Saturday, February 12, 2022

Net Zero Watch: The Great Climate Backslide has begun


In this newsletter:

1) The Great Climate Backslide: How governments are backtracking worldwide
Bloomberg 11 February 2022
2) Europe’s Net-Zero Carbon crackup begins ahead of schedule

The Wall Street Journal, 11 February 2022
3) After ousting its green leader, Conservative Party drops support for carbon tax
The Epoch Times, 10 February 2022
4) China to increase coal-fired power capacity by 10% in the next 5 years
Reuters, 9 February 2022
5) A renewable energy bubble is hit by the perfect storm
Bloomberg, 10 February 2022
6) Welcome to Net Zero: Poorer families face threat of peak hours electricity rationing under the drive to go green
Daily Mail, 11 February 2022
7) National Grid to drain electric car batteries at times of peak demand
The Daily Telegraph, 10 February 2022
8) Biden gets inflation wake-up call as odds rise for GOP takeover
Bloomberg, 10 February 2022
9) Senator Manchin casts more doubt on Biden’s green agenda with blast on inflation
Bloomberg, 10 February 2022
10) Worst-Case Climate Change Scenarios are highly implausible, argues new study
Ronald Bailey, Reason, 9 February 2022
11) Population Implosion: Russian demographic losses tighten the noose around the Kremlin

Full details:

1) The Great Climate Backslide: How governments are backtracking worldwide
Bloomberg 11 February 2022
From the U.S. to China, in Europe, India and Japan, fossil fuels are staging a comeback, clean energy stocks are taking a hammering, and the prospects for speeding the transition to renewable sources of power are looking grim. 

At the conclusion of COP26 in November, summit chairman Alok Sharma praised the “heroic efforts” by nations showing they can rise above their differences and unite to tackle climate change, an outcome he said “the world had come to doubt.” 
Turns out the world was right to be skeptical. 

Three months on, a toxic combination of political intransigence, an energy crisis and pandemic-driven economic realities has cast doubt on the progress made in Scotland. If 2021 was marked by optimism that the biggest polluters were finally willing to set ambitious net-zero targets, 2022 already threatens to be the year of global backsliding. 
From the U.S. to China, in Europe, India and Japan, fossil fuels are staging a comeback, clean energy stocks are taking a hammering, and the prospects for speeding the transition to renewable sources of power are looking grim.
That’s even as renewable energy costs have fallen rapidly and investment in clean technologies is soaring, while voters across the world demand stronger action. 

“We’re going to have a multi-year stress test of political will to impose costly transition policies,” said Bob McNally, president of Washington-based consultant Rapidan Energy Group and a former White House official.
He accused governments of showing “Potemkin support” for the necessary policy steps, a sham display of action that’s being exposed by the energy crisis.

Emissions rose last year, when they needed to decline if the world is to stay on track to hit climate goals. National interest was always going to run up against the kind of painful measures scientists agree are needed to meet the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels. But even this early in the year, the headwinds to aggressive climate action are ferocious. 

Oil is on a roll as the world economy picks up from its pandemic-induced swoon, nearing $100 a barrel just two years after the price collapsed. That’s swelling the coffers — and influence — of fossil fuel giants like Saudi Arabia and Russia, while reinvigorating an industry that had been shifting its focus to clean energies. Exxon Mobil Corp. has just given a vote of confidence in the U.S. shale industry with plans to boost output by 25% this year in the Permian Basin.
And with gas prices hitting records, utilities have been turning to coal instead, despite it producing about twice the carbon, according to Kit Konolige, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. 
Even the U.K. host of COP26 risks regressing, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the ropes and some members of his Conservative Party pushing back against his green agenda.

Little wonder that U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has seemed increasingly glum, repeatedly warning that the world is falling behind. “We’re in trouble,” Kerry said during a Chamber of Commerce event last month. “We’re not on a good track.”

For many, the highlight of COP26 was the surprise agreement by Kerry’s team and their Chinese counterparts to look beyond U.S.-China rivalry and jointly raise climate efforts this decade. 
That deal still stands, but both nations have since backtracked in their respective actions. 
The U.S. was the world’s top LNG exporter in January, taking the No. 1 spot from Qatar for a second month running. Coal consumption has surged, while production climbed 8% in 2021 after years of declines. It’s expected to inch upward through 2023, according to the Energy Information Administration.
In Washington, President Joe Biden is struggling to get his signature “Build Back Better” bill and its core climate measures through the Senate. An initial proposal, which would have devoted some $555 billion to climate and clean energy, has collapsed amid objections from all of the chamber’s Republicans and a key Democrat, Joe Manchin of coal- and gas-rich West Virginia.

Those climate provisions — including some $355 billion in multiyear tax credits for hydrogen, electric vehicles and renewables — are essential to fulfilling the U.S. Paris Agreement commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions 50% to 52% by 2030. Without them, that pledge is in jeopardy, an analysis by the Rhodium Group found.

Rather than the leadership role that Biden has claimed, that makes the U.S. look like a climate straggler. Enacting the key provisions is needed “to empower us diplomatically,” Kerry acknowledged in a January interview. “Credibility will be in a hard place if we don’t.”
Democratic lawmakers are still hoping to revive the legislation, though there’s little time with November’s midterm elections looming large. And right now Biden is under pressure to confront rising inflation and especially gasoline prices that could weigh on his chances of retaining control of Congress. He’s responded by appealing to OPEC+ producers to boost output, asking domestic oil companies to drill more and rallying nations to join the U.S. in a coordinated release of emergency crude stockpiles.

Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, is feeling similar pressure. Last month, in an effort to keep a lid on prices, his government announced subsidies for oil refiners worth some 3 U.S. cents per liter of gasoline produced. This week, it said it was considering going further to mitigate the impact of rising oil prices amid reports it may triple the subsidy rate.     
All of which looks like a free pass to China, the world’s biggest emitter.
In several recent high-level meetings, top Chinese officials have stressed energy security alongside carbon reduction efforts. As the People’s Daily, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, said in an recent commentary: “The rice bowl of energy must be held in one’s own hand.”

While top leaders have repeatedly stressed that its record-breaking build out of solar and wind power is part of the campaign to secure China’s energy future, the push has yet to tangibly shift the nation’s energy mix. China’s share of coal and gas in power generation was still as high as 71% in 2021, the same as 2020.

After an unprecedented power crunch that struck China in the second half of last year, Beijing was forced to raise both coal output and imports to record levels. At a group study session of the Politburo last month, President Xi Jinping said that supply chain security should be guaranteed while curbing emissions, and that coal supplies should be ensured while oil and gas output need to “grow steadily.”
“Cutting emissions is not aimed at curbing productivity or at no emissions at all,” Xi said, stressing that economic development and the green transition should be mutually reinforcing. To illustrate his point, this week China offered its vast steel industry an additional five years to rein in its carbon emissions.  
It’s a sentiment shared elsewhere. South Africa’s Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe told the heads of mining companies on Feb. 1 that coal will still be used for decades and that rushing to end the country’s fossil fuel dependency “will cost us dearly.” 

India’s biggest coal miner, state-owned Coal India Ltd., is ramping up production as the country reduces its dependence on imports. It’s exposing the carbon-dependent model of economic growth that the West used and which India is yet to walk away from, even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a net-zero target of 2070 in Glasgow.
India is the second-biggest coal user after China, and last year coal accounted for 74% of power generation, followed by renewables with a 20% share, according to the latest report by the International Energy Agency.

Yet that ratio is set to shift, with ambitious plans to build out renewable capacity. Billionaires Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani helped drive investment targeting alternative energy to a record $10 billion last year, but that’s dwarfed by Ambani’s new clean-energy plan worth a total $76 billion.
“The world is entering a new energy era which is going to be highly disruptive,” Ambani said last month as he unveiled his plans, which include making his Reliance Industries Ltd. — among the world’s biggest oil refiners and plastic producers — net-zero by 2035. 

The energy crunch has without doubt cast a shadow on the European Union’s debate about how to implement its Green Deal, an unprecedented economic overhaul to reach climate neutrality by 2050. Many governments are concerned that the spike in prices may undermine public support for the reforms. 
“The only lasting solution to our dependence on fossil fuels and hence volatile energy prices is to complete the green transition.”
The political atmosphere is not helped by the West’s standoff with Moscow over Ukraine, a situation that raises the threat of disruption to Russian gas supplies, stoking prices still further. For now, however, flows are intact, albeit more volatile than usual. 
Higher fossil fuel and emissions prices may improve the relative economics of renewables. EU leaders have in any case already thrown their weight behind the Green Deal. And with polls consistently showing climate to be among the biggest concerns for the bloc’s voters, the European Commission, the EU’s executive, is doubling down. 

Speaking to reporters on Jan. 22, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said that geopolitical tensions are compounding unusually high energy prices in the short term. “But we are also at a crucial point in our long-term effort to tackle the climate crisis and ensure a just clean energy transition,” she said. “The only lasting solution to our dependence on fossil fuels and hence volatile energy prices is to complete the green transition.”

