SOUTH AFRICA’S compliance with GHG reduction targets is currently rated as “highly insufficient” by http://climateactiontracker.org/. Our national targets are ‘equivalent to a 20–82% increase on 1990 levels’, in other words, while the rest of the world is decreasing emissions, we have seen fit to increase GHG due to an emphasis on ideological rather than scientific concerns. Our GHG ranking as 18th largest emitter, is not surprising, coming one position behind the UK, but an embarrassment considering the relative size of our population.
Although our global contribution of 510.2377 tonnes CO2e or 1.13% of total emissions is far behind the world’s top emitter China, at 11735.0071 CO2e and 25.93% respectively of the total, this figure must be compared with the 24 least polluting nations, whose meek contributions are all less than 2.0022 CO2e per country and thus less than 0.00% each of the total. (see Climate Data Explorer and http://climateanalytics.org/)
Our nation’s excessive GHG contributions commit the World’s major cities to inundation by the ocean. South Africa needs to accept both liability and responsibility for the collapse of the Polar Vortex, the unstable configuration of the Antarctic Iceshelf, the melting of glaciers and permafrost, and thus the hockey stick curve showing an alarming rise in global temperatures. We are currently on track for a 1.7 meter rise in sea level by 2030, and saying this in no way describes the problems associated with complications arising from climate change.
The blame for climate change will ultimately be placed upon our nation’s leaders who have collectively committed the country to a hot global 3.4 degree C by 2100 if all countries stick to the Paris Agreement and the promise of no more than 1.5 degree temperature change beyond pre-industrial levels by 2030. In 2016, planet Earth’s temperature averaged 1.26 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages, which is dangerously close to the 1.5-degree-Celsius limit set by international policymakers. There is no guarantee when it comes to temperatures.
All this without any firm science to back up the proposition, that we can survive in such an altered climate. A global two degree rise could translate into a local six degree change. Climate change represents an existential threat. In this respect it is the ruling ANC with its Anti-Poor policy reality of ‘peak, peak and peak’, which is most responsible for the current drought and thus Day Zero.
In the future, low-lying micronations will hold us all responsible for their country’s loss of territory. As will the citizens of coastal cities inundated by rising sea-levels. Both Cape Town and Durban will experience massive losses in land mass over the ensuing decade. We are already on a path towards a worst case scenario mapped out by academics during 2008. Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and ESKOM CEOs should shoulder most of the blame.
Under Molewa, national climate outreach programmes were cancelled, while government to civil society programmes aimed at Post-COP17 climate change sessions, and more recent UN climate sessions were not included in their budgets. We have withdrawn for all intents and purposes from our role as deal-makers during the Durban round, preferring Davos over the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
The DEAT thus appears to have decreased its spending on climate change outreach and education, a legacy of the previous administration of Jacob Zuma, while favouring coal over renewables. The latest interdict by NUMSA against IPP renewables does not bode well, any wonder since the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) drafted to protect our environment and atmosphere, alongside the right to water, has been gutted by successive ANC ministers.
The proposed introduction of a “carbon tax” under Cyril Ramaphosa merely shifts GHG responsibility from the public to the private sector. Introducing a new form of tax revenue which fails to incorporate the carbon offsets which could generate jobs and create economic opportunity via a just transition to renewables. There are thus no incentives to offset and promote the introduction of electric vehicles, energy efficient public transport and renewables in South Africa in the foreseeable future, as the country slips to the bottom of the global rankings for energy efficiency
South Africa is responsible for 53.3170% of total GHG emissions in SADC, an economic block including Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We dominate our neighbours and as the dirtiest emitter, must take responsibility and liability for regional climate problems.
BRICS countries are in turn responsible for 40.59% of global carbon emissions alone, we have some of the worst GHG profiles on the planet and may as well be called the Dirty Five. In this respect South Africa is not alone.
National Treasury has adopted the DA position on private property in effort to stem the massive shift in allegiances over the land question. “From April, the Treasury and the department of human settlements, will spend an estimated 1.6 billion rand over three years to reduce the backlog of residents without formal ownership of their homes by among other things, paying the legal conveyancing required to get the deeds registered to the proper owners.”
