Sustainability Times – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Wed, 16 Jun 2021 21:03:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Renewables could Forestall an Egypt-Sudan-Ethiopia War over the Grand Renaissance Nile Dam Thu, 29 Apr 2021 04:01:38 +0000 By Laureen Fagan | –

( Sustainability Times) – Renewable sources have the power when it comes to the energy future of East Africans, but they also may prove a solution to a complicated diplomatic and geopolitical problem.

That’s according to scientists at Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel, who say that adding solar and wind energy sources to operate in concert with the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) would support the hydropower that Ethiopia is banking on, without disrupting the flow of the Nile River on which Egypt and Sudan depend.

Construction on Ethiopia’s huge hydropower dam began a decade ago and is now near its completion; Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his government began filling the dam last year. The US$4.8 billion hydropower project is meant to deliver 15,000 GWh in much-needed energy for Ethiopians, who are counting on that energy to boost development and reduce poverty.

But the Blue Nile also winds its way through Sudan, joining the White Nile in the capital city of Khartoum before flowing into Egypt’s territory through Cairo and then reaching the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria. Both countries rely on the highly seasonal Nile River resources for drinking water, agriculture and other activities.

The disputes over the dam now span years, with Ethiopia insisting that all parties stick to a 2015 deal while Egypt relies on a 1959 agreement that protects its water rights. Ethiopia refuses to yield and argues that it doesn’t need permission from other nations to chart the course of its own transformation, even as those water rights become more critical in the context of an uncertain climate future.

On occasion, the tenor of the three-way dispute has leaned toward threats of military intervention. Sudan now warns of legal action. Successive rounds of negotiations within the international community – most recently with the African Union – continue to fail.

What the scientists in Belgium realized after intense modeling is that “the sun shines brightest and the winds blow strongest” during the regional dry season, which means that Ethiopia could still benefit from the GERD hydropower while protecting downstream river flow if it installed solar and wind resources to take advantage of the seasonal shifts.

There would be less hydropower during the dry season and more during the wet season while still maintaining energy output. The water flowing out of the dam would be similar to the river’s own natural flow.

“Essentially, Ethiopia would have all the expected benefits of a big dam,” says Sebastian Sterl of VUB, the lead author on the GERD research published this month in the journal Nature. “But for Sudan and Egypt, it would look as if the Ethiopians only built a modest, relatively small reservoir. There are many such reservoirs already on the Nile, so no country downstream of Ethiopia could really object to this.”

Better still are the benefits arising from a cooperative approach that ends the regional conflict. Ethiopia could still become Africa’s largest exporter of power but reduce its costs and its reliance on hydropower. Sudan would decrease its reliance on fossil fuels, and Egypt would have more water when it needs it. Above all, the ecology of the Nile River would see fewer impacts from Ethiopia’s dam.

“You could call it a win-win situation,” says VUB climate researcher Wim Thiery. “The entire region would benefit.”

Via Sustainability Times

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On Top of Causing Deadly Global Heating, Fossil fuels cause 1 in 5 Adult deaths each year Thu, 22 Apr 2021 04:01:56 +0000

People damage their health in various ways and one of those ways is to continue to use fossil fuels. In 2018 alone more than 8 million people died from fossil fuel-related pollution, according to new research.

( Sustainability Times) – Researchers at Harvard University in the United States, working with colleagues at the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London in the United States, estimate in a new study that exposure to airborne fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from fossil fuel emissions resulted in nearly one in five deaths among adults that year globally.

At the same time, mortality caused by lower respiratory infections among children under the age of five in the Americas and Europe due to PM2.5 exposure was also markedly high, the experts say.

“We estimate a global total of 10.2 (95% CI: -47.1 to 17.0) million premature deaths annually attributable to the fossil-fuel component of PM2.5,” they write. “The greatest mortality impact is estimated over regions with substantial fossil fuel related PM2.5: notably China (3.9 million), India (2.5 million) and parts of [the] eastern US, Europe and Southeast Asia.”

It has long been known that long-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause or worsen a wide variety of often chronic conditions from pulmonary disease to heart disease to dementia in adults and attention deficit disorder in children. Previous studies have shown that even in some of the world’s richest nations such as the United States as many as 30,000 people die of causes directly linked to airborne pollutants.