China meanwhile added a record amount of solar power last year, and is likely to break that again in 2022, driven by a nationwide push for more rooftop installations and a mammoth build-out of renewables in the northern deserts. 

Full story
2) Europe’s Net-Zero Carbon crackup begins ahead of schedule
The Wall Street Journal, 11 February 2022
Joseph C. Sternberg
At the end of last year, I predicted that 2022 would be the year politicians stepped back from the climate-policy cliff. I allowed too much time. It happened in January.


Or rather, January was the month the political class decided they wanted to step away from the cliff. Now we wait to see if they can.

The European Commission, the bureaucratic wing of the European Union in Brussels, moved on New Year’s Eve to classify natural gas and nuclear as potential green energy sources in a “taxonomy” designed to steer government spending and private investment. It has stuck by that decision despite noisy protests from environmentalists. This is a recognition that foreclosing investment in proven, reliable technologies amid a once-in-a-generation energy price crisis is creating a political nightmare.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s net-zero fixation has become the biggest threat to his political future, a far more serious danger than any lockdown-defying birthday party. British households last week discovered their home electricity and natural-gas bills could shoot up by 54% come April as a regulatory price cap adjusts to market realities. Energy costs for commercial premises are a separate crisis, as rapidly escalating electricity and natural-gas prices squeeze small businesses and large manufacturers alike.

Real politics finally is breaking out in response. A group of lawmakers from Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party have formed a caucus to vent their skepticism of Mr. Johnson’s net-zero ambitions, while Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak professes his enthusiasm for more North Sea drilling. The left-wing Guardian newspaper trotted out climate-change scaremonger Michael Mann to brand this effort a “culture war.” Which is how we now describe any effort to repoliticize questions of economic and social trade-offs that an axis of technocrats, activists and media had tried to assume unto itself.

The political world is awakening belatedly to an observation prominent French economist Jean Pisani-Ferry offered last year. To paraphrase: Because carbon-based energy is cheap and reliable and zero-carbon alternatives remain elusive, current consumption will have to be suppressed to finance aggressive investment in developing zero-carbon technology.

This is taking two forms today. Astronomical energy prices are the mechanism by which consumption based on carbon (whether of energy or of any product whose manufacture or distribution requires carbon—which is most products) can be suppressed while diverting resources to research and development in green technologies.
Second, someone must induce financial investment to shift to green purposes, even if investors otherwise would have concluded that strategy doesn’t maximize returns. Retirees or anyone else whose consumption is based on income from investment may have to receive less income and therefore consume less in order to subsidize capital allocation to green ends.

No wonder politicians are fleeing. Witness a kerfuffle, again in the U.K., over taxing the “windfall profits” of oil-and-gas majors such as BP and Shell, which recently announced bumper earnings. The companies are accused of gouging consumers, but the actual plan as announced to their shareholders is to plow carbon profits into an expanding portfolio of green projects.

This is possible only by shifting resources away from consumers via higher prices. Whoops. Any form of consumption tax, whether by levy or by price-raising regulation, is highly regressive. Calls by Britain’s Labour Party for a windfall-profits tax to redistribute those reinvestable profits back to consumers, in contravention of the whole point of net-zero policies, mark an admission that climate mitigation is an impending political train wreck. Maybe one day the left will understand what they themselves are saying here.

Can the train be stopped? Politicians will try, and are due to get a reminder about the importance of long-term thinking. Boosting energy supply depends on persuading investors that politicians support long-term investments. Net zero comes with a deadline of 2050, but that needs to be scrapped right now for investors to be willing to finance capital-intensive projects with long enough lives to be useful.

The danger is that investors won’t be willing to do that when politicians belatedly come begging. Recent years have seen a concerted effort by climate activists and various enthusiastic enablers in the financial world to co-opt private capital in pursuit of green aims. Hence the rise of so-called ESG investing—the E standing for “environmental.” Politicians in their more foolish moments have been happy to help, as with efforts to embed such principles in financial regulation.

The political class will be sorry as this shift makes it harder for politicians to assuage angry voters. The EU’s taxonomy is meant to subvert the ESG push by encouraging investors to treat natural gas and nuclear as green. Investors intoxicated by their own virtue signaling might not be encourageable. “Investors may now need to consider going further than the taxonomy requires in order to align with net zero,” Stephanie Pfeifer of the Institutional Investors Group for Climate Change, an umbrella group for pension funds and other asset managers, said recently.

The politicians’ challenge is to wrest well-functioning energy and financial markets back from a financial, activist and media class that seems unshaken by the anticonsumption, income-redistribution miseries their agenda is inflicting. Culture war, indeed.
3) After ousting its green leader, Conservative Party drops support for carbon tax
The Epoch Times, 10 February 2022

Canada's Conservative Party is ending its support for a federal carbon tax.

Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 10, 2022. (The Canadian Press/Justin Tang) 

Interim leader Candice Bergen told her caucus about the change at a meeting on Feb. 9, saying that the carbon tax issue will be dealt with in the upcoming leadership race, according to a report in the Toronto Star.
Conservative MP John Williamson tweeted the Star article, headlined, “Conservatives drop support for carbon pricing, bring an O’Toole foe back from exile,” without disputing its reporting, except to say, “‘Tax’ spelled incorrectly by headline writer.” His comment is a reference to the Tories’ official position under Erin O’Toole’s leadership that their carbon levy isn’t a tax, but just a price on carbon generation.

The Conservatives’ decision comes a week after O’Toole was ousted by his caucus on Feb. 2.
O’Toole had announced his own version of a carbon tax during the 2021 federal election campaign, reversing a previous pledge to never introduce a national carbon tax scheme of any sort.

On Jan. 31, Conservative MP Bob Benzen issued a statement to caucus calling for a review of O’Toole’s leadership, citing his “adoption of a de-facto carbon tax policy in April 2021” as one of the reasons.

Bergen’s decision to drop the carbon tax was welcomed by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), which issued a statement the same day saying that it was the right thing for the party to do.

“Carbon taxes cost Canadians a lot of money but aren’t working, and that’s exactly the kind of policy the Official Opposition should be opposing,” said CTF federal director Franco Terrazzano.

“Inflation is one of the key economic issues facing Canadian families and the carbon tax is making these tough times tougher by making it more expensive to drive to work and heat our homes.”

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, the federal carbon tax is scheduled to increase to 11 cents per litre of gasoline starting on April 1.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced in December 2020 that he would raise the carbon tax on fuels to $170 per tonne by 2030. The tax is currently priced at $50 a tonne but will increase by $15 a tonne yearly starting in 2023 until it hits $170 per tonne in 2030, as part of Liberals’ plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 40-45 percent lower than in 2005.
Full story
4) China to increase coal-fired power capacity by 10% in the next 5 years
Reuters, 9 February 2022
Researchers with the State Grid Corporation expect another 150 GW of new coal-fired power capacity to be built over the 2021-2025 period, bringing the total to 1,230 GW.

The eastern Chinese coastal province of Zhejiang has approved the construction of a new 7 billion yuan ($1.10 billion) coal-fired power plant with 2 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity, the state firm in charge of the project said on Wednesday.

The Zhejiang Energy Group said the Phase 2 Project of the Liuheng Power Plant would consist of two highly efficient "ultra-supercritical" units and would help balance energy supply and demand in the province.

The group said the new project would also serve Zhejiang's low-carbon transition by boosting efficiency, with generation rates at 254 grams of coal per kilowatt-hour, much lower than the national average of 302.5 grams.

China has been under fire for continuing to approve new coal plants. The world's biggest source of climate-warming greenhouse gas will not cut coal use until after 2025, according to a pledge by President Xi Jinping last year.

Researchers with the State Grid Corporation expect another 150 GW of new coal-fired power capacity to be built over the 2021-2025 period, bringing the total to 1,230 GW.
5) A renewable energy bubble is hit by the perfect storm
Bloomberg, 10 February 2022
Good luck finding an industry hit as hard by inflation and supply-chain upheaval as wind-turbine makers.
Manufacturers like Vestas Wind Systems A/S have been blown off course by a perfect storm of transport snarl-ups and surging freight and raw material costs. Instead of raking in profits on soaring demand for clean energy, the Danish firm is struggling just to break even. Last week, loss-making European rival Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy S.A ousted its chief executive officer — its second change at the top in less than two years. General Electric Co.’s renewables arm is also losing money.

This is a worrying turn for an industry with a vital role in helping the world decarbonize. For investors, it shows how betting on seemingly clear-cut “megatrends,” such as the rise of renewables, can backfire in the short-term. With oil prices rising above $90, oil stocks have massively outperformed clean tech in the past year. It’s a reminder, too, that even highly consolidated industries like wind-power machinery can struggle to pass on rising input costs to customers.

Oil stocks have outperformed clean tech since the start of 2021 -- Source: Bloomberg
A year ago, the turbine makers were flying high. A gush of money flowed into clean-tech stocks, and investors didn’t have all that many wind-equipment firms to pick from. Outside of China, the three top players I’ve mentioned control around three-quarters of the onshore market. No wonder valuations ballooned.
But as the profit warnings piled up, the money flows faded and European wind stocks plummeted. Vestas’ has almost halved since last year’s peak, while Siemens Gamesa’s has fallen even more. Hedge funds have shorted the shares of smaller German turbine maker Nordex SE, betting that prices will fall further. (GE’s renewables unit isn’t separately listed.)

