Coilín ÓhAiseadha and Ronan Connolly are Dublin-based researchers and co-authors of a recent academic paper that found global spending on climate change projects totaled nearly $3.7 trillion between 2011 and 2018. Robert talks with them about why more than half of climate-related spending is being garnered by solar and wind, the merits – and problems — of various energy sources, why more spending should be directed toward climate adaptation, and why there is no panacea when it comes to our energy and power needs.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. I’m the host of this podcast where we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And in this episode, I am pleased to welcome my guests, Colleen Ohashi, and Ronan Connelly, coming to us from Dublin, Ireland, and I’ll talk about why they’re on. Well, actually, I’ll just make it clear. They’re the authors of a new paper that just was published in the journal energies called energy and climate policy, and evaluation of global climate change expenditure 2011 to 2018, which is a mouthful, but we’re going to talk about that paper because I’ve taken a very broad overview of the issue of renewable energy and its place in the in the energy and power systems globally. And it’s a very interesting paper. But, gentlemen, I could go on and introduce yourself. Colleen, I know you’re a medical doctor and Ronan, you’re a PhD. Our custom here on this podcast is that you introduce yourselves. So if you don’t mind, one of you jump right in and tell us who you are. Okay,
Unknown Speaker 1:09
well, I’m I’m a scientist, I been interested in fascinated by science since I was a teenager, I’m sorry to be your Ronin show. But everybody else no one out there knows who you are. So yeah, that’s Rodel Conley is first.
Unknown Speaker 1:25
And so I, I’ve been studying science as a teenager. And for me a big a big part of science is that I realized fairly early on that there seemed concerned about an over specialization in science, where people are becoming too specialized. So when I started studying science, I wanted to look at multiple different aspects of it. And this has been a recurring theme throughout my scientific career, I was inspired as well by my father, Dr. Michael Connelly, who is also co author on this paper that we will be discussing later on. So I did chemistry and maths in my primary degree, then I decided to do computer modeling polymer physics is my PhD, to try and diversify it. And then after my PhD in two tests, since in 2003, from 2004, I started working full time with my father in environmental science, developing sustainable methods of fish farming, wastewater treatment, and improved energy efficiency, developing new forms of energy of energy storage, and things like that. And then around 2009, we both myself and my father, we said, we really should be looking at climate change. Because as environmentalist it seemed to be a the main topic. Everybody wanted to investigate. So we started looking critically at what we were doing. But we were finding kind of problems with a lot of the signs, which I think, again, routes back to this over specialization, that there was a lot of lack of joined up thinking between each of the different disciplines. So myself and my father said, we really need to look a bit more carefully. And we spent five years looking at all of the data and all of these case studies in that were used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the IPCC. And we got a lot of unusual results that were quite surprising to us. And we said, Look, let’s just put this out to the whole world see it. So we set up an open peer review journal, and we set up a blog as well, global warming, salt calm, and we we said, Here’s all of our results. And we put it out for open, peer reviewed, see what every reaction was. And then on the basis that we started collaborating, we started reaching out to the scientific community, have we made any errors? can we improve stuff, and all of the feedback was actually surprisingly supportive when, you know, saying that you seem to be onto stuff. And so we started collaborating with people.
Robert Bryce 4:27
Just Just to be clear, if it I don’t I know you’ve had a long career and I’m just trying to want to make sure we give Coleen a chance here, but yeah, but but so but your, your, your your, your position. Now you’re you’re working as an independent researcher, yes. On, on, on, on climate on energy and power issues. Now,
Unknown Speaker 4:44
environmentalism, and environmental issues as well. So but you have it you do have an affiliation of the center. I’m sorry, the Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences series. Yes. So this is serious science. dot com series dash signs calm if anybody’s interested. And we this is a myself and colleague, Dr. Willie soon the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics we did two years ago, we said, Look, we need to actually be working full time on climate change and and environmentalism and things. And we said, well, we we, we don’t know where science goes, this is when you’re doing science, right? You don’t know what, where it will lead you. So we decided we needed to set up a, a group to just follow the science where there’s so we rely on funding from anybody. So if any of your viewers are interested in supporting it, there, feel free to donate to the PayPal, you can do that. And I just want to take that since since we, myself my father launched out we published we and we’ve started collaborating with other scientists. And we’ve published a seven papers, including this latest one. And just last year to segue into colorlines. A what how I started lab, we started collaborating, we’ve been looking so in a number of the papers that I published with Michael and Willie and with others, we’ve been looking at different aspects of climate change. And obviously, all of these things that are looking at energy policy is being heavily driven by climate change. And we just said, you know, the problem is you get a lot of individual papers, on aspects of energy policy, or on aspects of climate change. But again, this lack of joined up thinking nobody is looking at all of them holistically. So Colin was looking and saying, I you know, can we what, where is this going? I said, we, we, we need somebody needs to systematically review the literature on energy policies, and not doing it from a perspective of trying to promote one technology or destroy another technology, which is what most of the literature, you’ll see a recurring motif we said,
Robert Bryce 7:24
and so and this paper is really part of that effort. Right? It’s a very broad overview of that. So Well, that’s a good that’s a good introduction, Ronan. So Coleen, if you don’t mind, give us a quick, quick summary of your mini credentials.
Unknown Speaker 7:41
Well, I’m, I’m a medical doctor, as I say, and I worked for several years in the hospital system, I did a little little bit of work in general practice. And I decided on a career in public health, because I was interested in in broader issues. So public health is really the efforts of all aspects of society, both private and public sectors to to promote health and to prevent disease. So I took a Master’s in Public Health.
Robert Bryce 8:15
I was gonna say pandemics epidemics, everyone’s yesterday, public health, now they are this quite the hot field.
Unknown Speaker 8:19
Yeah, everybody has become epidemiologists. In the course of the last year, it’s kind of amazing to see people just claim this very steep learning curve, about the epidemiology of infectious diseases. So all of that kind of thing. But also, you know, it’s to do with smoking policy, physical activity. it’s to do with health service development as well. So I undertook training at the the, what’s called hire specialist training here in Ireland, under the ages of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and during that I had an exam so I had to do two pieces of research. And I did one in each of the main domains of public health. So I did one that was to do with smoking cessation. I did another that was to do with health services improvement to do with children staying in hospital unnecessarily. And the third one then in environmental epidemiology, essentially looking at the the factors such as capital density and private wells in rural Ireland, and statistically looking for associations between those things and certain waterborne diseases. Each of those three pieces of work turned into a published paper in a peer reviewed journal. And on the basis of the the third one of those, I’m in a long standing, research collaboration, looking into that kind of thing, environmental epidemiology. Gotcha.
Robert Bryce 9:53
So, if you don’t mind if I interrupt you, this is quite a departure from you as a medical doctor. And then energy and power systems. But I guess so what? If you don’t mind if I just jump right into the paper here? I don’t mean to cut you off Coleen. But I want to make sure that that our listeners and viewers on YouTube know, you know why we’re here and what and why this paper now, I guess is the you know, you’ve looked at, if I can just briefly point you say that coal, use coal, oil and gas continue to supply 85% of the world’s energy consumption, with Hydro and Nuclear providing most of the remainder and you and then you reviewed the potential engineering challenges environmental and socio economic impacts of the main energy sources. And you conclude, we find that literature raises many concerns about the engineering feasibility as well as environmental impacts of wind and solar. However, none of the current or proposed energy sources is a panacea. So that’s kind of the overview. So briefly, tell me what either of you tell me what was the purpose of the paper from the beginning? What would what why was? What was the motivation for you to look at this? And I think the punchline is, I would add to here quickly, as you point out, $3.6 trillion has been sent, it was spent between 2011 and 2018, with more than half spin on wind and solar, but you’re underscoring that by saying, maybe this isn’t the right policy? Is that a fair assessment?
Unknown Speaker 11:17
Yeah, I think I think that’s fair.
Unknown Speaker 11:19
I mean, you know, I’ve had a long standing issue, I mean, official, usually in my profession, but I’ve had a long standing interest in social issues. And so I’ve been interested in climate change since the 1980s. And I’ve just recently begun to look more closely at the research and just begin to ask questions, because, you know, the question, energy is really important to help, you know, we need energy so that we can have heating or air conditioning, refrigeration, emergency lighting, so that we can run water treatment plants and hospitals. And so the question arises, you know, if we don’t use if we, if we leave the fossil fuels in the ground, then what are other alternatives that can provide abundant cheap energy to build good housing, you know, to run hospitals and water treatment plants, to have energy available 24, seven on demand so that you can have refrigerators, working overnight, keeping people foods fresh, and, you know, so that if you wake up in the middle of the night, you flick your lights on, just like that, so that you don’t trip in the dark, you know, fundamental things like this, that are essential to the health of the population.
