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Examine: Renewable Power does Nothing to Cut back CO2 Emissions

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

h/t Dr. Willie Soon / James Delingpole / Breitbart; A group of high profile scientists, including Dr. Willie Soon, have published a meticulously referenced study which discuses the pros and cons of various CO2 reduction strategies.

The abstract of the study;

Energy and Climate Policy—An Evaluation of Global Climate Change Expenditure 2011–2018 

by Coilín ÓhAiseadha 1,*, Gerré Quinn 2, Ronan Connolly 3,4, Michael Connolly 3 and Willie Soon 4

1 Department of Public Health, Health Service Executive, Dr Steevens’ Hospital, D08 W2A8 Dublin 8, Ireland
2 Centre for Molecular Biosciences, Ulster University, Coleraine BT521SA, Northern Ireland, UK
3 Independent Scientists, Dublin 8, Ireland
4 Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences (CERES), Salem, MA 01970, USA*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.

Concern for climate change is one of the drivers of new, transitional energy policies oriented towards economic growth and energy security, along with reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and preservation of biodiversity. Since 2010, the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) has been publishing annual Global Landscape of Climate Finance reports. According to these reports, US$3660 billion has been spent on global climate change projects over the period 2011–2018. Fifty-five percent of this expenditure has gone to wind and solar energy. According to world energy reports, the contribution of wind and solar to world energy consumption has increased from 0.5% to 3% over this period. Meanwhile, coal, oil, and gas continue to supply 85% of the world’s energy consumption, with hydroelectricity and nuclear providing most of the remainder. With this in mind, we consider the potential engineering challenges and environmental and socioeconomic impacts of the main energy sources (old and new). We find that the literature raises many concerns about the engineering feasibility as well as environmental impacts of wind and solar. However, none of the current or proposed energy sources is a “panacea”. Rather, each technology has pros and cons, and policy-makers should be aware of the cons as well as the pros when making energy policy decisions. We urge policy-makers to identify which priorities are most important to them, and which priorities they are prepared to compromise on.

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The study is so extensive it is difficult to write a summary which does it justice, yet every point is fully referenced.

One of my favourite hilights is the identification of a problem with wind farms I was previously unaware of – the damage done by wind farms to the soil on which they are built (i.e. heating the soil) results in increased CO2 outgassing which eliminates any expected emissions savings.

4.2.4. Increase in Biological CO2 Emissions Caused by Wind Farms

Although the warming effects of wind farms described in Section 4.2.1 are mostly localized and tend to be confined to night-time temperatures, we note that they introduce a problematic complication for those proposing to use wind farms to reduce global CO2 emissions. It is true that electricity generation is currently a major component of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and therefore reducing the amount of electricity generated using fossil fuels should reduce that component. However, the annual biological CO2 emissions from soil respiration are at least ten times greater than the total annual anthropogenic CO2 emissions (6,182,183).Typically, the annual emissions from soil respiration are roughly balanced by the absorption of CO2 via photosynthesis through the Net Primary Production (NPP) of the terrestrial plants and trees. However, the total emissions from soil respiration are known to increase with temperature. Estimates of the exact rates of increase vary between studies, and there are many complexities in extrapolating from the results of e.g., a mid-latitude forest (184) or a tropical region (185) to global estimates (see Davidson and Janssens (2006) for a good review of the challenges involved) (186). Nonetheless, most studies suggest that the warming of soils generally leads to an increase in biological CO2 emissions from soil respiration (182,183,184,185,186,187). Therefore, given that the global CO2 emissions from soil respiration are an order of magnitude greater than anthropogenic emissions, we suggest that the increase in biological CO2 emissions caused by wind farms warming the night-time soil temperatures could potentially be similar in magnitude to the reduction in anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the wind farms.

The study discusses the conflict between economic development and renewable energy: “… the most straightforward routes for helping nations develop and/or reducing world poverty fundamentally conflict with the goal of reducing CO2 emissions. …“

Even hydroelectric gets a serve: Hydroelectric dams can likewise have severe impacts on the Munduruku (252) and other indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon Basin (156).

The study asks several times why nuclear power does not appear to be a policy priority, given the stated goal of many governments is to reduce CO2 emissions.

Despite the critiques of various renewable energy options, the study strives for neutrality in terms of whether CO2 emissions reduction is a desirable goal.

My main takeaway from the study is that public policy should be rational; if a government genuinely wants to reduce CO2 emissions, they should pursue policies which provide a realistic chance of achieving their stated goals, in full awareness of the likely outcomes and consequences of those policies, instead of frittering away public resources on enormously expensive energy programmes which are unlikely to achieve meaningful emissions reductions.

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