Great timing

Thursday was the day that Climate Scientists announced that the world had made it a whole year with an average global temperature >1.5oC above pre-industrial levels. And if you click through on that link, you’ll be able to read about many of the other records that have recently been broken as mankind does its best to trash what’s left of the planet.

It probably wasn’t the best day that the UK Labour party could have chosen to announce that they were dropping their £28bn a year “Green Prosperity” plan, halving the funding due to “the economic climate”. The actual climate isn’t the only climate that is struggling, then.

When you are an opposition party, it’s easy to make grand statements about how much you are going to spend, and all the plans you are going to carry out once you’re in government. No-one can hold you to them, because you can’t do them anyway, because you’re not in power. But suddenly, with Labour surely almost certain to win the upcoming election in the UK, they’re having to backtrack on their promises.

But with the world experts crying out for more funding for environmental and ecological issues, more buy-in and more commitment from governments, the perfect timing of this climbdown was a disaster.

Talking of disasters…

During his 2024 State Of The Nation address on Thursday evening, President Ramaphosa talked up the progress that the government had made in tackling loadshedding, which was running at Stage 2 throughout his speech:

“Since SA’s renewable energy programme was revived five years ago, more than 2,500MW of solar and wind power had been added to the grid, with much more in the pipeline. More than 120 new private energy projects were in development after regulatory reforms enabled private investment.
These are phenomenal developments that are driving the restructuring of our electricity sector in line with what many other economies have done to increase competitiveness and bring down prices. 

Through all of these actions, we are confident that the worst is behind us and the end of load shedding is finally within reach.”

About an hour after he made that statement, loadshedding was raised to Stage 3.
And three hours after that, it was raised to Stage 4.

And now we’re on Stage 6. No electricity for 12 hours each day.

Again, absolutely wonderful timing.

“…we are confident that the worst is behind us and the end of load shedding is finally within reach”

Utter nonsense. Any light at the end of the tunnel has clearly got nothing to power it.

Is it climate change?

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth – especially on social media – over the recent big waves and high tides which hit South Africa’s south coast on Friday and Saturday. The combination of spring tides and a moerse end of winter storm led to damage all the way from Cape Town to Durban.

It had the climate change people claiming that it was likely down to climate change, and the climate change deniers… er… denying it. It’s all in the name.

The fact is that neither party can honestly prove anything.

One can’t pin down the huge storm surge on the weekend directly to a change in the climate. As mentioned above, there were a combination of factors which led to the flooding and the damage that we saw.

But equally, it’s absolutely no good saying that it wasn’t down to climate change just because “there was a storm surge 10 years ago”*. Climate is a very long term thing. You’re thinking of weather.

Climate refers to the long-term regional or global average of temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns over seasons, years or decades. While the weather can change in just a few hours, climate changes over longer timeframes.

The fact is that while no one single weather event is directly or wholly attributable to climate change, climate change means that we will see an increase in the number of these sort of events.
They will happen more often, and they may be more severe.

It’s not rocket science. (That’s an entirely different discipline.)

Look, if you will, at the heat in the UK. We covered this last year, when it got ridiculously hot. That was very definitely weather, but if you take a look at the trends over several decades you can see that hot days are getting hotter, and they’re getting hotter, quicker. That’s the climate, so we can expect even hotter days in the future, even more often.

Of course, then there’s the thorny subject of whether we (mankind, humans) are responsible for this change in the climate (that does or does not exist, depending on your intelligence). Yeah, I think that everything points towards us having a hand in it. But even if it’s not all down to us, why wouldn’t you want to make the world a bit of better place by not chucking out quite as many toxic fossil fuel fumes, even if it’s just because they’re toxic? With the lovely byproduct of less CO2 and less climate change.

Keep going like we are, and the only good thing that can happen is that a few more awful restaurants might end up in the Indian Ocean. And that’s scant reward considering the horrific consequences for the rest of the planet.

* which washed away a terrible restaurant in Struisbaai and almost actually made me believe in some higher power.

Hotter days are getting hotter, quicker

More evidence of climate change, this time in North West Europe, where extremely hot days are getting hotter more quickly than hot days are getting hotter. And we’re already well aware that the hot days are getting hotter.

