Progress towards the EU’s climate and energy targets has stalled, as has the shift towards a circular economy.
That’s one of the findings of the latest report by the EU statistics office Eurostat, which suggests there was no progress for climate action during the last five years.
Although there has been an 18.9% increase in renewable energy consumption since 2013, the report shows the greenhouse intensity of the overall energy use has risen.
In the monitoring report, trends also demonstrate pressures on ecosystems and biodiversity have been increasing in some areas.
The climate-related economic losses in 2017 were €12.1 billion (£10bn), despite the fact that Europe has spent more than €19 billion (£17.1bn) in environmental projects.
The European bloc’s carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 2.7% from 2013 to 2018 but temperatures kept rising, according to figures.
2) EU Recovery Fund Ignores Climate Targets, Experts Say
EurActiv, 22 June 2020
Calculations by experts now show that the EU’s planned economic rescue package, worth €750 billion, is nowhere near enough to achieve the bloc’s climate targets. Even in the best-case scenario, only one-third of the costs would be covered.
Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen confers with the President of the EU Council, Charles Michel. Member states have yet to agree on the proposed €750 billion recovery fund. [EPA-EFE | Olivier Hoslet]
EU leaders discussed a massive €750 billion rescue package on Friday (19 June), which should be made available to member states to help them revive the economy and achieve the EU’s climate goals.
However, as an unpublished analysis by the consultancy Climate & Company and the German think tank Agora Energiewende shows, the programme has huge gaps: some 2.44 trillion are missing to mobilise the necessary investments to achieve the EU climate targets.
At present, the targets stipulate that the EU must reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990. If the target is raised to 50% or 55% as planned, the investment requirement would even rise to over €3 trillion.
The analysts’ calculations are based in part on the Commission’s estimates on how much money would be needed to achieve the current climate target.
If the proposed funds from the new EU budget and the reconstruction programme were spent in the best possible way, only €804 billion would be collected, around a third of what is needed, leaving a €1.644 trillion investment gap.
The study lists possible funding sources. Only €80 billion have so far been safely allocated to environmental protection. Most of this money comes from the Just Transition Fund, the Connecting Europe Facility, or the Innovation Fund, which has now been massively increased.
That’s nowhere near enough money, but with the right parameters, almost half of the necessary budget could be raised. A precondition would be that 40% of the EU budget would be reserved for climate protection. The Commission’s current proposal is 20%.
If the money from the CAP and the recovery plan were to be invested in a climate-friendly manner, a budget of €1.287 trillion could be pulled together with the help of European Investment Bank (EIB) loans.
3) East vs West Split In EU On Green Deal Targets
euObserver, 24 June 2020
Eight member states on Tuesday (23 June) urged the EU to go further on the Green Deal – while central and eastern European countries remain cautious, expressing concerns about different starting positions and possibly deepening inequalities.
EU climate ministers from Finland, Austria, Luxembourg, Latvia, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands and Sweden urged on an increase on the EU’s 2030 emissions-reduction target, to at least 55 percent.
4) New Scientific Findings Suggest Radiation Risks Are Exaggerated
Resource World, 17 June 2020
London – An important new paper from the Global Warming Policy Foundation reveals that low-level nuclear radiation might be much less dangerous than previously thought.
According to authors, Professor Edward Calabrese and Dr Mikko Paunio, recent reviews of seminal research conducted in the decades after the Second World War has uncovered serious flaws in the “linear no-threshold” assumption – the idea that nuclear radiation is dangerous even at very low exposures.
According to Professor Calabrese, Professor of Toxicology at the University of Massachusetts, these claims are now known to be based on scientific studies that were deceptive, flawed, or even fraudulent:
“The key work that was done in the US after the war was fatally flawed. But influential scientists managed to suppress the evidence and ensure that the linear no-threshold assumption survived.”
And Professor Calabrese’s position is confirmed by a review of recent findings from Japan, which have been reviewed by Dr Paunio, a former chairman of the Finnish Radiological Protection Board. According to Dr Paunio, key support for the linear no-threshold assumption came from a major study that followed the life histories of the Hibakusha – the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs.
“Their error was extraordinary,” says Dr Paunio. “They failed to account for the effects of secondary radiation exposures and fallout. This means that the rather low numbers of cancers observed in the hibakusha in the decades after the war were actually caused by quite high exposures to radiation.”
