News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Shellenberger and Nordhaus in Sept. 2013 say US is global climate leader thanks to 35 years of gov. spending on shale revolution and big drop in coal use, not because of CO2 tax or cap and trade which wherever used have not helped climate. Note Germany has increased coal use and CO2 emissions, NRDC and Sierra Club obstruct best ways to help climate

9/26/13, "Climate Skeptics Against Global Warming,", Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus

"What Conservatives Can Teach Liberals About Global Warming Policy"

"Over the last decade, progressives have successfully painted conservative climate skepticism as the major stumbling block to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon and the Koch brothers, the story goes, fund conservative think tanks to sow doubt about climate change and block legislative action. As evidence mounts that anthropogenic global warming is underway, conservatives’ flight from reason is putting us all at risk.

This week's release of a new United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report opens another front in the climate wars. But beneath the bellowing, name-calling, and cherry-picking of data that have become the hallmark of contemporary climate politics lies a paradox: the energy technologies favored by the climate-skeptical Right are doing far more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than the ones favored by the climate-apocalyptic Left.

How much more? Max Luke of Breakthrough Institute ran the numbers and found that, since 1950, natural gas and nuclear prevented 36 times more carbon emissions than wind, solar, and geothermal. Nuclear avoided the creation of 28 billion tons of carbon dioxide, natural gas 26 billion, and geothermal, wind, and solar just 1.5 billion.

Environmental leaders who blame "global warming deniers" for preventing emissions reductions point to Germany's move away from nuclear and to renewables. "Germany is the one big country that’s taken this crisis seriously," wrote Bill McKibben. Other progressive and green leaders, including Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Bobby Kennedy, Jr., have held up Germany's "energy turn," the Energiewende, as a model for the world. 

But for the second year in a row, Germany has seen its coal use and carbon emissions rise — a fact that climate skeptical conservatives have been quick to point out, and liberal environmental advocates have attempted to obfuscate. "Last year, Germany’s solar panels produced about 18 terawatt-hours (that’s 18 trillion watt-hours) of electricity," noted Robert Bryce from the conservative Manhattan Institute. "And yet, [utility] RWE’s new coal plant, which has less than a 10th as much capacity as Germany’s solar sector, will, by itself, produce about 16 terawatt-hours of electricity.

Reagan historian Steven Hayward, formerly of the American Enterprise Institute, noted in the conservative Weekly Standard earlier this week, "Coal consumption went up 3.9 percent in Germany last year. Likewise, German greenhouse gas emissions — the chief object of Energiewenderose in Germany last year, while they fell in the United States."

Emissions fell in the United States thanks largely to a technology loathed by the Left: fracking. From 2007 to 2012, electricity from natural gas increased from 21.6 to 30.4 percent, while electricity from coal declined from 50 to 38 percentthat's light speed in a notoriously slow-changing sector. And yet the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and most other green groups are working to oppose the expansion of natural gas.

Hayward and Bryce are two of the most respected writers on energy and the environment on the Right. Both are highly skeptical that global warming poses a major threat. Both regularly criticize climate scientists and climate models. Both men are regularly attacked by liberal organizations like Media Matters for working for organizations, the American Enterprise Institute and Manhattan Institute, respectively, that have taken money from both Exxon and the Koch brothers. And yet both men are full-throated advocates for what Bryce calls "N2N" — accelerating the transition from coal to natural gas and then to nuclear.

Arguably, the climate-energy paradox is a bigger problem for the Left than the Right. One cannot logically claim that carbon emissions pose a catastrophic threat to human civilization and then oppose the only two technologies capable of immediately and significantly reducing them. And yet this is precisely the position of Al Gore, Bill McKibben, the Sierra Club, NRDC, and the bulk of the environmental movement.

By contrast, there are plenty of good reasons for climate skeptics to support N2N. A diverse portfolio of energy sources that are cheap, abundant, reliable, and increasingly clean is good for the economy and strengthens national security - all the more so in a world where energy demand will likely quadruple by the end of the century.

Why then is there so much climate skepticism on the Right? One obvious reason is that climate science has long been deployed by liberals and environmentalists to argue not only for their preferred energy technologies but also for sweeping new regulatory powers for the federal government and the United Nations.

