Friday, January 13, 2023

Why don’t we ever hear the good news about climate?

It has been almost impossible to miss the recent media reports that 2022 was the UK’s warmest year on record. But did you also spot the news that 2022 was another year of exceptionally low climate-related deaths across the world? This good news comes from data from the OFDA / CRED International Disaster Database and was noted by economist Bjorn Lomborg on 1 January. Yet few, if any, mainstream media outlets decided to report it.

The 2022 numbers are provisional and may increase slightly, but climate-related deaths will almost certainly end up lower than they were five, 10 or 20 years ago – and this is part of a longer-running downward trend. Our schools provide many hours of lessons on climate change, but I wonder how many teachers, let alone pupils, are aware that climate-related deaths have decreased by as much as 97 per cent over the past 100 years, as the OFDA / CRED data show.

The fact that climate-related deaths are decreasing does not mean climate change is not real, or even that it is not a problem. One reason deaths have fallen is that increased wealth and lower global-poverty rates have improved our ability to protect people when climate disasters happen. Even so, you would think awareness of this positive trend would provide important context for public debates over climate policy.

It is not just climate-related deaths that are falling. The economic costs caused by climate events have also decreased by about 20 per cent over the past 30 years. And although experts tell us that climate change will affect food production, data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation show a steady increase in global food production since 1961. The increase has slowed more recently, but production in 2020 (the latest available year) was still eight per cent higher than in 2010. And those figures show production per capita, meaning they take into account the large increases in global population over the same period.

Total food production might be up, but what does this mean for the poorest and most vulnerable? There is good news on this front, too. The UN estimates that the number of people suffering from undernourishment has dropped significantly over the past 20 years. Numbers rose a little in 2021 (the latest year of data), but that is largely due to lockdown policies, which have contributed to global poverty.

For some reason, much of our media seem keen only to report on the bad news, even when that bad news is based on modelled projections of what might happen in the future, as opposed to real-world data.

It is hard to see how such an approach can benefit the public debate over climate change. Although perhaps the key word here is ‘debate’. Our political, academic and media establishment seems to have decided that there is no debate to be had on climate change – the science is settled and anyone who disagrees is a ‘denier’ or a promoter of ‘misinformation’. Journalists, in particular, seem to take this view. Perhaps they feel it would almost be letting the side down to focus on trends that challenge the consensus that climate change represents an existential threat to humanity.

One way to break out of this lazy way of thinking is to distinguish between climate change and climate-change policy. Even if you believe that the ‘science is settled’ on climate change, there must still be room for debate about the most appropriate policies to address climate issues. That being said, the notion of ‘the science’ being ‘settled’ in an area as dynamic and uncertain as the climate is clearly nonsense.

The UK’s current Net Zero approach to climate policy is based on the assumption that reducing carbon emissions over the next 30 years will lead to predictable and significant benefits in terms of reduced climate disasters in the longer term. There are a lot of uncertainties in that assumption. And it is not remotely clear that the likely benefits justify the eye-watering sums of public and private expenditure that would be needed to decarbonise society. There also seems to be very little appetite in the political and media establishment for considering whether there are alternatives to Net Zero that might have a better cost-benefit trade-off. These might include investment in adaptation to climate change, as well as policies that allow for some continued use of cheap and abundant fossil fuels rather than trying to eliminate them entirely.

Because the debate on climate-change policy has been so successfully shut down, a number of major planned polices have gone dangerously unscrutinised, such as the phasing out of investment in fossil-fuel-based energy sources, the ban on the sale of non-electric cars from 2030 and the move away from the use of gas for domestic heating. Each of these policies involves significant public and private expenditure and fundamental changes to how we live our lives. They must be subjected to public debate and challenge. We need to establish whether any likely benefits can justify the huge disruption and costs they will inevitably entail. If those promoting Net Zero are right that these policies are essential for the long-term survival of society, they should not fear having to make that case in public.

We need to have a serious debate about these issues in 2023. And we can start by telling people the good news about the climate.


What climate crisis? Past warming has never been driven by an increase in carbon dioxide

Ian Plimer

For more than 80 per cent of time, Earth has been a warm wet greenhouse planet with no ice. We live in unusual times, when ice occurs on continents. This did not happen overnight. The great southern continent, Gondwanaland, formed about 550 million years ago. It occupied 20 per cent of the area of our planet and included Antarctica, South America, Australia, South Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Gondwanaland was covered by ice when it drifted across the South Pole 360-255 million years ago. Evidence for this ice age is in the black coal districts of Australia, South Africa and India.

