Tuesday, March 31, 2009
By: Creamer Media Reporter
30th March 2009
South Africans who participated in Earth Hour on Saturday saved about 400 MW of electricity, 400 t of carbon dioxide, 224 t of coal and about 576 000 l of water, power utility Eskom reported on Monday.
Earth Hour was organised by the World Wildlife Fund in an effort to get one-billion people worldwide to switch off their lights for one hour.
“The 400 MW translates to about four-million 100 W bulbs or 6,7-million 60 W bulbs switched off on Saturday. This shows a concerted effort by about one-million households,” said Eskom MD corporate services and Eskom climate change champion Dr Steve Lennon.
Lights on average consumed about 10% of household electricity, whereas geysers used as much as 40% of the total electricity bill, commented Lennon, highlighting the difference that could have been made if South Africans had also turned off their geysers during Earth Hour.
“We believe that the Earth Hour initiative has created incredible excitement around the need for efficient use of energy. As South Africa’s primary supplier of electricity, our hope is that all South Africans harness this excitement and use energy wisely every day of the year,” said Lennon.
City of Johannesburg member of the Mayoral Committee for Environment Prema Naidoo also on Monday applauded the Earth Hour initiative.
“We hope that this symbolic gesture has demonstrated to the world that people everywhere are concerned about this issue, and are willing to act,” he commented.
Naidoo expressed the need for people to take action against climate change and global warning now, saying that it hoped government’s National Energy Efficiency Campaign would be supported by every individual, business and energy player.
“Here in South Africa, we have unique reasons to be concerned about the energy issue. It is not widely understood that the production of electricity produces enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases. As a result of our habits of energy wastage, we have become the eleventh highest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world, he said.
Edited by: Mariaan Webb
Monday, March 30, 2009
The peace conference with three Nobel Peace Laureates was ostensibly being held “to focus on issues of peace and harmony and the role soccer has played in achieving this”.
We in South Africa should know, as well as any in the world, that there can be no peace without justice. We had to get rid of the injustices of Apartheid before we could begin to live in peace with one another.
The Tibetan’s have known no peace since China marched in on them 50 years ago.
We in the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) know that the pursuit of peace is like a three legged stool. If one leg is too short or missing, it cannot stand. The leg of peace requires one leg for democracy with human rights and another leg for eco-justice (economic and ecological justice). In brief, only with democracy and eco-justice will we find peace.
We in SAFCEI have also discovered that when we show respect for the views and beliefs other faiths and cultures, we get on really well. We have far more that unites us than divides us. With Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’i, Muslims, Jews, African traditional religions as well as Christians on our management board, we feel we are an example to the world as we so enjoy our meetings with each other. We know the value of meeting other faiths. None of us have been compromised in our faith.
The banning of the Dalai Lama therefore comes as a rude shock. Not only do we need the presence of spiritual leaders of his standing, we also need the assurance that our government is in pursuit of democratic human rights and economic justice. Or do we see they are in support of a new era of the pillaging of Africa, which China is undertaking with ruthless success.
To add insult to injury, when one cabinet minister has the courage to speak out, she is condemned and vilified. We need to know whether the refusal of the Dalai Lama’s visa was a cabinet decision or a decision of the Department of Foreign Affairs. We also need to know whether our government is that of a military organisation requiring blind obedience as part of its discipline or whether it is a democratic organization encouraging the freedom to think.
After years of refusing to speak the truth to Aids, Barbara Hogan spoke the truth when appointed as Minister of Health and we rejoiced. Now she is the one who spoke the truth regarding the Dalai Lama and the government can’t face the truth. Wither democracy?
We are facing testing times with the financial crisis and - more serious – growing environmental crises, notably with climate change. We will find no peace in our land or in the world if we don’t speak the truth regarding human rights and equitable sharing of the resources of the world. South Africa once inspired the world in its pursuit of justice. The best thing our government can do is to speak the truth to its people and recommit itself to the principles of democracy and freedom that once so inspired us.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The world's top climate change scientists meeting in Denmark say global sea levels could rise by twice as much as previously thought.
The projection is based on new satellite studies and measurements in Greenland and Antarctica and suggests that ocean levels could rise by a metre or more, which would have a huge impact on 600 million people who live near coastlines.
These latest conclusions will be presented to world leaders at a climate change conference in Copenhagen at the end of the year.
Denmark's climate minister, Connie Hedegaard, says governments must not delay action to limit the effect of climate change.
"If we don't act now, we risk catastrophic changes to our climate, causing destabilising conflict and massive migration of refugees due to water and food shortages in many parts of the world," she said.
The head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Rajendra Pachahuri, says the data suggests global temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 4 per cent by the end of this century.
He says even a smaller increase will have serious consequences.
