Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Peering at Supreme Court entrails

Everyone says the recent Clean Air Act victory in the Supremes was a 'rare EPA success' and an equally rare defeat to the US Chamber of Commerce. Not too surprising given that the Court hasn't had an environmentalist serving on it since William Douglas left in 1975, while big corporate lawyers abound as justices.

The full decision is here, a good and brief writeup here. Some comments I've seen suggest it bodes well for more direct regulation of greenhouse gases. My first reaction was probably not, my second reaction is more hopeful.

The decision is about coal (mostly) pollution crossing state lines. Rather than the EPA beating up private industry, it's about the federal government playing an umpire role between states. Justice Kennedy makes a big deal about the important role of the states, so here he may have seen the EPA make sure states play nice with each other. Greenhouse gas regulation won't be seen in the same terms of protecting sovereign states from impacts across their borders.

On the other hand, EPA used a fairly liberal interpretation of its ability to protect against cross-border pollution that made the rule less onerous by applying a cost-benefit analysis. Opponents tried to make the law's required application so difficult that it wouldn't even be attempted, or at least delayed for years - a trick they've tried previously on Obamacare and greenhouse gases. Being flexible in order to make the law workable is a useful precedent here.

And of course this is one more thing making it hard for dirty coal plants to keep polluting. One more step in the right direction.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Compare and Contrast

UPDATE: The good natured bickering in teh comments set Eli on a hunt for more information, where upon via several places he found an interesting figure from Harold Brooks

to which the Rabett added a thick red line at the end.  First, allow Eli to be clear at the beginning that semi-log plots have a rather lot of issues, including that we do not live in a semi-log world.  Still the welcome decline in deaths per bunny from tornadoes is welcome, especially, if like Eli, you have dear friends in Kansas. 

Eli has drawn the red line in by eye, but what is clear is that the decline stopped about 1990, and somebunnies might even extend the pause back to 1975, where it would certainly be climatically significant.  There is also the issue that much of the population of the US does not lie in tornado alley and a better normalization would involve state populations where tornadoes are frequent (ok, there is always the Worcester MA tornado and recently some in the DC area, etc).  BTW the same issue affects normalization by total GDP because population change in the US has not been uniformly distributed). 

It is interesting to speculate about what happened in the 1920s to cause the decline.  Amongst the possibilities, are improved forecasting (a post WWII development), improved warning signals (even a few minutes can save lives.  Sirens were also introduced post WWII, before that bells may have provided some warning once a funnel was spotted), improvements in transportation and roads so that the rescuers could reach the scenes of disasters faster and bring the injured to hospitals where improved emergency medical care was available.  However, look at the right.  The last point is 2012, corresponding to 70 deaths in the US from tornadoes.  2013 was a bit lower, 50 (we are semi-logging bunnies) but would still be a bit above the red line and well above the green.  Perhaps, here again we are ignoring the incline.  

From Roger Pielke Jr. in the Wall Street Journal

From James Elsner, via Kate Greene at Wired

So, what is going on.  A swag, heavy damage comes when a tornado blows through a populated area, but populated areas have buildings and structures, and even though a tornado can pick the buildings up and the cars and throw them, that consumes a lot of energy.  What Elsner is graphing is the total energy of the tornado which, according to his method scales with the width and length of the tornadoe track.  What Pielke is graphing is how much damage is done which a tornado picks something up which slows it up.

And things got a lot worse yesterday

Happy Birthday Edward Kennedy

Sunday, April 27, 2014

And So Good Night


The Dail Mail often has interesting tidbits to amuse. 
Today Eli brings news of James.  James of course is the Joint Action in Multimodal Embodied Systems, in other words, your friendly robot bartender project funded by the EU, but for James to find employment, he has to recognize when the customers want a drink.  To better understand this researchers at the Universitaet Bielefeld, a bunker near and dear to Eli's heart, have studied how people get James' attention or better put what James has to know to fetch Eli a drink
. . .nine out of 10 thirsty customers adopted the subtle approach of deliberately facing the bar, which is the most successful for getting noticed and served, according to the study.

By contrast, only one in 15 customers looked at their wallets to signal that they would like to place an order while fewer than one in 25 customers gestured at the bartender.

Those not needing to quench their thirst subconsciously maintained a small distance to the bar and turned away from it by chatting to friends instead, signalling to staff that they did not want service, the scientists said.

The study, published in online journal Frontiers in Psychology, looked at recordings of customers at nightclubs in Edinburgh and Germany to analyse how their body language attracted the bar staff’s attention.
Indeed the week is rich..

Which Came First

UPDATE:  It was a very bad night in Arkansas.  17-18 dead and today promises more.  Awful.

Bunnies may recall that the last time Roger PJr. posted over at five thirty eight, a bit of controversy ensued.  It reminded Eli of how Roger posting over at the late lamented Nature climate blog, contributed to the late lamented.  This brings the Rabett to the just sayin' of the day.

April 15 a rather muddled article on tornado frequency by Matt Lanza appeared at 538.  Maybe yes, maybe no, a slow start doesn't mean much sort of thing.

 Tornado season has started quietly this year, continuing a trend that began in 2012. Through March 31, the United States had only 70 reported tornadoes even though the first quarter has averaged more than 170 a year over the last 10 years. April has remained quiet, with 36 preliminary tornado reports as of Sunday. Oklahoma hasn’t seen an intense tornado1 since May 31, the longest such stretch on record. The small tornado seen there on Sunday was the first of any kind since Aug. 7.
Many people have written about the possible causes, from drought to persistent cooler weather in places that typically see increasing tornadoes in spring. But what does this quiet start mean for the rest of the tornado season? Will our mostly good fortune continue?
Much will be revealed in the way the large-scale weather pattern unfolds in the coming weeks. But history provides a useful lesson: A quiet start to severe weather season does not necessarily mean a quiet finish.
April 24 a post appears in the Wall Street Journal by Roger PJ,

The Decline of Tornado Devastation

Despite what you might have heard about 'extreme weather events,' damage and loss of life from twisters is in retreat.

