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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.

Storify Update: The End of Coal?

Most recent bulletins on climate change and the environment

November 30, 2020  USA/Global: On Climate, How Much Will Be New? http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/clim2011.php
    “One of the most powerful pieces of climate change legislation the Biden administration will need has already been passed: the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. This legislation, known for creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other public safeguards against financial wrongdoing, also empowers key agencies including the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission to limit systemic risks to financial stability.” - Justin Guay, Sunrise Project

October 13, 2020  Africa/Global: The Future's Not in Plastics http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/plas2010.php
    “The petrochemical industry is already facing record-low plastic feedstock prices as a result of massive overcapacity. And yet, it plans to expand supply for virgin plastics use by a quarter at a cost of at least $400 billion in the next 5 years, risking huge losses for investors. The plastics industry is a bloated behemoth, ripe for disruption. … Meanwhile, 36% of plastic is used only once, 40% ends up polluting the environment and less than 10% is actually recycled.” - Carbon Tracker Initiative

June 22, 2020  Africa/Global: Fossil Fuel Viability to Decline Sharply http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/clim2006.php
    “Falling demand and rising investment risk is likely to slash the value of oil, gas and coal reserves by nearly two thirds, sending shock waves through the global economy by hitting companies, financial markets and countries reliant on exports, finds a new report from Carbon Tracker. It warns that the fossil fuel industry is approaching terminal decline because of competition from clean technologies and tougher government policies to achieve climate targets and increase energy security. The COVID-19 crisis is now accelerating this: demand for oil could fall by 9% in 2020 according to the International Energy Agency.”

January 27, 2020  USA/Global: Green New Deal Can and Must Be Global http://www.africafocus.org/docs20/clim2001.php
    July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded worldwide, as a wide swath of the continental United States sweltered with heat indexes of over 100° F. This northern hemisphere summer also saw unprecedented heat waves in Europe and in the Arctic, from Alaska to Siberia. Greenland´s glaciers were melting at a unprecedented rate. Add in more frequent storms, flooding and wildfires, and the scale of the crisis is harder and harder to ignore, even in the United States, where climate denialism has been more prevalent than in any other major country.

December 16, 2019  Africa/Global: Editor´s Commentaries, 2019 http://www.africafocus.org/docs19/fpif2019.php
    Just before this year’s global climate summit opened in Madrid recently, researchers announced that emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels will hit a record high in 2019. Deeper and faster cuts are needed, beginning immediately and continuing over the next 10 years. The primary responsibility for cutting fossil fuel emissions falls to the developed countries that are historically the greatest contributors to the problem, as well as to countries with large populations such as China and India that are also now among the top in global emissions. Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the devastating effects of climate change, which are already being felt. But with a thriving off-grid solar market and hundreds of millions of people waiting for electricity, Africa also offers huge potential for contributing to solutions.

October 28, 2019  Africa/Global: Untapped Potential for Africa Climate Actions http://www.africafocus.org/docs19/clim1910.php
    From off-grid solar home systems (SHS) to utility-scale solar and wind installations, the potential for major advances in use of renewable energy is growing rapidly on the African continent. If this potential is materialized at a faster pace, Africa countries could contribute significantly to mitigating the global climate crisis. This would also reduce the ongoing damage to the environmental health of their citizens, whether from kerosene lamps in rural areas or massive coal pollution in South Africa.

July 15, 2019  Africa/Global: New Horizon for Off-Grid Solar http://www.africafocus.org/docs19/sol1907.php
    With their most dramatic success in Kenya and other East African countries, off-grid solar home systems are expanding rapidly, reaching more consumers and extending beyond basic lighting and mobile-phone charging, now even offering bundles with solar-powered flat-screen televisions. Costs continue to drop precipitously, and, according to Beyond Fire, a new report released at the end of May, the next new horizon may be in the kitchen, with solar-energy-powered cooking.

July 2, 2019  Kenya/Global: Big Victory for #SaveLamu/#deCOALonize http://www.africafocus.org/docs19/coal1907.php
    “On Wednesday 26th June, Kenya’s National Environment Tribunal (NET) made a landmark ruling that set aside the license granted to Amu Power Company Ltd by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to construct a 1050MW coal plant in Lamu. The tribunal noted that … there was no evidence that Amu Power properly informed residents of Lamu of the impacts that the coal plant project would have on their environment, livelihood or health.” - #deCOALonize press release, June 29, 2019

March 22, 2019  Southern Africa/Global: Cyclone Idai and Climate Justice http://www.africafocus.org/docs19/idai1903.php
    A week after Cyclone Idai struck the coast of Mozambique near Beira, there are still people awaiting rescue from treetops and roofs. The death toll, with confirmed deaths numbering in the high hundreds, is still unknown, with the largest number in Mozambique, and still devastating numbers in Zimbabwe and Malawi as well. The full impact has been slow to emerge, but it is finally gaining more attention from world media.

December 10, 2018  Africa/Global: Green New Deal Could Be Game-Changer http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1812.php
    “And yet here’s the truly strange thing: I feel more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years. For the first time, I see a clear and credible political pathway that could get us to safety, a place in which the worst climate outcomes are avoided and a new social compact is forged that is radically more humane than anything currently on offer.” - Naomi Klein on the Green New Deal

May 7, 2018  USA/Africa: Renewable Energy Advances on Many Fronts http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1805a.php
    Resistance to rapid renewable energy expansion is still high, despite the acknowledged costs in climate change. The U.S. Power Africa initiative still funds predominately natural gas, although its investment in renewables is growing. In Kenya, the Kenyan and Chinese governments are pushing ahead with a coal-fired generation plant in Lamu, despite strong resistance from local environmentalists and the fact that China is rapidly abandoning coal at home. Nevertheless, technological changes and rising awareness of the damage done by fossil fuels are propelling new advances on many fronts.

May 7, 2018  USA/Africa: Achieving 100% Renewable Energy http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/clim1805b.php
    "We can’t have a working nation or a world if we don’t stop the climate from careening out of control. That’s been clear for decades now, but what’s been less clear is precisely what we should do about it. Happily, that’s no longer the case. We now know exactly what to do, and we’re increasingly certain it can be done. We have to switch off of coal, oil, and gas, and on to 100% wind, water, and sun energy sources." - Bill McKibben

February 26, 2018  Nigeria/Global: Promising Potential for Solar Mini-Grids http://www.africafocus.org/docs18/sol1802.php
    In contrast to fossil fuels, which require transportation of fuel to generation plants to produce electricity, and distribution networks to reach end-users of the power, solar energy is eminently scalable and flexible, from portable lanterns all the way to utility-scale photo-voltaic solar farms. Stand-alone off-grid systems can power a single home or a school, and mini-grids can serve small communities.

July 17, 2017  Congo (Kinshasa): Inga Dam Mirage Recedes, Again http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/inga1707.php
    The latest projections for the Inga 3 hydroelectric project on the Congo River to become operational, cited in press reports last week, are 2024 or 2025. But even if the project is financed and constructed, says a new report, the project will likely provide only minimal electric power for the people of Democratic Republic of the Congo and burden the country with more unsustainable debt.

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