FORGET GLOBAL WARMING AND FACE UP TO REAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Ambassador Richard H. Jones, deputy director of the IEA, opened the IEA’s April conference by-lined
‘Clean Energy Progress’, by saying global temperatures are “probably” going to rise by “6 degrees
celsius” by about 2050. The main problem, apart from this being totally impossible – barring massive
meteorite attack or massive volcanic eruptions – is that fewer and fewer persons believe this story.
One person who ferociously believed in the story, because he helped invent it is Britain’s James ‘Gaia’
Lovelock. Today however, in an April 23 interview with MSNBC, Lovelock has retracted and describes
himself, and Al Gore as unnecessarily “alarmist”, although this of course helped them sell a lot printed
matter and get invited to speak at lucrative rates, spreading alarm on the coming catastrophe. In 2006,
in an interview with the UK ‘Independent’ paper, Lovelock went as far as to say that “billions would
die” from runaway global warming leaving only “a few breeding pairs” of humans, forced to retreat
near the poles, to keep the human race breeding. Lysenko had almost as much leverage as this, touting
his half-baked genetic theories in Stalin’s USSR.
Fritz Vahrenholt, head of RWE Innogy and a former leading figure of the German environmental
movement with Joshka Fischer (former vice chancellor of Germany) has also broken ranks, and for this
has been derided as a lobbyist for fossil fuels, after he published his global warming unbeliever’s book:
‘Die Kalte Sonne’ (The Cold or cooling Sun).
Like a straight majority of public opinion, and a rising number of scientists Vahrenholt is highly critical
of the so-called consensus that “CO2 = global warming”. Also however, Vahrenholt supports the idea of
‘Energiewende’ or Energy Transformation, but like myself and many others he says the current German
approach is too costly, technologically uncertain. running much too fast and could wind up heavily
counterproductive. Germany’s renewable energy action plan (its REAP, like similar plans in other EU27
states) is already having unplanned and unwanted effects, including undermining national biodiversity
and according to Vahrenholt destroying German forests in the stampede to develop all and any kinds of
renewable energy, including biomass, and hacking forests apart to site windfarms at a rate of several
hectares of forest cleared for each onshore windmill.
This rush to develop renewable energy, since 2009 an official European Union plan in the shape of
member state REAPs, is treated as so urgent, even imperious for only two reasons. First there is global
warming, the supposed catastrophe of the century; second there is the high cost of oil and gas imports.
Coal imports, for unknown reasons, are not described as expensive or alarming – but European imports
of rare earth elements, coal, uranium, many other metals and minerals, tropical foods, or Chinese and
Indian manufactured products and increasing volumes and values of services, can easily be described as
bad for European trade balances, expensive and alarming. The role of global warming, ritually
described as “catastrophic”, takes the high ground in the forced march to energy transition but as
Vahrenholt says, he is convinced that CO2 and global warming are being exaggerated: he says we have
a lot more time, and more options for developing genuinely sustainable energy solutions.
REAL CLIMATE CHANGE
Vahrenholt was a hero of the German environmental movement for decades, so his critical book took
center-stage in German reviews and media, and quickly percolated into the national debate on
Energiewende. For so-called “climate-minded” Germans he is now a bete noire, especially for saying
out loud that climate catastrophe is not taking place, at least climate change due to anthropogenic
greenhouse gas emissions. For him, the influence of the sun’s energy cycles has been underestimated,
but on this score he has to venture out into the very complex field of trying to forecast solar sunspot
cycles, and deciding if, or not, we are moving into a longer-term period of low activity sunspot cycles,
such as the Dalton minimum of the early 19th century or much more powerful and longer Maunder
mininum starting in the late 17th century.
In both cases, global temperatures dropped significantly, and if the sun is heading towards a more
inactive phase now, we have another reason to not fear global warming catastrophe this century.
Even ignoring the other and real causes – anthropogenic – of climate change, especially deforestation
and monocrop agriculture over dozens of millions of square kilometres of the Earth’s land surface (of
148 million sq kms total), Vahrenholt’s message is already ‘controversial’ enough to stir the hornet’s
nest. His book has been severely criticized in German newspapers like Bild, or Die Zeit which called
him ‘Störenfritz’, or ‘Troublemaker Fritz’. A planned lecture at the University of Osnabrück was
cancelled because the university found his topic too provocative. The book has also become highly
political, with other German papers comparing him to Bundesbank executive Thilo Sarrazin, who
claims that mass immigration has destroyed German identity (book title: ‘Germany Abolishes Itself’),
and was forced to resign after penning his book.
