Friday, December 20, 2019

Climate Change Shakedown Ends in Failure

Boris Johnson’s historic victory in the United Kingdom’s latest election is indicative of many things, but first and foremost is the “quaint” idea that a substantial majority of people favor the nation state more than the democracy-crushing globalist alternative.

Nonetheless at the United Nations, transnational governance remains the order of the day. Last Wednesday, that collection of feckless bureaucrats warned the Trump administration that America must compensate poorer nations for climate change, despite President Donald Trump honoring his 2016 campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate.

The impetus for their demands stems from the 1992 climate treaty, formally titled the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A timeline since then reveals that the initial idea of developed countries lowering their emissions to 1990 levels by 2000 was the first pipe dream that ended in failure. Five years later, President Bill Clinton committed our nation to the Kyoto Protocol, which was so “popular,” the Senate unanimously rejected it 95-0.

In 2001, President George W. Bush withdrew America’s signature, but President Barack Obama subsequently announced his allegiance to the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, which was a non-biding deal negotiated outside the auspices of the UN. The following year, America set an emissions-reduction target of 17% from 2005 levels by 2020. Yet even when the Paris Agreement was being negotiated in 2015, the Obama administration was fighting what were UN-designated “loss and damage” payouts, which it rightly viewed as unlimited liability arising from adverse weather.

The Paris Agreement itself? The latest edition of the world’s “moveable goal posts” approach to emissions reductions remains just that: The overwhelming majority of signatories to the agreement are still “far off track,” as The New York Times reported in December 2018.

In the last year, nothing has changed. At the (Conference of Parties) COP25 negotiations in Madrid that drew to a close on Sunday, the 197 parties present produced no concrete commitments. “These talks reflect how disconnected country leaders are from the urgency of the science and the demands of their citizens in the streets,” said Helen Mountford, vice president for climate and economics at the World Resources Institute think tank.

Citizens in the streets? Despite Boris Johnson’s overwhelming victory, London was rocked by “citizen in the street” protests, suggesting that those who make the loudest noise are wholly disconnected from majority opinion. Perhaps nothing indicates the equally puerile nature of the climate protests better than the reality that their leader is media darling and Time Magazine Person of the Year Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl with mental-health problems whose most recent contribution to the cause consisted of an apology for telling her followers that politicians should be put “against the wall.”

Perhaps the real reason these talks failed is because attendees were being told by green groups that the funds necessary to compensate nations victimized by climate change will ultimately exceed $300 billion annually by 2030.

Unsurprisingly, the United States was expected to be invoiced for the lion’s share of those costs, financed by taxing wealthy nations’ financial transactions, international air travel, and fossil fuels.

The latest negotiations revolved around a mechanism established in 2013, known as the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM). It was supposed to look at ways to deal with compensation, but as the International Business Times describes it, that mechanism did not produce an agreement “on where the money might come from or even if it should be paid.”

American negotiators circulated a document whereby a key provision under the 2015 Paris Agreement stating that that accord “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation,” would applied to the wider COP25 process. Developing nations saw this liability waiver as “unimaginable” and vowed to block it. “The Trump administration is now making a cynical and paranoid play to further distance itself from responsibility for the harmful impacts of climate change and to further protect itself and other polluters from liability for the crisis,” complained Harjeet Singh, global climate lead at ActionAid.

What to do? What bureaucrats always do: set up another committee of “experts” to discover new sources of finance. Moreover, according to Singh, a “Santiago Network on Addressing Loss and Damage” may be established as well.

In 2017, when Trump announced he would withdraw American from the Paris Agreement, he made it quite clear his administration had little use for international shakedown artists, stating that the “well being” of Americans was the motivating factor behind his decision.

At the time, Trump also cited a National Economic Research Associates study noting that the compliance goals pursued by the Obama administration would have cost this nation 2.7 million jobs by 2025. By 2040, Trump insisted, the cost to the economy would have been realized in losses of nearly $3 trillion of GDP, 6.5 million industrial jobs, and American household enduring $7,000 losses in annual income. “In many cases,” he added, it would be “much worse than that.”

