South Africa – Climate Change, the Elephant in the Room

  • Despite differences in the energy mix, climate change remains the elephant in the room, writes Rob Jeffrey, an independent economic risk consultant.

The appointment of a new Minister, the honourable Gwede Mantashe, to look after the important portfolios of mining and energy lends hope that South Africa can avoid the dark future that awaited it. This was inevitable if South Africa continued to pursue the highly inefficient and ultimately costly wind and solar technologies for electricity generation being put forward by the powerful renewable lobby and neglecting its extensive and far cheaper coal and nuclear resources.

The elephant in the room remains climate change or more to the point Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) or human induced global warming caused primarily by rising carbon dioxide levels. The IPCC claims this is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. Recently, there is a heightened clamour amongst the intellectual elite, greens and youth supported by media interests that we are nearing a doomsday scenario with temperatures rising out of control.

A little recognised fact known by most experts in the world is that CO2’s heat absorption capacity diminishes logarithmically so that doubling of the CO2 content in the atmosphere from 0.04% to 0.08% (which would take probably 200 years) would add about 1 degree of warming and so on…not more. The concentration of CO2 is so small that it constitutes only 0.038% of the Earth’s atmosphere and accounts for only 3.6% of greenhouse gasses.

In any event, as noted by Dr Patrick Moore, and supported by much research by others, Anthropogenic CO2 has one very significant benefit that the public is not informed about. It greens the Earth and increases biomass which is much needed to feed our growing population and animal life.

Manmade CO2 has added over 15% to global biomass alone in the past decades…so fossil power plants add far more biomass (indirectly trees) than activists are able to plant. Even NASA agrees. Just recently even the Davos World Economic Forum admitted the benefits of CO2, this is a big step in the right direction!

But what is the truth about this subject. This article offers a different point of view. It deals with the potential reductions in global temperature due to the Paris climate accord INDC measures and its estimated costs with particular reference to South Africa.

Human vs nature’s CO2 emissions

UN Climate Chief, Christina Figueres, said about the Paris Accord: “The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs.” That was a reduction in temperature of 2.3 C or more. The selected global target temperature reduction is approximately 2.5C. It is a question of what can be achieved and at what cost.

The physicist and climate scientist Ed Berry highlighted the major flaw in the IPCCs fundamental hypothesis. The IPCC’s Big Idea is that nature treats human CO2 emissions differently than it treats nature’s CO2 emissions. This violates the Equivalence Principle, therefore it is wrong.

Einstein used the Equivalence Principle to develop his General Theory of Relativity. He realised that data cannot tell the difference between gravity and inertial forces. Therefore, they are the same thing. This equivalence is the foundation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity that is used today.

The Big Idea is that nature balances natural CO2 but does not balance human CO2. This is impossible because it violates the Equivalence Principle. In summary, it says that if data cannot distinguish between two things then the two are identical.

The IPCC claims that human CO2 remains the atmosphere for hundreds of years and 15% will remain permanently remain. Natural CO2 has a half-life of 2.8 years and is reabsorbed. Nature balances CO2 inflows into the atmosphere and reabsorbs the same quantity as nature cannot recognise the difference between natural CO2 and human CO2. The IPCC claims that the CO2 increase from 280ppm in 1750 to 410 ppm has all been caused by human emissions of CO2. In practice, science suggests the ratio of human to natural CO2 is 4.6%. Calculations show that since 1750 human CO2 emissions have added just 18 parts per million to the CO2 levels of 410ppm.

Nature is responsible for the remaining 392 ppm of CO2. If human beings stopped all CO2 emissions this would cause a falloff of just 18ppm from the current level of 410ppm or 4.4%. This is a breach of the Equivalence principle.

The IPCC estimates are an error of fundamental physics. Human CO2 emissions are not a danger to the planet and cannot cause runaway global warming. More than that, these figures point to the fact that global efforts to curb CO2 emissions will reduce temperature decrease by a mere 4.4% or 0.11C. This is less than Lomborg’s estimates of 0.17C.

What about the Paris Accord?

Bjørn Lomborg, the Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and Adjunct Professor at the Copenhagen Business School, calculates that the promises of the Paris Accord – through slower gross domestic product (GDP) growth as a result of higher energy costs – will result in a global economic cost of $1trln to $2trln every year from 2030.

Bjorn Lomborg goes on to say that peer reviewed estimates show that even if all countries continue their promised reductions from 2031 until 2100 it will reduce global temperatures by just 0.17°C.

The entire US climate promises will reduce global temperatures by just 0.031°C by 2100. The costs for the US are likely to be $154 to $172 billion every year in lost GDP. The energy research firm Wood McKenzie calculates the cost of the climate change plan of a climate change Plan in the US would be approximately $4.7 trillion. Over 30 years to 2050 this would be $157 billion per annum. This is very close to the figures estimated by Lomborg.

Based on the Lomborg figures above, South Africa’s GDP in relation to the global GDP and South African emissions of 1.1% of global emissions, means that carbon tax and renewables would cost South Africa between R35 billion to R51 billion per annum, and secondly that South Africa’s sacrifices will reduce temperature increases by only about 0.0026°C by 2100

These figures are less than measurable. This is a measure of the futility of South Africa’s efforts to curtail production of coal-fired power station generation in a country with a treasure chest of coal resources and uranium.

The global situation was put very succinctly in an address in 2018 by Richard Lindzen Professor of Atmospheric Physics at MIT in the US, and now Emeritus Professor. His paper has compelling remarks about the benefits to the planet of CO2 and the futility of current efforts to change the climate by attempting to limit CO2. Two of the most informative and convincing statements he made were:

“An implausible conjecture backed by false evidence and repeated incessantly has become politically correct ‘knowledge,’ and is used to promote the overturn of industrial civilisation”

“Presumably, the power these people desperately seek includes the power to roll back the status and welfare that the ordinary person has acquired and continues to acquire through the fossil fuel-generated industrial revolution and return them to their presumably more appropriate status as serfs. Many more among the world’ poorest will be forbidden the opportunity to improve their condition.”

This from one of the world’s most respected meteorologists and climatologists and a member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

South Africa must not be sucked into this pointless exercise that is being pursued by those with narrow idealistic and financial interests. They will destroy the economic, political and social development of South Africa for a generation and ensure that the country enters a new era of deepening poverty.

The South African government must have only one objective and that is to maximise its economic growth rate and reduce unemployment. That means avoiding the flawed arguments regarding climate change and renewables and focus its attention on generating its electricity from High Efficiency Low Emissions HELE clean coal and nuclear.

Rob Jeffrey is an independent economic risk consultant. He is the former MD of Econometrix and continues to consult for them. 

This article was originally published on ESI Africa and is republished with permission.

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Green Building Africa promotes the need for net carbon zero buildings and cities in Africa. We are fiercely independent and encourage outlying thinkers to contribute to the #netcarbonzero movement. Climate change is upon us and now is the time to react in a more diverse and broader approach to sustainability in the built environment. We challenge architects, property developers, urban planners, renewable energy professionals and green building specialists. We also challenge the funding houses and regulators and the role they play in facilitating investment into green projects. Lastly, we explore and investigate new technology and real-time data to speed up the journey in realising a net carbon zero environment for our children.

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