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Farming CO2
From: Eco-Business  Posted: December 24th 2015

The soil contains 3 or 4 times more carbon than does the atmosphere. But recent agricultural practices have been releasing much of it, mostly because they till the soil. That destroys fungi vital to soil health and together with increasing use of chemical fertilisers and weed-killers, erosion and clear-cutting has been diminishing the richness of our soils. So much so that the UN reckons it will all be gone in 60 years.

The process can be reversed by no-till farming with 'cover planting' between the main crops, which also improves crop yields and moisture retention. So crops' drought resistance is built in with the newer techniques. Changing to no-till farming needs good planning, advice and hard work. But plenty of successful examples exist out there and many NGOs are willing to help. For home owners no-till vegetable gardens produce organic produce whilst enriching the soil.

The French/Peruvian '4 per 1000' initiative was a product of COP20 in Lima and sets out to increase the carbon in global topsoil by 0.4% per year, which, if applied globally, would reduce the annual CO2 emissions by the whole of the current human caused amount. This looks like an amazing win, win, win solution. It should form part of every country's mitigation plans and should not wait for 2020.

LAND GRABS  |   LOW COST  |   A NEW WAY  |   4 PER 1000

Minister Fails to Consult
From: News24  Posted: December 15th 2015

Described as South Africa's marine equivalent of the Kruger Park, the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area (MPA) is now open to fishing as decreed by Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, without any public consultation. Many of the species in the area are more endangered than the rhino and SANParks tells us that "By protecting populations of ..... species within MPAs, over exploited populations outside the park boundaries ..... benefit through the movement of either adults or larval fish.".

The numbers of endangered species per cu.m. within the MPA are typically around 6 times that of those immediately outside, even though many of them have migrated from the MPA. Line fishing was once thought to have little effect on fish stocks, but more recent research now suggests the opposite and, because it occurs in the coastal waters where fish spend their early years, typically results in fast depletion.

The new Palau reserve is heralded by local fishermen as a major step forward because they understand the need to preserve stocks and our Indian Ocean waters now boast six protected areas that were opened in the last 12 months. But Ms. Molewa is happy to add to the acidification problems of young fish by this action, which will inevitably achieve the opposite of her aims. Please sign the Orca Foundation's petition to reverse her decision and institute proper public consultation.


The Aftermath of COP21
From: Post Carbon Institute  Posted: December 14th 2015

Richard Heinberg and David Fridley analyse the enormous task that must be undertaken to put into effect the Paris agreement. Their letter contains a chart that highlights the embarrassingly little progress that South Africa has made in deploying renewable energy, which is at odds with our government's fine words.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) echoes the size of the task, whilst the Vatican "seeks the solidarity of the human family as we pursue solutions" and presses for an end to the "abusive treatment of both the earth and the poor."

Even Bernie Sanders' latest climate plan, which is bolder than any of his US Presidential rivals and purports to create 10 million new jobs, does not address the issue of excessive consumption. Carbon Capture and Removal (CCR) begins to attract an audience in Paris. Overall, palpable euphoria, though earned, must now give way to a sharp intake of breath as we realise the mammoth size of the task that confronts us.


An Investment Signal
From: New York Times  Posted: December 14th 2015

The New York Times tells us that it is "very hard to go backward from this [the COP21 agreement]" and that "people are boarding this train, and it’s time to hop on if you want to have a thriving, 21st-century economy.". Eddie O'Connor, CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power calls for a realistic approach to funding the transition and a carbon tax of €30(R460)/tonne of CO2 whilst the SA government proposes around one quarter of that with much room for offsets.

The CEO of 50 Hertz, a German grid operator which supports 18 million people, tells us that the country's grid could include 70% renewables before storage is necessary and that even at the current 42% they have not had a power outage for over 35 years. A Stanford study of 139 countries finds that they could all provide 100% by 2050 with savings of "an average of $170 a year on fuel costs, and $2,880 a year in air-pollution-damage cost and $US1,930/person/year in climate costs."

Carbon Tracker estimates that the world needs to drop plans for $2trillion of investments to avoid stranded assets, of which $8.6(R130)billion are in South Africa. An early sign of danger is the imminent write down of US oil and gas reserves as a consequence of stock exchange rules.

COP21 Ends
From: Climate Progress  Posted: December 12th 2015

COP21 has ended in Paris with an agreement that is widely acknowledged as a triumph of diplomacy. Yet the agreement only targets emission reductions that should limit global surface temperature rise to 2.7°C. Some countries, like South Africa, have made their targets conditional upon receiving grants from donor nations. The negotiations to address that thorny problem will only take place in Marrakech next November, coincidentally at around the time of the forthcoming US Presidential election. What is clear, though is that SA's whole energy policy must be rethought. No new coal plants, closure of elderly ones, no coal to liquids and no fracking.

