Jy blaai in die argief vir 2012 April.

Hit Parade: Hierdie week 47 jaar gelede

27/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

1. Tired of waitin’ for you – Kinks (1)

2. Torture – Gene Rockwell (5)

3. Come tomorrow – Manfred Mann (4)

4. Do what you do do well – Ned Millar (8)

5. Girl don’t come – Sandie Shaw (2)

6. Lemontree – Trini Lopez (nuut)

7. I could easily fall – Cliff (7)

8. Cupidoll – Dicky Loader (3)

Die Kinks se nuutste treffer was reeds vir twee weke op No.1. Wie onthou nog Trini Lopez (Spaanse sanger) se eerste treffer, ‘If I had a hammer’? Ek tik die woorde soos dit op hierdie oomblik in my kop kom:

If I had a hammer

I’ll hammer in the morning

Hammer in the evening

All over this land.

I’ll hammer out danger

I’ll hammer out a warning

I’ll hammer on the love

Between my brothers and my sisters

All over this land.

If I had a bell

I’ll ring it in the morning

Ring it in the evening

All over this land.

I’ll ring out danger

I’ll ring out a warning

I’ll ring about the love

Between my brothers and my sisters

All over this land.

If I had a song to sing

I’ll sing it in the morning

Sing it in the evening

All over this land.

I’ll sing out a warning

I’ll sing of danger

I’ll sing about the love

Between my brothers and my sisters

All over this land.

If I had a hammer

And if I had a bell

And if I had a song to sing

All over this land.

Its the hammer of danger

It’s the bell of freedom

It’s the song about the love

Between my brothers and my sisters

All over this land.

Oo oo oo oo

Oo oo oo ….

Hit Parade: Hierdie week 47 jaar gelede

21/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

1. Tired of waiting for you – Kinks (3)

2. Girl don’t come – Sandie Shaw (4)

3. Cupidoll – Dicky Loader (1)

4. Come tomorrow – Manfred Mann (7)

5. Torture – Gene Rockwell (8)

6. The bell rings – John Gary (2)

7. I could easily fall – Cliff Richard (5)

8. Do what you do do well – Ned Millar (nuut)

‘Cupidoll’ moes na een week plek maak vir die Kinks se eerste No.1 hit. Ned Millar maak sy derde verskyning op die Hit Parade. ‘From a Jack to a King’ het hom op die kaart geplaas nog voor hierdie reeks.Die naweek se liriek is van ‘n ‘hit’ van Dean Martin in 1963 of 1964, ‘I walk the line’. Ander sangers o.a. Johnny Cash het dit ook opgedis, maar minder suksesvol in Suid-Afrika. Ek hoor in my geestesoor die ritme van ‘n basghitaar-begeleiding. Hierdie liedjie haal lae note in die koor-gedeelte.

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine

I keep my eyes wide open all the time

I keep the ends out for the tie that binds

Because you’re mine

I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true

I find myself alone when each day is through

Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you

Because you’re mine

I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light

I keep you on my mind both day and night

And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right

Because you’re mine

I walk the line

You’ve got a way to keep me on your side

You give me cause for love that I can’t hide

For you I’d even try to turn the tide

Because you’re mine

I walk the line

Hit Parade: Hierdie week 47 jaar gelede

14/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

1. Cupidoll – Dicky Loader (2)

2. The bell rings – John Gary (1)

3. Tired of waiting for you – Kinks (5)

4. Girl don’t come – Sandie Shaw (6)

5. I could easily fall – Cliff Richard (3)

6. You can’t blame me – Bats (4)

7. Come tomorrow – Manfred Mann (nuut)

8. Torture – Gene Rockwell (nuut)

Die nuwe treffers was opvolgers vir onderskeidelik ‘Do wah diddy diddy’ en ‘Heart’. Ek wonder hoeveel lesers (behalwe Frik) onthou nog vir Frank Ifield. Onder sy treffers was ‘Mule train’ en ‘I remember you’. Hy was ‘n tenoor wat nie vir hoe note teruggedeins het en sy stem in die proses laat breek het nie (amper soos yodel). Vir hierdie naweek se liriek word die woorde ‘foneties’ verskaf as hulp vir badkamer-sangers:

I remember you-ou

You’re the one who made my dreams come true

A few years ago.

