Monday, December 31, 2012

About Time to Pipe in the New Year

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Whether Sandy was caused by, made worse by, had nothing to do with climate change is one of those questions that can sell a lot of beer and be the subject of seminars, posters and blogs without end.  Eli is actually not going to take a position on that, or rather reserves the right to be all over the place on the issue.

However, it is one of the choices in the Bunny Poll and a few words are in order, so let the first few come from Greg Laden, the keeper of the list who put it at Number 1:
Note that the first few of the links below are to blog posts written by concerned climate scientists, whom the climate change denialists call “alarmists.” You will note that these scientists and writers were saying alarming things as the storm approached. You will also note that what actually happened when Sandy struck was much worse than any of these “alarmists” predicted in one way or another, in some cases, in several ways. This then, is the fifth reason that Sandy is important: The Earth’s weather system (quite unconsciously of course) opened a big huge can of “I told you so” on the climate science denialist world. Sandy washed away many lives, a great deal of property and quite a bit of shoreline. Sandy also washed away a huge portion of what remained of the credibility of the climate science denialist lobby.
Is Mother Nature revving up an October Surprise (w/ human thumbs on the scale)?
Grim Trajectories
Has climate change created a monster?
Ostrich Heads in the Sand(y)? Does your meteorologist break the climate silence?
Climate of Doubt As Superstorm Sandy Crosses US Coast
Are Tropical Storms Getting Larger in Area?
What you need to know about Frankenstorm Sandy
Fox: Hurricane Sandy Has “Nothing To Do With Global Warming”

Eli's POV is a bit different.  Sandy was an object lesson in what to expect if there is no consequent action on climate change.  There was no specific driver that could not be explained in terms of natural variability, but each of those drivers are expected to exceed the range of natural variability in the 21st century because of climate change (sea level, storm surge, extratropical sea surface temperatures, changes in circulation that steered the storm, etc.) and those drivers were at what experts believe are low values compared to what they shall be in the near future.   So yes, not only will it get worse if we do nothing, it will get a lot worse. 

Sandy almost cost us the world's best city (Brooklyn, ancestral home of the Rabetts), wiped out the US East Coast barrier islands (Eli has been warning for many years that the cost of that in real estate values would easily exceed any  costs of dealing with climate change), was a strong wake up call to the 1%, most of whom own homes on the seashore (it's personal now) and a heads up to all those who had better things in their lives to think about.

In Dickensonian terms, Sandy was the spirit of Christmas Future. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vote for the top climate story of 2012

The envelope please.  Greg Laden has put up a list of top climate stories from 2012 which was semi crowd sourced.  Rick Pilz sets the stage well

A group of us, all interested in climate science, put together a list of the most notable, often most worrying, climate-related stories of the year, along with a few links that will allow you to explore the stories in more detail. We did not try to make this a “top ten” list, because it is rather silly to fit the news, or the science, or the stuff the Earth does in a given year into an arbitrary number of events. (What if we had 12 fingers, and “10” was equal to 6+6? Then there would always be 12 things, not 10, on everyone’s list. Makes no sense.) We ended up with 18 items, but note that some of these things are related to each other in a way that would allow us to lump them or split them in different ways. See this post by Joe Romm for a more integrated approach to the year’s events. Also, see what Jeff Masters did here 
Go to Gregs blog for the expanded discussions of each point.  Eli, Eli is interested in your opinions as to which are more/most important but using the limited resources of Blogger, the Bunny calls for a vote (anybunny know how to turn this into a ranked list).  Extra carrots if you guess which is Eli's number one (Ms. Rabett has that envelope)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Polar Bear Frolics

So OK, Eli is one of those strange Rabett's who look at the Arctic Ice images from Cryosphere and Uni Bremen at Christmas.  Why Christmas the bunnies ask, well Santa is on his way.  Among the things that you can see at Chrismas, which are interesting, are the edges of the ic pack outside of the Arctic circle, and something amazing is happening, the coasts of Svalbard and Nova Zemelya are ice free!  by a lot. 

The last picture is 2012.  The Cryosphere Archive changes format a bit over the years, and  is missing the years between 2009 and 2011, so we can insert pictures from Bremen to show this developing trend.  Yes indeedy there is stuff going on.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Eli Goes Photoshopping for the New Year

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung had a feature showing how the Vernagtferner glacier is in the Ötztaler Alps is shrinking, using  pictures from the Bavarian Academy of Sciences who set up a camera in 2000.  Eli created an animated GIF using Photoshop, so the bunnies can look forward to a lot of pain in the new year.

While pictures from the fixed location only date back to 200, the Vernagtferner, the largest glacier in the Eastern Alps, and about 150 km south of Munich in Austria, has been observed for many more.  The figure below shows the mass loss (blue) and the altitude of the ice line (red).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Tale of Frankenfish or Salmoning Thru the Gates

Eli has been known to have a cross word with journalists who spring for every science story trolled across their desks by the usual suspects but the truth is that editors demand a story and, well as Bernard J put it, lightly edited

Journalists are often given the facts about a range of subjects, but their capacity for understanding, retaining and objectively representing these facts would put teflon to shame. All that matters is the story.
aka the framing, which is why the majic wand of framing is without cease sought by Jason Journalist as the all purpose golden fleece which will make everything well and good (and guarantee a byline and a paycheck) if only it could be found.  The rub, of course, is there is a huge fleece sales force out there optimizing their wares to capture any wandering Jasons which oft leaves it to the Better Blogging Bureau (aka Rabett Run although Tamino and others have been doing the better job lately) to dig out the interesting parts.

That requires digging and thinking a bit and which, in turn requires the blather to rise to the level of certainly wrong based on track record, but maybe something interesting there. If anybunny noticed, that is the Weasel's default position, e.g. the answer to the question of why don't you take me seriously, being well, because you are a clown.  This annoys clowns no end (you got your answer kai, now go away)

So when friend Kloor started on his Lomborgian GMOhad, Eli was seriously unimpressed.  This was simply another one of those "if you really cared about x you would do this other thing" that no one outside of those who want to stop x  takes seriously.  After all if we really cared about anything important why would anyone pay good money to see Lionel Messi or LeBron James when that resource could be used to do a b or c.

Perhaps at this point the Rabett might state his position on GMO food:  He eats the shit, as does most everyone in the world today. Eli was involved in some chemical research sponsored by Monsanto Chemicals when they decided to get mostly out of that business and concentrate on agriculture via BST and Round Up Ready everything.  There were conversations with many high up in the research area which made clear to the Buuny that the move was strictly business, they spotted a hole and decided to risk the business and fill it.

Eli might also state his position on food:  He likes the stuff as anyone who has ever met him will testify. As a bunny and today, he can eat without end,  the combination of which is a problem that leads to Rabett's Law:  There are no calories to waste.  Now it is true, there are some, not Eli, for whom this is not a problem, but every tasteless piece of cardboard is an opportunity for enjoyment lost. Modern factory agriculture is the tasteless in pursuit of less taste, and, of course, there are huge problems with the overuse of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides which are accumulating in us and the environment.  These are delayed costs, much as climate change.

Which, finally, brings us to the frankenfish, aka AquaAdvantage salmon.  These are salmon that have been genetically modified to incorporate the ability to express an antifreeze protein and an additional growth hormone so that they will grow faster even in colder water.  The proposal is complex, only triploid (three copies of chromosomes) females would be sold for food.  Eggs would be produced on Prince Edward's Island Canada and shipped to a growth facility in Panama where they would be reared and eventually sold for food.  Full details can be found at the fda site.

Our friend Kloor wrote about how some foodie friends of his just about tossed him out the door when he went on about his anti-GMO hysteria thing about the salmon.

Yet, there are more twists and turns to this story than any fool looking for a quick headline can handle. For example it turns out that the major political opposition is not the foodies, but commercial fishermen in Alaska already threatened by lower salmon prices due to improved yields from fish farming.

Second, anyone who believes that AquaBounty can make a dime, or at least enough dimes to pay development costs, from the hybrid PEI/Panama Rube Goldberg scheme is a few pennies short of a dollar. Obviously this is an opening gambit which enabled the application to not deal with specific environmental issues that would have to be considered if the AquaAdvantage fish were raised in US waters.  The FDA Draft Environmental Assessment pretty well nails between the lines the reasons for this strategy
As the proposed action would only allow production and grow-out of AquAdvantage Salmon at facilities outside of the United States, the areas of the local surrounding environments that are most likely to be affected by the action lie largely within the sovereign authority of other countries (i.e., Canada and Panama). Because NEPA does not require an analysis of environmental effects in foreign sovereign countries, effects on the local environments of Canada and Panama have not been considered and evaluated in this draft EA except insofar as it was necessary to do so in order to determine whether there would be significant effects on the environment of the United States due to the origination of exposure pathways from the production and grow-out facilities in Canada and Panama.
Third, and this is the most interesting one, opposition to GMOs is not an political or an ideological issue along standard political divisions, although for some it may be ideological

A survey, quoted in Discover shows that there is no significant difference between liberals, moderates and conservatives on whether they would, prefer or would not eat GMOs.

