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China Is Pushing Coal Over Renewables, Emission Reduction Commitments Fade

March 11, 2021

Climate Change Weekly #391

In Climate Change Weekly 387 I warned that China presents a huge obstacle to President Joe Biden’s efforts to promote a global approach to fighting climate change. As I pointed out then, China’s carbon dioxide emissions are already approximately double those of the United States, and China has made clear any cooperation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions will depend on the Biden administration’s willingness to ignore China’s theft of U.S. residents’ intellectual property, Beijing’s aggressive geopolitical ambitions, its currency manipulation, its genocidal actions against the Uyghur minority, and its violation of human rights and its own international commitments during its crackdown on Hong Kong’s self-rule.

China’s recent energy policy actions have further diminished whatever vanishing prospects Biden had of getting Beijing to rein in its carbon dioxide emissions.

China’s Communist Party recently released its five-year plan for economic development. It contained no cut in coal use. It would be surprising if it did. In recent years, China has brought dozens of new, large coal-fueled power plants on line and has hundreds more in various stages of construction, development, and planning, within China and across Africa, the rest of Asia, and the Middle East.

“China will invest more in coal to power its economy over the next five years, according to a government plan … that only modestly increased renewable ambitions. [T]he plan, announced by Premier Li Keqiang … signaled little urgency in cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. The lack of a cap on total energy consumption was one of the notable exclusions,” observed Agence France-Press.

While planning for increased coal use, China is disincentivizing new construction of wind and solar facilities, which the National Energy Administration (NEA) referred to as “unreliables.” The NEA has told provinces they could auction off grid capacity for new wind and solar projects, with the proviso that one-third of the contracts would be reserved for developers willing to forgo money China’s government already owes them for previously developed wind and solar power facilities, Bloomberg reports. In addition, under NEA’s new policy, winning bidders will be limited to a fixed but guaranteed rate for the power produced by new facilities.

The NEA proposal clearly shows the central government’s desire to end the expensive subsidies it offered to help wind and solar power become economically competitive with coal. Although the government’s wind and solar industrial development subsidies did not result in those power sources becoming competitive with coal, it did result in a frenzy of development far exceeding the funds the government allocated to pay for wind and solar construction. By the end of 2019, the deficit between what the government has paid wind and solar developers for the facilities they built under the existing policy and what they are owed topped 469 billion yuan (the equivalent of $66 billion), according to Bloomberg. The gap was expected to widen to almost two trillion yuan, or more than $307 billion, by 2034. NEA’s proposed policy change would cut the gap considerably and reduce future obligations by causing the pace of new wind and solar development to slow considerably or collapse.

In another move indicating a lack of commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the initial draft of the China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, presented by Premier Li Keqiang to the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, proposes increasing spending on research and development (R&D) to 7 percent for each of the next five years, Science reports. Since the 7 percent increase in R&D is greater than the 7 percent target for overall economic growth, it means the central government plans on spending more on R&D as a percentage of GDP each year.

However, climate hawks within and outside of China were quick to complain that little of this spending was targeted at fighting climate change or decarbonizing the energy industry. In fact, instead of increasing the target rate for reducing energy use and carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of GDP, the proposed five-year plan maintains the previous plan’s targets: lowering energy consumption per unit of GDP by 13.5 percent and carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 18 percent over the next five years. Under this plan, both energy consumption and emissions will grow as an absolute amount even as they decline as a percentage of GDP.

“This indicates there is no strong intention to accelerate decarbonization,” Li Shuo, a climate policy adviser with Greenpeace East Asia, told Science.

“Clearly there’s no preparedness to put a stop to coal expansion.” Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, told Climate Home News.

“China’s five-year plan is ‘underwhelming and shows little sign of a concerted switch away from a future coal lock-in,’ said Swithin Lui of the NewClimate Institute and the China lead for Climate Action Tracker. The independent watchdog rates China’s efforts as “highly insufficient” to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, Climate Home News reports.

Biden wants China to join the United States in cutting emissions. China’s authoritarian leaders says they are happy to cooperate if Biden offers sufficient concessions. All China’s actions, however, are pushing emissions growth. I leave it to the reader to decide what kind of concessions the Biden administration will have to make to get China to change course and sharply cut coal use for energy and reduce energy use overall, when the Communist Party sees both as fundamental to continued economic growth.

Will Biden and company sell America’s soul in a futile effort to control the weather 100 years from now? Sadly, I fear the answer might be yes. China’s leaders will offer a crocodile smile as they commit to emission reductions they have no intention of keeping.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Agence France-Press; Nikkei Asia; Bloomberg (behind paywall); Climate Home News, Climate Change Weekly; Science


IN THIS ISSUE …

POLAR BEARS THRIVING AMID CLIMATE CHANGE … BEWARE SOCIAL COST OF CARBON CALCULATIONS … CARBON DIOXIDE CONTINUING TO GREEN THE EARTH, REPORTS NASA


POLAR BEARS THRIVING AMID CLIMATE CHANGE

A new study demonstrates polar bear numbers continue to increase even as the climate modestly warms.

State of the Polar Bear Report 2020, by zoologist Dr. Susan Crockford, Ph.D., finds most polar bear sub-populations have increased or remained stable since 2015, with only two declining. A survey of the literature indicates the world’s polar bear population increased from about 26,000 in 2015 to approximately 30,000 in 2020, while sea ice declined to the second-lowest level since 1979.