Unknown Speaker 12:45
Yeah, the other thing, of course, is that look, we touch on the this kind of the whole Neo Malthusian debate and which we maybe we can get into the technical bits of it. But like, they, what the population has increased from a billion or one and a half billion two centuries ago to approaching touching 8 billion now. And true that process we have been is been aided by the energy transition. So we have been doing which has been predominantly from coal, oil and gas, and there was talk of switching to nuclear, and that hasn’t taken off, which we can talk about it later on if you want. But, but the thing is, in order to there’s this kind of notion of these technologies that are supposedly called Green, like, which is wind, solar, geothermal, it cetera. And it that’s how it’s always described, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting, you have people groups, like Greenpeace will always say, wind, solar, and orders or wind, solar, you know, and it’s always and others. And so, the thing is we I kind of like saying, Well, if you’re proposing to transition to something that is untested, effectively for supplying a billion, you know, 7.5 billion or whatever, and we need to look at critically at what is happening with each of these things, because, okay, I’ll just just just something that I I’ve noticed on the media discussions and everything I bet if you have somebody comes on, and that’s a promoter for coal, the coal lobby, and they come on to the news, and they start going on about how safe and wonderful and brilliant Coal is, then everybody rightfully says, Well, of course, you’d say that your your current level? Sure, nobody comes on for the oil industry. And they go on about how brilliant oil is. They say, of course, someone for gas, of course, someone comes on for nuclear. And you say, of course, you’re promoting nuclear, somebody comes on for wind and solar. Let’s listen to them their greed, this sounds great. And you know that that’s what’s kind of missing, I think, if everybody has an has already has the scrutiny of the coal, oil, gas, and nuclear, to some extent now to, to biomass and biofuels, but then you have other people thinking they’re part of the green. And then you have the hydro, you know, what’s another saying they’re proud of the green, conserve renewable. And then, so now you’re left with wind and solar effectively. And, and so if people just were if there was one takeaway from this, if your listeners or viewers are doing this, I would wish that next time somebody comes on promoting wind or solar, you know, that you would apply the same skepticism or cynicism that you would for one of the ones you don’t like, you know, and just say that Yeah,
Robert Bryce 16:33
and then and I guess that would be the my read of your paper. And by the way, just so we get this out of the way up front here. This paper was not sponsored by any other there weren’t any sponsors. This is something that the two of you took on, because of your intellectual curiosity. Is that is that right?
Unknown Speaker 16:50
Yeah. And I should mention the other co authors that said, I already mentioned, my father, Michael Connelly, and also Dr. Willie soon. And also Jerry Quinn, who is another scientist, and who was also looking and saying, Can we try and look at this one. So the key for this particular paper, is we are trying, we tried to do a holistic review of the literature. What’s striking, for me, what was so surprising, in the paper, is how little, we had to have our own impulse we needed to do we were really just saying, This is what these papers or this study is saying, This is what this study is saying. And these were there is how many It was 202 155 255 peer reviewed papers are cited in this. And we’re largely, it’s just it’s a review of, of all of those other things and you know, people that are interested can just follow check the references and and and look it up for themselves, see if they, if we’ve misinterpreted how they’re doing it and we tried very hard to be as objective and present a competing sites, there’s a lot of issues, whether it’s debate, I’m sure you’re familiar with this, you know, even things like biofuels, things like energy return on investment, are are they is it above one or below one and or is it above five, all these things?
Robert Bryce 18:34
And where’s the ring fence? Where do you decide what’s included in the inputs and outputs? Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 18:39
Robert Bryce 18:40
So so one of the one of the things here that I think is really critical, I think about the way and by the way, the name of the paper is energy and climate policy and evaluation of global climate change expenditure 2011 to 2018. It was published in the journal energies, and and listeners can find it on your website. Is that right? Ronan? Connelly? Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 19:01
Yeah, roncalli science comm is a list of all of all of my my career, brief bio, and also links to all of the papers and you can get a link to today’s paper on any and all of the others that if some people might be interested in some of the other papers we’ve published and published as well,
Robert Bryce 19:19
but but if I were if I were going to, you know, and the paper is now it’s well with citations, 50 pages, that text is about 36 pages, as I recall, but you point out something that I’d never seen before. And you you you’re your source on this. The climate policy initiative has been publishing the annual global landscape of climate finance reports. According to these reports, 3.6 billion, I’m sorry, $3.6 trillion has been spent on global climate change projects between 2011 2018 50% was spent on wind and solar, that’s $2 trillion. extraordinarily large amount of money, but these sources are They are Let’s face it, they’re politically popular. Yeah, you’ve been watching the presidential race here in the US. And, and and Joe Biden has said, Well, I’m going to build, you know, we’re going to put out a half a billion solar panels, why not? 400 million? Why not six? I don’t know, half 1,000,060,000 wind turbines? Why not 75 at this specific numbers that he’s saying, this is what we’re gonna have. But you but this is the part that I think is really the most, the the part that that to me, stands out, you said, despite all this spending of $2 trillion, globally over this eight year period, wind and solar energy still only produce 3% of World Energy left over that time period, it increased from half a percent to 3%. So while fossil fuels produced 85%, this raises pressing questions about what it would cost to make the transition to 100%. Renewable energies, which I never have, you know, I’ve been writing about this stuff for a while. I never thought of it in those terms. If we spent this much to get to 3%. It’s 2 trillion. Well, how many trillions more and further, where From where will that money come? I think, is that what I’ll ask each of you if you don’t mind? I mean, that’s my punchline. Right? So if I were to say, Well, okay, Ronan, what’s your punchline? If you had to just say, Okay, what what’s your one takeaway? And then and then Coleen, I’d like to hear what you have to say.
Unknown Speaker 21:19
Well, I think you mentioned the panacea. And that for me, that’s not I take them, the main takeaway is none of the energy technologies. That’s the main ones that I’ve been using are a panacea.
Robert Bryce 21:34
And we’re getting we’re gonna need everything?
Unknown Speaker 21:38
Well, well, what I would say is, they all have their pros and cons. And what’s happening is that whenever you have people that are pushing for, we’re gonna use this wind and solar, you know, for instance, our coal or whatever, whatever it is, as soon as they’re picking one. And they’re saying this will meet all of our needs. Like you mentioned, Joe Biden was saying he wanted wind and solar, or whatever Greenpeace and all that is, but you could also go the same with coal or with nuclear, as soon as they say, this is all we’ll do it all from this, this solves all our problems. And you’re unaware of the cons, the pros, but not the cons, then that ultimately, you know, the saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you are, you are only aware of the good bits of the two policies that you’re pushing. And then the more you pursue them, the more those negative consequences are going to build up and build up. And because you’re unaware of them, and you’re not focusing on them, you’re going to to get disasters occurring. So one of the things for me, like one of the main things that I we say it in it, policy makers, and they should be explicitly aware of the pros and cons of their policies, we we try to avoid being prescriptive policy prescriptive of saying you should use this or you should use this, we said, Look, every government, every policymaker has different priorities that they are trying to capital are to promote, to push. And if they can, what they have to do is they have to decide what are their priorities? And what are they prepared to compromise on? So just, you know, are you looking at reducing co2 emissions? Are you looking at energy security? Are you looking at the interests of the poor in your country? Are you trying to do socio economic values? Do you want? Are you concerned about marginalized communities? All of the you know, are you concerned about air quality? Water Quality? Do you want to do it so you have to pick you have to say what it is you do. And here’s the other advantage. If you are wherever the pros and cons, you can, if you are saying, look, this is what we’re trying to do. And this is the best for trying to achieve those. Well, because we know look, the you know the saying you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. So if you know going in, and you’re explicit about it, look, when we do this, we’re gonna have these consequences you can try to mitigate against those are usually just a look, that’s what we’re going to do. But, yeah,
Robert Bryce 24:56
so Coleen, how would you summarize that? I mean, you know, Running as hit on a lot of a lot of issues there. But if you were going to say when one takeaway and I, you know, I’m asking for a simple Well, we live in an age where people want simple, but if you were going to boil down this paper to, you know, one or maybe two points, what would what would that be?
