Friday, August 19, 2022

India plans U-turn on coal plant closures in blow to climate pledges

India’s government is studying a slower retirement of aging coal-fired power plants as it also adds newer sites, a move that would keep fossil fuel capacity higher for years and potentially stall efforts to hit climate goals.

Officials are considering a proposal to shutter less than 5 gigawatts of existing capacity by the end of the decade as the nation grapples with surging electricity demand and a global energy shortage, according to people familiar with the matter. That compares with plans drawn up in 2020 that proposed shuttering about 25 gigawatts by the same date.

Spokespeople for power ministry and environment ministry didn’t respond to emails and text messages seeking comment.

India currently has about 204 gigawatts of coal power capacity and the plans under discussion would see that total expand to more than 250 gigawatts over the next decade, according to two of the people, who asked not to be named as the discussions are private. No final decisions have been made, the people said.

“Any rupee invested in new coal infrastructure takes India away from its net zero goals,” said Sunil Dahiya, an analyst with the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, which supports the faster adoption of less-polluting fuels. “It will load the power system with redundant capacities and hinder investments in clean power projects.”

A pipeline of 30 gigawatts of coal projects that are in advanced stages of construction should be used to replace old and inefficient plants, and India should prioritize investments in expanding its grid and on decarbonization projects, Dahiya said.

Under the proposals being considered, India’s coal plants -- which currently account for almost 70% of electricity generation -- would continue to handle peak evening power demand, even as solar and wind projects become increasingly able to fulfill day-time requirements, according to the people.

The world’s third-largest emitter doesn’t envisage hitting net-zero until 2070, and is aiming only for half of its electricity generation capacity to use clean fuels by 2030, giving the nation scope to continue relying on coal for decades more. Together with China, India frustrated efforts to set a date to phase out the use of unabated coal power at last year’s Glasgow climate talks.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government aims to build 500 gigawatts of clean power capacity by 2030, and to ultimately become a global hub for solar, energy storage and green hydrogen. In the shorter term, ministers are seeking to ensure stable energy supply to consumers and industry.

With gas prices stubbornly high, many new hydropower projects proving too complex and a planned roll-out of renewables in its early stages, policymakers see a need to extend NSE -0.24 % on the country’s coal fleet. Other nations globally have also been responding to high demand and severe shortages of natural gas by burning more coal.


Germany U-turns on nuclear in scramble to avert winter crisis

Germany plans to keep its remaining nuclear power plants open for longer in a major U-turn as it scrambles to keep the lights on this winter with less Russian gas.

Officials have concluded the plants are needed due to gas shortages and they can be kept open without safety concerns, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Germany pledged to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011, which hardened opposition to the technology.

Berlin has been under pressure to change course since the invasion of Ukraine to limit the impact of the gas crisis on manufacturers and households.

Germany has three plants left, operated by E.ON, EnBW and RWE, supplying about 6pc of the country's electricity.

They are currently due to close at the end of the year. Any extension has yet to be officially adopted and details remain under discussion, the Wall Street Journal added.

It came as Norway warned it could not do more to help Germany avoid a gas crisis this winter as Russia restricts supplies.

Jonas Gahr Störe, Norway’s prime minister, said the country was producing at “maximum” rates, having increased production by 10pc since Russia invaded Ukraine.

“We cannot simply decide politically, we are now delivering even more,” he told Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, during a meeting in Oslo.

It limits Germany’s options as it scrambles to find new sources of gas after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine disrupted a key source of supply.

Europe’s largest economy is among the countries most affected as Russia restricts supplies to Europe in retaliation over sanctions. Germany bought about 50pc of its gas from Russia prior to the war.

It is now racing to fill up gas storage sites ahead of winter. They were more than 75pc full as of last Friday, ahead of schedule, but it aims to reach 95pc by November 1 to try and avoid a gas crisis this winter.

Germany secured a commitment on Tuesday from major gas importers to keep two floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals fully supplied from this winter.

