Thursday, March 02, 2017

How renewable energy advocates are hurting the climate cause

Overly optimistic reports of renewables’ success are not only misleading but also counterproductive

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the proliferation of misinformation on social media is finally getting the attention it deserves. Or so I thought.

Scrolling through my Facebook news feed recently, I stumbled upon an article shared by Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization focused on climate science. “The World’s Renewable Energy Capacity Now Beats Out Coal,” read the headline from Co.Exist. I clicked. “The tipping point marks a major milestone in the transition to cleaner power sources,” the subhead declared from atop an aerial photo of a wind farm.

And so went most of the coverage of a new report on renewable energy markets by the International Energy Agency, a well-respected source of global energy statistics. Outlets big and small, reputable and lesser-known, specialized and general, adopted similar headlines, subheads and ledes, accompanied by photos of wind turbines and solar panels.

“Installed capacity is not really a useful metric for a lot of purposes.” –Mark JacobsonThe problem is twofold. First, capacity is a highly selective way to measure electricity, especially in the context of emissions and climate change. Capacity is defined as the maximum electric output a generator can produce under specific conditions at a moment in time — for example, how much a solar farm can generate during a sunny summer day or a wind farm when it’s really windy. But, of course, the sun doesn’t always shine or the wind always blow.

“Installed capacity is not really a useful metric for a lot of purposes,” Mark Jacobson, an engineering professor at Stanford University who studies renewable energy, told me. “When you’re asking, ‘how much is this supplying, how much is wind supplying versus coal?’ you want to look at the actual energy delivered.”

That’s commonly called generation, and is defined as the amount of electricity produced on average over a period of time, such as a year. Sure enough, if you look at generation numbers, coal still beat out renewables in 2015 by a significant margin, 39 percent to not quite 24 percent.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, most readers, and apparently many journalists, equate “renewables” with wind and solar. But the IEA’s renewables category also includes hydropower and biomass. According to the IEA, 71 percent of global renewable electricity generation in 2015 came from hydropower, 15 percent from wind, 8 percent from bioenergy and 4 percent from solar. In other words, it’s not wind and solar that have overtaken coal, it’s a basket of renewables heavily dominated by hydropower. While growth in wind and solar installations have certainly helped push renewables’ share up, hydropower also has been growing in recent years. When you include all sources, hydropower currently generates around 16 percent of the world’s electricity; wind, almost 4 percent; biopower, 2 percent; and solar, just above 1 percent.

These two subtle forms of miscommunication, I believe, have led to some unfortunate misperceptions. A recent survey found that, on average, Americans believe that the country gets 20 percent of the total energy it consumes from wind and solar (11 percent wind, 9 percent solar). Part of this is likely due to the common but erroneous conflation of “energy” and “electricity.” But even if you look at just electricity, the numbers for the U.S. still don’t come close to 20 percent. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2015 statistics show that 4.7 percent of the country’s electricity was generated from wind, with 0.6 percent coming from solar. That’s a 14-plus percentage point difference between what Americans think and the truth.

It’s hard to blame them, with confused and confusing coverage of renewable energy statistics popping up in their social media feeds and on news outlets they’ve come to trust. On top of that, most social media sharers never even read the articles they share. According to a recent study, 59 percent of links shared on Twitter have never been clicked, underscoring the outsize influence of misleading headlines, subheads and header photos. And research has shown that misleading and clickbait headlines have a lasting effect on how those who actually read articles interpret and remember their content.

Making wind and solar seem like they’re doing better than they really are could come back to bite them — and the climate.“This is typical of modern information consumption,” said Arnaud Legout, co-author of the study on social media sharing, in a statement. “People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.”

It’s understandable that environmental organizations and activists would want to build public enthusiasm for renewable energy. But making wind and solar seem like they’re doing better than they really are could come back to bite proponents — and the climate. If members of the public think we’re well on our way to throwing fossil fuels into the dustbin of history and replacing them with renewables, they’ll be less likely to demand new policies and take actions to lower their own carbon footprints. The public may even come to see wind and solar as capable of outcompeting fossil fuels on their own and therefore undeserving of government subsidies and helpful regulations.

Wind and solar have made real progress in recent years. Their costs are projected to continue to decrease, and more wind and solar farms and rooftop solar arrays will continue to pop up across the country and around the world. But if the goal is to limit warming to anywhere near the level world leaders agreed to in Paris in 2015, significant challenges remain — and pretending like everything is going great is not going to fix them.


