Category Archives: Climate Politics

Who cares about a lack of PV in December when there is plenty of wind and more sun to come in the coming months?

On the last day of 2017, our Minister of Energy (who is fiercely promoting solar energy) posted a tweet to thank all people who installed solar panel on their during 2017. He got a prompt reaction from someone asking how much electricity those solar panels produced in December. The Minister of Energy replied with this remarkable tweet:

Translated from Dutch:

December 2017 was indeed historically low on sunshine. But there was wind and the sun will compensate plentifully in the coming months #HappyNewYear

Basically, solar energy production sucked really bad in the previous month, but, hey, there was more wind and there is more solar energy to come in the coming months anyway.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I would glad to laugh if it was a joke, but his guy is our Minister of Energy and I am afraid that he was serious about it.

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Could a nuclear power plant be closed when households save 1 percent of energy?

The subject of this post is a statement made in a current affairs program on the Flemish television back in February. In that program there was a debate on smart meters and one of the arguments against was that a savings of only 1% was expected which would not be in proportion to the costs. The reaction was this remarkable statement:

1% savings of energy, if all households do that (we are not even talking about the industry), then you can close one nuclear power plant. That is how much that 1% is.

Apparently, his reasoning was that a 1% savings as a result of that smart meter is already a huge achievement since it would be enough to close a nuclear power plant. Even with some basic knowledge of our energy infrastructure, it should be clear that this is an absurd claim. It didn’t take long before it was debunked, even on national television (which shows that it is an absurd claim indeed).

However, it kept bugging me. How could someone come to this absurd conclusion? I wanted to understand the reasoning that one has to follow to come to such a conclusion. It would be interesting to know where that statement came from, especially because the guy who made the claim is apparently viewed as an “energy expert” of his political party…

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The “We Close Doel” campaign … and the result is?

Almost two years ago, I wrote a series of posts on the “We Close Doel” campaign of the Flemish Greens. To recap, they ran this campaign to “break the monopoly” of energy provider Electrabel (the owner of the nuclear plants in Doel). They wanted to close the two smallest reactors (Doel 1 and 2) and because the government wasn’t keen on taking that decision (it was decided that these reactors will be kept open longer), the Greens claimed that they would close those reactors since the Government failed to do it. Hence this campaign.

They claimed that people could make the difference by switching from “gray to green”, meaning switching (from Electrabel) to a green energy provider. Participants who signed the petition declared that they would do the switch and also had to provide how much electricity they consumed per year. A counter on the campaign pages then kept tally of the yearly energy consumption of those who declared that they would go fro gray to green. The more kWh on the counter, the bigger the “signal” to Electrabel and to the Government.

What caught my attention during this visit was that no starting date was shown on the campaign pages. This means that visitors didn’t know whether this campaign had just started or it could well be that is at its end. There is no way to know. When I was blogging about this campaign two years ago, this didn’t matter since I knew when it started. Now after those years it seems odd that this campaign page was still there, as if it was still running. The two forms still seem to be active and nowhere was said that this was a campaign of the beginning of 2016 and therefor might not really be relevant today.

More importantly, there was also no mention of the result of this campaign. It has been almost two years ago, so the impact should be rather clear by now. Did the campaign eventually succeed in what it wanted to achieve? Did the Government and Electrabel received some signal? How clear was that signal? How many costumers left Electrabel over this campaign?

Since the Flemish Green party didn’t provide such an analysis, let me just do this for them. Since I started this blog, I am used to figuring out things. Finding an answer to these questions should be rather simple.

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IPCC AR6: continue assessing the science of climate change in line with policymakers’ priorities

This week, I came across this tweet from the IPCC:

Apparently, there is (in the meantime “was”) a meeting in Montreal to agree the outlines of AR6. Interesting. However, it was the quote of Youba Sokona that caught my attention (my emphasis):

“This meeting will pave the way for IPCC scientists to continue assessing the science of climate change in line with policymakers’ priorities“.

That sounded rather odd to me. My initial thought was something like: they couldn’t make it much clearer that this is politicized science in action. Okay, I understand that he probably didn’t mean it that way. He probably meant science relevant to policy or something similar.

Then I remembered that there was a description of the writing and review process on the IPCC website. Maybe I could figure out from this process how much the science is in line with policymakers’ priorities or vice versa?

I quickly found the page that described the IPCC process: principles and procedures. This is the summary of this process:

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More floods, fires and heat waves if we don’t act nów

The same old story. When reading the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad on September 1, I bumped on an article with the headline (translated from Dutch): “More floods, forest fires and heatwaves” and with an even bigger font type: “if we don’t act nów”. With emphasis on “now”. I lost count how many times I heard that before, yet it apparently can get recycled time and time again. Now a full page was devoted on it.

There was no source, but it seemed to be based on an article in the Guardian published two days before, combined with a statement about the July data from the NASA dataset. The article was build on the statements of Gavin Schmidt (NASA GISS) who seems to go well beyond what the data tells us.