Unknown Speaker 25:16
Well, I would say much the same things in a different way, I would say that people really have got to look at it, you know, kind of take the if you like, take the green economy or the green New Deal apart? Because if you’re into, you know, are you really interested in climbers? Are you interested in other environmental issues? Are you interested in employment? Are you interested in energy justice, and you really have to get very focused on what it is you’re about? I think, in particular, you know, I think in particular, there’s a conflict between climate justice and energy justice. So the the left in particular has gotten super hyper focused on climate justice, to the point that it is overshadowed energy justice, you know, so I would say that people really need to think very carefully about that is, is climate change this life threatening process that merits people, particularly on the left, you know, putting all this energy into and making a central plank in the policy platforms? Or should we keep an eye on the implications of this for energy, energy, justice, energy, poverty, you know, come back to the figures $2 trillion. And I want to say that I think that’s such I don’t think people know what a trillion really is, you know, we have an idea what a million is because we, you know, we’ve been in cities of about a million, so that’s 2 million times a million dollars, right? Very clear what what that is 2 million times a million dollars spent on wind and solar over the space of eight years, to increase the share of energy consumption, they provide by 2.5 percentage points. So if you wanted to increase that to 50%, you need to spend a bit on the order of 20 times that. And then you know, that money has to come from somewhere. If you spend that money on wind and solar, or even on the other renewables, hydro, geothermal and so on, then you can’t spend you cannot spend it on on building energy adapted homes, you know, on homes that are well insulated against cold and heat
Robert Bryce 27:43
or on vaccines for Coronavirus or on prepared, or let’s let’s transfer it. Let’s transition a little bit here. Because I think one of the other key takeaways I would say from your paper, I’m sorry to interrupt, but is you mentioned that idea about homes, what you’re what I’m hearing what I’m ready to hear you say next is adaptation. And this is one of the things that is is so I think important that you write that greater investment in climate adaptation makes sense? If society wants to better respond to climate change and extreme weather, you say, however, we also note the discussion that one of the key ways to help developing nations to improve their resilience to weather extremes is to encourage economic development. So you’re saying that if we’re going to adapt if particularly if poor countries are going to adapt to climate change, then they’re going to have to get richer, which is you’re not the only ones to make this point. Bjorn Lomborg has made this point Michael Shellenberger and many others, the breakthrough Institute, the Eco modernists are saying some of the same thing. Yeah. Why is there such reluctance? Now? This is a political question. Not what about your site, your paper, but why is there such reluctance? It appears among the climate activists to talk about adaptation? Yeah, well,
Unknown Speaker 29:01
Unknown Speaker 29:03
before we go on with that, I just want to I just want to talk about the numbers. Yeah. You know, to be found, so I’m looking at the finances. So we found that 5% of good quality expenditure on global climate change policy, only 5% went to climate adaptation. Yeah. Whereas 55% went to wind and solar. Yeah. And I just want to make the distinction between adaptation and mitigation. Because adaptation means essentially being being adapted being ready for but being adapted to the climate that is here, but also being prepared for whatever changes may come along. climate mitigation means specifically reducing
Unknown Speaker 29:50
greenhouse gas emissions. So a specifically co2 yes domain.
Unknown Speaker 29:57
So this is really important, and I think great Touch. If you like the global climate alarm, a movement has gotten super focused on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. You know, they’ve got they’ve been focused on the fossil fuel industry is producing these emissions. And they’re causing this global climate change. And then some people are saying, look, this threatens our whole civilization.
Robert Bryce 30:26
And mitigation, it’s a mitigation only argument, right? There’s only we’re only gonna focus on mitigation because, but that that smacks to me in some ways of, well, there’s there’s overtones of anti capitalism, there’s overtones of just, you know, hating
Unknown Speaker 30:40
what I would say, go ahead. So what I would say to that, though, I mean, the strange thing is that it’s just a different kind of capitalism. Yeah, I mean, I can see from the sums involved, you know, that this is actually a mixture of private and public expenditure. And it’s a, it’s about half. Yeah, yeah. So what has actually happened is that the, the, if you like, the, you know, the global climate change movement that I’ve, you know, that was a part of, for about about 30 years, has gotten so focused on big oil, as, you know, as the villain. And as lost sight of the fact that Well, actually, big oil has had 30 years to diversify their portfolio, and to see this coming, and to, to invest in renewables as well. So five out of the oil majors are currently investing in, in renewables. So ExxonMobil, for example, has this very, very just ingenious ad, that’s that you can find on on YouTube, saying that, that gas and renewables go together, like peanut butter and jelly, and, you know, they show somebody spreading peanut butter on one slice of bread and jelly on the other, you know, each one is great, and put them together. Now, what Exxon Mobil is actually doing here is securing its position in the market. Because ExxonMobil knows that if we have big investment in wind and solar, they need some kind of backup for the, you know, for when the wind goes down, or when something goes go.
Robert Bryce 32:11
batteries and batteries are not going to be able to compete with
Unknown Speaker 32:14
gas. Yeah. Can I? Maybe I because I think Robert asked a very important question by wide comment and also want to pick up on on the one or two things. Just because I know the word alarm, climate change alarm is can be triggering. For some people, there’s so the thing is I so I think I know what you’re trying to say. But it’s like you asked why did the why the focus on mitigation as opposed to adaptation? And I think actually, Roger, Roger Pelkey, Jr. wrote a very, very compelling paper, there’s quite short, and you can get versions of it back in 2005. I think it’s mystifying and climate change. And if people aren’t into two papers, he also wrote a book the climate fix, I think 2010 11 in which he goes into it in more detail. And he pointed out that in 1992, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was defined climate change as being any change in climate that can be specifically related to the human modification of the atmosphere, which incorporated a mainly co2 but also aerosols and other greenhouse gases. And the UN IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is supposed to be a sister organization, they use what I would consider a reasonable definition of climate change. Climate change is any change of the climate. You know, this is it. So the the various capa agreements, the CLP agreements, the UN Conference of the Parties, so quite famously, the Paris Agreement was signed up at the 2015. A cup agreement, all of the all of those meetings which are between policymakers, their governmental teams, their official framework for climate change, they are relying on the inter government or the UN FCC definition, the Framework Convention on Climate Change. So if you as Pelkey Jr, points out, if you define climate change as being only in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, well then if you want to reduce the harm of climate change. The only thing is, well, all we can do is to reduce it. And he said, Look, if you use, say the IPCC is definition of if the government at the policy at this conference of policies and they were using the regular definition of it, well, then let’s say, okay, so there’s a mixture of natural and anthropogenic factors anthropogenic just meaning human cause, Mitra, you know, let’s do it. And then, with that shift, suddenly it says, Well, if the climate is changing Anyway, you know that there is natural climate change, or we have weather extremes Anyway, you like, we’re not going to stop hurricanes hurricanes have been around since long before the Industrial Revolution. And so actually, when you look at it, the main problems with hurricanes, if you want to do it, is when they are hitting societies that are not adapted, they don’t have the infrastructure, and to deal with it, or the responses to deal with them, or to stand by support to do deal with it. So you can see like, say, when Hurricane hits parts of the Gulf of Mexico, and the even a regular like, like without getting up to the category fives, but if you just get a category one or two, if it hits a society that is not, you know, a developing nation, and the effects on it are on the society, the people that are living there are empirically much worse than in one day, the same old gets a Florida, our Georgia, you know, are like somewhere along the
Robert Bryce 36:56
show, but if I can interrupt the edit that it would hit my head, I’m not gonna say triggered, but what jogged my thought in my head when you’re when you said that was that the adaptation that’s necessary? Whether it’s hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, you know, extreme weather events of any kind that sea levels are sea level, that the proper response now is, we’re going to have to adapt whether or not we think it’s human caused, or no, yeah, that it almost the human caused part of it as you you went into an explanation about the difference between the UN FCC and the IPCC. Yeah, that that ultimately, when it comes to us, as humans, the reason it’s happening doesn’t really matter. It’s whether we’re prepared for it or not. Is that
Unknown Speaker 37:46
even? Can I even sort of broaden the scope a bit more? Because, you know, we need to be adopted to weather extremes already. Yeah. Because weather extremes happen already.
Robert Bryce 37:59
Regardless of why they’re happening. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 38:02
You know, look, I mean, there were there were two, two named storms hit Dublin, in the course of the last year, you know, hurricanes, I’ve forgotten which names they were, but I slept through the my head, a little bit of rain on the on the windows. That’s all that’s all I heard, because I’m living in a, you know, in an apartment building made of Ferro concrete. And so it doesn’t bother me. And, you know, whether the weather change whether the climate changes or whether those, you know, events become more frequent or not, it doesn’t matter to me, if they happen twice a year, or 10 times a year. It doesn’t, it doesn’t,
Unknown Speaker 38:38
it doesn’t make mistakes, if you are adapted, if God society has the adequate infrastructure, exactly dealing with it,
Unknown Speaker 38:46
it doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t bother me, because I’m living in a society that has the infrastructure, it has robust housing, it has well insulated housing, it has good road networks, telecommunications networks, emergency services
Unknown Speaker 38:59
for for the weather, extreme stats, that that are the one in 100 year things for our particular region and
Unknown Speaker 39:11
stuff. But I mean, it’s adapted for the climate we have Yes, yes, I live in, you know, I live in an apartment building that is adapted to the damp, not extremely cold weather in Ireland, it doesn’t get extremely cold here and rarely, yeah, no, it really gets to the point where I’m freed of my life. When I go outside, let’s say yeah, which I would be if I were in the north of Sweden in winter, you know, sure. You really need to, it’s dangerous to go outside in the cold winter in the north. It’s not dangerous to go outside in winter in Ireland, but it’s damp. So the building needs to be waterproof. And so other countries then need to be well insulated against heat waves and the air condition. And that’s in that context, it can make very good sense to have solar panels on your roof. Because when the sun shines, most likely can power it can provide extra energy to generate your air conditioning. So, so each each society depending on where you are in the in, in the worlds north or far north and how far south you are, in particular, you need to have the appropriate kind of housing and the appropriate kind of services, you might need, you know, flood relief or you meet might need drought relief, you have to be adapted to the kind of the temperature, the regular temperature pattern, you have the regular rainfall pattern, the regular wind, and also then to the kind of extremes that can come along whether that be storms, floods, heat waves, right. But, but so what we’re saying is that once you have the appropriate housing in particular near the infrastructure and emergency services, not applies? No, it’s a value immediately, no. And it’s a value going forward, even into more frequent climate extremes.
