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The PowerPoint That Got a Climate Scientist Disinvited From a Shell Conference

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/07/2019 - 7:00pm in

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Environment

The first three slides of climate scientist Peter Kalmus’s plenary speech to Shell’s Powering Progress Together conference were intended to gauge audience reactions. First, he would have asked attendees if they are “concerned about climate breakdown.” Then, to raise their hands if they are “EXTREMELY CONCERNED” about it. In the third slide, Kalmus would have asked panel-goers to raise their hands if they agreed with a simple statement: “Fossil fuel causes harm.”

He never got the chance. Last Wednesday, the day before he was scheduled to appear, Kalmus was disinvited from what the oil giant billed as “an action-oriented day of dialogue focused on accelerating the energy transition.” For those curious about what spooked them, The Intercept is publishing Kalmus’s contraband slideshow.

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Kalmus, who lives in Los Angeles, specializes in ecological forecasting and analyzing boundary layer clouds. Thanks in part to that research, he’s extremely concerned about climate breakdown, and relatively outspoken about it. In 2017, Kalmus authored a book, “Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution,” on what individuals can do in their own lives to move off fossil fuels. Since then, he’s been an enthusiastic supporter of the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, and climate strikers, groups that are pushing for a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. Given all that, he was more than a little surprised when he was asked in early May to give the speech at a one-day conference Shell was hosting in San Francisco, one of three Powering Progress Together events planned around the world. The conference is geared toward industry members, as well as those in the clean energy business and environmental groups.

He wasn’t their first choice. Another well-known climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, had been invited to speak but wasn’t able to attend, and she suggested Kalmus go in her place. The topic was one they’d both spent ample time researching: “Mobilizing Society to Change the Way Energy Is Used.” Kalmus had already planned to be at an academic conference nearby, so he agreed — with some caveats.

“There were some things I just had to say and I couldn’t get around it,” he told me by phone. “We just have to be realistic about where we’re at if we’re going to make progress. That means acknowledging that they’ve known since before 1988 — with a remarkable degree of precision and accuracy — what continuing business as usual in fossil fuel-burning is going to do to human civilization and ecosystems. They tried to hide from the public.”

“If they really want to be the good guys, they’ve got to acknowledge that and make some serious changes. I didn’t see any way I could speak at their conference without laying that out,” he told The Intercept.

As Dutch journalist Jelmer Mommers revealed last year, Shell has known about the climate crisis for nearly four decades and its own considerable role in causing it. Company researchers warned in 1986 that “the energy industry needs to consider how it should play its part” before it became “too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation.” For the next several decades, Shell did precisely the opposite, joining other fossil fuel companies in formations like the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition to cast doubt on climate change and delay action at nearly every level of government, all the while exploring for and extracting as much oil and gas as possible.

Kalmus explained to organizers of the event that he wouldn’t shy away from criticisms. Just two weeks ago, he told them, “‘I might not be the right fit for your conference.’ I told them on the phone that I was going to have to say some of these things. I said you can’t censor me. And they agreed to that.”

Last week, he headed up from Los Angeles to the Bay Area as planned, having spent over a month wrestling with what to include in the presentation and, as he put it, “how to give this talk to this different tribe.” Shell asked him to submit his slides for the event in advance, so they could upload them into the venue’s AV system. He sent them over Tuesday night. The next day, while driving up the coast, he got a call from the event organizers.

Kalmus spent over a month wrestling with what to include in the presentation and, as he put it, “how to give this talk to this different tribe.”

“They said, ‘You were right. They don’t think that you fit into our conference,’” Kalmus said. Planning and logistics for the confab were largely being handled by a co-convening organization called SustainAbility. His guess is that while SustainAbility staffers had green-lit his talk, conversations with the company about his slides led to his ousting from the program. In withdrawing the invitation, event organizers mentioned that there were several Shell employees interested in speaking with him — they just didn’t want to put him on stage. “I’d be happy to talk to them,” Kalmus said. Shell has not responded to The Intercept’s request for comment.

Katherine White, a business professor at the University of British Columbia who researches consumer behavior and sustainability, was supposed to appear alongside Kalmus; each would give a brief talk before answering questions from a moderator. On Wednesday, White got an email suggesting that Kalmus backed out. “They didn’t say to me, ‘We looked at Peter’s slides and decided he won’t be speaking.’”

Meanwhile, Kalmus’s tweet explaining that he’d been disinvited went viral, and the conference organizers felt they needed to address the issue. SustainAbility Executive Director Mark Lee and Shell Projects and Technology Director Harry Brekelmans kicked off the opening plenary by discussing why Kalmus wasn’t there, then opened the session up to questions from audience members and reporters. According to White, who attended the session, Lee and Brekelmans had hoped that Kalmus would have stuck more strictly to his academic research. “What they said is that when they saw his slides, there was about half [his research] and about half talking about history. They didn’t want that,” she said.

“The way they framed it is that [Kalmus] wanted to talk more about Shell’s past, and the conference and the discussion was about the future. … ‘This conference,’” she paraphrased, “‘is about moving forward.’”

Shell’s core business — continued oil and gas development — is incompatible with keeping warming under 2 degrees Celsius.

Kalmus’s slides tell another story. Shell has an ugly history of fueling climate denial and pushed aggressively to delay action at the local, state, and international levels. What the slides also point out is that — despite its knowledge of how big the crisis is — Shell “has made no significant shift away from developing fossil fuel” and continued to lobby against rapid mitigation. Bringing the company in line with climate goals would require, in his words, planning “to really transition to carbon-free energy and become a market leader” and preparing “for substantial voluntary transition away from fossil fuels” as a means of regaining public trust. Kalmus also suggested that Shell refrain from making any policy recommendations on lowering emissions, instead focusing on changing its own practices: “Anything you recommend will set the activists against it.”

Like many other multinational oil companies, Shell is attempting to cast itself as a good-faith player in decarbonization and stake a claim to climate policymaking. The company has made recent investments in renewables and even created its own “Sky Scenario,” a pathway for achieving the goals set out in the United Nations Paris Agreement.

But as Democratic presidential candidates haggle over how soon the U.S. should decarbonize — by 2030 or 2050 — Shell last year offered a more lenient target: 2070. As climate modeler Glen Peters pointed out when the company’s scenario was released, it isn’t wildly out of step with a lot of relatively mainstream climate modeling, in that it’s wildly optimistic about the ability of unproven technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and pick up the slack in the carbon budget of continued fossil fuel emissions. The upshot? If Shell’s models invest enough faith in still mostly speculative technologies, it can keep drilling for oil and gas for decades to come.

Powering Progress Together comes as Shell invests $300 million in “natural ecosystems” and pledged late last year to put $4 billion into renewable in the coming years. Compared to the $24 billion the company invested in finding and drilling fossil fuels in 2018, its green investments are some elaborate window dressing. And its core business — continued oil and gas development — is incompatible with keeping warming under 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5. As a paper preview released in Nature this week warns, already-built fossil fuel infrastructure like power plants and vehicles — allowed to operate through the end of their lifetimes as planned — would see the world sail past that target. “Like I said in the slides, there’s no point in greenwashing anymore or in half measure,” Kalmus noted.

“I’m sure there are some very concerned people within the Shell organization who do want to make a difference,” he added. “But as an organization, there are really strong forces — including legal forces — that force them to put their shareholders’ interests first. Asking them to make the kind of change I was asking is a huge ask for them. But we’re literally destroying the planet. That’s where I was coming from: Let’s have that conversation.”

In a speech to the same conference in 2016, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said, “The ability to raise questions, rather than clinging to old beliefs, is vital for taking on the energy challenge. Questions help us push back frontiers and push forward creativity.” So long as you don’t question fossil fuel companies’ ability to dig up as much oil and gas as they’d like.

The post The PowerPoint That Got a Climate Scientist Disinvited From a Shell Conference appeared first on The Intercept.

