Ladybird Book on Climate Change

A couple of weeks ago there was a big splash about the forthcoming Ladybird Book for adults on Climate Change. (Daily Mail, Guardian, Sun, Telegraph etc.) Given that it was inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales, who wrote the forward, it should sell well. Even better, having just received a copy in a format that harks back to the Ladybird Books I grew up with. That is on each double page words on the left and a high quality coloured picture filling the right hand page. Unlike, the previous adult Ladybird series, which was humorous, this is the first in a series that seeks to educate.

The final paragraph of the forward states:-

I hope this modest attempt to alert a global public to the “wolf at the door” will make some small contribution towards requisite action; action that must be urgently scaled up, and scaled up now.

The question is whether there is enough here to convince the undecided. Is this is founded on real science, then there should be a sufficient level of evidence to show

(a) there is a huge emerging problem with climate.

(b) that the problem is human caused.

(b) that there are a set of potential steps that can be taken to stop constrain this problem.

(c) that the cure is not worse than the disease.

(d) that sufficient numbers will take up the policy to meet the targets.

My approach is is to look at whether there is sufficient evidence to persuade a jury. Is there evidence that would convict humanity of the collective sin of destroying the planet for future generations? And is there evidence that to show that, through humanity collectively working for the common good, catastrophe can be averted and a better future can be bequeathed to those future generations? That presumes that there is sufficient quality of evidence that an impartial Judge would not throw the evidence out as hearsay.

Evidence for an Emerging Problem with Climate.

Page 8 on melting ice and rising sea levels starts with the reduced Arctic sea ice. The only quantifiable estimate of the climate change other than the temperature graph on page 6, in claiming at the end of the 2016 melt season the sea ice levels were two-thirds that of at the end of the end of the twentieth century.

Any jury would hear that there has only been satellite data of sea ice extent since 1979; that this was the end of a period known as the “sea ice years“; that the maximum winter ice extent in April was likely less in the eighteenth century than today; that ships log books suggest that general sea ice extent was the roughly the same one hundred and fifty years ago as today; and that in the Antarctic average sea ice extent increase has largely offset the Arctic decrease.

The rest about sea levels correctly state both that they have risen; that the reasons for the rise are a combination of warming seas and melting ice caps. It is also correct that flooding occurs in storm surges. But there is no quantification of the rise in sea levels (about 8-12 inches a century), nor of the lack of evidence of the predicted acceleration.

Page 10 on heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms states that they can cause disruption, economic damage and loss of life. there are also recent examples, and speculation about future trends. But no evidence of emerging trends, particularly increasing loss of life. This lack of evidence is because the evidence of the harms of extreme weather appear on the decrease. Indur Goklany has been a rich source of the counter-evidence over many years.

Page 12 begins

Threats to food and water supply, human health and national security, and the risk of humanitarian crises are all potentially increases by climate change.

The rest is just padding out this speculation.

Page 14 is on disappearing wildlife. One quote

The polar bear has come to symbolize the threats posed to wildlife by climate change….

You can probably find many images of starved dead polar bears to back this up. But the truth is that this creatures live by hunting, and as they get older slow down, so are no longer fast enough to catch seals, their main food source. Zoologist Susan Crockford has a blog detailing how polar bear numbers have increased in recent years, and far from being threatened the species is thriving.

The climate change problem is mostly human caused

The book details that emissions of greenhouse gas levels have gone up, and so have the levels of greenhouse gases. The only quantities is for CO2, the major greenhouse gas. (Page 20) There is simple diagram explaining how CO2 emissions impacts on atmospheric CO2 levels, before explaining the major sources of the net increase – fossil fuel emissions and clearing forests. There is no actual testing of the theory against the data. But Page 20 begins

The scientific evidence shows that dominant cause of the rapid warming of the Earth’s climate over the last half century has been the activities of people…

The relevant quote from UNIPCC AR5 WG1 SPM section D3 says something slightly differently.

It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.

The extremely likely phrase is a Bayesian estimate. It is a belief that should be updated on the best available evidence. Lack of evidence, after much searching, suggests the original guess was wrong. Therefore true Bayesians would downgrade their certainties if they cannot refine the estimates over time. But this was written in 2013. Since the Carney Report of 1979 and the previous four IPCC reports of 1990 to 2007, there has been no refinement in the estimate of how much warming will eventually result from a doubling of CO2.

But how does the evidence stack up? On page 6 there is a chart of global surface temperature anomalies. That increase in temperatures can be tested against the doubling effect of CO2. Since around the turn of century the rate of rise in CO2 emissions and atmospheric CO2 levels has accelerated. But global warming stopped  for over a decade until 2014, only to restart due to a natural phenomena. Comparing the actual data to the theory, fails to support the strong beliefs that GHG emissions are the dominant cause of recent warming. 

Policy to contain the problem

Page 34 go into the benefits of containing warming to 1.5C. Given that the central estimate from the climate community since 1979 has been that a doubling of CO2 will lead to and eventual rise in average temperature of 3C, a rise in CO2 levels from the pre-industrial levels of 280ppm to 400ppm reached in 2015 would give 1.544C of warming. With other greenhouse gases it should be nearer to 2C of warming. Either it is way too late (and the warming is lurking like the Loch Ness monster is the dark and murky depths) or the central estimate is exaggerated. So the picture of three young people holding a banner with 1.5 to stay alive is of the doomed who we can do nothing about, or false alarmism.

Page 36 has a nice graphic adopted from the IPCC Synthesis Report of 2014, showing the liquid dripping through an egg-timer. It shows the estimate that 2000 billion tonnes of CO2 have been emitted so far, 1000 billion tonnes can be emitted before the 2 C of warming is breached. This was from a presentation to summarize the IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report of 2014. Slide 33 of 35.

Problem is that this was the data up to 2011, not five years later to 2016; it was for GHG emissions in billions of tonnes of CO2 equivalents; and the 40 billions tonnes of CO2 emissions should be around 52-55 billion tonnes CO2e GHG emissions. See for instance the EU Commission’s EDGAR figures, estimating 54GtCO2e in 2012 and 51GtCO2e in 2010 (against the IPCCs 49 GtCO2e). So the revised figure is about 750GtCO2e of emissions before this catestrophic figure is breached. The Ladybird book does not have references, to keep things simple, but should at least properly reflect the updated numbers. The IPCC stretched the numbers in 2014 in order to keep the show on the road to such extent that they fall apart on even a cursory examination. The worst part is at the very top of the egg-timer, coloured scarlett is “Coal, oil and gas reserves that cannot be used“. These are spread across the globe. Most notably the biggest reserves are in China, USA, Russia, Canada, Australia, Middle East and Venezuela, with the rest of the World have a substantial share of the rest.

The cure is worse than the disease

For the rest of the book to suggest European solutions like recycling, eating less red meat, turning down the heating to 17C and more organic farming, the authors write about making very marginal differences to emissions in a few countries with a small minority of global emissions. Most of those reserves will not be left in the ground no matter how much the first in line to the Throne gets hot under the collar. The global emissions will keep on increasing from non-policy countries with over 80% of the global population, two-thirds of global emissions and nearly 100% of the world’s poorest people. Below is a breakdown of those countries.

