Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Republican Judicial War Against Science

Washington Post:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Foote Effect

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

Okay, I’m finally convinced.

I hereby declare the greenhouse effect to be nonexistent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

August 11 and the Northwest Passage Is Open

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


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


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

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Making the fossil fuel insurance market less perfect

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Ignoring the Obvious

Rabett Run has always been a quiet and peaceful place where old bunnies can munch their carrots, but perhaps, just perhaps it is time to stir things up again so here are a couple of thoughts for the careless.  In the end, they are tied together by a convenient ignorance of the obvious

Eli could start with the Nature Climate Change jeremiad by Shinichiro Asayama, Rob Bellamy, Oliver Geden, Warren Pearce and Mike Hulme Why setting a climate deadline is dangerous,  Now the last three of these are well know climate change ostriches, it won't be so bad, or at least I will be dead by then types, the other two are not as well known hereabouts, perhaps they should be. The first of them, who probably won't be dead by then, essayed the Twitter long form in quite the good style.   ATTP has a useful dissection of some of the frog princes who essayed and Sou emerged from time out to to whop them good.  But you know Eli, that's not his way.  Eli begins by evaluating an argument not by its conclusions, but by its assumptions

If you read the paper it is a wonderful exercise in strawmanning, exceeded in many respects by the Newsweek (or was it Time, Eli forgets.  It's kind of what happens at this time of life) said that we were entering a new ice age.  The usual nutpicking shell game also so you can ignore it on those grounds alone.  Yet, the argument fails on a basic point, they claim that you can't usefully set deadlines for tough problems, but they ignore the lessons of the Montreal Protocols which succeeded by a) establishing that there was an emergency and b) dealing with it by setting deadlines. Indeed Montreal also set up a mechanism to modify and expand the deadlines to cover other stratospheric ozone de-enhancing emissions.

To argue that something should not be done because it won't work while ignoring an example where it has been done and worked is a basic error.  Given that the defenders of that piece claim that it establishes yet another example of how scientists ignore the worthy products of social scientists (poke about on Twitter) it seems more to prove that scientists ignore the crappy arguments of the usual suspects.  Well, OK, sometimes we laugh at them, sometimes we fret, and most of the time we face palm.

Which brings Eli to part two, the recent paper by Geoffrey Heal and Wolfram Schlenker, Coase, Hotelling and Pigou: The Incidence of a Carbon Tax and CO2 Emissions, which asserts that

Using data from a large proprietary database of field-level oil data, we show that carbon prices even as high as 200 dollars per ton of CO2 will only reduce cumulative emissions from oil by 4% as the supply curve is very steep for high oil prices and few reserves drop out. The supply curve flattens out for lower price, and the effect of an increased carbon tax becomes larger. For example, a carbon price of 600 dollars would reduce cumulative emissions by 60%. On the flip side, a global cap and trade system that limits global extraction by a modest amount like 4% expropriates a large fraction of scarcity rents and would imply a high permit price of $200.
The basic idea being that since oil reserves can be depleted and are valuable, eventually all will be used up.  Arthur Yap took this on as an example of "science news cycle" (his words, not Eli's) telephone from the paper, to the public affairs office, to the newspaper and so on, but he took it seriously, trying to examine what drove the results.  Eli, Eli looked for what was not there, which is often the case.

There are first order drivers other than how much oil will be burnt.  The first is that coal will disappear as a power source, it will still be around for as a reducing agent for ore processing, but no one is going to burn coal if a carbon tax is set at $200/ton CO2

The interesting one is that $200/ton CO2, makes direct air capture and carbon capture and storage look profitable.  It's another example of why a systems approach is needed to for dealing with climate change.



Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trump's New Lows (help appreciated)

Kevin Drum has created his quick list of Trump's new lows. I thought I'd try to add value by gradually replacing Kevin's text with links and otherwise improving it. I would love any help people can provide in putting in links and extending this forward. Please put links in the comments or email them to me (schmidtb98 at yahoo.com). Videos preferred.

My plan: twelve lows a year starting in 2015. This list will be kept live and updated over time as Trump inevitably adds new lows. I am open to revising Kevin's list from years 2015-2018, but once we hit 12 a year then I'm not adding anything without subtracting something.

The Lows of Donald Trump
Starting the Year He Became a Politician

2015
June 16: Starts presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants "rapists."

July 20: Attacks John McCain for being a POW:

August 6: Says Megyn Kelly has "blood coming out of her whereever."

November 13: Compares Ben Carson to a child molester.

November 21: Opens the possibility of a Muslim registry.

November 23: Falsely claims that 81 percent of white people are killed by blacks.

November 26: Mocks a reporter’s disability.

December 8: Calls for ban on Muslim entry.


