We have a new Flemish Minister of Energy since two days. As a result of the local elections of October last year, the previous Minister became mayor of his home town Ostend. That is a bit sad, he had the habit of enthusiastically sprouting meaningless claims about energy that were very easily debunked. I wrote several posts about such claims, so I will certainly miss his mindless claims.
The new Minister, Lydia Peeters, took the oath of office the day before yesterday. The first tweet on her twitter account came only a day later and is a retweet of a tweet written by her spokeswoman (translated from Dutch):
Nice increase becomes visible! @Lydiapeeters: “The switch to electric vehicles keeps going on” @BelgaPolitics Read it here:
Continuing from previous two posts on the “interview” of Nic Balthazar, something that was clear from the beginning was that Balthazar was not very keen on “realism”. I certainly can understand why and will explain it later in this post. One of those realists that Balhazar looked down on is a certain “climate critic” (whatever that may be) (translated from Dutch):
A climate critic was in De Morgen (Belgian newspaper) this weekend and he said two things a) that two percent [sic], that is not enough anyway, also we should not cheer about it. Even if we get there, it would be far too little and 2) [sic] there are many other important things for many people on this planet, namely, do I survive today? Do I survive this week?
My first thought was that it must be Bjørn Lomborg. He got, to my surprise (and that of many others), interviewed in that (left-wing) newspaper only about two weeks ago. I knew that Lomborg indeed claims that there are more important things than climate, but then, as far as I knew, he didn’t claim that “two degrees is not enough/far too little”.
The doctor’s analogy is frequently used in climate change communication. In most cases, it goes like this: “Wouldn’t you go with the advises of your doctor when he tells you …?” or “When you have cancer would you go to a cardiologist?”. Last Sunday I saw that doctor enter the analogy in a different way in the interview of Nic Balthazar in the current events program “De 7de dag” (see previous post) (translated from Dutch):
Screenshot of “de 7de dag” of December 16, 2018. Nic Balthazar: making the doctor’s analogy
You should really have to compare to, an unpleasant comparison, the doctors come and they say, madam and sir, your child has cancer. At the moment, it could still be contained, we can operate, do chemo therapy, everything. It is going to cost, it will be difficult, hard and all, but we can get that child to recover. And when you now talk about our economy, we can really come out of this better. We can, with renewable energy, cleaner air, end up in a much safer life in geopolitics. But it will be difficult. Would that father and mother then say, yes but, pfff, it’s a bit too expensive? No, they will not do that. We [sic] are going to say: whatever it takes. Just look at Music for Life, everything is possible at that moment. And yet we do not do it, and an annoying comparison, one single child that have cancer, but we are talking about all the children of the world.
and also later this emotional appeal (translated from Dutch):
Some believe that we, due to rising temperatures as a result of our emissions, might be close to a tipping point and will experience irreversible changes for the worse. One of those is Nic Balthazar. He made the claim as a guest in the current affairs show “De 7de dag” (the 7th day) of last Sunday. He was invited there to comment on the COP 24 climate conference in Catowice. Nic Balthazar, a Belgian film director and a TV/radio personality, is also a co-founder of “Klimaatzaak” (an organization that filed legal action to force the federal and regional governments to improve their climate policies). The latter position is why he was invited.
He had mixed feelings about the conference. On the one hand, he was glad that some agreement was made, considering how many countries were present and all had to come to a consensus. On the other hand he was disappointed (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):
On the other hand, it is the again incomprehensible that they didn’t want to listen to what all the scientists say today.
Is renewable energy cheap? I often heard this claim in the past, mostly from politicians who want to justify their policies, but also from scientists. I then assumed that not all costs were counted, but had no clue what their specific arguments were.
The claim was also made in the current events lecture “A Sustainable Energy Supply for Belgium” (see previous post), specifically in the second lecture. The claim was that renewables are so cheap that they push fossil-fuel fired power plants out of the market. Odd, because subsidies for for example wind energy still exist in Belgium. If wind energy is really cheaper than fossil-fuel energy, then those subsidies don’t make much sense. Luckily, the speaker (Johan Driesen) took some time to explain his arguments in support of his claim and that made it very clear what he exactly meant by being “cheap”.
This is the part where he explains his reasoning (Dunglish not mine):
Metaforum, an interdisciplinary think-tank of the University of Leuven, organized a Current Events Lecture on a Sustainable Energy Supply for Belgium last Monday (the video is available here). The incentive for this lecture was the unavailability of the majority of our nuclear power plants and the spectre of an electricity shortage this winter.
The speakers are a very diverse bunch: there are two electrical engineers, one economist and one philosopher. The title suggested that the focus is on sustainable energy sources, so I was especially interested in the lectures presented by the two engineers (first hour of the video).
The first speaker (Dirk Van Hertem) is a professor at the division of electrical energy and computer architectures (Faculty of Engineering Science) and gave a balanced overview of the current Belgian energy situation.
It was different for the second speaker (Johan Driesen), also a professor at the same division. He started with:
Low-tech magazine renewed the design of its website. At such not a world shocking event, but this design reflects the vision of the low-tech magazine and that is where it gets really interesting.
They understood that the internet became a rapidly growing power consumer, power that for a large part is created by using conventional power sources. Therefor they build a low-energy, self-hosted website actually powered solely by … solar power. Not in the way Google is doing (offsetting their power consumption, meaning buying their average power consumption from renewable power providers), but actually powering it by a solar panel.
This is the 50 Wp solar panel that is placed on the balcony of the founder of low-tech magazine, Dirk Dedecker, in Barcelona:
and this is the web server: