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Obama's Urgent Arctic Message
From: The White House  Posted: September 1st 2015

US President Barack Obama continued his push for more urgent action on climate change with a speech in Anchorage, Alaska which four times repeated "we're not acting fast enough". Having accepted $2billion from Shell for an exploration license in the Chukchi Sea, his government was not in a position to refuse to grant them a subsequent drilling licence. We must all hope that they find nothing or nothing remotely economic to produce.

Neven Acropolis tells us that the first signs of the approaching minimum extent of sea ice are appearing and that it is unlikely that it will approach the record of 2012. Conditions for the first half of the season did not promote rapid melting and 2015 will probably remain instructive only for the rate at which melting can occur in the second half.

Even so, rapid warming is thought to be a significant cause of the massive haul-outs of walruses that are occurring once again in Alaska. The 2015/2016 El Niño is now expected to be very powerful and likely to raise the temperature of the Pacific by 2°C next year. Warm water flooding through the Bering Strait, plus a mild winter forecast for Canada, may well provide the conditions to reduce sea ice extent beyond 2012's record.


Fossil Fuels and Global Economics
From: Our Finite World  Posted: August 26th 2015

Gail Tverberg is an actuary who has specialised in the effect of oil limits upon insurance companies and has been writing on that topic since 2006. The accuracy of her 2012 predictions commands respect. Let us hope that she has over-dramatised her current predictions for what lies ahead.

Art Berman exposes the massive hype that surrounds break-even prices for tight oil from fracking operations and how so many of the companies producing it are in the 'red flag' zone that indicates they are becoming a credit risk.

Tad Patcek is in Art's camp as far as ultimately recoverable reserves are concerned, as are an increasing number of others. Here he postulates that the Barnett shale is likely already at its peak production of gas. He expresses the opinion that "The big energy game attracts all kinds of unsavory people." The Guardian wonders whether Shell can profitably explore the Arctic and whether Hillary Clinton will get to reverse the permits that have been granted.


The State of the Climate Debate
From: Resilience  Posted: August 25th 2015

In June 2015, a court in The Hague ordered the Dutch government to speed up its reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. A class action by 900 citizens, organised by Urgenda (Urgent + Agenda) won its case that the Dutch public has a right to protection from climate change effects. The outcome may encourage groups in other countries to follow the same path.

SkS reports on a paper which attempts to analyse the errors in 38 papers that disagreed with the 97% majority who have come to the conclusion that climate change is real and caused by humans. They found conflicts between the papers and common errors such as 'cherry picking', curve fitting, ignoring inconvenient data, and disregarding known physics.

The Abbott government in Australia have come under heavy criticism from neighbouring island states as the biggest per capita emitter of GHGs plans only modest reductions. Many of the islands would disappear if global temperatures rise by over 2°C above pre-industrial era values. That criticism will grow stronger as the world more and more comes to understand the crisis.


Drought in South Africa and Elsewhere
From: iol   Posted: August 24th 2015

Crop production and livestock farming are expected to decline by more than 30% according to AgriSA. Importing shipments of yellow and white maize are causing problems for an already weak economy and their prices are expected to rise by 6.4%

A SAWS forecast suggests that little further rain is to be expected in Western Cape this year, on top of a drier year so far. Some farmers are already having to feed livestock that would normally live off pasture at this time of year. Let us hold thumbs that the forecast is too pessimistic.

Farmers in North West and Free State provinces are struggling with local conditions - their pasture is poor, whilst finding sufficient water for irrigation or their herds is proving especially difficult. The IPCC regional forecast of climate change for South Africa anticipates that this dryness will become the new norm, but does not expect it to be taking hold so soon.


Renewables on the March
From: The Guardian  Posted: August 24th 2015

Here in Stellenbosch a South African team are prototyping a small scale concentrated solar power (CSP) system that focuses sunlight onto a collector the height of a lamppost and using the searing heat to boil water sufficiently to power a conventional turbine. They expect to complete this phase of their development by October.

Mainstream Renewable Power, who have already completed several wind and solar PV farms in SA, suggest that those resources should now be considered suitable for baseload power, saving the country the expense of building vast new infrastructure for LNG or shale gas, both of which have erratic fuel costs.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg report that our renewable resources, tiny as they are, saved the country R4billion in the first half of 2015 by replacing expensive diesel fuel and avoiding load shedding. Even though oil and gas prices continue to fall, the world is increasingly turning to clean, renewable energy.


Uproarious Reaction to Tesla
From: Zachary Shahan  Posted: August 19th 2015

If you think EVs are dull or not coming to SA, then click on the Tesla image and watch the video clip from Sweden. But to lock in their benefits we need our government to change direction from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources for new electricity generation.

RMI sees massive changes to US mobility patterns over the coming years mainly due to the $1 trillion savings that can be achieved through EVs and car sharing. Los Angeles hopes to remove 7,000 gas guzzlers from its city streets by a 100 vehicle (of which 80 will be EVs) car sharing scheme and Morgan Stanley identify alternative fuel vehicles as 1 of 7 key markets it sees as enabling climate change mitigation or adaptation

Brian Kent describes his experience of converting to an EV in a four part series of articles.