Robert Bryce 41:04
But but to go back to that original question, or what I first posed to us, but but this idea of spending on adaptation isn’t sexy. It’s not there. I mean, it’s not, you know, in it’s critical, but as you pointed out in the paper, that’s accounting for only 5% of about 3.7 trillion. So why why has the investment been so skewed toward wind and solar? Do you think
Unknown Speaker 41:27
what I said, Okay, well, we’re specific by wind and solar, the idea that I have to modify, because there’s many factors involved there. What specifically, I think Pelkey, Jr, Professor pelikin, Jr. in that paper mystifying climate change. And also in his book, he showed, look, that’s a specific thing. If the all of the negotiations on climate change, are using the UN FCC definition for what climate change is, well, then that creates, it creates a paradigm in which all of the policies are done. So the
Robert Bryce 42:11
tunnel, a tunnel, a tunnel vision toward mitigations, with only specific with only those specific remedies as appropriate for mitigate. Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 42:19
Can I can I point out something here that’s very striking. And puzzling. Yeah. Is that the IPCC? You know, it’s supposed to be looking at climate change. Right. And, you know, it’s it’s, it has recommendations or suggestions, you know, regarding reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it has excluded nuclear.
Unknown Speaker 42:42
Yeah, yeah. I Oh, they so the that’s what part of the thing I was saying when you said as soon as you mentioned the wind and solar, and I probably should mention that I did a myself and Michael and Willie, and also, my mother melda, who’s also scientists, we collected, we did a 2018, we teamed up with one of the founding members of Greenpeace, Dr. Patrick Moore, and we did a report, which you can again find on Rowan County science comm You can find links to it. But we looked specifically at Greenpeace. And actually, let’s see, just just so you can see. Maybe it’s a slightly cheeky title,
Robert Bryce 43:33
analysis of green pieces business model and philosophy. Oh, yeah.
Unknown Speaker 43:37
Yeah. And then here, we have Greenpeace
Robert Bryce 43:40
once a piece of your green.
Unknown Speaker 43:43
So in in that report, which was we noticed that actually, Greenpeace, we were looking at Greenpeace, because well, like because we were working with Patrick bar. And also Greenpeace had provided all of their financial reports for a long period. And so we were able to actually systematically look at what their expenditure was going on. And also, we had found a lot of research material from as former strategy advisors for Greenpeace, and one of the things that they say, and and we find that it is applicable to a lot of environmental NGOs. And so you have to be careful in how I’m phrasing this, you know, but this is you can have a look at the report. And to do it, there was a case study of Greenpeace, but they’re, they, environmental NGOs, like Greenpeace, and particular Greenpeace have found that they have, effectively a business model. They’re not for profit, but they still are raising funds and then expanding it. So Greenpeace have an annual revenue of I think it’s 400 million a year. So they’re getting that largely from donations and from sponsorship. So in order to get these donations, what they do is they have campaigns, and they, they go, and they, they say, here’s what we’re campaigning about this is our things are important. And one of the things that they realized is that they need Actually, I’ll just read this, if you know, from the executive summary how we summarized it here. So their business model can basically be summarized as follows one invent an environmental problem, which sounds somewhat plausible, provide anecdotal evidence to support your claims, with emotionally powerful imagery to invent a simple solution for the problem, which sounds somewhat plausible and emotionally appealing, but is physically unlikely to ever be implemented. That’s a key bit, they have found, when they do campaigns, it takes them typically two or three or four years for the campaign to start gaining a lot of traction, if they are campaign is a simple solution. At that, actually, people can do that and say, oh, okay, we fixed that. And everyone just fills it up, then their campaign is over, they have to come up with a deal. And so they don’t that campaign didn’t wasn’t as lucrative so that they have a tree, pick an enemy and blame them for obstructing the implementation of the solution and imply that anybody who disagrees with you, is probably working for this enemy. And by the way, one of my colleagues, Dr. really soon had personal experience of this, because he was producing writing lots of papers. So one of the former Greenpeace advisors, Kurt Davies went and specifically came up with a smear campaign. And as implied that Willie was making loads of money from the fossil fuel industry, which all innuendo which taking little bits of information that were half truths and and presenting it in a particular narrative. And, you know, there you go, and then for dismiss any alternative solutions to your problem was completely inadequate. Now, the reason that I’m saying this is I, you can have a look at this report if you’re if you want to do it. But like Greenpeace as one example, they are continually talking about, and they we give this as one section in the report, continually talking about transitioning to 100% renewables. Sure. And they say, and I just give you some quotes from this. It’s like, because it’s always, they always say, coal, like wind, solar and geothermal. Right. And they, they imply that they have loads of orders. Sure.
Robert Bryce 48:22
But let me interrupt you there. Because I think that I want to just get to the, you know, back to the specifics of your paper. And just just as a quick reminder, my guests, Colleen Oh, hotshoe and Ronan Connolly they’re the lead authors of a new paper energy and climate policy, and evaluation of global climate change expenditure 2011 to 2018, which is available on Ronan, Connelly science.com Yeah. But you talk about in one of the things that I’ve focused a fair amount of attention on in my most recent book, and I mentioned in my new documentary juice is the land use issue. And so I’ll ask that now I get myself out of the way here. Why does power density matter your paper talks about power density, and compares hydrocarbon production nuclear, etc. And, and solar and wind and ranks them based on power density? Why do we care about power density?
Unknown Speaker 49:16
Well, power density, it’s a measure of the race that you can produce energy for a given land surface area. And so it’s it’s really a, a measure of the land area that is required for whether it’s oil, gas, coal, wind and solar, biomass, nuclear, whatever it is. And basically, the the big issue with it is that solar and wind require about 100 times more land area to produce the same amount of energy over any given time. And biomass is the worst biomass, biomass biofuels, solar, solar is the author of those three among solar, wind and biomass. Solar is the most part and part side most power dense of those three. Wind requires a bit more area and biomass more area again, so we’re talking about 100 times, but 1000 times the land area pass are currently required for fossil fuel powered army of their army. Well, nuclear, nuclear, nuclear requires less Yeah, yeah, necessary again.
Robert Bryce 50:39
Although, well, if I can interject my calculations, and I can cite broadsoft Miller, Jesse also Bell or David Keith and, and Lee Miller at Harvard, bio mass is about a 10th of a watt per square meter wind is about one watt per square meter solar is about 10 watts per square meter. Whereas some of the nuclear power plants particularly the one that I talked about in the film, and in the book, Indian Point, 2000 watts per square meter, I mean, the power density numbers are just are. So let me ask that about power density and why it matters, particularly Now, I know you’re in Ireland, but what what are the conflicts in Ireland over these kinds of citing issues? What are you seeing there? And more broadly, or can you talk about that a little bit in Europe, and I know this is outside the bounds of what’s in your paper, but looking at it from I’m in Texas, but looking at what’s going on in in Europe, and in Ireland, there’s been quite a lot of controversy over the siting of renewables as they’re not.
Unknown Speaker 51:35
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well,
Unknown Speaker 51:37
you know, Can Can, can, can, can need land for different purposes, you know, for cities, for agriculture, for biodiversity, for ecosystem services, such as tourism. Yeah. It’s theory. Yeah. So in Ireland, in particular, you know, the strongest winds are around the coast. And in general, within Europe, you know, the best wind conditions for generating wind energy are around the north and northwest of Europe. So, you know, we could put wind farms all around the West Coast, the northwest coast of Ireland, but that then has an impact on on the scenery, you know, people go to the west, because it’s wild. They want to look out across the ocean.
