Fossil Free SA past rolling research April 2017–April 2018

These are some of the links and articles we attempt to integrate into our work and communications. Items are dated by when they came to our attention, not necessarily by date of publication. In future, we’ll aim to publish these month by month.

April 2018

NY Times: How More Carbon Dioxide Can Make Food Less Nutritious

Bill McKibben: The Movement to Divest from Fossil Fuels Gains Momentum

World can meet growing food demands and limit warming to 1.5C, study says

World can meet growing food demands and limit warming to 1.5C, study says

What carbon budget is compatible with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees

Analysis: How much ‘carbon budget’ is left to limit global warming to 1.5C?

Carbon capture is probably not viable for offsetting coal power, but may still be vital for curbing industrial emissions.

Carbon capture and storage: Can the UK hit climate goals without killing off heavy industry?

World can limit global warming to 1.5C ‘without BECCS’

World can limit global warming to 1.5C ‘without BECCS’

March 2018

The Gulf Stream (which keeps N. Europe relatively warm) at weakest for 1600 years

UN moves towards recognising human right to a healthy environment

Land degradation – a major contributor to climate change – is undermining the wellbeing of two-fifths of humanity

Can climate litigation save the world?
… while victories have so far been rare the pressure for change is growing

Fake green hues in big banks’ environment-friendly boasts

How cutting short-lived climate pollutants can buy some time to deal with CO2

These Climate Pollutants Don’t Last Long, But They’re Wreaking Havoc on the Arctic

A new warming feedback mechanism: seagrass degradation

Economic growth is not compatible with environmental sustainability

Evidence that divestment is starting to raise the cost of capital for fossil fuel companies

February 2018

Air pollution now major contributor to stroke

Rising seas from warming climate threaten major cities in Africa

How America’s clean coal dream unravelled

Coal power in the US, down 20% in 10 years, and dying

Rolling Stone: Extreme weather due to climate change displaced more than a million Americans from their homes last year

Drought impact on W Cape economy worse than anticipated – minister

Is it possible for everyone to live a good life within our planet’s limits?
The fundamental limits on Earth’s capacity for supporting human life

Climate Change Costs Insurance Companies Billions, And Price is Rising

Arctic warming: scientists alarmed by ‘crazy’ temperature rises

A new and thoroughly unpleasant consequence of climate change: ‘mass mortality events’
The terrifying phenomenon that is pushing species towards extinction

Former New York City/State pensions controller.

Pensions Expert: Engagement and divestment are not mutually exclusive

Scientists are much closer to being able to attribute climate disasters to climate change.

Carbon Brief Analysis: How well have climate models projected global warming? (Well)

Negative emissions have ‘limited potential’ to help meet climate goals

Negative emissions have ‘limited potential’ to help meet climate goals

Paris considering suing fossil fuel companies for climate damages

Sea levels likely to be at least 60cm higher by 2100

University of Bristol and University of Edinburgh (3rd largest endowment in UK) are latest to announce fossil fuel divestment

The challenges of securing equitable, good lives for everyone:

Bill McKibben: We can battle climate change without Washington DC. Here’s how

The EU got less electricity from coal than renewables in 2017

The EU got less electricity from coal than renewables in 2017

January 2018

Is fossil fuel divestment the only way to address climate change risk?

Op-Ed: Foul air on the Highveld – the sour smell of environmental racism

Op-Ed: Foul air on the Highveld – the sour smell of environmental racism

Lloyd’s of London to divest from coal over climate change

Science-based targets provide companies with a clearly defined pathway to future-proof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

New Carbon Tax Bill draft published for public comment (Dec 2017)

Geoengineering carries ‘large risks’ for the natural world, studies show

Geoengineering carries ‘large risks’ for the natural world, studies show

“In order to achieve climate goals, it is now essential to immediately reduce CO2 emissions, instead of using harmful technologies to compensate for a more leisurely pace.”

Global Warming Lawsuits Waged on Fossil Fuel Companies by NYC and LA

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death. – Russell Einstein Manifesto, 9 July 1995

December 2017

Calls for greater fossil fuel divestment at anniversary of Paris climate deal

‘the risk escalates surprisingly rapidly with every half degree of warming. It’s not a linear rise. We’re seeing a nonlinear impact in many cases… in many important cases we’re seeing a nonlinear increase risk with increasing global surface temperature.’