The print version of Het Nieuwsblad was even more over the top than the Guardian article. This is how the case is built:

  1. Schmidt is presented as the “indisputable climate expert of NASA”
  2. More floods, fires and heat waves if we don’t act now
  3. The earth is warming at an alarming rate
  4. Never seen in thousand years
  5. We don’t have to step it up one notch, but 10 notches, to keep it below 2 degreesC
  6. We came close to the 1.5 degree this year
  7. The problem is immediate: if we keep emitting like we do now during the next 5 months [sic] we can not reach the 1.5 degrees goal
  8. Rapid and significant measures are needed
  9. Optimists think wrongly that there are fluctuation and lows will cancel out highs, but this is not the case
  10. Temperature increases faster in the last 30 years than in the last 1000 years. Reconstruction at NASA show that global temperatures over the last 5000 years increased gradually, but only in the last century the temperature increase was already 0.7 degrees (10 tiems faster)
  11. In the last decades even faster
  12. Schmidt is not a doom monger, but a realist. Proof: since October last year every month broke a record, the highest temperature was 54 [°C], the most aggressive forest fires in California and the first anthrax case in Siberia due to the melting permafrost
  13. 2014 was a record, as was 2015 and 99% sure also 2016
  14. The measurements started in 1800 [sic]
  15. On the short term: further decrease of Arctic ice, increase of heat waves, floods and forest fires
  16. Island states will be the first victims of sea level rise
  17. Sea level could rise by 10 meter
  18. Mass destruction of animal species will increase.

I am not surprised. This is how climate change is portrayed in the media. What is wrong with this picture? In my believer’s years I probably would have agreed with it without []. Luckily I learned to speak climatese in the last few years.

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Green energy: a source of prosperity in Germany and of misery in Flanders?

After a string of 18 posts on energy, or more specifically on the neglected side of communication on the Energiewende, I had the intention to write about a different subject. Then I encounter this opinion piece (Dutch) in which two politicians from the Flemish Green Party ask themselves “why green energy is a source of prosperity in Germany and a source of misery in Flanders?”. That is an interesting question. Most of the arguments were recognizable, I think they came from the same source that I was looking in during those 18 previous posts.

The authors came to the conclusion that two factors are involved in the success of the German energy transition: economic and public support. They explained that the government is responsible for both factors, doing a good job in Germany and a lousy job in Flanders. But no worry, according to them, the German success story is also possible here… Where did I heard that again?

Starting with the economic support: the authors say that “Politicians must provide economic support by making a stable renewable energy policy” and this is where our politicians went wrong. I reckon that they mean subsidies or some other financial support. I certainly agree that there wasn’t much of an energy strategy in the past (still not) and that the message was not always consistent. Nevertheless, it didn’t seem to prevent giving “economic support” for alternative energy during that time. As far as I know, Belgium only invested in wind, solar and biomass in the last decade or so. There were and still are subsidies for alternative sources, billions are still being poured into it. Proof of this is our current hefty energy tax and everybody knows that it is necessary to finance alternative energy.

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A wood or not a wood, that is the question

On the Twitter account of Groen (the Flemish Green Party), I found this message:

twitter groen boswijzer

Translated from Dutch:

More woods are disappearing in Flandres every year

The new wood barometer is available. In Flanders, more woods are being cleared than planted. Contrary to what Minister of Nature Schauvlieghe keeps claiming. Retweet this image if you want more woods and green in your neighborhood →

I recognize the controversy. I already had a post on this subject in the first year of this blog. Just to summarize: the Minister of Environment, Nature and Agriculture had a new tool for counting the wooded area using high resolution images taken from the air. In 2013 they published the first numbers after the base line measurement of 2011 and claimed an increase of 8,262 hectares. Bos+ (a NGO) has a competing measurement system based on the information of “official” licenses & subsidies and claimed that there was not much of a difference. Groen claimed that there was a decrease. In the end they all had it right, they just used different definitions and therefor came with different numbers.

The counting method of the Minister was a very objective one. It specifically defined a wood as:

  • a collection of trees
  • trees are higher than 3 meters
  • in an area of at least 0.5 hectares
  • a length to width ratio of at least 2.5
  • a cover of at least 50%.
  • .

Although this is the most accurate tool available, it was strongly criticized by green organizations. For example it also took into account trees in fallow land or trees along roads, railways,… Every collection of 3 meter high trees on any area of at least 0.5 hectares is counted. Whether it was officially subsidized or not, whether it was officially licensed or not. On the other hand, the Minister (not rightfully) claimed that this increase was indicative for a better forest policy and forgot to communicate the margin of error (it was bigger than the measured increase). If you want to read the complete story, just follow the link above.

The tweet also linked to De Afspraak (a talk show on the Flemish television) and when looking for more information about that episode, I found that they also recently made a quiz called “Wood or not”, based on this measuring tool of the Minister. In this quiz they compiled 8 images of landscapes and challenged people to guess whether the tool of the Minister would recognize these landscapes as being woods or not. Although I expected the most extreme examples, I couldn’t resist to take the quiz…

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