BUYING AN EV PART 1  |   PART 2  |   PART 3  |   PART 4

Climate Science - Worried Men and Women
From: The Great Change  Posted: August 16th 2015

In this post we examine attitudes to coping with climate change. Few continue to maintain that it's all a hoax or not happening. So what are the rest of us doing or thinking about the greatest challenge that humanity has faced? Answer: as yet, much thought but little action.

Climate scientists like Jason Box lose sleep over worries that they see disaster ahead and are unable to get their expert views accepted. So much so that many are now reluctant to be interviewed. Others expect tremendous technological advances but urge us not to believe in simple solutions.

Mass migration is seen as everyday now and as being rooted in climate change and food shortages. Islanders in the Pacific who have suffered the full effects of super-typhoon Pam, now begin to implement a plan to safeguard them from similar future events. We can learn much from them, not only from their actions but from their simple and happy lifestyle.


Limits to Growth
From: Brian Davey  Posted: August 15th 2015

Brian Davey's thoughtful article on the possibility of an approaching global deflation provides us with a framework for an understanding of the current dangers that the world's financial institutions are wrestling with. Of relevance to this website are his remarks on energy and The Limits to Growth and the high price levels needed to justify investment in new fossil fuel production.

Zachary Shahan calls for the abolition of fossil fuel subsidies whose burden falls directly or indirectly on all of us. He refers to the IMF's estimate that this would also save 1.6million premature deaths a year from outdoor air pollution. That's equivalent to 15 airline accidents of MH17's magnitude each and every day of the year.

Stephen Lacey reviews Bloomberg's and GTM Research's views of prices in the coming renewables markets. The former expects wind and solar PV to drop by 32% and 48% respectively by 2040. The latter sees solar as becoming the resource of choice within 3 years - long before SA can complete exploration for shale gas and build the necessary infrastructure for its production.


James Hansen Spells it Out
From: Common Dreams  Posted: August 13th 2015

21 young plaintiffs aged from 8 to 19 have filed a landmark climate change lawsuit against the US federal government. Amongst them is Hansens's granddaughter, Sophie. They allege that the government have been aware of the implications of the continued burning of fossil fuels for decades, but have failed to take decisive action.

Sophie's grandfather has provided the group with a hard hitting submission for the court in which he outlines the devastating consequences of inaction - a case he first presented to government 27 years ago. The intervening time has served to verify many of the effects he predicted.

"The federal government has known for decades that CO2 pollution from burning fossil fuels was causing global warming and dangerous climate change," said one of the teenage plaintiffs and youth director of Earth Guardians, 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh Martinez of Colorado. "It also knew that continuing to burn fossil fuels would destabilize our climate system, significantly harming my generation and generations to come."

Fracking and Pollution
From: EWG  Posted: August 12th 2015

Back in June a US EPA report found "no evidence of widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources". But nor would they have found systemic evidence of spills or pipeline explosions. These events are all occasional though they do occur and each can be disastrous.

The US Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysed data collected under California's regulatory framework for fracking and found that a significant proportion of the chemicals in fracking fluids are hazardous to health. The detail is sufficiently alarming as to cause EWG to recommend considering other, non-polluting alternatives to shale oil and gas.

On the same day, Delaware RiverKeeper published its study of the likely effects of removing the current moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River basin. A spokesperson summed it up: "You cannot make shale gas extraction safe for the environment and communities."


11,000 Require Emergency Care in Japan
From: Wall Street Journal  Posted: August 11th 2015

Heat waves are killing people on all the non-polar land masses of the planet. The deaths are distressingly numerous, but the effect on medical resources is also worrying. In Japan, for example, 32 have died in the last week but over 11,000 have required treatment for heat stroke, more than half of whom are over 65. The length of the heat waves is a significant factor - temperatures in Tokyo were over 35°C for 8 straight days.

Excessive heat is reported by NASA in Europe a month ago, but records are currently being reported in many central parts of Europe. The Middle East, Southern US and Venezuela similarly swelter, with the last of these reporting that it is contributing to a shortage of beer. Dangerous times, indeed!

SkS informs us that the current El Niño is looking increasingly as powerful as the 1997/98 version, but will only peak towards the end of the year. New research warns us that abrupt warming has repeatedly triggered extinction of large fauna in the past. Homo sapiens falls into that category and would be wise to use all its so-called sapiens to avoid the consequences.


Final Version of EPA's Clean Power Plan Unveiled
From: Ryan Koronowski  Posted: August 3rd 2015

Barack Obama has launched the final version of the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which is designed to lower carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation by 32% below 2005 levels and save between $25 and $45 billion in health and climate change costs by 2030.

