VIENNA: Austrian troops airlifted a group of German students stranded at a snowbound ski resort today, as emergency services scrambled to clear record snowfall across large parts of the country.
The army said it used two helicopters to transport the group of 66 pupils and teachers from the central ski station of Kasberg in Gruenau.
It had been cut off for days due to the heavy snowfall covering much of the west and center of the country.
The group, from Dortmund in western Germany, arrived there last Saturday, but the station was forced to shut a few days ago due to the risk of avalanches, falling trees, and power blackouts.
Austria has been hit by record snowfall for more than a week. Many roads have been impassible because of a lack of the road salt needed to grit them.
A break in the weather enabled soldiers, firefighters, other public employees, and volunteers to clear some of the snow on Friday, but more is expected at the weekend.
Some 500 soldiers have been drafted in to clear roads and roofs in the most heavily affected areas, and a further 1,000 soldiers are on standby, the government said.
LG Electronics aims to halve carbon emissions by 2030
SEOUL: LG Electronics Inc. said Monday it will halve carbon emissions by 2030 compared with 2017 levels by increasing use of renewable energy and energy-efficient management systems.
The electronics maker said its goal is aimed at having a “zero carbon” footprint by reducing CO2 emissions and increasing renewable energy sources to offset its carbon emissions.
To achieve the goal, LG plans to cut its carbon emissions from 1.9 million tons in 2017 to 960,000 tons in 2030 by adopting energy-efficient systems and expanding the use of solar power in its factories and offices.
The company also plans to step up participation in the United Nations-led clean development mechanism (CDM), which offers certified emission reduction credits for energy projects in developing countries.
LG said it earned 340,000 tons of carbon credits through CDM projects between 2015 and 2018 from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The tech firm’s zero carbon goal is in line with South Korea’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions with increased use of renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.
In 2016, the government set a national target under the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent from business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 2030.
The latest move also comes after the government beefed up monitoring on CO2 emissions after several chemical companies, including LG Chem and Hanwha Chemical Corp., came under investigation for allegedly fabricating air pollutant emissions.
Philippine cities facing ‘slow-motion disaster’
MANILA: When Mary Ann San Jose moved to Sitio Pariahan more than two decades ago, she could walk to the local chapel. Today, reaching it requires a swim.
The main culprit is catastrophic subsidence caused by groundwater being pumped out from below, often via unregulated wells for homes, factories, and farms catering to a booming population and growing economy.
The steady sinking of coastal towns and islets like Pariahan in the northern Philippines has caused Manila Bay’s brackish water to pour inland and displace thousands, posing a greater threat than rising sea levels due to climate change.
“It was so beautiful here before… Children were playing in the streets,” San Jose said, adding: “Now we always need to use a boat.”
Most of the former residents have scattered to other parts of the region. Just a handful of families remain in Pariahan, which had its own elementary school, a basketball court, and a chapel before the water flowed in.
These days just the flooded chapel, a cluster of shacks on bamboo stilts where San Jose lives with her family, and a few homes on a bump of land remain.
The children that live there commute 20 minutes by boat to a school inland and most of the residents eke out a living by fishing.
The provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan – where Pariahan is located – have sunk between four and six centimeters (1.5-2.4 inches) annually since 2003, according to satellite monitoring.
“It’s really a disaster that is already happening… It’s a slow-onset disaster,” explained Narod Eco, who is part of a group of scientists tracking the problem.
By comparison, the UN estimates average sea level rise globally is about three millimeters per year.
The creeping bay waters put people and property at risk, while the threat is amplified by high-tides and flooding brought by the roughly 20 storms that pound the archipelago every year.
Some areas have raised roads in an effort to keep up with the sinking, creating odd scenes where the street surface is at the height of door knobs on roadside buildings.
At least 5,000 people have been forced out of the mostly rural coastal areas north of Manila in recent decades as the bay water has moved further inland, regional disaster officials told the Media.
The sinking is very likely permanent because the ground in the hardest hit areas is mostly clay, which sticks together after the water is pulled out.
The fate of towns such as Pariahan provides a preview of the problems that may await some of the capital’s 13 million people.
Sections of Manila along the shore of the bay are sinking too, with excess groundwater pumping being the most likely cause, Eco, the researcher, told the Media. The subsidence there though is at a slower rate than the northern coastal communities, potentially due to less pumping or differences in the soil, he added.
A moratorium on new wells in the greater Manila area has been in place since 2004. But enforcing that ban as well as shuttering existing illegal wells, falls to the National Water Resource Board and its roughly 100 staffers who are responsible for policing the whole country.