These countries collectively produced 35000 MtCOe in 2012, or 35 GtCO2e. That will increase well into the future short of inventing a safe nuclear reactor the size weight and cost of a washing machine. Now compare to the global emissions pathways to stop the 1.5C  or 2C of warming prepared by the UNFCCC for the 2015 Paris talks.

 

The combined impact of all the vague policy proposals do not stop global emissions from rising. It is the non-policy developing countries that make the real difference between policy proposals and the modelled warming pathways. If those countries do not keep using fossil fuels at increasing rates, then they deprive billions of people of increasing living standards for themselves and their children. Yet this must happen very quickly for the mythical 2C of warming not to be breached. So in the UK we just keep on telling people not to waste so much food, buy organic, ride a bike and put on a jumper.

There is no strong evidence would convict humanity of the collective sin of destroying the planet for future generations. Nor is there evidence that to show that a better future can be bequeathed to those future generations when the policies would destroy the economic future of the vast majority. The book neatly encapsulates how blinkered are the climate alarmists to both the real-world evidence and the wider moral policy perspectives.

Kevin Marshall

 

Carbon Capture and Storage Loses another £100m but saves up to £10bn

Last week the National Audit Office published a report Carbon Capture and Storage: the second competition for government support. The main headline was

“The Department has now tried twice to kick start CCS in the UK, but there are still no examples of the technology working. There are undoubtedly challenges in getting CCS established, but the Department faced an uphill battle as a result of the way it ran the latest competition. Not being clear with HM Treasury about what the budget is from the start would hamper any project, and caused particular problems in this case where the upfront costs are likely to be high. The Department must learn lessons from this experience if it is to stand any chance of ensuring the first CCS plants are built in the near future.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 20 January 2017

Key elements

  • Two Projects in the Competition.
  • When project cancelled £100m had already been spent.
  • The first competition running from 2007 to 2011.
  • Full subsidy from the Treasury (i.e. Taxpayers) would have been £1 Billion
  • Over 15 years, subsidy from consumers would have been £3.9 Billion to £8.9 Billion
  • Would have captured 1Mt to 2 Mt of CO2 a year.
  • Consumer subsidy between £105 and £172 Mwh, on top of the current wholesale price of around £45 Mwh.

The BBC carried the story, correctly citing many of the costs, as did the Express, which stated

At the time it was cancelled, the competition had two preferred bidders: the White Rose consortium in North Yorkshire which planned to build a new coal plant with the technology, and Shell’s scheme in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, to fit CCS to an existing gas plant operated by SSE.

The NAO report said the department initially estimated it would cost consumers – who would subsidise electricity from the schemes – between £2 billion and £6 billion over 15 years, but by 2015, this estimate had risen to as much as £8.9 billion.

The report found the Treasury was concerned over the costs to consumers, and that the competition was aiming to deliver CCS before it was cost-efficient to do so.

Joanne Nova points to a July 2015 post on the subject of CCS by Anton Lang. He stated

CCS artificially raises the costs of coal fired power in two ways

First, it raises the initial construction cost for any new large scale coal fired plant by around 60%.

Second, the CCS process is hugely energy intensive — consuming up to 40% of the electricity generated by the plant. So  the plant can only sell 60% of the actual power it produces.

As a (slightly manic) beancounter, I like to put the costs in context.

  1. How much would the cost have been if the Treasury had not pulled the plug per tonne of CO2 saved?
  2. What is the value of the subsidy be if China and India adopted the plan?

In the full NAO report (a 389kb pdf) Figure 6 gives details of the two schemes shortlisted in the competition.

It is the Peterhead scheme that would incur the lower subsidy of £105 Mwh. The £3.9 billion works out at an average 290 Mw production, or 76% of capacity over 15 years. It is cheaper due to adapting old plant. The disadvantage is that there is only 30 Mt of CO2 storage capacity in the area, so the area does not have the facility to develop much more unless further infrastructure development is made to pump the CO2 offshore into old oil wells.

The White Rose scheme has higher subsidy of £172 Mwh. The £8.9 billion works out at an average 394 Mw production, or 88% of capacity over 15 years. It is new plant, but has the advantage of 520 Mt of CO2 storage capacity in the area.

If we add in the £1bn subsidy without interest, over 15 years the cost per tonne of CO2 saved is about £264 (US$330, A$435) for the Peterhead project and £300 (US$374, A$490) for the White Rose project.

The NAO report in figure 12 that the subsidy could come down to £94 Mwh with scale.

Let us see what would be the cost if India and China adopted CCS for the current coal-fired power stations, but increasing capacity by 25% to cover the efficiency losses. Assume subsidy is just $100 Mwh.

According to Greenpeace (could be unreliable), China has about 900,000 MW of capacity. Add in 25% and assume 70% capacity, gives around $700bn a year subsidy. This is about 6% of current GDP.

From Wikipedia, India had 310 000 MW of capacity in 2015.  Add in 25% and assume 70% capacity, gives around $240bn a year subsidy. This is about 12% of current GDP.

I am sure that China and India will want to follow the UK’s lead. The only slight issue is finding a hole big enough. Maybe instead they could build some big greenhouses and grow tomatoes very rapidly.

Kevin Marshall

 

Bernie Saunders demonstrates why he was not fit to be President

Senator Bernie Saunders of Vermont was for a while running a close second to Hillary Clinton in the Democrat Primaries. Had his extreme left views, advanced years and the fact that he is the junior Senator from the 49th most populous State, he might have stood a chance against a former First Lady and Secretary of State. But Senator Sanders’ recent questioning of Scott Pruitt shows why he is unfit for high office. Ron Clutz has transcribed more of the dialog, by I think two statements encapsulate this.

At 0.45

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. Do you believe that climate change is caused by carbon emissions from human activity?

There is no 97% survey of scientists which conclude these things. As Ron Clutz observes the nearest to definite questions was Examining the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change – Doran and Zimmerman 2009, where the second question was

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

One could answer “yes” if you thought that 10% of the rise in the was due to land use changes, and the rest due to natural factors. It does not ask about fossil fuel emissions, and the question allows for belief in other factors other than human activity whether known or unknown. It does not ask

There is also the Cook et. al survey of peer-reviewed academic papers that I looked after listening to a lecture Cook gave at Bristol University in late 2014. The survey just looked to the assumption that humans cause some warming, whether explicit or implied. Like the Doran and Zimmerman survey it is just hearsay. This Sen. Sanders presents as good evidence that there is already a clear catastrophic problem caused by changes in the climate. If there is real and overwhelming evidence, why does Sen. Sanders not refer to that instead of misrepresenting bogus opinion polls?

Senator Sanders then goes even further.  At 1.50

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. So you are applying for a job as Administrator at the EPH to protect our environment. Overwhelming majority of scientists say we have to act boldly and your’re telling me that there needs to be more debate on this issue and that we should not be acting boldly.

Sanders now says a majority of scientists are telling us we must change our energy systems. Aside from the fact that only a very small minority of scientists have any sort of competency in the field of climate, (and there is evidence a lot of demonstrated incompetency within the small group e.g. here), they have no expertise in the economic or moral cases for policy. For policy the interpretation of the moral imperatives and the practical possibilities should be the realm of politicians. For those who sit on specialist committees, they should at least have their own developed views on the field.

