Sunday, July 31, 2011

There's a Word for That

and it's not the one you are using. . . .

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘decarbonization,’ ” Ethon said.

Humpty Pielke smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice way to knock-down an argument for you!’ ”

“But ‘decarbonization’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Ethon objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Pielke said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Ethon, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Pielke, “which is to be master that’s all.”

Ethon was too much puzzled to say anything, and started nibbling at the dried Prometheus liver snacks Ms Rabett had packed for him. After a minute Humpty began again. “They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!
This started as a challenge tossed down by Roger P, as the basis of his 'pragmatic' (scare ', not even worth two ") approach. This is Roger's claim, not Ethon's,
1. Decarbonization refers to a decrease in the rate of carbon dioxide emissions divided by GDP.
Not according to the US Energy Information Administration, which tells us that

The carbon intensity of the economy can largely be decomposed into two basic elements: (1) energy intensity, defined as the amount of energy consumed per dollar of economic activity; and (2) carbon intensity of energy supply, defined as the amount of carbon emitted per unit of energy. As illustrated by the formulas below, the multiplication of the two elements produces a numerical value for U.S. carbon intensity, defined as the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per dollar of economic activity:

Energy Intensity x Carbon Intensity of Energy Supply = Carbon Intensity of the Economy,

or, algebraically,

(Energy/GDP) x (Carbon Emissions/Energy) = (Carbon Emissions/GDP).

So what Roger is defining is carbon intensity. It's a neat trick because it drives everything else since changes can come either from changing the numerator or the denominator and Roger knows how to play.
2. Stabilization of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere (at any low level, but let's say 350 ppm to 550 ppm for those who want a number) requires a rate of decarbonization of >5% per year.
3. The world has been decarbonizing for at least 100 years, and the rate of this decarbonization was about 1.5% from 1980 to 2000.
The reason that the definition is important can be seen in a graph showing carbon intensity, energy intensity and the carbon/energy ratio for the US at the EIA site. True this is only for twenty years, but what can be seen immediatelyis that the change in carbon intensity has been driven by the change in energy/gdp, not visa versa, that the ratio of carbon to energy has stayed roughly constant.

So what is the rate of change in carbon intensity for the US from 1980 to 2000, about 2% per year, BUT the change in energy intensity is just about the same.
4. In order to get from a rate of 1.5% (or smaller) to higher rates, such as >5%, requires that decarbonization be accelerated.

5. However, the world has in recent years seen rates of decarbonization decelerate and in the most recent few years may have even been re-carbonizing, that is, the ration of CO2/GDP has been increasing.

6. In 2010 the United States re-carbonized as well.
Roger, appears not to have noticed that the world is somewhere between a recession and a depression, i.e. GDP is not growing. Historically, carbon intensity has been controlled by increases in efficiency and has been denominator controlled. What the world needs is to decrease the total amount of emitted carbon.

There has been no effective decarbonization (not decarbonization TM RPJ) and, some, not Eli to be sure, would say there will never be as long as Roger has anything to say about it. Go over there and cheer the old guy up.

(Oh yes, Roger's links are all to Roger. Eli is shocked:)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bow to Mark Levin with the human body temperature theory of global warming

June 23 broadcast, heard it the day before I went to measure melting glaciers. (Main link here, might try this if it still works, and go to Minute 101. Below is a rough transcript; the audio was dodgy.)

Caller: [Caller references how body temperature of many people in an enclosed room will raise its temperature, then continues]....It's amazing that the world hasn't gotten warmer than it has since 1980 when the population went from 3 billion to 8 billion 30 years later, there's just no accounting for that if the greenhouse effect were actually true....

Levin: ....interesting point...if it's man-made, then why aren't we a lot hotter than we are now because of the significant increase in population.

Caller: ....[says billions of people walking around at 98.6 degrees, well above global ambient temperature]

Levin: ....[says it's an "excellent point"]

I think we have a theory that might trump Louis Hissink's geothermal warming for its explanatory power. Eat your heart out, Deltoid.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Enceladus rains water vapor on Saturn - how about microbes?

Badly answered question: 1. Is there life (as we know it) on gas giant planets?

Better answered questions: 2. Can life originate on gas giants? and 3. Can life survive on gas giants?

What I've seen of pop science, and my impression of Planetary Protection standards for spacecraft, is the assumption that because the answer to #2 seems to be "difficult", then the answer to #1 is "unlikely". But what if you drop living microbes through space and into the gas giant atmospheres?

That could be happening on a regular basis with Enceladus shown to drop water vapor from its geysers on to Saturn's atmosphere (blog post at link, pdf of article in the blog post). Enceladus probably has a near surface ocean feeding geysers through cracks in the ice. If it has life, then microbes are also being shot out as the geyser jets freeze.

The water vapor connection to Saturn doesn't necessarily establish that water ice particles will get there, or get there in the same short time frame (<2.5 months) as the vapor, but it makes it more plausible. And there's always the impact delivery of ice chunks from Enceladus to Saturn as a mechanism.

While microbes couldn't survive the deep level heat (which is what would stop life from originating on gas giants), if they can survive long enough to reproduce and randomly spread, then some descendant microbes can escape destruction. All they could need is some weather patterns keeping them out of the deep layers for weeks, unlike the millenia that would be needed for life to originate there.

Besides being interesting and a potential target for astrobiology, there are some policy implications to this. Crashing the Galileo orbiter into Jupiter may have been a mistake - better to have crashed it into Io, Callisto, or Almathea. The plan to eventually deorbit the Cassini mission into Saturn is also mistaken, when the dead-surface moon Mimas makes a better target.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lubos' mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping his sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces

that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories. - Sue Fondrie, winner of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton prize more or less
Ethon perched high above the seething ruins of Lubos' mind in Central Europe, thought these thoughts as he read Motl's difficult attempts to sever the horror of Norway's recent days from the terrible Czech's preferred stream of consciousness.
At any rate, I don't think that today, in 2011, there exists a problem in Europe that could even remotely justify the killing of dozens of this young people who attend a summer camp. Sorry but this looks unforgivable to me - unforgivable at the level of a death penalty which doesn't exist in Norway.
Motl, horrified at the carnage, admires the political analysis:"But holy cow: this is quite a piece of text for a young farmer."
The 1500-page manifesto says many things and if I were given this text before the murder and had the freedom to say what I thought about it, of course that I would agree with a significant part of it. Well, as you can see, I just indirectly said that I agree with many things in it. There are also many things I disagree with. After all, he enumerates the "real allies" he thinks to have in various countries and in the Czech Republic, this includes the traditional neo-Nazi parties that people like me have no proximity with (and that are largely defunct these days, anyway).
Somehow Lubos forgot to think about his allies, folk like Chris Monckton who fronts for the UK Independence Party, a nativist political party in a telephone booth hiding behind a law and order front (never seen that before, have you buckies?), and Glen Beck, who attacked the dead for being at a non Glen Beck indoctrination camp. Also, somebunny, obviously forgot to clue the lad in that most of Breivik's stuff was lifted (cut and pasted in modern parlance) from Lubos' folks like Monckton and a nativist Norse blogger fjordman and, of course, the Unibomber. What was left was a jumble of loser rant.

Ethon wonders whether there is hope for Lubos. Is there an awakening that mad words, no empathy can set off mad killers? Does growing older mean you can turn in your attack dog style? Why is that important? Look to the comments in reply to Lubos' thumb sucker
Just like McVeigh, he has no regrets and no contrition over the immense human suffering that he has caused. Both of these guys would do it again in a heartbeat if they could. They both were so divorced from human compassion and sympathy that they lacked the ability to empathize with the suffering of others.
Or is Motl the Bulwer-Lytton second prize winner
As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words. - Rodney Reed
continuing to egg the crazies on and tutting when they do the crazy.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Got the Ice Right Here

Ok, everyone else is taking bets on whether there will be a new ice extent minimum this year. Eli is opening the bidding on three propositions

Will the Arctic be ice free south of 60, 65 and70 north latitude

Isaac Held Catches Up With Eli

A little while ago, Eli posted on how the ozone hole has blown, or perhaps more exactly, moved the winds. An outcome has been some rather serious climate changes in Australia. Today, Isaac Held has a rather much more learned post on the effects of the ozone hole on the Southern Annular Mode, and how increasing greenhouse forcing plays into it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Eli is a Mild Mannered Bunny

Some, not the bunnies, think that Eli is too hot, but here is some editorial opinion from the local rag in Moncton, cold Atlantic Canada

It was predictable. I implicitly predicted it here last week. I said it is pointless and futile to argue with climate change deniers since their minds won't ever be in danger of becoming confused by the facts. Since then, they've proven it with their feedback, fussing, fuming and fulminating. They're offended their intelligence is allegedly questioned and say those who warn about the coming ill-effects of climate change and the pressing need to act quickly are the ill-informed ones lacking any good scientific basis.

With apologies to a fine local country music band from these parts many years ago, ladies and gentlemen, I present the Bunkhouse Boys - emphasis on the bunk.

These arguments and allegations are so lacking in logic or fact that one must indeed question, if not their intelligence, then at least their woefully inadequate 'learning.' The only other alternative is to question their motive and intellectual honesty. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Call it a failure to grasp the most rudimentary concepts of science.

Who burgled the UEA in "Climate-Gate"?

On November 20, 2009, someone hacked the computer system of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UK). Now Bob Park of the American Physical Society tells us that Rupert Murdoch was behind the burglary. Keith Olbermann voices the same suspicion, more tentatively. I have to say that I didn't suspect Murdoch, I suspected the oil companies.

While these suspicions play out, it's worthwhile to recall the 1997 James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. The villain, Elliot Carter (played by Jonathan Pryce) is (of course) a megalomaniac out to dominate the world. This is, after all, a Bond film. This particular villain is a media mogul who controls newspapers and satellites.

The original screenwriter modeled the villain after Robert Maxwell, but others thought he was more like Murdoch. At one point, Bond battles a henchman of the villain, and throws the henchman to his death on the moving printing press. Bond sneers, "they print anything these days." The classic Murdoch headlne was, of course, HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Athropolis is a website, well if you think Rabett Run is different, Athropolis is a whole other order of magnitude different, but what it does have, among other things, is a map of the Arctic that you can click on to see the local weather. It is hot.

Eli has embedded the map page into Rabett Run for Neven and other obsessives to play with (you need frames in your browser to see it, otherwise just go the last link

Damn, Neven had it. . . but the iframe trick us useful

Saturday, July 23, 2011


From where they know just what they ought,
...memories of times past that should be banished
Only relics, philosophies and a parched wasteland lie below..."
The southwest is parched, extreme heat and no rain. This has happened before, in the 1930s giving rise to a migration westward as farms failed, and much earlier, wiping out a civilization.

