Thursday 25th of July 2024

hot and not bothered.....

Firefighters are on standby to submerge heat-stroke victims in ice and some popular hiking trails have closed in Arizona as tens of millions of people across the south-western US swelter in record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures.

Two weeks before summer even officially starts, excessive heat warnings were in effect across parts of California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Forecasters see no relief for several more days. 


Heat dome's triple-digit temperatures fry US south-westBY Rachel Looker, Ana Faguy


Temperatures were predicted on Wednesday to reach 109F (42.7C) in Phoenix, 107F in Las Vegas, 110F in Palm Springs and 119F Death Valley, California. 

By end of the day, the National Weather Service (NWS) says Americans in the region may experience "easily their hottest" weather since last September, according to the Associated Press. 

The mercury is soaring as a result of a heat dome, an area of high pressure where hot air is pushed down and trapped, causing temperatures to soar over large areas.

Temperatures will be 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit above average for this time of year, according to the NWS.

In Arizona, the hottest big city in the US, firefighters have placed at least one heat-stroke victim inside human-sized immersion bags filled with ice cubes to lower the patient's body temperature on the way to hospital.

All Phoenix fire department vehicles are being equipped with the bags. 

There were 645 heat-related deaths last year in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located. 

The city is also opening two overnight cooling stations this week for the first time. 

The NWS predicted temperatures could reach 111F at the Grand Canyon and advised that hikers use extra caution when outdoors for an extended period of time at lower elevations. 

The excessive heat has also led to Arizona officials closing popular trails at Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak.

Forecasters predict temperatures in Las Vegas could reach 112F on Thursday. 

Across the state, temperatures were expected to range from 102F to 115F.

The triple-digit heat is a particular danger for unhoused individuals, advocates said, which has led to a growing demand for temperature-controlled shelter. 

Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) has the capacity to house 600 people who are experiencing homelessness when temperatures reach these levels, its chief executive, Phillip Scharf, told BBC News on Wednesday. 

And that need is noticable at the moment, he said.

"We have an increase in people looking for services and a change in the behaviour because it’s oppressively hot outside,” Mr Scarf said.

Not only are people looking for a place to sleep but they are also looking for a place to stay during the day as the heat reaches record temperatures, he said.

CASS, the largest single shelter in the state of Arizona, offers Phoenix-area residents shelter, water, food and more.

It's a service that is much-needed, as unhoused and low income residents make up the largest population of heat-related deaths in Maricopa County - where Phoenix is located.

In Texas, San Angelo reached 111F on Tuesday, tying with the fifth hottest temperature ever recorded in that city, according to the local NWS office. 

The heat warnings were expected to run until the end of Friday. 

The extreme temperatures are forecast to spread north by the weekend to the Pacific north-west.


India's unusually severe heatwave this summer is suspected to have killed more than 100 people and made tens of thousands ill, while other parts of the country were also battered by a recent cyclone and heavy rains.

Nearly 25,000 people suffered suspected heat stroke between March and May, media reported citing government data.

May was particularly bad, where cases peaked and temperatures in the capital, Delhi, and the nearby state of Rajasthan touched 50 degrees Celsius.

A weather station in India's capital that recorded an all-time high temperature of 52.9C last week was malfunctioning due to a faulty weather sensor, the Indian government said on Saturday.

Data from the National Centre of Disease Control showed that the situation was worst in May, with 46 heat-related deaths and 19,189 suspected heat stroke cases, news website The Print reported.

More than 5,000 cases of heat stroke were detected in the central state of Madhya Pradesh alone.

In contrast, parts of eastern India have been reeling under the impact of Cyclone Remal. Heavy rain in the north-eastern state of Assam has killed 14 people since Tuesday.

India has been experiencing a blisteringly hot summer and parts of the country have touched new highs in terms of maximum temperatures.

Billions of people across Asia have been grappling with soaring temperatures, a trend scientists say has been worsened by human-driven climate change.





arctic backyard....

The Geopolitics of New Arctic Shipping Lanes
Turmoil in the Middle East makes the Northern route more attractive, if still treacherous.

By Jack Detsch, a Pentagon and national security reporter at Foreign Policy, and Robbie Gramer, a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy.


