Thursday, January 27, 2022

Britain's rejection of domestic gas exploration is 'irresponsible'

The rejection of new gas exploration in the UK by COP26 President Alok Shama has been branded irresponsible and against the interests of the British people by campaign group Net Zero Watch.

In an interview with Sky News, the COP 26 President, Mr Alok Sharma, appointed by Boris Johnson, has refused to support domestic production of natural gas in the North Sea.

This is in spite of the fact that Britain faces a deepening energy crisis, Russian gas-blackmail and the indispensable need for natural gas to support the UK electricity grid, where it guarantees security of supply on dark, cold low wind days, like yesterday (24 January), when wind power falls to extremely low levels across the whole of the UK and much of Europe as well.

Without domestic natural gas the UK will become increasingly exposed to the regional European gas markets and to the political manoeuvring of the Russian state.

Mr Sharma has helpfully laid out the options before the Prime Minister.

One the one hand dogmatic Net Zero zealotry that cannot accept the realities of the UK's policy-driven energy crisis, and on the other the clear, pressing economic and security interests of the British people that require us to expand domestic production of natural gas in the North Sea.

Dr John Constable, Director of Energy for Net Zero Watch, said:

“There is a huge gulf opening up between naïve, jet-setting green dreamers, such as Mr Sharma, and the increasingly hard-pressed British people. The government has to choose a side, and on that choice hangs its future reputation and survival.”

Contact Dr John Constable: e:


It has been a long time since anyone was able to say that the past year was the warmest ever solely due to global warming

Last week the UK Met Office released its measurement of the global temperature of 2021, a year described by the Guardian as one of climate crisis.

The continent of Africa had its warmest January on record. There was torrential rains in Malaysia and Turkey was in the tenth year of drought. In February vicious winter weather hit Texas resulting in ten million people being without power. In March Australia was hit by severe flooding forcing thousands to flee in New South Wales. Come April there were huge sandstorms in China and a hurricane brought record rainfall to some parts of Western Australia. In May the governor of California declared a drought.

June saw a remarkable heatwave in North America, Europe and Asia had their second warmest Junes on record. New Zealand temperatures broke records. The next month Death Valley in California recorded 54.4 C. Torrential rain in India killed over a hundred. In August wildfires broke out in the Mediterranean as well as swathes of Siberia. Floods hit Japan, Turkey and South America. In December floods hit Australia again. Kentucky experienced a devastating tornado.

Despite all this the data for 2021 showed it to be the seventh warmest year on record. Announcing the global temperature the Met Office emphasised that global temperatures were temporarily cooled by successive La Niña events at either end of the year.

There was a little reticence in proclaiming the news that 2021 was far from being a record breaking year. The explanation is that 2021 was very warm but it came after a few years whose temperatures were boosted by a super El Nino event. 2021, it is claimed, continues a long-term trend, super El Nino notwithstanding.

Dr Colin Morice, of the Met Office, said: “2021 is one of the warmest years on record, continuing a series of measurements of a world that is warming under the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. This extends a streak of notably warm years from 2015 to 2021 – the warmest seven years in over 170 years of measurements.”

Emphasising the long-term trend Prof Tim Osborn, of the University of East Anglia, added: “Each year tends to be a little below or a little above the underlying long-term global warming. Global temperature data analysed by the Met Office and UEA’s Climatic Research Unit show 2021 was a little below, while 2020 had been a little above, the underlying warming trend. All years, including 2021, are consistent with long-standing predictions of warming due to human activities.”

“WMO Secretary-General, Prof. Petteri Taalas commented, “Back-to-back La Niña events mean that 2021 warming was relatively less pronounced compared to recent years. Even so, it was still warmer than previous years influenced by La Niña. The overall long-term warming as a result of greenhouse gases is now far larger than the year-to-year variability caused by naturally occurring climate drivers.”

Consider though that in these climate conscious times it has been a long time since anyone was able to say that the past year was the warmest ever solely due to global warming. What’s more, new research by a group of Chinese scientists from the Ministry of Natural Resources to be published in the Journal of Climate suggest that the above or below the long-term trend line argument might be too simplistic.

By looking at all available global temperature datasets and a comprehensive span of durations and start and end times they find that the so-called global warming hiatus of the 2000s and beyond was real. Moreover, they find that the rapid warming of the late 1900s and the hiatus of the 2000s are statistically incompatible.

The ending of the hiatus is also interesting. It ended with a (record) El Nino since which global temperatures have not increased.


Greenies worldwide furious at Joe Manchin

Within the brutal machinations of US politics, Joe Manchin has been elevated to a status of supreme decision-maker, the man who could make or break Joe Biden’s presidency.