Now work from the University of Oxford suggests that extremely hot days are getting hotter faster than hot days are getting hotter. More than twice as fast, in fact.

This graph and the news that goes with it will come as little surprise to those who read this post last year. There was a similar graph there:

…with that mental little red dot top right, showing just how extreme the extremely hot days were in Sheffield last July.

And it’s all Spain’s fault. Well, when isn’t it?

Because Spain is warming faster than North-West Europe, this means that air carried in from this region is ever more extreme relative to the ambient air in North-West Europe. The hottest days of 2022, for instance, were driven by a plume of hot air carried north from Spain.

I don’t have any answers for this trend. I’m just here pointing out that it’s yet more evidence that these sort of trends exist. Being aware of this is a good first step in either doing something or nothing about it. The study’s author says:

‘These findings underline the fact that the UK and neighbouring countries are already experiencing the effects of climate change, and that last year’s heatwave was not a fluke. Policy makers urgently need to adapt their infrastructure and health systems to cope with the impacts of higher temperatures.’

Ah, yes. Let’s get the politicians to do something about it.

That’ll work.

Of course, there will be some people who will read this and go “pfft” or make some such noise, because they don’t believe that climate change exists. They don’t need to come and talk to me. They need to talk to someone on their own level of expertise, like the guys in Oxford who are presenting these data, because obviously, they are also experts in recording and analysing near earth temperatures over north-western Europe for the past 60 years.

That’s why they are all also physical scientists at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Warm in Australia

Cold and wet today in Cape Town, but exceptionally warm just around the Southern Hemisphere corner in Australia:

265°C might seem rather hot to most of us, but this is Australia, where if the wildlife isn’t doing its best to kill you, then the climate apparently is.

The difference between that high and the low of 17 probably means you should wear layers for a more comfortable experience.

Thanks Del

El Niño Is Coming – and the World Isn’t Prepared

That’s the title of this Wired article, and it makes scary reading.

I have no doubt that climate change is a very real thing, but I have often commented that I am regularly unimpressed by the hyperbole and drama with which the news stories around it are presented.

This one seems a little different.

Current forecasts suggest that La Niña will continue into early 2023, making it – fortuitously for us – one of the longest on record (it began in Spring 2020). Then, the equatorial Pacific will begin to warm again. Whether or not it becomes hot enough for a fully fledged El Niño to develop, 2023 has a very good chance – without the cooling influence of La Niña – of being the hottest year on record.

Sure, there are predictions of hurricanes and crop failure, of food shortages and economic impacts, of power outages and ever increasing temperatures, but there’s no embellishment: just facts and indications of what we might expect.

It still doesn’t sound good.

I was less sure about climate change 15 years ago. I was put off by the constantly incorrect predictions and yes, probably swayed by peer pressure when it came to believing (or not believing) what was going on. But if I hadn’t changed my mind about climate change before 2020 (I had, but…) then Covid sealed the deal for me. Not because I believe that the latter was due to the former, but because I watched experts being experts and sharing their expert knowledge, and it being shot down because of poor reporting or just sheer bloody ignorance.

Now I know how those climatologists felt.

The worst bit about knowing that this is happening is not being able to do anything about it. Because it really doesn’t matter how much good stuff like recycling and switching off our geysers that you or I do, when (e.g.) China is building another 15GW-worth of coal-fired power stations in the first six months of 2023 and (e.g.) India is reopening more than 100 coal mines to make more electricity. While collective effort at a local level probably assisted with some degree of relief during our awful drought in Cape Town, it’s absolutely laughable to try to get consumers to behave more responsibly when it comes to climate change when Jinping and Modi are chucking out more CO2 than ever before.

We don’t even have enough electricity to go around, but we’re being told (and paid) by Europe to shut down our 18 coal-fired plants, which at full capacity (ha!) amount to about 45GW of generation capacity. Meanwhile, China is operating over 1,100 coal-fired stations for 1,110GW. And all the emissions that come with them.

Until that sort of dichotomy is rectified, (and I understand how depressing and pessimistic this sounds) it feels utterly pointless to try and “do our bit” on a personal level.