2016
February 1: Encourages supporters to physically assault opponents (first of several occasions).

March 8: Defends his penis size in nationally televised debate:


March 23: Insults Ted Cruz’s wife's looks, implies he would reveal her past mental health issues.

March 30: Says that women who get abortions should be punished.

May 3: Suggests that Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK.

June 3: Attacks federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel for his Mexican ethnicity.

July 27: Asks Russia to please find and release Hillary Clinton’s 30,000 emails (they responded within hours).

July 31: After Khizr Khan accuses Trump of never sacrificing anything for his country, Trump attacks Khan and says that he has too made a lot of sacrifices, such as “building great structures.”

August 9: Suggests his supporters might want to shoot Hillary Clinton.

October 8: “Grab ’em by the pussy” tape.

October 12: More women accuse Trump of sexual assault (and more women since then).

October 19: Invites President Obama’s estranged half-brother to final debate.


2017
February 22: Attacks transgender children, forcing them away from bathrooms they identify with.

March 4: Accuses Obama of tapping his wires (he later admits he had no evidence).

May 25: Shoves Prime Minister of Montenegro out of the way to get better position for photo.

June 29: Accuses Mika Brzezinski of “bleeding badly from a face-lift” during a New Year’s party.

July 2: Retweets video of CNN being attacked.

August 15: Suggests that there were “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville.

September 30: Attacks mayor of San Juan after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico.

October 13: Ends Obamacare cost-sharing program in attempt to disrupt Americans' medical care.

November 29: Retweets three anti-Muslim videos from the leader of an extremist British group.

November 29: Continuing to promote racist anti-Obama birther claim in private.

2018
January 12: Trump Wants Fewer Immigrants From ‘Shithole’ Countries, More Norwegians.

May 7: Announces they'll begin separating children from their parents at the border (later revealed that they have no plans to reunite them.)

July 17: After Trump insists on meeting with Vladimir Putin with no one else present, he says he trusts Putin on election interference, then claims he misspoke.

September 13: Says the 3,000 dead from Hurricane Maria is “fake news” invented by Democrats.

October 13: After murder of Jamal Khashoggi, reminds everyone that Saudi Arabia is a good customer (and promises severe punishment if the Crown Prince is responsible).

October 19: Calls Stormy Daniels “horseface.”

October 19: Applauds Rep. Greg Gianforte’s body slam of a reporter.

November 1: Runs racist ad just before midterm elections.

November 16: Suspends CNN reporter Jim Acosta, action overturned by judge.

November 12: As wildfires are raging, threatens to cut off federal aid to California unless they change their “forest management” practices.

December 29: Says any deaths of children along the border are strictly the fault of the Democrats.


2019
February 9: Mocks native American genocide. (Ed note: Trump is ignorant enough not to know about the Trail of Tears. I'm open to something to replace this.)

March 8: Accuses Democrats of being the “anti-Jewish party.”

March 20: Attacks John McCain yet again.

May 24: Retweets doctored video of Nancy Pelosi.

July 14: Tells Democratic congresswomen to go back where they came from.

July 27: Persists in using the descriptor "infested/infestation" when referring to people of color.

August 8: Told press that hospital visit wasn't a photo op and then used it for a promotional video.

August 16: Pressured Israel to ban two American congresswomen from visiting because of their political beliefs.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Point Counterpoint

Point:  From Paul Price on Twitter, about a recent polemic from Mike Hulme that ATTP is going on about

Mike Hulme's parting words to me (after a talk in which he failed to acknowledge climate risk and I asked why): "the reason you and I disagree about climate change is that you care about future generations and I don't."  
Time wasters don't like the deadlines we need to care about. — Paul Price (@swimsure) 
 Counterpoint

Monday, July 22, 2019

Cruise the Northwest Passage


Eli notes there is still time to drop $28,824 per person to cruise the Northwest Passage in August on the Roald Amundsen, the new flagship of the Hurtigruten.  Since the ship has a hybrid propulsion system even the CO2 emissions are (relatively) low. 

The Hurtigruten are now a cruise line, but used to be the post boats that supplied northern ports in Norway, sailing from Bergen all the way up to Kirkenes and back even in the winter.  They continue to do so, offering cruises there, but have added cruises to Antarctica and other polar  locations

Of course, there is a real chance that the Northwest Passage won't open, but the Northern Sea Route along the Russian Arctic coast is already wide open and the chances look good that the bunnies can spend their money.



The point being that the Arctic ice is fragile enough that such a cruise could be scheduled.  That is worrisome

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Norway report


My wife and I spent 10 days in Norway, so now I'm clearly an expert and have things to say.

