Changing a binary climate argument into understanding the issues

Last month Geoff Chambers posted “Who’s Binary, Us or Them? Being at cliscep the question was naturally about whether sceptics or alarmists were binary in their thinking. It reminded me about something that went viral on youtube a few year’s ago. Greg Craven’s The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See.

To his credit, Greg Craven in introducing both that human-caused climate change can have a trivial impact recognize that mitigating climate (taking action) is costly. But for the purposes of his decision grid he side-steps these issues to have binary positions on both. The decision is thus based on the belief that the likely consequences (costs) of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming then the likely consequences (costs) of taking action. A more sophisticated statement of this was from a report commissioned in the UK to justify the draconian climate action of the type Greg Craven is advocating. Sir Nicholas (now Lord) Stern’s report of 2006 (In the Executive Summary) had the two concepts of the warming and policy costs separated when it claimed

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

Craven has merely simplified the issue and made it more binary. But Stern has the same binary choice. It is a choice between taking costly action, or suffering the much greater possible consequences.  I will look at the policy issue first.

Action on Climate Change

The alleged cause of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is (CAGW) is human greenhouse gas emissions. It is not just some people’s emissions that must be reduced, but the aggregate emissions of all 7.6 billion people on the planet. Action on climate change (i.e. reducing GHG emissions to near zero) must therefore include all of the countries in which those people live. The UNFCCC, in the run-up to COP21 Paris 2015, invited countries to submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Most did so before COP21, and as at June 2018, 165 INDCs have been submitted, representing 192 countries and 96.4% of global emissions. The UNFCCC has made them available to read. So these intentions will be sufficient “action” to remove the risk of CAGW? Prior to COP21, the UNFCCC produced a Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs. (The link no longer works, but the main document is here.) They produced a graphic that I have shown on multiple occasions of the gap between policy intentions on the desired policy goals. A more recent graphic is from the UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2017, published last October and

Figure 3 : Emissions GAP estimates from the UNEP Emissions GAP Report 2017

In either policy scenario, emissions are likely to be slightly higher in 2030 than now and increasing, whilst the policy objective is for emissions to be substantially lower than today and and decreasing rapidly. Even with policy proposals fully implemented global emissions will be at least 25% more, and possibly greater than 50%, above the desired policy objectives. Thus, even if proposed policies achieve their objective, in Greg Craven’s terms we are left with pretty much all the possible risks of CAGW, whilst incurring some costs. But the “we” is for 7.6 billion people in nearly 200 countries. But the real costs are being incurred by very few countries. For the United Kingdom, with the Climate Change Act 2018 is placing huge costs on the British people, but future generations of Britain’s will achieve very little or zero benefits.

Most people in the world live in poorer countries that will do nothing significant to constrain emissions growth if it that conflicts with economic growth or other more immediate policy objectives. In terms of the some of the most populous developing countries, it is quite clear that achieving the policy objectives will leave emissions considerably higher than today. For instance, China‘s main aims of peaking CO2 emissions around 2030 and lowering carbon emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 by 60-65% compared to 2005 by 2020 could be achieved with emissions in 2030 20-50% higher than in 2017. India has a lesser but similar target of reducing emissions per unit of GDP in 2030 by 30-35% compared to 2005 by 2020. If the ambitious economic growth targets are achieve, emissions could double in 15 years, and still be increasing past the middle of the century. Emissions in Bangladesh and Pakistan could both more than double by 2030, and continue increasing for decades after.

Within these four countries are over 40% of the global population. Many other countries are also likely to have emissions increasing for decades to come, particularly in Asia and Africa. Yet without them changing course global emissions will not fall.

There is another group of countries that are have vested interests in obstructing emission reduction policies. That is those who are major suppliers of fossil fuels. In a letter to Nature in 2015, McGlade and Ekins (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves of oil, gas and coal would produce about 2900 GtCO2e. They further estimate that the “non-reserve resources” of fossil fuels represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions. The estimated that to constrain warming to 2C, 75% of proven reserves, and any future proven reserves would need to be left in the ground. Using figures from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016 I produced a rough split by major country.

Figure 4 : Fossil fuel Reserves by country, expressed in terms of potential CO2 Emissions

Activists point to the reserves in the rich countries having to be left in the ground. But in the USA, Australia, Canada and Germany production of fossil fuels is not a major part of the economy. Ceasing production would be harmful but not devastating. One major comparison is between the USA and Russia. Gas and crude oil production are similar volumes in both countries. But, the nominal GDP of the US is more than ten times that of Russia. The production of both countries in 2016 was about 550 million tonnes or 3900 million barrels. At $70 a barrel that is around $275bn, equivalent to 1.3% of America’s GDP and 16% of Russia’s. In gas, prices vary, being very low in the highly competitive USA, and highly variable for Russian supply, with major supplier Gazprom acting as a discriminating monopolist. But America’s revenue is likely to be less than 1% of GDP and Russia’s equivalent to 10-15%. There is even greater dependency in the countries of the Middle East. In terms of achieve emissions targets, what is trying to be achieved is the elimination of the major source of the countries economic prosperity in a generation, with year-on-year contractions in fossil fuel sales volumes.

I propose that there are two distinct groups of countries that appear to have a lot lose from a global contraction in GHG emissions to near zero. There are the developing countries who would have to reduce long-term economic growth and the major fossil fuel-dependent countries, who would lose the very foundation of their economic output in a generation. From the evidence of the INDC submissions, there is now no possibility of these countries being convinced to embrace major economic self-harm in the time scales required. The emissions targets are not going to be met. The emissions gap will not be closed to any appreciable degree.

This leaves Greg Craven’s binary decision option of taking action, or not, as irrelevant. As taking action by a country will not eliminate the risk of CAGW, pursuing aggressive climate mitigation policies will impose net harms wherever they implemented. Further, it is not the climate activists who are making the decisions, but policy-makers countries themselves. If the activists believe that others should follow another path, it is them that must make the case. To win over the policy-makers they should have sought to understand their perspectives of those countries, then persuade them to accept their more enlightened outlook. The INDCs show that the climate activists gave failed in this mission. Until such time, when activists talk about the what “we” are doing to change the climate, or what “we” ought to be doing, they are not speaking about

But the activists have won over the United Nations, those who work for many Governments and they dominate academia. For most countries, this puts political leaders in a quandary. To maintain good diplomatic relations with other countries, and to appear as movers on a world stage they create the appearance of taking significant action on climate change for the outside world. On the other hand they are serving their countries through minimizing the real harms that imposing the policies would create. Any “realities” of climate change have become largely irrelevant to climate mitigation policies.

The Risks of Climate Apocalypse

Greg Craven recognized a major issue with his original video. In the shouting match over global warming who should you believe? In How it all Ends (which was followed up by further videos and a book) Craven believes he has the answer.

Figure 5 : Greg Craven’s “How it all Ends”

It was pointed out that the logic behind the grid is bogus. As in Devil’s advocate guise Craven says at 3:50

Wouldn’t that grid argue for action against any possible threat, no matter how costly the action or how ridiculous the threat? Even giant mutant space hamsters? It is better to go broke building a load of rodent traps than risk the possibility of being hamster chow. So this grid is useless.

His answer is to get a sense of how likely the possibility of global warming being TRUE or FALSE is. Given that science is always uncertain, and there are divided opinions.

The trick is not to look at what individual scientists are saying, but instead to look at what the professional organisations are saying. The more prestigious they are, the more weight you can give their statements, because they have got huge reputations to uphold and they don’t want to say something that later makes them look foolish. 

Craven points to the “two most respected in the world“. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Back in 2007 they had “both issued big statements calling for action, now, on global warming“.  The crucial question from scientists (that is people will a demonstrable expert understanding of the natural world) is not for political advocacy, but whether their statements say their is a risk of climate apocalypse. These two bodies still have statements on climate change.

