Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Muddled View on Carbon Emissions & Renewables

Concerned constituents have written to their MP Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg about Hinkley Point nuclear power station and the need to decarbonise our power sector in a cost effective and timely manner maximising the use of non-nuclear renewables.  Regarding renewables Mr Rees-Mogg responded:

I also understand that some people would like the Government to spend more money on renewable energy instead of nuclear power. It is important to remember that the United Kingdom produces approximately only 2% of the world’s carbon emissions. It is, therefore, more important that the UK Government ensures that the most vulnerable people in society are protected rather than producing renewable energy that, even though it may be greener, is nonetheless unreliable and would raise energy bills for everyone. Households are already estimated to be paying £60 per year which may rise to £226 by 2020 owing to subsidies for renewables. I have included an article explaining this potential rise for you reference“.

Giving this Telegraph article as evidence.

It sounds reasonable but what lies beneath this logic and evidence?

Emissions

It is true that the UK only produces about 2% of the world’s annual carbon emissions but it is our cumulative emissions that define our climate change impact.  As the UK was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution we have a head start on the rest of the world and we come 7th  in the world’s cumulative emissions ranking after the USA, China, Russia, Brazil, India and Germany.  On a per capita basis the UK has historically produced more CO2 emission than any other country in the world.  That is quite an achievement.  This places a heavy moral responsibility on the UK to take a lead in reducing our national and per-capita emissions considering that we have already hogged such a dis-proportionate slice of the world’s safe carbon budget.  See National contributions to observed global warming

Morals

Fulfilling this moral responsibility (to both the rest of the world and to future generations) to reduce emissions is not mutually exclusive with fulfilling our moral responsibility to help those in our society in fuel poverty.  Presenting it as an either/or choice is a false dichotomy.  Those in fuel poverty can be helped with energy efficiency measures or by putting the costs of developing renewable energy onto general taxation rather than on bills, so that those who can pay do pay.  This does not preclude also dealing with climate change. Similarly, dealing with climate change using renewables doesn’t mean living in caves – another of Mr Rees-Mogg’s false dichotomies.

Subsidies

What of Mr Rees-Mogg’s assertion that renewable subsidies on household bills “may rise to £226 by 2020”?  In a nutshell Mr Rees-Mogg has cherry-picked a confused and incorrect journalistic article (from a paper he writes for) rather than referring to the transparent analysis of the government’s statutory advisors.  He also ignores the vastly larger subsidies that are given to the fossil fuel industry

So, Mr Rees-Mogg i) misrepresents the UK’s contribution to global warming, ii) makes a false moral argument about fuel poverty based on i, and iii) uses a set of incorrect statistics to exaggerate renewable subsidies whilst ignoring fossil fuel subsidies and readily available credible estimates from authoritative sources.

Chapter & Verse

Mr Rees-Mogg quotes from an article by the Telegraph’s deputy political editor Stephen Swinford (19/3/2015) who says “Green levies on energy bills will treble by 2020 because of renewable targets, official figures suggest”, attributing the figures to the Office of Budget Responsibility, although Mr Swinford gives no source for the figures which seem impossible to verify, including by climate sceptic bloggers.  Mr Swinford adds “Separate figures published last year show that the policies account for 5 per cent of energy bills at present – equivalent to £68 a year – to 15 per cent of an annual energy bill by 2020, equivalent to £226”, quoting the Telegraph’s energy editor Emily Gosden (6/11/2014) in Green levies on energy bills to double by 2020, official estimates show.

However, Mr Swinton isn’t quoting Ms Gosden he is miss-quoting her and has taken the estimated 2030 subsidy and moved it to 2020 creating not a doubling but a trebling of the subsidy by 2020.  As presented in Ms Gosden’s article the correct figure for 2020 is £141, not £226.

Mr Swinton ploughs on regardless and quotes from a report by the Centre for Policy Studies (18th March 2015) saying “Scrapping the UK’s green energy targets in favour of gas-fired power plants would save consumers £214 a year by 2020, the report suggests – despite ministers’ insistence that the total impact of the policies will be only £141 per household by then”.  So having replaced the government’s 2020 estimate with the 2030 estimate, as reported by his energy editor colleague, he then mistakenly uses another report referring to 2020 to erroneously justify the mistake he has made whilst also mentioning the correct figure for 2020 of £141.

