Tuesday, 8 December 2015

If you really fear climate change, then you should be very worried

Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, it doesn't go away - Philip K Dick. 

Reality is divinely indifferent - Richard Bach

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from each sector in 2013 (Source:EPA)

Our government is fully committed to both wind farms and fighting climate change but a simple analysis of the figures shows that they have no hope of combating it without doing something major about agriculture emissions, converting most of our power stations to biomass and introducing legislation that will alter our fast moving modern society altogether. Green lobby groups are rightly angry because they see the writing on the wall - no amount of wind farms can ever stave off the alleged dangers of climate change. If you are a believer in man made climate change, then you need to change your government and do it urgently.

The Irish government officially accept that climate change is a serious threat to Ireland and that we need to reduce our emissions to stop it's effects. The action they are taking in response is to enact a Climate Bill which is pretty much toothless, setting up a panel of experts and forcing ministers to give speeches on progress (or lack of) - in otherwords, it encourages talking shops rather than action. The other action they are fully committed to is installing wind turbines up and down the country. Apart from this there is occasional lip service to energy efficiency and the possibility of giving more subsidies to non dispatchable plant such as wave or solar. But energy efficiency initiatives dont sound all that "sexy" and politicians always prefer building things rather than conserving.

I have no doubt that the development and advancement of onshore wind energy projects will be and must be a significant element of Ireland's energy policy and its approach to combating climate change in the years ahead - Minister for Energy, Alex White, December 2015.

The Irish Greens are pretty extreme in their belief in climate change. There is the very vocal Friends of the Earth, the RTE television star Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party and many others who seem to be in well paid jobs and are fully committed to fighting climate change. One wonders what will happen them if we experience global cooling in the next few decades. One thing they are united in is their vocal criticism of the government. Are they right ? Well, given that they believe in climate change, then they are right to be angry. Because building more wind farms wont have any effect.

The Electricity Sector

Emissions from electricity make up about 20% of Ireland's total emissions. EPA state that :

Emissions from Energy (principally electricity generation) decreased by 11.1% (1.42 Mt CO2eq) in 2013. This reflects decreases in coal and peat used in conventional fossil fuel fired power stations for electricity generation, by 16.4% and 9.5% respectively, and also a decrease in natural gas use of 8.3% in 2013. Electricity generated from renewables increased by 6.6% between 2012 and 2013.

But another significant reason for the drop in emissions in 2013 was the East West interconnector which came online at the very end of 2012. Importing electricity from the UK is good for your emissions count because they are counted in UK, not Ireland. The new interconnector provided about 8% of our electricity in 2013, emissions free, and resulted in a complete gas power station lying idle for most of the year (Huntstown CCGT plant in Dublin).

Electricity consumption increased by just 0.2% during 2013 which is the equivalent of about 10,000 more homes to power. Despite this there was a reduction in emissions of 11%. A spin person might attribute all this to wind, but as you can see from the below there were four other very significant factors which resulted in less emissions and given wind increased by 13%, an overall saving of 11% is a poor enough showing. One can see the clear ineffectiveness of wind from these statistics :

Factor that reduced CO2 emissions for 2013
% Change
Reduction in Coal
Reduction in Peat
Reduction in Gas
Increase in Interconnection
Increase in Wind
Total reduction
Note: Biomass increased and hydro decreased by the same amount cancelling each other out

So what if we doubled our wind capacity ? Given the technical limits of wind on the system and the requirement for 5 large power stations to be running at all times to provide stability to the system, the most we can ever do is half our emissions in the electricity sector. This would give us a 10% drop overall - and this is a very generous figure, considering the larger turbines recently installed will require more maintenance than their older models and also the not insignificant back up plant inefficiencies that will result from large levels of wind penetration. Somewhere between 5-7% is probably a more accurate figure but let's allow 10% for now. This would reduce overall emissions by 10%. That leaves the remaining 80% to deal with.

Current Outlook : Ireland intends to carry on building more wind farms. Large scale biomass and nuclear have been ruled out as options by Government completely eradicating any chance of making meaningful reductions in emissions. Many new data centres are been planned around the country in the next few years which will significantly drive up demand for electricity and associated emissions.

Agriculture Sector

Agriculture is the largest "offender" at 32%. One solution is that we carve up half of agricultural land, dispose of the animals and plant it with trees. This then would cut down agri emissions to 16%. We could then convert some of the power stations to biomass and use some or all of the wood for electricity. This then would leave electricity emissions at about 5%. But, we would need some serious machinery to cut all these trees down and transport them and there would be an increase in imports of polluting oil, so this may well bring us back up to 20% for agriculture. But bear in mind that the current government are opposed to large scale biomass electricity generation.