National Academy of Sciences (NAS) says

There are well-understood physical mechanisms by which changes in the amounts of greenhouse gases cause climate changes. The US National Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society produced a booklet, Climate Change: Evidence and Causes (download here), intended to be a brief, readable reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative information on the some of the questions that continue to be asked. The booklet discusses the evidence that the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased and are still increasing rapidly, that climate change is occurring, and that most of the recent change is almost certainly due to emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activities.

Further climate change is inevitable; if emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, future changes will substantially exceed those that have occurred so far. There remains a range of estimates of the magnitude and regional expression of future change, but increases in the extremes of climate that can adversely affect natural ecosystems and human activities and infrastructure are expected.

Note, this is conjunction with the Royal Society, which is arguably is (or was) the most prestigious  scientific organisation of them all. It is what not said that is as important as what is actually said. They are saying that there is a an expectation that extremes of climate could get worse. There is nothing that solely backs up the climate apocalypse, but a range of possibilities, including changes somewhat trivial on a global scale. The statement endorses a spectrum of possible positions that undermines the binary TRUE /FALSE position on decision-making.

The RS/NAS booklet has no estimates of the scale of possible climate catastrophism to be avoided. Point 19 is the closest.

Are disaster scenarios about tipping points like ‘turning off the Gulf Stream’ and release of methane from the Arctic a cause for concern?

The summary answer is

Such high-risk changes are considered unlikely in this century, but are by definition hard to predict. Scientists are therefore continuing to study the possibility of such tipping points beyond which we risk large and abrupt changes.

This appears not to support Stern’s contention that unmitigated climate change will costs at least 5% of global GDP by 2100. Another context of the back-tracking on potential catastrophism is to to compare with  Lenton et al 2008 – Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system. Below is a map showing the the various elements considered.

Figure 6 : Fig 1 of Lenton et al 2008, with explanatory note.

Of the 14 possible tipping elements discussed, only one makes it into the booklet six years later. Surely if the other 13 were still credible more would have been included in booklet, and less on documenting trivial historical changes.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has a video

Figure 7 : AAAS “What We Know – Consensus Sense” video

 

It starts with the 97% Consensus claims. After asking the listener on how many,  Marshall Sheppard, Prof of Geography at Univ of Georgia states.

The reality is that 97% of scientists are pretty darn certain that humans are contributing to the climate change that we are seeing right now and we better do something about it to soon.

There are two key papers that claimed a 97% consensus. Doran and Zimmerman 2009 asked two questions,

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

The second of these two responses was answered in the affirmative by 77 of 79 climate scientists. This was reduced from 3146 responses received. Read the original to find out why it was reduced.

Dave Burton has links to a number of sources on these studies. A relevant quote on Doran and Zimmerman is from the late Bob Carter

Both the questions that you report from Doran’s study are (scientifically) meaningless because they ask what people “think”. Science is not about opinion but about factual or experimental testing of hypotheses – in this case the hypothesis that dangerous global warming is caused by human carbon dioxide emissions.

The abstract to Cook et al. 2013 begins

We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. 

Expressing a position does not mean a belief. It could be an assumption. The papers were not necessarily by scientists, but merely authors of academic papers that involved the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. Jose Duarte listed some of the papers that were included in the survey, along with looking at some that were left out.

Neither paper asked a question concerning belief in future climate catastrophism. Sheppard does not make clear the scale of climate change trends from the norm, so the human-caused element could be insignificant. The 97% consensus does not include the policy claims.

The booklet is also misleading as well in the scale of changes. For instance on sea-level rise it states.

Over the past two decades, sea levels have risen almost twice as fast as the average during the twentieth century.

You will get that if you compare the tide gauge data with the two decades of satellite data. The question is whether those two sets of data are accurate. As individual tide gauges do not tend to show acceleration, and others cannot find statistically significant acceleration, the claim seems not to be supported.

At around 4.15 in the consensus video AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner says

America’s leaders should stop debating the reality of climate change and start deciding the best solutions. Our What we Know report makes clear that climate change threatens us at every level. We can reduce the risk of global warming to protect out people, businesses and communities from harm. At every level from our personal and community health, our economy and our future as a global leader.  Understanding and managing climate change risks is an urgent problem. 

The statement is about combating the potential risks from CAGW. The global part of global warming is significant for policy. The United States share of global emissions is around 13% of global emissions. That share has been falling as America’s emissions have been falling why the global aggregate emissions have been rising. The INDC submission for the United States aimed as getting US emissions in 2025 at 26-28% of 2005 levels, with a large part of that reduction already “achieved” when the report was published. The actual policy difference is likely to be less than 1% of global emissions. So any reduction in risks with respect to climate change seems to be tenuous. A consensus of the best scientific minds should have been able to work this out for themselves.

The NAAS does not give a collective expert opinion on climate catastrophism. This is shown by the inability to distinguish between banal opinions and empirical evidence for a big problem. This is carried over into policy advocacy, where they fail to distinguish between the United States and the world as a whole.

Conclusions

Greg Laden’s decision-making grid is inapplicable to real world decision-making. The decision whether to take action or not is not a unitary one, but needs to be taken at country level. Different countries will have different perspectives on the importance of taking action on climate change relative to other issues. In the real world, the proposals for action are available. In aggregate they will not “solve” the potential risk of climate apocalypse. Whatever the actual scale of CAGW, countries who pursue expensive climate mitigation policies are likely to make their own people worse off than if they did nothing at all.

Laden’s grid assumes that the costs of the climate apocalypse are potentially far greater than the costs of action, no matter how huge. He tries to cut through the arguments by getting the opinions from the leading scientific societies. To put it mildly, they do not currently provide strong scientific evidence for a potentially catastrophic problem. The NAS / Royal Society suggest a range of possible climate change outcomes, with only vague evidence for potentially catastrophic scenarios. It does not seem to back the huge potential costs of unmitigated climate change in the Stern Review. The NAAAS seems to provide vague banal opinions to support political advocacy rather than rigorous analysis based on empirical evidence that one would expect from the scientific community.

It would appear that the binary thinking on both the “science” and on “policy” leads to a dead end, and is leading to net harmful public policy.

What are the alternatives to binary thinking on climate change?

My purpose in looking at Greg Laden’s decision grid is not to destroy an alternative perspective, but to understand where the flaws are for better alternatives. As a former, slightly manic, beancounter, I would (like the Stern Review  and William Nordhaus) look at translating potential CAGW into costs. But then weight it according to a discount rate, and the strength of the evidence. In terms of policy I would similarly look at the likely expected costs of the implemented policies, against the actual expected harms foregone. As I have tried to lay out above, the costs of policy and indeed the potential costs of climate change are largely subjective. Further, those implementing policies might be boxed in by other priorities and various interest groups jostling for position.

But what of the expert scientist who can see the impending on-coming catastrophes to which I am blind and to which climate mitigation will be useless? It is to endeavor to pin down the where, when, type and magnitude of potential changes to climate. With this information ordinary people can adjust their plans. The challenge for those who believe there are real problems is to focus on the data from the natural world and away from inbuilt biases of the climate community. But the most difficult part is from such methods they may lose their beliefs, status and friends.

First is to obtain some perspective. In terms of the science, it is worth looking at the broad range of  different perspectives on the Philosophy of Science. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on the subject is long, but very up to date. In the conclusions, the references to Paul Hoyningen-Huene’s views on what sets science apart seems to be a way out of consensus studies.

Second, is to develop strategies to move away from partisan positions with simple principles, or contrasts, that other areas use. In Fundamentals that Climate Science Ignores I list some of these.

Third, in terms of policy, it is worthwhile having a theoretical framework in which to analyze the problems. After looking at Greg Craven’s video’s in 2010, I developed a graphical analysis that will be familiar to people who have studied Marshallian Supply and Demand curves of Hicksian IS-LM. It is very rough at the edges, but armed with it you will not fall in the trap of thinking like the AAAS that US policy will stop US-based climate change.

Fourth, is to look from other perspectives. Appreciate that other people might have other perspectives that you can learn from. Or alternatively they may have entrenched positions which, although you might disagree with, are powerless to overturn. It should then be possible to orientate yourself, whether as an individual or as part of a group, towards aims that are achievable.