Senator Bernie Saunders has taken some very dodgy opinion polls, grossly exaggerated the findings, and then ascribed statements to the climatologists that are far removed, and way beyond, any competencies they might have. As I see it, the role of President of the United States, as a leader, is to critically interpret what they are given in order to make decisions for the nation. That is the exact opposite of what Sanders did last week.

Kevin Marshall 

 

Trump is wrong on China Global Warming Hoax but right on the policy consequences

Summary

  • Donald Trump’s famous tweet that Global Warming is a Chinese Hoax is false, but the policy implications are correct.

  • Total proposed climate policies under the Paris Agreement will not stop global emissions rising, but the policy aim is to have global emissions falling rapidly after 2020.

  • The Rio Declaration 1992 exempted developing countries from a primary obligation to constrain, let alone reduce, emissions. 

  • By 2012 the exempted countries accounted for 64% of global emissions and over 100% of the global emissions growth since 1990.

  • The exempted, countries will collectively have emissions rising for decades to come.

  • The most efficient policy is a carbon tax, applied globally. But even this is highly inefficient, only working by making fossil fuel use unaffordable to all but the very rich. That is morally unacceptable in developed countries, whilst would stop developing countries developing, likely leading to civil wars.

  • Actual climate mitigation policies are less efficient and more costly than a carbon tax.

  • Pursuing mitigation policies in just the developed countries harms the poor disproportionately and harms manufacturing. Such policies may not even reduce global emissions.

  • Even if catastrophic global warming is true, the policy reality is the same as if it were a hoax. In either case they are net harmful to the policy countries.

  • Like with utterly ineffective drugs that harm the patient, the rational response to climate mitigation policies is to ban them.

 

 

President-elect Donald Trump infamously claimed on Twitter

The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.

I believe that statement to be totally false. The Chinese had nothing (or essentially nothing) to do with the climate alarmism that the Western intelligentsia (especially in the Anglosphere) seem to religiously accept as a series of a priori truths. But the policy implications of believing such a false position are pretty much the same for a policy-maker that (a) accepts as truth catastrophic global warming hypothesis, (b) puts their country first (but still values highly people in other countries, with an emphasis on the poor and the oppressed) (c) but understands the realities of global policy-making, along with the full economic impact of mitigation policy.

The Realities of Actual Mitigation Policy

The hypothesis is the basic form is that global human greenhouse gas emissions (mostly CO2) are resulting in rising greenhouse gas levels. This is forecast to cause large increases in global average temperatures, which in turn, many believe, will be catastrophic to the climate system. The major policy is to reduce the global greenhouse gas emissions to near zero.
The UNIPCC AR5 Synthesis Report, Summary for Policymakers 2014 tried to the maths very simple. They only looked at CO2 for the ballpark figures. Using the central assumption of a doubling of CO2 gives 3 degrees of warming, then 2 degrees comes when CO2 levels hit 450ppm. At end of 2016 it levels were about 404ppm, and rising at over 2ppm per year. Only is some warming from other greenhouse gases, so we are well beyond the 420ppm. That gives maybe 15 years tops. Somehow though figures seem to have been stretched a bit to give more time, something I will look at in a later post.
The UNFCCC – the body that brings all the countries together to cut emissions to save the planet – had an all-out bash at COP21 Paris in December 2015. In the lead-up all countries (excluding the EU countries, who let the masters in Brussels take the lead) made submissions on how they would contribute towards saving the world, or at least make a start up to 2030. Many were so vague, it was difficult to decipher the “ambition”. This was done to appear like the countries were doing something substantial, when in fact the proposals were often so insubstantial, that targets could be achieved by doing nothing at all. The UNFCCC put all the INDC submissions together on a global emissions graph.

The graph is very simple. Before the INDCs, emissions were forecast to follow the thin dark orange arrow. With the INDCs, the thick light orange forecast is still tracking upwards in 2030. The least-cost 2C scenarios is the blue arrow. This is going down by 2020, and by 2030 is substantially lower than today. The graph gives a very clear message – the whole exercise is pretty much an expensive waste of time. 40,000 people attended the meeting at Le Bourget airport North of Paris, including the vast majority of World Leaders. Rather than be honest, they went through the usual format with a breakthrough at five past midnight. Then they sent the “experts” away to think up yet more scary scenarios to get better proposals in the future.

 

Little More Policy will be Forthcoming

If they actually read the 1992 Rio Declaration, like Robin Guenier did in October 2015, they would have found out why. In particular Guenier draws attention to this statement in the declaration.

“The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention … will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.” [My emphasis]

These non-Annex 1 developing countries have had phenomenal economic growth, with driven by rapid development of cheap energy from fossil fuels. Guenier quotes some CO2 emissions figures. Instead, I have used the broader estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from the European Commissions’ EDGAR database, grouping the figures into the Annex I countries (the rich OECD countries, like the USA, Japan, European Union, Canada, Australia etc.); the Annex I Transitional economies (basically the ex-Soviet bloc in Europe); International air and shipping; and the Non-Annex, rest of the world.


The figures are quite clear. The growth in emissions in 22 years was greater in the Non-Annex developing countries than the world as a whole. But this is just the developing countries starting to catch up. The breakdown of the Non-Annex developing county emissions is below.

This “developing” part of the world now has 84% of the global population, but in 2012 was just 64% of the greenhouse gas emissions. India and China each have more than 4 times the population of the USA, Africa 3.5 times and S&E Asia 3 times. Whilst in China emissions growth will peak soon, in India emissions growth is only recently taken off.  In S&E Asia and Africa emissions growth has yet to really take off. No matter what the USA and a few other developed countries do, it will not make a big difference to the long-term outlook for GHG emissions. Now compare the global emissions to the UNFCCC graph of INDCs of the target emissions reductions for 2030. The UNFCCC scale is in billions of tonnes, whilst the scale I use is in millions. The least cost 2C scenario is lower in 2040 that the total non-Annex countries in 2012. Even without emissions growth in the non-Annex countries, the Annex countries could cut emissions by 100% and still the 2C limit will be breached by the 84% who live in countries with no obligation to cut their emissions.
But maybe the USA should cut emissions anyway? After all it will not cost much, so these developing nations will be brought into line. I only recently realized how wrong this view was. Economics Prof Richard Tol it one of the World’s leading climate economists, who (unlike me) happens to believe in the moral case for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. In a recent paper, “The Structure of the Climate Debate”, Tol explained how a global carbon tax was theoretically the most efficient means to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Use regulation, or rationing, or subsidies of renewables, and it will be more expensive – less bang for your bucks. However, I objected. He seemed to be saying that the carbon tax necessary to cut global emissions worked out at less than the taxation on gasoline in Britain. At over $3 (a level that is similar in much of Europe) there are still quite high levels of fuel usage. I can still remember my high school economics teacher, in teaching about elasticity of demand, said that a good example of inelastic demand were the “sin” taxes on booze, alcohol, tobacco and petrol (gasoline). You could have quite high taxes without impacting on demand. Well, after a few exchanges at cliscep blog turns out Tol (in the more technical Tol 2013 paper) was recommending a $210 tCO2 tax to be imposed in 2020 globally, plus an escalator of 5.5% a year forever. It would eventually make fossil-fuelled energy use unaffordable to all but the Hollywood A-listers. I showed British readers in GBP would that would mean, but for the US readers $210tCO2 is about $1.83 per gallon of gasoline. There would be uproar if it was introduced, and people might get more fuel efficient cars. With the escalator that would rise to over $3 a gallon in 2030, $9 2050, $35 in 2075 and$132 a gallon in 2100. There would also be similar hikes in electricity from coal and gas. This might not be fast enough to achieve the reductions required by the UNFCCC, but would not be sustainable in a country with democratic elections every few years.

