Sunday, January 19, 2020

GWPF Newsetter: David Attenborough Is Making The Same Mistake As Greta Thunberg

Ocean Warming: Not As Simple As Headlines Say

In this newsletter:

1) David Attenborough Is Making The Same Mistake As Greta Thunberg
Ross Clark, The Spectator, 17 January 2020
2) Forget Policymakers. Greta Thunberg And Her Allies Are Targeting CEOs Now
Christian Hetzner, Forbes 13 January 2020

3) Mark Carney ‘Absolutely’ Opposes Oil Divestment
Terence Corcoran, Financial Post, 16 January 2020
4) Wind Farms Built To Tackle Climate Change Could Be Final Nail In Coffin For Seabirds, RSPB Warns
The Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2020
5) Ocean Warming: Not As Simple As Headlines Say
GWPF Observatory, 16 January 2020
6) 2019 Temperature Prediction: We Have A Winner!
Global Warming Policy Forum, 16 January 2020
7) The GWPF 2020 Temperature Prediction Competition
Global Warming Policy Forum, 16 January 2020
8) Victor Davis Hanson: Europe’s Green Energy Policy Is A Complete & Utter Mess
New York Post, 15 January 2020
9) And Finally: The Best-Laid Energy Plans
The Wall Street Journal, 17 January 2020

Full details:

1) David Attenborough Is Making The Same Mistake As Greta Thunberg
Ross Clark, The Spectator, 17 January 2020

David Attenborough has become a Greta of the third age.

It wasn’t so long ago that Sir David Attenborough came across as a calm voice of reason. His much-admired documentaries touched on environmental issues but were not driven by them; they were not morality plays. But something seems to have got into Sir David. He has become a Greta of the third age.

The rot set in last April when he narrated a programme on climate change which used the same, tired old trick Al Gore has used: running a commentary on climate change against pictures of hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and floods, as if to plant in the viewer the idea that all these events were caused by, and therefore wouldn’t have happened without, climate change.

A reasoned analysis would put it differently: that while there is plenty of evidence that global temperatures are rising, that Arctic sea ice is retreating and the global sea levels are rising to the tune of 3mm a year, the evidence linking this to extreme weather events is somewhat tenuous.

Today, Sir David was at it again. In an interview to begin what the BBC says will be a whole year of coverage focussed on climate change, he descended into hyperbole, making the following assertion: “As I speak, south east Australia is on fire. Why? Because the temperatures of the Earth are increasing.”
He added that it was “palpable nonsense” to suggest otherwise.

Actually, while he was speaking a few parts of south east Australia were underwater rather than on fire. Rains, which until recently meteorologists were saying wouldn’t arrive until March, have provided at least some relief. But let’s not beat around the bush, as it were, over that. Also this week the University of East Anglia and others rushed out a study claiming that climate change has increased the threat of wildfires.

The period of the year in which the weather is ideal for wildfires, they say, has been extended in about a quarter of the Earth’s vegetated surface. Interestingly, Australia was the one part of the Earth where they were less sure about the increased risk thanks to very high natural variability in high temperatures and drought.

However, in spite of the apparent risk of wildfires increasing, the scientists note – as I reported here
three weeks ago – that the amount of land actually being burned by wildfires is falling. What does that tell you? While risks might be growing in some areas, we are getting better at preventing wildfires and better at putting them out. Changes in land use, more fire barriers and so on have all helped to contain the spread of flames.

This rather gets to the heart of climate change and what we have to do about it. In the alarmist narrative, as advanced by Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion and now, it seems, Sir David Attenborough, we are helpless in the face of climate change. The only thing we can do to prevent climatic apocalypse is try to halt any change in the climate by stopping all greenhouse emissions pretty well tomorrow – something which is problematic because it would mean the global economy ceasing to function. Unless we are happy to go back to pre-industrial poverty, we need time to develop new technologies.

In reality, we need to respond to climate change through a mixture of reducing greenhouse gases and adaptation. We are not helpless in this. We can build sea defences, we can, over time, relocate urban areas from the most vulnerable areas, we can shift agriculture in line with changes in climate. And, as we have already proved, we can reduce wildfire risk through better land management. This is all assuming, of course, that we continue to have an economy which allows us to do these things.

