Friday, 3 July 2015

Climate change: "The scientific consensus has not changed: the planet is warming and mankind is, at least in part, responsible. Action is certainly needed. But how to help, without hurting too much?"

Last month, there was a concerted effort to lobby parliament on climate change:
Futures Forum: Climate change: from the Somerset Levels to London >>> "We have to speak out to take action."
Futures Forum: Climate change: Speak up >>> lobbying Parliament >>> Weds 17th June

The question is what should the new government do.

This is the take from the Telegraph recently:

The Tories must seize the chance to rethink climate change policy

David Cameron and George Osborne have just defeated Ed Miliband electorally; now they have to defeat him intellectually

By Fraser Nelson 18 Jun 2015


Amber Rudd, the new Climate Change Secretary, has decided to stop subsidising new onshore wind farms from next year. She is in a position to apply a common sense test to much of what was signed off by Ed Davey, her Lib Dem predecessor. But like so many Tory ministers she has not, yet, worked out what she will do instead. She intends to take the summer to come up with a proper Tory plan, after taking stock of what we have learned in the last five years.

Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary

Plenty has changed. The climate debate, so long polarised between zealots and deniers, has cooled. It is now (just about) possible to question the wisdom of an environmentalist policy without being denounced as a global warming denier. This applies to scientists, too: global temperatures have not been warming significantly for about 17 years now, encouraging a closer look at climate variability. The fracking revolution in the United States mean its natural gas prices have fallen to less then the average in Europe. As a result, heavy industry (and jobs) are flooding back to former rustbelt states. The scientific consensus has not changed: the planet is warming and mankind is, at least in part, responsible. Action is certainly needed. But how to help, without hurting too much?

The Tories must seize the chance to rethink climate change policy - Telegraph

This is Geoffrey Lean's take:

Should the sun now set on onshore wind?

The Government's reasons for ending subsidies are wrong, but windfarms have for too long enjoyed exceptional official favour

Wind power could not deliver energy security, a new report suggests

By Geoffrey Lean19 Jun 2015


It is, you might say, quite a blow to wind. Yesterday the Government announced that it would end subsidies for onshore turbines a year early, in April 2016, fulfilling a pledge in the Conservative manifesto.

Environmentalists – and, of course, the wind industry - have been quick to condemn the move. Both Friends of the Earth and the industry body, Renewable UK, accused ministers of “pulling the rug out” from under the source of renewable power. And the Scottish government – with 75 per cent of affected wind projects north of the border – said the decision will “do incredible damage to investor confidence” and warned that it could be challenged in the courts.

And indeed the main reason that ministers give for clamping down on onshore wind – that it is unpopular –is simply not credible. Polls regularly show that two-thirds to three-quarters of Briton support it, and – though there is well justified anger at some poorly sited windfarms – it even gets a surprising amount of backing from people who live near turbines. In fact, its unpopularity appears to be most marked on the government’s own backbenches.

By contrast, ministers are pressing ahead with fracking, which is supported by only about a quarter of the people of Britain, and is already being opposed by over 200 local groups before it has even begun. Worse, it is restricting consultation with local people about test wells, while preparing to give them a veto on wind farms – something that is bound to increase opposition to the shale oil and gas by so tilting the playing field, while giving encouragement to protestors that they too might win the right to block energy developments if they make life difficult enough.

The other main reason, advanced especially by the new Energy Secretary, Amber Rudd – that Britain is already on course to exceed its targets for onshore wind - carries rather more weight. Some 5,500 turbines have already been built, or are under construction, in Britain and another 3,000 have already been given planning permission, giving the UK, she says, “enough subsidised projects in the pipeline to meet our renewable energy commitments.”

The EU, however, disagrees, concluding in a report published this week that the UK is one of five European countries – with France, Netherlands, Malta and Luxembourg - set to fail to meet binding targets for clean energy by 2020. Environmentalists and industry say it is madness, in these circumstances – and amid the growing need to fight climate change, highlighted by Pope Francis’ encyclical yesterday – to stifle further expansion of the cheapest way of generating renewable power.

Last year the Government announced it was scrapping subsidies for solar farms 

Yet the announcement was not quite as savage as it seemed. It left open a loophole that would enable between 1,000 and 3,000 more turbines to escape the axe. And those schemes that will be unable to take advantage of it would probably not have been ready to go ahead before the subsidies ran out anyway in 2017.

It is also true that for many years successive Governments concentrated almost exclusively on encouraging onshore wind, at the expense of developing other clean technologies – like tide, wave, and geothermal power, hydrogen, electric vehicles and, above all, ways of storing electricity generated by intermittent renewable sources . The industry, both greedy and arrogant, exploited their favour for all it was worth, often overriding local sensibilities, and has largely itself to blame for getting its come-uppance now.

Indeed, the fact that onshore wind is the lowest cost renewable is an argument against, not for, indefinitely continuing support. The justification for subsidies is to help fledgling industries to find their feet and eventually take wing, not to fatten established ones (though, in fairness, fossil fuels are subsidised far more than any renewable sources, with far less justification). The wind industry, and environmentalists, say it is too early to cut them completely and the onshore industry will die, as a result. They may prove to be right, but they have often cried wolf in the past, undermining their credibility – and the loophole in the announcement should help soften the blow.

Perhaps the most important factor is little known: the money set aside for renewable subsidies is getting tight, and may run out. In the last parliament, Ed Davey – the LibDem former energy secretary – succeeded in getting an unexpectedly large amount, rising to £7.6 billion in 2020, out of Chancellor George Osborne. But both wind and solar energy have expanded faster than was foreseen, while cuts in the wholesale price of electricity have increased the amounts that have had to be paid.

Whatever greens and the industry might wish, the chances of getting the limit increased are slim. As Rudd told me this week: “No conversation with the Chancellor that started with that premise would end happily”. So ministers will have to choose carefully what technologies should be supported now, with a view to developing them as important sources for the future. On that basis, onshore wind does not measure up.

Perhaps onshore wind will prove, in an ideal world, to have needed a few more years of subsidy. Perhaps, it is already well-established enough to withstand the blow. We will know in a few years. But when – in a far from ideal situation – money is as tight as it is, it is hard to argue that it should go on being favoured to the detriment of other clean technologies.

Should the sun now set on onshore wind? - Telegraph

The Telegraph posts a wide spectrum on climate change:
Heatwave could buckle train tracks and melt roads, travellers warned - Telegraph
Climate change could undermine the last 50 years of health advances - Telegraph
Latest victim of global warming: loaves of bread will be smaller in future, warn scientists - Telegraph
The Pope joins the EU in a sad world of make-believe - Telegraph
Earth has entered sixth mass extinction, warn scientists - Telegraph

See also:
Futures Forum: Aero Island in Denmark: Behind the times or way ahead?
Futures Forum: Energy revolution: “There is growing evidence that some fundamental changes are coming that will over time put a question mark over investments in old energy systems.”
Futures Forum: The aesthetics of development: pylons and windfarms
Futures Forum: "In praise of wind turbines": man-made landscapes
Futures Forum: A wind farm for the Jurassic Coast? latest news
Futures Forum: Climate change: appealing to values and identity >>> From 'worthy but dull' to re-framing the debate >>> It's about: pollution >>> inter-generational debt >>> conserving the local landscape

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