by Barry Brill
Climate Policy is in crisis.
This month, the G20 Climate Conference in Bali collapsed in confusion – preceded by the flops of both COP26 in Glasgow and COP25 in Madrid. Three decades of climate talks (52 weeks of Conferencing) have failed dismally – and the global objective of stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions is no nearer being attained than it was at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
The initial hopes engendered by the tepid Paris Agreement of 2015 (Paris15) have been dashed. No material forward progress has been made during the past seven years. China has now broken off its climate policy co-operation with the USA. And Europe’s fickleness has been glaringly exposed by an energy price shock.
Human-related global CO2 emissions will probably reach all-time record levels next year. No developed country anywhere is even on track to meet its nationally-determined contribution (NDC) to the goals of Paris15. Voters’ appetite for more climate adventurism is probably at its lowest level in decades.
It’s time for a re-think.
A. THERE IS NO CLIMATE EMERGENCY
The marketing term “climate emergency” has been exposed as an outright deception:
1. Warming has paused: Global warming has unexpectedly stopped or paused. Over the last 7 years 10 months, NASA satellites show a slight decrease in the trend of the global average temperature anomaly (GATA)[i]. No such hiatus was forecast by the UN’s climate models.
2. Change has been trivial: The current GATA is only an inconsequential 0.2°C warmer than the 1979-2000 average, a change which is less than the margin of measurement error[ii].
3. Forecasts are mild: IPCC scientists are currently forecasting that the GATA will rise by around 1.3°C during the whole 22nd Century, even on a “business as usual” basis (i.e. no more policy changes).
That projected warming is broadly the same as the world has already experienced through the past 100 years – an era that provided health and prosperity unknown to any previous generation. During that 1.1°C of warming, human life expectancy doubled; and the proportion of humans living in extreme poverty dropped from 72% to less than 10%.
4. Climate models are unreliable: Even the UN’s IPCC itself now acknowledges that its computerized climate simulation models have been “running hot” since its AR3 report in 2007. While these models do provide useful heuristics for scientists, they clearly cannot foretell the future. None of them has ever been either validated or verified against real-world data[iii].
5. Vegetation is flourishing: CO2 has increased from about 0.03% of the atmosphere in 1900 to over 0.04% now, as a result of a major increase in the use of fossil fuels. This rise has caused mild warming, which extends growing seasons, and has also dramatically boosted global vegetation growth. CO2 is plant food. “Global Greening” has accounted for a 13% increase in food production, outpacing population growth, since the early 1980s.
6. Islands are expanding: The centuries-long gradual rise in relative sea levels has not accelerated at all during the past 100 years. This helps explain why over 78% of the measured islands in the Pacific Ocean have expanded their land areas during the past 50 years. The oft-repeated theory that small islands would be flooded by rising seas has been disproven by careful observation of real-world data.
7. Weather casualties are declining: Deaths from global weather-related events have reduced by a staggering 91% over the last 90 years – showing that people get much more resilient when they get richer. Many more people now die from Climate Policy (e.g., unaffordable energy) than die from extreme weather events. The Lancet reports that 17 times as many frail people die from winter cold as from summer heat[iv].
8. Wildfires are receding: In the early 1900s, around 4.5% of the land area of the world would burn in wildfires every year. Over the course of that century, this steadily declined to about 3.2%. Over the last 20 years, satellites have tracked further declines – to a low of 2.5% in 2021.
9. Less damage from weather extremes: Over the past 50 years, official global weather data shows no increase in either the frequency or severity of droughts; or landfall hurricanes; or tornadoes; or floods. Economic losses from climate and weather-related events have been falling as a percentage of GDP during all that period[v].
10. Weather deterioration is unlikely: The IPCC has expressed ‘low confidence’ in the media claim that these extreme events will materially increase in future decades. Heat waves are expected to become slightly more frequent, but no other material changes in global average weather extremes are predicted. (Of course, many changes will continue to occur from region to region, but they will likely continue to balance out overall).
11. Future prosperity is expected: Humanity is getting more prosperous every year. In a separate report, the United Nations estimates that without global warming, the average person (worldwide) in 2100 would be 450% better off than today. But, under a worst case scenario for Climate Change, the UN fears that people might only be 434% richer. That is far from being an “emergency”. On the contrary, it is great news for our grandchildren.
12. Misinformation is rife: Under-reported hard data has steadily exposed a great many climate-related fallacies:
- Global glacier melt began in 1800 (after the peak of the Little Ice Age) and their retreat rate has not accelerated since the 1950s – when human-caused emissions began their sharp rise.