Look at it from the point of view of the Australian government responding to this season’s wildfires: do you close down your fossil fuel industry tomorrow in the hope of marginally reducing global carbon emissions (which will mean fires continuing to occur as they always have done), or do you learn the lessons of this year’s fires and mitigate the risk through adjustments to land use and pre-emptive burning – as Tim Blair wrote here last week?

Full post

2) Forget Policymakers. Greta Thunberg And Her Allies Are Targeting CEOs Now
Christian Hetzner, Forbes 13 January 2020

Every day for weeks now, the images have come in from Australia as wildfires ravage a land mass twice the size of Switzerland. Scenes of charred kangaroos and koalas, flame-engulfed homes, choking smoke powerful enough to create its own weather system have brought home the potential calamity of a changing climate.

Half a world away, Siemens, the German industrial giant that has pitched itself in recent years as a corporate advocate of climate action, finds itself unexpectedly in the middle of the uproar. In recent days, young climate activists have staged protests online and at Siemens locations around the country, spurred on by none other than Greta Thunberg.

The controversy revolves around a small (by Siemens’ standards) €18 million rail contract in a part of Queensland called the Galilee Basin, home to the Carmichael Mine, the country’s biggest planned coal mine. The project will finally provide the mine a vital transport link to the coast for export, and could open up the surrounding mining region to further resource exploitation for decades.

Siemens isn’t laying down the tracks. It’s delivering the rail signaling infrastructure. But these days, conducting any business that's connected to Australia’s coal industry is seen by climate activists as being part of the greater environmental problem—one that's rapidly becoming an all encompassing geopolitical and economic one, too.

Welcome to climate activism in 2020.

Thunberg's involvement is notable too. Rather than focus her efforts exclusively on lawmakers, she is now going after corporate polluters head-on for their alleged climate misdeeds. Next week, she’s off to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to urge CEOs to de-invest in fossil fuels. On the eve of Davos, Siemens is the first big corporate scalp Thunberg and her army of supporters have claimed.

Force majeure

For now, the company is refusing to back out of the project, putting the company under increasing pressure from consumers and activists beyond Germany to cut ties.

Scientists believe Australian dependence on selling coal to fire foreign power grids in Asia has backfired, as the latter’s carbon emissions ultimately contribute heavily to global carbon emissions, leaving the island continent vulnerable to plagues of prolonged droughts, soaring heat and forest fires widely viewed as a harbinger of extreme climate change.

Campaigners, including Thunberg, had lobbied Siemens to abandon the controversial project, claiming rivals Hitachi Rail of Japan and France’s Alstom had allegedly ruled out working with Carmichael’s Indian operator, Adani Mining.

When pressed on the matter over the weekend, Siemens said its hands were tied, CFO-speak for a force majeure.

“There is practically no legally and economically responsible way to unwind the contract without neglecting fiduciary duties,” said Chief Executive Joe Kaeser, after convening an extraordinary meeting of his top executives to re-examine the deal, in a statement shared with Fortune. “Whether or not Siemens provides the signaling, the project will still go ahead.”

Siemens had positioned itself four years ago as the first major industrial group to commit to the goal of carbon neutrality in 2030. “We’re pumping too much CO2 into the atmosphere. One reason for these excesses is that civilization relies too heavily on fossil fuels, so it’s a good thing that climate activists like Greta Thunberg are mobilizing young people,” Kaeser wrote in October, under a LinkedIn post entitled “Concrete Steps that Companies Can Take to Protect the Climate.”

Siemens is the latest German company to be targeted by climate activists. In September, over 15,000 protesters picketed the Frankfurt auto show, helping contribute to a severe decline in visitors attending the biennial trade fair.

Full post

3) Mark Carney ‘Absolutely’ Opposes Oil Divestment
Terence Corcoran, Financial Post, 16 January 2020

I have some welcome news for Canada’s fossil fuel industry. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, soon to be the UN envoy on climate finance, will not be joining the fossil fuel divestment movement.

“I absolutely disagree with divestment campaigns,” Carney said in an email to an FP Comment column reader in Calgary.

Carney’s categorical rejection of divestment clarifies what has appeared to some as the central banker’s ambiguous position on the global campaign to get investment firms, pension funds and other financial institutions to remove carbon-emitting energy corporations from their portfolios. Many in Canada’s energy sector have expressed concerns about Carney’s views, which will play a key role in policy circles when he returns to Canada this year to take up his new UN role.

In a year-end interview with the BBC, Carney ducked a direct question about whether pension funds should divest holdings in fossil fuel corporations, even though such investments provide attractive returns.

His response was vague and inconclusive:

“Well that hasn’t been the case but they could make that argument. They need to make the argument, to be clear about why is that going to be the case if a substantial proportion of those assets are going to be worthless.”

Carney’s ambiguity drew the attention of John Constable, energy editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum, who wrote on this page last week that the former governor of the Bank of Canada and Goldman Sachs executive was flirting with ideas that could damage the global energy economy.

In a letter to Carney, our Calgary reader cited FP Comment and said that as a reader he was “increasingly uncomfortable with the idea that there needs to be some kind of climate activism in finance.”
Carney responded, saying:

“I absolutely disagree with divestment campaigns. The whole point of the (climate finance) measures are to ensure that investors and banks have the information they need to finance all companies who are improving carbon efficiency whether they are in the oilsands or renewable energy.”

The clarifying note is welcome, but it still leaves Carney among a crowded field of financial activists who are talking down the fossil fuel industry and tacitly joining Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion. By the way, Thunberg was “guest editor” of the year-end BBC show when Carney was interviewed.

Carney’s views appear to largely converge with the latest pensées from Larry Fink, founder and CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with about $7 trillion under management. In his annual letter sent Tuesday to CEOs — meaning the lowly CEOs of the companies the mighty BlackRock invests in — Fink essentially warned that if they don’t adhere to the Fink worldview on climate and sustainability they will lose BlackRock’s investment support.

Climate change, said Fink in his opening comment, “has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.” Like Carney, however, Fink is not advocating divestment and — as New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin noted — BlackRock would not pursue an across-the-board sale of energy companies that produce fossil fuels. “Because of its sheer size, BlackRock will remain one of the world’s largest investors in fossil-fuel companies.”

One good reason for not divesting is the fact, as noted on this page last week, that there are no known viable alternatives to fossil fuels, the energy source that has propelled the world forward and lifted billions of people out of economic hardship.

It’s a point Fink is careful to acknowledge in his finger-wagging letter to CEOs.

Under any scenario, the energy transition will still take decades. Despite recent rapid advances, the technology does not yet exist to cost-effectively replace many of today’s essential uses of hydrocarbons. We need to be mindful of the economic, scientific, social and political realities of the energy transition.

Governments and the private sector must work together to pursue a transition that is both fair and just — we cannot leave behind parts of society, or entire countries in developing markets, as we pursue the path to a low-carbon world.”

One of Fink’s sentences is worth repeating: “The technology does not yet exist to cost-effectively replace many of today’s essential uses of hydrocarbons.”

It may be even more complicated than lack of technology. Some scientists say the physics and essential properties of energy production make any known fossil fuel substitutes — such as wind and solar — unrealistic alternatives.

It is good to know that Carney and Fink are not joining the divestment campaign, although they still believe the world can be changed by groups of bankers and financial capitalists armed with other people’s money.

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4) Wind Farms Built To Tackle Climate Change Could Be Final Nail In Coffin For Seabirds, RSPB Warns
The Daily Telegraph, 15 January 2020

Wind farms built to tackle climate change could be the “final nail in the coffin” for sea birds, the RSPB has warned as it publishes a new report into their feeding hotspots.

The UK is a globally crucial place for these birds, as it contains 8 million breeding pairs. They are in fast decline – seabirds have faced a 70 per cent drop worldwide since the 1970s, and numbers continue to fall.

When the birds feed, they fly out to sea to find food sources such as sandeels. The RSPB has tracked over 1,000 of Britain’s four most threatened bird species — kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and shags — and found they feed at certain “hotspots”. Many of these are sandbanks where small fish are found – which happen to be the places developers find it easier to build offshore wind turbines.