While, as with every such occurrence, one cannot attribute this directly to humans messing about with the atmosphere and surface, playing with loaded dice is not recommended. An interview this morning on NPR with Dr. Martin Hoerling of NOAA Boulder dealt with the odds, for and against:

MH: Let's think about that, not necessarily worry about exactly the cause of this thing, but let's think about this as to what would the climate would look like in about 50 to 100 years in that region...the experiments that are used to project climate into the future are indicating that an event a heat wave of lets say one in a 100 year recurrance in the 20th century type of frequency would happen perhaps once every 10 years maybe once every 5 years. Conditions that are so uncomfortable today, the reason you are talking to me about this, people are uncomfortable. If we are not adapted to the situation we are experiencing today we almost certainly will not be adapted to the temperature conditions that are on the horizon as we go deeper into the 21st century. So it's a good wake up call for us as to what the climate may become as we continue to increase our emissions of carbon dioxide.

NPR: So what you are suggesting that instead of just putting up with this for a week or two this may become summer

MH: The extremes we are experiencing today may become the normals of the latter half of the 21st century
So what should be done about Texas, never mind Kansas. Well that is an interesting question. It is quite clear that:

Things are going to get really hot, sea levels are going to rise, lack of water west of the Mississippi and south of Colorado is threatening a new Dust Bowl and hurricanes are going to make life tough along the Gulf Coast.

TX and a whole lot of other states in the area do the “stand on your own two feet, we don’t need the Federal govt telling us what to do, we’re open for business, low taxes, thing.

But as a whole, TX and a whole lot of other states in the area are on the way to a serious collision with the reality of climate change, and the “stand on your own two feet” will be nice but unreal.

Eli et al. is seriously irked by the "stand on your own two feet thing" especially when the bunnies look at the flow of our tax carrots to states like Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi (TX is a net contributor, but less than it should because of tax breaks to the oil companies, etc.)

It is a not a question of punishing the average person, or revenge, or anything like that, it is a question of triage in the next century.

So the question is should sympathy extend to paying anything to TX and friends to save them from the effects of their leading fights to ignore climate and energy issues?

Hot or Cold

Suffice it to say Eli was a bit surprised to hear NOAA sources quoted recently (like about when the local temperature went up to boil) that heat causes more deaths than cold. This contradicted a bunch of earlier reports that he had internalized, so poking about the INTERNETs the bunny went.

About the best comment was on weather underground

The three 2008 studies for the U.S. show the ratio of cold deaths to heat deaths ranges from 2:1 to 1:3, which is very different from the 7:1 and 9:1 figures quoted by Will and Lomborg for Europe, India, and China. I don't trust any of these numbers, since heat and cold mortality statistics are highly uncertain and easy to cherry pick to show a desired result.
Counting the dead is not the problem, assigning the cause of death, heart attack, hypo or hyperthermia is. Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter take a shot at it, and evaluating a couple of previous publications, the results of which can be seen to the right. They conclude
Hazard mortality data are fraught with inconsistencies across databases. Differences manifest themselves from the subjective nature of attributing any death to a hazard event. Because of the lack of a standardized death classification scheme, hazard deaths are not counted in the same way for any two databases. In fact, even within a national database (i.e. SHELDUS, Compressed Mortality File), hazard death attribution likely varies geographically. Therefore, we are cautious that the analyses and conclusions drawn from hazard mortality data are based on estimates of deaths from natural events

There is considerable debate about which natural hazard is the most "deadly". According to our results, the answer is heat. But this finding could change depending on the data source, or how hazards within a data source are grouped, as we've shown here. Even if researchers could definitively assert the 'deadliest hazard,' a better issue to pose is where residents are more susceptible to fatalities from natural hazards within the United States.
because if you can answer that question, you can take precautions and improve infrastructure for dealing with the natural hazards. Of course, if you keep on piling greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it is possible to make large portions of the earth uninhabitable in a couple of hundred years. But, as we say in the hutch, that's your problem

Harm minimization, the space program, and carbon caps

Same Facts has a nice post tying drug addiction and political demagoguery - sometimes you can only aim for health improvements instead of fully quitting the drug, and it's similarly an issue in politics:

Thus, in some cases, the right policy is to give injection drug users access to sterile needles. In others, the right policy is to give grandstanding congressmen some way to pander to ignorant voters without crashing the economy. We all wish that heroin users would stop using. We all wish that Congressmen would not demagogue the debt ceiling. Neither wish will be granted soon.

I invite reflection among those who have low opinions of politicians and simultaneously advocate for perfect solutions at the expense of solutions that are politically feasible. Those two positions work well together if you're primarily interested in expressing contempt, but not if you're trying to make progress.

With the end of the disastrously expensive space shuttle program, the perfect solution is to let the private sector carry on manned "exploration" of areas that robots explored decades ago, and switch the federal government funding to something beneficial. I see little point in talking about that solution.

Harm minimization, or successful harm mitigation, means alternatives that keep most of the federal money in the same states that it's spent in now, even in some of the same institutions in the same states. Obama's plan for partial privatization of the manned space program might be the best feasible option. I've thought about replacing it with something entirely different, an advanced technology rescue service, but that might be a bridge too far. Maybe we can gradually reduce the scale of the program (an aside - Republicans are fighting for the big-government, socialist style old program instead - how typical).

So, carbon cap and trade. Any number of people have pointed out how a simple, universal carbon tax would avoid all the problems of the compromised cap and trade programs in various parts of the world. Australia's example suggests it is possible to get a modest carbon tax through - but one with many exceptions and that transitions into a cap-and-trade scheme.

