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Ice Shelves Melting Dramatically
From: The Guardian  Posted: March 26th 2015

The ice shelf at the seaward end of the Pine Island Glacier (PIG) in the Western Antarctic used to 'plug' the flow the movement from the glacier into the open ocean. But the shelf has gone now and the speed of flow has doubled over the last 20 years. That flow is continuing to accelerate because of the pressure caused by the higher ice further back on land.

The increasing worry is that much of the ice in the Western Antarctic shelf will follow over the coming decades and century or two. There is enough ice there to add 3.5m to our sea levels. How rapidly could that occur? We simply do not know. PIG and its surrounding glaciers are being closely watched, but it will likely be another 10 years before we can begin to make accurate forecasts.

It is early days yet for the Arctic ice melt season, but it is starting from the lowest extent since records began nearly 40 years ago. Extent is the area of ice measured by dividing the Arctic up into cells and counting how many have at least 15% visible ice. The whole cell is then included. Volume is a better metric, but is much harder to measure.


Banks Losing Millions on Energy
From: Clean Technica  Posted: March 26th 2015

The big banks are losing tens of millions on bad energy loans and risk losing a whole lot more. Much of the losses derive from direct investment in oil and gas companies, but also they have bought high yielding loan debt (again), which is now turning out to have been an unwise investment.

Drillers of unconventional oil and gas wells almost all have net cash flows which do not match their need for new capital investment. For the most part this occurs because of the high depletion rates of these wells, which typically have a productive life of 3 to 5 years. Add that to the fact that drilling costs have been increasing at rates which are a multiple of inflation and you can see why observers like Art Berman and Deborah Lawrence have been advising clients not to be tempted by the hype.

The Bank of England warned us at the beginning of March that the insurance industry is in danger of losing heavily as a result of its large investment in oil and gas. The former US Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson said in 2014: 'When the credit bubble burst in 2008, the damage was devastating.'

Shale Gas Rig Counts are Too High
From: Art Berman  Posted: March 22nd 2015

Art Berman tells us that "Shale gas plays are commercial failures. The misuse of capital to continue to increase production while destroying price and shareholder equity has gone on for too long." It is curious that our government is continuing to urge the oil and gas companies to make the same mistakes here in South Africa.

Usually the story line is to suggest that US natural gas prices have no influence here. But that's not quite the case. Most of any shale gas we drill will go towards producing electricity and so it must compete on price with other fuels, as in the US. At the sort of price range needed to justify its development, it does not.

Further, a global market for gas will appear unless LNG projects planned and under construction around the world are shelved. The likeliest outcome is that LNG will also become a poor investment and its price will disappoint producers.


100% Clean Electricity within 2 Years
From: City of Georgetown  Posted: March 18th 2015

The city of Georgetown, Texas (pop. 54,000) is to supply its citizens with 100% clean electricity within 2 years. They already have a 144MW 20 year PPA to draw electricity from a wind farm 700km away, which uses identical Siemens turbines to those at Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm. This week the city signed an agreement for a 25 year PPA for 150MW solar power that will complement the wind. In the absence of both sun and wind, the PPA companies will supply power from elsewhere.

The city management placed particular emphasis on the economics, which without subsidies, provide the keenest prices with stability already built in. They emphasise too, that their solution is low-carbon and non-polluting, does not use water and is likely to attract industries that need stable supply and prices.

Naturally this is a very different business model to SA's grid system, but the latter is holding South Africa back economically and in its GHG emission responsibilities. Georgetown points the way the rest of the world is taking. It is past time to abandon our poorly functioning business model and build grids to supply all our citizens. If Georgetown can accomplish its goal in 2 years, why should we delay.


SA's Much Vaunted Renewables Uptake is Tiny.
From: Clean Technica  Posted: March 18th 2015

Well respected energy consultant Bernard Chabot has recently analysed the output of wind turbines in the BRICS countries except Russia. His results in graphical form are startling. Whilst SA has approximately the same nuclear energy capacity as Brazil, for example, that country's usage of onshore wind power is 10 times SA's. India has 2¼ times as much nuclear but 39 times more wind and China 9x nuclear but 153x wind power.

It certainly looks like South Africa could and should be doing a great deal more. Onshore wind is seen as the lowest cost, easiest and quickest to install solution. More efficient turbines are coming and many will be able to operate efficiently in areas of less wind.

A recent study in the US found that wind could provide 33% of that country's demand by 2050, whilst reducing GHG emissions by 14%, saving $108billion, 20,000 lives and 23% less water consumption. Add to that the fact that it is much easier to raise finance for wind than its competitors and you must come to wonder why we are not seizing this opportunity with both hands.

Oxford Divestment Debate
From: The Guardian  Posted: March 16th 2015

Jeremy Leggett apologises to his mother for threatening to give back his Oxford degree if the University decides not to divest from fossil fuels. His parents worked hard to give him the opportunity to study there. But he and many more now feel that Oxford should be taking the progressive route, not supporting the entrenched incumbency.

