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