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Brazil sends Army to fight Amazon fires; Donald Trump tweets support

BRASILIA, Aug 24: Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he’s sending troops to battle fires roaring through vast expanses of the Amazon as President Donald Trump offered U.S. support to combat the disaster.

Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and pledged “strong action” to control fires -- many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government’s disdain for environmental oversight.

“Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can’t be used as pretext for possible international sanctions,” he said in a rare televised speech, adding the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds.

Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron -- who’s about to host the Group of Seven summit -- accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country’s commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.

“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump said in the tweet. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”

Macron vowed to make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit, but the reactions of not only Trump, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that the leaders about to gather in the French seaside resort of Biarritz were not in harmony on the crisis.

Merkel publicly disagreed with Macron. Her spokesman said that she didn’t think upending the trade deal would achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil. Merkel’s spokesman, however, did back Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro faces outrage abroad and at home, with protesters marching against him in Brazil’s main cities.

After a week in which the public outcry only grew louder -- and as images of the flames and giant clouds of smoke continued to appear on screens around the world -- he decided to deploy the Brazilian army to the Amazon. The president’s decree ordered the armed forces to carry out “preventive and repressive actions against environmental crimes” and to combat fires in the region, including indigenous territories.

“I had today an excellent conversation with President @realDonaldTrump,” Bolsonaro tweeted on Friday night. “Relations between Brazil and the U.S. are better than ever. We have a mutual desire to launch a big trade negotiation soon, aimed at promoting our peoples’ prosperity.”

Earlier Friday, the French president’s office said that it had become clear that Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his pledges to address climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year.

“The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka,” the statement said. “Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal.”

The French president’s remarks provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist. Issues relating to Brazil should not be discussed without the country at the table, Bolsonaro added.

“The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year,” Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. “There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them.”

Act now with ambition and urgency to tackle the world’s grave climate emergency: UN chief

By Deepak Arora

ABU DHABI, June 30: The world is facing “a grave climate emergency”, Secretary-General António Guterres told a climate meeting in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital of Abu Dhabi on Sunday, urging all participants to “seize this opportunity to take bold climate action”.

“Climate disruption is happening now, and it is happening to all of us”, he warned. “It is progressing even faster than the world’s top scientists have predicted”.

The UN chief lamented that it is “outpacing our efforts to address it” with each week bringing “new climate-related devastation” from floods, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires and superstorms.

Because of climate change, “all around the world, people are losing their homes and being forced to migrate”, he informed the meeting, adding that the situation “will only get worse unless we act now with ambition and urgency”.

Just last week, reports surfaced that “Himalayan glaciers are melting at double the rate since the turn of this century”, threatening water supplies throughout Central, South and East Asia, according to Guterres.

Moreover, he pointed out that “Arctic permafrost is melting decades earlier than even worst-case scenarios”, threatening to unlock vast amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas methane.

“It is plain to me that we have no time to lose,” Mr. Guterres said. “Sadly, it is not yet plain to all the decision makers that run our world.”

Even more worrying, he continued, “is that many countries are not even keeping pace with their promises under the Paris Agreement.”

Keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees at the end of the century will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions” in how we manage land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities, he stressed. “That is why I am convening the Climate Action Summit in September.”

The Abu Dhabi meeting, which is in preparation for the September Summit, aims to take stock of progress across all the areas that the Summit is looking to promote, from industrial transition to nature-based solutions to climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation.

“The Climate Action Summit is an opportunity for political, business and civil society leaders to set an example”, flagged the UN chief, “and here in Abu Dhabi, we are pointing the right direction”.

“Our Summit must be open, inclusive and honest, and the work we take forward must be effective, just and fair – for those on the frontlines of the crisis today and especially for the generations to come”, the Secretary-General concluded.

Thani Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment said: “We are here today, in a region known for its hydrocarbon economy … and yet, through forward-thinking policies, we have now made solar the cheapest source of power.”

Heat tops 45 degrees in France for first time as deadly heatwave roasts Europe

CARPENTRAS (France), June 28: France on Friday recorded its hottest ever temperature of 44.3 degrees Celsius, as Europe sweltered in an early summer heatwave already blamed for several deaths.