Vahrenholt is not just anybody. He has been CEO of RWE Innogy, its renewable energy subsidiary for 5
years with an aggressive expansion strategy across Europe, but RWE was also a major user of nuclear
power and is also the biggest German producer of coal- and lignite-based electricity. Critics therefore
jump to the conclusion that Vahrenholt and his coauthor Sebastian Lüning, who works for RWE DEA,
the oil production and trading arm of RWE, are simply furthering their corporate interests. For
Vahrenholt the real reason is simpler: ‘climate crazies’ cannot take criticism and want a stampede into
renewable energy, whether or not it is economically and technologically feasible.
Vahrenholt, who is a chemical scientist by education is hard to fault on his knowledge of where the
breakpoints in Germany’s Energiewende are likely. Before moving to RWE Innogy in 2007, and from
2001 he was CEO of REpower Systems. This large wind energy company has a fast-growing portfolio
of wind power assets across Europe, but like a growing number of renewable energy based companies,
starting with the biggest (such as Vestas in windpower and QCells in solar power) times are becoming
rapidly very challenging. QCells, once German and world leader in solar PV production is now in
receivership and the Vestas share price is down about 75% in 12 months.The most basic reason for this
was going too fast, powered by government handouts which then disappeared, in a casino capitalist
market system with no safety nets and where only breakneck expansion succeeds.
Vahrenholt argues that global warming and carbon release are almost certainly not the climate killers
they were made out to be, but his book only dabbles in the real and dangerous anthropogenic climate
change generated by human-induced modifications of a huge proportion of the Earth’s surface: his
preoccupation is now centred on biodiversity loss (after quitting RWE Innogy later this year he will
become president of the German Wild Animals Foundation (Deutsche Wildtier Stiftung)).
FAKING THE DATA
A host of telltale indicators show that climate change is real but global warming is not: Vahrenholt is a
lot less than tender with the UN IPCC. These telltales even include global wind patterns and their
intensity, which Vahrenholt, with a long track record in wind energy knows plenty about. As he says in
his book, both 2010 and 2011 were not very windy, but the climate models of the UN IPCC predict that
wind regimes in mid-latitude areas will only and can only become more powerful, due to the the rise of
CO2 concentrations. In fact even the main driver of all equatorial and lower latitude circulation of air
and humidity, called the Hadley Cell, and the related Walker-Hadley climate system, are weakened by
wind speed and frequency reduction due to massive ongoing deforestation and agriculture development,
causing radical changes of albedo and average humidity, and directly reducing wind speeds. This
concerns Continent-sized chunks of the planet – all the tropical forest areas and is a climate change factor
known for at least 25 years – but the UN IPCC brushes it aside because of its CO2 obsession.
As Vahrenholt says, the scientific literature shows that weakening wind regimes have nothing at all to
do with CO2. Simply this factor, weakening and more variable wind regimes, overturns longstanding
cycles of the global climate system, which feature in UN IPCC models, such as the North Atlantic
Oscillation (NAO). This is a natural cycle with a period of about 60 years, split into two 30-year
subcycles of more wind in winter, for 30 years, and then less – with much colder winters when there is
less wind. When or if we tilt into regimes of generally lower wind intensity, winters will cool.
This is an inconvenient fact for the UN IPCC, because it wants to find reasons for a lockstep relation
between rising levels of CO2, and a warming climate. The same applies to how it treats rising cloud
cover – but decreasing rainfall – in large regions of the planet: this reality does not fit the one-only
official model. When climate becomes radically more variable with higher peaks and lower troughs of
key parameters like wind speeds, humidity, rainfall, temperatures – which is the reality – the UN IPCC
brushes all this aside as “random walk variation”.
In the EU27 states applying their REAPs which in the case of Germany’s Energiewende is radical, the
main explanation and rationale for these plans is fear of climate change. To be sure, oil and gas imports
are expensive and politically unsure – but the REAPs have very low targets for either replacing oil or
reducing dependence on oil, despite the rhetoric. Their main goal is shifting electric power production
from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and the extreme urgency of this, we are told, is because global
warming is the most intense environmental crisis “ever faced by humanity”.
It is not necessary to list the UN IPCC’s close relations with many large energy corporations, nor its
dubious claims for the so-called runaway track of global warming, for example claiming that current
global temperatures are by far the highest in the last 1000 years. This headline claim was backed by its
famous “hockey stick” graph, well analyzed and explained as devoid of any scientific meaning by the
book ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’ by Andrew Montford. Just as absurd, and well covered by Vahrenholt,
the UN IPCC needs to pretend there is no such thing as natural climatic variation, starting with its
clumsy attempt to magic away the so-called ‘Medieval Warm Period’, a warm period around the year
1000 when the Vikings settled in Greenland and were able to live there for a couple of centuries,
followed after a 300 year interval by the so-called ‘Little Ice Age’, at the time of the Maunder minimum
of sunspot cycles, starting around 1695. Many papers have been published showing the Little Ice Age
was not a local European phenomena, but the IPCC pretends it was.
All this is is needed to bolster the argument that CO2 has a one-way upward impact on temperatures.
Any and all other causes of climatic variation and change, including anthropogenic, are sidelined. For
Vahrenholt, the main ignored factor is sunspot cycle change, but deforestation and agricultural
development on a planetary cycle are impossible to exclude. As the UN IPCC and its huge network of
scientists has no problem arguing, at least in footnotes to its vast mass of publications, CO2 is far from
the only climate modifier. When these climate change triggers are massive – tropical forest deforestation
has already eliminated 8 million square kilometres of forest on the 16 million total that the Earth had
for at least 50 000 years until 100 years ago – the refusal of the IPCC to take any account is a lot more
than only surprising.
One reason is the IPCC is first of all a political organization. Most of the 31 members of the IPCC
Secretary come from developing countries like Sudan, Madagascar, Iran or Cuba and are interested in
anything that can help inward investment – including the energy sector. Other emerging economies,
especially India, are not interested in and do not want so-called ‘black carbon emissions’, from burning
wood and animal dung, to be given prominence as the real climate change triggers or factors that they
are, but solid and growing evidence shows the effect of black carbon on global climate is much bigger
than we thought, at least fifty percent as much as the imputed and claimed effect of CO2.
IGNORING THE REAL PROBLEM
Vahrenholt is alarmed that the push for biomass energy development, in Germany, could expand so fast
that twenty percent of all agricultural land may be used to grow energy crops, mainly rapeseed and
maize. To be sure this will be monocrop agribusiness farming, using at least 3 to 4 barrels of oil per
hectare each year, then processing these food crops, using more oil, to produce oil substitute fuel at
almost zero (or even negative) net energy yield.
Pushing the IQ further (the Idiocy Quotient), Germany and some other EU states with high population
densities and restricted farmland areas – especially the UK and Holland – claim they will or may import
wheat and maize, as well as palm oil from cutover tropical forest land in Indonesia, to produce oil
saving biofuels and achieve their REAP targets. Here again the net energy yield, and reduction of
overall CO2 emissions compared with petroleum fuels will be minimal at best.
The CO2 obsession, and linked obsession with producing any and all kinds of renewable energy -
whatever their EROI, whatever their environmental impact – is rightly criticized by Vahrenholt. Only
Europe, Australia and New Zealand remain ‘Kyoto compliant’, with host country Japan and Canada both
effectively (formally in the case of Canada) abandoning the farce, in December 2011. The remaining
players emit only 14 percent of the world’s total CO2 from anthropogenic sources, about two-thirds of
this (therefore 9 percent of total) from fossil fuels. China alone is now responsible for 25 percent of
global CO2 emissions and its share will grow rapidly, like India’s emissions. For the EU states, carbon
correct and running a trade surplus will become more and more difficult – as Vahrenholt says, noting
that Germany will likely soon find out despite it present aura of trade surplus superstar.
Vahrenholt focuses the stampede factor in Energiewende using a host of real world facts, for example
that while Germany gets the same amount of sunlight as Alaska, it has installed 50 percent of the
world’s total solar PV capacity to date. Increasingly China, by brute industrial force will rule global PV
production, and possibly windpower, meaning that importing solar or windpower equipment will start
as a trade deficit item, especially if the stampede rush continues. For energy system management and
planning, also, Energiewende and the other REAPs are a nightmare. As Vahrenholt asks, taking the
present day case of Germany, on an average non-winter Sunday, Germany will need about 35,000 MW
only, but in winter that can jump to 80,000 MW. However, the country already has 27,000 MW of wind
and 28,000 MW of solar capacity, so what does Germany do on a non-winter Sunday when it is windy
and sunny? As he answers, right now, Germany is forced to give it away to neighboring Poland and
other countries, at negative prices, with major power transport and transformer capacity headaches.
For the growing business of electricity trading, of course, this destabilization of power supply over
large areas, on a hard-to-predict but recurring basis is pure gold. When the wind blows in Germany,
they can talk down power prices to nothing, even less than nothing. Later on, they can rack up power
prices to extreme highs of beyond 150 euros per MWh (1000 kWh): life is fun, for traders !
To be sure there is chapter and verse from Vahrenholt on the other, so easily forecast diseconomies of
EU crash programs for alternate and renewable energy – notably the smart grid/super grid default
solution and no alternative to a giddily increasing percentage of variable and intermittent renewables in
the power mix.