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Why the new ‘solar superpowers’ will probably be petro-states in the Gulf

Why the new ‘solar superpowers’ will probably be petro-states in the Gulf

Why the new ‘solar superpowers’ will probably be petro-states in the Gulf and not those countries of North Africa? Why indeed; here is Dénes Csala, Lancaster University‘s opinion.

File 20190430 136794 45bqac.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

capitanoproductions / Shutterstock

Every now and then, the idea of powering Europe using the vast solar resources of the Sahara Desert comes up. Were this to actually happen, we may witness the rise of new energy superpowers in Northern Africa. But a look at the economic and political energy system suggests what’s more likely is the oil-rich countries of the Arabian (or Persian) Gulf will continue to dominate energy trade even in the post-fossil era.

Renewable energy, of course, is very location dependent – the sunnier a place is, the more energy you get out of photovoltaic panels. Over the course of a year, southern Algeria, for example, gets more than twice as much solar energy as southern England. The graph below, which I put together as part of my PhD, shows that some of the best solar resources in the world are indeed found in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Niger, Chad and Sudan.

Russia and Canada have lots of low-solar land, but the most sunny areas are elsewhere. Denes Csala / NREL, Author provided


So, one could build large Saharan solar farms and then transmit the power back to densely populated areas of Europe. Such a project would need to overcome various technical challenges, but we can say that in theory it is possible, even if not practical.

Yet plans to actually set up mass Saharan solar have floundered. The most notable project, Desertec, was fairly active until the mid 2010s, when a collapse in the price of oil and natural gas made its business case more difficult. At that time, the major technology considered was concentrated solar power, where you use the heat from the sun to run a steam turbine. Energy can be stored as heat overnight, therefore enabling uninterrupted energy supply and making it preferred to then expensive batteries.

Solar is getting cheaper and cheaper. Nature


Since then, however, the cost of both solar panels and battery storage have dropped drastically. But, while conditions might look favourable for Saharan solar, it is unlikely that new solar energy kingpins will arise in North Africa. Instead, we should look one desert further to the East – the Rub al Khali on the Arabian peninsula, the home of the reigning energy powers.

Sun shines on the Gulf

The economies of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf nations are built around energy exports. And as climate change imposes pressure on the extraction of fossil fuels, these countries will have to look for alternative energy (and income) sources in order to keep their economies afloat. The International Renewable Energy Agency set up its headquarters in Abu Dhabi, and the region has no shortage of ambitious solar projects promising extremely cheap electricity. However only a small amount of capacity has actually been deployed so far. Low oil revenues have not helped with the megaprojects.

 

Countries in the Sahara also have little history of trading fossil fuels, outside of Libya and Algeria, while things are rather different for the petro-states of the Gulf. And this matters because, in the energy business, worries over longer-term security of supply mean countries tend to trade with the same partners.

This would be the Achilles’ heel of a Northern African energy project: the connections to Europe would likely be the continent’s single most important critical infrastructure and, considering the stability of the region, it is unlikely that European countries would take on such a risk.

Which brings us to an alternative way to transmit energy: hydrogen. A process called electrolysis can use renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, and the resulting hydrogen can store lots of energy. Soon it will become feasible to move energy around the world in this form, using shipping infrastructure similar to that already in use today for liquefied natural gas.

Sure, there are disadvantages compared to batteries. It would mean introducing two more conversion stages and thus reduced efficiency (30% roundtrip efficiency compared to 80% for batteries), but it would overcome the distance barrier. And perhaps just as importantly: shipping energy by hydrogen would mean no significant change to the existing maritime trade infrastructure, which will hand an advantage to established energy exporters.

If this means the Sahara is unlikely to develop renewable energy superpowers, then perhaps this is for the better. With the booming populations of Sub-Saharan Africa in dire need of electrification, clean solar power might be better used to alleviate the energy crisis in somewhere like Nigeria rather than sent to Europe. While these countries may eventually be able to shake off any solar resource curse, in the short term, exports like these could just look like yet another European attempt to extract natural resources from Africans.


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Dénes Csala, Lecturer in Energy Storage Systems Dynamics, Lancaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Investment in Renewables now led by Developing Countries

Investment in Renewables now led by Developing Countries

Populations increases amongst many other things in all developing countries are turning these to be the largest source of energy demand, to the point of overtaking all developed countries in terms of growth. As a consequence, investment in renewables now led by developing countries is showing the way.

Scientific American Observations article by Riccardo Puliti,
Director for Energy and Extractives at the World Bank and Morgan D. Bazilian, Professor of Public Policy and Executive Director, were posted on April 25, 2019. Here there are.

How a Key Energy Technology Can Help Developing Countries

The World Bank has a new program for financing the advanced battery storage systems essential for making wind and solar power work.

How a Key Energy Technology Can Help Developing Countries
Artist’s rendering of a battery backup system for storage of renewable energy. Credit: Getty Images

A global energy transition is under way. Its potential to redraw the landscape will be most profoundly felt in developing economies. These economies will be the key locations of growth and investment. Developing countries have already become the largest absolute source of energy demand, and they are far outpacing OECD countries in terms of growth. Similarly, investment in renewables is now also led by developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to a majority of the world’s population living with limited, poor quality or no electricity, will likely witness some of the most significant of these transformations.

What we can safely guess about the changing system is that it will include a large role for batteries for both electric vehicles and power storage. How governments respond will be essential, and the World Bank is responding with a focused, first-of-its-kind program to help.

The global energy storage (excluding pumped hydro) market is forecast to attract over $600 billion in investment over the next 20 years. Bloomberg New Energy Finance sees the market for both utility scale and “behind-the-meter” (on-site at businesses, industrial facilities, and homes) growing exponentially to reach about 7 percent of total installed capacity by 2040. This battery revolution is happening all over the world, and its rapid growth is due to both falling prices, and the many benefits to the electricity system, ranging from helping shift demand to enabling the integration of solar power to improving reliability.  

The solar revolution has already had an impact. Many countries in Africa are rapidly deploying centralized, utility-scale systems, as well as decentralized, smaller systems that can power homes and businesses. These decisions are motivated by economics. The price of photovoltaics (PVs) has dropped roughly 80 percent over the last decade. Batteries can be deployed quickly and offer modularity—both very attractive qualities to the region.

As an example, countries in the Sahel such as Burkina Faso and Mali are developing regional solar parks that will serve as demonstration projects for other countries in West Africa. And the focus is not limited to residential uses. A priority is to power local agricultural processing, irrigation and light industry. A shift to a low-carbon and more secure energy future, lower operating costs and strengthening grids has multiple benefits to these countries ranging from economic and social development to security. Well-designed regulations are fundamental to realizing these benefits, and to ensuring they are realized in developing countries.

Battery storage systems are delivering reliable power at roughly a third of the cost of diesel generators, and have better supply chain resilience. There are other benefits as well: poor-quality and adulterated diesel is highly polluting and linked to major health impacts across the continent. The selling of diesel is also often tied with organized crime; consumers can pay even higher prices for fuel in poor communities where there is little monitoring.

Storage comes in many varieties. Energy storage can complement and, in some cases, replace transmission infrastructure projects, as well as diesel generators and gas power plants. Pumped storage has been in use for decades, but it is battery storage that is receiving the lion’s share of attention now as costs come down and technologies proliferate. The International Energy Agency (IEA), in its World Energy Outlook 2018, included for the first time the contribution of batteries to flexibility of power systems. By 2040 the IEA foresees a hundredfold increase in grid-connected battery additions compared to today.

Battery storage systems have already proven cost-effective in balancing supply and demand on a timescale of seconds. As a result, frequency swings are limited, there are fewer blackouts, operating costs go down, and system stability is enhanced for the benefit of all customers. In South Africa, the national utility Eskom is focused on developing battery storage capacity (the largest in the region) that will be used to enable the integration of current and future variable renewable energy capacity. The Gambia and the Central African Republic are looking to battery storage to help stabilize their fragile grids.

The coming boom in batteries promises another range of benefits, if managed right. Demand for the metals and minerals that are critical components in these next-generation batteries (such as cathode materials like lithium, nickel, manganese and cobalt) is expected to grow very fast—in some cases by almost tenfold by 2050—and large deposits of some of these are found in African countries. One of the largest challenges of Africa’s energy transition will be ensuring that the governance and management of extractive industries be strengthened so that the benefits of this coming boom are enjoyed by Africans, and that issues of sustainability and labor conditions in supply chains are addressed.

