If the data doesn’t illustrate the narrative, then just make up your own

There was something else that was odd about the Arctic sea ice volume graph that was used in the Benton lecture of 2018 (see previous post). Besides the ambuigity of the last data point and its weird position relative to the previous data points, there also seemed to be something a bit off at the 2012 data point (the lowest point of the graph). When I tried to overlay the Benton lecture graph over the actual annual minimum volume graph, it seemed that the 2012 data point was situated somewhat lower on the Benton lecture graph than it was in the PIOMAS dataset (the dataset this graph was based on). It didn’t seem to be that much at the time, so I wasn’t initially too bothered about it.

I later decided nevertheless to look into it and digitized the whole graph, instead of just looking at that last data point as I did in previous post. This indeed showed that the 2012 value was somewhat lower in the Benton lecture graph.

It also showed that both graphs are identical until 2009, but there is a small phase-shift from 2010 until 2012:

Chart 0022c: PIOMAS vs Benton lecture graph on slide 18

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The surprising tail end of the Arctic sea ice volume graph

The subject of previous post was the claim that there would not be any Arctic sea ice left after 2022, unless drastic actions would be taken. This claim was attributed to a speech at the University of Chicago by James Anderson in 2018. The Forbes article (that first-hand reported on this speech), referred to it as the speech from “Thursday” and the article was dated January 15, so that speech was likely held on Thursday January 11, 2018.

The Forbes article also mentioned that Anderson earlier received the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service. With those two things in mind, I quickly found the pdf version of the slides of that speech (unfortunately not the text of the speech itself). The event was called the “Benton Lecture”, was indeed held on January 11, 2018 at the University of Chicago and presented by James Anderson. There were also things that I recognized from the Newsweek fact check and its sources, so that seems to be a match.

The main topic of the lecture was not the Arctic sea ice itself. Its title was “Climate, Chemistry, Technology, and Society: a University Responsibility” and the loss of Arctic permanent sea ice volume was only used as “Exhibit A” of what looks like evidence of irreversible changes to the climate structure.

This graph on slide 18 immediately caught my eye:

Benton Lecture 2018: graph on slide 18

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No permanent Arctic sea ice left anymore by now?

Let’s continue from where I left in previous post about a Newsweek fact check of the claim that “humanity would end by 2023”. This claim was made in 2018 and attributed to James Anderson in a gritpost article. The fact checker made the argument that the gritpost article didn’t correctly report on Anderson’s claim and that the claim was in fact about the polar ice caps, more specifically, that “unless the world stopped using fossil fuels by 2023, the effect on the polar ice caps would be irreversible“.

That seems rather vague, especially after having read the articles that were used by the fact checker. I think he pretty much understated the actual claim that was reported in those articles:

The chance that there will be any permanent ice left in the Arctic after 2022 is essentially zero.

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The fact checker who didn’t even look into the claim he was fact checking

The title of this Newsweek fact check caught my attention:

Fact check: Did Greta Thunberg Delete Claim That Humanity Will End by 2023?

As most of you would probably already know, Thunberg posted a tweet in 2018 with a short-term prediction and deleted it when its end date approached. This resulted in quite some reactions, putting forward that this deletion again shows that her alarmist claims are weak and unsubstantiated, therefor not worth paying attention to.

The Newsweek fact check starts by listing three examples criticizing the deletion of the tweet, stating that they all refer to screenshots of this deleted tweet, but no such screenshot was provided in the fact check, only the text of the tweet was given:

A top climate scientist is warning that climate change will wipe out all of humanity unless we stop using fossil fuels over the next five years.

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“Electricity prices” decrease the more sun and wind there is in the mix

Are solar and wind the cheapest? That seems to be the suggestion in this this tweet (translation from Dutch, my emphasis):

Time and time again, it appears that electricity prices decrease the more sun & wind there is in the mix.
Likewise, all trend lines will reach ZERO once the share of solar & wind approaches 100%.
January 2023 is no exception.
#graphoftheday

Twitter: BM_Vsser 2023-02-05

Ah, that elusive electricity-prices-go-down-when-the-share-of-solar-and-wind-increases narrative again. As expected, there were several commenters singing the praise of the cheapness of solar and wind energy. But then, what does he mean by “reach zero once the share of solar and wind approaches 100%”? And what exactly are those “electricity prices” that he is talking about?

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One fourth of the Belgian capacity dedicated to exporting electricity to France?

