Open letter to president of Wood Mac – talk to Greta

Our publication Rethink Energy is not about global warming, but about renewable energy, but having said that, we were alarmed to see references in the leading analyst group for energy, the almost $400 million Wood Mackenzie, which is consulted by the great and the good and national governments, to an energy transition that will probably see the world go to 3 degrees of warming.

It is almost irresponsible for Wood Mac to discuss any scenario that leads to 3 decrees of warming on the basis that it doesn’t expect anything better to happen. It says, “We ascribe a very low degree of confidence that 2 degrees can be achieved due to the challenges across technology, policy, regulation and cost; intergovernmental constraints; trade and consumer choice; and what is built into the current energy systems of today.”

There is a huge difference between leadership and observation, and here we see Wood Mac merely observing and not leading people out of the situation. But when you advise governments, you have to at least talk about “policy” change – making permits for wind farms easier to get, initiating government projects to replace home and industrial gas heating, incentivizing the demise of Detroit, as EVs begin to rule and governments take a hand in accelerating this, not preventing it. And the tricky business of getting countries like China and India to toe the line, using trading pressure. None of this is mentioned.

Neither is any detail of what living in a 3 degree world will be like. The Arctic will melt every summer, the Amazon will be a single forest fire away from total annihilation, the Alps will have no snow on them, resulting in both flooding (precipitation falls as rain and goes rapidly to the lowlands) and drought (once the water is gone the rivers dry up, instead of meltwaters the year round). El Nino happens every year, deserts move northwards about 500 to 1,000 miles, which takes out half the United States, and much of Spain, Italy and France as the breadbaskets of their regions.

In 2003 some 30,000 people died In Europe in a few weeks, in the heat wave. That process will become annual, and globally there will be flooding, flooding and flooding. Imagine the Himalayas failing to yield melt-waters? China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will see first floods then droughts, where once the Ganges, the Indus and the Yantze flowed. Who can do anything about that with massive engineering works? Only China could build the dams that would hold enough water to make this less than a disaster. There would still be mass die-offs, war and billions of displaced food refugees.

The Himalayas and the Andes are not really supposed to be snow free until 4 degrees of warming, but then again there are “tipping points” like the mass die-off of green plankton (ocean acidification), that most predict will happen at 2 degrees, which then eliminates about 40% of our planet’s ability to absorb CO2, which accelerates us towards 4 degrees anyway.

And yet Wood Mac shrugs and says, “sorry, it just doesn’t look good,” but without explaining the consequences. Perhaps Anderson should spend some time with Greta Thunberg on the Maliza II learning about consequences.

And this is because as a group it is conflicted. Instead of Neal Anderson, President, Wood Mackenzie, making money from giving advice to oil companies on how to make money, maybe he needs to take a stand and stop dealing with them? No, he can’t because that’s where most of his cash comes from. All we can decently ask him to do is split renewables away from oil and gas, so that the two businesses operate independently.

Just how dangerous is it to have a man in charge that will blithely make money today, out of what will be a disaster tomorrow. He tells the oil companies what they want to hear, and they in turn manipulate the US President with tales of lost jobs and fortunes, and how the US must continue to doubt that global warming is even a thing.

We have to believe that Anderson is in the pockets of the oil companies and they are telling him what to say, not the other way around. He says in his foreword that his analysis is from the ground up – his analysts have counted what is on the ground in both renewables and fossil fuels and how fast it is changing and they forecast it forward. And the result is 3 degrees. He says that later this year Wood Mac will open a 1.5 degree service, but it will be one of the naysayer services which puts a price on getting this done in multiple trillions of dollars.

But how many dollars does it take to simply make government policy that after 2035 no more fossil fuel cars will be allowed on the roads? All new buildings MUST have a charging point, and must have heating that is driven by electricity, and a solar panel or two on every roof. It costs nothing but political will, and political will, will not be obtained by saying it won’t happen. It is obtained by saying it MUST happen.

It is true that the remainder of the world outside the US, takes all of this seriously. Isn’t it time the US took a leadership position, not one of a laggard. And for Wood Mac isn’t it time for industry leadership not sycophancy?

Laughably Anderson talks about there being resistance to achieving the aspirational targets to reduce global carbon emissions set in Paris four years ago. He puts this down to there being no carbon price in many major consuming countries. Is that it for the list of ideas – Carbon pricing alone?

Why is the US pushing sanctions against Iran for being a trouble-maker in the middle east, when Brazil is burning down its forests and still trading happily with the world and denying it is happening.

Anderson decries the trade war and a go-it-alone approach driven by populists and protectionist agendas. And he says simply that some existing technologies required for a 2 degree future are economic, proven and scalable, but that many others are not. What new technologies is he talking about? Fresh Nuclear? Carbon Capture? and anything that will allow his fossil fuel friends to carry on ignoring the scenario?

The reality is that the only significant additional investments are to grids, and he needs to take a leadership position in that or stand aside and let someone else provide that leadership.

What is truly annoying is that every renewables forecast that Wood Mac has ever made has been out by an order of magnitude in under-estimating it. Everyone knows this, but still seeks the advice of a major corporate that provides the comfort of some clever people nodding sagely, but getting it wrong time and time again.

The truth is that most oil companies will die, a few will transition, most car companies will die and only a few will transition. Wood Mac will also suffer as their clients go bankrupt. So we need an analyst group that doesn’t shove global warming down our throats, but at least acknowledges what we all know, which is the electrical energy industry is right behind the 1.5 degree targets and would be making them happen with clear governmental guidance as long as no-one asks the advice of people with fossil fuel addiction in their genes. Rethink Energy will at least try to be that agency.