2014 On Heat

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This year is on track to become the hottest year on record as the effects of global climate change bite deeper.

At a briefing yesterday, UCT climate change scientist, Bruce Hewitson said unless the northern hemispheres had an exceptionally cold winter, 2014 was likely to go down in history as the hottest year recorded.

Speaking to journalists at a seminar, hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Intergovernmental Panal on Climate Change in SA, Hewitson said Carbon Dioxide emissions from human activity had changed the natural energy balance of the world. The increase in Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere had caused “discernible and strong” impacts around the world. “I read an article recently in a South African newspaper saying this is all because the sun is getting otter. That is rubbish. In fact, the sun is cooler.”

Another fallacy was that volcanoes generated more Carbon Dioxide than humans. “That is an absolute lie. Our human emissions weight outstrip what comes out of volcanoes.”

The increase in the average global temperature from pre-industrial times was 1.1 degree Celsius. Because of the increased levels of carbon in the atmosphere already- largely from burning fossil fuels – even if the world took drastic action to cut emissions, we would still see an increase of around 1.5 degrees Celsius. But there were measures that governments and all sectors could take to reduce the risks associated with climate change.

Bob Scholes, from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said we were entering a critical time in which the world had to reach agreement on what action it was to take to reduce climate change.

“Because the window of opportunity to take action is closing. Unless we take action this decade, the chances are slim… It is a myth that there is nothing we can do about mitigating climate change, that it is too expensive and that there are other more urgent development objectives. It won’t be easy, it won’t be cheap, but the costs in the long run will be lower,” Scholes said.

He said uncomfortable truths need to be repeated. Next year crucial climate-change talks are to be held in Paris at the UN COP21.

“That is when the rubber will hit the road and we would have to get some form of agreement,” said Scholes.

In Copenhagen in 2009, the government committed to cutting its carbon emissions by 34 percent by 2020 and by 42 percent by 2025. However, since 2009 our carbon emissions have increased.

Judy Beaumount, a deputy director-general in the Department of Environmental Affairs, said South Africa was vulnerable to climate change. To tackle it actively meant strategic thinking. One of the key instruments in reducing carbon emissions was a carbon tax.

By Melanie Gosling – Cape Times

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