Renewables: Is There Anything They Can't Do?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Natural gas and electricity markets were already surging in Europe when a fresh catalyst emerged: The wind in the stormy North Sea stopped blowing. The sudden slowdown in wind-driven electricity production off the coast of the U.K. in recent weeks whipsawed through regional energy markets. Gas and coal-fired electricity plants were called in to make up the shortfall from wind. Natural-gas prices, already boosted by the pandemic recovery and a lack of fuel in storage caverns and tanks, hit all-time highs. Thermal coal, long shunned for its carbon emissions, has emerged from a long price slump as utilities are forced to turn on backup power sources.

The episode underscored the precarious state the region’s energy markets face heading into the long European winter. The electricity price shock was most acute in the U.K., which has leaned on wind farms to eradicate net carbon emissions by 2050. Prices for carbon credits, which electricity producers need to burn fossil fuels, are at records, too... At their peak, U.K. electricity prices had more than doubled in September and were almost seven times as high as at the same point in 2020. Power markets also jumped in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

So the transition to so-called renewable energy has really been raking European energy markets over the coals. Literally, in fact, as coal-fired power plants are having to increase production to meet energy demands. And it's making Russia into a one nation OPEC, the only country in the region with an excess of natural gas which will happily export it.... for some significant diplomatic concessions.

Quite the bind the E.U. finds itself in. Perhaps they might consider changing course, accepting that shutting down their natural gas and nuclear power plants, not to mention banning fracking, is a mistake?

Doesn't sound like it! Reuters -- "Record high power prices in European Union countries show the bloc must wean itself off fossil fuels and speed up the transition to green energy, the EU's top climate change official said on Tuesday." That official -- first vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, who has appeared in these pages before, always singing the same one-note tune -- argues that, in fact, it is because they haven't transitioned quickly enough that things are so bad! "Had we had the Green Deal five years earlier, we would not be in this position because then we would have less dependence on fossil fuels and on natural gas," he said.

Never mind that the transition itself helped create the shortage by causing a shortage of the fuels that, for the foreseeable future, the continent continues to run on. That, and the fact that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun sometimes fails to shine.

Anyway, you heard it from Frans first -- renewable energy causes problems that can only be solved by... more renewable energy. Is there anything it can't do?

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Treating

I really can’t believe the bad luck of the last two hours but no matter the blame, it’s landed me in the A&E. Of course here in New York it’s called the ER, but it’s essentially the same thing -- the worst people, most of them in no real state of emergency, who’ve brought their entire family to sit with them while they wail about the real tragedy—the wait times. And obviously there are real emergencies, but those folks are whisked away while the rest of us cast furtive glances on those whose level of crisis may supplant our own place in the queue.

And it was a furtive glance that delivered me to hospital in the first place. Forgive me as I am indeed cross but lately the world seems filled with first-time parents who should no more be in charge of a small child than China in charge of our planet. Having arrived at the lobby level I stepped out of an elevator (OUT before IN as the rule goes) only to be thrust into a floral arrangement from the force of an urchin child no taller than my knee; and whose defeated parents were several paces behind. Before I’d even realised what happened, my eye was stinging and I realised I’d grazed it, or sliced it, or done something that now required someone with more than a makeup mirror to determine just what.

The doctor will see you now.

‘Oh sorry’, the hapless mother said, not really meaning it but hoping I’d find her cherub half as adorable as she clearly did. It was no use telling her what I really thought as the holy terror had undoubtedly been indulged and was likely to be fed large spoonfuls of ice cream while I sat in the most unflattering light, awaiting my fate at the Columbia University Medical Center. I’d grabbed a coffee, and a bottle of water, and a protein bar on my way in owing to incessant media reports of ‘capacity’ at emergency rooms around the country. Capacity and cases seemed to have replaced deaths in the ongoing Covid pandemic screed and I was grateful to find a charging station for my mobile as I readied myself for the long wait ahead. Seconds later I heard someone barking my name and when I looked up, I was led to a treatment area.

I looked down a row of empty chairs as a too-tight cuff told my blood pressure and three staffers in scrubs checked their phones while another scrawled on a clipboard. Two more came to talk to me and I was led down another corridor and into a large room with beds separated by curtains. I wasn’t about to start complaining about the short wait but what about the much-hyped capacity? The NHS had nothing on Columbia Med as I googled average wait times in London —‘our goal of four hours’.

While I waited for the specialist I asked the attending physician if all the beds were full? And where were all those' cases'? And bodies piling up? And what of the mad triage we had been hearing so much about? There are times when a British accent and freshly-washed hair will get you nearly anything from a young and eager chap, and I don’t mind admitting today was one of those times.

In twenty minutes he explained to me that American hospitals are actually paid 20 percent more for a coronavirus diagnosis and therefore ‘you can rest assured they are telling people to 'put it on the DRG' which he explained is some code for getting the highest reimbursement from the government. The reimbursement didn’t make that much sense to me as I well understood the U.S. was not all on one shared government programme but he further explained that since Covid, there were nearly no private hospitals anymore; and that everyone had become dependent on the government dollar. He also explained it was the same for anyone getting a Covid test, and although I’d already interacted with a dozen or so hospital employees—they would indeed test me for Covid before I left.

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Having understood the push to get as much government dollar as possible didn’t explain the ruse of cases, and claims of overcrowding, and understaffing… or did everyone just die before I got here? I asked. He leaned in so as not to be over heard and said: 

‘Wall Street could take a tip from hospitals when it comes to managing costs—everything we do is based on some measured care matrix to ensure maximum profit— who we treat, who we keep overnight, who we can over-bill, what we diagnose. Believe me—you don’t want to know. And if I have the stomach for it I may end up the head of a malpractice committee.’

I just stared at him, wondering if the specialist on his way would be equally cavalier about the human being sitting in front of him. ‘I probably won’t, he added, but hospitals hire the cheapest docs to staff the ER, those of us just starting out, and that’s the long and short of it.’

