Home         Latest Updates           Contact                  

Links in BOLD are recent (14 days or less)


Is the Age of Renewable Energy Already Upon Us?
From: Michael Klare  Posted: April 16th 2015

Author of The Race for What's Left, Michael Klare, opines that there are four compelling reasons why we are witnessing the beginning of an energy transition to renewables. He suggests, too, that future historians may look back and identify 2015 as the tipping point for the disruption.

RMI spots an interesting trend in the corporate sector - they're buying into solar and wind to generate electricity for themselves. RMI quote price stability as a major factor. Citibank expects the much lower cost of oil will have little effect on the march of renewables and Deborah Lawrence points out the obvious benefit of free fuel.

Meanwhile SA is piling into renewables, too by confirming the successful bidders in Round 4 of REIPPPP and introducing an additional round to follow. The message seems to be getting through, though it's a pity that further coal fired power stations are still on the agenda despite their expense when externalities like health costs are included. Do we really now have to continue killing and disabling our citizens now that we recognise the benefits of renewables?


Namibia Announces N$300 million in Drought Relief
From: New Era  Posted: April 16th 2015

Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila annouced "As you all know the country is drought-stricken, we have therefore agreed on interim measures that must be implemented over the next three to four months while we make the final assessment. We have availed in excess of N$300 million in order to execute a range of measures required to make sure assistance is provided to affected communities."

The Prime Minister also stressed that previous problems with food rotting in locked warehouses would not be tolerated and that measures would be taken to minimise theft.

The white maize crop is anticipated to be only 33,000 tons, compared with 73,000 tons last year. Imports would be needed but South Africa, their normal source, is also experiencing drought, so they will need to come from elsewhere. Zambia is a possible source but SA, Botswana and Zimbabwe are all competitors for their surplus. Regional climate change forecasts have anticipated these droughts, but no-one expected to see the signs, if that's what they are, so soon.

The Surprise Melting of Totten Glacier
From: Yale Climate Connections  Posted: April 15th 2015

Researchers have known that the glaciers of the Western Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) have been in retreat and are watching the area surrounding Pine Island Glacier intensively. But the larger eastern Antarctic ice mass was thought to be secure for the time being. Now two researchers from the University of Texas have uncovered the means by which warmer water from the Southern Ocean is penetrating inland to the enormous Totten Glacier which is now also thought to be in rapid retreat. The Totten alone contains enough ice to increase sea levels by 3.5 metres, though the melting is expected (hoped) to take a few centuries. Yale have produced a short video with comments from leading glaciologists.

Sci-News has produced a clear explanation of the new research and adds comments from Prof. Martin Siegert of Imperial College London to those of the Yale video.

SkS shows us a recent 'spike' in sea level rise but does not relate this to accelerating ice loss. NSIDC shows us that Arctic sea ice had an early and lowest maximum towards the end of February. Will we see a repeat of 2012? Many eyes will be watching and speculating until the minimum occurs in September.


Renewables Increasing Success
From: Energy Policy Forum  Posted: April 12th 2015

Deborah Lawrence has an interesting podcast about how the solar PV and onshore wind industries have quietly stolen a march on the fossil fuel industry and how that now increases the risks of stranded assets in the latter. She emphasises too that renewables are as yet in the early stages of deployment, yet are competitive without subsidies and without the economies of scale that are certain to follow growth.

The Guardian reports that Vancouver has committed to use 100% renewable energy for electricity generation, transportation, heating and air conditioning within 20 years. Over 50 other cities have made similar commitments, though with differing timescales. Environmental Research Web (ERW) takes a look at the progress of renewables in China and India as Part 1 of its analysis of the whole of Asia.

Climate Progress reports on how Spain got 47% of its electricity from renewables in March, though by being early on the scene, not without some cost to its economy. However the effort has brought success to such companies as Abengoa, who have a lead in CSP technology that, when combined with storage and solar PV, is on its way to make a serious contribution to global electricity generation.


