Green Energy crusaders are threatening India’s security - I
by Ramtanu Maitra on 08 Sep 2021 4 Comments

Today’s pandemic-devastated world is confronted with yet another threat. It is the threat of climate change brought about by the rising amount of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Despite statements by many “experts” that the threats are real, we do not know with any degree of certainty how big this problem will be in the future, or when we will encounter its direct impact. Yet plans are afoot to spend trillions of dollars, including uninstalling reliable carbon dioxide (CO2)-emitting power generation sources, to invest heavily in intermittent and unreliable green energy–based power generation sources in the immediate future.


This crusade is led by the Western nations though many backers from underdeveloped nations, including India, are also pushing. With nations from Europe and the United States in the forefront, developed countries of the world have laid out an ambitious schedule for slashing carbon emission that may - or may not - slow down the worldwide temperature rise. According to many climate science analysts, all countries in the world face an unprecedented empirical challenge: to reduce carbon emissions by 2030 and attain carbon neutrality by the year 2050 to avoid inflicting catastrophic harm to the planet, endangering all living species.


The crusaders are demanding that all nations, developed and underdeveloped, launch a program with immediate effect to eliminate established and reliably steady power generation sources such as coal, nuclear and natural gas and rapidly replace them with intermittent and unreliable renewable energy sources, namely solar and wind. Recently, at the two-day (April 22-23) Earth Day Leaders’ Virtual-Summit, those representing their respective countries pledged reduction of greenhouse gas emissions during this decade.


India - under pressure from the crusaders and its own deteriorated environment, and thus caught between a rock and a hard place - reiterated its commitment to move away from dependence on coal for power generation and promised a target of installing 450 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030. India also announced the launch of the US-India 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership to mobilize finance and speed up clean energy innovation and deployment during this decade.


This article discusses the implications of such a program for India and other countries, as well as the questionable basis for the campaign itself. Because there is an established correlation between a lack of steady electrical power, a faltering economy and the perpetuation of poverty, these measures will add up, undermining planned growth and potentially endangering every nation’s physical security. Moreover, the green energy policy is arbitrary: Despite what the mainstream media projects, while most climate scientists concur that the Earth is indeed heating up, they are not at all in agreement that the recommended measures to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions will put a stop to the rise of the Earth’s temperature.


The Green Crusade’s Pressure on India’s Energy Sector


India, a developing nation with the second-largest population in the world, has been identified as the third-largest global emitter of CO2 and put in the crosshairs of the green energy crusaders. (The top two are the United States, a fully developed nation, and China, which has developed a huge coal-powered manufacturing capability that has overwhelmed today’s worldwide trade. A bilateral deal between these two engineered by the Obama administration in 2014 resulted in the 2015 Paris Agreement mandating emissions reductions by each country.)


India is also the world’s third-largest energy consuming country. Its energy use has doubled since 2000, with 80 percent of demand presently met by burning coal, oil and solid biomass. On a per capita basis, however, India’s energy use and emissions are less than half the world average, data the green energy crusaders consider irrelevant. To exert pressure on India, US climate envoy John Kerry paid a three-day visit to Delhi in early April and met with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Kerry’s mission was to get India to commit to a date for net-zero emission of greenhouse gases. He failed, and the pressure on India has only increased. In late-June at the India Global Forum 2021 in New Delhi, green energy crusader Charles Mountbatten of Britain attempted to massage Indian egos, stating: “With India’s global reach and robust private sector, I believe there are some key ways we can work together to accelerate our efforts and build a more sustainable future. Firstly, we need to focus on accelerating the flow of private capital to support the transition.” (India’s solar power efforts an example to world: Prince Charles: PTI: Jun 30, 2021)


Yielding to the green energy pressure means implementation of unreliable power sources at a great cost to the future welfare of India’s population, with a likely telling effect on the economy and, by extension, on the physical security of 1.3 billion Indians. While the top-two CO2 emitters and other developed economies have also committed to install renewable energy at the expense of traditional sources of power generation, the adverse effects of that will not be felt by their citizens immediately, and policymakers will have time to change course.


For India, however, the negative impact will be immediate, particularly since the COVID-19 virus has continued to take a heavy toll on the Indian people and economy. According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center published in January, around 75 million more people in India fell into poverty last year because of the pandemic-induced economic recession than would have been the case otherwise. In addition, a significant part of India’s population still suffers from lack of adequate supply of electricity. Hence, it is an undisputed responsibility of Indian authorities to provide the Indian people with a power system that is reliable and continuous - unlike what solar and wind power could provide.


Before COVID-19 hit, India’s energy demand was projected to increase by almost 50 percent between 2019 and 2030, but growth over this period is now closer to 25 percent if the pandemic continues longer, according to the International Energy Agency report, India’s Energy Outlook 2021. Meeting the high energy demand is the single critical necessity for expansion of India’s economy and reduction of poverty, greater urbanization, enhancement of education and health care facilities, broadening and modernizing of the agricultural and industrial sectors to create hundreds of millions of productive jobs during this decade.


According to the IEA report, India’s energy system is already on a trajectory to slow down coal-based power generation. The share of coal in the overall energy mix will steadily decline from 44 percent in 2019 to 34 percent in 2040, and more rapidly in other scenarios, according to IEA’s “balanced assessment of the direction India’s energy system is heading.” Over the last decade, India has provided some amount of electricity every year to nearly 50 million new domestic users.


The Role of Electrical Power


During most of the past centuries, national security was equated with military security. However, that focus has changed over time: In broad terms, a nation’s security becomes assured when it achieves social and political stability; maintains adequate law and order; develops a productive economy that provides momentum to innovation and job-creation; and achieves freedom from poverty, threat and conflict.


In all this, one factor stands out in endangering a nation’s security: the socio-economic inequality prevailing within the country. Socio-economic inequality results from misguided economic policies implemented from the top and from allowing unregulated takeover by the market forces. India has long recognized the chaos potential of socio-economic disparities, but failed to achieve any significant success in that area. In fact, in recent years the inequality gap within the population has widened for several reasons, including an unequal distribution of physical infrastructure throughout the country and all sectors of Indian economy.


There is little argument that remedying inequality requires the availability of education for all; health services for all; accessibility to transport to all; right to employment for all, to name a few. Economic security also involves not only protecting the capacity of the economy to provide for the people, but also on the degree to which the government and the people are free to control their economic and financial decisions.


Todays’ economy, dependent on technological innovations, cannot sustain itself without an ever-growing energy input into the system. Energy fuels the economy, which in turn provides for setting up necessary energy infrastructure - from resource and material extraction to the technologies producing electricity, as well as other energy carriers and end-use equipment to deliver the desired energy services. Steady and reliable supply of electricity is the key in this regard, and this kind of energy form is becoming the most required ingredient for developing a modern and stable economy.


Electricity enables all kinds of transactions, from information exchange to transportation. Its productivity in economic production and consumption, as well as its cleanliness at the point of use, is second to none. The factors contributing to income disparities within and between countries can be traced to many reasons that vary across countries and regions. But lack of access to modern energy carriers and services stands out as one of the leading contributing factors. (Modi, V., S. McDade, D. Lallementand, J. Saghir, 2005: Energy Services for the Millennium Development Goals, Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP, UNDP)


Since the lives and well-being of future generations depend on the generous infusion of a steady source of electricity today, it is altogether suicidal to embark on a policy embracing green energy as India’s future power source. Without doubt, it would grossly undermine the country’s security in the short, medium and long-term.


Climate Science Isn’t Rocket Science - It’s Much More Difficult”


As stated earlier, most scientists who work in this area agree that the Earth is warming up. They point out that the warming up process began centuries ago because of a steady buildup of greenhouse gases. However, within the same community of scientists there is no consensus on how much it is warming up, or how much it will warm up by 2050. That is because climate science is far too complex. In computer modelling, though based on physics, significant assumptions are made about Earth’s vast environment. Climate scientists have established that the Earth is now out of thermal equilibrium, meaning more energy from the sun is being trapped by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than is escaping back to space. At the same time, however, most climate scientists agree that the extent of the disequilibrium depends on the assumptions made about the Earth’s environment.