I remember you-ou

You’re the one who said “I love you too

Yes I do, didn’t you know”

I remember too a distant bell

And stars that fell

Like the rain out of the blue-ue-ue-ue-ue

When my life is through

And the angels ask me to recall

The thrill of it all

Then I will tell them I remember you-ou

I remember too a distant bell

And stars that fell

Like the rain out of the blue-ue-ue-ue-ue

When my life is through

And the angels ask me to recall

The thrill of it all

Then I will tell them I remember

Tell them I remember

Tell them I remember you

Climate Change: The world’s biggest distraction

12/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

In aansluiting by die vorige poste (Climate change: The debate in Geobulletin) plaas ek hierdie artikel wat saam met die briewe van Deon le Roux en John Truswell in Geobulletin, Maart 2012 verskyn het. [My byvoegings in kursief]

Grant Cawthorn presented a lecture entitled  “Climate Change – the World’s biggest distraction” at several venues in 2011, the Origins Centre at Wits, the Bushveld and Egoli Branches of the Geological Society, and a number of community groups. His theme was that climate may be influenced by CO2 emission, but that other anthropogenic effects were potentially more imminent and devastating. He argued that the COP 17 meeting in Durban should be about “Control our Population”, “Curtail Oceanic Plunder”, and “Cleanse our Pollution”.

Grant presented a variety of different lines of evidence for climatic change over the last 6,000 years for which there is no known [anthropogenic or other] reason. Stalactites and pollen studies from South Africa provided independent evidence for such synchronized changes in this country with the rest of the World. Despite warming (and cooling) intervals, polar bears and corals thrived. Indeed, polar bears evolved from brown bears along the Arctic shoreline of Russia 130,000 years ago when the Earth was the warmest it has been for about 1 million years. Geothermal measurements from about 600 boreholes from all continents showed that the Little Ice Age (1600 CE) was global and that the Earth has been warming ever since [if the cooling periods 1940-1977 and 1998-2012 are ignored]. The conclusion was that separating human-induced changes from natural patterns is impossible.

Turning to floods that are a favourite evidence for those who claim [anthropogenic] climate change, Grant suggested that most were exacerbated by human stupidity. Most of New Orleans lies below artificial river banks and also below sea level. Nature herself is trying to save those inhabitants by switching the river distribution from the current Mississippi channel to the Atchafalaya River flowing west of New Orleans, the process that geologists know as avulsion. However, the US Engineering Corps is trying to stop the inevitable switch to keep the port of New Orleans functional, but to the detriment of its inhabitants. Similarly the flooding in Pakistan in 2010 was largely contributed by engineering works in 2006 that increased the diverted inflow of the Indus River via the Sukur barrage into the Manchar Lake. The dam wall eventually burst due to monsoon rains, but the lake was artificially overfilled beforehand. Humans do not appreciate the wonder of floods. The artificially irrigated lands north of Manchar Lake have become steadily salinated (just like the River Nile delta below the Aswan Dam) . Flooding not only redissolves that salt, but also deposits mud which has long lasting, slow-release fertilizing elements, but humans do not appreciate such benevolence.

Nearly all of the developments that man has achieved have been to the detriment (elimination) of assorted other species. The forest burning in South America, monocropping farming practices (destroying natural ecosystems, over-fertilising, removing wind-breaks, adding insecticides … ) canalising (or extravagent use of) water resources;indiscriminate commercial overfishing, and introduction of alien, competitive species are but a few examplesof how humans have caused extinction of species – not due to climate change.

As to the future (and on a time-scale far more rapid than CO2-induced alleged climate change), the increasing population (and the hoped-for improvement in standard of living of the developing nations) will countermine any efforts to reduce energy generation. The extent of oceanic overfishing and massive diversion of crops into biofuels may lead to huge food shortages in many areas of the World. At the same time, waste and indiscriminate solid and liquid pollution especially of water resources will decrease the clean water available for human use, increasing the problems for survival in those same areas. Grant Cawthorn maintains that preoccupation and focus on climate change versus the failure to address these urgent issues will result in wastage of resources and time in solving the World’s problems.