- Global sea-ice cover has been stable for 50 years. The predicted ice-free Arctic shipping routes have not materialized and are unlikely to do so.
- The number of polar bears has trebled since 1983 to a record number of about 26,000.
- Two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shows the highest coral cover seen since reliable records began in 1985. It is flourishing.
- Air pollution was four-times more likely to kill you in 1920 than it is today.
- The trend of weather-related damages as between 1990 and 2020 declined from 0.26% of global GDP to 0.18%.
What the media and politicians and activists say about climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual scientific literature as to be absurdly and demonstrably misleading.
B. NET ZERO BY 2050 IS ‘DELUSIONAL’
While ‘Net Zero by 2050’ (NZ50) may make a fine slogan for a bumper sticker, it is the antithesis of a rational, fit-for-purpose Government policy to take us all into an uncertain future.
13. NZ50 is a pipe-dream: Vaclav Smil, a world-leading authority on energy, says the NZ50 target is ‘delusional’ everywhere; and his books amply demonstrate that its achievement is both physically and politically impossible[vi]. Nobody seems willing to debate Professor Smil’s conclusions.
14. Many if not most insiders agree with Smil. India’s Minister of Power, Raj Kumar Singh, describes the whole NZ50 mantra as “pie in the sky” (and also unfair). BRICS[vii] and other ‘South’ countries see it as a devious political distraction which is designed to side-step more immediate needs. Elon Musk says the energy transition will have to take “several decades”. Even Greta Thunberg points out that it is “reliant on future, fantasy-scaled, currently-barely-existing net emissions technologies”.
15. NZ50 is a deception: The Paris Agreement documents that the consensus aim of 193 World Governments is to achieve net zero CO2 emissions “in the second half of this century” – i.e. before the year 2100. But activists and the corporate media have worked to disappear the word “in” and invent “before” in its place – and many politicians have happily gone along with this deception.
16. NZ50 is not feasible: No Government has ever investigated the actual feasibility of its NZ50 project. These blue-sky dreams reflect their authors’ preference for way-off goals (to be achieved well after they have retired) rather than unpopular policies to force down current emissions. There are no accompanying energy production plans, and no assurances of continuing affordable energy supply. But a leading engineer has shown in both the UK and New Zealand that neither of those two countries have the physical resources to complete such a project – even if their citizens were willing to outlay the estimated costs of about $330,000 per household. Put simply: it can’t happen, so it won’t happen.
17. NZ50 is politically impossible: For many years, EU energy consumers have reluctantly invested vast sums in ‘Green Levies’ that have intentionally raised their power prices to be the highest in the world. But, over the 12-month period to August 2022, their Governments have allocated 236 billion euros to shield households and firms from rising energy prices. Such self-contradictory policies provide proof positive of Vaclav Smil’s insight that NZ50 is a politically impossible fantasy.
18. Mind-boggling cost of NZ50: If politicians were to stay on message, they would eventually discover that the global costs of NZ50 are at nosebleed heights. More than $5 trillion a year for 30 years according to the McKinsey consultancy – who dubbed it “the largest reallocation of capital in human history”.
In climate-related discussion, the word “trillions” tend to trip off the tongue. But McKinsey’s truly gargantuan figure would amount to one-third of total global tax revenue – which means Climate Policy would drive a 33% average reduction in all government spending on health, housing, education, social welfare, police, climate adaptation, defense, social justice, etc. How long could that be tolerated in any genuine democracy?
19. No business case for NZ50: The quantified results of Climate Policy investments are all pain and no gain, because the unavoidable trade-offs are immense. There can be no forecast return on investment (ROI), because no quantified feasibility study has even been conducted. Obviously, no prospectus could ever be issued.
Yale economist William Nordhaus, who published a Nobel Prize-winning estimate of the economic benefit of slower global warming, found that the costs of addressing climate change exceed the benefits[viii] unless and until global warming reaches 4°C. Nordhaus also showed that a mild carbon tax would be sufficient to stabilize temperatures at this level at an overall cost of less than 4% of GDP in 120 year’s time.
All attempts to calculate a ‘Net Present Value’ of an NZ50 investment show huge negatives. There is no business case now, and there never will be one in the absence of unguessable technological changes.
20. NZ50 can’t get us there: The IPCC reports that NZ50, even if adopted and achieved on a worldwide basis (an impossibility), would still fail to meet the Paris15 target of limiting post-1850 warming to 2.0°C. That target would additionally require ‘negative emissions technologies’ (NETS) to be employed throughout the second half of this century. In the IPCC analysis, “bioenergy with carbon capture and storage” (BECCS) is integral to every plausible future scenario.