“We have insufficient manpower resources,” the board’s director Sevillo David told AFP. “It’s a very big challenge for us, but I think we are doing the best we can.”
The demand for water has soared as Manila’s population has nearly doubled since 1985, and the size of the nation’s economy has expanded roughly ten-fold over the same period.
This explosive growth has created a ravenous demand for water, especially in the agriculture and manufacturing industries to the north of the capital.
“The sinking is a very serious threat to people, their livelihoods and cultures,” said Joseph Estadilla, a spokesman for alliance seeking to protect Manila Bay coastal communities.
“This is only going to get worse in the near future,” he insisted.
Manila and its surroundings are among several major cities, especially in Asia, under threat as the land collapses beneath them, though the causes for this vary.
Cities such as Jakarta – which is sinking 25 centimeters (0.8 feet) each year – Bangkok and Shanghai risk being inundated within decades as a mixture of poor planning, more violent storms and higher tides wreak havoc.
In Jakarta, a city of 10 million people that sits on a confluence of 13 rivers, half the population lacks access to piped water, so many dig illegal wells to extract groundwater. Yet in Pariahan the residents who remain are doing what they can to stay in a place they call home.
San Jose explained: “Every year Philippine cities facing ‘slow-motion disaster”
Germany’s far-right AfD warms to climate change denial
BERLIN: They deny global warming, oppose wind farms, defend diesel engines and coal mines, and mock teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as a green “cult” leader.
Politicians of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) have discovered climate change denial in their campaign for European Parliamentary elections.
In times of bitter social polarisation, the AfD has trained its sights on those voters who see ecological issues as an elitist concern that kills jobs and hurts the industry.
It has become the AfD’s third major issue after it protested eurozone bailouts and then Europe’s migrant influx — both of which have lost much of their potential to energize angry voters.
“We would be crazy to ignore this topic,” party leader Joerg Meuthen told the Spiegel daily. “As a politician, you have to address the issues that people worry about.”
Stella Schaller of Berlin’s Adelphi environmental policy think-tank said the AfD was indeed addressing an issue on many voters’ minds, but with “an anti-liberal, anti-scientific ideology”.
“The past two months have seen a significant increase in the number of Facebook posts from the AfD on the environment, climate, and energy,” she told AFP.
“Populist parties, with their rejection of progressive climate policy, appeal to those who feel a diffuse fear of the future or who fear profound transformative change.”
A handy target has been Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist behind the “Fridays for Future” movement.
Meuthen recently mocked “the holy Greta of Sweden”, saying she had paid a “high-level state visit” to the European Parliament and “granted an audience” with the Pope.
The party’s co-leader Alexander Gauland asserted that the “Greta cult is reminiscent of collective hysteria in the Middle Ages”.
Gauland predicted the rise of renewable energy would turn Europe into a “deindustrialized settlement region covered in wind farms”, which the party has also protested against.
Meuthen told AFP that climate change had become “a kind of replacement religion”, while on social media the party has attacked the “CO2 cult” and “climate brainwashing”.
AfD social media posts mentioned climate fewer than 300 times in 2017-18, but that figure more than tripled over the past year, said a study by Greenpeace Unearthed and the counter-extremism Institute of Strategic Dialogue.
The party has worked closely with the so-called European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE), which asserts on its website that “not the climate is under threat, but our freedom”.
Another AfD battle cry has been to “save diesel” – an emotive issue in car-mad Germany, where thousands of motorists are furious about the crisis sparked by auto giant Volkswagen’s use of emissions cheating software.
In its wake, several cities have banned diesel cars, accelerating the demise of the technology and depressing the resale value of millions of cars.
According to the AfD’s election program, “millions of diesel drivers were expropriated” because the government, mainstream parties, and the EU have branded the internal combustion engine as outdated.
In Stuttgart, home of iconic automakers Daimler and Porsche, yellow-vested protesters have held “diesel demos”, some carrying AfD placards with adhesive tape obscuring the party logo at the request of rally organizers.
On the European level, the AfD is not alone: a study by the Adelphi institute found that most right-wing populists either see climate change as unimportant, deny its existence or believe it is not man-made.
Seven of the 21 parties the study examined were rated as “deniers and skeptics”, among them the AfD, Britain’s UKIP and the Freedom Party of Austria.
Another 11 parties either had no explicit position on climate change or attach little importance to it, including the National Rally in France, Italy’s Lega Nord and Poland’s Law and Justice party.
In general, the study found, “right-leaning populist parties, claiming to speak for the ‘true interest of the common people’, often oppose climate and energy transition policies”.