Latest posts by H. Sterling Burnett (see all)
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An annual two-week luxury climate negotiation excursion for nearly 25,000 government diplomats, bureaucrats, and environmentalists in Bonn, Germany ended on November 17. If one is to believe the PR hype coming out of the conference, the attendants made significant progress concerning how to account for and report domestic greenhouse-gas emissions and progress in their efforts to rein in coal use.
However, the truth lurking behind the hype is if one believes humans are causing dangerous climate change (I don’t), the huge amount of resources consumed and large spike in emissions resulting from this massive travel junket created far more damage to Earth than the benefits received from this completely ineffective event.
Bonn participants, including some governors and mayors from blue cities, spent much time carping about President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Not only did the participants’ complaints accomplish nothing, they were also extremely hypocritical. Despite no longer being a party to the Paris agreement, the United States has continued to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions at a faster rate than any other nation, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP, while growing its economy and energy use. Although the climate alarmists at Bonn may not want to admit it, the U.S. example shows technological innovation and efficiency, not words on paper, are what improve energy use.
America aside, a report by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) released before the Bonn negotiations determined even if every country were to abide by its Paris commitments to cut or cap greenhouse gases between now and 2030—a dubious proposition, at best—global temperature will still rise by 3 degrees Celsius by 2100, essentially dooming the planet, if we are to believe the claims made by the Bonn negotiators in 2015.
UNEP calculates the Paris agreement will provide only one-third of the greenhouse-gas emissions reductions needed to keep global temperature from rising by less than 2 degrees C. According to the report, unless global greenhouse-gas emissions peak before 2020, just two short years from now, carbon-dioxide levels will soar beyond the 2030 targets. The report says failing to reach the targets makes it “extremely unlikely that the goal of holding global warming to well below 2 degrees C can still be reached.”
With the UNEP report looming in the background at Bonn, negotiators had two main goals: (1) to develop plans for encouraging countries to steeply increase their efforts to reduce emissions below the Paris targets and (2) to develop guidelines for how emissions from each country should be measured and reported and how financial aid from wealthy donor countries given to developing countries should be tracked. Almost no progress was made on either goal at the recent Bonn meeting. Instead, all the hard decisions were put off until the next junket is held (currently planned for 2018 in Katowice, Poland).
Among the critical steps allegedly needed to stay below 2 degrees C, the most important is arguably to phase out coal use for power plants, starting now. Yet, according to the United Nations, there are currently 273 gigawatts of coal capacity under construction around the world and another 570 gigawatts in the pipeline, representing a 42 percent increase in global coal energy production. Given these facts, the idea global coal use is going to decline in the next two years is laughable.
While 27 countries and a couple of states from the United States announced the formation of the Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) in Bonn, which will supposedly help them phase out traditional coal power plants and cease all investment in coal domestically or abroad by 2030 or earlier, the 2030 target is 10 years too late, according to UNEP. Further, PPCA includes none of the top 10 coal consuming nations. Indeed, many members use no coal at all, so their cost of joining the alliance is virtually zero and thus purely symbolic. The remaining members use little coal to start with, and many were already in the process of phasing out its use when they made the agreement.
Also worth noting is the conference’s host country, Germany, has for decades led the push for a strong international climate agreement, all while steadfastly refusing to commit to ending its use of coal for electric power, which has grown in recent years. And Poland, where next year’s climate negotiations will be held, is part of a group of former Eastern Block members of the European Union (EU) committed to expanding electrification using coal in the short term and enacting a longer phase-out period in the long term.
Even France and the United Kingdom, both members of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, increased their coal use in 2017. This is largely because France has had to shut down some of its nuclear reactors—which have been exporting power to the United Kingdom through trans-channel power lines—for refueling, maintenance, and repairs. This resulted in declining coal-fired power plants in the United Kingdom being forced to ramp up their energy production to ship electricity to France. It’s highly likely other nuclear plants in France will have to undergo similar refueling and repairs in the coming years, likely necessitating the use of additional U.K. coal power.
As a whole, the European Union has admitted it is unlikely to meet the emissions reduction targets required in the Paris agreement, making it almost impossible it will be able to achieve the cuts the new UNEP report estimates are necessary to prevent climate catastrophe.
What about the big kid on the block, China? Reports previously indicated global greenhouse-gas emissions had leveled off in recent years, in part because emissions from China fell due to sluggish growth and restrictions on coal use and driving. However, there is some evidence China has underreported its carbon-dioxide emissions in recent years, and China announced regardless of what has happened in the past, in 2017, its emissions are expected to grow by 3.5 percent as a result of improved economic growth. Since China accounts for more than 30 percent of humans’ total greenhouse-gas emissions, its emissions resurgence will very likely swamp all emissions reductions made elsewhere.
Never fear faithful reader, there is good news! Although the Paris climate agreement was a feel-good, virtue-signaling agreement that had no teeth and no hope of success, the dire predictions of climate apocalypse are every bit as fictional as the Paris climate salvation fantasy. Data show Earth is much less sensitive to carbon-dioxide increases than climate models assume, and the catastrophic climate changes alarmists such as those running UNEP say should be occurring due to human-caused climate change have, prediction after prediction, failed to materialize. Meanwhile, poverty has fallen, life spans have increased, global health has improved, and crop yields have grown—all during the purported period of “dangerous” climate change.
[Originally Published at Townhall]