By contrast, The Washington Post reports that the latest global study, courtesy of researchers from the University of Cambridge, the International Monetary Fund, the University of Southern California and the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan asserts that if the U.S. doesn’t adhere to the Paris Agreement goals, the nation will endure a 10.5% cut in GDP — by 2100. “The hardest hit countries will be poorer, tropical nations, but in contrast to previous studies, the new paper finds that no country will be spared and none will see a net benefit economically from global warming,” the Post adds.

No country will see a net benefit from global warming, not even countries with colder climates that might see an increase in arable land, e.g.?

Unfortunately for the activists and their supporters, an “inconvenient truth” has emerged: The sun is on the verge of breaking the 2008 record of no solar activity for 268 days, according to a panel of experts from NASA and NOAA. Even when the next solar cycle upswing takes place between 2023 and 2026, the panel predicts the number of sunspots produced will be well below average.

Such slowdowns often cause cooling in Earth’s atmosphere.

Whatever one is to make of climate change, it seems there is never enough alarmism to go around. Moreover the notion that countries with developed modern economies are not only less “virtuous” than those without but should be held accountable while less-developed countries remain beholden to different standards is absurd. The non-binding Paris Agreement made the distinction, insisting developed nations should pursue “economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets,” while developing countries could “move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”

In other words, some pollution is “more equal” than other pollution.

So what’s this really all about? Nine years ago, Ottmar Edenhofer, a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, stated the real goal: “We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.”

Last week, columnist Rupert Darwall echoed that reality. “Saving the planet takes money, and lots of it,” he explained, adding that “a vast river of cash flows through the UN climate process.”

No doubt.


End of the apple sticker, as major British supermarkets say they will ditch the labels as part of plastic pledge

For some they are a collector's item, and for others they are just an annoyance when trying to eat an apple on the go, but now the time of the fruit and vegetable sticker is at an end as supermarkets vow to ditch them in a new plastics pledge.

All of Britain's major supermarkets, including Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Morrissons and Asda have signed up to waste charity Wrap's "Plastic Pledge", and are among 85 companies promising to get rid of a billion single-use plastic items by the end of 2020.

Retailers will no longer be using pointless plastic items including stickers on fruit and vegetables, and will be providing recycling plants for crisp packets, frozen food wrappers and bread bags.

These materials are incredibly difficult for consumers to recycle usually and account for 25 per cent of consumer plastic packaging, but only four per cent is recycled.

Plastic stickers on fruit and vegetables were there to let cashiers know what the product is and how much it costs. They also let consumers know whether the product is organic.

A spokesperson for Wrap said some supermarkets have already made the switch away from fruit stickers, adding; "Some have provided additional training to staff and introduced visual cue cards at the till.

"Others have moved to compostable stickers. I’ve also seen previously that M&S were looking at lasering dates on to their avocados! So there is a range of alternatives being explored."

Members of the pact have also signed up to ensure that 100 per cent of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

To achieve this by the end of 2020 all members are aiming to remove 21,000 tonnes of unrecyclable PVC and polystyrene from their packaging.

Data from the organisation shows that when the group first began in 2018, just 65 per cent of their packaging could be recycled.

Since then, supermarkets have removed 19,000 tonnes of non-recyclable black plastic, as well as 3,400 tonnes of plastic packaging from fresh produce.

Morrisons have rolled out loose fresh produce areas to 60 stores with more to follow next year, where customers can choose from up to 127 varieties of loose fruit and vegetables, avoiding plastic waste.

There has also been an increase in reusable packaging, such as the Waitrose ‘Unpacked’ trial stores providing refill stations for dry goods, wine, beer, and detergent refillables.

Several items such as straws and cotton buds have already been eliminated by the majority of members.

Marcus Gover, Wrap CEO, said: “Our Pact members have shown that they’re committed to this challenge and our new report demonstrates the breadth of action so far on tackling plastic waste. These aren’t token gestures – changes like these require a huge amount of investment and innovation. It shows that our members are working collaboratively towards the same goal.   