From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Toxic Agriculture Is the Problem Not the Solution

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/07/2019 - 1:15am in

Colin Todhunter Why did the European Food Safety Authority claim that glyphosate was not ecotoxic? This is the question environmentalist Dr Rosemary Mason poses in her new 23-page report which can be accessed in full here. In places, the report reads like a compilation of peer-reviewed studies and official reports that have documented the adverse impacts …

U.N. Report: ‘Human Rights Might Not Survive’ Climate Crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/07/2019 - 5:38pm in

Not surprisingly, the poor, particularly in developing countries, will be devastated by climate change.

The Connection Between Population, Income, and Health

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/07/2019 - 6:38am in

By Max Kummerow

For hundreds of years, economists have debated whether population growth is good or bad. Malthus said exponential population growth increases labor supply, so wages fall until starvation, war, or plague stops growth in numbers. Marx said capitalism causes poverty and hunger, so population growth is good, because “every stomach is born with a pair of hands”, bringing revolution and justice closer.

Nearly 200 years later, Garrett Hardin and Julian Simon were still debating the same question.1 Hardin insisted that individuals’ decisions whether to have children without considering the tragedy of the commons could add up collectively to overpopulation and environmental catastrophe. Simon responded that human ingenuity is “the ultimate resource”. Shortages lead to new inventions that benefit the collective whole. Simon cited 300 years of falling commodity prices, indicating less scarcity, not more, despite population growth from 500 million to 5 billion.

The debate is ongoing, with most mainstream economists supporting population growth, while ecological economists warn about “overshoot” and collapse as the earth’s resources are used up.

One reason this debate has taken so long to settle is that both sides are right. Economies of scale and technological progress mean bigger cities, businesses, machines, and farms can often be more efficient, raising economic output. But with too many people, there are negative externalities—pollution, traffic congestion, crowding, and resource shortages. Above optimum size, cities, businesses, machines, and farms get less efficient.

Graph showing that optimum population maximizes incomes.

Optimum population size maximizes incomes.

The ideal level of population depends on preferences. How rich do you want to be, and what lifestyle do you wish to lead? Do you want to live in a McMansion (or even a “regular” mansion)? How much space should be reserved for other species? How much space should be reserved for the functioning of ecosystem services such as water purification, carbon sequestration, and nutrient recycling? Do future generations count in these calculations? How much traffic congestion can you tolerate? These questions aren’t asked often enough by sufficient numbers of people.

However, data already exists to settle the long-running economists’ debate about population growth’s effects on incomes and health. Countries that achieved “demographic transitions” to less than 2.1 children per woman enjoy dramatically better economic and health outcomes. The table below compares the most relevant figures associated with four levels of fertility.

 

Table 1 Better outcomes with lower fertility rates (TFR, children/woman)

In 2015, the low-fertility countries (<2.1) had average incomes nine times higher than those of high-fertility countries (>4.1). Infant mortality was 47 per 1,000 births lower, and life expectancy was 18 years greater. Of course, many other factors determine incomes and health outcomes: education, natural resources, health care systems, rule of law, improved status of women, and other factors. But the constellation of factors that helps countries prosper strongly correlates with low birth rates. Persistent high fertility rates leave countries treading water, while lower fertility rates make improving the other variables easier. The graph below shows falling global fertility but the substantial discrepancy in fertility between low- and high-income countries..

Fertility rates for world, high and low income countries, 1960-2015

Fertility rates for world, high and low income countries, 1960-2015

When birthrates fall, a country faces less tax burden because there is less need to expand infrastructure, education, and health care. A “demographic dividend” comes from increased labor force participation by women, more educational expenditure per child, and freeing of capital for investment. Slower growth in population moderates demand and prices of scarce commodities such as land, housing, food, energy, and other commodities.

These effects can also be seen at an individual family level. USDA estimates the cost to raise a child to age 17 at $233,000.3 Women who delay childbearing to get more education have higher lifetime earnings. If parents choose to have fewer children, they can have significantly improved standards of living and higher retirement savings. An only child will probably inherit more than four times as much as a child in a family with four children. In a subsistence farming community, a four-child family-size as the norm halves land per capita every generation. One child doubles per capita family land.

These recent data should end the long-running economists’ debate. In our present world, having fewer children improves economic and health outcomes for individual families and for countries. As the world moves toward steady state economies, reversing population growth improves lives for everyone.

In summary:

  • World population still grows by 80 million per year, headed from 1 billion in 1800 to 10 billion by mid-century.
  • Nearly half of the world’s countries have accomplished “fertility transitions” to birthrates that, if continued, would begin to decrease populations after the fifty years of further growth that results from “population momentum”.
  • Increased efforts to promote family planning in countries with persistent high birthrates will be required to complete the transition to a steady-state population.

[1] They were literally debating. I attended one of their debates, moderated by a history professor in Madison, Wisconsin in 1983.

[2] World Bank’s World Development Indicators. Income is a “purchasing power parity” comparison.

[3] https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/01/13/cost-raising-child

 

Max Kummerow, Ph.D., is a retired business school professor and population activist who researches demography, ecology, and economic development. He has presented papers at ESA, PJSA, NCSE, PAA and EAERE meetings showing the benefits of accelerating the world’s stalled demographic transition toward lower fertility rates.

 

 

The post The Connection Between Population, Income, and Health appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.


Will Bernie Sanders Stick With a Carbon Tax In His Push For a Green New Deal?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/07/2019 - 2:03am in

A defining feature of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s political career is his consistency. The economy is rigged against the working class, the independent senator from Vermont charges, and bold political action is necessary to remedy that. His approach to tackling the climate crisis has long reflected that mindset, with Sanders ignoring the advice of the Democratic consultant class to champion taxing the nation’s largest polluters and redistributing the bulk of the earned revenue back to consumers and vulnerable people. 

Now, as the 2020 presidential candidate prepares to release his climate change plan, a key element to watch out for is whether Sanders will abandon the tool he’s heralded for years to combat global warming, or integrate it into his push for a Green New Deal. As he makes this decision, Sanders is wading into an increasingly contentious debate among environmentalists about the right role for market-based solutions in progressive policy.

Sanders has long argued that a carbon tax “must be a central part of our strategy for dramatically reducing carbon pollution,” and he’s often touted the consensus behind it from economists across the political spectrum. He’s called a carbon tax “the most straight-forward and efficient strategy for quickly reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and has urged his colleagues “to catch up with the scientific community and with the rest of the country.”

Sanders has urged his colleagues “to catch up with the scientific community and with the rest of the country.”

But over the last year, some influential groups on the left have soured on a carbon tax, pointing to a recent ballot measure that failed at the polls in Washington state and also the yellow vest protests in France over rising fuel prices — sparked by taxing carbon. And as more conservatives and business leaders have warmed to the idea of a carbon tax, some progressives have grown correspondingly distrustful — skeptical that Republicans will really do anything other than undermine the bold action that is needed.

Sanders, an original Senate co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, has been touting a Green New Deal often on the 2020 campaign trail but has so far been silent on taxing carbon. His campaign website, unlike in 2016, says nothing about it, and in June, a Sanders speechwriter told E&E News, an environmental trade publication, that a forthcoming Green New Deal speech does not say anything about a carbon tax, though he added that doesn’t mean Sanders might not tackle the issue in the future.

“While Bernie has, in the past, introduced federal carbon pricing legislation in the Senate, the IPCC report makes clear that our window for action is closing,” Sarah Ford, the deputy communications director for the Sanders campaign, told The Intercept, referencing a landmark 2018 report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that underscored the urgency of the crisis. “So, if we are to solve the issue of climate change, a price on carbon must be part of a larger strategy and it must be formulated in a way that actually transitions our economy away from fossil fuels and protects low-income families and communities of color.”

The campaign pointed to Sanders’s Senate office, which is in the process of drafting new climate legislation. A spokesperson for his Senate office told The Intercept over email that “all I can say is that we’re still in the legislative development of our climate policy and GND, which we hope to unveil soon, and we still need to review, get input, etc.” In June, Keane Bhatt, a spokesperson for Sanders’s Senate office told E&E that he foresees his boss’s Green New Deal bill to be “focused primarily on public investment.”

