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Under the Dome
From: Climate Progress  Posted: March 2nd 2015

China's Chai Jing is a former TV news anchor who used not to care about air pollution. But that changed dramatically when she became pregnant and quickly found that her child had a benign tumor, though no-one can prove that it was specifically linked to smog.

Chai's experience made her wonder and then research and produce a 104 minute documentary on the pollution which is created mostly by burning coal and from traffic (especially diesel) exhausts. Documentaries which are critical of conditions in China are rare. 'Under the Dome', though, has gone viral.

The pollution is estimated to have caused 1.2 million early deaths in 2010 in China, so Chai's story and film were watched by more than 175 million viewers during last weekend alone.


The Winning of The Carbon War
From: Jeremy Leggett  Posted: March 1st 2015

You are one click away from downloading the first part of Jeremy Leggett's chronicle of the events in which he personally participated that relate to what he calls "The Winning of the Carbon War". Jeremy's first chapters take us from a gigawatt solar PV factory in China, through discussions with hard-nosed directors of BHP, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, a protest at a fracking site in rural England and UN officials in Geneva to interviews with the BBC as the IPCC announces that a large percentage of fossil fuels must be left in the ground.

Jeremy presents us with insights from behind the scenes in locations where the climate debate is taking place at an elevated level. As such it's a 'must read' for anyone interested in the story of the century, if not the story of any century.

He admits that his academic leanings tempt him to back up his arguments with masses of detail, but resists that and so the resulting document gains clarity and readability. References to the detail are available from his website, via its search facility, should you need them.

EU 60% BY 2030  |   STORAGE  |   SOLAR WON  |   NUCLEAR LOST

Supercapacitor electrodes 1000 times cheaper than Graphene
From: reset.me  Posted: February 25th 2015

According to researchers at Alberta University, if you 'cook' hemp fibres in a pressure cooker for 24 hours, they become a good substitute for the graphene sheets which are currently used in supercapacitors.

Graphene sheets are made from graphite, a particularly dirty mineral to mine. The process of forming sheets a single atom wide is also difficult and uses strong acids. So the hemp alternative not only reduces the cost, but does it by a much cleaner process. If the research lab. process can be replicated at a commercial level, then you may soon find hemp in your smart-phone battery or your EV.

Electricity storage is on the march as you will see from the accompanying stories. Currently there are 91 start-up companies in the US all seeking their share of what is coming. They will not all survive, but unless an unforeseen road-block prevents it, some of them will go on to be very successful entities.

Is the US Overplaying its Hand?
From: Richard Heinberg  Posted: February 25th 2015

Richard quotes Jeb Bush: "As we grow our presence by growing our ability to produce oil and gas, we also make it possible to lessen the dependency that Russia now has on top of Europe." There's one problem with that argument - the US doesn't have the requisite oil and gas to fuel the whole of Europe. Not now nor in the foreseeable future. Not even close.

So in taunting Russia, he is playing a particularly dangerous game. Richard outlines the reasons that we have previously expressed - the rates of production are insufficient to allow for export; fracked wells deplete rapidly; the companies involved have mountains of debt; finance will not be easy to obtain if and when prices return to the levels last seen in Q2 2014.

To those we must add the need to move as rapidly as we can away from fossil fuels. To pretend that the US can manage without imports of these and supply Europe at the same time is worthy of a Holywood movie, but not real life. Further, such arguments preserve the myth of 'Saudi America' to the detriment of an urgent global need to tackle climate change.


Lester Brown predicts Dustbowlification
From: The Guardian  Posted: February 25th 2015

Lester Brown grew up on a variety of New Jersey farms where his parents were sharecroppers. Neither of them ever read a book, yet Lester could read by the age of 4. He was bright and hard-working enough to gain support for his education at Rutgers University where he studied agriculture.

Over the more than 50 years of his working life he became a leading authority on food production and poverty. He never learned to type or use a computer for his work, yet he has written over 50 books which have been translated into many languages.

