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Providing Insight
Into Climate Change
FoS Extracts - 2020

By: Ian Cameron                 TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

2020-01-19

 

US Appeals Court Dismisses Youth Activists' Climate Suit

Five years ago 21 young people, represented by Our Children's Trust sued the US government alleging that it was violating their constitutional rights by contributing to climate change despite knowing its dangerous consequences. Both the Obama and the Trump administrations tried multiple times to get the case, known as Juliana v. United States, thrown out. However, an Oregon district court judge ruled that the case had legal standing.

In a 2-1 decision on January 17 the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals "… reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs' case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate." One of the two judges behind the decision wrote that "although the plaintiffs "made a compelling case that action is needed," it was beyond the court's power to "order, design, supervise, or implement the plaintiffs' requested remedial plan." The dissenting judge wrote that the youth plaintiffs have standing to challenge the government’s conduct, have articulated claims under the Constitution, and have presented sufficient evidence to press those claims at trial. Counsel for the youth plaintiffs vowed to ask the full Ninth Circuit to review the determination that federal courts can do nothing to address an admitted constitutional violation.

In Canada there is a similar youth lawsuit, La Rose et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen, modelled on Juliana, that was filed last October and is still pending.

 

Time to Silence the Voices of Denial

This is the title of an editorial in the Winnipeg Free Press that bemoans the fact that, despite the "grim studies" and "pleas from scientists, who have reached a near-universal consensus on human-made climate change," climate skeptics do not take the issue seriously. In the opinion of the FP's editors "climate change deniers” have been controlling the conversation and should no longer be part of it. The editorial caught the attention of Donna Laframboise who noticed when one of the duplicate versions disappeared from the FP's website. In her view newspapers are supposed to promote debate about society's most pressing problems, not silence intellectual minorities such as climate skeptics.

Anti-energy researcher Naomi Oreskes calls for regulations on free speech. She accuses the fossil-fuel industry of exploiting the journalistic ideals of fairness, objectivity and balance by manipulating journalists into presenting propaganda for the other side. Since all previous electronic media – radio, telephone and television – have been regulated, so should its newest form. Also, Ms. Oreskes wants the US Congress to investigate the fossil fuel industry “and its allies,” as a precursor to possible criminal charges. 

In Germany climate activists are using local declarations of climate emergency to call for laws to punish those who trivialize the climate catastrophe and thereby sabotage the emergency measures to deal with it. The last time there were emergency laws in Germany was 80 years ago.

 

FT: Democracies Ill-Suited to Deal with Climate Change

According to the Financial Times, giving ordinary people a say over public policy impedes climate action, because we don’t care enough about other people’s problems. Edward Luce the US national editor of the FT writes that harrowing images of the Australian bushfires and the California wildfires should be blowing a hole in such complacency. Instead, they show how hard it is for democracies to mobilize public action.

One obstacle is that it's difficult for governments, because of the electoral cycle, to take unpopular actions to reduce CO2 emissions. A second is the uncertainty of establishing that any single disaster is entirely man-made (i.e., due to human CO2 emissions.) The third is human nature: people don't like to be lectured on climate change by 17-year old girls.

 

The Aussie Bushfires

The bushfires blazing throughout Australia have gotten a lot of press. Predictably, mainstream papers like the NY Times blamed Australia for committing climate suicide, calling the country "ground zero for the climate catastrophe." Prime Minister Scott Morrison's attempt to play both sides of the climate game spectacularly backfired. There are direct human causes for the fires than climate change however – bad forestry practices and arson. Thirty years of misguided green ideology, vested interests, political failure and forestry mismanagement have created a massive bushfire threat. Police across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania have arrested 183 people for lighting bushfires. Patrick Michaels and Myron Ebel compare the similarities between Californian and Australian practices in politics, forest management practices and responses to the inevitable fires that ensue.

Others have been looking at the historical and scientific context for the fires. Considering the past 119 years of Australian rainfall, while the most recent two years have been dry, over the last half century the country has been a lot wetter than the previous half century. Jennifer Marohasy points out that it has been hotter and fires have burned larger areas. In particular there was one fire catastrophe in 1939 that burned 2 million ha.

 

Ontario Government Cancels Approval for Nearly Completed Wind Farm to Save Endangered Bat Species

Shortly after taking office in 2018 the new Ontario government cancelled 758 wind projects for economic reasons. In December 2019 the government pulled the plug on the almost complete Nations Rise project near Ottawa. The project had been granted approval for up 33 turbines (later scaled back to 29) at a cost of $200 million. It was intended to generate up to 100 megawatts of electricity under a 20-year, $400-million contract awarded by the province's Independent Electric System Operator.The reason for the cancellation was to prevent the inevitable annihilation of Hoary, Big and Little Brown bats; the Little Brown bat is identified as one of Ontario’s "Species at Risk." 

The wind farm had caused deep divisions in the community as the township had twice voted against being a “willing host” for the project. While some 70 property owners were happy about leasing land to the project's owner EDP Renewables, many others were concerned about noise, the visual disruption and the possible impacts on health and the water table in the area. EDP is now assessing "possible legal actions."

 

Energy Paradox Puts Europe in a Precarious Position

Despite its cool Green parties and ambitious wind and solar agendas, Europe remains by far the world's largest importer of oil and natural gas. As oil output from the North Sea and the coast of Norway declines, the European Union is quietly looking for fossil fuel energy anywhere it can find it. Despite Europe's having more reserves of shale gas than the US, most European countries shun horizontal drilling and fracking, leaving the continent dependent on Russia, the Middle East and Africa for its energy. What ensures that Europeans have enough daily gasoline and home heating fuel are not batteries, wind farms and solar panels – much less loud green proselytizing. They count instead on a mercurial Russia, an array of unstable Middle Eastern governments and an underappreciated US military. 

It is hard to be both the world largest importer of gas and oil and the loudest critic of fossil fuels, but Europe has managed to do it.

 

Germany Rejects EU Call for More Money to Fight Climate Change

The German government is resisting a plea by Brussels to provide more funding to get the EU's flagship climate change policy off the ground – in a blow the continent's decarbonisation hopes. Promoted by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the bloc's ambitious €1 trillion Green Deal includes a new "Just Transition Mechanism" to compensate and regenerate areas that currently depend on carbon-intensive industries like coal mining. But Germany’s finance ministry has already started the year by rejecting calls for more funding, stating that the current EU budget is sufficient to meet the continent's climate goal of going carbon neutral by 2050. The ministry also dismissed the idea of increasing the capital limit on the European Investment Bank, which Ms. von der Leyen had suggested could also help close the funding gap.

 

Greta To Lecture World Leaders at Davos About Ending Fossil Fuels

Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg plans to join other youth at the World Economic Forum on January 21 in Davos, Switzerland, where they will admonish world leaders for providing subsidies to the oil and gas industry, which is responsible, in part, for advancing civilization by providing abundant and affordable energy. Among the calls of the youth group: "We demand that at this year’s Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now – as in right now." 

According to the Science Daily website removing fossil-fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions and renewable energy use as much as hoped. The largest emissions savings would be in oil and gas exporting countries, where fewer poor people would be affected, and subsidy removal can be aided by currently low oil prices.

 

Mark Carney's Case Against Fossil Fuels

After finishing his term as governor of the Bank of England this year, Mark Carney will become the UN’s special envoy on climate action and finance. He is using his final days as governor to intimate institutional financial managers by suggesting that investments in conventional, fossil-fuel energy are high-risk ventures requiring special justification. When asked point-blank in a recent interview whether he supported “divestment” from fossil fuels he tactfully evaded the question but nevertheless asserted that coal, oil and gas were insecure assets. John Constable, energy editor of the Global Warming Policy Forum, cites data from the International Energy Agency showing that nearly all the growth in global energy consumption since 1990 has been accounted for by fossil fuels. 

Terence Corcoran of the Financial Post notes that Mr. Carney is just part of an international movement to turn the world’s energy investors into pawns of state climate activists and agitators for market-distorting policies. The movement wants a new model of financial markets, one that is “sustainable” and “green” and “social” and “environmental” and “equitable." Mr. Corcoran argues that the real risks in energy markets is not the likelihood of stranded coal and oil reserves, but renewables which have failed to make advances despite three decades of incentives, mandates, subsidies and other unsustainable policies, as shown by Germany's dismal experience.

 

Decades of Public Opinion: Climate Change Is Not on the Radar

Each month, Gallup polling asks 1,000 random members of the US public to identify “the most important problem facing this country today.” Donna Laframboise has analyzed Gallup's results for the past two decades, finding that two or three answers typically dominate (economy, government, domestic issues), followed by a long list of concerns mentioned by small numbers of people. However, over the past two decades climate change has never been part of the table of top four issues, meaning it's a less than marginal concern.

 

Another Expensive Solar Scheme Bites the Dust

The Crescent Dunes thermal solar plant in central Nevada looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. Ten thousand mirrors form a spiral almost 2 miles wide that winds around a skyscraper rising above the desert between Las Vegas and Reno. The operation soaks up enough heat from the sun’s rays to spin steam turbines and store energy in the form of molten salt. This feature overcomes the greatest weakness in solar electricity: supplying power outside the hours of peak sunshine. In 2011 the $1 billion project was to be the biggest solar project of its kind, supported by $737 million in federal government loan guarantees.