A new and major feature of the plan is the promotion of renewable energy at the expense of natural gas with particular emphasis on shale gas. Incentives are included for states which take up this part of the plan, which is particularly aimed at the adoption of renewable energy by low-income communities. A similar plan would do wonders for health, energy and poverty here in South Africa.

Joe Romm expresses the view that this plan will encourage other countries to follow suit and that may have an effect on the outcome of COP21 in Paris in 4 months time. Michael Brune is impressed by the dependence of the plan on existing technologies and what is known to be achievable, Naomi Klein tells us that the CPP is not nearly enough and Yale Climate Connections reminds us that black carbon is roughly equivalent to methane in adding to greenhouse gas accumulation.


No Joy in Mudville
From: Petroleum Truth Report  Posted: July 31st 2015

According to Art Berman, the rapid growth in US natural gas production has stalled and the export of LPG, which he always thought extremely risky, is now dead in the water due to the heavy fall in its global price. The Financial Times sees this as part of the $200 billion (R2.5 trillion) cancellation or postponement of new projects by the oil and gas industry. Desmogblog highlights the negative cash flow from which many fracking companies are now suffering and how the Utica shale is being hyped in a way that has been seen before.

Andrew Nikiforuk cites Canada's increasing economic woes as arising from the 'stranded assets' of the tar sands that forms part of the FT story and similarly the China Times reports that ConocoPhilips has ended all its shale gas projects in that country.

Renewables are benefiting massively as fossil fuel sources are in decline. We could be experiencing a 'Kodak moment'. 98% of new US power capacity was provided by renewables in June; 1,000 US gas-fired power stations lack a safety feature which was in their specification; no end in sight for solar and wind price reductions and Oxfam calls on SA to create one million new climate jobs.


Fighting Fire
From: TomDispatch  Posted: July 30th 2015

Subhankar Banerjee speaks out about the wildfires that are destroying the Pacific Northwest rainforest, how the winter snowfall used to linger until June or early July, but now melts by March. That has dire consequences for the ecology of the area, whose national park attracts almost as many visitors as Yellowstone or Yosemite.

Drought is part of that story, as it is in California, further south, where 13,000 residents have been ordered from their homes for their own safety. Over 52,600 hectares of wildfires are now burning there.

William Jolly of the US Forest Service and his colleagues report that worldwide the fire season had increased by about 18.7% worldwide over the last 35 years. Here is positive evidence that climate change is at work.


South-east US Climate Change Assessment
From: Climate Progress  Posted: July 28th 2015

A new report focuses on the economic impacts of climate change in the South East of the US and Texas. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at our current rate agricultural yields and labour productivity will be adversely affected, whilst the region will see increased sea levels, higher energy demand and rising mortality rates.

In Florida alone, the value of properties below the high tide level will rise to $69billion (R866billion) by 2030 and $152billion (R1.9 trillion) by 2050. Florida is the state whose governor required state documents not use the phrase 'climate change'. South Florida is highly critical of the paltry efforts being made within the state to combat climate change and a movement exists to promote secession from the north.

Elsewhere, countries are beginning to wake up to what is coming, though with current uncertainty about the rate of change authorities are loath to spend funds on preparing their infrastructure for even the most likely outcomes.


Solar vs Gas
From: Climate Progress  Posted: July 26th 2015

Hillary Clinton announces that her plan to tackle climate change will install half a billion solar panels in the US by 2021. The plan envisages producing enough renewable energy to power every US home within 10 years of her being elected. Next year's presidential election will contrast that plan with Republican continuing denial that climate change is a problem.

The US public is beginning to realise that current low prices of shale gas will drive many gas exploration and production companies (E&Ps) out of business. The Economist warns of that whilst the Guardian tells us that private investors stand to lose $4.2 trillion (R53 trillion) in stranded assets.

Forbes magazine highlights the decrease in relevance of the Henry Hub spot price for gas because of better midstream infrastructure for plentiful Marcellus shale gas. Art Berman takes a look at the latest craziness of the oil and gas E&Ps and J. David Hughes sees no improvement in the US Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook when compared with last year's heavily criticised version.


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles Not Dead Yet
From: Clean Technica  Posted: July 22nd 2015

Researchers at Eindhoven University have used Gallium Phosphide (GaP) to produce a 'Solar Fuel Cell'. The cost of energy to produce hydrogen from natural gas, together with its greenhouse gas (GHG) implications, has put FCEVs on the back burner, but recently research has demonstrated the possibilities of using solar power to produce hydrogen (and oxygen) directly from water. The processes need development time before a commercial product is viable, but that now looks possible.

Bosch, Daimler and Car2go are joining forces to produce an automatic parking system. When you collect your share car, it finds you from the car park. When you return, it parks itself. Car2go offers a membership service in several larger cities within the US and similar services are appearing around the globe. A smart phone app calls you a vehicle on demand and you leave it wherever you finish up.

Amongst other upgrades, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announces a 'Ludicrous' mode for the Model S, which provides the power to accelerate from 0-60mph in 2.8sec. At the other end of the scale, users will soon be able to buy an intelligent home charger for $499.



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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