Where the Vermont senator lands on the issue could be a bellwether for what’s to come. 

Sanders has never supported a carbon tax as the exclusive measure needed to tackle the climate crisis, but he has insisted it’s an integral one. To protect families from potentially increased energy prices, a 2013 bill he introduced with then-Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., stated that 60 percent of the carbon tax revenue would be rebated, per capita, to every legal U.S resident. He and Boxer also promoted a number of other ideas, including weatherizing 1 million homes per year, funding worker retraining programs, and making massive investments in clean energy research and development. Sanders called it “the most comprehensive climate change legislation in the history of the United States Senate.”

In 2015, after Sanders had mounted his bid for the White House, he used his support for a carbon tax as a way to distinguish himself from the more piecemeal climate proposals pushed forward by his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton. Her advisers, many of them still bruised from the failed cap-and-trade fight from 2010, urged her to steer clear of anything resembling a tax, which they said could leave her vulnerable to Republican attacks of raising energy prices.

But Sanders, who has never been very fearful of potential Republican smears, leaned into the policy idea he believed in. On the campaign trail, he called for a carbon tax, banning fossil fuel lobbyists from the White House, and ending subsidies to fossil fuel companies. He also called for increased federal investment in wind, solar, energy efficiency, electric cars, biofuels, high-speed rail, and public transit — items that will likely be central to any Green New Deal.  

Sanders, who has never been very fearful of potential Republican smears, leaned into the policy idea he believed in.

“Bernie will tax polluters causing the climate crisis and return billions of dollars to working families to ensure the fossil fuel companies don’t subject us to unfair rate hikes,” his plan stated. “Bernie knows that climate change will not affect everyone equally. The carbon tax will also protect those most impacted by the transformation of our energy system and protect the most vulnerable communities in the country suffering the ravages of climate change.”

One major success of his 2016 campaign was getting language included in the Democratic Party platform in support of a carbon tax. The platform stated that Democrats “believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities” and that Democrats should “support using every tool available to reduce emissions now.” 

One of the most prominent voices in the environmental movement to turn against a carbon tax is Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington state and the presidential candidate who is running primarily on tackling climate change. Inslee has strongly supported taxing carbon in the past (an idea sometimes called imposing a “carbon fee”), but bills in favor of the proposal never made it out of his state legislature, and related ballot initiatives failed in 2016 and 2018. (The fossil fuel industry spent more than $31 million to beat the 2018 initiative, more than twice the amount spent by supporters.)

In January, Inslee announced that he had grown wary of relying on a carbon tax to reduce emissions. “To actually get carbon savings, you need to jack up the price so high that it becomes politically untenable,” he told NBC News, adding that he was more interested in taxing the rich to fund a Green New Deal. His aggressive proposals on the 2020 campaign trail also do not include taxing carbon. 

Sen. Jeff Merkley, the original Senate sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, also pointed to Washington’s failed carbon tax ballot measure as reason to not hold much hope in a similar national effort. “If it can’t pass in Washington state right now, I’m not sure that says that there’s much of a pathway at this moment nationally,” he told Politico in December.

Other proponents of the Green New Deal have argued that a carbon tax just shouldn’t be a primary focus. A set of talking points released — and then retracted — by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s office in February emphasized that any carbon tax “would be a tiny part” of a Green New Deal. A carbon tax generally “misses the point and would be off the table unless we create the clean, affordable options first,” the fact sheet said. Ocasio-Cortez also wrote on Twitter that ideas like a carbon tax can’t be the premier solution to tackling the climate crisis.

Paradoxically, the successful grassroots organizing led by environmental groups like the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which has been building bipartisan support for a carbon tax and dividend since 2007, has now sparked wariness among other environmental activists who say Democrats can’t afford to compromise with a party that denies climate science and answers too often to the fossil fuel industry.

Paradoxically, the successful grassroots organizing led by environmental groups like the Citizens’ Climate Lobby has now sparked wariness among other environmental activists.

Others on the left have been increasingly skeptical of relying on any sort of market-based solution to tackling the climate crisis. In January, more than 600 advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth, the Sunrise Movement, Food & Water Watch, Indivisible, and People’s Action signed a letter pledging to “vigorously oppose” any climate legislation that promotes “market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy and biomass energy.” This kind of language kept eight of the largest environmental groups off the letter, including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, separately criticized Democrats for “still seem[ing] fixated on the half solutions of cap-and-trade or a carbon tax.” He argued that “market pricing schemes should no longer be the centerpiece of a comprehensive climate strategy.”

Aside from signing the congressional letter, the youth-led Sunrise Movement has also signaled it’s not very interested in a carbon tax. While Sunrise’s political director, Evan Weber, has said a carbon tax “has the potential” to be part of a Green New Deal, he’s also dismissed the idea that it’s an important tool for tackling the problem. “There’s been a predominant conversation in Washington, D.C., that’s been led by economists and politicos that have tried to frame a carbon tax as the only way,” he told Politico. “It’s proved time and time again to be not politically popular, and we haven’t even priced the policy at where economists say it needs to be. The idea that [a carbon tax is] the way out of this mess is something we need to be pushing back on.” Neither the Sunrise Movement nor Weber returned The Intercept’s request for comment.

Support, however, still exists for a carbon tax, even among environmental groups that have embraced the Green New Deal framework. The Environmental Defense Fund and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby have endorsed both bold public investment and a carbon tax as ways to combat climate change. New polling from Data for Progress, a progressive polling organization, also recently found strong support among Democratic voters for both approaches to tackling the crisis.

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A recent survey found that Democratic voters support both a carbon tax and public investment as means to confront the climate crisis.

Graphic: Data for Progress and YouGov

Many congressional supporters of the Green New Deal also agree there’s room and need for both. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., an original co-sponsor of the resolution, has said a price on carbon has “got to be part of the solution.” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a vocal supporter of a Green New Deal, has also argued that it’s perfectly compatible with a carbon tax.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., another original Green New Deal resolution co-sponsor, has also pushed back on the idea that the failed carbon tax ballot measure in her state means it’s too politically unpopular to pass anywhere — pointing to the large sums of money the fossil fuel industry had to spend to defeat it. “I am not in the camp that thinks it failed because of a carbon tax, I don’t believe that,” she told E&E. “I think it failed because industry really doesn’t want it to succeed.” She acknowledged that the progressive movement has been “a little bit all over the place” when it comes to carbon taxation.

Climate change experts also continue to vouch for a carbon tax. In its report issued last October, the IPCC endorsed pricing carbon to reduce emissions and recommended imposing prices of $135 to $5,500 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution by 2030 to keep global warming in check. But an OECD report from last September found that few countries that do have carbon taxes are setting them at levels high enough to meaningfully curb emissions — highlighting the political challenge at hand.

In many respects, there is more legislative traction around carbon pricing than there’s been in years, and Republicans are increasingly warming up to the idea. While groups like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity still adamantly oppose it, other conservative businesses and even fossil fuel companies have come out behind it, though sometimes with conditions that progressives would unlikely support — like environmental deregulation or immunity from any lawsuits.

There is more legislative traction around carbon pricing than there’s been in years.

In May, the U.S. House of Representatives’ powerful Ways and Means Committee held its first climate-related hearing in over a decade, and in late November 2018, three Republicans and three Democrats in the House introduced the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, the first bipartisan carbon tax proposal in Congress in almost 10 years. Known colloquially as the “Deutch proposal” after one of its Democratic authors, Rep. Ted Deutch, it would direct proceeds from the tax back to consumers in the form of monthly rebate checks. The legislation has been described by experts as a “highly progressive” proposal, given that high-income households would pay a disproportionate amount of the tax, yet the resulting revenues would be distributed equally to all households. Under this bill, a family of 4 with two adults would take home an annual dividend of $3,456 by 2025. The Citizens’ Climate Lobby said it “may be the strongest and most comprehensive climate bill ever submitted to Congress,” though the group also stressed that “no one should expect any single policy to solve climate change by itself.”

