1) Is the COVID-19 Economic Downturn Affecting Atmospheric CO2? Mauna Loa Data Say, Not Yet
Roy W. Spencer, 22 March 2020
Some global warming alarmists are celebrating the current economic downturn as just what is needed to avert climate catastrophe. I’ve seen a couple estimates that China’s manufacturing and commerce might have seen up at 40% reduction recently.
The current global crisis will be a test of just how much economic pain is required to substantially reduce CO2 emissions (assuming there is no reasonably affordable and practical replacement for fossil fuels).
I already know that some of my “deep skeptic” acquaintances (you know who you are) who believe the global CO2 increase is mostly natural will claim a continuing CO2 rise in the face of a decrease in economic activity supports their case. I have previously shown that a simple model of the CO2 variations since 1959 forced with anthropogenic emissions accurately explain the Mauna Loa observations (see Fig. 2 , explanation here). It will take considerable evidence to convince me that the long-term rise in not anthropogenic, and maybe the current “coronavirus experiment” will provide some contrarian evidence.
Of course, for anthropogenic CO2 emissions reductions to have any effect, they actually have to show up in the atmosphere. The most widely cited monitoring location for CO2 is on Mauna Loa in Hawaii. It is at high elevation in a persistent subtropical high pressure zone that should be able to detect large emissions changes in several weeks time as weather systems move around the world.
I’ve had several requests, and seen numerous social media comments, suggesting this is something that should be looked at. So, I’ve analyzed the Mauna Loa CO2 data (updated monthly) through February 2020 to see if there is any hint of a CO2 concentration downturn (or, more accurately, reduced rate of rise).
The short answer is: No… at least not yet.
The Mauna Loa Data: Removing Seasonal and ENSO Effects
While an anthropogenic source of CO2 can explain the long-term rise in CO2, the trouble with finding an anthropogenic signal on time scale of a few months to a couple years is that natural variations swamp any anthropogenic changes on short time scales.
The monthly data (arbitrarily starting 1996, below) shows a continuing long-term rise that has been occurring since monitoring began in 1958. Also seen is the strong seasonal cycle as the vegetation in the Northern Hemisphere goes through its normal seasonal variations in growth and decay.
Obviously, not much can be discerned from the raw monthly average data in the above plot because the seasonal cycle is so strong. So, the first step is to remove the seasonal cycle. I did this by subtracting out a 4th order polynomial fit before removing the average seasonal cycle, then adding that statistical fit back in:
Next, there are some wiggles in the data due to El Nino and La Nina (ENSO) activity, and if we remove an average statistical estimate of that (a time lag and averaging is involved to increase signal), we can get a little better idea of whether the most recent month (February 2020) is out of the ordinary. I have zeroed in on just the most recent 5 years for clarity.
The polynomial fit to the data (thin dotted line) shows what we might expect for the coming months, and we can see that February is not yet departing from the expected values.
Of course, there are a variety of natural variations that impact global average CO2 on a month-to-month basis: Interannual variations in wildfire activity, land vegetation and sea surface temperatures, variations in El Nino and La Nina effects, and short-term fluctuations in anthropogenic emissions immediately come to mind. (The Pinatubo and El Chichon volcano eruptions actually caused a reduction in global CO2, probably due to post-eruption vegetation effects from an increase in diffuse sunlight penetration of forest canopies).
Full post & comments
2) Bavarian Prime Minister Calls For Suspension Of Carbon Tax & Green Energy Subsidies
No Tricks Zone, 20 March 2020
To provide relief from the deepening pandemic crisis, Bavaria Prime Minister has called for the suspension of Germany’s carbon tax and renewable energy subsidies which have made electricity rates in Germany among the world’s highest.
The draconian measures implemented to cub the so-called COVID-19 pandemic are having a profound impact on the German economy as millions of self-employed have seen business wiped out, and even large industries such as Mercedes, VW and BMW are halting production.
Even worse is the unprecedented (postwar) degree of uncertainty that now looms. How long are the strict measures going to stay in place?
Will the economy be able to rebound? Where’s the money to pay for it all going to come from? How do we get relief to the citizens? Not since WWII has Germany been confronted with such monumental challenges.
Suspend green energy feed-in tariffs
One place to start for providing relief, says Bavaria Minister President Markus Söder, is a suspension of the punishing EEG levy and electricity tax, which have made electricity rates in Germany among the world’s highest. reports pv magazine.