Taking a harm minimization/benefit maximization approach, rather than a rigid rationality or nothing approach, will get a better result. I'm all for a carbon tax, but won't let that stop me support capntrade as well.

Friday, July 22, 2011


It's really far from what Eli does, but the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has put up examples of winning proposals for anyone interested in applying to them

Four investigators who wrote exceptional R01 applications in the shorter format—with a 12-page Research Strategy—have graciously agreed to let us post them online.

We are truly indebted to the investigators listed below, who have enabled us to deliver this widely anticipated resource to the research community.

We selected these applications as sound examples for new investigators as well as experienced investigators who are new to the shorter format. To highlight the excellent grantsmanship attributes, we have lightly annotated the Abstracts and Research Plans.

This is a wonderful service.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The tipping point range in land use planning is between 1 house per 10 acres and 10 houses per acre

Matt Yglesias has been on a tear for the last year or two on 1. how land use restrictions are NIMBY power grabs that are actually bad for the environment, and 2. conservative libertarians screw up the issue by focusing on land use restrictions in rural areas but not in more developed places.

I think he's got something of a point, but has to be careful not to overplay it. In several places, including my actual work blog, I've written how there are tipping points in the density of development for each environmental value where marginal increases become generally beneficial, and below that point are generally detrimental. See the link for more details, but because the tipping point is a gradual transition in each case, and occurs at a different level of density for each particular environmental value (walkability tipping point is at higher density, farming and open space at lower levels), I think it's better to talk about a tipping point range.

At a residential density of 1 house per 10 acres, I can think of no environmental reason to support a marginal increase in that density. That would reduce the natural habitat value, make farming more difficult, and put more SUVs on the roads that have to drive long distances to get anywhere useful, all for a tiny increase in housing stock. This is where land use restrictions make enormous sense from an environmental viewpoint (and where conservatives put all their efforts to eliminate restrictions). At a density of 10 houses per acre, the reverse is true - the environmental advantages of low density for farming and open space no longer exist and so can't be harmed further, while walkability and public transit use are feasible, and increases in density mean large increases in housing stock.

So I agree with Matt on the high density end but not at the low end, leaving the small matter of the two orders of magnitude in the middle unresolved. I think for most environmental values, though, the tipping point range can be narrowed to fall between 2 residences per acre and 5 residences per acre. Half acre lots have some, modest, value for open space and wildlife. Just as I can think of no environmental reason to slightly increase densities at very low levels, there are few reasons to do so at the half acre lot size or lower. Conversely, increases from 5 residences per acre to something higher can at least add significant housing amounts and get closer to urban densities that reduce driving.

Of course, the useless zone of 2 to 5 residences per acre is what most of suburban construction has created in the last 60 years.

UPDATE: I should add that the policy relevance is primarily regarding rezoning areas that haven't been fully developed, and redevelopment of urban areas. Incremental changes like whether to permit "granny units" on parcels also apply. And as per the comments, all the above is a generalization subject to exceptions. Clustering development can maximize open space, and dense development can be a stupid idea in the wrong place (like a local proposal to put new development in San Francisco Bay).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


It occurred to Eli that what the world needs is a list of Grant Manuals. Feel free to add in the comments and the Bunny will update them


AFOSR - Air Force Office of Scientific Research
ARL - Army Research Laboratories
DOE - Department of Energy (Office of Science)
DOEd - Department of Education
DOJ - Department of Justice
DOT - Department of Transport
EPA - Environmental Protection Agency
HRSA - Health Resources and Services Administration
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NIH - National Institutes of Health - more info here
NSF - National Science Foundation
ONR - Office of Naval Research


NSERC - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
CFI - Canada Foundation for Innovation
SSHRC - Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


ARC - Australian Research Council

Caveat emptor or clicker beware. No guarantees, this is a best effort and always check that the document is current and refers to the program you are applying to. THAT MEANS YOU

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reversals of consensus in medical science

My so-far fruitless quest continues for precedent to the denialist claim of incompetence and corruption in climate science. Some skeptics rely on the Galileo Fallacy - "people laughed at Galileo, people are laughing at me, therefore I am Galileo". Others try and find a more reasonable precedent in the last several centuries, and look to medical science as an example.

So there's an interesting blog post on a paper (the paper's behind a paywall, sadly) on medical retractions, claiming a 13% reversal rate on prior consensus for medical practices. To me, that's kind of high and uncomfortable in thinking about medicine, but its application as precedent doesn't quite work. First, these are claims of reversal, not a broad acceptance that the previous consensus was incorrect. And we're talking about consensus that e.g., a previous surgical practice was helpful when a new study contradicts it, a relatively technical level of detail in medical science. Claims that adding CO2 doesn't warm the planet is closer to contradicting germ theory in medical science, a fundamental consensus that hasn't been overturned.

The paper author also thinks the time interval for reversals to occur is about a decade. The modern consensus on climate goes back at least to the mid-1980s, or late-1800s if you consider the basic science. No precedent here. (UPDATE: per the comments, no consensus in the 1800s on the human effect, but there was a consensus about greenhouse gases and CO2. See the link for more info.)

Skeptics have used ulcers as one example of consensus reversal. It would be interesting to see whether the previous belief that stress caused ulcers was a best guess rather than a foundational theory in medicine. More to the point, though, what does a denialist with an ulcer do for treatment today? I suspect the smarter ones usually rely on consensus, rather than make "argument from authority" statements and attempt to rethink medical science for themselves. When you're looking to take action or make policy, trying to cast aside consensus and reinvent science on your own isn't likely to lead to a happy outcome.

