So, we’ve been told what an almighty threat climate change poses; the program then goes on to explain that all is not lost, that we can save ourselves and save the planet if we decarbonise our transport, industry, and energy generation.
Mark Maslin: If we want to try and keep the global climate to 1.5 degrees, we have to half our carbon emissions by 2030 and then hit zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.
David Attenborough: This poses a huge challenge, as emissions must be cut from almost every part of the economy. But 25% come from how we produce electricity and heat, and alternatives are already within our grasp.
Naomi Oreskes: It’s actually not that complicated. We need to shift our energy system away from fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases and towards renewable energies that don’t.
It’s clear that ‘we’ here should be all 7 billion people and all countries on earth. No point our tiny island decarbonising its industry, infrastructure, transport and energy generation completely by 2050 if the Americans, Chinese, Indians, Australians, Europeans and others don’t follow suit. Oreskes thinks it’s not complicated and that the entire world can shift from fossil fuels to renewables – 50% renewables by 2030 and 100% renewables by 2050 if we wish to keep global warming below 1.5C. Think about that for a moment. At present, globally, renewables such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass form a tiny percentage of total energy generation and use. Oreskes tells us we need to get that up to 50% in the next 11 years, then 100% over the following 20 years!
The starry eyed praise of the non-existent renewables revolution continues unabated:
Catherine Mitchell: Every country has got a different resource. In Norway, you’ve got an awful lot of hydro power. If you’re in India or Morocco, there’s lots and lots of sun. The problem was that renewables were much more expensive than fossil fuels.
Richard Black: But what’s happened recently is rapid falls in the price of renewable energy.
David Attenborough: Solar power has led the way with this.
Chris Stark: Germany went first with of many of the key technologies in solar, and China really picked up the baton.
Naomi Oreskes: There’s tremendous technological innovation taking place around the world. Solar power is now the cheapest form of newly installed electricity in more than 60 countries.
Michael Mann: We’re seeing a huge growth in renewable energy. Despite entrenched fossil fuel interests, they’ve been unable to stop that transition. And we’ve got to do even more.
Note that ‘renewables’ is taken to include hydro-electric power, which has been around for a century, is not part of any technological ‘clean energy’ revolution and has important and widely recognised environmental drawbacks. According to BP, hydro makes up the lion’s share of ‘renewables’:
Note, wind, solar and other renewables contribute just 2.4%. The contribution from renewables – even including hydro – looks even more risible in a BP chart of global primary energy consumption:
It’s pretty obvious that the vast majority of global energy demand relies upon CO2-producing fossil fuels, even CO2 emitting traditional biomass fuels as used in poorer continents like Africa contribute more to global demand than renewables. So how do Attenborough and renewables zealots imagine we are going to increase the consumption of ‘zero carbon’ renewable energy from a measly few percent now to 50% in the next 11 years? Whatever fairy-tale imaginings they harbour in the interstitial places between their ears, the actual answer is, ‘we’ (i.e. the world) are not. No way José. Without attempting to answer this question, the emphasis then changes not so subtly from ‘the world’ to little old UK.
Chris Stark: In the UK, for a long time, we’ve been considering future energy sources. It used to be ten, 20 years ago that nuclear power offered a relatively cheap way through. And one really good advantage of nuclear is that it doesn’t produce emissions. But what’s become clearer recently is that some technologies are performing better than others. And increasingly, that’s been about wind.
David Attenborough: Here in the UK, we are building some of the biggest offshore wind turbines in the world. The bigger the turbine, the more wind can be captured. Just one revolution of these blades can power a house for a day.
Chris Stark: With the increased capacity, wind resource is about to become as cheap and much cheaper in the future, than fossil fuels.
David Attenborough: So far, around 30% of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable sources. If that is to continue to grow, we’ll need to develop parallel systems to keep our energy reliable and store what we produce.
