Wednesday, October 09, 2019

White nationalists, please go ahead and actually study climate change

Over the summer, there was a smattering of concern over white nationalists who depart from the usual right-wing, conspiratorial denial of climate change. Instead they incorporate the threat of climate immigration as part of their "Great Replacement" theory of white suicide.

This is no joking matter when it comes to mass murderers like the El Paso Walmart killer. The racists' relationship to climate change can't become particularly deep, however. Anything more than the shallowest understanding of climate that still accepts the science will clearly affix blame, and that blame doesn't belong to Syrian, African, and Latin American refugees. Any real understanding would put pressure, at least somewhat, on their racist ideology. Short of actual understanding, they could still seize upon climate change as yet another poorly-thought-out excuse for hatred, but that misuse is possible for any headline. Racists should study the issue itself and take the chance to reconsider their ideology.

The broader issue of environmentalism overlapping with racism is trickier though because population growth is a real-if-secondary factor in environmental harm, with the environmental footprint of each individual being the primary driving factor. Immigration doesn't increase population globally but does increase it in the receiving nation. The problem, ironically, is the opposite of what racists normally think: immigrants don't fail to assimilate but rather assimilate just fine, leaving behind the small individual footprint of the country they left and taking on the massive footprint of the rich country they joined.

Not all the time, of course. When I was campaigning for a water district election during California's drought, I came across an older Indian woman in a wealthier neighborhood, carefully handwashing her car from a bucket. She said nobody had to educate her about water conservation, she immigrated here with that knowledge. Good on her, but I don't know that her kids or grandkids would have the same habits.

Racists are going to misuse the overpopulation issue. They have to be fought when they do that, while still acknowledging overpopulation is an issue. Reducing population growth in the richest countries, along with reducing the individual footprints, should be a priority. Reducing that footprint could even make it easier to accommodate more immigration, rather than fighting immigration.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Greta Thunberg and Ponder the Maunder

This was cute:

The point I just want to add is that I don't recall anything like the same vitriol, and none of the expressed desire to slap her or spank her, against that Ponder the Maunder girl from years back, a teenager whose father convinced her that she had refuted all of climate science. My recollection is that girl eventually reached the point in college where Greta is right now, telling people to listen to scientists (can't seem to find a link tho).

Just another indication of who's arguing based on reason and who's relying on emotion.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

The long-awaited Bay Area gas station count is here - more hints of an EV effect making ICE vehicles less convenient

Don't get too excited now. Updated figures on gas stations and gasoline consumption in the Bay Area are out:

Gas stations continue to decrease despite a strong economy and an increased population. San Francisco in particular lost 14% of its gas stations in a year, and now has one station for every 11,000 people. While many other factors could influence gas station counts, there's also gas consumption:

Consumption is down 7% from the high in 2016, mirroring the decrease in gas stations since 2016.

It takes a while for the increasing market share of new EV purchases to be reflected by the total vehicle fleet. OTOH, EVs get driven more than ICE vehicles so their share of vehicle miles will be greater than the share of the total fleet. It seems likely that EV market penetration is a big part of the reason gas consumption is decreasing and part of the reason why stations are disappearing. As EVs become more convenient, ICE vehicles are becoming less convenient to fill up.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Eli Explains It All: Amazon and Oxygen Edition

Eli, as readers of this blog know, often explains it all,  often belatedly, but allow the Bunny to put to rest your fears that burning in the Amazon will deplete oxygen in the atmosphere.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is ~400 ppm.  Oxygen is approximately 20%.  That translates out to 200,000 ppm. If CO2 doubles to 800 ppm that would at worst put O2 at 199,600 ppm. 

It's as simple as that, but if you insist on long reads, have at it.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Republican Judicial War Against Science

Washington Post:

An exchange about a climate change seminar for judges set off the controversy, after a two-sentence heads-up message about the session — co-sponsored by the research and education agency of the judiciary, the Federal Judicial Center — was sent.

One judge’s share about the event provoked a pushback email from a colleague, who questioned the judge’s ethics and climate change science, and urged the judge to stick to his lane on what “you are being paid to do” — adding that “the jurisdiction assigned to you does not include saving the planet.”

.....The controversy began the evening of July 3, when Sullivan forwarded the invitation as “just FYI.”

Less than an hour later, Randolph, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, replied all. He chided Sullivan for “subjecting our colleagues to this nonsense” and suggested he had crossed an ethical line. He asked: “Should I report you? I don’t know.”

....More than two weeks after his initial note, Randolph again addressed the email list. After learning more about the Environmental Law Institute’s program and the judiciary’s co-sponsorship, he wrote: “While I continue to disagree with their conclusion about the propriety of the program, I think their position is fairly held.”

....Experts on judicial ethics said the appeals court judge should have issued a direct apology to Sullivan and suggested Randolph should recuse himself from cases involving climate change.

As of Tuesday morning, Randolph was listed as one of three-judges to hear arguments Sept. 6 in a case brought by California and more than a dozen other states challenging an Environmental Protection Agency decision to scrap some vehicle emissions standards.

Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, the court calendar was updated and Randolph’s name was replaced. The clerk’s office and Randolph declined to comment on the change.

Gillers and Arthur D. Hellman of the University of Pittsburgh law school said in interviews that the strong views Randolph expressed suggest he should not sit on cases related to global warming. 

Imagine for a minute that the invitation had been to a briefing on forensic science. I somehow doubt it would have received the same reaction. Yet Randolph was on the edge of reporting the invitation as unethical.

