Why should we trust them?

In my Den Brook Windfarm post I highlighted the behaviour of RES in failing to fulfil its promise to release its noise data to objectors. This behaviour pales by comparison with the grandly named Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I have extensively quoted The Economist as I’m not sure whether articles can be accessed without a subscription. The proponents of renewables do their case no favours when they adopt such a duplicitous and fanatical stance. Why should ordinary Joe’s like us believe a word they say? If you produced this sort of analysis in most walks of life, you would be ridiculed and possibly sacked. Many of the supporters of renewables are taking on the characteristics of an intolerant religious sect.

“The release of the full text of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Renewable Energythis week has led to a new set of questions about the panel’s attitudes, probity and reliability: is it simply a sounding board for green activists? The answer is no—but that doesn’t mean it’s without serious problems.”….

“When the summary of the report was released last month (IPCC summaries, agreed line by line by governments at often quite fractious plenary meetings, come out before the report they are summarising, in part because the report may need a little tweaking to reflect the plenary’s summary judgements) it came with a press release proclaiming that the world could get 80% of its energy from renewables by 2050 if it just had the right policies and paid the right amount. This figure was subsequently trumpeted by those parts of the world’s press paying attention, which tended to be the parts that have readers keen on more environmental action.

The full report shows where the number came from, and that’s why its publication sparked a fuss. One of the report’s 11 chapters is an analysis of 164 previously published scenarios looking at the energy mix over the next four decades under various assumptions. The scenario which had the highest penetration of renewables put the total at 77% by 2050. The research involved was done by the German space-research institute, which has long worked on energy analysis, too; its experts were commissioned to do the work by Greenpeace, and a Greenpeace staff member with an engineering background, Sven Teske, was the scenario’s lead author when it was published in a couple of different forms in peer-reviewed journals. It has also been published, in bigger, glossier format, by Greenpeace itself under the grating and uncharacteristically fence-sitting title Energy [R]evolution.

Mr Teske was also one of the authors of the chapter of the IPCC report that looked at those 164 scenarios, and that chose Energy [R]evolution as one of four scenarios to explore in more detail. That, say critics, looks like a fix. And one with big consequences. That one scenario’s claim that the world could get call-it-80% of its energy from renewables managed, thanks to the press release, to shape perceptions of the report when it was originally released, making it look like a piece of renewables boosterism. Worse: who wrote the foreword to Greenpeace’s glossy publication of its scenario? Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the IPCC. (Disclosure: at the request of IPCC authors, this avatar of Babbage chaired a debate on the summary of the special report when it was launched in May, and his brother is a “co-ordinating lead author” on the panel’s forthcoming “fifth assessment report”, though not in an area associated with renewable energy.)

Steve McIntyre, who runs a blog on which he tries to hold climate science to higher standards than he sees it holding itself, picked up all these IPCC/Greenpeace connections and posted on them angrily, calling for all involved to be sacked. “As a citizen,” he says, “I would like to know how much weight we can put on renewables as a big-footprint solution. Prior to the IPCC report, I was aware that Greenpeace—and WWF—had promoted high renewable scenarios. However, before placing any weight on them, the realism of these scenarios needs to be closely examined. IPCC has a mandate to provide hard information but did no critical evaluation of the Greenpeace scenario.”

“His desire for solid, honest answers is plainly one to be shared. But the authors of the IPCC chapter involved declined to evaluate the scenarios they looked at in terms of whether they thought they were plausible, let alone likely. Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist who was one of those in overall charge of the report, gives the impression that he would have welcomed a more critical approach from his colleagues; but there is no mechanism by which the people in charge can force an author team to do more, or other, than it wants to. (The same goes for authors on the team, Mr Teske says; he was one of twelve authors on the relevant chapter, and over 120 authors overall, and had no peculiar Greenpeace lantern with which to bend them all to his will.)

What’s more, evaluating the scenarios in a quantitative way would be extremely hard for any number of reasons. Asked at an IPCC event in Brussels yesterday what the most important thing to come out of the report was, Dr Edenhofer said nothing about the prospects of an 80%-renewable world (indeed, in his presentation he didn’t mention it). Instead he points to his discovery of a striking dearth in reliable peer-reviewed data on what it costs to generate renewable electricity and what determines those costs . The report put a lot of effort into developing such numbers (there are huge appendices devoted to the data) but Dr Edenhofer considers what they came up with little more than a start on what needs to be done. Without really understanding costs, how can one go forward to assess the merits and believability of scenarios.“(emphasis mine) ….