Uniper, RWE and EnBW have agreed to keep two Floating Storage and Regasification Units (FSRUs) in Brunsbuettel and Wilhelmshaven fully supplied from their expected operational start this winter until March 2024.

Norway is western Europe’s largest oil and gas supplier and also a major electricity exporter.

It exported about 5.7pc more gas this July compared to last amid rising demand from Germany and others. The value of the exports was four times higher, at almost £11bn, as gas prices soared.

At the meeting in Oslo, Mr Scholz, Germany’s Chancellor, thanked Norway for “exhausting its gas supplies to the maximum”, according to reports in the German press.

He added this was “very important to reduce our gas dependency on Russia”.

Economists warned yesterday that Germany is on track for recession as the energy crisis undermines confidence. Sentiment among financiers and business leaders has dropped to its lowest since the financial crisis, according to the monthly ZEW survey.


What the media won't tell you about drought in Europe

Europe is in the midst of what has been called the worst drought in 500 years. According to a drought expert with the European Commission in comments last week:

"We haven't analysed fully the event (this year's drought), because it is still ongoing, but based on my experience I think that this is perhaps even more extreme than 2018. Just to give you an idea the 2018 drought was so extreme that, looking back at least the last 500 years, there were no other events similar to the drought of 2018, but this year I think it is really worse than 2018."

While a full analysis of the ongoing 2022 European drought remains to be completed, so too the drought itself, it is clearly exceptional if not unprecedented. In this post I take a close look at the state of understanding the possible role of climate change n this year’s drought.

Specifically, I report on what the most recent assessment report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and underlying literature and data say about the detection of trends in Western and Central European drought and the attribution of those trends to greenhouse gas emissions. The specific region that is the focus of this post, includes all of Germany, most of France, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, and western Russia among other nations.

For Western and Central Europe, and especially for Germany and Northern France which are the subject of considerable news coverage right now, accurate representations of the current state of scientific understandings of drought are typically absent. Instead, we see many confident claims by journalists and some scientists of that this year’s drought is a signal of (or, if you prefer — fueled by, linked to, evidence of) human-caused climate change.

Let’s take a look at what the peer-reviewed literature and the IPCC actually say about drought trends in this region and their possible attribution to climate change.

One recent study — Vincente-Serrano et al. 2020 — looked at long-term trends in drought in Western Europe from 1851 to 2018, with a focus on precipitation deficits. (Note that their geographical definition of Western Europe differs slightly from that of the IPCC). The figure below shows trends aggregated for the region as a whole. They conclude: “Our study stresses that from the long-term (1851–2018) perspective there are no generally consistent trends in droughts across Western Europe.”

The paper goes through a number of different metrics of drought for various subregions across Europe. The authors are careful to note that there are other metrics of drought which may show different results:

"We emphasize that our findings should be seen in the context of the drought metric applied. Our assessment of drought characteristics is based on SPI, which is a precipitation-based metric. For a long-term assessment of drought in the region, it is not possible to use metrics that employ other important variables (e.g., streamflow, soil moisture, or AED)."

Another recent study — Oikonomou et al. 2020 — looked at more recent trends, from 1969 to 2018, and inclusive of all four of the IPCC European sub-regions. They found overall:

"Seemingly, one of the central outcomes of this research is that there is little change in drought characteristics for 1969–2018. It also seems, no particular tendencies for more or less frequent droughts in the two major geographical domains of Europe are present. This reinforces the stochastic nature of the drought natural hazard."

Of course, as the studies above acknowledge, trend analyses can be sensitive to start and end dates. One reason for this sensitivity is the fact that climate varies a great deal even without the presence of human forcings — and this variability is of course one of the challenges facing the detection of long-term trends, especially for rare events.

For its part, the IPCC AR6 — which summarizes a much broader literature than the two papers cited above — classifies drought into three categories: meteorological, hydrological and agricultural/ecological which emphasize respectively precipitation, streamflow and soil moisture.