Whatever can Chris Stark mean when he casually dismisses zero carbon nuclear energy in favour of ‘other technologies which are performing better’? Wind is the answer as he reveals that wind energy “is about to become as cheap and much cheaper in the future, than fossil fuels“. Poor old zero carbon nuclear energy doesn’t even get a look in – which is hardly surprising if, when comparing costs, you only talk about newly installed generating capacity and when, in the case of nuclear energy, newly installed capacity costs have been negotiated by a half-wit incompetent [former] Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary in what, until totally blown away by the Maybot’s Brexit ‘deal’, was one of the worst deals ever.
Also, by dismissing nuclear power in favour of wind, Chris Stark leaves out some rather salient facts, besides cost. Firstly, land use. A Tera Watt Hour per year generated by nuclear requires 1.9 to 2.8 km². To generate the same amount using wind turbines requires 72.1 km²! That’s 26-38 times as much land (or sea) area for wind compared to zero carbon nuclear. Sure, with Attenborough’s humungous wind turbines, this figure might come down a bit, but then the bird and bat strike rate will probably go right up, not to mention the eyesore index. Then there’s the fact that the concrete and steel (made using fossil fuels) required to construct enough turbines to generate as much electricity as one nuclear power station is vastly more than that required to build a new nuclear facility.
What Chris Stark also doesn’t tell us is that one of the program’s star guests (a lot more influential and important than himself) dismisses the idea of reliance upon renewables and advocates nuclear energy as a major source of zero carbon energy if the world is ever to realistically meet the demands of the Paris Agreement. Here is what James Hansen has to say about nuclear energy:
Nuclear power, particularly next-generation nuclear power with a closed fuel cycle (where spent fuel is reprocessed), is uniquely scalable, and environmentally advantageous. Over the past 50 years, nuclear power stations – by offsetting fossil fuel combustion – have avoided the emission of an estimated 60bn tonnes of carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy can power whole civilisations, and produce waste streams that are trivial compared to the waste produced by fossil fuel combustion. There are technical means to dispose of this small amount of waste safely. However, nuclear does pose unique safety and proliferation concerns that must be addressed with strong and binding international standards and safeguards. Most importantly for climate, nuclear produces no CO2 during power generation.
To solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not on prejudice. The climate system cares about greenhouse gas emissions – not about whether energy comes from renewable power or abundant nuclear power. Some have argued that it is feasible to meet all of our energy needs with renewables. The 100% renewable scenarios downplay or ignore the intermittency issue by making unrealistic technical assumptions, and can contain high levels of biomass and hydroelectric power at the expense of true sustainability. Large amounts of nuclear power would make it much easier for solar and wind to close the energy gap.
The climate issue is too important for us to delude ourselves with wishful thinking. Throwing tools such as nuclear out of the box constrains humanity’s options and makes climate mitigation more likely to fail. We urge an all-of-the-above approach that includes increased investment in renewables combined with an accelerated deployment of new nuclear reactors.
Hansen was being polite about renewables zealots on this occasion. Earlier, he is on record as saying:
Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.
I wonder what Chris Stark got up to this Easter just gone? I wonder if he still looks under his pillow in the morning?
Chris Stark: The bit that comes next, that means that we have to decarbonise industry and we’ve got to decarbonise the transport sector. And that means using things like electric vehicles, battery-powered vehicles, potentially even hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Yeah, bring it on: lorries, cars, buses, trains, tractors, combine harvesters, cruise ships, ferries, container ships, aeroplanes, satellite launch rockets – all powered by ‘clean electricity’ from renewables with zero environmental impact 100% efficient ultra high energy density batteries, and all made from zero carbon high tech materials yet to be invented. Coming your way in the next 30 years. But maybe only in the UK, as the rest of the world looks on and laughs and the climate changes regardless.
Update: 29th April 2019
Treason May’s government has caved to Green anti-fracking protestors and by doing so, further undermined the UK’s economic prospects and energy security. The fracking tsar has resigned.
Yet another actual fact which the BBC conveniently ‘forgot’ to mention in its shameless promotion of renewables as the answer to the ‘climate crisis’ in the UK. Attenborough says that 30% of energy generated last year came from renewables. What he doesn’t mention is that only THREE per cent of primary energy demand in the UK is met by renewables (hydro, solar and wind).
Green zealots and our own government are determined to destroy the UK’s economy and tax to death its citizens by promoting an insane reliance upon renewables.