Internationally, however, the Democratic senator’s new fame has been received with puzzlement and growing bitterness, as countries already ravaged by the climate crisis brace themselves for the US – history’s largest ever emitter of planet-heating gases – again failing to pass major climate legislation.

For six months, Manchin has refused to support a sweeping bill to lower emissions, stymieing its progress in an evenly split US Senate where Republicans uniformly oppose climate action. Failure to pass the Build Back Better Act risks wounding Biden politically but the ramifications reverberate far beyond Washington, particularly in developing countries increasingly at the mercy of disastrous climate change.

“He’s a villain, he’s a threat to the globe,” said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh. “If you talk to the average citizen in Dhaka, they will know who Joe Manchin is. The level of knowledge of American politics here is absolutely amazing, we know about the filibuster and the Senate and so on.

“What the Americans do or don’t do on climate will impact the world and it’s incredible that this one coal lobbyist is holding things up. It will cause very bad consequences for us in Bangladesh, unfortunately.”

The often tortuous negotiations between Manchin, the White House and Democratic leaders appeared doomed on 19 December when the West Virginia senator said he could not support the $1.75tn bill, citing concerns over inflation and the national debt. The latest twist caused anguish to those who see their futures being decided by a previously obscure politician located thousands of miles away.

“I’ve been following the situation closely,” said Tina Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a low-lying Pacific nation that risks being wiped out by rising sea levels. “We have to halve emissions in this decade and can’t do it without strong, immediate action by the US.”

Stege said the Marshall Islands was already suffering the impacts of the climate crisis and if the US doesn’t slash its emissions “the outcomes for countries like mine are unthinkable.”

Even America’s closest allies have looked on in dismay as a single lawmaker from Biden’s own party has stalled what would be the biggest – and arguably first – piece of climate legislation in the US’s plodding, and often rancorous, history of dealing with escalating global heating.

“Biden has done a fair bit in very challenging circumstances [but] in Canada we look on with bewilderment because it’s such a different political context. It’s very bizarre,” said Catherine McKenna, who was environment minister in Justin Trudeau’s government that introduced carbon pricing in 2019. “Politics is hard but I don’t think anyone has given up. We just really hope they are able to get a deal.”

McKenna said she was vilified by some Canadian provincial premiers who “fought to the death” against carbon pricing but that there was now broader support for climate action across the country, including within industry, than in the US. “It’s unfortunate that it’s just one person that is holding up something that’s so critically important,” she said of Manchin.

“Joe Manchin is a problem, and I think he needs to be called out,” said Ed Davey, a British MP who was previously the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change. “It’s in the US interest, in the interest of West Virginia and elsewhere, to take advantage of green zero-carbon technology, which is the future.”

Davey, who is now leader of the Liberal Democrats, warned that the US risks ceding leadership in clean energy to China if it doesn’t act. “People will end up paying higher prices, jobs will go and not be created, the security of America will be reduced, Beijing will be laughing,” he said, adding that Manchin was in effect “working on behalf of the Chinese government” by not supporting the transition away from fossil fuels.

China used last year’s Cop26 climate talks in Scotland to “insidiously point out to every country that US just can’t implement”, said Rachel Kyte, an expert in international affairs at Tufts University and a climate adviser to the UN secretary general. Kyte said many governments believe Biden is well-meaning but cannot follow through on his commitments, a frustration compounded by a lack of American action on related areas, such as climate finance for poorer countries.

“There’s almost a resentment that the US just can’t deliver,” she added. “There’s this sinking feeling about the politics of America. You can’t turn your back on the US because it’s still the biggest economy, but what are countries supposed to do?”

Much of this angst is now being channeled towards Manchin.

After more than a decade in national politics, the 74-year-old senator has suddenly garnered a level of infamy far beyond his fiefdom of West Virginia, where the centrist Democrat has served as governor and senator while reaping millions of dollars through his personal investments and campaign contributions from a coal industry that continues to loom large in his state. It’s a situation that has caused bafflement overseas.

“Who is Manchin, the Dem senator from West Virginia who betrayed Biden?” La Repubblica in Italy has demanded.

Clarín, a newspaper in Argentina, has called Manchin a “rebelde” and a “tycoon with ties to the mining structure of West Virginia, the other Virginia of the USA”. Helsingin Sanomat, a Danish newspaper, also noted Manchin’s links to the fossil fuel industry and lamented that he has “disagreed with the most ambitious climate action” put forward by the US.

The negotiations with Manchin involve stakes far greater than any normal political maneuvering in Washington. The world is already being strafed by wildfires, heatwaves, floods and societal instability wrought by the climate crisis and rising temperatures are on track to breach limits set by governments in the Paris climate accords, a situation that would push some parts of the world beyond human livability.

