Thursday, October 29, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: EU report about vanishing beaches was alarmist and wrong, scientists say


Satellites find 75% of the world’s beaches are stable or growing

In this newsletter:

1) EU report about vanishing beaches was alarmist and wrong, scientists say
The Times, 27 October 2020

2) Told you so: 75% of the world’s beaches are stable or growing
GWPF Observatory, 30 April 2018

3) Evidence submitted by the GWPF to the UK Treasury Committee
UK Treasury Committee, Decarbonisation and Green Finance Inquiry
4) Extinction Rebellion doorstep David Attenborough after he criticises their extremism
The Times, 27 October 2020
5) Extinction Rebellion intimidate David Attenborough after he criticises their intimidation methods
Gaia Fawkes, 27 October 2020
6) ESSAY OF THE WEEK: Policy making during crises: how diversity and disagreement can help manage the politics of expert advice
7) Peter Foster: The IEA’s solar spin cycle
Financial Post, 21 October 2020

Full details:

1) EU report about vanishing beaches was alarmist and wrong, scientists say
The Times, 27 October 2020
Sandy beaches are much less vulnerable to rising seas than was claimed in a recent European Commission study which caused “unnecessary alarm”, research has found.


Beaches will survive by migrating landwards as the sea level rises as long as they are given space to move and not impeded by sea walls and other structures on the coast, the research shows.

The new findings contradict claims made in March in a study by the commission’s joint research centre, which supplies scientific evidence to guide EU policy.

The study was publicised with a press release headlined “Climate Change: Life’s a (disappearing) beach”.

It claimed that half of the world’s beaches could disappear by the end of the century under current trends in climate change and sea levelsrise.
The study also suggested that rising seas could wipe out almost 1,000 miles of sandy beaches in the UK by 2100.

But scientists from 12 universities around the world, including Ulster University and the University of Plymouth, re-examined the data and methodology that underpinned the study and found it was based on flawed computer models and an “arbitrary and unjustified” assumption about the fate of beaches as shorelines moved.
They have published a strongly worded rebuttal to the study in the same journal, Nature Climate Change, in which it appeared. They say its conclusions are not just wrong but could result in “economically and environmentally disastrous” solutions being implemented.
Full story (£)
See also: Studies claim beaches are disappearing. Markets think studies are idiotic
2) Told you so: 75% of the world’s beaches are stable or growing
GWPF Observatory, 30 April 2018

Analysis of satellite derived shoreline data indicates that 24% of the world’s sandy beaches are eroding at rates exceeding 0.5 m/yr, while 28% are accreting and 48% are stable.

The State of the World’s Beaches
Arjen Luijendijk et al. (2018) Scientific Reports 8: 6641 (2018), doi:10.1038/s41598-018-24630-6

Abstract: Coastal zones constitute one of the most heavily populated and developed land zones in the world. Despite the utility and economic benefits that coasts provide, there is no reliable global-scale assessment of historical shoreline change trends. Here, via the use of freely available optical satellite images captured since 1984, in conjunction with sophisticated image interrogation and analysis methods, we present a global-scale assessment of the occurrence of sandy beaches and rates of shoreline change therein. Applying pixel-based supervised classification, we found that 31% of the world’s ice-free shoreline are sandy. The application of an automated shoreline detection method to the sandy shorelines thus identified resulted in a global dataset of shoreline change rates for the 33 year period 1984–2016. Analysis of the satellite derived shoreline data indicates that 24% of the world’s sandy beaches are eroding at rates exceeding 0.5 m/yr, while 28% are accreting and 48% are stable. The majority of the sandy shorelines in marine protected areas are eroding, raising cause for serious concern.

Full paper
3) Evidence submitted by the GWPF to the UK Treasury Committee
UK Treasury Committee, Decarbonisation and Green Finance Inquiry, October 2020

We are writing with respect to the committee’s Decarbonisation and Green Finance inquiry, and specifically to the question of the economic costs and benefits that decarbonisation presents for the UK.

A target to decarbonise the economy (“net zero”) was agreed by Parliament in 2019. Ahead of the debate, the minister, Chris Skidmore, informed MPs that the cost of achieving the target would be modest – 1–2% of GDP in 2050 – a figure apparently provided by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). This claim was reinforced by subsequent statements in the House of Lords by Lord Deben, the chairman of the CCC,(1) and in public pronouncements by Chris Stark, its chief executive.(2)

Claims of modest costs were false

The Treasury and BEIS have disputed the CCC’s figure, although not necessarily on the grounds that it was understated. However, it is now appears that the CCC’s figure was not based on explicit calculations; they have said that they have not calculated a cost for any of the years 2020-2049.(3) The Treasury and BEIS have both refused to release details of their own estimates of the cost.

Thus no official costings of the net zero project have been published, and it appears likely that Parliament was misled into voting for the measure.

In reality the costs are going to be very high

The central plank of the decarbonisation plan is the replacement of fossil fuels with electricity, mostly supplied by offshore windfarms. In other words, it involves the wholesale electrification of most of the economy, although in some sectors, where this is not possible, it is said that hydrogen will be used to deliver energy.

A necessary (but not sufficient) condition for decarbonisation at “modest” cost is that the electricity from offshore windfarms be very cheap. It has been argued in the media and by windfarm promoters that the costs of offshore wind are falling rapidly. They point to the results of the 2017 Contracts for Difference auction, in which two offshore windfarms – Moray East and Hornsea 2 – won contracts at just £57.50/MWh, less than half the price of any previous winner, and much closer to market prices.

However, a recent review of published accounts of operational UK offshore windfarms showed that costs are barely falling, and remain above £100/MWh.4 While it has been argued that the review was backward looking, and thus not representative of the windfarms that are coming on stream in the next few years, examination of the accounts of those new windfarms shows that no major reductions in capital expenditure are likely to be forthcoming. For example, the foundations for the Moray East windfarm were completed in February 2020. By that point, the developers had spent over £1.2 billion, thus suggesting that the final bill will run to nearly £4 billion once the turbines and ancillary works have been installed.(5)
But the capital spend needs to be kept to well below £2 billion if the windfarm is to be profitable at £57.50/MWh. The costs look as though they will be in line with previous windfarms, and thus, unequivocally, electricity from offshore windfarms will remain very expensive for the foreseeable future. These high costs will have to be passed on to consumers.

It is important that members of the committee understand that the cost of electricity coming from the wind turbines is only part of the equation. To decarbonise at modest cost, it is also necessary to have a very cheap way to deal with the intermittency caused by fluctuations in the wind. 

At present there is no technology that can be applied to do this at the scales required in the UK at anything other than astronomical cost. This is true of batteries, pumped hydro and hydrogen. Members should understand that the cost of dealing with intermittency may well come to exceed the cost of the electricity from the windfarms, if there are a lot of them on the grid.

There is currently a push to promote hydrogen as form of energy storage to deal with intermittency. However, using electricity to electrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen is a very inefficient process. Thus further cost is added, while much of the energy is wasted. Once the hydrogen has been converted back into usable energy it will be extraordinarily expensive. The only other way to generate hydrogen involves use of carbon capture, and it will therefore also be very expensive.(6)

Net zero was unachievable before Covid. To do so now would be disastrous

With the CCC having failed to calculate the costs of net zero between now and 2050, and no other estimates having been published, we believe that it is incumbent upon the Treasury to prepare and publish a detailed and publicly accessible costing of the project. In the meantime, GWPF has instituted a project to do so on their behalf. This work is ongoing, but the running total is approaching £4 trillion;(7,8) or around £150,000 per household.

In addition, once the ambitions of actually meeting the target are translated into discrete projects that together will deliver the target, the financing of such projects is not the only problem, the availability of enough skilled workers, the access to sufficient scarce raw materials, and the major disruption to everyone’s lives over the next three decades compound the challenge.

The scale of the task, in terms of money and of other resources, made it clear that the Net Zero project was unachievable even before Covid. Now, with the economy severely weakened, it would be foolish to even set out on such a course. To do so would risk setting the country on course to decades of economic stagnation.

The GWPF team and its authors would be happy to give evidence should the committee want to learn more.

Full submission & references
4) Extinction Rebellion doorstep David Attenborough after he criticises their extremism
The Times, 27 October 2020

Members of Extinction Rebellion tried to confront Sir David Attenborough at home after he criticised its tactics.

Sir David, 94, said last month that he agreed with the environmental group’s message but its law-breaking protests could alienate many people and deter them from taking action needed to save the planet.
Asked on BBC Breakfast about Extinction Rebellion’s actions, such as blocking roads, railway lines and newspaper printing plants, he said that when campaigning for change “you have to be careful that you don’t break the law”.
Extinction Rebellion criticised the naturalist’s comments at the time, saying that history showed law-breaking had helped to achieve important reforms. Activists decided to go further by confronting him at his home in west London at lunchtime on Sunday.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said: “It’s appalling and shows how extreme they have become. What they have ironically done is to prove him right.”
Andrea Jenkyns, a Conservative MP, said: “The shameful targeting of a national treasure like Sir David Attenborough from XR activists demonstrates how ideological, out of touch and extreme they are.”

Full story (£)
5) Extinction Rebellion intimidate David Attenborough after he criticises their intimidation methods
Gaia Fawkes, 27 October 2020

A troupe of Extinction Rebellion activists turned up outside David Attenborough’s personal home in South West London today – where the 93-year-old broadcaster shields from Coronavirus – in order to intimidate him into backing their extreme political agenda.


In a live-streamed Facebook video, one activist criticised the veteran naturalist for failing to back “systemic” change.

“He is not yet speaking the truth about what needs to be done to tackle this existential crisis. He is speaking of needing to take individual action… he is not yet talking about the need for the major changes in government policy, the major systemic and societal changes that are necessary.”

Earlier this year Attenborough criticised Extinction Rebellion, saying:

“I don’t think it is sensible politics to break the law… If you are any good at all, some of your demands will be met and then you will be demanding people abide by those new laws. You can’t have it both ways.”

Are you an influential environmentalist who doesn’t agree with lawbreaking attempts to overthrow democracy or a free society? Extinction Rebellion may come knocking on your door next…
6) ESSAY OF THE WEEK: Policy making during crises: how diversity and disagreement can help manage the politics of expert advice
Alfred Moore & Michael K MacKenzie, British Medical Journal, 26 October 2020

Alfred Moore and Michael K MacKenzie argue that greater openness about disagreement among diverse types of experts makes it harder for political leaders to politicise expertise.
Whenever scientists provide advice to political leaders they risk their expert authority being used in ways they cannot control in order to serve political ends. At one extreme, when they give unwelcome advice they risk being dismissed on the grounds that they must be taking sides. At the other extreme, expert authority can be used to shield political leaders from responsibility. The UK government, for example, has repeatedly insisted that it has simply been “following the science” when making decisions during the covid-19 pandemic, even though experts do not speak with one voice and scientific facts alone cannot determine how political (or ethical or moral) judgments should be made.

These two extreme responses—ostentatious dismissal of expert advice and ostentatious deference to it—work by denying the importance of legitimate disagreement and uncertainty. In the first case, disagreement is dismissed as being politically motivated. In the second, disagreement is masked altogether. Both temptations are strong when decision makers come under pressure, as they do during crisis situations.

While many have rightly focused on the ethos and duties of experts in political contexts, we focus on the role that political institutions can play in helping to manage the politics of expertise more effectively and legitimately. Drawing on findings from behaviour research, we identify two principles to guide the institutionalisation of expert advice. The first involves ensuring that diverse perspectives—both disciplinary and social—are adequately represented when expert advice is given and consulted. The second has to do with protecting, promoting, and normalising disagreement among diverse sets of experts. [...]

Open disagreement
The epistemic and political benefits of disciplinary diversity are widely recognised, if not always practised. The case for open disagreement among experts—especially during crises—is more often resisted. In the UK, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), for instance, includes people from many different disciplinary backgrounds, but its membership was initially kept secret.
The assumption is that experts giving public policy advice should not be open about their uncertainties: they need to project certainty and unanimity in order to maintain authority and trust in the eyes of the public. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise. A recent study found that providing people with precise, numerical estimates of uncertainty increased their awareness of the uncertainties in public policy decisions on topics such as climate change and immigration but did not lead to any appreciable reductions in levels of public trust or increased mistrust of the sources of the information.

There are both epistemic and political reasons to encourage open, adversarial exchanges among diverse experts in policy making processes. From an epistemic perspective, diversity is not sufficient to develop and test strong arguments. Experts, like the rest of us, need to have their arguments challenged if they are to avoid the cognitive pitfalls associated with overconfidence.
Disagreements among experts (and others) can help draw out implicit value commitments, disciplinary assumptions, and blind spots. Disagreement—even if it is only for the sake of disagreement—can also help support the thorough exploration of rival positions. This idea, which was famously advanced by the philosopher John Stuart Mill, finds support in recent research in behavioural science suggesting that adversarial argument helps diverse groups do a better job of evaluating arguments both for and against given propositions.
Open disagreement also has at least two positive political functions. It can make it harder for political leaders to blur the lines between expert advice and political judgments. Political leaders considering, say, whether to mandate the wearing of face masks, will find it harder to use experts as a shield for unpopular decisions when the rationales and justifications behind expert disagreements—about, for instance, the assumptions used in modelling the effects of face masks on rates of transmission—are made public.

Being open about disagreements among experts, and the levels of uncertainty that their judgments entail, can also help political leaders to reverse course when necessary without seeming like they are being inconsistent or capitulating to political and thus unscientific demands.
When political leaders openly discuss counterarguments and acknowledge the legitimacy of minority judgments, it helps keep alive reasons both for and against particular decisions, and this can make it easier for political leaders—and the public they serve—to justify revising or reversing previous policy decisions. The possibility of justifying policy reversals is important at the best of times, but it is crucial during rapidly evolving crises such as the covid-19 pandemic that are characterised by deep uncertainties. [...]

Creating institutions that establish norms and expectations of legitimate disagreement as part of the process of forming and communicating expert advice would make it easier for experts to stay true to their expertise and harder for politicians to hide their judgments behind the science. The principles and institutions we have discussed are, of course, not a magic bullet: their effectiveness will depend to a large extent on the political environments into which expert advice is inserted. At the same time, they would help make those political environments more receptive to expert advice by minimising the opportunities that political leaders have to distort that advice or simply defer to it for their partisan purposes. Our proposals can thus be seen as a step towards enhancing the quality of public deliberation and, ultimately, political judgment, in our political systems by encouraging an attitude not of blind deference to the science but of allegiance to the norms of science itself: a respect for diversity of opinion and the value of disagreement in processes of inquiry.
Full post
7) Peter Foster: The IEA’s solar spin cycle
Financial Post, 21 October 2020

Sorry folks, the world will still be overwhelmingly fossil-fuelled in 2030

Every year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) produces a World Energy Outlook (WEO) that tries to obscure the fact that the great green transition isn’t happening. Every year it tries to spin a bright future for wind and solar by using upbeat language, dodgy statistics, and fantasy scenarios. And every year the mainstream media swallows it.

This year’s outlook, released last week, has obviously been complicated by the COVID lockdowns, which have sharply curtailed energy demand and clouded the immediate outlook. But that hasn’t stopped the IEA’s spinning.

The WEO peddles the line that since demand for fossil fuels is down more than demand for wind and solar, this might mean that wind and solar are gaining market ground. According to the report: “Our assessment is that global energy demand is set to drop by five per cent in 2020, energy-related CO2 emissions by seven per cent, and energy investment by 18 per cent. The impacts vary by fuel. The estimated falls of eight per cent in oil demand and seven per cent in coal use stand in sharp contrast to a slight rise in the contribution of renewables.” However, the reason fossil fuel demand is down more than demand for wind and solar is that it is based on markets, while wind and solar use is dictated by government mandates and taxpayer subsidies.