His gesture must be postponed, however, because the university's council deferred the decision for the moment. Sadly, many academic institutions have come to rely on contributions from wealthy industry to finance particular aspects of their offerings.

Oxford is no exception. Royal Dutch Shell funds a geoscience laboratory at the university, which investigates, and may assist with the extraction of, “unconventional hydrocarbons”.

Shell Pulling Out
From: TimesLive  Posted: March 15th 2015

Shell has notified the government that its negotiating team are being repositioned elsewhere as a result of SA's inability to deal with the issues in the restructuring of the MPRDA and continuing delays in designing fracking regulations.

Naturally there is much speculation as to whether this is the real or sole reason for their withdrawal. In the light of last year's IPCC determination that much of their fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground and the increasing acceptance of that stance, all the major oil companies are examining their business models. Shell is no exception. If we already have global proven reserves that greatly exceed what can be exploited, why would any company commit large capital flows to exploring for more?

Though this event marks a probable end to fracking in the Karoo, we will continue to present the science surrounding fracking, climate change and renewable energy in our efforts to support a clean energy future for all South Africans. Eskom almost daily reminds us that there is much yet to be done.

Cyclone Pam Crashes into Vanuatu
From: BBC News  Posted: March 15th 2015

Pam has brought winds of up to 320kph and torrential rain. The UN believes that dozens have been killed and that this may be the worst Pacific storm in recorded history. The full extent of the casualties and damage will not be known for some time because the archipelago covers over 65 islands. Many of the dwellings are shacks with corrugated iron roofs, which have not survived these conditions.

The first flight, an NZ military Hercules, earlier reached Port Vila, one of Vanuatu's 3 paved airports. Some aid has arrived, but much more is needed. The national airline, Air Vanuatu, has a Boeing 737-800, 2 ATR 72-500s and 3 Harbin Y12s which between them can carry 363 passengers. In addition, there are 29 unpaved airstrips, usually serviced by Twin Otter aircraft which might be used to transport casualties when the winds abate. Every island has a small port or wharf to which aid may be sent when the seas calm.

Many power lines are down and communications are badly affected. The temperatures are around 28°C and the winds have dropped rapidly, so heating is not a problem. The heavy rain has departed, so clearing up is under way. We cannot assign the blame for the islanders suffering to climate change yet, but surely it is a strong candidate for heightening the cyclone's intensity. Please spare a thought for those affected.


Rethink the Grid
From: Deborah Lawrence  Posted: March 15th 2015

Deborah takes us through the changes in thinking about the functioning of electricity grid systems, with particular reference to coming massive growth in both domestic and grid-scale storage. She quotes the recent Navigant study which expects to see compound annual growth rates of over 70% through to 2023.

If and when that occurs we can expect to see similarly enormous growth in demand for domestic power generation, largely via solar PV. Coupled together, these two technologies will provide South Africa with the optimum solution to its difficulties with Eskom and its responsibilities in terms of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Further, solar PV plus storage will minimise the expense of new transmission infrastructure. All our government is required to do is to embrace and encourage deployment whilst removing barriers to progress. There's an inevitability about what's coming. It's time to recognise that.

Namibian Lives and Livelihoods at Risk
From: AllAfrica   Posted: March 13th 2015

The drought in northern Namibia is unrelenting. Farmers are buying high-priced maize meal to feed their herds as prices for their animals drop steeply. Goats which normally fetch N$1500-1800 are now selling for N$800 and oxen which cost N$6500 are only fetching N$3500-4000.

Close to the border with Angola, 68-year old Klaundi Mwanyangapo is trying to feed 14 hungry mouths on her pension of N$600 per month, since her crops look like being completely lost this year. Not far from Klaundi others are faring better, having adopted communal agricultural methods in recent years as promoted by the UN. But so far only 800 out of 130,000 communal farmers have adopted the techniques which focus on leaving the soil undisturbed by not ploughing it.

Meanwhile South Africa may soon declare an official drought for half of the country. In KZN, for example, all of the state's dams are reportedly below the levels of last year. Our maize harvest is forecast to be 32% down on last year and consequently prices have risen sharply.


Dinosaur Extinction has Lessons for Climate Change
From: Skeptical Science  Posted: March 12th 2015

According to Wikipedia we are currently in a mass extinction of species which parallels the growth in human population. The rate of extinction exceeds that of the five great mass extinctions.

SkS's fascinating article looks at the two main theories of the cause of the fifth mass extinction (66million years ago), in which the dinosaurs died out. It worryingly concludes that there are similarities with the current growth in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. The writing on the wall is writ large now. Politicians must stop their fiddling and bend themselves to the urgent task of leaving most fossil fuels in the ground. We have no other means of preventing disaster if not to ourselves then to our children and theirs.