But actual climate mitigation policies, are far less effective that the carbon tax. This includes subsidies or loan guarantees to speculative and unsustainable businesses, or flash renewable technologies that fail to deliver,

The carbon tax might be harmful to the poor and middle classes in America, but think of what it would do to the living standards of the poorest half of the world. Countries where parents are hoping that their children might enjoy cheap energy for cooking, lighting or heating, would see those hopes dashed. For billions of people their children or grandchildren would never have a family car, or be able to travel by plane. If the Governments of India, China or Indonesia tried to impose such high and escalating taxes there could be economic collapse similar to that of Greece, and likely civil wars.

Should the Rich countries still do something?

So maybe the United States, and other rich countries, should still adopt policies regardless. After all, they should pay for the (alleged) harms that are leading to disaster. But if the proposers had any understanding of the real world, they would know that just as economic growth has been propelled by abundant supplies of cheap, available and reliable energy. In international trade what is “cheap” is a relative concept. In the nineteenth century steam power was very expensive compared to electricity today. But at this point in time, when developing countries are make power more available and driving their unit energy costs down. Steam power was much cheaper, and more available than water power, which in turn was cheaper than human or animal power. Yet implementing emissions reduction policies, the rich countries are driving those unit energy costs up just as developing countries have been driving unit energy costs down and making power more available. The USA and EU countries are generating a comparative disadvantage. But, as the developed nations tend to be more energy efficient, the net effect on global emissions may be to increase them, despite the policy countries decreasing theirs. That net effect is unlikely to be as large as any actual savings in the policy countries. What is more, the costs of policy will fall on the poor, and those areas of employment with high energy usage and that compete internationally.

An argument for climate mitigation is that it is to make small sacrifices now to save future generations from the much larger costs of future catastrophic climate change. That is only true if global emissions are cut significantly, at a cost lower than the actual harmful impacts that would have occurred without policy. As policy to cut emissions will makes very little difference to global emissions, then the sacrifices could be of a small benefit in non-policy countries, but be to the net disadvantage of future generations in the policy countries. The biggest burden of the costs of policy will fall on the poorer sections of society and manufacturing in the policy countries.

The Moral Case Against Climate Mitigatiom

If the medical profession insisted on patients taking drugs that did not work and had harmful side effects, then in litigious America they would be sued for all they had, and likely jailed. But when the climate alarmists, back by the liberal establishment, insist on policy that cannot work and causes substantial harms they are not held to account. Indeed, so pervasive are the beliefs in climate alarmism, it is an act of heresy to even question this false policy. Now the tables are turned.

The first thing that should be done with harmful drugs that cannot work is to ban them from sale. For an incoming President, the first thing to do with harmful and useless policies is to rescind them.

Kevin Marshall

 

Friends of the Earth distorting the evidence for Fracking in the UK

Summary

Friends of the Earth have a webpage claiming to be “fracking facts”. The key points I make are.

  • The claims of dangers of fracking raise questions, that need to be answered before they can be considered credible.
  • The claim that fracking could affect house prices is totally unsupported.
  • The claim that shale gas will not significantly affect energy prices is based on out of date data. The British Geological Survey has shown that the potential of shale gas is huge. Friends of the Earth has played a major role in preventing that potential being realized.
  • FoE has consequently helped prevent shale gas from relieving the energy crisis brought upon by the Climate Change Act 2008.
  • Claims that pursuing shale gas in Britain will affect global emissions are pure fantasy. Also is a fantasy the belief that Britain is leading the way on emissions reductions. We ain’t leading if collectively the world is not following. The evidence shows clearly shows this.  

In the previous post I looked at how FoE blatantly mislead about an agreement they reached with the Advertising Standards Authority, which caused the unusual step of ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker issuing a strongly worded statement to defend the ASA’s integrity.

In this post I will look at FoE’s position on fracking, from Fracking definition? What does fracking mean? Read our fracking facts

I will look at various statements made (with FoE quotes in purple), showing how well they are supported by the evidence and/or providing alternative perspectives.

From the section What are the dangers of fracking?

Industry statistics from North America show that around 6% of fracking wells leak immediately.

Leaking wells lead to a risk of water contamination. Lord Smith, former chair of the Environment Agency, has said this is the biggest risk posed by fracking.

So it’s particularly concerning that the Government has now said it will allow fracking companies to drill through aquifers which provide household drinking water.

This raises some questions.

  • If leaks are a problem, with respect to fracking in the UK has this been risk assessed, with appropriate measures taken to prevent leaks?
  • Does that statistic of 6% allow for when there is natural leakage in the area of fracking leaking in the water supplies are venting into the atmosphere in the area where fracking is occurring? This was the case in the images of the flaming water faucet in the movie Gasland.
  • Have there been steps taken in the USA to reduce genuine leaks?
  • Has the proportion of wells leaking gas in the USA been increasing or decreasing?
  • Has the average amount of gas leaked been increasing or decreasing?
  • How when extracting gas from well below water aquifers, through a lined tube, that is both water-tight and gas-tight, is that gas (and fracking fluids) meant to leech into the water supply?

Then there is the statement without evidence.

Fracking could also affect house prices.

This was one of the issues FoE in its agreement with the ASA have the assurance not to repeat claims that fracking affects property prices, unless the evidence changes. Legally there might be cop-out where that assurance does not apply to claims made on its website. Literally, the statement is not untrue, just as the claim that a butterfly flapping its wings on the North Downs could lead to a typhoon in the South China Sea.

Would fracking bring down energy bills?

It’s very unlikely. Fracking company Cuadrilla has admitted that any impact on bills would be “basically insignificant”.

Claims that fracking would create a lot of jobs have also been overstated. According to Cuadrilla, each of its proposed 6-year projects in Lancashire that were recently rejected by the council would only have created 11 jobs.

The claim about Cuadrilla is sourced from an Independent article in June 2013.

“We’ve done an analysis and it’s a very small…at the most it’s a very small percentage…basically insignificant,” said Mark Linder, a public relations executive at Bell Pottinger who is also responsible for Cuadrilla’s corporate development.

The article later says

“According to Poyry, Lancashire shale gas production could also reduce the country’s wholesale gas and electricity prices by as much as 4 per cent between 2014 and 2035, which corresponds to an average saving of £810m/year,”

It is not surprising that shale gas developments in Lancashire alone will not have a significant impact on UK energy prices, especially if that is restricted to a few sites by one company. But over three years later the landscape has changed. The British Geological Survey has been publishing estimates of the quantities of shale gas (and oil) that exists beneath the ground.

The figures are at first hard to comprehend. Large number in units of measure that ordinary people (even people with some knowledge of the field) are unfamiliar are hard to comprehend, let alone put into some perspective. In my view, the figures need to be related to annual British consumption. Page 8 of the DECC UK Energy Statistics, 2015 & Q4 2015 estimates gas demand at 794 TWh in 2015.