Liberal Moderate Conservative
Humans developed from animals 69 52 39
Humans developed from animals (non-Hispanic white) 77 55 38
Humans developed from animals (college educated) 86 66 47
Strongly favor nuke power 16 13 12
Favor nuke power 49 50 64
Oppose nuke power 28 27 16
Strongly oppose nuke power 7 9 8
Don’t care whether or not food has been genetically modified 15 20 18
Willing to eat but would prefer unmodified foods 56 53 55
Will not eat genetically modified food 29 27 27

Eli has been doing some reading.  Among the drivel he found a survey by Stephen Ceccoli and William Hixon on "Explaining attitudes toward genetically modified food in the European Union" International Political Science Review 2012 33:301, in other words the latest stuff.  So this is logistic regression modeling.of a survey, for good or ill.  A weak point is that for the regression they coded 1 for those who favor GMO food  and 0 for those who oppose.  A three or five point scale would have, in the Bunny's view, been much better, but you work with what you got.

To go through the results (incomplete table here to limit eye crossing)

Coeff Std Error Sig Leve
Scientific literacy 0.264 0.062 0.000
Understand GM food 0.239 0.072 0.001
Internet exposure 0.071 0.020 0.000
Reading science frequency 0.436 0.064 0.000
Exposure to newspapers/magazines -0.038 0.023 0.095
Agricultural policy competitiveness -0.108 0.084 0.201
Promote organic food -0.284 0.083 0.001
EU consumer protection -0.390 0.085 0.000
Ideology (conservative is +) 0.053 0.015 0.001
Female -0.459 0.062 0.000

There are thing that bunnies expect in this table and huge surprises.  The chalk is that in general those who have some scientific interest favor GM foods or don't reject them out of hand.  In the words of the authors
frequent reading about science and the importance of the Internet as a source of information about science are positively associated with support for GM food.  The importance of television is not statistically related to supprot for GM foods and the importance of newspapers and magazines  has a surprising negative effect.
Second, political ideology is not a strong predictor, in Europe and not in the US either as shown by first table from Discover. 

So what is the source of negative feeling on GM foods.

The distrust of people for consumer protection in Europe is reflected in the survey, undoubtedly associated with the mad cow disease debacle, the ~700 deaths from adulterated cooking oil in Spain, the glycol sweetners added to Austrian wine, etc.  Acceptance of GM foods in the US owes much to faith in the regulatory agencies, specifically the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture.  Attempts by industry to weaken regulation could (as in the early part of the twentieth century when there was none) backfire badly as people lose faith in the producers and their products.

Women are, as a group, strongly opposed to GM foods.  Those who favor organic agriculture are opposed to GM foods.   In most families (not Eli's) the women are the ones who buy and prepare the food. Some, and maybe even Eli, might call this the those who Cook and Chew Caucus, not the lefties, not the environmental crew.  People who are into food want taste.  GM foods are associated with factory farming, inexpensive but tasteless stuff and those who get their affirmation and pleasure from food want no part of it.

(UPDATE:  Ms. Rabett points out that women tend care about what they shove into their mouths, while guys, well guys are guys, and that the ladies would be much more concerned about the regulatory failures mentioned above)

So, moral of the story is that the GM folks need to think much more about taste.  A better tasting fish tomato is more vital to their success than a cheaper one.  Molecular cooking is in, but also traditional tastes must be catered to.

Rabett Run As Originally Written

Eli in Brooklyn.  Working on another post, let this amuse thee in the meanwhile, although it vastly improves the scribbles of some folk.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Eli Delivers

Someone called for the Troll Hammer down below

Facts Shill Matter

Although there are moments when Eli is skeptical thereof.

Keith Kloor has found a paying gig as a Lomborg imitator, you know, the guy who starts every attack on environmentalists with the affirmation that he used to be an expert reviewer for the IPCC, a member of Greenpeace, a former editor of some the Audobon Society magazine or a lifelong Democrat.  They then tell you why all people concerned with the damage we are doing to the earth should do more damage and not consort with the tree-huggers.  Hippie bashing has been around before there were hippies and the goal is to split the opposition, which of course, is a strong hint of the goals of the formers who really never were on whatever side they are trying to split but like to pretend they were.  It is an old tactic but it ropes the newbies and you have to spend some time deconstructing it.