With France, Spain, Italy and parts of central Europe particularly badly hit by the high temperatures, officials urged people to take common sense precautions -- complaining that this was not always the case.

The record temperature of 44.3 degrees Celsius (111.7 degrees Fahrenheit) was recorded in France’s southeastern town of Carpentras.

It beat the previous national record of 44.1 degrees Celsius recorded in Saint-Christol-les-Ales and Conqueyrac during the notorious August 2003 heatwave, state weather forecaster Meteo-France told AFP.

Meteo-France’s Etienne Kapikian said it was “very probable” the record would be beaten again Friday as it was still relatively early in the day.

“(The temperature) will continue to climb and, in some places, we could pass 44 degrees Celsius,” he said.

The centre of Carpentras was almost deserted in the middle of the day, with cafe owners contemplating empty terraces which usually would be packed.

“We have never seen this!” one exclaimed.

At least two deaths linked to the heatwave were reported in Spain.

After feeling dizzy while helping harvest wheat in the southern Andalusia region, a Spanish teenager collapsed with convulsions when he took a dip in a swimming pool to cool off.

He was rushed to hospital in the town of Cordoba where he later died, the regional government said.

Elsewhere in Spain, a 93-year-old man collapsed and died on the street in the northern city of Valladolid, police said, giving heatstroke as the cause of death.

Heat-related deaths have also been reported in Italy, France and Germany, mainly among the elderly.

France remains haunted by the memory of the devastating heatwave of August 2003 which exposed the shortcomings of emergency services at the height of the summer holidays.

That year, nearly 15,000 people are estimated to have died because of the heat, many of them elderly people at home.

“I want to appeal to the sense of responsibility of citizens -- there are avoidable deaths in every heatwave,” said French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

In Montpellier, 81-year-old Suzette Allegre was up early to do her shopping.

By 8:00 am, “the sun is already burning hot and you can smell the pollution,” she said, saying she was rushing home to barricade herself indoors.

Scientists warn that global warming linked to human fossil fuel use could make such scorchers more frequent.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn warned those tempted to plunge into cold water, both young and old, to do so only in designated public bathing areas, adding that four people had drowned since the beginning of the week.

On Thursday, Buzyn complained that despite a barrage of public health warnings on radio, TV and on public transport, some parents were still leaving their children in hot cars and joggers were out exercising in the midday heat.

Also Thursday, a six-year-old Syrian child was seriously injured in the Saint-Denis neighbourhood north of Paris after being catapulted into the air by water gushing from an open fire hydrant and then crashing to the ground.

In the Italian city of Milan, a 72-year-old homeless man was found dead at the main train station on Thursday after falling ill due to the heatwave.

A day earlier, at least four people died in Germany in bathing accidents.

In Spain, firefighters were continuing to battle a large forest fire in the northeastern Catalonia region.

Catalonia’s forest service said the fire likely began when an “improperly managed” pile of manure at a chicken farm spontaneously combusted in the extreme heat.

Hundreds of firefighters backed by troops and aerial water bombers were trying to bring it under control.

They were hampered by roasting 44-degree temperatures and very low humidity according to David Borrell, head of the Catalan fire department.

Spain’s north-east was on red heatwave alert denoting “extreme risk”.

The stifling temperatures have caused air quality to nosedive in some European cities, prompting local authorities to take anti-pollution measures.

In Paris, Lyon and Marseille, authorities have banned the most polluting cars from the roads in recent days.

With no rains since June 1, Delhi the only 100% rain-deficient state in India

NEW DELHI, June 14: The national capital tops India’s rain-deficiency chart in a dismal June, during which the city is reeling from its longest heatwave in at least three decades. According to India Meteorological Department (IMD) data, Delhi did not get any rain between June 1 and 13, making it the only 100% rain-deficient state in the country.

Overall, India is reeling from 42% rain deficiency this month, with Jammu and Kashmir, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep the only states or Union Territories with higher-than-average rain.