The BGS uses tcf (tera cubic feet) for its’ estimates, which (like a domestic gas bill) can be converted from TWh. The 794 TWh is about 2.7 tcf. Not all shale gas is recoverable. In fact possibly only 10% of reserves is recoverable on existing technology, and depending on the quality of the deposits.

There are also shale oil deposits, measured by the BGS in both barrels and millions of tonnes. Refinery production (a rough estimate of consumption) was 63 millions of tonnes in 2015. I will again assume 10% recovery.

The biggest shock was published just a few weeks after the Independent article on 27th July 2013. The size of the Bowland shale was truly staggering. The central estimate is 1329 tcf, meaning enough to satisfy 49 years of current UK gas demand. Potentially it is more, due to the depth of deposits in many areas. No significant deposits of oil are thought to be present

On 23rd May 2014 BGS published the results for the Weald Basin, a large area in the South East of England. Whilst there were no significant deposits of gas, the central estimate of 591 million tonnes is enough to supply the UK for one year.

On 25 June 2014 the Welsh Government published the estimates for Wales. The main gas deposits are thought to be in Wrexham/Cheshire and in South Wales and estimated about 65 tcf, or just over two years of UK demand. (Strictly the Welsh estimate is somewhat below this, as Wrexham is on the Welsh border and Cheshire is an English county. )

On 23rd May 2014 BGS published the results for the Midland Valley of Scotland. The central estimate for shale gas was 80.3 tcf (3 years of UK demand) and for shale oil 800 million tonnes (15 months of refinery production).

Most recently on 13th October 2016, BGS published the results for the Jurassic shale of the Wessex area. Central estimate for shale oil was 149 million tonnes, equivalent to three months of UK refinery production.

In all, conservatively there is estimated to be sufficient gas to supply the UK for over 54 years and oil for two and half years. The impact on supply, and therefore the impact on jobs and (in the case of gas) on energy prices, demands on the ability of businesses to profitability develop these resources. As has happened in the USA, the impact on jobs is mostly dependent on the impact on prices, as low prices affect other industries. In the USA, industries that are sensitive to energy prices (or use gas as a raw material) have returned from overseas, boosting jobs. FoE has played no small part in delaying planning applications with spurious arguments, along with generating false fears that could have made regulations more onerous than if an objective assessment of the risks had been made.

Fracking can’t help any short term or medium term energy crisis.

Even if the industry was able to move ahead as fast as it wants, we wouldn’t see significant production until about 2025.

This is actually true and up to date. If it were not for the Climate Change Act along with eco-activists blocking every move to meet the real energy demands in the most affordable and efficient way possible, there would be no prospective energy crisis. In terms of shale gas meeting energy demands (and gas-fired power stations being built) FoE should claim some of the credit for preventing the rapid develop of cheap and reliable energy sources, and thus exacerbating fuel poverty.

Will fracking help us to tackle climate change?

Shale gas and shale oil are fossil fuels. They emit greenhouse gases. Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change means getting off fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Scientists agree that to stop dangerous climate change, 80% of fossil fuels that we know about need to stay in the ground.

Setting up a whole new fossil fuel industry is going in completely the wrong direction, if the UK is to do its fair share to stop climate change.

The hypothesis is that global emissions lead to higher levels of greenhouse gases. In respect of CO2 this is clear. But the evidence that accelerating rate of rise in CO2 levels has led to accelerating average global temperatures is strongly contradicted by real world data. There is no scientific consensus that contracts this conclusion. Further there is no proper scientific evidence to suggest that climate is changing for the worse, if you look at the actual data, like leading climate scientist Dr John Christy does in this lecture. But even if the catastrophic global warming hypothesis were true (despite the weight of real world data against it) global warming is global. Britain is currently emitting about 1.1% of global emissions. Even with all the recently discovered shale gas and oil deposits, under the UK is probably less than 1% of all estimated fossil fuel deposits. Keeping the fossil fuels under British soil in the ground will do nothing to change the global emissions situation.  Britain tried to lead the way with the Climate Change Act of 2008, in committing to reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050. The INDC submissions leading up to COP21 Paris in December 2015 clearly showed that the rest of the countries were collectively not following that lead. The UNFCCC produced a graph showing the difference of the vague policy proposals might make.  I have stuck on the approximate emissions pathway to which the UK is committed.

The FoE is basically objecting to fracking to keep up the appearance that the UK is “doing its bit” to save the world from catastrophic global warming. But in the real world, global warming ain’t happening, neither are the predicted catastrophes. Even if it were, whatever Britain does will make no difference. FoE attempting to deny future jobs growth and stop the alleviation of fuel poverty to maintain the fantasy that Britain is leading the way on climate change.

 

Isn’t it better to have our own gas rather than importing it?

…….

If we went all out for shale, our gas imports would stay at current levels as the North Sea supply declines – and imports could increase by 11%.

This claim, without any reference, is based likely based on the same out of date sources as below. If FoE and fellow-travellers kept out of the way with their erroneous then shale gas has a huge potential to cause imports to decline.

Kevin Marshall

Carbon emissions – social benefits from enhanced growth

Key Points

  1. Cheap fossil fuels were undoubtedly a major element in China’s very high levels of economic growth.
  2. If Canada were to unilaterally cut its emissions, the impact on global emissions would be tiny.
  3. A reduction in economic growth of 0.01% from now to 2100 would have a larger value in 2100 than the projected  monetary costs of catastrophic climate change in 2100.
  4. Developing nations with up to two-thirds of global emissions, are excluded from any obligation to constrain emissions under the Rio Declaration.
  5. Climate mitigation increases unit energy costs, creating a comparative disadvantage for policy countries.
  6. If non-policy developing countries were later to adopt mitigation policies, they would not only have higher energy costs, but would lose the comparative advantage of being a non-policy country. A few countries pursuing climate mitigation policies increases the marginal cost of other countries adopting similar policies.

Introduction

Ron Clutz has yet another excellent article, this time on SBC: Social Benefits of Carbon

Ron points to the benefits of increased CO2 levels, such as from increased plant growth. But, by far the biggest benefit is the from the use of fossil fuels as an engine of economic growth. I made two comments, which are slightly amended here.

How much did fossilized carbon fuel China’s economic growth?

By far the most important point made in Ron’s article is the impact of fossil fuels on economic growth rates. Take China – the most extreme example in history, at least for major economies, According to the UNFCCC country brief produced for COP21 Paris, economic growth in China averaged 10.3% pa from 1990-2012. In the same period CO2 emissions increased by 6.1% pa. It meant GDP per capita (with 19% population growth) was 7.25 times higher in 2012 than 1990, and emissions per capita were over 3 times higher.

country-brief-2014_-china

How much of the economic growth would have happened without the huge investment in cheap energy sources – principally coal? If economic growth would have averaged a mere 7%, GDP per capita would have 3.7 times higher in 2012 than 1990. This is why people in China are willing to suffer the terrible, acrid, pollution that engulfs many major cities.

Unilateralist Canada reducing emissions by 90%

A hypothetical example with growth impacts

Whilst unable to estimate the effects of cheap energy on China’s phenomenal growth, I would still contend that the compound effect on economic growth of cheap fossil fuels is far greater than the estimates of the projected harms of climate catastrophe. At the start of December Ron Clutz had a post Climate Costs in Context. This referred to a Manhattan Institute Report which estimated the costs of global warming could reach $15trn by 2100 – or 2.5% of global output of $600trn. Reducing economic growth by 0.03% would have the same effect on output, though people would accept a much bigger reduction in growth to avoid 2.5% costs of catastrophes.