The poster child for BECCS is Drax, the UK’s largest power station,[ix] which annually burns over 10 million tons of wood that is shipped across the Atlantic from the USA. Much of this wood is supplied by clear-felling old indigenous forest – which will take many decades, perhaps centuries, to replace. Stack emissions from Drax are 2% higher from wood than from coal.
However, fashions have moved on. Most climate scientists now believe that re-planted biomass will be far too slow to meet the perceived urgency of tackling Climate Change. After years of controversy, the European Parliament has recently (14/09/22) voted to phase out the counting of primary wood as being ‘renewable’.
But without BECCS, the UN’s published plan to meet Paris15 targets is nullified. If the plan is unachievable, then what is the point of NZ50?
21. Technology, not austerity, is the solution: Although there was a huge slump in global economic output during the first Covid-19 year (2020), there was no – repeat no – measurable decrease in atmospheric CO2. This serendipitous real-world experiment highlighted the impossibility of the quest to reduce future temperatures by slashing current living standards. No silver bullets. We now know the goal cannot be achieved by taxes and austerity – only major technology change can engineer the gradual phase-out of fossil fuels.
22. Throwing money doesn’t work: The hopelessness of the NZ50 cause is well demonstrated by the Schumer-Manchin $369 billion climate-fighting Act described by President Biden as “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.” The UN’s own climate model (MAGICC) shows that the temperature impact of this massive spend will be impossible to detect by the year 2100 (theoretically, it will reduce global temperatures by 0.0009°F).
Despite being part of a touted multi-decade program, this “long-term investment” decision was uni-partisan – it did not attract a single un-whipped vote. It may be gone by Christmas-time.
23. Failed template for NZ50: Major unprecedented investment proposals are seldom actually bankable unless a proof of concept has first been provided by a closely-monitored pilot project. The pilot for NZ50 (the largest investment proposal in world history) was a city – Denmark’s Copenhagen – which ostentatiously pledged in 2012 to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. After 10 long years of greenwashing, Copenhagen confessed in August 2022 that it is reneging on its net zero pledge, which it has found to be unachievable.
Without benefit of a feasibility analysis, the Sri Lankan government in 2021 banned the import of fossil-fuel-sourced fertilizer, with the ambitious aim of promoting sustainable organic food with a lower carbon footprint. This move was cheered by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a template for others. Within six months, both rice and tea production dropped precipitously by 20% and the economy went into free fall. Inflation is now over 50%, 9 out of 10 families are skipping meals, and the President has fled the country.
Hopefully, the fate of this unfortunate experiment will stand as a warning to others (such as The Netherlands) against reckless breakneck speed in moving towards long-term environmental aims. And the eternal belief of politicians that they can pick future winners.
24. Volte-face in Europe: Despite the EU’s culture and politics of chronic self-deception, the gas-price-shocked EU countries are right now providing us with a telling window into the future:
- the EU itself has abruptly reclassified both natural gas and nuclear power plants as “Green”, and therefore entitled to sustainability subsidies;
- World-climate-leader Germany is re-opening coal plants; considering extension of its nuclear plants; and subsidizing the use of all energy;
- World-climate-leader UK is about to legalize fracking for shale gas and re-drilling for oil in the North Sea; while suspending all ‘Green Levies’ and spending huge sums on subsidizing sales of gas and electricity;
- France is urgently approving 14 new nuclear power plants; while the UK is promising to build a new nuclear plant every year for eight years;
- several EU maritime countries are competing to build new LNG receiving terminals at their ports, and are willing to enter 20-year gas supply contracts;
- so many European countries have asked Botswana to mine more coal that it expects to more than double its exports;
- the EU (along with the USA) is currently pressing Arab nations to expand their oil production.
25. Asia is the key: The real burden of mitigating Climate Change lies with only one continent – Asia – where over 80% of all increased global emissions will occur during the next 25 years. This inescapable fact is constantly misunderstood in the West:
- continents of ‘the Global South’ (Asia, South America, Africa) will not only produce over 80% of future emissions, but will also represent over 90% of future increases in energy consumption for many decades to come;
- this dynamic is essential to the unstoppable global trend (and the shared aim) of closing the affluence gap between rich and poor countries. It is a feature, not a bug. Asia deserves and will have an ‘energy catch-up’.
- conversely, most of the climate-related noise and breast-beating comes from politicians, activists and media within the continents of ‘the Global North’ (Europe, North America and Australasia). These noisy peoples are strangely self-obsessed – ever looking inwards, rather than seeking ways to help the Asian countries who are on the front line;
- the handful of countries that have legislated a NZ50 goal collectively contribute less than 15% of global emissions[x] and this share will continue to dwindle.