But here as well, the green agenda hasn’t fared well. Those nations that most rapidly reduced the carbon intensity of their economies over the last 40 years did so neither through regulations nor international agreements. Nations like France and Sweden, which President Obama rightly singled out for praise earlier this month, did so by directly deploying nuclear and hydroelectric power. Now the United States is the global climate leader, despite having neither a carbon price nor emissions trading, thanks to 35 years of public-private investment leading to the shale gas revolution. Meanwhile, there is little evidence that caps and carbon taxes have had much impact on emissions anywhere.

In the end, both Left and Right reject a more pragmatic approach to the climate issue out of fear that doing so might conflict with their idealized visions for the future. Conservatives embrace N2N as a laissez-faire outcome of the free market in the face of overwhelming evidence that neither nuclear nor gas would be viable today had it not been for substantial taxpayer support. Progressives seized on global warming as an existential threat to human civilization because they believed it justified a transition to the energy technologies – decentralized renewables – that they have wanted since the sixties.

The Left, in these ways, has been every bit as guilty as the Right of engaging in "post-truth" climate politics. Consider New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza's glowing profile of Tom Steyer, the billionaire bankrolling the anti-Keystone campaign. After Lizza suggested that Steyer and his brother Tom might be the Koch brothers of environmentalism, Steyer objects.  The difference, he insists, is that while the Koch brothers are after profit, he is trying to save the world.

It is telling that neither Lizza nor his editors felt it necessary to point out that Steyer is a major investor in renewables and stands to profit from his political advocacy as well. Clearly, Steyer is also motivated by green ideology. But it is hard to argue that the Koch brothers haven’t been equally motivated by their libertarian ideology. The two have funded libertarian causes since the 1970s and, notably, were among the minority of major energy interests who opposed cap and trade. Fossil energy interests concerned about protecting their profits, including the country's two largest coal utilities, mostly chose to game the proposed emissions trading system rather than oppose it as the Koch brothers did.

As Kathleen Higgins argues in a new essay for Breakthrough Journal, it's high time for progressives to get back in touch with the liberal tradition of tolerance, and pluralism. "Progressives seeking to govern and change society," she writes, should attempt to "see the world from the standpoint of their fiercest opponents. Taking multiple perspectives into account might alert us to more sites of possible intervention and prime us for creative formulations of alternative possibilities for concerted responses to our problems."

As Left and Right spend the next week slugging it out over what the climate science does or does not tell us, we would do well to remember that science cannot tell us what to do. Making decisions in a democracy requires understanding and tolerating, not attacking and demonizing, values and viewpoints different from our own.

Conservatives have important things to say when it comes to energy, whether or not they think of it as climate policy. Liberals would do well to start listening." via Tom Nelson


Among comments: Two exchanges, one in which Michael Shellenberger responds by again noting obstructionism of Sierra Club and NRDC; another from a Minnesota resident with high hopes wind turbines in the Dakotas and solar in the Southwest can power most of the US with some hydro and geothermal backup:


First commenter has hopes set on renewables and leadership from China. Michael Shellenberger's response follows:

"Sure, I get it. But the U.S. today isn’t 1970s Europe. Heck, Europe today isn’t 1970s Europe! I’d like to think we can move from nuclear retrenchment to renaissance in both places. Next generation reactors are promising, but not ready for prime-time. Maybe there’s more going on in other countries like China to give us hope. But since we’re not there yet, I’m not sure it’s helpful to frame nuclear/gas vs renewables as an either/or contest. Technology tribalism can only get you so far.  


By Daniel Roberts on 2013 09 26"
Reply by Michael Shellenberger:

"I agree with you. We are in favor of all the low-carbon energies, including renewables. It’s the Sierra Club, NRDC and much of the rest of the environmental movement that is against the two technologies that avoided 36 times more emissions than renewables.


By Michael Shellenberger on 2013 09 27"


Second comment, Minnesota resident optimistic about wind and solar, says we just have to set aside our political affiliations. Another commenter responds:
"There’s enough wind in the Dakotas alone to power the entire US… and there’s enough sunshine in 100 miles by 100 miles of the southwest to do it all over again. Even if we don’t aim for 100% renewables…70 or 80 percent is easily within reach…especially with the help of hydro and enhanced geothermal for base load supply.

