March 6, 2021

Kusile and Medupi, Conceived in Resource-Rich 20th Century, Struggle in Water-Scarce 21st

EMALAHLENI, South Africa – Not far from Johannesburg, set amid the corn and sunflower fields of the Highveld in Mpumalanga province, stand two unusually thick and tall candy-striped smokestacks, dozens of stout concrete support columns, and the tangled steel superstructure of the unfinished 4,800-megawatt Kusile coal-fired power station. About 370 kilometers (230 miles) northwest, spread across a stretch of dry scrubland in Limpopo province, is the construction site for Kusile’s unfinished twin, the 4,800-megawatt Medupi …

Read More

South Africa Locks Onto Coal Despite Water Risks, Grim Market Trends

VRYHEID, South Africa — The chilly highland valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal province, where coal mining and agriculture have coexisted since the late 19th century, have never been a geography of unfolding uncertainty, mystery, and menace like they are today. South Africa’s allegiance to coal mining and coal-fired power generation in an era of rising concern about water supply and quality, and weakening national and global demand, is causing a furor in the country’s mining sector, …

Read More

Earth Pushes Back and Paris Climate Conference Responds

Like divers surfacing above a sea of noise and ambivalence, negotiators in Paris on Saturday reached an agreement that commits nations to develop new energy strategies that hold “the increase in the average global temperature to well below 2 degrees C” and to “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.” The Paris accord is momentous for innumerable reasons, not the least of which is because it recognizes, at last, that three …

Read More

Paris Negotiators Expected to Reach First Global Climate Pact

French authorities issued an alert on November 18 about the upcoming COP 21 Paris global climate summit that needed almost no explanation. Two big public demonstrations planned for November 29 and December 12 would not take place, French officials declared, because of the risk they would be terrorist targets. The Paris Climate Conference, which opens on November 30 and closes December 11, is the 21st United Nations-sponsored annual global gathering meant to “stabilize atmospheric concentrations …

Read More

Drought Influenced Syrian Civil War; So What?, Says U.S. Congress

A paper earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States added fresh, peer-reviewed details about how a malicious four-year (2007 to 2010) drought in Syria played a role in touching off a calamitous civil war in 2011. The long rein of water scarcity ruined the farm economy, and drove over 1 million farmers and their families into unstable resource-scarce cities inspired by the Arab Spring to rebel …

Read More

China Joins Global Pivot Away From Carbon

SHENZHEN, China – Although it is a distinctive way to view the world, to some extent the contemporary industrial age is a global narrative of substance abuse and recovery. Sixty years ago the basic elements at the center of political and ecological concern were uranium and plutonium. Reckless Soviet and American atomic bomb blasts put so much deadly radiation in the atmosphere that milk and water became contaminated. Nations heeded the warnings of scientists and …

Read More

Challenged By Drought, Fire, Earthquake, and Flood, California Departs On New Path

OROVILLE, CA — Until visitors peer over the crest of 770-foot Oroville Dam, which stores the cold Sierra waters of the Feather River and is the tallest dam in the United States, it’s hard to tell a drought grips Butte County, or any of the other neighboring Central Valley counties in this part of northern California. The dirt-lined transport canals are filled to the top with water that slakes the thirst of thousands of hectares …

Read More

Water Supply And Reason Are Priorities in New U.S. – China Climate Agreement

NEW DELHI, India — There are nearly 1.3 billion people in this swarming democracy, where over 66 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the general election last May. A few of them took me aside this week to express surprise at the puzzle that is the American electorate and its national leadership. It’s easy to see why. On November 4, despite the most money ever spent in a national election ($US 3.7 billion), just …

Read More

Earth Pushes Back – Hard

There’s nothing demur about Mother Earth these days. She’s fuming and pushing back hard. Very hard. The Ebola emergency that began in West Africa and has since spread to two more continents has produced 5,000 deaths and is accelerating. Deep droughts engulf Brazil’s largest city and America’s largest state. Hurricanes drowned two major American cities since 2005. The 2013 Philippines typhoon killed 6,250 people. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 228,000 people. A tsunami in …

Read More

Steps To A Safer World

Bloomberg reported today that Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever NV joined 68 other companies in urging world governments to cap carbon emissions at levels that scientists say could stabilize the rising temperatures and keep the planet safer. Governments also are still working to develop a treaty for consideration in 2015 that would limit carbon emissions and keep the temperature rise since the late 19th century to 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Even Exxon …

Read More