Sunday, November 25, 2012

Eli's Theme Song

Ironic that a man named Mead doesn't understand the US Civil War

Maybe his misunderstanding comes from losing the "e" at the end of the name.  The current Mead sayeth:

An endless war of limited intensity is worse, many Americans instinctively feel, than a time-limited war of unlimited ferocity. A crushing blow that brings an end to the war—like General Sherman’s march of destruction through the Confederacy in 1864-65—is ultimately kinder even to the vanquished than an endless state of desultory war.
This Mead wants massive Israeli retaliation against Gaza regardless of civilian casualties and thinks Americans would agree with him.  He appears to be under the impression that not much happened in the US Civil war prior to Sherman's march, and that single crushing blow was all that counted.

The reality was that it took years of unlimited ferocity to win the Civil War.  The side that had better logistics won the war, and Sherman's march was a logistical success, living off the land while destroying its ability to support the enemy.  Not a lot that parallels Gaza here.

More broadly, I think there's little evidence that shock and awe achieves its psychological goals.  The British, German, and Japanese people didn't break over the bombing raids.  Psychology does have its place - the Doolittle Raid heightened American morale and convinced the Japanese to make the stupid mistake of withdrawing carriers to defend the home islands and to undertake the high-risk attack on Midway.  Brutality by itself, though, won't win wars.

Tangentially related:  Brad DeLong has been live-blogging a history of World War II.  Definitely worth checking out.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Penn State Wrap Up

Eli has posted a couple of times on the situation that Penn State finds itself in as a consequence of covering up Jerry Sandusky's criminal behavior.  The documents dealing with this can be found at the PSU Vice Provost's web site.  

Middle States, PSU's accrediting agency has removed it's warning to Penn State and reaffirmed accreditation, but concern with financial liability remains.  Although the fiscal situation of the University is strong, the $60 million NCAA penalty, anticipated fines to be imposed by the Department of Education and the direct costs of dealing with the Sandusky mess (>$16 million to date)  are not zero, even for an institution with a billion dollar budget.

Those costs are not covered by insurance, the costs of covering civil penalties in law suits, well
in it's response to Middle States, Penn State anticipates 10-15 civil suits from Sandusky victims only one of which appears to have been filed to date (there are three additional suits pending).  Of course, the insurance company that has policies covering this is trying to get out of paying.  The Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association Insurance Company (PMA) is essentially saying they have no obligation to cover losses from Penn State's covering up for Sandusky and concealing his crimes.  This has the amusing title of an "Abuse or Molestation Exclusion".  The PMA and PSU are in at least two courts on this.

Penn State is funding the defense against criminal charges for the Director of Athletics and the former Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/Treasurer.  No mention is made of funding the defense of the former President, Grant Spanier.

Updates can be found at at 

In addition to insurance Penn State has put together a pool of $51 million taken out of repayments of internal loans to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the Athletic Department.  That tells you right away where the dollars are in a big university, but indeed, Penn State is worried

In the event of more dire circumstances, the University is prepared to make additional modifications in its overall financial plans going forward. Specifically, as University management designs and reviews the next five year capital plan (2014-2018) with the Board of Trustees, much flexibility will be programmed into the plan. For example, in acknowledgement of the need to provide up to $60 million of bridge funding for payment of the fine to the NCAA, a first draft of the new capital plan has already been reduced from $1.6 billion to $1.55 billion in scope (a 3.1% reduction). While this can and will result in some unfortunate reductions in deferred maintenance and other projects being requested by the self-supporting units of the University, there will be additional accommodations built into the plan which will allow for the University to deal with other unforeseen circumstances.
The US Department of Education has sent teams four times to investigate Clery Act violations (reporting of campus crime), but while
The investigation is continuing and the outcome is unknown. Fines and recommendations are likely. The University has received no information that it will lose Pell Grant or other Title IV student aid program funding as a result of these investigations.
which, of course, would be the real death penalty Eli referred to. 

That $60 million NCAA penalty
The fine stipulated by the NCAA Consent Decree is $60 million and the financial impact of the Big Ten sanction on bowl revenues is estimated to be approximately $13 million over four years (; additional information about the NCAA Consent Decree will be addressed later in this report, including information regarding the Athletic Integrity Agreement). Because internal Athletic Department reserves are currently insufficient to pay the full $60 million NCAA fine, the central University will issue up to five individual $12 million internal loans to the Athletic Department and charge debt service to the program over thirty years. As a result, long term financial modeling of the Athletic Department operation is being performed and re-budgeting is expected to occur within the restrictions imposed by the NCAA Consent Decree.
So not quite a bang, and not quite a whimper.

The California Cap passes its first test, barely

News coverage of the California cap-and-trade auction results diverged fairly sharply into whether it went well or had problems. Put me in the half-full category that it went well enough, but just barely.

The Air Board announced a sale price of $10.09 a ton, just barely above the reserve price of $10 and lower than the expected $11-15. Digging around a little doesn’t make the auction mechanics very clear – many bids were far higher than this. The reports imply that everyone paid $10.09, which would mean some type of Dutch auction setup.  (UPDATE:  confirmed it's a Dutch auction arrangement where everyone pays the same price.  Good explainer of the whole auction by Reed Smith is here.  The reserve price is a minimum that keeps the market from collapsing - if there's not enough demand for all the allowances to keep the price above that minimum, the effect of the reserve price is to reduce the supply of allowances being sold.)

I doubt it’s coincidental that the price is just above the reserve – that suggests the ‘market’ expectation is that it won’t be too hard to for California emitters to meet the cap, something that’s uncomfortably close to the problem of the European market that has too high a cap and a collapsed market. OTOH, emitters didn’t have to buy any allowances if they thought they could meet the cap on their own, so their expectation is that the Air Board will keep the California market from collapsing. I put the word ‘market’ in scare quotes because a sealed-bid auction barely qualifies – we’ll get a better idea of market price when trades start happening on a regular basis.

So it worked. A somewhat higher price would suggest a better-functioning market and more incentive for carbon reductions, although a much higher price would provide ammunition to critics’ ridiculous claim that the cap harms California’s economy.

Critics of the system include the state-level California Chamber of Commerce, treading a perilous line against California green energy businesses. The state Chamber filed a lawsuit against the auction on the day before it started. I expect they’ll take some flak for waiting so long to file, but I’ll have to save a look at their legal interests for another day.

The economic interest here is that free carbon allowances actually benefit emitters – the allowances have economic value that can be resold, and California is issuing 90% of the first emissions for free (that percent will decline over time). A 90% benefit isn’t good enough for the Chamber though – they want it all for free, forever. At least they claim they’re not trying to destroy the cap market – they just want free allowances – and that distinguishes them from the evil that is the US Chamber.  This isn't a trivial distinction from the US Chamber, by the way, and shows some-if-inadequate level of responsiveness to in-state business politics.

Even a 100% auction in my opinion would benefit California green businesses and help cement the leadership this state has on the green economy. The state Chamber is being short-sighted on a number of levels, especially if their effort to change the cap market ends up destroying it. This might be a good place for the state legislature to step in and backstop the Air Board’s decision, something that could be possible now that the Democrats have two-thirds majority in both houses, a requirement under the tax-revenue stupidity of California's Proposition 13.

An aside - there is a dividend component to the cap.  In a somewhat complicated procedure, utilities get all their allowances for free but are required to sell some and split the proceeds so 15% goes to reducing greenhouse emissions and the remainder as a credit applied to utility bills.  Seeing that credit will help counter the inevitable claim that the money is just going to solar power fat cats.