Current Outlook: Ireland plans to increase its food exports and thereby increase its herd. There are no plans to change land use to forestry. Ireland's Prime Minister has asked for a free pass on agriculture emissions at the Paris climate summit citing the recession and lack of investment. 

Transport Sector

The transport sector makes up 19% of total emissions. There would need to be mandatory purchases of new electric vehicles with generous grants made available. Charging would need to be at night only and restrictions on charging made during spells of low wind. Otherwise, more dispatchable plant would be needed which would increase emissions in the electricity sector. One way out of this would be the above mentioned full conversion of large power stations to biomass.

Dublin Airport would need to restrict passengers to about 5 million, one quarter of current figures. This will push up prices and Ryanair would be a thing of the past. It would also drive up Ferry use negating some of the emission reductions.   Large supermarkets would have to reduce in size as there would need to be restrictions on large delivery vehicles. Having very few fuel stations would instantly take out most of the large fuel tankers on our roads, themselves consumers of oil.   Perhaps we can use some of that forested land to plant biofuels and further lower emissions. We could get down to 5% with some serious repercussions for modern society.

Current Outlook : Transport emissions have recently begun growing again. Sales of new cars are up and higher than EU average, as are sales of heavy goods vehicles. Traffic on Dublin's M50 motorway is growing at 10 times the European average.  More people have flown through Dublin Airport this year than ever before.

Residential Sector

Residential emissions are 11%. Mandatory passive housing could maybe get this down to 8%. Maybe more land could be used to grow fuel for biomass heaters with a combination of district heating intiatives getting it down to 5%.

Current Outlook : emissions are rising due to increased coal use, doesn't seem to be much focus by government on CHP or district heating initiatives.

Industry Sector

The same retrofitting schemes could be done for industry getting it down from 15% to 7%.

Current Outlook: emissions decreasing slightly, but with electricity costs predicted to match or exceed Denmark's in the years to come there might not be any industry left wiping out all of this sector's emissions. Most likely government would grant exemptions to industry at this stage from green levies, much like what has happened in Germany.

Waste Sector

Waste emissions will increase in the future when Poolbeg waste to energy plant opens so lets bring that up to 6% from 2.5%.

Current outlook: Poolbeg plant will open soon, not aware of any other similar plants in planning


These changes would bring emissions to 48% of current levels - from 57MT to 27MT. This is a very generous figure as there are all sorts of unintended consequences with the above changes e.g. how many people will buy diesel generators and go off grid altogether ?

The changes are startling to those used to modern comforts. There will no longer be a guarantee that when you plug something into the wall that you will get electricity out. That holiday you had once a year - that will have to go. 

It all hinges on agriculture and how we decide to use this land in the future. More trees means less CO2 in the atmosphere, reducing emissions further. Enda Kenny, Ireland's Prime Minister, has asked the COP21 leaders for a pass on Ireland's agriculture emissions thereby making the transition required to halt climate change all but impossible, unless we do without electricity, heating and modern vehicles altogether. Quite rightly, then, the greens are angry at Kenny's capitulation to the agriculture sector. Without changes in use for significant amounts of agriculture land, no serious dent in our emissions can be made. Significant reductions in the other sectors, as you can see from above, depend on land changes in the agri sector. 

So we have a government who tell us that climate change is a very big threat to us, but who have bet all their chips on wind turbines and other non dispatchable technologies. The most this can do is reduce our emissions by 10%, if even that, which will have negligible impact on the projected impacts of climate change. Let's remind ourselves once again what our energy minister's plan to combat climate change is :

I have no doubt that the development and advancement of onshore wind energy projects will be and must be a significant element of Ireland's energy policy and its approach to combating climate change in the years ahead - Minister for Energy, Alex White, December 2015.

So ask yourself the question, is our government really serious about combating climate change or are they just paying lip service to the new trendy ideology ? Why are they pushing wind energy as the number one solution when they must know it can only make a tiny dent in our emissions ? Is there something else driving this mad rush for wind farms ? Most likely, it makes them feel good that they are doing something, even though it is something akin to trying to hold back the Titanic with an elastic band.

Reality shows us that the economy is recovering, and we desire more than ever the comforts of modern living - fast cars, airplanes and Irish beef.

So if you really believe in climate change, then you should be worried, very worried.


  1. If they were really that concerned about it, why don't they ban fossil fuel burning, or (assuming that is a step too far) ration fuel? It looks like they don't have the brains to realise wind cannot do anything, and even if they believe it can, that electricity generation is only a fraction of all fuel use. The idea seems to be to use money to effect rationing. Money is a store of value, and it is only a fraction of the total value existing. It must be kept scarce by banks so the idea seems to be to use that scarcity to ration fuel. Is it the intention to place the task of fuel rationing on bankers? I am at a loss to figure out how they can use money to ration fuel, since fuel has a value of its own which can be converted to money.