In a May interview with Asia Times’ Dr. Jonathan Tennenbaum, Dr. Steven Koonin discussed the complexity of modeling the Earth’s environment. Though not a climate scientist, Koonin is a physicist and professor at New York University who served as chief scientist in the US Department of Energy during the Barack Obama administration. Koonin explained: “The models are based on physics, but that’s not the whole story. And one of the other parts of the story has to do with sub-group scale parameterizations. In order to build one of these large computer models, you cut the ocean and the atmosphere up into rectangular boxes. And because the ocean is very big and the atmosphere is very big, you need a couple of hundred million boxes, both going up and down in the atmosphere and ocean and then covering the whole globe horizontally.


“Even when you get to 100 million boxes, it turns out that the size of each box in the atmosphere is about one hundred kilometers on a side. If you make it much smaller, you’ve got too much computer work. But you don’t get a description of any phenomena in the climate system that occur on a scale size much smaller than one hundred kilometers. That includes clouds, most importantly, but also the topography and so on.


“The models have to make assumptions about what happens at those smaller scales - winds, temperature, humidity. And, above all, how many clouds do you have? How opaque are they, how much heat do they absorb? ...Whether it’s the convection, or what clouds there are, and so on, you have lots of parameters in there. And you get to adjust those parameters sometimes, from what you thought they were to other values in order to make the model in equilibrium look the way you think it should.” (What climate change models can’t tell us: Jonathan Tennenbaum: Asia Times: May 17 2021)


In his talk with Tennenbaum, Dr. Koonin - who also served as provost of the California Institute of Technology (1995-2004) and was invited by the American Physical Society in 2013 to lead an update of its official position on climate change - pointed out the complexity in figuring out the energy balance of the Earth in equilibrium. He stated: “About 240 watts per square meter (of solar radiation) are absorbed by the planet. That is essentially optical radiation, sunlight; and that has to come back out as heat radiation filtered through the atmosphere. You have to get the outgoing power equal to the ingoing power to within less than half a watt. If you take them out of the balance by one watt, and you run the model for one hundred years, you discover the temperature will suddenly get a lot warmer or a lot colder than what has been observed. So, you’ve got to tune the model in order to get the energy balance just right.”


What Dr. Koonin and many other scientists are pointing to is this: How could we be so certain about the contribution of CO2 (by extension, human behavior) to the global warming? The question arises because of what we know of the Earth’s CO2 history. According to the United Nation’s International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) 2019 Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, as of 2017, human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above preindustrial levels (that is prior to 1750 levels). At 400 ppm, CO2 is today just 10 percent of its level 450,000,000 years ago at the peak of the Ice Age when CO2 reached 4,000 ppm. What that tells us is that both warm and cold climates can develop when there is far more CO2 in the atmosphere than today. How can we then be so certain that CO2 is determining the climate now? (The “hockey stick” curve obscures Earth’s CO2 history: Ronald Stein: CFACT: April 15th, 2021)


And, if we do in fact successfully achieve worldwide net-zero emissions, what does climate science tell us about when the world will start cooling down? The plain answer to that is: not now, but maybe centuries later. Some climate scientists also note that keeping concentrations constant would require some continued emissions to offset the CO2 absorbed by the land and oceans. While trillions of dollars are ready to be poured in to make millions of wind turbines and millions of square miles of solar panels, endangering the environment and the land mass, another issue seldom discussed openly is that even in a world of zero CO2 emissions, there are large uncertainties associated with what happens to non-CO2 greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, emissions of sulphate aerosols that cool the planet, and longer-term feedback processes and natural variability in the climate system.


Also noted by some climate scientists is that the temperatures are expected to remain steady rather than dropping for a few centuries after emissions reach zero, meaning that climate change that has already occurred will be difficult to reverse in the absence of large-scale net negative emissions. (Explainer: Will global warming ‘stop’ as soon as net-zero emissions are reached? Zeke Hausfather: CarbonBrief: April 29, 2021)


(To be concluded …)

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