In this newsletter:
1) 21st century warming may not be due to greenhouse gasses, leading climate scientists say
Net Zero Watch, 16 December 2022
2) Final 2022 hurricane season results disappoint NOAA’s gloomy forecast
CNS News, 14 December 2022
3) Green Britain: Warm banks help thousands survive cold snap as 7 million households fall into fuel poverty
Financial Times, 15 December 2022
4) Green Britain: Biggest North Sea producer refuses to drill new oil wells because of windfall tax
Daily Express, 15 December 2022
Bloomberg, 15 December 2022
Daily Mail, 14 December 2022
10) Henry Olsen: Why the E.U.’s carbon border tax is a very bad idea
Net Zero Watch, 16 December 2022
Dr David Whitehouse, Science editor
Global surface temperature is, and always has been, the key climate parameter. Whatever is happening to the Earth’s climate balance, it must, sooner or later, be reflected in the global annual average temperature, and not just in regional variations. But therein lies what is to some an inconvenience as the changes in the global temperature this century are open to differing interpretations including the suggestion that increases in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are not needed to explain the changes we have seen in the last 20 years or so.
It’s a conclusion that many would dismiss as coming from climate “sceptics,” or downright deniers. But what if it’s the view of scientists from two of the world’s leading institutes researching climate change; the University of Oxford and the US National Center for Atmospheric Research. Then it must be taken seriously and not dismissed offhand.
It is important research because it is the trend in the increase of global temperature caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions that is most important variable for policymakers considering the scale and timescale of action in the coming decades. However, this vital parameter is uncertain because recent decades have shown that were are living through a period of considerable natural climate variability.
Aerosol Emissions, the real culprit?
Thus, a new study published in the Journal of Climate suggests the effect of carbon dioxide this century might be small if not undetectable when compared to natural climate variability. The researchers contend that recent temperature trends might indicate that there is no detectable increase in global temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions.
While this suggestion is interesting it must be said that the researcher’s get themselves in a muddle when estimating temperature trends this century. On the one hand they acknowledge the existence of the global temperature hiatus between 2000 – 2014, but on the other hand they do not properly distinguish the effects of the natural El Nino events that have taken place in the past seven years. This is why they conclude there might have been an acceleration in global temperature increase over this period.
They say that most of increase is not due to greenhouse gasses but to aerosol emission reductions. The combustion of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gasses but it also causes pollution that cools the Earth, offsetting any warming. This is good news for public health as airborne particles kills several million people a year, but it also accelerates global warming.
Their assessment is that aerosol emissions have contributed to an increase in the rate of anthropogenic warming since 2000 although they have a large uncertainty. When considering estimates of the amount of warming due to aerosol reduction along with natural climate variability they find a solution with all the post-2000 temperature trends being due to natural variability alone.
They say (p 4283) it’s a credible hypothesis that global temperature changes since 2000 could be “arising largely from internal variability.”
2) Final 2022 hurricane season results disappoint NOAA’s gloomy forecast
CNS News, 14 December 2022
Hurricane season, which runs from June through November annually, turned out to be pretty average this year, NOAA’s end-of-season report reveals.
There were just two “major” hurricanes (categories 3-5), below the annual average of three and less than NOAA’s prediction that there would be 3-6. The eight total hurricanes (categories 1-5) this year falls dead-center in NOAA’s forecasted range. And, the total count of named storms (which had hurricane-potential) barely hit the lowest number in NOAA’s forecasted range:
* Hurricanes Forecast: 6-10; actual: 8; average year: 7
* Major Hurricanes Forecast: 3-6; actual: 2; average year: 3
* Named Storms Forecast: 14-21, actual: 14; average year: 14
Two of this year’s hurricanes made landfall, with one hitting twice. NOAA does not forecast the number of hurricanes that will hit a U.S. coast.
Despite the mundane final results, NOAA characterizes the 2022 hurricane season as “unique”:
“This unique season was defined by a rare mid-season pause in storms that scientists preliminarily believe was caused by increased wind shear and suppressed atmospheric moisture high over the Atlantic Ocean.”
After June through August proved to be the slowest start to a hurricane season in 30 years, NOAA issued a minor revision to its forecast:
“NOAA forecasters have slightly decreased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 60% (lowered from the outlook issued in May, which predicted a 65% chance).”