Last autumn, the World Bank Group committed $1 billion for a program to accelerate investments in battery storage in developing countries. Associated with this program is a new international partnership to help expand the use of energy storage and bring new technologies to developing countries’ power systems.

Recognizing the need to sustainably scale up the deployment of energy storage in developing countries and the significant opportunity that storage brings for increasing access to electricity and integrating more renewable energy, the Energy Storage Partnership (ESP) will foster international cooperation on: Technology Research Development & Demonstration, System Integration, and Policies and Regulations to help develop energy storage solutions tailored to the needs of developing countries.

To date, the investments have been small in scale, but significant in the nascent market. Globally, the bank has financed roughly 15 percent of the stationary battery storage capacity that is already deployed or currently under development—mostly through mini-grid projects and in island states to improve resilience. But now larger projects are being developed. For example, in Mali and Burkina Faso the bank is developing the largest solar parks in the region with PV-battery systems. These projects will combine standard tenders and de-risking instruments to attract private developers. 

In some ways, the pace of the energy transition will be set by developing countries. So far, grid-scale battery technologies have been deployed primarily in OECD countries, but by sharing the lessons learned and showing the benefits of battery storage, this new solution should be a foundation of economic growth in the Global South.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

About the authors:

Riccardo Puliti is Senior Director for Energy and Extractives at the World Bank.

Morgan D. Bazilian is a Professor of Public Policy and Executive Director of the Payne Institute at the Colorado School of Mines. He is an affiliated faculty member with Mines’ Space Resources program, which just started offering a first-of-a-kind PhD in Space Resources.

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Should we turn the Sahara Desert into a huge solar farm?

Should we turn the Sahara Desert into a huge solar farm?

Amin Al-Habaibeh, Nottingham Trent University

Whenever I visit the Sahara I am struck by how sunny and hot it is and how clear the sky can be. Aside from a few oases there is little vegetation, and most of the world’s largest desert is covered with rocks, sand and sand dunes. The Saharan sun is powerful enough to provide Earth with significant solar energy.

The statistics are mind-boggling. If the desert were a country, it would be fifth biggest in the world – it’s larger than Brazil and slightly smaller than China and the US. Each square metre receives, on average, between 2,000 and 3,000 kilowatt hours of solar energy per year, according to NASA estimates. Given the Sahara covers about 9m km², that means the total energy available – that is, if every inch of the desert soaked up every drop of the sun’s energy – is more than 22 billion gigawatt hours (GWh) a year.

This is again a big number that requires some context: it means that a hypothetical solar farm that covered the entire desert would produce 2,000 times more energy than even the largest power stations in the world, which generate barely 100,000 GWh a year. In fact, its output would be equivalent to more than 36 billion barrels of oil per day – that’s around five barrels per person per day. In this scenario, the Sahara could potentially produce more than seven times the electricity requirements of Europe, with almost no carbon emissions.

Global horizontal irradiation, a measure of how much solar power received per year.
Global Solar Atlas / World Bank

What’s more, the Sahara also has the advantage of being very close to Europe. The shortest distance between North Africa and Europe is just 15km at the Strait of Gibraltar. But even much further distances, across the main width of the Mediterranean, are perfectly practical – after all, the world’s longest underwater power cable runs for nearly 600km between Norway and the Netherlands.

Over the past decade or so, scientists (including me and my colleagues) have looked at how desert solar could meet increasing local energy demand and eventually power Europe too – and how this might work in practice. And these academic insights have been translated in serious plans. The highest profile attempt was Desertec, a project announced in 2009 that quickly acquired lots of funding from various banks and energy firms before largely collapsing when most investors pulled out five years later, citing high costs. Such projects are held back by a variety of political, commercial and social factors, including a lack of rapid development in the region.

The planet Tatooine from the Star Wars movies was filmed in southern Tunisia.
Amin Al-Habaibeh, Author provided

More recent proposals include the TuNur project in Tunisia, which aims to power more than 2m European homes, or the Noor Complex Solar Power Plant in Morocco which also aims to export energy to Europe.

Two technologies

There are two practical technologies at the moment to generate solar electricity within this context: concentrated solar power (CSP) and regular photovoltaic solar panels. Each has its pros and cons.

