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Ed Webb

What does Africa need to tackle climate change? - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • the Moroccan presidency of this year's COP climate summit has made African agriculture one of its priorities when addressing climate change. For the first time, pan-African experts and officials meet to discuss their best solutions while making a united plea for $30bn to put them into action.

    Such regional action has become critical, as talks to include agriculture in the climate negotiations have once again failed, and will now be postponed until May 2017.

  • Every single African country has included adapting agriculture as part of their climate change strategies submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What is missing is sufficient investment.
  • Out of the 10 countries most affected by greenhouse gas emissions, six of them are in Africa, yet the continent only receives 5 percent of dedicated climate funding.

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  • The cost of adapting agriculture to cope with the effects of climate change will cost between $20bn and $30bn a year until 2030, according to the African Development Bank.
  • better soil management
  • The second area is water control. A third of areas growing olives in Morocco are still using traditional flood irrigation methods, consuming water levels that are far beyond what the trees actually require.
  • The third aspect is climate-risk management.
  • we need funding to expand capacity building and means of sharing our knowledge so that African countries can learn how to adapt to climate change
Ed Webb

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene - The Atlantic - 1 views

  • Jürgen Scheffran, a professor of geography at the University of Hamburg, has been investigating whether climate change makes armed conflict more likely for more than a decade. In 2012, he worked on a team that analyzed all 27 empirical studies investigating the link between war and climate change.

    “Sixteen found a significant link between climate and conflict, six did not find a link, and five found an ambiguous relationship,” he told me. He described these numbers as inconclusive. Trying to prove that climate change is linked to war, he said, would be like trying to prove that smoking causes cancer with only one available case study.

  • there is only one world, and not a million worlds, in which the temperature is rising, and you cannot associate a single event—like a single hurricane or a single conflict—to climate change. It’s a statistical problem, and we don’t have enough data yet
  • the U.S. Department of Defense already considers global warming a “threat multiplier” for national security. It expects hotter temperatures and acidified oceans to destabilize governments and worsen infectious pandemics
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  • Martin O’Malley was mocked for suggesting that a climate-change-intensified drought in the Levant—the worst drought in 900 years—helped incite the Syrian Civil War, thus kickstarting the Islamic State. The evidence tentatively supports him. Since the outbreak of the conflict, some scholars have recognized that this drought pushed once-prosperous farmers into Syria’s cities. Many became unemployed and destitute, aggravating internal divisions in the run-up to the war
  • Scheffran underlined these climate connections but declined to emphasize them. “The Syrian War has so many complex interrelated issues—and most of them are political and economic—that the drought is just one contributing factor to the instability in the region,”
  • it’s all about the exogenous shock. We were all interested in, to what extent does a big event like a flooding or a drought undermine society, or trigger a conflict outbreak?
  • Heatwaves, droughts, and other climate-related exogenous shocks do correlate to conflict outbreak—but only in countries primed for conflict by ethnic division. In the 30-year period, nearly a quarter of all ethnic-fueled armed conflict coincided with a climate-related calamity. By contrast, in the set of all countries, war only correlated to climatic disaster about 9 percent of the time
  • climate disaster will not cause a war, but it can influence whether one begins
  • Models predict that northern Africa and the Levant, both already drought-prone, will dry out significantly over the course of the century. On the phone, Schleussner also cited southern Africa and south-central Asia as regions to watch. (It’s no coincidence that some of the largest, longest wars this century have occurred in those places.)
  • a drought-and-flood-fueled armed conflict near the Mediterranean Basin could send people toward Western Europe in the hundreds of millions
  • “I wouldn’t say that there would be a mass migration to Europe, but I would expect to see a large number of people being displaced within Africa,”
  • There is literally, in legal parlance, no such thing as an environmental refugee,” says Edward Carr. “To meet the international standard for refugee, a changing environment is not a forcing. It doesn’t count.”
  • When would you attribute the decision to move to changes in the climate? Does a place have to be dry for five years? For 10 years? Does someone have to have three children die, and then they decide to move?
  • Climate change could push Western politics toward demagoguery and authoritarianism in two ways, then. First, it could devastate agricultural yields and raise food prices; destroy coastal real estate and wash away family wealth; transform old commodities into luxury goods. Second, it could create a wave of migration—likely from conflict, but possibly from environmental ruination—that stresses international reception systems and risks fomenting regional resource disputes.
  • it could erode people’s sense of security, pushing them toward authoritarianism
  • Like the CEO in the 1950s who predicted that America would see flying cars and three-day workweeks by the year 1999, I’ve assumed that every ongoing trend line can be extrapolated out indefinitely. They can’t. The actual future will be far stranger.
  • climate change must be mitigated with all deliberate speed. But he also suggests certain cultural mechanisms. Some Americans may favor more restrictive immigration policies, but—in order to withstand against future waves of mass migration (and humanely deal with the victims of climate change)—racist fears must be unhooked from immigration restrictionism. In other words, as a matter of survival against future authoritarians, white supremacy must be rejected and defeated.
  • Improving the United States’s immune response to authoritarian leadership—a response that could be repeatedly tested in the century to come—can follow from weaving its civic fabric ever tighter. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly, for every person. But here are some places to start: Volunteer. Run for local or state office. Give to charity (whether due to religion or effective altruism). Organize at work. Join a church or a community choir or the local library staff. Make your hometown a better place for refugees to settle. Raise a child well.
  • climate realists have always split their work between mitigation—that is, trying to keep the climate from getting worse—and adaptation—trying to protect what we already have
Ed Webb