- the Western political emphasis on country-by-country mitigation competition is ill-conceived and counterproductive. A global problem needs a global solution. Competition inevitably produces ‘carbon leakage’ where each country tries to move its emissions on to some other country’s carbon balance sheet. Despite major economic disruption, this course delivers no net gains. That is why the Paris Agreement contemplates a whole-world team effort;
- put simply, Climate Change is no longer a ‘first world issue’, and its future pathway does not lie within the gift of the affluent OECD countries. Their only useful contributions lie in research, development and demonstration, along with data-sharing, technology transfer and financial assistance to those continents where emission volumes are exploding.
26. Volte-face everywhere? Post-apocalyptic Climate Policy is not confined to Europe. Since signing the Paris Agreement, China has built the equivalent of more than one large coal plant per week. India, Vietnam, Japan and Indonesia are currently planning to construct more than 100 coal-fired generation plants. Analysts expect 2023 to set a new record in global volumes of coal-related emissions.
Japan is re-opening 20 atomic plants, and even California is extending the life of its sole remaining nuclear generator. Pilot plants are currently testing Fourth Generation (4G) nuclear technology in at least four countries, and advanced SMRs seem very likely to proliferate through the 2030s.
C. ENERGY TRANSITIONS ARE SLOW
27. Transition may take 80 years: Cheap and plentiful primary energy has utterly transformed living standards over the past 200 years. Since the industrial revolution, the major global energy transitions—from wood, to coal, to oil—have each taken around 80 years. The current move to natural gas[xi] will also take a long time, probably until 2070 or thereabouts.
Throughout history, the priorities of energy consumers (i.e. voters) have always been unmistakable. First, they want firm assurance of energy supply at all times and, secondly, the supply must be affordable – the cheaper the better. Major wars have been fought to maintain secure and affordable supply of energy. While collateral considerations such as mine safety and environmental pollution are always relevant, they are an order of magnitude less salient.
28. Fossil fuels will continue to dominate; Global civilization still depends on hydrocarbons (oil, gas and coal) for 84% of all its energy requirements, which is only about 2% less than the level of dependence in the year 1990. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects this percentage will be even greater in 2040 than it was in 2021[xii].
The IEA is funded by all OECD countries to apply the expensive resources needed to make rational and explicable forecasts of future global energy needs. Despite being the soul of diplomacy, the IEA clearly disbelieves the high-sounding political rhetoric around NZ50. No responsible policymaker can claim to have better objective forecasts than those supplied by the IEA.
29. Nobody knows what’s next: Nobody can foretell what energy source will dominate in future – just as nobody knew in the past. A truly massive political effort has been made to persuade us all that the future lies in wind; or biomass; or hydrogen; or solar photovoltaics; or tidal power, etc. But it is well known that politicians have an abysmal track record in attempting to pick future winners. And for that reason alone, many believe the ‘renewables’ fad will stall and die before long – at least once those sources reach around 10% of any peak-load national supply.
The markets, and only the markets, will eventually decide– the aggregate of hundreds of billions of individual decisions taken over decades by consumers all over the world. Maybe nuclear fusion will come through – perhaps coupled with super-conductivity? Or maybe quantum physics will come up with a new and better answer. As at today, distributed small nuclear reactors (SMRs) look rather more likely.
30. Energy use is growing: Energy is needed for everything that is grown, fabricated, operated or moved. Future closure of the economic gap between countries will require a whole lot more energy – over 80% of the world’s population are yet to take their first flight and only about 5% have ever owned a car. The greater complexity of the 21st Century will also require more energy per average household. Global smartphone production uses 15% as much energy as the automotive industry, although a car weighs 10,000 times more. The Cloud uses twice as much electricity worldwide as all of Japan. The adoption of robotics, AI, IoT, 5G, etc. are expected to maintain the upwards momentum
31. EVs may be limited: Electric vehicles currently offset less than 0.5% of world oil demand (60% of them are in China). After several years of impressive reductions, the cost of producing batteries is now rising sharply, due to resource constraints. A typical electric car requires six times more minerals than a conventional car. Storing oil costs about $1 per barrel per month, while storing the equivalent in lithium batteries (even after a 10-fold decrease) costs at least $30 per month. Economists estimate that fewer than 15% of the world’s motorists can actually afford to purchase an EV unless real-terms prices are slashed.
The whole-life carbon footprint of an average EV is only slightly lower than that of a fuel-economic ICE vehicle (e.g. a Prius). If that difference were to be overtaken by further fuel-efficiency improvements by ICE/hybrid vehicle manufacturers[xiii], will there be any significant future for EVs? Will hydrogen fuel cells prove to be a better answer?
