When it comes to climate change, there are worlds apart between Germany’s aspiring Jamaica Coalition partners. It is all about coal and it is not certain the divide can be bridged. No other subject in the exploratory talks about a possible ‘Jamaica’ coalition government in Berlin is as controversial as the subject of climate protection. If they do not catch up quickly, ‘Jamaica’ itself will be threatened by “dark doldrums”. And then all bets are off. —Augsburger Allgemeine, 4 November 2017
Preliminary talks to form a coalition government in Germany have made little progress with positions on climate and energy remaining polarized, especially between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposed junior partners — the pro-business FDP and the Greens. With German power bill payers still committed to pay some Eur400 billion ($464 billion) to operators of renewable power plants, the scope for additional direct government investment is limited, with Merkel’s conservatives keen to avoid rising energy costs for industry and households. —Platts, 3 November 2017
Germany’s green energy transition is destroying vast swathes of nature, agricultural lands and forests. In the name of climate policy, rare birds and endangered species are being killed while much of the countryside is transformed into industrial parks. Michael Miersch from the Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung recently gave a talk in the House of Lords about renewable energy’s devastating impact on wildlife and the environment in Germany and other parts of the world. —Global Warming Policy Foundation, 3 November 2017
When the wind is not blowing and the sky is overcast by dark clouds, wind turbines and solar panels cannot generate any electricity. Energy bottlenecks are threatening. Business organisations warn that such “dark doldrums” could trigger complete shutdown in Germany’s industrial heartland. Coal-fired power plants, thus, are indispensable for a long time to come. The Green Party, however, is calling for a coal exit as quickly as possible to protect the global climate and demands that the 20 dirtiest power plants should be switched off immediately.
No other subject in the exploratory talks about a possible ‘Jamaica’ coalition government in Berlin is as controversial as the subject of climate protection. During the second round of climate talks on Thursday, Christian Democrats, Liberals and Greens clashed yet again. According to participants, Armin Laschet (CDU) and Toni Hofreiter (Greens) brawled particularly hard.
As Prime Minister of coal-rich North Rhine-Westphalia Laschet is a sort of patron saint of the country’s coal miners. The belligerent party leader Hofreiter, on the other hand, has repeatedly emphasized that the Greens would never join a coalition government “without a coal exit.” The Liberal Party (FDP), in turn, is concerned about Germany’s energy security and its economic competitiveness.
In short, these are most difficult conditions for a common government position. At least Angela Merkel, once praised as “climate chancellor”, has made it clear that nothing will shake Germany’s climate targets. So far, the common commitment to the Paris Agreement has been the only, scant minimum consensus.
But when it comes to the question of how much CO2 Germany needs to cut in coming years, opinions differ widely. The Greens seem to start from targets three times higher than those of the CDU and the FDP. Thus, while all agree that climate change is a problem, there is no agreement about how big it is – and certainly not about how it can be solved.
When, on Thursday, Anton Hofreiter (Greens) would not deviate one inch from his demand for a complete coal exit as soon as possible, Armin Laschet went ballistic. The Greens, he argued, probably accept that energy bottlenecks would be offset by electricity from dirty coal-fired power plants in Eastern Europe or French nuclear power plants.
Climate protection, security of supply, electricity prices, the interests of the coal regions – all this contentious issues will be difficult to reconcile. However, Christian Democrats and Liberals also know that the Greens must present successes to their party base on the coal issue in order to gain its members’ approval of joining a coalition government.
The CDU, for example, is now saying that it would not stand in the way of “a climate-oriented reduction of coal-fired power generation”. Although a radical coal exit is rejected, deadline solutions for the gradual shutdown of almost 150 coal and lignite power plants seem quite conceivable. To compensate, more electricity could be generated, for example, from biogas and hydropower.
A similarly violent quarrel rages around the phasing out of petrol cars. But even here an agreement is not impossible. The formula could be: no fast ban on the combustion engine, as the Greens demand, but a stronger promotion of electric cars. Nevertheless, in terms of climate protection, the parties lag far behind their negotiating goals. If they do not catch up quickly, ‘Jamaica’ itself will be threatened by “dark doldrums”. And then all bets are off.
Full story (in German)
2) Climate & Energy Wars Shake Germany’s Political Order
Platts, 3 November 2017
Preliminary talks to form a coalition government in Germany have made little progress with positions on climate and energy remaining polarized, especially between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposed junior partners — the pro-business FDP and the Greens.
So far, the four parties have only managed to agree to honor the Paris climate deal, with the Greens pushing to accelerate Germany’s coal phase-out, while the CDU/CSU and FDP argue against additional coal closures in the near term despite Merkel maintaining that Germany will achieve its self-set 2020 climate targets.
According to media reports, two energy experts and government insiders — utility lobby chief Stefan Kapferer and state secretary for energy Rainer Baake — were involved Thursday in an attempt to unblock the talks and find a compromise in the complex areas of Germany’s energy transition.
BDEW chief Kapferer is a member of the FDP and before heading Germany’s powerful utility lobby was state secretary for energy in Merkel’s second coalition with the Liberals, which reversed the first nuclear exit ahead of a sudden u-turn following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011.
Baake, a member of the Green Party, is referred to as the father of the ‘Energiewende’ due to his involvement in the first red-green coalition (1998-2005) which initiated the nuclear phase-out and renewables expansion. He replaced Kapferer as state secretary for energy in Merkel’s third coalition, the current caretaker government.
No details were reported from the meeting with MPs from both FDP and Greens not excluding withdrawing from the talks if no workable compromise can be found.
Six weeks after the election, party leaders plan to present first position papers on 12 policy areas on Monday after two weeks of preliminary talks, with little agreement reported so far and only another two weeks left to finalize preliminary talks before party members are asked whether to enter formal coalition talks.
For the Greens, which may face the biggest hurdle to convince its party base, a special congress has been scheduled for November 25.
In between, Merkel will also address the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, which Germany hosts for Fiji, attempting to focus on global climate issues following the withdrawal by US President Trump from the Paris agreement.
NUCLEAR PHASE-OUT LIMITS OPTIONS FOR NEAR-TERM
Amid options to overcome the stalemate in Berlin, some commentators point towards higher carbon pricing as a way of discouraging coal-burn in Germany without state intervention or closures, which could threaten compensation claims by plant operators similar to the nuclear phase-out.
A group of government advisers this week recommended a national CO2 price to cover all emission sources, technologies and sectors.
Germany is furthest behind its climate targets in the transport sector, where the advisers see the ‘greatest need for action’, according to a first version of their annual energy transition monitoring report. The full report will be released in December.
Similar to Dutch plans of a carbon floor price, such measures would be in addition to the European emissions trading scheme, with current low EUA carbon allowance prices not enough to drive coal out of the market, it said.
The two areas were progress is well advanced — the nuclear phase-out and the renewables expansion — may actually hamper the options for an accelerated coal-phase out as requested by the Greens, the report said.
Germany’s nuclear phase-out — the final six reactors and a combined capacity of over 8 GW are scheduled to come offline by end-2021/2022 — will further increase regional imbalances and bottlenecks within the power grid.
Germany’s former energy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said it was impossible to phase out nuclear and coal at the same time with plans to expand the power grid delayed by local resistance and high upfront investment costs.
With German power bill payers still committed to pay some Eur400 billion ($464 billion) to operators of renewable power plants, the scope for additional direct government investment is limited, with Merkel’s conservatives keen to avoid rising energy costs for industry and households.
3) Green Energy Professor Sues Sceptical Scientists For $10 Million
Mashable, 1 November 2017
In a rare move that is likely to spark an intense debate in the climate science community, Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, has filed suit in D.C. Superior Court against the author and publisher of a peer reviewed study criticizing his work.
Jacobson is the lead author of a widely publicized study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2015 that mapped out a course to powering the U.S. entirely by renewable energy sources by the year 2050.
That paper was followed in 2017 by a study authored by Christopher Clack, of Vibrant Energy, a grid modeling company, along with 20 coauthors. That study found serious flaws in Jacobson’s methodology, and it too was published in PNAS. The journal also published a rebuttal by Jacobson and his coauthors refuting Clack’s findings.
Typically, in climate science or any other scientific field, that would be the end of this story — scientists tend to argue their ideas via peer reviewed studies and conference panels, not through the courts.
That’s not the case this time.
The suit, filed on Sept. 29, seeks $10 million in damages for “libel and slander” from Clack and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which publishes the journal in which both studies appeared.
In the suit, which is available for download, Jacobson alleges that he reported at least 30 “false” and five “misleading statements” to the NAS prior to their publication of Clack’s study. The paper was published anyway, which the suit alleges “has had grave ramifications for Dr. Jacobson.”
The suit states that in publishing the study critical of Jacobson’s work, the NAS violated its own publication standards. The suit also lays out the case that the Clack study harmed Jacobson’s career by alleging that he and his coauthors at Stanford had committed basic computer modeling errors.
“Baseless allegations of modeling errors can be found throughout the Clack article,” the lawsuit states. “These allegations are relevant and particularly damaging to Dr. Jacobson, whose main research work is on the development and application of numerical computer models.”