Minister President Söder is calling for rapid and extensive aid from the Federal Government to keep the economy crashing.
In a speech in the State Parliament in Munich yesterday, Söder called on the Federal Government to come up with a rapid and comprehensive federal aid package for industry, saying 100 to 150 billion euros were needed.
“Among other things, he called for the suspension of the electricity tax and EEG levy. This would help many companies and private households,” reported the online German pv magazine.
23.9 billion euros just for feed-in levies
Currently German consumers and industry are paying over €20 billion annually in mandatory feed-in tariffs for renewable energies such as wind and solar.
3) Pandemic & Global Economic Crisis Downgrade Climate Change, Possibly For Years To Come
Eurasia Group, Top Risks 2020
The global focus on coronavirus will come at the expense of attention paid to climate change as governments, investors and companies pursue recovery and growth above all else.
The global focus on coronavirus will come at the expense of attention paid to climate change. Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) investing mandates will become weaker in implementation if not in spirit, as investors and companies pursue recovery and growth above all else.
Countries will utilize their fiscal space on targeted measures to blunt the impact of the coronavirus, and whatever is left over for broad fiscal stimulus will only be partially dedicated to “green” projects, and to varying degrees across countries.
Further, collapsing oil prices will undercut the competitiveness of cleaner alternative energy sources. With large-scale protest activity diminished because of social distancing, civil society actors will turn to cyber and online tools to apply pressure on companies and governments, most of which will have less appetite and ability to respond to climate change.
The immediate risk of a clash between politics and economics over climate change significantly diminishes in the short term, even if the overarching threat of climate change remains as real as ever.
4) Horner & Peiser: United States Warned About Internationally Mandated “Coronavirus Economy’
The Washington Times, 23 March 2020
By Chris Horner and Benny Peiser
The United States should pay close attention to developments in Europe, beyond their governments’ response to the COVID-19 virus. Other contagions loom.
For example, we now see proof that the retrenchment embodied by the current “coronavirus economy” could become legally mandated, with no recovery permitted but only worsening, in the name of climate change. While extreme, this is actually unfolding, and the United States ignores the warnings at its peril.
In February, the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal blocked construction of a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport. While additional runways seem quaint amid travel lockdowns, the longer view reminds us that infrastructure expansion is vital to economic growth. Ask any candidate for president, vowing massive infrastructure programs that, this ruling confirms, are irreconcilable with their climate promises like the Green New Deal and rejoining the Paris climate treaty.
The Heathrow opinion has caused political and economic upheaval, and ecstasy among “green” campaigners. That is because the decision in Spurrier et al. v. Secretary of State for Transport requires any airport expansion, and apparently any major infrastructure project going forward, comply with the 2015 Paris agreement.
As only the most recent judicial intervention leveraging purportedly “non-binding” commitments into legal obligations, this is also a very timely reminder for the United States.
President Obama agreed to Paris and submitted a ratification instrument on behalf of the U.S in September 2016, claiming it was not a treaty requiring Senate advice and consent. “Non-binding!” was a key talking point in support.
This claim, deficient in too many ways to recount here, is now overtaken by events.
Although the U.K. court also cited the U.K.’s own Climate Change Act and European Union Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive, the judges ruled that the failure to account for the U.K.’s promised emission reductions under Paris was “legally fatal.” Any expansion plan must satisfy both domestic law and the U.K.’s Paris agreement promise to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Get used to hearing this. The lesson for President Trump is clear: Just because an international agreement doesn’t purport to be “binding” doesn’t mean you don’t have to comply with it.
In 2018, in Urgenda Foundation v. State of the Netherlands, The Hague Court of Appeals also turned these ostensibly hortatory climate promises and declarations into enforceable obligations. That court ordered the Dutch emission-reduction laws match years of governmental rhetoric manifested in supposedly aspirational climate pacts, asserting that parties to these agreements have assumed a “duty of care.”
Cheap environmental virtue can be costly. Certainly, activist state attorneys general intend to sue. As The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel wrote in 2017, one of us “unearthed a legal memo from the New York attorney general’s office that laid out a strategy to get courts to force C02 cuts under international treaties.”