D. PEAK HYPOCRISY
Since 1992, the UN’s endless climate conferences, treaties, protocols, etc., have failed to halt or even slow the steady increase in global emissions. While the rhetoric and hyperbole has ramped up exponentially, the results have been pathetic. The “greatest issue facing the human race” has been swamped and subsumed by self-obsessed virtue signaling:
32. Private jet picnics: There were more private jets at the UNFCCC’s COP26 in Glasgow than at any other event in world history. Although some were used by Climate Change Ministers, most of them conveyed either billionaires (e.g. John Kerry, Tom Steyer) or celebrities (e.g. Leonardo de Caprio, HRH Prince Charles) who have a great deal to say about the necessity of making big sacrifices to ‘save the planet’. Most of the same people jet into Davos each year.
Every owner of a private jet plane has a carbon footprint 483 times larger than that of an average US person. The rational conclusion is that these people do not believe a word they preach about climate change. Alternatively, they (or some of them), while genuinely worried, think that they should be personally exempt because their work is so important. However, all seem to agree that the other 99% of the human race really must dig deeper and try harder. Many are prepared to selflessly invest their own money and time lobbying for more regulations to force others to drop their living standards.
33. Airlines’ believable surveys: Every week a new survey is published assuring us that 60% or more voters want to see their governments “do more” to combat Climate Change. But flyers on most of the developed world’s airlines are given every opportunity (and often pushed) to “do more” by buying carbon credits that offset the emissions created by their flights. Astonishingly, only 1.5% of the flyers on IATA airlines actually tick that box[xiv]. Here is a “money where mouth is” survey which provides a much more meaningful analysis of what people really think about the much-touted ‘climate emergency’. It turns out that 98.5% of flyers are not much concerned at all.
34. Paid lobbyists everywhere: In the last five years, just three US billionaires (Bloomberg, Bezos, Soros) have funded NGOs to employ at least 30,000 full-time-equivalent Climate Change campaigners. The numbers of NGO employees funded by wealthy individuals and charitable foundations worldwide runs into the millions[xv]. @SDGaction, an NGO, boasts that its members accumulated 100 million ‘transformative actions’ and stunts in 2021 alone, and thereby changed the world.
These activists work all day, every day, on lobbying the media, politicians, bureaucrats, teachers, academics and other influencers to demand more extreme and extensive Climate Policies. The planned outcome is to overwhelm and control the public debate – or to ensure that there is no public debate – and to spread cultures and politics of chronic self-deception in respect of all issues related to Climate Change. They have been remarkably successful.
35. Ethical propaganda? Diverse members of the mainstream news media have long collaborated to promote universal support of orthodox (i.e. IPCC) Climate Change science, seeing this as an ethical obligation. But this has now intercepted with a fashionable wave of “cancel culture”, which threatens the career prospects of any journalist who dares to raise doubts about any aspect of the climate narrative. Thousands of paid activists stand ready to pounce if a reporter anywhere deviates more than a millimeter from the party line promulgated by The Guardian and the New York Times. Sadly, much of the media has now accepted its role as the priesthood of climate orthodoxy – policy as well as science.
The endless coercion is also reflected in social media, where Nobel laureates are banned from Twitter for ‘misinformation’ when they attempt to correct junk science. Any criticism of any Climate Policy (rational or not) is verboten and will likely induce the suspension of accounts.
The unfortunate consequence of this extreme bias has been that public debate has been muted and distorted; incoherent policies have gone unchallenged; the Overton Window has been strangled; propaganda has replaced investigation; and conformity of thought has been prioritized above truth. The horrible mess of OECD Climate Policies could never have happened if the Fourth Estate had fulfilled its normal function.
36. Weaponizing the finance industry: The coerced media group-think is mirrored by conformity within and between the world’s powerful financial institutions (including Central Banks) and is openly orchestrated by the WEF in Davos. Under ‘ESG’ (Ethics, Sustainability, Governance), investors are pressed to pay extra fees to their bankers to divide all stocks between white hats and black hats[xvi]. BlackRock, iShares, etc. then vote the world’s pension funds to force the adoption of policies that the elected directors of an enterprise would not otherwise favor. Some trading banks charge higher interest to businesses that do not tick certain ‘Green’ boxes favored by the bank’s management.
The primary purpose of ESG is to deprive fossil fuel producers of investment capital. Insofar as this strategy is now proving successful, it is delivering very few benefits to its investors – or to humankind in general.