This leads to a bigger issue, that it not discussed. Suppose an economy like Canada with 1.5% of global emissions, unilaterally imposed a policy from January 1st 2017 that was guaranteed to reduce emissions by 90% by 2100. Without the policy, global emissions would be double 2016 levels in 2100. With the policy they will be 1.9865 times higher.
Let us also assume that

(1) 2100 costs of climate change are 2.50% of GDP globally and for Canada, without Canada’s policy.
(2) 2100 costs of climate change are 2.45% of GDP globally and for Canada, with Canada’s policy.
(3) The only cost of this policy is to reduce long-term growth rates from 2.00% to 1.99%
(4) All outcomes and calculations are certain.

Even then, the the descendants in 2100 Canada would still not thank the current generation, as output would be 8% lower, to save costs of just 0.05% of GDP. If current GDP is C$1600bn, with 2% growth GDP in 2100 will be C$8443bn. At 2.5% costs of climate change will be $211bn. Reduce that to 2.45% reduces costs by just over $4.2bn. But GDP with 1.99% growth GDP will be 8% or $668bn lower.
Even if all countries reduced emissions by 90% (and thus reduced costs of climate change to effectively zero) mitigation policy would may not make sense on these “heroic” assumptions. Canada would exchange $210bn of random catastrophic costs for $668bn of certain costs. But that would be only if the costs were totally random. If costs were in part predictable, then, without the economic growth impact of climate mitigation policies, additional economic could be used to counteract the direct effects of the warming through adaptation.
But the reality is much closer to Canada acting unilaterally; there are significant policy costs; and the impact on growth is far greater. Worst of all, is the competitive impact.

The Comparative Disadvantage of Climate Mitigation

Assume

(a) Cheap energy is a key driver of economic growth

(b) A country, like Canada, with aggressive climate mitigation policies,  is competing on world markets with less developed countries with little or no mitigation policies.

(c) Climate Mitigation policies, like renewables or a carbon tax, increase unit energy costs.

(d) Some industries with globalized market, like steel, aluminium, shipbuilding or chemicals, energy costs form a significant part of the costs of production.

I would suggest that the imposition of climate mitigation policies increases the unit cost of production, creating a comparative disadvantage compared to countries with little or no mitigation policies. 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage. Ably explained by Prof Donald J. Boudreaux, it is perhaps the only principle in economics that it universally true. Climate mitigation is only being pursued, in varying degrees, by a limited number of countries. Developing nations with up to two-thirds of global emissions, are excluded from any obligation to constrain emissions under the Rio Declaration. Developed countries, by imposing mitigation policies, create comparative advantages to the non-policy developing countries that they trade with. Therefore, the marginal cost of those developing countries adopting mitigation policies is greater if developed countries have already mitigation policies in place, than if all countries had adopted them together in equal measure. This implies that those economies like Russia, South Korea and China, who might be able to afford to adopt climate mitigation on the increased energy costs alone, will not do so due to competitor countries having established costly mitigation policies.

Kevin Marshall

£319 billion on Climate Change for approximately nothing

The major reason for abandoning the Climate Change Act 2008 is not due to the massive financial burden imposed on families, but because it will do approximately nothing to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. Massive costs are being imposed for near zero prospective benefit.

At the weekend the GWPF published a paper by Peter Lilley MP on the costs of The Climate Change Act 2008. From 2014 to 2030 he estimates a total cost of £319 billion to ensure that in 2030 British greenhouse gas emissions are 57% below their 1990 levels.
Putting this into context, listen to then Environment Minister David Miliband introducing the Climate Change Bill in 2007.

The 2008 Act increased the 2050 target from 60% to 80%. Miliband recognizes that what the UK does is not sufficient to stop a global problem. That requires a global solution. Rather, the aim is for Britain to lead the way, with other industrialized countries encouraged to follow. The developing countries are given a free choice of “a low carbon path of development rather than to repeat the mistakes of the industrialized countries.

Over eight years after the little video was made and seven years after the Climate Change Act was passed (with an increased 2050 emissions reduction target of 80% reduction on 1990 levels) was the COP21 in Paris. The responses from other countries to Britain’s lead were in the INDC submission, which the UNFCCC summarized in a graph, and I have annotated.

The UNFCCC have four bands. First, in orange, is the Pre-INDC scenarios. Then in yellow is the projected global impact if all the vague policy proposals are full enacted. In blue is the least cost 2◦C pathway for global emissions reductions, whilst in green is the least cost 1.5◦C pathway.

I have superimposed lilac arrows showing the UK Climate Act proportionate emissions pathway achieving a 57% emissions reduction by 2030 and an 80% emissions reduction by 2050 compared to the baseline 1990 emissions. That is, if all countries were to follow Britain’s lead, then the 2◦C warming limit would not be breached.

What this clearly shows is that collectively countries have not followed Britain’s lead. Even if the policy proposals were fully enacted (an unlikely scenario) the yellow arrow quite clearly shows that global emissions will still be rising in 2030.

This needs to be put into context of costs and benefits. The year before David Miliband launched the Climate Bill the Stern Review was published. The Summary of Conclusions gave the justification for reducing greenhouse emissions.

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.

Britain is spending the money to avert catastrophic global warming, but future generations will still be subjected to costs of climate catastrophe. It not much worse in terms of wasting money if the Stern Review grossly exaggerated the likely costs of warming and massively understated the policy costs, as Peter Lilley and Richard Tol laid out in their recent paper “The Stern Review : Ten Years On“.

However, if the British Government had conducted some proper assessment of the effectiveness of policy (or the Opposition has done their job in holding the Government to account) then it would have been clear that sufficient countries would never follow Britain’s lead. Last year Robin Guenier published some notes on Supreme Court Justice Phillip Sands lecture CLIMATE CHANGE and THE RULE OF LAW. Guenier stated of the Rio Declaration of 1992

There’s little, if any, evidence that the undoubted disagreements about the science – the focus of Professor Sands’ concern in his lecture – are the reason it’s proving so difficult to come to an effective agreement to restrict GHG emissions. In contrast however, the Annex I / non-Annex I distinction has had huge consequences. These arise in particular from Article 4.7:

“The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention … will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.” [My emphasis]

When the Convention was enacted (1992) the effective exemption of developing countries from environmental constraint made some sense. But over the years Non-Annex I countries, which include major economies such as China, India, South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have become increasingly powerful: in 2012 responsible for 67% of global CO2 emissions.

Robin Guenier uses estimates for CO2 emissions not (the admittedly harder to estimate) GHG emissions, of which CO2 comprises about two-thirds. But estimates are available from from the European Commission’s “Emissions Database for Global and Atmospheric Research” (EDGAR) for the period 1990 to 2012. I divided up the emissions between the Annex countries and the Non-Annex countries. 

The developing countries accounted for 64% of global GHG emissions in 2012, up from 47% in 1990 and 57% in 2005 when the Stern Review was being written. From 1990 to 2012 global emissions increased by 41% or 15,700 MtCO2e, whilst those of the Non-Annex countries increased by 90% or 16,400 MtCO2e  to 34,600 MtCO2e. The emissions in the United Kingdom decreased in the period (mostly for reasons other than mitigation policies) by 25% to 586 MtCO2e or 1.1% of the estimated global total.