IN an EFF press briefing screened by SABC, Julius Malema appears to be toying with his party’s claim to Zulu and Xhosa traditional land, in addition to all land and property in rural and urban areas.
At first he comes out firing from the hip on the Ingonyama Trust then quickly seems to realise that he is risking retaliation, provoking an aggressive response, he then appears to defend the right of the Zulu king to engage on the issue.
It’s like watching an individual with a dissociative or integration disorder.
The EFF, whose leader is a Pedi, want all land in the country – rural, urban, agricultural and residential – to be nationalised, and subsequently leased out to citizens by the state.
THERE is a current in South African politics which sees the land debate as the culmination of the freedom struggle. For these persons, undoing the constitutional guarantees of private ownership and security of tenure, both enshrined by the Constitution, in favour of ‘expropriation without compensation’ and thus custodianship of property under the state, is the magic bullet which will right historical injustice, remove inequality, level the playing field and boost opportunity.
Driven by Marxist texts which espouse the abolition of private property in favour of state control of the land, such persons point to mythical Communist experiences but few real examples where this ideology has actually succeeded in lifting millions of peasants and the rural poor out of poverty. Not only are they just plain wrong on this account, but in all the examples cited, agrarian reform without title-deeds turned out to be a massive failure, requiring corrective action and drastic amendment of prevailing dogma.
It is worth examining two sad examples.
When the Chinese Communist Party assumed control over mainland China in 1949, “it did not follow Russia’s Bolsheviks in immediately abolishing the private ownership of land. In the countryside, a violent land reform movement brought a change in owners, but not in the ownership regime itself; full collectivisation did not occur until the late 1950s.”
The result was that under Chairman Mao, an estimated 15-30 million people died of starvation during the much vaunted “Great Leap Forward”. Widespread famine was the order of the day, the result of drastic changes in farming policy which eventually prohibited private farm ownership, and also later extending this to urban areas. Far from achieving its goals, state seizure of control of the land, resulted in economic mismanagement — bureaucracy, over-regulation and the absence of economic calculation on the ground. With no incentive to grow food, and with inter-generational knowledge, farming skills and tenure disrupted, authoritarianism produced one of the World’s major agrarian disasters.
This situation was only corrected under the government of Deng Xiaoping who introduced a policy of Household Responsibility, a practice first adopted in agriculture in 1979 and later extended to other sectors of the economy, “by which local managers are held responsible for the profits and losses of an enterprise.” This system partially supplanted the socialist ‘egalitarian distribution’ method, whereby the state assumed all profits and losses, much like the situation within our current SOE system which until now has relied upon annual bail-outs from government.
Far from being a model of communism, the trend in China has been towards private enterprise and individual ownership of property for some time, leading one analyst to suggest the country has restored private property in everything but name and that the open-ended ‘automatic renewal’ of leasehold by government is, by all accounts, a de facto return to the market-lead reforms of the West.
‘If the first 30 years of the People’s Republic saw the gradual erosion of private ownership and the growth of state ownership, the last 20 years have seen the opposite trend. By the late 1980s, the state was looking for ways to marketize land use and raise money, and so — in a process that began experimentally in 1988 and was formalized in law in 1994 — it began selling long-term leases to urban land, known as land-use rights (LURs). LURs for residential use could last for up to 70 years; for commercial use, 40 years; and for all other uses, 50 years.”
Thus in 2007 a new Property Law declared that residential LUR renewals would be “automatic.” The result, was a paradox, according to Donald Clarke, a paradox, in which the state ostensibly owns all the land, but where de facto private ownership continues.
“This system allowed the state on the one hand to obtain the economy-wide benefits of market allocation of land as well as the revenues from leasehold sales, while on the other hand to maintain that the principle of state ownership of land had not been compromised: after all, buyers got “merely” leaseholds of several decades, not ultimate ownership.”