The breakup of Gondwanaland started about 180 million years ago. About 140-120 million years ago, Australia was joined to Antarctica and enjoyed a temperate climate, had alpine glaciers that shed icebergs into warm seas and plant and animal adaptations evolved to cope with the long periods of winter darkness.

If Antarctica is to lose its ice sheets to end the current ice age, plate tectonics must move the continent northwards or fragment Antarctica into smaller land masses. Parts of Antarctica are currently being fragmented which is why there are more than 150 hot spots and volcanoes in rift valleys beneath Antarctic ice. Plate tectonics must also widen the Bering Strait to allow more warm Pacific Ocean water to enter and warm the Arctic.

Australia separated from Antarctica 100 million years ago and continues to move northwards at 7 centimetres per year. The current ice age started when South America separated from Antarctica some 34 million years ago. Plate tectonics isolated Antarctica after South America had moved northwards and the Drake Passage formed. Circum-polar currents formed and prevented warm, southward-moving water from reaching Antarctica. As a result, the Antarctic ice sheets formed.

Arctic ice formed 2.5 million years ago when plate tectonic-driven volcanoes in central America joined North America to South America and stopped Pacific and Atlantic Ocean waters from mixing. This was exacerbated by a supernova explosion that bombarded Earth with cosmic particles to produce cloudiness and cooling.

The Earth has been slowly cooling for the last 50 million years from times when life thrived and rapidly diversified. In these warmer times, there were no mass extinctions due to natural warming and, if the planet is warming today, the past shows us that life will thrive and diversify even more.

Once the Antarctic ice formed, ice sheets waxed and waned depending on whether Earth was closer or more distant from the Sun. Within these cycles there were smaller cycles driven by variations in energy emitted from the Sun producing many short warm spikes during long glaciations and very short cold spikes during short interglacials with average temperature rises and falls of more than 10°C a decade.

On a scale of tens of millions of years or more, the Earth’s climate is driven by plate tectonics. On a scale of hundreds of thousands of years, the Earth’s climate is driven by orbital cycles which bring Earth closer to or more distant from the Sun. On a scale of thousands of years to decades, the Earth’s climate is driven by variations in energy emitted from the Sun.

If governments, the UN or climate activists want to stop the normal planetary process of climate change, then they need to stop plate tectonics, stop variations in the Earth’s orbit and stop variations in solar output. Even the omnipotent, omnipresent Kevin Rudd couldn’t manage this!

No past warming events have been driven by an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. No past cooling events were driven by a decrease in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Six of the six most recent ice ages were initiated when the Earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide was far higher than at present. Atmospheric temperature rise occurs before the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere rises. It has never been proven that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive global warming despite numerous requests to climate activist scientists for the published evidence. Trillion-dollar bankrupting decisions on energy policy are being made using invalid science.

The peak of the last orbitally-driven interglacial was 7,000 to 4,000 years ago and for the last 4,000 years the Earth has been cooling as the climate changes from an interglacial into glaciation. There were solar-driven warm spikes such as the Minoan Warming, Roman Warming, Medieval Warming and the Modern Warming and cold spikes (e.g. Dark Ages, Little Ice Age) during this 4,000-year cooling trend.

In 2020, we entered the Grand Solar Minimum which is calculated to end in 2053. Whether there will be a solar-driven cooling, similar to the Little Ice Age (1300-1850 AD), or a full-blown orbitally-driven glaciation, such as the last glaciation from 116,000-14,400 years ago, is unknown. The former cooling could last for hundreds of years whereas the latter would last for at least 90,000 years. If there was another period of sustained subaerial volcanism, cooling would be accelerated.

During the last glaciation, Europe was covered with ice north of the Alps, as was Russia; Canada and northern and alpine USA were covered by ice; southern South America and the Andes were covered by ice; Himalayan ice expanded to lower altitudes; and alpine Australia, Tasmania and the South Island of NZ were covered by ice as were the southern and elevated portions of Africa.

