UN agency’s energy report claiming 80% of world energy supply could be renewable by 2050 is based on a Greenpeace study written by one of the IPCC’s lead authors, Sven Teske
By Steve McIntyre, National Post
On May 9, 2011, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that declared a kind of revolution in world energy supply. “Close to 80 percent of the world’s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.”
Approved and released at an IPCC meeting in Abu Dhabi, the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, received ringing endorsements from IPCC officials, including IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri. “The IPCC brought together the most relevant and best available information to provide the world with this scientific assessment of the potential of renewable energy sources to mitigate climate change,” said Mr. Pachauri. The report, he said, “can serve as a sound knowledge basis for policy makers to take on this major challenge of the 21st century.”
All that’s needed to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2050 is the right public policies, with most of the effort dedicated to increasing energy supply solar, wind and non-traditional biomass.
I, for one, was keenly interested in how IPCC got to its potential 80%. Unfortunately, in keeping with execrable IPCC practices, the supporting documents for the Renewables Study were not made available at the time of the original announcement, only the usual “Summary for PolicyMakers .” The summary contained one worrying aspect. The actual report, it said, was based on 164 “scenarios” and the “up to 80%” scenario in the lead sentence of their press release was not representative of the scenarios, but the absolute top end.
This is the sort of press release that is not permitted in mining promotions. It remains a mystery to me why blatant distortions are tolerated in academic press releases and in press releases by international institutions.
The underlying report was released June 14. Naturally, I was interested in the provenance of the 80% scenario. What due diligence had been carried out by IPCC to determine the realism of this scenario prior to endorsing it in their press release?
The scenarios are in chapter 10 of the Report. Authors of the chapter are as follows (mainly German):
Cordinating Lead Authors -Manfred Fischedick (Germany) and Roberto Schaeffer (Brazil). Lead Authors: Akintayo Adedoyin (Botswana), Makoto Akai (Japan), Thomas Bruckner (Germany), Leon Clarke (USA), Volker Krey (Austria/Germany), Ilkka Savolainen (Finland), Sven Teske (Germany), Diana Ürge‐Vorsatz (Hungary), Raymond Wright (Jamaica).
Chapter 10 isolated four of the 164 scenarios for more detailed reporting, one of which can be identified with the scenario featured in the IPCC press release. The identification is on the basis of Table 10.3 which shows 77% renewables in 2050 attributed to Teske et al., 2010–Teske being one of the overall report’s lead authors listed above—as follows:
Low demand (e.g., due to a significant increase in energy efficiency) is combined with high RE [renewable energy] deployment, no employment of CCS [carbon sequestration] and a global nuclear phase-out by 2045 in the third mitigation scenario…
That assessment is based on Mr. Teske’s formal paper, titled Energy Revolution 2010: a sustainable world energy outlook, cited as follows: “ Teske, S., T[homas] Pregger, S[onja] Simon, T[obias] Naegler, W[ina] Graus, and C[hristine] Lins (2010).”
However, Googling the title led me first to a different 2008 article with the almost the same title “Energy Revolution: A Sustainable Global Energy Outlook.” This version is a joint publication of Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), self-described as the “umbrella organisation of the European renewable energy industry.” The title page shows: “Project manager & lead author – Sven Teske, Greenpeace International; EREC Oliver Schäfer, Arthouros Zervos.”
So a lead author of the IPCC report, and of the hyped 80% scenario, is Sven Teske of Greenpeace International, whose official contribution is essentially based on a Greenpeace report cooked up with Europe’s renewable energy industry.
Even more interesting is that the original Teske-Greenpeace report comes with a preface from one R.K. Pachauri, aka Rajendra Pachauri, the illustrious chairman of the IPCC and master mind of its many scientific endeavors, who stated:
This edition of Energy [R]evolution Scenarios provides a detailed analysis of the energy efficiency potential and choices in the transport sector. The material presented in this publication provides a useful basis for considering specific policies and developments that would be of value not only to the world but for different countries as they attempt to meet the global challenge confronting them. The work carried out in the following pages is comprehensive and rigorous, and even those who may not agree with the analysis presented would, perhaps, benefit from a deep study of the underlying assumptions that are linked with specific energy scenarios for the future.
So, in summary, the original IPCC release claiming “close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows” is a Pachauri-Greenpeace-renewable industry set up.
The basis for the claim is a Greenpeace scenario. The Lead Author of the IPCC assessment of the Greenpeace scenario, Sven Teske, is the same Greenpeace employee who had prepared the Greenpeace scenarios, the introduction to which was written by IPCC chair Pachauri.
The public and policy-makers are starving for independent and authoritative analysis of precisely how much weight can be placed on renewables in the energy future. It expects more from IPCC than a karaoke version of the Greenpeace scenario.
It is totally unacceptable that IPCC should have had a Greenpeace employee as a Lead Author of the critical Chapter 10. It is totally unacceptable that Mr. Teske was also responsible for assessing his own work, without independent due diligence. Also unacceptable is that the IPCC should have featured the Greenpeace scenario in its press release on renewables.
Everyone in overall IPCC group – known as Working Group III — associated with this report should be terminated and, if the institution is to continue, it should be re-structured from scratch.
Steve McIntyre is a consultant based in Toronto who runs the world-renowned Climate Audit blog. Mr. McIntyre’s original post on the IPCC’s renewable report can be found at the website: climateaudit.org
For Greenpeace’s response and other comments, see Andrew Revkin’s article: A Deeper look at an energy analysis raises big questions.