“Moving forward we face significant challenges, particularly around films and flexible packaging, increasing recycling, and development of re-use and refill models. These will be our top priorities as we work urgently towards a world where plastic is valued and doesn’t pollute the environment."


Why climate demonstrations have become so persistent

Mother Jones knows:

IN NOVEMBER 2018, I was enjoying a post-midterms vacation when I saw the news: Six days after Democrats had taken back the House, a scrappy group of 150 young people staged a sit-in at Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office because they weren’t convinced by her pledge to push forward on climate change legislation. The hourslong protest might have been a forgotten blip in the news cycle—if progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hadn’t stopped by. Her cameo set offa chain of events that meant, by the time I returned to DC, there were teenage and twentysomething activists everywhere in black T-shirts emblazoned with a symbol of a rising sun. They called themselves the Sunrise Movement, and they were calling for an ambitious bundle of climate legislation known as the Green New Deal.

At first, I was skeptical that these young people deserved the hype. They tended to slip into a dizzying patois of activism theory—during one phone call, I heard one Sunrise member cheerfully cite Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, and civil rights academic Charles Payne in one breath. But over the course of the past year, I’ve noticed a sea change in the climate movement. The older white men who still lead the national environmental groups have started to give way to a much younger, more diverse, more in-your-face set of activists with their own set of leaders, like the teenage Swedish climate crusader Greta Thunberg.

This revitalized climate movement isn’t a fluke. Sunrise leaders say their secret sauce is a relatively new organizing strategy called Momentum, which teaches activists how to keep a movement growing instead of fizzling out after a few splashy protests. The Momentum approach has also influenced the Black Lives Matter movement and the immigration rights group Cosecha, as well as new climate groups like Extinction Rebellion, and some older ones like For Sunrise, which claims 15,000 members in 200 hubs across the country, the strategy seems to be particularly effective.

Varshini Prakash, the 26-year-old executive director of Sunrise, thinks the Capitol Hill sit-in would have unfolded very differently without Momentum’s forward-thinking strategy. “When these big moments happen, like you sit in Nancy Pelosi’s office and there are 5,000 articles written about climate change in the next two days, what do you do with that moment?” she said. “Do you say, ‘Wow, that was awesome—let’s pack up and go home,’ or do you say, ‘How do we use this moment to drive thousands and thousands of people toward our organization and create a leadership pathway?’”

Momentum theory grew largely with the help of two brothers from Iowa, Mark and Paul Engler. A writer and a community organizer, respectively, the Englers were frustrated with social movements’ lack of staying power. In 2013, they began developing an approach based on the modern history of civil resistance, from Dr. King to Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. “Many of the founders of Momentum, including me, have had the experience of living through a cycle of mass protest, with its exhilarating peaks, and then experiencing its failure or collapse,” Paul Engler told me. That inspired “a long process of trying to figure out what happened and analyzing how to do it better.”

The Englers came up with a set of principles for organizers: Devise a clear narrative for what you want to accomplish from the start, then think about your work in a cycle of “escalation” —attracting a wider base largely through rallies and mass protest—and “absorption” —in-person trainings and call-in sessions, where eager new members can become more effective soldiers in the fight.

Many of the Sunrise Movement’s founders, including Prakash, attended the first Momentum trainings in New York in 2014 and 2015. They came up with the idea for Sunrise and spent nearly a year planning before officially launching it in 2017. They decided to focus on motivating youth: Young people have a good track record of challenging the status quo. But more importantly, the threat of climate change feels particularly acute to young people—without immediate action, the environment will profoundly change in their lifetimes. Sunrise’s leaders also decided to focus on pushing Democrats on climate policy; trying to convince Republican lawmakers to accept the science seemed like a poor use of precious time and resources.

Since those early days, the group has pulled offa handful of successful escalations—protests, school strikes, and confrontations with top Democrats whose climate policies they deem too timid. After each of these actions, Sunrise leaders have swooped in to set up recruitment drives and more trainings for new members. That last bit, according to Momentum principles, is key: Other movements often consider a successful protest the last step. For Momentum, it’s just the beginning.

