Monday, August 30, 2021

The World’s Climate Is Changing, so What Should We Do?

Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report (AR6—the Sixth Assessment Report) that human-caused climate change is accelerating and that radical changes to human behavior are needed to avert disaster. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said of the report that “alarm bells are deafening” and the situation is “code red for humanity.”

I hesitate to respond to U.N. statements about climate change because it’s so predictably alarmist. The “debate” between alarmists and skeptics reminds one of a shouting match between two kids: “’Tis so!” “’Tis not!” But as I wrote just a few months ago, we can’t afford to let error triumph through the technique of persistent repetition.

To anyone relatively new to this issue, there are many important truths to understand. Following are just a few:

Yes, the climate is changing. It always has and always will.

Yes, Earth is a degree or so Celsius (C) warmer now than in the mid-1800s. This is not, by the way, the hottest the world has gotten “in over 100,000 years,” as reports about AR6 claim. On the contrary, according to the Greenland ice core records and other proxies, today still isn’t as warm as the Medieval Warm period 8 to 10 centuries ago, which in turn is another degree C less than the Roman Warm Period two millennia ago, which in turn is another 1.5 degrees C cooler than the Minoan Warm Period between three and four millennia ago. The salient point here is that we should be delighted about the warming since the 1800s, because that is when Earth emerged from the harsh Little Ice Age. Today’s moderately warmer climate has led to longer growing seasons and greater agricultural productivity.

Yes, carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased significantly, and, yes, the human use of burning fossil fuels has augmented the increase from ~290 ppm in the 19th century to 415 ppm today.

And contrary to claims by Guterres that deforestation is a growing problem, the CO2 enrichment of Earth’s atmosphere in recent decades has led to a planetary greening—a net addition of areas covered by vegetation that is over twice as large as Australia.

It is also important to realize that the IPCC is a political, not a scientific body (hence its name, the Intergovernmental Panel …). The political powers behind the IPCC have explicitly stated that their main goal is to transform the global economy. We should also realize that the charter that governs the IPCC explicitly grants discretionary power to the political overseers of the project to modify statements made by scientists to fit the desired political narrative and agenda. What we desperately need—especially in light of the broken peer review process (one Nobel Prize winner calls it “very distorted” and “completely corrupt,” with some asserting that published scientific research is “untrustworthy”; then there’s the corrupting influence of government money) is a separation of science and state.

With all that having been said, let us acknowledge two sobering realities: One, the climate will continue to change. Whether the temperature will be warmer or cooler in coming centuries, I don’t know and neither do the world’s climate scientists, but it definitely will change. Two, extreme weather events will continue to batter humanity periodically regardless of what the overall climate is.

So, what should we (the human race) do about climate change?

The IPCC, U.N., and progressive politicians want us to try to limit how much Earth warms by limiting human emissions of CO2. There’s a fundamental problem with this approach: We don’t know nearly enough about what causes climate change to even dream about controlling it.

The U.N. bases its recommendations on scenarios produced by computerized climate models. But the various models they use disagree with each other, and not one of them has yet come close to explaining recent past temperatures, so how could they predict future temperatures?

Also consider that by one count there have been as many as 25 occurrences of sudden global warming in the last 120,000 years, with up to 15 degrees C warming over a period of decades. Nobody knows why, but we can say definitively that those sudden changes happened with zero contribution from human fossil fuel consumption. Basically, Mother Earth is going to do what it does, and we don’t have much of a say about that.

So, here we are, flying blind, with politicians urging us to retool our lifestyles and to spend hundreds of trillions—over $100 trillion just by 2050 to shift to non-CO2 energy sources and over $500 trillion to extract CO2 from the air—to maybe shave a few-tenths of a degree off world temperatures.

Let me propose an alternate course of action. My approach might be called “environmentalism as if people matter.” Here, the news is good, even great: Over the past century, climate-related deaths have been falling in spite of a significant increase in the world’s population. Check out this graphic from Bjorn Lomborg.

The reason for the decline in fatalities is a combination of better technology and more durable structures, both powered by increased prosperity. Instead of bleeding hundreds of trillions of dollars out of the economy in a quixotic attempt to regulate CO2, let the people keep that wealth and use part of it for greater safety.

Rather than spend hundreds of trillions of dollars in a vain attempt to regulate the climate, let’s spend some trillions over the coming decades to achieve some environmental goals that are actually attainable. Again, with “environmentalism as if people mattered” being the priority, it makes sense for us to take better care of the world’s water. Specifically, we should make serious investments in cleaning up and protecting the oceans, and also take major steps to ensure that the world’s people have enough fresh water for our growing needs.