So the quest continues.

Letter, We Get Letters. . .

Eli, reading the News of the Carrots (well not quite, Bernard J found it first) came across this from the Clerk of the Parliament to Chris Monckton

Dear Lord Monckton

My predecessor, Sir Michael Pownall, wrote to you on 21 July 2010, and again on 30 July 2010, asking that you cease claiming to be a Member of the House of Lords, either directly or by implication. It has been drawn to my attention that you continue to make such claims.

In particular, I have listened to your recent interview with Mr Adam Spencer on Australian radio. In response to the direct question, whether or not you were a Member of the House of Lords, you said "Yes, but without the right to sit or vote". You later repeated, "I am a Member of the House".

I must repeat my predecessor's statement that you are not and have never been a Member of the House of Lords.
There are some who are hard of learning and who cannot be told. Chris is likely one of them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Eli is exchanging comments with Thoreau over at Unqualified Offerings. Poor fella got Goods on grant reviews. Today you need Very Goods and Excellents. Now the Rabett doesn't hit on every proposal, but he has had his share over the years and has read more than a few.

This is a first of a series of posts which will not tell you how to win a grant, but hopefully will show you what is needed not to lose one. It is US centric, but the broad themes are the same the world over unless your nephew is the Minister of Science, or Silvio Berlusconi's girlfriend. Eli will assume that your science is great but


That means read the grant manual. Yes, you need kick ass science, and yes, today paylines are under 10% and shrinking. Reviewers and program managers are looking reasons to differentiate between the 25% of the proposals they would give their inheritance to have thought of in order to separate out the 8% that will be funded.

Every call for proposal and grant manual has a list of hoops to jump through. They may not mean much to you, but they do to the program manager and agency. Just do it, but do it right. This is serious stuff.

So you read the call for proposal with highlighter in paw and make a list. And the call for proposal says that the proposal has to meet program goals which you go and download, and read and highlight, and there are then references to agency goals and you go read and highlight them.

Your proposal has to explain to the program and the reviewers how it will advance the goals of the funding agency. You don't need to write a lot, but you do have to show that you are aware of the issues. This is most important for EPA/DOD etc. and least for NSF, but even for NSF you have to discuss relevance to the program/division you are proposing to, and how (dread) your proposal will meet NSF goals for broader impacts (more about that later).

And of course, your proposal has to have all the requirements in the agency program guide.

RTFGM, highlight all the requirements and make a punch list.

Some of it is grade school. The number of lines per inch, number of characters per inch (no kerning allowed), margins, number of pages in each section and more, including allowed fonts. Program managers (well, some of them) need to triage proposals because they have so many of them to deal with.

There are suggestions, like use one column, yes, two columns looks neat and you might be able to squeeze in some extra text/figures but reading two columns on the screen is a royal pain and the reviewers will take it out on you. They will. Been there, seen that.

There are choices, paper,, or the agency web site for grant submission. Although it has gotten much better, if you have a choice, avoid Fastlane (NSF) and nspires (NASA) are better. Ask anyone who has not. Oh yes, don't do paper even if you are allowed to. The agency and the reviewers will take it out on you. It is a sign that you are not professional.

You have to register for all of these sites AND SO DOES YOUR UNIVERSITY. This takes time, esp. if your university is one of the NRHUs (Not Research Habituated Universities) and is not registered. If you think or even suspect that you will be submitting a proposal, REGISTER NOW and make sure your university is registered. This takes time.

The procedures are not always straightforward (for example, someone at Eli's place used a very awkward way of naming the organization at one of the agencies and it has never been changed, so if you don't know, you can't find it, or sometimes you only find it after screaming at the computer for a while. In general even if the Uni is registered, someone in the Sponsored Research Office is going to have to approve your registration. They may not notice that you have tried to register, so you should talk to them. That is a excellent time to discuss their procedures and what they can help with. It is also a great time to find out what internal forms and signatures you are going to need and how long it takes for each step with and without begging.

After you have registered (this is WAY before you are going to submit) put together a dummy version of a proposal. It doesn't have to make sense, the text can be your version of the quick brown fox, or some student lab report, or your thesis or whatever. The purpose is to give you a feel of the web site and how it uploads and checks the various parts of your proposal, how it handles such things as generating budgets, institutional information including DUNS, CFDA, congressional district (yes, the agencies want that so they can notify the congress critters that money is flowing into their districts) etc. If you don't know what some of these things are, your SRO does, or sadly, should, because many of them are asked for. You are going to need help navigating some of the forms, like the SF424 which is essentially the title page and a good reason to avoid You DON'T want to learn how to do this with the clock ticking down on your deadline.

Research universities (RHUs) have staff that do much of this for you, at NRHUs you are on your own, but even for folk at the RHUs being aware of such issues is useful.

Putting a proposal into the system does not submit it. There are two additional steps. First you have to submit it to your SRO (done on the web), and then they have to electronically sign it and submit to the agency. If you never submit the proposal it just sits there and no one but you knows about it. Oh yes, only registered organizations can submit, because the government requires that they qualify for reporting, audit, etc. There are organizations who exist as housing for proposers at the cost of a percentage of the grant.

The next step is beg to see a winning proposal or better proposals. Ask folk you know, take a look at the agency web site, ask the program manager whom to approach, etc. Winning proposals are open to the public, but as a practical matter, the agency will a) redact a whole lot of stuff you want to know and b) not be happy with you for asking because they have to spend time redacting, so it is much better to get one from a friend or colleague. Remember, you are applying to a program, you want a winning example FROM THAT PROGRAM.