It would have been abundantly clear to anyone who actually looked at the GHG emissions figures by country that the Rio Declaration 1992 was going to prevent any attempt to significantly reduce global GHG emissions. Since 1992 the phenomenal economic growth of countries like China and India, driven by the low energy costs of fossil fuels, have made the impossibility of reducing global emissions even starker. Yet still the IPCC, UNFCCC, many Governments and a large Academic consensus have failed to acknowledge, let alone understand, the real world data. Still they talk about reducing global emissions by over 80% in a couple of generations. In terms of the United Kingdom, the INDC submissions produced last year should have been further confirmation that the Government has no rational justification for imposing the massive costs on families, increasing inequalities and destroying jobs in the process.

Kevin Marshall

 

The Climate Alarmist Reaction to a Trump Presidency

A few weeks ago cliscep had a piece Trump, climate and the future of the world that looked at the immediate reactions to the surprise victory in the US Presidential election amongst the climate community. Brad Keyes noted Jo Romm’s piece will President Trump pull the plug on a livable climate?. To support this Romm stated

Indeed, one independent firm, Lux Research, projected last week that “estimated emissions would be 16 percent higher after two terms of Trump’s policies than they would be after two terms of Clinton’s, amounting to 3.4 billion tons greater emissions over the next eight years.”

There is a little graph to sort of back this up.

Whilst Romm then states two reasons why he does not think emissions will rise so much (Trump will cause a massive recession and will not win a second term) he then states the Twitter quote:-

That said, the damage and delay that even a one-term President Trump could do will make the already difficult task of keeping total warming well below 2°C essentially impossible.

So a difference of much less than 3.4 GtCO2e over eight years will make keeping total warming well below 2°C essentially impossible.
Before looking at the evidence that contradicts this, there are even more bizarre claims made by the expert climate scientists at RealClimate. They use a different graph which is probably a couple of years old and explain:-

Here are some numbers. Carbon emissions from the United States have been dropping since the year 2000, more than on-track to meet a target for the year 2020. Perhaps with continued effort and improving technology, emissions might have dropped to below the 2020 target by 2020, let’s say to 5 gigatons of CO2 per year (5000 megatons in the plot). In actuality, now, let’s say that removing restrictions on energy inefficiency and air pollution could potentially lead to US emissions by 2020 of about 7 gigatons of CO2. This assumes that future growth in emissions followed the faster growth rates from the 1990’s.
Maybe neither of these things will happen exactly, but these scenarios give us a high-end estimate for the difference between the two, which comes to about 4 gigatons of CO2 over four years. There will also probably be extra emissions beyond 2020 due to the lost opportunity to decarbonize and streamline the energy system between now and then. Call it 4-6 gigatons of Trump CO2.
This large quantity of gas can be put into the context of what it will take to avoid the peak warming threshold agreed to in Paris. In order to avoid exceeding a very disruptive warming of 1.5 °C with 66% probability, humanity can release approximately 220 gigatons of CO2 after January, 2017 (IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis report, Table 2.2, corrected for emissions since 2011). The 4-6 Gtons of Trump CO2 will not by itself put the world over this threshold. But global CO2 emission rates are now about 36 gigatons of CO2 per year, giving a time horizon of only about six years of business-as-usual (!) before we cross the line, leaving basically no time for screwing around. To reach the catastrophic 2 °C, about 1000 gigatons of CO2 remain (about 20 years of business as usual). Note that these estimates were done before global temperatures spiked since 2014 — we are currently at 1.2 °C! So these temperature boundaries may be closer than was recently thought.

RealClimate come up with nearly twice the difference made by Joe Romm / Lux Research, but at least admit in the final paragraph that whoever won would not make much difference.
There are two parts to putting these analyses into context – the US context and the global one.
In the USA emissions have indeed been falling since 2000, this despite the population growing. The rate of decline has significantly increased in the years of the Obama Presidency, but for reasons quite separate from actions to reduce emissions. First there was the credit crunch, followed by the slowest recovery in US history. Second, the high oil price encouraged emissions reductions, along with the loss of energy-intensive industries to countries with lower energy costs. Third is that the shale gas revolution has meant switching from coal to gas in electricity production.
But the global context is even more important. RealClimate does acknowledge the global figure, but only mentions CO2 emissions. The 36GtCO2 is only two-thirds of total greenhouse gas emissions of about 55GTCO2e and that figure is rising by 1-2% a year. The graph – reproduced from the USA INDC submission to the UNFCCC – clearly states that it is in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. What is more, these are vague policy proposals, that President Obama would have been unable to get through Congress. Further, most of the proposed emission reductions were through extrapolating trends that of what has been happening without any policy intervention.
If the 1.5°C limit breached from 220 GtCO2e of additional emissions, it will be breached in the run-up to Christmas 2020. The 1000 GtCO2e for the 2°C limit was from 2011. By simple arithmetic it is now below 800GtCO2e with about 15 years remaining if (a) a doubling of CO2 levels (or equivalent GHG gases) leads to 3°C of warming (b) the estimated quantity of emissions to a unit rise in atmospheric gas levels is correct and (b) the GHG gas emitted is retained for a very long period in the atmosphere.
Even simple arithmetic is not required. Prior to the Paris talks the UNFCCC combined all the INDCs – including that of the USA to cut emissions as shown in the graph above – were globally aggregated and compared to the approximate emissions pathways for 1.5°C and least-cost 2°C warming. The updated version, post-Paris is below.

The difference Donald Trump will make is somewhere in the thickness of the thick yellow line. There is no prospect of the aimed-for blue emissions pathways. No amount of ranting or protests at the President-elect Trump will change the insignificant difference the United States will make with any politically-acceptable and workable set of policies, nor can make in a country with less than a twentieth of the global population and less that one seventh of global emissions.

Kevin Marshall

Update on a Global Carbon Tax

In a previous post I looked a statement made by Richard Tol in his recent paper The Structure of the Climate Debate

Only a modest carbon tax is needed to keep atmospheric concentrations below a high target but the required tax rapidly increases with the stringency of the target. If concentrations are to be kept below 450 ppm CO2eq, the global carbon tax should reach some $210/tCO2 in 2020 or so (Tol 2013).

Tol, to his credit, replied to me (and others) in the cliscep comments. In particular

Note that these climate policies consist of two components: An initial carbon tax, and its rate of increase (4-6% a year).

The $210 carbon tax in 2020 is just a starting point. With a 5% escalation, it would double every 14 years making the carbon tax $910 in 2050, $3070 in 2075 and $10,400 in 2100. The escalator is the far more important aspect in reducing demand for fossil fuels through a combination of reducing energy use and switching to more expensive (and often less convenient) renewable sources. The escalator was not clear in the original article, and Richard Tol has agreed to make a correction.

