Antarctica lost three trillion tonnes of ice in last 25 years - 'The brakes have come off'

Antarctica has lost three trillion tonnes of ice in the last quarter century, new research published in the journal Nature said today.

The ice sheet loss corresponds to a global sea level rise of around eight millimetres. This is a three-fold increase since 2012.

The paper shows warming oceans have driven a tripling of ice-loss in Western Antarctica between 1992 and 2017, from 53 billion tonnes a year to 159 billion tonnes a year.

International researchers drew on satellite images for their analysis.

Dr Nick Golledge of Victoria University talks to TVNZ 1’s Breakfast programme about the study - and what people can do to help. Source: Breakfast

Associate Professor Nick Golledge from the Antarctic Research Centre said the results are "shocking".

"It's pretty startling stuff. As a scientist, whenever you see a system accelerating, it's a sign that the brakes have come off," Mr Golledge said.

"We're losing control a bit. And that certainly tends to ring to alarm bells."

He said one major concern for glaciologists is Runaway Retreat, the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

"Potentially, people have argued this is the beginning on that. If we're looking at that, we'd be looking at many metres of sea level rise that could play out over the next few hundred years."

Professor Christina Hulbe, from the University of Otago, said the report highlights the need to act urgently.

"One of the most important parts of this is it's not too late to avoid the worst climate change can hold in store," Ms Hulbe said.

We need to get busy. We need to get busy as communities to work out how to confront the challenges."

Three trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared in 25 years through ocean-driven ice melt and ice-shelf collapse. Source: 1 NEWS

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Video: Aerial footage shows Hurricane Michael's obliterated 'ground zero'

Startling aerial footage taken over Mexico Beach in Florida shows hundreds of houses washed away after Hurricane Michael.

Florida Governor Rick Scott says the Florida National Guard got into Mexico Beach and found 20 people who survived a direct hit from Hurricane Michael.

The town where the hurricane made landfall Wednesday (Thursday NZT) remains very difficult to reach by land a day later, with roads covered by fallen trees, power lines and other storm debris.

Overhead video from a CNN helicopter Thursday morning (today NZT) reveals widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people.

Entire blocks of homes near the beach have been washed away, leaving nothing but concrete slabs in the sand.

Rows and rows of other homes are smashed to pieces or crunched to the ground and leaning at odd angles.

The town was under a mandatory evacuation order as the rapidly developing storm targeted the coast, but some people were determined to ride out the hurricane.

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Turkey steps up pressure on Saudi Arabia over missing journalist

Turkey's president increased his pressure on Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, local media reported today, while President Donald Trump expressed reservations over withholding American arm sales over the writer.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comments appear aimed at slowly intensifying the criticism while balancing the need to maintain the kingdom's investments in Turkey and relations on other issues.

Mr Trump's remarks, on the other hand, came as prominent American lawmakers increasingly criticise Saudi Arabia - America's longtime security ally in the region.

Turkish officials fear Mr Khashoggi was killed by the Saudis after walking into the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2, though they haven't offered any evidence to support that.

The kingdom calls the allegation "baseless," but has not offered any evidence to explain why Mr Khashoggi simply walked out of the consulate and disappeared though his fiancée waited outside for him.

Mr Erdogan was quoted by Turkish media today as telling journalists flying with him back home from a visit to Hungary that "we cannot remain silent to such an incident".

"How is it possible for a consulate, an embassy not to have security camera systems? Is it possible for the Saudi Arabian consulate where the incident occurred not to have camera systems?" Mr Erdogan asked. 

"If a bird flew, if a mosquito appeared, these systems would catch them and (I believe) they (the Saudis) would have to most advanced of systems."

Meanwhile, Mr Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that he has a call in to Mr Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who has appealed to the president and first lady Melania Trump for help.

Mr Trump said he had spoken with the Saudis about what he called a "bad situation," but he did not disclose details of his conversations. He also said the US. was working "very closely" with Turkey, "and I think we'll get to the bottom of it".

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said national security adviser John Bolton and presidential senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) to Crown Prince Mohammed about Mr Khashoggi.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then had a follow-up call with the crown prince to reiterate the US request for information and a thorough, transparent investigation.

In an interview later on Wednesday with Fox News @ Night, Mr Trump said he wanted to find out what happened to Mr Khashoggi but appeared reluctant to consider blocking arms sales, citing economic reasons.

"I think that would be hurting us," Mr Trump said. "We have jobs, we have a lot of things happening in this country. We have a country that's doing probably better economically than it's ever done before."

