Much of South Africa is warming twice as fast as the global average with a projected increase of to 5 to 6 degrees Celsius in this century, says David le Page, of Plumstead, a coordinator with Fossil Free South Africa.
He was speaking to journalists, students and scientists gathered online on Friday September 16, at the launch of an online climate-reporting guide for South African journalists.
“Climate change sounds terrifying, and it is, but it’s also the most astonishing opportunity for us to build a better world, one with affordable and stable energy security, flourishing ecosystems and wildlife, quieter and safer cities, and much-reduced warfare and corruption.
“Our current energy crisis could be ended if our Department of Energy would realise at last that the uncounted costs of coal, gas and oil now far exceed their benefits,” said Mr Le Page.
He introduced the guide by quoting UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who said: “Half of humanity is in the danger zone, from floods, droughts, extreme storms and wildfires No nation is immune. Yet we continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction. We have a choice: collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”
Mr Le Page said governments were not acting fast enough to address this climate emergency. “It’s a very fast-growing crisis. It’s not something linear and predictable.”
He said that a 2021 Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) survey showed that only 20% of South Africans understood that the climate crisis was caused by human actions.
“The survey also showed that 44% of South Africans are de facto climate change denialists – 16% of them believe climate change is not happening and 28% believe that it is a completely natural phenomenon,” said Mr Le Page.
He said the guide was written by Fossil Free South Africa and co-writer, journalist Jo-Anne Smetherham, of Glencairn Heights.
At the launch, she said the guide included input from scientists and civil society organisations and it was a resource for journalists covering climate, environment and energy-related stories.
“It looks at many myths about climate change and provides links to resources, case studies and experts on the topics. The guide also includes tips for reporters and editors on how to improve their reporting on climate change and how to give the issues due prominence,” said Ms Smetherham.
Guest speaker, science writer Leonie Joubert, of Rondebosch, said the media has “failed in its role to warn society about climate collapse”.
Ms Joubert said the media should hold the government and the private sector to account for their role in the climate crisis. She said that journalists should write more about the systems that produced climate change.
UCT’s South African Climate Action Network’s Thando Lukuko, of Milnerton, said during the launch that there was a need to report on communities impacted by the climate crisis. He said that climate-change news needed to be more “people-centric”.
Mr Le Page said politicians should be getting emergency briefings from climate scientists.
“To have a chance of averting the worst climate damage, we need the world to cut carbon pollution by 50% in the next decade; failure to do so will bring terrible costs for humanity.”