We can do this people…just have to set our political affiliations aside and get to work.

By Jon Silvester on 2013 09 27"
Reply to Minnesota resident by commenter Jay Maynard on 2013 09 27:
"Jon, the problem is that the wind in the Dakotas, and the sunshine in the Southwest, simply aren’t there all the time. I live in southern Minnesota, not far from the Buffalo Ridge that’s full of windmills for power. There are plenty of times that the wind just isn’t turning them. The 100-square-mile plot you speak of in the Southwest will run afoul of not only maintenance issues with blowing dust, but also environmentalist objections to destroying habitat for whatever bugs and weeds they can get their hands on to stop the project.

And then there’s the reality that electricity does not work well for many uses we have for energy. For example, nobody in the northern part of the country - you know, where it snows regularly and often - heats with electricity, simply because it’s too expensive compared to natural gas. Then there’s the electric car, which is making great strides, but is nowhere near what many users like me need: the ability to go 300 miles on a charge at 70 MPH with an SUV-load of people and stuff, then be ready to do it all over again in 15 minutes, indefinitely. And there are even harder problems: an electric-powered replacement for light aircraft is a much longer ways off."...

By Jay Maynard on 2013 09 27"
Comment: Thanks to the authors for giving us a voice for at least a few minutes. Not mentioned is the global CO2 number which is said to be the problem. Assuming for the moment that human CO2 is killing the planet, China is the only country that can do anything about it. Everyone knows it, the numbers are public. US CO2 has plunged over many years (as the authors note) and is now dwarfed by China's CO2. Nothing the US government can do at this point will significantly lower global CO2. The US gov./political class knows this but is enacting additional strict measures anyway against a population in a permanently depressed, part-time economy. Regarding the UN. Its personnel are unelected, unaccountable, can't be prosecuted for any crime anywhere in the world, and are supported in large part by the earnings of the US taxpayer. UN personnel can take the money given to them each year by US taxpayers and put it in personal Swiss bank accounts without consequence or complaint. That isn't even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the US political class thinks this is fine.
Two citations about the UN:
4/16/09, "Report: U.N. spent U.S. funds on shoddy projects," USA Today, Ken Dilanian

"Federal prosecutors in New York City were forced to drop criminal and civil cases because the U.N. officials have immunity....

The Afghanistan country director for the U.N. Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which served as the contractor on the project 

for the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), 

spent about $200,000 

in U.S. money to renovate his guesthouse.

Witness names were withheld by USAID.” 

Do UN "agencies have immunity "if they siphon (their U.S. grants) all off into Swiss banks? Is that accurate?

They will be totally immune, no matter what they do with the money?" "My understanding is, yes," Gambatesa replied." (item near end)
4/12/13, "Despite sequester, State Department ups support for the UN," George Russell, Fox News

"State Department contributions to “International Organizations and Programs” include a 30 percent hike, to $13 million, for the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose assessments of global warming have been sharply criticized by skeptics.

Secretary of State Kerry is, if anything, more fervent than President Obama himself in his support of urgent—and expensive—action to combat “climate change.” As he puts it grandly in his introductory budget letter, “We must have the foresight and courage to make the investments necessary to safeguard the most sacred trust for our children and grandchildren: an environment not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts, and the other hallmarks of a dramatically changing climate.”... 

Even those total big-ticket categories, of course, vastly understate the amount of money that the U.S.. showers on the U.N. each year, which includes food aid, health and humanitarian assistance that are channeled through U.N. agencies, which claim administrative fees for handling the aid -- though often not especially well. ...

Even as the mandated sequester bites into U.S. federal spending -- and newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry boasts that he is cutting his budget by 6 percent -- the State Department is planning to boost spending on the United Nations in 2014 by more than 4 percent to at least $3.6 billion.

That is likely to be far from the final tally of Obama Administration support, as hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. development, health and other funds are usually channeled through U.N. agencies and institutions -- with the U.N. agencies taking administrative fees as part of the deal. The most recent tally on the website of the White House Management and Budget website, for example,
lists support for the U.N. at $7.7 billion -- in 2010."...


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