Sydney gasps for air as smoke from Australia's bush fires reaches record levels

The Japan Times

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA โ€“ The Australian state of New South Wales is gasping under the worst levels of air pollution on record, as smoke from widespread bush fires causes a spike in hospital visits and hazards including poor visibility for drivers. Sydney, the country's most populous city, woke up to a thick haze and blood red sun for the fourth consecutive day on Friday, even as a cooler change brought some relief for firefighters battling scores of wildfires across the country's southeast. The bush fires have pushed the harbor city into a rare appearance this week in the top ten cities with the worst air pollution in the world. Having reached as high as No. 8, Sydney was sitting at No. 10 on the Air Visual global rankings on Friday morning -- above Jakarta and Shenzhen, and just below Mumbai and Kolkata. The crisis has put pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, with critics saying he has not done enough to address the impact of climate change on Australia.


Australian Embassy - Jakarta, Indonesia

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Indonesia says only part of Australian cooperation halted

The Japan Times

JAKARTA โ€“ An Indonesian government minister clarified Thursday that the country was suspending only part of its military cooperation with Australia. Canberra promised that its investigation of an alleged insult of Indonesian beliefs was nearly complete. Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said the issue began in November, after an Indonesian military officer raised concerns about teaching materials and remarks made at an army language-training facility in western Australia. Indonesia said Wednesday that it has suspended military cooperation with Australia indefinitely, but Security Affairs Minister Wiranto clarified a day later that only the language training was suspended. "The incident in November offended our dignity as a nation," Wiranto, who uses one name, told an afternoon news conference at the state palace.


Massive bush fires send Australia's clean and green reputation up in smoke

The Japan Times

SYDNEY โ€“ Breathing masks are selling out in Sydney with the city enveloped in the smoke from bush fires sweeping across a large swath of Australia's east coast, damaging the country's clean and green reputation. Office workers wearing protective masks, previously a rarity, have become a common sight in recent weeks in downtown Sydney, where record pollution levels have consistently ranked the city above the likes of Jakarta, Shanghai and Mumbai. The world-famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge have regularly been shrouded by thick smoke that has turned the daytime sky a dark orange. Ash has fallen like a shroud over the sky, propelled by strong winds from the fires burning on the outskirts of greater Sydney. Australia has been fighting wildfires across the east coast for weeks, with blazes killing eight people -- including two firefighters overnight -- destroying more than 700 homes and razing nearly 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares) of bush land.


Dramatic warming projected in world's major cities by 2050

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - By 2050, London's climate will resemble Madrid's today; Paris will be more like Canberra; Stockholm like Budapest and Moscow like Sofia, according to a new analysis published Wednesday that relied on optimistic projections. The changes will be even more dramatic for the world's major tropical cities, like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Singapore, which will experience unprecedented climate conditions, resulting in extreme weather events and intense droughts. The study was carried out by scientists from ETH Zurich and published in PLOS ONE on Wednesday. Researchers examined the climate of the world's 520 major cities using 19 variables that reflect variability in temperature and precipitation. Future projections were estimated using established modeling that was intentionally optimistic, meaning it assumed carbon dioxide emissions would stabilize by the middle of the century through the implementation of green policies, with a mean global temperature increase of 1.4 Celsius.