Back to the Future Once More

Every now and then some little obnoxious bunny goes nah nah global temperatures haven't risen in whatever years, everything is not known, natural variability is natural.  Eli knows the patter and all the Rabett has to do is wander over to Kloor's to find the music should he forget

  1. Tom Fuller Says:
    Steve Fitzpatrick, I don’t believe science claims to have a good grip on all of the factors you describe. More pertinent to the discussion, back in the late 80s and 90s nobody was talking about those factors when temperatures were rising swiftly, alongside emissions. In fact they said that the response was both quick and expected–even expectable.

    So to me it sounds like you are bringing in partially understood factors to explain away the sudden decorrelation of temperatures and emissions–I’m sorry if I’m misinterpreting you.

    In any event, one quarter of all human emissions in the past 14 years with no discernible effect. That takes a lot of explaining.
So every once and a while the pall of Alzheimer's lifts and Eli does remember back 24 or so years ago when he read a certain paper by someones called Hansen, Fung, Lacis, Rind, Lebedeff, Ruedy, Russell, and Stone, 1988: Global climate changes as forecast by Goddard Institute for Space Studies three-dimensional model. J. Geophys. Res., 93, 9341-9364, doi:10.1029/JD093iD08p09341.

No, not the usual ABC blather from the seemers and deniers, but something that pops out at anybunny who actuall reads the thing.

 They ran a century control run with greenhouse gas concentrations fixed at about the 19858 values with heat exchange across the maximum mixed layer depth in their ocean model so that it would respond quickly to changes in natural variability, and they compared the variability to that observed between 1951 and 1980
there is substantial unforced variability on all time scales that can be examined, that is up to decadal times scales.  Note that an unforced change in global temperature of about 0.4 C (o.3C, if the curve is smoothed with a 5-year running mean) occurred in one 20 year period (years 50-70).  This unforced variability of global temperature in the model is only slightly smaller than the observed variability of global surface air temperature in the past century, as discussed in section 5.  The conclusion that unforced (and unpredictable) climate variability may account for a large protion of climate change has been stressed by many researchers;  for example, Lorenz (1968), Hasselmann (1976) and Robock (1978)
They also looked at the spatial variation and variation with  latitude and altitude

The standard deviation ranges from about 0.25 C at low latitudes to more than 1 C at high latitudes in both models and observations.  The model's variability tends to be larger than observed over continents;  this arises mainly from unrealistically large model variability (by about a factor of 2) over the continents in summer as shown by the seasonal graphs of Hansen and Lebedeff (1987).
 and indeed, the discussion of the paper's results for global temperature trends (the famous Figure 3) IS centered on the relationship of the predicted trends to natural variability and the variability in the model.  It was the ability of the model to match natural variability, at least on a global and latitudinal scale that gave confidence in its performance when forced by increases in greenhouse gases and volcanic eruptions.

 Interpretation of Figure 3 requires quantification of the magnitude of natural variability in both the model and observations and the uncertainty in the measurements.  As mentioned in the description of Figure 1, the standard deviation of the model's global mean temperature is 0.11 C for the 100 year control run, which does not include the thermocline.  The model simulations for scenarios A, B and C include the thermocline heat capacity, which slightly reduced the model's short term variability; however judging from the results from scenario A which has a smooth variation of climate forcing, the model's standard deviation remains about 0.1 C.
There is more, but Ms. Rabett calls.

Professional Seemers

Paul Krugman nails the Kloors, Piekes and Currys of our world

Finally, it’s true that there are some Republican intellectuals and pundits who seem to be truly open-minded about both economic and social issues. But I worded that carefully: they “seem to be” open-minded; indeed, they’re professional seemers. When it matters, they can always be counted on — after making a big show of stroking their chins and agonizing — to follow the party line, and reject anything that doesn’t go along with the preacher-plutocrat agenda. If they don’t deliver when it counts, they are excommunicated; see Frum, David.

Anyone who imagines that there is any real soul-searching going on is deluding himself or herself.
If Paul  didn't exist, Eli would have to invent him.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Solution is Sometimes the Solution to Pollution

There has been quite a bit of worry about what happens when the methane hydrates on the Arctic shelf go blooie, but a factor not thought of by many is that since these hydrates are underwater, a fair amount of the methane will never reach the surface, but will first go into solution in the sea water, and later be oxidized to CO2, hydrogen carbonate and carbonate ions. 

The same issue confronts anyone (Ian, Ian Plimer, are you out there), who rants about all of the carbon dioxide coming from underwater volcanoes.  In point of fact, you read it here on Rabett Run, that if such volcanoes really were the source of so much CO2, the easy mark would be to go look for acidic plumes in the ocean.  Plimer's hound of the Baskervilles as it were, because they are not found. 

Biastoch, et al (eleven of them, including Latif, and Wallman at  the University of Kiel, have thought about the fate of the methane hydrates, and in an article entitled "Rising Arctic Ocean temperatures cause gas hydrate destabilization and ocean acidification" conclude that the major effect will be a decrease of pH, near the Arctic Ocean coasts.

Since the Arctic has and will be warmed considerably, Arctic bottom water temperatures and their future evolution projected by a climate model were analyzed. The resulting warming is spatially inhomogeneous, with the strongest impact on shallow regions affected by Atlantic inflow. Within the next 100 years, the warming affects 25% of shallow and mid‐depth regions containing methane hydrates. Release of methane from melting hydrates in these areas could enhance ocean acidification and oxygen depletion in the water column. The impact of methane release on global warming, however, would not be significant within the considered time span.
Remember that pH is a logarithmic scale so a change of .25 on the pH scale is an increase of ~75% in acidity.

Hot Time, Summer in the City

From our German friend, Jörg Zimmermann a reminder that good planning requires good scientists and good politicians: 


Global warming is harder and harder to deny.  Plots of global temperature are clearly moving upward.  The Arctic sea ice melt reached a new record low this year, which definitively confirmed what we suspected in 2007, that the Arctic has entered a new climatic regime. Thus, we are now more and more concerned about the impact that global warming will have. One of the most discussed topics this year in Germany was how city dwellers will deal with increasingly common heat waves.  But first I want to tell you a story of a professor, who pasted grains of sand on paper ...

It is over 70 years since Professor Ludwig Prandtl glued sand onto paper.  His experiment consisted of blowing air over the paper and measuring the decrease in flow velocity as a function of the distance above the paper.  He wanted to discover the mechanism by which momentum was transferred in neutrally stratified air (ie where vertical motion was neither hindered nor promoted) due to turbulence and how to calculate it.  Today, the lower part of the atmosphere, the frictional layer, where obstacles on the ground directly influence the wind field, is named after him, the Prandtl layer (Eli:  aka the boundary layer in English, Prandtl’s work was mostly concerned with aerodynamics and the flow of air over an airfoil, but it has important connections with meteorology and how winds blow near the surface.  The key insight is that the speed of the wind at the surface, which does not move, must be zero.  The increase of speed above the surface depends on the roughness of the surface).  For winds moving over the surface, in most cases the boundary layer is a few tens of meters, though at time it can be more than 100 meters high.  The effect of the ground on the flow can be recognized because under conditions of neutral stratification, the wind speed increases logarithmically with increasing altitude - first quickly, but the rate of increase rapidly falls off with height. If you want to express it in a formula, the wind speed is proportional to the logarithm of the ratio of height to the roughness. The roughness is again an estimate of the average effective height of the barriers that slow down the air. The logarithm is multiplied by the ratio of the shear velocity and the Karman constant. The shear velocity is a measure of how under prevailing conditions an air packet would move, as well as how it would be decelerated via turbulence generated by friction with the surface. And von Karman's constant, that was, what Professor Prandtl wanted to determine with his sand. In his measurements, he found the number 0.42.

