Thursday, June 11, 2015

Australian cities at increased risk of flash flooding as temperatures warm and deluges intensify, experts say

The headline above and the article below rather over-egg the pudding.  If you look at the underlying journal article (also below) it contains nothing about the future at all.  All that the authors found was that storms are more intense and more sudden if the temperature is warm.  Not terribly surprising. I've seen some mighty storms arrive suddenly in the tropics. We don't get much else, in fact

It's only if the globe warms that the findings might have some implications of concern.  Fortunately, the globe is NOT warming, despite the many assertions to the contrary

Conclusions published in the journal Nature Geoscience suggest peak downpours during storms are intensifying at warmer temperatures, leading to greater risk of flash flooding in urban centres.

The study's authors have pointed to recent extreme weather events in Sydney and Queensland as examples of what they have documented.

They are urging local councils to redesign sewerage and road infrastructure as a result.  "Unless you fix the sewers and the storm drainage network you will have problems," study co-author Ashish Sharma said.

"If you're having bigger floods coming along in the future, the existing infrastructure cannot handle it. It will spill over."

Civil engineers from the UNSW analysed 30 years of weather records from 79 locations across Australia.

They looked at the 500 largest storms by rainfall volume from each of these locations and measured the corresponding near-surface temperature at the time of the storm.

The research found that the most intense downpours of rain are getting more extreme at warmer temperatures, dumping larger volumes of water over less time, leading to more flash floods.

"This is the first study in the world, to our knowledge at least, that looks at what will happen within an individual storm," Professor Sharma said.

"While it uses data from Australia it is actually very global in its reach because what we have gone about doing is we have just picked data from a lot of high quality rainfall stations in Australia.

"This holds across Australia so you can expect that this change is universal. And it's a mechanism nobody has really looked at until now.  "We certainly didn't expect it to be universal across Australia, which was a big surprise, and which basically says that you should see some other types of patterns in other climate zones around the world."


Steeper temporal distribution of rain intensity at higher temperatures within Australian storms

Conrad Wasko & Ashish Sharma

The mechanisms that cause changes in precipitation, as well as the resulting storm dynamics, under potential future warming remain debated1, 2, 3. Measured sensitivities of precipitation to temperature variations in the present climate have been used to constrain model predictions4, 5, debate precipitation mechanisms2, 3 and speculate on future changes to precipitation6 and flooding7. Here, we analyse data sets of precipitation measurements at 6-min resolution from 79 locations throughout Australia, covering a broad range of climate zones, along with sub-daily temperature measurements of varying resolution. We investigate the relationship between temporal patterns of precipitation intensity within storm bursts and temperature variations in the present climate by calculating the scaling of the precipitation fractions within each storm burst. We find that in the present climate, a less uniform temporal pattern of precipitation—more intense peak precipitation and weaker precipitation during less intense times—is found at higher temperatures, regardless of the climatic region and season. We suggest invigorating storm dynamics could be associated with the warming temperatures expected over the course of the twenty-first century, which could lead to increases in the magnitude and frequency of short-duration floods.

Nature Geoscience (2015) doi:10.1038/ngeo2456

Statement by the Lutheran Church of Australia on same sex marriages -- on 29 May 2015‏

On 22 May 2015 voters in the Republic of Ireland were asked to determine whether ‘marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’. Of nearly 2 million votes cast, 62% voted ‘yes’.

The success of this referendum, supported by the Irish government, has sparked a worldwide response. It is seen as the first popular vote to enact same-sex marriage, rather than a vote by elected representatives, as has already happened in New Zealand (2013), many European countries, and parts of the USA. Does this signify a turning of the popular tide in relation to the issue, and how should we respond?

A senior Vatican diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has said, “The church must take account of this reality, but in the sense that it must strengthen its commitment to evangelisation. I think that you cannot just talk of a defeat for Christian principles, but of a defeat for humanity.”

Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, and his deputy, Tanya Plibersek, were among the first Australian politicians to respond to the Irish referendum by introducing a private members bill to Parliament. Well-known voices such as 2GB’s Alan Jones have come out in support of same sex marriage. Now Prime Minister Tony Abbot seems to be preparing for a free vote in the Parliament, without the usual ‘party line’ restrictions. It could take place as early as August. All this seems to mean that the odds of a change in Australian marriage law have increased significantly.

In Australia, marriage is regulated by a Federal Act (1961), which defines marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.