"Part of that is what we're doing with our defense systems and everybody's wanting them," he continued. "And frankly, I think that that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country. I mean, you're affecting us and, you know, they're always quick to jump that way."

On his first international trip as president, Mr Trump visited Saudi Arabia and announced $US110 billion in proposed arms sales. The administration also relies on Saudi support for its Middle East agenda to counter Iranian influence, fight extremism and support an expected peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Khashoggi had gone to the consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to get paperwork he needed for his upcoming marriage while his Turkish fiancee waited outside.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday evening that US intelligence intercepts outlined a Saudi plan to detain Mr Khashoggi. The Post, citing anonymous US officials familiar with the intelligence, said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered an operation to lure Mr Khashoggi from his home in Virginia, where he lived most recently, to Saudi Arabia and then detain him.

Turkish officials have released footage of a squad of Saudi men arriving in Istanbul the day Jamal Khashoggi vanished. Source: BBC

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Hurricane Michael charges into US Southeast after slamming north Florida, leaving at least two dead

The most powerful hurricane on record to hit Florida's Panhandle left wide destruction and at least two people dead and wasn't nearly finished  today as it crossed Georgia, now as a tropical storm, toward the Carolinas, that are still reeling from epic flooding by Hurricane Florence.

A day after the supercharged storm crashed ashore amid white sand beaches, fishing towns and military bases, Michael was no longer a Category Four monster packing 250 km/h winds. As the tropical storm continued to weaken it was still menacing the US Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes.

Authorities said at least two people have died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home and according to WMAZ-TV, an 11-year-old girl was also killed by a tree falling on a home in southwest Georgia. Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the eye of Michael was about 40 kilometres east of Macon in central Georgia at 2am Thursday (Thursday evening NZT). The storm had top sustained winds of 96 km/h and was moving to the northeast at 32 km/h.

After daylight Thursday residents of north Florida would just be beginning to take stock of the enormity of the disaster.

Damage in Panama City near where Michael came ashore on Wednesday afternoon was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere. Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Palm trees whipped wildly in the winds. More than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.

Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her home, Spring Gate Apartments, a complex of single-story wood frame buildings where they piled up mattresses around themselves for protection. A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and his ears even popped when the barometric pressure went lower. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine.

"It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time," Mr Beu said.

Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Florida Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard. But after the storm passed, she emerged to check on the cafe she manages and discovered a scene of breathtaking destruction.

"It's absolutely horrendous. Catastrophic," Ms Crown said. "There's flooding. Boats on the highway. A house on the highway. Houses that have been there forever are just shattered."

Governor Rick Scott announced that thousands of law enforcement officers, utility crews and search and rescue teams would now go into recovery mode. He said "aggressive" search and rescue efforts would get underway.

"Hurricane Michael cannot break Florida," Mr Scott vowed.

Michael’s scale and force surprised many, having suddenly strengthened while passing over the Caribbean Sea’s warm waters. Source: 1 NEWS


Gay students, teachers could be banned by Australian religious schools

Gay students and teachers could be banned by religious schools in Australia.

Under proposed changes to discrimination laws religious schools would have the right to turn away gay students and teachers so they can "cultivate an environment which conforms to their beliefs".

It's the controversial recommendation of a leaked review into religious freedom which was carried out after last year's same-sex marriage vote.

Some states - but not all - already allow schools to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status.

Commonwealth laws also contain some provisions to permit faith-based schools to exercise this discretion.

A Fairfax Media report suggested the review recommended the right be enshrined in the federal Sex Discrimination Act to ensure a consistent national approach.

The review's panel, chaired by former Liberal minister Phillip Ruddock, said it accepted the right of schools to select or preference students who uphold their religious convictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison played down the proposal, saying such exemptions to anti-discrimination laws already exist.

"We're not proposing to change that law to take away that existing arrangement," he told reporters.

Attorney-General Christian Porter later clarified that no changes to the current arrangement, created by Labor in 2013, are proposed in the report.

"The Ruddock report does not recommend any changes to this regime," Mr Porter said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he can't believe the prime minister hasn't ruled out the "silly" idea completely.

"The fact is every child is entitled to human dignity. We shouldn't even be having this debate," Mr Shorten told reporters, demanding the Government release the report.

Gay rights activists slammed the proposal as a shameful assault on equality.

Alex Greenwich, who co-chaired the national campaign in support of same-sex marriage, is demanding the Federal Government rule it out.

The panel reportedly did not accept that businesses should be allowed to refuse services on religious grounds, such as denying a gay couple a wedding cake.

Under proposed changes to discrimination laws, religious schools could be offered new rights. Source: 1 NEWS