Tomorrow, convince the reviewers that you are a pro.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Models Suck: Part I

Picture from DeviantArt

In which Eli begins to work his way through "A Perfect Moral Storm" by Stephen Gardiner. About a week ago, the Bunniglean Library brought this book to the Rabett's attention. There was enough in the prequel to justify putting a few carrots out to the Amazon.

Gardiner has an ethicist's POV. He is a hard nosed, but very polite fellow and leaves poorly thought through ideas standing there in their shorts. You learn pretty quickly in science, and evidently philosophy that anyone above clown level can make a logical argument (ok, that eliminates a few blogs the bunnies don't read), so you start by looking at assumptions, and the author does a good job of this. Gardiner shows how climate economics suffers from root and branch disputes which make the current versions useless (see Part II, coming soon)

These disputes stem from serious differences in fundamental assumptions, and result in strongly divergent policy recommendations. Contrary to initial appearances, these differences do not revolve around narrow technical issues within economic theory, but rather concern deep ethical claims that fill fundamental gaps in that theory. Moreover, recent economic arguments do not fill these gaps, and neither does the (perhaps heroic) claim that some appropriate kind of economic modeling must in principle be possible. This does not mean that good climate economics is not worth pursuing. But it does suggest that we are far from the position where we can confidently rely on such analysis when deciding how to shape the future of the planet.
But enough of this serious stuff, before moving on to a consideration of the cost-benefit paralysis which has delayed any action let us haul out the clown paraphernalia and let Prof. Gardiner beat Bjorn Lomborg about the ears.

He points out that the base of Lomborgianism is the false choice between helping the poor inhabitants of poor countries or their rich descendants later.

To Gardiner, this is already swallowing a large bunny foot without sauce, because there is no guarantee that climate change does not threaten anyone or anything besides the poor. Others can take it in the nose. But OK, he says
Lomborg argues that the right answer is to help the current poor now, since they are poorer than their descendants will be, because they are more easily (cheaply) helped and because in helping them one is also helping their descendants
But wait, there are, as they say, issues
The first is the threat of a false dichotomy. Arguments from opportunity cost crucially rely on the idea that if a given project is chosen, then that choice forecloses some other option. But this is not the case in Lomborg's version. Helping the poor and mitigating climate change are not obviously mutually exclusive. . .

Second it is not clear even that the two projects are independent of each other, in the sense that they are fully separable opportunities rather than necessarily linked and perhaps mutually supporting policies. . . .

Third, it is not clear that the opportunity that Lomborg wants to emphasize is really available.
After all, the poor have always been with us, and there is no evidence that rich countries will step in to eliminate poverty (or, as Gardiner points out to mitigate climate change). Fourth to Gardiner, this looks a lot like the first step in a "bait and switch" strategy.

Do tell.

"even hard nosed benefit cost analysts" agree that the claim that future people could be compensated by an alternative policy loses relevance if we know that the compensation will not actually be paid.
This is more subtle a point that it first appears. The benefit in this case is that the larger economy will allow future generations to deal with an exacerbated climate problem, but if climate change limits economic growth, there is no larger economy, and even if there is a larger economy, it may not be enough to deal with the chaos associated with climate disruption. The Dark Ages in Europe were not nearly as pleasant as Roman times.

To Gardiner, Lomborg is arguing that it is sufficient to pay for our kids' education without saving for retirement, because they will take care of us. Sure.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You Just Gotta Do It

So Eli will tell you a post doc story. Way back when lasers were new and dinosaurs (or at least very old photochemists) roamed the earth, Eli had an idea and went and told it to his boss over Torten und Kaffee (it was in Germany). The boss told Eli not to bother, it would never work, here's why and don't waste your time and my money doing it.

Being a young bunny, Eli didn't do it until about a year later what shows up but the very thing done by a big shot in another lab, and everyone starts talking about it. So Eli goes to the big guy and says: See, I was right. The big guy simply said:

You didn't do it.

There are things that you just gotta do.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


About five days before the flushing becomes obvious

Measuring and melting glaciers in Alaska

I've been offline the last two weeks to do a volunteer vacation/vacation in Alaska. As Stoat has mentioned somewhere, volunteering is a great way to ignore your air travel emissions, and this was the third time I've done it by taking GPS measurements of glaciers.

The photo above isn't photoshopped, btw, nor is it my natural complexion. The electric blue lighting inside glacial ice has to be seen to be believed. That photo wasn't inside the glacier we measured though, but a glacial iceberg we recreated in, near Valdez in an outfall lake. As you can see from the photo after the jump, we wouldn't be able to get inside the glacier we measured except by unfortunate accident. Since my niece accompanied me this time, I was somewhat determined to make sure that wouldn't happen.

So this is the glacier we measured, a source glacier for the Teklanika River in Denali National Park. The snow bank at bottom left hangs off the terminus, despite all the rock debris. It continues all the way to the ridgeline horizon, although the bedrock outcrops in the middle show the glacier's about ready to melt down into two smaller glaciers. Only the widest connection is glacial ice, I think, the rest just looks like snow bands.

We walked up to the cirque you can barely see just below that connection, taking measurements along the way. Half of that cirque and almost all of the rest of the bottom glacier has already lost its snow cover, before July. This bottom glacier is doomed. Still, it's helpful to get ground measurements, and walking a centerline like we did might get the actual researchers a little closer to mass measurements. You have to backpack to get to these glaciers, so we vactioneers can save some time for the researchers.

I was a little disappointed not to measure other glaciers, but a sow grizzly and two cubs were in the way on the previous day. I argued to my family team that we could get around them, but apparently I was unpersuasive (and this was before the unfortunate mauling in Yellowstone).

Great vacation otherwise - I used to work in Alaska, and I love getting back. A boat trip from Valdez by the Stan Stephens tour was slightly marred by a captain who pointed out two glaciers that haven't retreated while failing to mention the retreat that's happening generally. One of them was a tidewater glacier, a type that goes through cycles mostly unrelated to climate.

All else was fine, though, and I just need to get caught up.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Perfect Moral Storm

. . . is the name of a new book by Stephen M. Gardiner which explores the challenge that climate change presents to the world and to models, not of climate change, but of the practical and moral models used to understand and govern. The basis of bargaining between nations. The conclusion is not encouraging but recognition of a problem is the first step to solving it. There are many reviews on the net, Eli will only point to one at Hot Topic

Much in the book is familiar to readers of this and similar blogs, the difficulties associated with the global and inter-generational spans of climate change, the finger pointing and more. For those not particularly interested in reading a 507 pp door stop, there is the 18 page paper that seeded it.

While it is tempting for Eli to quote extensively from various sections on, among other things, moral corruption, perhaps it is just better for the rest of the bunnies to RTFR, and end, where papers always end, with the conclusion

In conclusion, 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. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pat Michaels' Eraser

As some of you have noticed, Hank (Eli does prefer the earlier Ankh with its connotations of Egyptian godhood. The guy appears not to need sleep as he obviously reads everything) and Eli have been having fun with Chip Knappenberger who is by virtue of predilection and employment obliged to defend Pat Michaels through the use of his global parsing system, with interpretations the likes of which would bring Eli's old six grade teacher Ms. Livalara up from the grave with a great Gottcha Kid.

At the end of the ethics discussion dhogaza Maple Leaf, who was not very impressed remarked

Sometimes they flirt with the line, others they just simply jump right across it. Have the bunnies seen this latest crap/lies/distortion/misinformation from Michaels?

Lucky for the denialists like Chip and Pat, there is a sucker born every day and Forbes is now that sucker. And that smile on Pat's face in the op ed header shows that he knows that all too well.

which davey amended to...

Forbes isn't a sucker, Forbes is an enabler.

Steve and his old man Malcolm (he who dies with the most toys wins) are among the nastiest of the I got mine and screw you set. If you want to test this and have the opportunity ask him how much of his and his dad's lifestyles got deducted above the line as business expenses and whether that too should be subject to the flat tax he loves.

But back to the matter at hand. Now Eli, Eli can't be everywhere what with painting the house, pulling the carrots out of the garden and the day job, but fortunately there are others at work. Rick Piltz at Climate Science Watch reposts an analysis from Ed Carr of the University of South Carolina.

Carr starts with the misdirection, omission and erasing, something always to be expected from PM,

So, what does Michaels have to say about climate change and food security? Well, in a nutshell he doesn’t see how climate change is a problem for agriculture – indeed, he seems to suggest that climate change will do good things for agriculture. However, a careful read of the article for what it does and does not actually say, and what evidence it draws on (mostly tangential), demonstrates that this is a piece of misdirection that, in my opinion, is criminal: insofar as it causes anyone to doubt the severity of the challenge in front of us, it will cost lives. Lots of lives.

Michaels begins with a classic of the denial genre – he goes after a New York Times article not on its merits (indeed, he never addresses any of the article’s content), but by lumping it in with every previous warning of what he calls “environmental apocalypse.” Except, of course, that the only call he actually cites is the now legendary “global cooling” fear of the 1970s – a fringe belief that was never embraced by the majority of scientists (no matter how hard the denial crowd wants you to believe it).
and concludes
So, to summarize – Michaels has created a post that relies on false correlation, logical fallacy and misdirection to create the idea that climate change might not be a problem for agriculture, and that it might even be good for global production. But he does not cite the vast bulk of the science out there – and ignores the empirical literature (not theory, not conjecture – measured changes) to create a very deceptive picture that minimizes the slowly intensifying challenges facing people living in many parts of the Global South.
Why does this matter?

I invite Dr. Michaels to look at the FEWS-NET data – not just contemporary, but historical – on the East African/Horn of Africa climate. Empirical observation (again, measured, verified observations, not projections) tells us it is drying out* . . . and has been, for some time, massively compromising both crops and livestock, the backbone of livelihoods in Southern Ethiopia, Somalia and Northeastern Kenya. As all hell breaks loose in that region, and the US Government considers using the term famine for the first time in a decade to describe the situation on the ground, it seems to me that Michaels’ efforts at misdirection rise beyond nuisance to a real question of ethics that Forbes would do well to consider before publishing such mendacious material again
Sorry Ed, it's not a bug it's a feature. For the rest of the bunnies, the filling of the sandwich is at Climate Science Watch

Friday, July 08, 2011

Not Getting It

Much sackcloth and ashes over at Chris Mooney's about some goings on at the Heartland Conference

Once the audience questions start coming for the panel, I was rather surprised to hear that most were basically about…uh, communism. And in response, the panelists—and especially Christopher Horner—were quite affirmative that the real reason that we, the “left,” want to restrict greenhouse gas emissions is that we want to hobble economies, redistribute wealth, and restrict individual freedoms.