Still, let’s not be too picky. Did you know that, under current policies, “Global solar PV (photovoltaic) capacity has increased almost 20-fold over the last decade and is set to triple over the coming decade”? According to Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, “I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets … Based on today’s policy settings, it’s on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.” Sounds impressive!

The IEA party line was dutifully regurgitated by the mainstream media. One of Bloomberg’s four key “takeaways” from the report was “coal is dying, long live solar.” Even more dramatically, Bloomberg parroted that “renewables will push coal off the grid, taking 80 per cent of demand growth to 2030.” According to Global News, “the IEA forecast projects rapid growth for renewables over the next decade with solar power being the main driver of that growth.” Even the Wall Street Journal got with the IEA spin cycle, claiming: “Coronavirus pandemic speeds shift to cleaner energy.”

None of these climate crusaders had apparently read the report or asked for details. Renewables are indeed projected to increase from 10 per cent to 15 per cent of “primary energy demand” — that is, demand for all raw sources such as oil and gas, plus wind and solar, before they are converted into “energy carriers” such as fuel oil or electricity — between 2019 and 2030. But the most important renewable remains hydropower, while the most significant increase to 2030 comes from “bioenergy,” that is, burning wood.

So, what proportion of electricity generation did solar account for in 2019 after that transformative 20-fold increase? Two per cent. And since electricity takes up only around a fifth of primary energy demand, the contribution of solar to primary energy demand is 0.4 per cent, which hardly looks like a solar revolution.

Assuming that all those meddlesome mandates and burdensome subsidies stay in place, what will solar’s share of electricity generation be in 2030? According to the IEA, eight per cent — but that still amounts to only a two per cent share of primary energy demand.

The world will still be overwhelmingly fossil-fuelled in 2030. The proportion of oil and gas will be up a bit and that of coal down a bit, but together the three will still account for 76 per cent of primary energy versus 80 per cent last year. Coal will still be responsible for 28 per cent of electricity generation — three and a half times as much as solar — and it will be contributing 10 times as much as solar to primary energy demand. And emissions will still be at levels threatening climate Armageddon, at least if you believe worst-case scenarios.

But all is not lost because there are those fantasy beyond-best-case scenarios, specifically the “sustainable development scenario” and the scenario for policies that will bring the world to carbon neutrality by 2050. The first might be dubbed the “pigs-might-fly” scenario, the second, the “pigs-might-fly on batteries, powered by solar wings, while simultaneously juggling.” These scenarios’ details can safely be ignored, except to note that they demand considerable behavioural changes and personal discomfort. More cycling, less flying. More cold in winter, more heat in summer. (And no actual spin cycle in summer because you’ll be line-drying your washing.) Needless to say, the scenarios simply assume away the inevitable damage to growth and jobs, not to mention freedom, from such socialist masterplans.

One of the most frightening aspects of the report is the suggestion that fossil fuels will have to be, not just wound down, but closed down. The route to destruction suggested is defunding via pressure on the finance industry.

The IEA repeats the now ritual mantra of global governors that “The massive sums of money they are committing to spur economic recovery are a historic opportunity to significantly accelerate transitions towards a cleaner and more resilient energy future.” But the notion of seeing COVID as an opportunity to accelerate a transition to more expensive, less reliable and more disruptive sources of energy is little short of insane, except, of course, from the perspective of bureaucratic self-interest.

According to the IEA, at a time when governments’ response to COVID has been a global shambles, now is the time to place more faith in government. “A surge in well-designed energy policies is needed to put the world on track for a resilient energy system that can meet climate goals.” But bad policy isn’t improved by positive adjectives, and wishes aren’t horsepower.

Peter Foster’s column collection, How Dare You!, has just been published by the Global Warming Policy Forum and is available on Amazon.

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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