Published January 2020
Have you started 2020 with good intent?
Please consider this:
Parents: Sit down with your child today and talk to them about this article. Then ask them to draw a beautiful picture which I can post online. Part of the problem is people have fallen out of love with nature.
Business Owners: I have empathy for you. I understand the challenges of competing in the market of today, but change is coming. Call a 5-minute staff meeting, with coffee or tea and go over the points of this article. Let it be decided that your team is dedicated to a positive change and that it involves everyone in the room. Take a nice picture of the meeting for me to repost. You can mention that the coffee they are drinking might very well run out soon because of the subject in this article.
The Individual:Buy a plant that processes a lot of carbon dioxide. In South Africa, we have the Spekboom. Head to a local nursery and send a picture for me to repost once planted.
This article is not sensationalist and should receive equivalent consideration to that given by a parent deciding on their child’s day care.
This article is written for businesses and families alike.
The world of 2020 will not be the same as that of 2021. Article 10 of the Paris Agreement is especially interesting because it is dedicated to the inclusion of technology and innovation as a pivotal part of achieving objectives in the most important International agreement ever signed. There are 197 countries involved. Businesses and families alike need to understand what their governments have agreed to. Every country needs to acquire the skills to quickly educate, adapt and act.
The phrase ‘climate justice’ stood out for me after reading the Agreement.
My summary of the agreement: acknowledge facts, affirm a message of real global concern, hold those accountable for past and future action and support positive steps in line with each nation’s targets.
Accountability is a global human weakness. China and the USA are the biggest Co2 contributors and America is technically pulling out of the Paris Agreement for fear of negative economic ramifications or punitive costs. Developed countries must lead by example, sharing their technology and when possible offer financial support. Smaller nations and islands have a bit of leniency, but everyone is equally accountable for the commitment they make.
In its design, the Agreement protects everyone’s interests regardless of the size of the country or socio-economic status. Decisions are to be made based on the best science available. There is a strong emphasis on transparency and anyone can view the public register at the following link:
South Africa’s commitments:
The universal objective is to amalgamate all the nation’s efforts to ensure that the planet does not warm more than 2%. While each country is affected differently by Global Warming, none are immune. Areas for cooperation include, but are not limited to: early warning systems, emergency preparation, risk assessment and management, insurance, community and ecosystem resilience.
The United Nations links The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damages (created in 2013, acknowledging loss and damage associated with climate change) with the Paris Agreement. Every single person will suffer financially and their quality of life will be affected. I found a risk index for countries related to extreme weather events as per image included. Weather impact is just one of numerous types of negative affects hurting life on earth.
Unfortunately, there is no one glove fits all solution. Each country has to approach challenges in their own way and entering the Paris Agreement is 100% voluntary. A country can withdraw with 1 year’s notice. In 2023 all nations come together under one roof to assess progress and tweak future plans. Mrs Edna Molewa (Minister of Environmental Affairs, who unfortunately died in September 2019), signed the Paris Agreement for South Africa at the United Nations in New York April in 2016. I believe Barbara Creecy has taken over from her.
*** The Difference.
There is a difference between Climate Change and Global Warming. A simple explanation is that Climate Change is caused by nature. Global Warming is the name given to the group of expedited harmful effects happening due to human consumption and energy practices, with most attention broadly focused on Greenhouse gases. (Greenhouse gases can be any sort of gas in the atmosphere that retains heat, with carbon, methane and water vapour currently the biggest components.) The phenomenon is however more complex.
Evolution can keep up with Climate Change, not Global Warming.
For those who believe Global Warming is not caused by people or has any effect on Climate Change in general if you choose to be naïve, ignorant or live in denial, unfortunately, I cannot spend time trying to convince you of the obvious, especially when there is an overwhelming scientific consensus on the subject. Future Thinkers know the decisions made in the next 10 years will be judged for decades to come by our children and their children’s children.
I have never believed a child should pay for the sins of their parents. (A very pertinent subject in South Africa, where the youth have to deal with residual damage from the past). I don’t believe it’s fair, but this situation is so far-reaching we cannot look at it in terms of generations, or even South Africans. Global Warming can only be considered in the context of what humanity will mean.
Global Warming will not kill all humans. It will kill hundreds of thousands. What will probably kill most people, with fatalities running into the millions; will be a disease from a dormant virus in thawing permafrost. We have no anti-viruses ready for these threats. This might sound like the theme of a great sci-fi movie, but it is scientifically supported and if you spend just a few minutes on Google you will find enough supporting information to scare yourself. The Black Death killed over 75 million people in the year 1350.