The Dakota Access Pipeline is Safe, Efficient, and Environmentally Sound

From the beginning of development, the Dakota Access Pipeline has been built to be one of the safest, most technologically advanced pipelines in the world. Dakota Access was designed with tremendous safety factors and state of the art construction techniques and redundancies, including construction and engineering technology that meet or exceed all safety and environmental regulations.

For example, the Dakota Access Pipeline utilizes Horizontal Directional Drills (HDD) for water crossings and state of the art pressure safety design factors that exceed federal requirements by more than 35 percent for road and water body crossings. The minimum installation depth of the pipeline will exceed federal regulations by nearly two feet in agricultural areas. The separation zone between the pipe and all existing infrastructure exceeds the regulatory requirements.

During construction and prior to operation, the pipeline has been and will be subjected to careful inspection and testing to verify its integrity and compliance with all regulatory standards. Once operational, the pipeline route will be patrolled and inspected by air on a weekly basis, weather permitting, to watch for abnormal conditions. It will also be continuously remotely monitored 24/7/365, with additional regular ground inspections.

Underground pipelines are the safest mode of transporting crude oil. Monitored 24/7/365, federal statistics show that underground pipelines transport crude oil more safely than rail (3.4-4.5x safer), or trucks (34x safer). The Dakota Access Pipeline can replace rail and truck transportation of crude oil with less impact to the environment and statistically greater safety.


Members of Congress met to discuss the costs of climate change. They ended up debating its existence

A hearing held Tuesday by several House subcommittees was meant to be an examination of the methods used to calculate an oft-contested metric known as the social cost of carbon, a way of quantifying the costs — environmental, health-related or otherwise — of emitting on additional ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Yet by its close, the conversation had disintegrated into yet another debate about the extent to which man-made climate change exists.

It’s not the first time such an incident has occurred under the new Congress. Just a few weeks ago, the House Science Committee held a hearing intended to focus on the future of the Environmental Protection Agency and how it may incorporate the best available scientific evidence in its regulatory processes. At that hearing, multiple attendees took the opportunity to express doubt about the seriousness of human-caused climate change and the effectiveness of the EPA’s climate policies — many of which were developed with the social cost of carbon in mind.

A controversial metric

The social cost of carbon is set at about $36 per ton of carbon dioxide. The calculations, developed by a federal working group in 2009, rely on a set of models that determine how carbon emissions may affect the climate in the future. They then calculate the monetary costs of any damages associated with those climatic changes, and have been used in dozens of federal environmental rules in the years since.

Tuesday’s hearing, convened by the environment and oversight subcommittees of the House Science Committee, was intended to “examine the methods and parameters used to establish the social cost of carbon” with input from witnesses on how the calculation process could be improved. And indeed, the hearing did begin with a discussion of some of the common issues Republicans have raised about the calculation.

These include the fact that the metric focuses on global costs, not just domestic ones, as well as concerns about the climate-related assumptions included in the models. Many conservatives have also criticized a component of the calculations known as a discount rate, suggesting it could be higher. (The discount rate is a kind of interest rate that helps reflect the fact that carbon emitted today may affect the climate years in the future.)

At Tuesday’s hearing, many of these complaints were raised again by Republican members of the subcommittees and the witnesses they called to testify, including climatologist Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute, statistician Kevin Dayaratna of the Heritage Foundation and economist Ted Gayer of the Brookings Institution.

“The federal government should not include faulty calculations to justify faulty regulations,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), chair of the House Science Committee, in his opening remarks. “Instead, it should eliminate the use of the social cost of carbon until a credible value can be calculated.”

However, such criticisms were contested during the hearing by Democratic attendees and witness Michael Greenstone, an economist at the University of Chicago and former chief economist for President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, who helped convene the first federal working group to begin developing the social cost of carbon in 2009. In fact, many experts have suggested that the current value of the social cost of carbon has been underestimated.

“The approach has been judged valid,” Greenstone said in his opening remarks at the hearing. “Last August, a federal court of appeals rejected a legal challenge to the metric. Furthermore, the Government Accountability Office has said the working group’s methods reflected key principles that ensured its credibility. It used consensus-based decision-making, relied largely on existing academic literature and models and disclosed limitations and incorporated new information by considering public comments and revising the estimates as updated research became available.”

A climate debate renewed

Methodological debates aside, any discussion about how to calculate the social cost of carbon necessarily relies on the assumption that putting carbon into the atmosphere has an effect in the first place — in other words, that carbon dioxide emissions affect the climate in ways that can be quantified. And it soon became clear that not everyone at the hearing strongly felt this to be true.

A number of committee members, as well as several of the majority witnesses, eventually began to express views suggesting that human-caused emissions are not the primary driver of climate change, or that natural climate variations may play a larger role.

