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April, 2019

The difference half a degree will make for Australia

Australia will endure more heatwaves, droughts and coral bleaching at 1.5 degrees of warming but the extremes will be considerably less than if global temperatures increase by 2 degrees, new research shows.
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In some of the first research on the impacts for Australia of the 1.5 degree to 2 degree range agreed at the Paris climate summit in 2015, Melbourne University scientists have found the chances of a repeat of events such as the “angry summer” of 2012-13 are significantly reduced at the lower end of the warming scale.

That summer, which remains the country’s hottest, was already about 10 times more likely than without the 1 degree of warming already experienced since pre-industrial times, said Dr Andrew King, a Melbourne University climate scientist and lead author of the paper published in Nature Climate Change.

At warming of 1.5 degrees, the odds of such a summer with its heat extremes and bush fire-conducive weather increases from about 44 per cent now to 57 per cent. The chance rises to 77 per cent in a 2-degree warmer world, the researchers found.

Australian droughts, too, are likely to be made worse with warming to 1.5 degrees – but less so than compared with heating beyond that level. For instance, the extremely dry year of 2006 would be about a 50-50 proposition in any year at 1.5 degrees, but almost a three-in-four years chance at 2 degrees.

Almost all of the increase in drought risks comes from warming temperatures adding to evaporation, rather than changes in rainfall deficits, the models show.

(See chart below of the likelihood of extremes in any year as temperatures rise.) Drying out

However Will Steffen, an emeritus professor at the Australian National University and a member of the Climate Council, said rainfall changes are harder to predict than temperature rises and models may be underestimating the shift.

“The drop in rainfall that we’ve seen in south-eastern Australia in the last 20 to 30 years – across Victoria, southern NSW and southern South Australia – is about where the models were predicting for 2030 or 2035,” Professor Steffen said.

“We may actually experience bigger swings in rainfall than the models are capable of simulating.”

The research, though, is valuable in demonstrating risks are unlikely to increase steadily but jump sharply in ways that affect wildlife, humans and agriculture alike, he said.

“A lot of ecosystems do not respond linearly to rainfall or water availability changes,” Professor Steffen said. “There are thresholds and tipping points.”

(See Bureau of Meteorology chart showing how more than half of Australia had summer heat in the top 10 per cent of years in 2012-13.) Coral Sea dangers

Among the most extreme impacts of a warming world are already being witnessed on the Great Barrier Reef, where two hot summers have resulted in unprecedented coral bleaching with as much as two-thirds of reefs affected.

The research found a repeat of the marine heatwave in the Coral Sea in 2016 – which alone killed off more than one-fifth of the Great Barrier Reef corals – would rise from about a one-in-three chance at current conditions to a 64 per cent chance at 1.5 degrees of warming.

“If we follow high-emission scenarios, events like last year would be really cold events by the mid to late-21st century,” Dr King, who is also a researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, said. “It’s really quite alarming.”

Both Dr King and Professor Steffen said the threat facing the reef should prompt policymakers to act to ensure temperature rises are kept to 1.5 degrees. Drastic and urgent cuts to greenhouse gas emissions – beyond what was pledged at Paris – would be needed to reach that goal.

“When you look at Australia versus other OECD nations, our pledges are more like a 3.5 degree to 4-degree world, so we are woefully, woefully inadequate in terms of our action given these sorts of projections,” Professor Steffen said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Naval shipbuilding plan needs $1.3b for yards, thousands more workers

Defence minister Senator Marise Payne during supplementary budget estimates hearings at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 19 October 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesThe Turnbull government will need to spend $1.3 billion on shipyards and oversee the creation of an army of skilled workers to realise a national naval shipbuilding industry.
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The Naval Shipbuilding Plan, released on Tuesday, outlines how the government will achieve one of its signature promises: the creation of a local industry that can build $89 billion worth of ships over the coming decades.

But the plan outlines the scale of the challenge, including massive upgrades of the shipyards outside Adelaide and at Henderson in Western Australia, the $1.3 billion cost of which will be borne by the taxpayer and comes on top of the price tag for ships themselves.

It also warns there will be significant challenges in raising and training a skilled workforce that will have to grow sharply from the early 2020s and which, unless centrally managed by the government, could fall short and rob other industries and the navy of vital skills.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne and Defence Minister Marise Payne will launch the plan in Adelaide on Tuesday morning.