Since then there have always been laboratory and field experiments and campaigns where, among other things, people wanted to determine von Karaman’s constant more accurately than Prandtl with his sand. Over the decades, the number varied from 0.35 to 0.45. But when I looked last, the current value was back at 0.42. Only the error bars had become smaller.

But what have Prandtl grains of sand to do with climate change in cities?

Cities are areas where air is decelerated. The houses act like huge kernels of sand and calm the wind in urban areas. When air heats up in the cities, it can only slowly mix with cooler air outside. This will make it warmer in cities than in surrounding areas. At night, the heat island effect can account for more than 10 degrees of warming. Why do the cities heat up so much that the mixing of the air is a critical problem? The main reason is that sealed paved streets and buildings hinder evaporation of water. The evaporation of water converts sensible heat into latent heat. The latent heat is released only when water vapor condenses into droplets which, for example, can be the source of violent thunderstorms. This is in addition to industrial, commercial and household usage which contribute to heat production in cities. Further buildings and pavement on top of the ground hinder dissipation of heat into the soil. However it is the obstruction of air flow by the buildings that makes the heat island effect really important.

The heat island effect is not just a reason that temperatures at urban weather stations might increase faster than at rural stations, requiring care in constructing temperature time series, it also has implications for urban planning.  The question for planners is how to increase water evaporation in cities. This requires plants, water features and unpaved ground. Easy to say, but dense development is a consequence of efficient commercial usage. The higher the price of land, the harder it is to convince people to leave open spaces in a city.

So you need good arguments. The German Weather Service is increasingly providing these. In cities such as Munich and Frankfurt, the German authorities had already produced thick planning reports showing how climate change might affect the urban climate and where development should be less dense. Hills near the city which are not developed can work like air conditioners. When cool at night, dense cold air forms on the hilly heights and that air flows under gravity like a river into the valleys. If the cold air lanes are not blocked by buildings the city can breathe this cold fresh air.

The German Weather Service in Cologne is also busy. Measuring vehicles are driving through the city to map out where in hot weather it is especially warm and show how the Rhine can help cool the city somewhat.  As climate change accelerates the mayor and city councilors need to understand more and more its impacts on the urban climate, and what rules to follow for urban and green planning. Besides air conditioning the frequency of extreme weather events plays a major role. Ten years ago there were summer floods on the Elbe after extreme rainfall that caused havoc in the old town area of Dresden. The weather conditions in the southeast brought up warm, humid air masses that led to the heavy rains.  With increasing warming such events could be more frequent. Cities must therefore address the question of how to better protect against high water instead of, as before, by canalizing rivers which strengthens flooding. Here very different groups and research organizations in meteorology, hydrology and water management, urban planning, landscape architecture and ecology have to work together.

Interim results of such a project were presented to the city of Cologne in 2010 which welcomed them.  The report identified temperature differences of up to eight degrees between densely populated areas and those crisscrossed by green spaces. The project's results are available from the city on its website.(in German) Within this framework municipal officials need to understand that the challenge of climate change is long since not "if" it must be dealt with, but only "how", and what need to be done now.

Cologne has set up a system of 14 climate stations in the city to measure changes and guide the city's response

Lessons or lack thereof from bipartisan movements

As Obama heads off to Burma, I think back to when I knew something about that country.  I spent two winters there doing volunteer work in the early 90s and then several years in the mid-90s in Oregon focusing on Burma human rights work, comparing the situation to South Africa.  I'm cautiously optimistic at this point, although the ethnic conflict is far from over and even democracy will be no guarantee of good treatment for ethnic minorities.

Relative to most other western nations, the US did pretty well in Burma, backing up Suu Kyi and others in the elected/overthrown leadership.  When we activists went Congress to ratchet up sanctions, the senators we counted on were Patrick Leahy, Mitch McConnell, and Jesse Helms (Ted Kennedy was also good, I think).  Our little Oregon group got every member of the Oregon congressional delegation to support sanctions, with liberal Republican Mark Hatfield being the hardest one to convince.  Burma never became polarized in American politics, as far as I can tell.

In another field that has long been polarized, things are changing.  Washington Monthly has a good piece titled The Conservative War on Prison, with conservatives starting to hop onto the alternatives-to-prison bandwagon.  The article is good on the what and when aspects of conservative change, but less so on the why and why at this particular time aspects.  There was this, though:

At the start of the 2007 legislative session, legislative analysts predicted that Texas was on track to be short 17,700 prison beds by 2012 because of its growing inmate population. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s response was to ask legislators to build three new prisons, but Madden and Whitmire had other ideas. Not only did they bring back a revamped version of their probation proposal—they also took aim at the revolving-door problem by cranking up funding for programs such as in-prison addiction treatment and halfway houses. This time, Perry relented (persuaded at least in part, the duo contends, by a high-stakes meeting they held with him shortly before the opening of the legislative session). Since then, the prison population has not increased, and last year, the TDCJ closed a prison for the first time in decades.

Budget shortfalls do not explain this shift. In 2007 Texas was basking in a huge projected surplus, and the Great Recession was still a year away. Instead, Madden and Whitmire had different winds at their backs. For one thing, the policy context favored reform. One legacy of the state’s prison litigation trauma is that Texas has strict restrictions on overcrowding (unlike, say, California). Under Texas law, when the system approaches capacity, corrections staff must seek certification from the attorney general and the governor to incarcerate more prisoners. The approval process forces state leaders to confront the choice between more prisons and more diversion programming. The political environment had also changed since the GOP completed its takeover of state politics in 2003. As a longtime observer of the state’s criminal justice notes, “Now … all the tough guys are Republicans. They don’t want to be outdoing each other on this stuff.”

I'm not entirely happy with this explanation.  I have my own, which is that ideological movements get bored.  After saying the same thing for a long time, there's a desire to say something else.  I think conservative ideology takes longer to get restless than others, but it still happens.  It's also not always successful:
Of course, there are limits to how far ideological reinvention can go. As political scientist David Karol has argued, it is unlikely to work when it requires crossing a major, organized member of a party coalition. That’s something environmentalists learned when they tried to encourage evangelicals to break ranks on global warming through the idea of “creation care.” They got their heads handed to them by the main conservative evangelical leaders, who saw the split this would create with energy-producing businesses upon whom Republican depend for support.
That's a rather simplified description of what happened among evangelicals, including who started it, how far it got, and whether the movement's truly ended.  It also downplays the difficulty in crossing the ideological and economic barriers of the tough-on-crime mindset and the prison-industrial complex.

I'm not sure what lessons to draw from all this for climate policy purposes.  Sometimes all you can do is wait for people to change - or push change through without their help.  I've also thought for a while that Al Gore has been careful to avoid some of the limelight.  Conservatives are showing some real ferment over immigration, modest change on gay marriage, and tiny little cracks in climate denial.  Maybe we'll get lucky.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Ice Melts at Midlight

As part of the Climate Dialogue, there is the usual but but but, and one of the buts has been pointing to the role of clouds (Sgt. Schultz knows nothing,  nothing)

The past 25 years of carbon dioxide increase has contributed to less than 1 W m-2 in radiative forcing. There is no simple calculation to be made of the effect of the sea ice albedo change on the global energy balance. The better comparison is with a change in fractional cloud cover (which is highly variable), which dominates the planetary albedo far more than the arctic sea ice.
but to be fair, and you know that Eli is always fair, others, such as Rob Dekker point out that
Here, I noticed that GCM projections are lagging some 20 years (CMIP5) to 40 years (CMIP3) behind actual Arctic sea ice decline. Apparently, we are currently experiencing Arctic “climate” conditions that were not expected until another 40 – 80 ppm increase in CO2 concentration (which implies some 0.5 – 1.0 W/m^2 forcing).
And in the middle of this, the Rabett remembered something, the further north you go, the larger the annual CO2 cycle

Using flask sample data from Alert (in the blue, purple is Mauna Loa) , it's about a 15 ppm swing from early spring (April, May) to late summer (August, September) and about 8-10 ppm more of a swing than ML.

