Sunday, November 1, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: Economic growth is bad for the climate, Europe’s Science Academies claim


The Green New Deal can’t break the laws of physics

In this newsletter:

1) Economic growth is bad for the climate, Europe’s Science Academies claim
GWPF, 30 October 2020
2) Focus on GDP and economic growth is unhelpful for the climate, European group says
The Daily Telegraph, 29 October 2020

3) Europe's economic crisis deepens as 200 airports face going bust
The Guardian, 27 October 2020

4) Was September 2020 the warmest September on record?
GWPF Observatory, 29 October 2020
5) Roger Harrabin criticised for political activism ‘masquerading as science’
GWPF, 29 October 2020
6) ‘First plasma’ achieved at UK’s nuclear fusion experiment
BBC News, 30 October 2020

7) Mark P Mills: The Green New Deal can’t break the laws of physics
The Daily Caller, 27 October 2020
8) Japan’s carbon neutral pledge looks like a load of hot air
Philip Patrick, The Spectator, 28 October 2020
9) Rupert Darwall: Suckered by Big Wind in the UK
Real Clear Energy, 29 October 2020

Full details:

1) Economic growth is bad for the climate, Europe’s Science Academies claim
GWPF, 30 October 2020
Europe’s main science academies reveal their anti-growth agenda

Europe faces a catastrophic economic crisis and tens of millions of redundancies as a result of the political measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, there is growing tension among policy makers between saving the economy and economic growth or saving Europe’s costly climate agenda.

In her speech to the United Nations last year, the eco-socialist activist Greta Thunberg denounced world leaders for their main focus on what she called “the fairy tale of eternal economic growth.” Her anti-growth attack didn’t come as a surprise. After all, critical observers have always known that this kind of radical climate activism is driven by an anti-capitalist agenda.
Now Europe’s main scientific body, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (which comprises of the National Academies of Science of EU Member States, plus Norway, Switzerland and UK), has followed in Greta’s footsteps, hitting out against policy makers and governments who prioritise economic growth.

“Generation Greta gets it. Our focus should be on well-being and welfare, but our economic system puts all focus on growth and GDP which adds fuel to the climate and biodiversity crises.”
That’s how the European Academies Science Advisory Council press release highlights the main take of its report that calls for “‘transformational’ change that is necessary if policy-makers and their public (sic) are to support the conclusions of the advocates of change.”
The capture of Europe’s scientific institutions and organisations by degrowth ideologues is a tragic reflection on the state of green ideology which is bringing institutional science ever more into disrepute.
2) Focus on GDP and economic growth is unhelpful for the climate, European group says
The Daily Telegraph, 29 October 2020

Focus on GDP and economic growth is unhelpful for the climate, European group says



Tracking happiness could be the key to beating climate change, a group of European scientists has said.  

The report by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council, chaired by British chemist and former civil servant Dr Michael Norton, argues that measuring GDP has led to rampant consumption and financial growth which is destroying the planet and not making us happier.
They therefore suggest replacing the widely-used wealth measure with “indicators of human well-being”.
Co-author Anders Wijkman, a former politician and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said focus on economic growth and GDP “adds fuel to the climate and biodiversity crises”. 
Current “incremental” measures are not enough to head off “dangerous” climate change and more fundamental shifts are needed, the report argues, criticising political leaders for caving to business interests in a quest to maintain growth.
Instead policymakers should recognise that current consumption levels are unsustainable if environmental damage is to be mitigated, the group said.

The call is at odds with the stance of European countries including the UK, with ministers insisting that continued economic growth is possible alongside a phase-out of fossil fuels, through investment in new industries including renewable energy.
The group said their conclusions “challenge the social and political paradigm of at least the past 70 years where leaders have campaigned on the basis of continuing improvement in the traditional economy, with science and technology expected to allow economic growth to be indefinitely sustained.”
Full story
3) Europe's economic crisis accelerates as 200 airports face going bust
The Guardian, 27 October 2020

Nearly 200 airports across the UK and Europe are at risk of going bust within months due to the dramatic collapse in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the European airports trade body warned on Tuesday.

Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe), which represents airport operators, said it estimated that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports face “insolvency in the coming months if passenger traffic does not start to recover by the year-end”.

The trade body said the at-risk airports employed 277,000 people and generated collective annual revenues of €12.4bn (£11.2bn).

