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Queensland in Australia to Combat Diseases And Deaths Caused by Climate-change

Forecasters say southeastern Australia can expect more unusually warm and dry conditions in the coming months

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Queensland, Australia, Hindu
FILE - A dead tree stands near a water tank in a drought-stricken paddock located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)
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The Queensland state government in Australia is to fund a new program to help combat killer heatwaves and outbreaks of disease caused by climate change. Authorities are even discussing imposing tobacco-style taxes against carbon polluters. The initiative comes as the United Nation chief warned that if the world does not take serious action by 2020, it risks the fallout from “runaway climate change.”

The plan to tackle climate-related disease and deaths from heatwaves is part of the Queensland government’s efforts to cut the state’s carbon emissions to zero by 2050.

The strategy urges bureaucrats and executives to consider health impacts when assessing mining and energy projects. It also encourages the government not to subsidize “activities harmful to health and climate stability”.

It identifies heat stress among children and the elderly as the main concern for the future. Heatwaves are Australia’s biggest natural hazard, killing more people than droughts, floods and bush fires put together.

Other climate-driven health fears are “food and water insecurity, malnutrition, worsening [and] cardiovascular and respiratory” illnesses.

Fiona Armstrong, the head of the Climate and Health Alliance, which helped draw up the plan, said wild conditions can kill.

“You only need to look at the example of thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne a couple of years ago to see how these kinds of events, even though they might be predicted, can really take the sector and the community by surprise,” Armstrong said.

Australia
Tire tracks left by a truck can be seen in a drought-stricken paddock on Kahmoo Station property, located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Thunderstorm asthma can be triggered when storms play havoc with pollen, causing potentially fatal respiratory problems.

The Queensland plan also identifies the increased risk of mental illness among those affected by a worsening drought that has gripped much of eastern Australia, including much of Queensland and the entire state of New South Wales.

Queensland farmer Sid Plant said federal authorities are not doing enough.

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“Politicians do not seem to want to recognize that climate change is affecting Australia’s farmers. We are feeling the pain as early as anybody in the world. We are not living in the same climate that we were 20 years ago or 50 years ago,” said Plant.

Forecasters say southeastern Australia can expect more unusually warm and dry conditions in the coming months.

Some Australians doubt man’s influence on the climate, insisting that a shifting climate is part of a natural cycle. However, that remains a minority view. (VOA)

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Skyscrapers May Have Made The Impact Of Hurricane Harvey Worse: Study

The scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

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Hurricane
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

Humans helped make recent devastating U.S. hurricanes wetter but in different ways, two new studies find.

Hurricane Harvey snagged on the skyscrapers of Houston, causing it to slow and dump more rain than it normally would, one study found. The city’s massive amounts of paving had an even bigger impact by reducing drainage. Land development in the metro area, on average, increased the chances of extreme flooding by 21 times, study authors said.

A second study looked at last year’s major Hurricanes Maria and Irma and 2005’s deadly Katrina and used computer simulations to see what would have happened if there had been no human-caused global warming. The study found that climate change significantly increased rainfall from those three storms, but did not boost their wind speed.

Both studies are in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

Hurricane, skyscraper
A smoky haze envelopes the skyscrapers and Rocky Mountains that usually can be seen as a backdrop to the city from a high-rise building, Aug. 20, 2018, in Denver. VOA

Houston was a literal drag on Harvey as it sloshed through, with the storm getting tripped up by the skyscrapers, said study co-author Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Iowa.

Co-author Gabe Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton University, said that forced the storm to move up higher, causing more concentrated rain over Houston and slowing, which also made more rain.

He compared it to a river running over rocks, creating bubbles.

“That’s sort of what’s going on here,” he said.

This effect is dwarfed, though, by the paving and building that don’t allow water to sink into the ground, Vecchi said.

Harvey’s record rainfall reached 5 feet in one spot near Houston. The scientists used computer simulations to see the effects of urbanization. In parts of the Houston metro area, the effects of development ranged from a 10 percent higher risk of extreme flooding in the less developed northwest to nearly 92 times the risk in the northeast, they reported.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers,
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro N.C. VOA

That’s on top of the unique weather patterns that made Harvey slow down and stall and climate change which brought more water into the storm, Vecchi said.

MIT hurricane and climate expert Kerry Emanuel, who wasn’t part of the study, called the Harvey study “a real advance in our understanding of hurricane impacts on urban areas.”

But Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon wasn’t convinced. He said the team used generic shapes instead of the actual Houston skyline. He said the storm’s wind speeds may have slowed, but that’s different from the storm’s forward movement slowing.

The other study in Nature looked at a variety of historical damaging storms and tried to calculate past and future effects of climate change. In three cases, the scientists simulated the storms without the changes in the climate from greenhouse gases, showing that global warming increased rainfall 8.9 percent in Hurricane Maria , 6.3 percent in Hurricane Irma and 8.7 percent in Hurricane Katrina .

Maria hit Puerto and Rico and other parts of the Caribbean. Irma hit the Caribbean and Florida, while Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Climate Change, Hurricanes
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C.. VOA

In Maria’s case, a warming climate concentrated heavier rain in the center of the storm and reduced it on the edges, said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For 15 storms, which included the devastating Typhoon Haiyan , the potent Gilbert and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew , the scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

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“We are beginning to see a climate change influence emerge on tropical cyclones and that’s coming out as rainfall,” said study lead author Christina Patricola, an atmospheric scientist at the national lab.

Although replicating a storm in a different climate is difficult and can’t account for certain changes, this work bolsters science understanding of how climate change alters hurricanes, Emanuel said. (VOA)