Concentrated solar power uses lenses or mirrors to focus the sun’s energy in one spot, which becomes incredibly hot. This heat then generates electricity through conventional steam turbines. Some systems use molten salt to store energy, allowing electricity to also be produced at night.

A concentrated solar plant near Seville, Spain. The mirrors focus the sun’s energy on the tower in the centre.
Novikov Aleksey / shutterstock

CSP seems to be more suitable to the Sahara due to the direct sun, lack of clouds and high temperatures which makes it more efficient. However the lenses and mirrors could be covered by sand storms, while the turbine and steam heating systems remain complex technologies. But the most important drawback of the technology is its use of scarce water resources.

Photovoltaic solar panels instead convert the sun’s energy to electricity directly using semiconductors. It is the most common type of solar power as it can be either connected to the grid or distributed for small-scale use on individual buildings. Also, it provides reasonable output in cloudy weather.

But one of the drawbacks is that when the panels get too hot their efficiency drops. This isn’t ideal in a part of the world where summer temperatures can easily exceed 45℃ in the shade, and given that demand for energy for air conditioning is strongest during the hottest parts of the day. Another problem is that sand storms could cover the panels, further reducing their efficiency.

Both technologies might need some amount of water to clean the mirrors and panels depending on the weather, which also makes water an important factor to consider. Most researchers suggest integrating the two main technologies to develop a hybrid system.

Just a small portion of the Sahara could produce as much energy as the entire continent of Africa does at present. As solar technology improves, things will only get cheaper and more efficient. The Sahara may be inhospitable for most plants and animals, but it could bring sustainable energy to life across North Africa – and beyond.


Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.The Conversation

Amin Al-Habaibeh, Professor of Intelligent Engineering Systems, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

In North Africa’s political spheres, stepping down from rule

In North Africa’s political spheres, stepping down from rule

In North Africa’s political spheres, Algeria’s Bouteflika reaching his mandate end by April, stepping down from rule looks more like a bet placed on his health condition than any constitutional arrangement.

In next door Tunisia, the president has a history of brain strokes that also placed him on a wheelchair.

Youssef Cherif wrote on January 9th, 2019 that Less than a year before the next general election, scheduled for late 2019, Tunisia is again in crisis. The Arab world’s most promising democratic experiment can still avert a political meltdown, but it needs help.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi attends a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of Tunisia’s independence at the Carthage palace in Tunis, on March 20, 2016, as the country reels from a series of deadly jihadist attacks that have battered its already struggling economy. Last year, IS claimed attacks on the Bardo museum in Tunis and a popular resort hotel, killing 59 tourists in total, and the suicide bombing of a bus that killed 12 presidential guards. On March 7, 2016 dozens of jihadists mounted a dawn assault on security installations in Ben Guerdane, which is near the border with unrest-plagued Libya. On March 19 Tunisian authorities said two “terrorists” were killed close to the southern town of Ben Guerdane near the border with Libya. / AFP / FETHI BELAID (Photo credit should read FETHI BELAID/AFP/Getty Images)

Can Tunisia’s Democracy Survive?

TUNIS – When anti-government protests swept across the Arab world in 2011, Tunisia seemed poised to emerge better off. Yet, by 2013, the democratic process was almost derailed by unfulfilled economic promises, political and ideological disagreements, and foreign meddling. Fortunately, local and international mediation then helped to avert catastrophe and pave the way for elections.

But less than a year before the next general election, scheduled for late 2019, the country is again in crisis. This time, however, mediators are either disinterested in solutions or part of the problem. In a world focused on the war in Syria, instability in Libya, Russian assertiveness, European uncertainty, and the tweets of an isolationist American president, Tunisia has faded from the headlines. Tunisia’s democratic breakdown would, one assumes, attract international attention; but by then, it will be too late.

The current stalemate began soon after the December 2014 presidential election. In February 2015, President Beji Caid Essebsi, founder of the secular political party Nidaa Tounes, struck a deal with Rached Ghannouchi, president of the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, to form a coalition government. But soon after, Nidaa Tounes was beset by infighting and, in January 2016, dozens of the party’s MPs resigned in protest, giving Ennahda a parliamentary majority.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Essebsi’s protégé and appointee, has been challenging the 92-year-old president’s inner circle, throwing Nidaa Tounes further into chaos. By mid-2018, as the party’s turmoil peaked, Ghannouchi was supporting Chahed rather than the president’s son and groomed heir, Hafedh Caid Essebsi. The president, reacting either to a sense of betrayal or out of fear for his legacy, responded by renewing his criticism of Ennahda and by launching an investigation into allegations that Ghannouchi’s party is tied to terrorism.