Unknown Speaker 52:24
Yeah, but the other thing is, that actually, India, we have already done that. And so what’s bizarre is in order to because the, the Irish government and the Irish and, and all the people that are lobbying for wind farms in Ireland, they keep on saying we need to increase it. And, and Ireland is part of the EU. So the EU has has come up with these self imposed greenhouse gas reduction targets. And so the government has a successive governments have believed that increasing the percentage of wind on the grid is a powerful way for doing this. But they actually, if you look at all the sites that were first pulled up there, all along the west coast, and they used up all of the best sites in the early 2000s. And they’ve now started during the last 10 510 years, they’ve started pulling them in the Midlands, which is the communist part of the country, relatively speaking, you know, and what they did this is not in the paper. But you know, we were working on another follow on papers, specifically looking at the Irish energy, electricity supply, which that’s a work in progress. So, but like we what what they’re finding is they’re pulling all of these up, but it’s what’s what’s striking is that most of the people that are promoting wind farms, I have noticed, are doing so the wind farms that we put up in rural locations, because that you need it to be in a rural location. But the people that are really pushing it the most tend to be in urban areas. And they’re like, Oh, we should be building more of these. And so it doesn’t make sense to have it in Dublin City. So let’s pull it down in in awfully in westmead. Put them all over the place here, put them down and it makes sense on a piece of paper. And so they’re meeting these regulations, or a lot of the policies at the moment in terms of climate mitigation are all about getting these particular numbers for meeting certain targets. That’s the thing. not actually about what people should be concerned about the D energy policies, what are we doing about trying to protect the people and all that aside, that was actually something you mentioned about the left wing left, a lot of the left has started to rely embrace these now I consider myself left wing. So yeah, yeah, um, but it is striking for me, the left wing has always been about protecting the interests of the working class, marginalized communities trying to, to build, you know, to look after this. And ironically, what we pointed out in there is a big section in the paper on the socio economic implications of these policies. Ironically, most of the policies that are being pushed, are preferentially they are, tend to be biased against the, the, the lower working the working classes, the the poor in society, the marginalized communities, also the rural communities, and there’s a lot of things like you have, it’s, it’s wonderful, like, I live in the city center here, and you do as well. So, you know, they, it’s great to have a public transport system, you know, and you can say, Oh, it’s great, let’s have a better public transport system. But that’s great for all of the people living in the city. But if you’re living 60 miles from the city, you can’t get get out the tribe to do this. So you know, you need to use these older things. But again, as I was saying, the wind farms and solar farms are all being prioritized for a pump them down in the rural communities, nobody’s living there will you know, so let’s let’s do it here. The
Robert Bryce 57:01
same dynamic that’s that’s playing out here in the United States. And even in New York state where the state has very aggressive renewable energy targets. The backlash in rural New York has been so extreme that the state has effectively told rural communities, we’re not going to honor your zoning requirements. We’re going to we’re going to Bigfoot you. I mean, that and that is now happening in the state of New York over the objections of small towns is quite remarkable. But it is part of the, as you say, run in this this urban rural divide, which I think is not, it’s clear here in the United States, you know, conservatives in the rural areas, the liberals dominate in the cities. But But let me move back toward toward the paper again, because I think that, you know, there’s another part of this that I want to want to talk about before, we have to sign off because we’ve been talking about this for almost an hour now. But the you talk about the issue of mineral use, and this is something that’s getting more attention, the IAEA released a report in May, on that issue, the International Energy Agency pointing out the strategic minerals, lithium cobalt, you talk about the issue of mineral activity. I’m sorry that the technologies you’re quoting here most vulnerable to mineral scarcity, are solar PV technologies, and then you say tillery, M, indium, silver and manganese. So are concentrated solar, which is not not very big, but But anyway, that that these these things that tillery them, indium, silver, manganese. And then of course, for storage, lithium and cobalt. Yeah. There’s a growing awareness that some of these aggressive targets for renewables and for storage are going to require massive amounts of mining. And yeah, so talk about that for a minute. How important are the mineral inputs in any kind of idea of major energy transition?
Unknown Speaker 58:55
Unknown Speaker 58:56
I’ll start off, I guess, and yeah, good morning. So the issue is similar to the landings land use issue. In fact, the the numbers are much bigger. So with regard to the mineral requirements for energy production, from the from the renewables, and I mean, across the day that the so called Green Energy Systems, these require approximately 10 times as much, you know, stuff to be brought up over the earth to be refined to produce these energy systems relative to the fossil fuels. So just to simplify, renewables require 10 times more quantities of minerals than the fossil fuel industry to generate the same amount of energy.
Unknown Speaker 59:49
When you’re saying renewables. You’re mainly talking of wind and solar and also the electric vehicles as well. Yeah.
Robert Bryce 59:58
And this was a point that was made, I think, by Richard Harrington from the London Museum of Natural History as well, last year, in a very interesting very short letter to the British government saying, you want to do all these electric vehicles in Britain, you’re going to require essentially glow the commandeering the entire global supply of copper, the global supply, supply of cobalt, and so on, which I thought was really quite an important and important point that was made in the midst of this. Oh, well, we’re just going to switch to something else. Well, it’s just not going to be that easy.
Unknown Speaker 1:00:30
Yeah, I like in the in the paper, we talked about the different forms of scarcity. And there’s a lot of ironies and all the things like a lot of the shift to renewables was inspired by this. I don’t know if your viewers are familiar with the this so called Neo Malthusian argument. So this is the overpopulation the resource depletion. So
Robert Bryce 1:00:56
intubate that’s been going on for 200 years, right? Yeah, yeah.
That the Malthusians keep losing. So far, so far, only 200 years.
Unknown Speaker 1:01:08
So this is kind of the thing is that on the the principles, the assumptions of the of what Thomas Malthus was made in was 1798. I think there was, in his prediction, they he was predicting this isn’t sustainable, the population growth is too rapid. And we’re going to have mass starvation and all of these chaos and everything. And the population back down was what a billion or one and a half billion, I can’t remember what your ticket is about a billion. Yeah. And, well, we got up to nearly seven and a half, we were over seven and a half, we’re nearly at 8 billion. And again, in the 1970s, you had people like Paul Ehrlich, and the Club of Rome, and a lot of these groups started, Paul Ehrlich, they started looking and saying, basically read rediscovering this concept and saying, oh, the it’s going to keep, we can’t keep going up using analogies of like, say, a petri dish. You know, like, it’s interesting, a number of people have pointed out a lot of Neo Malthusians are coming from a biological background. And they’re used to looking at biological systems and saying, you know, oh, they you get these boom and busts. And they’re like, so they are extrapolating from that, assuming humans are like a bacteria in a petri dish. And, you know, I, you’re probably familiar with, say, Julian Simon had his shirt. You know, I think he had his book. And he started in the 70s. Assuming This was correct, you know, that he was saying, and he said, Well, we should already be able to find evidence of this resource depletion in the economic data. And then he tried looking at everywhere he looked, it was the exact opposite. And he, I think one of his final books was something like the ultimate resource to and he said, the ultimate resource was humanity.
Robert Bryce 1:03:22
Right. So you know, human ingenuity.
Unknown Speaker 1:03:24
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And so like in terms of resource depletion, he says, We’re, basically we’re more than a bacteria in a petri dish. But the irony that that’s that seemed to have, we need to be renewable and sustainable. And so we’re now switching to all of these technologies, which are requiring huge amounts of resources relative to what’s there. And I will point I just wanted to point this thing we don’t mention in the paper, please, thing that I find troubling is wind, wind turbines. And a lot of these technologies are typically given a life an estimated lifespan of, say, 20 years, it’s usually around 20 years and 10 years, they none of these wind turbines. The after 20 years, 10 years, they come up with a new wind turbine, which has an estimated lifespan of 20 years. They’re always you know, they’re not based on when people say an estimated lifespan. The assumption is a lot of people would assume, oh, so they’ve tested these for 20 years. And they that’s how long it lasts. No, no. They run tests and they project forward. What they recommend and how long it lasts. They don’t wait 20 years and say, well, we we know what last 20 years, they’re continually moving this. So this is a big a big concern that in terms of the pie chart that we have of the technologies, I think a big one that is missing is or indeed, because research and development, if you have a technology that you’re continually, I really don’t have fundamental problems with people saying, let’s try and come up with solutions that we can do. The but the problem that we’re one of the problems that we’re addressing there is that before the solutions of do people who say, Now let’s use this and start doing it, let’s spend 2 trillion, installing these ones, where we haven’t ironed out all of the problems. Can
Unknown Speaker 1:05:47
I mentioned, can I come in there as well? There are a couple of things. You know, we’ve looked at the finance reports. And there were a couple of things that are strikingly missing. Roland has mentioned RMD. Nuclear is not considered. Yeah, because the IPCC has ruled that out as a rule as a route to decarbonisation. So it’s not it’s not considered in these reports,
Unknown Speaker 1:06:08
whether or not I think the IPCC does consider it. Okay. Yeah,
Robert Bryce 1:06:12
I think it’s I think it’s mentioned in passing. And I’ll just make one quick point cooling before I have you go forward. But it is interesting, because it’s something I’ve written about a lot. And I’m adamantly pro nuclear. But the fact is, whether it’s favored by IPCC or not, it’s simply not growing, it is not capturing any greater share of primary energy globally, natural gases is gaining primary energy share relative to coal, but and renewables are, are increasing, but as a share of overall primary energy at a very small percentage increases, but anyway, Coleen, I interrupted, please.
Unknown Speaker 1:06:48
Sure, well, but the other thing that is striking me missing is data about expenditure on storage.
Robert Bryce 1:06:54
Yeah, you know, on batteries
Unknown Speaker 1:06:57
on Well, there are various there are certain mature technologies, storage technologies, and they’re developing once the mature ones include pumped hydro, and uncertain kinds of batteries,
Robert Bryce 1:07:10
and pumped hydro might work in Ireland, but it’s not going to work in West Texas, Western New Mexico. I mean, there’s not enough
Unknown Speaker 1:07:16
water. I mean, if you’re going to if you’re going to go that druce Why not develop hydro itself as the energy generation technology? You know, you know, why we have it as much as
Unknown Speaker 1:07:29
hydro electricity is one of the forms of energy that has a very low co2 on greenhouse gas, co2, in particular, its emissions per kilowatt hour, equivalent to wind and solar.
