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

 

 

The Closest yet to my perspective on Climate Change

 Michael S. Bernstam of the Hoover Institution has produced a short post Inconvenient Math. (hattip The GWPF). The opening paragraphs are:-

Climate change faces a neglected actuarial problem. Too many conditions must be met to warrant a policy action on climate change. The following four stipulations must each be highly probable:

1. Global warming will accumulate at 0.12 degrees Celsius or higher per decade.

2. It is anthropogenic, due largely to carbon dioxide emissions.

3. The net effect is harmful to human well-being in the long run.

4. Preventive measures are efficient, that is, feasible at the costs not exceed-ing the benefits.

But even if the probability of each of these stipulations is as high as 85 percent, their compound probability is as low as 50 percent. This makes a decision to act or not to act on climate change equivalent to flipping a coin.

Bernstam later states

In the case of climate change, the conditions are four. They are not random, nor are they arbitrary. To see this, one can run a thought experiment and drop or ignore any of the above foursome. At once, the entire call for action on climate change becomes pointless. If global warming is not ongoing, there is no need to stop it. If it is not anthropogenic, there is no need to curb carbon dioxide emissions. If it is not harmful, there is no need to worry. If preventive measures are inefficient, they would not help and there is no use applying them. It follows that all four conditions are necessary. If just one of them does not hold, action is unnecessary or useless.

That is, for action on climate change to be justified (in terms of having a reasonable expectation that by acting to combat climate change a better future will be created than by not acting) there must be human-caused warming of sufficient magnitude to produce harmful consequences, AND measures that cost less than the expected future costs that they offset.

These sentiments are a simplified version of a series of posts I made in October 2013, where I very crudely deriving two cost curves (costs of climate change and climate mitigation). This aimed to replicate a takeaway quote from the Stern Review.

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.

I looked at the idea of multiplying the various probabilities together, at least for the costs of climate change.  But instead of the boundary it is a continuous function of an infinite number of possible scenarios. In general I believe the more extreme the costs of warming, the less likely it is to happen. The reason is that we derive the non-visible part of the cost curve can only be objectively derived from the revealed warming from the recent past. Separation of the costs of warming-induced climate change are extremely difficult from the costs of random extreme weather events. Even worse, the costs of extreme natural weather events (especially in terms of death toll) has been falling over time, as Indur Goklany has documented. The fall-back for global-warming theory is to use the late Milton Friedman’s Methodology of Positive Economics. That is to evaluate theory credibility on its predictive ability. If in the short-run climate scientists (or anyone who believes in climate alarmism like Al Gore) are able to make predictions about the signals of impending climate apocalypse, then this should give some credibility for claims of substantially worse to come. The problem is there are a huge number of failed predictions of climate worsening, but not a single one that has come true. This would signify that the true risk (as opposed to the perceived risk from the climate community) of climate change is approximately zero. The divergence of belief from the evidence is likely from the collective navel-gazing of post normal science.

The policy aspect that Bernstam fails to explore is the re-distributional aspects of policy. The theory is that global warming is caused by global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore climate mitigation must comprise of reducing those global emissions. However, as the COP21 Paris showed most of the worlds population live in countries where there are no GHG emissions reduction policies even proposed. But actually reducing emissions means increasing energy costs, and hampering businesses with onerous regulations. Policy countries are given a comparative disadvantage to non-policy countries, as I tried to show here. The implication is that if developed countries strongly pursue high cost mitigation policies, the marginal cost of non-policy emerging economies switching to emissions reduction policies increases. Thus, whilst Donald Trump’s famous tweet that Global Warming is a Chinese hoax to make US manufacturing non-competitive is false, the impact of climate mitigation policies as currently pursued are the same as if it were true.

There is also a paradox with the costs of climate change. The costs of climate change are largely related to the unexpected nature of the costly events. For instance, ceteris paribus. a category 1 hurricane could be more costly in a non-hurricane area than a stronger hurricane in say Florida. The reason is that in the non-hurricane area buildings will not be as resistant to storms, nor will there be early warning procedures in place as in Florida. The paradox is that more successful climate scientists are in forecasting the risks of climate change, the more people can adapt to climate change, reducing the costs. The current focus on climate consensus, rather than focusing on increasing competency and developing real expertise in the field is actually harmful to future generations if climate change is a actually a serious emerging problem. But the challenge for the climate alarmists is that in developing the real expertise may result in their beliefs about the world are false.