With respect to hydrological drought in Western and Central Europe the IPCC could not be stronger in its conclusion:

"in areas of Western and Central Europe and Northern Europe, there is no evidence of changes in the severity of hydrological droughts since 1950"

For hydrological drought the IPCC is also quite strong in its conclusions:

"Low confidence: Weak or insignificant trends"

The IPCC lumps WCE in with many other global regions in its conclusion that, “Past increases in agricultural and ecological droughts are found on all continents and several regions” which it expresses with medium confidence, a qualitative judgment which is typically interpreted as about a 50-50 chance of being true.

Looking to the future the IPCC is quite clear that we should not expect to be able to attribute trends in drought to climate change today. The IPCC projects only medium confidence for increases in hydrological agricultural/ecological drought at 2 and 4 degrees C increases in temperature and low confidence for increases in meteorological drought at 2C. In short, the IPCC does not expect that either detection or attribution should occur in 2022, when we are still well below 2C and suggests that it may be many decades before detection and attribution claims can be more strongly supported.

The bottom line:

In Western and Central Europe — basically Atlantic France all the way to Moscow, north of the Mediterranean region and south of the North Sea region — the IPCC and the underlying peer reviewed research on which it assesses has concluded that drought has not increased and, logically, that increased drought cannot be attributed to human-caused climate change.

The only exception here is that the IPCC has medium confidence in an increasing trend of soil moisture deficits in some subregions, however the IPCC has low confidence that this trend can be attributed to human-caused climate change.

Looking to future, at temperature changes of 2C and more, at present the IPCC does not expect the current state of scientific understandings to change. But stay tuned — that’s why we do science.


Peddlers of environmental doom have shown their true totalitarian colours

Deloitte is the largest “professional services network” in the world. Headquartered in London, it is also one of the big four global accounting companies, offering audit, consulting, risk advisory, tax and legal services to corporate clients.

With a third of a million professionals operating on those fronts worldwide, and as the third-largest privately owned company in the US, Deloitte is a behemoth with numerous and far-reaching tentacles.

In short: it is an entity we should all know about, not least because such enterprises no longer limit themselves to their proper bailiwick (profit-centred business strategising, say), but – consciously or not – have assumed the role as councillors to believers in unchecked globalisation whose policies have sparked considerable unrest around the world.

If you’re seeking the cause of the Dutch agriculture and fisheries protests, the Canadian trucker convoy, the yellow-jackets in France, the farmer rebellion in India a few years ago, the recent catastrophic collapse of Sri Lanka, or the energy crisis in Europe and Australia, you can instruct yourself by the recent pronouncements from Deloitte.

Whilst not directly responsible, they offer an insight into the elite groupthink that has triggered these events; into the cabal of utopians operating in the media, corporate and government fronts, wielding a nightmarish vision of environmental apocalypse.

Outlandish claims

In May this year, Deloitte released a clarion call to precipitous action trumpeting the climate emergency confronting us. Called ‘The Turning Point: A Global Summary’, it is a stellar example of a mentality more common among officials in the EU: one of fundamental bureaucratic overreach (and one which generated Brexit – a very good decision on the part of the Brits, in my view) that threatens the very survival of that selfsame EU.

The report opens with two claims: first, that the storms, wildfires, droughts, downpours, and floods around the globe in the last 18 months are unique and unprecedented – a dubious claim – and implicitly that the “science” is now at a point where we can say without doubt that experts can and must model the entire ecology and economy of the planet (!) and that we must modify everyone’s behaviour, by hook or by crook, to avoid what would otherwise be the most expensive environmental and social catastrophe in history.

The Deloitte “models” posit that “climate impacts” could affect global economic output, and say that unchecked climate change will cost us $178 trillion over the next 50 years – that’s $25,000 per person, to put it in human terms.

Who dares deny such facts, stated so mathematically? So precisely? So scientifically?

Let’s update Mark Twain’s famous dictum: there are lies, damned lies, statistics – and computer models.

“Computer model” does not mean “data” (and even “data” does not mean “fact”). “Computer model” means, at best, “hypothesis” posing as mathematical fact.