The agreement allows for a ratcheting up of targets every five years, but kicking the can down the road in this way will induce a 'too little, too late' attitude that decreases the chances of confining increase to 2 or even 1.5°C and increases the cost of getting there.

Mainstream Renewable Power have had a substantial part to play in SA's renewables deployment. Their CEO tells us that "In South Africa, new onshore wind can be built for less than half the cost of a new coal plant.". His claim needs verification, but he should know and we do now know that these projects can be implemented quickly, provide good employment opportunities and are funded externally. Given Eskom's energy shortage and the need to conserve funds in the fiscus, SA should be rapidly deploying this technology.


COP21 - Day 11
From:Climate Progress  Posted: December 10th 2015

Whilst the mood towards a Saturday agreement remains positive, there are a number of hurdles yet to be overcome. Differentiation, the division of countries into those who should be responsible or the remainder, is still a thorny problem, as is the debate over what funds have been committed to the tasks. The OECD has made a strong pushback against the Indian allegations concerning their accounting of the funds. Should loss and damage additionally be included and should the target be 1.5°C or 2°C are all unresolved, though progress is being made.

Diana Rios spent over a week to get from her village in Peru to Paris to urge for action against the deforestation that plagues her community and killed her father, rather than the words or paper from COP21.

Oddly the worlds of shipping and aviation are not on the agenda of COP2, even though they both the cause of strong emissions, because responsibility for their administration is not confined to a single country of origin. However, both industries are conscious of the fact that this loophole will be closed in time and are making efforts to tackle the problem.


COP21 - Day 10
From: UN News Centre  Posted: December 9th 2015

The deadline is coming up fast now, the final text is becoming clearer, but some thorny issues remain to be ironed out. Compromise is needed if a 'successful' outcome is to be lauded, but physics and nature do not compromise. What appears to be coming is a watered down 'fudge' of what is needed. Harder and much more expensive solutions may be required later if we fail to grasp the nettle now.

Africa, with others, is demanding compensation for extreme climate events, but no-one is telling us how to differentiate between, for example, drought caused by climate change and drought caused by El Niño. The outcome must be workable, not a fee-fest for lawyers. Then the EU (28 countries) have agreed with African, Caribbean and Pacific Island countries that proposes funding for adaptation, but does not seem to mention compensation.

The business community is prepared to fund its own mitigation efforts to its credit, but Saudi Arabia has been accused of trying wreck the any deal and India is demanding cash for renewables before it reduces its coal fired power plans and plants. There's plenty to untangle before the conference is scheduled to end on Friday, though the possibility exists that another all night session may be required.


COP21 - Day 9
From: Clean Technica  Posted: December 8th 2015

Tuesday was designated 'Energy Day' and duly highlighted Sustainable Energy for All, IRENA's Sustainable Energy Marketplace, RE100, the Africa Clean Energy Corridor and the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative. In the ongoing negotiations, a new coalition of over 100 nations, the EU and the US is pushing for the hoped for agreement to be legally binding.

But a grouping of developing nations, including South Africa, is refusing to accept the OECD analysis of the amounts already pledged to secure a climate deal. China has been accused of blocking a deal by refusing to agree to a common system of reporting emissions and by insisting that any updates to targets be voluntary.

Arnold Schwarzenegger challenged denialists, South Africa could only manage 35th out of 58 in the log of climate change performance, Felipe Calderón asked that all developing countries should not be lumped together and endangered countries have the feeling that loss and damage protection, touted at the outset of COP21 is quietly being forgotten.


COP21 - Day 8
From: France24  Posted: December 7th 2015

France24 reports on where agreement looks promising and where worries remain. In the former, optimistic category it looks like the larger emitting countries of the US, China, the EU and most hearteningly Canada agree with Ban Ki-Moon's ambition to lower the global temperature increase target to 1.5°C from 2°C.

Dr. Tim Cadman is not so sanguine about the outcomes, citing in particular the Neo-Marxist policies of Bolivia regarding forestry as being a roadblock to both developed and developing countries who want to practice responsible forestry and benefit from emissions trading. A strange debate over nuclear energy occurred when 4 leading climate scientists were interviewed for their views which stand in sharp contrast to opinions from leading scientists working with energy policy.

