by Judith Curry
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is inextricably linked to the global energy crisis, which is inextricably linked to the so-called climate ‘crisis’.
Climate change is commonly referred to as an “emergency”, a “crisis”, and an “existential threat.” The horrific unfolding of the Russian invasion of Ukraine should remind the climate alarmists of what an actual emergency, crisis and existential threat actually looks like:
- Humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, with major loss of life. Sustenance is at risk
- Devastation of built infrastructure, contributing also to an environmental crisis
- Existential threat for Ukrainian people and culture
- Global political and financial crises of dimensions that are as yet unknown
Nevertheless, the climate alarmists are worried primarily about the implications of Ukraine war on the climate and actions to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
“John Kerry, the United States’ climate envoy, perfectly captured the myopia of this view when he said, in the days before the war, that the Russian invasion of Ukraine “could have a profound negative impact on the climate, obviously. You have a war, and obviously you’re going to have massive emissions consequences to the war. But equally importantly, you’re going to lose people’s focus.” [link]
Perhaps John Kerry need not worry. On Feb 28, in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, UN Secretary General General Antonio Guterres said, in response to the release of the IPCC AR6 WGII Report: “Delay is Death”. This is much stronger than anything Guterres has said about the real crisis in Ukraine.
How climate change-based energy policy enabled the war on Ukraine
Among the cognoscenti pondering the historical context and complex rationales for Russia’s war on Ukraine, there is also a contributing factor that should be considered: global climate change-based energy policy.
Michael Schellenberger has written a hard-hitting article entitled How the West’s Green Delusions Empowered Putin. Excerpts:
How is it possible that European countries, Germany especially, allowed themselves to become so dependent on an authoritarian country over the 30 years since the end of the Cold War?
Here’s how: These countries are in the grips of a delusional ideology that makes them incapable of understanding the hard realities of energy production. Green ideology insists we don’t need nuclear and that we don’t need fracking. It insists that it’s just a matter of will and money to switch to all-renewables—and fast. It insists that we need “degrowth” of the economy, and that we face looming human “extinction.”
While Putin expanded Russia’s oil production, expanded natural gas production, and then doubled nuclear energy production to allow more exports of its precious gas, Europe, led by Germany, shut down its nuclear power plants, closed gas fields, and refused to develop more through advanced methods like fracking.
The numbers tell the story best. In 2016, 30 percent of the natural gas consumed by the European Union came from Russia. In 2018, that figure jumped to 40 percent. By 2020, it was nearly 44 percent, and by early 2021, it was nearly 47 percent.
For all his fawning over Putin, Donald Trump, back in 2018, defied diplomatic protocol to call out Germany publicly for its dependence on Moscow. “Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia,” Trump said.
The result has been the worst global energy crisis since 1973, driving prices for electricity and gasoline higher around the world. It is a crisis, fundamentally, of inadequate supply. But the scarcity is entirely manufactured.
“Energy security, which has too often been overlooked as a priority for policymakers in Europe and the United States, requires new prioritization and a rethink. Europe’s excessive reliance on Russian natural gas and America’s excessive reliance on stable oil markets have both limited the West’s options in this crisis to the detriment of our collective security.”
From the WSJ:
“Europe offers another reminder to the U.S. that blocking fossil-fuel development here won’t keep carbon “in the ground.” It merely hands a strategic weapon to dictators that they will turn around and use against us.”
IPCC AR6 WGII Report
With regards to green ideology, the IPCC AR6 WGII report (impacts, adaptation, vulnerability) was released earlier this week.
The IPCC’s press release on the new report was headlined “Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet”. Its stark opening detailed “dangerous and widespread disruption”. The closing statement of the WGII report is any further delay in global action to slow climate change and adapt to its impacts “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all”.
Well, all this hyperbole is meant to camouflage the fact that the weakest part of the UNFCCC/IPCC argument is that human-caused warming is ‘dangerous’. These statements are made despite the fact that the Summary for Policy Makers states, with high confidence, that disasters and violent conflicts are not significantly influenced by human-caused climate change.
Further, the AR6 WGII report relies heavily on the implausible SSP5-8.5 emissions scenarios, which implausibly hypes the impacts of warming.
And even the emphasis on SSP5-8.5 scenario fails to acknowledge that even with SSP5-8.5, “we’re generally in the climate change field not talking about futures that are worse than today” – A quote from Brian O’Neill, a lead creator of the SSP scenarios for the IPCC. [link]
The WGII report convolves natural weather and climate variability, land use, and various types of vulnerabilities with human-caused climate change, which is a relatively minor player in the world’s complex problems that are related to human interactions with the environment.
Roger Pielke Jr has published a critique [link]; excerpts:
“Regrettably, the IPCC WG2 has strayed far from its purpose to assess and evaluate the scientific literature, and has positioned itself much more as a cheerleader for emissions reductions and produced a report that supports such advocacy. The IPCC exhorts: “impacts will continue to increase if drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are further delayed – affecting the lives of today’s children tomorrow and those of their children much more than ours … Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a livable future.”
This new emphasis on mitigation colors the entire report, which in places reads as if adaptation is secondary to mitigation or even impossible. Of course, adaptation has long been viewed as problematic in climate policy and politics. Rather than supporting an apocalyptic view of ever-worsening impacts as a simple function of temperature increases, adaptation opportunities allow for positive human outcomes even as the climate changes. The WG2 misrepresentation of the literature of flooding is repeated throughout the report for other phenomena. Adaptation is often ignored or minimized in favor of presenting impacts as worsening a function of ever-increasing temperatures. In reality, adaptation has great potential to result in positive human futures at a wide range of levels of future emissions and temperature changes. Mitigation and adaptation are both important and the IPCC WG2 did itself and us a huge disservice by adding mitigation to its focus.”
Energy policy ≠ climate policy
The prevailing thinking that energy policy should be dictated by the UNFCCC imperative to eliminate carbon emissions ignores the dominant importance of energy security, reliability and cost.
Tom Pyle sums it up with this statement [link]:
“The west is seeing the results of years of getting energy policy advice from Swedish teenagers, former bar tenders and washed up socialists. We need grown ups running energy policy.”
With regards to energy policy in the face of the Ukraine war, UNFCCC agreements, and general pragmatism, there are 3 time scales to consider:
- tactical – time scales of a few months. Reducing the demand for natural gas and influencing the price of oil/gas and hamper Russia’s economic situation
- strategic – time scale of 1-3 years, with policies that can ensure stable gas/oil/coal supplies at a reasonable price to Europe during their winter season
- long-term – a slower transition away from fossil fuels (especially those produced by hostile countries) that ensures energy security and reliability and low costs through the transition period.
On the tactical time scale, we have: releasing petroleum reserve into the global market, restarting any available nuclear power plants, burning coal.
On the strategic time scale – ramp up oil and natural gas output from North America. Fill up the Alaskan pipeline. In 2021, after finally achieving energy independence under President Trump, the U.S. immediately gave that up as the Biden Administration brought fresh rounds of fossil fuel suppression. Prepare additional terminals to ship and receive LNG. Start the process of building more nuclear power plants. Install heat pumps, which eliminates the reliance on natural gas for heating. Rosenow explained on Twitter how replacing gas boilers with heat pumps would cut gas demand, even if the electricity driving them was generated using gas. Liberate all forms of energy.
On the long term time scale – drop the emissions targets and time scales. Conduct serious planning for 21st century electricity and transportation energy sources and infrastructure, planning for much more energy than we are currently using. Focus on energy security, with autonomous in-country sourcing where possible, then near-sourcing and then other ally-sourcing (avoid buying energy from political enemies or otherwise unstable regimes). Evaluate energy sources and infrastructures for cost, reliability, emissions, and other environmental impacts. Keep current energy systems running until their end of life, or when replacement systems are fully operational. Evaluate transition risks, including the geopolitical ones.
Germany is re-evaluating the closure of its nuclear power plants, and is considering burning coal in the near term.
The Ukraine War has disrupted energy business as usual. Apart from working towards more autonomy for Europe, hopefully this event will provide political momentum that motivates an energy transition that puts energy security first. The reality is that Europe will depend on gas as a transition fuel until sufficient flexible, low-carbon energy can be deployed.