When you consider the size and complexity of a wind turbine, it’s no wonder they’re struggling: The rotors of high-spec onshore models span more than 160 meters (525 feet) and a nacelle (the central structure) can weigh several hundred tons. The latest offshore turbine designs are even larger.

Almost 85% of a wind turbine’s mass is comprised of steel, according to BloombergNEF. It’s not hard to imagine what’s happened to that bill of raw materials. Even after a recent pullback, steel prices are almost double pre-pandemic levels. Copper and resin prices have also surged.

Logistics is an even bigger headache. Due to the size of these machines and local rules, the process of assembling wind turbines is spread all over the world. That’s a challenge when supply chains are running smoothly. But delivery times for some components has increased from five to nearly 50 weeks, Siemens Gamesa said earlier this month. Delays add further cost and can trigger customer penalty clauses, making the transportation and installation of turbines, blades and towers very costly endeavors.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if manufacturers could quickly pass on cost increases to customers.
Unfortunately, their order backlogs stem from a time when raw materials and logistics costs were much lower, and it appears they weren’t able to fully protect themselves against price increases via hedging. Analysts expect Siemens Gamesa to burn more than 750 million euros ($860 million) of cash in the fiscal year that ends in September, in part because it’s holding more inventory as a safety cushion against delays. 

Though manufacturers are hiking prices — an abrupt change for a world accustomed to steadily falling equipment costs — customer discussions are difficult because it can threaten a project’s profitability. If completion is delayed but the developer has already sold the power, it could be forced to buy electricity at hugely inflated spot market prices. European wind farm operators were also hit last year by unusually low wind speeds. No wonder some of them are holding back from placing new orders. 

While some of this is just bad luck, wind-turbine profit margins were already under pressure before the pandemic. Permit issues and NIMBYism have slowed project development in parts of Europe, while the shift from fixed-priced subsidies to more competitive wind auctions put downward pressure on pricing.
6) Welcome to Net Zero: Poorer families face threat of peak hours electricity rationing under the drive to go green
Daily Mail, 11 February 2022
Struggling families could be forced to ration power when they need it most under the drive to go green.
An overhaul of the energy market will allow homes with a smart meter to be charged more for using electricity at peak times.

Households will pay less for electricity at night and more when demand is high under energy regulator Ofgem’s plans.

The move, which the regulator says could save households £4.6billion over more than 20 years, will allow suppliers to automatically receive readings every half hour and set different rates throughout the day. 
It is hoped that encouraging families to spread their power use will ease pressure on the grid as more households acquire electric cars and replace gas boilers with heat pumps.

They will have to agree to a ‘time-of-use’ tariff – but industry experts say prices are likely to be cheaper than standard deals.
Yet the energy regulator’s price cap will not apply, leading to fears rates could soar when the price of electricity does.
An Ofgem report also reveals that the benefits to bill payers are ‘modest’, with savings of as little as £2 and no more than £9 a year if they cut back on peak power use.

It comes as soaring energy prices are fuelling the worst cost of living crisis in Britain for 30 years. From April the average bill is set to surge by another 54 per cent to nearly £2,000 a year.

Joe Malinowski, founder of, said ‘surge pricing’ tariffs could mean families are forced to ration energy use during expensive peak times. He also said a smart meter could even cut off power if the price of electricity suddenly soared.
Calculations by the TheEnergyShop show that families cooking an evening meal or watching prime time TV could expect to pay twice what they would in the middle of the night.
Full story
7) National Grid to drain electric car batteries at times of peak demand
The Daily Telegraph, 10 February 2022

Electric car owners will be called on to help Britain avoid an energy crunch as suppliers prepare tariffs allowing them to draw power from parked vehicles at times of low supply or high demand.


Cars which are charging on driveways are to be plugged into a system responsible for balancing the National Grid for the first time, in an experiment aimed at easing the burden on the country's creaking energy infrastructure.

It will lay the groundwork for a national rollout of the technology if successful, paving the way for millions of electric cars to act as a giant battery so that power supply is stable at times of low wind speeds after the transition to green energy.

In the trial, which will begin at some point from April to June, car owners will agree to allow the grid to draw power from their vehicles and release it as and when required. They will be paid for energy which the grid drains off.
The scheme is being run by the National Grid and domestic supplier Octopus Energy, which has recruited 135 households. [...]
As part of its work with Octopus, the National Grid ESO’s control room has been testing how to send and receive signals from cars that are part of the vehicle-to-grid trial.
Eventually it is hoped these cars could be called upon to release charge when extra supply is needed, or in turn create demand by drawing power.