The implication of these reviews is that nuclear radiation seems to be relatively harmless at low levels. If correct, it means that the nuclear energy industry is being grossly over-regulated for no reason at all.
According to GWPF director Benny Peiser, there is now a need for government to act.
“Over the weekend, it was reported that the government might finally kick the small modular nuclear programme into action. If so, then it’s a welcome development, but there remains a real risk that the programme will be sunk by the environmental bureaucracy.”
“If the extremely costly regulatory burden is really as pointless as these new findings suggest, there is an important opportunity for the country. It’s time for a major review of the new radiation science.”
5) Ross McKitrick: The Flaw In Relying On Worst-Case Climate Modelling
Financial Post, 24 June 2020
The purpose of global climate policy is to get us from the dangerous upper end of the forecast range down to the safe bottom end. In fact, we are already there.
Whenever you read a media story about how we’re heading toward catastrophe if we continue operating “business as usual” — i.e., if we don’t slash carbon emissions — the reports are almost always referring to a model simulation using RCP8.5. And you can bet that nowhere in the story will they explain that RCP8.5 is an implausible worst-case scenario that was never meant to represent a likely base case outcome, or that scientists have begun castigating its usage as a prediction of a doomed business-as-usual future.
The term RCP8.5 refers to a greenhouse gas emissions scenario often used by scientists for climate model projections. You might never have heard of RCP8.5 but you have definitely heard of forecasts based on it. Listening to the politicians who make the strongest pleas for radical climate action, it is clear that their fears for the future are driven by RCP8.5 scenarios, yet it is also clear that they have no idea what it is or what is wrong with it.
RCP stands for “Representative Concentration Pathways,” or projections of how much carbon dioxide (CO2) will accumulate in the atmosphere due to fossil fuel use over the coming century. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) generated a set of four RCP scenarios a decade ago, attaching to each a number indicating how much “radiative forcing” (a measure of global warming potential) each one generates. RCP2.6 refers to a benign, low-end emission scenario with correspondingly minimal radiative forcing. In the middle are RCP4.5 and RCP6.0, and at the top end is RCP8.5, a scorcher that predicts historically unprecedented increases in global CO2 emissions.
To appreciate how implausible RCP8.5 is, consider its coal use trajectory. From the 1920s to the year 2000, global coal consumption stayed between 15 and 20 gigajoules per capita, peaking at 20 in 1960, falling back to 15 by 2000, then rising to about 23 earlier this decade with the sudden industrialization of China and India. Groups like the International Energy Agency expect it will gradually return to the 15-20 gigajoule per capita range by 2040.
The RCP8.5 scenario offers a different outcome. Instead of a return to normal, it projects coal use will rise to about 30 gigajoules by 2040, 45 gigajoules by 2060 and 70 gigajoules by 2100. No one seriously believes this is even possible, including people who use RCP8.5 in their climate simulations.
It gets worse. A recent study by Matthew Burgess of the University of Colorado and coauthors, which is currently available in preprint form, pointed out that RCP8.5 doesn’t even make sense in its own modelled reality. It projects so much economic growth that today’s poor countries will be richer in 2100 than the wealthiest countries are today (which would be nice if it happened), but they will also experience so much warming that they become uninhabitable wastelands. How can both be true?
RCP8.5 was created as an outlier; an improbable worst-case scenario, not a likely business-as-usual forecast. Yet countless scientists and economists have been using it as one. You know how the game works: feed RCP8.5 into a climate model, observe the catastrophe, then call it the “likely” scenario if we don’t cut emissions.
A more realistic business-as-usual scenario would look much more like the low end of the RCP range. If you run a model with one of those, the future looks far less worrisome, the policy agenda is far less urgent and your study is far less likely to get any media attention. Which may be why so many modellers prefer using RCP8.5. But last fall, in a commentary in Nature magazine, climate experts Zeke Hausfather and Glen Peters scolded their colleagues for misleading the public this way, and distorting the policy debate in the process.
Exaggerated emission forecasts are nothing new. Another analysis last fall by Zeke Hausfather et. al. compiled CO2 concentration forecasts from the ’70s onward. The figure shown on this page is based on their data. In the ’70s, scientists made CO2 projections through 2000. Reality came in near the bottom end. And from the ’80s on, reality came in right at the bottom end.
The IPCC likewise has a history of playing up worst-case scenarios. Prior to commissioning the RCP group, in 2000 the IPCC issued the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES), a set of emission paths ranging from low and slow CO2 growth to the infamous A1FI top-end scorcher, which climate modellers considered unrealistic at the time but which allowed the IPCC to issue scary-sounding “up to six degrees” warming forecasts. In a column I published on this page on April 4, 2002, I noted that by the time it was shown to experts in early 2000, A1FI had already overestimated global coal consumption growth in the ’90s by 40 per cent.
The SRES scenarios came in for more controversy in 2002 when Ian Castles, the former chief statistician of Australia, and former OECD chief economist David Henderson wrote to the IPCC to inform it that the SRES team had used an incorrect formula for computing foreign exchange rates, which systematically exaggerated the growth and emissions forecasts in low-income countries.
In my own academic research I have also found IPCC emissions scenarios to be exaggerated. In two papers published in 2012 and 2013, I and my coauthors compared the range of IPCC emission scenarios to historical trends and found the upper half of the range to be improbable compared to the lower half.
6) Terence Corcoran: If We Unquestioningly ‘Follow The Science,’ It Could Lead Us Nowhere
Financial Post, 24 June 2020
Calls to follow the science are heard almost daily from politicians and activists — and many scientists. But what are they advocating?, asks Terence Corcoran
Surely one of the more embarrassing moments in Anderson Cooper’s career as host of his CNN nightly show was the night back in May when he brought in 17-year-old Greta Thunberg as a star interview for a CNN Town Hall — not on the climate crisis, for which Thunberg has been famously treated as an expert of sorts, but on the COVID-19 crisis.
The link between COVID-19 and climate change is a little unclear, so presumably Cooper and Town Hall co-host Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical expert, thought Thunberg would bring some special wisdom and insight to the virus crisis.
The only advice from Thunberg, however, was to urge everyone to “follow the science” as suggested by Cooper, who seemed to be appealing to the 17-year-old for confirmation of his views: “This is a time, it seems, that the global scientific community is so critically important and we’re really seeing how important it is to follow science.”
Thunberg took that soft hand off from Cooper as one might expect — as confirmation of her claim that we should also be following the science on climate change. “People are starting to realize that we are actually depending on science and that we need to listen to scientists and experts. And I really hope that stays,” she said, adding that she also hoped it will apply to other crises “such as the climate crisis and the environmental crisis.”
When it comes to COVID-19, however, Thunberg seemed to have missed some of the science she said we should all be following. She suggested it was misinformation to believe initial reports that COVID-19 affected only the elderly. “During any crisis it is always the most vulnerable people who are hit the hardest, and that is children,” she proclaimed.
“Yes, this does affect elderly people a lot, but we also have to remember that this is also a children’s rights crisis because children are the most vulnerable in societies. Children do get the virus and they also spread it.”
The actual science shows, as we all now know, that children are not the hardest hit, nor are they the most vulnerable. Children are in “extremely low risk” of getting the disease and when they do get it they are more likely to be asymptomatic. Few have died.
Welcome to FP Comment’s 22nd annual Junk Science Week, guided by our standard definition: Junk science occurs when scientific facts are distorted, risk is exaggerated and the science adapted and warped by politics and ideology to serve another agenda. Both CNN and Thunberg are manifestations thereof.
Whether the politicization of science is more widespread today is unanswerable, but it seems fair to conclude that there have been few signs of retreat. As we shall explore later this week, peer review regimes continue to fail, correlations are propelled into causation, health risks converted into draconian legislation.
Calls to follow the science are heard almost daily from politicians and activists — and many scientists. But what are they advocating?
When a politician who declares “I believe in the science” (as per U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren), it’s akin to admitting lack of knowledge about the science behind whatever policy is being promulgated. And what if, as is too often the case, the science politicians are following is tainted and falls into the great science world where deliberate distortions and exaggerations — even fabrications — are common?
Lest anyone believe that doesn’t happen, it’s worth recalling the famous words of Stephen Schneider, the late Stanford University climate scientist who — along with many others over the years — saw fudging and fakery as the proper role of scientists.
“On the one hand,” said Schneider, “as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
There is one area of science where a small blow — or maybe it will prove to be large — has been dealt to the “scary scenarios” that have driven climate policy over much of the past two decades.
