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Is the Environmental Movement Net CO2 Positive? (James Hansen wants to know)

“Has Big Environmentalism increased net CO2 emissions by retiring existing or discouraging new nuclear (and hydro) capacity that would have produced more kilowatt hours than that being generated by new wind and solar capacity? It is time to do the hard math. Let the games begin!”

James Hansen is an energy realist amid his climate alarmism. And fortunately, we can use the analysis of the former to debunk the politics of the latter. And even more fortunately, the physical science of man-made climate change is moving away from Hansen’s high-sensitivity estimates to “global lukewarming” (the analysis of Chip Knappenberger, Roy Spencer, John Christy, and others—seconded by the very influential Judith Curry in numerous blogs for the mainstream.

In his just released analysis, “Renewable Energy, Nuclear Power and Galileo: Do Scientists Have a Duty to Expose Popular Misconceptions?, Hansen once again speaks energy/political truth to Big Environmentalism. This is at least the fourth time he has done so.

Inconvenient Truths: 2009, 2011, 2012

 In 2009, Hansen eviscerated Big Green for supporting the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill with the memorable words:

The 648-page cap-and-trade monstrosity …. Not a single Congressperson has read it.  They don’t need to – they just need to add more paragraphs to support their own special interests.  By the way, the Congress people do not write most of those paragraphs—they are “suggested” by people in alligator shoes.

And Hansen on the Copenhagen Accord in 2011:

The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – ‘goals’ for emission reductions, ‘offsets’ that render even iron-clad goals almost meaningless, an ineffectual ‘cap-and-trade’ mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics-as-usual.

And his rejection of California cap-and-trade in 2012:

You don’t want [California's] system with caps, where you have trading, you have derivatives, you have markets that then collapse and don’t actually reduce emissions much. That’s been tried in Europe, and it didn’t do much.

Big Green’s CO2 Spew

Now, James Hansen is basically saying that mainstream (DC-centered) environmentalism is hurting the cause of reversing man-made climate change by being anti-nuclear and pro-renewables (wind and solar in particular).

Calculating the vast scale of energy needs versus renewables’ energy pittance, Hansen lays the blame in biting language (pp. 10–11):

People who entreat the government to solve global warming but offer support only for renewable energies will be rewarded with the certainty that the U.S. and most of the world will be fracked-over, the dirtiest fossil fuels will be mined, mountaintop removal and mechanized long-wall coal mining will continue, the Arctic, Amazon and other pristine public lands will be violated, and the deepest oceans will be ploughed for fossil fuels.

The body politic, sensibly, is not going to break their constituents’ budgets with expensive energy:

Politicians are not going to let the lights go out or stop economic growth. Don’t blame Obama or other politicians. If we give them no viable option, we will be fracked and mined to death, and have no one to blame but ourselves.

Then Hansen notes how carbon-free alternative energies are unfairly presented by those in the know and those merely sharing the narrative:

However, there is an asymmetry in how alternative energies are presented to the public, and I believe this asymmetry is having a large [negative] impact on prospects for stabilizing climate.

Asymmetry first became obvious to me when I pointed out to a friend some of the limitations of one of the renewable energies. He said “Jim, don’t criticize renewable energies! It is o.k. to advocate nuclear power, but don’t do it by criticizing renewables!”

I appreciate the rationale, so I always emphasize that we need contributions of all the capable energies (and I point out that I have spent a lot of money on solar panels for our and our children’s homes). However, it is now clear that there is no reciprocity, and the lack of uniform objectivity presents the public with a distorted picture of alternative energy choices.

Then Hansen shares a very revealing ‘ah ha’ moment when he discovered the perversity the energy strategy of Big Environmentalism:

The asymmetry finally hit me over the head when a renewable energy advocate told me that the main purpose of renewable portfolio standards (RPS) was to “kill nuclear”.

I had naively thought that the purpose was simply to kick-start renewables. Instead, I was told, because utilities were required to accept intermittent renewable energies, nuclear power would become less economic, because it works best if it runs flat out.

So natural gas wins, nuclear loses, and climate loses by Hansen’s math because….

What to do when the wind is not blowing? The answer was: have a as plant ready as back-up. In other words, replace carbon-free nuclear power with a dual system, renewables plus gas. With this approach CO2 emissions will increase and it is certain that fracking will continue and expand into larger regions.

Conclusion

James Hansen has, once again, spoken truth to Environmental Power. The father of climate alarmism, someone who cannot be marginalized by the mainstream, has posed yet another ‘inconvenient truth’ for neo-Malthusian energy statism.

Hansen himself can do the math to show how the Kill Nuclear, Force Wind strategy has resulted in, or will result in, a net increase in carbon dioxide (and methane) emissions.

So, the Big Question: has Big Environmentalism increased net CO2 emissions by retiring existing or discouraging new nuclear (and hydro) capacity that would have produced more kilowatt hours than that being generated by new wind and solar capacity?

It is time to do the hard math. Let the games begin!

3 comments

1 Environmentalists: Carbon Bigfoots? | The Penn Ave Post { 02.24.14 at 3:16 pm }

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2 News and Commentary for February 25 | Palo Verde Republican Women { 02.25.14 at 10:42 am }

[…] This: Our friend Rob Bradley, founder of the indispensable Institute for Energy Research, has a brilliant post up on IER’s MasterResource blog today about how the all-important “carbon footprint” of the […]

3 AGW cause, “down the drain” … | pindanpost { 03.01.14 at 8:53 pm }

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4 Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That? { 03.03.14 at 4:05 am }