In short, there is no reason (certainly no climate-related reason) to restructure the global economy according to some socialistic plan. As rational beings, we need to recognize the various weather-related threats that exist and to wisely prioritize which threats to combat. Addressing the world’s water-related needs is both more affordable and more achievable than some pie-in-the-sky plan to try to control Earth’s unruly, unpredictable climate.


Rising electricity demand is keeping coal alive

As people ventured out from their pandemic cocoons this year, they gobbled up more electricity than they did before COVID-19 shut the world down. But there still isn’t enough clean energy to meet rising demand, so coal is making a comeback. Global electricity demand climbed 5 percent above pre-pandemic levels in the first six months of 2021, according to an analysis published today by London think tank Ember. Electricity grids turned to more coal to meet that demand, and power sector carbon pollution rose 5 percent compared to the first half of 2019.

“Catapulting emissions in 2021 should send alarm bells across the world. We are not building back better, we are building back badly,” Dave Jones, global program lead at Ember, said in a statement today. “The electricity transition is happening but with little urgency: emissions are going in the wrong direction.”

China drove 90 percent of the rise in electricity demand and most of the uptick in coal. While China is already the biggest carbon emitter in the world, that’s been mitigated by the fact that its per capita emissions are less than half that of the US, which is currently the second biggest climate polluter. But China’s per capita electricity demand is also rising rapidly, Ember’s report shows. That highlights how important it will be for the planet for China to get its emissions in check.

None of the 63 countries Ember analyzed, which account for 87 percent of the global electricity production, saw a “green recovery” in the first half of 2021. Ember’s criteria for “green recovery” included lower power sector emissions and higher electricity demand, a sign that more electricity was being generated by clean energy sources like solar and wind. Some countries like the US had slightly cleaner power sectors compared to 2019 as electricity demand stayed relatively flat, but their emissions are expected to rise again with demand.

Renewable energy did have a growth spurt in the early part of 2021. Together, wind and solar generated more than a tenth of the world’s electricity — doubling their share in 2015 and surpassing nuclear power plants for the first time this year. But solar panels and wind turbines were still only able to meet 57 percent of the rise in electricity demand, leaving coal — the dirtiest-burning fossil fuel — to provide the rest.

A clean power sector is one of the most crucial steps to achieving global climate goals. Countries are working together under the framework of the Paris climate agreement to limit global warming to about 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, which could significantly limit the damage we’re already beginning to see as a result of climate change.

Planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector need to fall by 57 percent this decade to meet that goal, regardless of a rise in electricity demand, according to a recent analysis by the International Energy Agency. Much of that reduction could come from completely cutting out coal — but the Ember analysis shows that the opposite is happening.

In the future, clean power grids could also translate to clean transportation, housing, and building sectors. All-electric vehicles, homes, and buildings are one way city planners and policymakers have sought to bring down greenhouse gas emissions. But the power sector has a long way to go to provide them all with carbon pollution-free energy.

During the height of the pandemic last year, carbon dioxide emissions fell across the board for electricity, transportation, and other energy-hungry industries. That clearly hasn’t been enough to stave off climate change-fueled disasters like worsening droughts, explosive wildfires, record-smashing heatwaves, and severe storms. Moving forward, CO2 cuts will have to come from intentional changes to how the world does business — not because a pandemic put things on pause.


The harrowing story of the world’s first CO2 pipeline explosion

The H2S was probably added to give a warning smell during any leak

Last year, a pipeline carrying compressed carbon dioxide mixed with hydrogen sulfide ruptured, engulfing the small town of Satartia, Mississippi, in a green haze, leaving many residents convulsing, confused, or unconscious. That explosion serves as a vivid warning about the risks posed by what could be the next generation of pipelines to crisscross the US, in a new investigation by HuffPost and the Climate Investigations Center.

“It was almost like something you’d see in a zombie movie,” Sheriff’s Officer Terry Gann tells journalist Dan Zegart about what happened that night. Zegart pieces together the events of February 2020 through harrowing 911 calls and the voices of family members racing to reach others before the toxic haze could overcome them.

CO2 is the most high-profile greenhouse gas driving the global climate crisis. To keep CO2 from doing its damage in the atmosphere, some lawmakers and big green groups are pushing for new technology to capture carbon dioxide from the air or from smokestack emissions. That captured carbon dioxide would ultimately need to be transported to places where it can be stored underground. It’s an idea that’s gained so much steam recently that the bipartisan infrastructure package making its way through Congress includes billions of dollars to develop the technology and the network of pipelines that would come with it.