There are other carbon pricing proposals on the table. One, known as the “Baker proposal,” has earned the endorsement of many in the business community, and it embraces a carbon tax in exchange for repealing other environmental regulations and limiting legal liability on the energy industry. Another bill, known as the “Whitehouse proposal,” would redirect most of the carbon revenue generated to reduce the employee portion of the payroll tax. Named after Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the proposal was co-introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another presidential candidate and original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution.

The idea of a carbon tax came up briefly in last week’s Democratic presidential debates, when “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked Rep. Tim Ryan how he would fund climate projects “if carbon pricing is just politically impossible.”

As Time’s energy reporter Justin Worland noted, the question itself confused the point of a climate tax, which is meant to make polluting the environment more expensive, not primarily finance green projects. Ryan didn’t reference any carbon pricing in his answer, yet former Rep. John Delaney, who co-sponsored the Deutch proposal last November, picked up on the opportunity to tout his work pushing the bipartisan solution. “My proposal, which is put a price on carbon, give a dividend back to the American people — it goes out one pocket, back in the other,” Delaney said. “I can get that passed my first year as president, with a coalition of every Democrat in the Congress and the Republicans who live in coastal states.”

In the second debate, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for “aggressive and ambitious measures” to tackle climate change and cited a carbon tax and dividend as one he’d support. “But I would propose we do it in a way that is rebated out to the American people in a progressive fashion so that most Americans are made more than whole,” he said, invoking bills like the Deutch proposal.

Some commentators online criticized the way Democrats fail to adequately explain how a carbon tax and dividend work to voters.

Though Sanders was not asked anything about a carbon tax and dividend in the debate, he has for years demonstrated how to promote the idea in clear, progressive terms — highlighting the need to make wealthy polluters pay for their planetary destruction, while protecting working people and vulnerable communities from rising energy prices.

In 2016, though not a single question was asked in the general election presidential debates about climate change, Sanders seized on a question in the primaries about fracking to push his opponent on the need for a carbon tax.

“The truth is, as secretary of state, Secretary [Hillary] Clinton actively supported fracking technology around the world,” Sanders said. “Second of all, right now, we have got to tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet. And that means — and I would ask you to respond — are you in favor of a tax on carbon, so that we can transit away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy at the level and speed we need to do?”

Three years later, it’s not yet clear how Sanders will proceed. Does he still believe taxing carbon is worth fighting for, or will he eschew consistency in favor of a new approach to tackling the climate crisis? 

The post Will Bernie Sanders Stick With a Carbon Tax In His Push For a Green New Deal? appeared first on The Intercept.

EPA Move to Phase Out Animal Experiments Could Mean the End of Toxics Regulations

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 03/07/2019 - 10:00pm in

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Environment

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with a plan to sharply reduce and ultimately phase out experimental testing on lab animals. In an undated internal memo sent in late June to assistant administrators, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler explained that the agency will cut its funding for experiments on mammals in half by 2025. The memo, which was reviewed by The Intercept, also said that the EPA plans to stop using mammal studies for the approval of new chemicals by 2035 and that it will aim to eliminate all mammal studies. Under the new plan, any animal study done after that point will require approval by the EPA administrator.

The EPA is promoting alternative methods to gauge the threats posed by chemicals, such as computer modeling and tests on cells, which have been increasingly used in recent years. Yet no legal limits have ever been set using these alternative methods alone. Without the tests on rats, mice, and rabbits currently used to gauge the toxicity of chemicals and set safe levels, public health and environmental advocates worry that the policy shift will leave EPA unable to limit chemicals at all. “It effectively will mean you can’t regulate,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The internal announcement that EPA would speed the move away from animal testing coincided with the creation of a new section on the agency’s website that was published last week. Titled “Alternative Test Methods and Strategies to Reduce Vertebrate Animal Testing,” the newly released material details the EPA’s efforts to “reduce and replace testing on vertebrates.” On March 14, Wheeler signaled that he would be making the shift in a speech, broadcast internally to EPA staff, in which he described the animal testing issue as “important to me personally.”

The chemical industry also appears to care deeply about the reduction of animal research, according to emails of EPA staff released in June in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The American Chemistry Council, the largest American trade group representing chemical manufacturers, has long supported reducing regulators’ reliance on animal research, which is time-consuming and expensive — in addition to being key to understanding the harms chemicals pose to people.

The End of Chemical Regulation

A new generation of tests using cultured cells and computer simulation has expanded the ability to understand the risk compounds pose without using animals. Because it is not possible to perform animal tests for every one of the huge and growing number of man-made chemicals, these techniques, which can be done more quickly and cheaply, have become increasingly important.

But many scientists who study chemicals caution that research on cells or tiny invertebrate creatures, known as “in vitro toxicology,” cannot completely replace mammal experiments yet. “If you take the engine out of a car and study one piston at a time, it may not tell you what the car is going to do when you assemble it,” said Thomas Zoeller, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies the health effects of man-made chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls.

Zoeller’s own research revealed that, within mice, it’s not the actual PCB that causes harm but another chemical that the body creates by processing the original compound — a discovery that wouldn’t have been possible without exposing live mice to the chemical. “The parent compound gets into the animal and is metabolized in some tissues, including the brain. The body essentially bioactivates the parent compound,” Zoeller explained.

“If you exclusively depend on in vitro toxicology or mathematical modeling, you’re going to miss all the different interactions that happen in a physiological system — whether in rat, mouse, human, or a fetus. You simply cannot replicate that,” said Zoeller. “EPA is well aware that these cells don’t replicate human metabolism. So when it comes to bioactivation, they’re going to miss all that — and they know that.”

And that, some scientists fear, is exactly the reason the EPA is moving toward eliminating tests on animals. “If you require that, to regulate, you need to show an adverse affect for a chemical, and you can’t see an adverse affect in cells, then it’s to your benefit to only do testing in cells,” said Laura Vandenberg, a professor at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health, who studies how exposures to chemicals during the development affects health later in life. “Laws, policy, and regulations require animal evidence.”

While regulatory rules can be updated to reflect new methods, it’s not clear how non-animal experiments would ever lead to restrictions. With animal tests, the presence of a clear endpoint such as cancer or birth defects helps regulators calculate safe levels for humans. But a positive finding in a non-animal test will likely only lead to more research, according to NRDC’s Sass.

“Let’s say they do find a hazard in a chemical. Let’s say it triggers changes associated with cancer. They don’t then call it a carcinogen. They just prioritize it for further testing,” said Sass, who has a PhD in anatomy and cell biology. “Then they test it on higher level tests, then on higher level tests. So if it is something that’s toxic, we’ll still go through years and years of testing and arguing and fighting.”

Now People Are the Guinea Pigs

In 2006, the EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory published a study showing that pregnant mice given the industrial chemical PFOA developed enlarged livers and had a greater chance of losing their pregnancies. The pups of the exposed mice weighed less and were developmentally delayed compared to the non-exposed pups, and the male pups had abnormal sexual development. While the EPA has yet to set a legal limit for PFOA, the agency used the mouse study to set a health advisory level for the chemical in 2009. And some states have used it to calculate their own regulations.

But since NHEERL did that groundbreaking work, the number of scientists leading animal research there has shrunken by more than half. The lab employed 56 principal investigators who conducted 139 active protocols involving animals in 2008, according to the EPA press office. This year, only 24 principal investigators were left, conducting 52 experiments involving lab animals. At another EPA lab focused on animal toxicology, the National Exposure Research Laboratory, the number of active protocols involving animals has dropped from 20 in 2008 to 13 in 2019. And neither lab will continue to exist after a planned reorganization of the Office of Research and Development is complete. Indeed, under the new structure, no labs that focus exclusively on animal research will remain. In his memo, Wheeler noted that 200,000 lab animals have already been spared from testing in recent years.

As Wheeler has embraced the adoption of new testing methods, the EPA has teamed up with animal rights groups such as PETA that oppose animal research because they see it as cruel. In April, the EPA co-sponsored a webinar on alternate methods of chemical assessment with PETA International Science Consortium and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; the latter group is closely affiliated with the animal rights organization.

