Published on May 20th, 2019 | by Jesper Berggreen0
In The Danish Elections, Everybody Is Fighting About Who Is Greener, But Does It Matter?
May 20th, 2019 by Jesper Berggreen
Last year, I was pleasantly surprised when all the different political parties started shouting about climate policy. I wrote at the time that I really hoped climate would be a major issue in the 2019 general elections. And it now is!
Everybody Wants To Fix The Climate
First of all, nobody is going to “fix” the climate. None of the political profiles in this country has the guts to say how screwed we are already and that radical solutions are necessary now. I am talking about massive taxes on anything emitting carbon, starting now. Reality in physics is unforgiving, but reality in politics is that you won’t get elected if you believe in first principles of physics. So what can you do? Just promise stuff, and hope nobody will remember…
Game Of Limits
So, the game is on amongst all the political parties from the far left to the far right. How much climate mitigation can you promise to effectuate without being kicked out in the cold by the voters? If you don’t have an opinion on emission regulations, you are regarded irresponsible, but if you suggest a ban on diesel cars tomorrow, you are ridiculed for being overly concerned. You know, the good old “Don’t worry, seas aren’t rising that fast, we have time” B.S.
With delicate tactics, the political parties are throwing numbers at each other every day now, until we all have a chance to stop the madness with a ballot on the 5th of June.
Only Numbers Count
Well, I could have cited a lot of numbers that the parties are throwing at each other, but frankly, I have difficulty finding heads and tails in any of them. Every party is blaming the others for not being ambitious enough, but the reality is probably that none are ambitious enough. As I said last year, I’m just glad they are fighting about it. Yes, there is also a big theme on refugees and immigrants which in itself is quite scary with all the hate speech and such, but it kind of drowns in the climate theme.
Oh, the irony. The threat of climate change is finally taken seriously, and here’s hoping that it will make the “dangers” of vulnerable fellow human beings escaping the war zones of the world seem trivial, so we can once again live up to the refugee conventions of the UN, and then some… (Denmark has since 2015 not accepted the usual quota of the 500 most vulnerable resettlement refugees each year from UN that we normally receive.)
Last year, all parties agreed on the new climate plan — Together For A Greener Future — and I summarized all the ambitious numbers in there. It was great. I was thrilled. It looked like the ball would finally start rolling. The question is, in what direction is reality pointing? The ruling party, Ventre, says things are going exactly according to plan to reach a 100% carbon neutral society by 2050. The main opposition party, Socialdemokratiet, says we need laws of partial goals like 60% emission reductions in 2030 compared to 1990 numbers, and the smaller left-leaning parties say that is not enough and throws numbers like 70% and 80% in the game, and 100% by 2040. The more right-leaning parties are generally content with the way the “free market” forces seems to actually have the ball rolling already.
But let’s not dwell on electoral promises. Let’s look at the numbers. I collected some numbers from the Danish Motorowners Accociation (fdm.dk), Statistics Denmark (dst.dk), and various mainstream news outlets like dr.dk, and put together the graphs below. When we talk about a 100% carbon-neutral society, a few major sections are in play, like farming, transportation, power generation, and heating. In this case, though, I will stick to power generation, because it already drives a lot of the others. Everything is being electrified. Even fossil fuels are being refined using massive amounts of electricity — go figure…
Emission From Power Generation
In the “good old days” when everything was powered by coal, the emission of carbon dioxide from producing a single kWh of electricity would be between 800 and 1,000 grams. But the industrial adventure of wind turbines that started in the 1970s in Denmark has a mission to run those emission numbers into oblivion, with the help of solar and hydro. I put a trendline in there, and yes, power generation emissions may be history before 2030. Wind is the hero here, so let’s take a closer look.
Wind Is The Renewable Era Kickstarter
By 2030, wind could contribute 3 quarters of the Danish energy supply. With the current massive plans to expand wind generation to way more than the country consumes at any given moment, we could even be looking at an energy export miracle. Great, but will that be necessary? We get a lot of hydropower from Norway, and although solar is only at 2%, it has actually doubled in that last 3 years, so that could easily hit 20% by 2030.
Current Energy Mix
Note that nuclear and hydro are imports from neighbouring countries. The rest can be both import, export, and self sustained. It will be very interesting to see how this pie chart looks a decade from now. If price means anything to anybody, obviously, the big three will dominate: wind, solar, and hydro.
One of the huge uncertainties in energy usage is the advent of electric cars. None of the parties want to see too many sales of fossil fueled cars and trucks by 2030, and in the current year to date, almost 1,500 electric vehicles have been sold, which is as many as all of 2018. So, we will need a lot of electricity, eventually. Will that be a problem? Of course not. Will it be renewable? Of course it will.
Let them argue about who is greener. I think the whole energy system is changing right now, no matter what they say. Still, do not waste your vote, wherever you are.