And the latest measurements from Barrow show a difference of 20 ppm

 Applying the normal equation for CO2 forcing, 5.35 ln (C/Co), where Co is 280 ppm, that is a difference of a bit more than 0.25 W/m^2, in other words, significant when compared to the total average increase of 0.5 to 1 W/m^2 in the past 25 years.  Moreover, the net effect is to limit cooling in the winter as compared to using the average carbon dioxide mixing ratio, increase melting in the spring and force less melting in the late summer.  Over the year, the average concentrations are about the same at ML and Alert.

It takes about six to seven years before the low mixing ratio catches up with the high at Alert (e.g. the minimum in 2007 matched the maximum in 2000.

To tell the truth, Eli has not a clue as to whether this is included in models or evaluations of the Arctic ice, but it looks interesting.  Just thought the bunnies might like to know

Design for Blogging

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Climate Dialogue Hits the Big Time

Dr Inferno of Denial Depot has commented there on the proper mix of experts

Dr Inferno

I notice all the proclaimed experts in the discussion unquestionably accept the existence of so-called "carbon" gases in our atmosphere. Surely for a legitimate dialogue you need experts who are willing to question the very foundations of PCAGW.

How for example does carbon dioxide manage to float within the air itself being that it is heavier than air? Anyone who has held a diamond or a piece of graphite can attest that carbon is a solid, not a gas. As a gas it would simply fall to the ground as and so become solid. We see on Mars that the polar caps are made of carbon dioxide in it's true solid state.
Perhaps the interlocutors will take heed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eli Has Seen This Movie Before

There are useful discussions about the new Dutch climate change discussion blog, Climate Dialog, at Real Climate, the Weasel's, Our Changing Climate and, well, Climate Dialog.  The blog is unique because of Dutch government.sponsorship
Climate Dialogue offers a platform for discussions between (climate) scientists on important climate topics that are of interest to both fellow scientists and the general public. The goal of the platform is to explore the full range of views that scientists have on these issues.
and what is supposed to happen is that the owner/operators will get experts to write position posts from a variety of viewpoints.  The first was on Arctic ice melt, and well, they got two experts, Walt Meier of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center and Ron Lindsay from the Polar Science Center of the University of Washington.  They also got Judith Curry, of the Sgt Schultz School of Atmospheric Science.  The first two wrote interesting essays based on the literature.  The last gave her opinion, which, as several have pointed out, was at best loosely fact based and in particulars not.  She also displayed her well known Italian Flag of Statistical Ignorance.

Now some, not Eli to be sure, wondered why Curry was not balanced by someone who was really strongly agitated by the goings on in the Arctic like Peter Wadhams, but Eli has another point, which is that this whole thing is playing like a re-run of the late and not lamented Nature Climate Feedback launch.  Remember that?  You were probably too young, but Eli is an old bunny.

Same playbook,
Here at Nature, we have launched Climate Feedback with the aim of providing a forum for authoritative discussion on climate issues, hosting a balance of voices and a diversity of well-informed opinions. We will discuss the broader issues surrounding climate change, as well as cutting-edge climate science. Our goal is to provide a respected and trustworthy source of discussion and debate for a wide audience, from climate scientists to the scientific public.
and those "authoritative voices" of course, belonged to the like of Roger Jr. (who delivered two of the first posts to set the tone, along with Hans v. Storch who had one whacking the hockey stick).  Roger, of course got it completely wrong.  They never really recovered and recently folded.

Eli respects two of the editors Rob van Dorland and Bart Strengers, the third, Marcel Krok appears to be your garden variety churnalist, but Rabett Run will take a wait and see on him.  The advisory board looks fine, how could it not with Bart Verheggen there, but the path forward will be difficult.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy California Cap-And-Trade Eve

Nice radio program on California's cap-and-trade allocation auction that starts taking bids tomorrow, and on Monday we'll find out the price per ton, with a minimum price set by regulation at $10/ton.  Second biggest cap-and-trade market in the world after Europe.  Hopefully we've learned from other's mistakes (and I think we have).

One critique deserving a response is whether including a minimum and maximum price on allocations somehow proves a failure of the cap system.  The idea is if a cap's appeal over a carbon tax is that it determines the total amount of emissions, then the floor and ceiling prove the lack of commitment to determine the right amount of emissions.

Three responses:

1. Doesn't matter anyway unless the price hits the floor or ceiling.

2. It's a little simplistic to say a tax focuses on specific price for carbon while a cap focuses on specific quantity of carbon emissions.  The floor and ceiling for a cap just lets society choose a tradeoff between price and quantity.  You could do something similar with a tax by letting the tax price change if total emissions fall through a floor or above a ceiling.

3. If greenhouse gases were as easy to eliminate as ozone-destroying chemicals then we'd have a similar schedule for phaseout.  It's not that easy, so we're doing things less quickly under either a carbon tax in Australia, or cap in Europe and in parts of the US.  Putting a floor is an indication that we overestimated the difficulty in achieving a reduction and therefore will require a larger reduction.  It's actually good news, that we can achieve reductions more quickly than anticipated.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another Framing Debacle

Eli was in Barnes and Noble, just hangin' waiting for Ms. Rabett to complete her Suduko collection (she does Suduko in 20 languages, clever bunny) when the Rabett came across the Stanford Social Innovation Review the cover of which, well, it's over there on the right, featuring an article by Andrew J. Hoffman.  Hoffman is a much more important guy than Eli, a big name in sustainable development but Eli will explain later how reading this article brought clarity to many things that are frequently discussed on Rabett Run, and how there is a fundamental disagreement with Hoffman and his framing of the what to do issue and how Hoffman's framing is self defeating  The article starts with
In May 2009, a development officer at the University of Michigan asked me to meet with a potential donor—a former football player and now successful businessman who had an interest in environmental issues and business, my interdisciplinary area of expertise. The meeting began at 7 a.m., and while I was still nursing my first cup of coffee, the potential donor began the conversation with “I think the scientific review process is corrupt.” I asked what he thought of a university based on that system, and he said that he thought that the university was then corrupt, too. He went on to describe the science of climate change as a hoax, using all the familiar lines of attack—sunspots and solar flares, the unscientific and politically flawed consensus model, and the environmental benefits of carbon dioxide.

As we debated each point, he turned his attack on me, asking why I hated capitalism and why I wanted to destroy the economy by teaching environmental issues in a business school. Eventually, he asked if I knew why Earth Day was on April 22. I sighed as he explained, “Because it is Karl Marx’s birthday.” (I suspect he meant to say Vladimir Lenin, whose birthday is April 22, also Earth Day. This linkage has been made by some on the far right who believe that Earth Day is a communist plot, even though Lenin never promoted environmentalism and communism does not have a strong environmental legacy.)
At this point Hoffman had backed the "potential donor" into the ten impossible and contradictory things position characteristic of human climate change denial, but rather than directly confronting the fellow he
. .turned to the development officer and asked, “What’s our agenda here this morning?” The donor interrupted to say that he wanted to buy me a ticket to the Heartland Institute’s Fourth Annual Conference on Climate Change, the leading climate skeptics conference. I checked my calendar and, citing prior commitments, politely declined. The meeting soon ended.
As the Rabett discussed yesterday, what the "potential donor" people are looking for is affirmation and engaging with them on their terms is a fools errand.  Rejection is what they need and deserve, maybe polite rejection, but rejection none the less and it is what is needed for the public discussion.  Giving affirmation and understanding only prolongs the denial..