Mainly, travel in rural Norway so far does not yet support my theory that internal combustion engine cars will start being inconvenient, at least at the current level of EV market penetration for rural Norway. We rented an ICE car and didn't have trouble finding places to fill up. I did see places for EV charging in rural areas, but I think doing the same trip in an EV rental would've been difficult. OTOH, rural travel and overnight stays in unfamiliar areas without a defined routine and planned itinerary is the worst scenario for EV use. An Oslo resident, hopefully, has a different experience.

The other interesting aspect is how much the public can use private land, matched with how little public land actually exists. My day job in California consists in significant part of getting political support for public land purchases, partly so the public will access and use of the land. In Norway, that's not neccesary - the public has the right to use private land already, short of physically altering it. So there's a lot less public land. Not necessarily a better or worse system, but definitely very different.

We also went to Sweden - I asked my wife's Swedish relatives if a private landowner outside a city could subdivide their land and create a sprawl suburbia (fighting that is an even bigger part of my day job). They said no. I assume that environmental interest groups there would focus more on regulating private land and less on acquiring public land.

Last thing on Norway - they're still eating whale meat and selling it to tourists. Not good on the part of Norwegians (they're not expressing an oppressed indigenous culture, although even that isn't sufficient reason) and inexcusable on the part of tourists to buy it. Aside from that, Norway was wonderful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Systems Thinking, Lumpers and Splitters, Systems Education

One of Eli's favorite figures comes from the Australian Academy of Sciences and neatly captures the way in which greenhouse gases can be both an initiator and a feedback to global climate

Part of the problem many scientists have explaining such to the average family member and students is that physical science and engineering STEM folks tend to be splitters, aka reductionists, tear something down to the bare bones to understand how it works. 

With a subject that links many areas and ideas together, it simply takes too long to bring folks up to speed on enough parts of the problem that they (to use a 60s word, ask grandpa) can grok the thing.

Peter Mahaffy and colleagues at the King's Center for Visualization in Science are lumpers, establish the connections to teach about the entirety, then learn about the individual parts.  They have a chemistry centered article in Nature Sustainability on Systems thinking for education about the molecular basis of sustainability
The primary activities of chemistry involve analysing, synthesizing and transforming matter, yet insufficient attention has been paid to the implications of those activities for human and environmental well-being. Since a core element of addressing sustain-ability challenges requires attention to the material basis of society, a new paradigm for the practice of chemistry is needed. Chemistry education, especially gateway post-secondary general chemistry courses, should be guided by an understanding of the molecular basis of sustainability. A Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education framework illustrates one way to integrate knowledge about the molecular world with the sustainability of Earth and societal systems
Eli, a splitter to the bone, nonetheless sees great advantages of this approach, not only for climate change but for other issues which impact on the world in general.  There are lots of great points and images in this paper.  They have a great map that brings together the systems involved in the carbon cycle


 The emphasis is on how the systems are linked, us splitters can fill you in on what is in the lumps, oh if you have a few days, but you really almost don't need to know to understand how each part works to have a great understanding of how they work together.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Message to the Several Misbegotten

The Presidents of the National Academies (Science, Engineering and Medicine) have issued a statement on climate science.  In general this may be regarded as a message to Donald Trump and Wil Happer to screw off,

Scientists have known for some time, from multiple lines of evidence, that humans are changing Earth’s climate, primarily through greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence on the impacts of climate change is also clear and growing. The atmosphere and the Earth’s oceans are warming, the magnitude and frequency of certain extreme events are increasing, and sea level is rising along our coasts. 
The National Academies are focused on further understanding climate change and how to limit its magnitude and adapt to its impacts, including on health. We also recognize the need to more clearly communicate what we know. To that end, in 2018, the National Academies launched an initiative to make it easier for decision makers and the public to use our extensive body of work to inform their decisions. In addition, we will be expanding our Based on Science communications effort to include clear, concise, and evidence-based answers to frequently asked questions about climate change. 
A solid foundation of scientific evidence on climate change exists. It should be recognized, built upon, and most importantly, acted upon for the benefit of society.
The statement links to a more complete discussion and references but if you want the elevator speech, Richard Betts' tweet ain't bad

The usual bleat for Planet B went up, but as Eli always points out Planet B ain't necessary.  We have  a ton of lab experiments showing how greenhouse gases in the atmosphere behave under varying conditions of temperature and pressure.  We have spectroscopic models that perfectly match the lab measurements.  We have measurements as well of emission and absorption spectra throughout the atm, that we can perfectly match using our spectroscopic calculations.  We have measurements of solar output.  We have lab measurements of the density of sea water when heated, and models that perfectly match the lab measurements.  We have measurements of the density of sea water on site that again are matched by the lab models.  And on, and on, and on.

For the deniers to be right, ALL of those lab measurements and models would have to be wrong.