But it seems unlikely that the real issue for Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist reported to have invested in a burger restaurant, is animal welfare. Internal EPA communications point to the chemical industry’s interest in the alliance with animal rights groups. In a July 2017 email to representatives of Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil, Syngenta AG, the American Chemistry Council, PETA International, and the EPA, Michael Dourson — Trump’s failed nominee to lead the EPA’s chemical safety division  — proposed an Institute of Predictive Safety Assessment that would bring PETA together with the industry to help shift the thinking on testing, as E&E News reported that year.

The recently released batch of emails included one sent three months later to Nancy Beck, who then ran the EPA’s toxics office, and Dourson from Daland Juberg, who identified himself as heading human health science for DowDuPont. In it, Juberg inquired about the institute’s progress. “Let’s talk down the road on areas where EPA might have interest in moving the needle,” Juberg wrote.

While animal rights activists have focused on the ethics of exposing innocent creatures to toxic substances, by allowing chemicals onto the market without first testing their safety, people have essentially become the guinea pigs. Residents of Wilmington, North Carolina, may feel that particularly acutely. After the chemical GenX was discovered in the Cape Fear River downstream from a factory owned first by DuPont and now its spinoff, Chemours, researchers tested the blood of people who have been drinking the water and found four PFAS chemicals that had never been publicly identified, let alone studied.

“Do they have health effects? Which of the chemicals we found in their blood are related to high cholesterol? Which cause elevated liver enzymes?” asked Jane Hoppin, deputy director of the Center for Human Health and the Environment at North Carolina State University, which is conducting the blood study. “These poor people have been drinking these chemicals for 40 years, and we have nothing to offer them.”

With mysterious chemicals posing unknown harms within their own bodies, the people of Wilmington deserve more than cursory research, said Hoppin. “You can do a lot of quick testing in a petri dish,” she said. “But to see what really happens, you need a mammal.”

“Looking Forward to Collaborations!”

Beck, who directed regulatory science policy for the American Chemistry Council before Trump appointed her to run EPA’s toxics office in 2017, exchanged emails about the use of alternative techniques to replace animal testing with several chemical company representatives, including Dennis Deziel, director of federal government affairs for Dow Chemical.

“Dow is a leader in non-animal testing methods,” Deziel wrote to Beck in July 2017. “We want to engage on this issue in as helpful way as possible.” Beck met with Deziel and other Dow staff a few weeks later, according to the emails. “Extremely helpful for us,” Deziel wrote to Beck afterward.

Also at the meeting was Louis Scarano, an EPA toxicologist, who held at least one other meeting at which the issue was discussed with Deziel’s colleague, Sue Marty, Dow Chemical’s toxicology science director.

“I really appreciate your time and I enjoyed our conversation,” Marty wrote in an email to Scarano after that meeting, which was in mid-August 2017. “I think we share similar views on how alternate approaches could be used in the TSCA program,” she wrote, in a reference to the Toxic Substances Control Act, the primary federal law governing chemical regulation.

“Looking forward to collaborations!” the EPA’s Scarano responded. Scarano is now listed as the contact person for people seeking information on how the agency plans to reduce animal testing in TSCA as well as under other laws that involve chemical regulation.

Dow, it should be noted, is the maker of many chemicals that fall under the EPA’s purview and have been subject to animal testing, including chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to neurodevelopmental problems that the EPA found dangerous enough to ban in 2016; 1,3-butadiene, a chemical that a division of the EPA recently found — using animal testing — to cause cancer as well as reproductive and developmental problems; and ethylene oxide, another compound the EPA recently assessed. The EPA set the safety threshold for that chemical, which has caused elevated cancer risks in more than 50 places around the U.S., using studies showing ethylene oxide caused tumors of the brain, lung, connective tissue, uterus, and mammary glands of mice and rats.

Even before the recent industry push and policy shift at EPA, the federal regulation of chemicals had slowed to a near standstill. Only a small handful of the more than 40,000 chemicals now in use have been regulated. An overhaul of the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act law in 2016 was supposed to finally fix that. The updated law gave the agency new authority to require testing. Since the Trump administration took office, however, the agency appears not to have taken advantage of its new powers.

“In the nearly 3 years since passage of TSCA reform, EPA has not once used these new authorities and seems to be avoiding them at all costs,” Democratic Senators Cory Booker, Tom Udall, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, and Sheldon Whitehouse wrote to EPA administrator Wheeler on June 20.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has advanced another provision of the updated law: language that requires the EPA to rely on non-animal tests when they’re as good as or better than the animal research. The EPA’s materials detailing its shift away from animal testing repeatedly cite the directive. But as the senators pointed out in their letter, “The law’s vertebrate animal testing provisions in no way limit EPA’s testing authorities; they simply call for EPA to rely on methods not involving vertebrate animals where such methods can provide equivalent or better scientific quality and relevance than vertebrate tests.”

Nor does TSCA, only one of the laws under which EPA is authorized to conduct animal tests, explain why the new directive will affect research throughout the agency, including in its water and pesticide divisions. Nevertheless, according to Wheeler’s memo, work to finalize the shift away from animal testing will begin immediately.

The post EPA Move to Phase Out Animal Experiments Could Mean the End of Toxics Regulations appeared first on The Intercept.

Climate Catastrophe

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/07/2019 - 7:35pm in

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Environment

By RosemaryJ36 I am one of a growing number of people who accept the science that tells us that urgent action is needed if we are to avoid the extreme effects of the mankind-generated climate emergency. I am normally optimistic, but the re-election of the climate-change-denying Coalition government sees me feeling less positive. I keep…

The post Climate Catastrophe appeared first on The AIM Network.

Electrification and Climate I: Scale of the Challenge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/07/2019 - 1:38pm in

Many elements have to come together if Canada is to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. There is now a technical consensus that “electrification” – the replacement of fossil fuels with electricity as an energy source – is a necessary condition for decarbonization, and that electrification will require that zero/low-emission electricity generation double or triple by 2050. In this first of a series of electricity-oriented climate-related posts, I summarize the electrification modelling evidence and analyse it in historical context.

In the doom and gloom of current climate news, electrification is a relatively good news story. From the supply side, it shows that deep decarbonization (reductions of 80% or more in GHG) is feasible at current GDP and population growth rates. Because of its energy-efficiency and other conservation measures, electrification would result in reduced energy use while providing us with the same level of “energy services”. However, while there is an appreciation of electrification among many decision-makers and analysts, it has not yet led to significant action (like so many other aspects of climate policy). Some of the reasons are the same political economy challenges to any climate action. But other reasons relate to disagreements among stakeholders on how decarbonization should occur. I discuss these aspects after I summarize the models.

Energy Models and a Hypothetical Example

Climate models have been instrumental in driving the policy discussion about the need for decarbonization. The models I review here are not climate models. Rather, they are economy-wide models that forecast energy demand across sectors (residential, transportation and industrial) and then “construct” electricity and carbon infrastructure to estimate GHGs. Such models can either be calibrated to achieve a determined level of GHGs or can simulate the impact of specific policies.

I present the following hypothetical electrification example to assist lay readers in understanding these models. According to the 2019 National Inventory Report, Canada’s 24 million “light-duty” internal combustion engine (“ICE”) cars/SUVs/trucks account for 83 Mt of GHGs (11.6% of the total of 716 Mt) and use 1,080 Peta Joules (PJ)/year of energy (gasoline and diesel). On average, each vehicle is driven about 16,000 km/year, which equals about 384 billion vehicle-kilometres travelled (“VKT”)/year. What would be the electricity, emissions and energy impact of electrifying overnight the “energy services” provided by those 384 billion VKTs? There are a couple of ways of calculating the electricity impact. One is to multiply the average energy use of an EV (about 0.19 Wh/km) times 384 billion VKTs, which equals about 73 TWh of electricity. Another is to multiply the annual average electricity use of an EV (3.06 MWh) times 24 million vehicles, which also equals about 73 TWh. This amount of electricity would be an increase of 11.2% from Canada’s 2017 generation of 650 TWh. The emissions impact would be an elimination of 83 Mt, assuming the additional electricity is zero-emission. Electric motors are more energy efficient than ICEs, which is why we see EVs would use only one-quarter (263 PJ = 73 TWh) of the energy used by ICE vehicles (1,080 PJ), and would result in a 9.9% reduction in Canada’s final energy use.

