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Government and corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum are debating whether oil and gas companies can or should be part of the future transition to renewable energies such as wind and solar. The question is both practical and urgent, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced many countries that depended on Russian oil and gas to make swift changes to energy supplies. Many energy experts argue that viable alternatives are already in place. For example, the cost of wind and solar have come down considerably in recent decades while efficiencies of both have dramatically increased. At the same time, other more nascent technologies have promise but need massive investment to develop.

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Two high-level speakers at the World Economic Forum gathering say Afghanistan’s most urgent need is saving its economy from complete collapse. U.N. Development Program administrator Achim Steiner said Monday in Davos that “we cannot abandon 40 million Afghans simply on the principle of moral outrage.” The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan nine months ago and the hasty U.S. withdrawal of its troops triggered economic fallout. Some argue that aid to Afghanistan should be made conditional to ensure the protection of women’s rights. Pakistani Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar says that while her country views Taliban curbs to women’s rights as a threat, she asked what would happen to Afghans “in order to appease our conscience.”

A cabinet secretary who helped shepherd Pennsylvania’s entry into a regional carbon pricing program to combat climate change is leaving the administration of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor said Monday that Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell will be replaced in July by Ramez Ziadeh. McDonnell was deeply involved in the state’s entry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The program imposes a cost for emitting planet-warming carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-fired power plants. McDonnell started at the agency in 1998 and has been secretary since 2016. Ziadeh has been a deputy secretary at the agency after starting there in 1994.

A longtime contractor for Shell has accusing the oil and gas company of “double talk” by saying it wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions while working on tapping new sources of fossil fuel. Safety consultant Caroline Dennett said Monday that she was ending her links with the company and urged others in the fossil fuel industry to do likewise. She claimed in a public post on LinkedIn that Shell wasn't winding down on fossil fuels. Shell insisted it was committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. The company is due to hold its annual general meeting for shareholders Tuesday. It said it has set targets for the short, medium and long term and is already investing billions of dollars in low-carbon energy.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is calling for “maximum” sanctions against Russia during a virtual speech at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, Switzerland. He said Monday that sanctions need to go further to stop Russia’s aggression, including an oil embargo, blocking all of its banks and cutting off trade with Russia completely. Zelenskyy also says Ukraine needs at least $5 billion per month. He said tens of thousands of lives could have been saved if Ukraine had “received 100% of our needs at once, back in February” in terms of weapons, funding, political support and sanctions against Russia.

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Australia’s new prime minister was sworn into office before flying to Tokyo for a summit with President Joe Biden. The move Monday took place as votes are still being counted to determine whether Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will control a majority in a Parliament that is demanding tougher action on climate change. Albanese’s center-left Labor Party ousted the conservative coalition that had governed for nine years at Saturday’s election. The swearing-in of the new government was made possible after ousted leader Scott Morrison resigned early in the vote counting. The new foreign minister, Penny Wong, was also sworn into office and joined Albanese on the trip to Tokyo for the Quad summit on Tuesday.

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Australians awoke to a new prime minister in Anthony Albanese, the center-left Labor Party leader whose ascension to the nation’s top job from being raised in social housing by a single mother on a disability pension was said to reflect the country's changed fabric. It's unclear whether Albanese’s party could form a majority government or will have to rely on an increased number of independents and minor party candidates who won seats in Saturday’s election. With counting set to continue for many days as postal votes are tallied, one prospect is for Albanese to be sworn in as acting prime minister to attend Tuesday’s Quad summit in Tokyo with U.S., Japanese and Indian leaders. President Joe Biden congratulated Albanese in a phone call Sunday.

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The much-ballyhooed World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine town of Davos gets underway this week after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There's no shortage of issues to keep elite policymakers, business gurus and activists busy as forum organizers hope those groups try to work toward improving the state of the world. Ukraine's war, climate change and the yawning gaps between rich and poor are some of the themes to be tackled in roughly 270 panel discussions. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will be participating by video, while other world leaders and notables like U.S. climate envoy John Kerry are set to take part.

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Australia’s Prime Minister-elect Anthony Albanese is a politician molded by his humble start to life as the only child of a single mother who raised him on a pension in gritty inner-Sydney suburbia. He is also a hero of multicultural Australia, describing himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed. He has promised to rehabilitate Australia’s international reputation as a climate change laggard with steeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. His financially precarious upbringing in government-owned housing in suburban Camperdown fundamentally formed the politician who has lead the center-left Australian Labor Party into government for the first time since 2007.

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A Defense Department-funded “resiliency review” finds Parris Island facing growing threats from climate change. The South Carolina military base has molded recruits into Marines for more than a century. Now experts say three-quarters of the island could be under water during high tides each day by 2099. Military authorities say they can keep the base intact through small-scale changes, like raising roads and equipment during existing projects. Others advocate much more expensive solutions, such as spending millions on seawalls to avoid spending billions to repair hurricane damage. But to date there is no grand overhaul planned.

Social media users shared a range of false claims this week. Here are the facts: A photo identified as showing a “doorway” cut into a mountainside on Mars actually captures a tiny crevice in the rocky, barren terrain. U.S. proposals to the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations would not transfer U.S. sovereign authority over health care decisions to the WHO director-general. There were several combat deaths among U.S. service members in Afghanistan during Trump's presidency, and an investment by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ firm did not cause the recent baby formula shortage.

