‘New alerts highlight need for urgent climate change action’

Climate negotiators huddle during the closing hours of the COP17 UN climate conference in Durban, 2011. Pic: David Le Page
Climate negotiators huddle during the closing hours of the COP17 UN climate conference in Durban, 2011. Pic: David Le Page

Published in Business Day, 19 September 2013

PERHAPS, one day, an article on climate change will be written that tells us that things are getting better. Sadly, this is not that article and that day, if it ever comes, is a long way in the future. Though climate change has largely disappeared from the public agenda in South Africa since the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban in December 2011, the problem itself remains stubbornly immune to fluctuations in media attention.

Two recent climate-change updates from the World Bank and International Energy Agency have restated the scale and dangers of the problem. The reports should make anyone younger than 50 worry about the future, because, on present emissions trends, significant effects are predicted in just the next 30 years. Some of the worst effects will hit sub-Saharan Africa.

There are a few points to bear in mind when either contemplating or skipping in dread past the predictions. First, global carbon emissions are still growing and show no sign of slowing down. Continue reading ‘New alerts highlight need for urgent climate change action’

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Business Day: ‘Stop giving the government a free pass on nuclear power’

Published in Business Day, 25 November 2011

‘The nuclear path will compound centralisation and elitism, and necessitate importing skilled foreign labour’

The Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town
No plan, nowhere to put it – for over thirty years, Eskom has been stacking up high-level nuclear waste, that will be dangerous for thousands of years, in Koeberg.

IS SA about to multiply and repeat the R40bn arms-deal debacle that has haunted our politics for more than a decade? The government’s decision to invest more than R1-trillion in six nuclear reactors — the equivalent of 30 arms deals — risks being a disaster for our fraying governance as well as for the economy. The amounts of money involved in the nuclear deal are an obvious magnet for corruption; the security risks inherent in the technology offer a million more excuses for secrecy.

The nuclear decision is justified by the conventional wisdom that we need infrastructure-intensive economic development to meet “the needs of our people”, that economic development demands economic growth, and economic growth demands huge power stations. Some consider it to be a necessary low-carbon alternative: South Africans are mostly unaware of the technological revolution unfolding globally in the renewable energy sector.

Activists question the nuclear decision on the grounds of radiation and proliferation risks. They point out that no country has solved the problem of how to deal with high- level radioactive waste and that it is highly unlikely that a problem that has so far defeated the likes of the US and Japan will be solved by SA. Despite having had nearly 20 years since the end of apartheid to find a responsible solution for managing high-level waste, Eskom continues to stack it up in racks at Koeberg, just as was done — disastrously — at Fukushima. The National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute, unfunded, Continue reading Business Day: ‘Stop giving the government a free pass on nuclear power’