The Ouarzazate Solar Plant in Morocco: Triumphal 'Green' Capitalism and the Privatizati... - 0 views

  • a solar mega-project that is supposedly going to end Morocco's dependency on energy imports, provide electricity to more than a million Moroccans, and put the country on a “green path.”
  • This analysis examines the project through the lens of the creation of a new commodity chain, revealing its effects as no different from the destructive mining activities taking place in southern Morocco.
  • What seems to unite all the reports and articles written about the solar plant is a deeply erroneous assumption that any move toward renewable energy is to be welcomed. And that any shift from fossil fuels, regardless of how it is carried out, will help us to avert climate chaos. One needs to say it clearly from the start: the climate crisis we are currently facing is not attributable to fossil fuels per se, but rather to their unsustainable and destructive use in order to fuel the capitalist machine. In other words, capitalism is the culprit, and if we are serious in our endeavors to tackle the climate crisis (only one facet of the multi-dimensional crisis of capitalism), we cannot elude questions of radically changing our ways of producing and distributing things, our consumption patterns and fundamental issues of equity and justice. It follows from this that a mere shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, while remaining in the capitalist framework of commodifying and privatizing nature for the profits of the few, will not solve the problem. In fact, if we continue down this path we will only end up exacerbating, or creating another set of problems, around issues of ownership of land and natural resources.
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  • the acquisition of 3000 hectares of communally owned land to produce energy
  • "green grabbing"
  • the transfer of ownership, use rights and control over resources that were once publicly or privately owned –or not even the subject of ownership– from the poor (or everyone including the poor) into the hands of the powerful
  • This productivist creation of marginality and degradation has a long history that goes back to French colonial times. It was then that degradation narratives were constructed to justify both outright expropriation of land and the establishment of institutional arrangements based on the premise that extensive pastoralism was unproductive at best, and destructive at worst.
  • the discursive framework rendered it "marginal" and open to new "green" market uses: the production of solar power in this case at the expense of an alternative land use - pastoralism - that is deemed unproductive by the decision-makers. This is evident in the land sale that was carried out at a very low price.
  • various deceptive laws with colonial origins that have functioned to concentrate collective land ownership within the hands of an individual land representative, who tends to be under the influence of powerful regional nobles
  • meetings masquerading as a "consultation with the people" were only designed to inform the local communities about a fait accompli rather than seeking their approval
  • The land, sold at a cheap one Moroccan dirham per square meter was clearly worth a lot more. As if things were not bad enough, the duped local population were surprised to find out that the money from the sale was not going to be handed to them, but that it would be deposited into the tribe's account at the Ministry of Interior. Additionally, the money would be used to finance development projects for the whole area. They discovered that their land sale was not a sale at all: it was simply a transfer of funds from one government agency to another.
  • privatizations in the renewable energy sector are not new as of 2005, when a royal holding company called Nareva was created specifically to monopolize markets in the energy and environment sectors and ended up taking the lion's share in wind energy production in the country
  • he government had effectively privatized and confiscated historical popular sovereignty over land and transformed the people into mere recipients of development; development they are literally paying for, provided it would one day materialize, of course
  • There is no surprise regarding the international financial institutions' (IFIs) strong support for this high-cost and capital-intensive project, as Morocco boasts one of the most neoliberal(ized) economies in the region. It is extremely open to foreign capital at the expense of labor rights, and very advanced in its ambition to be fully integrated into the global marketplace (in a subordinate position, that is).