37. The markets are seldom wrong: Green-washing, climate catastrophism and virtue-signaling (including ESG) are now de rigueur throughout the capitalist world – especially in the fields of finance, marketing and HR. When Stuart Kirk, global head of sustainable banking for HSBC, pointed out that none of these emperors has any clothes[xvii], his distinguished career came to a sudden end.
Kirk made the inarguable point: “The markets agree with me. Despite the hyperbole, the more people say the world is going to end… the more the words “climate catastrophe” are used around the world, the higher and higher the value of risk assets go up.”
38. Hypocrisy abounds: Hypocrisy is becoming a way of life:
- The market value of sea-level land has rocketed over the past 7 years, and both Al Gore and Barrack Obama have recently invested in seaside mansions;
- Most of the owners of massive diesel-powered super-yachts (e.g. Gates, Bezos) are climate alarmists/campaigners;
- World Bank and G7 committees, sitting snugly in coal-power-heated boardrooms, have resolved to deny any funding for projects bringing fossil-fueled energy to the world’s most disadvantaged communities. An estimated 3.5 billion of the world’s poorest people have no reliable access to electricity.
- Nigeria’s vice president makes the point: “No country in the world has been able to industrialize using renewable energy,” yet Africa is expected to do so “when everybody else in the world knows that we need gas-powered industries for business.”
- Fueled by subsidies, the total amount of crops used annually for biofuels is equal to the calorie consumption of 1.9 billion people;
- A wood-burning power plant in Britain (Drax) is to receive £32 billion in government subsidies over 25 years. Its imported wood pellets[xviii] produce higher levels of CO2 from its smokestacks than burning coal, its previous fuel.
- Within six days after California loudly proclaimed a ban on fossil-fueled vehicles, it quietly requested EV owners to avoid charging during peak hours so as to avoid power blackouts.
- Celebrities jet across oceans to accept environmental awards. Green Party MPs consistently have the highest taxpayer-funded air miles.
39. Carbon leakage is the norm:: Several EU countries (e.g. Germany, UK) set out to “lead the world” before New Zealand began its crack at the title 2018. They achieved their small gains by de-industrializing large chunks of their economies whilst escalating their imports of goods from China; and their energy from Russia[xix]. Manufacturing’s share of the UK economy declined from 27% in 1970 to around 10% by 2018, In a nutshell, they off-shored their emissions from productive activity while maintaining their BAU levels of consumption. This kind of “carbon leakage” has been the hallmark of Climate Policies worldwide.
All this posturing and pain has had zero impact on the level of atmospheric CO2 – nothing has been achieved other than a disguised wealth transfer to China and Russia. But that does not hinder their politicians from preening at global Climate Conferences.
40. Climate Policy offshores jobs: The much-advertised “Green Jobs Machine” has predictably failed to materialize. The opposite effect has occurred, and will continue to occur, as a result of decarbonization programs. China’s share of the global supply chain for solar panels increased from 55% in 2010 to 84% in 2022 – while Europe and North America, the major consumers, have only a combined 3% share across all stages. China currently manufactures nearly 60% of the world’s electric vehicles. Countries pursuing Zero by 2050 goals are not only de-industrializing, but are constantly eroding their comparative advantage across all elements of world trade.
41. Perverse policy positions: The USA, uniquely, has genuinely delivered a reduction in global emissions in the last decade, mainly by switching from coal to natural gas for power production. This was the result of a plunge in gas prices arising from new technologies (“fracking”) for the recovery of shale gas. Yet those States which campaign most stridently for high-ambition Climate Policy (e.g. New York, California) have legislated bans against the production of shale gas. The same States have closed long-successful nuclear generation plants – despite the resulting increase in the national usage of fossil fuels. Whatever their agendas might be, it is not combatting Climate Change.
42. Politics trumps science: Who determines the Green fashions de jour? Not scientists. While veganism and cycling are deemed to be universally virtuous, crypto-currency mining escapes serious criticism. Bitcoin mining alone consumes an estimated 150 terawatt-hours of electricity annually – more than the entire country of Argentina, with a population of 45 million – emitting some 65 Mt of CO2. Then there are another 19,000 crypto-currencies in circulation. But there are many vested interests in crypto-currency, so the outrage of ESG warriors is highly muted in this area.
43. Renewables still uncompetitive: Solar and wind technologies today supply about 5% of global primary energy. An onshore wind plant requires nine times more mineral resources and land per kWh than an equivalent-output gas-fired plant. Reliable time-of-use electricity from renewables still costs about three times the equivalent from a gas-powered generator.