Climate Change: The debate in Geobulletin (Part 5)

10/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

Clim ate: A more realistic approach – J.R. Truswell (continued)

“There is another element to realism, and that is economic.

The most recent of the UN IPCC’s climate change meetings took place in Durban at the end of 2011. The meeting was viewed as urgent because the Kyoto Protocol runs out at the end of 2012. Under this, those ‘developed’ countries who were signatories were required to reduce emissions to levels to which they had agreed; to do so was a legal requirement, although no penalties could be imposed. ‘Developing’ nations were not required to reduce emissions.

What came out of Durban? After Kyoto European countries are likely to continue with a further round of emission cuts. From 2015 all countries (developed and developing) would work towards a further accord, to be brought into force by 2020 – but this would not be legally binding.

South Africa was complimented on chairing the meeting and its achievements, particularly in the present economic situation.

The economic scenario is of fundamental importance to us all. Countries which have not supported emission cuts include ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ ones: the USA – not a signatory to Kyoto and continually lukewarm to the topic, China – which sabotaged any agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, India – which only agreed in Durban when ‘legally binding’ was removed from the 2015/2020 proposal and replaced with more weasel-type words.

Canada withdrew from Kyoto immediately after Durban; it had not reduced emissions to its target level, in fact they had increased. The Canadian argument is that if they had remained in Kyoto they could be required to purchase carbon trading credits at a cost that would be job-killing, economy destroying.

There is a clear message in this for South Africa. We require additional energy for growth: without growth the vitally necessary job creation targets are unreachable. We depend heavily on our coal resources; we are likely to continue to do so – the current alternatives, of other non-renewables (fracking?), hydro-electricity, or nuclear will all involve problems – and cost.

Let us focus on reducing energy usage, cleaning up emissions in the coal industry, and at the same time do anything else that is feasible in reducing our abuse of our world and its atmosphere. But let us not slavishly follow what is seen as politically correct, and let us avoid involvement in inappropriate taxes – such as fines for each ton of carbon for whish airlines have not surrendered carbon allowances, carbon trading, and the like. Our economy will not support taxes that simply lack merit but increase taxation levels.”


Climate Change: The debate in Geobulletin (Part 4)

09/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

Climate: A more realistic approach – J.R. Truswell (continued)

“Those who hold to the concept of AGW do so zealously, with vigour – and are often not too polite in what they say about those with other views. They style any who disagree as climate denialists (whatever that may mean) or sceptics; such people have even been likened to those who deny the holocaust.

Returning to the Coal Indaba and the session on ‘Carbon emissions and global warming’ Prevec regrets that the programmed address headed ‘Towards a low carbon future – implications for the coal industry’ didn’t happen and the only speaker was Kelvin Kemm, who doesn’t accept global warming, nor the influence of increasing CO2 emissions on the atmosphere. I know nothing about Dr. Kemm, but doubt he warrants the overall assassination to which she subjects him. Prevec goes on to express surprise that Kemm’s views were openly (sic) embraced by many of the delegates – this at a coal indaba! She concludes by saying that ‘denialists’ have no place in the climate debate.

I see no proof or evidence that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere influence temperature to any significant degree, nor that sea levels are actually rising. So I am a ‘denialist’, although I prefer to regard myself as a realist. I also believe that we ‘realists’ are the silent/silenced majority.

I recommend that any who have interest in this topic read Ian Plimer’s 2009 book ‘Heaven and Earth – global warming; the missing science’. Plimer is Professor of Mining Geology at Adelaide University. His is a scientific work, supported by some 2300 references. This is what Vaclav Claus, the revered leader of Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic wrote about the book.

‘This is a very powerful, clear, understandable and extremely useful book. Ian Plimer fully exploits his unique scientific background in Geology, his life-long academic experience, and his broad truly interdisciplinary knowledge to dismantle the popular, politically correct but rationally untenable and indefensible position that the Earth is approaching catastrophic climate change and that we have to react – at all costs – to prevent it’

What seems the likely cause of much of our climate variation are small changes in the solar energy: satellite measurements and sunspot activity show that it varies.  The IPCC claims that variation in the solar constant is less than 0.1% and considers that it has no impact on climate when compared to the effect of CO2. Yet there is a mass of astronomic and geophysical evidence to the contrary. I quote below some of Plimer’s summary comments on this aspect

‘The data on solar forcing of climate shows that the climate system is far more sensitive to small variations in solar activity than previously thought ….. The 20th Century shows an overall warming of some 0.7 degrees C, almost half of which was before 1945 when the Sun was more active and when there was far less emission of CO2 into the atmosphere by humans. The pronounced cooling from 1945 until the mid 1970’s was at a time of a weakening of the Sun’s magnetic activity … After 1975 the upward trend in solar energy resumed and warming resumed.

During the 20th Century, the Sun’s magnetic shield more than doubled in strength. This larger magnetic shield reduced the bombardment of the Earth by cosmic rays, less cloud cover formed and the Earth was warmer. Warming of 0.6% has been calculated for the reduced cosmic ray input and cloudiness for the 20th Century. If the atmosphere temperature of the 20th Century rose by 0.6 degrees C, then most of this rise can be attributed to solar, cosmic ray and cloud influences.

Cooling in the first decade of the 21st Century is almost as much as the whole warming of the 20th Century … Predictions of global warming driven by human emissions of CO2 in the 21st Century look doomed’.

To be continued

Climate Change; The debate in Geobulletin (Part 3)

09/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

A second response to the letter by R.Prevec (December 2011) also appeared in the March 2012 issue:

Climate: A more realistic approach – J.R. Truswell (Author of a university handbook “An Introduction to the Historical Geology of South Africa”)

“Rose Prevec attended a recent Fossil Fuel Coal Indaba. She was pleased that one of the sessions was on carbon emissions and global warming, ‘demonstrating as it did that a commitment to addressing cleaner coal technology’. Prevec, like others, believe that the Earth is warming, that the cause of this is anthropomorphic, and that unless we do something to reduce these emissions, we or those who follow soon after us, face Armageddon.

Christopher Booker (‘The real global warming disaster’) relates how the support for anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) grew, starting with the environmental lobby of the sixties, this joining in the seventies with those international bureaucrats who were campaigning for forms of world dominance – at which time temperatures were actually falling and there were fears of a return to the Ice Age! This trend reversed in the eighties and there were threats of rising sea levels. Eiher way would do for the protagonists to push for a supranational body to combat the multinationals and greedy consumerism. Arising from WW2, and the Cold War, science had by then become increasingly a creature of government which led to preferment, careers and funding being heavily dependent on state funding. Then the collapse of Soviet communism saw the left coming to view global warming as a new anti-capitalist cause. By the time EU governments and the US Democrats took this up as their cause of environmental solidarity, the result was an unstoppable coalition

‘able to silence dissent and seduce or cow the media on a scale hitherto seen only in ideological or religious regimes’.

Since its establishment at the end of the eighties the lead agency in developing and putting the AGW concept forward forcefully has been the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an environmental body that is closely linked to politicians. The IPCC has regularly provided ‘Summaries for Governments’, full of gloom and doom: unless CO2 emissions into the atmosphere are significantly reduced temperatures will rise by up to four degrees before the end of the century.

In 1998 Michael Mann & others published a paper in Nature which included a computer-generated graph showing temperature as essentially constant for several hundred years, then increasing sharply at about 1900 to take the form of an ice hockey stick. Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ formed a prominent part of IPCC documentation for almost a decade.

However, writing in the Journal Energy & Environment in 2003 McIntyre & McKitrick showed that the statistics used by Mann were flawed; subsequently many other statisticians have augmented that finding and the hockey stick had disappeared by 2007.

On any scale, be it geological, archaeological, historic or more recent, climates do vary with time. For example, the record shows that there was a Medieval Warming period from 900-1300 when temperatures were warmer than now; succeeded by the Little Ice Age until 1850; and we are now in a Modern Warming period. Global temperatures increased from 1918-1940, then decreased until 1976, subsequently increased to 1998, and are now decreasing.