Moreover, Essebsi and his clan embraced populist rhetoric and restarted courting the anti-Islamist Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian axis. Essebsi even endorsed a law to give men and women equal inheritance rights, a measure that is supported by many secular Tunisians and praised by the international community, but loathed by Ennahda’s conservative base.

Amid this brewing political turmoil, rumors of coups and attempted coups have intensified. In June 2018, Tunisia’s interior minister was fired over an alleged coup attempt. In November, Nidaa Tounes’ secretary-general accused Chahed of planning his own putsch. In December, Qatari-backed news outlets warned of a Saudi-Emirati plot to stage a coup in Tunisia. And every now and then, Tunisian social media buzzes with unfounded rumors of army movements. It seems as if trial balloons are being floated.

In a well-functioning democracy, an early election would have been called in September 2018, when the governing coalition felt apart, and perhaps as early as 2016, when Nidaa Tounes lost its majority in parliament. But most Tunisian political parties suffer too much dissension or are too weak to run. And the current ructions are even jeopardizing the work of the Independent High Authority for Elections.

There is now a real risk that the 2019 elections will be postponed. For a fragile democracy led by a nonagenarian, saddled by an endless state of emergency, and lacking a constitutional court, this delay may prove fatal.

Tunisia’s political crisis is occurring alongside an economic one. As Tunisia has moved from a controlled economy under dictatorship to a transitional one marked by austerity measures and structural reforms dictated by the International Monetary Fund, corruption has spread and investors have fled. Today, with public debt, unemployment, and inflation growing, strikes and protests are increasingly common, and support for democracy – frequently portrayed as the cause of the current tumult – has dwindled.

Ennahda, an economically liberal party that draws important support from informal economic circles and outside the public sector, backed the IMF’s economic reforms; the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), which represents public-sector workers, did not. Leftists and many remnants of the former regime were also opposed. Chahed, meanwhile, was aggressive in implementing the IMF-backed reforms, in part to win support from abroad. But his approach put the UGTT, alongside old-guard politicians and some key socioeconomic groups, on the same side as Essebsi. In fact, the UGTT led the mediations during the crisis of 2013.

Foreign influence is another destabilizing factor. Today, Tunisia is a geopolitical battlefield for regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf states, and Tunisian politicians occasionally take sides to suit their suitors’ goals. Broadly speaking, Saudi Arabia and the UAE demonize Tunisia’s democracy and Ennahda, while Qatar and Turkey laud both. Both camps have their clients in the country. These players amplify coup rumors and delegitimize Tunisia’s political independence, which adds to the public’s distrust of the government. Back in 2013, the US, Europe, and Algeria limited the reach of these countries. Ironically, in 2018, it is the US, the EU, and Algeria that are rattled by internal divisions and terrified of foreign interference.

History holds many lessons for those navigating Tunisia’s tumult, with some particularly apt parallels to be found in Russia’s post-Soviet transition. There, during his final years in power, a weakened Boris Yeltsin sought to secure his presidential legacy and save his family from prosecution. Hence, the so-called “father of Russian democracy” appointed then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, to succeed him. Russia’s democracy never recovered.

Tunisia’s infighting and nepotistic policies have a similar feel. The Arab world’s most promising democratic experiment can still avert a political meltdown, but it needs help. Local and international mediators guided Tunisia from turmoil once before. They must do so again.

Youssef Cherif

 Youssef Cherif

Youssef Cherif is a Tunis-based political analyst, member of the Carnegie Civic Research Network, and head of Columbia Global Centers Tunis.

Sahara Desert once verdant oasis

Sahara Desert once verdant oasis

The Sahara Desert is one of the harshest, most inhospitable places on the planet, covering much of North Africa in some 3.6 million square miles of rock and windswept dunes. But it wasn’t always so desolate and parched. Primitive rock paintings and fossils excavated from the region suggest that the Sahara was once a relatively verdant oasis, where human settlements and a diversity of plants and animals thrived.  

This January 2, 2019 essay by Jennifer Chu, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology does encapsulate climate evolution through time, and not its undeniable change.