The steam generators at Crescent Dunes require custom parts and a staff of dozens to keep things humming and to conduct regular maintenance. When the plant opened in 2015 the cost of solar PV electricity (which requires little ongoing maintenance) fell to less than the $135/MWh that Crescent Dunes was charging its customer NV Energy. Today PV-produced electricity costs less than $30/MWh. Last April Crescent Dunes shut down and the US Energy Department took control in August.

 

2020-01-07

 

ExxonMobil Prevails in New York Climate Lawsuit

On December 10 ExxonMobil emerged victorious in a securities fraud trial that examined its internal accounting for the financial risks of climate change, in a striking rejection of claims by the New York attorney general that the company misled investors for years. New York State Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrage cleared ExxonMobil of fraud claims saying that New York’s attorney general failed to establish that the oil company had deceived investors about how it accounted for the cost of future climate change regulation. However, the judge did not let ExxonMobil entirely off the hook, saying: "Nothing in this opinion is intended to absolve ExxonMobil from responsibility for contributing to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases in the production of its fossil fuel products." 

During the trial, the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the company of using two different accounting methods — one public, and one internal — to project its business costs in countries that were expected to implement policies to combat climate change. 

The Rockefeller Family Fund's executive director, who was the instigator of the New York AG's investigation against ExxonMobil, seemed disappointed to learn the limits of his attempts to use public officials to prosecute his enemies. RealClear Energy published a legal analysis of this case and similar ones involving state attorneys general. The problem for the states is that they have no jurisdiction over climate change, which is why the New York AG charged ExxonMobil with securities fraud, which proved too much of a stretch to secure conviction. It was a case of misguided idealism that became impatient with the basic principle of the rule of law, thwarted by an "old fashioned" trial judge who looked at whether the evidence supported the charges filed.

  

Dutch Court Upholds Order to Cut Netherlands Emissions 25% by EOY 2020

A judgment in the Dutch Supreme Court has left the Netherlands government with a legal requirement to perform the politically suicidal task of cutting emissions 25% by the end of 2020, The case was brought six years ago by the Urgenda ("urgent agenda") environmental group in a bid to force ministers to go well beyond EU targets. However, the chances of reaching the 20% target look slim, as emissions in 2018 were down only 15% on 1990 levels. 

The court based its ruling on the UN climate convention and the state's legal obligation to protect the lives and well-being of Dutch citizens. “There is a great deal of consensus in the scientific and international community over the urgent need for a reduction in greenhouse gases by at least 25% by developed countries,” the court said. As an editorial by the Compeititive Enterprise Institute puts it: "This is judicial tyranny in overdrive."

  

Sales of Electric Vehicles Plummet in Ontario

After winning the June 2018 election the new government of Doug Ford cancelled the rebate of up to $14,000 for electric vehicles, saying that the money was going to people who could already afford expensive cars. In the first six months of 2019 sales in Ontario were down 59% compared to the same period in 2018 (2,933 vs 7,110). Rebates are key because the up-front cost of an electric vehicle can be anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 more than a similar gas-powered car. Nationally, the federal government introduced a $5,000 rebate last spring, but EVs are still only a 3.5%, a far cry from the government's target of 10% by 2025. 

 

US Congress Turns Down Expanding EV Tax Credits

Prior to Congress taking its December recess automakers were hoping that it would extend the electric vehicle tax credits. The extension got through the House, but not the Senate, which wasn't interested. While the current $7,500 EV tax credit remains in place, Tesla and General Motors have both reached their 200,000-vehicle quota. They and other automakers lobbied for an expansion, one which would have seen a $7,000 credit kept in place until a manufacturer sold 600,000 electric automobiles.

  

The EU’s Green Deal

On December 11 the European Commission unveiled its European Green Deal with the objective of reaching net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, a goal which would be enshrined in a "Climate Law", to be presented in March 2020. The Commission expects to update the bloc's climate ambition by revising its 2030 objective of a 40% cut in emissions to 50-55%. Beside CO2 emission targets, the deal includes a "circular economy", building renovation, zero pollution, ecosystems and diversity, farm-to-fork strategy, transport and money (with a "leave no one behind" Just Transition Mechanism), R&D and innovation, and external relations (including a proposal for a carbon border tax.) 

The Green Deal failed its first test at the December 12 meeting of the European Council (made up of the heads of government), where Poland refused to give the required unanimous endorsement. According to the Council's official conclusions: "One Member State, at this stage, cannot commit to implement this objective as far as it is concerned, and the European Council will come back to this in June 2020 " A previous effort to get the EU to commit to net-zero emissions by the mid-century was blocked by Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in June 2019.