The recent variations, in particular, make it impossible for there to be any correlation between CO2 and increased temperature. We have indeed been pumping steadily more CO2 into the atmosphere; but however surprising this may seem there is no proven evidence that the CO2 content in the atmosphere exerts any appreciable control on temperature.

As with climate, the evidence is there that sea levels have varied, and done so on different scales of time. In 2007 the IPCC predicted that sea level would rise by 40 cm by the end of the century – and viewed this as a conservative estimate.

Nils-Axel Morner (writing in the Spectator, 3 December 2011) views this as nonsense: to him the expertise on sea levels rests with the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA), specifically in its Commission for sea level changes and coastal evolution – and not with the IPCC. INQUA’s research has shown that sea levels have been oscillating close to the present level for the last three centuries; they rose 10-11 cm between 1850 and 1940, stopped rising – maybe even fell a little until 1970, and have remained roughly flat since then.

The president of the Maldives has held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the problem that rising sea levels are seen to be for island states – they may not have a problem. Bangladesh regards its perennial flooding in a similar light – but there surely are other explanations for this floodplain state.”

To be continued


08/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

Tussen die tegniese poste iets in ‘n ligter trant:

Anna is Woensdagnag met die Interkaap-bus Kaap toe vir ‘n kuiertjie en sal eers oor ‘n week terugkom. (Terwyl die boordery aan die gang is sou sy heeldag alleen by die huis wees). Die boorspan is vir die naweek terug Springbok toe en ek was a la David Cramer ‘stoksiel alleen op ‘n Saterdagaand’. Na een dag se rustigheid dwaal ek reeds deur die huis met my siel onder my arm. Ek mis my lewensmaatjie van byna 40 jaar. Ons bel mekaar darem saans. Die vorige week het sy een aand die selfoon vir my gebring om ‘n sms te lees. Dit was van my oud-kollega, “Geluk met jul huweliksherdenking”. Weens die vol program van die laaste tyd is daar tred verloor met die kalender.

Vrydag het ek probeer orde skep in ons stoorkamer, om plek te maak vir die boormateriaal van die oorblywende deel van die boorprogram. Ons boor R.C. (‘reverse circulation’) wat 30-40 kg fyngemaalde rots per meter diepte oplewer. Dis rugbreekwerk om die monsters rond te dra. In totaal sal sowat 30 ton materiaal geprosesseer moet word, waarvoor ‘n deeltydse handlanger benodig sal word. Saterdag is hoofsaaklik Super 15-rugby gekyk.

Vandag was so ‘n grou dag – betrokke met ‘n koue wind. Deur die dag het die temperatuur gestyg van 11 na 16 grade C. Dit was maar oral in die huis koud, maar die gastekamer in die suidwestelike hoek van die huis het twee vensters. Mens kan jou verbeel dis effens warmer daar en dis waar ek my dag met ‘n ‘western’ verwyl het (met ‘cat naps’).

Laatmiddag is ‘n vuur aangesteek, hoofsaaklik vir warmte. Die skaaptjops en wors was maar bysaak. Ek verkies tjops met die vetrandjie effens ‘crispy’. Vir wors is enigiets tussen rou en ‘crispy’ aanvaarbaar. Deur die vleis direk van die vuur te eet is skottelgoed gespaar. Dis net die braaivleisvurk en ‘n drinkglas wat vanaand gewas moet word. Sodra ek gebad het sal die bed opgesoek word. Na die eerste slapie, in ‘n ongoddelike uur van die nag, met minder steurings op die Net, sal die derde aflewering oor die klimaat-debatreeks ingetik word.

Climate Change: The debate in Geobulletin (Part 2)

07/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

The following response to R. Prevec’s letter in Geobulletin (December 2011) appeared in the March 2012 issue.

Climate change and the coal industry – does a denialist attitude have a place in the debate? A Reply – Deon le Roux

Rose Prevec considered Dr. Kelvin Kemm, a ‘climate change denialist’ as “a surprising choice of speaker for an organization (the Fossil Fuel Foundation) known to adapt a responsible and scientific attitude towards coal-related issues”. Dr. Kemm is criticized for “his lack of scientific training in climate or life sciences”, and for “inciting a blind acceptance that there is (1) no problem: global warming doesn’t exist, CO2 doesn’t cause global warming; (2) global warming (presumably climate change is meant) does exist but it is natural in origin and there is nothing we can do about it”. Points 3 and 4 become irrelevant if 1 and 2 are correct.

That ‘these views went unchallenged (by the audience), but were openly embraced by many of the delegates” does not surprise me in the least. I assume that Me. Prevec was trained in ‘climate science’, not in geology. She did not present any scientific or other factual arguments to support her pro-‘alarmist’/anti-‘denialist’ attitude.

Can there be any geologist who denies natural climate change on a geological time-scale? The Quaternary Period was preceded by an obviously warmer Tertiary Period. The Pleistocene was a succession of colder ‘glaciations’ and warmer ‘interglacials’; ‘glaciations’ were subdivided into colder ‘glacial phases’ and warmer ‘interstadials’. It may be argued that the Holocene is but an ‘interstadial’ and that the Pleistocene has not yet ended. During most of geological time the global climate was hotter than during the Quaternary, yet not catastrophic to fauna and flora.

On a millennium scale the last glacial phase ended approximately 10 000 years ago, followed by global warming up to the post-glacial Climatic Optimum, reached by 4000-2000 B.C., with world temperatures 2-3 degrees C higher than now (p.6, The Changing Climate – Selected Papers, H.H. Lamb,1968. Methuen & Co. Ltd, London)

“Contemporary with the Climatic Optimum, there was a ‘sub-pluvial’ period 5000-2400 B.C. in North Africa – a time of settlements in the Sahara. Decline from the Climatic Optimum was accompanied by catastrophe to some of the human civilizations at about 500 B.C.” (Lamb). For more detail on climate change on a scale of centuries and decades this source is recommended.

“Those who farmed the foothills of the Alps could mark how the glaciers were retreating. The climate was changing with temperatures rising everywhere. The warmer seasons were indisputably boosting crop yields” (p.152, Millennium – The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, Tom Holland,2008. Little-Brown,U.K.) This is a historic reference to the Medieval Warming Period at ca 1000 A.D.

The secondary optimum of climate was between 400 and 1200 A.D., peaking at 800-1200 A.D. (Lamb). “It was the time of great Viking voyages and the settlement of Iceland and Greenland. The early Norse burials in Greenland were deep in ground which is now permanently frozen.” The presence of vineyards in England (Domesday Book, 1085, in Lamb) indicates summer temperatures perhaps 1 to 2 degrees C higher than now.

“The period 1200-1400 A.D. contained some remarkable climatic instability in Western Europe with great floods and droughts” (Lamb, p.10). The period from 1550 to about 1850 has been called the ‘Little Ice Age’. The glaciers of Europe and the polar pack ice reached their most advanced positions since the Ice Age by about 1800 A.D.. Icelandic parish records described farm houses overrun by ice.

Reliable meteorological records only started from about 1860, when temperatures were recovering from the Little Ice Age. “There was first a sustained rise of average temperatures accompanied by systematic rainfall changes in many parts of the world – tendencies which started many decades before – then, since about 1940, an opposite trend set in” (Lamb, preface). The global cooling continued to about 1977, in an opposite trend to rising CO2. During the mid 1970s ‘alarmists’ speculated about an approaching new Ice Age (glacial phase).

The only period of global warming which coincided with rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, only noticable since the mid 1940s, was during 1977-1998. There was cooling since 1998, which was admitted by a leading ‘alarmist’, Phil Jones, in a leaked email (‘Climategate’ data on Google). That necessitated the change in term from ‘Global Warming” to ‘Climate Change’. ‘Extreme Weather’ currently experienced is unrelated to ‘Global Warming’, as the Earth has not experienced warming for more than a decade, contrary to ‘climatologists’ projections from computer models.