This made me quite unhappy as I rang Daddy in London. ‘Hello Jennifer.’ Daddy answered.

‘Hi Daddy, don’t panic, I’m at the A&E, and I’m fine, just sliced my eye on a plant and well… it’s very upsetting to learn that the hospital cares very little for me, and only for their bottom line.’

You'll be right as rain, plus 20 percent.

‘How is your eye?’

‘It’s fine, I promise, but I’m really not happy about a conversation I just had about the business model of a hospital, and I thought I was getting better care in the U.S., than from the National Health.’

‘You probably are.’ Daddy said, ‘But it is a business, and not a very successful one either. Most hospitals are losing money, so there’s an incentive to lie about the diagnosis. Even a positive coronavirus test while treating your eye injury will mean they can bill for 20 percent more so if you want to do them a favour why don’t you tell them you have symptoms of flu.’

‘I’m serious, Daddy.’

‘As am I, and as such, you need to accept that they are doing what they will to maximise profits. They don’t work for you… they work for their interests. Of course, they can’t be entirely irresponsible or that would hurt their bottom line as well.’

‘So the constant drumbeat of capacity and cases?’ I asked...

‘Serves their bottom line. This ability to collect an additional 20 percent won’t last forever, so they are going to push that as long as they possibly can, to make it seem as dire as possible, and to use fear to get the public not to complain.’

‘But how can the largest city in America not notice?’

No "cases" here.

‘You tell me. How did they not notice a hulking hospital ship floating in their harbour? It had a thousand beds available of which only twenty were ever used and they sent it away while keeping people quarantined by claiming capacity and cases. So if you are concerned about the conflict of interest… the fact that your doctor is working for the hospital, and your insurance company is looking after their own profits, I suggest you take their advice for tonight, and go see a private physician tomorrow -- one that has to answer to you.’

‘Like we do on Harley Street?’

‘Exactly like that. And in future, my little green vegan, you might take note that plants are not always your friend.’

This Just in, From Acronymia

Recently, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued one of its working group reports contributing to the Sixth Assessment Report on the current state of the world’s climate. Or in keeping with the fashion for acronyms in global governance, the UN’s IPCC issued the AR6-WG1 of its AR6, but an SFP or Summary for Policy-Makers is also available.

Enjoy!

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Though full of scientific findings, these U.N. reports are a bastard child of science and politics rather than a strictly scientific document. The wording of almost every paragraph in them has to be approved by the 190 signatory governments. In the past governments have insisted on significant changes in the treaty so that it justified the climate change policies they had already adopted.

Such political pressures will be especially intense this year since in less than two months the U.K. and the city of Glasgow will be hosting the world’s governments for COP26 which stands for the 26th U.N. Conference of the Parties that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (Or UNFCCC.) Governments need a report that makes a strong case for the admittedly extreme policies of Net-Zero they have already adopted.

Have they got it? That’s not quite clear.

We're still doomed, maybe, kind of.

The report itself is a hefty 4,000-page document, and even its SFP is heavy going at 41 pages, which means that the major news analyses that came out on publication day are a tribute to the intellectual powers and speed-reading of the world’s journalists. Or maybe not. As my colleague Tom Finnerty suggested when he listed the various attempts of blue-chip media to match the tabloids in generating fear and anxiety, they wrung more horror from its pages than was really there:

"The Latest IPCC Report Is a Catastrophe" says The Atlantic. "IPCC report’s verdict on climate crimes of humanity: guilty as hell" is The Guardian's headline. Here's USA Today: "Code red for humanity."

As is often the case, however, the tabloids were more accurate in conveying the report’s overall thrust. Writing in the New York Post, Bjorn Lomborg, the moderate Danish climate realist, pointed out that the report was more even-handed than in previous years. It leveled no charges of crimes against humanity, and it balanced the damages caused by climate change with its less-known advantages:

Since the heat dome in June, there has been a lot of writing about more heat deaths. And the IPCC confirms that climate change indeed has increased heatwaves. However, the report equally firmly, if virtually unacknowledged, tells us that global warming means “the frequency and intensity of cold extremes have decreased.”

This matters because globally, many more people die from cold than from heat. A new study in the highly respected journal Lancet shows that about half a million people die from heat per year, but 4.5 million people die from cold.

As temperatures have increased over the past two decades, that has caused an extra 116,000 heat deaths each year. This, of course, fits the narrative and is what we have heard over and over again. But it turns out that because global warming has also reduced cold waves, we now see 283,000 fewer cold deaths.

You don’t hear this, but so far climate change saves 166,000 lives each year.

That’s an important point with a wider application. We know from Lomborg’s own writings (among other sources) that the number of deaths and injuries from all extreme weather events, involving both heat and cold, have fallen dramatically over a long period even when the extreme weather events themselves have risen in number.

Promises, promises.

The reason is that people build defenses against such weather and adapt to the risk of it or their insurance companies charge higher premiums if they insist on ignoring the risk. If global warming is now helping to reduce deaths from cold—in effect it’s assisting people to adapt—then the cost-benefit analysis of policies to combat climate change becomes much more complicated.

Of course, the headline conclusion of the IPCC report that provides the governments at COP26 with justification for Net-Zero is that global temperatures are continuing to rise—indeed, rising even faster than we previously thought. But as the science editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum, Dr. David Whitehouse, points out, there seems to be a conflict between that conclusion and the U.K. Meteorological Office’s global temperature data base.

His review of the Met’s data for this century shows that global temperatures have barely changed since the last IPCC report in 2014. What we see instead in Dr. Whitehouse’s words is “a long hiatus (2002 – 2014) that was acknowledged by the IPCC (but later denied by some scientists), an intense multi-phased El Nino event and its aftermath (2015 -2020) and now a recent decline to levels where they were when the IPCC published its last report.”