Yet, as bunnies know, fools are everywhere, and rejection is a strenuous task.  Walking away is much easier and it is hard for academics to simply reject idiocy without looking inward to find some excuse for the idiot, especially, Eli guesses, for rich idiots who might donate to the University.

You then get the feel sorry for the Republicans and Mitt Romney trope from Hoffman,
The more I thought about it, the more I began to see that he was speaking from a coherent and consistent worldview—one I did not agree with, but which was a coherent viewpoint nonetheless. Plus, he had come to evangelize me. The more I thought about it, the more I became eager to learn about where he was coming from, where I was coming from, and why our two worldviews clashed so strongly in the present social debate over climate science. Ironically, in his desire to challenge my research, he stimulated a new research stream, one that fit perfectly with my broader research agenda on social, institutional, and cultural change.
Which is kind of worrying because there is such a literature, even Eli knows about it, and this guy thinks he has something new?  OTOH, Eli has to wonder even more about Hoffman who says that
Although the US Supreme Court decided in 2007 that greenhouse gases were legally an air pollutant, in a cultural sense, they are something far different. The reduction of greenhouse gases is not the same as the reduction of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, or particulates. 
which is just wrong.  There ARE major natural sources of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide and certainly particulates.  Still this is just a chemists niggle.  By his ignorance Hoffman destroys one of the strengths of his argument, perhaps in an attempt to bring over those in denial or sitting on the fence, or just not paying attention.  The article then degenerates into the usual framing nonsense, but what caught Eli's eye was the analogy with tobacco
The first obstacle is the powerful lobby of industrial forces that can resist a social and political consensus. In the case of the cigarette debate, powerful economic interests mounted a campaign to obfuscate the scientific evidence and to block a social and political consensus. Tobacco companies created their own pro-tobacco science, but eventually the public health community overcame pro-tobacco scientists.
This was not at all what happened.  What happened was that several states and a bunch of plaintiff's lawyers hauled the tobacco companies into court and cleaned their clock and wallets.  
The second obstacle to convincing a skeptical public is the lack of a definitive statement by the scientific community about the future implications of climate change. The 2007 IPCC report states that “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is very likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” Some point to the word “likely” to argue that scientists still don’t know and action in unwarranted. But science is not designed to provide a definitive smoking gun.
Hoffman proceeds into never never Sandy land, e.g. you can't prove that every case of lung cancer is caused by tobacco smoke, therefore there is no proof.
Remember that the 1964 surgeon general’s report about the dangers of smoking was equally conditional. And even today, we cannot state with scientific certainty that smoking causes lung cancer. Like the global climate, the human body is too complex a system for absolute certainty. We can explain epidemiologically why a person could get cancer from cigarette smoking and statistically how that person will likely get cancer, but, as the surgeon general report explains, “statistical methods cannot establish proof of a causal relationship in an association [between cigarette smoking and lung cancer]. The causal significance of an association is a matter of judgment, which goes beyond any statement of statistical probability.” Yet the general public now accepts this causal linkage.
BECAUSE THE TOBACCO COMPANIES WERE FORCED TO ADMIT THIS IN COURT AS THE PRICE FOR BEING ALLOWED TO STAY IN BUSINESS and even then, aided by Fred Singer, they held off smoking bans in restaurants and offices for a decade with the same obfustication tactics.

Let us close with Occupy Sandy, a working relief effort in NYC and now New Jersey which is directly bringing help to those most affected by the storm.  By throwing a large volunteer effort at the problem they have surmounted the hurdles limiting the Red Cross to asking only for monetary donations.  They have set up an Amazon wedding registry web page which allows people to donate just about anything that is needed.  Those who derided Occupy Wall Street (out of which Occupy Sandy grew) asking what is next, owe some apologies.

It's Complaint Choir Season

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The path to citizenship will be crooked for Republicans

A few more thoughts on the election and then I'll let it go:

Immigration.  The Republicans are in trouble on immigration and citizenship no matter what they do.  No change and they imitate the California Republican Party in relevance.  Much of their elite seems to realize this and want to compromise, but the Democrats should put them through a wringer and demand everything the Ds think should happen:  a reasonable pathway to citizenship for immigrants who have been here for a reasonable amount of time.  The 1987 amnesty applied to people who had been in the country for over five years, setting them on a path to citizenship seven years after being legalized.  Personally I'd lengthen the first period and shorten the second one, but it's a reasonable model for the future.

If the Rs refuse to pass something like this through Congress, then beat them up over it in 2014 while also getting the best compromise possible.  If the Rs do pass something substantial, then they still lose, because those legalized citizens will be Democratic voters for a generation and a fraction.  The Rs painted themselves into this corner, it'll be a long time to get out.  The white vote share of the presidential electorate is declining 2 points every four years, probably translating into a one-percent gain each cycle for the Democratic candidate.

Denialists lost seats.  In under-reported news, four out of five Congressional Representatives dubbed the "Flat Earth Five" by the League of Conservation Voters for denying climate reality lost their seats, and eleven of twelve generally anti-environment candidates also got beat.  These people were specially targeted and I've been looking for more specifics; the League needs to update their website (a little update here).  This is a nice bit of karmic payback for 2010, when most of the eight Republicans who voted to do something about climate lost their seats to primary challengers.

Citizens United redistributed income.  Some billionaires redistributed a few percent of this year's income to the somewhat-less wealthy without causing too much harm at the federal level in this election.  I'm not quite as sure they were harmless at the state and local level this cycle, and even the dumbest of rich people may learn to spend their unlimited campaign money more effectively in the future, again most likely by targeting it at the state and local level.  Watch out for next time.

Overturning Citizens United.  Obama will probably nominate 2-3 justices over the next four years.  Ginsburg, age 79 and with previous cancer bouts, should have retired a year or two ago but took a huge risk hanging on.   Hopefully she'll do the right thing, and Breyer, age 74, might do the same.  The conservatives' ages are 76 (Scalia), 76 (Kennedy), 64 (Thomas), 62 (Alito) and 57 (Roberts).  They'll do their best to last out four years, but might not have a choice.

Bahrain Silence = Climate Silence.  Juan Cole had an interesting post about continuing repression in Bahrain against the Shiite majority.  Too bad that Romney wasn't asked to compare his relative activism over Syria, which I liked, to the situation in Bahrain.  Maybe the Republican talking heads on the Sunday shows could still get asked - this is the worst situation of the US looking the other way, for somewhat obvious military reasons.

Hanging up my local politics crystal ball.  My water district had three elections, and I called all three wrong.  It doesn't make the results bad - I'm actually thrilled that our funding measure that needed two-thirds' support under California law received 72.65% support, and it includes $24 million that helps prepare for sea level rise along San Francisco Bay.  Staff's first draft had $5 million for this; I can (and will) take credit for much of the increased funding.

UPDATE:  forgot to add my plea to reduce the Senate filibuster bottleneck, along with the actually-still-alive hope that Harry Reid might do it.

