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Technology and climate: in support of a pragmatic approach

What role can technology play in protecting humanity and safeguarding the future of the planet? In the context of an increasingly polarizedpublic debate about climate change, these crucial issues are often misconstrued as being black and white. The conversation then becomes a simple back and forth between two diametrically opposed camps the techno-optimists who believe that technology holds all the answers, and the techno-pessimists who favour a low-tech future and an end to growth.

I think its time to take another look at some of the more common arguments in this debate, which sometimes overlook the role of human creativity in environmental protection. First, some people argue that technology cannot save the climate because it is precisely technology that got us into this rocky situation in the first place. The post-war period is engraved in our collective memory as a time of blind faith in technical progress, with all its promise of prosperity and social advancement and the hope of a brighter future. Today, we have a much more critical view of these years of growth and optimism, holding them responsible for creating an unsustainable, productivist society.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” said Albert Einstein. So common sense should tell us to reject the technological utopia that some observers see as the root of all evil in the world. But this simplistic view overlooks one fundamentally important fact: technology is merely a tool that does what we want it to do.

After the Second World War, all our efforts were focused on creating material wealth and embracing the return of abundance after years of painful privation. This was the path taken by all the major nations of the world, followed by their companies, universities, research institutes, and so on. Today, we are asking something quite different of our engineers and researchers. Technology has taken a new direction and is increasingly expected to be a driving force behindecological transition.

Look at satellite technologies, for example: without them we would never have been able to understand or monitor climate phenomena in as much detail as we can today. Look at the vast creative potential that researchers are unleashing in the search to make the world more sustainable. This is the case for two major pillars of the ecological transition that will be needed in the short and medium term, namely electrification (batteries, electric vehicles, solar energy, etc.) and optimised energy consumption (artificial intelligence and big data, recycling, eco-design, etc.).

But more broadly, what we are witnessing today is an upsurge of sustainable innovation in a huge number of areas: the quest for new energy sources (low-carbon hydrogen, osmotic power, bioluminescence, marine energy, etc.), the transformation of agriculture (drones, low-nitrogen fertilisers, cultured meat, etc.), carbon capture and sequestration, and so on. Technological innovation today should not be confused with what it was yesterday, simply because it is not trying to solve the same problems.

The second argument commonly advanced by the techno-pessimists is that time is running out and the technologies that could be useful are not yet mature. It is true that many promising solutions carbon capture and even hydrogen, for example are still at the development stage. But there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these technologies. There is simply a lack of political will. What the world needs today is massive government support for sustainable innovation so that these technologies can be developed at full scale more quickly.

This is what is happening today with electric vehicles, which are already more cost efficient than diesel or petrol cars, and will soon be cheaper to buyas well. When that happens, the tide will turn and electric vehicles will have a huge impact on the CO2 emissions of the transport sector. They do raise environmental issues, but that is another debate.

We need to act now to ensure that other appropriate technologies follow suit. It is encouraging to see world leaders signing up to the COP26 Breakthrough Agenda, which aims to make sustainable solutions more affordable and accessible than their conventional counterparts. Theres no doubt we still have a long way to go, but the technologies are already there. We are not waiting for a miracle to happen we just need to accelerate the development process.

People also say that relying on technology to make the transition will consume vast quantities of energy and natural resources. Indeed it may seem contradictory to start a process of decarbonisation by building new infrastructure on a massive scale. From this point of view as well, the task ahead is colossal, in particular because electricity currently only accounts for 20% of the energy consumed by end-users worldwide. Increasing this proportion would require an enormous amount of production capacity. This may sound counter-intuitive. But its important to weigh the costs against the benefits at the right scale.

Lets take one example from Thaless aerospace business. We have designed a new system that connects the aircrafts flight management systems more closely with the air traffic management infrastructure. The new solution will inevitably require more energy, but our engineers believe it can reduce overall fuel consumption by at least 10% by 2023. Thats a savings of more than 100 million tonnes of CO2 by 2040, and highly beneficial for the carbon footprint of the air transport sector as a whole.

What works on a small scale will also work on a global scale. To see how useful a technology can be, you need to look at the big picture, not just the short-term effects. Lastly, people also say that counting on technology is too risky, and that its a safer bet to reduce our consumption straight away by adopting radically different, more frugal lifestyles. Here again, it is not for me to judge which policies would be best, and there is probably a lot to be said for living more frugally. But for two main reasons, I do think we need to be wary of Malthusian reactions which could lead to drastic solutions.

First, the economy cannot be treated in isolation: it is only part of the equation. If we stop growth, we erode our capacity to invest in research and development, whichmeans we could never hope to develop low-carbon technologies. Ending growth would be just as risky as counting solely on low-carbon technologies to save the world. Because economic prosperity is not just a question of material comfort for millions of people in poorer countries, it’s a question of survival.

Second, the difficulty of reaching an international consensus on climate action makes radical frugality on a global scale an [even more] illusory goal. Trying to follow that path would waste precious time in the race to adopt more moderate, more realistic solutions. When Thales started to disclose its carbon footprint just over 15 years ago, we set a precedent in our sector which has become standard practice today. At that time, environmental performance had very little to do with the company’s attractiveness and reputation. Today, young people quite simply refuse to work for a company that doesn’t share their values, and investors are more and more attentive to the extra-financial performance of the businesses they invest in.

Thanks to the work of the IPCC* and others, the facts are now established, information is widely available and ecological awareness is making real progress. Today it’s time to act. And that means we need to be rational, inventive and above all pragmatic three qualities that are in no short supply in the scientific and engineering community. We would be well advised to give them pride of place as we step up to the biggest challenge of the 21st century.

*The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change.
African Media Agency(AMA)

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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