Not something to bet Planet A on.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Every year after 2014 will be warmer than every year before 2014

GISS calendar year average above 1951-1980 'baseline':

2014:  .73C
2015:  .87
2016:  .99
2017:  .90
2018:  .82

2019 is coming on strong, possibly a new record. No chance it will be cooler than 2014, and 2014 was above the next warmest year, 2010's .70C.

It's hard to call five-plus years a fluke, and even if it's a cycle, the signal of .2C rise per decade is rising above the noise. Absent a massive volcanic eruption, we're not looking back even to the significant warming that was experienced just nine years ago - we're off in uncharted territory.

Might be something worth betting over for the next time denialists say something foolish.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Mike Hulme Goes Hippie Punching

There is a fair amount of discussion about a blog post by Prof. Mike Hulme in which he starts by poisoning the well, asking

A denier is a person who denies something, “… who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence.” If I do not believe that climate change will drive the human species to extinction, does that make me an extinction denier? For I do not believe that there is good scientific or historical evidence that climate change will lead to human extinction.
Walking along Twitter Street Eli stops to look at the cardboard box that Prof. Hulme has set before him, is shown the Queen of Hearts:
A denier is a person who denies something, “… who refuses to admit the truth of a concept or proposition that is supported by the majority of scientific or historical evidence.” 
A reasonable proposition, think anti-Vaxxers, climate change deniers, moon landing was faked types, but now the shuffle, hey, Eli can win that game, so quick shuffle and what happens?
If I do not believe that climate change will drive the human species to extinction, does that make me an extinction denier? For I do not believe that there is good scientific or historical evidence that climate change will lead to human extinction.
which confuses concerns increasingly raised, with scientific, need Eli say this, consensus.  So Eli would say, here is not good grounds for thinking the good Prof. Hulme an extinction denier, but rather a three argument monte operator of long practice with an array of confederates salting the audience.

A fair amount of paragraphs now ensues, an odd combination of nutpicking, confusion of concerns about extinctions, climate change and the future (if any) of the human race,
Across the Atlantic the American commentator Tom Englehardt has placed humanity on a suicide watch for itself. “Even for an old man like me”, he says, “it’s a terrifying thing to watch humanity make a decision, however inchoate, to essentially commit suicide.” And in David Wallace-Wells’ best-selling book, An Uninhabitable Earth, he claims that climate change is “much, much worse than you think”
Whatever you think of these two statements, they are not the same.  Either one or the other can be true or false.  There are multiple threats to our civilization and to people collectively and individually.  Hulme mashes everything together to avoid dealing with each separately and then looking for connections.  The issues are climate change, rapid extinction of multiple species upon which the Earth system and humanity depend for ecological services and more and the effect that these challenges will and are having on human civilizations and humans.

It's like Hulme only reads the Daily Mirror to get information about what the problems are, the old Newsweek said back in 1975 that the world was going to freeze in spades.  Now, were Eli as young as he used to be, he would romp through the rest of Prof. Hulme's ruminations with glee pointing out the ear spinning speed at which he jumps from one set of issues to another, confusing them to buttress his arguments.  Yes, there is much to make light of, but there are, Eli thinks two important points that illustrate best the what is afoot.

The first is the claim
And finally the rhetoric of climate and extinction does not help us morally. Even if we take these claims literally, the mere fact of human extinction by no means impels us to conclude that the correct moral response must be to prevent that extinction. There may well be other moral demands upon us which take precedence, and yet which we ignore. Why the human species above other species? Why are the future unborn more morally demanding of us than the dispossessed victims of today? Why is suicide the worst sin of all?
identified as moral corruption by Stephen Gardiner, as reported on this blog many years ago in relation to delaying action on climate change
the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. . . By avoiding overtly selfish behavior, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.
Many false dichotomies ensue.  It boils down to we can't.  But yet, there is another point which illustrates how Hulme really does not understand the nature of the challenges we face
What climate change means is not ‘revealed truth’ emerging from some scientific script. The political meanings and individual and collective responses to climate change have to be worked out iteratively. They have to be negotiated within the political structures and processes we inhabit, negotiations that can’t be circumvented by an appeal to the authority of science being ‘on our side’. (Of course this must also include the possibility of renegotiating some of those same political structures).
That ship sailed in the 1990s.  It dangerously misses the point that climate change and extinctions are cumulative.  The extinction of a species that is important to the web of life is final.  Others species might arise to fill the niche, but not quickly, and if enough species go extinct perhaps the niche itself will vanish.  That is extremely dangerous. 

Climate change driven by increasing greenhouse gases is cumulative.  We need to get net emissions to zero as quickly as possible to avoid dangerous changes.  The best information is that staying even under 2 C or even going above it for a short time will require unproven carbon storage technologies.

