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!