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Insincerity, Hypocrisy Rife in Bonn Climate Negotiations

December 1, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #269

The annual two-week luxury climate excursion attended by approximately 25,000 government diplomats, bureaucrats, and environmental lobbyists ended in Bonn, Germany on November 17.

Contrary to the PR hype coming out of the conference, little progress was made in reining in fossil fuel use. Indeed, if one believes humans are causing dangerous climate change (I don’t), the huge expenditure of resources and large spike in emissions resulting from this travel junket were wasted as no progress was made in speeding up the phase-out of fossil fuels.

Participants, including some governors and mayors from some blue cities, carped about President Donald Trump withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, saying his action damaged efforts to halt climate change – as if humans really could stop the seasons, temperature changes, and natural disasters. We could certainly point to the hypocrisy of the negotiators: Despite no longer being a party to the agreement, the United States is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions faster than any other nation while growing its economy and energy use. Our example shows it is technological innovation and efficiency, not words on paper, that improve energy use.

A report released before the Bonn negotiations by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) finds even if every country abides by its Paris commitments to cut or cap greenhouse gases between now and 2030, temperatures will still rise 3 degrees C by 2100, essentially dooming the planet if we are to believe the claims made in 2015 by negotiators who said a mere 2 degree rise would lead to disaster.

With the UNEP report looming in the background, negotiators in Bonn had two main goals: to develop plans for encouraging countries to ramp up their efforts to reduce emissions below the Paris targets; and to develop guidelines for how emissions from each country should be measured and tracked. Almost no progress was made on either goal; instead, all the hard decisions were put off until the next junket to be held in Katowice, Poland in 2018.

If the UNEP report is to be believed, kicking the can down the road as was done at Bonn was worse than irresponsible; it could be deadly. For negotiators the most critical step to stay below 2 degrees is the rapid phase-out of coal use for electric power generation, starting now. Yet, according to the United Nations, there are currently 273 gigawatts of coal capacity under construction around the world, and another 570 gigawatts in the pipeline – representing a 42% increase in global energy production from coal.

Twenty-seven countries and a couple of states from the United States announced in Bonn the formation of the “Powering Past Coal Alliance” to phase out traditional coal power plants and cease all investment in coal domestically or abroad by 2030 or earlier. Yet if UNEP is to be believed, the 2030 target is 10 years too late. In addition, the alliance includes none of the top 10 coal-consuming nations, with many members of the alliance using no coal at all, meaning their membership is purely symbolic. The remaining members use little coal at present and are already in the process of phasing out its use.

During the summit, Germany, the host country, which has long led the push for strong climate agreements, steadfastly refused to commit to ending its use of coal for electric power, which has grown in recent years. And Poland, where next year’s climate conference will be held, is part of a group of former Eastern Bloc members of the European Union committed to expanded electrification using coal in the short term and a longer phase-out period for its use in the long term. Even alliance members France and the United Kingdom increased their coal use this year as France has had to shut down nuclear reactors – which have been exporting power to the U.K. through trans-channel power lines – for refueling, maintenance, and repairs. This resulted in the U.K.’s declining coal-fired power plants ramping up energy production (and thus coal use) to ship electricity to France.

The EU as a whole has admitted it is unlikely to meet the emission reduction targets required of it in the Paris agreement, much less the cuts UNEP estimates are necessary to prevent climate catastrophe.

Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Macbeth to describe the import of Bonn and all other climate meetings before it, “That news was bound to come someday … [Climate agreements, like anthropogenic climate change itself] is a story told by … idiot[s], full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Guardian, The Independent, Kansas City Star, Politico, and Deutsche Welle


IN THIS ISSUE …

Virginia’s quixotic climate questChina’s carbon dioxide emissions rising againNoted physicist talks climateRenewable subsidies dwarf fossil fuel support


VIRGINIA’S QUIXOTIC CLIMATE QUEST

Shortly after new Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) won the gubernatorial election, he announced Virginia would impose a price on greenhouse gases emissions, require a 3 percent per year reduction in such emissions, and develop a cap-and-trade scheme requiring polluters to buy credits for emitting carbon dioxide.

Northam’s announcement was made possible only by the strong gains made by Democrats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. In a guest column in Watts Up With That, Paul Driessen, senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, describes the high costs and ineffectiveness of Northam’s quixotic quest to make Virginia a leader in the fight against climate change. Driessen says attempting to abate, control, or limit carbon dioxide emissions from electric power facilities will raise energy costs substantially for non-existent environmental gains. Virginia’s cost-effective coal-fired power plants will have to be shut down prematurely to reach Northam’s climate targets, replaced with less dependable, more costly renewable alternatives.