In short iterative is an old man's moral corruption.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Down with pumped hydro storage, Up with dispatchable hydropower!

So here's the post in a single paragraph: dispatchable hydropower is a massive and mostly unused power storage solution available today to solve the problem of power variability from wind and solar. The claim that power storage is technically infeasible is wrong. There would be an economic cost but it's manageable and getting smaller. Environmental issues could also be addressed, especially because power can be dispatched without turning rivers off. Maybe I'm missing something, but pumped hydro storage seems like just a small part of a bigger solution.

My blogpost headline is a tiny bit exaggerated for effect. I have nothing against pumped hydro storage, it's currently the biggest and most cost-efficient form of energy storage, and it'll be some years before electric batteries will overtake them.


Pumped storage might be biggest current storage of power, but it's barely a footnote compared to total hydropower generation. Part of the problem for pumped hydro is that it's difficult to scale because you need a place to put decent sized reservoirs (or maybe two reservoirs, one uphill and one downhill) and you need to construct those reservoirs.

The other reason the description of biggest for current pumped storage might belong in scare quotes is that it's a footnote compared to the need for storage in a sustainable system that doesn't use coal or natural gas.

So what isn't a footnote? Hydropower, generating 16% of the world's electricity. If we stored and released hydropower to make up for the variability of wind and solar that will be the predominant energy sources in 20 years or so, then we'd have a large part of the variability problem solved.

The problem is that hydropower is currently used almost exclusively for baseload and high-demand power instead of dispatch, something that is done almost exclusively for economic reasons. The reasons are understandable - hydropower is some of the cheapest available power and the vast majority of the cost is initial construction while the fuel source is free. So the more power you produce as quickly as possible, the more quickly you can pay back the loans you took out to construct the dam and start earning a profit. To the extent you hold back on power generation, you only do that so you can maximize production during parts of the day when demand and price is the highest.

So okay, but if we have other concerns like not frying the planet, then maybe that should direct when we use the most hydropower and have it happen when wind and solar are not enough. When wind and solar are 50% - 70% of your annual power mix, you still call on those energy sources first on a daily basis and let the water get stored in your reservoir. At night and other low-wind time periods, you let the water out. The storage is so immense I believe it could even cover seasonal issues like the low availability of solar power in high latitude winters.

The economic cost AFAICT is substituting solar and wind power for your very cheap hydropower for baseline and some high-demand power. You still would be able to sell most (not all) of that hydropower but maybe not at as good a price. Yes, there's a cost differential, but it's getting smaller all the time as renewables constantly get cheaper, and again it shows that the storage issue isn't technologically impossible.

Obviously you can't turn a river off and on below a dam, but the flow level already varies quite a bit on a daily basis just for power generation reasons, on the order of 50% or more. Dispatchable hydropower would change why daily flow levels change, but not the fact that daily flow levels already change. Afterbays and dams discharging into still water sections also keep the river from running dry.

Add long distance transmission, less-variable offshore wind, other sources like geothermal and biomass, electric battery, and maybe a little natural gas plus CCS, and it's a sustainable system. Biomass plus CCS gets us to negative carbon emissions.

Maybe I'm missing something. One reason we're not doing this now is we don't need to - there's not enough solar and wind power to make variability a real issue. It will be someday though. Maybe the experts assume hydropower will be dispatchable instead of baseload, but that's not clear to me, nor is it clear why pumped hydropower would get the attention it does.

I do see hybrid systems between pumped storage and traditional hydropower currently happening, like pump-back hydroelectric dams where water released below a dam is pumped back up during periods of extra or low-cost electricity. In Southern California, two existing dams uphill and downhill from each other allow for pumped storage. I imagine this could happen in a lot of places, although it might be even easier to just not release water from the upper reservoir rather than pump it back up, assuming the upper reservoir is not an off-stream reservoir. Maybe these hybrid systems are a transition that will get us to using hydropower more consistently as a backup for wind and solar.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Eli Is Getting Impatient

Those who deny climate change are very sensitive little snowflakes who dislike being reminded that they are deniers.  MT has a nice thread about denial being a denial of service attack, but, reacting with hurt when denial has been pointed out has always been part of the denial toolbox.  Recently Marc (C) Morano got into it with Mark (K) Boslough

Now Eli is not one to avoid calling a climate change denier a denier but this time, the Bunny came up with a good defanger
 And, that being Twitter, Marc (C) came back for another round.  He should not have tho
So here are Eli's suggestions the next time some anti-Vaxxer, climate change denier or whatever starts bleating about being accused of denying the Holocaust and how mean you are for pointing it out
Why are you stealing the sacrifice of those who died in the Holocaust? 
You use the sacrifice of others to deflect criticism of your duplicity 
Another bunch who wants to steal the suffering of the Holocaust victims for themselves. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Eli Rabett's Simple Impeachment Advice

Well, what the hell, the US is headed there are the House Democratic leadership (e.g. Nancy Pelosi) doesn't want to impeach Donald Trump

The House speaker also suggested Trump was disappointed that she has resisted calls from some members of her caucus to pursue impeachment. Pelosi appeared to endorse the theory that Trump is trying to trap House Democrats by goading them into bringing impeachment charges, expecting to be acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate. This would allow him to claim vindication heading into his reelection.