"Even for a range of zero to one degree celsius, we have problems with water availability," he said.
"We also have problems with ecosystems. Food security would certainly be at growing risk. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable, and human health would also be affected."
CLIMATE CHANGE: Acid Oceans Altering Marine Life
By Stephen Leahy
MONTREAL, Canada, Mar 10 (IPS) - Some of the first species impacted by increasingly acidic oceans have been identified just as scientists meet in Copenhagen this week to present new data showing that climate change is far more urgent and serious than current economic problems.
One affected species, foraminifera, a sand grain-sized plankton, is responsible for the sequestration of 25 to 50 percent of the carbon the oceans absorb and thus plays a major role in keeping atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations at much lower levels than they would be otherwise. Now scientists have learned that foraminifera (forams) shells are much thinner in oceans made more acidic by the enormous volumes of CO2 released in the burning of fossil fuels.
It was only a few years ago that researchers realised that human emissions of CO2 were making the surface waters of oceans more acidic. That prompted a rush of new research to determine what the impacts might be. It turns out that forams, other shell forming species like mussels, as well as corals and fish are casualties in humanity's giant, uncontrolled experiment that involves injecting huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere.
"We think we are the first to document effects in the field as opposed to in a laboratory experiment," said William Howard of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
The shells of one species of foraminifera (Globigerina bulloides) in the Southern Ocean are 30 to 35 percent thinner than shells than those shells formed prior to the industrial period, Howard and colleagues wrote in a paper published in Nature Geoscience Mar. 8.
Howard told IPS that forams live in the surface waters and when they die they fall to the ocean bottom. As they fell through the water column researchers collected them and compared their shell weights with forams in the sediments. Forams are widespread, numerous and have a 200-million-year-old ancestry. Their hard calcite shells are well preserved, providing a detailed fossil record of their time on Earth.
Using a combination of radiocarbon dating and stable oxygen isotopes researchers determined the ages of the shells on the ocean bottom surface and those buried deep in the bottom sediments. They found a linear relationship between shell weight and atmospheric CO2 concentration over the past 50,000 years. The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the thinner the shells, and vice versa, their studies reveal.
The current CO2 level of 380 ppm is the highest concentration in several million years. Projections are that ocean acidification in the coming decades will reach levels unseen since the era of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago when the oceans were very different, experts from the University of Bristol in Britain will announce at the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen this week, according to news reports.
There is absolutely no controversy about the basic chemistry of additional CO2 increasing ocean acidity. The oceans naturally absorb carbon from the atmosphere and have now absorbed about a third of the total amount of human emissions. This additional carbon has altered the oceans' chemistry, making them 25 to 30 percent more acidic because the extra CO2 combines with carbonate ions in seawater, forming carbonic acid.
Shell-forming creatures - mussels, corals, hard planktons, shrimps and many more - all need those carbonate ions to build their shells.
Research on the effects of acidification on marine species in the open ocean is just getting started. Lab experiments had previously shown that the ocean's shell-forming creatures produce thinner shells in more acidic ocean waters, so William Howard is unlikely to surprise the 2,000 attendees in Copenhagen when he presents his findings. And no one knows at this point if the thinner shells are harming or affecting the forams.
However, scientists and policy makers ought to be alarmed to learn that Howard's planktonic forams play a crucial role in the sequestration, or storage, of carbon in the deep ocean, accounting for between 25 and 50 percent of the carbon transfer from the atmosphere to the deep ocean.
Each day, the oceans absorb 30 million tonnes of CO2 and if forams can no longer play their role in this carbon storage system then atmospheric concentrations of CO2 could skyrocket with calamitous effects on the global climate system.
And it turns out that forams have a particularly tough shell, utilising calcite - the most stable form of calcium carbonate and less sensitive to acidification. Many other shell-forming species that are vital parts of the oceanic food chain like pteropods utilise a carbonate mineral called aragonite and are likely to be more vulnerable to acidification, researchers warn.
Another new study has found that the larvae of clownfish - the bright orange and white reef fish - were unable to detect the odours from adult fish that led them to their breeding sites. This lab study shows that acidified waters that are expected before the end of the century affected the larvae's ability to follow odours, disrupting the breeding cycle of an important fish species.
The world's leading marine scientists are increasingly alarmed by acidification and its impacts. Last Jan. 30, they issued a warning to policy makers called the Monaco Declaration that states "acidification is accelerating and severe damages are imminent" and that corals will not survive in most of the oceans by 2050.
The declaration was a dramatic step for scientists, says signatory Victoria Fabry, an oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "The potential is there for drastic changes in the oceans," Fabry told IPS.
There is a crucial need to alert policy makers and the public and to act soon. "We can make a difference by reducing emissions," she said.