However, the new study focused on harmful airborne pollutants resulting specifically from the burning of fossil fuels in various forms.

“Previous research relied on satellite and surface observations to estimate the average global annual concentrations of airborne particulate matter, known as PM2.5. The problem is, satellite and surface observations can’t tell the difference between particles from fossil fuel emissions and those from dust, wildfire smoke or other sources,” the scientists explain in a statement published by Harvard University.

The researchers for this study decided to employ a cutting-edge 3-D model of atmospheric chemistry for global surveys called GEOS-Chem, which has high spatial resolution that allows scientists to divide the planet into a grid with boxes as small as 50km by 60km with local pollution levels highlighted in each.

“Rather than rely on averages spread across large regions, we wanted to map where the pollution is and where people live, so we could know more exactly what people are breathing,” explains Karn Vohra, a graduate student at the University of Birmingham who worked on the study.

Their findings demonstrate once again how badly the continued burning of fossil fuels impacts the health of millions upon millions of people worldwide, especially in developing countries such as China and India with constantly high levels of pollution and huge population densities.

China managed to lower air pollution levels through a variety of measures, but several worst polluters have failed to follow suit,

“While emission rates are dynamic, increasing with industrial development or decreasing with successful air quality policies, China’s air quality changes from 2012 to 2018 are the most dramatic because population and air pollution there are both large,” says Eloise Marais, an associate professor at the University College London who is another author of the study.

“Similar cuts in other countries during that time period would not have had as large an impact on the global mortality number,” the scientist adds.

Sustainability Times


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Oil’s Götterdämmerung: Why Covid-19 could Hasten the end of Fossil Fuels Tue, 05 May 2020 04:02:00 +0000 ( Sustainability Times) – Last week the oil market took another plunge that saw the price of one barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) fall 8 percent to $10.45 on Tuesday.. Last Monday, WTI crashed by 25 percent and rocked the market, yet the decline was relatively minor compared to what happened two weeks ago when oil prices briefly became negative – for the first time in history – bringing WTI to minus $40 per barrel.

With supply outstripping demand, it could well be that these severe swings in the market may be a reckoning of sorts of the oil industry – one of the world’s largest carbon emitters which has come under increasing pressure to reduce its carbon footprint or disband altogether. Even if the oil sector is unlikely to disappear completely anytime soon, the Covid-19 crisis could still be the singular most important event responsible for permanently diminishing the prominence of oil in our economies, according to energy sector analysts from Goldman Sachs.

Several factors are at play that could help push the world towards much greater use of low-carbon energy sources, and with most things, it comes down to costs. Production cost of oil is higher in the US than in Saudi Arabia, meaning the low oil price could lead to a rapid decimation of jobs and oil wells in North America. Consequently, it will be very difficult for oil companies to return to their old strength after the crisis.

On top of that, researchers predict that demand for oil will spike after the global lockdowns come to an end, bringing a rapid rise in oil prices as well. However, due to lost production capacity, oil majors will be unable to fulfil the rising demand. The resulting gap in energy provision would then offer the greatest opportunity for renewables to fill the gap, greatly expanding their market position and firmly entrenching their wide-spread use in the economy.

What this means is that fossil fuels are becoming less attractive for investors, who may subsequently decide to avoid the sector. The recent price crunch has already changed the equation for oil exploration projects, with the lucrative returns they are usually associated with being wiped off. The same holds true for fracking, hitherto hailed as an alternative and viable way of producing oil thanks to large investments, high oil prices and low-interest rates on debt.

“The oil and gas sector is already a very much unloved sector by investors and in this kind of oil price environment, it becomes low return, high risk and high carbon”, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie told The Guardian early this month. As such it stands to reason that the fossil fuel sector has permanently lost its prestige. Not only have numerous voices called for a greater focus on renewables once economic activity picks up again, but the decline of fossil fuels may be exacerbated by populations retaining some of the behaviours acquired in lockdown, such as less travel.

Of course, none of this is set in stone just yet. But it’s clear that the low-carbon economy now has an unprecedented chance to become a reality as we emerge from this crisis. It’s time the sector carve out its fair share.

Via Sustainability Times


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