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COP26: what if we leave it there?

This is a Deepl translation of the French original, kindly provided by the author. The original French commentary is here on “Valeurs actuelle“.

Despite 26 editions and as much media hype, CO2 emissions have never stopped increasing. The reason is simple: energy is life. Countries that want to take care of their populations simply cannot afford to give it up.

By Samuel Furfari*

The COP26 farce is finally over. Only the activists and the naïve believed that the festival would lead to concrete results. It won’t. Since the Earth Summit (June 1992, in Rio), we have heard the same litany of catastrophic announcements, exaggerations, polar bears, storms, etc. Only two COPs – out of 26 – ended with concrete measures, and these did not produce any tangible results. In 1997, COP3 approved the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed to reduce CO2 emissions by 8% compared to 1990. The second was COP21, in Paris in 2015, when Laurent Fabius, moved to tears, made it look like he had just saved the planet. This (diplomatic) success for France did not include a binding emissions target, with everyone choosing their own, even with a base year of their choice. The American negotiator, John Kerry (he was still in Glasgow), was even proud to have replaced “shall” with “should”, because no one wanted to sabotage themselves by imposing emission reductions that were as costly as they were useless. One can appreciate the ambition…

At least it was realistic! Indeed, since 1992, CO2 emissions have increased by 58%. Paradoxically, the USA, which did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol and has been outside the Paris Agreement for four years, has significantly reduced its emissions, depriving activists of the pleasure of pointing the finger at the ugly American capitalists. There is a simple reason for this drop, but it is the obsession of environmentalists (and French politicians): shale gas! Thanks to its extraordinary development, this gas has become so cheap that it is replacing coal in American power stations. Note that before the pandemic, France, so proud to have, with Sarkozy, Hollande and Macron, ruled out shale gas exploration, was the main importer of this “ugly” American resource. For the rest of the world, the ongoing electrification of Asian and African countries is such that the demand for fossil fuels will necessarily explode, probably increasing CO2 emissions by more than 2% per year.

And why should it be otherwise? All the promises to the contrary are meaningless, just empty words. Without energy there is no life, no work, no economy, no sustainable development. When you are poor and hungry, you don’t care what the temperature will be in 2100, especially if it is calculated by computers.

The myth of the energy transition is based on a fundamental error. It was not created in response to climate change, but in reaction to the 1973 oil crisis. After nearly half a century of frenetic promotion of new energies – and more than a trillion euros spent since 2000 – they [renewables] account for only 2.9% of the EU’s primary energy balance.

But this was all so predictable! In a February 1981 issue devoted to solutions to the energy crisis, National Geographic already presented everything that is being passed off as new today. The following sentence is formidably eloquent: “Americans like to think that technology will solve all problems quickly if we work hard enough and throw enough money at them. After all, we did put people on the moon, didn’t we? But in the case of energy, this belief is still wishful thinking and indicates a lack of understanding of the limits of technology because we are dealing with a complex problem to manage ». The magazine recalls that in 1973 the US President promised that Project Independence would lead to energy independence by 1980,,. The European Union and its “green pact for 2050” has the same utopian vision for 2050. But one should always be wary of utopias. The fight against anthropogenic climate change will ultimately lead to the control of people’s lives, which is why, it should be noted, some people have been trying for years – and again in Glasgow – to abolish cash in order to better measure personal carbon impact. The climate scientist Richard Lindzen warned us: “If you control carbon, you control life“. It’s easy to see where the ideology is in this, less easy to see where the science is.

There is still hope. By realising that alternative energies will not be able to replace fossil fuels, President Macron is following China’s example and reviving nuclear power, putting a de facto end to the utopia of renewables. He thus presents radical environmentalists with a dilemma: clinging to man-made climate change and being forced to convert to nuclear power at some point, or continuing to hate it and having to concede that yes, maybe it is nature, the sun, the clouds, not man, that drives the climate. Each option will be a heartbreaker – but humanity will be better off.

*Samuel Furfari is a professor of energy geopolitics

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Professor Furfari is author of numerous books on energy and energy geopolitics Amazon in French and English

Furfari’s two part “energy bible” entitled: “The changing world of energy and the geopolitical challenges” can be ordered here.

Bio (as per Amazon)

Prof. Samuel Furfari is a Chemical Engineer from the Free University of Brussels. He received his Ph.D. from the same university with a thesis in the field of energy. Between 1982 and 2018, he was a senior official at the Energy Directorate-General of the European Commission where he has devoted an entire career to energy technology and policy. Since 2003 he is a professor of energy geopolitics and energy politics at the Free University of Brussels. He also lectures at various universities. He is the author of 15 books on energy and sustainable development and many articles. Since 2019 he is President of the European society of engineers and industrialists. He is Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.

1 Comment

  1. Peter F Gill

    Hi Sam. Well said. Funnily enough, as you will remember, in the mid 1980s the coal water fuels project I was leading for the Consortium involving the British NCB, UK, USA and German Babcock companies, Elf Aquitaine and others was cancelled following the dramatic fall in oil prices. This turning on the oil taps strategy worked well for the middle east and other regions in that it took out all the coal based competition from coal to liquids etc. Of course the concern over peak oil leading to the conclusion of so-called renewable energies like wind, solar and biomass was always simply wrong rather than poor logic. So, hopefully when this nonsense is exposed, we will get back to nuclear (maybe even fusion based) for base load electricity and fossil fuels with DeSOX and deNOX as necessary. Perhaps we will learn to use methane clathrates safely in which case energy worries go away for hundreds of years. Regards Peter

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