So far in 2014, the United States has experienced fewer tornadoes than in any year since record-keeping began in 1953, or even before.

Greg Carbin, a meteorologist with the Storm Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has called this "likely the slowest start to tornado activity in any year in modern record, and possibly nearly a century." But just because tornado activity has declined doesn't mean that we can let down our guard, as potentially large impacts are always a threat.

Overall, however, the good news for residents of the Midwest's "Tornado Alley" and elsewhere is that over the past six decades America has witnessed a long-term decrease in both property damage and loss of life. That's the finding that I and Kevin Simmons and Daniel Sutter, two of the nation's leading tornado experts, have gleaned from studying the data on almost 58,000 tornadoes observed since 1950.
Of course, and you knew of course, this weekend the tornadoes reappeared in North Carolina and in their
usual haunts, like Oklahoma.  

Bunnies would think that Eli is not the only powerful beast who thinks Roger ridiculous.

Friday, April 25, 2014

News: Republican congressman accepts heliocentrism

Or something like that.

Yes, this is newsworthy for a Republican political leader.

I suppose I should just be happy and cut the snark, but we'll see if his votes accord with what he now accepts is true. He is a youngish guy, so maybe he's setting himself up for the future.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Here and there Eli gets into it with the Breakthrough Institute hippy bashers

Here and there Eli gets into it with the Breakthrough Institute hippy bashers.  Some others do too, Paul Thacker amongst them,  which is part of the story, however, allow Eli to show the Bunnies why Ted Nordhaus and Michael Schellenberger (and their buddy Roger) are held in such high regard with a poster from Clean Technica

Ethon was quite aware of this when he took up dining.

Eli Finds a Toothpick

For some time now, Eli has been carrying around another olive that he plucked from the Tobacco Archives tree (a gift that keeps on giving).  Just the other day, he found the toothpick to spear it with thanks to Climate Change Communications which reposted a letter from Robert Gould and Edward Maibach appearing in a recent issue of Science

IN 1962, LUTHER TERRY, THE SURGEON GENERAL OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, ESTABLISHED the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health. On 11 January 1964, he released the committee’s report, “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (1), which reviewed the existing science and concluded that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally linked to cigarette smoking. 

This landmark report marked a critical pivot in our national response to tobacco products, leading to packet warning labels, restrictions on cigarette advertising, and anti-tobacco campaigns. But it by no means ended the debate about what we now know to be horrifically negative public health impacts of
tobacco use. Instead, it galvanized the tobacco companies, through their industry-funded Tobacco Institute, to publish a large number of “white papers” to rebut scientific reports critical of tobacco (2). The demise of the Tobacco Institute came in 1998, as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, where 46 state attorneys general obtained $206 billion dollars over 25 years from the tobacco industry for its culpability in creating a public health crisis (3). 
This bit of history has important parallels to our national discussion of climate change.  .
Concluding, and properly so with a few footnotes and 
Today it’s inconceivable that an American decision-maker would risk the public opprobrium that would result from expressing skepticism that tobacco causes cancer. We believe that it is an obligation of all scientists to hasten the day when the same is true for climate change, where the stakes are even higher.  
1. L. Terry et al., “Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States” (U-23 Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Public Health Service Publication No. 1103, 1964).
 2. Tobacco Smoke and the Nonsmoker: Scientific Integrity at the Crossroads (Tobacco Institute, Washington, DC, 1986);  
3. Master Settlement Agreement (National Association of Attorneys General, 1998).  
Which brings Eli to the game plan, perhaps better said, one of many, that is to be found in the Legacy Archives, but a fairly complete one from 1993 when the industry was worried about Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) and the possibility of higher taxes.  The detail and reach of the plan is a fine introduction to the tactics of the fossil fuel industry and their dependents but, of course, there is more.

John Mashey will undoubtedly comment, and Eli may have the details wrong, but the tobacco archives are the ne plus ultra document dump.  So large that no one really knows what is in there.  Those old enough will recall that IBM's tactic to respond to discovery in various anti-trust suits was to provide everything, truck loads of it, knowing that no one could go through the chaff to find the wheat.  Until the day that CDC figured out that if you were a computer company you could build a computerized data base, and document dumps became more difficult.

Anyhow, to whet the bunnies appetites, here are some goodies from the Tobacco Institute game plan
Activate the volunteer "advocates" in our systems and begin phone bank operations to generate calls to Congress on excise taxes.

Develop generic scripts and approve generic scripts for phone backs and letter writing.
Generate news stories, editorials and commentaries critical of the EPA Risk Assessment and unreasonable smoking ban legislation.
Proactive Op-ed placement in selected hometown newspapers of key legislators
Coordinate all tobacco lobbyists through TI . This is no time for anyone to freelance
On the sciency side we have some interesting comments
Scientific organization on how Risk Assessments done : cellular phone, ETS and others. -Stanford Research Institute to review EPA statistics (Steve Parrish to work on who has contacts with Stanford)
Identify one or more scientists willing to speak on the ETS subject in support of our position. Place them in speaking opportunities.
*PM TB - APCO/Burson Marsteller are identifying various environmental symposia where ETS can be raised and various policy group speakers will will be reviewed as possible candidates .
Description: A series of position papers or "White Papers" needed on the ETS and excise tax issues . Assign writers to complete the following :
•Write paper on EPA Science as it relates to electromagnetic fields (EMF), diesel, and chloride in water (in process) . 
 and, just further on, Eli has a hint of whom this was,
PM TB/JB - Will arrange a meeting with RJR to discuss a consultant's proposal that raises the weaknesses and the ramifications of the risk assessment to the EPA. Additionally, we will discuss another proposal for EPA's methodology to be reviewed by an outside statistical group
 Enjoy your assigned reading.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tu Quoque or John Quiggin Does the Dozens