Jacobson and his team contend that they did not make modeling errors, but instead included assumptions in their models that they had told Clack about before his study was published. “There were no mathematical or computational errors in any of the underlying models.
Rather, Dr. Jacobson and his co-authors made an intentional modeling assumption,” which concerned the amount of electricity generated from hydropower.
Jacobson’s suit says the Clack article is continuing to damage his reputation by getting wide media exposure.
4) Truly Green? How Germany’s ‘Energy Transition’ Is Destroying Nature
Global Warming Policy Foundation, 3 November 2017
Germany’s green energy transition is destroying vast swathes of nature, agricultural lands and forests. In the name of climate policy, rare birds and endangered species are being killed while much of the countryside is transformed into industrial parks.
Michael Miersch from the Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung recently gave a talk in the House of Lords about renewable energy’s devastating impact on wildlife and the environment in Germany and other parts of the world.
Michael Miersch: Truly Green? How Germany’s ‘Energy Transition’ is destroying nature (pdf)
Michael Miersch: Grüne Energie? Wie ökologisch sind Windkraft und Biogas? (pdf) (deutsche Version)
5) Michael Miersch – How Germany’s Energiewende Is Destroying Wildlife And Forests
GWPF TV, 3 November 2017
Interview with Michael Miersch from the German Wildlife Foundation
Click on image above or this link to watch the full interview
6) Steven E. Koonin: A Deceptive New Report On Climate
The Wall Street Journal, 3 November 2017
The world’s response to climate changing under natural and human influences is best founded upon a complete portrayal of the science. The U.S. government’s Climate Science Special Report, to be released Friday, does not provide that foundation. Instead, it reinforces alarm with incomplete information and highlights the need for more-rigorous review of climate assessments.
A team of some 30 authors chartered by the U.S. Global Change Research Program began work in spring 2016 on the report, “designed to be an authoritative assessment of the science of climate change.” An early draft was released for public comment in January and reviewed by the National Academies this spring. I, together with thousands of other scientists, had the opportunity to scrutinize and discuss the final draft when it was publicized in August by the New York Times . While much is right in the report, it is misleading in more than a few important places.
One notable example of alarm-raising is the description of sea-level rise, one of the greatest climate concerns. The report ominously notes that while global sea level rose an average 0.05 inch a year during most of the 20th century, it has risen at about twice that rate since 1993. But it fails to mention that the rate fluctuated by comparable amounts several times during the 20th century. The same research papers the report cites show that recent rates are statistically indistinguishable from peak rates earlier in the 20th century, when human influences on the climate were much smaller. The report thus misleads by omission.
This isn’t the only example of highlighting a recent trend but failing to place it in complete historical context. The report’s executive summary declares that U.S. heat waves have become more common since the mid-1960s, although acknowledging the 1930s Dust Bowl as the peak period for extreme heat. Yet buried deep in the report is a figure showing that heat waves are no more frequent today than in 1900. This artifice also appeared in the government’s 2014 National Climate Assessment, which emphasized a post-1980 increase in hurricane power without discussing the longer-term record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently stated that it has been unable to detect any human impact on hurricanes.
Such data misrepresentations violate basic scientific norms. In his celebrated 1974 “Cargo Cult” lecture, the late Richard Feynman admonished scientists to discuss objectively all the relevant evidence, even that which does not support the narrative. That’s the difference between science and advocacy.
These deficiencies in the new climate report are typical of many others that set the report’s tone. Consider the different perception that results from “sea level is rising no more rapidly than it did in 1940” instead of “sea level rise has accelerated in recent decades,” or from “heat waves are no more common now than they were in 1900” versus “heat waves have become more frequent since 1960.” Both statements in each pair are true, but each alone fails to tell the full story.
Several actions are warranted. First, the report should be amended to describe the history of sea-level rise, heat waves and other trends fully and accurately. Second, the government should convene a “Red/Blue” adversarial review to stress-test the entire report, as I urged in April. Critics argue such an exercise would be superfluous given the conventional review processes, and others have questioned even the minimal time and expense that would be involved. But the report’s deficiencies demonstrate why such a review is necessary.
Finally, the institutions involved in the report should figure out how and why such shortcomings survived multiple rounds of review. How, for example, did the National Academies’ review committee conclude that the chapter on sea level rise “accurately reflects the current scientific literature on this topic”? The Academies building prominently displays Einstein’s dictum “one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”
Mr. Koonin was undersecretary of energy for science during President Obama’s first term and is director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University.