Kevin Marshall

Charles Moore nearly gets Climate Change Politics post Paris Agreement

Charles Moore of the Telegraph has long been one of the towering figures of the mainstream media. In Donald Trump has the courage and wit to look at ‘green’ hysteria and say: no deal (see also at GWPF, Notalotofpeopleknowthat and Tallbloke) he understands not only the impact of Trump withdrawing from the climate agreement on future global emissions, but recognizes that two other major developed countries – Germany and Japan – whilst committed to reduce their emissions and spending lots of money on renewables are also investing heavily in coal. So without climate policy, the United States is reducing its emissions, but with climate commitments, emissions in Japan and Germany are increasing their emissions. However, there is one slight inaccuracy in Charles Moore’s account. He states

As for “Paris”, this is failing, chiefly for the reason that poorer countries won’t decarbonise unless richer ones pay them stupendous sums.

It is worse than this. Many of the poorer countries have not said they will decarbonize. Rather they have said that they will use the money to reduce emissions relative to a business as usual scenario.

Take Pakistan’s INDC. In 2015 they estimate emissions were 405 MtCO2e, up from 182 in 1994. As a result of ambitious planned economic growth, they forecast a BAU of 1603 MtCO2e in 2030. However, they can reduce that by 20% with about $40 billion in finance. That is, with $40bn, average annual emissions growth from 2015-2030 will still be twice that of 1994-2015. Plus Pakistan would like $7-$14bn pa for adaptation to climate change. The INDC Table 7 summarizes the figures.

Or Bangladesh’s INDC. Estimated BAU increase in emissions from 2011 to 2030 is 264%. They will unconditionally cut this by 5% and conditionally by a further 15%. The BAU is 7.75% annual emissions growth, cut to 7.5% unconditionally and 6% with lots of finance. The INDC Table 7 summarizes the figures.

I do not blame either country for taking such an approach, or the many others adopting similar strategies. They are basically saying that they will do nothing that impedes trying to raise living standards through high levels of sustained economic growth. They will play the climate change game, so long as nobody demands that Governments compromise on serving the best interests of their peoples. If only the Government’s of the so-called developed nations would play similar games, rather than impose useless burdens on the people they are supposed to be serving.

There is another category of countries that will not undertake to reduce their emissions – the OPEC members. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar have all made submissions. Only Iran gives a figure. It will unilaterally cut emissions by 4% against BAU. With the removal of “unjust sanctions” and some financial assistance and technology transfer it conditional offer would be much more. But nowhere is the BAU scenario stated in figures. The reason these OPEC countries will not play ball is quite obvious. To achieve the IPCC objective of constraining warming to 2°C according to McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) would mean leaving 75% of proven reserves of fossil fuels in the ground and all of the unproven reserves. I did an approximate breakdown by major countries last year, using the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016.

It does not take a genius to work out that meeting the 2°C climate mitigation target would shut down a major part of the economies of fossil fuel producing countries in about two decades. No-one has proposed either compensating them, or finding alternatives.

But the climate alarmist community are too caught up in their Groupthink to notice the obvious huge harms that implementing global climate mitigation policies would entail.

Kevin Marshall

More Coal-Fired Power Stations in Asia

A lovely feature of the GWPF site is its extracts of articles related to all aspects of climate and related energy policies. Yesterday the GWPF extracted from an opinion piece in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post A new coal war frontier emerges as China and Japan compete for energy projects in Southeast Asia.
The GWPF’s summary:-

Southeast Asia’s appetite for coal has spurred a new geopolitical rivalry between China and Japan as the two countries race to provide high-efficiency, low-emission technology. More than 1,600 coal plants are scheduled to be built by Chinese corporations in over 62 countries. It will make China the world’s primary provider of high-efficiency, low-emission technology.

A summary point in the article is not entirely accurate. (Italics mine)

Because policymakers still regard coal as more affordable than renewables, Southeast Asia’s industrialisation continues to consume large amounts of it. To lift 630 million people out of poverty, advanced coal technologies are considered vital for the region’s continued development while allowing for a reduction in carbon emissions.

Replacing a less efficient coal-fired power station with one of the latest technology will reduce carbon (i.e CO2) emissions per unit of electricity produced. In China, these efficiency savings replacement process may outstrip the growth in power supply from fossil fuels. But in the rest of Asia, the new coal-fired power stations will be mostly additional capacity in the coming decades, so will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions. It is this additional capacity that will be primarily responsible for driving the economic growth that will lift the poor out of extreme poverty.

The newer technologies are important in other types emissions. That is the particle emissions that has caused high levels of choking pollution and smogs in many cities of China and India. By using the new technologies, other countries can avoid the worst excesses of this pollution, whilst still using a cheap fuel available from many different sources of supply. The thrust in China will likely be to replace the high pollution power stations with new technologies or adapt them to reduce the emissions and increase efficiencies. Politically, it is a different way of raising living standards and quality of life than by increasing real disposable income per capita.

Kevin Marshall

 

Is China leading the way on climate mitigation?

At the Conversation is an article on China’s lead in renewable energy.
China wants to dominate the world’s green energy markets – here’s why is by University of Sheffield academic Chris G Pope. The article starts:-

If there is to be an effective response to climate change, it will probably emanate from China. The geopolitical motivations are clear. Renewable energy is increasingly inevitable, and those that dominate the markets in these new technologies will likely have the most influence over the development patterns of the future. As other major powers find themselves in climate denial or atrophy, China may well boost its power and status by becoming the global energy leader of tomorrow.

The effective response ought to be put into the global context. At the end of October UNEP produced its Emissions Gap Report 2017, just in time for the COP23 meeting in Bonn. The key figure on the aimed for constraint of warming to 1.5°C to 2°C from pre-industrial levels – an “effective polcy response” – is E5.2, reproduced below.

An “effective response” by any one country is at least reducing it’s emissions substantially by 2030 compared with now at the start of 2018. To be a world leader in response to climate change requires reducing emissions in the next 12 years by more than the required global average of 20-30%.

Climate Action Tracker – which, unlike myself strongly promotes climate mitigation – rates China’s overall policies as Highly Insufficient in terms of limiting warming to 1.5°C to 2°C. The reason is that they forecast on the basis of current policies emissions will increase in China in the next few years, instead of rapidly decreasing.

So why has Chris Pope got China’s policy so radically wrong? After all, I accept the following statement.

Today, five of the world’s six top solar-module manufacturers, five of the largest wind turbine manufacturers, and six of the ten major car manufacturers committed to electrification are all Chinese-owned. Meanwhile, China is dominant in the lithium sector – think: batteries, electric vehicles and so on – and a global leader in smart grid investment and other renewable energy technologies.

Reducing net emissions means not just have lots of wind turbines, hydro schemes, solar farms and electric cars. It means those renewable forms of energy replacing CO2 energy sources. The problem is that renewables are adding to total energy production, along with fossil fuels. The principal source of China’s energy for electricity and heating is coal. The Global Coal Plant Tracker at endcoal.org has some useful statistics. In terms of coal-fired power stations, China now has 922 GW of coal-fired power stations operating (47% of the global total) with a further 153 GW “Announced + Pre-permit + Permitted” (28%) and 147 GW under construction (56%). Further, from 2006 to mid-2017, China’s Newly Operating Coal Plants had a capacity of 667 GW, fully 70% of the global total. Endcoal.org estimates that coal-fired power stations account for 72% of global GHG emissions from the energy sector, with the energy-sector contributing to 41% of global GHG emissions. With China’s coal-fired power stations accounting for 47% of the global total, assuming similar capacity utilization, China’s coal-fired power stations account for 13-14% of global GHG emissions or 7 GtCO2e of around 52 GtCO2e. It does not stop there. Many homes in China use coal for domestic heating; there is a massive coal-to-liquids program (which may not be currently operating due to the low oil price); manufacturers (such as metal refiners) burn it direct; and recently there are reports of producing gas from coal. So why would China pursue a massive renewables program?