"About two percent of the Gross World Product would need to be invested in energy production, efficiency and usage to reach the stabilisation target of 450 ppm, a cost considered to be tolerable by most economists," said Hermann Held of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, who helped craft the Declaration.
Despite this modest investment, little is happening to substantially reduce emissions in virtually every country in the world. For that reason this week's climate science update involving experts from 80 countries is a deliberate attempt to influence policy, said conference organiser Katherine Richardson, a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen.
This latest science paints a dire picture, from increasing ocean acidification to rapidly rising sea levels that will swamp most of the world's coastal regions before 2100, among many other impacts.
The hope is this climate science update will push policy makers to reach a significant emissions reduction agreement at the climate change negotiations at the end of the year in Copenhagen, Richardson has said in media reports.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Rory also has his own blog, Sustainable Communities, which is also worth reading.
I (Steve Hayes) started this blog about a year ago to try to demonstrate to SAFCEI members and the SAFCEI committee how blogs could enhance communication among SAFCEI members, and between SAFCEI and the outside world, but to be effective it needs to be a corporate effort. So thanks to Rory who has agreed to contribute -- you can see at the bottom of each post who contributed it, even if they didn't write it all.
My personal blogs Khanya and Notes from underground deal with more general topics, and not only the environment, but some may find something there to interest them.
It would be good to have two or three more contributors to the SAFCEI blog, preferably from different religious backgrounds. Rory is Quaker/Buddhist, and I am Orthodox Christian.
My other proposal to the SAFCEI committee was that we should start an interactive mailing list. Perhaps I can move on to that now that more people are beginning to participate in the blog.
Friday, March 6, 2009
This year, Earth Hour has been transformed into the world’s first global election, the contesting parties being ‘life on Earth’ and human induced ‘Global Warming’.
This is an easy opportunity to show your support for life on our planet.
On the 28th of March 2009 between 20h30 and 21h30 you can show your support for our planet, and your opposition to human activities that are causing Global Warming, by switching off all the lights over which you have jurisdiction.
WWF is hoping to enrol at least 1 billion people in this worldwide collective action and by this visible, concerted effort to encourage world leaders meeting in December in Copenhagen, in order to plot the way forward from the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming, to take concerted and meaningful decisions that will lead to real actions to counteract global warming.
You can personally commit to Earth Hour at URL http://www.earthhour.org/
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
For members of southern African Faith Communities, the overriding priority is the health of the planet. As people of faith we believe we have been given custodianship and have a moral responsibility to pass the planet on to our children in a healthier state than we found it. All our sacred texts call on us to care for, protect and sustain nature as we seek justice and peace among ourselves. Our burning of fossil fuels and our destruction of forests, grasslands, oceans and other eco-systems, is placing the well-being of future generations of all life in jeopardy.
We have come to realise that climate change is taking place far more rapidly than has been acknowledged. We therefore believe we cannot wait till 2020 to peak our carbon emissions. We believe that process has to happen with immediate effect. We have the technical means to do so, while at the same time generating the energy our contemporary society has come to expect. We must develop the political will to bring about change.
With the development of Concentrated Solar Power and thermal batteries, and with low voltage Direct Current transmission, we are in a position to start harnessing the greatest source of power, namely the sun. South Africa has been singularly blessed with solar resources. We should implement such generation with immediate effect.
We therefore call on the Government to halt any further development of coal powered and nuclear generation and build clean, renewable energy generating plants as a matter of urgency. We know too that the construction time is far shorter than for coal or nuclear. We also know that in developing renewable energy, we will generate far more employment.
We call on the government to be resolute in overcoming the vested interests of the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries. Even if – initially – costs for re-newables are higher than conventional coal generation, we believe the future health of the planet cannot be held to ransom by financial considerations. There is no price too high for the future survival of our children and life on this planet. We therefore call, not just for subsidies, but massive investment in renewable energy.
All countries will have to reduce greenhouse gases in the future. Even if other countries are reluctant to reduce their emissions now, we believe that South Africa must be bold and set an example to the world. If we do this we will be in the position to take a lead in the development of renewable energy. This will be a source of great employment in the future.
At the recent National Summit of Religious Leaders for a Sustainable Future, we adopted the following resolution on climate change:
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute and Indalo Yethu
Religious Leaders for a Sustainable Future
Climate Change and Energy RESOLUTION
We, members of faith communities of southern Africa, recognise that the burning of fossil fuels is causing a greenhouse effect leading to dramatic climate change which could have catastrophic consequences for the future of life on this planet.
We also recognise that communities of Africa are particularly vulnerable to climate change. We need to address this and we urge the South African Government to continue to play a leadership role both regionally and internationally, notably at Copenhagen at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2009. We faith communities strongly express our concern and our position to the government delegation of the need for meaningful action in order to ensure that the meeting in Copenhagen results in positive and significant progress.