Fossil fuel companies are also big backers of carbon capture technologies, selling it as a way for them to clean up their emissions while still selling oil and gas products responsible for climate change. They already move and use concentrated CO2 in a process called enhanced oil recovery: they shoot CO2 into the ground to help them extract more from their wells. The Denbury pipeline that exploded was transporting CO2 for that purpose.

Despite the growing support for carbon capture, there’s not a lot of information out there for the public about what this proposed new infrastructure could mean for communities like Satartia. None of the residents Zegart spoke to had heard about plans to build more CO2 pipelines across the country — even as officials eye the Gulf region as a potential hub for carbon capture in the US.

CO2 might sound harmless — it’s in the air we breathe, after all — but at high concentrations, it’s an asphyxiant. Did you know that CO2 accidents kill around 100 workers globally each year? I did not, and I report on this kind of stuff for a living. What happened in Satartia is the world’s first known example of mass outdoor exposure to piped CO2, according to the World Health Organization’s Climate Change and Environmental Determinants of Health Unit. It might not be its last.


Asia’s fossil fuel plans oblivious to UN’s climate scare

Asian demand for fossil fuels is unlikely to be deterred by the United Nations’ Aug. 9 fearmongering climate report.

Asian countries like India and China are increasing their production and consumption of fossil fuels. India — one of the largest energy consumers — is not only a big importer of fossil fuel but is also a key investor in oil exploration projects in other countries. This aggressive development of oil, gas, and coal stands in stark contrast to the mainstream media’s narrative of a so-called green revolution.

The media and many political leaders consider the reports of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be the definitive authority on climate and its impact on society. The reports usually contain a summary that serves as a guide for policymakers who influence energy development across the world.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the latest report a “code red for humanity“. NPR’s headlines read, “Major Report Warns Climate Change Is Accelerating And Humans Must Cut Emissions Now”. NPR also quoted a report author who warned, “Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions of all greenhouse gases, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees will be beyond reach.” Most climate policy recommendations prescribe reduction of CO2 emissions.

Though the world’s nations have agreed to cut down on emissions, their commitments on quantity and time frame vary. India and China have espoused a twin investment strategy that includes the development of both fossil fuels and renewable energy resources.

India, though with a population similar to China’s, is far behind China on the economic ladder. The subcontinent has made clear that it won’t be adopting policies adversely affecting domestic energy programs and continues to accelerate the expansion of its fossil fuel sector.

As the U.N. works to impose its vision of a carbon-free economy on the world, India is expanding its carbon footprint in new territories. The country is in talks with Russia to invest $3 billion USD in Russian oil and gas assets. While Russia has offered a number of oil fields to India, the latter is particularly keen on investing in the Vostok Oil project in the Arctic, which is expected to have annual crude production of about 100 million tons.

Indian public sector oil and gas companies like Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and Oil India Limited are among the biggest investors in Africa’s oil sector. The Indian government’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) has invested billions of dollars in Africa.

ONGC has “35 oil and gas assets in 15 countries.” Producing 15 million metric tonnes of oil equivalent in 2019-20 from these countries, ONGC provided more than 50 percent of India’s foreign oil production. ONGC’s African investment was originally set at around $16 Billion USD and is likely to grow as domestic demand increases.

India also relies heavily on oil imports from Iraq, U.S., and Africa. India’s oil imports were at a three-year high last year with December 2020 registering imports of 5 million barrels a day. Despite the Net Zero noises in the U.S., it is a global leader in oil exports, and India is the fourth largest importer of U.S. crude. India could very well move higher up the rank as the first quarter of 2021 witnessed a historic increase in U.S. product.

The International Energy Agency says, “India will make up the biggest global share of energy demand growth from now until 2040” — well ahead of China. Industry experts believe that oil from the Middle East will meet a major proportion of this energy demand.

In order to reduce its dependency on imports (85 percent of Indian oil demand is supplied from abroad), India is expanding its domestic production fields. More than 20 new oil fields are up for grabs and investors are likely to pour in around $400 million USD during the ongoing Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) Bids.

These recent investments were made despite India’s being a part of the Paris agreement. With such aggressive plans in place to meet oil demand, India’s commitment to produce more will not be deterred by “code red” declarations. The situation is unlikely to change in the next 10 years.




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