“Can anyone on the panel give me a date certain, even a year certain, that there was absolutely no climate change on this planet since the forming of it?” Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) asked the witnesses at one point.

“Since the release of CO2, it has been changing more rapidly,” Greenstone responded, to which Posey responded, “That’s speculative,” while an unidentified voice among the committee members added, “That’s not true.” Witnesses Dayaratna and Michaels both responded that they thought the climate has been changing since the planet was formed.

Later asked to clarify his stance on the primary driver of current climate change, Michaels responded: “The fact that we live on a fluid, discontinuous earth with long-period oscillations. The biggest climate change that you and I know of is an ice age oscillation, and I don’t think CO2 is going to be capable of doing that — and those occurred without human influence.” He noted that he does think that human activity is a “component” of modern climate change.

Others questioned whether an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations might lead to net benefits for the planet, causing an increase in plant growth and agricultural production. At various points during the hearing, Michaels pointed to the fact that certain parts of the planet are becoming greener, presumably thanks to an increase in carbon dioxide levels. And Dayaratna suggested the possibility that factoring in increased agricultural yields — an issue he says has been mostly “unexplored” in calculations of the social cost of carbon — could produce a negative value, or a net monetary benefit associated with the emission of a ton of carbon.

The surfacing of these kinds of climate doubts at Tuesday’s hearing only raise more questions about the future of the social cost of carbon, which — until now — has mostly been used to inform policies intended to combat climate change. It was an integral component of the Clean Power Plan, for instance, which is one of many environmental regulations the Trump administration has expressed an interest in dissolving.

Up to this point, experts have been skeptical about the Trump administration’s ability to eliminate the social cost of carbon altogether, or even significantly reduce its value, without being struck down in court. But with members of both the Trump administration and Congress increasingly questioning its very purpose — to help account for the dangers of climate change — its future is looking ever more uncertain.


Climate change is real, but don’t blame humans

CLIMATE change is real, and has constantly been changing ever since, but contrary to the massive propaganda it is allegedly anthropogenic or caused by man-made global warming, true science says human activities, like industrialization and transport emissions, do not cause global warming.

Is it man-made or Mann-made? The biggest argument used by the United Nations’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and carried by Al Gore’s Climate Change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is the “Hockey Stick” theory by climatologist Michael Mann.

Mann’s study of global temperature the past 1,000 years or so recorded the spike in temperature starting in the 19th century with a graph like the shape of a hockey stick, which many politically motivated environmentalists associate directly to man-made industrialization and the massive influx of motor vehicles. This was done by getting deep earth samples from the polar region, where he made correlations between carbon dioxide (CO2) content and residues capturing temperature levels, although correlation does not establish causality.

This was debunked by many scientists and there are voluminous literature on this over the Internet. Some 31,000 scientists even signed a petition opposing this. Many scientists resigned from IPCC, which is composed more of people from government and non-governmental organizations.

Facts don’t follow theory. In the Global Warming Swindle documentary, earth’s history shows climate changed, contrary to the unscientific propaganda that an increase in CO2 leads to global warming, followed by climate change. Prof. Philip Stott of University of London noted that when humans were not yet producing CO2, we had little ice ages and warm periods. In the 14th century, Europe was in a Little Ice Age, as shown by illustrations of ice fairs and people skating on the Thames River. In the medieval period, England had a warm climate, as manifested in the writings of English poet Chaucer and the memories to this day of historic sites in England like vineyards, Vine Hill, Vine Street, Vinery, etc.

At the turn of the 19th century, temperatures rose by almost half- percent Celsius, but during the post- World War II economic boom up to 1975, they dropped even when CO2 rose to their peaks with industrialization, thus negating the global- warming scare theory.

More proof from Moore. Green Peace’s cofounder, scientist Patrick Moore, left Green Peace when it abandoned science and turned too political, starting with its Global Chlorine Ban, when chlorine is the only technology that can purify water on a mass scale. Chlorine evaporates in 30 minutes, making water already safe. Moreover, 75 percent of medicines are chlorine-based.

Carbon dioxide may have increased from 260 parts per million (ppm) to 400 ppm the past two centuries, this is still a negligible 0.0004 of 100 percent or a million parts. Over the last 600 million years, average CO2 levels were even at 2,000 ppm, which is ideal for plant growth, Moore said. One can only get dizzy at 30,000 ppm of CO2.

We even need more CO2 to develop agriculture and more greenery. Carbon dioxide is also used as a refrigerant, There is even a web site, I Love, but why is CO2 restricted, if the bigger greenhouse gas is water vapor, which is 850-percent stronger than CO2, and 2.1 percent more in volume than CO2. In fact, without water vapor, the Earth will be 14-percent colder.

Apparently, there are interest groups that do not want less-developed countries to industrialize. So their strategy is to put a cap on CO2, which means to go slow on

Moore, a Canadian, could not also understand why Green Peace is against hydropower dams, which is the cheapest renewable energy and account for 60 percent of Canada’s power. It also opposed China’s Three Gorges Hydro Dams, which produce 22,500 megawatts, equivalent to 40 coal plants, and even got the World Bank to pull out funding support.

Green Peace and groups like the Worldwild Life Fund also push for costly and age-old renewable energy (RE). Windmills made of steel may be more efficient, but are no different than Holland’s 12th- century wooden mills, as there is no energy when there is no wind. Solar is another costly RE with very low energy flux density, but may still be appropriate in remote areas.

We need smart-agri vs. climate change. Regardless of the arguments, climate change is here to stay and we need to prepare agriculture as the first line of defense. This was stressed at a Philippine Agricultural Journalists (PAJ) forum sponsored by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) program based at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Among the speakers were Dr. Julian Gonsalvez of the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction; Dr. Reiner Wassmann of IRRI, Victor Cruz of the UP Los Baños College of Forestry; and Dr. Rex Navarro, a PAJ director and member of the Climate Change CCAFS team.

Navarro summed up the measures to be climate-resilient as follows: 1)Farmers need to be knowledge-smart; 2) Seed-smart by using quality-resilient hybrid seeds; 3) Water-smart or irrigation that can manage drought or floods; 4) Nutrient-smart, balancing organic and inorganic fertilization; 5) Energy-smart by adopting appropriate and efficient technologies not dependent on fossil fuel; and 6) Market-smart.

On water resources, Gonsalvez says unlike African countries, which lack rain, we are blessed with rainfall that we can harness to make it possible to have three crops a year. He adds that in Capiz, 40 reservoirs were built, allowing farmers to grow three crops. It only took a backhoe two days to build one reservoir, so why can’t we do this nationwide on a mass scale? On competitiveness, as we could not match Vietnam’s and Thailand’s production costs of P6 per kilo with our P11 to P12 per kilo, Cruz said we should plant crops other than rice, corn and coconut. He stressed the need to also correct so many institutional and policy weaknesses.

Wassmann added it is not only “a question of productivity. It is also a question of adaptation, that diversity is always good”.

In summary, climate change is a fact, but is not caused by humans, thus we need to bring back science and technology to explore all the other maybe seven to 10 natural causes, which are a whole discourse altogether. We also need to change the climate of governance to be more relevant to the imminent threats of climate change.


Is Global Warming Science Just A Fraud?

Climate Change: We're often told by advocates of climate change that the "science is settled." But in fact, "science" itself is in a deep crisis over making claims it can't back up, especially about climate.

As BBC News Science Correspondent Tom Feilden noted last week, "Science is facing a 'reproducibility crisis' where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, research suggests." This isn't just his journalistic opinion, but the conclusion of the University of Virginia's Center for Open Science, which estimates that roughly 70% of all studies can't be reproduced.

And this includes the field of climate change, by the way. It's a disaster. Being able to reproduce others' experiments or findings from models is at the very heart of science. Yet, radical climate change advocates would have us spend 2% of global GDP, or roughly $1.5 trillion a year, to forestall a minuscule amount of anticipated warming based on dubious modeling and experiments.

Meanwhile, the federal government spends literally billions of dollars a year on climate change, with virtually none of the money funding scientists who doubt the climate change threat. There is no serious debate. This is a problem for all of science.

Worse, our government's own science fraud is a big problem. Dr. John Bates, a former top scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, recently detailed how a government paper that called into question the 18-year "pause" in global warming was based on "experimental" data and politicized. That "paper" was used to justify President Obama's signing of the Paris climate agreement.

Meanwhile, Georgia Institute of Technology climatologist Judith Curry recently retired, blaming the "CRAZINESS (her emphasis) in the field of climate science."

Even so, mythical claims of a "consensus" among scientists about climate change continue in an effort to shut up critics. Those who dissent, and literally thousands of scientists and engineers do, are shouted down and harassed.

As Princeton University physicist Will Happer told the left-wing British newspaper the Guardian earlier this week: "There's a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult. ... It will potentially harm the image of all science."

It's time for some science Glasnost. New EPA Director Scott Pruitt has called for an open debate on climate science, rather than the name-calling and outright dishonesty of the past. Real science has nothing to fear from more openness and discussion, but everything to fear from more politicized dishonesty.



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