At a very basic level there is nothing funny about the climate alarm movement. After all, climate alarmists are people who have as a goal keeping the poorest of the world's poor -- the 2 billion or so people who lack even access to reliable electricity -- forcibly trapped in their state of crushing poverty. And then as another goal these people want the living standards of the next lowest tiers of world income earners, the low and lower middle classes, to be drastically reduced through multiplying costs of things like electricity and gasoline by factors of around three, or maybe five, or even ten. (This goal often goes by the deceptive euphemism of "cap and trade.") These goals are deeply immoral and troubling; they are no laughing matter.
But, I'm sorry to say, many times I still just can't help laughing at these people. I mean, their goals may not be funny, but they are. We're talking about a collection of preening, supercilious elitists, often with fancy university degrees and credentials, big houses, fancy cars, even private jets, pretending to be a morally superior form of human being because, based on fake science whose flaws they do not understand, they have convinced themselves that they are "saving the planet." And then, time after time, their arrogance and ignorance leads them into major blunders -- getting totally fleeced in international agreements, or making commitments to energy systems that can't possibly work for anything remotely approaching reasonable cost (in ways that are completely obvious if you can do basic arithmetic).
I got on to this topic a few days ago with this post that covered the Paris climate agreement signed last year by ex-President Barack Obama. (Have I mentioned anything yet about "preening, supercilious elitists with fancy university degrees and credentials"?) He and his people are such geniuses that they supposedly committed the United States to achieve a (completely impossible without crippling the economy) 25 - 28% cut in our "greenhouse gas" emissions within the next 8 years, while exacting from China the "promise" to maybe think about not growing their own emissions any more after 2030, unless they change their mind in the meantime. Talk about laughingstocks!
And then there is the joke that is California, where my wife and I have been spending the past week. This is the state that loves to lecture the rest of the country about climate virtue. Their Air Resources Board has put out the ultimate "Climate Plan" ("to reduce greenhouse gases and move forward toward a clean, green economy"). Supposedly their greenhouse gas emissions are going to plummet by the early 2020s. But get here and all you see are massive freeways everywhere. Back in New York we have a number of big six-lane expressways. Here, any freeway worth its salt has at least 10 lanes, and some have up to 16. And they are always jammed with big gas guzzlers. Sometimes there is one "high-occupancy" lane, which here is defined as two people and up in a car. We made a small game of seeing how many cars we could count with only a single occupant before seeing any with a second; sometimes it was several dozen. They have a subway that goes almost nowhere, and it's impossible to conceive how it could ever make more than a few percent of the city accessible, given the vast sprawl of the region. But don't worry, all of this is going to be transformed within about 8 years! Sure. And if they could actually accomplish the transformation, and assuming that the IPCC's worst-case warming models are right, they might be able to reduce future world warming by a completely unmeasurable 0.02 of a degree or so.
But is California more ridiculous than Germany? Germany has supposedly agreed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by an incredible 95% by 2050. Shall we check in on how that's going? They've now built enough solar and wind capacity that, if the darned things worked all the time, they would supply 100% of Germany's electricity needs. Unfortunately, they don't work most of the time. According to Environmental Progress in January, Germany's greenhouse gas emissions actually increased in 2016 -- and it was for the second year in a row! Here's how the effort to transition to solar and wind generation is going:
Not only did new solar and wind not make up for the lost nuclear, the percentage of time during 2016 that solar and wind produced electricity declined dramatically. Germany added a whopping 10 percent more wind turbine capacity and 2.5 percent more solar panel capacity between 2015 and 2016, but generated less than one percent more electricity from wind and generated one percent less electricity from solar. The reason is because Germany had significantly less sunshine and wind in 2016 than 2015.
That's right, with solar and wind, you can add more and more capacity and get no more (or even less) electricity. But can you at least get rid of some of the fossil fuel backup? The opposite! They shuttered some more nuclear capacity in 2016, and had to add new coal capacity to provide the steady backup that wind and solar cannot provide. Oh, and their cost to consumers per kWh is about triple the U.S. average. Keep it up guys!
And then there is South Australia. SA wants its electricity generation to be 100% renewable. What would that take? At the link, a couple of guys named Paul Miskelly and Tom Quirk do some detailed calculations. At present, South Australia has average electricity usage of around 1700 MW, and peak usage of around 2500 MW. It has 1575 MW of generation capacity in wind farms. Does that sound like they are close to getting all of their electricity from wind? Don't be ridiculous. The generation from wind regularly goes way below usage (when things are relatively calm) and frequently goes right down to around zero. Miskelly and Quirk calculate that to have enough wind generation to provide the total amount of electricity that they use in a year, they would need to increase the current capacity by a factor of 3.58 -- and then come up with sufficient battery capacity to store excess electricity in all cases until it is needed, without ever running out. Here is a chart of what SA's generation and usage would have looked like hour by hour in the first 3 months of 2016 with 3.58 times the generation capacity that they actually had.
Note that the amount of electricity being generated regularly swings wildly between three or so times usage at some points, and right around zero at other points.
So first they will need about 4000 MW of additional wind farm capacity -- close to triple what they have already, and bringing their "capacity" to about 4 times their average usage. And then there's the storage. M&Q calculate the maximum storage they would have needed during this period as around 270 GWh. Better to get 300 GWh to be safe. Now, how much would that cost? With some variations depending on whether you want (cheap) lead acid batteries or (superior) lithium ion batteries, M&Q calculate that it will run in the range of $60 to 90 billion. And by the way, South Australia has all of about 1.7 million people.
And that doesn't include the cost of the extra capacity, nor the cost of whatever new technology might be needed to make these wind turbines and batteries into a stable grid. I'd say that multiplying the cost of electricity by a factor of 10 will be at the way, way low end of the range that you might expect.
Really, it's hard to know which of these is the funniest.