This tactic, on display at Slate, got a response from Chris Clarke Pharyngulia and as part of that discussion  Ed Darrell wrote a long comment of his at  into a masterful summary of the war on Rachel Carson and the DDT ban that never was,

Interesting view of a bit of an inside-baseball (environmental protection politics) issue, but not particularly incisive. Other than its being published at Slate, should we worry about Kloor’s views much?
The piece completely ignores that the views of those he labels “modernists” and “pragmatists” come wholly out of the research demanded by those he ignores in the old movement, whom he unfairly ridicules as hippies.
For example: It’s politically correct (in some circles) today to say (1) Rachel Carson was too strident, and (2) probably wrong about DDT “since it’s (3) not carcinogenic, we now know.” Malaria fighters around the world (4) now have DDT in their arsenal again, this view holds, because (5) pragmatists in the environmental movement finally listened. “(6) Sorry about those ‘unnecessary’ malaria deaths,” some claim the pragmatists would say.
But that view is founded on, grown in, and spreads, historical, legal and scientific error. And the progress made was based on understanding the science, history and law accurately. It’s not that pragmatists finally succeeded where the tree-huggers failed. It’s that the tree-huggers hung in there for 50 years and the world has come around to recognizing good effects, even if it can’t or won’t acknowledge the true heroes who got the work done.
Go read the entire thing but Eli will steal the conclusions
Let’s review:
  1. Carson was not too strident; in fact the President’s Science Advisory Committee’s report, “Use of Pesticides,” in 1963 called for more immediate and more draconian action than Carson did.
  2. Carson was not wrong about DDT; it is still a deadly poison, and it still kills ecosystems; however, as Carson urged, careful use can provide benefits in a few cases.
  3. Human carcinogenicity was not an issue in DDT’s being banned in the U.S. in 1972, and it’s being only a weak carcinogen now does not rescue DDT from the scientifically-justified ban; we now know DDT is even more insidious, since it acts as an endocrine disruptor in nature, scrambling reproductive organs of fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals, and probably birds, too.
  4. Malaria fighters always had DDT in their arsenal; no reason to use DDT where it won’t work, nor where it’s harms outweigh its benefits (as the National Academy of Sciences said, in 1970, in a call to get rid of the stuff).
  5. If there were any pragmatists in this story, they abandoned malaria-affected areas of the world years ago and have not returned; they did nothing to help save the birds; to claim they listened is to suggest they did something and can do more. Not sure that’s a case that can be made.
  6. There were not deaths to malaria “unnecessary” due to a ban on DDT which never occurred in Africa or Asia, while DDT was plentiful and cheap to anyone who wanted to use it (still pretty much the case today). We can’t claim great disease exacerbation when the disease actually was abated so greatly over the period of time in discussion — can’t make that claim and also claim to be honest.
It was the hard-core, wilderness-loving, science-following environmentalists who were responsible for every lick of progress on that issue.
Is DDT unique as an issue? I don’t think so. And I think a fair history of the environmental movement from 1975 to today would point out that it was hard-core, save-the-planet-because-it’s-the-only-home-humans-have types who pulled things out.
Of course, Ed is too polite to point out that Kloor's self appointed mission is to mention in every post how shrill the tree huggers and hippies are and how no self respecting person should associate with them.  In whose service does Keith do this, Eli asks. 
Ed raises another important point which he then glides over, why should anyone take Kloor seriously?  While he is industrious, and has been looking for a real job for years, Kloor and his pet attack dog, Tom Fuller, are, well, shallow, but the dust they kick up in a controlled environment has attracted notice, or at least enough that Discover Magazine, having lost Pil Plait, Sean Carroll, Chris Mooney, etc. decided to to try Plan B (and the bunnies know how that came out)

Friday, December 21, 2012


And so begins the Christmas season

Thursday, December 20, 2012


The murder of twenty children in Connecticut last week has bitten deeply, the depths of the problem are shown by this video from a 2008 Democratic Primary debate.  Bunnies can skip the middle, it's pretty much what is on the table today, but the beginning is the problem and the last minute or so the diagnosis.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Should there be any mistakes the Bunny will disavow all knowledge of your actions

Eli has found a new toy, a simple energy balance global climate model, which fulfills Box's dictum that all models are wrong, but some are useful.  Brought to you by the folks at Monash University the Monash Simple Climate Model

is based on the Globally Resolved Energy Balance (GREB) model, which is a climate model published by Dommenget and Floeter [2011] in the international peer review science journal Climate Dynamics. The model simulates most of the main physical processes in the climate system in a very simplistic way and therefore allows very fast and simple climate model simulations on a normal PC computer. Despite its simplicity the model simulates the climate response to external forcings, such as doubling of the CO2 concentrations very realistically (similar to state of the art climate models).
The Monash simple climate model web-interface allows you to study the results of more than a 1000 different model experiments in an interactive way and it allows you to study a number of tutorials on the interactions of physical processes in the climate system.