That conflict shouldn’t happen since the actual data on global temperatures should be the bedrock of any theory of global warming. He concludes:

So when you read the new IPCC report and take in the alarmist headlines it will undoubtedly generate, bear in mind that since its previous report in 2014 global temperatures have barely changed, and have declined from their El Nino-inspired peak of a few years ago.

If global warming is not rising as much as the IPCC forecasts suggest, then its consequences, including costs, are presumably not rising as much either. More complexity there for any cost-benefit analysis to handle, and therefore more reason to look at the costs of combatting climate change. After all, if the costs of climate change and the costs of halting or reversing climate change are both high, we need to know how close they are to each other, since that knowledge is vital to choosing the right mix of policies.

We just need to gaze at the data some more.

What then are the costs of Net-Zero? They're high, we know, and they’re getting higher. Just how high we're about to find out.

Two days before the IPCC report was published, London’s official Information Tribunal instructed the parliamentary Committee on Climate Change to publish the calculations behind its advice to Parliament that the U.K. economy could be decarbonized at modest cost. That’s a big deal because it was the CCC’s advice that was the basis of the decision by MPs to adopt the U.K.’s Net-Zero target in 2019.

Two paragraphs from the Tribunal's report will establish the high importance of this decision:

  • 247. We find that there is an extremely strong public interest in enabling scrutiny of the data, models and calculations which underpin the CCC’s conclusion that the a net-zero target could be met at an annual resource cost of up to 1-2 percent of GDP to 2050 (see p 12 of the NZR).
  • 248. This is a very significant sum of public money. It has an impact on everyone in the country. Further the NZR recommendations led to almost immediate legislative change to enact the net zero target which will have significant impact on almost every area of the lives of everyone in the United Kingdom over the next 30 years.

The case to compel this disclosure, was brought by Andrew Montford, deputy director of the GWPF, which issued the following statement after the court’s decision:

The ruling, which dismisses almost all of the CCC’s arguments, comes after a two-year battle to obtain the cost calculations. Extraordinarily, the CCC’s case centred around a claim that it had erased and overwritten the relevant information by the time of the FOI request, just six weeks after the publication of the Net Zero report, and indeed changed and lost it further subsequent to the request.

If that is so, MPs acted on information that understated the costs of one of the most important policy decisions they will ever make. That said, it’s fair to add that no one really believed the Committee’s estimates. What might force a reconsideration of policy, however, is if the Committee’s underestimate of Net-Zero’s costs turns out to be outlandishly low.

The Information Tribunal has given the CCC thirty-five days to produce the calculations. The COP26 Glasgow conference takes place eighty-five days later on the November the 1st. Fasten your seat belt, Jimmy, it’s gonna to be a bumpy night.

Boris Hits the Ground, Not Running

Between now and October 31,  connoisseurs of political embarrassment will be licking their lips and looking forward to a veritable feast as the British government prepares to host the 2021 U.N. Climate Change conference in Glasgow (or COP26 in bureaucratese.) Their enjoyment may be even more thrilling in the twelve days following the end of October when the conference wends its slow way through a vast program of policy pledges to keep the global mean temperature to within a 1.5 degree increase above its pre-industrial level—and, more enticingly, another vaster program of how to make the pledges reality

You might say: “So what’s new?” These pledges have been made time and again in the years since the climate change game was launched in Rio de Janeiro in the early 1990s. After all, this is the 26th U.N. climate change conference, and the other 25 were about exactly the same topic. Even though one or two of them were pronounced failures—for instance, the Copenhagen Summit conference in 2009—most ended with mutual congratulations and “doubles all round.” But these pledges have not been redeemed by actions. As the latest report of the U.N.’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to argue, the effects of climate change have continued to worsen.

Oh, shut up.

Boris Johnson’s “Conservative” government, in addition to hosting the conference, governs the nation that has made the boldest promises to cut emissions. To be fair, it has so far lived up to these promises better than most (though some U.K. emissions have been “exported” to other countries which now emit on behalf of U.K. corporations that make carbon-heavy investments abroad and sell the products back in the U.K. And Boris had hoped to bask in a green spotlight on a U.N. stage in Glasgow as the man leading Britain and the world into the broad carbon-free sunlit uplands of which legend speaks.

That is now looking less likely.

There’s always been a logical gap in the green case for a full-scale policy of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. Policy-makers simplistically assumed that if too many carbon emissions were the problem, then the solution must be requiring fewer carbon emissions—an approach known as mitigation. Simple, neat, an obvious solution.

But there’s more to solving problems than simply reversing their cause. Here are two alternatives to mitigation:

  1. In order to put out a fire, the fire brigade doesn’t search for its causes. It pours water on it. Can we find some technology, logically unrelated to rising emissions, that blocks their ill effects in much the same way? Such technical “fixes” exist, but they’re unpopular with environmentalists and the U.N. which prefer solutions that regulate capitalism and re-distribute income.
  2. Another approach would be to adapt to rising emissions. People will do that anyway. If they think that floods threaten them, they will devise better methods of flood protection as the Dutch have done for centuries. Or they may simply move elsewhere.

People adapt to risks and dangers as follows. They try to establish which solution is the least costly and most effective one, and having done that, they then ask if that solution is less costly and more habitable than living with the problem, here rising emissions.

And that’s the big problem. The costs of mitigation—Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050—are enormous both financially and in terms of reduced lifestyles (eating less meat, no flying, higher electricity prices, switching to costlier and less efficient home heating, etc., etc.) They are certain to be deeply and unavoidably unpopular; voters rarely vote to make themselves poorer in democratic elections. It’s the classical problem of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. How did it happen?

Scylla, meet Charybdis.

Policy-makers committed themselves to arranging a clash between the voters and international treaties, and they did so quite deliberately. They calculated they would get rewards for green virtue at the time, but that later when the clash came, they could plead that their hands were tied by “legally-binding” obligations. No worries. The voters would swallow it.