UPDATE 2:  with actuarial tables and my trusty calculator, I get a 79% chance of four-year survival for each of Scalia and Kennedy, 93% for Thomas, 94% for Alito, and 96% for Roberts, leaving a 52% chance that all five will survive four years.  Their health probably makes this an underestimate, but severe disability might also get one or two of them to leave if they really couldn't serve.

A Post Election Rant

Now some, not Eli to be sure, might think it is time to call out all those in the US who were predicting a post-election Gotterdammerung for anyone slightly to the left of Dick Cheney (and to be quite clear, Eli is not sure that Dick would be safe either, given his backing for same sex bunnies he is related to), but actually that is not the problem.  Rachel Maddow who is about as left as you can get in the US and be on TV nails it, rational people are exasperated to the point of wanting to mole whack any Republican in sight for what they have done to our political choices in the US

This pretty much captures Eli's exasperation, and Tamino's and the Real Climate crews'.

We all need to follow David Suzuki's lead in replying to a missive from the Heartland Institute

Eli has always maintained that these clowns are looking for affirmation.  And he has always said that we need to push back against their idiocy and not sit quietly by

The problem is that  bullshit has consequences.  Ed Darrell at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub writes about Steve Schafersman, a geologist in northwest Texas who ran for the state school board and got trounced 3:1 by your typical religiously anti-science, GOP candidate, Marty Rowley of Amarillo.  To quote Ed, "as a good-ol’-boy, former pastor, he’s got a lot of support from the usual suspects.  Rowley’s views on science, technology, engineering and mathematics run contrary to the business and farming interests of his entire district."  This, as Ed points out, is a remarkably Republican district, but why could they not put up a candidate for the state board of education who acknowledges that the Earth is slightly more than 5000 years old?
Third, this year a knowledgeable and qualified conservative Republican candidate did not win the District 15 Republican primary. Instead, a radically-regressive, religious-right Tea Party candidate who follows the platform and agenda of the extreme Tea Party-influenced Texas Republican Party won the primary. I am now in the position of offering the only rational, moderate, and effective choices on probably every issue to votersincluding Independents and about half of all Republicanswho can't accept the extreme positions of a reactionary candidate.
The Steve Schafersmans of the world need to keep running, even against daunting odds, if only to try and puncture the balloon, but the Republicans of the world and the so called conservatives and libertarians need to acknowledge that the planet is a sphere. 

Till then, every time a Roger Pielke, Dick Lindzen, Fred Singer, or Ross McKitrick tries to dump a load on you simply reply
I am a scientist and I take great umbrage of being told such a load of crap from a bullshit shill like you.  You are the most anti-science person I can imagine and I have no interest in talking to you or giving the appearance that I think anything you say or write has worth.
Oh yes, defriend them on Facebook.  If you don't, you will get more Marty Roleys telling your kids' teachers what to teach.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sixty seconds of Sergio

Not sharing Eli's hesitation about blogging on subjects beyond my expertise, I thought I'd fix the dearth of spaghetti western blogging here at Rabett Run:

I've been watching the above clip for more times than I can count as part of a little project I'm working on.  It's the climax from Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, the second best of Leone's westerns, and the best climax.  The rest of this post is all spoilers, of course.

The part that really interests me is the final 60 seconds of the face-off, starting about 6:30 in the video.  Watch it once and it seems to end in a swirl of faces and a gunshot.  Watch it a couple dozen times and you get a story.

A timeline:

6:30 Angel Eyes starts inching his hand over to his gun.

6:33  Blondie looks at him, and he brings his hand back

6:49  Blondie looks at Tuco and gives him the slightest nod.  Now we who know the outcome also know there's no direct reason for Blondie to give a signal to Tuco - Blondie had tricked him and unloaded his gun.  It's what happens next that shows the reason - Angel Eyes saw the nod and flickers his view back and forth, unsure if there's a plan against him.

7:01  Unnerved, Angel Eyes starts slowly reaching for his gun, looking for Blondie to spot him moving.  Blondie never looks at him again, staring straight ahead at Tuco.

7:16  Angel Eyes takes an almost-last look at Tuco, hand inching closer.  Tuco's starting straight at Blondie.

7:17 - 7:27  Confusing closeups accelerate.

7:28 - 7:31  Tuco finally glances at Angel Eyes.
                   Angel Eyes nervously shifts his view between both opponents and makes his move.
                   Tuco sees the move and begins drawing himself (not that it matters).
                   A shot rings out, and Angel Eyes falls.  Blondie shot him without ever looking away from Tuco.

We learn later that Blondie had tricked Tuco by emptying Tuco's gun, so Blondie never had to really worry about Tuco.  Only by watching it closely do you see that Blondie also tricked Angel Eyes with the meaningless head nod to Tuco, and then by seeming to not pay attention to Angel Eyes, while watching him with peripheral vision and waiting for him to draw.

Nice.  Really nice.

Couple other points:  I had trouble with Angel Eyes walking across the line of fire between Tuco and Blondie earlier in the clip, but I finally realized it helped conceal his draw from Blondie even if it made the hand more visible to Tuco.  Maybe he wasn't quite as worried about Tuco.

At 7:32 you can see Tuco shooting his empty gun at Angel Eyes, i.e. not at Blondie.  Maybe it was just a response to Angel Eyes, but it might have been a choice.  Maybe that had something to do with Blondie's decision to spare Tuco at the end of the movie (not in the clip).

Speaking of the movie's end, Blondie tortures a guy with a fake execution/near strangling and he's "The Good"?  Maybe it was less jarring in the days before enhanced interrogation.  That's just one more good thing about re-electing Obama.

In the preceding movie, Angel Eyes was a good guy.  Nice climax as well, clip here.  Interesting how much swarthier Leone made the kind-of same character and same actor when he was The Bad.

I started watching this clip over a month ago, and immediately started getting lots of Romney ads on YouTube.  I thought that was amusing.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Do Not Forget Your Chair (If Allowed By Poll Manager)

Eli is going to break two of his personal rules, first to post on non-climate/non-education related political things at Rabett Run, and second to send the bunnies over to the dark side, but this has to be shared.

Various of the Romney information technology people are looking for their next job and bragging on something called Project ORCA.  They have sold a number of journalists on this super spiffy thing, but the reality, the reality is to fall on the floor laughing and never to be able to arise.

From the Ace of Spades (Eli prefers the Ace of Cakes) a report from ground level.  Go over there and read the whole thing and the comments, but make sure you have no liquids or solids in your mouth lest you need a new screen
What is Project Orca? Well, this is what they told us:
Project ORCA is a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election.
Pretty much everything in that sentence is false. The "massive undertaking" is true, however. It would take a lot of planning, training and coordination to be done successfully (oh, we'll get to that in a second). This wasn't really the GOP'seffort, it was Team Romney's. And perhaps "unprecedented" would fit if we're discussing failure.
 continuing. . .
From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions. There was a lot of "rah-rahs" and lofty talk about how this would change the ballgame.
Remember, Mitt was the closer, the glad hand brought on at the end of the negotiation to seal the deal.
On one of the last conference calls (I believe it was on Saturday night), they told us that our packets would be arriving shortly. Now, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion about what they meant by "packet". Some people on Twitter were wondering if that meant a packet in the mail or a pdf or what. Finally, my packet arrived at 4PM on Monday afternoon as an emailed 60 page pdf. Nothing came in the mail. Because I was out most of the day, I only got around to seeing it at around 10PM Monday night. So, I sat down and cursed as I would have to print out 60+ pages of instructions and voter rolls on my home printer. Naturally, for reasons I can't begin to comprehend, my printer would not print in black and white with an empty magenta cartridge (No HP, I will never buy another one of your products ever again).
Having had this experience Eli commiserates.
So, at this point I became panicked. I was expected to be at the polls at 6:45AM and nothing was open. I was thankfully able to find a Kinko's open until 11PM that was able to print it out and bind it for me, but this is not something I should have had to do. They expected 75-80 year old veteran volunteers to print out 60+ pages on their home computers? The night before election day? From what I hear, other people had similar experiences. In fact, many volunteers never received their packets at all.
It went downhill from there