In contrast the Tanzanian land reform programme known as Ujaama was a similar experiment in collectivisation. “Land reform was viewed as pivotal to the socialist agenda due to the centrality of agriculture in developing economies. Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere initiated one bold experiment in land reform in the late 1960s when he introduced the villagisation process called ujaama .. under ujaama tracts of land were transformed into community-based farming collectives.”
“13 years after its inception in 1967, it is now generally acknowledged that the policy of creating ujamaa villages has failed in terms of what they had been designed to achieve: namely, the building of a socialist society in the rural areas of Tanzania where more than 90 per cent of the population lives,” writes Zaki Ergas
Expropriation of land without compensation, centralisation and seizure of the commanding heights of the economy, all present attractive goals to doctrinaire socialists and communists. With elections around the corner, we ignore the abject lessons of history at our peril. Given our nation’s track-record of pragmatism and problem-solving, it would benefit everyone, if instead of shouting down ones opponents, we rather spent more time listening, opening the debate on land reform to discuss solutions based upon empirical evidence instead of purely ideological concerns.
Op-Ed published 8 March 2018, Natal Mercury
LAST week the Competition Commission announced that it was investigating 28 media companies, including Media24 for collusion on advertising pricing, and that Caxton and Independent Media had already pleaded guilty and/or had paid fines. The investigation avoids the troubling impact of cartel behaviour already demonstrated and reported here and here.
While some may accuse the CompCom of casting its net too wide, it is most certainly picking low-lying fruit and scratching the surface. One can only hope that its next port of call is to investigate the over-concentration and cross-ownership which is stifling journalists and readers alike.
Cartels and monopolies are not simply bad for business and competition but create the situation where news itself is overly centralised and where public opinion is subject to newsroom censorship. The result is bad for democracy and the outcome, the manufacture and manipulation of public opinion, unacceptable in a constitutional state.
The End of the Anthropocene, a retort to Stewart Brand.
THAT popular science has a difficult relationship with mainstream research is evidenced by the introduction of a term popularised by atmospheric chemist and Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen nearly two decades ago, at the turn of the new millennium.
In recent years, the Anthropocene, a period defined by significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems, has begun to dislodge the long-held view that we are in an epoch known at the Holocene.
I will argue that not only are we in the early Anthropocene, but that human impact upon planet Earth, and hence our own habitat and species, requires that we define what it means to be human in rather different terms. And also, that far from being at the beginning of the early Anthropocene, we are instead approaching the end of this epoch. Human habitat, defined as it is by climate, polar ice, glaciation and weather systems (systems that have remained relatively stable for millennia), is entering a period of rapid change. All leading one to question what it is to be human. Changes that could lead to the sixth major mass extinction event, and along with it, not a de-extinction of mammoths, but rather the complete removal of anthropos by the technium as a defining moment of evolution.
A spate of articles on the subject of the Anthropocene followed its introduction, beginning in 2014 Borenstein, Seth (14 October 2014). “With their mark on Earth, humans may name era, too”. Edwards, Lucy E. (30 November 2015). “What is the Anthropocene?”. Eos. 96. Castree, Noel (2015). Associated Press. Waters CN et al. (2016). “The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene”. Science. 351 (6269) and “The Anthropocene: a primer for geographers” (PDF). Geography. 100 part 2: 66.
According to the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the professional organization in charge of defining Earth’s time scale, we are still officially in the Holocene epoch, an epoch which began 11,700 years ago after the last major ice age.
“But that label is outdated” writes Joseph Stromberg in the Smithsonian ” They argue for “Anthropocene”—from anthropo, for “man,” and cene, for “new”—because human-kind has caused mass extinctions of plant and animal species, polluted the oceans and altered the atmosphere, among other lasting impacts.”
Coupled with the emergence of this new epoch, used to define human intervention on our planet, has been the concomitant rise of new terms within popular culture to describe human evolution itself. Thus the rise of the cyborg, transhumanism and post-humanism, ‘concepts originating in the fields of science fiction, futurology, contemporary art, and philosophy’ that literally ‘means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human’.