This simple example shows the promise and challenges of electrification. To decrease GHGs by 11.6%, while maintaining the same level of “energy services”, we would need to add 11.2% of electricity, which would result in 9.9% economy-wide energy savings. One could see how aggregating this process across the economy would lead to decarbonization.

Summary of Decarbonization Models for Canada

These types of decarbonization models reached their policy apex in Canada via the Federal Government’s November 2016 “Mid-Century Long-Term Low-GHG Strategy” that noted that based on the results of a handful of such models (see below), achieving 80% GHG reductions by 2050 was technically possible via electrification. The Mid-Century Strategy was not a blueprint for action, but rather one of many inputs into Government’s “Pan-Canadian Framework” issued later that year.

Table 1 provides a summary of selected deep decarbonization models. It includes the three Canada-specific models included in the Mid-Century Strategy, and two later models. For context, it also includes three global models. Table 1 includes the 2050 electricity generation and the technology mix.

The first global model is in fact a series of models from last year’s IPCC “Global Warming of 1.5C” special report (“SR15”) that noted “the electrification of energy end use” was a common element of the 85 model scenarios (pathways) that were most most likely to keep global warming at or below 1.5C. Chapter 2 of the SR15 shows that the median increase in electricity generation of these 85 pathways is 125%. Note also that the IPCC’s median technology mix includes a “balanced” portfolio of non-emitting hydro, non-hydro renewables (wind, solar and others) and nuclear, as well as some residual fossil fuels.

This is where we get to introduce one of the main policy discussions among energy and environmental stakeholders. In the real-world where there is no perfect zero-emission technology, there are sharp differences between proponents of traditional “baseload” hydro and nuclear technologies and “intermittent” wind and solar and other newer technologies. Such disagreements are highlighted by the second and third models in Table 1 by Mark Jacobson et al (2017) and Sven Teske et al (2019), two prominent “100% Renewables” (“100%R”) modellers. Both models exclude nuclear generation as a matter of principle and use some existing hydro dams for “load balancing”. The differences are stark between Balanced and 100%R models. Under the median IPCC pathways hydro and nuclear account for 56% of global generation while non-hydro renewables for 28%. The ratios for Jacobson and Teske are reversed, averaging 7% and 93%, respectively. While this is an important discussion, it deserves its own separate treatment, which I will address in a subsequent post.

But the main message remains – regardless of whether they are “Balanced” or 100%R – global models show that electrification is a necessary condition for decarbonization, and that electrification will require electricity generation to double or triple (or more) by 2050.

The same conclusions apply for the USA and Canada. Focussing on Canada, Table 1 shows five models, the first three of which were included in the Mid-Century Strategy and two newer models, the Trottier Institute’s 2018 model and Jacobson’s Canada-specific results. Taken together, these five models indicate that decarbonization will require an increase in electricity generation to between 1,500 and 2,100 TWh in 2050; in effect, more than double or triple the 2017 generation of 650 TWh.

Canada’s current technology mix is already comparatively low-emission, with hydro and nuclear accounting for 76%, non-hydro renewables 7% and fossil fuels the remaining 17%. Looking forward, however, the policy differences embedded in the models are clear. For the four Balanced models, hydro and nuclear average 72% and non-hydro renewables 26%, in effect maintaining the current hydro and nuclear ratio while replacing all fossil fuels with non-hydro renewables. These figures are reversed under the Jacobson modelling, at with hydro at 15% and non-hydro renewables at 81%.

The Electrification-80%GHG Mitigation Pathway

For ease of presenting what the electrification process may look like and putting it in historical context, I use the mean of the five Canada models in Table 1 (1,760 TWh) to construct a representative “Electrification-80GHG” scenario. A further research contribution in this segment is my compilation and presentation of historical data from 1945 (data from Statistics Canada, other than earlier energy data from Richard Unger’s “Energy Consumption in Canada in the 19th and 20th Centuries“) to provide a more fulsome historical perspective.

Figure 1 presents historical electricity generation for Canada and the Electrification-80%GHG scenario to 2050. For comparative purposes I include the “Business as Usual” (“BAU”) projections based on the “Reference” scenario in the National Energy Board’s “Canada’s Energy Future”. The BAU scenario has a very modest increase of 0.5%/year, equal to an increase of 105 TWh by 2050. In contrast, the Electrification-80% scenario increases generation by 3.3%/year and adds 1,100 TWh by 2050. For simplicity, I focus on the 2050 end-point and “straight-line” growth from 2020 to 2050.

Figure 1 shows that while the 3.3%/year growth of the Electrification-80%GHG scenario constitutes a significant change from the modest 1.0%/year growth of the last three decades, it would be relatively modest compared to the 5.9%/year increase achieved in the four decades after 1945.

This kind of utility-scale growth has been achieved in the past and is technically feasible now, but as noted above, there is no policy consensus that would facilitate the broader societal consensus needed to move forward. Long-standing “in principle” opposition by some environmental stakeholders to all hydro and nuclear projects would block a consensus on the expansion of the zero-emission technologies that account for 66% of Canada’s current generation and 56% of IPCC’s global generation by 2050. Conversely, there is opposition among some energy analysts to the expansion of wind and solar, because of its intermittent nature and other attributes. Further, with respect to siting, there is already strong opposition among affected rural residents to many of the 300 wind farms that include Canada’s current 6,600 wind turbines. Both Jacobson and Trottier (2018) indicate that between 45% to 50% of electricity generation in 2050 could be wind-generated, which Jacobson estimates would require about 60,000 5MW turbines (proportionately larger compared to the current 2MW average). That is a nine-fold increase, compared to an increase of two or three times for hydro or nuclear under a Balanced growth scenario.

Interwoven into technology preferences are preferences over how the electricity should be delivered. There is a continuing tension between the household or community-controlled ideal of “distributed” energy self-sufficiency and the economies of scale associated with distant utility-scale provision that is delivered to urban areas over transmission wires. Electrification will provide policy space for both types of systems. By way of example, the most common form of distributed generation is rooftop solar. Current maximum residential potential (solar panels on every rooftop) in Canada is currently about 100 TWh (Jacobson (2017) estimates 125 TWh for 2050). Under the BAU scenario where additional generation to 2050 would be 105 TWh, there could be a legitimate policy discussion as to what proportion the distributed and utility systems would contribute. But we cannot achieve decarbonization under BAU. The Electrification-80%GHG scenario calls for an increase of 1,100 TWh. Even with solar panels covering every residential rooftop in Canada, that would account for only 10% of our incremental electricity needs. The vast majority of the new zero-emissions electricity will hence have to be provided at scale, whether at distant solar or wind “farms”, hydro dams or nuclear stations.

Another implication of the modelling is that we cannot “conserve” our way to decarbonization. All models already include aggressive efficiency and conservation measures, which become evident when we take a broader view of efficiency to include energy as a whole. For example, the upper portion of Figure 2 shows historical and projected final energy use. The BAU estimates are from the NEB and the Electrification-80%GHG is a constructed average of Trottier (2018) and Jacobson. Figure 2 shows that under BAU total energy use would continue to increase but would decrease by -0.3%/year under the Electrification-80%GHG scenario, resulting in significant energy savings (about 2,000 PJ by 2050). The lower portion of Figure 2 shows electricity’s relative share of final energy and shows that it has increased from about 10% after WWII and plateaued in the mid-1980’s at around 28%, a level that would be continued under the BAU scenario. In contrast, electricity would reach about 80% by 2050 in my constructed scenario. The bottom line is that in terms of energy, electricity would increase by less than fossil fuels would decrease, resulting in lower energy use.