“NOAA still expects above-normal Atlantic hurricane season,” the revised forecast insisted.
But, not all experts have been quick to embrace NOAA’s gloomy forecast, or to attribute any increase in hurricane activity to climate change.
“[D]espite what you may have heard, Atlantic hurricanes are not becoming more frequent. In fact, the frequency of hurricanes making landfall in the continental U.S. has declined slightly since 1900, Hoover Institution Visiting Fellow Bjorn Lomborg noted in a piece published by The Wall Street Journal.
As Hot Air has reported, the “Number and strength of hurricanes stubbornly fail to increase.”
“There is no global trend in the number of tropical storms or hurricanes during the past 50+ years,” Meteorologist Dr. Ryan Maue agrees.
As for the effect of climate change, a study by the Global Warming Policy Foundation concluded that “[T]here is little evidence that global warming has resulted in more hurricanes, or more intense ones in recent years.”
“On the contrary,” the study finds: “available evidence confirms that hurricane and major hurricane frequency has been similar in many prior periods.”
Nonetheless, national media, like Reuters, that publish apocalyptic warnings about climate change, steadfastly continue to promote claims that blame climate change for hurricane frequency and intensity.
3) Green Britain: Warm banks help thousands survive cold snap as millions of households fall into fuel poverty
Financial Times, 15 December 2022
Until a month ago, Julie, a single mother with three children, was just about making ends meet. But as the UK experiences its first cold spell of the winter, she found herself turning to her local community hub in south London for help.
Most days after doing the school run she comes to the Oasis Centre, a “social living room” set up in the capital to help those struggling with their food and fuel bills. “I’ve never known my flat to be this cold,” she said.
With a weather front this week bringing widespread snow and temperatures as low as -15C to the UK, local councils and charities across the country are providing so-called “warmth banks” to help families caught in a growing cost of living crisis.
“Everyone who comes will see it through their own lens. We don’t call it a warm centre because it’s not just a warm centre,” said Steve Chalke, a Baptist minister who founded the Oasis Trust in 1985. The charity now operates in 36 communities across the UK and in the last six months it has given away over one hundred tons of food.
With the war in Ukraine causing a sharp increase in energy prices, the UK government has moved to cushion the impact on families. In October, the Treasury launched an energy support scheme that provided a one-off £400 energy discount for all households and will cap energy bills for typical households at £2,500 this winter, rising to £3,000 in April.
However, for many, these measures are not enough. Even with government support, some 6.7mn UK households are now in fuel poverty, according to estimates from National Energy Action, a pressure group — 2.2mn more than a year ago.
The Daily Telegraph, 16 December 2022
Britain’s largest North Sea oil producer is refusing to bid for new UK oil and gas wells and reviewing its investments in response to the Government’s tax raid on the sector.
Harbour Energy said it had decided not to bid for new blocks in the ongoing North Sea licensing round, the first since 2019, after the Government imposed a windfall tax on oil and gas producers earlier in the year.
The company, which has just been demoted to the FTSE 250 after a share price slide, said it was also reviewing investment levels.
Harbour Energy said: “As a result of the extension of the energy profits levy announced in the Government’s Autumn Statement, we are reviewing investment levels and company-wide capital allocation.
“This review is ongoing and, in the meantime, we have decided not to submit bids as part of this licensing process.
“We have good opportunities within our existing North Sea and International portfolios, and these will be our focus at this time.”
The move is a blow for the Government's ambitions to boost domestic energy production, amid heightened concern about the security of supply.
The North Sea licensing round was launched in October, with then business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg saying it was “more important than ever we make the most of sovereign energy resources”.
Since then, a windfall levy on oil companies, which was first introduced in May, has been increased to take the overall tax rate on North Sea producers from 40pc to 75pc until 2028.
The windfall tax was introduced to help pay for subsidised household energy bills amid soaring oil and gas prices. Higher prices have handed higher profits to fossil fuel producers, which proponents of the windfall tax have argue justify the special levy.
However, the industry has warned it risks curbing investment. TotalEnergies, the French oil giant, has announced plans to cut spending in the North Sea by £100m next year due to the tax.The FTSE 100 oil giant Shell has also said it is reviewing plans to invest £25bn in Britain’s energy system due to the tax.