Finally, Bernstam fails to acknowledge an immutable law of public policy. Large complex public policy projects with vague aims; poorly defined plans and lack of measurable costs tend to overshoot on costs and under-perform of benefits. Climate mitigation is an extreme example of complexity, lack of clear objects and lack object measurement of costs per unit of emissions saved.

Kevin Marshall

Joe Romm inadvertently exposes why Paris Climate Agreement aims are unachievable

Summary

Joe Romm promotes a myth that the Paris Climate Agreement will make a huge difference to future greenhouse gas emissions. Below I show how the modelled impact of think tank Climate Interactive conclusion of a large difference is based on emissions forecasts of implausible large emissions growth in policy countries, and low emissions growth in the non-policy developing countries.

 

In the previous post I looked at how blogger Joe Romm falsely rebutted a claim that President Donald Trump had made that the Paris climate deal would only reduce only reduce future warming in 2100 by a mere 0.2°C. Romm was wrong on two fronts. He first did not check the data behind his assertions and second,  in comparing two papers by the same organisation he did not actually read the explanation in the later paper on how it differed from the first. In this post I look at how he has swallowed whole the fiction of bogus forecasts, that means the mere act of world leaders signing a bit of paper leads to huge changes in forecast emissions.

In his post  Trump falsely claims Paris deal has a minimal impact on warming, Romm states

In a speech from the White House Rose Garden filled with thorny lies and misleading statements, one pricks the most: Trump claimed that the Paris climate deal would only reduce future warming in 2100 by a mere 0.2°C. White House talking points further assert that “according to researchers at MIT, if all member nations met their obligations, the impact on the climate would be negligible… less than .2 degrees Celsius in 2100.”

The Director of MIT’s System Dynamics Group, John Sterman, and his partner at Climate Interactive, Andrew Jones, quickly emailed ThinkProgress to explain, “We are not these researchers and this is not our finding.”

They point out that “our business as usual, reference scenario leads to expected warming by 2100 of 4.2°C. Full implementation of current Paris pledges plus all announced mid-century strategies would reduce expected warming by 2100 to 3.3°C, a difference of 0.9°C [1.6°F].”

The reference scenario is RCP8.5, used in the IPCC AR5 report published in 2013 and 2014. This is essentially a baseline non-policy forecast against which the impact of climate mitigation policies can be judged. The actual RCP website produces emissions estimates by type of greenhouse gas, of which breaks around three-quarters is CO2. The IPCC and Climate Interactive add these different gases together with an estimate of global emissions in 2100. Climate Interactive current estimate as of April 2017 is 137.58 GtCO2e for the the reference scenario and the National Plans will produce 85.66 GTCO2e. These National would allegedly make global emissions 37.7% than they would have been without them, assuming they are extended beyond 2030. Climate Interactive have summarized this in a graph.

To anyone who actually reads the things, this does not make sense. The submissions made prior to the December 2015 COP21 in Paris were mostly political exercises, with very little of real substance from all but a very few countries, such as the United Kingdom. Why it does not make sense becomes clear from the earlier data that I extracted from Climate Interactives’ C-ROADS Climate Simulator version v4.026v.071 around November 2015.  This put the RCP8.5 global GHG emissions estimate in 2100 at the equivalent of 139.3 GtCO2e. But policy is decided and implemented at country level. To determine the impact of policy proposal there must be some sort of breakdown of emissions. C-ROADS does not provide a breakdown by all countries, but does to divide the world into up to 15 countries and regions. One derived break-down is into 7 countries or regions. That is the countries of USA, Russia, China and India, along with the country groups of EU27, Other Developed Countries and Other Developing Countries. Also available are population and GDP historical data and forecasts. Using this RCP8.5 and built-in population forecasts I derived the following GHG emissions per capita for the historical period 1970 to 2012 and the forecast period 2013 to 2100.

Like when I looked at Climate Interactives’ per capita CO2 emissions from fossil fuels estimates at the end of 2015, these forecasts did not make much sense. Given that these emissions are the vast majority of total GHG emissions it is not surprising that the same picture emerges.

In the USA and the EU I can think of no apparent reason for the forecast of per capita emissions to rise when they have been falling since 1973 and 1980 respectively. It would require for energy prices to keep falling, and for all sectors to be needlessly wasteful. The same goes for other developed countries, which along with Canada and Australia, includes the lesser developed countries of Turkey and Mexico. Indeed why would these countries go from per capita emissions similar to the EU27 now to those of the USA in 2100?