In September, I went to Philly to see Sunrise in action at a gathering of Green New Deal supporters. After seven hours of climate speeches, the crowd of college students and other young adults, along with veteran organizers, all cooped up in an auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania, was restless. Even the most committed were ready to call it a day—until Prakash took the mic.

The daughter of South Indian immigrants, Prakash wore her long hair loose and moved confidently around the stage in jeans and a green canvas jacket. She described Sunrise’s vision for a radically different climate movement. The world desperately needs “a militant force of young people,” she said, to prevent the type of dystopian future that feels imminent to her generation. “I spent my college years imagining what kind of bunker we would all need to create to shield ourselves from a militarized band of bandits that were out because the government just collapsed and all of society was in ruin,” she said.

After the conference, Prakash reflected on Sunrise’s rapid growth over the past year. “Every time we would do something really big, we would have a mass call where thousands of people would join, understand what Sunrise is, what the next action is,” she said. After Sunrise’s Kentucky hub targeted Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell with protests recently, 1,000 people joined one of its organizing calls, and 700 of them agreed to do a congressional office visit in their hometown. One of those visits was to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, which resulted in a viral video of the California Democrat haughtily dismissing the Green New Deal, saying, “There’s no way to pay for it.” Yet by February, 11 senators and 67 House representatives, including every senator running for president, had endorsed a symbolic resolution in support of the bill. (By early November, that number had grown to 109 total.)

So far, Sunrise hasn’t figured out how to channel its energy into actually passing climate legislation. The group “put it on the agenda, they’re driving a ton of alignment, and all that is impressive,” said one activist, who didn’t want to be named while criticizing the organization. But, he continued, “The scale we need to win it is going to transcend Sunrise.”

There’s not a lot of time. When Sunrise members say there’s only a decade to act, they’re not exactly right—climate change doesn’t work like an on/offswitch. Rather, the impacts escalate the longer we delay. But they are correct that the next 10 years is a critical window for action. Sunrise leaders have made big plans: In 2020, they aim to sweep a Democrat into the White House who will tackle global warming, spurred on by what Sunrise hopes will be the largest youth strikes in US history in 2021.

Onstage in Philadelphia, Prakash was aware of how impossibly idealistic all this may sound. “We’re working on it,” she quipped with a self-deprecating laugh. She invited everyone to stand and join her in a singalong of “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. “There is a crack in everything,” the crowd sang. “That’s how the light gets in.”


Science and economics trump government mandates with climate change

By Richard W. Rahn

Many in the political and media classes, showing their ignorance, try to ignore the laws of physics and economics, particularly when it comes to climate change. Various candidates make grand declarations that if elected they will stop all carbon emissions by “x” year. They usually propose to do this by requiring all cars to be electric by some arbitrary year, and that the country move totally to renewable energy sources — most often wind and solar.

It is true that most cars will probably be electric in the next couple of decades — but no faster than battery technology improves — and that is dependent not on legislative mandate but on scientific advancement. Batteries still require massive subsidies to compete with gasoline on a cost basis.

The electricity that will power the cars of the future and everything else will be provided by nuclear fission, hydro, fossil fuels and renewables. There is a limit to the quantity of renewables that an electric power grid can use because of the intermittent nature of wind and solar.

The Germans found out that solar turned out to be much more expensive than forecast and that wind had health side effects for those living nearby and was a massive killer of birds, etc. German electric rates are on average about triple those in the United States, making much of their industry non-competitive and causing a consumer political revolt. As a result, the Germans are returning to more traditional sources of power generation.

The United States has actually been reducing carbon emissions, not because of government mandates, but as a result of the huge increase in natural gas usage for power plants due to the fracking revolution (created by private-sector engineers and entrepreneurs). The irony is that the United States met the Paris agreement target reductions in carbon, while Europe, despite all of their big green programs, has not. Again, physics and economics trump government mandates.

