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The Many Costs of COP 21

Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jun 21, 2016  at  at 11:52 AM
Climate Change
“The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things; of painted ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings.”

The pledges of GHG emissions reductions made by the developed country participants at COP 21 will impose a variety of costs on individuals and businesses in those countries. Premature replacement of existing coal-fired electric generating facilities will result in economic dead losses, both for the owners of the generation facilities and for the owners of the coal mines which have provided their fuel. The extent of these economic dead losses cannot be accurately determined until the specific generators to be abandoned and coal mines to be closed have been determined; and, that process is ongoing. The closure of these plants and mines will also result in job losses in both industries, as well as job losses in the transportation industries which moved the coal from the mines to the generators.

Closure of these existing facilities will require the construction of new facilities to replace their electricity output. New natural gas combined-cycle generators will be more efficient than the coal generators they replace; and, in the current market, will use less expensive fuel. In areas without available natural gas transmission and storage capacity, major investments will also be required to deliver and store the additional natural gas required to fuel the new generators.

New renewable generating facilities will be more expensive per megawatt hour generated than either the closed coal plants or the new natural gas plants; and, will require significant expansion of the electric transmission grid and the installation of massive quantities of grid storage, increasing electricity rates as has occurred in several countries in Europe, including England and Germany.

Taxpayers in the developed countries will also be required to provide the $100 billion per year pledged to the UN Clean Development Fund to support energy development and climate change mitigation and remediation in the developing countries. The developing countries, to the extent that they implement renewable generation, will find their development impeded by the higher costs of the renewable generation and the construction costs of the storage required to achieve acceptable reliability of service.

China, India and other developing nations have clearly expressed their unwillingness to impede their economic development in the interest of controlling the global climate. While these nations intend to increase their reliance on nuclear generation and renewables, they are also aggressively increasing their use of coal-fired generation. Once each of these countries reaches its peak CO2 emissions rate, at some undefined date in the future, their emissions will decline slowly over a period of approximately 40 years (expected plant life, absent life extension investments), assuming that old coal-fired plants being retired are not replaced by new coal plants. The COP 21 Agreement does not preclude such actions by these countries.

The COP 21 Agreement includes the intent to achieve net-zero global annual CO2 emissions by 2100. The global investments required to achieve this result are estimated to exceed $1 trillion per year. The Agreement also includes the desire to achieve net-zero emissions, at least among the developed nations, far sooner, with the hope of limiting global mean near-surface temperature increase to 1.5oC. The investments required to achieve that result would be far greater than $1 trillion per year, because of the shorter period over which the investments would be made and the state of development of the technologies required to achieve that result.

A recent analysis by University of Alabama Hunstville (Drs. John Christy and Roy Spenser) suggests that, at current warming rates, the global temperature anomaly would peak below 1.5oC regardless of the emissions reductions agreed to in the COP 21 Agreement. However, that analysis, like the continuing satellite temperature record, is likely to be ignored, since it does not fit the globalist narrative.