Driessen writes, “Right now, average Virginia families pay $1,500 a year for electricity. At California prices, their annual electricity bills would increase by $875; at German rates, by a whopping additional $2,900 a year!” Driessen’s comparison of Virginia to California and Germany is apt since California’s high rates are in large part a byproduct of the state’s rejection of coal-fired electricity, and Germany’s high rates are due to the subsidized production of wind power.

Driessen also notes developing countries are building hundreds of coal-fired generating units around the world, and millions more drivers are added to the road each year. Virginia’s sacrifice of inexpensive coal for electricity will ultimately do nothing to prevent rising temperatures, even if humans were causing that increase, which they aren’t, argues Driessen.

SOURCE: Watts Up With That


CHINA’S CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS RISING AGAIN

After three years of reported (perhaps misleadingly claimed) decline, China’s carbon dioxide emissions are on the upswing again, expected to grow by 3.5 percent in 2017. According to a new report by the Global Carbon Project, China’s rising emissions are due to government promotion of heavy industry and infrastructure projects. To reverse a steep decline in its economic growth rate, China increased coal use in 2017. Its oil and gas sectors also grew at a strong 5 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Glen Peters, a co-author of the report, bemoaned China’s emissions reversal, saying, “China emits about 30 percent of global emissions, and so what happens in China has a huge effect on global emissions … unless China reduces its emissions, eventually to zero, we will never meet out climate objectives.”

SOURCE: The News Lens


NOTED PHYSICIST TALKS CLIMATE

In an interview conducted by TheBestSchools.org, William Happer, Emeritus Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University and director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science from 1991 through 1993, addresses the significant problems with the claim human activities are causing catastrophic climate change. Happer says increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are a boon to, not a disaster for, human, other animals, and plants.

Happer has never received a dime to promote his views of climate science. By contrast, Happer points out, most so-called “climate experts” have a huge financial stake in the alarming projections of their research. With regards to their objectivity, Happer quotes James Madison, in “Federalist X,” "No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time."

Happer points out global warming and global cooling are well-established facts. “The earth is almost always warming or cooling. Since the year 1800, the earth has warmed by about 1° Celsius, with much of the warming taking place before much increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. There was a quite substantial cooling from about 1940 to 1975. There has been almost no warming for the past 20 years when the carbon dioxide levels have increased most rapidly. The same alternation of warming and cooling has characterized the earth’s climate for all of geological history.”

Happer argues most of the warming is due to natural causes and climate models, while constantly improving, inadequately represent the climate. For Happer, the critical feature of any scientific theory is Poperian falsifiability or testability. By that standard, Happer states, “Most establishment climate models are scientifically falsified because they predicted much more warming than was actually observed. And there were dozens of papers in major scientific journals that made the same point.”

SOURCE: The Best Schools


RENEWABLE SUBSIDIES DWARF FOSSIL FUEL SUPPORT

Researchers at the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin undertook to “identify and quantify the full-system cost of electric power generation and delivery – from the power plant to the wall socket.” They found 76 distinct federal programs that provided financial support to electricity generation in 2013 topping $17.9 billion.

The study found when considering support for electric power only, the government’s push to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions has resulted in a dramatic increase in support for non-carbon based, electric power supplied by renewable energy sources. Renewables receive much more support than fossil fuel-sourced electricity. Indeed, fossil fuels receive no direct subsidies or government support for the electric power they provide, but even counting indirect support, including tax advantages or business expensing, renewable sources of power currently receive between 1,500 and 4,300 percent more in subsidies than electricity provided by fossil fuels.

The researchers found: “Depending on the year, coal receives $0.5 and $1 per MegaWatthour (MWh), hydrocarbons [oil and natural gas] receive approximately $1 MWh [in support], and nuclear $1 to 2/MWh. Support to wind falls from $57/MWh to $15/MWh over our study period, and support to solar declines from $321/MWh to $43/MWh.” As renewable energy sources have increased dramatically in response to subsidies and state mandates, the amount of support has fallen steeply on a per megawatt hour basis.

SOURCE: University of Texas (Austin) Energy Institute

Article Tags
Environment
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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