Tuesday, June 12, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: Massive Climate Funding Failed To Sway US Public Opinion

U.S. House Votes Down Social Cost Of Carbon

In this newsletter:

1) Massive Climate Funding By Wealthy Foundations Failed To Sway US Public Opinion
Western Wire, 7 June 2018
2) US House Votes Down Social Cost Of Carbon
Ron Clutz, Science Matters, 9 June 2018

3) Apocalypse Now: Pope Warns Of Global Destruction Without Green Energy Shift
Reuters, 9 June 2018 
4) Carbon Bubble Or Green Babble?
Global Warming Policy Foundation, 11 June 2018
5) Guus Berkhout: Climate Thinking. Broadening The Horizons
Global Warming Policy Foundation, 8 June 2018 
6) Andrew Montford: Why Britain Can Never Rely On Wind Power
The Spectator, 11 June 2018 

Full details:

1) Massive Climate Funding By Wealthy Foundations Failed To Sway US Public Opinion
Western Wire, 7 June 2018

Despite more than $150 million being invested in messaging, polls show that the push has failed to register climate change as a top-tier policy concern for Americans.

A recent study detailing how and where environmental philanthropic grants are allocated shows a lack of “intellectual diversity on the climate issue,” according leading political scientist, Roger Pielke, Jr.

The study, authored by Matthew Nisbet, Professor of Communication Studies and Affiliate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, analyzed $556.7 million in “behind-the-scenes” grants distributed by 19 major environmental foundations from 2011-2015 in the immediate aftermath of the failure to pass cap-and-trade legislation in 2010.

Nisbet found that more than 80 percent of those funds were devoted to promoting renewable energy, communicating about climate change and opposing fossil fuels, while only two percent, or $10.5 million, was invested in technologies that would lower carbon emissions like carbon capture storage or nuclear energy. The donations themselves were also very concentrated; more than half of the money disbursed by the philanthropies was directed to 20 organizations in total.

Some of the more prominent recipients and grant totals cited by Nisbet include the Sierra Club receiving at least $48.9 million, National Resources Defense Council’s $14.1 million, and Environmental Defense Fund’s $13.4 million.
“One of the conclusions that I think is probably the most important from the Nisbet study is that there’s not a lot of support for intellectual diversity on the climate issue, which is a shame because what the world’s doing isn’t working,” Pielke, a professor at the University of Colorado Center for Science & Technology Policy Research, told Western Wire. “So you’d think that there’d be at least some resources going into looking at new approaches, alternatives, even if they’re contingency plans.”

But according to Nisbet’s research, that is not where the vast majority of environmental grants are being applied. Funding for non-profit journalism, communications plans, and political campaigns dwarfs that of developing new technologies for carbon abatement. And yet, despite more than $150 million being invested in messaging, polls show that the push has failed to register climate change as a top-tier policy concern for Americans.

In fact, a recent study found that millennials born between 1981 and 2000 are no more likely than previous generations to “do something” about climate change. According to Pielke, that shows a need to change the way foundations, activists and policy experts approach to the issue, which consistently ranks near the bottom of the top 20 issues surveyed.

In the years preceding the Nisbet study timeframe, major foundations like the Hewlett Foundation, Energy Foundation, and Rockefeller Brothers Fund signed on to the “Design to Win” strategy that resulted in the collective pooling of resources rather than scattered, individualized disbursements. While Pielke says creating and pursing a shared climate agenda may make sense, “That also probably helped contribute to some of the monoculture that Nisbet documents in his latest work.”

“If we’re worried about the accumulating amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, then for all the politics, for all the noise, for all the heat, it is ultimately a technology problem,” said Pielke. “To stabilize the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere the global economy has to go from being about 15 percent powered by carbon-free sources today, to well over 90 percent by the end of the century. That’s a big ask. I’ve long argued that the only way that happens is not by making fossil fuel energy so expensive, we have to go to alternatives. It’s by making alternatives so cheap that we’ll prefer them instead of fossil energy.”

The key in doing so will be to shift the characterization of climate change from that of a political football to a question of innovation, according to Pielke.

“If we’re going to make progress, we’re going to need things we don’t have now.  We’re going to need modular nuclear reactors, we’re going to need big batteries, we’re going to need the ability to capture carbon directly from the air at a reasonable price. And the only way we get those sorts of technologies is we set out to do it,” said Pielke. He noted that achieving the emissions targets delineated in the Paris Agreement is dependent on technologies that don’t yet exist.