Unknown Speaker 1:07:43
Can I can I just say a thing to come here? Because this harkens back to the question you asked earlier, why is so much of the focus on wind and solar? And I think what has happened is that the those technologies that have been proven to be able to produce huge amounts of energy 24, seven on demand, right? There are they’re basically failing, maybe for this fossil fuels. There’s nuclear, there’s hydro, and there’s a bit of geothermal,
Unknown Speaker 1:08:17
and you can use biomass, but then the pirate density issue, but you can, yeah, but I think
Unknown Speaker 1:08:23
what has happened is the environmental movement has, you know, has has identified the environmental impacts of all of these, and, you know, has brought them into a popular consciousness. And, you know, precisely because they’re mature technologies, they are the focus of critique. And so people are advocating for new technologies, which people are not so familiar with. And so they’re somehow to, you know, escaping, you know, this a familiarity breeds contempt. So, it’s like, Look, we know all the bad things, but but cool and Hydra nuclear. And so we will do this new thing that doesn’t have those I.
Unknown Speaker 1:09:07
Yeah, I think that is a fact.
Robert Bryce 1:09:09
It’s a taking advantage of the ignorance, I’d say preying on ignorance, but I think it’s also and I’ve written about this myself is that the public is is innumerate and scientifically illiterate. They don’t, they don’t understand numbers. They don’t do very simple math. I that’s the only kind of math I can do. But but also don’t understand the concepts like power density, but I’ll make a quick point here because you both identified yourself as as leftists are of the left, but you sound like you could be from, you know, here in the US from a conservative think tank or, you know, a conservative politician, which I mean, do you appreciate that any of that? irony of of being
Unknown Speaker 1:09:48
I’ll tell you, if you look at my website, Rahman Carly’s science calm. I’m working on a book breaching the political divide on climate change. Specifically So I spent the last the last year traveling around different people trying to point out, they, you know, we need to start getting dialogue between different groups. I, the way I look at it is like, like, okay, you could be left handed or right handed, which you, if you’re you don’t cut off your other hand, just because you only use the other, use both of them. So, you know, so they, if you have both hands use them, you might mostly use one, but you can do that. So like, the, there is a problem, like let’s talk about because your your politics in the US, which is quite topical at the moment, because you have this election, the we would in Europe, we would consider the democrats to be a conservative or right leaning center, right? Party,
Unknown Speaker 1:11:03
I would be a little bit a little bit less generous than that.
Unknown Speaker 1:11:09
Okay, so well, you know, if you look at what they’re what’s happening is there is a very worrying thing of development, that in the US, it’s been it’s particularly pronounced, but you seem to be exports, it gets to, to the rest of the world, where these echo chambers are developing, where people are not are refusing to listen to people outside of their own ideology. And so when they, if they hear somebody, that is, if they hear somebody, oh, I heard if they’re left wing, and I said, I heard you talk to a right wing person, then it’s like, well, then I can’t listen to you, or vice versa, you know, this kind of thing. And what I would say is that, actually, fundamentally, like I had some discussions with, so you have this green new deal that that that some some of your politicians came up with. And then we’ve had some left wing parties in Europe have said, Oh, this is a great idea, we can look at that. And so I had some discussions with soldiers. Well, thereafter, record discussions, but like, say, there is a, a pan European party dm 25, that are trying to use green New Deal concepts for rebranding their their things to promote socialist principles. But the thing is, the irony is that this was what I was pointing out to some of the people that were saying, we’ll use all of this, they said, Look, you’re, you’re using this stuff, this is my going against marginalized communities, this is increasing fuel poverty, energy poverty, your your, you’re the ones that are best able to deal with these high higher cost policies are the upper class and the upper middle class, not the working class. And then it’s like, if you’re concerned about international things, you know, issues such as global poverty are the rights of the indigenous peoples, as Colin would talk about, maybe I would also say, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the moment, but it is 65% of the, of the coal is coming from there. And so, all of that, you know, we use cobalt is in smartphones and all of this stuff, but I, you know, I, the electric car battery, I have when I first started looking at this, you know, this is years ago is like, Oh, yeah, I have a car battery, you take up the car battery, as your you know, you’re you’re stuck. It’s a small little thing. You know, and so people it is a natural thing. It’s a nice segue car battery, electric car battery, you take there something similar, the electric car battery is not replacing the little car battery, you have under the bundle. It’s replacing the petrol or the gas tank for your diesel tank. That’s what it’s replacing. And it’s like the there are a huge amount of cobalt lithium that is required for one, one electric car. And it’s like, this is a first world solution, you know, shoot two,
Robert Bryce 1:14:50
and that’s and that’s a that’s a good point. Because I think it What, what in what I heard, you know what my takeaway from what you just talked about running is just the tribalism. Right. And yeah, the refusal of the to the left and the right, regardless of what the names of the political parties are, but yeah, the refusal of the left and the right to kind of look towards some common solutions. But let me get back to the to the paper. And then I’m going to close out our conversation here in just a little bit. But I wanted to make sure that I mentioned this issue about carbon taxation, because this is an issue now that has been, well, I wrote about it 30 years ago, and thought, Oh, well, this is a good idea. And then the more I thought about it, I thought, well, this is really a bad idea. And and now I’m convinced that it you know, it’s implausible. Because just very briefly, we don’t have an international agreement to ban landmines, how we’re going to ever get an international agreement on carbon taxation. I have no idea. But you say in the you talk about carbon taxes, and you say that they tend to be regressive, I’m quoting here, and that carbon taxes have an underlying tendency towards greater income inequality. Why is that? So? Why Why? Why are carbon taxes have a tendency toward greater income,
Unknown Speaker 1:16:02
it’s basically the same thing that I was, we were just talking about, like, if you are, if you have a cheap form of energy, and you are penalized for that, because of its co2 emissions, then the net effect is, is that you’re penalizing this. So you’re bringing up the cost that that’s, that’s the corollary of it, if you’re using a carbon tax to penalize the, the the more affordable energies, yeah, are in the case of France, nuclear, you know, or things like this or like so, so that tends to increase the energy cost. There’s also look at all of the other things like the we also one of the other things is that there’s been a number of papers that have shown that it, it tends to, again, be biased. We have worse effect on rural communities. Again, you have the you have this wonderful transport through Paris, okay. In France is a perfect example because they had the chalet go Zhong are getting shown and movement, the yellow, yellow, it arose because Macron the French president said we need to increase carbon taxes, and so he pulled it, France has, has already does a I think Professor Remy Prue Dom has made a good point. He just says, look, we’re all ready. France is all ready with a goal of reducing co2 emissions because they switch to nuclear for energy independence, sure, and decades ago, so they have very low co2 emissions per kilowatt hour across all of Europe. So, but McCrone wanted to push it further. So he started pushing on transport. And so, again, if you’re living in Paris, and I was in Paris last year, that Metro there is brilliant, if you you’re in in the Paris itself, with if you are living in the south of France viols away from from public transport, you need a car you need to drive.
Robert Bryce 1:18:37
So it’s another example of this unequal, it’s an it there’s it can exacerbate inequality because of simple geography. Right. And yeah, yes, is one of the things obviously, you know, I live in Texas, a very large state. I mean, rural people don’t have electric cars, there’s no, there’s no transportation, they drive big pickup trucks, and you know, they are big engines. And that’s just the way they get around. So any kind of carbon tax on them would necessarily be regressive because they’re driving more. Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 1:19:04
I can I come to come back to your point that, you know, we sound like we’re talking from a conservative think tank. But what is striking about all of this is that is that if you like that, it seems like that the rice if you say, you know, the conservative view on energy policy, is that flanking the left to the left, the left?
Robert Bryce 1:19:23
that’s a that’s a really good point, because and I think it’s that what I keep coming back to is, well, what are the you know, so much of this policy is only viewed as well, it’s just policy. Well, no, ultimately, it’s about people. And it’s ultimately about humans. And I bet that conservative view as well, individual liberty and and Oh, you’re going to dilute Reagan to restrict or make energy more expensive. Well, that reduces human liberty and that’s not the right direction. I mean, is that is that where you’re going, Colleen? Well, I
Unknown Speaker 1:19:52
can I can I know. I just want
Unknown Speaker 1:19:55
to say this because whether it’s about liberty or not what what has happened in my position? Having followed, having been interested in climate change and being very conservative about it for more than 30 years, what has happened is that the, you know, concern about climate change has brought the left into alignment with what I would call a disruptive capitalism. You know, so people are so concerned about oil, they have become enrolled in the durables, in particularly, solar and wind. And it’s as if they can’t see, well actually, you know, the money, you know, capital moves these days, it moves in milliseconds. And so I think the left has lost lost sight of the fact that actually backing wind and solar in opposition to oil and gas is just backing up another kind of capitalism, and another very sensible one. And, you know, so it’s through this process of looking at the science, okay, you know, we’re left way, but we look at the science, and we look at what possible, what is possible. And we say, this is not practicable. And so, you know, as leftist, we’re supposed to be scientific, you know, we look at the science, and it doesn’t give us the answer we were expecting to see. And so we have to say, well, much as we would like it to be true, that wind and solar would, you know, would deal with climate change, and also deal with the other environmental aspects, biodiversity and employment and all of these things. When we look at it, it’s actually not going to work. And so and it’s, you know, and it risks causing energy, insecurity, blackouts, people who, you know, who don’t have energy when they need.
