South African energy crisesThe South African government has announced it intends to set up a new ‘climate watch system’ to monitor environmental change and help overcome regional environmental challenges.

According to Deputy Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, the new framework will improve environmental outcomes through making it easier to pinpoint irregularities in climate patterns.

“A climate watch system for this sub-region will ensure that the necessary actions can be taken to mitigate the effects of significant climate anomalies that can cause extremes such as droughts, floods and heat-waves.”

The climate watch system will be set up with the vision of combining longer-term forecasting with community planning, to help reduce the impact of future extreme weather patterns. It is hoped the new scheme will help officials identify, monitor and militate against pending environmental events.

It is hoped the climate watch system will be able to reduce the impact of climate change on indigenous populations in SA – a population group that has already learned to live with the diverse seasonal weather patterns in this part of the world.

The South African climate is subtropical, but typically warm and dry for most of the year. This has a particular propensity to cause drought – a climate event that could be much more readily forecast through climate watch systems and other forecasting technologies.

Daniel Yergin, author of several notable energy books, suggested that climate watch measures like the South African model could in future provide governments with the insights they need to tackle climate change more effectively.

“With the effects of climate change already being felt globally, climate watch systems can provide authorities with early indications of extreme weather problems in the short-term. Long-term, systems like these can identify ways of reducing human impact on the environment, to help meet the energy and environmental challenges anticipated over the coming decades.”

While the proposals are being welcomed by environmental campaigners, some are still insisting SA needs to go further in its attempts to reduce emissions. The target of a 9% reduction in emissions by 2030 is regarded by some as a less onerous objective for the government to meet.

In comparison with other major global economies, the South African measures are still much less ambitious, and some are calling for the government to go further on their commitment to emissions reductions. The UK has set an emissions reduction target of 80% from 1990 levels to 2050, while the US is targeting a 50% reduction to 2030.

Despite criticism, some are suggesting that the move sets a positive example for other countries in the southern African region – many of which take little or no measures to tackle their emissions and environmental impact.

It is thought that the climate watch system would see findings shared with neighboring governments, in an attempt to reduce the humanitarian impact of extreme weather patterns on local populations.

Climate watch systems combine the latest in weather modeling with long-range forecasting methods to give authorities advance warning of weather conditions that could cause difficulties for local communities.

This early warning gives authorities more time to prepare and plan for the eventuality, while highlighting ways for overcoming energy challenges in the long term.