Sunday, September 2, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: Canada’s Climate Plan In Freefall As Alberta Pulls Out

How Coal Saved Germany’s Summer

In this newsletter:

1) Canada’s Climate Plan In Freefall As Alberta Pulls Out
AFP, 31 August 2018
2) Roll-Back: Ontario Government To Eliminate Carbon Tax From Natural Gas Rates
Toronto City News, 30 August 2018

3) EU Threatens Australia Over New Climate Policy
EurActiv, 30 August 2018
4) How Coal Saved Germany’s Summer
Andreas Mihm, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 August 2018
5) Phasing Out #Coal In Europe: Easier Said Than Done
Henry St George, EU Reporter, 30 August 2018
6) Putin Urges Russia To Boost Coal, Energy Exports
Reuters, 27 August 2018
7) ‘We Will Not Debate’ – How Science Becomes Dogma
Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor, 30 August 2018

Full details:

1) Canada’s Climate Plan In Freefall As Alberta Pulls Out
AFP, 31 August 2018

The Canadian province of Alberta announced Thursday it would pull out of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s flagship climate change initiative in protest against a court ruling against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

A court had earlier quashed the government’s approval of expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline to the Pacific, siding with indigenous people worried that increased tanker traffic will harm whales along the coast.

Landlocked Alberta in western Canada, which sits on the world’s third largest oil reserves, was set to rely on the pipeline to sell oil to Asian markets via the port of Vancouver.

“As important as climate action is to our province’s future I have also always said that taking the next step, in signing on to the federal climate plan, can’t happen without the Trans Mountain pipeline,” Premier Rachel Notley told reporters in a live address Thursday evening.

“With the Trans Mountain halted and the work on it halted, until the federal government gets its act together, Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan,” she said.

Meanwhile, Trudeau said in a tweet he confirmed to Notley that his government "stands by the TMX expansion project" and "will ensure it moves forward in the right way".

In addition to Alberta, the provinces of Saskatchewan and Ontario in mid-July announced an alliance against the carbon tax, which they believe is harmful to the economy.

Ontario -- Canada's richest and most populous province -- elected a climate-sceptic prime minister in June, who is working to dismantle climate change policies.

2) Roll-Back: Ontario Government To Eliminate Carbon Tax From Natural Gas Rates
Toronto City News, 30 August 2018

In a move to help alleviate some financial strain from both families and small businesses across Ontario, the Ford government announced that it will be eliminating the carbon tax from natural gas rates, but critics of the announcement say it’s “short-sighted” that will harm the environment in the long-run.

Speaking at Troy’s Diner in Milton, Premier Doug Ford bashed the carbon tax, calling it “a big scam” and “the worst tax ever, anywhere.”

“It has nothing to do with protecting the environment, it just is one more way for the government to line its pockets and gouge the people of Ontario,” he said.

“It makes gas more expensive. It makes home heating more expensive. It makes everything more expensive. Driving your car and heating your home is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

According to the premier, eliminating the carbon tax from natural gas rates will save Ontario businesses about $285 a year.

“If you are a small business owner in Ontario, working hard to meet your payroll, we want to help,” Ford said.

“Today’s announcement is one way we’re helping you.”

Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford said families across the province should see their natural gas bills shrink by about $80 to $100 a year.

“We promised to deliver real relief for families and small business and I’m proud to say that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Ford said.

Full story

3) EU Threatens Australia Over New Climate Policy
EurActiv, 30 August 2018

Australia’s new prime minister will not walk away from the Paris climate agreement, although his new policies now make it unlikely the country will meet its emissions reduction goal. Ongoing trade talks with the EU could also hinge on how climate policy continues to develop.

Scott Morrison became Australia’s new prime minister on 24 August, after a brutal leadership contest saw Malcolm Turnbull ousted from his position, following a row over energy policy.

Turnbull had wanted to cement in legislation Australia’s pledge to cut emissions by 26% by 2030, based on 2005 levels, but his conservative party colleagues soured on the idea. Poor opinion polls and recent defeats had stoked concerns ahead of federal elections next year.

After Morrison got the nod, the new prime minister moved to shore up his voter base by splitting the environmental and energy portfolios, meaning emissions reduction will no longer be a concern of the latter.

The new setup means price and security of supply will now be the main tent poles of energy policymaking, meaning Australia will now struggle to meet its Paris commitments, according to climate experts, and will have to rely on passive measures. […]

When asked how Australia’s new approach to climate policy might affect the ongoing trade talks, a Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV that “it would be difficult to imagine concluding a broad trade agreement without an ambitious chapter on trade and sustainable development”.

Full post

4) How Coal Saved Germany’s Summer
Andreas Mihm, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 August 2018

This summer’s data shows a different truth. Although more wind turbines and solar plants were installed in Germany than in the previous year, the amount of green electricity generated fell. Lignite and, above all, coal-fired power plants had to step in to meet the demand for electricity.

Where does the electricity come from when the last coal-fired power plant is shut down?

How safe is the electricity flow after leaving nuclear and coal power? The government relies on imports, the energy industry considers this very risky.

In mid-August, the Federal Environment Agency rejoiced that electricity generation from renewable energies had achieved a record half-year. At 117 billion kilowatt hours, the half-yearly figure was around 10 percent above the previous year’s level. Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU), however, was pleased that the share of renewable energies in electricity consumption had meanwhile risen to 35 percent. So these are the best conditions for a rapid phase-out of coal-fired power generation?

This summer’s data shows a different truth. Although more wind turbines and solar plants were installed than in the previous year, the amount of green electricity generated fell. Lignite and, above all, coal-fired power plants had to step in to meet the demand for electricity. The data from the Federal Network Agency for Power Generation shown in the following chart show that, to the great delight of their operators, coal-fired power plants have so far supplied almost 10 percent more electricity than in the same period last year, despite rising prices.

The dry summer may have caused the feed-in of photovoltaic systems to skyrocket. However, the lull associated with the stable high pressure situation rarely caused the wind power plants to start rotating and if so, even far below their capacity. The Federal Environment Agency had to admit that the good yield of the first half of the year had lived mainly from the stormy January. This alone accounted for 70 percent of the growth in all renewables registered up to June.

These summer weeks were also the time when environmental politicians, groups and renewable energy lobby groups increasingly called for the accelerated expansion of (subsidised) wind and solar power plants on the one hand, and for an accelerated phase-out of the demonstrably climate-damaging power generation from coal on the other.

Against this background, the Commission “Growth, Structural Change and Employment” appointed by the Federal Government is again considering this Thursday how quickly the planned phase-out of coal-fired power generation can be achieved by 2050 at the latest.

There are likely to be fierce debates, if not disputes, this time after “Climate and Coal”, the topics of security of supply and price are on the agenda. And the fight for the forest on the edge of RWE’s lignite open-cast mine in Hambach, which is now being fought again with stones and metal poles against police officers, will fuel the mood.

While on Monday members of the commission expressed their solidarity with tree occupiers and demanded the renewed postponement of the upcoming clearing of 100 hectares of forest, the members of the trade union IG BCE are vociferously opposing this in front of the Berlin conference venue.

Cold turkey is not an option

According to RWE, logging is necessary so that the opencast mine can supply power plants such as Niederaussem. The work had already been abandoned last winter. But now RWE wants to use the time until February in which logging work is permitted. Because without constant supply, power plants would soon come to a standstill. Not only RWE wants to prevent such a cold shutdown, but also the state government, which has energy-intensive industries in mind alongside lignite.

“Security of supply is a decisive factor in the competition between European business locations and must not be put at risk for political reasons,” said Minister of Economic Affairs Andreas Pinkwart to the F.A.Z. He recalls “critical phases” such as at the beginning of last year, “in which the German power plant fleet was at its limit due to the weather”. For this reason, the country cannot make its security of supply “dependent on other countries”.

We cannot rely entirely on electricity imports from abroad

With this statement, Commissioner Pinkwart is putting his fingers on a sore spot. Because in the concepts of the German government, which it also wants to support this Thursday with probability calculations, foreign countries play an important role for domestic supply security – after the last nuclear power plant comes to a standstill at the end of 2022 and more and more coal-fired power plants are to be shut down.

Pinkwart is not alone with his admonishing words.

The head of the energy association BDEW, Stefan Kapferer, says: “We will not be able to rely solely on electricity imports from other European countries in the coming decade”. According to the EU Commission, the capacities of coal-fired power plants in Europe shrank from 150 gigawatts to 105 gigawatts between 2016 and 2025, and to 55 gigawatts by 2030.  The demand for electricity in Central Europe is also usually the same: “A particularly cold winter does not stop at a German border,” says Kapferer. “We cannot rely on being able to import significant amounts of electricity from these countries at such times.”

The electricity network operator association Entso-E, which is also invited to the meeting, has issued its own invoices. Highly industrialized Germany would therefore have to expect a few dozen hours of power outages per year in the 1920s. Today the rate is a few minutes.

Translation GWPF

Full story (in German)

5) Phasing Out #Coal In Europe: Easier Said Than Done
Henry St George, EU Reporter, 30 August 2018

Without convincing alternatives, coal is here to stay

By this December, Germany’s last two hard coal mines – Prosper-Haniel and Ibbenbüren – will shut down for good. On the surface, this seems like an encouraging sign for Germany’s much-touted transition to a lower-carbon economy (the Energiewende) especially when combined with the news that German renewable energy outweighed coal for the first time this year.

Early progress on the Energiewende, however, has given way to backsliding as a variety of snowballing issues undermine German efforts to cut emissions. Germany has yet to develop a concrete plan to deal with the inevitable economic effects of a coal phase-out, while its power grid is desperately insufficient to handle the added influx of renewable power it’s committed to. Throwing another wrench in the works, a report this week indicated that if Germany pulls away from coal, its neighbours in Europe won’t be able to help make up for power supply shortages.

The challenges of quitting coal and nuclear at the same time

The German energy sector’s fundamental problem is the sheer difficulty of going cold turkey on both coal and nuclear energy at the same time. While Germany has set itself ambitious targets, such as cutting emissions 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, recent statistics have put the lie to the real progress of Energiewende.

Carbon emissions in the country actually rose between 2015 and 2016, despite the German government pouring  $800 billion into renewable subsidies. Six of the top 10 most polluting power plants in the EU are found in Germany. All run on the lignite the country has been using to replace other parts of its hard coal and nuclear capacity. Despite contributing only a quarter of Germany’s power supply last year, lignite produced over 80% of German emissions in the power sector.

Despite tightening European emissions rules and international environmentalist pressure, any notion of phasing lignite out is at least a decade away. There is no coherent Plan B for the industry’s thousands of workers. The extreme heat waves that ravaged Europe this summer have actually strengthened lignite’s position, as lignite operators have been able to argue their plants are unaffected by cooling water issues which shuttered many power stations across the continent.

Similar problems throughout Europe

If the EU’s largest economy has trouble phasing out coal, how can other countries in Europe be expected to handle this tumultuous transition? Poland is a perfect case in point. It is even more reliant on coal than its neighbour, meeting fully 80% of its electricity needs from coal. The Polish government predicts it will still rely on coal for half of its energy requirements in 2050.

It’s not hard to see why coal has such sticking power in Poland. One of Poland’s top priorities is achieving and maintaining energy independence from Russia – and this is doubly important following the gas disputes Moscow and Kiev have had in recent years. As such, homegrown coal is considered a question of national security. While the Polish economy has made great strides over the past couple of decades, bankrolling expensive renewable projects would strain its finances.

Trump’s global fossil alliance: the way forward?

With limited ability to bring renewable capacity on board, and without a single nuclear plant (even if Poles are in favour of nuclear energy), Poland has been left struggling to handle unmitigated emissions that are taking a toll on its citizens’ health.  As in Germany, Poland’s more heavily polluting coal facilities were built in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. These out-dated plants raise the risk of blackouts, but they also produce substantially more pollution than modern counterparts. Much of Polish society uses equally out-dated coal furnaces and boilers at home.

The EU has shown little sympathy to Poland’s plight. Brussels slapped down the country’s request to use EU funds to modernize its ageing coal plants and demanded Poland instead conform to its Paris climate agreement commitments, without giving clear guidance on how the Poles are supposed to radically overhaul their energy sector.

This lack of understanding has prompted the nation to look elsewhere to meet its energy and emissions reduction needs. Given the Trump administration’s current focus on reviving the American coal industry, Poland’s American allies have only been too happy to oblige – Poland received its first shipment of American coal late last year.

Full post

6) Putin Urges Russia To Boost Coal, Energy Exports
Reuters, 27 August 2018

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russian energy companies should expand their export infrastructure and seek new markets for their products, including coal, with China seen as particularly important.

Speaking at a meeting with government officials and top managers of energy companies, Putin also said rivalry on global energy markets has heated up.

“The current business environment allows for Russia to expand its exposure to the global coal market, to strengthen its position and raise its market share,” Putin said at a meeting in Siberian city of Kemerovo, one of Russia’s coal mining centres.

Speaking at the same meeting, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that Russia plans to produce around 420 million tonnes of coal this year, surpassing a Soviet record high.

Full story

7) ‘We Will Not Debate’ – How Science Becomes Dogma
Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor, 30 August 2018

Some climate scientists, authors and advocates could learn from how cosmologists deal with scientific controversy.

Science is of course a human enterprise full of the imperfections of humanity. It’s more competitive than it’s ever been and there are more scientists than ever. So many want to communicate their science and this is wonderful. But the media, especially social media, can bring out a nasty streak in some especially when they take the moral high ground: ‘Some people should not be debated.’ ‘We are too right to be challenged.’ ‘Excommunicate!’


Recently in a debate about the nature of gravity comments were made about cheating alongside ad hominem attacks.

Most regard dark matter as a shy particle that only interacts with other particles via gravity. Thus it can’t be seen, only its effects. There is a minority view however that believes that the answer to dark matter lies in modifying the laws of gravity. Dark matter as a particle is undoubtedly the majority view despite the most sensitive dark matter experimental search, called XENON, finding nothing. Despite this “modified gravity” definitely has a great deal of work to do.

Recently some in the particle camp have become annoyed that the modified gravity proponents have become a little too vocal: Too many mentions in the media than they are happy with, or is even permissible. An article in Forbes’ said, “There’s a debate raging over whether dark matter is real, but one side is cheating.”

The argument is the old one of balance. The so-called setting up of a false narrative by treating both sides as equal. Ethan Siegel, the author of the Forbes’ article has blogged, “What’s not a responsible thing to do is say, ‘let’s throw away all of cosmology, and now tell the story about how it’s wrong—we just have to throw away general relativity, replace it with a theory we don’t have, and then we’ll have a new theory of gravity and solve the problem, not with dark matter but with modified gravity.’”

One of those accused of cheating is Sabine Hossenfelder. She has said, “I think that people aren’t aware of how the size of this community affects their judgment,” Hossenfelder told Gizmodo. “Yes, particle dark matter does better with the cosmic microwave background, but it doesn’t explain why modified gravity works so well in galaxies. I feel really queasy about people who want to wipe it off the table like it’s not there.”

Outside the isolated accusations of cheating most cosmologists are fair and agree that modified gravity should have a seat at the table. Perhaps there is a feeling at the back of many people’s minds that the lessons we have learnt about the universe may show us that both theories are wrong!

Physics has seen fashion and controversy as have most sciences. In the 1950s it was difficult to get a post researching General Relativity, then difficult to research quantum gravity. The great physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar once said in the 1960s “General Relativity is outside the mainstream of physics. That is OK for people at my stage of a career.

But as a young person you need to consider whether you want to work outside the mainstream.” This soon changed, drastically.

The connection of dark matter to the climate debate should be apparent. Many concerned in the debate object to the “balance” idea that someone who accepts climate change should be placed alongside someone who does not accept climate change thereby giving the impression that both are equally held viewpoints.

I am not inclined to ban people from the media. The balance problem however needs a more scientific approach. Who should not be debated?

Those who do not accept that the Earth’s climate changes, or mankind’s influence, or the physic’s of greenhouse gasses, radiative transfer and the realm of thermodynamics are very few and far between and are as credible as those who think sea level rise will overwhelm Big Ben.

Consider the IPCC, who for the majority have laid out the science of climate change (far too moderately for some). When it comes to parameters like climate sensitivity it gives a range of estimates. Are those whose research leads them to deduce a high level of sensitivity denying the work of those who conclude climate sensitivity is much lower? It has been the case that some who believe the sensitivity is high would not debate those who hold it is lower, yet both are within scientific speculation. So who should be not debated? What about those who don’t think that all of the global temperature change in the past 150 year is down to mankind? What if they think 50% or 25%? Should they be called deniers?

We Will Not Debate... Who?

This is the fundamental flaw in the letter published in the Guardian this week.

The long list of signatories say they will no longer lend their credibility in debates with someone who questions whether climate change is real, or who denies the reality of anthropogenic climate change.
This I take as their definition of a climate change denier. Good luck to them. I don’t know anyone who fits the bill. They are out there of course. Perhaps the signatories would like to produce a list that makes clear who is a denier and who is a sceptic and why?

Perhaps they could host a website detailing with whom they were asked to “debate” along with their reasons why they declined to take part.

Meanwhile at the pit face of science – the peer-reviewed journals and conferences – there are fascinating papers, presentations and debates about climate science, its progress and its uncertainties. Stuff that when repeated in public would enrage many climate campaigners. Not debating people you don’t agree with is the antithesis not only of science but of civilization.

Seems to me that some climate scientists, authors and advocates could learn from the cosmologists.


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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