Friday, April 26, 2024

Alex Tabarrock and Argumentum ad Flubberum

Alex Tabarrock has a beef against modern dishwashers, that they take too long (something they do in order to conserve water and energy). Unfortunately an appellate court (two Trumps and a Bush) took the same position. Alex could've simply stuck with the argument that fast dishwashers are more important than say stopping climate change, but he had to go for the Flubber Argument in addition.

I gave the name Flubber to this type of argument back in 2011, somehow it didn't catch on but that won't stop me. The reference is to an old movie with a terrible remake about a material that when dropped, bounces back with more energy than it acquired from being dropped. As applied to policy, it argues that the negative response to that policy would exceed the positive effect the policy otherwise enables.

These bad arguments are the worst because they're not innately wrong, like a logical fallacy is, they're just really annoying. You can't just respond with saying something like a "Tu quoque," drop the mic and walk away, but they're really weak arguments, usually trotted out when people who realize a more direct argument for their side is unpersuasive. The classic is the slippery slope argument, but Flubbering is what we have here.

So what's the Flubber argument here? It's that some people frustrated by the time taken by the dishwasher will wash by hand instead, and that washing by hand supposedly uses more water and energy. The studies vary wildly on water and energy usage when handwashing. (FWIW, I usually don't use any hot water when handwashing for one or two people, it takes too long to heat up and cold soapy water is good enough.) Mostly, the studies conclude handwashing uses more energy and water. The Flubberer then concludes without showing any work that enough people will switch to inefficient handwashing so that their extra use will outweigh the more efficient use by those who stick with the dishwashers.

The problem is there's no proof, just an assumption based on partial evidence. The value in understanding Flubbering is that we now have two types: Type 1 Flubber arguments don't even have a factual basis for the claim, just conjecture. Type 2 Flubber, maybe call it Tabarrock Flubber, takes partial evidence and reaches a conclusion, Underpants Gnome style, without demonstrating that it works. So we can thank Tabarrock for advancing the understanding of Flubberum.

In a side note, Justice Alito recently said that holding US Presidents to account for crimes committed in illegal pursuit of a second term will just spur them to commit more and worse crimes to make sure they're not held to account. You can see what's happening there with that argument.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Brian's new gig

I started today as the Executive Director of Menlo Spark, "a nonprofit collaboration of local government, businesses, and residents helping Menlo Park adopt a suite of measures by 2025 that are necessary to reach zero carbon by 2030, as we advance equity, economic vitality, and community health."

Menlo Park was one of the first California cities to enact "reach codes" that extended beyond state requirements for buildings to essentially eliminate gas use in new buildings. The hope is that we can continue to push the envelope and provide a model for elsewhere.

Day One was great, and we'll see what happens!

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Something left unsaid about Koutsoyiannis et al.

The latest in here is a shiny statistical model that disproves everything you thought about greenhouse gases causing climate change is Koutsoyiannis Demetris, Onof Christian, Christofides Antonis and Kundzewicz Zbigniew W.2022  Revisiting causality using stochastics: 1. Theory Proc. R. Soc. A 4782021083520210835 and Revisiting causality using stochastics: 2. Applications Proc. R. Soc. A.4782021083620210836

Of course, the classic was the unit root and Bart Verheggen's weight loss program but recently we have Statistics Norway trying it on, and just a year ago another ground breaking article

Demetris Koutsoyiannis is a well established, tho emeritus, professor of hydrology at the National Technical University in Athens, Christian Onof a rainfall guy at Imperial College, Antonis Christofides, also at NTU Athens and Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz, a pretty well known rainfall/hydrology person. Add to this that the Proc. R. Soc. A, ain't MDPI and a bunny knows the sharks will gather

So no surprise to find them at Curry's, with the birth announcement (well, first year anniversary) on Twitter, and the usual pile in. 