Olivier Jankovec, the director general of ACI Europe, said the figures “paint a dramatically bleak picture” for the future of the aviation industry, which has already suffered tens of thousands of job losses.
Full story
4) Was September 2020 the warmest September on record?
GWPF Observatory, 29 October 2020

Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor

Recently there were many headlines proclaiming that this September was the warmest on record. It was from a report uncritically relayed by many. 


The reasoning behind the conclusion is worth taking a little time to digest as it demonstrates that temperature statistics are often open to interpretation.
Consider the GISS Loti database on which September has a temperature anomaly of 100 (divide by 100 to get changes in degrees C.) In its 140-year range of monthly data GISS Loti has only 26 months with an anomaly of 100 or greater of which, with the exception of January 2007, all occur within the past 5 years. The most any month has above 100 is 4. Some months, June, July have none. May, August and September have one (102,102 and 100 respectively).
The high temperature anomaly values occur in the southern hemisphere summer months and show the warming of the south Pacific.In GISS Loti the past two Octobers have had anomaly’s of 102 which to me suggests that the September 2020 data is probably a boundary effect. Nature knows nothing of the ancient decision to have 12 months in a year! September 2020 is very warm certainly but if you use it as has been done to infer a global effect then you are using the data to mislead. In September Europe, northern Russia and Siberia certainly had temperatures above the 10-year average. However near the equator the temperatures were near or below this average, and it was the same for the southern hemisphere.

The NOAA analysis of this September indicates that overall about 8.49% of the world’s land and ocean surfaces experienced a record September temperature – the second highest percentage behind 2015. However, taking the temperature values into account they say that September globally was the warmest September on record.
This is not a definitive statement if you consider the errors. NOAA says that September 2020 surpassed September 2015 and 2016 by 0.02°C which is insignificant given the errors are plus or minus about 0.1°C. Why is it that an organisation like NOAA with its global role concerning climate change continues to treat numbers in a way that would fail a physics 101 class? Atmospheric data also shows September to not be among the warmest though again we have the common presentation of data with no errors.

There is another problem with NOAA and numbers. Looking at their 2020 year-to-date temperatures (again no error bars) which is shown above. It can be seen that September is the second warmest September on record.

Looking at this graph I will not make any bets as to 2020 being the warmest year ever. Looking at global maps of where the heat is shows that the warming is confined to specific regions, especially norther Siberia. Consider this map of September temperature changes of the past 10 years. It shows that September temperature changes are not global but regional.

5) Roger Harrabin criticised for political activism ‘masquerading as science’
GWPF, 29 October 2020

Mallen Baker, the former co-chair of the Green Party, has criticised the BBC’s Roger Harrabin’s for “public policy activism masquerading as science” – pushing a position, while pretending to be reporting expert evidence.

Click on the image to watch Mallan Baker's compelling analysis  
6) ‘First plasma’ achieved at UK’s nuclear fusion experiment
BBC News, 30 October 2020

A pioneering nuclear fusion experiment based in Oxfordshire has been switched on for the first time.


Mast Upgrade could clear some of the hurdles to delivering clean, limitless energy for the grid.

Fusion differs from fission, the technology used by existing nuclear power plants, because it could release vast amounts of energy with little associated radioactivity.
The £55m machine has taken seven years to build.
Current nuclear energy relies on fission, where a heavy chemical element is split to produce lighter ones.

But nuclear fusion works by combining two light elements to make a heavier one. It’s an attempt to replicate the processes of the Sun here on Earth.

Unlike fission, it produces no long-lived radioactive waste and could transform the way we source our power – tackling the climate crisis at the same time.

Mast (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) Upgrade will use an innovative design known as a spherical tokamak.

Inside the tokamak, where plasmas are controlled by magnetic fields

The tokamak is a fusion device that uses magnetic fields to confine the plasma – hot, ionised gas – inside a vessel. This plasma allows the light elements to fuse and yield energy.
Most tokamaks are shaped like a doughnut. But in Mast Upgrade, the size of the doughnut’s hole has been reduced as much as possible, giving the plasma an almost spherical profile.
Prof Ian Chapman, chief executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), said the switch-on was “a really momentous occasion”.
The first plasma in the machine marks the start for this trailblazing effort to move the UK closer to building a fusion power plant. It’s one thing to control a plasma and perform fusion. But it’s another to generate more energy out of the reaction than the experiment puts in.
Full story
7) Mark P Mills: The Green New Deal can’t break the laws of physics
The Daily Caller, 27 October 2020

Elections, as everyone now says, have consequences. But they can’t change the laws of physics.

That matters, even in this hypertrophied political season, because one of the policy choices in play this election is whether or not to embrace a Green New Deal or one of its variants. But the Green New Deal has at its core an impossibility in physics: the idea of “free” and “renewable” energy.

The monetary, environmental and geopolitical costs of energy technologies all derive from nature’s constraints. And the physics of all energy sources, whether wind and sun or oil and gas, share the same core features. All exist in nature, for free. But that’s irrelevant. One has to pay landowners (private or governmental) to access locations where useful resources are located. Then one purchases machines, built from materials extracted from the earth, in order to convert any resource into a form that can be delivered to people. Since all machines wear out, there is nothing truly “renewable” about any of them.

Thus, the invisible elephant in the room with a Green New Deal, whether implemented by federal or state governments, is the staggering quantity of stuff that needs to be mined in order to build all the green machines, and where that mining and processing happens. 

Consider the ever-popular electric car. In a recent report for the Manhattan Institute, I took a look at the physical realities of these increasingly popular vehicles and found they weren’t as eco-friendly as they purported to be. The one million electric vehicles (EVs) now on U.S. roads (courtesy of billions of dollars in subsidies) account for just 0.5% of America’s cars but contain, for example, more cobalt than one billion smartphones. In general, fabricating a single EV battery, each of which weighs about 1,000 pounds, requires digging up roughly 500,000 pounds of materials. That’s more than a 10-fold increase in the cumulative quantity of materials (liquids) used by a standard car over its entire operating life.

Some EV materials are the rare-earth elements, such as neodymium, that are now in the news. Many other, more familiar elements are also needed, in particular copper and nickel. EVs use twice as much copper as conventional cars, and global demand for nickel to make batteries is forecast to rise 1,500% in the coming decades. Overall, the global push for EVs will drive a 200% to 8,000% increase in demand for an entire suite of “critical” energy minerals. 

All of this will be in service of reducing—not eliminating—oil demand. In fact, two decades from now, barely 10% of the world’s petroleum use will be eliminated if the optimistic forecasts (some already enshrined in government mandates) are realized and there are 500 million EVs on the world’s roads.

And the quantities of minerals used in EVs will be dwarfed by the push for grid-scale batteries to make wind and solar usefully reliable. Those solar panels and wind turbines also entail using an average of 10 times more primary materials to produce the same energy output compared to hydrocarbon machines. The world is literally about to embark on the biggest increase in mineral and metal mining in history.

But America has long been a hostile place to try and open new mines. Consequently, the U.S. is 100% dependent on imports for some 17 key minerals and imports over half its needs for another 28. The net effect of a Green New Deal distills to replacing domestic energy production (and exports) of hydrocarbons with an unprecedented level of energy mineral imports. You won’t find environmental organizations and Green New Deal proponents calling for expanding domestic mining. But the mineral realities have economic and geopolitical implications.

China, for example, supplies about 90% of rare-earths for the world. On the cobalt front, China has also quietly gained control over more than 90% of the battery industry’s cobalt refining, without which the raw ore is useless. Russia is a massive nickel producer. The list of dependencies is long, and it rarely includes American sources. In early October, the Chinese government advanced legislationto be enacted in 2021 that will “allow” banning exports of “strategic minerals” to companies and nations that China considers a national security threat. 

Then we have the environmental and moral questions inherent with green mineral supply chains. Australia’s Institute for Sustainable Futures cautions that a global gold rush for energy minerals will take miners into “some remote wilderness areas [that] have maintained high biodiversity because they haven’t yet been disturbed.”

Add to this the widely reportedly cases of abuse related to child labor in mines in the Congo, for example, where 70% of the world’s raw cobalt originates. Last year, Tesla, Apple, Google, Dell, and Microsoft were accused in a lawsuit (filed in a U.S. federal court) of exploiting child labor in the Congo. Similar connections have been made to labor abuses associated with copper, nickel and other “critical” mines around the world.

The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 included requirements to report trade in “conflict minerals” and indeed most companies have pledged “ethical sourcing.” Unfortunately, history shows there isn’t much of a correlation between pledges and the frequency of abuse in many foreign mines. There is nothing new about all this. What’s new is the prospect of an astronomical increase in demand for energy minerals.