Climate Change News
From: US National Park Service  Posted: April 9th 2015

Yellowstone National Park Service published their update of the work started back in 1992 to study the impacts of climate change on their fascinating reserve. Back then Bill Romme and Monica Turner made predictions of what changes might occur. Today they revisit those topics with the benefit of the science that has added to knowledge in the last 23 years. Their work and that of the park as a whole make compulsive reading.

Andy Skuce enjoys downloading data and importing them into spreadsheets to help him understand their meaning. He's done that with CO2 emissions and shows us how what he terms 'The Great Acceleration' occurred around 1950. He surmises that we must hold CO2 to under 450ppm in order to keep global surface temperature rise to under 2°C. That's quite a surmise! But he goes on to tell us that it will need a 'Great Deceleration' to achieve it.

Dana Nuccitelli interviewed leading climate change deniers John Christy and Roy Spencer and explains how their work is flawed. Plus implementing emissions control could save 1.2 million lives per year and provide a million new jobs, according to a new report. Assuming the report holds good, how can governments (including SA's) not want to save lives and provide new jobs?


Storage News
From: PR Newswire  Posted: April 7th 2015

Energy products coming out of Alberta include not only tar sands. Sunvault is a supercapacitor company that claims to have made a breakthrough in solar and storage technology. Its solar cell product actually stores electricity at the same time as it is generating it. The company claims that it can store electricity at around one fifth of current costs and will improve upon that to become one tenth by the end of 2015. But it will take a little longer to bring to market.

A team of Stanford researchers have also made an astonishing breakthrough with an aluminium ion battery. Lower cost, rapid charging and longer life batteries are the likely results of this research, but again, more development is needed before mass marketing becomes viable.

Alevo will be starting production of its containerised storage units in July and has begun a round of hiring which will add 50/60 production workers per month from May and is looking to have a workforce of 300 by September. Storage is heading for the heights.


California Free to Ban Fracking
From: Biological Diversity  Posted: April 6th 2015

Despite the oil and gas industry spending over $2 million on advertising, San Benito county's Measure J was overwhelmingly voted for in the elections last November. The measure allows local bans on fracking. The industry threatened to sue and one company, Citadel Exploration, began proceedings. The company has now withdrawn its action, leaving California free to ban fracking wherever they wish.

California is probably the leading US state in the adoption of renewable energy and now has positioned itself amongst the leading states that have examined and rejected fracking. As the state begins to take serious action on its water shortage the fact that fracking used 265 million litres of water in 2014 has contributed to the public dislike of the whole process.

Elsewhere, US drilling companies have been cited for violations of regulations at the rate of 2.5 times every day and since regulators are over-pressed, we must wonder just how many violations go undetected. An Earthworks study reveals how poorly regulations have been applied and how the four states it examined are struggling to keep up with better regulations and practice.


Temperature Jump Predicted
From: Climate Progress  Posted: April 2nd 2015

Kevin Trenberth of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in an interview with Joe Romm, tells us that he expects a strong rise in global temperatures over the next few years. The reason for this he explains is the change in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) over recent months. Joe points out the apparent correlation between the PDO and global surface temperature changes, whilst Trenberth anticipates a sudden jump of 0.2-0.3°C. There is good observational science here and a specific prediction. We need all the naysayers, TV pundits and head-in-the-sand merchants to hold their breath, listen and watch.

The Washington Post brings the issue of melting permafrost to our attention, claiming that no-one is paying attention to it. That's not quite the case. The problem is real and dangerous, but we don't yet have a sufficient handle on the issue for experts to speak authoritatively about the likely consequential rate of GHG releases. Here's a good example of scientific reticence.

Environmental Research Web (ERW) estimates the range to be between 21 and 164 billion tonnes, though that comes from a computer simulation, not from direct measurements. Whichever value, it's significant compared to the approximately 500 billion tonnes left in our carbon budget that we may burn by 2050 if we are to have a fighting chance of keeping global surface temperature increase below 2°C.


CSP and PV Hybrid Plants
From: Clean Technica  Posted: April 2nd 2015

How about a solar power plant that supplies baseload power 24 hours a day, uses no other fuel, almost no water and produces no GHG emissions? Would that not be a boon to South Africa? Well we have one scheduled to be in operation within 3 years that will be built about half way between Kimberley and Upington.