Over at Crooked Timber (and on his own blog for the Southerners out there) John Quiggin disposes of the argument that left and right pick the science they like, an argument that the right tosses out like used preservatives

But, far more often their response takes the form of a tu quoque or, in the language of the schoolyard, “you’re another”. That is, they seek to argue that the left is just as tribalist and anti-science as the right. Favored examples of alleged left tribalism included any rhetoric directed at rightwing billionaires ( Murdoch, the Kochs and so on). The standard examples of alleged left anti-science are GMOs, nuclear power and anti-vaxerism, but it is also sometimes claimed that US Democrats are just as likely as Republicans to be creationists.
Allow Eli to restate his position on GMOs, he eats the shit, as does about everyone on God's green Earth.  More details about the position of the blog on GMO's can be found here, and might be summed up as go forward but be observant, which is also our position on nuclear.  As to the anti-vaxers, well, Eli will leave that to Respectful Insolence.

There is, in fact, rather useful research that shows that opposition to GMOs is spread across the political spectrum, and if anything, best correlates to sex (nononono ... not the absence thereof, but the fact that guys will shove any piece of pizza they can find into their mouths, women, not so much).

Quiggin points out that tu quoque, or as your mom put it, because your buddy does it, doesn't mean you have to be stupid.
 I’ll argue over the fold that these examples don’t work. What’s more important, though, is what the tu quoque argument says about those who deploy it, and their view of politics. The implied claim is that politics is inherently a matter of tribalism and emotion, and that there is no point in complaining about this. The only thing to do is to pick a side and stick to it. What passes for political argument is simply a matter of scoring debating points for your side and demolishing those of the others. So, anyone who uses tu quoque as a defence, rather than seeking to dissuade their own side from tribalist and anti-science rhetoric, deserves no more respect than the tribalists and science deniers themselves, who at least have the defence of ignorance.
Go read.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Predictions test

I'm a little delayed on this, but the Keystone decision probably won't happen until after November elections. In that case we'll see whether my prediction that it will go down, if delayed that long, gets verified. Roger Pielke Jr's prediction of approval in February 2013 just keeps getting wronger.

The best political outcome for Democrats is to never approve or disapprove the pipeline, but there's got to be a limit to delay (I think). Still, delay's a partial victory, and it's that much more time for the Canadians to come to their senses and elect a non-idiot as PM.

Not much sense in the first link to Bill McKibben being upset about the delay, unless he figures it's not really about the pipeline at all but about organizing a movement to either build on a victory or to lead the charge against a wrong decision. Hard to organize a movement over some governmental thing that just keeps being nebulous.

I still think that no matter what, this will be part of the 2016 presidential election.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fate of the World - PowerFlip 2036

Dano writes to Eli

“I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.” – Blaise Pascal

Two things the bunnies may have noticed about recent denialist complaining: the recycling of the “models can’t predict” talking point has grown quite loud, assertive and certain, and of course the increase in noise of the “no warming since 1998” talking point. We’re not here at the bar, sharing a carrot juice, to give these serious consideration - except for background to the following, in the context of head bunny Eli’s revealing recent posts about RP Jr/Revkin, and why denialists deny.

First a little background for the journey.

Bunnies may have read Michael Mann’s recent SciAm article about the climate danger threshold. Basically, he calculated when the tipping point would be depending on likely Equilibrium Climate Sensitivities (ECS). The headline of this SciAm piece said it would be the year 2036 – in many of your lifetimes. A good chance not mine, but maybe yours. Mann also said that if the Faux Pause is robust and continues, the tipping point/threshold is extended ~10 years.

As the chorus of voices saying ‘we should do something’ grows louder, getting close on dates (‘by when’) is important (and perhaps the motivation behind the increasing number of disinformation transmissions about “models can’t predict”).

Recently Eli shared with us some of the interesting backgrounds of a couple dwellers in the Wegmanesque Web of so-called “honest brokers”, who want you to believe we shouldn’t rush into things let we upset the delicate confidence of the rentier class job creators. As the bunnies know, the longer we wait the greater the future costs (and less hit to profits next quarter). The last press releases on costs if we start now are a mere annual reductions of global GDP of 1.7% in 2030 and 4.8% in 2100 compared to a baseline growth of 300 to 900% in the century.

This amounts to an annualized cost of 0.06% compared to baseline growth of 1.6 to 3% per year.  In other words, the cost, IF WE START NOW, is in the noise (cue collective gasp from the usual suspects) – this doesn’t comport with the soothing sounds from the honest brokers. And having a date in the near future makes honest brokering seem specious. But golly, maybe it’s too late anyways and so all our money should go into adaptation. So what to believe?

Well, maybe first we should have a better dialogue on what are these ‘thresholds’ or ‘tipping points’ or ‘inflection points’, depending on your discipline – I say “tipping points” in ecological contexts or “a-ha moments” if talking about social diffusion.

What is a tipping point in ecology/society? It is merely this: a point that indicates a change of state to a new state or condition. A “flip” in state, if you will, to a new state. A new system takes over, with new drivers and new outcomes. That’s it.

Depending on the system, that “point” might have a time scale of a year, a day, a decade. The important thing is that there will be a new state, with new drivers, new energy flows, new reactions to disturbance. Biota – living things – now have to react to new inputs, new flows, new  changes in nutrient cycling for which they may or may not be adapted (or have the ability to adapt to).

Since there has been no large-scale state change since the end of the last ice age, human societies have no record to draw on for guidance on how to go forth in this new state (or, also a possibility, transitional state). Doubly troubling – the climate’s temperature has been quite steady since stabilizing after the last glaciation, a rarity in the global record as we understand it.

Is this a “catastrophe” and should the denialists start screaming CAGW!! or what? We don’t know. We’ve never done this before. Risk managers, generals, and some leaders might not like the chance that society as we know it – constructed on $trillions of sunk costs – might change on large scales and some of that investment in society will be literally sunk.