Already, federal judges have lined up to block proposed and even permitted projects, such as the Keystone XL Pipeline, citing to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and a failure to consider a project’s contribution to cumulative climate impacts. Under Paris, the United States vowed massive emission reductions and promised deeper cuts, every five years, in perpetuity.
In a June 2017 Rose Garden speech, Mr. Trump announced his intention to withdraw from Paris, citing U.S. sovereignty and “serious legal and constitutional concerns,” among others. Critics pounced. Why bother, they keened, with seemingly disproportionate and self-contradicting fury, it’s not even binding! Well.
Editorialists harrumphed that, by leaving Paris, Mr. Trump would also leave the United States as the only nation not signed up. Why, even China and India agreed.
But, not really. Like most countries, China and India did not promise emission reductions under Paris. Between them, they plan to build 320 airports in the next decade. The Maldives, self-styled poster child for the horrors of man-made global warming, is opening four more airports this year alone.
That is four more than the U.K. likely will be able to build, under the Court of Appeals’ Heathrow opinion. It is also four more than the United States should expect, should it rejoin Paris, which it might.
To judge by its terms, level of detail and commitment, and U.S. custom and practice, Paris is a treaty. Nonetheless, rather than declare Paris to be a treaty and transmit it to the Senate for a ratification vote, Mr. Trump is withdrawing pursuant to Paris’ terms. His November 2019 withdrawal notice takes effect Nov. 4, 2020, by chance the day after the U.S. elections.
Unfortunately, dignifying this “pen and a phone” approach leaves the door wide open for the United States to rejoin Paris under a President Biden or Sanders, who both promise to do so immediately upon taking office.
It is unlikely the president will change course and pursue more durable withdrawal options, and the Senate showed repeatedly under President Obama it has no appetite to fight even to protect its own constitutional prerogatives. As such, the Heathrow opinion putting the lie to the “non-binding” talking point should serve as a clear warning to the United States about the Paris agreement.
With such a clear distinction between Mr. Trump and his Democratic challengers, and with proof now that a “coronavirus economy” could be legally mandated, it is critical the United States have an actual debate about the Paris climate agreement and the larger climate policy agenda.
5) U.S. Democrats Want to Include Climate Action in Coronavirus Aid
Scientific American, 19 March 2020
Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill are pushing to add climate change provisions to the third aid package for people and industries affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
But it’s unclear whether they have the political leverage to make those ideas stick—at least not yet.
The Democratic proposals touch on two main areas.
Several Senate Democrats want airlines to reduce their carbon emissions in exchange for federal aid that could hit $50 billion or more.
House Democrats, meanwhile, are looking at clean-tech tax credits. Those include incentives for electric vehicles, battery storage, offshore wind and solar energy that were left out of a December tax extenders package.
Their demands have precedent. In 2009, when the Obama administration bailed out the auto industry to the tune of $80 billion, it conditioned aid on improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency.
But success this time isn’t guaranteed.
For one thing, Democrats lack leverage with Republicans in control of the Senate and the White House. For another, there’s broad consensus that Congress must act quickly to provide relief to affected Americans.
Democrats don’t want to be seen as slowing down emergency aid with climate demands.
6) Green Madness: Energy Bill Hikes to Pay For £69m Scots Wind Farm Compensation
The Herald, 14 March 2020
HOUSEHOLDS are facing a huge hike in their energy bills after a record surge in subsidy payments to switch off Scottish wind farm turbines partly caused by them producing too much power, an analysis has found.
In the two months of this year, £69 million was paid out in constraint payments, according to research by the Renewable Energy Foundation which described it as an “extreme spike”.
This is four times greater than the previous most expensive January-February period on record, which was in 2016.
The money is given out as compensation to energy firms for turning off turbines when the network is unable to cope with the power they produce.
The payments which kicked in in 2010, come when wind power in Scotland exceeds local demand but cannot be exported to England due to insufficient grid infrastructure.
REF said the surge in payments was partly because of strong winds, which means farms are generating too much power.
It is also said it was because wider network reinforcement is “unable to keep pace with wind sector growth in Scotland where government continues to approve wind farms in spite of the constraints”.
Last year, the total paid was £130 million, which was at that point the largest to date and the REF say that 2020 is likely to be a record year. The payments are made by the National Grid but charged to consumers and added to electricity bills.
7) Lorrie Goldstein: We Gambled On The Wrong Threat — Climate Change
Toronto Sun, 22 March 2020
One of the key lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that for at least the past decade, we focused disproportionately, or rather our governments did, on one potential global threat — human-induced climate change — to the exclusion of all others.
