Montag, Dezember 07, 2009

It's Beginning To Become Clear...and the Green Paradox...

It's beginning to become clear what the warming alarmists have been planning....

First of all, this. That makes it painfully clear what the agenda is behind the warming alarmists' actions has been:

It seems what most concerns Mr. Pachauri now is not climatology, or glaciology, or oceanography—but the way we live. "Today we have reached the point where consumption and people's desire to consume has grown out of proportion," he told the Observer, also on Sunday. "The reality is that our lifestyles are unsustainable."

Mr. Pachauri's actions speak even louder than his words. Last month, he branded the Indian environment minister "arrogant" after his office released a study that called into question whether climate-change is causing abnormal shrinkage of Himalayan glaciers. The IPCC's line is that Himalayan glaciers could be reduced by 80% or disappear entirely by 2035—but for this factoid, it cites no scientists, only the activist group, World Wildlife Fund. Now, the meteorologist and expert IPCC reviewer Madhav Khandekar says on Roger Pielke Sr.'s blog that the 2035 date may have been derived from a typo, based on a 1996 paper on snow and ice edited by V.M. Kotlyakov, which estimates the glaciers could be severely depleted or gone by 2350.

Mr. Pachauri was not available for comment as of press time, but on his personal Website last week he made clear that the science, for him, comes second. Conceding that Copenhagen was "clearly not making much headway," he advocated a focus on "the larger problem of unsustainable development, of which climate change is at best a symptom."

In other words, if Mr. Pachauri is sanguine about the undermining of the IPCC's scientific methods, it's because his chief concern isn't the science at all. Rather, to judge by his recent public statements, he is more focused on an ideological economic agenda in which climate change is little more than a useful tool. Given the cover-ups exposed by the leaked emails, we'll take Mr. Pachauri's remarks as a welcome instance of full and voluntary disclosure.

Key point: Mr. Pachauri has a clear ideological agenda, but not so much the economics (that is secondary and follows from the primary point) as much more the political.

But this is starting to unravel, as can be seen here. Key quote:

As the world prepares to converge on Copenhagen for the COP15 Climate Summit, Denmark's Speaker of Parliament has expressed serious doubts as to the way in which the climate debate has developed.

"The problem is that lots of people go around saying that the climate change we see is a result of human activity. That is a very dangerous claim," Parliamentary Speaker and former Finance Minister Thor Pedersen (Lib) tells DR.

"Unfortunately I seem to experience that scientists say: 'We have a theory' – then that crosses the road to the politicians who say: 'We know'. Who can be bothered to hear a scientist who says 'I have a theory' when politicians go around saying 'I know'" Thor Pedersen says.

Now, this is coming from the Danes, who while enjoying an excellent reputation amongst the Greens, actually are rather intensive energy users despite it all.

Now, let's consider reality:

Here is a recipe that would work: Add 30,000 megawatts of new wind turbines every year between now and 2050 (this is nearly four times what was added in 2008, a record year). Add another 35,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity annually (more than 100 times what was added last year—a record year for solar, too).

That's just the beginning. Now multiply the nuclear reactor fleet fivefold by midcentury. Retrofit all existing coal-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage technology. And build twice as many new plants, also with carbon capture. Natural gas could substitute for coal, but only with carbon capture too. By 2050, the electric power system would be four times bigger than today. Two-thirds of the car and truck fleet would be powered by electricity, and the rest would run on advanced biofuels.

All of this would indeed reduce carbon emissions by 83%. It would also practically eliminate America's dependence on oil imports. But could it be done?

Perhaps, though not without enormous effort. Operating a power grid reliably and economically with intermittent solar and wind resources generating 40% of the electricity cannot be done today. Carbon capture and storage has yet to be demonstrated on a large scale. Meanwhile, a still vocal group of environmentalists remains adamantly opposed to nuclear energy—even though it is the only low-carbon energy source that is both scaleable and already generating large amounts of electricity.

Yet falling short on any of these decarbonization measures would require even more of the others, or even greater energy efficiency gains. Failing that, the only way to reach the 83% reduction goal would be through slower or even negative economic growth, i.e., lower living standards. This is a matter of arithmetic; it cannot be wished away.

Bingo: we have now hit the hard equations, where science meets reality. The reality of the situation is that to go Green the way the warming activists would demand, insist, require by law for us to do either means a major decline in living standards or ...

or what, exactly?

Actually, there is no "or": for the warming activists to be appeased and mollified, we must prostrate ourselves, don the hair shirt and sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice. After all, it's for the children...or is it?

You see, there are some people who are at least trying to think this thing through. One of them is an economist that I am a big fan of, of Dr. Herbert Werner Sinn, who writes this (only in German, but I'm providing the translation):

The green program has become a replacement religion for many. With the words "we believe in solar energy," the coalition contract (for Germany's new government -ed) pays tribute to the sun god. Politics pays no attention any more about solar roofs and wind mills in terms of reducing greenhouse gases, but rather in order to create new secular monuments for the new belief. Before, however, we allow out industrial base to be driven into the desert by the wind of our emotions, let's stop and think "what are we doing?". Reason and pragmatism must replace the blind activism of the last several years. Germany desperately needs a course correction in its environmental policy.

Dr. Sinn makes sense (my bilingual readers will appreciate that pun). Fundamentally he does not disagree with climate change as such, and he is willing to accept the science (I fear that he will be disabused of this notion before long...). What does he propose?

Basically, he says that if it really is five minutes before midnight, then we can't afford inefficiencies in implementing policies. Simply put, the German laws for renewable energy systems have nothing to do with their support, but are rather, as industrial subsidies usually tend to be, a form of political largesse that benefits a very small number of people at the expense of everyone.

Further, green policies have, if anything, accelerated warming (if you accept the premise, of course, that human activity has a warming effect):

Some argue that green energy will push energy prices below extraction costs for fossil fuels, ensuring that no company would bother to extract them. This is, however, a dangerous illusion, as extraction costs are a tiny portion of the price and this is not going to change. The price of fossil fuels has about as much to do with the extraction costs as the price of a Rembrandt has anything to do with the cost of the paint used. This argument is absurd.

Possible supply changes change differently. The owners of the usable resources always calculate if they can get a higher rate of return if they leave their resources in the ground in order to use them when they are in scarcer supply and can hence be sold at higher prices, or, alternatively, sell the resources now and invest their gains in capital markets. Hence the rate of resource use is dependent on interest rates and the expectations of price developments. If the resource owners wait, so that green policies get even greener, this reduces the value of the resources now in the ground, leading to a direct incentive to use these resources as fast as possible. This leads to more Co2 in the atmosphere, warming accelerates.

This is the green paradox. Policies that are greener and greener threaten resource owners with the destruction of markets and gives them the incentive to dispose of their resources before their markets disappear. This incentive comes in the face of what amounts to the exercise of eminent domain in the near future, leading to an incentive to overproduce in order to gain what can be gained before the resources become valueless. This only serves to accelerate any negative ecological effects. Given that the prices for fossil fuels, in real terms, are today not higher than they were in 1980 and the CO2 emissions have progressively increased, although many EU countries have reduced their emissions, is probably the result of the environmental discussion of the last decade, which has led to resource owners converting their resources to money rather than leaving it in the ground in anticipation of much, much higher prices.

Other countries in this time frame have not only used the amount of fossil fuels that the Europeans have saved, but the oversupply of oil on world markets shows that resource owners have brought their product on the market because of the fears they have that green policies will mean for them.

Woops. That didn't work out well.

I won't get into the rest of the article, as I don't agree with his premise - that anthropogenic warming is real - as anyone who takes an objective look at the politics of the science should be able to understand (given the apparent fudging of the numbers in order to hide the decline), if not agree with. He also argues, basically, for a kind of Tobin tax on financial transactions to make the business of fossil fuel extraction ... unprofitable. Here I cannot agree, but let that be the subject of another post.

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