To me, most importantly, we’ve never grown food in a system that’s flipped to a new state – and nested in other systems that may or may not flip, further increasing uncertainty and fostering emergent conditions (that’s ecologyspeak for ‘surprise”). This article on the challenges to adapt food systems to human population and diminished terrestrial resources in 2050 seems to me to have an undercurrent of system brittleness to it, and doesn’t really mention climate disruption to a realistic degree. Pile on the fact that we’ve only just begun to urbanize and we are nowhere close to figuring out how to get along and trade fairly with one another, and the challenges are daunting.

But that is not to say this is a “catastrophe”. There will be monumental changes. There will be risk. And loss. And disruption. And less – there will likely be much less if the population sustains only a small hit. We will have a hard landing or a soft landing, but that depends upon us. Can we actually learn to get along with each other in order to continue after the disruptions?

Maybe the denialists deny because they know they do not get along well with those outside their tribe and they will have to after the tipping point. I won’t give them that much credit for thinking it through, though, and will stick with: denialists deny to protect their self-identity.

One other thing: two interesting recent articles were published in the wake of all this recent publishing and posturing, about our ability to conceptualize and face what’s coming. One from an old, hard environmental activist and one from an environmental history `professor, both saying about the same thing. More pop psychology, anyone? Me, I’ll have another carrot juice from that bartender with the very shiny fur. Mmmmmmm.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Paul Krugman on WGIII

Posted without comment

So is the climate threat solved? Well, it should be. The science is solid; the technology is there; the economics look far more favorable than anyone expected. All that stands in the way of saving the planet is a combination of ignorance, prejudice and vested interests. What could go wrong?
Oh, wait.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Academics at Public Universities Win Big Time

ATI vs. Rector was the case where the American Traditions Institute sued UVa to gain access to Michael Mann's Emails.  In a surprising (to Eli) and sensible decision, the Virginia Supreme Court came down with a major decision for academics at public universities

One of the issues in the case was whether UVa and by extension Michael Mann had a proprietary interest in the matters discussed in the Emails.  Given that the Virginia FOIA law specifically exempts proprietary materials and that ATI claimed that proprietary implied the possibility of profit, this would have opened the doors to further mischief.

The door just slammed, at least in VA (emphasis added)

We reject ATI's narrow construction of financial competitive advantage as a definition of "proprietary" because it is not consistent with the General Assembly's intent to protect public universities and colleges from being placed at a competitive disadvantage in relation to private universities and colleges. In the context of the higher education research exclusion, competitive disadvantage implicates not only financial injury, but also harm to university-wide research efforts, damage to faculty recruitment and retention, undermining of faculty expectations of privacy and confidentiality, and impairment of free thought and expression. This broader notion of competitive disadvantage is the overarching principle guiding application of the exemption.
and they quoted from a brief filed by the UVa Vice Provost John Simon
If U.S. scientists at public institutions lose the ability to protect their communications with faculty at other institutions, their ability to collaborate will be gravely harmed. The result will be a loss of scientific and creative opportunities for faculty at institutions in states which have not established protections under state FOIAs for such communications. . . .
For faculty at public institutions such as the University of Virginia, compelled disclosure of their unpublished thoughts, data, and personal scholarly communications would mean a fundamental disruption of the norms and expectations which have enabled research to flourish at the great public institutions for over a century . . . .
Scientists at private institutions such as Duke, where I previously worked, that are not subject to state freedom of information statutes, will not feel that it is possible to continue collaborations with scientists at public institutions if doing [s]o means that every email or other written communication discussing data, preliminary results, drafts of papers, review of grant proposals, or other related activities is subject to public release under a state FOIA in contravention of scholarly norms and expectations of privacy and confidentiality. . . . Compelled disclosure [in this case] will also impair recruitment and retention of faculty . . . .
I can state unequivocally that recruitment of faculty to an institution like the University of Virginia will be deeply harmed if such faculty must fear that their unpublished communications with the scientific collaborators and scholarly colleagues are subject to involuntary public disclosure. We will also lose key faculty to recruitments from other institutions – such as Duke, if their continued work at University of Virginia will render their communications involuntarily public.
This is indeed a major decision which may stop much of the pursuit of climate scientists by industry, think tanks and denialists.  Eli thanks ATI for bringing this about.  Also thanks to UVa, the lawyers representing UVa, Michael Mann, who has taken a brave decision to fight his pursuers (Hi Steve) and Prof. Mann's lawyers.

Science incompetence doesn't bother me

William decided not to waste making a comment when he could write a post instead speculating on why the denialati do what they do, and I've decided to do the same.

He thinks they're incompetent at the science so they deny it fluffily and therefore never reach the subject of climate policy, which has a broad ideological range of potential solutions that might actually work.

The reason I disagree with that is that unlike William or my cobloggers Eli and John, I'm not a competent scientist and I'm okay with that. I can more-or-less understand the occasional paper I read - discussion sections aren't that hard to follow generally. I don't understand them enough to judge their accuracy or have any insights of my own, but I don't need to and neither would the denialists. An individual, cutting-edge study shouldn't matter to the non-scientist anyway - it's the consensus or lack thereof that can plug into policy analyses.

Being amazingly competent with the science is not so much of an issue - I can disagree with Ray Pierrehumbert on whether regulating methane is important, or with Hansen's ridiculous opposition to cap-and-trade. I'm not arguing with them about the science but about the best political method for solving the problem.