Does Belgium really keeps some of its neighboring countries from having blackouts? That is the strong claim from the Belgium Prime Minister made at the end of last year in his response to the criticism of his current energy policy (see previous post). That is hard to believe, so I tried to find more information about which countries Belgium kept from blackouts and how much electricity we had to spare back in December. On the same web page that reported on the response of the Prime Minister, there was also the response of the Minister of Energy and luckily she made some clarifications (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

What is going on? The problems in France are gigantic. Of their 61 GW capacity, they have 35 GW available today. This means that they have to count on imports so that they don’t have a blackout, no shutdown this winter. And where do their imports come from? It comes from Belgium. Belgium, traditionally an importer from France, exports today its electricity to France. It is about 2.8 GW. This means that we have two power plants permanently running in Belgium to supply France with electricity.

Huh?!?!

That doesn’t make any sense. Not sure which two power plants together have that capacity, but 2.8 GW is roughly one fourth of the total Belgian capacity that was needed at the beginning of December last year! It seems pretty unlikely that we were able to dedicate at least that much capacity to export to France. I write “at least”, because, remember, our Prime Minister claimed that Belgium kept countries (plural) from having blackouts. That means that there should be at least one other country that Belgium prevents from having blackouts. So, how is it possible that Belgium suddenly has more than one fourth of its capacity to spare this winter?!?! That is nevertheless what they both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy are suggesting.

Time to take a look at the data…

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Cutting down the tree while praising its harvest

Debate on energy security in the Belgian Parliament on 20221208

Last weekend, I came across this interesting article about a discussion about energy security (Dutch ahead) in the Belgian Federal Parliament. First some background. This discussion took place last year on December 8. The Belgian grid manager (Elia) published at that time a report that there might be a small capacity shortage in the winter of 2024 and a large capacity shortage in the winter of 2025. There was already the earlier decision to extend the life of the two youngest nuclear power reactors, but those nuclear reactors would not be available in these two winters because of maintenance necessary for their life extension. The other five nuclear reactors will be decommissioned by 2025, meaning that Belgium will enter these two winters with roughly half of its production capacity.

It therefor should not come as a surprise that some members of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives directed a lot of criticism towards the energy policy of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy. For example, Bert Wollants aired his fear that the lights will go out in 2025 (Dutch ahead) if we don’t keep more nuclear power reactors open. He pleaded to make a swift decision on keeping more of them open. He was not the only one who made that plea.

Then the Prime Minister had his chance to respond to the criticism. It is the first part of his response that raised my eyebrows (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

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Offshore wind with a capacity of “3.5 nuclear power plants”

In her interview in the Flemish newspaper (subject of previous two posts), our Minister of Energy not only said that the wind always blows somewhere in Europe, and especially at sea, but she also made following remark about Belgian offshore wind (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

When I became minister, I hoped that our new offshore wind farm would be operational by 2027. It has a capacity of 3.5 nuclear power plants and can supply all Belgian households with electricity.

I heard members of the current Federal Government draw (variations on) this analogy between offshore wind and nuclear power plants quite a lot lately, especially (and unsurprisingly) by members of the Flemish Green party.

For the record, there is a core of truth in this statement. It is true that the capacity of offshore wind in Belgium is expected to be 3500 MW in 2027 and since most Belgian nuclear power reactors (not “plants”) have a capacity of about 1000 MW, the capacity of offshore wind will equal the capacity of 3.5 nuclear power reactors by 2027. That is where the similarities end.

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The wind always blows somewhere in Europe

As seen in previous post, Belgium experienced a dunkelflaute (a period of low solar and wind power production) on November 29 and, depending on one’s definition of dunkelflaute, it may even be longer. Belgian politicians envision a situation in which Belgium relies more on import of electricity, so I wonder what those neighboring countries did during this event and whether they would be able to help us in such a situation. My expectation (based on previous posts like here, here, here and here), is that they all went through the same or at least a similar event.

Let’s start with what happened in Belgium from November 28 until December 2:

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Dunkelflautes last just a few hours (oops, days)

There was a dunkelflaute at the end of last month. “Dunkelflaute” is a German word, mostly translated as “dark doldrum”. It is a period in which there is no(t much) sunlight and no(t much) wind, resulting in very low electricity production from solar panels and windmills. The media told us that Monday November 29 was such a day.

This is what solar and wind did compared to total load:

Chart0020a: Dunkelflaute belgium 2022-11-29

Solar and wind indeed did not do well on that day. Electricity production by solar and wind was mostly hugging the x-axis for most of the day. The combined average capacity factor for solar and wind was a measly 1.53% (between 0.06% and 7.89%). It was particularly wind that did poorly. Luckily there was some sun to elevate the capacity factor, but even that was pretty limited because days are short at this time of the year at our latitude.

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