Study shows the Sahara swung between lush and desert conditions every 20,000 years, in sync with monsoon activity


A new analysis of African dust reveals the Sahara swung between green and desert conditions every 20,000 years, in sync with changes in the Earth’s tilt. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A new analysis of African dust reveals the Sahara swung between green and desert conditions every 20,000 years, in sync with changes in the Earth’s tilt. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Now researchers at MIT have analyzed dust deposited off the coast of west Africa over the last 240,000 years, and found that the Sahara, and North Africa in general, has swung between wet and dry climates every 20,000 years. They say that this climatic pendulum is mainly driven by changes to the Earth’s axis as the planet orbits the sun, which in turn affect the distribution of sunlight between seasons—every 20,000 years, the Earth swings from more sunlight in summer to less, and back again.

For North Africa, it is likely that, when the Earth is tilted to receive maximum summer sunlight with each orbit around the sun, this increased solar flux intensifies the region’s monsoon activity, which in turn makes for a wetter, “greener” Sahara. When the planet’s axis swings toward an angle that reduces the amount of incoming summer sunlight, monsoon activity weakens, producing a drier climate similar to what we see today.

“Our results suggest the story of North African climate is dominantly this 20,000-year beat, going back and forth between a green and dry Sahara,” says David McGee, an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “We feel this is a useful time series to examine in order to understand the history of the Sahara desert and what times could have been good for humans to settle the Sahara desert and cross it to disperse out of Africa, versus times that would be inhospitable like today.”

McGee and his colleagues have published their results today in Science Advances.

A puzzling pattern

Each year, winds from the northeast sweep up hundreds of millions of tons of Saharan dust, depositing much of this sediment into the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of West Africa. Layers of this dust, built up over hundreds of thousands of years, can serve as a geologic chronicle of North Africa’s climate history: Layers thick with dust may indicate arid periods, whereas those containing less dust may signal wetter eras.

Scientists have analyzed sediment cores dug up from the ocean bottom off the coast of West Africa, for clues to the Sahara’s climate history. These cores contain layers of ancient sediment deposited over millions of years. Each layer can contain traces of Saharan dust as well as the remains of life forms, such as the tiny shells of plankton.

Past analyses of these sediment cores have unearthed a puzzling pattern: It would appear that the Sahara shifts between wet and dry periods every 100,000 years—a geologic beat that scientists have linked to the Earth’s ice age cycles, which seem to also come and go every 100,000 years. Layers with a larger fraction of dust seem to coincide with periods when the Earth is covered in ice, whereas less dusty layers appear during interglacial periods, such as today, when ice has largely receded.

But McGee says this interpretation of the sediment cores chafes against climate models, which show that Saharan climate should be driven by the region’s monsoon season, the strength of which is determined by the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the amount of sunlight that can fuel monsoons in the summer.

“We were puzzled by the fact that this 20,000-year beat of local summer insolation seems like it should be the dominant thing controlling monsoon strength, and yet in dust records you see ice age cycles of 100,000 years,” McGee says.

Beats in sync

To get to the bottom of this contradiction, the researchers used their own techniques to analyze a sediment core obtained off the coast of West Africa by colleagues from the University of Bordeaux—which was drilled only a few kilometers from cores in which others had previously identified a 100,000-year pattern.

The researchers, led by first author Charlotte Skonieczny, a former MIT postdoc and now a professor at Paris-Sud University, examined layers of sediment deposited over the last 240,000 years. They analyzed each layer for traces of dust and measured the concentrations of a rare isotope of thorium, to determine how rapidly dust was accumulating on the seafloor.

Thorium is produced at a constant rate in the ocean by very small amounts of radioactive uranium dissolved in seawater, and it quickly attaches itself to sinking sediments. As a result, scientists can use the concentration of thorium in the sediments to determine how quickly dust and other sediments were accumulating on the seafloor in the past: During times of slow accumulation, thorium is more concentrated, while at times of rapid accumulation, thorium is diluted. The pattern that emerged was very different from what others had found in the same sediment cores.

“What we found was that some of the peaks of dust in the cores were due to increases in dust deposition in the ocean, but other peaks were simply because of carbonate dissolution and the fact that during ice ages, in this region of the ocean, the ocean was more acidic and corrosive to calcium carbonate,” McGee says. “It might look like there’s more dust deposited in the ocean, when really, there isn’t.”