But now the witching hour has arrived, and at a most inconvenient moment. With less than two months to go before the Greenbeanfeast in Glasgow, governments are beginning to reject the obligations they had imposed upon themselves and the voters when they saw the price tag electorally.

Two such inevitable betrayals of the global “consensus” on Net Zero occurred in the last ten days. Internationally, a meeting of G20 energy and environmental ministers failed to agree a date on which they would phase out the use of coal—not surprisingly, since coal is the original source of most of the electricity that is supposed to replace it. Without such a universal pledge, however, the COP26 conference will not be able to achieve the promised agreement on limiting global warming to 1.5C as even the U.K. minister responsible for the policy conceded. Such an agreement, said Alok Sharma, would now be “extremely difficult.”

Nor will Boris Johnson be able to shuffle the responsibility for this ecological backsliding onto the G20. In the same two-week period, Whitehall leaked the story that the government would probably push back the regulation banning the sale of gas boilers and heaters from 2035 to 2040. Hydrogen boilers and air-source heat pumps cost £14,000 and £11,000 more than the gas boilers they will be mandated to replace. Which means that some gas boilers would still be in use in 2050. That would itself a serious setback for Britain’s Net-Zero promises and for Boris personally on the eve of COP26.

And it is unlikely to be the last retreat. As the U.K. media speculated:

It comes amid a mounting backlash over the spiralling cost of Mr Johnson's so-called green revolution, with Government insiders fearful that the proposals could add another £400billion on top of the enormous sums accrued during the Covid pandemic.

As Hamlet points out, moreover, when troubles come, they come not in single spies but in battalions. To add to the government’s troubles in this matter, Mr Johnson’s Downing Street press spokesman, Allegra Stratton, upon being asked by The Independent what ordinary citizens could do to prevent global warming, she suggested first that they might put their dirty dishes into the dishwasher without rinsing them first, and then upon more mature consideration, she added:

'What can they do?', they can do many things. They can join Greenpeace, they can join the Green Party, they can join the Tory Party.

Understandably, that was too tempting for a Green party leader, Jonathan Bartley, to ignore. He welcomed Stratton's comments and told The Independent:

After decades of inaction from both the Conservatives and Labour, we would absolutely agree with the government that joining the Green Party is the best thing people can do to help tackle climate change. As we witness the Conservatives waste time talking about loading dishwashers and fantasy projects such as Jet Zero [Mr. Johnson’s prediction of carbon-free airlines], it is reassuring to see that they do understand it is only the Greens who can bring about the real change that is needed if we are to prevent climate catastrophe.

And the sad point is that Mr Bartley is quite right. Anyone who wants to pursue the unachievable target of Net-Zero by 2050, destroying the U.K. economy after it has finally recovered from Covid-19, would be well advised to vote for an amiable fanatic like Mr Bartley rather than for an impulsive risk-taker like Boris Johnson who ultimately has the commonsense and self-interest to pull out of crash dive before it hits the environment. Because if he doesn’t yet know it, Boris hasn’t got an ejector seat on this particular voyage.

'Climate Change' Charlatanism Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry

Professor Ole Humlum is a former Professor of Physical Geography at the University Centre in Svalbard, Norway, and Emeritus Professor of Physical Geography, University of Oslo, Norway. He specializes in reporting and analyzing annual changes in the climate. I wrote about the professor’s work just over a year ago on this site. His report, published annually by the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, was moderately optimistic on climate changes in 2019, pointing out that some of them were for the better, some worse, but that overall there was no justification for the alarmist rhetoric of climate emergency. For instance, as I then wrote,

He points out  that new data on rising ocean temperatures raise interesting questions about the source of the heat. We can detect a great deal of heat rising from the bottom of the oceans. This obviously cannot be anything to do with human activity.

Since annual reports come out every year, his latest report on the world’s climate in 2020 has just been published. It covers the waterfront from Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation to Zonal Air Temperatures, and though most of it is addressed to technical specialists, it reaches some broad general conclusions that can be grasped by the layman. By and large these are a mix of moderate changes, long-term stability in main trends, and some trends getting worse but falling short of a climate emergency. Here, for instance, is his summing-up of changes in snow cover:

Variations in global snow-cover extent are driven by changes in the Northern Hemisphere, where most of the major land masses are located. Southern Hemisphere snow-cover extent is essentially controlled by the Antarctic ice sheet, and is therefore relatively stable. Northern Hemisphere average snow cover has also been stable since the advent of satellite observations, although local and regional inter-annual variations may be large. Considering seasonal changes in the Northern Hemisphere since 1979, autumn extent has been slightly increasing, mid-winter extent has been largely stable, and spring extent has been slightly decreasing. In 2020, Northern Hemisphere seasonal snow cover was somewhat below that of the preceding years.

And here is his account of storms and hurricanes in 2020:

The most recent data on numbers of global tropical storms and hurricane accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) are well within the range seen since 1970. In fact, the ACE data series displays a variable pattern over time, with a significant 3.6-year variation, but without any clear trend towards higher or lower values. A longer ACE series for the Atlantic Basin (since 1850), however, suggests a natural cycle of about 60 years' duration for tropical-storm and hurricane ACE. The number of hurricane landfalls in the continental United States remains within the normal range for the entire record since 1851. (My italics.)

Not easy reading, as you can see, but worthwhile because it records what actually happened to the climate in the last year. And that picture contrasts strongly with two things: the general impression of what happened to the climate given by the mainstream media, and the forecasts drawn from computer modelling in previous years of what would happen to the climate. Those two things generally reinforce each other almost as if the media reports those real climate events that reflect the media “narrative” and ignore or gloss over those that don’t. The truth rarely, if ever, catches up with the predictions in mainstream news reporting.