This is seriously shoddy journalism on the part of the Telegraph, but it gets worse.

What is this Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) report, what does it say and who wrote it?  The report’s main message is that “ditching the renewables target and returning the sector to the market would save households around £214 a year, assuming gas replaces renewable power” and that “This option would depend on securing a permanent opt-out from the EU renewable directive”.  The report concludes, “ditching renewables and encouraging shale fracking is better economics and more effective at reducing carbon dioxide emissions”.   These conclusions are based in part on work by Professor Gordon Hughes for the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) and emails to the CPS report author.  Professor Hughes has produced reports on wind power for both REF and Lord Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).  Both REF and GWPF are climate sceptic and anti-renewable energy, although this may not be immediately obvious to the casual viewer of their web sites.  The GWPF has been a relentless promoter of hydraulic fracturing. The director of REF is GWPF’s energy editor and has recently joined the GWPF’s, so called, Academic Advisory Council.  Professor Hughes’ work on wind for these organisations has been robustly debunked by the late by Prof David MacKay of Cambridge University, by Imperial College and by the UK Energy Research Centre.  CarbonBrief also comment.

In her Telegraph article reporting on the CPS report Emily Gosden said the DECC points out (but Swinton ignores) that “The figures in this report don’t add up and ignore the urgent need to cut our carbon emissions.” DECC unusually published a rebuttal of the CPS report saying “The report today by the Centre for Policy Studies ignores the reality of the energy market. It wrongly suggests that we can ditch renewables for gas, with no explanation of where we would source that from. It also appears to suggest that we should row back on the tremendous gains we have made in the fight on climate change. Given the dire consequences of global warming this is not an option”.

The CPS report was written by Rupert Darwall who is a prominent climate sceptic and who has published with the most prominent climate sceptics some of whom have been outed as being paid by the fossil fuel industry.

What do the various renewable subsidies actually mean for household energy bills?  CarbonBrief provided a clear explanation of what these figures mean (7th November 2015).

cb_graphic

CarbonBrief.org graphic of the same data, showing how bills are predicted to be lower with renewable policies than without – including support for households in fuel poverty and network costs

As we move forward these estimates will change and Mr Rees-Mogg would probably do better to read the government’s statutory advisor’s report Power sector scenarios for the fifth carbon budget  (October 2015) with analysis by Imperial College.  This shows that the likely cost to consumers of renewables in 2020 is £105, not £226 nor £214 or even the £129 in the above graphic.  And for that we get to meet our climate change commitments and deal with renewable intermittency issues and support households in fuel poverty.

Why does Mr Rees-Mogg choose to use unreliable information sources rather than the robust and transparent analysis of the Committee on Climate Change?

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James Hansen’s view on UK’s dash for fracked gas

Dr James Hansen, former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s most prominent climate scientists, has just said of UK’s dash for fracked gas – “Well, that’s screwing your children and grandchildren. Because if you do that, then there’s no way to avoid the consequences [of] multi-metre sea-level rise But we can’t do that and that’s what the science says crystal clear. And yet politicians pretend not to hear it, or not to understand it” [hear it all here].  This is rather relevant to Somerset seeing as the whole coast from Clevedon to Minehead is both being licensed for fracking and much of it is close to or below the current high tide level, which is considerably higher in the Severn Estuary than other coastal areas around the UK thanks to its geography.

Legally protected wildlife habitat in the Estuary is already being squeezed between rising sea level and the hard sea defences that snake around the coast, with new habitat having to be created through managed retreat at the cost of tens of millions of pounds – Steart Marsh. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is also having to ensure that sea defences at Hinkley Point are bolstered to prevent them being undermined by the rising tide.

