Climate scientist gives SA thumbs-up

The South African government’s attitude to global warming was very encouraging, chief scientific adviser to the British government David King said on Friday.

The South African-born King, who is in the country for a series of ministerial meetings on a range of issues, also gave the thumbs-up to this country’s planned pebble-bed modular nuclear reactor (PBMR), saying it was ”a real winner”.

Speaking at a Cape Town Press Club lunch, he said he found considerably more interest in climate change in South Africa now than during his last visit a year-and-a-half ago.

”I think that it’s now climbing up to the point where the public and the government are really taking it seriously,” he said.

”I’m very encouraged by what I’ve heard in the government.”

King said the world could avoid climate-change catastrophe if there was a global agreement in place by early 2009, so countries could begin implementing it by 2012.

It had to contain an agreement on the maximum level of carbon dioxide emissions by the end of this century, plus nation-by-nation trajectories for achieving that level.

There also had to be a ”fiscal process” to drive the agreement through, and a mechanism to help developing countries manage the impact of climate change. He said no prime minister anywhere in the world would accept advice that meant a reduction in gross domestic product growth.

The International Energy Agency estimated that new investment in power generation would total about $20-trillion by 2020.

This was an opportunity to invest in new technologies, which some countries, such as Denmark with its wind-turbine technology, were taking advantage of.

King said he was a ”tremendous supporter” of the PBMR, which he described as ”a nuclear reactor of the future”.

”I think you’re on to a real winner there,” he said.

”Pebble bed’s a good bet for several reasons, one of which is that it’s designed around safety and decommissioning.”

In addition, its modular nature, producing only 500MW compared with the several gigawatts of a conventional station, meant it could be erected where it was needed, limiting transmission costs.

It was a relatively easy thing to build.

”It’s economically going to be a real winner.” — Sapa

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