While in full agreement with this definition, the Lutheran Church of Australia recognises that governments have the duty and responsibility under God to make and enforce laws for the ordering of society. For Lutherans marriage is not a sacrament belonging to our salvation, but an order for the welfare of human society. If the rules of society stand in clear contradiction of the Word of God, the church is not bound by them.

An example of this freedom occurred when the LCA discussed conscientious objection to conscripted military service during the Vietnam War. It argued: When governments wantonly subvert their God-ordained functions and act in contempt and violation of God's law, the individual Christian is bound to examine his position as a citizen and to let his conscience, bound by the Word of God, determine at what point and in which matters he must refuse obedience rather than to permit men to involve him in sin. Acts 5:29; Augsburg Confession XVI, 2.3.7. (Conscientious Objection to Service in War, CTICR, adopted by General Convention 1970)

So if the government were to change the law on marriage, the LCA would not be obligated to change its position on marriage. LCA pastors will not conduct same sex weddings. The legal requirement under which a religious celebrant conducts a marriage is that it be in accordance with the rites of the Church.

The LCA marriage rite is clear in this regard, quoting Genesis 1:27-31, ‘God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it'. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good’ and Matthew 19:4-6 ‘Haven't you read that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female', and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no-one separate.’

In 1978 the LCA issued a statement on ‘Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage’, which reads in part:

God, the Creator of humankind, instituted marriage. It is part of the created social order. So society, through custom or legislation, decides when a man and a woman are in fact married (Genesis 1:27,28; 2:18-24; Matthew 19:3-9; Augsburg Confession 16 and 28; Apology 23.9).

Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. This union excludes all other people. It is publicly and voluntarily entered into for the whole of life (Matthew 19:6; 1 Corinthians 7:39).

The purpose of marriage is:

- to unite one man and one woman (that is, husband and wife) so that they become ‘one flesh’. In this relationship the one person is the complement of the other (Matthew 19:5)

- to produce children and to care for their upbringing within the framework of a family (Ephesians 6:1-4)

- to provide an appropriate place and context for a man and a woman to have sexual relations (1 Corinthians 7:2,3).

The Lutheran Church of Australia today still affirms this understanding of marriage. The Commission on Theology and Inter-Church relations is preparing a new statement on Human Sexuality, which is planned for release in July, along with a series of Bible Studies. Here is an excerpt on the topic of same sex marriage:

"… Even though marriage’s attendant rites and ceremonies may vary over time and from place to place, it still reaches back to its divine origins within creation. There God instituted marriage as the union between a man and a woman. While a same sex union may be based on romantic attraction, mutual affection and promises of long term commitment, it is not an estate given with creation and embedded in the fabric of society from time immemorial. Unlike the union of a man and a woman, it is not the natural arena for bringing children into the world and thereby perpetuating the human community. Theologically speaking, therefore, a same-sex union is not only contrary to God’s design, but it does not have the fundamental features that give marriage its unique quality. To use the name ‘marriage’ for same-sex partnerships would be to use the same name for things that are fundamentally different."

The LCA will do what it can to bring its views to the attention of government and the voting public. Do not expect us, however, to be quoted much in the popular press. Most of that space will be taken up by the bigger, noisier, more favoured voices in our society.

For our part, God is placing before us the challenge of remaining faithful to him, and of showing love and compassion for all people. While we do not identify same sex unions as marriages, we know that all people seek and deserve the support of loving human relationships. We can no longer assume that those relationships will be in the form of marriage as the church knows it. This is the new reality in which we will share our faith in Christ. The Christian Church has no moral superiority to force its way onto society. To our mutual shame Christians have condoned evil under the banner of their churches, as the current Royal Commission is showing plainly to the whole world. Our only way forward is through repentance, turning back to Christ, and renewal in the power of his Spirit.

You and I live only by the grace of God’s forgiveness in Christ, and that must be what we want for all whom we meet, heterosexual and homosexual, just as Christ came, not to condemn the world, but to save it. Finally, we will pray for our politicians, opinion makers, the churches, and the Australian public, as our society grapples with this most sensitive matter.


Auditors visit six Islamic schools across Australia to investigate claims of financial mismanagement

Auditors are visiting schools run by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) across the country today, after concerns were raised about financial management and governance.

AFIC oversees eight schools across Australia, with six of those in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and western Sydney facing the reviews.

Parents who have been staging protests outside the Islamic College of South Australia at Croydon in Adelaide's north-west for weeks have welcomed the move.

The audit is being carried out by Deloitte, and the South Australian secretary of the Independent Education Union, Glen Seidel, said it had been a long time coming.

"There have been quite a few allegations raised about financial impropriety with AFIC schools in general and the Islamic College of South Australia in particular, and the allegations are quite serious," he said.

"What we need to do is get to the bottom of these allegations to find out whether there has been wrongdoing or not."

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced the audit last week to examine the schools' compliance with the act that provides them with tens of millions of dollars in government funding.

Mr Seidel said former staff members of the South Australian school should be spoken to.  "The four former principals that they've had in the last three years - those people know the inner workings of the school," he said.

"From my professional discussions with them, they're aware of irregularities but they're worried about breaching confidentiality terms in their contracts of employment."

The SA Government has also announced a number of reviews into the school.  It said the school had agreed to an independent review of its governance structures and its complaints policy.

The department will also be investigating the teaching of curriculum and compliance with all aspects of the state's funding deed with the college.

Parents welcome audit, despite delays

Disgruntled parents have been staging protests outside the school in recent weeks, concerned about staff changes and the direction in which the school had been taken by its board.

Concerns have also been raised about a more hardline approach and about how religious studies were being taught.

The parent of a student at the South Australian college, Bayan Mohammed, welcomed the audit.  "It is all about money and control, so this is beautiful news," he said.

He said it was frustrating for parents that government reviews had taken so long to be established.  "Other parents noticed [the problems] over two years ago, a lot of parents they have concerns," he said.  "But coming late is better than never."

The school and AFIC have repeatedly denied any financial mismanagement.  The school also said Islamic teachings there were "moderate" and taught by well qualified staff.


Attack on religious education in NSW

Scripture books promoting "dangerous" messages about sex and male power are being used in NSW public schools according to a parent-run lobby group Fairness in Religions in Schools (FIRIS). They have raised concerns about a number of publications for students attending scripture classes in state secondary schools. The Anglican secondary special religious education (SRE) curriculum for public schools includes texts which FIRIS claims promotes sexual abstinence outside a "lifelong relationship" and the doctrine of male headship and female submission. A sample lesson from another provider,  claims divorce happens "because of human sinfulness and ignorance".

FIRIS has targeted the publication “Teen Sex By the Book” and its companion manuals, produced by Australia's biggest evangelical Christian school curriculum publisher, Christian Education Publications. FIRIS claims the book links teen sex to drug addiction and alcoholism, describes homosexuality as "misplaced sexual desire" and warns that girls who wear short skirts and low-cut tops might be "tempting their Christian brothers to lust". FIRIS has been joined by Greens MP John Kaye who commented "If parents knew that Scripture was much more than quaint stories about men gadding about in togas and Roman sandals, enrolments would plummet.” 

The battle to remove Christianity from public school curricula is not a new one. A spokesman for the Anglican Church said “Christian SRE, teaches what the Scriptures teach.  SRE teachers explain such things as the forgiveness of sins, hope for life after death and wisdom for living now.  SRE teachers teach children to honour their parents and love their neighbour and, in age appropriate contexts, offer Biblical wisdom on many issues including human sexuality.” “The SRE curriculum has no secrets and does not attempt to hide anything from parents.  SRE teachers and SRE providers will happily spend time talking with parents about the content of their classes” the spokesman said.

As one Christian leader in Sydney has asked, “What is surprising or wrong with Christians teaching the children of parents who select Christian SRE that we believe monogamy is God's good purpose, and that sex is best reserved for marriage?”  The book FIRIS wanted banned is written by Dr Patricia Weerakoon, a sexual health expert and honorary senior lecturer at Sydney University’s Westmead Clinical School.   If the Greens and FIRIS had done their homework properly they would know that the book is not part of the authorised SRE curriculum. If they had done their homework and deliberately sought to associate the book with SRE, one can only assume that they have some seriously sinister motives.

Author Patricia Weerakoon said the book was intended to be used by Christian parents and their teenagers. "It does not in any way portray same-sex attraction as a sin," she said. Chief executive of Anglican Media Sydney Russell Powell said Teen Sex by The Book was not intended for use in SRE classes, however it is listed alongside other SRE materials in a Christian Education Publications catalogue. The Greens education spokesperson, John Kaye, called for greater scrutiny of material being used in scripture classes in public schools. "This is dangerous stuff. Abstinence messaging and homophobia have real consequences for vulnerable young people."

SOURCE (Email)

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