Ms Miller said that a typical electric car had an output of about seven kilowatt hours. 
At peak hours, or between 4pm and 7pm, a typical household would only use around three kilowatt hours of energy, leaving about four kilowatt hours of spare capacity.
That means one million electric cars could provide 4,000 megawatt hours to the grid at peak times – roughly the same as 5,000 onshore wind turbines, Ms Miller said. 
Full story
8) Biden gets inflation wake-up call as odds rise for GOP takeover
Bloomberg, 10 February 2022

President Joe Biden faces an even bigger battle to enact his spending proposals and retain his party’s control of Congress in the wake of a January inflation report that showed an unexpectedly large surge in the cost of living for Americans.

Just weeks after Biden claimed that consumer-price gains had hit a peak, a government report showed Thursday that inflation remains on the upswing -- sowing doubts about whether the White House fully has its arms around a crisis that may be broadening. Prices rose 7.5% last month from a year ago, the most in four decades.

Republicans leapt at the opportunity the data offered. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to lay blame on the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill passed without GOP support last March. “The severity of this inflation was directly fueled by the reckless, far-left spending spree that every single Democrat in this chamber voted to ram through,” he said.

And, underlining the challenge of Biden getting pieces of his expansive Build Back Better social-investment program passed, Senator Joe Manchin, the pivotal West Virginia Democrat essential to White House efforts, was also quick to weigh in.

“Inflation taxes are draining the hard-earned wages of every American,” Manchin said in a statement. “Congress and the administration must proceed with caution before adding more fuel to an economy already on fire.”

Directly addressing Biden’s economic agenda, Manchin said in an interview with West Virginia MetroNews radio, “The bottom line is right now we’re not in a financial position to do it.”

The data from the Labor Department showed American pocketbooks being squeezed at every turn, underscoring the political risk to the president. Rent costs increased the most in nearly two decades, food and energy prices surged, and the cost for household furnishings and health insurance rose by the most on record.
Full story
9) Senator Manchin casts more doubt on Biden’s green agenda with blast on inflation
Bloomberg, 10 February 2022

Senator Joe Manchin threw more cold water on President Joe Biden’s spending plans after inflation spiked to a 7.5% rate in January, the highest rate in four decades.

Manchin for months has been raising alarms about the impact of federal spending on inflation and in December pulled the plug on negotiations over Biden’s economic plans, citing rising prices as among his concerns.

He’s also been urging the Federal Reserve to act more aggressively to stem inflation, which he said is “causing real and severe economic pain that can no longer be ignored.”

“It’s beyond time for the Federal Reserve to tackle this issue head on, and Congress and the Administration must proceed with caution before adding more fuel to an economy already on fire,” the West Virginia Democrat said Thursday in a statement.

Manchin separately reiterated his support for raising taxes on corporations, the wealthy and lifting the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes to shore up the nation’s finances.

“Let’s get a tax bill that really puts us on the path to financial solvency,” he said in an interview with West Virginia MetroNews.

Biden and other Democratic leaders have argued the president’s plan, known as Build Back Better, would boost the economy and help tame inflation by cutting costs for prescription drugs and child care. But Manchin, a pivotal vote in the evenly divided Senate, has declared the plan as currently configured “dead.”

“The bottom line, you just got to get your trajectory going the right direction right now. We’re not going in the right direction with our debt, with inflation, with any of our monetary policy,” Manchin told reporters at the Capitol. “The most important thing we have to deal with is our fiscal responsibilities and basically our financial position that we’re in in our country.”
Full story
10) Worst-Case Climate Change Scenarios are highly implausible, argues new study
Ronald Bailey, Reason, 9 February 2022
Back in the bad old days of the 2010s, folks like David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (2019) warned, "The UN says we're on track to get to about 4 degrees or 4.3 degrees of warming by the end of the century if we continue as we are." Or you may remember author Gaia Vince asserting in 2019 in The Guardian that "experts agree that global heating of 4C by 2100 is a real possibility."

Before rushing to kit out your climate prepper bunker, you might want to take a look at the new study by University of Colorado climate change policy researcher Roger Pielke that confirms what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in August 2021, namely that the worst-case climate scenario is increasingly unlikely, and that while our future will be warmer, it will not be catastrophically so.
These dire predictions were based on calculations derived from a scenario of the future in which fossil fuel and agricultural emissions over the course of this century would boost atmospheric carbon dioxide to nearly 1,400 parts per million (ppm) by 2100. The current level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is just under 420 ppm, and that is up from the pre-industrial level of about 280 ppm.
Largely as a result of this increase in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, global average temperature has risen to around 1.1°C above the pre-industrial level.