“The House Democratic caucus is not on the path to impeachment,” Pelosi said. “That’s where he wants us to be.”

But Pelosi also made clear that Trump’s conduct could lead the House down that path, eventually.

“The president’s behavior in terms of his obstruction of justice, the things that he is doing, it’s very clear — it’s in plain sight,” she said. “It cannot be denied. Ignoring subpoenas. Obstruction of justice. Yes, these could be impeachable offenses.”

She added: “We can walk and chew gum at the same time. I hope he can too.”

The problem is obvious.  Trump is richly deserving of impeachment and conviction but a) the Reprehensibles in the Senate will never convict and b) Trump will never hand over evidence to even the ongoing House inquiries.

Thus Eli Rabett's Simple Solution:  Impeachment by a thousand Benghazis.  As the bunnies may recall the Reprehensibles ran thousands of Benghazi hearings (seemed that way), always demanding more information from Hillary Clinton and the White House, screaming stonewalling all the time.  This had a very negative effect on Clinton's candidacy to say the least.

Turn about could be excellent.  The House should open an impeachment inquiry.  Tomorrow

Nothing says they have to bring it to a vote, well it might be fun to do so a month or less before the election.  It would tie the Senate into knots and there are LOTs of Republicans running in 2020.  They would have the interesting choice of doing a quick whitewash  (explaining that in the face of the mountain of evidence that is already there) and even then spending valuable time before the election, or putting it off (explaining why they did not do their job would be even more fun).

Having a long running impeachment inquiry kills any argument that the House has no right to ANY information about how Trump is doing his job, or his actions before hand.  Trump STILL won't give up any information, but the Dems just have to keep saying, gee, how can we end this inquiry without the needed information.

Even better, Mueller, Barr, McGahn and the crew can't refuse to testify to the impeachment inquiry.  EINAL but the argument about executive privilege would seem to be a lot less effective against an impeachment inquiry.

And, of course, as everybunny sees, even more dirty deeds come to light with passing time

Impeachment Inquiry Tomorrow (Vote in about 17 months). Eli Rabett's Simple Plan

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Republishing "Don't feed the warhorses"

Republishing the post below from December 2016. TLDR version - old political warhorses like Biden do well in party primaries and less well in general elections. Doesn't mean he can't win though, just that it's harder. (And note the wrong idea I had that Biden couldn't possibly run in 2020.)

I don't think it applies to Sanders because except for the last few years, he didn't do much to help Democrats beat Republicans. Not sure that really works in his favor, though.

Biden does seem to have a demeanor that makes him "moderate" rather than "compromised" so that might help him, but we'll see what a primary and general campaign does to that image.

And while I'm saying this is how American politics work, I'm not saying I'm happy about it. It's crazy that Pete Buttigieg has a better chance now than 20 years from now when he's been forced to make hard decisions and compromises. But it's what we've got.


The old post from December 2016:

Don't feed the warhorses, and careful with the lightning rods

People may be sick of political introspection, but for those who can handle a little more, here's a list of old warhorse nominees:

H. Clinton
Gore
Dole
Bush Sr.
Mondale

Plausible additions, although not a perfect fit:
Romney
McCain

These are people that had been prominent for a long time and had done a lot of favors inside their party, so they had built alliances within the elites and started their campaigns with a fair amount of name recognition within their parties. They also didn't do very well in winning the Electoral College. Bush Sr is the only partial exception, going 1-for-2.

I suppose Reagan could be argued as a counter-example, but he wasn't very cozy with Republican elites in 1980, and that's also going back a ways in political history. Even if you did include him, the warhorse win-loss record is pretty bad.

Our political system, for worse rather than for better, values newness and "authenticity" over experience, compromises and baggage. I'm open to suggestions as to how that can change, but I'm not up for beating my head against the wall. The warhorses don't make good general election candidates, and Democrats shouldn't choose them in upcoming elections.

And good news, the only warhorses Ds have lying around these days are former nominees and Biden, none of them likely to run again. But the problem will return someday.

Second and related issue is prominent Democrats becoming lightning rods for Republican lies. Hillary was their target with the willing assistance of the New York Times and some other media. The result made her the second-most unpopular nominee in history.

Hillary wasn't the sole target of hate and lies - before her, it was Gore. While I hate to let the Republicans win their little game, maybe it's time for a little political judo - the Republicans are  spending all their lies on warhorses they see as future nominees, and those people aren't the best nominees anyway. So don't nominate the lightning rods that Republicans have been lying about, and use 2008 as a model. The Republicans had no coherent critique of Democrats, let alone a message of their own, and just had Hatred for Hillary. That let Obama define a completely different, hopeful, and moderately progressive alternative.

We'll see what the Republican game plan will be for 2020 - something tells me that it won't be a positive message based on a record of accomplishments. They also won't have 2008's McCain who tamped down on a new set of lies against Obama.

I'm not saying run from any candidate the Republicans start lying about, just to choose wisely instead.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Semi-review: Let It Shine - The 6,000 Year History of Solar Power

Short version of my review of Let It Shine: go read it, even if like me you're not interested in passive solar architecture. It's ironic that passive solar isn't that interesting to me, because it's about half of the book and until the last century it was about the only truly successful harnessing of the sun. Everything else, however, is still interesting enough to make this a good book about the history of solar power.

The history of solar water heating is fascinating - it got pretty far, particularly in Japan, before being killed off by cheap fossil fuels. In some alternate universe timeline, solar motors, solar water heaters, even solar electric modules developed in the late 1800s were never replaced by coal and fossil fuels.

Solar electric was particularly interesting to me. They have a picture of the first photovoltaic array in New York City, in 1884. PV energy seems like it could have taken off earlier than it did - the Eisenhower Administration purposefully rejected it compared to nuclear power and the mirage that atomic batteries would be commonplace.

The early space race, OTOH, was a godsend for PV as the only feasible long-term power source for the small satellites they used at the time (I'm not sure when radioisotopes became an alternate power source). The Gollum of 20th Century climate change even makes an appearance. A design for the first proposed American satellite from 1955 "shows that the satellite's designer, Dr. S Fred Singer, planned to use solar photovoltaics as its power source."

PV's cost hardly mattered for satellites but they helped pay for early technological development. Soon afterwards, remote locations on earth also became obvious use cases (irony again, offshore oil platforms started it). PV poked along for a while while subsidies for nuclear power and fossil fuels burgeoned forth, and PV received little R&D. The Atomic Energy Commission in 1973 proposed a 5-year research budget of $4 billion for nuclear and $36 million for solar. The Reagan Administration purposefully neglected solar. It took massive subsidies in Germany and piggy-backing on computer chip technology for PV to really begin its takeoff.

One interesting lesson from the book (mainly from discussion of solar motors and solar water heating) is how much of technological development is iterative development of prior work. The statement that science relies on standing on the shoulders of giants applies just as well to engineering.

Again I'd recommend the book. I'd also be interested in a history focusing exclusively on solar PV, and another on wind power. Suggestions welcomed!

Saturday, May 04, 2019

A brief guide to denial arguments.


Back in 2012, I reviewed a book by James Lawrence Powell, The Inquisition of Climate Science (Columbia University Press,2011). Powell received his doctorate from MIT in geochemistry and taught at Oberlin College for two decades. My review, entitled "Petroleum and Propaganda: The Anatomy of the Global Warming Denial Industry"  appeared in the May 2012 issue of Monthly Review, and can be found online.

James Lawrence Powell has described the highly effective corporate-funded propaganda campaign  to alter the public perception of climate science.The global denial industry includes corporate funders, toxic think-tanks, and PR flacks. For example, the Heartland printed and distributed 150,000 free copies (in fifteen languages)  of The Skeptic's Handbook. The author is a pseudonym. Looking back at my 2012 article, little has changed in the essentials. The case for global warming science is even stronger now than it was a few years ago.





Tuesday, April 23, 2019

CO2 is garbage not plant food


Is there a bunny so sheltered that he or she has not seen myriad repetitions of denial starting with CO2 is plant food?

Eli is a patient bunny, but has decided to take up arms against this nonsense.

CO2 is garbage.  It is recycled by photosynthesis using renewable solar energy

Go forth and spread the word.  It annoys the hell out of those in denial about how people are changing the climate for the worse.  Even better it is accurate.

The bleats you will earn are your blessings.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Yes, Eli has been on sabbatical, but he really has been thinking of the bunnies, especially with Easter coming up.  Well, sometimes it just gets hard to think of something new and interesting and life, or at least Twitter, has become a series of re-runs where all that is needed is a link to some old Rabett Run post (there are some goodies there the Bunny will tell you:).

In any case there has been recent discussion about a chart posted by the Lawrence Livermore Lab folk about US Energy consumption and copied to TwitterSeveral are trying to use this as an argument against fossil fuels pointing to the fact that rejected energy is a large part of electricity generation and more.