If a frosty virus does not kill us, a normal one might, due to an epidemic brought on by increased human and animal migration and interaction. This compounded with the problem of reduced access to clean water, food and medicine will result in catastrophe.
The other major risk is a world war for natural resources.
There are records of Climate Change that stretch back about a thousand years. We know the planet has heated up and cooled down several times over millions of years for natural reasons, for example, the earth's orbital shape to the sun, which is elliptical and varies every 100 000 – 413 0000 years. The axis of the earth changes a few degrees every 41 000 years, and the orientation of the earth’s orbital ellipse rotates slowly. The shape of landmass, ocean currents, how much ice and greenhouse gas there is all affect global temperatures.
There are feedback effects which are more localized influences between the land/water masses and the atmosphere. These have a far greater short term affect.
Volcanoes can influence localized temperatures as well and we also know the sun has increased its heat as it ages.
One of the many unfortunate facts about Global Warming is the ripple and compound effects. For example with melting ice caps, we have less ice to reflect the sunlight back out into space, which results in more heat retained in our atmosphere. Warmer air further speeds up melting ice. The ripple effect is that there is more water evaporating, creating vapour, and therefore increasing greenhouse gases.
One of the ideas I had on the subject of Global Warming solutions was to flash freeze water in the air so it falls as snow or ice, creating new reflective surfaces and removing vapour from the air. It is ideas like this that come to me at 2am. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a technical solution that can achieve this at a mass scale in the atmosphere. (Any scientists out there with a solution please message me. Perhaps I can find some funding.)
The error of our ways started around 10 000 years ago with agriculture, which is still a major problem today. We started cutting down forests for crops and as our population continued to grow we destroyed more forests and wetlands. At the time of the Industrial Revolution (from 1700 onward) we had become the most harmful species on the planet. We then progressed to the mass use of fossil fuels and by 1950 we had broken the planet’s all-time record for Co2 emissions.
In the year 2018 we burnt 7.1 million liters of oil, and 245 000kgs of coal… per second! The use of coal as a source of power generation must be phased out globally by the year 2050, even though we have enough coal to last us another 150 years.
Once carbon is in the air it remains there for around 300-1000 years. Atmospheric composition of Co2 is currently at 412 parts per million (give or take a few parts). We generate about 29 gigatons annually and our planet can only absorb about 40% of that. Our oceans absorb a lot of carbon, about ¼ worldwide, but they are in a state of rapid decline.
The world must prevent temperature gains that exceed 3 degrees or the scenarios that follow are unthinkable and not survivable for most species and ecosystems. I need to remind you again I am not being sensationalist.
Heat is perhaps a less immediate problem compared to the water supply. By 2040 it is predicted that most major cities won’t be able to provide water year-round. We forget that the world is only able to use 1-3% of the planet’s water for our needs.
In the last two generations, we have killed half the world’s wildlife. We are set for a mass extinction period of animals over the next 50 years with about 8 species lost every hour. This would be the planet’s 6th mass extinction event and the first brought on by a species of the planet.
Floods have quadrupled since 1980 and doubled since 2004.
Every week there is news on a huge fire. What is happening in Australia is a prime example of what to expect in the decades to follow.
Displacement of entire communities is happening worldwide, and in Africa at a huge scale.
Deforestation is a major problem and continues to become worse. Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 1.3 million square kilometres of forest. (An area larger than South Africa.)
Land is needed for agriculture to feed our population which increases between 84 million and 130 million people per year. At the same time, life expectancy is increasing. More people means more resources needed at an exponential rate and we have already passed the point where we can manage. People are going to starve. Stop ordering meals at restaurants you cannot finish and end up being thrown away. Please take it with you and give it to the homeless.
Natural disasters worldwide that normally happen over a period of 100 years are happening every decade or two. At least 650 million people are currently at risk and this number will grow.
Around 2050, sea levels should be at about 48cm higher than they are today. That might not sound like a lot but when you accept only 29% of the earth’s dry surface is above sea level you are looking at losing entire towns. Many coastal cities will be under water within the next 80 years. At the current general rate of temperature increase which is around 3%, we can expect by the year 2100 (when our children’s children are teenagers), that cities like Shanghai (17.5 million people), Rio de Janeiro (1.8 million people), Alexandria (3 million people), Osaka (5.2 million people) will be fully submerged.
The richest of cities like London will not be immune and suffer colossal land loss as well. (See image). In South Africa, Knysna disappears (see image), so does Muizenberg. Here is a link to see if your beachside house is still around in 50-100 years:
There are too many people to support on earth using the resource management systems we currently embrace. Without action today the poverty gap will expand and the overall quality of life will decrease for us all. We are not fighting for a better class of cabin on a cruise ship, we are trying to keep the entire boat from floundering.
Entire country’s economies are going to suffer tremendously even if we manage to maintain the objectives of the Paris Agreement. As a Business Owner, you would be foolish to ignore these risks.
There are no winners unless we are all victors.
A distracted and divided nation means that we are unable to focus on real challenges.
Our average temperature increase rate is double that of the rest of the world, and we are a country that has 50% less rainfall than the average of other countries.
Our rainfall periods have already shifted, and while we have the same amount of rain, it happens over a shorter period of time and in places we were not prepared for it to take place in. We cannot manage our water.
Cape Town was one of the world’s first major cities to come close to day zero or a ‘No Water Status’. Residents halved their usage but also got lucky when it rained. Still, we make the same mistakes, this December Holiday I drove past a farm in the Western Cape watering crops in the midday heat. If you see this sort of blatant harmful action you need to report it to the Green Scorpions (a law enforcement agency which focuses on environmental matters of all types.) You can make a call using the number 0800205005 and see more information on:
We are suffering from bigger storms and more intense droughts. We cannot protect our less vulnerable communities and property owners need to consider threats.
Less than 15% of our country’s land can support harvests and entire types of crops are at risk, for example, Rooibos Tea or even certain varietals of grapes for wine.
9 million tonnes of food is wasted each year. That is equivalent to 1/3 of all food produced.
We cannot manage our waste or combat damaging environmental activities. Around 500 million Rand each year is used to deal with illegal dumping.
1 in 2 homes recycle.
South Africa has agreed to targets (Paris Agreement) to be achieved by the year 2030. Unfortunately, our nation is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Suffice to say we are running at a pace which puts us at peak emission allowances.
South Africa’s average carbon emissions are 8.9 tonnes per capita making it one of the highest carbon emitters in the developing world. Sasol and Eskom create more carbon than some entire countries. In 2016 we were the 14th biggest contributor world-wide. During my research I found a website to view our status in a context of global efforts. We are one step shy of the worst possible status. See: https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/south-africa/
On the continent, and worldwide, Morocco is an inspiring example of a country with a good track record.
South Africa adopted our Integrated Resource Plan in October 2019 and while the meat of the bones needs to be added you can expect there will be a major shift from coal power to alternative and sustainable energy. If you have read prior articles of mine, you will know I share information on South Africa’s noble strides in sustainable energy, and they are encouraging. What I have not mentioned is the ramifications of these changes on the job market which will be high. New skills will be required, and there is a wonderful window of opportunity for entrepreneurs to create solutions to help homes and communities become self-reliant for electricity and water.
The South African Climate Change Bill will lead to carbon budgets being assigned to individuals and businesses. Government stands to be firm on these targets with serious penalties imposed including fines up to a few million Rands and even prison time.
We have the GreenBook (https://greenbook.co.za/) which provides up to date scientific evidence of likely impact. Some of this website’s features are so precise it can show information on a map grid as small as 8x8km. This website covers subjects, to name a few: floods, wildfires, settlement vulnerability, economy, and groundwater. For business owners, take a look at their plausible mitigation scenario for significant economic losses by 2030 and 2050.
There are a number of laws and frameworks already in place which can be used to support Global Warming efforts, to name a few:
I would have liked to also list the Water Services Act of 1997, but unfortunately, that legislation does not have a good track record in delivery. The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, 2002, needs to be tweaked to become aggressive in favour of the Paris Agreement objectives.
For those of you who feel you can make no difference, I am pleased to let you know that you are mistaken. We need to remind ourselves that a non-action is a negative action.
There is a thing called ‘Ecological Grief’. This is a psychological response to loss caused by environmental destruction or climate change. While I believe this guilt is well placed, we must persevere and end our harmful and selfish practices.