Naomi Oreskes and John Cook have a lot to answer for, if it was not for them pointing out that there is very little serious literature disagreeing with the IPCC consensus poor Eli would not have to wade throught this stuff 

The TL:DR 
The remaining real-world case study led to an important side product of the current research. This is the surprising finding that, while in general the causal relationship of atmospheric T and CO₂ concentration, as obtained by proxy data, appears to be of hen-oregg type with principal direction 𝑇 → [CO₂], in the recent decades the more accurate modern data support a conclusion that this principal direction has become exclusive
and the problem is the usual one. As Eli, and others pointed out (there are some useful references)

 We know from measurements that more CO2 is being emitted by burning fossil fuels than remains in the atmosphere. We also have measurements showing that ~105 _+ 8 Pg C from these emissions has been absorbed in the oceans* and the biosphere has i** and we have measurements and theory on how temperature and salinity affect CO2 partial pressure in the gas phase above sea water*** where a difference of 1C corresponds at best to a few ppm.

Of course we know that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased from ~290 to ~430 ppm over the last 150 years.

This poses some obvious problems for any statistical treatment which claims that CO2 concentration follows changes in temperature

*Feely, R. A., Sabine, C. L., Takahashi, T., & Wanninkhof, R. (2001). Uptake and storage of carbon dioxide in the ocean: The global co~ 2 survey. OCEANOGRAPHY-WASHINGTON DC-OCEANOGRAPHY SOCIETY-, 14(4), 18-32.

**Amthor, Jeffrey S. “Terrestrial higher‐plant response to increasing atmospheric [CO2] in relation to the global carbon cycle.” Global Change Biology 1.4 (1995): 243-274 and especially the annual cycle

***Weiss, R. F., Jahnke, R. A., & Keeling, C. D. (1982). Seasonal effects of temperature and salinity on the partial pressure of CO2 in seawater. Nature, 300(5892), 511-513

Poking about and tossed up this comment on Koutsoyiannis et al. by Leif Åsbrink in the january 11 2023 issue of PRSA. It says pretty much what everybunny has been saying
From the information in [1] we can therefore draw a second conclusion: For timescales in multiple decades, the results in figure 14 have no meaning since the data span a far too short time. The differentiation has also suppressed slow changes. Common perception that [CO2] causes an increase in the temperature can thus neither be verified nor falsified. It is self-evident that the effect ΔT → [CO2], which is seen on a short timescale, will also be present on all longer timescales. A temperature change in the order of 0.4°C will cause a change in [CO2] of about 2 ppm, as measured on the derivatives.3 The temperature change over the 42 years is about 0.5°C while [CO2] has changed by about 80 ppm. Some other mechanism is likely to dominate on timescales of multiple decades. Hence, the common perception that increasing [CO2] causes increased T seems likely. . . . . 
Settled science’ is supported by many lines of evidence and it includes many more factors than [CO2] as causes of the increased temperature since pre-industrial times. CO2 is however considered to be the largest factor. ‘Settled science’ includes the phenomenon that increased T causes a modest increase of [CO2] (outgassing from the sea), which is detected in [1]. The statement ‘in the recent decades the more accurate modern data support a conclusion that this principal direction has become exclusive. In other words, it is the increase of temperature that caused increased CO2 concentration’ that appears in Discussion and conclusions in [1] is not supported by proper arguments in the paper.

This comment is notable for two things, all the references are to websites (inc. Roy Spencer’s blog) and there is no reply by Koutsoyiannis. 

Also, Eli can't find it being discussed most anywhere at all and certainly not at Curry's. The editors at Proc. T. Soc. A seem to have tossed Koutsoyiannis under the bus.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

"A Left That Refuses to Condemn Mass Murder Is Doomed"

(UPDATE 2024: well, that went to hell. Obviously the only morally sane thing to do is to stop.)


With us posting more at Twitter and much less here, there's been very little posted here unrelated to climate. Still, given my semi-informed opinion that the readership/commentariat trends pretty left, and it seems worthwhile to bring up the small fraction (I hope?) of the left that sees nothing wrong with the atrocities in Israel, exclusively focusing instead on the tragedies past and future in Gaza.

So the post by Eric Levitz at NY Mag applies, maybe. Read the whole thing etc., and some relevant parts:

More broadly, the notion that an ethnic group can boast the exclusive right to occupy any stretch of land is not a left-wing one. Virtually all land is “stolen land” if one rolls the tape back far enough. Individuals who were dispossessed of property as a result of their ethnicity have a right of return and reparation. But ethnic groups do not have a right to cleanse any geographic area of outgroup members, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian.

Pretty good for a broad statement. All in life is qualified though. Ukraine IMO has the right to kick out Russian immigrants that have arrived in Crimea since 2014, even the innocent children, given the options of living a few miles away in Russia proper. (I hope that if Ukraine gets Crimea back that it becomes flexible on this.) Palestinians have the right to get settlement land back in the West Bank given that Israel proper is right next door, although for utilitarian reasons they should negotiate on this. But Jewish Israelis, most of whose ancestors fled from the Holocaust or were expelled from other countries, shouldn't be forced to become international refugees, let alone killed in the process of forcing out the rest. That's Holocaust-level antisemitism. It's not going to happen anyway, but it's still a really stupid idea. 

For these reasons, it is a moral imperative for progressives to condemn Hamas’s atrocities, affirm the human rights of Jewish Israelis, and reject the ethno-nationalist claim that Palestinians have a unique right to reside in the region. And it is also a political imperative for them to do so....Yet since algorithmic social media favors incendiary speech, from the vantage of many X and Instagram users, the left’s response to last weekend’s events is characterized by bloodlust. In the face of that response, multiple progressive-leaning people in my life have expressed a sense of estrangement from leftists and newfound doubts about their worldview. Seeing an ideological group embrace a position that one knows to be intellectually bankrupt and morally odious will naturally lead one to view that group’s other claims — especially those concerning matters one knows little about, such as the intricacies of the Israel-Palestine conflict — with greater skepticism. It’s important, therefore, to ensure that the majority of progressives who abhor all war crimes makes itself as visible as possible. 

 ....The political necessity of criticizing Israel on universalist grounds, rather than ethno-nationalist ones, is similarly urgent. In defending their apologias for war crimes, leftists tend to cite the gross power imbalance between the Palestinians and Israelis as somehow exculpatory. But precisely because Palestinians cannot hope to prevail in a contest of brute force, it is incumbent on their champions to make the case for their liberation in terms that honor the basic rights of Israelis. If we posit that some ethnic groups have a unique claim to specific stretches of land, and that they also have the right to commit war crimes so as to secure this heritage, then we will do the Israeli far-right’s ideological work for it.

Not much to add to that. I fear that the level of death and destruction coming to innocent civilians in Gaza will soon far exceed what happened in Israel. And still I think Israel has to invade, despite being led by a goon that might even be worse than Trump. What Israel will do after it invades is a huge question mark - I doubt it will handle things better than we did in Afghanistan and Iraq. And West Bank's future is also up for grabs, something that I wonder may have been Hamas' motivation in committing such a huge gamble with certain death for most of its leadership.

Makes climate change seem like a pleasant subject. Guess I'll get back to that.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Well, crud

This is a new one for me:


 What other joy is out there?

Monday, August 14, 2023

Don't trifle with judges, Montana edition

My direct and indirect experience with trial court judges is that they are mini-dictators/monarchs in their courtrooms, and that's probably a good thing. Unlike the vast majority of real dictators, they can be benevolent, but even if that's not their default personality, you still want someone who will occasionally stand up against powerful individuals, organizations, and the government itself. Trifle with them and find out what happens.

So we have a Montana trial court issuing today an opinion in favor of youth plaintiffs, saying Montana's law forbidding consideration of climate change impacts violates Montana's constitution requiring environmental protection. The kicker is that the state defendant spent all of one day in court presenting its side, after months of evidentiary proceedings.

I'm sad to say I don't know Montana law specifically and look forward to reviews by state experts. I am reading the opinion though and thought I'd throw out a few thoughts:

*fundamentally this is about resolving a legal conflict between a state statute saying 'ignore climate change' and the state constitution saying the state shall "maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations." Its direct relevance to other states requires a similar conflict. Indirectly, from a legal realism perspective, it might have more effect on nudging judges to take climate change seriously.