Protesters hold banners reading “180 degree turn ” and “coronavirus pandemic, the first step in the collapse of our civilization if we do not revolt today” during a recent demonstration for climate change in Bordeaux, France, despite government recommendations to limit gatherings amid the outbreak of COVID-19. (Photo by AFP, via Getty Images)
Anthropogenic climate change became the issue that sucked up all the oxygen in the room when it came to a global crisis.
At the expense of, for example, a contagious and deadly virus becoming a pandemic, which public health experts have been warning us about for decades.
In Canada, our political leaders, have long ignored — perhaps the fairer word is “downplayed” — the health care threat posed by the fact our hospitals are chronically overcrowded, with thousands of patients being treated in hallways, year after year.
That’s why the greatest concern health-care experts have now is that our hospitals, overcrowded in normal times and routinely operating at or beyond their designated capacities — as opposed to 80% of capacity to be able to handle a “black swan” event like COVID-19 — may soon be overrun by critically-ill patients.
Wrong decisions have dire consequences. We’re now facing them.
That’s not to say concern about human-induced climate change (not “climate change” as we obsessively and incorrectly describe it) was entirely misplaced.
It’s one of many serious environmental challenges we face, such as the more than 900 billion litres of raw sewage we’ve dumped into our rivers, lakes and oceans since 2013.
But while human-induced climate change contributes to human suffering and death, it has never been a so-called “existential” threat to humanity, meaning, a threat to human existence.
Neither is COVID-19. It will eventually burn itself out as have previous pandemics.
The question is how effectively and for how long can we contain it through aggressive social distancing — far harder to do in democracies than it sounds — and how many of us will die or suffer life-changing consequences before there’s a vaccine?
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some who jumped on the anthropogenic climate change bandwagon early and hard, argue COVID-19 shows us what the world will be like if we don’t quickly abandon fossil fuels.
In reality, COVID-19 shows us what the world will be like if we abandon fossil fuels prematurely, without having reliable energy sources to replace them, compounded by the fact many opponents of fossil fuel energy also oppose nuclear power.
As Robert Bryce warns in Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future: “If you are anti-carbon dioxide and anti-nuclear, you are pro-blackout.”
Consider what the world would be like today, in the face of COVID-19, without fossil fuel (and nuclear) energy, a world climate radicals crave.
Without reliable, on-demand energy sufficient to power a modern, industrialized society — which neither wind nor solar power can provide at current levels of technology — our hospitals could not maintain sterile conditions.
Food and vaccines — when one for COVID-19 is developed — could not be preserved or transported.
Medical equipment to protect front-line health care workers from COVID-19, and respirators for critically-ill patients, could not be delivered where they’re needed, let alone manufactured in the first place.
Indeed, if you want to see what the world would be like if we prematurely abandon fossil fuels, all you have to do is look around, right now, in the age of COVID-19.
8) Cheap Coal May Get Boost In A Post-Pandemic World
OilPrice, 22 March 2020
In a post-pandemic world coal, while having lots of problems, is considered to be a cheap and reliable source of energy to rebuild the economy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken energy markets to the core this year, creating incredible volatility for fuel prices. The one energy source that hasn’t blinked though is coal, a fuel that may come out stronger through the current crisis, a Rystad Energy analysis shows.
The price of coal was already depressed before the corona virus crisis, and the demand curtailment in China during the lockdowns was accompanied by a domestic production drop, balancing the market. Oil, which is used as a fuel in coal mining, has grown cheaper and is seen by Rystad Energy as reducing coal output costs by a few dollars per ton.
“With ARA prices already so low, any cost decrease will potentially give struggling producers selling to Europe a little breathing room, rather than allowing prices to move down any further,” says Steve Hulton, Rystad Energy’s Head of Global coal research.
The large falls in the currency of the major coal exporting countries like Australia and Russia is a significant, but often overlooked factor with regards to coal prices and margins. In mid-March, the Australian dollar hit a 17-year low as international investors sought the traditional safety of US dollars; the Russian ruble has also reached new record lows due to the collapsing oil price.
International coal trades are priced in US dollars, whereas the majority of production costs are generally denominated in local currency terms. Therefore, a weaker exchange rate versus the US dollar usually means higher local currency revenues (or lower costs when converted to US dollars).