Figures 3 and 4 shows electricity and energy intensity and per capita use. Intensity is measured with respect to GDP (real 2012 – based on the NEB’s long-term GDP increase of 1.8%/year), and per capita use with respect to population (from the NEB’s long-term increase of 0.8%/year).

Figure 3 shows that electricity intensity increased after 1945 by 1.5%/year, until about 1979, after which it declined by -1.3%/year. The BAU scenario sees electricity intensity continue to decrease by -1.3%/year, while the Electrification-80%GHG scenario sees an increase of 1.5%/year. Electricity use per person would also increase under Electrification-80%GHG, averaging 2.5%/year to 2050.

Figure 4 shows that, relative to historical trends, energy intensity would decline further under the Electrification-80%GHG scenario (-2.0%/year) than the BAU, and would have decreased by about 46% from 2020 to 2050. That would indeed be a “de-linking” of the economy-energy nexus. Per person energy use would also decline from 2020 to 2050, by about 28% under the Electrification-80%GHG scenario, resulting in usage levels not seen since the early 1960’s.

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Closing Thoughts

The promise of electrification is that decarbonization is technically feasible. A new societal consensus would have to emerge to facilitate the expansion of utility-scale electricity generation infrastructure that would displace most carbon infrastructure. However, there is no consensus among stakeholders that favour deep decarbonization about how it should proceed. The last decades of slow or stable electricity growth has resulted in a type of “zero-sum” game where proponents are not satisfied in advocating for their preferred technology but also attempt to block competing zero-emissions options. If we are to take decarbonization seriously, electrification would require an “all hands on deck” approach. In this respect, for instance, I am somewhat encouraged by the very recent Suzuki Foundation report that qualitatively reviewed some of the same models as this post. While the report advocates for a certain type of electricity (distributed 100%R), it does not shy away from reporting the broader modelling consensus that Canada’s low-carbon economy of 2050 would require 2.5 to 3 times more electricity.

In addition to the technology issue, in subsequent posts I also aim to deal with policy and regulatory matters, including the challenge of matching supply and demand over time. In a nutshell, an increase in generating capacity is the necessary supply side response to meet increased demand induced by policy and regulation. To date, policy has focussed on demand-side measures, including the carbon tax. But these measures have been tardy and modest and have not been applied consistently. The resulting lack of demand certainty is problematic for the electricity sector because it requires long lead-times to build supply. No Government or private investor wants to finance generation assets that will operate under-capacity because electrification-related demand was delayed or never materialized. In effect, national and provincial electricity regulators have taken a conservative approach; while they have modelled electrification, they generally have not included it in their long-term resource planning forecasts. So we fall further behind on the supply side. One could advocate for improved policy and regulatory commitments on the demand side, but such indirect measures may not be sufficient; a more direct policy approach on the supply-side may be appropriate and necessary. Stay tuned.

Electrification and Climate I: Scale of the Challenge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/07/2019 - 1:38pm in

Many elements have to come together if Canada is to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. There is now a technical consensus that “electrification” – the replacement of fossil fuels with electricity as an energy source – is a necessary condition for decarbonization, and that electrification will require that zero/low-emission electricity generation double or triple by 2050. In this first of a series of electricity-oriented climate-related posts, I summarize the electrification modelling evidence and analyse it in historical context.

In the doom and gloom of current climate news, electrification is a relatively good news story. From the supply side, it shows that deep decarbonization (reductions of 80% or more in GHG) is feasible at current GDP and population growth rates. Because of its energy-efficiency and other conservation measures, electrification would result in reduced energy use while providing us with the same level of “energy services”. However, while there is an appreciation of electrification among many decision-makers and analysts, it has not yet led to significant action (like so many other aspects of climate policy). Some of the reasons are the same political economy challenges to any climate action. But other reasons relate to disagreements among stakeholders on how decarbonization should occur. I discuss these aspects after I summarize the models.

Energy Models and a Hypothetical Example

Climate models have been instrumental in driving the policy discussion about the need for decarbonization. The models I review here are not climate models. Rather, they are economy-wide models that forecast energy demand across sectors (residential, transportation and industrial) and then “construct” electricity and carbon infrastructure to estimate GHGs. Such models can either be calibrated to achieve a determined level of GHGs or can simulate the impact of specific policies.

I present the following hypothetical electrification example to assist lay readers in understanding these models. According to the 2019 National Inventory Report, Canada’s 24 million “light-duty” internal combustion engine (“ICE”) cars/SUVs/trucks account for 83 Mt of GHGs (11.6% of the total of 716 Mt) and use 1,080 Peta Joules (PJ)/year of energy (gasoline and diesel). On average, each vehicle is driven about 16,000 km/year, which equals about 384 billion vehicle-kilometres travelled (“VKT”)/year. What would be the electricity, emissions and energy impact of electrifying overnight the “energy services” provided by those 384 billion VKTs? There are a couple of ways of calculating the electricity impact. One is to multiply the average energy use of an EV (about 0.19 Wh/km) times 384 billion VKTs, which equals about 73 TWh of electricity. Another is to multiply the annual average electricity use of an EV (3.06 MWh) times 24 million vehicles, which also equals about 73 TWh. This amount of electricity would be an increase of 11.2% from Canada’s 2017 generation of 650 TWh. The emissions impact would be an elimination of 83 Mt, assuming the additional electricity is zero-emission. Electric motors are more energy efficient than ICEs, which is why we see EVs would use only one-quarter (263 PJ = 73 TWh) of the energy used by ICE vehicles (1,080 PJ), and would result in a 9.9% reduction in Canada’s final energy use.

This simple example shows the promise and challenges of electrification. To decrease GHGs by 11.6%, while maintaining the same level of “energy services”, we would need to add 11.2% of electricity, which would result in 9.9% economy-wide energy savings. One could see how aggregating this process across the economy would lead to decarbonization.

Summary of Decarbonization Models for Canada

These types of decarbonization models reached their policy apex in Canada via the Federal Government’s November 2016 “Mid-Century Long-Term Low-GHG Strategy” that noted that based on the results of a handful of such models (see below), achieving 80% GHG reductions by 2050 was technically possible via electrification. The Mid-Century Strategy was not a blueprint for action, but rather one of many inputs into Government’s “Pan-Canadian Framework” issued later that year.

Table 1 provides a summary of selected deep decarbonization models. It includes the three Canada-specific models included in the Mid-Century Strategy, and two later models. For context, it also includes three global models. Table 1 includes the 2050 electricity generation and the technology mix.

The first global model is in fact a series of models from last year’s IPCC “Global Warming of 1.5C” special report (“SR15”) that noted “the electrification of energy end use” was a common element of the 85 model scenarios (pathways) that were most most likely to keep global warming at or below 1.5C. Chapter 2 of the SR15 shows that the median increase in electricity generation of these 85 pathways is 125%. Note also that the IPCC’s median technology mix includes a “balanced” portfolio of non-emitting hydro, non-hydro renewables (wind, solar and others) and nuclear, as well as some residual fossil fuels.

This is where we get to introduce one of the main policy discussions among energy and environmental stakeholders. In the real-world where there is no perfect zero-emission technology, there are sharp differences between proponents of traditional “baseload” hydro and nuclear technologies and “intermittent” wind and solar and other newer technologies. Such disagreements are highlighted by the second and third models in Table 1 by Mark Jacobson et al (2017) and Sven Teske et al (2019), two prominent “100% Renewables” (“100%R”) modellers. Both models exclude nuclear generation as a matter of principle and use some existing hydro dams for “load balancing”. The differences are stark between Balanced and 100%R models. Under the median IPCC pathways hydro and nuclear account for 56% of global generation while non-hydro renewables for 28%. The ratios for Jacobson and Teske are reversed, averaging 7% and 93%, respectively. While this is an important discussion, it deserves its own separate treatment, which I will address in a subsequent post.

But the main message remains – regardless of whether they are “Balanced” or 100%R – global models show that electrification is a necessary condition for decarbonization, and that electrification will require electricity generation to double or triple (or more) by 2050.