The latest vogue in global power generation is the combination of Solar PV farms with CSP plants that can store the energy they generate during the day. In the Redstone solar park, two PV farms are set to produce 171MW of electricity during the day, whilst the 100MW CSP unit generates enough power for storage to cover the predicted demand after the sun has set. Excess power from any of the three can be utilised by the grid where it can make inroads into the heavy cost of the diesel currently being used to power our gas fired spinning reserve.

The CSP unit will generate electricity at around R1.50/kWh, but this compares well with the gas turbines and is offset during the day by the much lower costs of the two solar PV farms. The outlooks for both forms of solar predict sharply lower future costs, so hopefully here's the prototype of very many more such projects and SA can begin to discuss GHG emission reduction seriously whilst extricating itself from the Eskom muddle.

R0.48-0.72/kWh BY 2025  |   OBAMA  |   A GRID RESOURCE  |   READ MORE

Too Little, Too Late
From: The Guardian  Posted: March 31st 2015

The US has pledged to cut its emissions by 26-28% by 2025. Thirty two other countries have made pledges on or before the UN deadline of 31st March. That leaves 162 that failed, including South Africa. Even if the UN is successful in obtaining pledges from all of the remainder, it is very unlikely that the reductions achieved will give us a 50/50 chance of curbing warming to 2°C, whilst climate scientists are increasingly supporting the view that the target should be 1.5°C.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has taken up the cudgels with his alma mater, King's College London (KCL) over the issue of divesting from fossil fuel companies. KCL has declined, but our Nobel Laureate continues to make the strong moral argument. Researchers have uncovered KCL's indirect investment in tobacco companies, which they have agreed to sell. Surely the same arguments apply to fossil fuel companies. The news that Jeremy Clarkson has joined the Guardian's divestment team was an April Fool's Day spoof, but a good one. Pity!

Coal plants around the world are shutting down, though not for altruistic reasons; more likely because they cannot conform to new regulations. Here again SA is trailing behind. Plus David Hughes has more to say about shale drilling in the US and particularly how increases in productivity are more likely to be the result of exploiting the best opportunities first than technical improvements.


Islanders in Need
From: UN News Centre  Posted: March 30th 2015

The UN tells us that it needs $29.9million to provide 3 months support for the 166,000 Vanuatus devastated by Pam. So far it has raised $6.4million. The US pledged $0.7million in UN and direct aid and the Asia Development Bank $1million immediately with $4million to follow later. The EU, UK, NZ and Australia are also contributing but the rest of the world shrugs its shoulders.

The islanders are particularly vulnerable because they are a nation of smallholders, providing most of their food themselves. Their crops have been virtually wiped out and, although seeds are being distributed, the islanders want to re-establish their homes first and are yet to come to terms with whether this tragedy will recur.

The northern islands were much less devastated by Pam than the other islands and their inhabitants are working hard to harvest root crops to improve the diet elsewhere. Despite rough seas, water and food is now getting to many of the more remote islands, largely by sea, which involves transhipping it to small, sometimes inflatable, boats to cross off-lying reefs.


South Africa's Drought Worsens
From: Bloomberg  Posted: March 29th 2015

White maize, a staple food supply, is forecast to produce 32% less harvest than last year in South Africa. Yellow maize, which is used as animal feed is relatively easy to replace by imports. But not so with white maize. In the Bloomberg article farmer Ryan Mathews struggles to decide whether to to bear the cost of bringing in the remainder of his poor crop.

His brother, Steven, farms cattle near Lichtenburg and has already used up the corn feed he put by for use in the second half of winter. Steven is concerned that many farmers in the same predicament may not be able to afford to carry their cattle through the winter and so will offer them for slaughter even though prices are low. They will not remain low if and when farmers decide to rebuild their herds, nor if they decide not to.

Farmers are used to the swings and roundabouts of weather, but fear that this is different - that the regional forecast of a hotter, drier climate is coming about long before it was expected. In Australia and in California, farmers and populations have similar fears of drought and climbing food prices.


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.


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."

Copyright © 2010/15 www.fractual   All rights reserved. Views 67,378 Last updated: Friday 17th April 2015 15:24