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This Week in Energy … Climate Confusion is all the Rage

This week, the ‘news’ is that the start of the most active part of the six-month hurricane season promises something big, maybe, possibly, no one’s really quite sure, but the headlines continue to work their magic, because it’s the easiest way to deal with the climate change debate.

Bloomberg’s offering begins with the subtly dramatic “The Atlantic has begun to stir”, which it then qualifies with “while there aren’t any tropical storms on the map, a candidate has caught the eyes of forecasters …”, while the National Hurricane Center in Miami says there is a “60 percent chance of becoming the season’s next storm within five days.”

However, Bloomberg notes, don’t run to the hardware store to buy plywood just yet: Earlier this week, the news that was never realized was that it would touch down in Houston, or perhaps New Orleans—or maybe Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

What does it all have to do with climate change? That depends on whom you ask.

“The impact of extreme weather events is raising concern about global warming became apparent following Hurricane Katrina. The psychology of immediate and visible loss is far more salient than hypothetical problems in the next century. Hence extreme weather events have been effectively used in propaganda efforts. This is in spite of the assessment of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] that doesn’t find much evidence linking extreme weather events to global warming, other than heat waves,” American climatologist Judith Curry told Oilprice.com in an interview last week.

Curry is one of those rare scientists who likes social media, and feels that scientists have largely been pushed out of the debate because of their failure to realize the importance of this medium to help foster a more intelligent debate.

Curry has also chimed in on climate-related policy issues, bemoaning that “it has never made sense to me for climate change to be the primary driver for energy policy.”

“Even if we believe the climate models, nothing that we do in terms of emissions reductions will have much of an impact on climate until the late 21st century. Energy poverty is a huge issue in much of the world, and there is no obvious way to reconcile reducing CO2 emissions with eradicating energy poverty.”

The story of coal speaks volumes on this incongruity.

The developing world—and indeed even Europe—are increasingly turning to dirty coal because they cannot afford natural gas. The economics simply are not the same as they are in the US, where a natural gas boom has ensured that coal can be sidelined. Energy poverty quite simply dictates that carbon dioxide emissions cannot realistically be cut in countries who can’t afford to get rid of coal.

As the US gets rids of coal, American coal producers need an outlet or they will collapse. The answer is to export to coal-hungry Asia, which can get it cheaply. Environmentalists have a problem with this because it does nothing to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and just shifts them geographically. The lobbying effort to keep American coal from being exported, though, ignores the energy poverty part of this equation and maintains a distinctly privileged Western viewpoint.

Quick Note: Dan Dicker has written a very important report for our premium subscribers today which looks at the coming super spike in oil prices. For those of you invested in oil stocks or the oil markets this is a must read. Click here to get this sent this and our other reports for free today.

By. James Stafford of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Dan Daniel on August 23 2014 said:
    This article misses some key points. The author says that the developing world and Europe are turning to coal because they cannot afford natural gas. That is not an accurate statement. Europe is abandoning both natural gas and coal and is instead turning rapidly to renewables such as wind and solar which are at all time lows in cost. It is true that China has created many coal plants but even they are having second thoughts about it and are aggressively pursuing renewables.

    Articles like this tend to imply that the only choices for energy are some sort of fossil fuel. The real answer to energy problems is "none of the above"! Choose renewable energy!
  • Will Barker on August 23 2014 said:
    The author more or less states that, gosh darn it we waited too long (whos fault is that?), there's nothing we can do now to halt climate change from occurring in this century. So hey, let's burn more coal so the coal companies can increase profits.

    On another note, individual extreme weather events have yet to be directly linked to climate change, though the increasing frequency of them is a good indicator. Like a baseball player on steroids, individual home runs may not be a result of using them, but the sudden increase in the number of HRs most likely is.
  • Synapsid on August 24 2014 said:
    The Asian importers of US coal are China, Japan, India and South Korea. Not a whole lot of energy poverty there, except in India where the country's government is pretty much dysfunctional when it comes to energy policy.

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