Climate researchers labeled this worst-case scenario "RCP8.5," and it has been somewhat updated in the new Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6) on the physical science basis of climate change and given a new moniker of SSP5-8.5.
The IPCC's AR6 report, released in August 2021, now acknowledges that "the likelihood of high emission scenarios such as RCP8.5 or SSP5-8.5 is considered low in light of recent developments in the energy sector."
The recent developments in the energy sector to which the AR6 report refers are that fossil fuel usage is likely to be fairly flat for the next 50 years. One of the main ways that the RCP8.5 scenario goes off the rails of plausibility is that it projects a six-fold rise in global coal consumption per capita by 2100. Since future coal consumption is likely to remain flat or decline, that means that global carbon dioxide emissions will be "approximately in line with the medium RCP4.5, RCP6.0 and SSP2-4.5 scenarios."
For some years now, University of Colorado climate change policy researcher Roger Pielke, Jr., and his colleagues have been pointing out that the development of the global economy is highly unlikely to trace the high emissions pathways that led to the worst projected outcomes. Nevertheless, climate studies based on the RCP8.5 scenario are the ones being relied upon by people making their predictions of dire climate calamity by the end of this century.
Pielke and his colleagues have published a new study in the journal Environmental Research Letters that argues that these intermediate emissions scenarios are much more plausible than the high end scenarios that engendered fears of climate catastrophe.
"These scenarios project between 2 and 3 degrees C of warming by 2100, with a median of 2.2 degrees C," they conclude. They do, however, acknowledge that "these scenarios also indicate that the world is still off track from limiting 21st-century warming to 1.5 or below 2 degrees C."
These new calculations are based on the future energy use and energy policy projections found in the International Energy Agency's latest World Energy Outlook report. That report concludes that, instead of rising six-fold, global coal consumption will peak during this decade. On the other hand, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that world coal consumption will continue to rise slightly through 2050, but that's still far from the sixfold increase entailed in the RCP8.5 scenario.

To assess plausibility of most of the IPCC scenarios, Pielke and his colleagues ask which of the scenarios have projected carbon dioxide emissions growth errors and divergences of less than 0.1 or 0.3 percent per year over the observed growth rates between 2005 and 2020. That is, which scenarios tracked what actually happened with carbon dioxide emissions over the last fifteen years? Next they further parse how well the scenarios similarly track actual emissions beginning in 2005 through the IEA's projections of future emissions to 2050.

The chart above displays the plausibility of the various IPCC emissions scenarios by tracking how well they match likely cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide over the course of this century. The scenarios that closely track actual and projected IEA emissions are marked with blue dots (0.1 percent) and triangles (0.3 percent). 
"All of the plausible scenarios," explains Pielke in his Substack newsletter The Honest Broker, "envision less than 3 degrees Celsius total warming by 2100. In fact, the median projection is for 2100 warming of 2.2 degrees Celsius." He adds that that "is within spitting distance of the Paris Agreement goal of holding temperatures to a warming of 2.0 degrees Celsius."

Full post 
11) Population Implosion: Russian demographic losses tighten the noose around the Kremlin
Eurasia Daily Monitor, 10 February 2022
Population growth trends are destiny only over the long term, scholars have long insisted. But five years ago, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) demographer Nicholas Eberstadt warned in the research study “Russia in Decline” that the country’s demographic decline is imposing increasingly “unforgiving constraints” on the choices the Kremlin faces (see, September 13, 2016).

