A few weeks ago I was asked the questions below by Katrine Haugsdal with respect to a survey study titled “Futures of the Global Energy Game by year 2030”. The questions and answers may be of interest to readers.
Background of the Survey
This interview is part of a research project on plausible futures of the global energy game by 2030. The research explores how the energy game may develop in this time-horizon, which drivers will be shaping the rules of the game, and what the implications may be for the current and future stakeholder landscape.
1. In your mind, what historic key events have shaped the global energy game to date? What changes in climate do we see today as a consequence of these events?
The politicalization of the climate issue to the extent that only a narrow viewpoint is widely communicated has led to an overstatement of the risk of climate change due to the emissions from human produced sources of energy. We do see a consequence of these emissions (i.e. the changes in atmospheric concentrations of CO2), but the effect on other aspects of the climate system, such as weather patterns which cause drought, floods, hurricanes, etc has been seriously exaggerated relative to natural fluctuations in the climate system and from other human climate forcings such as land use change and aerosols.
This is discussed at http://climatesci.org/2008/03/31/roger-a-pielke-srs-perspective-on-the-role-of-humans-in-climate-change/ and in
Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2008: A Broader View of the Role of Humans in the Climate System is Required In the Assessment of Costs and Benefits of Effective Climate Policy. Written Testimony for the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Hearing “Climate Change: Costs of Inaction” – Honorable Rick Boucher, Chairman. June 26, 2008, Washington, DC., 52 pp. http://www.climatesci.org/publications/pdf/Testimony-written.pdf
2. Which organizations in the energy game (companies, regulators, financers, national governments, etc) set the tone that others play by, to date? Are there specific organizations with high/low focus on environment that should be noted in this context?
The IPCC and CCSP assessments, as well as the science statements completed by the AGU, AMS and NRC, are completed by a small subset of climate scientists who are often the same individuals. This oligarchy has prevented science of the climate system to be accurately communicated to policymakers (e.g. see, see and see).
3. Which entrants that have come into the energy game in the last decade have most changed the game, and how? Any entrants with a particular (or total lack of) environmental focus that should be noted in this context?
The IPCC reports have resulted in the inaccurate binding together of climate issues with energy issues when in reality they are quite distinct issues. This is, for example, discussed at http://climatesci.org/2008/04/21/roger-a-pielke-sr-perspective-on-adaptation-and-mitigation/.
4. What do you think are the most important external (macro) factors that will influence how the energy game may unfold up to 2030?
The question will be whether the inaccurate communication of climate science to the politicians and to policymakers will continue.
5. Is it likely that we will see changes in the overall (cost/technology/ market) structure in the energy game up to 2030 due to changes in the climate?
Climate has always varied on space and time scale due to natural climate forcings and feedback; e.g. see
Rial, J., R.A. Pielke Sr., M. Beniston, M. Claussen, J. Canadell, P. Cox, H. Held, N. de Noblet-Ducoudre, R. Prinn, J. Reynolds, and J.D. Salas, 2004: Nonlinearities, feedbacks and critical thresholds within the Earth’s climate system. Climatic Change, 65, 11-38. http://www.climatesci.org/publications/pdf/R-260.pdf
To assume that the addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is going to significantly change the actual risks we have always faced is naïve and misleading. A focus on reducing vulnerability is a much more effective approach; e. g. see Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2004: Discussion Forum: A broader perspective on climate change is needed. IGBP Newsletter, 59, 16-19. http://www.climatesci.org/publications/pdf/NR-139.pdf
6. Do you see any specific technologies that can come into play in this time horizon that can speed up, slow down or stop the climate change? Are there any breakthroughs on the horizon?
The term “climate change” itself is redundant. Climate is always changing. The human intervention into the nonlinear climate system has effects, but we do not have the knowledge to skillfully predict the consequences of such actions as geoengineering; e.g see http://climatesci.org/2008/08/19/comments-on-the-physics-today-article-will-desperate-climates-call-for-desperate-geoengineering-measures-by-barbara-goss-levi/ and http://climatesci.org/2009/04/13/limits-on-the-space-launch-market-related-to-stratospheric-ozone-depletion-by-ross-et-al-2009/.
7. Who among existing players – or potential new entrants/invaders – do you think will suffer most through 2030 because of changes in the global energy game, and when and why?
Any users of energy will suffer who are prevented from access due to limitations on the types of energy that are produced. For example, if coal could be used to generate electricity and only produce CO2 and H2O, this should be viewed as a major environmental win, not prohibited because CO2 is produced. To limit access to this fuel, when burned cleanly, will result in sectors of the economy and the population suffering.
8. Who among existing players – or potential new entrants/invaders – do you think will prevail most through 2030 because of changes in the global energy game, and when and why?
If the politics of climate science continue to dominate as they are now, the energy community who promotes wind, solar and other alternative energy sources will prevail, although at a significant cost to the economy.
9. What do you think are the most important long-term external risks that players in the global energy game have under-attended to?
The exclusion of energy sources, such as coal before there are adequate replacements, risks serious economic and social upheaval.
10. If you had a crystal ball, and you could ask a question to it about the global energy game to 2030, what would your question be?
What has the climate been over the past 21 years and how well have the IPCC climate models done in predicting regional climate patterns such as drought, hurricane seasons, etc as well as the magnitude (and if it occurred) of global warming. The last 5 years have had no global warming (e. g see Pielke Sr., R.A., 2008: A broader view of the role of humans in the climate system. Physics Today, 61, Vol. 11, 54-55. http://www.climatesci.org/publications/pdf/R-334.pdf and http://climatesci.org/2009/02/09/update-on-a-comparison-of-upper-ocean-heat-content-changes-with-the-giss-model-predictions/.
11. What experts worldwide would you like to ask about their opinions on the global energy game or climate issues towards 2030?
This is a very good question! My recommendation is that climate scientists who do NOT have a vested interest in the 2007 IPCC report and the USA CCSP reports, [including] those who are labeled as “skeptics”, be commissioned to write a report evaluating the science of those reports (a “red team” exercise). There is one USA NRC report already that did that in 2005
National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp
and an international group that did that in 2004
Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes, and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp.
Both reports were essentially ignored in the completion of the IPCC and CCSP reports.
We need more such balanced assessments.
12. Is there anything that we have not talked about and that you consider important for understanding the global energy game by 2030?
I want to emphasize that climate and energy are two distinct issues. There is overlap but they have many aspects that require different policy decisions. To conflate the two together is an inappropriate approach which is doomed to result in ineffective and costly policy decisions.