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Publication Details

Reference
Goedgedacht Forum  (2006) Summary notes from the Goedgedacht Forum for Social Reflection debate of 8 April 2006: ‘Climate change
Goedgedacht Forum  : 1-16.

Summary
Dr Bob Scholes of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided a brief introduction to the topic. Global climate change is irreversible, even if it were possible for the world to stop harmful carbon emissions immediately. The world is getting warmer overall, there will be a rise in sea levels and there may be an increase in extreme weather events. Vector- and water-borne diseases are likely to increase. Parts of the world will become warmer and wetter, but southern Africa will become hotter and drier, leading to increased food insecurity for about 18 million people in the region. International agreements attempt to avoid dangerous levels of change but mitigating climate change requires all countries to reduce emissions, even those who had historically contributed less to the problem. Avoiding serious consequences require reducing global emissions by 95%, but the Kyoto Protocol proposes reductions of only 5%. Linda Manyuchi of the Department of Science and Technology spoke about the need to balance the need for economic development with the need to mitigate climate change. Prof Patrick Bond of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said access to energy was becoming less and less equitable in South Africa – industry benefited from the cheapest electricity in the world, but the poor did not receive the benefit; in fact the supply to many thousands of poor consumers had been cut off. Cross-subsidisation should ensure cheap electricity for the poor, and reduce dependence on natural resources such as trees for energy. Government regulation of emissions had to be tightened up and measures to reduce waste had to be introduced. Economic development strategies, currently energy-consumptive and capital-intensive, would have to be fundamentally rethought. South Africa was one of the world’s worst emitters of greenhouse gases, but it has failed to invest in renewable sources of energy. Rather than engaging with international carbon trading (something he described as a fraud), government should facilitate grassroots carbon reduction initiatives. The discussion then went into various other elements of what can be done to adapt to climate change, and what can be done to mitigate its severity.

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