Unknown Speaker 1:21:44
And, and again, it’s regressive. And,
Unknown Speaker 1:21:47
and we’ve got to go back and say, Well, look, you know, bats over there get sort of unworkable fringe. And so we’ve got to come back here and say, actually, the old model, it’s tested, and it works, and it can provide enough energy for 8 billion people.
Unknown Speaker 1:22:01
Yeah. Can they build upon that a little bit? Because one of the things that I did what I was saying earlier about this echo chamber problem, I I’m quite concerned about the, for me, and part of what we’re doing is your science should be about stress testing your ideas, you know, you should be, you should be like, you know, the term devil’s advocate, you should be a, you have one hypothesis, we take this was working, can we do a competing hypothesis and see what happens. And if they both can explain the data will then say, well, don’t pick one over the other. Let’s try and move forward. It’s, and if one of them starts to not explain the data, you say, maybe we should be changing our mind. What’s happening within echo chambers, would they say this is that if certain ideas are considered politically correct, and certain concepts and any they have to be accepted? Completely? As
Robert Bryce 1:23:15
as part of the group identity? Right. Yeah. The tribal identity? Yeah. With with no questioning? Yeah. And then I think is what what makes this this this paper? So? So interesting, right, is that not only are you basically unaligned right, you have a doctor who’s working for the Department of Health in Ireland and, and an unaffiliated researcher who’s you know, both have a lot of credentials, but are self identified leftist saying, well, not so fast. So let me let me we can talk. I know you you all are very passionate about this, and it comes through talking with you and you both have more points, and we could hear a lot of points. But he asked you just a couple of other things. And again, my guests are Colleen Ohashi, and Ronan Connelly. They’re in Dublin. They’re the author.
Unknown Speaker 1:24:01
Just Just to correct for the Department of Public Health
Robert Bryce 1:24:04
Department public health Forgive me.
Unknown Speaker 1:24:06
Oh, because the Department of Health is the Minister of Health. I work for one of the eight. Public Health.
Robert Bryce 1:24:14
Good, good. Thank you. So Coleen Ohashi, who works with the Department of Public Health in Dublin. And Ronan Connelly, who is a researcher and affiliated with the Center for Energy Research and
Unknown Speaker 1:24:28
the research on Earth
Robert Bryce 1:24:29
Science Center for Environmental Research and Earth Sciences. They’re the authors of a new paper energy and climate policy and evaluation of global climate change expenditure 2011 2018, which you can find on Ronan, Connelly science.com. But just to kind of, again, we could talk for a long time, but if one of the things I like to ask my guests is, they’re usually involved in interesting things, and I always like to know what’s On the bookshelf, what are you reading these days? What are what is something that you’ve read recently that you you like and could could recommend to our listeners?
Unknown Speaker 1:25:10
Well, I’m, I’m beginning to read for one of my next paper or one of my next papers. So I’m beginning to look at the California redwoods. And I’m reading a book called salmon and acorns feed our people. So I’m trying to understand the interactions between the redwoods and other big trees of California, and the impacts of colonialism on them from let’s say, eating 50 onwards, and most of them are being cleared. And then the interactions with fire and with climate. So that’s
Robert Bryce 1:25:50
really the title was salmon and acorns, feed Rp. That’s a book.
Unknown Speaker 1:25:55
Yeah, somebody go and feed our people. And it’s to do with it’s to do with the current people in California. And yeah, and it, it talks about their way of managing the ecosystem because they used fire frequently, you know, they lift fires, typically in October, and then the rains would come by the end of October, but the fire is out. And they fakers fire for a number of reasons. They favor the fire to create prairies and to create routes for them to pass through. They used fire to, to disfavor. conifer pines on top David favor the oak, because acorns are one of their staple foods. Okay, interesting. And so I’m looking at this in relation to the fires in the in California and then the other states of the West, Northwest in recent years. And trying to understand the interactions between between the people and and the forests and fire and climate. I’m particularly interested in to what degree to what degree changes in forest management, you know, that the colonial process has taken forest managed management away from indigenous peoples, and to what degree has that contributed to potential changes in local and regional climate effects, rainfall and wind and so on? and to what degree has that change in forest management contributed to to the emergence of wildlands. You know, the indigenous peoples of California understood that by having controlled burns, that they reduced the risk of wildfires. And so,
Robert Bryce 1:27:52
if I can interrupt I’ll just since you mentioned acorns, a friend of mine, here in Austin, he’s actually a historian James McWilliams wrote a very interesting book a few years ago called the pecan. pecans were a big source of nutrition for Plains Indians, so might look that up if you’re interested in nuts and indigenous people. It’s quite an interesting book about the, the, the indigenous pecan in America. That’s one of the, I guess, as he calls it, our native nut.
Unknown Speaker 1:28:22
Well, you know, the paper mentions indigenous peoples. It’s something that I have been reading and informing myself about for the last four years. So I’ve been reading books such as in indigenous peoples History of the United States. By Roxanne Dunbar, Ortiz, Dunbar Ortiz, this book called all the real Indians died off, again written by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz in collaboration with Dina Julio Whitaker and Hawaii. News, New Zealand’s indigenous peoples in many parts of the world have, you know, captured my, my imagination and curiosity for the last few years?
Robert Bryce 1:29:09
Sure. And what about you, Ronan? what’s what’s,
Unknown Speaker 1:29:13
Robert Bryce 1:29:13
just you just can pick one or two. It doesn’t have to be no, you
Unknown Speaker 1:29:16
Unknown Speaker 1:29:20
I, I had a conversation with them recently asked him about a certain book. He said, it’s in my stock of
Unknown Speaker 1:29:27
what it is like, you know,
Unknown Speaker 1:29:31
at the moment, that’s hard.
Unknown Speaker 1:29:34
He said, it’s in my pile of books to read, you know, I was kind of a bit of bias. But a bit amazed. I thought, This guy has only one stack of books to read. No, it turns out
Unknown Speaker 1:29:47
Yeah, no, I Yes. He got another say I at the moment I’m, I mentioned that I’m working on the book. I bridging the political divide between To change, and I reckon if I, if I sell as many copies as the books that I have read, we’re doing this, it’s got to be a best seller. Just so yeah, this is it. It’s like a lot of So, like a lot of stuff. I’m very interested in the moment again, in this these concepts of like, what is what is what is science? What is what, what are what is the left and right, what will you know, on what is politics, you know, if you have the change of one of the things just to mention, because we were talking about it and this tribalism, what I find so striking in it, when I visited the US, it’s like, when I if I meet somebody that is a registered Democrat or a registered Republican, and it’s it’s like I, I get the feeling that when you become a registered Democrat, you’re given a checklist, a list of things, this is what you believe. And then if you flip it over and see every side, that’s what they said, if you’re a registered Republican, and everything is exactly inverted. And I think that that’s part of the problem. You know, and particularly when you have say, so many, like in the US, there’s so many of the mainstream media channels do have clear, to me, it’s that they have clear biases towards one particular party. I know what Wait,
Robert Bryce 1:31:39
they’re biased, really.
Unknown Speaker 1:31:44
You can even see even like a lot of the the big tech companies are sure, like, like there’s a certain Silicon Valley mentality, that I wouldn’t have a problem with it. The problem is, I think any particular echo chamber, this is a problem when you are in an echo chamber. When you are only surrounding yourself with people who agree with you this concept, you have an echo chamber, you say something, and that’s all you hear echoed back, because everybody can see the exact same way, wherever you are, you can be close to the truth. But once you ensconced yourself in an echo chamber, you’re gonna start deviating from the truth. And, you know, because you’re no longer correct critically, questioning each of your things. And in fact, if anybody objects to if anybody raises the question, then they’re kicked out of this chamber, for being inconvenient. You know, and I think that’s part of the problem. And I do think that that’s why like, say this, the the, what you’d say, this progressive movement, or the, you know, of the left, do you know that it part of the left wing, but I don’t think represents the full spread of the left wing, but this particular one is kind of all aligning with a particular narrative on particular issues. This is what you believe on. Climate change. This is what you believe on wind farms, you know, fossil fuels, all of this stuff. And when there’s a checklist of what you are supposed to believe, and when that becomes part of your identity, then, then that’s you’re no longer you’re none of your opinions than are actually informed opinions. They’re ones that you’ve learned from
Unknown Speaker 1:33:50
this is this is important, because this this comes up very strikingly, when I’m interacting with people on social media, that, you know, there’s a there’s a discussion about the wildfires in California, for example, and I’m questioning, you know, is this to do with global climate change? Or is it to do with forest management? And people begin to talk to me as if I was a member of the religious right, and say, you know, trust the science, and I said, Yeah, that’s right. Trust the science. How about you read the science, right, here’s, here’s, here’s a paper talking about land use and land cover change. Have you read this? Right?