The same conclusions apply for the USA and Canada. Focussing on Canada, Table 1 shows five models, the first three of which were included in the Mid-Century Strategy and two newer models, the Trottier Institute’s 2018 model and Jacobson’s Canada-specific results. Taken together, these five models indicate that decarbonization will require an increase in electricity generation to between 1,500 and 2,100 TWh in 2050; in effect, more than double or triple the 2017 generation of 650 TWh.

Canada’s current technology mix is already comparatively low-emission, with hydro and nuclear accounting for 76%, non-hydro renewables 7% and fossil fuels the remaining 17%. Looking forward, however, the policy differences embedded in the models are clear. For the four Balanced models, hydro and nuclear average 72% and non-hydro renewables 26%, in effect maintaining the current hydro and nuclear ratio while replacing all fossil fuels with non-hydro renewables. These figures are reversed under the Jacobson modelling, at with hydro at 15% and non-hydro renewables at 81%.

The Electrification-80%GHG Mitigation Pathway

For ease of presenting what the electrification process may look like and putting it in historical context, I use the mean of the five Canada models in Table 1 (1,760 TWh) to construct a representative “Electrification-80GHG” scenario. A further research contribution in this segment is my compilation and presentation of historical data from 1945 (data from Statistics Canada, other than earlier energy data from Richard Unger’s “Energy Consumption in Canada in the 19th and 20th Centuries“) to provide a more fulsome historical perspective.

Figure 1 presents historical electricity generation for Canada and the Electrification-80%GHG scenario to 2050. For comparative purposes I include the “Business as Usual” (“BAU”) projections based on the “Reference” scenario in the National Energy Board’s “Canada’s Energy Future”. The BAU scenario has a very modest increase of 0.5%/year, equal to an increase of 105 TWh by 2050. In contrast, the Electrification-80% scenario increases generation by 3.3%/year and adds 1,100 TWh by 2050. For simplicity, I focus on the 2050 end-point and “straight-line” growth from 2020 to 2050.

Figure 1 shows that while the 3.3%/year growth of the Electrification-80%GHG scenario constitutes a significant change from the modest 1.0%/year growth of the last three decades, it would be relatively modest compared to the 5.9%/year increase achieved in the four decades after 1945.

This kind of utility-scale growth has been achieved in the past and is technically feasible now, but as noted above, there is no policy consensus that would facilitate the broader societal consensus needed to move forward. Long-standing “in principle” opposition by some environmental stakeholders to all hydro and nuclear projects would block a consensus on the expansion of the zero-emission technologies that account for 66% of Canada’s current generation and 56% of IPCC’s global generation by 2050. Conversely, there is opposition among some energy analysts to the expansion of wind and solar, because of its intermittent nature and other attributes. Further, with respect to siting, there is already strong opposition among affected rural residents to many of the 300 wind farms that include Canada’s current 6,600 wind turbines. Both Jacobson and Trottier (2018) indicate that between 45% to 50% of electricity generation in 2050 could be wind-generated, which Jacobson estimates would require about 60,000 5MW turbines (proportionately larger compared to the current 2MW average). That is a nine-fold increase, compared to an increase of two or three times for hydro or nuclear under a Balanced growth scenario.

Interwoven into technology preferences are preferences over how the electricity should be delivered. There is a continuing tension between the household or community-controlled ideal of “distributed” energy self-sufficiency and the economies of scale associated with distant utility-scale provision that is delivered to urban areas over transmission wires. Electrification will provide policy space for both types of systems. By way of example, the most common form of distributed generation is rooftop solar. Current maximum residential potential (solar panels on every rooftop) in Canada is currently about 100 TWh (Jacobson (2017) estimates 125 TWh for 2050). Under the BAU scenario where additional generation to 2050 would be 105 TWh, there could be a legitimate policy discussion as to what proportion the distributed and utility systems would contribute. But we cannot achieve decarbonization under BAU. The Electrification-80%GHG scenario calls for an increase of 1,100 TWh. Even with solar panels covering every residential rooftop in Canada, that would account for only 10% of our incremental electricity needs. The vast majority of the new zero-emissions electricity will hence have to be provided at scale, whether at distant solar or wind “farms”, hydro dams or nuclear stations.

Another implication of the modelling is that we cannot “conserve” our way to decarbonization. All models already include aggressive efficiency and conservation measures, which become evident when we take a broader view of efficiency to include energy as a whole. For example, the upper portion of Figure 2 shows historical and projected final energy use. The BAU estimates are from the NEB and the Electrification-80%GHG is a constructed average of Trottier (2018) and Jacobson. Figure 2 shows that under BAU total energy use would continue to increase but would decrease by -0.3%/year under the Electrification-80%GHG scenario, resulting in significant energy savings (about 2,000 PJ by 2050). The lower portion of Figure 2 shows electricity’s relative share of final energy and shows that it has increased from about 10% after WWII and plateaued in the mid-1980’s at around 28%, a level that would be continued under the BAU scenario. In contrast, electricity would reach about 80% by 2050 in my constructed scenario. The bottom line is that in terms of energy, electricity would increase by less than fossil fuels would decrease, resulting in lower energy use.

Figures 3 and 4 shows electricity and energy intensity and per capita use. Intensity is measured with respect to GDP (real 2012 – based on the NEB’s long-term GDP increase of 1.8%/year), and per capita use with respect to population (from the NEB’s long-term increase of 0.8%/year).

Figure 3 shows that electricity intensity increased after 1945 by 1.5%/year, until about 1979, after which it declined by -1.3%/year. The BAU scenario sees electricity intensity continue to decrease by -1.3%/year, while the Electrification-80%GHG scenario sees an increase of 1.5%/year. Electricity use per person would also increase under Electrification-80%GHG, averaging 2.5%/year to 2050.

Figure 4 shows that, relative to historical trends, energy intensity would decline further under the Electrification-80%GHG scenario (-2.0%/year) than the BAU, and would have decreased by about 46% from 2020 to 2050. That would indeed be a “de-linking” of the economy-energy nexus. Per person energy use would also decline from 2020 to 2050, by about 28% under the Electrification-80%GHG scenario, resulting in usage levels not seen since the early 1960’s.

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Closing Thoughts

The promise of electrification is that decarbonization is technically feasible. A new societal consensus would have to emerge to facilitate the expansion of utility-scale electricity generation infrastructure that would displace most carbon infrastructure. However, there is no consensus among stakeholders that favour deep decarbonization about how it should proceed. The last decades of slow or stable electricity growth has resulted in a type of “zero-sum” game where proponents are not satisfied in advocating for their preferred technology but also attempt to block competing zero-emissions options. If we are to take decarbonization seriously, electrification would require an “all hands on deck” approach. In this respect, for instance, I am somewhat encouraged by the very recent Suzuki Foundation report that qualitatively reviewed some of the same models as this post. While the report advocates for a certain type of electricity (distributed 100%R), it does not shy away from reporting the broader modelling consensus that Canada’s low-carbon economy of 2050 would require 2.5 to 3 times more electricity.

In addition to the technology issue, in subsequent posts I also aim to deal with policy and regulatory matters, including the challenge of matching supply and demand over time. In a nutshell, an increase in generating capacity is the necessary supply side response to meet increased demand induced by policy and regulation. To date, policy has focussed on demand-side measures, including the carbon tax. But these measures have been tardy and modest and have not been applied consistently. The resulting lack of demand certainty is problematic for the electricity sector because it requires long lead-times to build supply. No Government or private investor wants to finance generation assets that will operate under-capacity because electrification-related demand was delayed or never materialized. In effect, national and provincial electricity regulators have taken a conservative approach; while they have modelled electrification, they generally have not included it in their long-term resource planning forecasts. So we fall further behind on the supply side. One could advocate for improved policy and regulatory commitments on the demand side, but such indirect measures may not be sufficient; a more direct policy approach on the supply-side may be appropriate and necessary. Stay tuned.

Plastic Watch: G20 Issues Pathetic Declaration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 02/07/2019 - 2:55am in

G20 issues Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, a voluntary plastic management plan so inadequate the plastic industry endorsed it immediately.

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