Wednesday, June 12, 2024

To Follow or Not to Follow–a report from a climate bedlam – Watts Up With That?

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By Søren Hansen

The Kingdom of Denmark is supposed to be a frontrunner in the struggle against climate change. At least that is how our dear politicians see it, and they have the full support from the media and most major institutions in the country. There is a widespread belief that the fulfilment of the Danish climate goals is crucial to saving the global climate from Armageddon.

For a bystander this belief might seem slightly odd, considering that the CO2-emissions of Denmark amount to no more than one tenth of a percent of the global figure. So, physically speaking, it cannot make much of a difference what Denmark achieves or does not accomplish. But the thinking of course is that we are to be an example for the whole World. We are to demonstrate that ambitious climate targets indeed can be met and thereupon all other nations will stampede in the same direction.

The latest round of madness started in 2019 after elections to the Danish Parliament. All the political parties, except one or two extreme left-wing cults, had promised to work for a 40% reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030. This was in no way considered controversial. But then suddenly, right after the election, the parties indulged in a feeding frenzy and the result was that everyone now wanted a 70% reduction by 2030, that is, compared to emissions in 1990.

The new ambitions were signed into a law – the Climate Law – and a local government committee, the Climate Council was entrusted with the task of providing an initial evaluation of the climate targets and subsequently provide yearly follow-ups on the progress made.

The Climate Council issued a report in 2020, dealing with the prospects of fulfilling the climate goals. The report was actually a somewhat sober piece of work; it was pointed out that known technologies probably would only bring us to a reduction around 60%, whereas the final 10% would require new and yet untested methods. Examples of these were large-scale production of “green” hydrogen, Power to X and also Carbon Capture and Storage.

The key to everything is of course a massive expansion of solar and wind-based generation of electric power. Denmark by now has an average electricity consumption of around 4 GW, whereas we have 7 GW wind and roughly 3 GW solar installed. We are now faced with the well-known situation that on a good day we have far too much electricity, and on a bad day when sun and wind fail, we are dangerously short of power. Some supply is ensured by our remaining traditional power plants, most are running on wood in various forms, but we also continue to consume a fair amount of natural gas and coal. However, the main source of backup, whenever solar and wind deliver too little, is imports, primarily from Sweden and Norway, who are able to provide aid from their nuclear and hydro power plants. This is basically how Denmark gets away with the large proportion of solar and wind in the power supply; our neighbors can deliver most of our electricity when we are in a tight spot.

The question is, of course, whether this makes Denmark an example for others to follow? Few countries in the World have such good neighbors like Norway and Sweden, and without these, our power supply would surely be in shambles.

Denmark’s progress with the climate targets, 1990-2022, in million tons of CO2-equivalents per year.

Source: Danmarks Statistik

Denmark had according to the official statistics reached a reduction of 41% by 2022. This is a rather far cry from the 70% just 8 years hence, but also from an intermediate target for 2025 to the tune of 50-54%. What is worse, however, is that in spite of all our wind and solar generating capacity, two thirds of the reduction are actually achieved by the use of biomass. Biomass is in the European Union defined as “climate neutral”, regardless of the type or provenance. Denmark is mainly using wood, either as pellets or waste from forestry, which is incinerated in combined power and district heating plants. The amount of wood thus employed far exceeds what Denmark can produce domestically, hence there is a substantial import, amounting to some 3 million tons of (primarily) pellets annually. The pellets originate from e.g. North America and the Baltic States, where forests are cut down systematically to cater for the very profitable wooden fuel market. Even wood destined for construction or furniture is sometimes instead supplied to the insatiable power plants in Europe.

Besides the wood, Denmark also has a considerable production and consumption of biogas, mainly based on waste from agriculture, and produced with hefty government financial support. The biogas can replace natural gas technically but it is much more expensive than the latter.

There is considerable skepticism concerning Denmark’s consumption of biomass, especially wood. Even the Danish Climate Council is worried, pointing out that the global figure for biomass available for energy purposes per capita is around 10 GJ/year. Denmark is currently using 30 GJ. Does this make the country a frontrunner and example for others to follow?

The Climate Council has in the yearly follow-up reports expressed doubts regarding the prospects of fulfilling the climate targets. A large contributor to the remaining emissions is the agriculture. Denmark has a substantial production of food, most of which is exported. Animals play a big role in the production, and now the whole sector is firmly in the Council’s crosshairs.

The farmers of course use some fossil fuels for heating, machinery and transportation. But this is not a significant contribution to the yearly national emissions, and could to some extent technically be solved by electrifying the energy consumption. Far worse is the emission of methane from ruminants and nitrous oxide from fertilizer use. These are by far the largest contributions from the Danish agriculture. The Climate Council basically sees only one solution to the problem; we must force a number of farmers out of business and thereby reduce the output of crops, meat and dairy products.

Now, how much methane a cow actually releases, nobody knows – and frankly, nobody cares. The IPCC and EU have standard figures for the emissions, and these are used, simply by multiplying by the number of animals. The fact that the methane quickly is degraded in the atmosphere back to the CO2 wherefrom it originated, and the cattle thereby do not contribute to the global increase in methane levels, does not make a difference to the bureaucrats. The same goes for the nitrous oxide; standard values for the conversion from fertilizer use to emissions are employed, and the only way to reduce the emissions is by lowering the use of fertilizer and thereby the output of crops.

So, Denmark the frontrunner, is showing the rest of the World that we can reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions simply by lowering our production of food! And this in times, where the World does not have too much to feed its growing population. But the implications are truly staggering. We could achieve “net-zero” simply by reducing our production of everything to zero. Actually, this is not a joke, since the Climate Council expects the Danish industry to lower their emissions likewise by reducing the output. We are obviously seeing ingenuity of a high order here…

Now, we saw that Denmark seems to be trailing somewhat behind the climate targets, especially the 2025 one. But here the Climate Ministry (“Ministry of Truth”, rather) had another trick up its sleeve. Denmark has substantial areas of low-lying land, which left to themselves would be more or less inundated in water. Years back, many of these areas were drained and turned into very fertile crop land. Now, it is known that the soil in these areas tend to contain more carbon than normal, and when the land is tilled, some of this carbon turns into horrifying CO2 and escapes. Thus, the Danish farmers now are told to cease growing anything on these tracts of land, dismantle the drainage systems and let the fields return to their former marshy glory. Hereby, theoretically, the escape of carbon can be avoided, and we can save several million tons of CO2-emissions annually.

This has been a slow process until now, but then – lo and behold – some scientists suddenly discovered that actually the emissions from some of these areas are much smaller than previously assumed. Overnight, the Danish climate accounts were improved by around 2 million tons of CO2, corresponding to 5% of the total!

Of course, nobody knows how much emissions actually are involved here, but again, Denmark-the-frontrunner has found an ingenious way to meet the targets, even though it is a method nobody else can use.

It is now believed that, provided the farmers are hit hard enough, Denmark will fulfil the 2025-target. The 70% for 2030 are still somewhat doubtful in the eyes of the Climate Council. Hydrogen is only foreseen to play a minor role and Power to X will kick in later. Instead, there are ambitious plans for Carbon Capture and Sequestration. This is an activity, which generates absolutely no tangible income, costs a fortune in energy and money, and does not have the slightest influence on the atmospheric CO2 contents nor the climate.

But what we do here in Denmark has very little to do with the climate, and everything to do with the profiling of politicians and media talking heads. They want to appear “green” and “woke” and what not – regardless of the costs to the country and common people.

So, my message to the rest of the World must be: Do not regard Denmark as an example to be followed, on the contrary, turn your backs to our antics and embark on a road of common sense.

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