James Green takes a view that South Africa needs to wake up and realize the potential damage from lack of action on climate change.

Approximately 36% of the UK voted to leave the European Union based on emotion rather than logic. That emotion was created by the fear of ‘climate refugees’ from Syria invading and taking jobs and causing additional unrest through religious intolerance. Sadly the British BREXIT ‘leave’ public failed to understand the real question of whether the UK will be better of economically and integrated within the global market place rather than as an outsider.

Stirred up by misrepresented photos though UKIP, the English feel vulnerable from the perpetual influx of Europeans and others. The European Union has already changed the workplace in the UK with the building industry being taken over by the Polish who work harder and for less money than the English. The Syrians sitting in Calais, waiting to ‘invade’ and take advantage of the generous social security and National Health Service was just too much for the older generation that have enjoyed a period of sustained peace for longer than any other time in British history.

Within 72 hours of the result the world stock markets and currencies have already been in total turmoil combined with extreme volatility. Not only has the £ crashed but the value of the UK stock market falls have exceeded (in real terms) Black Monday in 1987. On the basis that most elections are won in democracies on whether you will have more in your pocket, and the British public will have lost 20% or more of their net capital in both property prices and shares, it is highly doubtful that the ‘exit’ voters would have voted to leave if they had really understood what the referendum would mean to them financially and personally.

There has been a remarkable lack of euphoria from the winners. Boris Johnson has looked shell-shocked and is subdued, and without his support for the Exit it is doubtful whether UKIP would have even made a real dent in the logical vote. A petition for a 2nd referendum has already exceeded 3,5 million signatures in 72 hours. This is the biggest and fastest growth petition ever and should at the very least force a debate in parliament.

A stark reality is that the public was ignorant of what an Exit means. The propaganda and vitriol of a dirty campaign masked the reality of what the future could hold for the younger generation, who are the future of Britain rather than the baby boomers and pensioners who have enjoyed the benefits of living in a safe society.

Denial of Climate Change

The conflicts in Syria are as complex as understanding European economics. The sustained drought in Syria from 2006 -2011 did force an exodus from the land to the cities, and with food shortages (caused by the drought), the oppressive ASSAD regime combined with the growth in extremism with IS, resulted in civil war, and a progressive humanitarian disaster and the climate change refugees.

The Kyoto Protocol extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and commits State Parties to reduce greenhouse gases. The objective of COP 21 in Paris in December 2015 was ratified in April 2016 in New York when 174 countries signed the agreement to limit global temperature rises to less than 2°C. At its simplest, (despite climate change deniers), the world has recognized that carbon emissions are a major contributing factor to climate change.

In terms of Syria, the drought was real, as it has been across Southern Africa in 2015/16. There is absolutely no doubt that climate change is a trigger point for humanitarian disasters.

Whether one looks at Syria, rising sea levels caused by Greenland and Antarctic ice melt, in turn expected to displace 300 million people worldwide, mega cities such as Sao Paulo facing severe clean water shortages, Lake Kariba being at its lowest level ever and with it constant load shedding, California in a drought crisis, or South Africa having 8 provinces remaining as declared drought areas we as the human race collectively face a huge problem.

BREXIT may be a trigger point in that the economic fallout is being felt throughout the world including South Africa. BREXIT was indirectly caused by climate change, by the fear of refugees, and now the world is facing more economic uncertainty than it has over the last 50 years.

BREXIT Warning Bells and the Threat of Climate Change In South Africa

The warning bells are ringing all across Europe. Within hours of BREXIT the UK was facing rating downgrades, the fear of recession, rising inflation, less jobs, businesses relocating, and reduced investment. Within Europe the leading 6 are confronting the fears that other countries may follow suit and request referendums.

In the UK it is now becoming clear that there is no plan and never was a plan as what to do if the ‘leave’ voters won.

In South Africa many parallels can be drawn. We are skimming along the edge of recession, the ratings agencies have issued severe warnings, job losses are exceeding new ones, and the political landscape is facing a potential major shake up in municipal elections. The EFF are making promises much in the same way as the BREXIT proponents, without regard to the economic realities. In the UK the Labour party is disintegrating with Shadow Ministers resigning or being sacked. In South Africa, if you stand up to No 1 you are removed, and in the case of Nene the Rand crashed, but not as much as it did with BREXIT.

There is also no doubt that BREXIT will adversely affect South Africa. The loss of trade with the UK my alone contribute to South Africa being tipped into recession.

BREXIT was a protest vote against European bureaucrats exercising too much power over Britain. It was emotionally charged not on common sense or logic but on fear of refugees.

Hooray for democracy, but remember Lenin and the French Revolution were also in the same cry.

In South Africa the country is likely to see a protest vote too. The poor service delivery, combined with perpetual corruption at all levels is likely to prove to be both disruptive and emotionally charged. Politicians here are likely to cling to power, unlike in Britain where the Prime Minister resigned on principle.

And so back to climate change. The drought in Syria was a major contributing factor behind the refugee crisis. In turn this has triggered shorter or longer-term chaos with BREXIT.

Climate change in South Africa will also be a trigger point. Long-term underinvestment in essential infrastructure, both power and water renders Southern Africa vulnerable to the shocks caused by drought. Food prices are rising, people are starting to go hungry, civil unrest is increasing, and humanitarian disasters are imminent in various areas. Hunger causes refugees, and in South Africa we have already ample evidence of xenophobic attacks on neighbours that have migrated here.

Despite the world uniting (in theory anyway) to reduce carbon emissions, South Africa to date has done remarkably little. Climate change will affect the poorer in society than anyone else, and all the warning signals of what can happen are out there.

While BREXIT may seem a long way away, climate change here is a reality. One only has to look at the changing weather patterns. Of course the consumer can contribute to mitigation by going solar, particularly with solar water heaters that can reduce a home’s carbon footprint by 50% or more. The irony is that with South Africa’s high solar radiation and the latest Ubersolar technologies it actually pays one to go solar with paybacks as little as 2-3 years.

As a ‘baby boomer’ myself, I believe that we owe it to the future generations to provide as secure a future as we can. Unfortunately in the UK the older generation thought of themselves rather than the young, shouting ‘independence’ and ‘democracy’ rather than realizing we have moved into a global marketplace. Jobs and prosperity are threatened.

In South Africa I believe that the consumer of electricity in heating water, (typically the middle and older generation) also need to contribute by helping Southern Africa as much as they can against the effects of climate change for future generations.

Contact for SWH systems and pricing or Brett +27 (0)74 160 6093
James Green
James Green
CEO of Ubersolar and Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Society of Southern Africa (SESSA SWHDC)