Daily Express, 15 December 2022
As Rishi Sunak leads Britain into a new winter of discontent he is faced with an array of crises - 1970s levels of strikes, cost of living, a war in Europe, massive public debt, and a near mutinous Tory parliamentary party.
But the one nobody is discussing is the real possibility the lights could go out. Two stories this week should set the alarm bells ringing. The first was that Drax had been ordered to put its (mothballed) two coal-fired power stations in North Yorkshire on standby.
The second came yesterday when a power cut left 2,800 homes in Shetland without electricity. In one of the coldest snaps in recent history where energy use has been peaking, they underpinned a briefing received by Express.co.uk that Britain is teetering on the edge of a catastrophe.
The reality is that Whitehall sources and former ministers have confirmed to the Daily Express the well-intentioned headlong pursuit for Net Zero carbon emissions has left the UK in a precarious position.
The Express has learnt that in his 48-day tenure as Business and Energy Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg requested an inventory of where Britain’s energy was coming from, how much was supplied and what the margins were.
According to sources, civil servants were remarkably reluctant to provide their minister with the information he wanted.
In fact, it took him around two weeks of no doubt very polite daily badgering to be provided with the information. The results, it is understood, were grim.
According to someone close to Mr Rees-Mogg, his conclusion was: “If the lights don’t go out this winter or next it will be more luck than judgement.”
His assessment, confirmed by a Whitehall source, was the margins of available energy supply to need were so low that “just one major problem would be enough for the lights to go out.”
A major problem being one of the big supplies of energy being unexpectedly blocked out such as the liquid gas coming from Europe.
It is also understood that he was bewildered as to why one of his recent predecessors Alok Sharma’s stunt in August 2021 of pressing the button to blow up the Ferrybridge coal power station’s boiler room and two chimney stacks in Yorkshire.
One senior MP’s assessment of Mr Sharma, who then went on to be President of COP26, was “decent man, but he swallowed the [Net Zero] religion.”
Much of the issue about energy has focussed on its cost and the problems of supply from Russia ending. But, of course, supply and cost are themselves linked. An abundance of supply in anything makes it cheaper, simple market economics.
The issue is that renewables are not meeting demand. When the wind blows too hard the turbines have to be turned off and anyway the government is taxing renewable sources heavily now as well so they are less than cost-effective.
This is, of course, why this week the UK and US signed a deal to go ahead with nuclear power. There is a major project in the offing to build small reactors (probably made by Rolls Royce) which could provide the UK with the electricity it needs. But all this takes time.
The quick way to deal with supply is through carbon-based fuels. This is why Mr Rees-Mogg was so keen to push for fracking and exploration of gas reserves in the North Sea. But he also wanted to explore using coal again.
Currently, the UK imports gas and coal instead of using its own supplies, something the former minister considered to be “madness” not least because transportation alone increases the carbon footprint.
But Mr Sunak’s government has pulled back from fracking.
For those who remember the 1970s and power cuts, it might be time to start reinvesting in candles if Mr Rees-Mogg’s fears stand a chance of coming true.
We all know, though, how voters treat governments who cannot keep the lights on.
If the Conservatives really do hope for a comeback in the polls, they cannot survive a Shetland-style energy blackout.
6) Global coal use set to reach fresh record
Financial Times, 16 December 2022
The trend flies in the face of pledges made at the UN climate talks last year, when 194 countries pledged to phase down their use of coal to curb emissions.
Coal consumption will rise by 1.2 per cent this year compared to the previous year, eclipsing the previous record set in 2013, according to a report out today from the International Energy Agency, the Paris-based energy watchdog.
“Coal demand is stubborn and will likely reach an all-time high this year, pushing up global emissions,” said Keisuke Sadamori, the IEA’s director of energy markets and security.
He expects coal use to stay high next year and in 2024 because of growing demand from emerging economies such as India, China and south-east Asia.
“The world is close to a peak in fossil fuel use, with coal set to be the first to decline, but we are not there yet,” he added.
As the world has grappled with the energy shocks triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, concerns over energy security have forced countries that had once pledged to quit coal to burn more of it instead.
In Europe, coal consumption will rise in 2022 for the second year in a row as the reduction in gas supplies from Russia and corresponding high gas prices have made power generators rely more on coal for heat and power.
The rise in global coal use comes in spite of record prices for thermal coal, the kind burnt in power stations, which hit highs in March and June.
As European countries scrambled to build up enough coal before winter, big coal exporters such as Colombia, South Africa and Australia have struggled to meet the demand.
The three largest producers — China, India and Indonesia — will all reach production records in 2022, according to the IEA. Domestic coal consumption there was also a big driver of the growth in coal use this year.
Indonesia recently struck a $20bn investment deal to increase its use of renewables and has pledged to keep emissions to reaching a peak by 2030. India has set a target for net zero emissions by 2070, while increasing coal consumption in the coming years.
7) Coal demand may outpace supply growth in coming years
Platts, 15 December 2022
“The climate hysteria is increasingly restricting institutional funds and banks from investing in the coal sector, leading to a situation where coal demand would rise but supply would be limited, hence prices could remain elevated at close to 2022 levels,” Dileep Srivastava, independent director and corporate secretary at Bumi Resources, told S&P Global Commodity Insights in an interview.
The supply-side concerns come after 2022 saw unfavorable weather in countries like Indonesia and Australia hurting output, while the change in traditional trade flows post the war stays on — all of which took global thermal coal prices to record levels this year. Meanwhile, additional demand from Europe, which sanctioned Russian coal, could eat up supply in Asia as well, particularly for high-CV coal.
While global thermal coal prices have eased to some extent in the last couple of months as supply-side concerns waned, they remain at levels higher than the average of last two years.
Bloomberg, 15 December 2022
California will sharply reduce the incentive that encouraged more than a million homeowners and businesses to install rooftop solar panels and cemented the Golden State as a green energy pioneer.
State regulators unanimously voted Thursday to cut the compensation homeowners get for their systems’ excess electricity by about 75%.
The existing program pays solar customers the full retail electricity price for that excess power, a perk that some state officials say disproportionately hurts low-income residents who are less likely to own solar panels. The change won’t go into effect until April and won’t impact existing rooftop solar customers.
"This decision is more equitable than the status quo," said Alice Reynolds, president of the California Public Utilities Commission who is Governor Gavin Newsom’s former energy advisor and was appointed to the PUC by the governor. She said there was a need to reduce rising power rates from the rooftop subsidy and prod more solar users to install batteries.
The move is a blow to rooftop installers and financiers — and risks slowing the growth of an industry that Newsom calls “essential to California’s future” to meet the state’s ambitious goal to becoming carbon neutral by 2045. It also marks a significant shift in policy for a state that takes pride in being at the vanguard of the energy transition, with implications that could reverberate well beyond California’s borders.
The program has been a key driver for several solar installers and financing companies, including SolarCity, which Tesla Inc. acquired in 2016, as well as Sunrun Inc., SunPower Corp. and Sunnova Energy International Inc. About 1.5 million California homes and businesses have solar systems with a capacity of more than 12,000 megawatts of renewable power, or the equivalent of 12 nuclear reactors. Sunrun's shares slipped almost 1% in late trading Thursday.
The vote came after regulators heard more than three hours of public comment with most speakers voicing opposition to the cut, saying it would run counter to the state’s climate goals.
9) Republicans introduce bill to crack down on ESG guidelines at NASA and the Pentagon
Daily Mail, 14 December 2022
On Wednesday, he is introducing legislation that would prevent federal agencies from requiring contract applicants to disclose the amount of greenhouse gases they emit.
It is part of a push to prevent federal agencies promoting green energy or 'woke causes' in the same way that investment firms such as BlackRock are basing decisions on ESG principles.
It comes after NASA, the Pentagon and the General Service Administration announced a new rule requiring contractors to release emissions data and set emissions targets.
'The joint rule proposed by the Defense Department, NASA, and the General Service Administration is the latest effort by the Biden administration to push its leftist ESG agenda at the expense of the American people,' he told the Daily Caller.
'The ESG Rule Prevention Act will restore the Constitution's separation of powers, promote competition and ensure that material factors like product quality and efficiency are prioritized ahead of left-wing social causes in the federal procurement marketplace.'
Republicans are keeping a keen eye on Biden administration efforts to include emissions targets in rulemaking.