We also recognise the need for urgency to reduce greenhouse gases. We, people of faith, recognise that we have a responsibility to care for the planet and all life on it as well as caring for our fellow human beings.
We furthermore recognise that this responsibility includes leaving a healthy planet for future generations so that they are not robbed of their inheritance.
Part of our role as faith communities is to engage with leadership, including government leadership. Acknowledging positive steps that the South African Government has taken to address energy and climate change issues, we call on the governments of southern Africa to earnestly work with civil society. In turn we commit ourselves to working with our respective governments and other leaders in seeking to ensure that the following resolutions are attended to and acted upon. We therefore:
- Call on the governments of southern Africa to take on concrete, measurable steps to reduce carbon emissions. This means stopping the expansion of further coal and nuclear generation, and progressively moving away from fossil fuels and nuclear generation towards the increasing development of renewable energy, concentrating on solar and wind, as a matter of urgency. This could be greatly encouraged through the urgent implementation of the feed in tariff.
- Call on the Government of South Africa to set before the world community, a Your browser may not support display of this image. emissions reduction target so that the levels of atmospheric green house gases are reduced to below 350 ppm (as a more practical and measurable target than keeping temperatures below a Your browser may not support display of this image. increase).
- Call on both Government and civil society to assist vulnerable communities to develop indigenous and local models of adaptation in order to meet the impacts of climate change.
- Call on Government to ensure resources are provided for creative and innovative communication and capacity building, as part of a broader commitment to democracy and participatory learning around issues of climate change. This must focus on positive messages of hope that will motivate and inspire all stakeholders.
- Call on Government, ESKOM and NERSA (National Energy Regulator of South Africa) to ensure that electricity tariffs include ‘cradle to grave’ external environmental and social costs. A stepped tariff must be implemented so that the poor are not further burdened by increasing electricity tariffs. Renewable, locally generated electricity provides the opportunity for access to affordable electricity for all.
- Call for the improvement and shifting of freight from road to railway, setting a target of 40% road freight to be transported by rail by 2020. Call for the improvement and subsidisation of safe, efficient public transport, in particular railways, and encourage and incentivise the public to use it. Implement measurable targets, for example, 20% of private road commuters to shift to using public transport by 2012.
- Call for Government to establish and support local innovative technologies to drive new economic sectors such as renewable energy. Such sectors must focus on local job creation, for example, electric vehicles and the generation of electricity by renewable means. The arms industry must be transformed into a renewable energy industry.
- Call on the Government to end the policy of enticing polluting industries, such as smelters, to our country with the promise of heavily subsidized “cheap” electricity. Equity must be pursued in that industrial users must not pay less for energy than households.
- Acknowledging how critical the supply of energy has become, we call on the Government to ensure that all government departments work cooperatively on climate change, through an interdepartmental presidential task team. We also call on Government to create a separate ministry of energy.
- Broadly endorse Hope for the future, the Uppsala Interfaith Climate Manifesto issued by the Archbishop of Sweden in November 2008 in which faith traditions address global warming, (attached). We commit ourselves to sharing the contents with our faith communities and working towards strengthening the voice of faith communities at Copenhagen.
- Call on faith communities to take a lead and set an example by implementing energy efficient measures as models of good practice, encouraging their members and the public to do the same. Energy efficiency targets (25% by 2020) must be implemented as a matter of extreme urgency.
12 February 2009
Furthermore, at the international level, we support the Archbishop of Sweden’s call following his Inter-faith workshop in November 2008 for steps that must be taken at the UNFCCC meeting in December 2009.
The Copenhagen Agreement must counteract misuse of land, of forests, and of farmland, using creative incentives for landowners, users and indigenous communities to manage growing forests as carbon sinks.
We ask the global political leadership for:
- Rapid and large emission cuts in the rich world. Developed countries, especially those in Europe and North America, must lead the way. In the developed countries emissions should be reduced by at least 40 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050 against 1990 levels.
- Binding cuts for the rich world on top of their domestic obligations. According to the principles of responsibility and capability countries should pay for international cuts in addition to their own domestic initiatives. These payments should be obligatory, rather than voluntary.
- Measurable, verifiable and reportable mitigation actions by developing countries, especially countries with fast growing economies.
- Massive transfers and sharing of important technology. All countries must encourage and facilitate the sharing of technology that is intrinsically important to reducing emissions. Developing countries must have viable and technologically responsible opportunities to provide for their populations.
- Economic incentives for developing countries to foster cleaner development on a national scale.
- Adaptation to climate change. According to the same principles of responsibility and capability, countries must ensure that poor and vulnerable communities are empowered and supported. Adaptation to climate change must not fail for want of money or other resources.
DEAT Climate Change Summit