The time window for a revenue-neutral carbon tax is 2017-2018, so get cracking

My theory that our time for serious climate legislation is the two years after the 2016 election relies on the following reasons why up to 2016 won’t work:

  • Before 2014 is no good because the current House majority would never pass it (and the Senate minority would filibuster).
  • 2014-2016 is no good because the president’s party almost always loses seats in the House in the off year.
Then there’s 2016, the counterpart of the lucky fate of 2012 Senate elections. The Senate gets elected in three separate waves, with a few more Ds than Rs. Fate decreed an uneven distribution with a large minority of Ds up for election in 2012, 23 Ds versus 10 Rs, a big reason why this election was supposed to be bad in the Senate, until the Rs pulled out their unregistered pistols and shot up their own feet. Fate said 2014 would be somewhat closer in distribution between parties, so Math said that 2016 is the vulnerable year for Rs, with 24 Rs up for election compared to 10 Ds.

While far from certain, it’s possible that for two years after the 2016 election, and only for those two years, Ds will have somewhere in the vicinity of 60 votes in the Senate. That’s the chance. The 2018 election puts the Ds back on the defensive, 25 D seats versus 8 R seats.

I suggest two alternatives for explaining climate politics. One is Roger Pielke Jr.’s so-called Iron Law:

When policies focused on economic growth confront policies focused on emissions reduction, it is economic growth that will win out every time.

The other is the acronym BOSO, or Brian’s Obvious Statement of the Obvious:

Getting 60 votes in the Senate is hard.

Only one of these is likely to display true insight into climate politics. The Iron Law appears to be unfalsifiable because it’s not applied where it doesn’t work, so you can probably guess which way I lean. If you go with the Iron Law though, then you make a few bets on technology and just hope for the best (and please don’t annoy Godwin by pointing out that was Hitler’s end-game strategy too). If by contrast you’re just a BOSO, then look for the best strategy to get to 60.

I’m assuming the president will be a Democrat, or a Republican who favors action, and that the House will pass a bill like they were able to in 2010. Getting Republican and possibly squishy Democratic support is the reason, really the only reason, to do a revenue-neutral carbon tax. A revenue-generating tax could do positive things for climate mitigation and adaptation, or a cap-and-trade law could provide similar incentives. It’s the possibility of getting a few Republican votes and the difficulty of BOSO that makes me think we should explore a revenue neutral tax.

And I’m saying “possibility,” not probability for all the above. On the hopeful side, science will continue to beat over the heads of the ignorant, and not-hopeful tragedies like Sandy may do the same.   Renewables will continue to expand while costs decrease, and shale gas can cut into the stranglehold that coal has over electricity politics in swing states like Ohio.  Demographics also favor reality. On the other hand, two election cycles between now and 2017 aren’t that many to get reality into Republican politics, which is actually getting more ideologically rigid at the state and local level.

Still, it’s an opportunity that we should plan for as much as possible, and revenue-neutral carbon tax might be the best way to do it. Meantime, stick with Eli’s strategy of regulating our way through this via the Clean Air Act (and I expect eventually through the Clean Water Act for ocean acidification).

 If the Republicans don’t bend in 2017 and there aren’t enough votes to get around them, then their rigidity will eventually make them a national version of the California Republican Party, a group so unpopular and powerless that it will have less than one third of the seats in both houses of the state legislature. That, however, will take even more time before it happens.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Message From Civilization

Stephan Lewandowsky sends Eli a message to pass on:

Eli might also add: To those who are planning on leaving for Central or South America: they speak Spanish there.  Jet Blue is offering free flights.

Election open thread

Thoughts?  I guess I'll make this climate-related or otherwise, up to you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Taking on our toughest challenges

The Christie cameo is probably no accident - enviros would love to split him off from the denialists.

P.S.  For my wonderful Santa Clara County voters, please vote Yes on Measure B!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Eli Points Out the Obvious Again

Well, somebunny has to do it.

Paul Krugman today

Today’s Financial Times bears a banner headline on p.1: “US election hangs on a knife edge”. Aside from everything else, surely this gets the cliche wrong: you rest on a knife edge, don’t you? If you try to hang on one, I think you just cut off your fingers.
Being an old Rabett, Eli pointed out that
the knife's edge refers to an old fashioned weighing balance where the two pans are supported by a beam and the "knife's edge" is the fulcrum point.
If you look at pictures of old balances the knife edge is in the middle.

the knife edge is the little triangular thing supporting the beam at the top of the central pillar or you could dip into the tool chest for some threaded rod and single blade razors.  You can find the fancier double pan balances in antique stores or professors' offices (Eli has two).

An interesting version is the Mettler subtractive balance (you can still find some in labs), where the weights were rings that could be lifted off the beam by an arrangement of gears and levers (11).  The counterweight (3) was equal to the sum of the weights of all the rings that hung from the beam.  The knife edges are shown in blue, one supporting the whole beam and the other the pan and rings (near 7)

So, what do we use today?  Electronic scales (this is like telling a gunny sergeant that a rifle is a gun, but sad to say it is true) measure the change in resistance of a strain gauge load cell, accurate, inexpensive (relatively) but not elegant

Bloomberg Business Week Discovers Global Warming!

Bloomberg Business Week, which has an elite audience, has a cover story that says it all: It's Global Warming, Stupid!

Bloomberg Business Week Editor-in-Chief Josh Tyrangiel says that the cover story may generate controversy, "but only among the stupid".

The significance is not what BW says. It's who is saying it: The heart of the big business Establishment. The sound that you hear is the gnashing of teeth at the Heartland Institute, Marshall Institute, and other denier front groups.

This may be a turning point in the struggle to save the planet.

Living Well Is the Best Revenge

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Better Than Best

Peter Thorne, over at Moyhu early last month announced that the International Surface Temperature Initiative (ISTI) has gone beta and is available for inspection.  The databank and a listing of what is in it is available. As the announcement puts it

This is data that mostly has not been quality controlled or bias corrected. It is important to stress that it therefore does not constitute a climate data record / dataset suitable for monitoring long-term changes. Rather, it provides a basis from which research groups can create algorithms to produce climate datasets. The results from these algorithms can then be compared and benchmarked as part of the International Surface Temperature Initiative activities. We hope that many groups and individuals take up this challenge which will lead to improved understanding of land surface air temperature changes particularly at regional scales.
 Nick is taking up the challenge and tuning up his toys.

Reducing Pat Michaels to a Joke

Well, it's hard work but some bunny has to do it.  Reliable readers (does Rabett Run have any, you know, the kind you can trust your lucky rabetts feet with?) have noticed a few posts here and there about the Cato Institute flim flam imitation of the US Global Change Research Program Impacts in the United State report.  A draft of this special from the firm of Michaels and Knappenberger got loose (the embarrassment was too much for the poor dear) and it got pre-reported and panned. 

Speculation was that the report was going to be released a few weeks ago to be used to fool the rubes and hold off questions about climate change to Republican and a few Democratic candidates (Joe Manchin from WVa comes to mind).  Speculation also holds that the publicity delayed the release until October 31, when it flew right into the Sandy maelstrom caused by the loss of a few inconsequential islands and the occasional large building housing banks and stock exchanges.