Salvaging this situation will be virtually impossible without swift action by the US, the world’s second largest carbon polluter and a major oil and gas exporter. Analysts say the half a trillion dollars of support for renewable energy and electric cars in the Build Back Better bill would give the US a decent chance of cutting its emissions in half this decade, which Biden and scientists say is imperative to avoid climate breakdown.

But Manchin’s opposition has already ensured the removal of a key element of the bill, a plan to force utilities to phase in clean energy over time, and the prospect of him joining Republicans to block the overall package has seen him come under intense criticism within the US.

Climate activists have confronted Manchin in Washington and kayaked to his yacht to remonstrate with him. Some fellow Democrats say he has “failed the American people”. Even the Sunday Gazette, the local paper of Charleston, West Virginia, has run a headline of ‘We need this so bad’, in reference to the bill.

All this has been to little effect, although Manchin did say earlier this month there could still be agreement on “the climate thing”, offering some vague hope to activists while not quite quelling their anger. “Senator Manchin is a fossil-fueled sociopath on a Maserati joyride while he lets the world burn,” said Janet Redman, climate campaign director at Greenpeace USA. “At the end of the day, Manchin cares less about his constituents than he does about the fossil fuel industry.”

The current, floundering attempt to pass climate legislation is a grimly familiar episode in a lengthy record of American inadequacy. Donald Trump donned a coal miner’s helmet on the campaign trail and removed the US from the Paris climate deal. Barack Obama failed to get cap-and-trade legislation past a recalcitrant Congress. George W Bush rejected the Kyoto climate accords. In 1993, a previous Democratic senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, blocked a Bill Clinton plan to tax carbon emissions.

Manchin is, in some respects, a “fall guy” for a deeper American political dysfunction over the climate crisis, Kyte said. “If Republicans weren’t in the lock-grip of certain vested interests, if they had a policy on climate adaptation or green jobs for the future, Joe Manchin wouldn’t have the influence he has,” she said.

“Joe Manchin has become the personification of a problem and removing him doesn’t solve it,” Kyte added. “It doesn’t give us a bipartisan agreement of the danger we are in. A political culture that allows you to enrich yourself and your family from industries you regulate and not declare a conflict of interest lies beyond Joe Manchin, it’s bigger than just him.”

Even if American political inertia hasn’t changed, the world certainly has – the last seven years were the planet’s hottest on record, cataclysmic wildfires are now year-round events in the US west and deadly flooding swamps basements in New York, picturesque towns in Germany and subways in China. There is mounting fear that the world, including the US, does not have the time for yet another futile American effort to address the unraveling climate crisis.

“Unfortunately, politicians getting fossil fuel money are standing in the way and sacrificing the rest of us once again,” said Vanessa Nakate, a climate justice activist from Uganda. Nakate pointed out that Africa was suffering from climate change even though it is responsible for just a small fraction of global emissions.

“We are so reliant on the choices others make,” she said. “Our lives are literally in their hands.”


President Xi Jinping is clear that climate change goals will not be allowed to impact energy security and economic growth targets

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China's ambitious low-carbon goals should not come at the expense of energy and food security or the "normal life" of ordinary people, President Xi Jinping said, signalling a more cautious approach to climate change as the economy slows.

China, the world's biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, has been under pressure to "enhance ambition" and take more drastic action to tackle global warming.

But amid mounting economic challenges, China is worried about the risk to jobs and growth, especially as it prepares to hold a key Communist Party conclave that is expected to extend Xi's rule.

Xi told senior Communist Party leaders in a speech published late on Monday that China needed to "overcome the notion of rapid success" and proceed gradually.

"Reducing emissions is not about reducing productivity, and it is not about not emitting at all," Xi was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying.

"We must stick to the overall planning and ensure energy security, industrial supply chain security and food security at the same time as cutting carbon emissions," he said.

Since a national economic work meeting held at the end of last year, Chinese policymakers have repeatedly stressed that the country would "prioritise stability" in 2022.

The approach has already started to feed into policy making, with Zhang Bo, Chief Engineer of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, telling reporters earlier this week that the country would not impose strict water quality targets on local governments, and would instead encourage them to "consolidate" previous gains.

With energy supplies still a major concern after a wave of shortages hit manufacturers last year, Xi also told Party leaders that "the gradual withdrawal of traditional energy must be based on the safe and reliable replacement by new energy."

China has promised to accelerate the shift to renewables, but will only start to reduce coal consumption - a major source of CO2 - after 2025.

China's state planning agency also said in December that it will loosen blanket restrictions on energy consumption in order to ensure environmental targets do not erode growth.




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