    As soon a mankind could, he delegated some of his energy requirements. Wind for sea transport and grinding corn, water for rotary power, slaves for rowing ships and general labour, camels, elephants, oxen and horses. For thousands of years, man's energy requirements have been a mix of delegated energy and human energy. Shaving, cooking etc best provided by one's self, pulling a plough best delegated.

    Nearly all former forms of energy have been abandoned for heat engine power. Steam, Internal combustion and turbo jet engines. Now it is proposed to abandon heat energy with no replacement. Rationing will incentivise substitution. I presume the horse will be the the most suitable in Europe followed by wood. A brand new steam locomotive was built in England recently and no doubt John Deere will design a steam tractor with hydraulics. Back to the “Chuck, Chuck” Chuck, Chuck” and “Puff” “Puff” “Puff” “Puff”

  2. The option of disposing of animals and replanting land with trees is attractive. In one fell swoop we could achieve an almost 30% reduction in overall emissions, which would be further enhanced by planting all those trees to achieve a carbon sink.
    There is plenty of scope for Brazil to replace vast tracts of virgin rainforest with cattle ranches, and by importing all of our beef and UHT milk we can ensure that the carbon debits accrue to Brazil where all that ruminant belching will occur.
    Even better, having long exited Irish Shipping, we no longer have responsibility for the transport emissions from the transatlantic shipments - they accrue to the ship's port of registry. A punitive tax on shipping and aircraft registration should do the trick to get the remaining shipping and airlines off the Irish books. The EWIC has shown the way!
    Let them eat cake!

  3. Does anyone know what the co2 footprint is from pig and poultry production? When it goes, we shall have to rely of Thailand to produce it for us. Brewing and distilling are huge emitters during fermentation. Sugar to alcohol plus co2. s
    Stopping this would help stop alcohol abuse.

  4. The Global Warming Policy Foundation has just issued a statement that they welcome the Paris Deal as toothless. Director Dr Benny Peiser says there is nothing binding in the agreement and its the same as the Lima agreement last year. http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=c920274f2a364603849bbb505&id=95e8d96b05&e=55d9b9d46e

  5. https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/ The web site "Not a lot of people know that" has details of the Paris Deal.No doubt there will be greater clarification later. The word "shall" tends to mean legally binding. It appears in relation to requirements that member states commit to contributions to reduction in co2. It does not specify how. where or what. Member states can and likely will choose 1) wind farms 2) Wind Farms and 3) wind farms. There are no sanctions, no facilities for citizens to challenge non compliance. Cannot see much teeth in it. Signing states are in control and their governments have to be elected.

  6. The first question in relation the Paris accord is its status. What is it,? The best status is for it to be a treaty enforcible in the courts of the countries which are parties to it. This is why we had to have referendums on the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties in Ireland. In the USA, a treaty with a foreign country must be ratified by a two thirds majority in Congress. This accord is not a treaty, but a voluntary expression of good wishes to help provide moral authority for government actions should they wish to implement them and to encourage investment in renewables. In an interview with the Washington Independent, US negotiator John Kerry admitted that there is no enforcement provision in it, because to include them would make it a treaty, which would not get through Congress.

    In reading the agreement, look for the word “SHALL”, this is the only legally binding word to give a legal command, “should,” “could”, “may,” “have an obligation to” etc are non not legally binding. This filters out some vital sections leaving the rest. Look for the description of the action following SHALL. Is it clear and measurable? Critics have christened these descriptions as “WORD SALAD.” There was an old maxim, “the law never speaks but to command, nor commands but where it can compel”. Are there any legally binding paragraphs?

    Legal certainty is the cornerstone of investment, it was always present in most western countries independent of the government of the day. This accord is an expression of good wishes by present governments, but when some party reneges, the court doors will be shut in the same way the EU and Irish courts resist ruling on EU environmental directives. On shore wind subsidies are being cut in the UK and Germany from 2016, Green enthusiasts and TV presenters' initial sense of victory over the likes of me should feel an anti climax, the accord has no teeth. My advice to them is join the queue behind me. This is all about money, our money.


  7. If the Paris deal is so great, why is the International Energy Agency predicting demand for coal to break the 19 Billion tonnes level by 2019. http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2014/december/global-coal-demand-to-reach-9-billion-tonnes-per-year-by-2019.html Coal demand will grow by 2.1% up to 2019. This proves the world is living on dreams , day dreams