If anything, those constraints have become even narrower since that time. The Russian population contracted by more than a million in 2021, the most since 2000, for a variety of reasons and not limited to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Kremlin likes to insist and many in the West uncritically accept (Deutsche Welle—Russian service, January 30, 2021;, November 23, 2021; Vedomosti, December 26, 2021).
Indeed, it is these other causes that are likely to prove far more significant in the future, even when the pandemic is finally overcome.
The Russian Federal State Statistics Service’s (Rosstat) demographic figures released at the end of January 2022 are devastating. They show that deaths in Russia in 2021 exceeded births by 1,040,000, nearly double that measure in 2020. Thus, deaths grew year on year by 15.1 percent, to 2,440,000, and births fell 2.3 percent, to 1,400,000.
This gap is larger than in any year since 2000. It was partially compensated for by the influx of immigrants, but the combined figure still showed a net decline in the Russian population last year of 688,700. Additionally, the Russian government’s statistical arm projected that decreases among the indigenous population (not counting immigrants) would continue throughout the 2020s, albeit slowing over time. The first year Rosstat projects any growth—55,700—will come only in 2030. Given this agency’s history of boosterism and falsification, there is little likelihood that the predicted declines in the coming decade will be as small as the official statistics suggests or that growth will return at the levels forecast (, January 28, 2022).
The fact that the COVID-19 pandemic hit Russia and many other countries so hard has enabled the Kremlin to insist, often with success, that the mortality numbers reflect coronavirus-related deaths alone. In other words, the Russian leadership exploits the pandemic in the same way it uses World War II—as a universal moral solvent to distract attention from other problems and absolve itself and its predecessors of any responsibility for the disaster.
But Russian demographers, like Vladimir Kozlov, and investigative journalists, like Yevgeny Chernyshov argue, that COVID-19 is only one factor among many as far as Russia’s demographic decline is concerned. They point to the overall aging population, which naturally produces both more deaths and fewer women in the prime child-bearing age cohorts; and they highlight the radical cutbacks in Russian medical care as a result of President Vladimir Putin’s healthcare optimization program. Further (and related) culprits include declining standards of living, especially among those who choose to have children, as well as pessimism among Russians about their futures, a key factor in decision-making about whether to grow their families (Deutsche Welle—Russian service, January 30, 2021;, November 23, 2021).
Vedomosti journalist Aleksandr Sokolov puts the latest statistical figures in a broader context by examining Russian demographic trends in the 30 years since the Soviet Union disintegrated (Vedomosti, December 26, 2021). The baseline for his judgments is a 1989 estimate, prepared by Rosstat’s Soviet predecessor, Goskomstat.
That agency projected that by 2015, the population of Russia would rise to 165,700,000. In fact, it did not come close. Moreover, Sokolov argues, if one uses Goskomstat’s demographic growth assumptions and extends the projection to the end of 2021, there should have been 169,400,000 people in Russia—and if one adds Crimea, 171,900,000 (, 1991). In fact, there were only 145,600,000 Russians last year, or some 26,300,000 fewer than predicted, a shortfall greater than the 19,800,000 Rosstat says the Russian Federation lost during World War II, in both cases from greater death rates and lower birthrates (, 2020).
Obviously, the million Russians who have died from the coronavirus form a part of post-Soviet Russia’s demographic decline and shortfall; but they make up a remarkably small part—not only overall, that is, if one includes the extremely negative figures from the 1990s, but in recent years as well. Some experts, like Alla Ivanova of the Academy of Sciences, have posited that the 1989 projections were overly optimistic because they reflected the improvements in health brought about by Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign, whereas those improvements were reversed when that campaign was scrapped.
Earlier estimates expected Soviet birth rates to gradually decline over decades due to the so-called second demographic revolution, marked by increasing urbanization. But, as Ivanova noted, those predictions failed to foresee how quickly and sharply post-communist Russian society would undergo collapse as well as further delay child birth in the period of turbulence after 1991 (Vedomosti, December 26, 2021).
Since the end of Soviet times, Russia has experienced what experts call “the Russian cross,” with declining fertility rates and rising mortality rates: the former reflects modernization and the latter the aging of the population, problems in health care, and declining standards of living. Moreover, after 1991, Russia went through another “echo of the Great Patriotic War,” as the grandchildren of the small wartime generation entered prime child-bearing age groups and, thus, there were fewer women having fewer children. This had the effect of multiplying the two factors by each other.

Given the improved economy of the first decade of this century, economist Igor Nikolayev writes, Russia was able to boost life expectancies by radically cutting infant mortality, from 15.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 4.4 per 1,000 in 2020. Yet now that decline has stalled or even been reversed, with the figure rising to 4.5 in 2021. Consequently, while older Russians will continue to die, life expectancies will fall because they will not benefit from declines in infant mortality, which exercise a disproportionate influence on this demographic indicator (Moscow Echo, December 21, 2021).

The Kremlin is increasingly worried about these trends not only because of their impact on the economy—there may soon not be enough working-age Russians to boost economic growth—but also because of their implications for national security, with large parts of Russia becoming depopulated.
As Putin recently put it, “146,000,000 people for such an enormous territory [as the Russian Federation] is completely insufficient” (TASS, December 23, 2021). Nevertheless, the Kremlin leader has not come up with any policy that would radically change the grave pattern Russian government statisticians and demographers say is becoming ever more dominant.

The London-based Net Zero Watch is a campaign group set up to highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies. The Net Zero Watch newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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