Possible reasons for the Chinese “pro-climate” policies

First, is for strategic energy reasons. I believe that China does not want to be dependent on world oil price fluctuations, which could harm economic growth. China, therefore, builds massive hydro schemes, despite it there being damaging to the environment and sometimes displacing hundreds of thousands of people. China also pursues coal-to-liquids programs, alongside promoting solar and wind farms. Although duplicating effort, it means that if oil prices suffer another hike, China is more immune from the impact than

Second, is an over-riding policy of a fast increase in perceived living standards. For over 20 years China managed average growth rates of up to 10% per annum, increasing average incomes by up to eight times, and moving hundreds of millions of people out of grinding poverty. Now economic growth is slowing (to still fast rates by Western standards) the raising of perceived living standards is being achieved by other means. One such method is to reduce the particulate pollution, particularly in the cities. The recent heavy-handed banning of coal burning in cities (with people freezing this winter) is one example. Another, is the push for electric cars, with the electricity mostly coming from distant coal-fired power stations. In terms of reducing CO2 emissions, electric cars do not make sense, but they do make sense in densely-populated areas with an emerging middle class wanting independent means of travel.

Third, is the push to dominate areas of manufacturing. With many countries pursuing hopeless renewables policies, the market for wind turbines and solar panels is set to increase. The “rare earths” required for the wind turbine magnets, such as neodymium, are produced in large quantities in China, such as in highly polluted Baotou. With lithium (required for batteries), China might only be currently world’s third largest producer – and some way behind Australia and Chile – but its reserves are the world’s second largest and sufficient on their own to supply current global demand for decades. With raw material supplies and low, secure energy costs from coal, along with still relatively low labour costs, China is well-placed to dominate these higher added-value manufacturing areas.

Concluding Comments

The wider evidence shows that an effective response to climate change is not emanating from China. The current energy policies are dominated, and will continue to be dominated, by coal. This will far out-weigh any apparent reductions in emissions from the manufacturing of renewables. Rather, the growth of renewables should be viewed in the context of promoting the continued rapid and secure increase in living standards for the Chinese people, whether in per capita income, or in standards of the local environment.

Kevin Marshall

 

The Supply-Side of Climate Mitigation is Toothless

To eliminate global greenhouse gas emissions requires a two-pronged policy approach. Much is made of reducing demand for greenhouse gases through the switch to renewables, regulations and carbon taxes. But, with respect to fossil fuels, the supply needs to be reduced and eventually ceased. Climate activists like valve-turner Micheal Foster recognize that to achieve the climate mitigation targets much of the potential supply of fossil fuels must be left in the ground. With respect to the valve-turners actions of October 16th 2016, whilst it is possible to look at the minuscule impact that on global oil supply and proven reserves of oil, it is more difficult to estimate the marginal impact on the overall greenhouse gas emissions of their broader objective of permanently shutting down Canadian oil production. That requires estimates of CO2 emissions per unit of oil, coal and gas. In searching for figures to make my own estimates I came across a letter to Nature. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves of oil, gas and coal would produce about 2900 GtCO2e. They further estimate that the “non-reserve resources” of fossil fuels represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions.

There is no breakdown by country, so I input their values of CO2 per unit into the BP’s estimates of global reserves of oil, gas and coal, coming up with a similar 2800 GtCO2e. These represent roughly 50 years of oil and gas supply and 120 years of coal supply at current usage rates. This should be put into the context of the policy objectives. From the abstract.

It has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2).

This is similar to the IPCC’s central estimate of 1000 Gt CO2e from 2012 onwards. With just over 50 GtCO2e of GHG emissions per annum, from the beginning of 2018, the figure is around 700-800 GtCO2e. Taking into account other GHG emissions, to achieve the emissions target around 75% of proven reserves and 100% of any non-reserve sources or future discoveries must be left in the ground. I have produced a chart of the countries where these proven reserves lie, measured in terms of CO2 produced from burning.

These are very rough estimates, based upon assuming that the emissions per unit of each fossil fuel are the same as the McGlade and Ekins averages. This is clearly not the case. A better estimate for oil, for instance, would likely have higher potential emissions from Venezuela and Canada, and lower potential emissions from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. However, it is clear that if global emissions constraints are to be achieved, the UN must get binding agreements from USA, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Qatar – plus many other countries – to abandon these vital resources within a few years. This would need to be done fairly and equitably in the eyes of all parties. But in such matters, there are widely different perspectives on what is fair, with a lack of ability by the UN to impose a settlement. There are also considerable economic costs to those nations whose economies rely on the producing fossil fuels, with the compensation the that they might demand unimaginably high. Further, like any cartel, there are considerable economic advantages in reneging on such deals, whilst ensuring that rival countries are held to their part of the agreement.

The problem is even greater. McGlade and Ekins 2015 is likely to have underestimated the unproven reserves of fossil fuels, even though the 8000 GtCO2e is truly staggering. The short 2013 GWPF paper THE ABUNDANCE OF FOSSIL FUELS by Phillip Mueller estimates that unproven, but potential recoverable reserves of tar sands in Canada and Green River Basin Wyoming, heavy oil in Venezuela and shale oil in Saudi Arabia could each be similar to or exceed, the global proven reserves of oil. Combined these could produce the around the same CO2 emissions of all the proven reserves of oil, gas and coal combined.

Then there are methane hydrates, which could contain 500 to 5000+ GtCO2e of emissions if burnt. The very nature of the hydrates could mean that large amounts of methane being released directly into the atmosphere.  This US Geological survey graphic (from a 2014 BBC article) shows the very wide distribution of the hydrates, meaning many countries could have large deposits within their territorial waters. This is especially significant for African nations, most of whom have very low, or nil, proven fossil fuel resources.

Mueller does not explore the potential reserves of coal. Under the North Sea alone there is estimated to be 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of the stuff. (Searches reveal a number of other sources.) This compares to the BP estimate of 800 million tonnes of global proven reserves. 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of hard coal if burnt would represent 7000 to 55000 GtCO2e of emissions, compared to less than 1000 GtCO2e the IPCC claims sufficient to reach the 2C warming limit.

How many other vast fossil fuel reserves are out there? It may be just economic factors that stop fossil fuels reserves being proven and then exploited. What is clear is that whilst activists might be able to curtail or stop production of fossil fuels in Western countries, they are powerless to stop vast reserves being exploited in much of the rest of the World. The only significant consequence is to harm the economic futures of any country in which they gain successes and inadvertently work to benefit some pretty intolerant and oppressive regimes.

However, this does not leave climate activists impotent. They can work on better identifying when and where the catastrophic impacts of climate change will occur. But that would mean recognizing that previous prophesies of impending doom have been either totally false or massively exaggerated.

Kevin Marshall

Macron calls for Climate Tariffs against most of the World

From the Independent (via Eric Worrall at WUWT)

In his speech, Mr Macron also called for an EU tariff on goods imported from countries or companies that do not share its climate goals, and pledged to work to raise the cost of carbon within the EU to €30 a tonne.

The EU INDC submission to COP21 Paris states

The EU and its Member States are committed to a binding target of an at
least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
compared to 1990,

Most INDC submissions do not state they will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, even if the proposals are fully met (and the EU is unlikely to meet its target) then emissions are forecast to be higher in 2030 than they are today. This graphic from the UNEP Emissions Gap Report published at the end of October demonstrates the situation quite nicely.

So President Macron is wanting sanctions not just against the USA, but most of the world as well? This includes China, India, nearly every African country,  most countries in SE Asia, the Middle East nations and some other nations besides. Or is it just those who stand up to the useless European climate policies, that are benefiting large businesses with subsidies financed disproportionately by the poor? The rhetoric includes “companies”, on whom sanctions cannot be applied. Further, the €30 carbon price is equivalent to €0.10 on the price of petrol (gasoline). How is a small rise in the cost of fossil fuel energy from a group of countries with less than 10% of GHG emissions going to save the world? As economics Professor Richard Tol has estimated, to achieve the targets would require a global carbon tax from 2020 of $210 and then escalated by 4-6% a year until fossil fuels were unaffordable. Chancellor Angela Merkel claims “Climate change is by far the most significant struggle of our time.” (Independent again). The falsity of this claim is shown by political newcomer President Macron’s trying to marginalize and silence opponents with empty and ineffectual threats.