The new research, published in the journal Biological Conservation, found that the hotspots are bigger than all the Special Protection Areas in the UK, where human activity on bird life is curbed.

It has also identified areas in which the building of infrastructure including wind farms should be banned, the RSPB said.

Gareth Cunningham, the bird charity’s chief marine policy officer, told The Telegraph: “We are in the middle of the climate emergency and one of the methods for addressing that is offshore wind. Currently there’s very little monitoring done on offshore wind farms.

“Wind farms need to be built where the sea is fairly shallow, sometimes this means they are built on areas which are meant for foraging.

“The new data shows where birds go so we need to not put offshore wind in these hotspots. We need environmentally sensible installations. We have a biodiversity emergency — we don’t want to make this worse while tackling climate emergency. We need to deal with climate change but we need to make sure the measures we take to address climate change aren’t the final nail in the coffin for seabirds.”

Wind farms can harm these little birds because collision with the blades can cause death as they try to fly to their feeding spots. Even the birds which wisely dodge the structures are harmed; they are forced to take large detours, putting chicks at risk of starvation as they wait for their parents to return.

Full story (£)

see also The Impact of Wind Energy on Wildlife and the Environment

5) Ocean Warming: Not As Simple As Headlines Say
GWPF Observatory, 16 January 2020
Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor

The bottom line of this paper is that according to the authors the world’s oceans (i.e. parts of them) have increased in temperature by less than 0.1 degrees C in 60 years.

It’s the usual story. It’s the beginning of the year and the statistics of the previous year are hurriedly collected to tell the story of the ongoing climate crisis.

First off, we have the oceans which, according to some, are living up to the apocalyptic narrative better than the atmosphere. The atmosphere is complicated, subjected to natural variabilities, that make the temperature increases open to too much interpretation. The oceans however are far more important than the air as they absorb most of the anthropogenic excess heat. Looking at the literature reveals no one knows just how much excess heat (created in the atmosphere) it mops up or indeed exactly how or where it does it. Some say it is 60% which is a bit on the low side, most say 90% or 93%.

The real figure is unknown though it should be noted that a few percent error translates to a lot of energy, about the same amount that is causing all the concern.
On 14 January the Guardian had the headline, “Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates.” The study that reached this conclusion was published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

It’s a badly written paper full of self-justifying statements and unwarranted assumptions that should have been stripped-out by the editor. Essentially there is only one new bit of information in the paper – the Ocean Heat Content (OHC) for 2019 as calculated by the Chinese Academy of Science using a newish technique that fills in places (and there are a lot of them) where there is no temperature data, so one should be careful analysing the output of their model.

Curiously, the paper was submitted on 26 December, before 2019 was over. It was revised on 6 January and accepted three days later, perhaps that short time period explains the typos in the paper.

They find that the OHC for 2019 was (upper 2000m) 228 +/- 4 ZettaJoules above the 1981-2010 average and 25 +/- ZJ above 2018. I do wish people would stop using ZettaJoules. They are cumbersome and awkward. In my view all such measurements and calculations should be simpler and also expressed in terms of temperature increases and in energy increase per square metre for the whole earth’s surface and for the ocean surface. This way the data is so much easier to compare. It should also be mandatory to include error estimates. The data used in the paper is available but is obscure and hidden away.

The authors find, unlike many other studies, that there has been an almost perfect linear increase on OHC since about 1986. It is remarkable that the oceans have been able to do this. As one can see from their other figures the increase in OHC has not been uniform globally. The heating has been patchy, mainly the Arctic and the eastern seaboards of continents. How these warming regions, separated by vast areas that have not warmed much or even cooled, have maintained the coherence of a global linear trend of such precision is a wonder indeed!

The authors say in the paper, “With these newly available IAP data, a ranking of the warmest years since (the) 1950s is now possible.” Actually, it was possible last year and in the years before that. It’s another piece of unscientific hype that should have been taken out of this paper.