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Time and again the dates for which catastrophe was confidently predicted have passed without grave occurrences, as I wrote a year ago. No apologies are offered, and no signs given that the forecasters will be reconsidering the theories on which their forecasts either were based or by which they will in future be supported.

To be sure, that's a problem not confined to climate science. There’s a general crisis of “replication” or “reproducibility” in science as scientists themselves have been debating in the last decade. As Wikipedia sums it up:

A 2016 poll of 1,500 scientists conducted by Nature reported that 70 percent of them had failed to reproduce at least one other scientist's experiment (including 87 percent of chemists, 77 percent of biologists, 69 percent of physicists and engineers, 67 percent of medical researchers, 64 percent of earth and environmental scientists, and 62 percent of all others), while 50 percent had failed to reproduce one of their own experiments, and less than 20 percent had ever been contacted by another researcher unable to reproduce their work. Only a minority had ever attempted to publish a replication, and while 24 percent had been able to publish a successful replication, only 13 percent had published a failed replication, and several respondents that had published failed replications noted that editors and reviewers demanded that they play down comparisons with the original studies.

That’s bad enough. Worse, common sense suggests that the rate of failed replications will be higher in forecasting than in already performed physical experiments. To replication failure and prediction failure, however, we should probably add a third crisis—namely, impartiality failure on the part of the mainstream media—if we are to understand how bad things are.

The latest example of this is the media treatment of a new book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn't, and Why It Matters, by Steven Koonin, a physicist specializing in energy policy who served as an Under-Secretary for Energy for Science in the Obama administration. He doubts some of the claims allegedly accepted as valid by a “consensus" of scientists. Koonin has since come under fierce attack from those scientific reviewers who in turn doubt his own claims. That’s well and good—it’s how science is supposed to operate until experiments settle the argument conclusively--for the moment. In the meantime Koonin must fight his corner as best he can—as apparently he intends to do.

There ought to be a law!

What is objectionable is that social media should tilt an already tilted playing field so that its “fact-checkers” preface information about “Unsettled” with a kind of health warning that its statistics are unreliable and that the book itself “denialist” when in fact Koonin denies not climate warming but some arguments about its speed, extent, and whether we’re pursuing the right mix of mitigation and adaptation in dealing with it.  That’s a debate we need—and which we’re bound to have anyway because of the looming costs of Net-Zero.

Suppressing debate simply won’t work. And that’s likely to be demonstrated soon. Koonin has agreed to give the GWPF’s annual lecture in November in London. My guess is that the Foundation will have to hire a larger-than-usual hall to accommodate an audience drawn there by today’s equivalent of “Banned in Boston”—namely, “Not Available on Social Media.”

Net-Zero: Poorer, Meaner, Slower, Dearer

One of the most consistent themes of this occasional column has been the contradiction between the pessimistic analyses of the costs of the Net-Zero policy adopted by the Western world and the optimistic belief of its governments that its overall impact will be positive all round.

Keep in mind that this contradiction is not an argument that global warming or climate change is not happening, or if it is happening, that it’s not damaging. It’s a question directed solely at whether or not Net-Zero—as a solution to climate change—will in fact make life better or worse. Climate change may be a real problem without Net-Zero being a solution to it. And if that’s the case, we should be looking for other solutions.

Realization of that possibility—which was slightly below Net-Zero a year ago—is now breaking rudely in upon the community of public policy intellectuals. Dominic Lawson in the London Sunday Times pointed out that the G7’s proposed reduction in carbon emissions would be swamped by China’s increase in them and thus render the sacrifices made by the West’ populations pointless. Irwin Stelzer in the Washington Examiner demonstrated that the policy was politically unachievable. And Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus, a veteran of the climate wars, recently argued that the contradiction above--he calls it Orwellian “doublethink”—will collapse into itself when predictions of the International Energy Authority come to pass:

By 2050, we will have to live with much lower energy consumption than today. Despite being richer, the average global person will be allowed less energy than today’s average poor. We will all be allowed less energy than the average Albanian used in the 1980s. We will also have to accept shivering in winter at 19°C and sweltering in summer at 26°C, lower highway speeds and fewer people being allowed to fly.

Let me add the conclusion that all three writers make clear. At these prices, Net-Zero simply isn’t going to happen. Almost everywhere it has been offered to the voters, the voters have rejected it—most recently in a Swiss referendum that asked them if they would pay higher taxes in order to meet Net-Zero targets. They voted no.

Such popular resistance is making itself felt before any serious sacrifice has actually been imposed on electorates. Until now, their pain has been purely rhetorical. How will they react when told that they can’t drive fast cars, take plane rides to Sicily, or turn up the heating on winter nights? They’ll vote no.

Would that i'twere so simple.

Since Net-Zero is not a solution, the obvious question arises: is there another solution we haven’t yet considered?

Dominic Lawson rules out the heavy reliance on higher “hypothecated” energy taxes promoted by the G7 on the commonsensical grounds that if U.K. chancellors have fought shy of raising fuel duty for twenty years, they’re not likely to embark on massive new ones in the more straitened circumstances of today. In his Examiner article, Irwin Stelzer proposes among other things that we should concentrate on developing carbon-capture technologies that would allow us to use fossil fuels without adding to carbon emissions. That’s a narrow solution—we shouldn’t rely excessively on single possible innovation--but it makes sense.

And Bjorn Lomborg offers a broader version of the same thing on the basis of a highly topical comparison:

COVID is fixed with vaccines, not unending lockdowns. To tackle climate, we need to ramp up our investments in green energy innovation. Increasing green energy currently requires massive subsidies, but if we could innovate its future price down to below that of fossil fuels, everyone would switch.

What makes all of these proposals more persuasive, however, is an argument advanced in a monograph published by London’s Global Policy Warming Foundation.  In this short analysis, Tim Worstall, a businessman and blogger, begins by establishing that relying on future innovations as a solution to global warming becomes more plausible as the likely crisis looks more manageable.

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Not convinced? Think about it this way. If climate change really is an “emergency” likely to produce prolonged droughts, a rise in the sea level threatening coastal cities, crop failures, starvation, and all the other predictions made by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion—and all by the day after tomorrow—then we probably couldn’t rely on continuous gradual innovation to reduce the price of renewables, the carbon emissions of greener fossil fuels, and the invention of alternative fuels not yet imagined. We would be climbing a very steep hill by baby steps.

As Worstall points out, however, those alarming predictions were rooted in a “worst case” scenario of future trends in carbon emissions that assumed a world in which the consumption of coal  (the “dirtiest” of fuels which is actually declining in use throughout the West) would rise to higher levels than ever before—with the result that there would be a rise in temperature of almost five degrees (over pre-industrial levels) by the end of this century.

As several environmentalists (including Nature magazine) have complained, however, this worst -case scenario has since been treated as “business as usual” in official and unofficial discussions of climate policy. That in turn has led to a massive exaggeration of both global warming and its “emergency” impact.

How can we be sure that this “cooler” prediction is accurate?

Good question. And it has an even better answer. It’s not a prediction. It’s already been happening for some time. The explanation is fracking, which has reduced the use of coal and replaced it with the cleaner greener fuel of natural gas wherever governments and the courts have allowed it to be developed over the protests of , ahem, the Greens.

And yet the solution is right to hand.

The fall in American carbon emissions under the late Obama and Trump administrations occurred almost entirely because of the spread of fracking (which incidentally also fueled a rise in American growth and prosperity.) And if you want a negative example, Angela Merkel’s boneheaded decision to abandon Germany's nuclear power led directly to the greater use of coal and a consequent rise in carbon emissions in a Germany that was meanwhile spending massively on unreliable renewables..

Fracking! It’s the start of the answer—the remainder is innovation—to the problem of halting global warming without closing down the world economy (which is otherwise the respectable establishment strategy.) If you want to be technical about it, fracking has helped to move the world from a Representative Concentration Pathway of 8.5 to an RCP of between 4.5 and 6. And as every schoolboy knows, that makes a helluva difference.

So, following Chancellor Merkel’s example, Boris Johnson has blocked fracking in the UK, and Joe Biden is placing obstacles to it in the U.S.

There’s a horrible sort of inevitability about that, isn’t there?

Talking the Talk on 'Climate Change'

What are we to make of an article by William Hague, a former U.K. Foreign Secretary from 2010 to 2014, that predicts Britain’s armed forces may one day be sent into action abroad to safeguard the natural environment from such predators as oil companies and loggers? Quoted by the Daily Mail from an article in the journal Environmental Affairs, Lord Hague writes:

In the past the UK has been willing to use armies to secure and extract fossil fuels. But in the future, armies will be sent to ensure oil is not drilled and to protect natural environments.

That prediction is startling from several standpoints. To begin with, it could be read as confirming a frequent left-wing allegation—hitherto hotly denied by the British and other Western governments—that in the two Gulf Wars the West intervened not to prevent Iraqi aggression or to stabilize the Middle East but to get its hands on Arab oil. I don’t think that’s true, as a matter of fact, but if it is, it’s a big admission and a big news story. And it was merely the first of several startling predictions.

The Mail’s succinct report was a paraphrase of a 6000-word article, “The Great Convergence,” by the former foreign secretary in a new journal, Environmental Affairs, in London. I don’t suppose Mr. Hague thinks the paper’s summary did any favors to his long and detailed argument which seeks to show how Britain (and by extension the West) should bring about a convergence between its policies on climate, foreign affairs, and towards China to ensure their all-round success.

He may be wrong about the Mail, as I shall argue below, but there’s little doubt that Hague’s article kicks off a serious attempt by the U.K. and international establishments to explain how their policy of Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050 fits comfortably, even necessarily, into their other principal foreign policies like a missing jigsaw piece.

Go on, give it a try!

The signs of a political influence operation are all there. Policy Exchange is one of three influential conservative think tanks close to the government. Environmental Affairs is an impressive new venture. Its contributors include leading figures from the global climate change establishment and the U.S. foreign policy establishment, notably General David Petraeus. And its first publication arrives at just the point when governments are suddenly nervous of two fundamental political problems with Net-Zero:

For already there are growing symptoms of domestic and international resistance to Net-Zero—as Hague himself points out. His “Great Convergence,” rather like the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset,” is a rhetorical device to shore it up by combining it with policies supported by other influential constituencies such as the defense establishment and China hawks. Hague’s opening gambit therefore is to establish that climate change is a threat not only to the prosperity of nations but also to their national security and thus to global security as a whole.

That’s a theme increasingly heard from Western governments—and I’ve expressed skepticism about it before. But the former Foreign Secretary said it first in 2010, and he thinks his forecast has been borne out by events:

In Iraq, farmers were driven to join ISIS once opportunities to provide for their families dried up along with local water sources. In Somalia, jihadists have cut off water supplies to punish areas of the country outside of their control. And in Syria, social unrest, exacerbated by droughts driving Syrian farmers into cities, spilled over into civil war just a few short months after my remarks, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and millions scattered across the world.

But the problem with these examples is that they are the effects of civil war, terrorism, and oppressive government rather than of "climate change." It’s possible that climate change may have played a part in making them worse—as the Russian winter complicated Napoleon’s invasion of Russia—but it would never have caused them in the absence of war, terrorism, and oppression. Most of Syria’s neighbors, after all, have helped refugees rather than persecuting and robbing them. And there are far easier and less dangerous ways of adapting to small rises in temperature than press-ganging your neighbors or ethnically cleansing them.

One way to stop climate change.