What's bothering the denialists is a lot of things but I think the most important is they can't admit the hippies were right and are right. They believe this all about making them feel guilty and they don't want to feel guilty so therefore this isn't happening. The economic issues making people psychologically incapable of persuasion are there for some denialists or people they know. The economic issues are also important for some factions of their tribe and that has a reinforcing effect, but I think it's ideology that drives it more. The fact that a revenue-neutral carbon tax is completely unacceptable to the conservative side of the spectrum just says a lot about the mental closure and tribal affiliation (I buy some of what Dan Kahan says, just not the whole store).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Frontiers - The Amway Analogy

Amway is an American institution, one of the first and most profitable of the multi-level marketing schemes, where what is really being sold is participation in the scheme not so much the products and the focus is on motivation, but not only motivation to sell, motivation to recruit new sales people, and the payoff is a cut of what the new sales people sell as they order through you.  It is not illegal, but MLM exploits the newbies at the bottom who have to buy their stock and are not always able to sell it as explained at the Skeptic's Dictionary
An Amway customer is not just buying a detergent, but is recruited into being a minister of a faith with a complicated bookkeeping scheme. Why not just go to your local store and buy soap, you ask? Because the agent is someone you know, or who knows someone you know, who's invited you over for coffee to tell you about a great opportunity. Odds are good that you'll either buy something out of politeness or a genuine need for soap or vitamins, etc. Perhaps you will become an agent yourself. Either way, the agent (distributor) who sold you the soap or vitamins makes money. If you become an agent (distributor) then part of every sale you make goes to your recruiter. The new recruit is drawn into the system not primarily by the attractiveness of selling Amway products door to door, but by the opportunity to sell Amway itself to others who, hopefully, will do the same. The products seem secondary to the process of recruitment. Yet, the distributors will learn to talk about little else than the product and its "quality." What justifies MLM schemes is the high quality of their products. What entices the recruit, however, is likely to be the attractiveness of making money from others' sales, not the products themselves.
 Today at Resource Crisis Ugo Bardi pops the cork on Frontiers, describing their business model
Once an editor, I discovered the peculiar structure of the Frontiers system. It is a giant pyramidal scheme where each journal has sub-journals (called "specialties" in Frontiers' jargon). The pyramid extends to the people involved with the scientific editing: it starts with "chief editors" who supervise "chief specialty editors", who supervise "associate editors", who supervise "reviewers". Since each steps involves a growth of a factor 10-20 in the number of people, you can see that each journal of the Frontiers series may involve a few thousand scientists. The whole system may count, probably, tens of thousands of scientists. 
This is the classic multi-level marketing scheme but with a devious twist, because the "chief editors"  (maybe, where the money stops is not clear) the "chief specialty editors"  the "associate editors" and the "reviewers" are working for the titles and glory and the contribution that they are making to Frontiers, not the money that the Frontiers journals charge for open publication, which means for all the services, whatever they are, of publication.   Ugo continues
But my impression is that the pyramidal structure of Frontiers was not created just for speed; it had a a marketing objective. Surely, involving so many scientists in the process creates an atmosphere of participation which encourages them to submit their papers to the journal and this is where the publisher makes money, of course. I cannot prove that the structure of Frontiers was conceived in these terms from the beginning, but, apparently, they are not alien to use aggressive promoting tactics for their business
The beauty of this scheme is shown by what Stephan Lewandowsky wrote when the second retraction statement was issued by Frontiers towards the beginning of the current unpleasantness,
Although there has been considerable media attention, the authors have made few public comments since the paper was retracted. I have continued to serve as a co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of Frontiers, I accepted a reviewing assignment for that journal, and I currently have another paper in press with Frontiers. After the retraction, I was approached by several Frontiers editors and authors who were dismayed at the journal’s decision. In all instances I pointed out that I continued to serve as author, reviewer, and co-editor for Frontiers.
Stephan was (Eli trusts the blinders are off now) a motivated Frontiers editor.  But wait, there is more, Frontiers generates papers and publishing charges by motivating the lower depths of the chain to publish with Frontiers and the upper levels to push their friends to.  One of the ways Frontiers does this is by selling itself as the scientists' journal, their thing, but Frontiers also raises money through the Frontiers Research Foundation which raises substantial funds to "supplement" the publishing charges.


UPDATE:  In the comments John Mashey points to Frontiers' fee schedule which has, toward the bottom, this very Amway statement "Frontiers awards annual honoraria to field and specialty chief editors at threshold levels of success of their journals."

Sweeter still

This explains the over the top way that Frontiers has been handling the Recursive Fury Affair.  If the better parts of the editor network decide that they don't want to donate time and papers to Frontiers, Frontiers is dead, just another fly by night open access publisher begging for papers (paid of course).

UPDATE:  Title changed based on MT's wordsmithing

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

His nudges are somewhat forceful, could get worse

Like everyone else I'm trying to figure out what's going on in Putin's head. He assembles the military force to conduct an invasion of Ukraine and then sits there, giving Ukraine's sad-sack military six weeks and counting to get ready. Maybe it's the sad-sack part he's counting on, although I'd expect there's a cost to it. This recounting of untrained cannon-fodder sent to guard the border, OTOH, doesn't suggest the cost currently would be high.

My original explanation was Putin hadn't actually decided whether to invade and the buildup is there until he decides one way or another. That's a pretty stupid substitute for a plan, so I'm somewhat doubtful about it.

So a variation, maybe - he's doing a Nudge Invasion right now with an undetermined number of covert operators, to see if them plus local tough guys plus undetermined number of civilian sympathizers are enough to take over the province. Then, maybe rinse and repeat next door. The military buildup across the border serves a purpose of heartening pro-Russian supporters while intimidating the Ukrainian government from using force. The invasion forces could actually invade, or not, depending on how the situation unfolds and whether Putin ultimately decides the price is right.

I disagree with claim that this a repeat of Crimea - that was a barely-covert invasion, and although the locals were mostly supportive, their help wasn't essential. I see it somewhat similarly to our defeat of the Taliban - our military forces swung the decision but the locals did the fighting. It's unclear to me still how many Russian soldiers are operating in the province, but they can't be the majority of the occupiers.

As to what we should do, my latest is that we should be arming Ukrainian forces, covertly, and secretly let Putin know we're doing it and that they'll get more as he gets worse. We should also be flying Ukrainian troops out of the country 500 or so at a time, training them for two weeks, and rotating them back. But what do I know.

One other relevant factoid - much of the Russian military-industrial complex relies on eastern Ukraine. It's not something they can give up easily. I hope Ukraine continues to sell Russia whatever they've ordered while this all plays out.

Satellite Games

ICE/ISEE3 International Cometary Explorer-International Sun Earth Explorer was launched in 1978 to explore the magnetosphere-solar wind interactions and repurposed in 1982 to visit Comet Giacobini-Zinner.  A reasonably close approach to Halley yielded more information, and like the little engine that could ICE was placed into a heliocentric orbit to monitor coronal ejections and cosmic rays.  ICE/ISEE3 was shut down in 1999.

Which brings us to today.  ICE is catching up with the earth and the carrier signal has been captured by amateurs.  The Planetary Society thinks that it can be recaptured and placed into the L1 Lagrangian point.  NASA wishes well, but is broke.  Keith Cowling and friends at NASA Watch and the Space College are trying to crowd source the new new mission but time is short, with commands to fire the on board rockets having to be sent in the next month or a bit more

Working in collaboration with NASA we have assembled a team of engineers, programmers, and scientists - and have a large radio telescope fully capable of contacting ISEE-3.  If we are successful we intend to facilitate the sharing and interpretation of all of the new data ISEE-3 sends back via crowd sourcing.

NASA has told us officially that there is no funding available to support an ISEE-3 effort - nor is this work a formal priority for the agency right now. But NASA does feel that the data that ISEE-3 could generate would have real value and that a crowd funded effort such as ours has real value as an education and public outreach activity.

Time is short. And this project is not without significant risks.  We need your financial help. ISEE-3 must be contacted in the next month or so and it must complete its orbit change maneuvers no later than mid-June 2014. There is excitement ahead as well: part of the maneuvers will include a flyby of the Moon at an altitude of less than 50 km.
In more space news, yesterday NASA  released a call for proposals to provide new and better data processing algorithms for Earth observation instruments on DSCOVR (aka GoreSat) which will sit out at L1 looking at the Sun and Earth.  As the bunnies may recall, DSCOVR rose from the dead because of the impending failure of ACE which was well past its due date and ailing, severely limiting space weather observation capabilities.
NASA has integrated two Earth - observing instruments, the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Advanced Radiometer (NISTAR) to the DSCOVR satellite. User guides and descriptions for these two instruments are available at
Proposals are sought in two topical areas:

1. To develop and implement the necessary algorithms and processes to enable various data products from EPIC sunrise to sunset observations once on orbi(such as ozone or cloud maps),
as well as proposals to improve the calibrat ion of EPIC based on in - flight data;

2. To determine the Earth reflected and radiated irradiance with an accuracy of 1.5% or better from NISTAR, as well as proposals to improve the NISTAR calibrations based on in - flight data.
The short dates for the NOI and proposal indicate that a "pre-selection" might have occurred;) given that one would have to know a lot about the instruments to make a proposal.

Notices of Intent are requested by May 12, 2014; proposals are due July 14, 2014.
but the description of the instruments and their capabilities caught Eli's eye
EPIC images radiances from the sunlit face of the Earth on a 2048 x 2048 pixel CCD in 10 narrowband channels (ultraviolet [UV] and visible) with a nadir sampling field of view of approximately 8 km and an estimated resolvable size of 17 km for visible wavelengths. The 10 spectral bands, their Full Width at Half Maximum (FWHM), and some primary applications are:

Wavelength (nm)
Full Width (nm)
Primary Application
317.5 ± 0.1
1 ± 0.2
Ozone, SO2
325 ± 0.1
2 ± 0.2
340 ± 0.3
3 ± 0.6
Ozone, Aerosols
388 ± 0.3
 3 ± 0.6
Aerosols, Clouds
443 ± 1
3 ± 0.6
551 ± 1
3 ± 0.6
Aerosols, Vegetation
680 ± 0.2
2 ± 0.4
Aerosols, Vegetation, Clouds
687.75 ± 0.
2 0.8 ± 0.2
Cloud Height
764 ± 0.2
1 ± 0.2
Cloud Height
779.5 ± 0.
3 2 ± 0.4

Four pixels will be averaged onboard the spacecraft yielding downloaded images of 1024 x 1024 elements at an estimated resolvable size of 24 km. The time cadence of these spectral band images from EPIC will be provided on a best effort basis given existing ground system and network capabilities and will be no faster than 10 spectral band images every hour. The DSCOVR project will provide raw instrument data, EPIC Level-1 images in CCD counts that are geolocated and both dark-current and stray-light corrected. Calibration into radiances (Watts/m2/sr) will be given based on prelaunch calibration data. However, improvements in the Level-1 calibration, stray light, and dark current corrections are also solicited based on in-flight data imaging of Earth and the Moon.
The project will generate the "Earth from sunrise to sunset" Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images. This ROSES element is soliciting additional products from EPIC sunrise to sunset observations such as:
• Global ozone levels
• Aerosol index and aerosol optical depth
• Ultraviolet (UV) reflectivity of clouds over land and ocean
• Cloud height over land and ocean
• Cloud fraction
• Spectral surface reflectance
• Vegetation index and leaf area index
These measurements could contribute to assessing the utility for using L1 observations of Earth to integrate data from multiple spaceborne, as well as surface and airborne observation platforms, to develop self-consistent global products. Proposals are, therefore, sought to develop algorithms to provide other products of utility to the Earth science research and applications communities.
NISTAR measures the absolute "irradiance" as a single pixel integrated over the entire sunlit face of the Earth in four broadband channels:
1. A visible to far infrared (0.2 to 100 μm) channel to measure total radiant power in the UV, visible, and infrared wavelengths.
2. A solar (0.2 to 4 μm) channel to measure reflected solar radiance in the UV, visible, and near infrared wavelengths.
3. A near infrared (0.7 to 4 μm) channel to measure reflected infrared solar radiance.
4. A photodiode (0.3 to 1 μm) channel for calibration reference for the cavity radiometers.
Proposals are sought to determine the Earth reflected and radiated irradiance with an accuracy of 1.5% or better. Also, proposals to improve the NISTAR calibrations based on in-flight data are solicited.

Missing the Trees for the Forest

As some bunnies have noticed recursive fury has broken out about Recursive Fury.  There are long threads at Shaping Tomorrow's World, where Stephan Lewandowsky hangs out, the blog of the publishers Frontiers and at Retraction Watch.

Eli would like to make a small contribution about the latest hand grenade lobbed by Harry Markram, one of the founders of Frontiers and evidently an editor with a pretty much unrestricted portfolio

My own personal opinion: The authors of the retracted paper and their followers are doing the climate change crisis a tragic disservice by attacking people personally and saying that it is ethically ok to identify them in a scientific study. They made a monumental mistake, refused to fix it and that rightfully disqualified the study. The planet is headed for a cliff and the scientific evidence for climate change is way past a debate, in my opinion. Why even debate this with contrarians? If scientists think there is a debate, then why not debate this scientifically? Why help the ostriches of society (always are) keep their heads in the sand? Why not focus even more on the science of climate change? Why not develop potential scenarios so that society can get prepared? Is that not what scientists do? Does anyone really believe that a public lynching will help advance anything? Who comes off as the biggest nutter? Activism that abuses science as a weapon is just not helpful at a time of crisis.
Without getting into minutia about the unbolded (and there are several falsehoods in there, but Markram is fighting for his baby), this has been greeted by mighty huzzahs from the ilk of Barry Woods, Carrick,  Nik from NYC and others.   Markram makes major errors in dumping on Lewandowsky and his co-authors, because he assumes that the Woods, Carrick and Niks are just fools who no one listens to.  But then again Markram lives in Switzerland where denial has perhaps not made such a major impact on policy and one can ignore the symphony of denial.

Driving the fact home that 97% of climate scientists are aware of the planetary threat is necessary.  Mole whacking to keep the moles in their blogs, well yes, that is also necessary.  And yes, Markram appears unaware of the facts of how his organization handled Recursive Fury.   He has not followed the smokescreens constructed by the Breakthrough Institute, Lomborg and others to stop any real preparation for the coming deluge.   Yes.  Steven is for sure shrill, pre-mature anti-denialism as it were, and those who see and understand existential threats are often treated so by those munching grass. 
Markram apparently believes that singing folk songs with the denialists will work.  Eli, on the other hand, suggests that Markram might also consider the lesson of Admiral Byng.

But as to what is bolded (by Eli), well yes, that is the real issue, but we have to get to it

UPDATE:  For some time now Eli has been pointing out that quoting somebunny's public statements is not exactly verboten in scientific literature.  John Mashey below points to a new post at Shaping Tomorrow's World.  Turns out that Frontiers convened an expert panel to consider the question and sent the recommendation to the Recursive Fury authors
among psychological and linguistic researchers blog posts are regarded as public data and the individuals posting the data are not regarded as participants in the technical sense used by Research Ethics Committees or Institutional Review Boards.   This further entails that no consent is required for the use of such data.”  Although this view is held by many researchers and their ethics boards, it is by no means a unanimous judgment and it is to be expected that legitimate challenges, both on ethical and legal grounds, will be raised as web-based research expands in scope.  But to the charges that Fury was unethical in using blog posts as data for psychological analysis, the consensus among experts in this area sides with the authors of Fury. 
Let the parsing fest begin.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

CNBC covering the carbon bubble

For your TeeVee entertainment. Ran across this while visiting my local Charles Schwab office, two days after I was speaking at a panel sponsored by Santa Clara University students on this issue:

(If it doesn't display, click here for the 3-minute video.)

Turns out it's not the first time CNBC has covered the issue, talking previously about the risk that carbon stranded assets pose to investors.

So Eli has found a revised final draft

So Eli has found a revised final draft submitted by the WGIII working group and there is also a copy on SCRIBD for the bunnies Sunday morning reading pleasure.

There are, of course, any number of take homes.

First that properly done mitigation is low cost, 0.06% of global GDP

Second that nations trying to do it alone will fail, raise costs

Effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently. Climate change has the characteristics of a collective action problem at the global scale, because most greenhouse gases (GHGs) accumulate over time and mix globally, and emissions by any agent (e.g., individual, community, company, country) affect other agents
Third, that energy systems will have to be substantially altered
Scenarios reaching atmospheric concentration levels of about 450 ppm 1 CO2eq by 2100 (consistent with a likely chance to keep temperature change below 2°C relative to pre‐industrial levels include substantial cuts in anthropogenic GHG emissions by mid‐century through large‐scale changes in energy systems and potentially land use (high confidence).
Fourth that delay is the devil
Delaying mitigation efforts beyond those in place today through 2030 is estimated to substantially increase the difficulty of the transition to low longer‐term emissions levels and narrow the range of options consistent with maintaining temperature change below 2°C relative to pre‐industrial levels (high confidence)
Fifth that costs are not zero, but bearable, very bearable compared to the nothing at all, and even the adaptation only or primarily scenarios.  this is a bit tricky because the 0.06% annualized estimate corresponds (as is the habit for such) of 3-11% total in 2100

Of course, if you think the costs of a 580-650 ppm world are fine, the cost is less.  Good luck with that, and also of course there are some optimistic assumptions
Scenarios in which all countries of the world begin mitigation immediately, there is a single global carbon price, and all key technologies are available, have been used as a cost‐effective benchmark for estimating macroeconomic mitigation costs
and, reading the next section of Table 2 reveals a very very optimistic take on the possibilities of carbon capture which, even including reforestation as it does, depends at least in substantial part on unproven technology.