This is tied together with a basic confusion first discussed by RayP on Real Climate, that the problem with fossil fuels is not the rejected energy, but the fact that the greenhouse gas emissions remain in the atmosphere and slow the emission of heat to space over centuries.  In a letter to Steve Levitt, Ray dispensed with Nathan Myhrvold's argument that
. . . in effect, that it was pointless to try to solve global warming by building solar cells, because they are black and absorb all the solar energy that hits them, but convert only some 12% to electricity while radiating the rest as heat, warming the planet. Now, maybe you were dazzled by Mr Myhrvold’s brilliance, but don’t we try to teach our students to think for themselves? Let’s go through the arithmetic step by step and see how it comes out. It’s not hard.
Interested or, as in the case of Eli, those with the dread forgetting disease, can follow Ray through the calculation, but the point is that all energy eventually (may take the age of the universe, but eventually) degrades to heat, but some of it can be used in the meantime to do work (move things non-randomly, including electrons).

The reason that fossil fuels are heating the Earth is not that they produce heat as well as work, but that their CO2 emissions continue to increase the amount of thermal energy in the atmosphere, on the surface and in the oceans, over centuries.

Sunlight heats the Earth and is degraded to heat which radiates into space by IR emissions from the surface and the atmosphere.  Increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere slows the rate of radiation so that the Earth has to warm, increasing the rate of radiation to return the system to balance.  Energy added on the surface by fossil fuel combustion or nuclear energy or wind or solar, or whatever is soon degraded to thermal energy and radiated to space.  It's a small one time charge.

The ratio between the work, W that can be done and the energy input U, W/U is the efficiency, and the heat produced is Q. 

Thermodynamics sets the upper limit to efficiency.  Engineering sets the actual limit.  It turns out that renewables like wind and solar are not very efficient, but that the heat that they generate in creating work does not lead to a continual warming of the system over centuries.  The same is true for heat generated in fossil fuel combustion, but, as RayP pointed out a decade ago, that is irrelevant, because the CO2 produced in fossil fuel combustion DOES heat the Earth for centuries.

That being said, it's good to be efficient.  For one thing, it costs less over the long run in the building, operation and maintenance of stuff.  Also, rejected heat is local, which can be both good and bad, depending if you can use the heat for other things like industrial processes, or heating the home.  That gets deep into the weeds and Eli will leave it there

Friday, April 05, 2019

The clip that Republicans will play if Biden's the nominee - "Mr. President, my suggestion is don't go"

Unfortunately I don't see an embed option, but if he's nominated, then a shortened clip of this CNN video will get rotated heavily next year, starting about 55 seconds in, where Biden says his response to question of whether to attack the bin Laden compound was "Mr. President, my suggestion is don't go".

Expect to see that heavily played if he's the nominee. Also, if Republicans want him to be the nominee, I expect it won't be played at all by the Republican elite prior to the nomination, although they can't control everybody on their side.

They will cut off the video right before he adds "there are two more things you should do first." The Dems can point that out; it won't help them very much.

He can also point out how he backtracked in 2015 as he was considering running against Clinton, and announced the secret and contradictory advice he supposedly later gave the president:



 I don't think that will help him that much and may actually hurt him.

More here at The Atlantic on the questionable quality of his foreign policy advice in general.

Having said that, if he's the nominee he will be light years better than Trump, Pence, or whatever other disgrace the Republicans choose, and I'll give money and time to get Biden elected.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Putting down a marker on eating the ICE infrastructure away

Been looking for data like this for a long time:






Turns out that California Energy Commission has gasoline data, lots of gasoline data. I downloaded and edited the data above.

I've argued since 2013 that as EVs start taking up significant market share, the gas station and repair infrastructure for internal combustion engines will start to shrink and become less convenient. A similar-but-distinguishable process will happen with increasing ICE mileage, but that process stabilizes because even high mileage ICE vehicles still need gas and will pay enough to stabilize the number of stations. As EVs eat into the ICE infrastructure, the ICE market just gets less convenient and the shift to EVs accelerates in a virtuous feedback.

The effect will be especially strong when people consciously notice the ICE infrastructure is getting less convenient, but that's not required. And I fully admit the more important factor, for now, is EVs becoming more convenient. Still, a choice of EV versus ICE turns in part on the relative convenience of the choice, and increasing inconvenience for ICE will have an increasing effect.

Oslo would be the best place to test this, but I can't find their data. San Francisco Bay Area isn't a bad alternative. This doesn't constitute proof yet - 2016 was the highest year in the dataset, and it would be bold to claim the 2017 decline is from EV share of the fleet mileage traveled, but let's watch this space.