  

Biden Tells Crowd: Oil Execs Should Be Jailed

Former vice president and presidential candidate Joe Biden told a crowd in Peterborough, New Hampshire that if fossil fuel executives don’t take accountability for helping to doom the environment, we should throw them in jail. In order to curb the rate of pollution, Mr. Biden explained, we need to hold fossil fuel executives “liable for what they have done, particularly in those cases where there are underserved neighborhoods. When they don’t deliver, he said, “put them in jail.” 

 

Mark Carney to Head a UN Climate Action Project

Climate Activist and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is taking on a new role as UN’s new Special Envoy for Climate Action. Describing the Canadian as “a remarkable pioneer in pushing the financial sector to act on climate”, the UN Secretary General said the new envoy would be focusing on ambitious implementation of action, especially shifting markets and mobilizing private finance, towards limiting global warming to the key 1.5°C mark. Mr. Carney replaces former New York mayor and billionaire philanthropist, Michael Bloomberg, who has embarked on a US presidential run.

 

Climate-alarmist Banks Go Carbon-colonialist

Africa has the world's lowest electrification rate-613 kWh/year per capita, compared to 6,500 kWh/year in Europe and 13,000 kWh/year in the US. Over 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have no electricity and 700 million rely on wood, grass and dung for cooking and heating. The African Development Bank (AfDB) launched a $12 billion New Deal for Energy in 2017, with the goal of 100% access to electricity in urban areas and 95% access in rural areas by 2025.

Tthen the AfDB caved to carbon-colonialist pressure, joining the World Bank, Goldman Sachs and other multi-lateral banks in caring more about climate alarmism and avoiding criticism than about safeguarding the lives, livelihoods, health and living standards of electricity-deprived Africans. The AfDB now says almost nothing about coal or even natural gas. Its new themes include responding to global concerns about climate change, gradually adopting a “low-carbon and sustainable growth path,” significantly reducing reliance on fossil fuels, and transitioning to “green growth” and “clean renewable energy."

 

"I don't want to die!"-Climate Exploitation of Children

Last October a group of seven and eight year olds gathered in their school library in Toronto to watch a video of Greta Thunberg's speech to the UN on September 23. During the presentation at least one child yelled "I don’t want to die!. A mother said the carbon clock displayed after the speech showing an eight-year count down had her daughter crying: "Mommy, they said that we’re going to die in eight years." 

This 7:49 video by Friends of Science describes how environmental charities like Ecojustice and foundations like "We Don't Have Time" are using children as pawns in a climate lawsuit against the Ontario government. Similar climate fear-mongers are behind the visits to schools like the one in Toronto.

 

Why “Green” Energy Is Such a Terrible Idea

Using wind power to replace the 3.9 billion MWh that Americans consumed in 2018, coal and gas-fired backup power plants, natural gas for home heating, coal and gas for factories, and gasoline for vehicles – while generating enough extra electricity every windy day to charge batteries for just seven straight windless days – would require some 14 million 1.8-MW wind turbines. These turbines, sprawling across ¾ of the lower 48 states, would require 15 billion tons of steel, concrete and other materials and would wipe out eagles, hawks, bats and other species. Each wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete, and 45 tons of non-recyclable plastic (to be disposed of in landfills after the 20-year life of the turbine.) 

Battery back up the turbines for seven consecutive windless days would require one billion half-ton Tesla batteries costing $6.6 trillion. That means still more raw materials, hazardous chemicals and toxic metals. Then there would be thousands of miles of new transmission lines to connect the turbines to the grid. 

“Green” energy is basically a hoax. The world runs on fossil fuels and will continue to do so until nuclear energy is adopted on a mass scale, or another reliable, high-intensity energy source is discovered. As Matt Ridley argues, in 2014, the last year for which there are reliable figures, wind power supplied zero percent (rounded to a whole number) of the world's energy consumption.

  

Empty Gestures on Climate Change

Bjørn Lomborg writes that climate campaigners and the media urge people to change their everyday behaviour - like switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, washing clothes in cold water, eating less meat and buying an electric car. Such gestures have only a limited effect on emissions. For example, unplugging a phone charger when not in use would save less than 1/2,000 of the average person's CO2 emissions. Moreover, charging accounts for less than 1% of a phone's energy needs; the other 99% comes from handset manufacture and operating of the data centres and cell towers. 

Going vegetarian reduces individual CO2 emissions by 540 kg, or just 4.3% of the emissions of an average developed-country individual. An electric car with a range of 400 km has a huge carbon deficit when it hits the road, and will start saving emissions only after being driven 60,000 km. Yet, most EV owners use them as a second care. 

We spend $129 billion/year subsidizing solar and wind energy, but these sources supply just 1.1% of our global energy needs. The IEA estimates that by 2040 – after we have spent a whopping $3.5 trillion on additional subsidies – solar and wind will still meet less than 5% of our needs.


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