Once the researchers removed this confounding effect, they found that what emerged was primarily a new “beat,” in which the Sahara vacillated between wet and dry climates every 20,000 years, in sync with the region’s monsoon activity and the periodic tilting of the Earth.

“We can now produce a record that sees through the biases of these older records, and so doing, tells a different story,” McGee says. “We’ve assumed that ice ages have been the key thing in making the Sahara dry versus wet. Now we show that it’s primarily these cyclic changes in Earth’s orbit that have driven wet versus dry periods. It seems like such an impenetrable, inhospitable landscape, and yet it’s come and gone many times, and shifted between grasslands and a much wetter environment, and back to dry climates, even over the last quarter million years.”

Explore further: Scientists find huge reduction in African dust plume led to more Saharan monsoons 11,000 years ago

More information: “Monsoon-driven Saharan dust variability over the past 240,000 years” Science Advances (2019). advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaav1887

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-01-sahara-swung-lush-conditions-years.html#jCp

Research points to abrupt and widespread climate shift in the Sahara 5,000 years ago

Summit of the western Mediterranean countries

Summit of the western Mediterranean countries

Stability at the regional level and intensification of all partnership, for a lake of peace and shared prosperity.

After the mixed impacts of the Barcelona Agreement and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) activities, a summit of the western Mediterranean countries as a significant meeting will be held on 24 June 2019 in France to boost cooperation between countries of the two shores of the western Mediterranean.   The refocusing on the western Mediterranean is accompanied by the realization that the residents of this basin share not only primary common interests, particularly in the economic field but also security in order to establish a “strengthened association”. The objective being “resolutely political” to avoid a north-south fracture that could carry all the drifts and extremities, that can lead to major imbalances. For example, for this meeting, the migratory flux depends largely on the under-development of the disadvantaged regions of the southern shore of the Mediterranean and instead of feeding the misunderstanding about the idea of a “union” of the two shores.  Would it make more sense to conclude a pact of cooperation and solidarity limited to the States on both sides of the Western Mediterranean, a pact based on shared values and principles; a pact motivated by an objective of solidarity and development, in the framework of a win-win partnership?

Civil society, a significant player

We must be aware that all new international relations are no longer based mainly on personalized relations between heads of state but between decentralized networks and organizations through the involvement of the civil society which can promote cooperation, a dialogue of cultures, tolerance and symbiosis of the contributions of the east and the west.  It is dangerous to be locked up in a ghetto that would inevitably endanger life through violence. The latest events should make us think even better by avoiding this confrontation of religions because so much Islam, Christianity or Judaism have contributed actively to the flourishing of civilizations, to this tolerance by condemning any form of extremism. Future relationships between the two shores of the western Mediterranean composed of 5 + 5 countries can be enabling vectors. For, overall, southern Europe and the Maghreb cannot escape this adaptation to global mutations (the current crisis leading to profound upheavals in both geostrategic and socio-economic areas) and more globally in the whole of the Mediterranean region. For there is a need to overcome narrow chauvinistic nationalisms insofar as true nationalism in the future will be defined as the capacity to increase together with the standard of living of all populations by our contribution to global added value. The world is currently characterized by interdependence between countries. This does not mean the end of the role of the state but a separation of politics and economics which cannot be subjected to the vagaries of the economic situation, the State dedicating itself to its fundamental mission of macroeconomic regulator and macrosocial.  We firmly believe and after analysis that the intensification of cooperation between the two shores of the Mediterranean and more specifically between Europe and the Maghreb ought to be based on true co-development, with the possibility to disrupt bureaucratic behaviours of all conservative rentier annuitants and register them in a dynamic perspective profitable to the populations of the region. It is that the Mediterranean area can be a place of creation of logical networks allowing to communicate with distant cultures by promoting the symbiosis of the contributions of the east and the west. This network must promote communication links; freedom insofar as the excesses of corporate voluntarism inhibit any spirit of creativity.