Faith-based motivated thinking has led many politicians to claim that intermittent wind/solar power is very cheap, and will require no back-up by fossil fuels:
- The claim is incompatible with the fact that all policymakers everywhere assume that wind/solar generation cannot be commercially viable without mandates or long-term taxpayer subsidies. Cumulative taxpayer/consumer subsidies for biofuels wind and solar already approach US$5 trillion globally, and very few renewable plants have ever been built anywhere without artificial aids. Subsidies began over 20 years ago, and have only increased
- Domestic retail electricity prices are directly proportional to the percentage penetration of wind/solar on the relevant grid. With few exceptions, the higher the penetration, the higher the bills.
- In 2019, German electricity prices were 45 percent higher than the European average. Electricity prices in renewables-heavy California have risen six times faster than in the rest of the United States since 2011.
- In banning natural gas, New York State recently accepted that the future invention of something (undefined) called Dispatchable Emissions-Free Resources (DEFRs) will be essential to future grid reliability. Whatever they may be, presumably SMRs, these DEFRs are not part of any plan and might never happen. New York is planning for brownouts, blackouts and general grid disorder, in their absence.
44. Paris15 is a sham: UN organizers of COP 20 in Paris recognized that many countries, especially the USA, would never agree to a legally-enforceable Treaty that mandated emission reductions. That would have comprised a politically impossible loss of national sovereignty. Consequently, Paris15 relies upon Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) that are volunteered by member countries for the period up to 2030.
The outcome was foreseeably abysmal, and the UN’s own model now predicts that the collective impact of Paris NDCs would reduce the global average temperature by only 0.17°C by 2100 – even if every nation were to meet its commitments by 2030. However, in reality, not one developed country has been on track to meet its Paris offerings during the last five years. It all seems to be a big (very big) game.
E. CURE IS WORSE THAN THE DISEASE
Always and everywhere, the collective costs of planned rich-world Climate Policies are much higher than any forecast reduction in 2100 GDP that might conceivably be caused by scenarios of unmitigated Climate Change[xx].
45. NZ20 already achieved: North America and Australasia have already over-achieved their Net Zero targets. Right now, these continents are net carbon sinks, and the vegetation in their National/Regional Parks alone absorbs more than all their annual human-related emissions. Alas, as a result of artificial, poorly-negotiated bureaucratic rules, their pre-1990 native forests are ignored in counting their National CO2 Inventories for UN purposes. But the scientific fact remains that, if either of these continents were to disappear under the waves tomorrow, there would be more CO2 (not less) in the global atmosphere.
46. The ‘war on meat’ is ill-founded: Climate activists say that short-lived biogenic methane also adds to current global warming – but science has now exploded this claim. For every new molecule emitted today, an old molecule from the same herd/flock simultaneously disappears from the atmosphere. Accordingly, inflows are matched by outflows, and there is no net addition to the stock of methane in the atmosphere – unless livestock numbers are increased. Many vegans and public commentators totally misunderstand the physical distinction between flows and stocks.
47. Cap & Trade’ supplants other policies: Europe, the UK, New Zealand and others have ‘cap & trade’ systems in place. All of the budgeted taxpayer billions will make not a whit of difference to their future emissions tonnages. Those levels will be determined solely by the ETS “cap” which is fixed by decree of the government of the day. All the Government’s other subsidies and haphazard spending merely has the “waterbed effect” of reallocating the financial pain amongst sectors of the internal economy.
48. The ‘social cost of carbon’ is insignificant: None of the countless climate-justified projects adopted by OECD Governments has ever been the subject of a standard Treasury cost/benefit study, which establishes a Net Present Value (NPV) of the investment using straightforward methodologies that are taught in every leading Business School in the world. This is extraordinary!
Despite pouring millions of dollars into the project, successive US Presidents have been unable to nail the “social cost of carbon”. In the absence of creative or novel accounting, or truly heroic assumptions, the three integrated assessment models (DICE, PAGE & FUND) suggest that it is around a trivial $3 per ton.
However, in the Climate space, left-wing politicians regrettably demonstrate little interest in maximizing “bang for the buck” – their focus is on the exciting opportunity for “economic transformation” and/or the WEF’s “the Great Reset”.
49. Energy taxes no longer needed: Almost all Government mitigation projects rely upon artificially hiking the cost of everyday energy, thereby making it unaffordable for less affluent people to keep doing things that cause emissions[xxi]. But most of those Government’s price-hiking program for the next decade have already been coincidentally achieved by the market-driven doubling of oil prices – so the taxing Governments should now stand down, gather the data, and discover the actual price-elasticity of energy in diverse applications, and at each socio-economic level. Will high prices actually slash emissions? Or will it again be all pain and little gain?