As this remarkable man winds down towards his mid-year retirement, he warns us that in many countries of the world tracts of erstwhile arable land will become dust bowls and that the poorest will not be able to afford to buy food. This comes at a time when communal farmers in Namibia are reporting soil erosion and compaction due to the ongoing drought. Lester has a track record of being correct on these issues and we would be wise to heed his warnings and recognise that fossil fuel usage is at the heart of this problem.

2015 - The Year the Dam Breaks
From: Paul Gilding  Posted: February 23rd 2015

Paul expresses eloquently what 2015 may bring in terms of attitudes to our future energy sources. His references are all high quality, too, and he sees the massive effort that will be required if we are to use renewable energy to replace fossil fuels and avoid the crippling consequences of uncontrolled climate change.

The 12 million people of Sao Paulo could be seen to be at the forefront of climate change impacts as their reservoirs are close to running dry. It could be that rationing restricts them to have water for only 2 days per week if more rain does not arrive soon. The city's problems, though also stem from poor planning and corruption. But that happens the world over.

A PV Tech article about a Wood McKenzie study underlines Paul Gilding's arguments and compares the rise of solar PV to that of shale oil and gas. Whilst rooftop solar is on the march, as in California and Australia, grid-scale solar has yet to prove that it can economically and reliably deliver more than 30% of grid energy. Time will tell. In the meantime, a micro-grid scheme from Bangladesh points up the way forward for rural and peri-urban areas in SA, not more coal.

Wavier Jetstreams bring Weird Weather
From: Jennifer Francis  Posted: February 20th 2015

Jennifer Francis first published her theory that melting ice in the Arctic is connected to extreme weather events in the Northern Hemisphere (NH) around two years ago. She argued that the main symptom of that connection was the NH jetstream, whose pattern, she said, was slowing and showing a greater amplitude in its waves.

Howard Lee delves into the Miocene (around 17-14 million years ago) and looks at what the world was like when CO2 was around 400ppm, as it is today. Here's a glimpse of what we're already committed to and, if we extrapolate from it, what we may be in for should we fail to control GHG emissions.

The other items all relate to the rapid changes that are taking place in the Arctic. In South Africa we are fortunate that the Antarctic is not changing so rapidly, but even so we may already be seeing the early effects of climate change.

New Studies point to GHG Emissions and Costs of Shale Gas
From: SpectroscopyNow   Posted: February 15th 2015

A new, Colorado State University lead study has monitored natural gas facilities and processing plants across 13 states of the US for emissions of methane. They found a massive range of so-called fugitive emissions, varying from 0.01% to over 10% of the gas being processed at them to be leaking into the atmosphere where it acts as a powerful greenhouse gas (33 x worse than CO2 over 100 years and 86 x over 20 years).

The largest emitters are known as super-emitters and were not taken into account when the US EPA established its estimates over 20 years ago. These estimates are those commonly quoted by the gas producing companies, but can now be seen to be underestimating the real situation. Importantly, using shale gas instead of coal is only cleaner than coal in GHG terms if the losses are around 3%.

In South Africa, Saliem Fakir of the World Wildlife Fund has published his study of the framework likely to be needed here in evaluating the financial benefits or otherwise of fracking. He identifies how complex this exercise will be, but points out that nowhere outside the US has shale gas production been profitable. Then he highlights the estimate of Paul Eardley-Taylor, head of oil and gas at Standard Bank, which suggests a break-even price of US$11.93/Mcf. The breakdown of this figure is not in the public domain, so we don't know what indirect costs (carbon, infrastructure, health, restoration etc.) are included. But even if they are it's unlikely that shale gas can compete with renewables on price. Are we supposed to subsidise it?

Strong Solar Growth, but ...
From: Deborah Lawrence  Posted: February 14th 2015

Deborah shows us that global solar PV is growing at around 20% per annum and that the growth itself brings mass production cost benefits. As such it forms a virtuous circle.