It is that the Maghreb and Europe are two geographical regions presenting a millennial experience of openness on Latinity and the Arab worlds with natural links and in its whole door of culture and influences Anglo-Saxon.  It is essential for Europe to develop all the actions that can be implemented to achieve desirable balances within this set. The creation of weak regional economic spaces is a stage of structural adjustment within the globalized economy with the objective of promoting political democracy, a humanized competitive market economy, debates different ideas through social and cultural actions to combat extremism and racism the implementation of ordinary affairs. Thus, it is necessary to pay attention to the educational action because the thinking man and creator must be in future the beneficiary and the leading actor of the development process. That is why we are advocating the creation of a Euro-Maghreb university as well as a cultural center of the Mediterranean youth as a means of reciprocal fertilization of cultures for the realization of the sustained dialogue in order to avoid prejudices and conflicts sources of unnecessary tensions as well as a central Euro bank to promote trade. Algeria and France can promote the creation of these empowering structures.

Cooperation between the Maghreb and European 5 + 5 countries

It is in this context that must be apprehended a realistic approach to co-partnership between the two shores of the western Mediterranean where civil society will play a significant role, considering the fast approaching Fourth World Revolution in the geostrategic, economic, social and cultural fields.  At the global level, we are witnessing the evolution of a past accumulation based on a purely material vision, characterized by rigid hierarchical organizations, a new method of accumulation based on knowledge control — technological news and networked organizations, with segmented global chains of production where investment, in comparative advantages, being realized within sub-segments of these channels. As Jean-Louis Guigou, president of the IPEMED (Institute of Economic Foresight of the Mediterranean world, in Paris), it must be made clear that, in the interest of both the French and the Algerians, and more generally the Maghreb and Europeans as well as all the south Mediterranean populations. More precisely, economically the win-win partnership at the country level two shores of the Mediterranean, presents strengths and potential for the promotion of diverse activities and this experience can be an example of this global partnership becoming the privileged axis of rebalancing of southern Europe through the amplification and tightening of links and exchanges in different forms.  Exchanges can be intensified in all fields: agriculture, industry, services, tourism, education without forgetting cooperation in the military field, where Algeria can be an active actor, as shown by its efforts towards the stabilization of the region. Moreover, let us not forget the number of residents of Maghreb origins, and whatever the number, the diaspora is an essential part of the rapprochement between our peoples because it contains essential intellectual, economic and Financial. Also, must mobilize at various stages of intervention the initiative of all the parties concerned, namely Governments, diplomatic missions, universities, entrepreneurs and civil society.

The intensification of cooperation between the two shores of the western Mediterranean will only be possible if the involved countries have a realistic approach to co-development far from the mercantile vision and the spirit of domination, having a shared vision of their becoming.  The symbiosis of the contributions of the East and the West, the dialogue of cultures and tolerance are sources of mutual enrichment. The latest events should even better make us think, avoiding this confrontation of religions because both Islam, Christianity and Judaism have contributed actively to the flourishing of civilisations, to this tolerance by condemning any form of extremism. Globalization is a blessing for humanity if we integrate social relations and not confine it solely to merchant relations by synchronizing the real sphere and the commercial sphere, economic dynamics and social dynamics. At the time of the geostrategic tensions at the level of the region, the consolidation of large ensembles, the challenges of globalization, the rapprochement between the two shores is necessary for an intensification of cooperation, to measure the weight of the history that binds us. However, let us be realistic for in practice, the implementation of sound business, like the image of a country, no longer rests as in the past on personalized relations between heads of States or ministers but instead must be the result of decentralized networks, favouring the involvement of innovative, dynamic individual and companies. Tactics must be integrated within the strategic function/objective of maximizing the social well-being of the entire Mediterranean region.

Concerning the summit of the western Mediterranean civil societies on June 24, 2019 in France, this important international meeting will bring together, the heads of States and Governments, the President of the World Bank, the presidents of the EIB, the EBRD, the Director-General of the OECD and non-State actors of civil society in all their economic, social and cultural diversity. Its political launch will have on the 15th meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the 5 + 5 dialogue on 18 January 2019 in Valletta. Five groups have been set up: Morocco will lead the economy, and innovation component, Portugal, culture, Italy, sustainable development, Malta youth and mobility, and Algeria has had the most critical component, having been made responsible for the Energy Transition.  This could mean regional cooperation projects, conventional energies, non-conventional energies, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and in general proposing the new energy consumption model 2020/2030. His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Algeria, appointed professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul, expert International, to lead the Algerian delegation, at the International Meeting on June 24, 2019, in France.