  • The World Bank’s disbursement levels to Morocco reached record levels in 2011 and 2012, with a major emphasis of these loans placed on promoting the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) within key sectors
  • It seems that production of energy from the sun will not be different and will be controlled by multinationals only interested in making huge profits at the expense of sovereignty and a decent life for Moroccans.
  • The idea that Morocco is taking out billions of dollars in loans to produce energy, some of which will be exported to Europe when the economic viability of the initiative is hardly assured, raises questions about externalizing the risk of Europe's renewable energy strategy to Morocco and other struggling economies around the region. It ignores entirely what has come to be called "climate debt" or "ecological debt" that is owed by the industrialised North to countries of the Global South, given the historical responsibility of the West in causing climate change
  • The biggest issue with this technology is the extensive use of water that comes with the wet cooling stage. Unlike photovoltaic (PV) technology, CSP needs cooling. This is done either by air cooled condensers (dry cooling) or high water-consumption (wet cooling). Phase I of the project will be using the wet cooling option and is estimated to consume from two to three million cubed meters of water annually (Kouz 2011). Water consumption will be much less in the case of a dry cooling (planned for phase II): between 0.73 and 0.88 million cubed meters. PV technologies require water only for cleaning solar panels. They consume about 200 times less water than CSP technology with wet cooling and forty times less water than CSP with dry cooling.
  • Even if the solar plant is only using one percent of the average dam capacity, the water consumption is still significant and can become a thorny problem at times of extreme drought when the dam contains only fifty-four million cubed meter. At such times, the dam waters will not be sufficient to cover the needs of irrigation and drinking water,  making the water usage for the solar plant deeply problematic and contentious.
  • in an arid region like Ouarzazate, this appropriation of water for a supposedly green agenda constitutes another green grab, which will play into and intensify ongoing agrarian dynamics and livelihood struggles in the region.
  • If the Moroccan state was really serious about its green credentials, why is it then building a coal-fired power plant at the same time, which represents an ecocide in-waiting for the already-polluted town of Safi? Why is it also ignoring the devastating environmental and social effects of the mining industry in the country? One notable example is the long-standing community struggle in Imider (140 kilometres east of Ouarzazate) against the royal holding silver mine (Africa's most productive silver mine), which is polluting their environment, grabbing their water, and pillaging their wealth.
Ed Webb

Desert Cucumbers: The Sahara Forest Project Comes to Tunisia - Tunisialive - 0 views

  • A $30 million, high-tech agricultural facility covering 10 hectares in the desert in Tunisia’s south is scheduled to open in 2018. The facility, which is a highly sophisticated green house, will use solar energy to power its operations and seawater to irrigate crops and maintain humidity. The extracted salt from the seawater will also be sold commercially.
  • hoped to be a new environmental solution to create green jobs through profitable production of food, water, clean electricity and biomass in desert areas. The first pilot project opened in Qatar in December 2012, and another facility will be launched in Jordan later this year
  • Although there are no numbers or estimates available for Tunisia yet, the Qatar facility directly employs 6,000 people, with a further support staff of 30,000. Tunisian unemployment is estimated around 15 percent countrywide and even higher among young college graduates
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  • It has also become increasingly difficult to maintain a stable agricultural output as the country faces droughts and floods due to climate change
  • 1 percent of Tunisia’s energy supply is based on renewable energy sources, but the Tunisian government has pledged to increase that number to 30 percent by 2030
Ed Webb

Jordan turns to wind power in search of renewable energy - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the... - 0 views