JD Markman tells us that we will see a global financial crisis over the next 2 years as it becomes clear that solar energy will push aside that generated by all fossil fuels. South Africa's plans for coal-fired power stations, shale gas and nuclear will increasingly be seen as irrelevant, if not foolishly wasteful. But Markman goes on to predict a 17 year period of recovery and strong growth thereafter. Will we manage to miss that opportunity, as well?

Zachary Shahan chats with Michael Liebreich (Chairman of the Advisory Board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance) about the implications of ACWA's successful bid in Dubai to supply electricity from solar PV at under R0.70 per kWh. If, as Liebreich suggests, we are close to a tipping point for solar PV and prices will drop strongly, then we can expect to see rooftop and ground mounted solar sprout all over SA. Commerce and industry will follow Apple's lead.


Shale Production Nosedives
From: Deborah Lawrence  Posted: February 13th 2015

Although Deborah here concerns herself primarily with tight oil, the situation is mirrored with shale gas. The vast majority of new production coming online in the US is being used just to replace that being lost due to the rapid decline of flows from existing wells. The percentage for this purpose is beginning to approach 100%, meaning that there is near zero growth.

Wild swings from one briefly stable state to another is a common feature when systems become unstable. Picture the wobbling motion of a spinning top as it slows from the stability of rapid rotation to a stationery, but stable state of lying on its side. In this case it's prices that are unstable as demand and supply jostle for supremacy. A situation that is anathema to industries and economies where stability is seen as being key.

In South Africa's case load shedding is at the root of declining economic performance and so we can learn from it. Yet our government plans to launch the very same technology that is causing such havoc in the one nation that has as yet deployed it. This is the exact opposite of what we need if a strong economy is to exist in a world of gathering storms.

Construction to begin at Three More Wind Farms
From: BusinessGreen  Posted: February 13th 2015

Construction of the 140MW Khobab, 140MW Loeriesfontein 2 and 80MW Noupoort Wind Farms, all in Northern Cape, is expected to start this month. All 3 are to be developed by Mainstream Renewable Power who also developed the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm as part of the REIPPP round I initiative to bring renewable power generation to South Africa.

The Jeffreys Bay development was delivered on time, on budget and without a single accident. It delivers electricity at around one fifth of the cost of Eskom's open cycle gas turbines. The new farms will add a little more than 1% to current grid capacity and will not run continuously. However, storage is beginning to be deployed in the US and EU to enable wind to make an ever greater contribution to our grid.

Across the world 51,477 MW of wind power were installed in 2014 and more than 20% of that in China. Globally, governments and utilities see wind's advantages as low cost, stable (zero) fuel costs, nearly zero carbon emissions, rapid deployment and good generators of employment. Studies show that environmental impacts are tiny in comparison to fossil fuel sources of electricity.

Strong Employment in Solar
From: Deborah Lawrence  Posted: February 10th 2015

Whilst the oil and gas industry has been shedding employees at an astonishing and, for those affected, deeply troubling rate, the US solar industry has been adding jobs in large numbers. This trend is reflected worldwide. Renewables are not subject to the same switchback ride that is caused by having to balance supply and demand of its basic fuels. For solar, the sun. For wind, moving air. Both come free and are in plentiful supply. We can build on that.

Rooftop solar PV is not the big, top-down solution that the South African government would prefer, but it can provide a growing, even mushrooming, workforce over the coming years. Plenty of healthy, outdoor jobs contrast with conditions in the oil and gas industries. Currently in the US, workers at eleven oil refineries are on strike over the harms to health that have recently surfaced as science studies the environmental costs of fracking.

South African born Elon Musk of Tesla fame believes that renewable energy projects can work alongside traditional electricity utilities, though he is referring to the situation in the US, where he expects demand for electricity to double as EVs replace gasmobiles. How this would affect GHG emissions is not discussed.


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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