India’s coal conundrum: which comes first, the climate or the poor?

With the US and China now having agreed to limit their emissions – and China committing to peak CO2 releases by 2030 – the biggest unanswered question now in climate change is this: what will India do? India’s leadership responded warily to the China-US deal, and the reason is not hard to fathom. India has immense quantities of coal, and intends to burn much of it over coming decades to accelerate its development.

A quick look at the stats highlights this dilemma. India is immensely energy-poor – it has 300 million of its citizens without access to modern energy supplies, dependent on fuelwood they can gather, often burning dung and charcoal in their houses at a cost of many thousands of premature deaths per year due to indoor air pollution. India also has the world’s fifth-largest coal reserves, and the Modi government is making plans to liberalise the state-dominated and highly inefficient (and corrupt) coal mining sector.

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Nuclear or coal? – The German Greens have chosen coal

Spiegel Online is reporting (translation here) that Germany is planning to back away from its 2020 climate target of 40% emissions reduction, because of a continued reliance on coal to run the German economy as a result of the nuclear phase-out known as the ‘Energiewende’.

In fairness, Spiegel has long been pretty sceptical on the Energiewende – but for good reason. It really is pretty much impossible for Germany to exit the two main sources of baseload electricity generation, coal and nuclear, at the same time. Faced with a choice, so-called ‘green’ Germany appears to be prepared to sacrifice its climate targets on the altar of its anti-nuclear ideology. I had expected a couple more years to pass before this became glaringly obvious to everyone except the most blinkered anti-nuke campaigners, but it seems to be happening earlier than I’d thought.

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EU scraps science advisor role – now are you happy, Greenpeace?

The European Commission has now confirmed officially what was last week leaked – that the Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) role is not being renewed by the incoming Juncker commission. The CSA website has already been taken down, and – as the James Wilsdon writes in the Guardian – it is not clear that the outgoing CSA Professor Anne Glover (who leaves in January) will even be allowed to attend scientific meetings she herself set up.

This is a dark day for science in Europe. Instead of having scientific advice at the heart of European policymaking, the Juncker Commission clearly wants to remove any person who might bring inconvenient scientific truths to the top EU table. Sadly, this is all too consistent with European moves to back away from evidence-based policymaking – if you can’t change the science you muzzle the scientists or keep them out of the room when powerful people are taking decisions.

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Matt Ridley responds

After I posted my piece ‘Matt Ridley’s latest attempt at climate change denial‘ Ridley wrote the following response, which I am happy to publish in full below:

As far as I know Mark Lynas is an honourable man. He changed his mind on the benefits of genetically modified crops, going against the views of nearly all environmental campaign groups and bravely putting up with much criticism for doing so. I know how he feels, because I have done the same – changing my mind about the dangers of climate change, going against the views of nearly all environmental campaign groups and putting up with much criticism for doing so.

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On Matt Ridley’s latest attempt at climate change denial

Note: Matt Ridley has responded – please see his reply piece here

Matt Ridley’s latest column in the Times illustrates a persistent theme for those who oppose action on climate change: that cuts in carbon emissions intended to reduce the dangers of global warming are somehow code for a war against the poor. Climate sceptics use this logic to claim the moral high ground in their own war against policies to cut back on fossil fuel burning. They defend the high-carbon consumption of the rich, in other words, purportedly to assist in the development prospects of the billion people in poorer countries who still don’t have access to electricity. If this sounds strange, it’s because it is.

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