The Carbon Brief Interview: Dr Bill Hare

Navigating Sustainability and Your Fiduciary Duty

Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative: Meat tax ‘inevitable’ to beat climate and health crises

The most accurate climate change models predict the most alarming consequences, study finds

Regreening the planet could cut as much carbon as halting oil use – report

Energy Research Centre (UCT). October 2017. ‘The developing energy landscape in South Africa: Technical Report’. /
‘While South Africa’s renewable energy program has been paused due to Eskom unwillingness to purchase any new electricity produced by independent producers; ongoing advances globally are expected to lead to further price reductions in solar PV, lithium-ion battery storage and wind in the next 10 to 20 years. Projections for coal costs and further learning imply that by 2030, many markets will also have reached the point where the unitised costs of new renewable capacity are lower than even the short run marginal costs of existing coal plants – resulting in the potential of significant stranded coal assets. In countries with a large amount of older stations, such as South Africa, this may happen sooner as the cost of coal increases and legislation changes to account for externalities not currently priced into the cost of coal for power generation. Advances in renewable energy technologies have created an opportunity to rapidly transition to a low-carbon global energy system without the significant economic compromises as previously expected. This could have significant implications for future electricity generation in South Africa, where an ageing coal fleet and international climate change commitments requires the build of new and cleaner electricity generation capacity in the country.’

November 2017

Sustainable investment joins the mainstream

New shareholder responsibility initiative

A Single Bitcoin Transaction Takes Thousands of Times More Energy Than a Credit Card Swipe

This Scientist Says to Fight Climate Change We Must Sue Major Polluting Companies

Zurich ends coal investments as insurers pull $20bn from sector

The world’s biggest investor’s plan to exit oil stocks is the ‘shot heard around the world’

The Carbon Farming Solution
A book by Toensmeier offering ‘a wealth of guidance on cutting-edge farming techniques that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and capture carbon in vegetation and soils’

Current climate change unparalleled over the last 100 million years?

Leading Aussie health insurer divests

Emissions have already peaked in 49 countries

Analysis: WRI data suggests emissions have already ‘peaked’ in 49 countries

The richest 10% of the world’s population are responsible for 50% of global emissions, and the rich often seem to assume that wealth renders them immune to climate change. But climate change will hit everyone, and the first evidence of that comes from the Caribbean, where a high-income country, Antigua and Barbuda, has been laid waste by hurricanes Irma and Maria, but is classed as being ‘poor enough’ to qualify for aid. (Article by the secretary-general of the Commonwealth.)

The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: ‘There is reason for hope’

October 2017

Why Cape Town’s drought was so hard to forecast

Carbon emissions from agriculture can be significantly cut while still meeting the food demands of the world’s growing population, a new study says.

World can meet growing food demands and limit warming to 1.5C, study says

Roadmaps for 139 nations to transition to 100% renewables by 2050.

Fear of a Living Planet

NEPC: Fossil fuel divestment: considerations for institutional portfolios
“All told, on a global scale, asset owners own approximately $228 trillion in diversified mixes of investments, according to money manager BlackRock, in a report published in May 2014. Of this, pension funds and endowments and foundations account for roughly $35 trillion in diversified assets, stated the BlackRock report. Within this pool, NEPC estimates that approximately 2% to 5% of total assets are directly invested in fossil fuel equities and fixed-income securities, equaling around $700 billion to $1.7 trillion in assets.”

“Although [climate change] projections contain large uncertainties, hydropower capacity in the Zambezi river basin in Africa may fall by as much as 10% by 2030, and 35% by 2050.”

Is oil/gasoline/petrol a form of “civilisational sugar”. Yes, suggests noted sugar bear Robert Lustig

Going green is hard for SA investors

Amsterdam’s circular economy. (The three great steps required for global sustainability are arguably ending fossil fuel use, shifting to sustainable agriculture, and creating a circular economy.)

Warming soils could add a “long-term, self-reinforcing carbon feedback from mid-latitude forests to the climate system as the world warms.”

The story of the leading US energy company CEO who tried to lead NRG into a new future
1. We’re carboholics, make us stop:
2. NRG Seeks to Cut 90% of Its Carbon Emissions:
3. The green evangelist who scared the energy business straight [and got fired]:

‘Moore’s law’ for carbon would defeat global warming

The wealthy are to blame for the end of the world as we know it

Yale Climate Connections: Climate change poses huge risks to investors

Climate change poses huge risks to investors

New York Times: California Today: To Fight Climate Change, Heal the Ground

In Wyoming and West Virginia, former coal miners are becoming wind turbine technicians

Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town urges action on climate, divestment, and reduced consumption

Letters to the editor: September 29 to October 5 2017

Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town to divest from fossil fuels

#WaterCrisis: Drought now threatens 45,000 jobs

PROMISES: All gone up in smoke: How Eskom and Sasol repeatedly delay action on dealing with air pollution

September 2017

Elon Musk: Burning Fossil Fuels Is the ‘Dumbest Experiment in History, By Far’

Elon Musk: ‘We need a revolt against the fossil fuel industry’

External lifetime costs of coal power from Eskom’s Kusile station estimated to be between R1,4 to R3,2 trillion.