And making everyone unhappy
Nuclear energy is a mature low‐GHG emission source of baseload power, but its share of global electricity generation has been declining (since 1993). Nuclear energy could make an increasing contribution to low‐carbon energy supply, but a variety of barriers and risks exist (robust evidence, high agreement).

GHG emissions from energy supply can be reduced significantly by replacing current world average coal‐fired power plants with modern, highly efficient natural gas combined‐cycle power plants or combined heat and power plants, provided that natural gas is available and the fugitive emissions associated with extraction and supply are low or mitigated (robust evidence, high agreement).

Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technologies could reduce the lifecycle GHG emissions of fossil fuel power plants (medium evidence, medium agreement). While all components of integrated CCS systems exist and are in use today by the fossil fuel extraction and refining industry, CCS has not yet been applied at scale to a large, operational commercial fossil fuel power plant.
Finally on various methods of restraining emissions
Since AR4, cap and trade systems for GHGs have been established in a number of countries and regions. Their short‐run environmental effect has been limited as a result of loose caps or caps that have not proved to be constraining (limited evidence, medium agreement).
In some countries, tax‐based policies specifically aimed at reducing GHG emissions–alongside technology and other policies–have helped to weaken the link between GHG emissions and GDP (high confidence).

The reduction of subsidies for GHG‐related activities in various sectors can achieve emission reductions, depending on the social and economic context (high confidence).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

And Then Unmasks or Not

And Then There is Physics is taking a break and wondering whether he should unmask.  Eli left some advice, which is worth repeating as it is often discussed

Keep the handle and don’t worry if some “out” you. The nym provides important space where you don’t feel the need to respond to every last bit of abuse, and to look at the world with fresh eyes. There are two other advantages. First it annoys the right people. Second, you can manipulate the nym in ways that amuse you and yours.
Being better known as somebunny else is uplifting and offers wonderful escape fantasies.  For example, Eli and Ms. Rabett have taken to virtual weekend tours, to Paris, to Venice and to points beyond.  The Rabetts get to take private jets, stay in top hotels, engage in romantic strolls and  museums, and oh, those candlelight dinners, although having to order carrots is a bit limiting.  In short, to escape the humdrum. 


With the release Sunday of the WGIII report on mitigation of climate Change Eli thought it might be a good idea to invite the leaders of the working group to explain themselves to the bunnies.  So, for your entertainment, Ottmar Edenhofer.  Some of these require fast links, take it as it comes.

Youba Sokona

In English

and Ramon Pichs-Madruga

In English

Coordinating Lead Authors discuss their chapters at Vimeo

Friday, April 11, 2014

Everybunny Talks About the Weather

but maybe not this way?

Go read John Fleck on the Colorado river pulse filling the delta

Eli is marking tests this weekend.  Entertain yourselves reading John Fleck's posts on following the pulse flow experiment filling the Colorado River Delta.

Setting the scene
Morelos Dam, Minute 319 and replumbing the Colorado River Delta
Ives in the Colorado River Delta
The fate of the Colorado River delta: shared blame
Presa Morelos: when in doubt, make a bird list
“La Cuenca is dead right now”
Four guys walking down the Colorado River
Memories of water
Hydrology at the end of a river

The water flows
A pickup, stuck in the Colorado River sand
Multiple meanings of “presa”
Following the Rio Colorado west
Plumbing the pulse flow
A river underground
A boy and his river
“The most beautiful sight”
I think I just violated the Colorado River Compact
Following the flow
Updated Pulse Flow Map
Land and water: Colorado River pulse flow arrives at Laguna
Pulse flow progress

Colorado River pulse flow: managing expectations
“Water hoarding” on the U.S. side of the border
Colorado “pulse flow”: fighting deeply held perceptions
Minute 320?
Abandoned citrus
A river means different things to different people
Declining Colorado River Basin groundwater reserves
After the rush, getting down to the science
Welcome, pulse flow readers. Buy my (old) book!
The Colorado River is no one thing
Via Nature podcast, Alex Witze on the grand pulse flow experiment

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Mysterious Mr. Revkin

UPDATE:  In the comments

CapitalClimate said...
Well, he was on their speaker list for 2012 (which reference links to the page in question):

which may be the explanation.  Not to Lucia this, Andy is very close to the Breakthrough Institute which does raise suspicions, as did his UTurn on Years.

With all the goings on, Eli was poking through Dot Earth, you know, today's edition where Andy Revkin is against "Years of Living Dangerously" after he was for "Years of Living Dangerously".

The background to that is the Breakthrough Boys are against it and with someone perhaps to be named later in an interesting way, managed to jackhammer their hate it into the New York Times Op Ed page.

Well, for one reason or another Eli Yahooed  -Andy Revkin and Breakthrough Institute -, and what do you think came up
  1.   Cached
    Andrew Revkin Environmental writer, The Times. Download Hi-Resolution Picture. Andrew C. Revkin is an American, non-fiction, science and environmental writer.
Interesting said the Bunny, and followed the link.  Well what do you know, a picture of Mr. Fair and Balanced with a blurb

This file is in the part of the Breakthrough Institute web site which gives little bios of the Breakthrough People, folks like Roger Pielke, Jr., Dan Sarewitz, Bruno LaTour, bunnies know the types, but you only find Andy's Page (btw, Eli has a webcite) hanging out there without a link to it.

Now, some, not Eli to be sure, might think that it a bit curious that Andy Revkin flacks for the Breakthrough Guys on a NY Times Blog.  Others might ask why he did not disclose in the post that he is or was one of the Breakthrough People, although evidently under deep cover .  That there might be a bit of a conflict of interest even if it were printed in a deep footnote on some obscure web page.

Still others are wondering why Andy is truncating comments that have already been posted on the current post with extreme prejudice, you know the ones that call him, Teddy and Mike S out for their acts.  Perhaps some of those questions are now answered.

Eli has inquired of the New York Times Public Editor.  Perhaps she will reply