Consider again just imposing a fixed $210 carbon tax. From the British perspective the additional tax on petrol (gasoline), with 20% VAT applied, is equivalent to 47p a litre added to the retail price. The tax is already nearly 70p a litre, so unlikely to have the impact on motorists of reducing their consumption by 90% or more. Even with the tax at 200p a litre implied by a $910 t/CO2 tax (making petrol £3.13 a litre) may not achieve this objective. For a car doing 15000 miles at 39mpg, this would generate an additional cost to the owner of £3500 per year. It would still be less than the depreciation on a family car averaged over the first three years. It might also be less than the full costs of converting to electric cars, particularly if the roll-out was not subsidized on the purchase cost and provision of charging points. Within the UK, the carbon tax would also replace the current renewables policy. Here the escalator would really hit home. For coal-fired power stations producing 400kg CO2 per megawatt hour, the carbon tax would be £70Mwh in 2020 and £300Mwh in 2050. Gas-fired power stations would have a tax of about half that level. Even wind turbines, backed by massive pump-storage schemes would be much cheaper. Nuclear power would be the cheapest alternative of all. But British voters are hardly going to keep on voting for a Government that imposes real increases in taxes of five percent a year until they become unaffordable except for the very rich.

However, it is from the global perspective that the cost of the carbon tax really hits home. In another comment Tol says

The big worry for climate policy, studiously avoided by the majority of its advocates, is that you need lots of cheap energy in the early stages of economic development.

It is worth stating again that a Global Carbon Tax needs to be Global to achieve the desired objectives. From the UNIPCC AR5 Synthesis Report Summary for Policy Makers is graphic SPM11(a). This shows the non-policy or Business as Usual RCP8.5 scenario, where emissions in 2100 are projected to be over 2.5 times the level of 2010. The 2C warming target is the RCP2.6 scenario. I have inserted a big arrow to show the difference that the global carbon tax needs to make. It can be demonstrated that most of the emissions growth will come from the developing countries, following the pattern from at least 1990.


The scale of the harm of policy is by assuming that the $210 carbon tax is applied without any change in demand at all, using the estimated CO2 emissions from fossil fuels for 2013 from CDIAC and the IMF 2015 GDP figures for ballpark estimates.
Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels were about 33.8 billion tonnes (two-thirds of total GHG emissions). A $210 carbon tax without any effect on demand would thus generate $7100 bn. This represents nearly 10% of global GBP of $73500bn. If we assume 2% emissions growth and 3% economic growth, then the carbon tax would represent 9.6% of GDP in 2020 without any drop in emissions.
Here is the same calculation for selected countries using 2013 emissions and GDP data.

30-33% Iran, Russia, South Africa
19-20% India, China
16-18% Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam
11-14% Poland, Czech Republic, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia.
7% Bangladesh, Philippines
6-7% USA, Japan, Canada, Australia
4-5% Spain. Germany, Nigeria
UK 3.4% France 2.9%

The highest tax rates are a result of inefficient economic systems. Iran has subsidised petrol, effectively a negative carbon tax. South Africa’s high emissions are as a result of apartheid. Oil embargoes caused it to convert coal to liquids, a process that generates 4-5 times the CO2 of burning coal alone. Russia, in common with its neighbours, still has the legacy of the economically-inefficient communism.
The carbon tax would also be high as a proportion of GDP for the rapidly emerging economies. It highlights the Tol’s comment about needing lots of cheap energy in the early stages of economic development. With higher fossil fuel emissions per $1000 of GDP the impact on output would be relatively greater in the emerging economies than in the OECD. A globally uniform carbon tax would end up transferring back some manufacturing back to the more energy efficient economies, slowing economic growth and thus emissions growth.
More importantly, emerging countries have large parts of the population with very low energy consumption. Even those with access to gas and electricity have much lower energy consumption than is typical in the West, whether from heating, air conditioning, cooking, or private transport. Pushing up the cost of energy will massively slow down the spread of consumerism and consequent improvements in living standards.

Three years ago I looked at the takeaway policy 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 largely agree with Richard Tol when he states that a carbon tax is the optimal policy in terms of maximum effect for minimum cost, at least with respect to fossil fuel emissions. Yet a high, and rapidly increasing, carbon tax would cost far more than 1% of global GDP each year, even if the additional tax revenue was spent efficiently and/or used to reduce other taxes. But the most pernicious effects would be felt in the effects on long-term economic growth – the very growth that is moving billions of people out of poverty towards the far better living standards we enjoy in the Western World. The  carbon tax does not present a feasible policy even in theory to achieve the objectives desired. Yet is, in theory, the best policy available.

Kevin Marshall

Richard Tol on a Global Carbon Tax

Richard Tol, one of the World’s leading economists on climate, has just had published The Structure of the Climate Debate, a paper that makes some very good comments on the gulf between optimal policy and the reality of ineffective policy backed by a great army of bureaucrats, rent-seeking politicians and environmentalists who exaggerate the issues. It is this optimal policy  – a global carbon tax to constrain warming to 2C – that I take issue with. Both economic theory and the empirical evidence contradict this.  The following is a comment posted at cliscep

Richard Tol states in his paper

Only a modest carbon tax is needed to keep atmospheric concentrations below a high target but the required tax rapidly increases with the stringency of the target. If concentrations are to be kept below 450 ppm CO2eq, the global carbon tax should reach some $210/tCO2 in 2020 or so (Tol 2013).

The 450 ppm CO2eq, would produce 2C of warming from pre-industrial levels if a doubling of CO2 on its own produces 3C of warming. The UNFCCC produced a graph for COP21 to illustrate the global emissions pathway needed to ensure 2C limit :-

Whereas even with the all the vague policy proposals fully implemented global emissions will be about 10% higher in 2030 than in 2010, the 2C pathway has emissions 10-30% lower. That means a carbon tax of $210/tCO2 (now £170) would have to turn around the global relentless rise in emissions and have them falling rapidly. I am deeply sceptical that such a global policy would achieve anything like the that difference would be achieved even with an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent planner to impose the tax. The reasons for that scepticism can be found by applying the tax to real world examples.
First let us apply a £170/tCO2 carbon tax to petrol, which produces 2.30kg of CO2 per litre. With 20% VAT applied is equivalent to 47p a litre added to the retail price. (Current excise duties with VAT are equivalent to £300/tCO2, the diesel £250/tCO2). For a car doing 15000 miles at 39mpg, this would generate an additional cost to the owner of £820 per year. Maybe a 15-30% increase in the full costs of running a small car in the UK. There is plenty of empirical visence of the effect of the oil price movements in the last couple of decades (especially in the period 2004-2008 when the price increased) to show that costs increases will have a much smaller effect on demand, whereas for the carbon tax to be effective it would need to have a much greater impact than the percentage cost increase.
Second, let us apply a $210/tCO2 carbon tax to coal-fired power stations. They produce about 400kg of CO2 per megawatt, so the cost would rise by $84MWH. In China, coal-fired electricity will retail at less than $30 MwH. China would rapidly switch to nuclear power. Even so, its power generation emissions might not start falling for at least a decade. Alternatively it might switch to gas, where the carbon tax would be half that of coal.
However, there is another lesson from oil prices, this time over the last three years. A small fall in demand leads to large falls in price, in the short term. That is the market responds by offsetting the cost of the global carbon tax. To use terms of basic economics the demand for fossil fuels is highly inelastic with respect to changes in price, and the supply of fossil fuels in the short term is highly inelastic to changes in demand.  Emissions reductions policies have not just turned out to be pretty useless in practice, they are pretty useless in theory (with real world political constraints removed) as well.

Kevin Marshall