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Alberta’s Climate Plan: A Burden with No Benefit

Note: This article was written prior to the April 16, 2019 election.  We republish now post-election it as some people are not aware of the ‘cost of carbon’ or implications of the plan.

Contributed Kenneth B. Gregory, P. Eng.  © 2019

Human-caused climate change is a major issue of our time.  Unfortunately, governments and most news media rely on a political organization of the United Nations called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for assessments about climate science and policy. The IPCC relies on climate models that assume all the warming recorded by instruments was caused by human activity despite the overwhelming evidence of large and rapid warming and cooling events before humans could have had any effect on global temperatures.  The climate models average trend of the global bulk atmospheric temperature from 1979 to 2016 is 250% of the trends of the weather balloon and satellite data, so the models are wrong. The IPCC falsely attributes natural warming and urban warming to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission warming.

When the natural and urban warming are accounted for, an energy balance calculation of climate sensitivity implies that continued CO2 emissions will cause only about 0.6 °C of warming from 2018 to 2100.

FUND is an economic model that simulates the welfare impacts of GHG  emissions in various regions of the Earth.  It shows that Canada’s personal wealth is projected to increase from 2018 to 2100 by a factor of 2.5 despite climate change.  Dr. Richard Tol, an author of the FUND model, wrote in his book “Climate Economics” published in 2014 “The impact [in Canada of climate change] is positive throughout the 21st century”. He shows the impact continually increases to 1.78% of GDP by 2100, equivalent to over C$100 billion benefit per year.

The Alberta NDP Government (in power from 2015-2019)  relied on a report produced by the US Government to develop their climate plan. That report utilized three economic models to estimate the social cost/benefit of CO2 emissions (SCC).  Two of those models have insignificant benefits of CO2 fertilization of plants and they fail to account for adaptation. They also assume that all warming is harmful, which clearly is untrue. The FUND model does includes CO2 fertilization and attempt to account for adaptation. They ran all three models using climate sensitivities to GHG from climate models that are far above recent empirical estimates. These factors vastly increase the SCC estimates.

The Alberta NDP Government projects that their climate plan, which includes shutting down coal-fired power plant and imposing carbon taxes, would reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 2030 by 0.026 parts per million, thereby reducing global temperatures by 0.00007 °C, which is insignificant.

EDC Associates Ltd. published a study of the potential impact on Alberta’s electricity market of Alberta’s climate plan. The study finds that the cumulative cost of electricity from 2017 to 2030 is expected to increase by $3.3 to $5.9 billion depending on policy choices. The CO2 reduction would cost $420/tCO2, which is 14 times the current carbon price.

 

The Alberta NDP government (in power to April 16, 2019)  plans to replace inexpensive, reliable and dispatchable electricity from fossil fuels with extremely expensive and unreliable electricity from wind and solar electricity, which requires near 100% backup with natural gas-fired power plants. The extreme variability of renewable power requires the backup power plants to rapidly ramp their power output up and down to offset the variable output of wind and solar power. This enormously increases the cost of the backup power and causes increased CO2 emissions per unit of electricity produced. In Europe, electricity prices are highly correlated with the amount of solar and wind on the grid, with prices in Denmark and Germany about 3 times higher than in Hungary, which has little wind and solar power. The relation implies that the cost of wind and solar power in Europe is 7.2 times the cost of power from fossil fuels.

On a global basis, the FUND model (Julia version) calculates that the net annual benefit of GHG emissions and warming from 1900 is around US$3 trillion/yr at 2100, or 0.85% of global GDP with 1.3 °C of warming from 2018. That is, global warming to 2100 is likely net beneficial.

So why are we putting a huge burden on ourselves to prevent a benefit to the extremely wealthy people of the future? If the economic forecasts are correct and future Canadians in 2100 will be 2.5 times wealthier than us today, they can afford to pay for adaptation measures if and when temperatures increase to levels that start to cause damages.

2 Comments

  1. I’m surprised that you do not note that warming stopped at the beginning of this century. As presented it seems you accept that warming is ongoing when it is not?

  2. According to the UAH satellite data version 6.0, the best fit straight line from January 2001 to October 2015, the lower troposphere temperature trend was negative, so yes, no atmospheric warming. However, the oceans continues to gain heat during this period, so the climate system continued to warm. An El Nino then occurred, so the current trend from January 2001 to May 2019 is positive 0.121 C/decade. The climate model trend of the lower troposphere over the same period was 0.245 C/decade. Since January 2001, the model trend is over twice the trend of the measurements.

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