House Financial Services Committee members have flagged, for example, the way National Economic Council chairman Brian Deese headed the sustainable investing division at the BlackRock.
And they have kept up attacks on investment firms they say are putting 'woke' principles before ensuring a return for investors.
Last week North Carolina state treasurer Dale Folwell, financial chief of the state's $111.4 billion pension fund, demanded the resignation of BlackRock's chief executive.
Folwell said that the North Carolina Retirement System had about $14 billion invested through the company.
He accused Larry Fink of being in 'pursuit of a political agenda' and added: 'A focus on ESG is not a focus on returns and potentially could force us to violate our own fiduciary duty.'
Earlier this week, it emerged that Texas state lawmakers subpoenaed BlackRock's records in a probe into its focus on ESG.
The ESG movement, and BlackRock's involvement, has recently become a rallying cry for Republicans on Capitol Hill, who are pushing for legislation to protect retirement and investment accounts from asset managers who prioritize ESG.
Republicans are ramping up their bid to challenge the Biden administration's policy to allow employers to consider green and social investments in 401ks.
GOP members of both the House and Senate are bringing forward legislation to protect retirement and investment accounts.
The Washington Post, 14 December 2022
Unlike with normal tariffs, the E.U. will not apply equal charges to the same sorts of goods; instead, E.U. member nations will estimate how much carbon was directly or indirectly consumed in the product’s creation. That means firms in nations with more carbon-intensive energy consumption will pay higher rates than those that rely more on renewable energy sources.
The intent is simple: Use the market power of wealthy nations to push other parts of the world to invest in cleaner sources of energy. Nations that comply will see their firms rewarded with de facto preferential trade treatment; those that do not will face a price disadvantage. As a result, proponents argue, developing economies will be incentivized to bite the bullet and make the changes European nations want.
But this seems to be a matter of hope triumphing over experience. Many developing nations use coal to generate electricity because it is significantly cheaper than other options. And they might not have the money to finance a rapid switch-over to fuels that emit less greenhouse gas, such as natural gas. Many nations might choose to face the economic costs the tariffs will impose rather than expend scarce capital for new — and possibly more expensive — energy plants.
It will likely be even harder for them to switch to renewable power sources such as wind or solar, which are capital intensive and often require large public subsidies to remain economically viable. Rich nations can afford that, but places such as Bangladesh probably cannot afford it at the scale needed. That means serious energy transition in the developing world would likely take large quantities of Western capital. That’s not likely to happen, especially if government money or guarantees are needed to spur that investment. Voters are not likely to tax themselves to pay foreigners to compete with them.
These considerations likely mean the E.U.’s tariffs will slowly encourage firms to produce energy-intensive goods in the developed world. That on-shoring might help workers in those countries with the return of relatively high-paying jobs. But it also means consumers in those countries will pay more for previously imported goods, as labor and energy costs cause prices to rise. This transfer of wealth from one class to another will be difficult to manage, especially if it happens as rapidly as climate activists hope.
Developing countries will feel lots of pain as a result. Jobs that once pulled their citizens out of poverty will disappear. Globalization unsettled the developed world, but it was a boon for poorer nations. In 1990, more than a third of the world lived in extreme poverty. By 2015, that rate had fallen to less than 10 percent. Slowing or even reversing globalization will stop this progress in its tracks.
Don’t expect the leaders of these nations to go along quietly. They will look for new markets to sell products — and that’s where geopolitics comes in. China is large and rich enough to step at least somewhat into the breach. Unless China also imposes carbon-adjusted border charges, many nations will start to curry favor with it as essentially the only country that could help them. That is not in the West’s interest.
U.S. global strategy must focus on weakening and isolating China as long as it pursues its aggressive policies and remains a tightly controlled authoritarian state. Joining the E.U. in imposing green tariffs would likely have the opposite effect, strengthening China’s appeal to nations that often are not firmly democratic to begin with. It might even lead to worse results for the climate if it creates an economic bloc of countries that does not adhere to Western climate goals.
This is why rapid progress on global decarbonization is so difficult to achieve. The E.U.’s approach might be climate-wise, but it’s freedom foolish. President Biden should resist the temptation to follow Europe’s example. Instead, he should focus on the only things that can stave off the worst effects of climate change without robbing our way of life: the rapid spread of Western ideals and climate-friendly technology.