Between now and the middle of the century, the program will turn out 12 submarines, nine frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels, as well as 19 Pacific patrol boats to be given to neighbouring countries. The blueprint describes the naval shipbuilding program as “larger and more complex than the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and the National Broadband Network”.

The report says the shipbuilding enterprise will “generate significant economic growth across Australia, revitalise Australia’s heavy-engineering and advance-manufacturing industrial capability and capacity, and grow and sustain thousands of Australian jobs”.

To train the anticipated workforce, the government will set up a $25 million “naval shipbuilding college” in Adelaide, which will be run by a company or consortium chosen by tender and will team up with other educational institutions.

But it will ultimately be up to the shipbuilders – generally partnerships between overseas companies and local ones such as ASC and Austal – who they hire.

The workforce will need to double or triple from its current size to peak at about 5200 workers in 2026. About 3600 staff will need to be found for South Australia in the first half of the 2020s, posing a “substantial challenge”, the plan warns.

Unless carefully managed by the government, naval shipbuilding could poach much-needed experts from other industries, and from Defence and the navy themselves. This would “impact the Australian Defence Force’s capability and reduce Defence’s ability to be a smart buyer”, the report says.

The program aims to create steady work in shipyards, rather than having peaks and troughs that mean workers need to be laid off and then new ones trained, as has happened in the past.

The government has also made much of its “continuous build” plans for the surface ships. This is a perpetual production timetable in which the first ships of the next generation are ready for construction just as the oldest vessels of the current generation are getting ready for retirement.

However, some experts have warned that continuous builds for a relatively small naval fleet such as Australia’s could mean vessels are replaced before they have served a decent lifespan, which is uneconomical.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Insurers forced to display savings under new fire levy rules

NSW insurance companies will be forced to show the price a customer paid for the previous year’s property insurance on renewal notices from July 1 under reforms to how fire and emergency services are funded.
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The rule is designed to provide transparency in the savings insurers are expected to pass onto customers when a levy used to fund fire and emergency services in NSW is removed from insurance policies in favour of a new property-based tax.

The requirement will be announced by former corporate regulator Professor Allan Fels during a public inquiry into NSW insurers at state Parliament on Tuesday.

Professor Fels has been appointed by the NSW government as Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor to ensure that insurance companies pass on savings to customers.

The monitor is charged with ensuring insurers drop residential insurance premiums by up to 20 per cent and can apply penalties of up to $10 million to companies breaking the rules.

It says insurers have been compelled to attend the public inquiry to answer questions about how they price their insurance policies ahead of the change.

“Today’s inquiry is firstly and foremost about accountability,” Professor Fels said.

“It’s a good opportunity for insurers to show what they are doing and how they plan to do the right thing by their customers when the [emergency services levy] is removed on July 1.

“The removal of the Emergency Services Levy from insurance policies should not be used to restore or increase insurer profit margins.”

A spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia said insurers “will do the right thing by NSW consumers as they did in Victoria when that jurisdiction removed its Fire Services Levy in 2013”.

“Insurers are aware of the Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor’s expectations [of the requirement to list the previous year’s price] and are seeking to comply at short notice,” he said.

“This was only made formal in a notice gazetted last Friday. It was previously a best-practice recommendation contained in a guideline that the Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor issued late last year.”

From July 1, NSW property owners will be charged the new Fire and Emergency Services Levy based on land value determined by the NSW Valuer-General.

The government has estimate the average levy will be $185 but the change is angering many property owners who will pay much more under the new regime.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

‘I still get strange looks’: The truth about stay at home dads

Clint Greagen’s decision to become a stay-at-home dad to his four sons made perfect sense for his family, but he acknowledges the choice makes him a rarity among families.
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The 43-year-old gave up his job as a youth worker 10 years ago to allow his wife Tania Pizzari to focus on her physiotherapy practice while he concentrated on child-rearing.

“I was happy to stay at home,” he said. “It made sense for our family.”

Now father to Archie, 12, Lewis, 10, Tyson, 8, and Maki, 5, Mr Greagen is surprised by how few families take the same path.

While the public perception is that stay-at-home dads are on the rise, new data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies show they comprise a small proportion of two-parent families with children under 15 – accounting for 4 per cent of families – compared with stay-at-home-mother families, which account for 31 per cent.

Mr Greagen said the playground could be a lonely place for the stay-at-home dad, and he’s worn the brunt of ill-informed assumptions.

“When I told people I was going to stop working to look after the kids, their eyebrows would shoot up,” said the Melbourne father, whose experiences spawned a blog and a book.

“I’d get comments like, ‘You must be under the thumb’, or, ‘It must be great just staying at home every day.’ People didn’t really acknowledge it’s a big job looking after kids.

“Those sort of attitudes deter men from staying home. It was pretty rare to see other dads at school drop-offs. Even now I still get strange looks.”

The AIFS research shows that rather than being “Mr Mum”, stay-at-home dads are vastly different to stay-at-home mums, with many making the decision out of necessity rather than choice.

“For many, becoming a stay-at-home dad is an economic decision, driven by unemployment, underemployment or disability and not a lifestyle choice,” AIFS director Anne Hollonds said.

“The fathers tend to be older, with older children, and they don’t tend to pick up the full domestic workload to the same extent that stay-at-home mothers traditionally have.”

In stay-at-home dad families, mothers spend an average of 35 hours a week in paid work and 44 hours on housework and child care, while fathers spend 47 hours on housework and child care, the research found.

In stay-at-home mum families, fathers spend an average of 51 hours a week in paid work and 26 hours on housework and child care, while the mothers devote 74 hours to housework and child care.

“They are doing a lot less than the stay-at-home mums but that’s not a criticism of stay-at-home dads,” AIFS senior research fellow Jennifer Baxter said.

“Their circumstances are quite different. Stay-at-home mums tend to be looking after much younger children, so the child-care demands are really great.

“Dads aren’t often in that situation. The stay-at-home dads do tend to have older children who are more independent, so they’re not spending as much time on housework and child care.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

‘My dad rewrote his will just before he died of cancer’

My father updated his will just before his death. I have absolutely no idea what he was trying to document.
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I should have asked him years ago. But once he got sick, it was too late.

Sudden poor eyesight was diagnosed as an aggressive brain tumour requiring surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and handfuls of medication. It bought us six months with him.

Doctors warned Dad to get his affairs in order. I thought he’d already done that. But there he was, re-writing his will in the final two or three months of his life. He talked about his wishes and told me he’d made notes, but none of it ever saw the light of day.

Two months before he died, a lawyer sent me a copy of the will, signed by Dad. But it didn’t contain anything he’d talked about with me. My middle name was spelt incorrectly, and it carried my maiden name, which I hadn’t used for more than a decade.

Once I pointed it out, the lawyer sent me an updated will a month later. I was the only person named besides the main beneficiary, his wife. I’d expected the will to look after other family members, so I felt confused, guilty and lucky in equal parts.

Before long, palliative carers visited around the clock. His treating doctors warned us about depression and personality changes, such as aggression. Executors were hastily changed in the weeks before he died.

In the good old days, Dad had always been open with my husband and me, proudly sharing financials over a bottle of wine as his business flourished and his property portfolio swelled into the many millions. He lived between our grand family home, the apartment above the office and the beach house with his wife, who was family to us.

We lost Dad in July 2015. He left behind a world of grief and about a million unanswered questions. He was 61.

A few months after he died, I needed answers. Our lawyer discovered Dad had been signing transfer documents that stripped his estate bare in the weeks before his death. This meant there was nothing in his estate to contest. All previous wills had been destroyed, lawyers told us.

It took a little over a year, but I finally got my inheritance. It was bittersweet, but time has healed a lot.

I wish I’d had the courage to asked Dad about his final wishes when he was well and happy. It would have prevented so much grief.

I never got around to it because it always felt disrespectful to ask. I didn’t want to ruin his regular overnight stays with such melancholy talk. And he never got sick, still running a successful business, employing 30 staff. And honestly, it was an even harder proposition as his wealth grew.

If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents, have the conversation. Whether you agree with their wishes or not, you’re better off hearing it from them.

It’s also better to have the discussion when your parents are compos mentis. After all, dementia became Australia’s leading cause of death in 2013, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics.

I admire Sydney resident Susanne Gervay, who broached the topic with her parents, which she says bought her future peace. She also lost her father from a brain tumour a decade ago.

“My parents were very open to having the conversation, and there were no surprises,” Gervay says.

“I can’t believe the stories of misery that completely tear normal families apart. A friend of mine doesn’t see her brother any more over a stupid ceramic object.”

If the conversation is too hard for parents to have, take a look at a platform launched in Australia called Great Will, which enables people to leave a video message and digitally connect executors.

While a sobering conversation to have, I can assure you it’s far more sobering to read about their wishes in a hastily-made will, and be left to wonder.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.