“Either way, the higher sales margin gives producers maneuverability to accept lower US dollar coal prices if needed, “ says Hulton.
However, foreign exchange movements won’t help any US-based coal producers, and further export price weakness (plus ongoing local demand destruction due to gas competition) will only serve to hasten their demise.
A possible outcome of the Covid-19 crisis could be an unexpected subtle shift in public opinion and policy regarding the speed of transition towards a low carbon power generating future.
In a post-pandemic world coal, while having lots of problems, is considered to be a cheap and reliable source of energy to rebuild the economy. Also, in economies struggling to bounce back, there may be less scope for absorbing the unemployment associated with the end of coal mining and power generation. These factors could potentially lead to a slowing of the rate of the energy transition.
China is an example: Coal mining capacity is now reported as moving quickly back towards full capacity, and power generation is returning to normal levels. Thermal coal import demand into China, which rose initially on the back of domestic production shutdowns, is likely to total close to the 2019 annual numbers, though reports indicate that some ports have already reached their 2020 annual quota limits.
9) And Finally: How Christopher Booker Took On Liberal Hypocrisy, From Climate Change To Brexit
Allison Pearson, The Daily Telegraph, 22 March 2020
Allison Pearson reviews Groupthink: A Study in Self Delusion, by Christopher Booker
Christopher Booker, late-lamented sage of this parish, should go down in history as the grandfather of Brexit or, at the very least, its contrary old uncle.
One of the founding satirists of Private Eye and a much-loved columnist for the Sunday Telegraph, in the 1990s Booker took a promising young fellow by the name of Nigel under his wing. He suggested that his new friend should stand for the European Parliament, the better to destroy it from within.
When I spoke to Nigel Farage recently, he became quite emotional, telling me that he owed everything to “this literary giant” who, “when UKIP was nothing more than a tiddler attached himself to me and came and spoke at village halls across the country.” Booker’s influence on Farage, both personally and intellectually, was immense. Brexit couldn’t have happened without Nigel Farage and Farage would not have become that force which obliged David Cameron to hold a referendum on EU membership without Christopher Booker.
Alas, our veteran columnist died last July before he could savour the triumph of the UK finally departing the European Union, but he did leave behind one last gift for his readers. Groupthink: A Study in Self-Delusion is as much of a book as he could manage to write as his powers failed him. In a beautiful Afterword, his son, Nicholas Booker, paints a stirring picture of his father at the end of his life “still just able to see his screen and keyboard (many of the hammered letters had long since fled)”.
On the days when he thought he would be able to make it back up the stairs, he sat at his study desk – by now relying on laborious, one-fingered typing. It took tremendous determination.” The torches that Christopher used to find his way up the church path to lock its door each night “were now required to help him read, even in broad daylight”.
Booker fans may find themselves smiling fondly at the thought of their half-blind hero, still furiously communicating, still trying to help us see more clearly amidst the dying of the light.
The book begins in early 2019 with the author trying to account for a world “wracked by strains, stresses and divisions which even a decade ago would have been hard to imagine”. He singles out Islamist terrorism, the European Union, the secular religion of climate change (very much not a believer!), a rift between the ruled and their rulers and identity politics. Underlying all of them is “the peculiar social pressure to conform with a whole range of views deemed to be ‘politically correct’ marked out in those caught up in it by their aggressive intolerance of anything or anyone who differs from their own beliefs”.
For a scientific explanation of this growing zealotry, Booker turned to a thesis put forward more than 40 years ago by Irving Janis, a professor of psychology at Yale University. In “The Victims of Groupthink”, Janis observed how “a group of people come to be fixated on some belief or view of the world which is hugely important to them. They are convinced that their opinion is so self-evidently right that no sensible person could disagree with it. Most telling of all, this leads them to treat all who differ from their beliefs with a peculiar kind of contemptuous hostility”.
Janis used this theory to account for several notorious fiascos of US foreign policy – failure to heed intelligence about Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbour being one example – in which a group made decisions based on how they would ideally like the world to be, not according to the realities of the situation. What strikes the modern reader is Janis’s uncanny premonition of today’s “cancel culture” in which an individual expressing a point of view that challenges the liberal orthodoxy can be no-platformed.
see also – Christopher Booker: Global Warming: A Case Study in Groupthink