Methane emissions from livestock under-estimated

Michael Liebreich, Bloomberg New Energy Finance: ‘state of the clean energy industry’ keynote at Future of Energy EMEA Summit in London, September 2017

EasyJet aims to have electric airliners for short routes within the decade.

New film on impacts of coal on South Africa

Old Mutual discusses unburnable carbon, low-carbon investment and possible stranded assets in South Africa

“Divestment from fossil fuels has not caused Syracuse University’s endowment to suffer, official says”

Divestment from fossil fuels has not caused Syracuse University’s endowment to suffer, official says

“Possible good news about climate change leads to confused coverage”
The debate around this study is still going backwards and forwards, but in essence, the suggestion is that we have somewhat more space for emissions while still having a shot at holding warming to 1.5 degrees. While some might see this as an opportunity to continue unabated emissions for longer, it’s better understood as a reason for not “giving up” on the 1.5 degrees target. The study confirms that we need zero global emissions by around 2050 if we’re to have a better than even chance at holding warming to 1.5 degrees. A rare instance of “good news” on climate, perhaps.

San Francisco and Oakland sue top five oil and gas companies over costs of climate change
A taste of things to come: “San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker announced today that they had filed separate lawsuits on behalf of their respective cities against the five largest investor-owned producers of fossil fuels in the world.”

San Francisco and Oakland sue top five oil and gas companies over costs of climate change

SA’s power grid could be made flexible enough to accommodate significant levels of variable renewable energy at a moderate additional cost of up to 2030, a study published this month has found.

A comic timeline of Earth’s temperature history – and likely future – from xkcd.

‘A group charged with considering the social impact of Johns Hopkins University’s investments has made four specific recommendations, including that the university divest immediately from certain holdings in 200 publicly traded coal, oil, and gas companies—known collectively as the Carbon Underground 200—and take steps to reduce other such holdings over time.’

Why the 1.5C warming limit is not yet a geophysical impossibility

Guest post: Why the 1.5C warming limit is not yet a geophysical impossibility

The ins and outs of various scenarios for limiting global temperature rise suggest that the most sensible approach would be to do as much as possible as soon as possible.
“Is the 2 °C world a fantasy? Countries have pledged to limit global warming to 2 °C, and climate models say that is still possible. But only with heroic — and unlikely — efforts.”

Global fossil fuel subsidies still far exceed those for renewable energy, “—$4.9 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2013, and projected to reach $5.3 trillion (6.5 percent of global GDP) in 2015.”

‘Alarm bells we cannot ignore’: world hunger rising for first time this century
UN agencies warn conflict and climate change are undermining food security, causing chronic undernourishment and threatening to reverse years of progress

New [CSIR] study points to 90% renewables mix being least cost by 2050
New analysis conducted using updated cost assumptions for solar photovoltaic (PV), onshore wind and batteries shows that the share of renewable energy in an electricity mix that would also be the least cost for South Africa could grow to above 90% by 2050.

The end of coal: EU energy companies pledge no new plants from 2020

Climate change threatens the nutritional value of our food by increasing the ratio of carbs to proteins.

Business Unionism: Good overview of union investment funds

‘Business unionism’ the cause of Cosatu’s factional battles

How mindful investing can guarantee a better education
Stephanie Giamporcaro & Xolisa Dhlamini writing in Business Day: Universities would benefit from aligning their pension and endowment funds with a more responsible vision

Reflections on LCHF diets and climate
Defending LCHF in the climate change debate

August 2017

How Exxon Mobil systematically misled the public about climate change.

This paper assesses whether ExxonMobil Corporation has in the past misled the general public about climate change.

Consumer energy bills dropping in energy as climate policies take hold.

UK energy bills have fallen since 2008, says CCC

Decoupling economic growth from environmental impacts is ultimately impossible.

‘Anthropogenic climate change is the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment and human rights of our time.’
United Nations Environment Programme. 2015. ‘Climate Change and Human Rights.’ p. 1. Available at (accessed 23.8.17).

Saudis Kick Off $50 Billion Renewable Energy Plan to Cut Oil Use

Dubai: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Saturday announced an upcoming ministerial retreat to look at ways to move the UAE’s economy beyond oil.