The outcome was okay in the end, with Randolph booted off a very important case. But it's a signal of the type of damage that Trump's appointees will be doing for decades.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Foote Effect

Some time ago, being defined as about nine years, in his sorely missed Climate Abyss, John Niesen Gammon advocated doing away with the term greenhouse effect, or greenhouse gas, perhaps tongue in cheek, perhaps not

Okay, I’m finally convinced.

I hereby declare the greenhouse effect to be nonexistent.

There’s not much worse for public knowledge of science than an important but complex phenomenon whose very name evokes a false analogy. Such is the case with the greenhouse effect.
Now Eli thinks it was more to having to deal with sniping from the stands, but, be that as it may, John had a suggestion
Naturally, we know lots more about such gases now, including the importance of the wide range of temperature, pressure, and density conditions that accompany their presence in the atmosphere. But Tyndall was the first, and so the “effect formerly known as greenhouse” can properly be called the “Tyndall effect”.

But that name is already taken. It refers to the wavelength dependence of light scattering by tiny (sub-micron) particles suspended in an otherwise transparent medium. So that won’t do. Using the same term for two different phenomena would be, I don’t know, like using the term “greenhouse effect” to refer to what keeps greenhouses warm and at the same time use it to refer to what keeps the Earth warm. And wouldn’t that be stupid?

But, not to fear, there’s nothing in science that’s presently known as a “Tyndall gas“. So this term can immediately replace the term “greenhouse gas” to refer to gases that are much more opaque to infrared wavelengths than to visible wavelengths.

A replacement for the term “greenhouse gas” is especially useful since only a small fraction of the gases that fill greenhouses are greenhouse gases. This makes “greenhouse gas” a double misnomer. Wow.

And then, the EFKAG can be renamed more transparently (sorry) as the Tyndall gas effect.

So be it. Henceforth I shall use the terms “Tyndall gas” and “Tyndall gas effect” whenever the opportunity presents itself, or at least until such time as a suitable alternative name comes into broader usage.
John kept it up for quite a while, as Eli recalls until he left the building down at the Houston Chronicle.

Before we go on, it is probably worthwhile pointing out that what Tyndall found was the absorption of Tyndall gases in the IR at longer wavelengths than 3 microns or so shown in red below

Recently, maybe a year ago, an 1856 report by Edith Eunice Newton Foote to the AAAS national meeting has come to light in which she observed the heating effect of sunlight (shown by the blue line in the figure to the left above) on various gases including CO2 and water vapor in a sealed glass tube.  Eli pointed out that since the glass tube cut off the solar spectrum (which is relatively weak there) at about 3 microns, Foote did not observe the basis of the greenhouse effect Tyndall gas effect, which is the absorption of thermal radiation from the surface (shown by the dotted line in the figure to the right).

What she did observe is the absorption by water vapor and carbon dioxide shown in green by the bands above 0.7 microns, and maybe down to about 0.3 which are primarily due to aerosol scattering.  Since she did experiments with water and thus water vapor in her glass cells, this would not be unlikely.

This absorption, the difference between the blue and green lines above 0.3 microns, has an important practical significance:  It is responsible for the absorption of approximately 79 W/m2 in the atmosphere and should a bunny care to include it the 100 W/m2 scattered back into space

Nielsen-Gammon pointed out that there is a long tradition, which he was following, of naming an effect after its discoverer.

Thus the absorption and scattering of visible and near IR light in the atmosphere should henceforth be known as the Foote Effect or the Foote Gas Effect

August 11 and the Northwest Passage Is Open

A week or so ago, Eli noticed that for a mere  $28,824 per person the Hurtigruten were organizing a cruise through the Northwest Passage (details at the link) the question being whether they would be able to make it, and in particular through the narrow passage near Fort Ross.

Any bunny who has put down their money need never fear, the way is open

and the only remaining question is when it will be possible to circumnavigate Greenland.  Too soon Eli thinks.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Making the fossil fuel insurance market less perfect

Timely as ever, I thought I'd immediately jump on to the news that a month ago the first big American insurance company, Chubb, announced it's no longer insuring coal company operations. The big European insurers have already dropped out, and the pressure's on now for the other big American insurers.

I go back and forth about whether climate divestment can have a direct economic effect on fossil fuel companies. The billions of dollars in financing that's not screened off, and the thousands of investors willing to make investments, argue that it'll be a while before divestment directly harms the market for stocks and bonds from fossil fuel companies. The knock-on effects from making fossil fuel businesses disreputable, OTOH, are profound. There aren't that many insurance companies capable of insuring multi-million dollar operations.

So yes there are a still a handful of insurers happy to help pollute the planet, but a handful is far from a perfect market of buyers. Coal companies are going to have to pay an additional premium to get insured because fewer insurers want to play with them, and that's very much a good thing. The climate divestment push is helping make this happen.

Other knock-on effects from divestment include decreased willingness of big financial institutions to make loans, and simply the increased stigma of being a fossil fuel company driving up their costs and reducing willingness to do business with them. The real game though is political - the relative costs of fossil fuels and low-carbon alternatives are only part of the decisionmaking, with the rest being political. Climate divestment helps show the weakening political power of fossil fuels, which then makes it easier to knock them down.

We'll see what other American insurers are going to do. Meanwhile it's unfortunate that these insurers will make an extra profit out of being the bad guys. I hope some stigma moves over to AIG, Travelers, and Berkshire Hathaway to balance that out.