Maitland Green: Our weekly update—13 September 2017

13th September 2017

Pope Francis was the latest figurehead this week to call for increased action to combat climate change in the wake of the recent series of multiple hurricanes, floods, and tropical storms buffeting regions across the world. “If we don’t turn back, we will go down,” he said in a press conference aboard the papal plane. As scientists are still looking for evidence that climate change contributed specifically to the creation of massive hurricanes Harvey and Irma, they are certainly in agreement that it played a crucial role in the severity of the storms that devastated the southern coast of the United States.

As the Pope’s comments become more and more relevant by the day, businesses and governments across the world are striving to adapt to the impending reality of a low carbon future. Some of the most ambitious recent action comes ahead of Climate Week next week, one of largest green summits of governments, businesses, academic institutions and NGOs in the international calendar. European carmakers met at a recent auto show in Germany to discuss how to adjust their businesses around the mass electrification of vehicles amidst the news that the world’s largest carmaker, Volkswagen, announced they will have an electric version of all of their vehicles by 2030. Countries are preparing for a future dominated by electric transport too, with China being the latest G20 country to announce plans to ban the sales of gas and diesel vehicles in a bid to accelerate the move to electric vehicles.

In the UK, new analysis by PwC has found that the UK is decarbonising at a faster rate than other G20 countries, which is certainly backed up by this week’s news that local green energy projects around the UK are set to receive over £3m in government support this autumn while plans to build the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, Hornsea Two, mark the first time that the price of offshore wind has dipped below the price of new nuclear power.

In our commentary of the week, Emily Gosden of The Times takes a look at how the price of offshore wind managed to drop so dramatically in the past few years while economist Paul Krugman tries his hand at explaining why the modern right of American politics are so disbelieving of the reality of climate change.

Must reads




Analysis of the week

Power industry harnesses the wind of change—The Times, Emily Gosden

Emily Gosden takes a look at the surge in offshore wind development and the subsequent price reductions, with Renewable UK confidently forecasting that the prices will fall “significantly” below the price offered by the Hinkley Point nuclear plant. “I’ve got no doubt it’ll be below £80,” Keith Anderson, head of Scottish Power, which won a contract in 2015, said. “Whether it breaches £70 or not, we will see.” It’s a reduction that he argues is “faster than anyone could have imagined”. Government targets for costs in 2020 that looked “incredibly difficult to achieve” when set in 2011 were met last year, four years early.

Alongside the development of offshore wind technology and infrastructure contributing to the sharp drop in prices, Gosden points out that the subsidies many companies received early on—without the presence of competition—may have been “unduly generous”.  However, executive director of Renewables UK said those projects were “part of a government learning process” and “without those initial contracts we wouldn’t have made any of the innovation since.”


Opinion of the Week

Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate—The New York Times, Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman comments on the reaction (or lack thereof) from the US federal government to the on-going threat posed by climate change after the devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. “Almost every senior figure in the Trump administration dealing with the environment or energy is both an establishment Republican and a denier of climate change and of scientific evidence in general,” Krugman writes, and notes the strong prevalence of climate change ‘conspiracy theorizing’ amongst prominent members of the administration. Krugman says that conservatives challenging the overwhelming body of scientific consensus around human activities warming the planet are not doing so based on “careful consideration of the evidence…but by impugning the motives of thousands of scientists around the world. All of these scientists, they insist, motivated by peer pressure and financial rewards, are falsifying data and suppressing contrary views.”

Krugman believes that members of the modern mainstream right continue to propagate conspiracy theories and willfully disbelieve established scientific evidence because of their hostile relationship to science as well as their inability to distinguish real research from propaganda. “The bottom line is that we are now ruled by people who are completely alienated not just from the scientific community, but from the scientific idea — the notion that objective assessment of evidence is the way to understand the world. And this willful ignorance is deeply frightening.”

Tweet of the Week

Pope Francis‏ @Pontifex

I encourage world leaders to set aside partisan and ideological interests and seek together the common good of all humanity.