Welcome back to Foreign Policy’s SitRep. This week, we’re debating whether cricket can ever take off in the United States. (A reminder to D.C. residents that we’re slated to get our own professional cricket team soon.)

Alright, here’s what’s on tap for the day: The geopolitics of new shipping lanes in a warming Arctic, the forgotten war in Sudan takes a grim new turn, Iran boosts its uranium enrichment program, and more.

The Northern Route

OSLO, Norway—The hits to global shipping just keep coming.

With the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen still taking shots at commercial vessels in the Red Sea, traffic there is down almost 60 percent from a normal year. And even for those Western ships brave enough to make the trip, the cost of insurance for transiting the Bab el-Mandeb Strait has skyrocketed.

Norway, which has the world’s fifth-largest merchant fleet and largest mutual war risk insurance pool, has seen prices increase 100 times since the Houthi attacks began in October 2023, to about 1 percent of each ship’s value per transit through the Red Sea, said Audun Halvorsen, the director of the emergency department for the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association.

The high price of Middle East transit routes. The surging costs and fear of getting hit by Houthi drones and missiles have led some shippers to consider the Arctic as an alternative, as melting ice begins opening new potential on the so-called Northern Sea Route.

Stretching from the Barents Sea near Russia’s border with Norway all the way to the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska, the Northern Sea Route has been eyed by major naval powers as a possible shortcut for sea travel between Europe and Asia for centuries, but the region’s unforgiving frozen climate and extreme remoteness have made such ambitions infeasible.

But today, climate change is occurring four times faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet, and massive levels of ice melt in the region from rising global temperatures have led to wild speculation about the route becoming commercially viable in the near future.

At first blush, going north looks promising. The route is about 8,000 miles between some parts of Europe and Asia, compared with about 13,000 miles for the Suez Canal route. The ability to slash some 5,000 miles off a ship’s journey would mean much faster travel times—a major plus in today’s world of online retail and next-day delivery.

But here in Norway, where the midnight sun will keep it light out all day and all night for the next three months of the year, officials and experts are skeptical that the route will be viable anytime soon.

“Short answer, viability close to zero,” Halvorsen said. “It’s not a realistic alternative in the foreseeable future.”

Treacherous waters. Why the pessimism? It’s a combination of great-power politics and treacherous terrain.

Russian authorities control most of the Northern Sea Route, Halvorsen said—about 70 percent of the Arctic—and ships wanting to use the route must secure the Russians’ permission and pay them transit fees. Given current relations between many Western countries and Russia amid the Ukraine war, that poses an obvious challenge.


The waters close to the shoreline that are safest for navigation are also very shallow, which means shippers would need to cut down their tonnage and use vessels smaller than container ships or go farther out to sea where the weather is much worse.

There’s very little ability to get search and rescue boats into the area. If a vessel like the Ever Given—the 1,300-foot-long container ship that ran aground and snagged traffic in the Suez Canal (and lit social media ablaze) for six days in 2021—got stranded here, there might be no way to get it out. Lucky crews might get helicoptered out. Unlucky crews could risk being polar bear food.

Shippers would also need vessels strong enough to withstand thick polar sea ice to get through, which would raise the price even more. And once the midnight sun goes down in August, the Arctic Circle will be engulfed in 24-hour darkness for the next six months.

Even with melting ice sheets now accounting for more than a quarterof sea level rise, experts said the ice conditions in the Arctic have been more challenging in the past decade, not less.

“Due to the distances, the weather, the darkness, [and the] floating ice, the predictability of moving along this route is so low that it’s not worth the reduced number of days compared to around either Suez or Africa,” Halvorsen added.

Not so limitless. China may be interested in trying to transit the Northern Sea Route anyway, experts said, to show off its growing great-power status. Doing that, however, could test the limits of China and Russia’s self-described “limitless” partnership.

Beijing has even put out its own Arctic strategy centered on extending its military capabilities into the region, developing infrastructure, and participating in governance efforts—some of which have been put on hold since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago. But China might be wary of going too far, especially since Russia still sees the region as its strategic backyard.