Climate Necessity Defense for Minnesotan Valve Turners

Unlike the Michael Foster and other co-defendants is North Dakota, the Minnesotan Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein get their chance to present the Climate Necessity Defense. From TownHall.com (Hat tip Science Matters)

Klapstein, a retired lawyer, said they know of one case in which a judge allowed evidence about climate change but then told the jury to disregard it.

“It looks like we’re going to be able to bring in all our experts and present our evidence of how dire climate change is, so we’re pretty excited about that,” she said.

As a retired attorney, she perhaps should have read the criteria before responding.

In an order Friday, Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany said the four defendants must clear a high legal bar.

In Minnesota, Tiffany wrote, a defendant asserting a necessity defense “must show that the harm that would have resulted from obeying the law would have significantly exceeded the harm actually caused by breaking the law, there was no legal alternative to breaking the law, the defendant was in danger of imminent physical harm, and there was a direct causal connection between breaking the law and preventing the harm.

The judge said it applies “only in emergency situations where the peril is instant, overwhelming, and leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.

This appears fairly clear. The Judge lays down four criteria to be met within an overriding one of emergency situations with no alternative. It is the legal equivalent of demanding that the positive impacts of an action greatly exceed the harms in very specific, very short-term, circumstances. Further, it is up to the defense to demonstrate that the circumstances apply, convincing the court in the face of cross-examinations.

There are a number of areas where I believe climate activists actions not only fails to meet these criteria, but does not even get anywhere close.

The timing issue

The emergency situations criteria are pretty immediate. An example is a police officer shooting dead a rampaging terrorist rather than maiming and performing an arrest. Another example might be destroying the car keys of someone who is drunk and intent on driving. The very short time scales of seconds or minutes exclude options that would take months or years to implement.  There are examples of where such an emergency situation does not apply to climate change policies.

If prominent climate activist Prince Charles was correct in saying in October 2009 that we have less than 100 months to save the planet, it would not have been considered an instant peril. With three months to go until the deadline, even that appears to be somewhat alarmist in the context of a lack of increase of signals of impending catastrophic consequences.

Another source is from the pinnacle of the climate establishment. The IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report gave a very rough guide to how much CO2 (or equivalent greenhouse gases) could be emitted to limit warming to less than 2°C. From 2012 it was about 1000 GtCO2e. This flowing is part of a presentation to summarize the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report of 2014. Slide 33 of 35.

A more recent source is Miller et al 2017 Nature GeoScience. They estimate that 240 GtC (880 GtCO2e) from now will be needed to reach 1.5°C of warming. On the IPCC’s estimate then with slightly over 50GtCO2e of emissions per annum, the 2°C of warming would be reached sometime before 2032, when the climate experts are now saying the lower 1.5°C barrier will be reached sometime before 2035. Whichever you use as the barrier for breaching of dangerous climate change, that level will not be reached anytime soon according to the climate experts. There is plenty of time for a few more, tense, annual meetings with representatives of 195 nations to pontificate about mitigation policies.

So even if extreme climate alarmism is true, the expert opinion on policy strongly implies that the defendants were not “in danger of imminent physical harm”.

Finally, in 2008 the climate necessity defense was supported by James Hansen in a couple of British court cases. The detailed document prepared as written testimony for the Ratcliffe Nottingham trial is here and a 2011 commentary on the two cases by Hansen is here. As the supposed emergency in global emissions have not appeared in eight years between the testimony and the felony why should it be still considered a pressing problem? James Hansen, sometimes referred to as the Father of Climate Change after his 1988 Congressional Testimony pushed Global Warming to the fore of the political agenda, is likely to be the key witness in the necessity defence. He would have been the key witness at the trial of Micheal Foster in North Dakota last month if the necessity defense had been allowed. After the Foster Trial, Hansen wrote a long article, including arguments that will likely be presented at the Johnston and Klapstein Trail.

Indivisibility Issues

Many people in the United States believe that abortion is murder. Suppose a group managed to close down a busy abortion clinic by constant blockades and intimidation, throwing a number of people of work. An argument could be made that some of the women will not get abortions elsewhere, but will instead give birth to a child. The necessity defense criteria could, therefore, be operable. But with respect to global warming the evidence shows (and the science agrees) that it does not matter where in the world fossil fuels are burnt, the generated CO2 will be dispersed affecting the whole atmosphere. Otherwise, Eastern USA and Eastern China would have much higher concentrations of CO2 than in Africa, Antarctica or over the oceans that cover 70% of the earth’s surface.  Neither does that CO2 leave the atmosphere quickly but could remain in the atmosphere for many decades or even centuries. Therefore, the marginal impact delaying the transportation of one type of fossil fuel in one country for a few hours will have no significant impact on generations of people yet to come. As a rough estimate, the combined actions of the valve-turners (of which Micheal Foster on the Keystone Pipeline was by far the biggest contribution), was to delay the transportation of less than a million barrels of oil. That is to delay the transportation of around 1% of the daily global output of about 92 million barrels. A million barrels (140,000 tonnes) will produce around 400,000 tonnes of CO2. That is 0.4 million tonnes or 0.0004 billion tonnes. This 0.0004 GtCO2 is 0.00004% of the 1000 GtCO2e (million million) of emissions by the IPCC to breach the dangerous 2°C of warming barrier. The impact of Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein is somewhat less than this. The difference between “the harm that would have resulted from obeying the law” and “the harm actually caused by breaking the law” is infinitesimally small.

Local Harms, Wider Benefits

There is another set of harms to be considered.  That is the immediate costs of property damage and business disruption from the activists’ actions, along with the time and expense of law enforcement. Even if the action could be shown to have benefits exceeding the costs, for the actual persons or entities targeted that position will be reversed. So, hypothetically, if the benefits of stopping a few hundred thousand tonnes of emissions are even $100,000,000, and the immediate costs are just $1,000,000, the benefits are across the planet decades or centuries in the future and shared by tens of billions of people, whilst the costs are immediate and disproportionately borne by very few victims that the activists select. In reality, the benefits are likely far less, and the full costs somewhat more.

The catalyst effect of the action

As this was an act of climate activism, there was probably no intention that this act would stop climate change. Rather, that the act could serve as a catalyst for action to constrain emissions. It could serve as a wake-up call to policy-makers. A year later it is possible to see any impacts.

In the United States, less than a month after the valve turners did their deeds Donald Trump was elected President and subsequently has begun to rescind climate change policies. There appears to have been no impact on the Presidential elections. If it had, then criminal acts would have influenced the election, something that would have undermined the democratic process.

Another justification could be one of a catalyst for many more criminal actions. Again, there seems to be no surge in climate activism, whether through legal or illegal means does not seem to have happened. Further, lawyers might caution against using the catalyst argument in court to defend criminal acts.

So the catalyst defense (which may not be admissible under Judge Tiffany’s criteria) doesn’t seem to have worked out.

Non-exhaustion of legal policy initiatives

Judge Tiffany’s final specification was

leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.

Was there no alternative? There are two basic criteria necessary, but not sufficient, for the necessity defense to justify an otherwise illegal activity. First, that legal alternatives have been exhausted and second, that the illegal alternative has at least an expectation of being remotely effective. As already stated, the consensus believes that to prevent catastrophic climate change means permanently eliminating global greenhouse gas emissions. With respect to the burning of fossil fuels (about two-thirds of global GHG emissions), this is on the twin fronts of reducing global emissions to near zero and ensuring permanently leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Possibilities for closing the policy gap

The global efforts to reduce global GHG emissions culminated in the Paris Agreement, written at the end of December 2015 and signed by most countries. The Adoption of the Paris Agreement proposal; Section II, Point 17 notes gives an indication of the gap between the aggregate impact of all the vague policy initiatives and the desired policy goal.

17. Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below;

In a post last month I adapted a graphic produced by the UNFCCC in the run-up to Paris COP21 to show the gap between actual policy proposals and the Millar et al 2017 estimates to prevent 1.5˚C of warming being breached.

The aggregate impact of all policy ambitions if fully implemented fall a long way short of the targets. The majority is not due to the United States, or other Western Countries, failing to reduce emissions at a fast enough rate, but the developing countries increasing their emissions, rather than cutting emissions. When compared with  protests against President Trump’s policies (in a country with less than one-eighth of global emissions and a falling share of the total) there are no mass protests outside the embassies of Asian, Middle Eastern, African or South American countries, with over 80% if the global population and which collectively account for 100% of the growth in emissions between 1990 and 2012. Yet these countries have no expressed intention of reducing their emissions commensurate with the policy pathways. Criminal acts in the USA will do nothing to change this.

Leaving Fossil Fuels in the Ground

Arguments for targeting the output of Canadian tar sands include

(a) per unit of energy, it creates higher emissions than oil from say, Saudi Arabia.

(b) there are vast unproven reserves of oil in Canada that may exceed the current global proven reserves.

These aspects I will deal with in depth in a follow-up post. However, the two statements above are true. There are, however, wider policy aspects. Shutting down some of the global production of oil (and raising the price of oil) could increase the usage of coal instead. Push the price high enough and there will generate economic incentives to convert coal to liquids, a process that involves the generation of a number of times the CO2 emissions as from generating energy direct from oil alone.

The wider aspect is whether shutting down some proven reserves make available much less than the 1000 GtCO2e of emissions that would supposedly cause dangerous climate change. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves around 2900 GtCO2e. There is no clear breakdown by country, so I input their values of CO2 per unit into the BP’s estimates of global reserves of oil, gas and coal, coming up with a similar 2800 GtCO2e. These represent roughly 50 years of oil and gas supply and 120 years of coal supply at current usage rates. Taking into account other GHG emissions, to achieve the emissions target around 75% of proven reserves and 100% of any future discoveries must be left in the ground. I have produced a chart of the countries where these proven resources lie, measured in terms of CO2 produced from burning for energy.

McGlade and Ekins further estimate there are unproven but likely reserves of oil, gas and coal represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions. Shutting down the Tar Sands permanently will not stop production of fossil fuels elsewhere in the world, particularly in the Middle East, Russia and other Asian countries.

Conclusion

There are a number of reasons that on their own ought to fail the necessity defense criteria laid down by Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany last month. 

First, the climate experts at the UNIPCC, and the policy-promotors at the UNFCCC do not believe there is an imminent emergency. They estimate the threshold to dangerous climate change will not be crossed for over a decade.

Second, the cause of dangerous climate change is meant to the rise in global greenhouse levels, caused by global human greenhouse gas emissions. Shutting down fossil fuel emissions will not stop the harms in that area.

Third, the harms inflicted on the victims of the action are local, whereas any benefits in reduced emissions are global. But there is no evidence of the activists realizing this by campaigning for policy changes in other countries on anything like the level in the USA. The activist’s actions single out a particular source and are thus discriminatory.

Fourth, although the various actions on the same day stopped a vast amount of oil being moved, it was tiny in relation to oil the fossil being produced. Further, oil is only a minority source of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

Fifth, there is a large recognized global policy gap between forecast emissions if current policy proposals are fully enacted and the desired emissions pathways commensurate with 1.5°C or 2°C of warming. To meet these global pathways all countries must participate, but the evidence is that countries with over 80% of the global population have no expressed intention to get anywhere close to these policy criteria. Further, meeting the policy criteria would mean that the vast majority of proven reserves of fossil fuels are left in the group, along with any unproven reserves. Given the geographical dispersion of the proven reserves, this is not going to happen.

The principal theme that undermines the climate necessity defense is that the marginal impact of the action of shutting down a pipeline (or even a number of pipelines) is infinitesimally small compared to the required solution. For this reason, the necessity defense is still not valid even if (contrary to all the research to date) it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that catastrophic climate changes will happen without rapid reductions in global emissions.

Kevin Marshall

 

New EU Vacuum Cleaner Regulations likely promoted with false claims

Summary

On September 1st, the EU Commission launched new regulations limiting the maximum power of vacuum cleaners to 900 watts.  A news item claimed

The updated rules will result in vacuum cleaners that use less energy for a better cleaning performance. This will help consumers to save money, as switching to a more efficient product can save €70 over its lifetime.

Elsewhere the is a claim that “with more efficient vacuum cleaners, Europe as a whole can save up to 20 TWh of electricity per year by 2020.

There is no reference to the source of the claims. Pulling in data from various sources I have calculated how the figures may have been derived. Based on these figures it would appear

  • The assumed savings are 200 kWh per vacuum cleaner, based on switching from a 1600 watts to a 900 watts, and 290 hours of use over the average lifetime.
  • This ignores that many vacuum cleaners are below 1600 watts due competition, not rules in place.
  • Cost savings are based on the average electricity costs in the EU, when in reality electricity costs in the most expensive country are 2.6 times that of the cheapest.
  •  Cost savings are not net of cost increases, such as more time spent cleaning and increase costs of the appliance.
  • Claims of reduction in electricity consumption are based on the requirement that all 350 million vacuum cleaners of 1600 watts are replaced by 900 watt cleaners by the start of 2020.

If any business made bald unsubstantiated claims about a new product, it would be required to back up the claims or withdraw them. Morally, I believe the EU Commission should aspire to emulate the standards that it imposes on others in marketing its own products. A law making Authority cannot be regulated and brought to account for the harms it causes. But I feel that it owes its citizens a moral duty of care to serve them, by minimizing the harms that it can cause and maximising the benefits.

The Launch of the New Regulations

BBC had an article on September 1st Sales of inefficient vacuum cleaners banned

They state

The EU’s own website says: “With more efficient vacuum cleaners, Europe as a whole can save up to 20 TWh of electricity per year by 2020.

“This is equivalent to the annual household electricity consumption of Belgium.

“It also means over 6 million tonnes of CO2 will not be emitted – about the annual emissions of eight medium-sized power plants.”

Although the BBC do not link to the webpage among millions. A search on the phrase reveals the following link.

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/energy-efficiency/energy-efficient-products/vacuum-cleaners

Vacuum cleaners are subject to EU energy labelling and ecodesign requirements. By switching to one of the most energy efficient vacuum cleaners, you can save €70 over the lifetime of the product.  With more efficient vacuum cleaners, Europe as a whole can save up to 20 TWh of electricity per year by 2020. This is equivalent to the annual household electricity consumption of Belgium. It also means over 6 million tonnes of CO2 will not be emitted – about the annual emissions of eight medium-sized power plants.

There are no references to where the figures come from.

Another source is much nearer in the menu tree to the EU homepage and is on a news page.

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/news/updated-energy-efficiency-rules-vacuum-cleaners-will-save-consumers-money

Updated energy efficiency rules for vacuum cleaners will save consumers money

Friday, 01 September 2017

From today, vacuum cleaners sold in Europe will be more cost- and energy-efficient. The European Commission is making use of the latest state-of-the-art technologies to ensure that European consumers have the most energy efficient products available. The updated ecodesign requirements will lower appliances’ maximum power, annual energy consumption and noise levels. They will also increase their minimum ability to pick up dust.

The updated rules will result in vacuum cleaners that use less energy for a better cleaning performance. This will help consumers to save money, as switching to a more efficient product can save €70 over its lifetime. With more efficient vacuum cleaners, Europe as a whole will be in a position to save up to 20 TWh of electricity per year by 2020.

Like with the first EU source (which this press release links backed to) there is no reference to the source of the claims.