It is not acceptable that the majority of pollutants come from non-necessity items or luxuries, for example, 30% of rubbish in the sea comes from cigarettes. There are 269 000 tons of plastic floating in the ocean because we want our shopping in a throw-away bag.
While some good work is being done, for example, solar energy production has increased by 2000% since 2009, and South Africa spends around 400 million a year on research, it’s simply not enough. A greater effort has to be made by the individual and then government and corporates will follow.
In South Africa, I would like to partner with some scientists and corporates to start a carbon rating system for products, a grading that must be displayed on anything sold or used by the public. Something simple for people to understand where a rating of ‘Red Carbon’ means it really needs to be avoided. Perhaps the bad rating was given because it was a product that cannot be recycled, or it is an imported vegetable out of season. ‘Orange Carbon’ means it should be used in a controlled and limited fashion. ‘Green Carbon’ would stand for products that are local, produced with sustainable methods for example, fruit that is in season, sold out of packaging, and in the same province as the retailer. (Anyone interested in helping launch this campaign please make contact with me). I would expand the program to assign ratings to businesses. A customer can then support those with a better rate at a glance.
The smartest thing for a business to think about is the meaning of Green Money. Ultimately one of the greatest tools of change will be cash. Future Thinkers will purchase based on sustainability rather than convenience. You will need to redesign your business model and perhaps even products.
Try predicting future market needs, and if possible, use them to your advantage. You must consider future legislation that will influence your business and supply chain. If you are interested in an assessment of your company for carbon status, or risks of Global Warming, please contact me.
We must elect governments that put the planet before the economy, otherwise, we only enjoy short term benefits and we pay far more in the long run. Development has destroyed more than 9700 square kilometres of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in the year ending July 2019 and their government turned a blind eye for the sake of immediate economic benefits. Zimbabwe was a country that should be producing enough food to feed several nations but on the day I wrote this article I heard they would run out of food for their own people come February 2020. It honestly breaks my heart. Poverty is almost too much for me to bear.
Government needs to take bold and unpopular action. For example, if you want less cars on the road, make public transport free! (But first make it safe and reliable). Population control. We need to stop having so many babies. It must be law and you must insist on pregnancy prevention solutions and offer national support.
Technology is going to play a huge part in combating Global Warming. We have the Copernicus Co2 Mission taking place in 5 years, the 1st of its kind, a carbon dioxide monitory satellite constellation. The company Silicon Kingdom Holdings has a solution that is designed to remove about 100 metric tons of carbon each day.
Smart Cities, Smart Homes, and Smart Farming will all become major ‘heroes’ in our future history books. Smart Technology by design is more efficient and in most cases has a longer life span, or can be repurposed or disposed of in a better way.
We don’t only need to rely on technology, and it could be smarter to use nature for some solutions. For example, some coastal regions have the ability to double the rate of Co2 removal not only because of their vegetation but also the soil found in these areas. It is wonderful to hear of innovative companies like Ocean-Based Climate Solutions (http://www.www.ocean-based.com/) who have a solution that basically gets phytoplankton (a type of algae) to eat more carbon. We need to protect all ecosystems, then identify and support those that help battle the effects of Global Warming.
Resources and Mind-Set. We need to create a circular economy that uses absolutely everything as many times as we possibly can. We have to think Green to be a Future Thinker and this is not always as obvious as you might imagine, for example, the trend is to get an electric car, but buying a 2nd hand petrol car might have less of a carbon footprint verse a new electric car in a country where electricity is made from coal, and worse the electric car is made overseas and comes with batteries that need to be replaced every 8 years and the old ones cannot be recycled. Purchasing a used car would technically be repurposing of something already made. I am not advocating the use of petrol cars, (I am personally trying to get an electric car) but rather trying to get you to think laterally instead of vertical. You must consider the implications of how a product came to be, how it will be disposed of once used, and not only the effects during its operation. Waste reduction or repurposing of materials and products is vital and could be a wonderful new business for an entrepreneur.
If someone could perfect the roll-out for a mass Carbon Sequestration solution (the process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form) they would probably do better than Google or Apple in terms of revenue.
The foremost task is to educate, which is why I publish articles. People don’t know about the threat, or do, and for a number of reasons fail to act. The education system in South Africa must evolve to include parts of my message. Now is the time to take action using the tools we already have. We can continue to plan and design new solutions but not at the expense of delay of action today.
Let’s change humanity, and reintroduce ourselves to nature as a positive influence.
Published January 2020Read more articles