||Introduction: The coming climate catastrophe.
The international debate over climate change is heating up, the more irrefutable evidence of global warming we see emerging. The overarching problem is well known to South Africans who follow the news; less understood – if at all - is this country’s responsibility for the world’s overdose of greenhouse gases. Like filthy laundry, it sometimes seems like a national secret that the economy we inherited from apartheid is so addicted to fossil fuel, and moreover that the post-apartheid government and corporate greenhouse gas emitters have made the situation much much worse.
South Africa is classified as a developing country in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect in February 2005. We are not subject to emissions reduction targets at this stage. But we will be in future, and looking ahead, officials and corporations – and even a few NGOs which should know better - are promoting the Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as a way to continue South Africa’s hedonistic output of greenhouse gases, and earn profits in the process.
Do we deserve to earn ‘foreign investment’ from South African industry’s indefensible contribution to global warming, as Pretoria brags is possible? From his base at the University of Zululand, professor Mark Jury has gathered the following damning facts about South Africa’s debt to the planet:
• South Africa contributes 1,8% of total Greenhouse Gases, making it one of the top contributing countries in the world;
• the energy sector is responsible for 87% of carbon dioxide (CO2), 96% of sulpher dioxide (SO2) and 94% of nitrous oxide emissions;
• 90% of energy is generated from the combustion of coal that contains greater than 1% sulfur and greater than 30% ash;
• with a domestic economy powered by coal, South Africa has experienced a five-fold increase in CO2 emissions since 1950;
• SA is signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Montreal Protocol, yet CO2 emissions increased 18% between 1990 and 2000;
• South Africa has only recently enacted legally binding air pollution regulations via the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act, but energy efficiency is low;
• in rural areas of South Africa, approximately three million households burn fuelwood for their energy needs, causing deforestation, reduction of CO2 sinks, and indoor health problems;
• the industrial sector consumes 2,6 quads of energy (57% of total primary energy consumption) and emits 66,8 M T of carbon (65% of total carbon emissions from fossil fuels), though industry’s contribution to GDP is 29%;
• since 1970, South Africa consistently has consumed the most energy and emitted the most carbon per dollar of GDP among major countries. South African energy intensity measured 33,5 K BTU per $unit (above), is nearly at China’s level;
• South Africa’s carbon intensity is far higher than in most other countries due to its dependence on coal; and
• household and industrial energy consumption across the continent is predicted to increase by over 300 % in the next fifty years with significant growth in sulphur and nitrogen emissions.
See power point presentation with graphics