Joe Romm reports on a newly published study that tells us carbon sinks are becoming less effective. As we load more and more CO2 into the air, so our vegetation and our oceans are less effective at taking up a proportion of that. So more and more is staying in the atmosphere. Then John Mason updates us on the End Permian extinction and the stark warning it has for us.

New Technology Brings Canola to Jet Fuel Nearer
From: Biofuels Digest  Posted: March 11th 2015

Drive along the N2 towards Cape Town and you will see fields of canola (or rapeseed). It will be flowering soon and since it is a winter crop, farmers use it as cattle feed and as a rotational crop to enrich their land.

But canola is becoming quite a favourite in the biofuels industry and a new announcement from Emerging Fuels Technology(EFT) involving Gas to Liquids (GTL) technology may enhance its use. South Africa already has its Solaris Project, which includes Boeing and SAA amongst its partners and which aims to be producing biofuels commercially from a variety of tobacco by 2020.

However, the area required for an EFT plant at 100,000 hectares is around double that of the Solaris project. Would enough of our hard-pressed farmers commit to a scheme? It depends upon the price. But here's a product that could help PetroSA to underwrite its GTL feedstock at stable prices, whilst reducing the emissions of its process and its product.


Climate Fight will not wait for Paris
From: Bill McKibben  Posted: March 9th 2015

It is unmistakable, more articles are being published about climate change and the need to pension off fossil fuels. More articles and much more powerful ones. In the latest, Bill McKibben tells us that the intellectual battle has been well and truly won. But that doesn't change much - what is required to make a real difference is power.

COP 21 in Paris in December has been hailed as the last opportunity for humanity to give itself a chance of avoiding the worst effects of 'business as usual'. But Bill tells us that Paris is only part of the battle. The hearts and minds of the consumers and voters of the world must be won to make the difference. Politicians will listen if they fear being voted out of office. Corporations will listen if their large shareholders or their customers begin to abandon ship.

Bill originated the 'divestment' campaign and has scored notable successes. Our role is to make it clear to politicians that we will not allow our children and future generations to suffer from their inaction and to use our purchasing power to find alternatives. Even now a case can be made for solar PV as an alternative to Eskom and by doing so help the unemployed to find productive work. We should all be gaining the knowledge that will allow us to plan for the day when we can empower ourselves with clean energy.

The State of the Climate Debate
From: Ian Perrin  Posted: June 13th 2014

"Kevin Anderson's blog of 5th June examines the US commitment to cut its emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and concludes that: The maths accompanying obligations to avoid 'dangerous climate change' demand fundamental change rather than rousing rhetoric and incremental action."

" View a 7 minute video clip of Michael Mann explaining the IPCC's conservatism and note that even the IPCC tells us that South Africa can expect temperature increases of 3 to 5C, without emissions reduction and that in turn implies consequences for food production."

"Ezra Klein, until recently a highly regarded political commentator with the Washington Post, wrote a piece entitled '7 Reasons America will fail on climate change' and Joe Romm of Climate Progress responded. Here we look at each of his 'Reasons' in turn and Joe Romm's response to each. "


Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will’
From: Joe Romm  Posted: February 13th 2013

"For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense."

"We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late."

"I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."


TEDX study reveals more detail about the dangers of gas drilling
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 14th November 2012

"The study shows that air sampling near natural gas operations reveals numerous chemicals in the air, many associated with natural gas operations. Some of the highest concentrations in the study were from methane, ethane, propane, and other alkanes that occur as a result of natural gas operations"

"Although concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in this study appear low, they may have clinical significance."

We thank them sincerely on behalf of all South Africans for the effort they are making to understand the effects of drilling and fracking for natural gas that will result in better protection for our workers and communities alike. [Ian]

Greenhouse Gas Theory explained
From Ian Perrin  Posted: 24th October 2012

You might have gained the impression climate change caused by rising amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere is a contentious theory added only recently to our scientific understanding.

Not so – we can trace the basis for it all the way back to Isaac Newton's work in the early 1670's and the first, generally accepted theory around 1859, more than 150 years ago."

Here's our plain English version of the history of its development and some detail on the scientists involved.

We Must Heed James Hansen
From: Joe Romm & Michael Mann  Posted: 9th August 2012

"During the hot, dry summer of 1988, Hansen announced that 'it is time to stop waffling…. The evidence is pretty strong that the [human-amplified] greenhouse effect is here.'" Much criticism followed.

"Hansen, it turns out, was right, and the critics were wrong. Rather than being reckless, as some of his critics charged, his announcement to the world proved to be prescient – and his critics were proven overly cautious."

"Given the prescience of Hansen’s science, we would be unwise to ignore his latest, more dire warning."

"The time for debate about the reality of human-caused climate change has now passed. We can have a good faith debate about how to deal with the problem – how to reduce future climate change and adapt to what is already upon us to reduce the risks that climate change poses to society. But we can no longer simply bury our heads in the sand."

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