Wednesday, October 09, 2019

White nationalists, please go ahead and actually study climate change

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

Greta Thunberg and Ponder the Maunder

This was cute:


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

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

Saturday, September 07, 2019

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

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



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



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

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

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Eli Explains It All: Amazon and Oxygen Edition

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

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

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


Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Republican Judicial War Against Science

Washington Post:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Foote Effect

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

Okay, I’m finally convinced.

I hereby declare the greenhouse effect to be nonexistent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

August 11 and the Northwest Passage Is Open

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


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


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

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Making the fossil fuel insurance market less perfect

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

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

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

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

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

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 Facts: His New Lows from 2015-2020

This post will get updated over time - it's based on Kevin Drum's quick list of Trump's new lows. The list below started with Kevin's, made a few changes, a lot of additions, and added links in all cases.

I hope this will be helpful to record some of the worst of Donald Trump in recent years. My rule is 12 lows a year to keep it manageable. I'm open to suggestions for new lows in any of these years, but I'll only add it when it's worse than one of the existing lows. Gates open in full again when January 2020 rolls around - we'll see how long it takes for him to hit 12 lows.

And please, I really hope I can ignore Trump after November 2020....


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."

September 9: Tells media that people can't vote for Carly Fiorina because of her looks, then denies that was what he said.


September 16: Says vaccines cause autism.

November 13: Compares Ben Carson to a child molester.

November 21: Opens the possibility of a Muslim registry.

November 22: Falsely claims (again) that Arab Americans cheered 9-11 on television.

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

November 25: Mocks a reporter’s disability.

December 3: Stereotypes Jews as "negotiators".

December 8: Calls for ban on Muslim entry to the US.


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
January 23: Claims without evidence that 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes were cast in 2016 for Clinton.

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 physically 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 5: Urges Senate use investigation powers against press for his false 'Fake News' allegations.

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.

September 27: Caps refugee admissions to the US at lowest number in three decades.

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's press pass, 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
March 8: Accuses Democrats of being the “anti-Jewish party.”

March 20: Attacks John McCain yet again.


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

July 14: Falsely accuses Rep. Ilhan Omar of praising al Qaeda.

July 25: Pressures Ukrainian president to 'investigate' Joe Biden while withholding military aid against Russian forces occupying Ukraine.

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 10: Spreads conspiracy theory that Bill Clinton had Jeffrey Epstein murdered. (And later says it was "fine" for him to have spread the baseless rumor.)

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

August 21: Promotes claim that Jewish Israelis love him like a King of Israel and Second Coming of God.

August 28: Tells subordinates to commit crimes on his orders, promises pardons, lies and claims it was a joke.

August 30: Suggests his presidential term be extended because he was investigated.

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.