HURRICANE Ida hit Louisiana on Sunday as a Category 4 storm, with sustained wind speeds nominally of 150 mph.
As of writing the toll has been mercifully low, just three deaths. Without belittling the very real effect on people’s lives, damage has been remarkably light by hurricane standards, with minor coastal flooding, trees and power lines down, and some damage to older wooden structures.
The damage was nowhere near as catastrophic as originally forecast, or as has occurred many times in the past from hurricanes. In 1856, for instance, the ‘Last Island Hurricane’ hit the same stretch of coast and with supposedly the same wind speeds. It flattened every property in the vicinity and left more than two hundred dead.
This puts into question whether Ida really was as powerful at landfall as satellite estimates suggested. Before the 1970s, of course, there was no monitoring from satellites, and measurements relied largely on ground or ship data. Consequently the wind speeds of those earlier hurricanes were often underestimated.
As happens with every hurricane, or for that matter any bit of bad weather, the BBC attempted to link Ida to climate change, claiming that warmer seas mean more intense hurricanes in theory. However the actual data shows that hurricanes are not becoming more powerful.
The frequency of major hurricanes (that is Category 3 and higher) hitting the US has changed little since 1851. Indeed the worst decade was the 1940s, and the last decade was actually below average.
Even the IPCC, the UN’s climate panel, accepts this, stating in their latest report that they can find no long-term trends in hurricanes globally.
Ida is the first hurricane to hit the US this year, although the hurricane season still has a few weeks to go. The average is two a year.
China to build 43 new coal power stations
In the first six months of this year, China has started construction work on 15 GW of coal-fired power stations and announced plans for another 24 GW. This would add 3 per cent to its current coal-fired capacity.
On top of that, it plans 13 blast furnaces, which of course require coal to operate. In total, it is estimated that the new power plants and furnaces will increase China’s emissions of carbon dioxide by 1.5 per cent, or 150 million tons, which is roughly half the UK’s total emissions. (You know, the ones we are going to spend trillions to get rid of!)
None of this should come as any surprise, as China has continued to ramp up its coal power output despite signing the Paris Agreement in 2015. Since then, output has risen by 22 per cent, with the increase exceeding that of wind and solar power by three quarters. All this new capacity will inevitably be around for decades.
BP Energy Review
There is a very good reason why China prefers coal to renewable energy. President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party know that you cannot run a modern economy on the vagaries of wind and solar power.
Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, of course, China is under no obligation whatsoever to cut emissions or do anything else for that matter. Its pledge to ‘peak’ emissions by 2030 (but not necessarily ‘cut’) is meaningless because it cannot be enforced under the agreement.
Experience of Chinese politics tells us that when Xi is eventually thrown under a bus by his party, his policies will go with him. The survival of both President and party is dependent on economic growth and improving standards of living, neither of which are compatible with climate policies which come well down the list of priorities.
The announcement of the new blast furnaces is bitterly ironic, because the BBC has been leading the campaign to block a new coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria, one of the most deprived parts of the country. This would be a state of the art, clean, environmentally friendly operation, creating hundreds of jobs and supplying coking coal to UK steel plants. The BBC would rather see our steel industry shut down while China continues to expand its own.
Prince of Hypocrites
The other day, Prince Harry played polo, as you do. Instead of using his Cadillac SUV or taking the train, Harry decided it would be more appropriate to fly back from Colorado to California in a £45million Gulfstream jet, which is believed to belong to a polo pal, the US businessman Marc Ganzi.
He has previously been criticised for taking four trips via private jet in 11 days, despite regularly lecturing the rest of us about climate change.