Monday, September 30, 2013

Ethon Meets the Hound of the Pielkes

There is more than some confusion about the IPCC process. Ethon has tried explaining this on several occasions, but, perhaps at this time another try would help. First there are those who accuse the IPCC of being political, second those who object to the idea that the IPCC achieves a consensus.  Ethon would simply point out that that is the plan, not the problem. 

Now some, not Eli to be sure, might wonder why politicians and political scientists are mystified that the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers has political and policy implications.  The answer is simple, every single sentence is unanimously approved by over 170 nations, each of which has a delegation consisting of politicians, policy makers and scientists.

So, as Sherlock Holmes might say, the absence of dissenters is a sure sign of a consensus.

But how was that consensus achieved?  After all there are loose canons out there, some of them have oil, some coal and some nuts.  Some statements have been modified to placate all of these, but the basis remains.  Well, that is design.  Consider, for example the Consensus Oriented Decision Making Model

  1. Framing the topic
  2. Open Discussion
  3. Identifying Underlying Concerns
  4. Collaborative Proposal Building
  5. Choosing a Direction
  6. Synthesizing a Final Proposal
  7. Closure
 and compare this with the IPCC process.  Good match there.

To summarize, the IPCC achieves consensus by design of its process. It ain't rocket science.  Folks know how to design such processes.  The IPCC at the highest level includes policy makers and politicians, but first achieves a scientific consensus before they get to put their oar in.  The policy makers then modify and approve the final consensus, line by line in the action document, the Summary for Policy Makers (as Eli puts it, really the Summary FROM Policy Makers).

So, the bunnies ask, why is there no stomping of feet and refusing to agree.  Well for one, nations don't like to look like idiots (that's the good news) and for two the reports merely show that the world is screwed without requiring actions to unscrew it (that's the bad news).

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Looking to the Future

The IPCC Summary from Policymakers (after all they got to approve every sentence of the thing) is occupying the blogs, with continued focus on climate sensitivity, ocean heat content, sea level rise and more. 

To Eli, an important bottom line can be found in the boxed statement on the last page

Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.
which is expanded on below,
A large fraction of anthropogenic climate change resulting from CO2 emissions is irreversible on a multi-century to millennial time scale, except in the case of a large net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere over a sustained period. Surface temperatures will remain approximately constant at elevated levels for many centuries after a complete cessation of net anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Due to the long time scales of heat transfer from the ocean surface to depth, ocean warming will continue for centuries. Depending on the scenario, about 15 to 40% of emitted CO2 will remain in the atmosphere longer than 1,000 years.
Bunnies have to keep in mind that the most optimistic of the scenarios, RCP 2.6, the one where the world gets serious about climate change, requires huge reductions in the carbon dioxide emissions,
By 2050, annual CO2 emissions derived from Earth System Models following RCP2.6 are smaller than 1990 emissions (by 14% to 96%). By the end of the 21st century, about half of the models infer emissions slightly above zero, while the other half infer a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
The Sueddeutscher Zeitung reports that this originally said that by 2050 emissions had to be halved to avoid the 2 C boundary, but that the Saudi's insisted this be changed to (by 14% to 96%).  The scientific consensus limited the damage because in a meeting of nations credibility is important and the full Inhofe only produces sniggling.

In looking at the projections of global temperatures, one has to keep in mind that there are different projections for different scenarios
Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 for all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. It is likely to exceed 2°C for RCP6.0 and RCP8.5, and more likely than not to exceed 2°C for RCP4.5. Warming will continue beyond 2100 under all RCP scenarios except RCP2.6. Warming will continue to exhibit interannual-to-decadal variability and will not be regionally uniform
and pay careful attention to that word exceed
Increase of global mean surface temperatures for 2081–2100 relative to 1986–2005 is projected to likely be in the ranges derived from the concentration driven CMIP5 model simulations, that is, 0.3°C to 1.7°C (RCP2.6), 1.1°C to 2.6°C (RCP4.5), 1.4°C to 3.1°C (RCP6.0), 2.6°C to 4.8°C (RCP8.5). The Arctic region will warm more rapidly than the global mean, and mean warming over land will be larger than over the ocean (very high confidence).
Somebunnies will attempt to use the wide range of projections, 0.3 to 4.8 to cast doubt.  Point out that the range for no action 2.6°C to 4.8°C, is much more precise, very scary, and in no way a walk in the park for their kid's kid's.

Summaries at Real Climate

Friday, September 27, 2013

IPCC WG1 announcement

The IPCC WG1 opening session as it happened

Ladies and gentlemen, the choice and shape of the future are ours - Thomas Stocker, WGI co-chair

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Eli Stole the Playbook

For those bunniesTM E Rabett wondering about the noise machine revving up before tomorrow's release of the IPCC WG1 final draft, Eli will let you in on a secret.  The playbook is out there for your reading pleasure, actually in the tobacco archive. 

They talk about a speakers program where identified spokespeople in local markets a attract press attention. 

As you know we have 200 media trained activists in the field.  Prior to this project we were working on plans to fully activate all of these people
The goal was that
News media will recognize our spokespersons as source for accurate, timely, and credible information.
For outreach
Each spokesperson will be given a list of all media in area.  Where feasible spokesperson will schedule brief one on one meetings with reporters/editors to introduce themselves and leave information.  Key media not reached will be mailed a rolodex type card with brief information
Editorial board outreach was very important
Place senior executives and identified spokesmen with select editorial boards.
One of their key messages was
"Develop "class war" stressing the impact of FET on lower income people"
and, of course, get "scientists" to fabricate a case against the EPA.  

Eli gotta go, but read the tobacco industry plan and process what is happening in light of it.  Yes, that includes our friends in the press

Established Science

In which Eli goes all Frank Luntz on the bunnies and takes up the wordsmith's burden and suggests nixing the phrase settled science and taking up established science. Why you ask?

In the approach to the WG1 rollout, the Flat Earthers are going all wingnut again about "settled science" and have stirred up the Aunties, including the editor of Nature.  Well, yes young'en, there ain't no such thing as science somebunny can't ask questions about, but there are certainly questions about which it is pretty clearly recognized that asking the questions displays a certain lack of learning, or others where the cost benefit analysis says that working to get an answer is somewhere between betting your life on double zero in roulette and spitting into the wind although more fun.

Now there is a use for people who ask such questions, especially in the period when something is moving between an area of active inquiry and of interest only to folks who mutter into tattered notebooks of scribble, e.g. the sky dragons of past amusement. 

Eli has a friend at another place of more renown who has two colleagues, both rather well known.  When he has a question, he puts it to both of them.  From one he gets the wrong answer for the right reason, from the other the right answer for the wrong reason.  Since Eli's friend knows who is what, he ends up with the combination he needs, but what really is amusing is someone who gives you the wrong answer for the wrong reason.

Richard Lindzen is a prime example of such a person, who by learning ain't a dummy, but has always got it wrong, but on the way, for example the Iris hypothesis, drives others to find interesting science.  Ray P laid this out clearly in his 2012 Tyndall lecture (start at 35:00 in the video)

It's OK to be wrong, and Dick is a smart person, but most people don't really understand that one way of using your intelligence is to spin ever more clever ways of deceiving yourself, ever more clever ways of being wrong, and that's OK because if you are wrong in an interesting way that advances the science,  I think it's great to be wrong and he has made a career of being wrong in interesting ways about climate science.
What is wrong about this is that increasingly for Lindzen the wrong appears to be driven by a desperation to be right about something and taken on an increasingly political tinge and.  Which brings us to established science.

There is no doubt that there are many things about climate science that are well established and that only the cranks dispute, this is the consensus.  Established science is what the IPCC uses when it says that humans are changing the climate in ways that threaten the environment in which we live.  And, of course, please send Eli a carrot when you talk about Established Science

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fifteen years later, Patrick Michaels finally makes a bet on climate change

Via Tamino, I learned of a not particularly large, $250 bet with Scott Supak over whether there will be statistically significant warming in 25 years starting in 1997 (details posted at Roy Spencer's blog).

This is an update to a bet offer that Michaels' newsletter made in 1998 for a 10 year period. James Annan learned of that offer in 2005 and tried to accept, but the new editor Chip Knappenberger pulled a Lindzen (defined here) and declined to keep that bet. Seems like a pretty good bet for Scott despite starting in the 1997-1998 El Nino, some uncertainty about defining statistical signficance, and despite using HADCRUT which as I understand it leaves out the rapidly-warming high Arctic.

I btw have my own series of bets with up to $9,000 on the line, starting with 2007 five-year average and ending with 2017, 2022, and 2027 five-year averages. So far it's not going well for me, but it's early days. Best case scenario is at the end of 2029, I've lost my shirt. Worst case scenario is I've won every bet. Almost-worst case scenario is that statistical or a real temporary lull cost me on the 10-year bet (which will slow down efforts to address the problem) while I win on the 20.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


In honor of the coming snows, Eli thought it would be interesting to read a June paper from Nature, "The importance of feldspar for ice nucleation by mineral dust in mixed phase clouds" by Atkinson, et al, including another Tamsin, Malkin. (for those interested in different names there is great fun at Lawyers Guns and Money this weekend).  There appears to be at least one follow on from this group at Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry, and there is a horse race, involving a UToronto group

The issue is whether there is a difference in the freezing temperatures of water droplets nucleated around small dust particles (solid aerosols).  This is one of those things that at first glance you think WTF, but as soon as you know the result the reason is pretty obvious.  So these folks made up a bunch of aerosols using different species of mineral dust, like the kind that comes off deserts and other dry places, drove the dust through water vapor until they picked up enough water to be between 14 and 16 microns diameter and then cooled them at 1K/min.  They could observe the freezing very Millikan like through a microscope.

The issue about which does what to the production of ice crystals depends not only on the temperature at which the particles freeze, but also on the relative amounts of  each type of dust (let the bunnies not worry about mixed dust particles at this point).  The authors used their data to model the effects of the differential freezing point on mixed clouds (those with solid and liquid water aerosols).  Even tho feldspar is not so common (the fraction, of course as in all such things varies from 25% on down to less that .1% depending), it turns out to have an important effect.

Eli is not going to get too deeply into the modeling, but indeed the idea is interesting.  Obviously something is going on at the interface which causes water molecules to bind tightly.  Turns out that there is a lot of oldish work on dielectric constants and dissolution of minerals, and IEHO the answer lurks there.  For example, from 1980 a paper on dielectric constant and loss tangent angles of Indian rock samples by Singh, Singh and Lal showing a significant enhancement of the dielectric constant of moist feldspar dust and not so much for stuff like marble and quartz.  Also, comments here and there about how the alkalai ions at the surface of the feldspar can be solubalized, leaving a charged surface.

A geologist could probably say something more than this handwaving, but it sure looks like water molecules can bind strongly to the feldspar surface providing excellent nucleation sites for freezing.

UPDATE:  Just pointing out for the aerosol fans, that Eli has been on a bit of an aerosol kick lately

Ashes to ashes,
Dust in clouds
If you ain't sneezing
Then the ice is freezing

(Horatio does it better)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Tree Should Grow In Brooklyn

Dano, who drops by here on occasion has a paper, Urban forests and solar power generation: partners in urban heat island mitigation, in the International Journal of Low Carbon Technologies

The urban forest is generally decreasing in areal extent. At the same time, human population is urbanizing and urban areal extent per capita is increasing. Eighty percent of North Americans are now living in urbanized areas. Urban forests directly affect quality of life for residents of cities via the ecosystem services and psychosocial restoration they provide. The urban forest canopy is a key component of reducing the urban heat island, slowing stormwater runoff and making urban environments more efficient and livable. Municipalities in North America are reacting to concerns about urbanization and economic trends by permitting an increasing number of compact developments that may conflict with beneficial Green Infrastructure. Compact development may also present challenges to solar access for solar power generation. This paper identifies and illustrates key strategies to increase urban forest cover and decrease infrastructure conflicts by implementing given innovative design details, detailing specific zoning and code language, and providing best practices from multiple disciplines. These strategies to increase urban forest canopy cover frame a coherent set of ideas to decrease the effects of the urban heat island, increase solar power generation and improve urban quality of life in cities.
Among the interesting points is that the virtuous circle works for solar power installations in housing, if your neighbor has one, you rapidly become envious.  Anyone who has walked in a city knows that the urban forest is a major plus, better smelling (cleaner) air, huge cooling effect during a hot summer and just damn calming and nice to look at.  But all is not well, trees will shade solar installations, and so the problem becomes can we have it all and write zoning/construction codes that give it to us.

Let Eli point out one place where he and Dano disagree.  The later writes
Parking lots afford an excellent opportunity to achieve heat island reduction and canopy cover goals. A commitment must be made to allow for fewer parking stalls, as a parking surface area must be reduced and dedicated to tree roots. Progressive jurisdictions may be able to easily make these commitments, as there is growing indication that many areas in the USA may be providing too much parking for various reasons
So many years ago Eli and a buddy found about 100K for a liquid nitrogen tank at the Uni.  Went to the Dean of Engineering to pitch the thing, and the only issue
was "Not if it costs parking spots"

Dexter deteriorated because breaking good isn't very interesting

(Spoilers for Dexter, Breaking Bad, and Deadwood)

Guess my loss of interest in Dexter was justified as that series limps to its finale. I stopped watching in the third season because Dexter became less interesting as he evolved into someone less creepy and more normal, and according to the link that problem has only continued. The link contrasts Dexter to Breaking Bad, whose lead character has become worse as the show has become even better.

For another great show with a similar problem in the character arc, look at Deadwood. One of my favorite shows ever, but I didn't like Al Swearengen's improved moral character. They fixed that in the finale, though. We'll see what happens with Dexter.

Any other good ambiguous shows out there?

The one weird trick missing from coverage of carbon emission rules for new power plants

Don't know how often I'll get away with a semi-bogus title like the one above, but I'll use it while I can.

Anyway, draft rules from last year for new plants have been revised without too much weakening. New gas plants with newest technology won't have trouble meeting limits, while the best coal plants, barring some breakthrough, will likely have to sequester about 40% of their emissions.

So the one weird trick that people forget is this is not a free market, it's a regulated utility market, so reactions between price and market have intermediaries. While the assumption is likely correct that virtually no coal plants would've been built anyway, to the extent that assumption changes for political reasons, this proposal means that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) will be required. The issue of passing on sequestration costs in a regulated utility arose previously:

[One utility decided on a] recent deferral of a large-scale CCS retrofit demonstration project on one of its coal-fired power plants because the State’s utility regulators would not approve CCS without a regulatory requirement to reduce CO2.

This rule makes CCS slightly more possible, and there are four plants currently being constructed with CCS with special financial help, but this rule could assist these or similar plants.

With that weird trick out of the way, some other thoughts

- to litigate, the fossil fuel industry has to show it has standing to sue, and that could be an issue. Standing requires injury. If no coal plants were going to be built anyway, where's the injury? Once again, a conservative legal technique designed to cripple the law might have potential blowback against the conservatives.

- when the litigation happens, I have no idea of the maximum time it will take to finish, but it's pretty safe to say at least a year to happen, likely much longer than that. I believe these cases go direct to appellate courts, but from there they can request whether the Supreme Court would consider a further appeal.

- in a bit of irony for coal, their fight against cap-and-trade is coming back to bite them as far as new plants are concerned. New coal will have to reduce carbon by about 40%. I expect that if they have to sequester 40%, then sequestering 80% wouldn't have been hard, and if cap and trade had been in place, they could've sold the extra amount to existing plants.

UPDATE:  ironic timing - Norway is closing down its massive CCS project amid criticism and cost overruns. This keeps happening to CCS systems. Solar power has a mix of good news and bad news, but CCS seems to only have bad news. This will have to change if it's going to play an important role in the future.

Friday, September 20, 2013

If Dr. Bunny Loaned You His Tardis

Who Eli?  Well yes, he has such a device, but really what this is about is a contest that Science Magazine ran for young scientists

If you could go back in time and share one piece of scientific knowledge from today, what time period whould you choose, what would you share and how might that information change the course of history?
There were some dumb winners, for example telling Edison how to build solar cells, wouldn't work because you would have to develop the infrastructure, talking about microbiology on the molecular scale in 600 BC, that would go in one ear and out the other, talking to Newton about relativistic mechanics, in whose time the speed of light was even an issue, encouraging the Emperor of China that women are the equals of men, right, just about the same as telling Nathaniel Bedford Forest that Blacks are the equal of Whites.  But these sort of answers, worthy as they may be as wishes, point out the problem such a challenge holds.  You not only have to convey the information, but the person you talk with has to have the ability to make use of that information.  There has to be an adequate information infrastructure as well as a mechanical one.  And you have to find the right person.

For Eli, the two best answers were from Jungal Shah who wanted to give the fundamental theorem of calculus to Archimedes in 222 BCE, and Zeshaan Maan, who would convey the benefit of hand washing to physicians, to Su Song of China in 1070.  Samuel Rutledge also spotted this as important, but he wanted to talk to Semmelweis, not about hand washing, but about the importance of  embracing unconventional work.

Think about it while Eli gets the Tardis detailed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Storms crashing on peoples' heads can fill some information deficits on climate

A study of Rutgers University students testing their automatic attitude preferences for environmental politicians versus anti-tax politicians found a significant shift to the environmental candidate after Hurricanes Irene and Sandy (full article behind paywall). Physical evidence literally hitting you in the face may satisfy the information deficit. Hopefully someone can check on Colorado in a little while.

I'm pretty certain that in 50 years, the number of climate deniers will be similar to the number of Flat Earthers no matter how well or poorly we communicate the issue. Objective reality has a role to play. The issue is how much sooner than 50 years  from now we can get people to take required action.

Following up on Eli's post on the Kahan paper, I have a thought experiment to follow up Kahan's study:  what if immediately after the subjects had completed the study, the researchers explained to them how the math actually works and then asked them if they wanted to revise their answers? It seems highly likely there would be a tremendous shift to the correct answer (and if the low numeracy people didn't shift, that tends to support Michael Tobis' view). This result would support the information deficit model. It's questionable how closely this resembles what happens in the real world, but the same could be said about Kahan's setup.

Obviously framing and psychological identity play a role in getting us to confront climate change soon, but so does the science, and so does the exposure of bad arguments used to deny the science.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chris Mooney Was Right

In the Republican Brain, Chris Mooney describes how conservative Republicans have lost their mooring to reality, from cupidity or stupidity or just desire for life on another planet.  Whether you believe this or not, depends to some extent on you position about reality.  As Dan Kahan put it

As it turns out, I don’t feel persuaded of the central thesis of The Republican Brain. That is, I’m not convinced that the mass of studies that it draws on supports the inference that Republicans/conservatives reason in a manner that is different from and less reasoned than Democrats/liberals.
And Kahan and colleagues (Peters, Slovic and Cantrell Dawson) set out to do an experiment that shows that Mooney got it right, of course, without setting out to do an experiment that showed that Mooney got it right, but that is what they did.

Now Kahan is of the school that you might as well save your breath, that no amount of knowledge will budge cultural orientation, what he calls the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT).  This is opposed by a more loosely defined Deficit Model, that providing some factual material helps.  In the paper, ICT is contrasted to the SCT
“Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT), which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision-relevant science.
If you read Huffington Post, the claims are all or nothing, but if you back bunnies into a corner you get an it depends on how committed people are to their ideology, and certainly education, information, etc. has an effect, which is why the pushback on anything that shows how strongly those who study climate believe that people are having a major negative effect on climate

Briefly put Kahan, et al's subjects were classified as Conservative Republican or Liberal Democrat, and within each group those who could divide (the numerate) were separated from those who could not (the innumerate).  Selected members from each group were given ~ninth grade ratio problems of moderate difficulty

One was about a new skin rash treatment

Rash Got Better
Rash Got Worse
Patients who did use the new skin cream
Patients who did not use the new skin cream

and the other was about

Increase in Crime
Decrease in Crime
Cities that did ban carrying concealed handguns in public
Cities that did not ban carrying concealed handguns in public

They also flipped the outcomes, for example

Decrease in Crime
Increase in Crime
Cities that did ban carrying concealed handguns in public
Cities that did not ban carrying concealed handguns in public

and the questions were, was the skin cream effective or not, or were concealed carry laws effective or not.  (UPDATE:  Since readers are picking exactitude the actual questions were People who used the skin cream were more likely to get better/get worse than those who didn't.  Eli also changed the titles on the columns to the ones used which he had shortened to save space)

For the purposes of this post, let's look at their predicted probability of getting the right answers and discuss the various takes.

Kahan, et al's take on this is
also strongly disconfirms the second, SCT hypothesis. A low-Numeracy Liberal Democrat is more likely to correctly identify the outcome supported by the data than is a low-Numeracy Conservative Republican when the data, in fact, supports the conclusion that a gun ban decreases crime, but is less likely to correctly identify the outcome when the data supports the conclusion that a gun ban increases crime. This pattern of polarization, contrary to the SCT hypothesis, does not abate among high Numeracy subjects. 
Michael Tobis, at Planet 3.0 has a different take, calling this Kahan's latest mistake, an example of the Juggler's Paradox because "Kahan is not measuring what he claims he is measuring. Not at all."
Consider the comparable experiment with people who can juggle on one side and people who can’t juggle on the other. Set up a pair of juggling tests, one under ordinary conditions and the other in the presence of sudden, random, loud noises. The preformance of the adept will decline. The performance of those who cannot do the task under the best of circumstances will stay the same.  
Can we therefore conclude that “highly dextrous people are more subject to distraction than clumsy ones”? Well, sort of, but it doesn’t really tell us very much of interest.  
Can we conclude that “they applied their dexterity to the task of dropping the ball”? In this case that doesn’t even make any sense. Why should the analogous reason be relevant in Kahan’s?
In short, MT is pointing out that the numerate always do better than the innumerate, although there is certainly an ICT effect and but SCT also plays a role and one would expect this to be stronger among the less politically committed.

Eli, being a dumb bunny, would like to point out the interesting Baskerville hound in the data which Kahan et al do not hear. Specifically the results in all cases for the dumb liberals stayed about the same. In fact, if there is any significant change for the dumb liberals it is a move against ideology (they did better on the crime increases data than on the rash increases).  In other words when faced with data that contradicted their ideology, they gave the problem more consideration.

The numerate and innumerate conservatives went with their prejudices.  To a much lesser extent the numerate liberals did, but note that their crime decreases answers pretty well matched their rash decreases distribution, e.g. they did not let their prejudices distort their answers in that regard, although they did so to a much lesser extent than the conservatives on the opposite proposition.

What Kahan has really shown is that conservative republicans are barking mad.  Sadly so.

His study certainly "supports the inference that Republicans/conservatives reason in a manner that is different from and less reasoned than Democrats/liberals."