Establishing the calculations behind the claims

However, there the claims that together with other data and some assumptions have enabled me to piece together the numbers behind the claims. These are:-

  1. The maximum of 20 TWh of electricity that could be saved by 2020. There are one billion kilowatt hours in a terawatt hour.
  2. According to Eurostat’s Household Composition Statistics, there are 495.6 million EU citizens living in households, with an average 2.3 persons per household. That is around 215 million or maybe 210 million households.
  3. There is more than one vacuum cleaner in the average household.
  4. All vacuum cleaners are operated at maximum power all the time.
  5. All current vacuum cleaners are 1600 watts. By 2020 they will all be at 900 watts.
  6. Life of the average vacuum cleaner is five years. This I worked out from slotting in other variables.

 

To understand how many kilowatt hours in the maximum cost saving of €70, one needs to know the cost of a unit of electricity. In a recent post on electricity prices in South Australia, Joanne Nova provided a graphic based on data from MARKINTELL, US Energy Information Administration. Based on this I have produced a graphic showing that if Denmark, where electricity is most expensive, a person saved €70 on their electricity bill, the savings in most of the other EU countries.

If the Danes will save €70 from buying a vacuum cleaner under the new regulations, in the UK the saving will be about €49, France €39 and in Hungary and Estonia just €27. This is because of the huge difference in electricity costs, with Danish electricity being 2.6 times that in Hungary and Estonia. It is a simple step to work out the number of kilowatt hours of electricity saved for a spend of €70.  Assuming $1.00 = €0.85, the next graph shows how many units of electricity will be saved in each country.

If the EU Commission had properly checked its figures, when quoting the maximum saving, will base it on the highest electricity rates in the EU, and not the average rates. They will, therefore, assume that the maximum savings for the EU will be around 133 kilowatt hours and not 200 kilowatt hours. Otherwise, the maximum savings in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Portugal could be greater than the claimed maximum, whilst people in some other countries with lower than average electricity costs will be misled as to the extent of the possible savings.

I have put together a table that fits the assumptions and known variables based on €70 of savings in both Denmark and the fictional EU average.

The 200 kWh saving over a five-year vacuum cleaner life seems more reasonable than 133 kWh. The 350 million vacuum cleaners in the EU or two for every three people, seems more reasonable than 538 million, which is both less of a rounded estimate and would mean around 35 million more vacuum cleaners than people. The assumption that the average household spends 1 hour and 50 minutes per week vacuuming might be a bit high, but there again I know of people who regularly exceed this amount by quite a margin.

Based on how the numbers fit the maximum saving of €70 per vacuum cleaner to have been based on the average cost of electricity in the EU. As such it is an incorrect statement. There are other issues that arise.

Evaluating the claims

There are other issues that arise from consideration of these figures, though are not necessarily solely reliant upon those figures.

First, the 26TW of savings is if all the current vacuum cleaners (assumed to be at 1600W rating) will be replaced by the start of 2020. That is in just 2.33 years. If vacuum cleaners have an average five-year life, many people will be scrapping their existing vacuum cleaners before the end of their useful life. Even with a maximum marginal cost saving of €14 a year, this would mean incurring unnecessary additional costs and throwing out perfectly serviceable vacuum cleaners. However, if they replace a 2000 watt or higher vacuum cleaner purchased prior to September 2014, then the savings will be much higher. In which case the EU Commission News item should have noted that some savings were from regulations already in place.

Second is that many households have an old vacuum cleaner in reserve. They may have it for a number of reasons, such as having upgraded in the past, or purchased it prior to the regulations came into force in 2014. So when their main vacuum cleaner finally keels over, they will not purchase a low powered one. It will be therefore very many years before anything approaching 100% of existing vacuum cleaners have been replaced, especially if the perception is that the newer products are inferior.

Third, is an assumption that every vacuum cleaner is on the limit of the regulations. Greater efficiency (saving money) is something people are willing to pay for, so the market provides this anyway without the need for regulation, just as people pay for more fuel efficient cars. It is only the people who max out on the power permitted that will be affected to the full extent. As greater power is a cheap way of increasing performance, this will most affect the cheapest cleaners. The poor and those setting up a home for the first time (with severe budget constraints) are likely to be those most disadvantaged, whilst those who are willing and able to upgrade to the latest gadgets will make the lowest savings.

Fourth, the cost savings appear to be only on electricity costs. The extra costs of upgrading to a more technologically advanced machine that compensates for the loss of power, does not appear to have been taken into account in the calculations. If it had, then the electricity savings would have to be much greater, to include the additional costs. In which case, the fictional European average household would have to be saving far more on their electricity than €70. Let us say people upgrade from a €100 to €300 machine, both with a five year average life. To make €70 of savings over five years a Danish household would have to be running their vacuum cleaner for nearly three hours a week, a British or Dutch household over four hours per week, and the Hungarian and Estonian households over seven hours a week. But this defies other assumptions and would also shorten the average life of a vacuum cleaner. No allowance appears to have been made for more expensive vacuum cleaners.

Fifth, there are other, simpler ways of replacing the loss of suction from lack of power than technological wizardry that pushes up costs. The simplest is to reduce the area in contact with the floor. This means that people spend more time using the machines, offsetting some of the energy savings. Alternatively, there could be some loss of suction, which again means people spend more time cleaning, and getting frustrated due to the lack of performance. Some of this could be by more frequent swapping of cleaning heads. If you value people’s leisure time at just €5.00 an hour, then over the short five year life of a cleaner (about 290 hours based on 65 minutes a week of use), the average household will “lose” the €70 of electricity savings if they have to spend more than 5% more time cleaning. In reality it will be much more, and many people will feel aggrieved at having a less efficient machine.

Sixth is that the extra power can be used for simpler, proven and more robust technologies. Efficiency savings come about through complex optimisation strategies, reducing the life of cleaners.

So the claim by the EU that people will save money from the new regulations seems to be false for any one of a number of reasons. More likely than not people will be made net worse off by the regulations. Further the alleged benefits from the new regulations in terms of savings in electricity (and hence CO2 emissions) seems to have been grossly exaggerated.

But won’t there be a massive saving in CO2 emissions?  Even if the 6 million tonnes of emissions saved is in the more distant future, it is still a far large number. In terms of a small country like Belgium, it is a large amount. But considered in the context of EU’s INDC submission to the Paris climate talks it is quite small.

The EU and its Member States are committed to a binding target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gases emissions by 2030 compared to 1990,

From the accompanying country brief, the 1990 emissions were 5368 mtCO2e, so a 40% cut is 2147 mtCO2e. In 2012 emissions were 4241 mtCO2e (mostly for non-policy reasons) so there is just 1020 million tonnes to cut. 6 million is just 0.6% of that target.

On a global perspective, even with all the vague policy proposals fully enacted, global emissions by 2030 will be nearly 60,000 MtCO2e and will still be rising. There seems no prospect of additional policies being proposed that would start reducing global emissions. A policy that makes around 0.01% of the difference to the larger picture is inconsequential. To achieve the policy goals a few thousand similar-sized schemes are required. Nothing like that is going to happen. Countries in the developing world, with over half the global population, will see emissions will grow for decades, dwarfing any reductions made in the EU.

Concluding comments

The new vacuum cleaner regulations appear to be justified on the basis of grossly exaggerated and untenable claims of the benefits in terms of cost savings and reductions in GHG emissions, whilst ignoring the costs that they impose.

If any business made bald unsubstantiated claims about a new product, it would be required to back up the claims or withdraw them. If such sweeping claims were made about a new product such as anti-aging creams or vitamin pills, that could be attributed to other factors, then it would be prosecuted. Morally, I believe the EU Commission should aspire to emulate the standards that it imposes on others in marketing its own products. A law making Authority cannot be regulated and brought to account for the harms it causes. But I feel that it owes its citizens a moral duty of care to serve them, by minimizing the harms that it can cause and maximising the benefits.

Kevin Marshall

 

Daniel Hannan on the selfishness of running a deficit and post-truth realities

In the latest Ici Londres production Dan Hannan looks at the morality of deficits.