“To look at unlikely scenarios seems reasonable when scoping out extremes. But to hang the key message of the press release that framed media coverage of the report on something so far-fetched, and thus to seem to endorse it, was undoubtedly a grave error. It is the sort of error one often expects in organisations, like the IPCC, that are not very well run, especially when, like the IPCC, they have lacked a head of communications for some time. The drafting of the press release was, according to some who witnessed it, chaotic and poorly supervised; it went out over the name of the spokesperson for the UN Environmental Programme, one of the IPCC’s parent organisations. He says that Greenpeace had no input into the release at all. Quite who did what to shape its message and approve it within the IPCC is not yet clear; various bloggers, including this one, would like to hear more.

But the press release which focuses on an outlier, not on the range of options, is also and more worryingly the sort of mistake you get in organisations that assume everyone wants to hear the party line. The world of renewable energy has a very strong party line, based on a belief in its moral superiority and ultimately inevitable triumph. In this world Greenpeace doesn’t look fantastical, shrill and occasionally criminal, as it does to many in business; it seems a “stakeholder” among others. And it is in this world that most of those who study and profit from renewables, not to mention a lot of those who set relevant policies, are likely to spend their days. Academic and scholarly work on renewables tends to get done by people who like them and for people who like them. Mr Teske was nominated to the panel by the German government, ever more deeply committed to a renewables-heavy policy; when the summary of the report was launched in Berlin two German cabinet ministers spoke approvingly (my emphasis). The real problem for the IPCC is not that Greenpeace infiltrated it; it is that when it comes to the world of renewables Greenpeace didn’t really need to.

Whether or not the IPCC’s detailed work shows signs of “groupthink taking over”, as one lead author puts it, its framing of the report through the press release does. So do the attitudes of those it sits down with. The three stakeholders invited to respond to the report at the IPCC’s event in Brussels this Thursday were: an MEP from Germany’s SPD, delighted that Italy’s referendum on nuclear power means that there is now nuclear-free core to Europe running from the Baltic to the Mediterranean; an executive from Scottish and Southern Energy, a utility very keen on renewables and the subsidies they bring with them; and someone from Greenpeace. While Dr Edenhofer is keen to stress that the IPCC report didn’t in any way endorse the Energy [R]evolution scenario, Greenpeace, understandably, has been keen to suggest that it did, both as a stakeholder on stage and in press comments.”

Copyright: The Economist

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the “experts” who are driving energy policy. The stench of corruption, deception and downright lies pervades the “renewables” movement. They make a jolly nice living out of it, while you and I pay the costs.


2 thoughts on “Why should we trust them?”

  1. Good stuff, Robin, but get your flak jacket ready for the onslaught from the usual suspects… How dare you impugn the integrity of that august body, the IPCC?? Do you want to go back to tea-leaf reading?
    One also wonders whether Nick Clegg had a chat with his Acciona-wife before his trip to Ireland…

    I said it before, it is no coincidence that the push for wind originates with the EU, and the most enthusiastic pushers have been Denmark and Germany who are making billions out of their virtual monopoly on the (flawed) technology.

    The wonderful thing about this Ireland move is that as far the Westminster government is concerned, there’s the supreme hypocrisy of a policy that is a) relying on French nuclear to keep the lights going when the wind doesn’t blow, b) relying on the Irish, Welsh and Scots to get token turbines to disfigure their land while middle-England keeps their nice unspoilt views whilst nominally meeting their EU-set renewable obligations. And then they accuse the anti-wind guys of double standards and nymbyism!

  2. That was a bit of a wade, Robin, but well worth it.

    How and where do we begin when opposing this phalanx of profiteers? The answer must lie in getting the message out there about this huge scam. If enough of us are persistent, it will eventually get through to the majority of the blokes in the street, who will realise that they are being royally ripped off.

    It’s interesting how SSE are now being chased down by the media over their dishonesty regarding their recent energy price hikes. And also how National Grid is being faced down over it’s shameful fudging of the costs of ‘undergrounding’ power cables. The media are finally coming to terms that not all is so rosy in the green garden. About time too. But the pressure must be kept on and every time the pro-wind lobby continues to spout ‘mis-truths’ they should be challenged – to show them to be the charlatans that they are.

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