Contrary to the repeated assertions of climate alarmists—who show a shocking ignorance of polar bear behavior, dietary requirements, and plasticity—polar bears are more flexible in their habitat and food requirements than is commonly assumed, Crockford notes in the study published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

“Plankton growth—the critical health measure of marine life in the Arctic—reached record highs in August 2020,” says GWPF’s press release on the study. “More plankton (‘primary productivity’) due to less summer ice means more fodder for the entire food chain, including polar bears. This explains why bears are thriving in areas such as the Barents Sea, which have experienced reduced levels of sea ice.”

“Polar bears continue to be described as ‘canaries in the coal mine’ for the effects of human-caused climate change, but the evidence shows they are far from being a highly-sensitive indicator species,” Climate Realism quotes Crockford as saying. “It’s not a myth: 2020 appears to have been another good year for polar bears.”

SOURCES: Global Warming Policy Foundation; Climate Realism


BEWARE SOCIAL COST OF CARBON CALCULATIONS

Building on work first undertaken during the Obama administration, analysts at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis (HFCDA) say President Joe Biden’s executive order forcing agencies to calculate the economic damages from each ton of carbon dioxide emissions—the “social cost of carbon” (SCC)—is an attempt to justify his preexisting bias against fossil fuels.

Some analysts consider the SCC to be “the most important number you’ve never heard of,” but HFCDA Senior Statistician Kevin Dayaratna, Ph.D., and his colleagues call it “the most useless number you’ve never heard of,” because the models used to calculate it are open to gross manipulation and entirely dependent on the validity of the assumptions used to generate the number.

During President Barack  Obama’s tenure, HFCDA staff examined two models the administration used to calculate the SCC, to determine how dependent their outcomes were on changes in the assumptions built into them. These models are now being recycled by the Biden administration to justify its carbon dioxide reduction demands. The analysts found the Obama administration used untenable assumptions about the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate to carbon dioxide concentrations, created “naive projections reaching 300 years into the future,” and ignored sound guidance from the Office of Management and Budget about how to calculate benefits and costs.

Correcting for those flaws, the analysts “found that, under very reasonable assumptions, [one] model’s estimates of the social cost of carbon can drop by 30 percent or more.”

After the HFCDA found a fundamental mistake in the second model’s climate-sensitivity specification, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in its SCC, the Obama administration was forced to open the entire class of models up for public comments. To the administration’s credit, the second model used by Obama, unlike the first, computed the benefits of climate change as well as its costs. These benefits include the carbon dioxide fertilization effect which is boosting global food production. After those were accounted for, depending on the discount rate used and the time period being considered, Dayaratna and his colleagues found “under very reasonable assumptions, those benefits can outweigh the costs, suggesting that the social cost of carbon can indeed be negative.”

“The policy implication of a negative social cost of carbon is that the government should not be taxing carbon dioxide emissions, but should be subsidizing it instead,” writes Dayaratna in The Daily Signal. “[T]he sheer fact that that the model can illustrate either, under very reasonable assumptions, illustrates how susceptible these models are to user manipulation,” Dayaratna writes.

“[N]o matter what estimate the Biden administration provides, the assumptions used to generate it can almost surely be manipulated to give lawmakers virtually any other (even negative) estimate of the social cost of carbon, thereby predicting anything, ranging from little warming and continued prosperity to catastrophic warming and immense disaster,” Dayaratna writes.

The whole SCC exercise is based on politics, not science as Biden wants people to believe. In this case, the politics are the anti-fossil fuel progressivism being pushed by Biden and his team.

SOURCES: The Daily Signal; The Heritage Foundation; The Heritage Foundation; Climate Change Economics


CARBON DIOXIDE CONTINUING TO GREEN THE EARTH, REPORTS NASA

The latest Vegetation Data Index measurements from NASA indicate the ongoing increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels is continuing to green the Earth, Natural News reports.

“The planet is 10 percent greener today than it was in 2000, NASA says, which means better conditions for growing crops,” writes Natural News in reporting on the data. “Forests are also expanding while deserts are becoming more fertile and usable for agriculture. All in all, the global Vegetation Index rose from 0.0936 to 0.1029 between 2000 and 2021, a 9.94 percent increase.”

Other publications have pointed out NASA’s new data confirms what previous research has shown: the carbon dioxide fertilization effect is making the Earth more fecund. For example, research in 2018 found vegetation had reclaimed more than 8 percent of the Sahara, the world’s largest desert, during the past 30 years. Putting this in perspective, the amount of land reclaimed by vegetation from the Sahara’s sands amounts to 700,000 square kilometers, an area almost as big as Germany and France combined. A 2013 study cited in an article at Climate Change Dispatch, from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, found carbon dioxide fertilization “correlated with an 11 percent increase in foliage cover from 1982-2010 across parts of the arid areas studied in Australia, North America, the Middle East, and Africa.”

An Earth that is better for vegetation is also better for every other living creature, because plants are the base of the food chain. Now that’s good green news the mainstream media should be touting, but it’s not. Any surprise?

SOURCES: Climate Change Dispatch; Natural News; Watts Up With That

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org
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