One of the major reasons for the stagnation in climate progress can be attributed to the extreme polarization of the issue over the past few decades. Nisbet notes in his study that environmental causes began partnering with other grassroots organizations seeking “social justice-oriented solutions to climate change” and employed an “intersectional” strategy which connected the issue to other causes more aligned with the liberal ideology in order to build a larger movement.  Nisbet says this strategy “likely contributed to deepening political polarization, serving as potent symbols for Republican donors and activists to rally around.”

In an absence of legislative action and failure to cultivate broad, bipartisan support for long term solutions, policy has been relegated to executive action, which can be reversed once another administration enters the White House.

Full story

2) US House Votes Down Social Cost Of Carbon
Ron Clutz, Science Matters, 9 June 2018

The House GOP on Friday took a step forward in reining in the Obama administration’s method of assessing the cost of carbon dioxide pollution when developing regulations.

The House voted 212-201, along party lines, to include a rider blocking the use of the climate change cost metric to an energy and water spending bill.

The amendment offered by Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert bars any and all funds from being used under the bill to “prepare, propose, or promulgate any regulation that relies on the Social Carbon analysis” devised under the Obama administration on how to value the cost of carbon. (Source Washington Examiner, here)

To clarify: the amendment in question defunds any regulation or guidance from the federal government concerning the social costs of carbon.


The Obama administration created and increased its estimates of the “Social Cost of Carbon,” invented by Michael Greenstone, who commented on the EPA Proposed Repeal of CO2 emissions regulations.  A Washington Post article, October 11, 2017, included this:

“My read is that the political decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan was made and then they did whatever was necessary to make the numbers work,” added Michael Greenstone, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who worked on climate policy during the Obama years.

Activists are frightened about the Clean Power Plan under serious attack along three lines:

1. No federal law governs CO2 emissions.
2. EPA regulates sites, not the Energy Sector.
3. CPP costs are huge, while benefits are marginal.

Complete discussion at CPP has Three Fatal Flaws.

Read below how Greenstone and a colleague did exactly what he now complains about.

Full post

3) Apocalypse Now: Pope Warns Of Global Destruction Without Green Energy Shift
Reuters, 9 June 2018 

VATICAN CITY, June 9 (Reuters) – Pope Francis warned that climate change risked destroying humanity on Saturday and called on energy leaders to help the world to convert to clean fuels to avert catastrophe.

“Civilisation requires energy but energy use must not destroy civilisation,” the pope told top oil company executives at the end of a two-day conference in the Vatican.

Climate change was a challenge of “epochal proportions”, he said, adding that the world needed an energy mix that combated pollution, eliminated poverty and promoted social justice.

The conference, held behind closed doors at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, brought together oil executives, investors and Vatican experts who, like the pope, back scientific opinion that climate change is caused by human activity.

“We know that the challenges facing us are interconnected. If we are to eliminate poverty and hunger … the more than one billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it,” the pope told them.
“Our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty,” he said.

Full story

See also: A Critical Christian Response To The Papal Encyclical
4) Carbon Bubble Or Green Babble?
Global Warming Policy Foundation, 11 June 2018

Models Of Stranded Fossil Fuel Assets Cannot Be Trusted

The GWPF is today publishing a brief comment  on the recent and much publicised paper in Nature Climate Change by J.-F. Mercure et al.

Dr Mercure and his colleagues offer modelled outputs to suggest that fossil fuel demand will fall sharply on the basis of current policies, and with additional policies arising from the Paris Agreement commitments they predict that the value of fossil fuel assets will collapse by 2035.

In their comment, Professor Gordon Hughes and Dr John Constable point out that for several reasons these are implausibly strong claims, that should not have passed the peer review process.

Professor Hughes and Dr Constable write:

“This paper appears to be yet another exercise in producing speculative numbers that fit a particular set of preconceptions without any willingness to make a meaningful commitment to the predictions.

Journalists, such as those who gave so many column inches to this paper, should be very careful in reporting modelling exercises even from prestigious academic sources, particularly when they are at complete variance with the behaviour of investors who are both informed and strongly motivated to reflect accurately on the probable future of that market.”

Carbon Bubble or Green Babble? Models Of Stranded Fossil Fuel Assets Cannot Be Trusted (pdf)

Dr John Constable

5) Guus Berkhout: Climate Thinking. Broadening The Horizons
Global Warming Policy Foundation, 8 June 2018 

Climate change is a fact. It is not a modern phenomenon but has always been with us.

There has never been anything resembling a constant climate on our planet. Our climate has been continuously on the move. The Earth’s history tells us that very cold periods (‘glacials’) have always alternated with very warm periods (‘interglacials’). Travelling from a very cold to a very warm period and vice versa was not a smooth, predictable ride but a chaotic bumpy one. About 20,000 years ago we lived through the most recent ice age. Remains of this long, global winter are still visible. Today, we are living in a period of global warming; ‘business as usual’ in terms of the natural pattern of glacials and interglacials. It would be foolish to deny that.

The existence of climate change is beyond any doubt. The big question is: ‘What is the principal cause of today’s global warming? Is it mankind, or is it the natural system?’ Without knowing the answer to this question, mankind could end up like a modern Don Quixote, fighting a foolish and pointless battle. Current climate policies are based on the conviction that ‘the science is settled’ and that mankind is the principal cause of global warming. It is also believed that our technological capabilities will enable us to shape the Earth’s climate. But is there any scientific evidence for such a bold statement and for such an unconditional belief?

This essay gives an up-to-date overview of what we know and what we don’t know about climate change. It is primarily meant for the millions of interested laymen who are desperate to hear a truthful story they can understand. These people have become suspicious of being misled by climate alarmists. As a group, they have the potential to put pressure on politicians to stop the use of poorly validated models and to focus on evidence-based climate policies....

About the author
Guus Berkhout is emeritus professor in physics and seismic imaging at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. He is the founding director of the Centre for Global Socio-Economic Change (CFGSEC), a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and a senior member of the Netherlands Academy of Engineering (AcTI).

Full essay
 6) Andrew Montford: Why Britain Can Never Rely On Wind Power
The Spectator, 11 June 2018 

For the last ten days or more the UK has been becalmed. In theory, our windmill fleet should be able to generate 20 gigawatts of power, more than 50 percent of peak demand at this time of year, but with barely a puff of wind this month, it has been generating next to nothing.

If the weather forecasters are right, the lull will not end for a few more days yet. We should be thanking our lucky stars that we still have fossil fuels and nuclear to keep the lights on.

It’s hard to think of a better demonstration of the absurdity of windmills as a way of powering a modern economy. Despite this, Lord Deben, the former John Selwyn Gummer and current chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, has taken to the pages of the Guardian today to argue for more wind power, and in particular, onshore wind power.

Nevertheless, there are at least hints though that the government is finally “getting it” on the parlous state into which environmentalism has plunged the UK’s electricity grid: a planned new nuclear power station on Anglesey received a boost last week when it was announced that negotiations between the developer and the government were underway and that the state was looking to take a substantial stake in the project.

As low-carbon technologies go, nuclear of course has the great advantage of not being at the mercy of the weather, but as the debacle of Hinkley Point has shown, it is now so expensive as to make a nuclear strategy almost as mad as a renewables one.

Or is it? Another announcement last week received much less attention, but intriguingly suggests that nuclear could soon be a genuine competitor even to fossil fuels. Nuscale Energy is a US-based startup that is trying to develop small nuclear reactors that can be built in a modular fashion, allowing most of the construction to take place in a factory, before final assembly on site. The company has been riding a wave of optimism this year, after regulators gave approval to key safety elements of its design. With the major hurdle to full regulatory approval completed a few weeks later, the company now expects to be producing electricity at its first site, in Utah, by 2025.

Nuscale has previously suggested that its technology, once mature, might produce electricity at a cost of $85 per megawatt hour: cheaper than offshore wind and biomass, but more expensive than onshore wind or natural gas (although without the reliability issues of wind, which makes direct cost comparison difficult, and also without the carbon emissions of gas or biomass). However, a couple of days ago the company announced that optimisation of the design had allowed them to increase power output by 20 percent without materially affecting costs. That means that its cost per megawatt hour should fall by a similar proportion.

If Nuscale’s design changes meet with regulatory approval, and if the design performs as advertised, then the market could be upturned. Offshore wind and large-scale nuclear would probably become a thing of the past and any small price advantage of onshore wind would not compensate for its intermittency. The choice would be between cheap reliable fossil fuels and somewhat more expensive, but still reliable, modular nuclear reactors.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. Even if the design proves itself in Utah, there is no guarantee that anything will change here in the UK, where the formidable obstacle of the Whitehall machine must be overcome. And with the bureaucracy dominated by card-carrying members of the green fraternity – who oppose nuclear power despite it being carbon-free – that could be a long process indeed. Let’s hope the lull in the wind comes to an end soon.

Andrew Montford is deputy director of the Global Warming Policy Forum.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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