“If China pushes Russia too hard in the Arctic, I think the Russians would be very skeptical,” said Jo Inge Bekkevold, a senior China fellow at the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS) and a former Norwegian diplomat. “The main strategic asset of Russia today is the Northern Fleet in the Arctic. And this is one area where I think they would like to keep China at a certain distance.”


The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, reported last year that Russia has three major bases in the region, 13 airfields, and 10 radar stations. And the Northern Fleet’s submarine base at Gadzhiyevo is only about 125 miles from the Finnish border, which is now NATO turf.

“Russia’s attention for the High North has been standing strong,” said Katarzyna Zysk, a scholar at IFS. “The Northern Fleet is still capable of performing its core missions.”

Baby steps. For now, China is making careful, calculated, and limited moves to expand its influence in the Arctic—with an emphasis on limited. Experts said the only Chinese projects that have gained significant traction in the Arctic so far are gas drilling rigs on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia.

In 2022, not a single Chinese vessel transited the Northern Sea Route, said Henrik Stalhane Hiim, an associate professor at IFS tracking China’s activity in the region. China has a research station at Svalbard, Norway’s northernmost archipelago near the North Pole, but it has been mostly quiet for the past four years since the COVID-19 pandemic. And not a single Chinese navy vessel has ever crossed the Arctic Circle, Hiim said.

But even for China, the biggest issue comes back to economic viability. Most of China’s exports come out of the country’s southern provinces, such as Guangdong, which provide easier access to shipping lanes such as the Suez instead of northern routes. For China, “it’s not shorter to sail. It’s longer,” said Bekkevold of the Northern Sea Route. “Because if you sail from Shanghai through the Indian Ocean, through the Suez, then you end up in Trieste in Italy or Piraeus in Greece, that is shorter than sailing the Northern Sea Route.”

And in the world of shipping, which relies on predictability, one or two days of delay can lead to a big surge in costs.

For now, China has negotiated a hefty insurance discount for Red Sea transits to protect its ships even as the Houthis continue to target Western shippers. But chronic instability in the Middle East will only make Arctic sea lanes, however treacherous, more attractive to the emerging global superpower.





cheaper shipping....

Shipping costs through the Red Sea have spiked by over 250 percent since Yemen’s Houthi militia began its partial blockade of the region last November. Shipbrokers estimate that commercial tonnage passing through the Gulf of Aden has dropped by over 60 percent in that time, with some shipments, such as LNG, dropping to zero.

With the US and Britain proving unable to dislodge the Houthis from their strongholds or stop the militia from attacking Israeli-linked, American, and British vessels in the Red and Arabian Seas, commercial shippers have increasingly eyed Russia’s Northern Sea Route as an attractive potential alternative, a leading mainstream US news magazine has reported.


“The surging costs and fear of getting hit by Houthi drones and missiles have led some shippers to consider the Arctic as an alternative, as melting ice begins opening new potential on the so-called Northern Sea Route,” Foreign Policy wrote.


The article "discovered" what Russian officials and media have been saying for years – that the roughly 5,600 km Northern Sea Route is the shortest maritime route between Europe and Asia, and can shave 8,000 km or more of distance, and 40-60 percent in time, off shipments, compared to traditional Europe-Asia routes via the currently troubled waters in the Middle East. 

“The ability to slash some 5,000 miles off a ship’s journey would mean much faster travel times – a major plus in today’s world of online retail and next-day delivery,” FP said.





the enemy....


World War III and our failure to defend against climate    By David Shearman


In World War III the enemy is not an array of tanks, shells and soldiers, but a collection of beliefs damaging to the earth’s future. The enemies are the minds and actions of those with the cult of neo-liberalism and greed acting through the power of huge industries, the enemy within.

In 2006 “Why we need a World War III approach to energy and climate change was written, and in 2018 “Climate change is World War III, and we are leaderless”.

There is one word synonymous with war – sacrifice.

In WW2 the minister for aircraft production said to the women of Britain: “Give us your aluminium. … We will turn your pots and pans into Spitfires and Hurricanes.” The pans came in millions. I was there! War leaders Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt had explained the need for duty and sacrifice.

Today conflict around the world is increasing and deprivation caused by flood, fire, drought and extreme heat are contributory. Most climate scientists believe humanity will soon face demise if present climate change and environmental policies continue.

The dire warnings of hundreds of scientists and many economic organisations are largely ignored.

Recently Sir David King, Chair of the Global Climate Crisis Advisory Group wrote:

“Global prosperity has historically emerged from fossil fuels. But the stranglehold of fossil fuel giants, generously subsidised by governments and financially backed by banks, places short-term profits over the planet’s survival. This entrenched dependency stymies efforts to transition to a sustainable future, despite the urgent need for change”.

David King also stated a “4R planet” is now necessary. The 3 of the 4 R’s being reducing emissions; repairing ecosystems; and strengthening local and global resilience against inevitable climate impacts.

The fourth R is the removal of 10-20bn tonnes per annum of carbon dioxide to the end of the century commencing immediately; expensive and currently not possible to any degree.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance has abandoned the prospect of limiting global warming to 1.5°C and now says that if the world wants to avoid a 2.6°C hotter environment, fossil fuel use needs to peak and start declining from today.

As yet we don’t have the word(s) to collectively embrace our sphere of defence. At the minimum it includes actions to urgently reduce greenhouse emissions, stop environmental degradation and recognise the greatest health issue of our time, climate change.

Let us call them our three survival needs – which are indivisible

The recent Budget speech

The minds of the Treasurer and Government would surely be focussed on the cost of our defences in the recent annual Budget?

Everyone listens to the Treasurer’s budget speech to see what goodies they will get but did the budget suggest needed sacrifice in WWIII? Did the budget deliver education on the greatest security and health threat **of our time and its funding needing now? What an opportunity missed.

Let us consider his 4000 word budget speech and determine how our three survival needs and their costs were handled.

Incredibly it fails to mention the billions of dollars spent subsidising new gas developments as a budget item.

The word climate is mentioned once under small business “And investing $625 million to help farmers and rural communities reduce emissions, and better prepare for climate change and drought”. The figure was for a decade.

The environment was mentioned just once under the heading “Attracting investment in key industries”. It said “And strengthen and streamline approvals – across environmental, planning, cultural heritage and foreign investment” which fits with the recent discussion on the overdue replacement for the EPBC which many are now realising may be a Native Negative instead of a Positive Act.

The third survival need embedded with climate change and the environment is human health. “Expansion of our current health
services is detailed extensively with Strengthening Medicare, and mental health, delivering better, stronger aged care, making the NDIS fairer and more sustainable and boosting wages in the care economy”.

Excellent, these measures are essential.

There is one important omission, the need to expand a greatly underfunded public health service to guide and educate us on harms and diseases resulting from climate change and environmental loss.

We are now witnessing widespread increases in the emergence, spread, and re-emergence of infectious diseases in wildlife, domestic animals, plants, and people. Covid was just the beginning. Many more such as bird flu are already here. The CDC will strengthen public health in the vital spheres of chronic disease and Aboriginal health.

Then when will we have a functional Centre for Disease Control (CDC) helping us cope with these threats?

The CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Professor Terry Slevin said recently “the budget for the CDC needs to be in the hundreds, not tens of millions of dollars, and the legislation that creates it needs to ensure it can function effectively long into the future including through periods when Executive Government does not prioritise public health”.

What will be the sacrificial pots and pans of WWIII?

The Treasurer also gave us his thoughts on “Economic security in a world of churn and change” and “To forge a new economy and a new generation of prosperity” when we need to talk about sacrifice, not prosperity in this WWIII.

The problem is that his new economy is the same pre-Covid economy which created rich nations that have brought the world to the verge of environmental disaster. Perhaps a report from a Ministerial Advisory group on a Circular Economyoffers a tiny hope on the road to a no-growth economy?

The pots and pans can be delivered by the government for we are one of the most wealthy countries in the world. Yet 96 percent of economic benefits of growth go to 4% of the population and we find that while many families struggle with the cost of living, the total wealth of the 200 richest people in Australia has recently increased 11% to $625bn.

This gross inequality causes many social and health problems; physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being which are costly and are not remedied adequately for the pots and pans reside with the rich.

Crucially, society needs equality to provide resilience to the economic losses and personal privations of accelerating climate change disasters. This must be the first pillar of our defence.