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BBC News 15 Jan 2020

Australia fires: Climate change increases the risk of wildfires


UK scientists say the recent fires in Australia are a taste of what the world will experience as temperatures rise.

Prof Richard Betts from the Met Office Hadley Centre said we are "seeing a sign of what would be normal conditions under a future warming world of 3C".

While natural weather patterns have driven recent fires, researchers said it's "common sense" that human-induced heating is playing a role.

Last year was Australia's warmest and driest year on record.

The protest movement calling for action on climate climate gained momentum this year with millions taking to the streets across the world demanding that governments do more to fix the crisis.

Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg gained widespread attention for her "you have stolen my childhood" speech at the UN climate action summit in September.

The environmental protest movement Extinction Rebellion launched dramatic protests in the UK and across the world. India's capital New Delhi made headlines after its pollution levels became so bad that the city announced a public health emergency and closed schools.

The EU meanwhile declared a global 'climate and environmental emergency'. The United Nations released multiple reports warning of the dangers of climate change. While in the US, the climate crisis emerged as one of the issues among democratic presidential hopefuls.

Indigenous Mexican-American activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has been campaigning against climate change since he was six-years old. He says now, more than ever, the need for indigenous voices is being recognised.

"Every part of the crisis is directly connected to social justice, to racial justice, to the human rights violations that are happening ... and now, more than ever, there is a recognition of the need of indigenous communities' voices being at the forefront," Xiuhtezcatl said.

Xiuhtezcatl, along with 20 other activists, is suing the US federal government for climate inaction. He was also involved in another lawsuit against the fracking industry in Colorado, but lost the case. Despite this, Xiuhtezcatl says he remains positive that 'people power' can overcome big money.

"I think the power of people is being recognised as an unstoppable force, both with the mobilisation of bodies on the streets, the mobilisation in our courts, the way that we are taking to the polls," he said.

Indian environmentalist Shiva Vandana has spent her career taking on multinationals as part of her fight to preserve the planet. Originally trained as a physicist, Vandana has written over 20 books and served as an advisor to both NGOs and the Indian government.

She says climate change is the result of irresponsible actors, particularly the fossil fuel industry.

"So, I would say the problem is chemical industrial fossil fuel-based farming, and the solution is ecological biodiverse farming, in the hands of small farmers," Vandana said.

"I think we have to reduce the infrastructure that was built for the fossil fuel empire. We've got to learn how to have better lives with a lower ecological footprint," she added.

Vandana also says there needs to be a global conservation goal.

"We [do] need a Green New Deal with the earth, remembering that the earth is alive, and we have to work with her laws and processes to protect her species diversity, avoid the sixth mass extinction, and avoid climate catastrophe," Vandana said.

On this week's UpFront special, we discuss the fight for climate justice with Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Shiva Vandana.
Dutch activists have won a legal battle to force government leaders to take action on climate change.
Climate activists have been celebrating the verdict, which forces the government to reduce emissions to 25 percent of 1990 levels by the end of 2020.
The court said the government had a duty to protect its citizens from the effects of climate change.
However, the chances of the government reaching the target look slim, with the Netherlands being one of the biggest polluters in Europe.
Dennis van Berkel, a lawyer at the Urgenda Foundation which brought the case against the Dutch government, talks to Al Jazeera.
In this episode of Counting the Cost, we look back at the year 2019: people from Latin America to the Middle East took to the street to protest the unequal spread of wealth and demand that governments end austerity; a trade war between the United States and China has put the breaks on global growth and is reshaping globalisation.

But the biggest story of the year 2019 has to be climate change and the lack of will to do anything about it.

Climate crisis: With the exception of the European Union, there is very little effort to reduce emissions. The cost of our inaction has been put at $2bn a day. The United Nations says that $48 trillion needs to be spent by 2050 to avoid catastrophe to humanity; that means putting survival before short term profits.

Teresa Bo reports from Brazil on the threat of deforestation, the Amazon crisis and President Jair Bolsonaro's environmental policies.

Raheela Mahomed reports from East Kalimantan, Indonesia, on the environmental cost of moving the capital from sinking Jakarta to Borneo.

Lucia Newman reports from Santiago on the continuing protests in Chile and how the economic and social crisis has spiralled into a political one.

US-China trade war: The idea of globalisation has come under attack - from President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India", while the trade war between the US and China has taken a few points off global growth. The biggest losers have been exporting nations like Germany and Japan.

Scott Heidler looks at some of the benefits from Bangkok. And Tanvir Chowdhury reports from Tongi, Bangladesh on the rise of steel prices thanks to the US trade war.

Africa Continental Free Trade Area: In May 2019, a new economic bloc was born: 54 nations came together to form the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. The aim of the bloc is to increase trade between nations by tearing down trade barriers - in the hope of becoming the next European Union. Ahmed Idriss reports from the Nigeria-Benin border.

Healthcare in the US: Who should be responsible for providing healthcare? The state or for-profit organisations?

Shihab Rattansi reports from the US on how the health insurance industry is failing patients.
Climate protesters on the streets of Sydney after bushfires shrouded the city in a haze …

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