*lots of evidentiary battles in pretrial activity followed by only one day of testimony by the state in defense (plaintiffs had to have some serious financial resources to do this, btw). I'd love to be a fly on the wall at the state to understand the internal decision-making on that tactic. It feels like a political decision that's pretty close to a forfeit, and I doubt it went over well with the judge.

*the factual findings may be more important than they first appear, basically reiterating well-known facts about climate change and the harm it has on the environment and people. That might sound like non-news, but barring reversal on appeal - and appeals very rarely reverse factual findings - those findings become the "law of the case" requiring Montana for purposes of the case to acknowledge climate change is real, anthropogenic, and harmful.

*the concept of collateral estoppel/issue preclusion might also apply, and this is where a Montana legal expert would be helpful. That legal principle says once an issue has been litigated, it's done, and the party that lost can't try it again in a different proceeding. In other words, Montana could be stopped from denying climate reality not just in this case but in any other case (barring new evidence, which probably would have to overcome a significant legal hurdle to reopen the issue).

*I'm curious how easy it is to amend the Montana constitution. I expect we'll find out.

*the procedural stuff at the end saying the statute is subject to strict scrutiny etc. is the hardest to assess, but it's key to whether the case becomes a footnote or whether it has actual legal teeth in Montana.

Some other stuff:

*Svante is in the findings! Paragraph 74 - gotta love that, helping laying down the marker that CO2's role is well-understood and only became politicized by denialists, when the truth became inconvenient. Keeling Curve is there as well.

*because the plaintiffs claimed mental health damage from climate change's impacts, Montana demanded the right to conduct adversarial mental health examinations of these under-age minors (page 5). The judge told the state to take a hike. In circumstances where you're trying to assess damages, an examination is reasonable, but here it really isn't. The state is acting like a jerk, and I doubt it helped with the judge.

*findings about the under-age plaintiffs make them very appealing, what lawyers call "good facts" that hopefully make the court want to find ways to support your side. If they're willing and capable, I think these kids could be good media emissaries.

*twice the state tried to get Montana's state Supreme Court take the case away from the trial court, and the Supreme Court refused. Something else that is likely to have annoyed the judge.

*Glacier National Park, unsurprisingly, played a major role in the opinion. Glad to see it, and I did a volunteer vacation for glacier monitoring and blogged about it, way back when.

*plaintiffs are getting attorney fees and costs, which sounds administrative but is going to be a lot of money and is vital to the future success of cases like this. I suppose that could be reversed though if the case gets reversed on appeal.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Which Came First or Beyond Correlation

An evergreen (you know CO2 makes for more plant growth) of the denial industry is that "you can't show that CO2 CAUSES Climate change". Let Eli fish a few of these poggies out of his Twitter bag

and another

But it, of course not, is not just the CO2 has no effect on climate, but the anti-vaxxers and any other delusions of the denial crowd declaring that correlation is not causation. Well, as Eli has been rumored to reply, it can be a pretty strong hint if you understand the mechanism. To be honest, Eli is not very comfortable with any claim that correlation is causation lacking a mechanism, it's the physicist in the Bunny but there is a reason physicists are rare.

Properly speaking this is more a question for Tamino but Eli was trolling the web when up popped the answer Stips, A., Macias, D., Coughlan, C. . On the causal structure between CO2 and global temperature. Sci Rep 6, 21691 (2016) [OPEN].  The abstract says it all
We use a newly developed technique that is based on the information flow concept to investigate the causal structure between the global radiative forcing and the annual global mean surface temperature anomalies (GMTA) since 1850. Our study unambiguously shows one-way causality between the total Greenhouse Gases and GMTA. Specifically, it is confirmed that the former, especially CO2, are the main causal drivers of the recent warming. A significant but smaller information flow comes from aerosol direct and indirect forcing and on short time periods, volcanic forcings. In contrast the causality contribution from natural forcings (solar irradiance and volcanic forcing) to the long term trend is not significant. The spatial explicit analysis reveals that the anthropogenic forcing fingerprint is significantly regionally varying in both hemispheres. On paleoclimate time scales, however, the cause-effect direction is reversed: temperature changes cause subsequent CO2/CH4 changes.

This is not unexpected, indeed a figure that your friendly correspondent has used frequently to describe cause and effect, drives home this conclusion on physical grounds (Figure 1.1 Feedbacks in the climate system by Kurt Lambeck)

The information flow method was developed by X. San Liang in 2014 [SADLY NOT OPEN] for exactly this kind of situation (there is another method for separating cause and effect called Grainger causality)

Given two time series, can one faithfully tell, in a rigorous and quantitative way, the cause and effect between them? Based on a recently rigorized physical notion, namely, information flow, we solve an inverse problem and give this important and challenging question, which is of interest in a wide variety of disciplines, a positive answer. Here causality is measured by the time rate of information flowing from one series to the other. The resulting formula is tight in form, involving only commonly used statistics, namely, sample covariances; an immediate corollary is that causation implies correlation, but correlation does not imply causation.

More in this paper by Liang [OPEN] for those wanting to dive in but let's look at what Stips, et al, find for information flow to global temperature anomaly between 1900 and 2008.

Radiative Forcing

Correlation and Causality–HADCRUT4


ForcingGMTA [nat/year]

GMTAForcing [nat/year]

Total forcing

0.804 ± 0

0.244 ± 0.091

0.036 ± 0.080


0.863 ± 0

0.355 ± 0.112

−0.008 ± 0.005


0.852 ± 0

0.318 ± 0.108

−0.005 ± 0.003


0.852 ± 0

0.316 ± 0.108

−0.003 ± 0.003


−0.810 ± 0

0.232 ± 0.095

−0.002 ± 0.006


−0.796 ± 0

0.208 ± 0.092

−0.001 ± 0.004


0.616 ± 0

0.082 ± 0.059

0.035 ± 0.051


0.089 ± 0.267

0.003 ± 0.006

−0.004 ± 0.009

AMO (1900–2008)

0.477 ± 0

0.018 ± 0.043

0.021 ± 0.014

PDO (1900–2008)

0.123 ± 0.204

−0.002 ± 0.013

−0.011 ± 0.025

Larger numbers in the middle column show causation larger numbers in the rightmost column label effects of GMTA.  At least for the 1900 - 2008 period the increase in atmospheric CO2 is the largest cause of the GMTA, although aerosols and clouds also are important. The solar is low as are the AMO and PDO, although they both correlate well with GMTA. As the paper puts it
This is a good real world example that illustrates the basic fact: correlation does not mean causation. It further questions the assumed fundamental role of the AMO for the global climate as speculated in38.

 That should make Mike Mann very happy if he has not seen it. 

Also interesting is the cumulative causality 

Which implies that GHG warming really only became dominant around 1960 e.g. after 1960, CO2 concentration was even more dominent. If information flow is applied to shorter time periods, then other forcings can be temporarily causitive, such as the period a few years after a large volcanic eruption.

But what about paleoclimate?

By calculating the IF in nat per unit time from the 1000 year interpolated PAT time series to CO2 concentration we get 0.123 ± 0.060 nat/ut and −0.054 ± 0.040 nat/ut in the reverse direction. Therefore we have on these long time scales a significant IF only from the temperature data to the CO2, but not in the other direction, exactly opposite to that seen in the data from the last 156 years. This result proves robust against using different ice age/gas age chronologies (SI, Tables SI-5 and SI-6 comparing EDC3 and AICC2012 chronology) and against using the recent corrected CO2 data from Bereiter45 (SI, Table SI-7).

which is just what Figure 1.1 shows. And what about the future, where will increasing GHG concentrations bite the hardest. Stips, Macias and Coughlan have an idea based on information flow

So the next time you hear correlation doesn't prove causality, point them thisaway or to the Nature Scientific Report article.