  • Tafila wind farm was granted around $221 million worth of loans to fund this project from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) — the World Bank’s investment institution in the private sector. The European Investment Bank (EIB), the Eksport Kredit Fonden, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Europe Arab Bank and the Capital Bank of Jordan also participated in financing the project. The participation of international finance institutions such as OFID, IFC and EIB guarantees the project’s transparency in contracting and covering necessary expenses, in addition to providing loans and abiding by environmental policies. These institutions give out loans based on the project’s economic feasibility
  • imported energy currently represents around 90% of the total consumption in the country
  • import of energy costs Jordan more than 40% of its yearly budget
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  • It is well known that Jordan has suffered a lot from the blockage of Egyptian natural gas supply through the Arab gas pipeline, as a result of the constant bombing of the pumping station of al-Arish during the past few years
Ed Webb

Petro-aggression: How Russia's oil makes war more likely - 0 views

  • A Russian natural gas embargo is a trick that can probably only be pulled once (not unlike the 1973 oil embargo).  So in a sense, European dependence on Russian energy does not imply short-term vulnerability – except that European policymakers’ perceptions of vulnerability can become its own reality.
  • Russia’s resource curse.  Russia’s energy revenues (from both oil and gas) have ensconced Vladimir Putin as an autocrat and given him a free hand in foreign policy.  Russia is so heavily dependent on its energy revenues that it is a classic petrostate, making it more susceptible to corruption, autocracy and violent conflict.
  • Russia’s incursion into Crimea can be seen as a close cousin of petro-aggression.  A state is more likely to instigate international conflict when it has a combination of (a) oil income and (b) a leader with aggressive preferences.  A lot more likely: 250 percent more military conflict than a typical non-petrostate, on average.  Oil income means more military spending, increasing the state’s scope for potential conflicts.  Even more importantly, it distorts the domestic politics of the state, reducing the leader’s domestic political risk from military adventurism and aggressive foreign policy.
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  • Here lies the real risk of Europe’s energy situation: So long as it continues to buy Russian oil and gas, it is sending massive amounts of cash to a neighboring dictator.  By keeping the taps on, Putin consolidates his power as Russian dictator.
  • Diversifying away from fossil fuels would bring security benefits (in addition to some obvious environmental ones), in part by reducing the money sent to petrostates like Russia.
Ed Webb

Simon Dalby, 400ppm: Anthropocene Geopolitics | Society and Space - Environment and Pla... - 1 views

  • Humanity is remaking the biosphere; producing the new natures in which the human future will play out. Hence the now widespread use of the term Anthropocene for the period of planetary history in which the dominant ecological force is humanity, or more precisely, fossil fueled industrial capitalist humanity.
  • Natural environments are no longer in any meaningful sense the given context for human existence; they are being remade by land use changes, urbanization and by both technologies and species moved and recombined in numerous artificial assemblages. Atlases with their designations of planetary biomes frequently need replacement with a dynamic cartography charting the changing “anthromes” that are the new terrestrial ecological patterns that matter.
  • Globalization now has to be understood as a process of material transformation quite as much as a matter of trade, culture and politics crossing frontiers. The processes whereby business decisions are made to produce particular products by using certain technologies is key to understanding the future of the planet; economic geography has become essential to geomorphology.
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  • The Westphalian political imaginary of separate competing territorial states is a spatial arrangement singularly unsuited to the collective tasks ahead, but it is the institutional context within which we have to act.
Ed Webb

NASA - NASA Satellites Find Freshwater Losses in Middle East - 1 views

  • during a seven-year period beginning in 2003 that parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs
  • "GRACE data show an alarming rate of decrease in total water storage in the Tigris and Euphrates river basins, which currently have the second fastest rate of groundwater storage loss on Earth, after India," said Jay Famiglietti, principal investigator of the study and a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine. "The rate was especially striking after the 2007 drought. Meanwhile, demand for freshwater continues to rise, and the region does not coordinate its water management because of different interpretations of international laws."
  • the Iraqi government drilled about 1,000 wells in response to the 2007 drought, a number that does not include the numerous private wells landowners also very likely drilled
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  • "The Middle East just does not have that much water to begin with, and it's a part of the world that will be experiencing less rainfall with climate change," said Famiglietti. "Those dry areas are getting dryer. The Middle East and the world's other arid regions need to manage available water resources as best they can."
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