Renault introduced a couple of 12-ton all electric trucks, the Namibian Minister for Environment and Tourism expressed her dismay at the rising rate of drought in southern Africa and NERSA again delayed its regulations for smaller electricity (read rooftop solar) to be connected to the grid in contrast to the mood at COP21 which for the most part is one of urgency.


COP21 - Days 6&7
From: Tom Engelhardt  Posted: December 6th 2015

Tom Engelhardt asks whether 'Emperor Weather' will come to rule the world and occupy "the entire planet, lock, stock, and barrel" and Leonardo DiCaprio implored his audience of 1000 local leaders and mayors to waste not a day in beginning or pushing on with their transition to 100% renewable energy. Sadly, Edna Molewa does not seem to subscribe to mitigation efforts and wants us to focus instead on adapting to what's coming, but of course, for someone else to pay for that adaptation even though South Africa is a high per capita emitter, higher than, for example, France or Spain.

The BBC provide us with a summary of progress so far and Carl Pope takes a look at what remains to be achieved (plenty) if the outcome of COP21 is to be considered a success.

The Marshall Islands are at risk of disappearing under the waves, whilst they are the third largest shipping registry (after Panama and Liberia) in the world. Shipping contributes massively to GHG emissions and almost nothing has been done to mitigate GHGs. It's time for that to change. Indigenous tribes supported that call with a contrasting protest in Kayaks and Canoes. The African Restoration Initiative (ARI100) stood out from the crowd by announcing its plan to restore 100 million hectares (250 million acres) of degraded and deforested land by 2030. Here's a positive approach to mitigation that has attracted $1bn. of World Bank funding and $540million of private sector investment. Sadly SA is not involved.


COP21 - Day 5
From: Clean Technica  Posted: December 4th 2015

The World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim introduced the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, formed from a group of countries already using or planning to use carbon taxes or cap and trade Their ambition is to persuade other countries, provinces and states to join the coalition and deliver meaningful emissions reductions. Fifteen of the twenty largest banks in the world have come together to facilitate investment in clean energy with instruments such as green bonds.

Whilst the argument rages between rich and poor countries as to whether new funds should be loans or grants, there does seem to be a narrowing of the gap between the two sides on how losses from extreme climate events should be compensated.

Day 5 was designated as 'Oceans Day', but little progress emerged, and many small countries are fighting for their lives. The Guardian outlines what difference 2°, 3° and over 4°C will make to our daily lives and an American expresses her shame at what climate change denialists are trying to achieve from the USA.


COP21 - Day 4
From: The Guardian  Posted: December 3rd 2015

Uruguay is leading the world in its use of 95% renewables to generate electricity. The country had a head start with 60% hydro, but that could be interrupted in the dry season. In an ingenious scheme Uruguay now uses excess energy from wind to pump water to the reservoirs, so improving the reliability of the whole grid and the water supply. The majority of the investment (R40bn.) came from the public. Bhutan similarly has a high percentage of hydro, but faces an uncertain future as the Himalayan glaciers melt and flash floods bring erosion.

Hundreds of participants gathered for 'Young and Future Generations Day' and the UN announced 10 initiatives for the transport industry that could reduce its GHG emissions by 50% by 2050.

Al Gore compares the impact of renewables to that of shale gas, which they must ultimately replace and James Hansen, in his first COP appearance, sharply criticised the assumptions the UN is making about emissions and their consequences. The EU and the US agree that they are open to suggestions of compensation for countries' losses from climate change and the '4 per 1000' initiative highlighted the possibilities of improving soils to play a crucial role where food security and climate change are concerned.


COP21 - Day 3
From: Radio Ecoshock  Posted: December 2nd 2015

In an interview with Radio Ecoshock, Kevin Anderson criticises the basic scientific assumptions that the IPCC make. Firstly he argues that a 2°C limit has no guarantee of safety, then informs us that we may see 4°C of warming by 2050, which is "beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive". Ecowatch spotted Yeb Saño, who made an impassioned plea to the UN in 2013 at Warsaw whilst super typhoon Haiyan was raging and his brother was in Tacloban with his family. Over 7,000 lost their lives in that storm.

An Indian delegate confirmed that his government would agree to cut back on building coal-fired power plants if funding became available to help with their renewables plans. At the same time, a fellow delegate accused the OECD estimate of $57bn in funds allocated by rich countries to be inflated, stating that it may be as low as $2.2bn.

China will cut smog forming emissions by 60% by 2020 and reduce CO2 from coal fuelled power plants by 180 tonnes/year, whilst Elon Musk tells Sorbonne students that we should stop subsidising fossil fuels, which he reckons costs us $5.3tn per year. That could be used to boost the deployment of much needed and wanted renewables.


