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Friday, February 01, 2019

We are not doing well on tackling climate change..

We are not doing well on tackling climate change : the Davos meeting in Jan 2019 said that global risks are intensifying, but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening.

David Attenborough said at the meeting : “We have to recognize that every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food we take, comes from the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves because we are one coherent ecosystem."

Jane Goodall said : "If you are living in a rural part of Africa and you are near the environment, you are going to cut down the last trees on a steep slope, even though you now it is going to cause erosion, because you have to grow food to feed your family or make charcoal. Unless we do something to alleviate poverty, there is no way we can save chimpanzees or the forests.”

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish activist said at the meeting : “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.”

An alliance of 50 global CEOs leading companies with a combined revenue of USD 1.3 trillion was a highlight of the Forum. Having cut their collective emissions by nine percent since 2016, the alliance has developed so-called climate governance principles to translate climate risks into business processes.

Parts of America are currently colder than the Antarctic ! But did you know this was caused by global warming ?

Large parts of the US are suffering from extreme cold with temperatures as low as -40 to -50. Some parts were colder recently than even Antarctica !

The polar vortex is an area of low pressure and extremely cold air that swirls over the Arctic. Scientists point to a complex sequence of events involving sea ice, which is rapidly diminishing in the Arctic. As the ice retreats, summertime heat is absorbed by the dark ocean that lies underneath. This heat is released into the atmosphere during winter, spurring winds that can disrupt the polar vortex.

Studies have pointed to a recent increase in instances where the polar vortex has bulged down into heavily populated areas. Scientists are gaining a better understanding of why this is happening, with many identifying climate change as an influence.

A localized, albeit large, cold snap isn’t representative of the rest of the planet, as Australians currently sweltering in searing record heat of more than 46C will be well aware of. 

In the US, record-breaking high temperatures are outnumbering record lows by a ratio of two to one.

I decided to re-visit the Capetown water story as it has made people think..

But many of us know only that Capetown city faced a day when there would be no more water in its taps. But not much of the story before and after.. Here is that story, with many lessons for the rest of the cities across the world.. 

In 2007, South Africa's Department of Water Affairs and Forestry predicted that the growing demand on the Western Cape Water Supply System would exceed supply if water conservation and demand management measures were not implemented. Before the crisis, Capetown, a city of 4 million (around one-fourth that of Delhi) consumed 1200 million litres a day. Per capita per day consumption was 135 litres.

An El Nino-triggered drought in 2015 hit agricultural production and economic growth throughout South Africa. Cape Town was particularly hard hit, and lack of good subsequent rains around the city made its water shortage worse. The burden of making sure Day Zero did not happen rested largely on household's ability to cut down on water usage. 

Restrictions were imposed on 1 June 2017, limiting the usage of water to 100 litres per person per day. By early October 2017, following a low rainfall winter, Cape Town had an estimated five months of storage available before water levels would be depleted. "Water rationing through extreme pressure reduction" was implemented immediately. 

In early 2018, when the dam levels were predicted to decline to critically low levels by April because of lack of rain, the City announced plans for "Day Zero", when the municipal water supply would largely be shut off if a particular lower limit of water storage was reached, potentially making Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water.

Through water saving measures, the City reduced its daily water usage by more than half to around 500 million litres per day in March 2018. Residents lived with stringent consumption restrictions through most of 2018, at 50 litres per person per day.

Urban residents were requested not to flush the toilet after urinating, to flush using rainwater or greywater after defecating, and to reduce the length and frequency of showers. In order to conserve water, hand sanitizer was provided in offices and public buildings for use instead of conventional hand-washing. Some cafes began using plastic and paper cups and plates, to reduce dish-washing.

50 litres a day per person is just enough for a 90-second shower, 4 litres of drinking water / tea / coffee, neembu drink, etc., a sink-ful to hand-wash dishes or laundry, one cooked meal, two hand washings, two teeth brushings and one toilet flush. 

In September 2018, with rains having at last arrived and dam levels close to 70%, the city began easing water restrictions to 70 litres per person per dayDam levels peaked at 76% and in November 2018, restrictions were reduced to 105 litres per person per day, aiming for a 30% saving on normal usage.  

In contrast, average water consumption in Delhi is estimated at 240 liters per capita per dayIt is to be remembered that South Africa's per capita GDP is three times that of India as is its per capita water storage capacity

The 60% restriction in 2018 of water usage for irrigation by agriculture around Cape Town resulted in the loss of 37,000 jobs in the Western Cape Province and an estimated 50,000 people being pushed below the poverty line due to job losses, inflation and increases in the price of food.