Not that Hague, a prudent statesman aiming at pacific solutions, is anxious to send in gunboats. His main stress is on diplomacy and trade which he would send in ahead of the troops:

[A]s climate change climbs the hierarchy of important political issues, it will be increasingly difficult to square our climate change policy with agreeing to a free trade deal with a country that clears a football pitch-sized area of the Amazon rainforest every minute.

He's talking here about Brazil, but he could equally be talking about China and coal-powered stations, or Saudi Arabia and oil, or Russia and pipelines. So let’s not underestimate the boldness of Hague’s statement here. It overturns something very important.

Free trade is a central element in the kind of liberal conservatism that Hague, Cameron, and Boris all represent—and that global economic institutions have upheld in practice since the end of the Cold War. It’s how they believe mankind makes progress—by developing and trading new ideas and products in peaceful competition between nations. Hague’s willingness to subordinate that method of human progress to the stern sacrifices of Net-Zero shows the extent to which climate policy has become an dogma overriding all other considerations in Western policy. It’s now an unquestionable article of faith.

Yet if we are to base military, diplomatic, and even trade policy on the economic and security consequences of climate change, shouldn’t we also take into account the consequences of the policy of combatting climate change? Governments candidly admit that Net-Zero is likely to impose heavy costs on the economy and to require seriously unwelcome life-style changes from their populations.

But it seems shortsighted and rash to ignore the likelihood that these consequences would create tensions--tensions at least as serious as those Hague predicts from climate change—between different social, ethnic, and religious groups within countries. And that goes double for international tensions between countries.

Welcome to Syria.

After all, the potential international conflicts that Net-Zero seems likely to foster include: angry demands from the developing world for decarbonization subsidies from the West; broken Net-Zero promises from a China surging ahead on cheap, reliable fossil fuels; and attempts by a declining West to compel the rest of the world to implement Net-Zero targets—attempts that fail and prompt airy talk of intervention.

Hence the value of popular journalism—seen here in the Daily Mail’s selective compression of Hague’s 6000 words into one simple conclusion: “In the future, armies will be sent to ensure oil is not drilled and to protect natural environments.” It brings us hard up against reality.

Under whose authority would these troops be sent abroad? Obviously, Hague was not proposing a Western coalition of the willing to halt Brazilian logging or shut down Bahrain. That would be too much like a re-run of the Iraq War for comfort’s sake. There would have to be a U.N. force of some kind under the authority of the Security Council. Consider, then, the following three points:

  1. Russia and China are among the world’s largest energy-producing and energy-consuming countries respectively.
  2. Both countries are also two of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and enjoy the right of veto on any U.N. use of force.
  3. And there is zero chance that either country would allow any U.N. use of force that threatened its vital economic interests.

Indeed, only last month a Security Council debate on whether climate change should be treated as a threat to international security revealed (not surprisingly) that there was support from India and other energy-rich and energy-hungry countries for Chinese-Russian skepticism on the point. Only a very small country is at risk of being invaded by British or other Western troops for crimes against the climate.

Lord Hague makes a fair point when he says about climate policy that Britain "cannot get away with talking the talk without walking the walk" indefinitely. Since we can’t walk the walk in reality, however, maybe we should be a little more careful about talking the talk.

A Royal With Some Sense

In response to the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, The Global Warming Policy Forum reposted a piece from a few years ago by the (now deceased) British climate skeptic Christopher Booker, entitled "The time Prince Philip wrote to me in praise of my views on global warming."

Written on the occasion of the prince's retirement from public life in 2017, Booker mentioned that he'd been very touched to receive a "long, thoughtful and sympathetic letter" from Philip after the publication of his best-selling book The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the Obsession with 'Climate Change' Turning Out to Be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History? The prince had wanted to correct one minor error in the book which pertained to himself;

I had said he was still a supporter of the World Wildlife Fund, which he co-founded in 1961. In fact, he said, he had withdrawn from the WWF after it switched from its original focus on saving endangered species to relentless campaigning against global warming.

Booker didn't spell out Philip's position on global warming any further than that -- to do so would likely have been to betray a confidence -- but that anecdote, along with a few others (several obituaries have mentioned his recently describing the wind farms popping up all over England as “disgraceful” and “absolutely useless”) paint a pretty clear picture.

Unfortunately, Prince Philp's progeny don't seem to have inherited his good sense. The green enthusiasms of the Prince of Wales are well known. Booker even mentioned that Charles was rather disturbed by his "views on global warming," and that he'd been immediately cut from the heir apparent's Christmas Card list after the publication of his book. We've previously had occasion to comment on the vacuity of Prince Charles's younger son, Harry, and his American bride, la Markle. And his elder son, William, is in on the act as well, recently tacitly endorsing Klaus Schwab’s Great Reset in a recent speech, saying:

All of us, across all sectors of society, and in every corner of the globe must come together to fundamentally reset our relationship with nature and our trajectory as a species.

This generation of royals are clearly grasping at celebrity, which is why they've embraced the self-righteous environmentalism so common among the glitterati. What they seem to have missed is that celebrity and royalty are diametrically opposed concepts, the one obsessed with self-assertion, with proclaiming "my truth," and the other  concerned with duty, honor, and self-abnegation. You don't have to be a monarchist -- I am not -- to appreciate that Philip was a man who embodied these latter qualities.

Britain would be better off if his children and grandchildren took after him.

Net Zero: Cost, Costs, and More Costs

Getting accurate estimates of the costs of going "Net-Zero" from the governments and global institutions that adopted the policy has been a difficult task from the first. That would have been so even if they had been honest and transparent in their accounting. Moving economies from dependence on cheap reliable fossil fuels to reliance on electrification fueled by renewables (i.e. wind and sun) would require massive expenditures on almost every aspect of life.

It also has the potential to be very alarming. If voters learn that the policy will result in higher fuel prices, higher taxes, and the need for them to spend large capital sums to transform their household economies by, for instance, replacing gas-fueled heaters and petrol-driven cars with electricity-fueled ground storage heaters and EVs, they may take fright and decide that the game isn't worth the dim flourescent bulb. Managing voters' opinions has therefore become an important element in the policy. It has to be "sold."

