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Climate Change and the Environment

This page updated on-line at http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php.

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Talking Points

  • Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New Jersey as well as Lagos.

  • When industries make decisions based on short-term profits, encouraged by government subsidies to established industries, they systematically discount damages from "externalities." Visible results include the devastation of oil-producing areas in the Niger Delta and of coal-producing areas, whether in South Africa or West Virginia. The longer-term consequences in rising temperatures and more extreme weather will be even more devastating.

  • Action to combat climate change depends in part on decisions made in international conferences, where the primary obstacles to action are the rich countries and the newly industrializing powers. But efforts at many other levels are also of decisive importance. Fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, as they grow and multiply, can affect investment choices. So can technological innovation. Notably, clean energy can already be more cost-effective than large-scale fossil fuel plants in supplying distributed energy access to Africa.

 

Most recent bulletins on climate change and the environment

May 18, 2015  Africa/Global: Decarbonizing Development? http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/wb1505.php
    Decarbonizing Development, a new report from the World Bank, lays out a target of "zero carbon future" by the end of the century. The target year goal is the most conservative of the options laid out for negotiations in the climate summit in Paris in December. Such a long transition can rightly be criticized by climate activists and scientists as falling far short, as can the Bank's own record of continued support for fossil fuels implicitly faulted in this report.

May 5, 2015  Africa/Global: Renewables Gaining Ground http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/ren1505.php
    "A key feature of 2014 was the continuing spread of renewable energy to new markets. Investment in developing countries, at $131.3 billion, was up 36% on the previous year and came the closest ever to overhauling the total for developed economies, at $138.9 billion, up just 3% on the year. Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey were all in the billion-dollar-plus club in 2014 in terms of investment in renewables." - UNEP / Bloomberg New Energy Finance

March 30, 2015  South Africa: Energy Futures Contested http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/sa1503.php
    The energy crisis in South Africa, with regular "load-shedding" due to shortages of power from the monopoly utility Eskom, is now at the top of the political agenda, featuring in President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address in February and in ongoing disputes about who is responsible and when the situation can be fixed. The long-term strategy to exit the crisis and begin a transition to a sustainable energy system is also marked by strong disagreements between utility and government officials and their critics.

March 10, 2015  Africa/Global: Falling Short on Climate Finance http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1503.php
    Africa, the continent with warming deviating most rapidly from "normal" conditions, could see climate change adaptation costs rise to US$50 billion per year by 2050, even assuming international efforts keep global warming below 2 degrees C this century, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

March 3, 2015  East Africa: Water, Wind, and Lake Turkana http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/turk1503.php
    Lake Turkana, in the far northwest of Kenya and extending over the border into Ethiopia, is the world's largest desert lake, in a region that is central to archaeological investigation into the origin of humanity. It is now also central to two different projects for expanding renewable energy due to come on-line in the next three years, one based on hydropower and the other on wind. While both will significantly expand the input to the East African power grid, critics charge that expansion of hydropower on Ethiopia's Omo River also poses serious threats to the livelihood of local people both around Lake Turkana and upstream along the Omo River.

February 11, 2015  Africa/Global: Archbishop Tutu on Fossil-Fuel Divestment http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1502.php
    "The destruction of the earth's environment is the human rights challenge of our time. ... The most devastating effects are visited on the poor, those with no involvement in creating the problem. A deep injustice. Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, today we say nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels." Archbishop Desmond Tutu

December 15, 2014  Africa/Global: Postponing Climate Decisions http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/clim1412.php
    "It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the climate crisis. ... In the wake of the climate disaster that was Hurricane Katrina almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of police, pointing war-zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. ... When crisis hits, the underlying racism in our society comes to the surface in very clear ways." - Deirdre Smith, 350.org, August 20, 2014

November 11, 2014  Africa/Global: Fossil-Fuel Divestment Growing http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/cc1411b.php
    The latest international scientific statement on the disastrous and potentially irreversible damage from climate change is unambiguous, as is the imperative for drastic action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But political obstacles to moving from rhetoric to action are virtually unchanged, despite massive demonstrations coinciding with the UN climate summit in late September. The dispersed fossil-fuel divestment movement, however, although still too small to curb the industry, is growing rapidly.

November 11, 2014  Africa/Global: Climate Change Summary Report http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/cc1411a.php
    "The world's top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.' Scientists have 'high confidence' these devastating impacts occur 'even with adaptation' -- if we keep doing little or nothing." - Joe Romm, Editor, Climate Progress

September 22, 2014  Africa: Climate Action & Economic Growth http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/clim1409.php
    It is still conventional wisdom to pit action to curb climate change against economic growth. But the evidence is rapidly accumulating that this is a false dilemma, buttressed by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and a simplistic concept of economic growth. According to a report just released by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, falling prices for renewable energy and careful analysis of both costs and benefits of low-carbon vs. high-carbon investment strategies point to a clear conclusion: saving the planet and saving the economy go hand in hand.

August 18, 2014  Africa: From Kerosene to Solar http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/sol1408.php
    The largest marketer of solar lamps in Africa, which recently passed the one million mark in lamps sold, has set an ambitious target for the industry. ""Our mission is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by the end of this decade," proclaims Solar Aid. Although achieving this goal would require the pico-solar market to emulate mobile phone industry's exponential growth path, it may not be as utopian as it sounds. According to market research company Navigant Research, "Off-grid solar lighting for base of the pyramid (BOP) markets, the leading solar PV consumer product segment, is transitioning from a humanitarian aspiration to big business."

July 31, 2014  Africa/Global: Talking Points on Common Issues http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/tp1407.php
    As African leaders and corporate CEOs gather to meet with President Obama and U.S. government officials, a wide variety of civil society activists will also be meeting in Washington, some in officially recognized side events, others in alternative venues. Many more will be issuing statements and communicating their views, some appropriating the twitter hashtag #AfricaSummit used by U.S. government officials, thus inserting their views as well into that hashtag stream.

June 30, 2014  Africa: Clean Energy Most Cost-Effective http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/ces1406.php
    "From off-grid LED lighting to 'Skinny Grids,' we can now provide energy access with a fraction of the amount of power we used to need. More importantly, we can unlock affordable initial interventions -- like lighting, mobile phone charging, fans, and TVs plus a small amount of agro processing -- to help people get onto the energy ladder today rather than forcing them to wait decades for a grid extension that may never come. ... It's important to understand that we aren't just imagining this clean energy market growth -- it's already happening." -- Justin Guay, Sierra Club

February 26, 2014  Africa: Tracking Toxic Pollution http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/env1402.php
    The damages produced by modern economies, termed "externalities" by economists, most often do not figure in the market signals shaping corporate profits and therefore corporate decision-making. The result, both in advanced economies or around the world, includes not only the massive threat to our common future through global warming, but also extraordinary levels of toxic pollution disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable. Of the top ten toxic threats around the world identified in a new report, three are in Africa: the Agbogbloshie Dumpsite for e-waste in Ghana, the entire Niger Delta region in Nigeria, and the now-closed but still deadly lead mining site in Kabwe, Zambia.

Complete listing of bulletins on climate change and the environment, 2003-present