The bottom line of this paper is that according to the authors using this relatively new technique they have of replacing no temperature with synthetic data the world’s oceans (parts of them) have increased in temperature by less than 0.1 degrees C in 60 years.

As for the exquisite linear trend they find since 1986 compare this claim with recent data obtained solely by the Argo Array data set which has the benefit of much better statistical coherence. If you do, you will get a more realistic picture of what is actually happening.


6) 2019 Temperature Prediction: We Have A Winner!
Global Warming Policy Forum, 16 January 2020

Each January, we invite our readers to predict what the average global temperature will be during the coming year, pitting themselves against the whizzkids at the Met Office, who also make a prediction each year.

The 2018 competition saw GWPF readers emerge victorious, but this time round the boys from Exeter have done much better. They correctly predicted a slight warming, while GWPF readers tended much more to cooling, after the big El Nino of earlier years.

According to the Met Office, the global average surface temperature anomaly for 2019 was 0.736°C, which we have rounded to 0.74°C for the purposes of our competition. The Met Office overestimated warming by five hundredths of a degree, but nobody actually got it spot on. However, the nearest prediction, just 0.1°C out from the correct value, came from Stephen Davies. Congratulations Stephen; a bottle of whisky and a copy of Bernie Lewin’s Searching for the Catastrophe Signal are on their way.

And if you were unlucky this year, you can always try your luck in this year’s competition.

7) The GWPF 2020 Temperature Prediction Competition
Global Warming Policy Forum, 16 January 2020

With the results of the 2019 temperature competition just out, readers who missed out on the big prize will no doubt be desperate for another chance in 2020. So here it is: the 2020 GWPF Global Temperature Prediction Competition.

The HadCRUT4 average for 2019 was 0.74°C. The Met Office is again predicting a bit of warming, suggesting that the average will nudge up to 0.80°C.

But what about you? Are they right? Or will temperatures start to cool? There are always lots of people from the “It’s the Sun” community ready to predict an icy plunge. Is this the year it happens? Tell us below. Simply enter your guess and your details in the form below and we’ll reckon up the same time next year. The prize will be a bottle of whisky and a £50 Amazon voucher.

Click here to place your bet for 2020

Good luck!

8) Victor Davis Hanson: Europe’s Green Energy Policy Is A Complete & Utter Mess
New York Post, 15 January 2020

It is hard to be both the world’s largest importer of gas and oil and the loudest critic of fossil fuels, but Europe has managed to do it.

Despite its cool green parties and ambitious wind and solar agendas, Europe remains by far the world’s largest importer of oil and natural gas.

Oil output in the North Sea and off the coast of Norway is declining, and the European Union is quietly looking for fossil-fuel energy anywhere it can find it.

Europe itself is naturally rich in fossil fuels. It likely has more reserves of shale gas than the United States, currently the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. Yet in most European countries, horizontal drilling and fracking are either illegal or mired in protests and court challenges.

The result: Europe is almost entirely dependent on Russian, Middle Eastern and African energy. Which is why the American-Iranian standoff, coupled with radical drop-offs in Iranian and Venezuelan oil production, has terrified Europe.

The EU has almost no ability to guarantee the delivery of critical oil and gas supplies from the Middle East should Iran close the Strait of Hormuz or harass ships in the Persian Gulf. Europe’s only maritime security is the NATO fleet, a synonym for the US Navy.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia supplies an estimated 30 percent of Europe’s oil needs. In times of crisis, Putin could exercise de facto control over the European economy.

In other words, Europe refuses to develop its own gas and oil reserves, and won’t fund the necessary military power to ensure that it can safely import energy from problematic or even hostile sources. It’s no wonder that Europe’s traditional foreign policy reflects these crazy paradoxes.

Energy neediness explains why the EU was so eager to maintain the so-called “Iran deal” with the theocracy in Tehran, and also why it was nervous about the anti-Russia hysteria that arose in the United States after the 2016 election.

Europeans are also uneasy about the Trump administration. They see the current US government as nationalist and unpredictable. Americans appear not so ready as in the past to enter the world’s hot spots to ensure unimpeded commercial use of sea and air lanes for the benefit of others.