In the last glaciation, vegetation contracted and tropical areas such as the Amazon Basin only had copses of trees occupying some ten per cent of the area of the current Amazonian rainforests; large areas of inland Australia, China, India, USA and Africa were covered by sand deposited from cold dry cyclonic winds; inland lakes evaporated; sea level was 130 metres lower than at present; there was no Great Barrier Reef; sea ice isolated Greenland, Iceland, northern Russia and northern Canada; Antarctic sea ice extended hundreds of kilometres north and there was a reduction in rainfall and plant and animal species. Areas that now support pastoral and grain-growing activities were sandy wastelands during the last glaciation. Humans struggled as hunter-gatherers around the edge of ice sheets and at lower latitudes.

We are putting all our efforts and wasting trillions of taxpayers’ dollars into trying to prevent mythical human-induced global warming, yet we still don’t prepare for the inevitable annual floods, droughts and bushfires, let alone longer-term solar – and orbitally – driven global cooling.

We have a crisis of single-minded stupidity exacerbated by a dumbed-down education system supported by incessant propaganda, driven by financial interests and political activist authoritarianism.


Korea Curbs Plans for Renewables in Push For More Nuclear

South Korea will boost nuclear power generation and downgrade its plans for renewable energy as the nation overhauls its electricity mix to meet emissions reduction targets.

Nuclear plants are now expected to account for almost one-third of generation capacity by 2030 up from about 24% forecast in earlier draft proposals, according to government documents published Thursday. Renewable sources are seen generating about 21.6% by the same date, lower than a previous estimate of 30.2%.

The 10th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand follows the country’s move in 2021 to bolster its climate action. South Korea is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 2018 levels by the end of the decade.

President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office last year, has focused on nuclear power as a key tool to curb emissions rather than solar, wind or hydro. Yoon touted atomic energy throughout his presidential campaign and has called for the building of more reactors — a clear reversal of former President Moon Jae-in’s anti-nuclear policies.

The role of coal and liquefied natural gas will continue to dwindle under the plans. LNG will be required for about 9% of electricity generation and coal for 14% by 2036, according to the energy ministry forecasts.

South Korea is also aiming to use hydrogen and ammonia for co-firing in its existing coal power plants, the ministry said. The two fuels will together make up more than 7% of the power mix in 2036.

Germany: The absurd spectacle of the Greens defending the dirtiest version of coal

Yesterday’s pictures of police marching in on protesters trying to protect a lignite field is symptomatic of the many contradictions of German energy policy. Here you have Green ministers, Robert Habeck among them, defending police action against protesters, most of whom are members or at least voters of the Green party. The lignite deal was negotiated by the Greens themselves. We are now observers of the absurd spectacle of the Greens defending the dirtiest version of coal.

The reasons this has became necessary is because the Green party has pushed the entire political class, Angela Merkel in particular, into an early exit from nuclear power. It is not just about the three power stations due to go offline on April 15. It is an entire industry that has been phased out. Coal constitutes a staggering 31% of German electricity production. In 2015, it was only 8%. If nuclear energy is phased out altogether, and gas become more expensive, coal is the fall-back position. The original plan had been to use gas-fired power stations to supplement electricity from renewables, and to address the intermittency problem. But despite the recent fall in gas prices, the return to that strategy is commercially not viable if only because liquefied natural gas, even at its current prices, is much more expensive than pipeline gas from Russia was. The alternative is active support for de-industrialisation. Not even the Greens advocate this.

Police yesterday treated us to the spectacle of vacating the village of Lützerath, located in the west of Germany between Aachen and Düsseldorf. It sits on a lignite field, and is to be torn down and turned into a lake. The villagers have long been relocated and compensated. A sole farmer brought legal action and lost. Lützerath is part of Garzweiler II lignite extraction project, which the courts have approved in the final instance. A group of protesters have since squatted in that village, and have now been forcibly removed. There is a long history behind anti-lignite protests in this area of Germany.

The company in charge of Lützerath is RWE, which no longer lists coal as one of its main strategic activities. The official exit date for coal-fired power in Germany has been brought forward from 2038 to 2030, but that happened before the Ukraine war. We would not be betting on this timetable. The cheap Russian gas is gone, and will never return. Nuclear will be gone in April. Betting on the 2030 exit date is betting on the absence of shocks.

This Saturday, Greta Thunberg will appear in Lützerath, and will possibly remind the Greens of the many contradictions of their own energy policy. Now with the Greens firmly entrenched in government, energy policy is getting deeper and deeper into an unbelievable mess.




No comments: