Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #321

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org The Science and Environmental Policy Project

By Ken Haapala, President

Sea Level Hockey-Sticks? Last week’s TWTW discussed the lawsuit by Rhode Island against oil companies, and the claims that dire increases in sea level rise will occur this century. These claims are like those made by Oakland, San Francisco, and New York City. To establish any observational basis for these claims, this week’s TWTW will further explore their sources.

The technical report, “The State of Narraganset Bay and Its Watershed. 2017,” is instructive. Figure 1 (p. 75) and Figure 2 (p. 76) show the decades-long sea level trends in Newport and Providence, RI, of 2.78 +/- 0.16 mm per year (1.1 inches per decade) and 2.25 +/- 0.25 mm per year (0.9 inches per decade), respectively, from the established NOAA publication “Tides and Currents.” Then, Figure 3 (p. 78) shows NOAA projections of a rise of up to 11 feet by the end of the century (extreme case)! How did a rise of 10 inches per century, with an error of about 10%, turn in to rise of 11 feet by the end of the century (280 mm per century to 3352 mm per century)? This increase in rate of rise of more than 10 times that being measured.

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Children’s Climate Case

By Eric Worrall – Re-Blogged From WUWT

Don’t mention the “N” word – top economist Joseph Stiglitz has urged the US government to impose economically painful taxes to penalise fossil fuels, to facilitate a switch to renewables and energy efficiency technologies which have not yet been developed.

Nobel-Winning Economist to Testify in Children’s Climate Lawsuit

Joseph Stiglitz writes in a court brief that fossil fuel-based economies impose ‘incalculable’ costs on society and shifting to clean energy will pay off.

BY GEORGINA GUSTIN
JUL 11, 2018

One of the world’s top economists has written an expert court report that forcefully supports a group of children and young adults who have sued the federal government for failing to act on climate change.

Joseph Stiglitz, who was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for economics in 2001 and has written extensively about environmental economics and climate change, makes an economic case that the costs of maintaining a fossil fuel-based economy are “incalculable,” while transitioning to a lower-carbon system will cost far less.

The government, he writes, should move “with all deliberate speed” toward alternative energy sources.

Stiglitz has submitted briefs for Supreme Court cases—and normally charges $2,000 an hour for legal advice, the report says—but he wrote this 50-page report pro bono at the request of the attorneys representing the children. It was filed in federal district court in Oregon on June 28.

Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11072018/joseph-stiglitz-kids-climate-change-lawsuit-global-warming-costs-economic-impact

Although the report repeatedly mentions and references former NASA GISS director James Hansen, who is a fan of nuclear power, Stiglitz himself does not directly mention the nuclear option, instead urging carbon taxes and “support” for the development of renewable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Moving the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels is both feasible and beneficial, especially over the next 30 years (as technological and scientific evidence discussed below makes clear). Defendants could facilitate this transition with standard economic tools for dealing with externalities, for example a tax or levy on carbon (a price on the externality) and the elimination of subsidies on fossil-fuel production. Relatedly, decisions concerning the transition off of fossil fuels can be reached more systematically and efficiently by revising current government discounting practices, the methodology by which future costs are compared to present costs. Current and historical government decision making practices based on incorrect discount rates lead to inefficient and inequitable outcomes that impose undue burdens on Youth Plaintiffs and future generations.

There are many reasons to be optimistic that emissions could be curtailed further than previously thought. These benefits are a result of continued technological development in the renewables sector. Because of technological improvements, the costs of renewables and storage are decreasing. The price of solar panels has dropped by more than half in recent years (80 percent reduction from 2008 to 2016). In 2016 alone, the average dollar capital expenditure per megawatt for solar photovoltaics and wind dropped by over 10 percent. As these technologies continue to improve and the efficiency increases, while manufacturing costs drop, these technologies will more easily substitute for existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

With the oil crises of the 1970s, recognition of the risks of dependence on oil was developed (though these risks were markedly different from those with which we are concerned today). Even then, it was clear that there were viable alternatives, and with the appropriate allocation of further resources to R&D, it is likely that these alternatives would have been even more competitive.

Read more: https://biotech.law.lsu.edu/blog/document_cw_01-2.pdf

In my opinion there is a lot wrong with Stiglitz’s effort – surprising given his reputation.

Stiglitz seems to be committing the economic sin of treating future projections of technological advances and climate impacts as if they were high confidence.

Extrapolating renewable costs into the future is risky. Renewables may never achieve anything resembling cost parity with existing technology, or even large scale viability. In 2014, Google researchers discovered to their horror there was no viable path to a 100% renewable future using anything remotely resembling current technology. Betting the future economic wellbeing of the nation on solving serious problems which may not be solvable is a wild gamble.

Stiglitz claims substantial fossil fuel “subsidies” are arising due to inadequate treatment of externalities. Externalities are costs which don’t show up on your balance sheet. For example if your business keeps costs down by dumping trash on your neighbour’s property, you aren’t paying the true cost of dealing with with the trash – the cost of dealing with the trash is an externality, because it doesn’t show up on your balance sheet, at least until your neighbour figures out who has been dumping trash on their property.

But the claimed externality costs of CO2 only apply if CO2 emissions cause future harm. We’re not talking about trash which causes an immediate smelly mess, we’re talking about an invisible trace gas which may or may not cause a future problem.

As climate scientists themselves occasionally admit, the climate models which predict future harm are not scientifically falsifiable – they cannot be adequately tested except by waiting to see if they do a good job of predicting the future. Older models are not doing a good job of predicting future climate – as the controversy over the failings of James Hansen’s models demonstrates, relying on expert opinion in place of scientific falsifiability simply isn’t good enough.

Stiglitz solutions, even if they were viable, would be economically painful. Carbon taxes hurt poor people worst of all – a fact Stiglitz admits, though he qualifies his admission with claims that short term harm is worth the future benefit.

Nevertheless short term harm is no laughing matter, particularly when the harm is visited on society’s most vulnerable. You would want to be absolutely certain of the desperate need to impose increased hardship on people who are already struggling, you would want to thoroughly explore possible alternatives to hurting poor people, before concluding hurting the poor was the only available option.

Which is why Stiglitz’s omission of direct mentions of nuclear power is puzzling.

France converted 75% of their electricity to nuclear power in the 1970s. They kept costs down by standardising and mass producing nuclear plant components, and reprocessing nuclear fuel. French electricity is affordable, dispatchable and produces very low CO2 emissions. The cost of low emission French power doesn’t hurt poor people.

According to the EIA, US power plants emitted 1744 million tons of CO2 in 2017. Nuclear power currently produces just under 20% of US electricity. Copying the 1970s French nuclear programme, raising nuclear power to 75% of US electricity production, would reduce power plant CO2 emissions to 1744 / 80% x (100% – 75%) = 545 million tons per annum, saving over a billion tons per annum of CO2 emissions.

For shame Joseph Stiglitz. If CO2 is the serious issue Stiglitz claims, ignoring the possibility of avoiding harm to poor people by converting US electricity production to affordable nuclear power seems a very curious oversight.

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White House Reviewing Repeal Obama’s EPA CO2 Regulations

By Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller – Re-Blogged From WUWT

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its proposal to repeal the Obama administration’s global warming regulation on power plants to the White House for review.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received EPA’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP) on Wednesday, according to the office’s website. A repeal is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

 

The Obama administration imposed the CPP in 2015 with the goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The CPP would have forced more coal plants to shut down, but a coalition of states, businesses and unions got the Supreme Court to issue a stay in early 2016.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the agency would begin the process of repealing the CPP in October, but Pruitt will not be around to see the repeal effort through as he recently resigned amid a flurry of ethics investigations.

Pruitt spearheaded state resistance to the CPP while attorney general of Oklahoma. Former Senate staffer and coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler has taken over as acting administrator. It’s not clear when President Donald Trump plans on nominating Pruitt’s successor.

Wheeler is not expected to deviate much from Pruitt’s agenda. The EPA had already settled on a plan to replace the CPP with a less stringent rule on CO2 emissions before Pruitt’s departure.

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Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #320

Brought to You by www.SEPP.org The Science and Environmental Policy Project

By Ken Haapala, President

Sea Level Rise – What is Measured? Last week’s TWTW had an interview with Richard Lindzen a with statement questioned by some readers. The paragraph with the statement is:

“Since 1979 we have been able to measure sea level itself with satellites. However, the accuracy of such measurements depends critically on such factors as the precise shape of the earth. While the satellites show slightly greater rates of sea level rise, the inaccuracy of the measurement renders the difference uncertain. What the proponents of alarm have done is to accept the tide gauge data until 1979, but assume that the satellite data is correct after that date, and that the difference in rates constitutes ‘acceleration.’ They then assume acceleration will continue leading to large sea level rises by the end of this century. It is hard to imagine that such illogical arguments would be tolerated in other fields.” [Boldface added]

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Meet the Green Nuclear Engineering Graduates who Want to Save the Planet from Climate Change

By Eric Worrall – Re-Blogged From http://www.WattsUpWithThat.com

According to NPR, since 2001 there has been a surge in young people graduating with nuclear engineering qualifications, who are driven by the desire to convince their fellow greens to embrace the nuclear path to a zero carbon future.

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant. By marya from San Luis Obispo, USAFlickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

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The Land That Global Warming Forgot

By David Archibald – Re-Blogged From http://www.WattsUpWithThat.com

For the first time a major political party has gone into an election with an anti-green platform and won big time. Specifically the Conservative Party platform for the Ontario election on 7th June promised:

  1. This means no carbon tax or cap-and-trade schemes.
  2. Stop sweetheart deals by scrapping the Green Energy Act.

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