From geological and historical evidence, as well as recorded instrument data since1860, it is obvious that climate change occurs naturally in cycles on different time-scales, and that there is no correlation between rising CO2 and global warming. The global economy is being, and will be ruined by the substitution of inefficient and highly expensive ‘sustainable’ energy in the place of fossil fuels, for the sake of avoiding an imaginary catastrophic rise in temperature.

Climate Change: The debate in Geobulletin

07/04/2012 in Sonder kategorie

The following letter appeared in the December issue of the Quarterly News Bulletin of the Geological Society of South Africa. This was followed by two responses in the March issue, which will be placed in successive posts.

Climate change and the coal industry – does a denialist attitude have a place in the debate? Contributed by Rose Prevec

“Recently I attended the annual Fossil Fuel Foundation (FFF) Coal Indaba in Umhlanga Rocks in November 2011. This year’s programme was entitled: ‘Is the KZN coal industry sustainable?’ This was a particularly appropriate theme considering the Indaba was held in the lead-up to the much-publicised Cop 17 conference being held in Durban.

One of the conference sessions was apparently aimed at stimulating open debate on the topic of carbon emissions and global warming. Congratulations to the FFF for tackling this issue head-on, demonstrating their commitment to addressing cleaner coal technologies.

However, it was somewhat unfortunate that during this session, so clearly intended to present different perspectives on the issue of anthropogenic CO2 emissions and accelerated global warming, the delegate with a presentation entitled ‘Towards a low carbon future – implications for the coal industry’ did not arrive, and instead a well-known lobbyist for the so-called ‘denialist’ camp, Kelvin Kemm, was afforded both slots in the programme to present his viewpoint. This was a surprising choice of speaker, for an organisation known to adopt a responsible and scientific attitude towards coal-related issues.

Although clearly a gifted orator and motivational speaker, Dr. Kemm is well known for his publicity-seeking and sensationalist views that have less to do with scientific evidence, and more to do with a misrepresentation and distortion of facts to suit his purposes. His lack of scientific training in climate or life sciences was baldly apparent, and he demonstrated an apparent inability to distinguish between the good, the bad and the ugly science on this subject. This manipulative speaker wielded a finely honed armoury of arguments and statements, peppered with alarmist catch-phrases, machoism and misinformation. His highly emotive discourse, ripe with conspiracy theories and contradictions, appeared to serve the single purpose of polarising the debate and inciting a blind acceptance that there is (1) no problem: global warming doesn’t exist, CO2 doesn’t cause global warming; (2) global warming does exist but it is natural in origin and there is nothing we can do about it; (3) the problem is not ours to deal with (leave it to future generations of scientists who will have better technology); (4) we have a right to do whatever we please because people come first. Although, for an argument based on ‘people come first’ philosophy, the degree of disregard for the predicted effects of global warming was staggering. Suggestions that people could simply ‘walk away’ from the rising water levels, and that a warmer earth could be a much nicer place for people with plenty of agricultural potential for Greenland, was flippancy in the extreme. How exactly should the poverty-stricken people of Africa perishing in expanding deserts take this message?

It was left to the audience to reconcile the blatant contradictions presented to us, but few seemed interested in doing so. I was dismayed to see that these views not only went unchallenged, but were openly embraced by many of the delegates.

It is our democratic right and duty to hear and allow expression of all points of view, in any debate. Even denialists serve a purpose – they are rather like an old Victorian cautionary tale, warning us not to take things for granted, to challenge the established thinking.  But including such a person in a real world debate among professionals is like inviting the president of the Flat Earth Society to an astrophysics convention. A curiosity with philosophical lessons to teach, no doubt, but not a constructive and practical contribution to a discussion that should be based on the best scientific evidence available to us.

Stakeholders in the coal industry can choose to indulge all those deep-seated hopes that there really is no problem, and adopt a denialist attitude to the issue of climate change, or they can engage with the issues at hand, and be actively involved in forging a path ahead that allows for a truly sustainable coal industry that can continue to make a constructive and necessary contribution to South Africa’s growing energy needs.

The bottom line – those that choose not to engage with this issue in a responsible manner will be dismissed as irresponsible and uninformed parties, and will forfeit their power in the policy-making process.”