But, of course, it was always a joke according to Pat

Michaels, working with a team of experts and scientists, assembled a draft addendum to the USGCRP report, which they submitted as comments to the EPA on June 22.
"Calling this an 'addendum' is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the substantial relevant science the authors of the USCGRP report left on the cutting room floor while crafting their version," said Michaels. "We came up with the idea when we noticed that literally every paragraph in their report is missing critical information. Our report adds much additional information on how climate change impacts the United States, using a more exhaustive survey of peer-reviewed science than the USGCRP relied upon."
In retirement, Eli looks forward to the many postings that he will have from the EPA comments on this report but the more important point is that the blogs slowed the release up until it was  well, a joke.

*  artwork via the Weasel

Stand Up

The folks at Climate Silence, who were trying to figure out why no one mentioned climate change in the US election campaign have put out an ad that they are looking for support for. Hopefully this can be shown in the Northeast and other parts of the US. Send it to your friends, neighbors and relatives, esp the ones who send you those Cato Cartoons. But perhaps you can help. Eli was trying to figure out which clown Romney reminded him of, and the best he could come up with is Jack Benny, which is sad, because Eli was a great fan of Jack.  He used to wait by the radio until Dad and Grandad Rabett came home and helped them listen to the show.

If campaigns are zero-sum games, why will neither side talk about climate?

I've seen the justified lamentations about the lack of climate discussion in the campaign, and occasional discussion of why Obama hasn't talked that much about it.  (I provided my own explanation - Ohio.)  There's less discussion of why Romney doesn't talk about it, and little about why the interaction between candidates doesn't produce discussion.

In zero-sum politics, a disadvantage for one candidate should be an advantage for the other candidate, so why doesn't at least one of them push his opinion?

Unlike Karl Rove, I don't have THE answer, but I do have possibilities:

1.  This NYTimes article says their positions aren't that different.  Both acknowledge people are changing climate, so there's no reason to talk about that as opposed to their actual differences over energy policy.

I'm not buying it, first because it far overstates Romney's acceptance of climate change: "there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue."  That leaves plenty of room for a fight between reality and denial.  Also the strong difference in energy policy - support a growing sector versus abandoning it to China in favor of a declining and polluting sector - should easily reference back to climate.

The article does provide a service in saying Obama hasn't been completely silent.  And Romney's oblique references have been mocking Obama's intention to do something about it.  Let's refine the question to why both sides say so little instead of being silent.

On to more promising ideas.

2.  One or both sides overestimate the risk to their position.  If each side thinks the issue can backfire and hurt their side relative to the other, then neither will bring it up.  Both campaigns might think the issue has a 55% chance of helping the other side - that's not possible in zero sums, but would mean someone has bad political judgment.

I think this plays a role.

3.  It's not climate as an issue but their own ability to hurt themselves.  Maybe the candidates figure anything they say is more likely to motivate the other side than it is to motivate their own side, so again they keep quiet.  The analogy would be to Romney's relative silence over his abortion position, and the Democrats' relative silence about their somewhat-tepid opposition to torture and civil rights violations.

Problem with this one is that surrogates and Superpacs would likely go on the attack over climate, but everyone has little to say.

4.  It's like space policy - not enough people cared to force it on the agenda.  If Hurricane Sandy had happened in September then things might have been different.  If last summer's heat wave had more time to get into the public mindset, it also might have changed things.  The idea here though is that while the policy elites may be thinking of these things, most of the public isn't.

Sadly, I'm giving this last option the most credit, with an assist from overestimating risk.  It doesn't excuse a lack of leadership, but again helps explain it.  And it means those of us who care about climate have to do more.

For a little respite from climate silence, here's a debate between campaign surrogates with the last part discussing climate.  Romney's surrogate flat-out lies in the debate about current coal technology not producing pollutants, but admits that Romney would eliminate greenhouse gas controls that the EPA is currently phasing in under the Clean Air Act.  He also says the government should provide some money for energy research, but nothing to reduce carbon emissions.  So much for the NY Times article.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Adventures in ozoneland: down the rabbit-hole.

Eli was looking for something science like to write about when he came across the above titled paper by Neil Donahue.  Now some, not Eli to be sure, could resist. 

The transformation of SO2 to SO3 and thence by reaction with water (H2O) to sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is the key step in forming sulfate aerosols, which, in turn can reflect and absorb considerable sunlight, or act as cloud condensation nuclei again, increasing the Earth's albedo.  Serious (well this is Rabett Run) consideration has been given to the idea of counteracting greenhouse gas warming by injecting SO2 into the atmosphere, although this would accelerate acidification of lakes and oceans.

For some time atmospheric chemists have waved their hands over the oxidation process

SO2 --> majic --> SO3

It was well known and accepted that the hydroxyl radical, HO could drive the reaction

but there is not enough HO in the atmosphere to match the observed sum of SO3 and H2SO4.

The alkene precursors are stuff we spew into the atmosphere, but also emission of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from trees and other vegetation.

Another mystery has long been the existence of the Crigee Intermediate (aka CI).  Over 50 years ago Rudolph Crigee proposed that ozonolysis (react ion with ozone where a carbon carbon double bond is replaced by a double bond between a carbon and an oxygen atom) of alkenes (stuff with a double bond between two carbon atoms) initially formed a biradical (a molecule with two unpaired electrons).  Everyone accepts the mechanism, there is a huge amount of work consistent with its existence, see the Donahue paper above,  but it had never been directly observed and rate constants were guessed at, but not measured, or at best inferred

R is organiker speak for anything else.  The dots indicate the positions of the unpaired electrons.  Having two of these makes the CI very reactive, thus hard to isolate.

Both of these mysteries have been solved thanks to the work of groups at the University of Helsinki and the Combustion Research Facility at Sandia (Livermore).  There is an explosion of papers appearing in the literature.

In 2008 Taatjes, Osborn and colleagues at Sandia working on the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory detected CH2O2. It turned out to have a sharp ionization edge (e.g. you see nothing until you reach the ionization energy and then there is a sharp rise to a plateau at 10 eV (see the figure below on the left).

They knew of the Timonen group's work at UH which showed that the reaction of CH2I with O3 produced I atoms and CH2O2 although it was not clear what the isomers of CH2O2 were.  In January of this year the Sandia group published a paper in Science that showed that the isomer produced was the Crigee, and they used that reaction to produce CH2O2 to measure it's reactions with NO, NO2 and SO2.  The results were confounding.  The reaction with NO was a hundred times slower than had been previously estimated, but the reactions with NO2 and SO2 were much faster (see the figure below on the right).

As they pointed out, this meant that NO3 and SO3 would be produced efficiently by reactions with the CI and the effects on atmospheric chemistry would be significant where there were enough alkene precursors.  How significant, well as significant as the oxidation of SO2 by OH, and for NO3 it would account for up to a 20% increase.

Mauldin, et al (there are about 10 Als) from UH discussed the implications in "A new atmospherically relevant oxidant of sulphur dioide", a paper which appeared in Nature in August (paywall).  They have a nice diagram of the reaction mechanism

The red stuff on the left side is the new set of reaction.  The CI is originally created with a great deal of energy, but losses much by collisions with stuff like nitrogen or oxygen.  The stabilized CI, then reacts on a longer time scale with sulfur dioxide.  (see this for an explanation of collisional stabilization).  Boy, et al (12 Als) also UH, validate this mechanism against in situ measurements at stations in Germany and Finland and, as a result we have a much improved understanding of the formation of sulfate aerosols.