A grotesque tautology is now in play whereby the sea level is already rising and protected wildlife habitat is being lost, having to be replaced at great cost, at the same time the area is being licensed for fracking that will result in more cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, leading to more sea level rise and more habitat loss and expense – all within plain sight of a nuclear power station and the site of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. You really couldn’t make it up. Nor could you make up the job description of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change who (thanks to the Infrastructure Act) is now simultaneously responsible for both reducing carbon emissions and maximising the use of domestic fossil fuels without carbon capture and storage, i.e. maximising them.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for the Chew Valley and climate sceptic, has said that it is a choice between “cheap energy” and “living in the stone-age” – a false dichotomy that ignores environmental costs and fossil fuel subsidies. He says that we should only adapt to climate change (I thought he denied it? Ed.) rather than mitigate further change by reducing emissions, suggesting that we take a leaf out the the Dutch book by building the sea defences higher and higher – as the Dutch “have done for hundreds of years”.  He selectively forgets that historically the Dutch drained their land using windmills, an option not available in England as Mr Rees-Mogg has played his part in ending onshore wind – the least costly renewable energy. Another conundrum for the Secretary of State – how to deliver carbon reduction targets at least cost whilst at the same time closing down the least cost renewable option? – onshore wind.

So, as a politician does Mr Rees-Mogg pretend not to hear what science is saying about the climate (“the quasi religious Green movement” with its “environmentalist obsession”), or does he simply just not understand it? Perhaps he is listening too much to Christopher Booker’s climate myths  rather than spending any time engaging with science and people like James Hanson, who not only understands the science but who also advocates a market solution – another thing (surprisingly) Rees-Mogg doesn’t bother with unless massive fossil fuel subsidies are included. Ask a NASA scientist – or any of the 97% of climate scientists who have published and expressed a position on global warming.

MEP’s Dud Fracking and Energy Polls

In the West Country we have six Members of the European Parliament (MEP) to represent us on issues including the development of unconventional gas and renewable energy. The South West MEPs include members of the Conservative, UKIP, Labour and Green parties. No matter what their political affiliation we should expect them to form their opinions on the basis of credible evidence and represent our best interests accordingly. Let’s have a quick look at how two of the South West MEPs form, reinforce and communicate their opinions:

Ashely Fox MEP (Conservative) conducts his own online polls including the questions Should Britain be accessing it’s shale gas reserves? and  Is onshore wind power worth investing in as part of a diversified energy sector? He then publishes an annual summary of the survey results including the percentage of respondents who answered in different ways and matches the results with his own views.  However, he provides no information on what measures were taken to ensure that the surveys are representative or how many respondents answered each question.

The result for Mr Fox’s shale gas question was 92.9% in favour and 7.1% against. 

The result for Mr Fox’s wind power question was 73.7% against (not worth investing in) and 26% in favour and 0.3% Don’t Know. 

Are these poll results indicative of public opinion nationally or in the South West or are they just self-selecting and self-serving nonsense? In stark contrast to Mr Fox’s poll results a national poll by YouGov for the Sunday Times shows that in May 2015 43% (Fox 7%) of respondents were against the development of shale gas and 32% in favour. Similarly the same YouGov poll shows that the public still supports onshore wind development with 61% (Fox 26%) of respondents supporting the industry.

So, are Mr Fox’s poll results representative or just self-serving? Mr Fox supports fracking and is a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. ashley@ashleyfoxmep.co.uk

Here is another take on this issue – Fracking support falls as Tory government promises to ‘deliver shale’

Dr Julia Reid MEP (UKIP) doesn’t have her own polls but rather favours sound-bite videos of her speeches in the European Parliament to communicate her views. Dr Reid doesn’t let her scientific qualifications get in the way of UKIP’s climate science denial based energy policy. In this one minute video she says “Since 1995 global warming has not been happening” ignoring the fact that it is a well established scientific fact that global warming has not stopped and that more than 90% of warming is in the oceans not the land surface air temperature.


Here is a more authoritative 1 minute video on global warming from the Royal Society.

A visual depiction of how much global warming heat is going into the various components of the climate system for the period 1993 to 2003, calculated from IPCC AR4 5.2.2.3.  Note that focusing on surface air temperatures misses more than 90% of the overall warming of the planet.

A visual depiction of how much global warming heat is going into the various components of the climate system for the period 1993 to 2003, calculated from IPCC AR4 5.2.2.3. Note that focusing on surface air temperatures misses more than 90% of the overall warming of the planet. (Source http://www.skepticalscience.com)

Climate Myth – What has global warming done since 1998?

Strangely Dr Reid seems to accept what the UN has to say about ozone depletion and the need for global action but rejects what the UN, the world’s Science Academies and NASA have to say about human made global warming.

Dr Reid supports fracking and is on the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. julia.reid@ukip.org