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is a function of all global, natural and man-made emissions. The Chinese now have 148 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity under active construction, which is almost equivalent to the 150 gigawatts of existing coal capacity in the EU.

There are also another 105 gigawatts of coal plants under construction in the rest of the world. The bottom line is no matter what the United States (and the EU) do to curb emissions, it will have virtually no effect on the Earth’s temperatures, because the increases in CO2 in the rest of the world are swamping U.S. actions. 

The middle-income and developing nations argue that the United States and Europe became rich in part because of cheap energy, and the rich nations have no moral right to mandate energy restrictions and costs on the developing countries.

Furthermore, taxpayers and consumers, as the citizens of Europe have already shown, are not going to stand for government schemes to increase the cost of energy and more taxes. People can see what these big green programs are really about — a further power grab by the Washington politicians — having little to do with a greener world.

This does not mean that we ought to do nothing. To date, the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere has been a net benefit. Plants inhale CO2 and exhale oxygen. More CO2 has increased plant growth — including food plants — bringing down the price of food. Greenhouse operators pump CO2 into their greenhouses to increase yields. At the moment, the world is far below the CO2 level to optimize plant growth — but at some time in the future, the optimum will be exceeded.

There are lower-cost ways to delay the negative effects of CO2 growth than massive tax- and welfare-redistribution schemes, and freedom-destroying mandates as to how we travel and live our lives. For at least 2,000 years, men have been re-engineering shore-lines — to cope with higher sea levels which have steadily risen from the end of the last ice age (the rate of increase in sea levels has not increased in recent decades, despite many forecasts that it would).

Recent studies have shown there is a low-cost way to stop the increase in CO2 for the next century or so — that is, plant a trillion trees (the Earth already has approximately 3 trillion trees). (Yes, there are doomsayers who claim we have only a few years left – it varies from speaker to speaker – if we don’t take massive government action. But they have been saying such things for decades, and nothing happened.)

Ecologist Thomas Crowther and his colleagues at ETH University in Zurich (the MIT of Switzerland) have determined there is enough suitable and underused or abandoned land to grow an additional 1.2 trillion trees. The trees would have enough storage capacity to cancel out a decade of CO2 emissions.

Appropriate trees would need to be planted for different climates. And the new forests need to be well-managed so that the forest floor is kept clean to reduce the chances of forest fires. Trees also have the benefit of holding ground water, which reduces flooding, providing attractive screening against urban blight and other eyesores, supplying many useful products. In sum, as the poet Joyce Kilmer wrote: “I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.”


Why electric cars cannot compete against combustion engines

Electric cars will not be able to compete in the same price range as fuel-driven vehicles while they rely on lithium-ion batteries.

This is according to a report from the MIT Energy Initiative, which argues that the price of electric vehicles batteries will not be sufficiently reduced for more mainstream adoption in the coming years.

Although the price of lithium-ion batteries, which makes up about a third of the cost of an electric vehicle, is steadily declining, the reductions will soon reach a limit.

The Executive Director of the Mobility of the Future group at MIT, Randall Field, explained the problem related to the cost of materials.

“If you follow some of these other projections, you basically end up with the cost of batteries being less than the ingredients required to make it,” Field said.

According to Technology Review, the current average price of a lithium-ion battery pack ranges between $175 and $300 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Informed projections have estimated that the price of lithium-ion batteries will be reduced to $100 per kWh by 2025. This number is punted as the ideal figure where electric car prices will be on par with fuel-based models.

To reach this level would require that the prices of the metals and materials needed for the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries remain flat, notwithstanding the fact that the demand for these would rise as more electric vehicles enter the market.

MIT’s research therefore indicated that the price per kWh would likely only be at $124 by 2025.

This would be enough to drive the cost-of-ownership down to around the same price as that of conventional cars, but the initial purchase prices for electric cars would still be significantly higher.

Other battery technologies needed

The study further stated that from 2030 onwards, other battery technologies would need to be developed to drive prices down, as the material costs will make up an increased part of the total cost.

These include battery types such as lithium-sulfur, lithium-metal, and solid-state.



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