Thursday, April 18, 2024

The current “Net Zero” agenda will backfire

The whole current policy agenda associated with responding to climate change is both misguided/counterproductive and almost guaranteed to annoy those people who do not want to change.

It is counterproductive because, firstly, it is based on the fantasy that renewable energy is a like for like replacement for fossil fuels. It simply is not – there is no alternative to fossil fuels for a whole range of economically vital activities (e.g. steelmaking, cement making, long-distance transport).

Secondly, because following the current agenda will make environmental problems much worse, and lead to more carbon emissions, not less. To build the amount of extra electricity-generating capacity we are talking about will mean mining more copper than we have done in the whole of history up to right now (not to mention a whole lot of other kinds of mineral/metal). To make all of the windmills and solar panels we will need will only be possible with massive use of fossil fuels so emissions will have to go up in the short to medium term.

So the whole Net Zero agenda is simply not going to happen – it is based on a fantasy and is actually a way of avoiding tough choices and appearing to do something while not actually doing it. What it does though is impose major costs and inconvenience on people who really dislike it and will react politically – I don’t welcome much of that political reaction (e.g. voting for Trump), quite the contrary, but it is a real phenomenon. The patronising and condescending language used by environmentalist activists and their supporters adds to this effect.

I think there is an actual class conflict at the root of this. I do not think this is a matter of masses or ‘ordinary people’ versus elites. It is a conflict of both interests and visions between two social groups, one of which makes up 25–35% of the population of developed countries while the other makes up roughly 40%. The first group consists of people who work in the non-physical economy and live in globally connected metropolitan areas, who do have higher social status on average than the people in the second group, but who do not necessarily have higher incomes.

The second group is the proverbial “man in the pub”, broadly defined (as mentioned, this group can include some very well-to-do people).

I think both sides are avoiding serious thinking about the actual issue. The first group are engaged in a displacement exercise in which they are advocating a set of policies that will put much of the costs of pretending to deal with climate change on the second group. They justify this with a kind of rhetoric that is hostile to mass consumerism etc but not to their own version of it – this is what enrages their interlocutors and gives rise to really bad politics. I think the beliefs of the first class are an ideology or false consciousness in the classic Friedrich Engels sense of the word – though you could make a similar point about the second.

What we actually need is a serious conversation about whether we can continue to have a high-energy civilisation, and if we decide we can do that and want to, how we do it, or if we decide that we cannot, what the alternative would actually look like. It would not mean for example, still using cars as the main form of transportation but just electric ones – that is a fantasy for all kinds of reasons. Most of the policies in place right now actively hinder this kind of debate or conversation and are provoking a very dangerous political backlash.

A good first step would be to impose a general carbon tax and then to use the price signals that are generated to decide via distributed decision making in the market which aspects of contemporary life we are prepared to pay for and continue and which not. What is simply not going to work is to impose policies in a top-down way and use a language and particular measures that disproportionately impact just under half of the population while (initially) not touching another third or more and justifying it with a perspective and arguments that denigrate the choices and preferences of those 40%.


Real experts never warn of climate apocalypse

The end of the world is nigh. No, make that nigher. This was, in effect, the warning made last week at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) by Simon Stiell, often described as the UN’s “climate chief”. Stiell, a former minister in the government of Grenada, and now executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told his audience in London: “We have two years to save the world.”

The fact that you may not have been aware of his apocalyptic warning (though The Times ran it on page 10 of Thursday’s paper under the headline “Two years to save the planet, UN chief says”) only underlines how devalued such claims of imminent planetary doom now are. They never come from the experts involved, since none of the scientific reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have warned of human or planetary extinction as a result of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Rising temperatures and higher sea levels, yes, but nothing remotely on the scale of the catastrophe so frequently invoked by the politicians and lobbyists.

In his speech Stiell declared: “Who has two years to save the world? Every person on this planet”, adding that this would be best achieved by all of us “cutting fossil fuel production”. I suspect the moderator of the Chatham House event, who gasped “Amazing!” when this peroration ended, was unaware that Stiell had been part of the government of Grenada that passed a Hydrocarbon Exploration Incentive Bill, and served under a prime minister, Keith Mitchell, who declared before the country’s general election in 2018: “We can now confirm that we have found oil and gas in huge commercial quantities. Grenada is now on its way to becoming a major oil-producing country … This, sisters and brothers, is a game-changer.”


How did the current obsession with decarbonization arise?

(part of a lecture givenby Prof. R, Lindzen to MIT Students for Free Inquiry on March 6, 2024)

Currently, there is great emphasis on the march through the educational institutions: first the schools of education and then higher education in the humanities and the social sciences and now STEM.

What is usually ignored is that the first institutions to be captured were professional societies. My wife attended a meeting of the Modern Language Association in the late 60’s , and it was already fully ‘woke.’ While there is currently a focus on the capture of education, DEI was not the only goal of the march through the institutions. I think it would be a mistake to ignore the traditional focus of revolutionary movements on the means of production. The vehicle for this was the capture of the environmental movement.

Prior to 1970, the focus of this movement was on things like whales, endangered species, landscape, clean air and water, and population. However, with the first Earth Day in April of 1970 , the focus turned to the energy sector which, after all, is fundamental to all production, and relatedly, involves trillions of dollars. This was accompanied by the creation of new environmental organizations like Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It was also accompanied by new governmental organizations like the EPA and the Department of Transportation.

Once again, professional societies were easy pickings: the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and even the honorary societies like the National Academy of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, etc. There was a bit of floundering to begin with. The movement initially attempted to focus on global cooling due to the reflection of sunlight by sulfate aerosols emitted by coal fired generators . After all, there seemed to have been global cooling between the 1930’s and the 1970’s. However, the cooling ended in the 1970’s.

There was an additional effort to tie the sulfates to acid rain which was allegedly killing forests. This also turned out to be a dud. In the 70’s, attention turned to CO 2 and its contribution to warming via the greenhouse effect. The attraction of controlling CO 2 to political control freaks was obvious. It was the inevitable product of all burning of carbon - based fuels. It was also the product of breathing.

However, there was a problem: CO 2 was a minor greenhouse gas compared to the Origins of Decarbonization.pdf naturally produced water vapor. Doubling CO 2 would only lead to warming of less than 1 o C. A paper in the early 70’s by Manabe and Wetherald came to the rescue. Using a highly unrealistic one - dimensional model of the atmosphere, they found that assuming (without any basis) that relative humidity remained constant as the atmosphere warmed would provide a positive feedback that would amplify the impact of CO 2 by a factor of 2. This violated Le Chatelier’s Principle that held that natural systems tended to oppose change, but to be fair, the principle was not something that had been rigorously proven.

Positive feedbacks now became the stock in trade of all climate models which now were producing responses to doubling CO 2 of 3 o C and even 4 o C rather than a paltry 1 o C or less. The enthusiasm of politicians became boundless. Virtue signaling elites promised to achieve net zero emissions within a decade or 2 or 3 with no idea of how to achieve this without destroying their society. Ordinary people, confronted with impossible demands on their own well - being, have not found warming of a few degrees to be very impressive. Few of them contemplate retiring to the arctic rather than Florida.

Excited politicians, confronted by this resistance, have frantically changed their story. Rather than emphasizing miniscule changes in their temperature metric, they now point to weather extremes which occur almost daily some place on earth, as proof not only of climate change but of climate change due to increasing CO 2 (and now also to the even more negligible contributors to the greenhouse effect like methane and nitrous oxide) even though such extremes show no significant correlation with the emissions.

From the political point of view, extremes provide convenient visuals that have more emotional impact than small temperature changes. The desperation of political figures often goes beyond this to claiming that climate change is an existential threat (associated with alleged ‘tipping points’) even though the official document s produced to support climate concerns never come close to claiming this , and where there is no theoretical or observational basis for tipping points .

I should note that there was one exception to the focus on warming, and that was the ozone depletion issue. However, even this issue served a purpose. When Richard Benedick, the American negotiator of the Montreal Convention which banned Freon passed t hrough MIT on his way back from Montreal, he gloated over his success, but assured us that we hadn’t seen anything yet; we should wait to see what they would do with CO 2 . In brief the ozone issue constituted a dry run for global warming.

To be sure, the EPA ’ s activities still include conventional pollution control, but energy dominates. Of course, the attraction of power is not the only thing motivating politicians. The ability to award trillions of dollars to reorient our energy sector means that there are recipients of these trillions of dollars, and these recipients must only share a few percent of these trillions of dollars to support the campaigns of these politicians for many election cycles and guarantee the support of these politicians for the policies associated w ith the reorientation .


Watchdog accuses Biden administration of inflating climate disaster numbers

The Biden administration relied on tainted, inaccurate, misleading and self-serving data analysis to claim storms are becoming more extreme and expensive due to climate change, according to a watchdog group.

Protect the Public’s Trust cited a new study that combed through data used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for its climate and disaster tracking project and found it inflated damage and made inexplicable data calculations that did not factor in obvious contributions to disaster costs, such as an increase in development in coastal regions and other areas vulnerable to hurricanes, flooding or wildfires.

Most recently, NOAA ballooned the cost of damage from Hurricane Idalia, a storm last August that affected the southeastern part of the United States.

While insured losses from wind damage and flooding totaled $310 million through mid-November, NOAA estimated the storm caused losses of $3.6 billion, or about 12 times the damage covered by insurance.

Idalia’s steep costs were included in NOAA’s Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters tracking project, which has been used by the Biden administration to push its climate change agenda by saying weather events are becoming much more severe and costly, to the tune of billions of dollars’ worth of damage each year.

The NOAA data was cited in a November Biden-Harris administration fact sheet justifying $6 billion in new spending to combat climate change and advance “environmental justice.”

The administration cited the NOAA figures in claiming the U.S. set a record in 2023 for the number of climate disasters that cost more than $1 billion and that the nation now experiences a billion-dollar disaster every three weeks on average compared with once every four months in the 1980s.

“Every degree of global warming we avoid matters because each increment of warming is expected to lead to more damage and greater economic losses in the United States. Each climate action taken to reduce and avoid warming reduces those risks and harmful impacts,” Biden administration officials said in the announcement.

According to NOAA’s assessment, there were 8.5 weather disasters on average annually from 1980 to 2023 that caused losses exceeding $1 billion. The number surged to 20.4 of this type of weather disaster in the last five years, NOAA calculated.

But NOAA’s data doesn’t add up or does not include enough information to explain why it inflated some costs well beyond the initial assessment made by insurers and NOAA’s own National Hurricane Center, critics said.




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