Meanwhile, America doesn’t need to source foreign minerals right now since imports account for 90% of U.S. solar panels and 80% of the key power components of wind turbines. Asian companies utterly dominate global battery production.

In timeframes that are meaningful, say over the coming decade, radically increasing the use of Green New Deal machines will have the effect of exporting jobs, exporting environmental challenges (not to mention exacerbating human rights challenges), causing the trade deficit to soar by hundreds of billions of dollars, and of course eliminating domestic hydrocarbon jobs which contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to the GDP.

You don’t have to ban fracking to kill the industry; mandating the use of the alternatives has the same effect. This won’t end well. 

If all that weren’t enough, there’s also the roughly 20 to 100-fold increase in land use that comes with using green machines to replace hydrocarbons. And, of course, there’s the mother’s milk of a Green New Deal, the trillions of dollars in subsidies, necessarily funded by increased costs and taxes for all consumers. The latter is no longer in dispute; instead those costs now seem to be a feature not a bug in Green New Deal proposals.
By the way, if green machines were in fact cheaper than conventional ones, as many media outlets now assert as an adjective attached to the words wind, solar or batteries, markets would rapidly adopt them without subsidies and mandates.

Perceptive readers will note that nothing has been said about climate change thus far. That’s because the physics of energy, of what’s possible, isn’t dictated by either the political climate or the planet’s climate.

But it does bear noting that the radical expansion of green machines won’t spell the end of oil and gas. Consider the latest forecast from the International Energy Agency (IEA), a reliable booster for Green New Deals in all their forms. The IEA predicts solar and wind—which today supply less than three percent of the world’s energy—will dominate the growth in energy supply. That will require, the IEA notes, that every nation follow through on “announced [green] policy intentions and targets.” Many of those “intentions” are already remarkably aggressive, including the outright banning of conventional cars and power plants.

We’ll see if they in fact happen.
Meanwhile, even with all that, the IEA forecasts the world’s use of both natural gas and petroleum will return to the pre-COVID peak within a couple of years and then even creep higher for nearly two decades.

That same IEA report has just one sentence on the subject of energy minerals, noting the need to consider that “reliable supplies of the critical minerals and metals … are vital” for reaching green goals. History may see that as the understatement of the decade.

Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the July 2020 report Mines, Minerals, and “Green” Energy: A Reality Check
8) Japan’s carbon neutral pledge looks like a load of hot air
Philip Patrick, The Spectator, 28 October 2020

Given that Japan’s new prime minister Yoshihide Suga (71) and the rest of Japan’s reigning gerontocracy will probably be dead long before the carbon pledge is due, the whole thing is being taken with a pinch of wasabi.

Japan’s new prime minister Yoshihide Suga is talking tough on climate change. Suga has promised that Japan will become carbon neutral by 2050, a step up from the previous commitment of an 80 per cent cut in emissions. But is this all a load of bluster?

While a certain opacity is expected in formal Japanese (a famous anecdote has a journalist having his copy returned with the instruction ‘Could you make it a little more vague?’) Suga was exceptionally unspecific in his so-called climate commitment. He made little reference to how the target would be achieved, or how progress would be monitored. Nor did he mention the Paris Climate Agreement, which mandates a 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

What he did say was that his government would undertake ‘the utmost efforts to create a green society’, which could mean just about anything. And given that Suga (71) and the rest of Japan’s reigning gerontocracy will probably be dead long before the apparent promise is due, the whole thing is being taken with a pinch of wasabi.

What detail there is from Suga’s administration consists of optimistic, some would say fanciful, talk of carbon recycling (an as yet effectively non-existent technology) and of securing ‘energy forests’ for the exclusive purpose of growing sources of biomass power. The latter is curiously reminiscent of Japanese attempts at the end of World War 2 to extract oil from pine roots, for which thousands of children were dispatched into the countryside for hours of backbreaking and largely pointless toil. It didn’t end well.

It would be wrong, of course, to say that there has been no substantial shift in thinking in the world’s fifth largest emitter of carbon dioxide. But you do have to look at the fine print to get to the truth. On 3 July, under Shinzo Abe’s administration, industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama announced that 100 low efficiency coal fired plants would be shut down by 2030. What he didn’t mention was that 22 new coal plants are planned to help make up the difference.

