it,” he said. “Australia has not made any final decision on that matter … we’ll be considering further when I return to Australia the plan that we believe can help us achieve our ambition in this area”.




Read more:
Yes, it is entirely possible for Australia to phase out thermal coal within a decade


While the army’s destination seems clear, there’s still work to be done, and the Nationals say the actual map is yet to be laid out on the table.

But if anything were to derail the expedition now, it would be a shock to everyone – including Morrison, and no doubt to Joe Biden and Boris Johnson.

Morrison would be left in an intolerable position for Glasgow. Frydenberg made a point of noting 129 countries have committed to the 2050 target.

The PM would also be hobbled at the election, with climate an issue especially in the leafy city areas and independent candidates gearing up to run in various seats.

Embracing the 2050 target is a minimal requirement for a nation’s Glasgow policy, but the United States, Britain and other climate frontrunners are focused on countries being more ambitious in the medium term.

What Morrison and Joyce do about that will soon become the big question.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

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