No real scientist says “follow the science.” Yet this is exactly what bodies such as the EU consistently pronounce, pushing for collectivist solutions that do more harm than good.

Solutions in sovereignty

What might we rely on, instead, to guide us forward, in these times of accelerating trouble and possibility?

Valid authority rests in the people. Truly valid structures of authority are local, not centralised for reasons of efficiency and “emergency”. This must not become the generation of yet another top-down Tower of Babel. That will not solve our problems, just as similar attempts have failed to solve our problems in the past.

Ask yourself: are these Deloitte models – which are supposed to guide all the important decisions we make about the economic security and opportunity of families and the structures of our civil societies – accurate enough even to give those who employ them any edge whatsoever, say, in predicting the performance of a stock portfolio (one based on green energy, for example) over the upcoming years?

The answer is no. How do we know? Because if such accurate models existed and were implemented by a company with Deloitte’s resources and reach, Deloitte would soon have all the money.

That is never going to happen. The global economy, let alone the environment, is simply too complex to model. It is for this reason, fundamentally, that we have and require a free-market system: the free market is the best model of the environment we can generate.

Let me repeat that, with a codicil: not only is the free market the best model of the environment we can generate, it is and will remain the best model that can, in principle, ever be generated (with its widely distributed computations, constituting the totality of the choices of 7 billion people). It simply cannot be improved upon – certainly not by presumptuous power-mad utopians, who think that hiring someone mysteriously manipulating a few carefully chosen numbers and then reading the summarised output means genuine contact with the reality of the future and the generation of knowledge unassailable on both the ethical and the practical front.

The impact of delusional thinking

Why is this a problem? Why should you care? Well, the saviours at Deloitte admit that there will be a short-term cost to implementing their cure (net-zero emissions by 2050, an utterly preposterous and inexcusable goal, both practically and conceptually). This, by the way, is a goal identical to that adopted last week by the delusional leaders of Australia, which additionally committed that resource-dependent-and-productive country to an over 40 per cent decrease by 2005 standards in "greenhouse gas emission" within the impossible timeframe of eight years. This will devastate Australia.

Here is the confession, couched in bureaucratic double-speak, from the Deloitte consultants: "During the initial stages the combined cost of the upfront investments in decarbonization, coupled with the already locked-in damages of climate change would temporarily lower economic activity, compared to the current emissions-intensive path.”

The omniscient planners then attempt to justify this, with the standard empty threats and promises (the suffering is certain, the benefits ethereal): “those most exposed to the economic damages of unchecked climate change would also have the most to gain from embracing a low-emissions future.” Really? Tell that to the African and Indian populations in the developing world lifted from poverty by coal and natural gas.

And think – really think – about this statement: “Existing industries would be reconstituted as a series of complex, interconnected, emissions-free energy systems: energy, mobility, industry, manufacturing, food and land use, and negative emissions.”

That sounds difficult, don’t you think? To rebuild everything at once and better? Without breaking everything? Fixing everything in a few decades in a panicked rush while demonising anyone who dares object?

And what will it take to do so? Here’s the most alarming part: nothing more than “a coordinated transition” that “will require governments, along with the financial services and technology sectors to catalyze, facilitate and accelerate progress; foster information flows across systems; and align individual incentives with collective goals.”

A clearer statement of totalitarian inclination could hardly be penned.

Certain outcomes versus predicted outcomes

The one thing the Deloitte models guarantee is that if we do what they recommend we will definitely be poorer than we would have been otherwise for an indefinite but hypothetically transitory period.

Yet any reduction in economic output (however “temporary” and “necessary”) will be purchased at the cost of the lives of those who are barely making it now. Period.

Have you noticed that food has become more expensive? That housing has become more expensive? That energy is more expensive? That many consumer goods are simply unavailable? Can you not see that this is going to get worse, if the Deloitte-style moralists have their way? How much “short-term pain” are you going to be required to sustain? Decades worth? All your life, and the life of your children?

It’s very likely. For your own benefit. Remember that.

All this painful privation is not only not going to save the planet, it’s going to make it far worse.

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