A Chinese company is offering free training for US coal miners to become wind farmers

July 2017

Water risk hitting coal and nuclear plants in Europe

The Uninhabitable Earth

California Counties Sue Big Oil for Sea Level Rise Damages

California Counties Sue Big Oil for Sea Level Rise Damages

According to BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager: “Investors can no longer ignore climate change. Some may question the science behind it, but all are faced with a swelling tide of climate-related regulations and technological disruption.”

June 2017

Thabametsi’s likely lenders are Absa, Nedbank Limited, Standard Bank Limited, Rand Merchant Bank; and DBSA.

Company Holding Nature
Axia Power Holdings B.V. 24.5% International Entity
Korea Electric Power Corporation 24.5% International Entity
Blue Falcon 253 Trading Pty Ltd 21% SA Entity
Jenzoprox Pty Ltd 15% Black Enterprise
Business Venture Investments No 1879 Pty Ltd 10% Black Enterprise
Mandlalex Pty Ltd 5.0% Black Enterprise
Total 100%

[Johannesburg] is 0.8˚C warmer than half a decade ago, with predictions that it will be up to 6˚C warmer by the middle of the century… Research published in the journal Nature in 2013 indicated that climate change was costing the world economy $1.2-trillion a year, mostly loss of productivity and damage to property.

The importance of protest: ‘A year and a half ago, an official from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) stood up before a group of environmentalists and NGO representatives and pleaded, “Where is the environmental movement? Where are the placards? We can’t change things without the pressure of citizens.”’

“Investors can no longer ignore climate change…Some may question the science behind it, but all are faced with a swelling tide of climate-related regulations and technological disruption. We believe all investors should incorporate climate change awareness into their investment processes.”

Sweden’s largest pension fund, AP7, sells off Exxon Mobil and TransCanada, adding to the long list of fossil fuel companies that it has divested from, on the basis that, “Disinvestment from these companies serves to protect the fund’s long-term return on invested assets.”

Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040: The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India… Coal will be the biggest victim, with 369 gigawatts of projects standing to be cancelled, according to BNEF.

REN21 update: The myth that fossil and nuclear power are needed to provide “baseload” electricity supply when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing has been shown to be false… 48 developing countries now committed to 100% renewable energy goals… 2 million EVs now on world’s roads.

There’s Way Less Coal Than We Thought

The demise of oil

“At this stage, it seems hard to escape the conclusion that Eskom is selling power to South Africans that is more expensive than it should be to maintain vested interests in the coal-mining industry.”

Growing plants and then storing the carbon dioxide they have taken up from the atmosphere is not a viable option to counteract unmitigated emissions from fossil fuel burning, a new study shows.

Planting trees cannot replace cutting carbon dioxide emissions, study shows

Policies to address climate change are more likely to have political support in Sweden and Switzerland than in Australia and the US. One reason for this difference is the importance in US and Australian politics of lobbies representing the natural resource industries, including the gas, oil, and coal producers. – CORE Economics, U22.

May 2017

Off-grid renewable electricity could be the lowest cost option for connecting more than one fifth of the Africans who will gain access in the coming years (if universal access is achieved)

Small-scale renewables cheapest for rural Africa, says Dutch report

Australia’s largest integrated energy company, AGL Energy, says Australia’s transition away from a coal power dominated national grid to low-carbon generation will largely bypass “baseload” gas, and instead shift straight to large-scale wind and solar.

AGL kills idea of gas as transition fuel: wind, solar + storage cheaper

April 2017

Receding glacier causes immense Canadian river to vanish in four days

The African countries that have already pledged to move as quickly as possible towards 100% renewable energy: Burkina Faso, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Morocco, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania.

Four years of current emissions would be enough to blow what’s left of the carbon budget for a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C.

Analysis: Just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget

February 2017

IEA: Getting wind and sun onto the grid

How to shift from coal-fired power to renewables without job blackouts: Quick roll-out, consumer levies and retraining of staff are key to ensuring green economy benefits all in SA
Archived at:

The terrible impact of a declining coal industry in South Africa

Unfinished business: Coal miners across South Africa walk away from clean up

  • By the Way, Your Home Is on Fire By Rebecca Solnit: The Climate of Change and the Dangers of Stasis
    Anecdote about 9-11.
    More Solnit:

  • Ethical investing: It pays to be nice

  • The cost of air pollution in South Africa

    The South African BenMAP model calculated that 27,000 premature mortalities across South Africa are currently due to high levels of fine PM… Therefore, this work indicates that 7.4% of all deaths in South Africa are due to chronic exposure to fine PM.

Electric cars and cheap solar ‘could halt fossil fuel growth by 2020’

Deutsche Bank pulls out of coal projects to meet Paris climate pledge

The MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target Index

The carbon bubble: why investors can no longer ignore climate risks

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