The result is a sort of European schizophrenia when it comes to America and foreign policy. On one hand, the EU resents its military dependence on Washington, while on the other, it prays for its continuance. The EU loudly promotes freedom and democracy abroad, but it is careful to keep ties with oil-exporting Middle Eastern autocracies that are antithetical to every value Europeans promote.

Germany agrees with its allies that Russian imperial agendas could threaten European autonomy. But privately, Berlin reassures Putin that it wants to buy all the gas and oil that Moscow has to sell.

In sum, what ensures that Europeans have enough daily gasoline and home heating fuel aren’t batteries, wind farms and solar panels, much less loud green proselytizing. They count instead on a mercurial Russia, an array of unstable Mideast regimes and an underappreciated US military.

In a logical world, Europeans would retake control of their own destiny. That recalibration would entail beefing up their military power, their navies in particular. They also would begin to frack and horizontally drill. Europeans would push ahead with more nuclear power, hydroelectric projects and clean-coal technologies — at least until new sources of clean energies become viable.

Europe should applaud US gas and oil development, which has upped world supplies, diversified suppliers and lowered global prices. Europeans should especially remember that the US military keeps global commerce safe for all vulnerable importers such as themselves.

But these remedies are apparently seen in Europe as worse than the disease of oil and gas dependency.

The result is again chaos. Europe lectures about greenhouse gases, while it desperately seeks supplies of fossil fuels. Germany usually sets the tone in Europe, and it is the most hypocritical in both denouncing and buying fossil fuels from unsavory sources.

The danger for Europe now is that the charade may soon be over.

Americans are self-sufficient in gas and oil. They have lost interest in Mideast quagmires and petro-regimes. And they don’t like patrolling the world for countries that both count on and ankle-bite the US military. Meanwhile, the more Europeans pander to oil-rich Russia, Iran and various Gulf states, the less respect they earn in return.

Full post

9) And Finally: The Best-Laid Energy Plans
The Wall Street Journal, 17 January 2020

Government planning and subsidies will make America the world’s green-energy superpower, create millions of jobs, and supercharge the economy—or so we’re told. The reality is closer to Crescent Dunes, a Nevada solar-energy plant that has gone bust after receiving a $737 million federal loan guarantee.

Image: U.S. DOE/public domain

An inconvenient truth is that the sun sets each day, but the Obama Administration’s green planners had an app for that. They decided to invest in the Crescent Dunes facility that would use molten salt to store heat from the sun, produce steam, and generate electricity even at night. The utility NV Energy had already agreed to buy the electricity. Government support would carry the project to sunny success.

In September 2011, the Energy Department described how the 110-megawatt facility would “be the first of its kind in the United States and the tallest molten salt tower in the world,” powering more than 43,000 homes a year. The precedent was Solar Two, a small pilot plant decommissioned in 1999 that had shown it was technically feasible to use molten salt to store and generate power. But in a 2006 report the Energy Department said the 10-megawatt facility “was never expected to be a viable commercial-scale plant and, in fact, did not validate economic feasibility.”

No worries. It’s only taxpayer money, and the feds jumped into Crescent Dunes anyway. The Department of Energy finalized its loan guarantee on Sept. 23, 2011, a week before the federal loan program expired.
A month earlier Nevada had approved $119.3 million in tax abatements for Crescent Dunes over 20 years. The plant also received some $140 million in private investment.

Crescent Dunes began by missing the deadline established by its agreement with NV Energy, becoming operational months late. Commercial operations began in November 2015, but less than a year later the facility went offline because of a “massive leak in the hot salt tank,” according to SolarReserve, a partial owner of Crescent Dunes.

Through the first half of 2017 the plant generated no electricity and no sales, according to its disclosures to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Yet in April 2017 the Department of Energy proclaimed Crescent Dunes a “success story” taken from “mirage to reality,” “a milestone for the country’s energy future,” and a global “blueprint for solar projects.”

In a fact sheet advertised as “up-to-date as of June 2017,” the Energy Department claimed Crescent Dunes was “operational” and projected energy generation of up to 482,000 megawatt hours a year. The plant never generated that much power in the entirety of its operations. An Energy Department spokesman declined comment.

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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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