To be fair, Suga may have opted for airy rhetoric as he has limited options, partly due to the legacy of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed the Great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. This prompted the shuttering of most of the country’s nuclear power plants, the emergence of an influential anti-nuclear movement and an upsurge in environmental awareness. Despite the National Diet commission concluding that the accident had been foreseeable, and more to do with lax oversight, poor design, and a culture of complacency than inherent problems with nuclear energy itself, the public remain wary of a major renewed investment.

The UN has welcomed Suga’s pledge though. Secretary-general Antonio Guterres says he is ‘encouraged’ by the move and glad that Japan had decided to join the Climate Ambition Alliance, a group of countries, cities and organisations committed to the carbon neutral goal. Suga informed Guterres of his aspirations in a ten minute telephone call, which can’t have left much time for specifics, adding to the suspicion that the pledge is more a token gesture than a substantive policy commitment.
Cynics have suggested that Suga’s declaration is in effect an ‘anything you can do I can do better’ response to president Xi of China’s September pledge to make China carbon neutral by 2060. It may also be a signal that the Suga administration anticipates a Joe Biden victory in next week’s US presidential election, and wishes to prepare the groundwork for a good working relationship with the newly-green White House.

Reaction among ordinary Japanese has been muted. With Covid concerns, real or exaggerated, still occupying minds, and with some restrictions still in place (‘we’ll be wearing masks until we die’ a young colleague told me recently) and with the economy in a parlous state, there is a feeling even among those broadly supportive of a de-carbonisation strategy that the new administration should be focusing on more immediate domestic concerns, rather than grandstanding on eco dreams.

Full post
9) Rupert Darwall: Suckered by Big Wind in the UK
Real Clear Energy, 29 October 2020

The claim of ‘cheap’ cost is the biggest wind con of all. 

Earlier this month, British prime minister Boris Johnson pledged that offshore wind – cheaper than goal and gas, he claimed – would power every home in Britain by 2030. “Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle – the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands,” he said.
Cheaper than gas? Boris got suckered. At a meeting with a green energy supplier, the prime minister asked what the right proportion of renewables would be for the energy system. The answer: 100%. This is the patter of a snake oil salesman. As everyone knows, wind and solar are intermittent power sources. Grid-scale storage will not be remotely economical for the foreseeable future.
Adding more wind and solar also makes the power grid more fragile and increases the risk of blackouts. In 2016, a storm triggered a state-wide power outage in South Australia, a state that prides itself on its reliance on green energy. Last year, a swathe of southern England experienced a short blackout after a lightning strike triggered a cascade of disconnections within less than a second, cutting off power to four hospitals and disrupting hundreds of train services.
Taking coal- and gas-fired power stations off the grid reduces what grid engineers call the short circuit level (SCL) – that is, the amount of current that flows through the system when there’s a fault. SCL helps the grid operator maintain system voltage and recover from lightning strikes and equipment failure. Large coal and gas power stations create five times more fault current compared to wind and solar. A higher proportion of renewable generation means that there is less SCL on the system, which can create “operability challenges,” National Grid, the British grid operator, says.
The inflexibility of wind and solar can be seen with the impact of Covid and lower energy demand. In 2002, before widespread renewable deployment in Britain, National Grid’s charges for grid-balancing services amounted to £367m ($481m). This year, they were forecast to be £1,478m ($1,933m) before Covid struck. Reduced electricity demand now sees these balancing costs soaring to £2bn ($2.6bn). With renewables, the less you use, the more it costs.
And cost is the biggest wind con of all. In August, the British government published a report on generator costs. The renewables lobby used it to claim that wind was cheaper than new-build gas, a claim that Johnson swallowed whole. To make their case, the advocates ignored balancing and other system costs. When these are included together with the system benefits of gas, new-build gas comes out as the most economic source, when used efficiently.
Government-run auctions for the right to build offshore wind farms create the misleading impression that costs are falling. Far from falling, costs have been rising for the last two decades, as analysis of the audited accounts of wind developers by Edinburgh University’s Gordon Hughes reveals. Although new-generation turbines are larger and initially have better load factors, their performance degrades more rapidly. Compared to the government estimate of £2.16m ($2.83m) per megawatt hour for offshore wind, the actual cost came out to £3.99m ($5.22m), and that excludes an enormously expensive floating wind farm project – “we will build windmills that float on the sea,” Johnson says – which pushes the average to £4.49m ($5.88m) per megawatt hour.

Full post

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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