Daniel Hannan starts by quoting Matthew 7:9-10

If the son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will you give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will you give him a serpent?

The passage goes onto to say the if you are evil, understand how to give good gifts to your children. By implication, to act for good, we must also understand how to act for the good, not just have the moral injunction.

Hannan goes onto say we do not run up large debts to bequeath to our children. Yet many impose a very different standard as voters, convincing themselves that they are being unselfish. By asking for more money from the State, whether to pay for care in old age or for a pay rise in the public sector, or remission of tuition fees, it might be a very good claim, but it is not an intrinsically unselfish claim, as they are asking for everybody else to chip in and pay for their cause. Conversely those who try to impose some fiscal discipline are deemed selfish. They are standing up for future generations. Austerity is not a random preference but a simple reality.

This is all pretty obvious stuff to anyone who understands basic morality and the slightest notion of finance. It is certainly within the understanding of anybody who has been brought up in a traditional British public school education. But I would suggest it is totally alien to the vast majority of the British public. This reason is described by a new word that entered the Oxford English Dictionary last month.

post-truth

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

The General Election campaign is a clear illustration of the domination of post-truthers in public life. There is no understanding of public finances, just mass beliefs that are not based on any moral tradition. The spread of the beliefs is on social media, driven by those who most forcefully and repeatedly express their ideas. People are wrong because they disagree with the mass beliefs and shouted down (or trolled in the electronic version) because of it.

In a post last month – General Election 2017 is a victory for the Alpha Trolls over Serving One’s Country – I concluded

It is on the issue of policy to combat climate change that there is greatest cross-party consensus, and the greatest concentration of alpha trolls. It is also where there is the clearest illustration of policy that is objectively useless and harmful to the people of this country.

Like with public finances, climate change is an where post-truthers dominate. Two examples to illustrate.

Consensus messaging

There is no clear evidence of an emerging large human-caused problem with climate and there is no prospect of action to reduce greenhouse has emissions to near zero. Instead we have a dodgy survey that claimed 97% of academic papers on an internet search matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’ expressed support (belief / assumptions) in the broadest, most banal, form of the global warming hypothesis. This was converted by Senator Bernie Sanders, in questioning Scott Pruitt, into the following:-

As you may know, some 97% of scientists who have written articles for peer-reviewed journals have concluded that climate change is real, it is caused by human activity, and it is already causing devastating problems in the US and around the world.

And

While you are not certain, the vast majority of scientists are telling us that if we do not get our act together and transform out energy system away from fossil fuel there is a real question as to the quality of the planet that we are going to be leaving our children and our grandchildren. 

The conversion from banal belief to these sweeping statements is not the fault of the Senator, though he (or his speech-writers) should have checked. Rather it is of lead author John Cook and his then PhD supervisor Cognitive Psychology Professor Stephan Lewandowsky. Post-truthers will not recognize the glaring difference between the dodgy survey and the Senator’s statements, as it is appeals to emotion and belief that are primary in evaluating political realities.

Mitigating Climate Change

Dangerous climate change is allegedly caused by human greenhouse emissions. The proposed solution is to reduce those emissions (mostly CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels) to near zero. The key for policy is that emissions are global, yet most countries, covering over 80% of the global population have no primary obligation under the 1992 Rio Declaration to reduce their emissions. These developing “non-Annex” countries have accounted for all the in emissions since 1990, as shown in this graph.

The problem can be expressed in my First Law of Climate Mitigation

To reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the aggregate reduction in countries that reduce their emissions must be greater than aggregate increase in emissions in all other countries.

All the ranting about supporting the Paris Agreement ignores this truism. As a result, countries like the UK who pursue climate mitigation will increase their energy costs and make life harder for the people, whilst not achieving the policy aims. It is the poorest in those policy countries who will bear the biggest burden and create comparative disadvantages compared to the non-policy countries. For the developing countries (shown in purple in the graph) to reduce their emissions would destroy their economic growth, thus preventing the slow climb out of extreme poverty still endured by the majority of people on this planet. In so doing we ignore the moral tradition from our Christian heritage that the primary moral concern of public policy should be the help the poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalized. Ignoring the truism and pursuing bequeaths a worse future for our children and our grandchildren. This is the same for climate change as for public finances. But in both cases it is the post-truth “reality” that prevent this recognition of basic logic and wider morality.

Kevin Marshall

 

Time will run out to prevent 2°C warming barrier being breached

I have a number of times referred to a graphic “Figure 2 Summary of Results” produced by the UNFCCC for the Paris COP21 Climate Conference in December 2015. It was a centerpiece of the UNFCCC Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs.

The updated graphic (listed as Figure 2, below the Main Document pdf) is below

This shows in yellow the impact of the INDC submissions covering the period 2015 to 2030) if fully implemented against limiting warming to 2°C  and 1.5°C . This showed the gulf between the vague policy reality and the targets. Simply put, the net result of the INDCs submissions would insufficient for global emissions to peal Yet in reaching an “agreement” the representatives of the entire world collectively put off recognizing that gulf.

For the launch of the UNIPCC AR5 synthesis report in 2014, there were produced a set of slides to briefly illustrate the policy problem. This is slide 20 of 35, showing the  reduction pathways.

 

The 2°C  of warming central estimate is based upon total GHG emissions in the 21st Century being around 2500 GtCO2e.

At the launch of 2006 Stern Review Sir Nicholas Stern did a short Powerpoint presentation. Slide 4 of the PDF file is below.

 

The 450ppm CO2e emissions pathway is commensurate with 2°C  of warming. This is based upon total GHG emissions in the 21st Century being around 2000 GtCO2e, with the other 500 GtCO2e presumably coming in the 22nd Century.

The UNFCCC Paris graphic is also based on 2500 GtCO2e it is also possible to calculate the emissions reduction pathway if we assume (a) All INDC commitments are met (b) Forecasts are correct (c) no additional mitigation policies are enacted.

I have produced a basic graph showing the three different scenarios.

The Stern Review assumed global mitigation policy would be enacted around 2010. Cumulative 21st Century emissions would then have been around 450 GtCO2e. With 500 GtCO2e allowed for post 2100, this gave average emissions of around 17 GtCO2e per annum for the rest of the century. 17 GtCO2e, is just under 40% of the emissions in the year the policy would be enacted.

IPCC AR5  assumed global mitigation policy would be enacted around 2020. Cumulative 21st Century emissions would then have been around 950 GtCO2e. A presentation to launch the Synthesis Report rounded this to 1000 GtCO2e as shown in slide 33 of 35.

Assuming that global emissions were brought to zero by the end of the century, this gave average emissions of 20 GtCO2e per annum for the rest of the century. 20 GtCO2e, is just under 40% of the emissions in the year the theoretical global policy would be enacted. The stronger assumption of global emissions being reduced to zero before the end of the century, along with a bit of rounding, offsets the delay.

If the Paris Agreement had been fully implemented, then by 2030 cumulative 21st Century emissions would have around 1500 GtCO2e, leaving average emissions of around 14 GtCO2e per annum for the rest of the century. 17 GtCO2e, is just over 25% of the emissions in the year the policy would be enacted. The failure of the Paris Agreement makes it necessary for true global mitigation policies, if in place by 2030, to be far more drastic that those of just a few years before to achieve the same target.

But the Paris Agreement will not be fully implemented. As Manhatten Contrarian (hattip The GWPF) states, the US was the only major country proposing to reduce its emissions. It looks like China, India, Indonesia, Russia and Germany will all increase their emissions. Further, there is no indication that most countries have any intention of drastically reduce their emissions. To pretend otherwise is to ignore a truism, what I will term the First Law of Climate Mitigation

To reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the aggregate reduction in countries that reduce their emissions must be greater than aggregate increase in emissions in all other countries.

Modeled projections and targets are rendered meaningless if this truism is ignored. Yet this is what the proposers of climate mitigation policy have been effectively doing for many years. Emissions will therefore breach the mythical 2°C warming barrier, but based on recent data I believe warming will be nowhere near that level.

Kevin Marshall