“While Delhi usually receives around 14.1mm rain between June 1 and 13, this year there has been no rain so far. Delhi is the only state across the country which has not received any rain since June 1. The last time it rained in Delhi was on May 15,” said a senior IMD official who asked not to be named.

“This is something unusual. Every year since 2011, Delhi had received some rain during the first two weeks of June. In 2017, Delhi encountered at least four days of rain in the first two weeks. It was the wettest June in 10 years,” said another official from IMD’s regional weather forecasting centre (RWFC) in the Capital.

The lack of rain pushed the maximum temperature in the Palam and Safdarjung weather stations to 48 degrees Celcius and 45.6 degrees Celcius on Monday. The mercury touched a high of 42.9 degrees in Palam and 41.2 degrees in Safdarjung on Thursday.

“Rain deficiency is one of the primary reasons behind the extreme temperature Delhi recorded this June. Rainfall during this time of the year helps to keep the mercury level under check,” said Kuldeep Srivastava, a scientist with RWFC

The IMD is, however, expecting some respite over the next few days with rain and thundershower expected in Delhi early next week due to moisture-laden south-westerly winds gushing in because of severe cyclone Vayu over the Arabian Sea.

“There are high chances of rain and thundershower on Monday and Tuesday. Over the weekend the sky is likely to remain cloudy and there are chances of light rain too,” Srivastava said.

The dry spell extends across most of north and central India. In north India, Haryana (2mm rain) was 84% deficient between June 1 and June 13; Uttar Pradesh (5.4mm) 74% deficient; and Rajasthan (2.8mm) 77% rain deficient.

In central India, Madhya Pradesh (2.9mm) was 88% deficient, Gujarat (4.8mm) 78%, and Maharashtra 17.8mm (69%).

Most parts of central and peninsular India have also experienced between 40% and 60% rain deficiency.

The monsoon made landfall in Kerala on June 8, a week later than usual, marking the official start of the four-month-long rainy season.

India staring at longest heatwave in 3 decades

NEW DELHI, June 12: Nearly two-thirds of India sizzled on Tuesday under a spell of a heatwave that is on course to becoming the longest ever as scalding temperatures killed four train passengers, drained water supplies, and drove thousands of tourists to hill stations already bursting at the seams.

Across large swathes of northern, central and peninsular India, the mercury breached the 45 degree mark, including in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh, Churu and Bikaner in Rajasthan, Hisar and Bhiwani in Haryana, Patiala in Punjab, and Gwalior and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.

The Capital, which sweltered on its hottest June day in history on Monday (48 degrees Celsius) recorded as maximum temperature of 45.4 degrees Celcius at Palam in spite of a spell of light rain in the morning.

Experts warned that monsoon relief was still some time away with the severe cyclonic storm, Vayu, barrelling towards the Gujarat coast and drawing rain clouds from over the sea.

With a heatwave spell stretching 32 days, 2019 has already seen the second-longest spell of scorching temperature ever recorded. If the mercury doesn’t dramatically drop in the next two days, 2019 will become the year with the longest heatwave spell in recorded history — with three weeks to go in June.

In 1988, there were 33 such days, and in 2016, there were 32 such days. A heatwave is defined as when the maximum temperature is at least 40 degree C (plains) and 30 degree C (hills), according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

The searing heat is already leaving people withered. Four elderly passengers on board the Kerala Express died apparently of suffocation and heat at Jhansi, where the mercury has hovered around the 45 degree mark since the beginning of the month. The four people, three of whom died on Monday evening, were part of a 67-member group returning to Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu after visiting Agra and were travelling in non-AC sleeper coaches.

“A team of doctors examined them on board the train at Jhansi; three of them had passed away by then and one passenger was rushed to hospital [who died on Tuesday],” said railway spokesperson Manoj Kumar Singh. He said the cause of death appeared to be heat but the exact cause would be known after a post-mortem examination.

The blazing heatwave is in line with predictions made by a number of scientific studies based on IMD data that show that the intensity of heatwaves is rising. DS Pai, a scientist at IMD, Pune, said their study of long-term heatwave data of 35 metrological sub-divisions showed a threefold increase in heatwaves every year since 1991. “Our observation indicates that the increase was steeper in the last two decades,” he said.

An Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune study added that another impact of long spells of heat was an increase in the number of hot days and nights. An analysis of daily maximum and minimum temperatures of 121 IMD stations distributed across India between 1970 and 2015 showed the frequency of hot days and nights showed a big jump whereas that of cold days and nights dropped sharply. “With climate change, the frequency and intensity of heat waves in India will increase,” S Krishnan, a senior scientist at IITM, said.

In its heatwave bulletins, IMD has pointed out that this year’s hot spell has been amplified by the absence of pre-monsoon showers, the presence of hot and dry winds from western dry zones. However, the heatwave spell is likely to cool down this weekend, the IMD heat forecast on Tuesday said.

In major cities across northern India, the demand for power and water surged even as many sources of water – such as rivers and reservoirs – ran dry. The peak power demand in Delhi broke all records of this season on Monday and touched a high of 6,686 MW, reported the discoms. In the hinterlands, where there are often no secondary sources of water such as tanks and pipes, the situation is worse.

In Sonbhadra district on the eastern tip of Uttar Pradesh, for example, the scorching sun has forced many villagers to dig pits in the riverbed and wait for groundwater to ooze out. As the temperatures rise, the pits will go dry and villagers will have to trek kilometres for a pot of water. Hand pumps often don’t work in these regions because in many pockets, the water level has dipped below 300 feet.

The sweltering heat has driven tens of thousands of people into hill stations that are ill-equipped to handle a rush of such magnitude. Uttarakhand’s Nainital has seen an average of 15,000 to 20,000 tourists arrive daily in a city with a capacity of just 8,000 rooms. Mussoorie, which has 2,000 rooms, has seen 190,030 tourists flood the town since May.

As many as 15,000 vehicles have entered Manali and Shimla on weekends this month, translating to roughly 60,000 people — about a third of the population of these towns. The tourist influx is repeatedly choking all approach roads to the small Himalayan hill stations and causing massive traffic snarls in the mountains. Moreover, the hills have received no respite from the blistering sun — Monday’s maximum temperature for Mussoorie was six degrees above normal at 30.5 degrees Celsius while Dharamsala recording a maximum of 33.8 degrees Celsius.

Delhi expriencing heat wave

NEW DELHI, June 10: Some areas in the national capital, including Palam and Ayanagar, experienced heatwave on Sunday with the daytime temperature hitting 46 degrees Celsius.

The India Meteorological Department has warned that while the heatwave is likely to continue on Monday, some areas could encounter ‘severe heatwave’, as the mercury could hit 47 degrees Celsius.

The maximum temperature at the India Meteorological Department’s Safdarjung observatory, which is taken to be a representative of Delhi, was recorded to be 43.8 degrees Celsius, four degrees above normal.

“Some localities such as Palam, Ayanagar, Ridge and Lodhi Road experienced heatwave. At Safdarjung, however, there was no heatwave,” said a senior official of the IMD.

The IMD declares a heatwave when the maximum temperature in an area hovers above 40 degrees Celsius and it is at least 4.5 degrees above the normal. If the temperature is 45 degrees Celsius or more, then the meteorological department declares a heatwave. A ‘severe heatwave’ is a condition when the maximum temperature in a locality hits 47 degrees Celsius. On Sunday the maximum temperature, both at Palam and at Ayanagar, was 46.2 degrees Celsius.

“The hot and dry northwesterly winds are bringing in heat from desert areas of west India and from across the international border. Because of this the temperature is rising,” said an official.

The IMD has forecast that even though there are chances of dust storm and thunderstorm on Tuesday and Wednesday and light rain on Thursday, it won’t help in bringing down the temperature drastically, as the amount of rain will be very little.

“The temperature will remain around 42-43 degrees Celsius over the next one week, at least,” said the official.

Usually Delhi receives around 7.6mm rain between June 1 and June 9. But this time, there has been no rain during this period. This is further helping the heat to build up. Normally monsoon hits Delhi around June 29.


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