Robert Bryce 1:34:33
And there’s a bit instead there’s a de facto acceptance of, Oh, well, there’s someone to blame, or there’s a policy to blame and it somehow ends up with Yeah, they go bug oil or something else, which goes back to Ronan’s point. So let me let me just tie this up if I don’t mind, if you don’t mind. Because we’ve talked for a while, you know, your your paper doesn’t fit into any neat silo. And I think what your you know, your takeaway as as Coleen, you said, that there, you know You’re underscoring the point, as you said, there’s no panacea. There’s no energy source that gets straight A’s, across the engineering, environmental and socio economic challenges and concerns that you’re identifying in the paper. So there’s, it’s easy to be and this is a question I asked all my guests, it’s easy to be cynical. It’s easy to look at the world and say, Oh, you know, the political divides of tribalism, the things we talked about, what gives you hope?
Unknown Speaker 1:35:29
Well, I, I like, for me, the science, you know, all of the research that we’re doing, it’s amazing how scientific, when you actually look at the science, and, you know, you follow things, you, you’re discovered that there is a lot of information that we can know, I think that there is a problem in bridging, that’s, that’s why I’m saying I am writing a book to try and help bridge the political divide of climate change. If that could be done. If you can get people that feel ideologically opposed to each other, to start to say, Hey, we’re living in the same world, we’re even living in the same country, and whatever policies are implemented will affect all of us. So let’s have a discussion about the AI. There’s a professor shantelle, moo Fei is she’s a Belgian professor here in, based in in London. And she talks about the concept of agonism, as opposed to antagonism. And she points out, she’s, again, she’s quite left wing. But what she would say is any political, equally important point, if you have a strong political opinion on something, then and you feel passionately about it, there’s going to be people that you disagree with on that opinion. Right. And you can try, one way of doing it is you can try and dilute your opinion, so much that everybody agrees with you. But then you’ve lost what it is that you felt passionately about. So if you weaken your your position, by conceding Oh, I this is what I believe. Well, okay, maybe all i believe is that cat videos on YouTube are huge. And it’s like, Okay, well, that that’s not really a major thing. So what she’s saying is, we should embrace the fact that people have different ideologies, or different political views, disagree with each other. It’s not a It’s not wrong to disagree. It’s not a bad thing to have people disagree. The problem is when we don’t respect our people, we disagree, which we don’t actually, and we refuse to listen to why they disagree. So if we can, I think if we can overcome these things, as I said, as we were talking earlier on the the green New Deal, is actually as it’s been predicted, is actually not a left wing socialist policy, even though the people that are promoting it believe it is, but if they actually were to read Marx, or to read at, you know, any of these things that to say, actually, it, is this helping the working class, is it helping the marginalized communities? So, if they’d say, Oh, actually, we’re not, it’s not the right thing. So I think if we can get people to disagree with each other, to do so, respectfully, and to listen to why does somebody disagree, rather than if you disagree with me, then you either I will refuse to listen to you, I will kick you out. You know, yeah.
Robert Bryce 1:39:08
So Colleen, how about you? What, what gives you hope?
Unknown Speaker 1:39:11
Well, what gives me hope is that some people are prepared to, to read the science, you know, some people start, you know, very much entrenched in this idea of climate change, as something that, you know, threatens our civilization and threatens to extinguish us all within perhaps a matter of decades. And I’ve held that view because they’ve just been given us
Unknown Speaker 1:39:38
but even even there with the that this paper here that says nothing about the solutions. Yeah, okay, sorry, I interrupted you.
Unknown Speaker 1:39:47
I’m not sure that connects but yeah, but my point is that, you know, we’re talking about some people have this idea, look, we need to transition to wind and solar and to eat vehicles. And and I said, Well, Not sure about that. I’m not sure whether it’s actually feasible. And, you know, we can get in quite a quite a debate and people because people are quite entrenched, but but at least some people are prepared to, to take the invitation. And I said, read this. And if you don’t read and stop arguing, you know, if you can’t read it, or if you won’t read us, then concedes that you don’t know. Some people.
Unknown Speaker 1:40:22
I used to prepare. Yeah, I just wanted to just point out the thing is, because if you read the paper, we the issue of climate change, we refer to it intermittently, you know, you know, because you’re
Robert Bryce 1:40:37
not aiming do you’re not aiming to make a political point about what what you think the admissions are going to be? Or should be, but rather, and I think, just to kuleana, I think when we talked about this before we started recording it, but was just that your hope isn’t some specific outcome, other than to have people read the paper, and to do their own their own independent thinking? And so is that in terms of what gives you hope is that that’s what you are going toward, Colleen was saying that, your your hope, your hope comes from this. Hope, we hope that people will be open minded.
Unknown Speaker 1:41:10
Yeah, we can see actually from, from what’s going on, let’s say with regards to COVID-19, there is information chaos going on out there, you know, there are the science flowing around within the scientific community there is, you know, there’s really controversy one way or the other. And then those people inventing stuff that is, you know, a mixture of science and misunderstood things. What gives me hope is that we’re seeing people engaged in this, you know, and we’re seeing people, look, we’re seeing various attempts to deal with this from, you know, from a certain movement that says, Look, this is dangerous stuff, and we just got to get rid of it, that would not be my approach. What I see that is hopeful is that people are actually learning to talk to each other and say, listen, that movie, you know, this pandemic thing, there’s the point in us here, about this patient on the vaccine, actually, you’ve misunderstood what it is, right? And people are, I think we’re developing a collective consciousness via social networks, to inform each other so that we can present something like that. And we can say luck, you know, it’s all it’s all some kind of weird conspiracy to manipulate or
Unknown Speaker 1:42:24
send you can go on the other side, where people would when there’s the the media narrative on on this is very specific. And, and suddenly, you know, masks which there is no epidemiological, you know, we don’t know whether they whether they actually are having any effect or not, there is no evidence one way or the other. We don’t know whether they are yet you have some people that sit there is a Gallup poll of a of the Democrats and Republicans in the US and something like it is 70% of Democrats use masks all the time and believe their work. And 70% of the republicans don’t believe you know, I’d say Don’t worry, and neither of them have any, you know, we don’t know, you know, what, let’s not get into that country.
Unknown Speaker 1:43:17
But what gives me hope is that people are engaging with this, people are presenting it and saying, look, here’s a stack of evidence to say that they work, or somebody else comes and says, here’s a stack of evidence to say that we don’t know that they were,
Unknown Speaker 1:43:31
Robert Bryce 1:43:33
if I if I can if I can just maybe put a bow on this, because we’ve talked now for quite some time. But I would I mean, what gives me hope is that, that here, I’m, you know, from halfway around the world, you know, encountered the two of you have put out a paper on your own that we could say, out of your own desire to try and further the conversation. And that That, to me is a an example of the kind of, of engagement and the kind of intellectual independence and rigor that is needed. And that that to me, is hopeful. So if you don’t mind, I’m gonna I’m going to tie it up here, gentlemen, because we’ve talked for some time, but many thanks, Colin Ohashi, Coleen Ohashi, and Ronan Connolly. Their new paper is energy and climate policy. It was published in the in the journal energies. You can find it at Ronan Connelly science.com Gentlemen, I know I could ask you Is there something we missed and I’m certain there is
Unknown Speaker 1:44:38
okay, I just wanted to make make a shout out to our other co authors on the paper, Jerry Quinn, and also my father Michael Connelly and also Willie soon that we’re also involved in this paper and and the one thing that I was just kind of say, for me on the paper and if people Our policy makers are saying we are our policies, our evidence base, if they believe if that’s an important thing to them that our policies are evidence based, what if they should be based on all of the available evidence? So if you are actually interested, if you’re a policy maker are trying to engage with policy makers, and you’re, you’re pushing for an evidence base, please read the paper, and so that you can get all of the different perspectives. Because when you realize that in the paper, there’s a lot more involved with all of them. As we say, there is no panacea. If you are. If you want to push off you need if policymakers need to start thinking about what their priorities are, and what they are prepared to compromise.
Robert Bryce 1:45:55
Sure. Well, that’s a good summary. Well, gentlemen, it’s been been my pleasure, Dr. Coleen Ohashi, and, and Dr. Ronan Connelly. Many thanks for your time. Thanks to all of you for listening. This has been another episode of the power hungry podcast, tell your friends tell your neighbors tell everyone you know they should listen in as well. We’re on all the major podcast outlets. And thanks again. Tune in next time for the next issue the next episode of the power hungry podcast. Thanks, y’all. Thank you.