Climate change protests stretch to London as Australia bushfires rage

Climate change protesters gather outside Australia House, in London, where they staged a protest against the Australian government’s response to the wildfires ravaging the country. (AP Photo)
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Updated 10 January 2020

Climate change protests stretch to London as Australia bushfires rage

  • Scores of people gathered in the Strand in central London to denounce Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, branded by one placard a ‘fossil fool’
  • The bushfire crisis has added pressure on Morrison’s conservative government to do more to combat climate change

SYDNEY/LONDON: Thousands of Australians took to the streets on Friday to protest against government inaction on climate change, as bushfires ravaged tens of thousands of square miles of bushland after months of destruction and at least 27 deaths.
Anger spread to Britain, where scores of people gathered in the Strand in central London to denounce Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, branded by one placard as a “fossil fool.”
The bushfire crisis has added pressure on Morrison’s conservative government to do more to combat climate change after Australia weakened its commitment to the UN Paris climate accord last year.
Friday’s demonstrations came as authorities urged nearly a quarter of a million people to flee their homes and prepared military backup as soaring temperatures and erratic winds fanned bushfires across the east coast.
Major roads in Sydney were blocked as protesters chanted “ScoMo has got to go,” referring to Morrison, while placard read ‘Save us from hell’.
There were similar protests in Canberra, the capital, and Melbourne, where air quality turned so noxious this month that the two cities featured among places with the most polluted air on earth.
More than 100 people chanted slogans outside the Australian High Commission in London. Banners said “Stop Killing our Planet (PLEASE)” and “Inaction against climate change, that’s just not cricket.”
Extinction Rebellion protesters joined the demonstration, blocking the road, banging drums and holding up traffic. A food trailer attached to a bike handed out free hot vegan food.
Londoner Peter Cole, 76, held up a sign saying “Climate Change Denier Scott Morrison Fiddles while Australia Burns.”
“I’m here because the Australian government is doing absolutely nothing to combat climate change. In fact they’re largely denying it and they need to be put under a lot of pressure...”
Morrison has repeatedly rejected criticism that his government is not doing enough. On Friday, he told Sydney radio 2GB that it was disappointing that people were conflating the bushfire crisis with Australia’s emission reduction targets.
“We don’t want job-destroying, economy-destroying, economy-wrecking targets and goals, which won’t change the fact that there have been bushfires or anything like that in Australia,” he said.
The CEO of German engineering giant Siemens said it will decide by Monday on its involvement in the development of a controversial Australian coal mine. Joe Kaeser was speaking after meeting climate activist Luisa Neubauer.
Friday’s protests in Australia stirred debate, with Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews saying they were wrongly timed and would divert police resources.
“Common sense tells you that there are other times to make your point,” he told a televised briefing.
“I respect people’s right to have a view, I tend to agree with a lot of the points that are being made — climate change is real — but there is a time and a place for everything and I just don’t think a protest tonight was the appropriate thing.”
Climate scientists have warned the frequency and intensity of the fires will surge as Australia becomes hotter and drier.
Australia has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since records began in 1910, NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel said this week.
“This makes heat waves and fires more likely,” she said on Twitter. “There is no explanation for this — none — that makes sense, besides emissions of heat-trapping gases.”


World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

Updated 25 February 2020

World’s oldest man dies in Japan at 112

  • Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home
  • The news came less than two weeks after Watanabe was officially recognized by Guinness World Records

TOKYO: A Japanese man recently named the world’s oldest living male has died aged 112, a local official said Tuesday.

Chitetsu Watanabe, who was born on March 5, 1907 in Niigata, north of Tokyo, died on Sunday at his nursing home in the same prefecture, the official said.

The news came less than two weeks after he was officially recognized by Guinness World Records.

Watanabe, who had five children, said the secret to longevity was to “not get angry and keep a smile on your face.”

He admitted a penchant for sweets such as custard pudding and ice cream.

The oldest man in Japan is now Issaku Tomoe, who is 110 years old, according to Jiji Press, although it was not clear if Tomoe holds the title globally.

The oldest living person is also Japanese, Kane Tanaka, a 117-year-old woman.

Japan has one of the world’s highest life expectancies and has been home to several people recognized as among the oldest humans to have ever lived.

They include Jiroemon Kimura, the longest-living man on record, who died soon after his 116th birthday in June 2013.

The oldest verified person — Jeanne Louise Calment of France — died in 1997 at the age of 122, according to Guinness.