As it happens, the United Kingdom -- which has reduced carbon emissions more substantially than any other country -- has also put together the strongest political coalition in support of the Net-Zero policy. All the political parties represented in Parliament back it. So, overwhelmingly, does the media. So do all the major cultural institutions such as the BBC. Even bodies apparently remote from politics such as the National Trust (which looks after Britain's stately homes) are keen to be seen as relevant to the cause. When the Climate Change Act setting out legally-binding targets for carbon emissions reduction was passed, only five MPs voted against it.

That legislation created a climate change committee, rooted in parliament but independent of the government, and gave it the task of holding ministers to account over whether they have met the carbon reduction targets written into law. Its sixth annual report was issued at the end of last year. And it offers a very useful glimpse into the lifestyle changes and probable costs of the Net-Zero policy which most governments and agencies have been reluctant to publish or discuss in detail.

No, ministers

That's understandable. When wind and sun still contribute only a measly 1.5 percent of global energy consumption, as Matt Ridley pointed out recently, it's hard to estimate the costs of expanding that share to the 94 percent now contributed by fossil fuels of one kind or another. But the costs won't be small. And there will be a great many of them spreading into every area of life since the mere act of living consumes energy and is sensitive to its cost.

To prevent this article becoming an encyclopaedia, I'll examine only three kinds of cost: lifestyle costs, economic costs, and political costs. I have to admit that the committee's report is relatively honest about the lifestyle consequences of net-zero, though it wraps up its admissions in honeyed phrases. Here, for instance, is its cheerful summary of how "we" will reduce demand for carbon-intensive activities:

The U.K. wastes fewer resources and reduces its reliance on high-carbon goods . . . Diets change, reducing our consumption of high-carbon meat and dairy products by 20 percent by 2030, with further reductions in later years. There are fewer car miles travelled and demand for flights grows more slowly. These changes bring striking positive benefits for health and well-being.

And here's my grouchy response to it:

But what if our diets don’t change voluntarily? Or consumers don’t actually like the new low carbon foods predicted here? Or they want to use their cars and fly on vacation more often than the planners predict? Those "striking positive benefits for health and well-being" sound alarmingly like the medical authoritarianism currently running our lives in the fight against Covid-19. Will doctors and other planners change their presciptions if we don't like the medicine? Or will they ration the foods, car trips, and vacations that the consumers (who are also voters) are determined to enjoy?

My sarcasm notwithstanding, these recommended (a.k.a. imposed) lifestyle choices imply heavy economic costs as industry and agriculture change what they now produce in response to market demand to quite different goods and activities prescribed by ministers and civil servants. The U.K.'s decision to prohibit the sale of petrol-driven automobiles from 2030 in order to require a switch to electric vehicles will force both the taxpayer to finance the electrification of the entire country and the driver to buy a much more expensive car.

When we see the scale of this economic and industrial transformation, it's plain that it's a very expensive project indeed. As I pointed out last month, even the committee chairman concedes that if it is to make us richer rather than poorer, then "[l]ow carbon investment must scale up to £50 billion each year to deliver Net-Zero." Not to worry, however, because he also assures us that "our central estimate for costs is now below 1 percent of GDP throughout the next 30 years."

But these estimates were  immediately challenged by Dr. John Constable, energy editor of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, as "entirely divorced from reality":

Some of them are out by several hundred percent, meaning that the claim that we can decarbonise painlessly doesn’t stand up to even cursory scrutiny. Offshore wind is twice as expensive to build as the CCC assumes, and two to four times more expensive to operate. The resulting electricity will be many, many times more expensive than they claim, making the use of heat pumps and Electric Vehicles utterly unaffordable.

So the estimate that net-zero costs will be less than 1 percent of GDP annually for the next thirty years is a fanciful one. Almost all other estimates are higher, some several-fold. Net-zero is a plan fueled not by fossil deposits but by optimism.

And that takes us to the third cost: political costs. These are obvious. Everyone has accepted at the back of their minds that there'll be a price to be paid by governments in power when the higher taxes and energy prices fall due. But that won't be tomorrow or, with luck, before the next election. So MPs never seem to have done the calculation of how heavy the political costs might be -- until last week when the Onward think-tank in London produced an analysis of the political impact of net-zero and discovered that it would be formidably high.

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In particular the carbon-intensive industries most reliant on fossil fuels are concentrated in the Midlands and North of England -- the very regions where Boris Johnson broke Labour's "Red Wall" and won a slew of traditionally Labour sets to swell his parliamentary majority to eighty seats. Johnson has since acknowledged that he had only "borrowed" those voters and would have to justify their trust in him by leveling up their economic prosperity to that of Britain's booming South-East.

What the Onward report suggests is that Johnson's green industrial revolution risks pushing the poorer regions further down the prosperity index rather than levelling them up. Boris Johnson's green agenda is completely at variance with its post-Brexit policy of an infrastructure build-up to as well as being economically regressive

Consider, now, the report's analysis of how this will impact the seats won in 2019 as summarized by the Telegraph:

Some of the biggest concentrations of polluting jobs are in Conservative-won seats West Bromwich West, with 59pc, as well as Hyndburn in Lancashire and Stoke-on-Trent North with 55pc each, according to the Road to Zero report.

The East Midlands has the highest share of jobs in high-emitting industries at 42pc compared to London, the lowest, with 23pc.

The research suggests that up to 10m jobs could need to be replaced, or see workers retrained, as the UK aims to achieve “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

What makes this report so interesting is that Onward, a progressive Tory think tank, and the GWPF, a Thatcherite one, now agree on at least one aspect of the net zero policy: It's a political suicide note.

Enemies of the People: Prince Charles