7) NJ Ayuk: African Lives Matter Too, Energy Policy Decisions Should Consider Their Needs
Africa Oil & Power, 22 June 2020
Africa is capable of building a better future, of ending energy poverty, strengthening our economy, and improving the lives of everyday Africans. And that’s why this is a horrible time for OECD, IEA, or any other outside organizations, to interfere with our natural resources.
As African oil and gas countries struggle with Covid-19’s devastating impact on demand, two international groups seem to be celebrating it.
Earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) described the low oil prices caused by the pandemic as a “golden opportunity” for governments to phase-out fossil fuel support and usher in an era of renewable energy sources.
“Subsidising fossil fuels is an inefficient use of public money and serves to worsen greenhouse emissions and air pollution,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in a joint OECD-IEA statement. “While our foremost concern today must be to support economies and societies through the Covid-19 crisis, we should seize this opportunity to reform subsidies and use public funds in a way that best benefits people and the planet.”
I would argue that the OECD and IEA don’t necessarily know what’s best for the people who live on this planet. Pressuring governments to stop supporting fossil fuels certainly would not be good for the African oil and gas companies or entrepreneurs striving to build a better future. And it could be downright harmful to communities looking at gas-to-power initiatives to bring them reliable electricity.
Too often, the discussion about climate change — and the call to leave fossil fuels in the ground— is largely a western narrative. It does not factor in the needs of low-income Africans who could reap the many benefits of a strategic approach to oil and gas operations in Africa: reduced energy poverty, job creation, and entrepreneurship opportunities, to name a few.
Ironically, a policy that would jeopardize Africans’ ability to realize those benefits is being recommended at the same time protesters across America are calling for equity in some of the same areas. Although police violence against people of color is at the center of the protests — a response to the horrific death of a black man, George Floyd, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes — the protests also point to social and economic disparities between the races in America.
While I don’t want to exploit the death of George Floyd, I do see parallels between the racial disparities in America and the struggles of Africans whose lives could be improved through oil and gas. I always see a common pattern of ignoring black and African voices.
Too often in America, the value of black lives was not given proper consideration until George Floyd’s death forced the topic to the forefront and rightly so. And on the global stage, OECD and IEA are dismissing the voices of many Africans who want and need the continent’s oil and gas industry to thrive. I would advise these organizations not to ignore the needs of poor people in African countries.
As it stands, African energy entrepreneurs, the African energy sector, and Africans who care about energy poverty are basically saying, “I can’t breathe.”
It’s time to get the knees off their necks.
The Dangers of Energy Poverty
Consider the impact of energy poverty. Approximately 840 million Africans, mostly in sub-Saharan countries, have no access to electricity. Hundreds of millions have unreliable or limited power at best.
Even during “normal times,” energy poverty is dangerous. The household air pollution created by burning biomass, including wood and animal waste, to cook and heat homes has been blamed for as many as 4 million deaths per year. How will this play out during the pandemic? For women forced to leave their homes to obtain and prepare food, sheltering in place is nearly impossible. What about those who need to be hospitalized? Only 28 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s health care facilities have reliable power. Physicians and nurses can’t even count on the lights being on, let alone the ability to treat patients with equipment that requires electricity — or store blood, medications, or vaccines. All of this puts African lives at risk.
That’s what makes gas-to-power initiatives so critically important: It only makes sense for African countries to use their vast natural gas reserves for power generation. And we’re already making progress on that front. Today, about 13 African countries use natural gas produced domestically or brought in from other African countries, and there’s every reason to believe this trend will grow.
In Cameroon, for example, Victoria Oil and Gas PLC already provides domestic gas for power generation, and its subsidiary, Gaz du Cameroun (GDC), has agreed to provide the government gas for a new power station with the potential to accommodate growing demand.
And in Mozambique, the Temane power plant, also known as Mozambique Gas-to-Power, is being developed now, and plans are underway to develop a second plant. Both will rely on Mozambique’s Rovuma basis for feedstock.
I have heard calls, including some from the OECD, for the development of sustainable energy solutions to meet Africa’s power needs. Great — let’s go for it. I’m all for renewable energy solutions, but Africans should not be forced to make either-or-decisions in this area. Energy poverty is a serious concern, and it’s wrong to make it more difficult for African countries to use a readily available natural resource to address it.