COP21 - Day 2
From: The Guardian  Posted: December 2nd 2015

195 countries are represented at COP21; 106 of the poorest are pressing for the global warming target to be reduced from 2°C to 1.5°C as is Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN's climate process. Most of those countries belong to the Climate Vulnerable Forum which is putting the richer nations to shame by pressing for a commitment by all countries to 100% renewables by 2050. That would be a real achievement.

The richest 10% of nations produce half of humanity's emissions, whilst the poorest half produce only 10%, according to Oxfam. At a 2°C rise, hunger and malnutrition in Africa and Asia will be on the march, whilst at 'business as usual' increases the globe will see many nations in a semi-permanent food crisis.

If all the planned coal fired power plants are built then the 2°C target emissions will be exceeded four or fivefold. India and China have the biggest plans, though India's government, led by Prime Minister Modi, is pushing ahead with a massive renewables programme. He tells us that developing countries are doing their best, but that richer ones must step in with funding to ensure success. This issue is at the heart of the Paris discussions.


A Timely Reminder from Nature
From: Climate Progress  Posted: November 30th 2015

The measurements taken of air quality in Beijing on Sunday were 17 times the level that the World Health Organisation considers safe for breathing. They persisted through to the first day of COP21 and provide us with an insight into what one aspect of climate change means to the world's cities. 22 other cities in China and New Delhi in India suffered from similar problems, illustrating exactly why we need a strong agreement in Paris.

From China Xinhuanet pointed to the differences between the approaches of the developed and developing countries and urged flexibility in negotiations. But it is important to view both standpoints and not to lose sight of the individual difficulties each country faces. The US has, for example, lost 250,000 well paid jobs in the oil and gas industry, during the last year alone. That fact is not lost on the US Senate, which is promising to veto any legally binding agreement, whilst they ignore Grist's and others' estimate of 550,00 jobs per year from renewable energy. Without the US, is a binding agreement worthwhile?

Ban Ki-Moon reminds us that economic losses from extreme climate events have doubled over the last decade. We must "strengthen resilience ..... especially in small island developing states, the least-developed countries and most African nations" he tells us.


COP21 As It Happens
From: BBC News  Posted: November 30th 2015

A selection of the media coverage of what is happening at COP21 in Paris. The more serious live reports (BBC and Guardian) are accompanied by deeper analysis and, occasionally, a more whimsical view.

Carbon Brief present an interesting analysis of the many negotiating groups of countries and what they are looking for from COP21. Wisely they warn us that "if nations are going to succeed in signing a deal, countries are going to have to soften their stances, reach compromise and abandon some of the issues they have fought for over the last five years". At the end of the article is a table which records the groups that each nation is attached to. For South Africa it's BASIC, African Group, G77 + China and CfRN (Coalition for Rainforest Nations).

Sir David Attenborough, Albert Bates and Kurt Cobb express their differing views on the requirements and likelihood of success in Paris, whilst The Guardian takes a look at a selection of mayors who are making their personal contributions to restricting climate change within their respective cities.


The Lead up to COP21 (Part 3)
From: Skeptical Science  Posted: November 26th 2015

Kevin Anderson gives it to us straight from his powerful shoulder. A 2°C limit to global warming cannot be achieved whilst at the same time developed countries' GDPs continue to grow and whilst developing countries continue rapid development. He spells out the scientist's role of providing the best possible advice without allowing political influence to interfere with his judgement. He is surprised and disappointed that so few are not sounding the alarm in the way that he does. Nor do they dispute his findings.

Joshua Hill suggests the UK should pledge a 57% reduction by 2030, but Damian Carrington deplores David Cameron's current stance and reminds him of the statement he made in his last UN climate speech that "Climate change is a threat to our national security, to global security, to poverty eradication and to economic prosperity."

Sweden challenges the rest of the world to follow her lead towards becoming fossil fuel free, Unilever has pledged to use 100% renewable energy by 2030 and the C40 grouping of 80 cities reports that it expects to save 645million tonnes of CO2 emissions over the next 5 years.



Obama: ‘Opponents Standing in the Way of the Future’
From: The Guardian  Posted: August 25th 2015

"Every three minutes another business in America goes solar" and thousands of jobs were being created. But irrational opposition from fossil fuel interests was standing in the way of progress

"You do not have to share my passion for solving climate change to like renewable energy. People are doing it not because of tree huggers – even though trees are important – but because they are cost-cutters," he said.

" When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests or conservative thinktanks or the Koch brothers, pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem."

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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