In Russia, emissions have risen since the economy bottomed out in the late 1990s following the collapse of communism. It might end up with higher emissions than the USA in 1973 due to the much harsher and extreme climate. But technology has vastly improved in the last half century and it should be the default assumption that it will continue to improve through the century. It looks like someone, or a number of people, have failed to reconcile the country estimate with the forecast decline in population from 143 million in 2010 to 117 million. But more than this, there is something seriously wrong with emission estimates that would imply that the Russian people become evermore inefficient and wasteful in their energy use.

In China there are similar issues. Emissions have increased massively in the last few decades on the back of even more phenomenal growth, that surpasses the growth of any large economy in history. But emissions per capita will likely peak due to economic reasons in the next couple of decades, and probably at a much lower level than the USA in 1973. But like Russia, population is also forecast to be much lower than currently. From a population of 1340 million in 2010, Climate Interactive forecasts population to peak at  1420 million in 2030 (from 2020 to 2030 growth slows to 2 million a year) to 1000 million in 2100. From 2080 (forecast population 1120) to 2100 population is forecast to decline by 6 million a year.

The emissions per capita for India I would suggest are far too low. When made, the high levels of economic growth were predicted to collapse post 2012. When I wrote the previous post on 30th December 2015, to meet the growth forecast for 2010-2015, India’s GDP would have needed to drop by 20% in the next 24 hours. It did not happen, and in the 18 months since actual growth has further widened the gap with forecast. Similarly forecast growth in GHG emissions are far too low. The impact of 1.25 billion people today (and 1.66 billion in 2100) is made largely irrelevant, nicely side-lining a country who has declared economic growth is a priority.

As with the emissions forecast for India, the emissions forecast for other developing countries is far too pessimistic, based again on too pessimistic growth forecasts. This mixed group of countries include the 50+ African nations, plus nearly all of South America. Other countries in the group include Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Haiti, Trinidad, Iraq, Iran and Kiribati. There are at least a score more I have omitted, in total making up around 42% of the current global population and 62% of the forecast population in 2100. That is 3 billion people today against 7 billion in 2100. A graph summarizing of Climate Interactive’s population figures is below.

This can be compared with total GHG emissions.

For the USA, the EU27, the other Developed countries and China, I have made more reasonable emissions per capita estimates for 2100.

These more reasonable estimates (assuming there is no technological breakthrough that makes zero carbon energy much cheaper than any carbon technology) produce a reduction in projected emissions of the same order of magnitude as the supposed reduction resulting from implementation of the National Plans. However, global emissions will not be this level, as non-policy developing nations are likely to have much higher emissions. Adjusting for this gives my rough estimate for global emissions in 2100.

The overall emissions forecast is not very dissimilar to that of RCP8.5. Only this time the emissions growth has shift dramatically from the policy countries to the non-policy countries. This is consistent with the data from 1990 to 2012, where I found that the net emissions growth was accounted for by the increase in emissions from developing countries who were not signatories to reducing emissions under the 1992 Rio Declaration. As a final chart I have put the revised emission estimates for India and Other Developing Countries to scale alongside Climate Interactives’ Scoreboard graphic at the top of the page.

This clearly shows that the emissions pathway consistent the constraining warming to  2°C will only be attained if the developing world collectively start reducing their emissions in a very few years from now. In reality, the priority of many is continued economic growth, which will see emissions rise for decades.

Concluding Comments

This is a long post, covering a lot of ground. In summary though it shows environmental activist has Joe Romm has failed to check the claims he is promoting. An examination of Climate Interactive (CI) data underlying the claims that current policies will reduce global temperature by 0.9°C through reducing GHG global emissions does not stand up to scrutiny. That 0.9°C claim is based on global emissions being around 35-40% lower than they would have been without policy. Breaking the CI data down into 7 countries and regions reveals that

  • the emissions per capita forecasts for China and Russia show implausibly high levels of emissions growth, when they show peak in a few years.
  • the emissions per capita forecasts for USA and EU27 show emissions increasing after being static or falling for a number of decades.
  • the emissions per capita forecasts for India and Other Developing Countries show emissions increasing as at implausibly lower rates than in recent decades.

The consequence is that by the mere act of signing an agreement makes apparent huge differences to projected future emissions. In reality it is folks playing around with numbers and not achieving anything at all, except higher energy prices and job-destroying regulations. However, it does save the believers in the climate cult from having to recognize the real world. Given the massed hordes of academics and political activists, that is a very big deal indeed.

Kevin Marshall