Did the recent weather catastrophe in the Philippines have anything to do with global warming? Great Britain’s prime minister thinks so. I won’t get into the scientific debate over whether it did. I will just point out that people think it did. And that less than two months ago the IPCC warned that “[h]uman influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes.”
This continues a public opinion trend that began in the 1990s and accelerated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. And while there are many indications that many people are skeptical of the notion of global warming, policymakers would be very unwise to bank on that skepticism. That most agree with this is evidence by just about every mainstream conservative politician’s paying of at least lip service to the need to do something about global warming. The word “denier” is what they call loaded. Nobody wants to be labeled a denier. David Cameron knows that, and is using that knowledge to position himself in the global warming debate.
This begs the question of how other former leading climate policy nations will fare on the global warming issue. Take Germany, for example. Up to a couple of years ago, nobody talked the climate talk louder than Germany. And nobody has a more embarrassing record to compare against all that talk. Germany, as I mentioned last week, gets most of its electricity by burning fuel that emits carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal man made greenhouse gas. In the course of generating electricity in 2011, Germany dumped more than 325 million tons of CO2 into the same global atmosphere that people all over the world, including in the Philippines, rely on. More than half a kilogram of CO2 came with every kilowatt-hour of electric power generated in Germany and sent into the grid. For comparison, less than 40 grams of CO2 came with every kWh of Ontario electricity this morning; see Table 1 in the left-hand sidebar.
It is remarkable that this utterly embarrassing record occurred after Germany got into the green energy game. Remember all the headlines about all those wind turbines being built in Germany? Remember all the accolades that professional environmentalists showered onto Germany for all those wind turbines? The result was 540 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour, and 325 million tons of CO2 dumped into our air in 2011. And that number is going up.
If I were a German citizen, my blood would (or should) be boiling right about now. Because, not only has my country embarrassed me and my fellow citizens in front of the world at the least opportune time, but my electricity is far more expensive than my fellow Europeans! The OECD publication Electricity Information 2013 gives, on page 139 of the PDF, electricity prices for households in US dollars per kWh. (You have to pay for this publication, unfortunately, but because it is hugely useful it might be worth it.) As you can see in Table 3.9, German households paid the equivalent of 31.48 U.S. cents for each kilowatt-hour in 2011. That number is estimated to have risen to 32.96 cents in 2012.
By contrast, households in France paid 15.53 U.S. cents in 2011, and an estimated 15.75 cents in 2012. French electricity was literally half as expensive as German.
The German doing the benefit/cost analysis of his enormously expensive electricity would (or should) recoil with horror and anger at the environmental benefit his expensive electricity fetched. France in 2011 generated 537.3 billion kWh (see Electricity Information 2013, page 451 of the PDF). Only 51.8 billion kWh was generated with combustible fuels; the overwhelming bulk of French power in 2011—421.1 billion kWh—came out of nuclear plants.
This means the CO2 intensity per kilowatt-hour (CIPK) of French electricity in 2011 was around 70 grams (that is my estimate). Yes, 70 measly grams. How does that compare with Germany’s 540 grams? Do the arithmetic and you see that French electricity was 7.5 times cleaner than German.
So, the German doing his benefit/cost analysis of his country’s full-bore embrace of “green” energy would find that this was the upshot:
German electricity in 2011 was 7.5 times dirtier than French, and more than twice as expensive.
He could be forgiven for wondering exactly why he was being forced to shell out so much money for electricity that is so environmentally destructive.
How would he feel, hearing David Cameron say that the catastrophic Philippines typhoon was caused by global warming, which the IPCC has linked with high confidence to man-made CO2 emissions, like those billowing out of German gas- and coal-fired power plants?
If this gets out, I would not want to be a German politician who had forced “green” energy onto the country, on the false promise that “green” means clean. Green is not clean. It is horrendously and embarrassingly dirty, and expensive. Germans are paying hard-earned money needlessly so their government can pretend it is green. And, according to David Cameron, thousands of human beings in the Philippines are paying with their lives.