“You can believe this is about the climate, and many people do,” said Horner. “But it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner went on to argue that “it’s probably about what they’ve claimed they really want.” For many “luminaries” of the environment movement, Horner continued, “economic growth is not the cure, it’s the disease.”
The proposition before the house was given by 1985, the year after 1984
That the mainstream view does not attack growth as the root cause of the environmental/sustainability crisis is a big problem, not something for you to point out as a virtue. That’s why the mainstream view is nothing more than mere greenwashing that’s absolutely inadequate and incapable of making any actual difference. And I am sorry to say it but if you don’t think that growth is a problem then you are completely ecologically illiterate and have no serious place in this conversation at all, the same goes for everybody that doesn’t understand that infinite growth in a finite system is a biophysical impossibility.
And they were off about limits to growth if any. But something is getting lost in the mix, expressed in this graph from Tuiran, Partida, Mojarro and Zuniga, Fertility in Mexico, Trends and Forecast.

and if that is enough for you play around with the rollovers from index mundi showing world wide total fertility rates.

The real question is what do you mean by growth. Clearly at a certain level of well being (which, of course is relative) fertility rates go down below replacement. With the exception of China, this decrease in total fertility rate has been driven by increasing prosperity and even in the case of China prosperity plays a role. Further, while there is a loose correlation between well being and energy use, there is a saturation point at which efficiency can take over from brute SUVism given any reasonable policy.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Mother Kloor Would Not Approve

Michael Brooks at the Guardian senses that scientists are not interested in any more nonsense. Eli senses the Overton window moving back towards reality

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Revenge is a Dish Best Eaten Cold

Real Climate brings word about Jens-Uwe Grooß and Rolf Müller trying to drive the silver spike into Qing Bing Lu's cosmic ray driven ozone destruction mechanism, but Eli predicts that zombies always rise. Eli had a bunch of things to say about this idea in early 2010, none very nice.

We will get on to a bit of the science in a moment, but what revenge the bunnies ask. Well, QB is at Waterloo, which also houses, and has housed a whole bunch of very good photochemists, spectroscopists and atmospheric scientists. Also, as Eli said at the time

Waterloo is the lead institution for the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment (ACE) on board the Canadian SciSat, up there measuring the CFCs Lu is babbling about (and Eli is being nice).
The Rabett talked to one of the ACE participants at the time. Conversation went "You gotta be kidding". "Well yeah he is a clown, but he doesn't listen to anyone and we tried". Eli had the impression that other members of the ACE team would not have been as kind.

Grooß and Müller make considerable use of ACE data in their refutation, and at the end acknowledge some of Santa's helpers
We also thank the ACE-FTS science team for producing and providing their high-quality data sets. The ACE mission was funded by the Canadian Space Agency.
It must have given them some pleasure.

As to the substance of Grooß and Müller's put down, it starts from the observation that they made in a series of papers (see also RR links): heavily smoothed correlations without considering confounding factors is not causation. The loss of CFCs as a function of time and place does not fit Lu's mechanism, especially if you don't fiddle the data. As they say
the ACE-FTS measurements of CFC-12 and CH4 in the Antarctic stratosphere in winter and spring (Fig. 1) show no signature of a chemical loss of CFC-12 for a given CH4 mixing ratio. Figure 19 of Lu (2010a) shows a comparison of HALOE CH4 and CLAES CFC-12. Here it is important that this comparison is based on measurements of the two tracers that are observed in comparable air masses. However, these two instruments have different viewing geometries and therefore different latitudinal coverage. Moreover, the HALOE and CLAES data shown by Lu (2010a) represent different years (1992-1998 versus 1992).
This, if you watched the videos, is Pat Michaels' tactic (Michaels conveniently forgets to mention sulfate aerosol effects when discussing atmospheric warming: start @ ~ 1:30 and listen to Ben Santer @ ~3:30).

Grooß and Müller show that the concentrations of CFCs do not change in a manner consistent with Lu's predictions/mechanisms, but entirely consistent with photolytic decomposition. The mechanism is a "giant Cl- and F- enhancements in electron induced dissociation" of CFCs on ices.

OK say Grooß and Müller, let's look at the ACE data. If Lu is correct, the concentration of CFCs relative to tracers such as N2O and CH4 will decrease during winter and early spring in the Antarctic. So they look at N2O, and nope nothing there. Well says QB, in one of the 2010 papers, maybe N2O will have the same large enhancement. OK say Grooß and Müller, lets look at CH4. Nope, nothing there.

Well, what if Lu says the same thing happens for methane. Unfortunately ACE provides absolute measurements for methane and there is no large decrease in the Antarctic region for winter and early spring. In short, the CFCs are not rapidly decomposing on ice particles during the winter and spring, so Lu's mechanism is not working.

But wait, there is more. Chlorine and ClO, the guys that catalytically destroy ozone, become available in the Arctic winter when there are no ice particles in the stratosphere and early in the Antarctic winter before the ice particles form. Hmm, that is not what Lu's hypothesis would predict.

And then there are additional confusions, Lu presents a simple equation to predict ozone column concentrations, but
Also, as pointed out earlier (Müller and Grooß, 2009), the absolute value of the ozone column average is not correctly calculated by Lu (2009). This is also the case for the ozone averages reported by Lu (2010a). The “October average zonal mean total O3” over Antarctica (60-90 S) in 2006 derived from OMI data should be 211 DU, not 181 DU as stated in the first paragraph of Section 7 of Lu (2010a). Therefore, predictions of future polar total ozone values based on Eqs. 7 and 8 of Lu (2010a) cannot be considered meaningful.
Perhaps more tomorrow.