The Group of Seven wealthy democracies has announced plans to strengthen epidemiological early-warning systems to detect infectious diseases with pandemic potential. Germany’s health minister said Friday that an existing World Health Organization office in Berlin would be used to gather and analyze data more quickly. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the G-7 also wants to increase compulsory contributions to WHO by 50% in the long term to ensure the U.N. agency can perform fulfill its global leadership role. The ministers who met in Germany's capital this week separately agreed to better protect the global population from the health impacts of global warming by making adaptation to climate change part of medical training.

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Australians will go to the polls Saturday following a six-week election campaign that has focused on pandemic-fueled inflation, climate change and fears of a Chinese military outpost being established less than 1,200 miles off Australia’s shore. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition is seeking a rare fourth three-year term. Recent opinion polls have put the center-left Labor Party narrowly ahead of the coalition. But pollsters’ credibility has yet to recover since their spectacular failure in the 2019 election. The split of votes between the government and Labor in 2019 was 51.5% to 48.5% — the mirror opposite of the result that Australia’s five most prominent polls had predicted.

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The federal government is investing in machines that suck giant amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air in the hopes of reducing damage from climate change. The Department of Energy says it will release $3.5 billion to groups developing direct air capture and other technologies that remove carbon dioxide, which when released into the atmosphere causes global warming. Climate scientists say humans have already allowed too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to prevent dangerous rises in global temperatures. They say on top of curbing emissions we must also remove carbon dioxide from the air that’s already been released.

President Joe Biden’s order to protect the nation’s oldest woodlands is raising a simple but vexing question: When does a forest grow old? The answer could affect millions of acres of federally-managed forests where environmentalists want logging restricted as climate change, wildfires and other problems devastate vast forests. Scientists say there's no simple formula for what's old — in part because growth rates among species can vary greatly. That’s likely to complicate Biden’s efforts to protect older forests as part of his faltering climate change fight, with key pieces stalled in Congress. Underlining the issue's urgency are wildfires that have killed thousands of California's giant sequoias in recent years.

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Sydney businesswoman Allegra Spender has an impeccable pedigree for a career in Australian politics. She is the daughter of a conservative federal lawmaker and granddaughter of a conservative cabinet minister. More surprising than her decision to run for office, she has chosen to become a candidate of a breakaway political grouping that has emerged as a threat to the ruling conservative Liberal Party. Spender is known as a “teal independent,” a greener shade than the Liberal Party’s traditional blue color. The conservatives brand them “fake” independents because they are partially funded by a campaign war chest formed by a wealthy former Liberal Party donor. But the teal candidates insist their funding comes with no strings attached, leaving them truly independent.

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Federal forecasters say Hawaii and the Central Pacific basin should expect two to four hurricanes, tropical depressions or tropical storms this year. The annual National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration outlook predicts there is about a 60% chance of a below-average season. The Central Pacific region sees about four to five tropical cyclones on average annually. Hurricane season in Hawaii lasts from June 1 until the end of November. August and September are historically active months. Officials said below-average sea temperatures associated with La Nina east of Hawaii where storms form factored into this year’s prediction. The last major hurricane to strike the state was Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

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The European Union’s executive arm is moving to jump-start plans for the EU to abandon Russian energy amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. The European Commission proposed Wednesday a nearly 300 billion-euro package that includes more efficient use of fuels and faster deployment of renewable power. Russia is the EU’s main supplier of oil, natural gas and coal, accounting for around a quarter of the bloc’s total energy. The investment initiative is meant to help EU countries start weaning themselves off Russian fossil fuels this year. The goal is to deprive Russia of tens of billions in revenue and strengthen EU climate policies.

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Danish media say four European Union countries plan to build North Sea wind farms capable of producing at least 150 gigawatts of energy by 2050. Under the plan, wind turbines would be raised off the coasts of Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, daily Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported. The project would mean a tenfold increase in the EU’s current offshore wind capacity. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo are scheduled to attend a North Sea Summit on Wednesday in Esbjerg, 260 kilometers (162 miles) west of Copenhagen.

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The megadrought fueled by climate change that has long gripped the western U.S. is moving eastward. And that's behind a simmering dispute over how much water Colorado and Nebraska are entitled to take from the South Platte River, which supplies both metro Denver's booming population and expansive agriculture on both sides of the border. Nebraska stunned Colorado when it said it wants to invoke an old compact that allows it to seize Colorado land and build a canal to divert water from the river. Nebraska’s plan underscores an increasing appetite throughout the West to preemptively secure water as the drought persists. 

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Australia’s opposition leader Anthony Albanese says he will begin rebuilding trust in his nation if he wins weekend elections and attends a summit with U.S., Indian and Japanese leaders in Tokyo just three days later. Albanese says he would be “completely consistent” with the current administration on Chinese strategic competition in the region if he travels to the summit of the Indo-Pacific strategic alliance known as the Quad. Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not say who might represent Australia in Tokyo. Morrison said there were “conventions in place” to deal with the election but it's not clear what happens if the results are close. Albanese said he'd want to take office as soon as Sunday or Monday in order to attend the summit.

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