50. Climate policies threaten stability: A new fad of the world’s central banks (including the US Federal Reserve, the ECB and the Bank of England) is to quantify, with preposterous faux-precision, how global temperature variations in 100 years might affect financial stability today. These institutions, which have never once succeeded in producing an accurate 5-year economic forecast, seem sublimely confident in their ability to usefully model some 80 successive years of both future weather and economic change. But the real risks to financial stability are posed by Climate Policy and not Climate Change. As one topical example, some 20 years of “green” energy policies in Europe have enabled an energy price shock which is engendering a regional recession and posing “existential” risks to thousands of businesses.
After a global pandemic, which induced unheard-of levels of Government money printing/borrowing, followed by a wave of economic stress from a major energy price shock – the policymakers in most countries are now in a somber mood.
Over-the-top rhetoric has less appeal and hard information is in high demand. There is little time for speculation regarding a possibly dystopian remote future, when the apocalypse is now!
For 20 years, Climate Policy has been steered by the fiction that action is desperately urgent; that decisions must be taken at breakneck speed; that doing anything is better than doing nothing; and that there is no time for debate; no time to plan; no time for normal prudent analysis.
As Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg told the WEF: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as if the house were on fire. Because it is.“
Panic has led us into woefully bad decisions. The old fallacy of “build it and they will come” is reflected in “set future targets and they will be fulfilled”… somehow… by future inventions… by sheer collective willpower. Reason has been supplanted by faith.
Policymakers must use the pause imposed by the current energy price shock to review Climate Policy, root and branch. The would-be leaders must respect the formal 2°C target and 2100 deadline that all the world’s countries agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. That will reveal that there is no need for panic and disarray.
And there must be a change in direction. Surely it is obvious that: If you always do what you’ve always done; You’ll always get what you always got
There must be a new global consensus that advances in technology are the only possible solution – and then governments must get out of the way to allow market price mechanisms to sort out the winners from the losers. Above all, governments should be constantly reminded that the sole objective of any necessary economic sacrifices is to mitigate climate threats; and not to disguise their ‘economic transformation’ agendas.
Better still, policymakers should recognize that climate mitigation has had its best shot and been found unworkable. The focus should now turn to climate adaptation.
Note: All facts and data mentioned in this article are fully documented; and links to relevant authorities (usually IPCC reports) can be provided on request.
[i] The leading land-based series, HadCRUT, shows a slight cooling trend for the last 7.5 years.
[ii] Although this merely emphasizes that, despite media rhetoric, any single year’s figures or events relate to weather and not to climate.
[iii] Further, public confidence in model-based fortune-telling has been undeniably dented by the recent Covid-19 experience.
[iv] In the US, about 20,000 people die from heat each year, but 170,000 die from cold
[v] Detection and recording of events have clearly improved, while population increase and monetary inflation have raised absolute numbers
[vi] [vi] Smil: “After taking us from 86% to 83% during the last two decades, what are the chances that climate policies will take us from 83% to zero in the next two?”
[vii] Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
[viii] The Nordhaus DICE integrated-assessment-model results fall between the results of the PAGE and FUND models. These are the only three IAMs accepted by the US government.
[ix] Drax Power in Yorkshire, formerly a coal-fired station, now supplies about 6% of the total UK market,
[x] What is the actual point of small emitters committing to large long-term reductions in the living standards of their citizens?
[xi] Just beginning in Asia, South America and Africa
[xii] The assurances required for future fossil fuel investment will mainly come from the largest emitters (China, India, USA, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mexico) none of which have adopted, or will adopt, the NZ50 slogan.
[xiii] Fuel-efficiency (mpg) of ICE has improved at an average rate of 3% pa over 35 years
[xiv] QANTAS claims to have cajoled and bullied up to 11% of its passengers to buy carbon credits
[xv] “Charities” is now the third biggest employment sector in the UK.
[xvi] Proving that bankers make poor ethicists e.g. Tesla has a poor ESG score while ExxonMobil scores well.
[xvii] Kirk recognized the futility and inefficiency of attempted climate mitigation, and favored a shift of focus to adaptation
[xviii] 4.6 million tons from USA in 2020, including native, mature, high bio-diversity value trees which allegedly include coastal hardwood forests
[xix] EU production of steel, zinc and aluminum has declined by approximately half.
[xx] The UN expects the average person in 2100 to be 450% richer than in 2010; but believes that Climate Change damage could reduce that increase to only 434%.
[xxi] Although mostly sticks, there are some carrots – e.g. for Tesla owners.
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