Please note, that this is still a Test Version. Not everything we present here will be perfect. Indeed, many aspects of this interface need to be improved. Please help us to improve this by sending us your feedback. In particular if you think that some of the things we present here does not make sense or has errors in it.

For more details on the climate model please see -> GREB-model
So, if the bunnies are interested, give it a whirl and provide feedback:)

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Gary Wills on our tragedy.
Few crimes are more harshly forbidden in the Old Testament than sacrifice to the god Moloch (for which see Leviticus 18.21, 20.1-5). The sacrifice referred to was of living children consumed in the fires of offering to Moloch. Ever since then, worship of Moloch has been the sign of a deeply degraded culture. Ancient Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by noting that children were sacrificed to Moloch there. Milton represented Moloch as the first pagan god who joined Satan’s war on humankind:
First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,
Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire
To his grim idol. (Paradise Lost 1.392-96)
Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday morning. That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god.


Eli Likes Sheep

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sharpening the Teeth on a Whale

For some time now the US NIH has had a Public Access Policy, requiring that any publication supported by them be readily available at no cost to the public.  However, given that many of the highest visibility journals (that means you Nature and Science and Springer) have resisted open publication, the wish has been too often honored in abstentia.  A recent (November 16, 2012) change in policy pour encourager les autres may tilt the field

With this Notice, NIH informs grantees that in Spring, 2013, at the earliest, NIH will delay processing of non-competing continuation grant awards if publications arising from that award are not in compliance with the NIH public access policy.  The award will not be processed until recipients have demonstrated compliance.  This change will take effect in tandem with NIH requiring the use of the Research Performance Progress Report (RPPRs) for all Streamlined Non-competing Award Process (SNAP) and Fellowship awards in the Spring of 2013 (see NIH NOT-OD-12-142). 
There will be a few exceptions
Submitting an RPPR with a non-compliant publication will generate an automated email notifying the grantee that the progress report includes citations that are out of compliance with the public access policy and requesting a response by a specified due date two weeks prior to the next budget start date.  As indicated above, no sooner than Spring, 2013, the non-competing continuation award will be delayed until a reply to the e-notification is received from the grantee with evidence of compliance or a satisfactory explanation (e.g., the sole author has passed away before they were able to process the manuscript for posting to PubMed Central).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“I could not help myself. It’s the Middle East.”

Rerunning the frog and the scorpion, Tony Watts rolls out the AR5 draft and Andy Revkin is shocked as are some of the usual players.  Why Eli asks, given the way in which the draft was made available to anyone who asked, would anyone be surprised that one of the scorpions would take a shot?

The logical deduction is that the draft had been pretty well scrubbed, that the IPCC knew this would happen and basically does not care what the clowns do.  The bottom line which AR finds pretty fast:

It is extremely likely* that human activities have caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature since the 1950s. There is high confidence  that this has caused large-scale changes in the ocean, in the cryosphere, and in sea level in the second half of the 20th century. Some extreme events have changed as a result of anthropogenic influence. [*In panel terminology, "extremely likely" denotes a 95-percent likelihood.]

The War on Christmas

Fun With Polynomials

UPDATE:  The mother of all polynomial fits from the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Here, we discuss how the outcomes of clinical trials may be affected by the extinction of all mankind and recommend appropriate changes to their conduct. In addition, we use computer modelling to show the effect of the apocalypse on a sample clinical trial. 

It looks like Roy Spencer may finally have given up using his third order polynomial fit for the UAH TLT record

September 2012

November 2012

Some, not Eli to be sure, might speculate because the  temperature was going up while the curve was going down, but just to join the party, Eli was looking at an interesting development in Graetzel cells (dye sensitized solar cells) in Science.  Briefly put some characters (Lee, Teuscher, Miyasaka, Murakami and Snaith) took the cell apart and put it together from scratch.  The original cells, first described in the 1990s had thin layers of light absorbing dye coated on an electrode coated with titania. A photocurrent then flows between the electrode and a counter electrode across an electrolyte.  Folks have been working on this cell for about 20 years and efficiencies have gotten up to 12% or so, about half of the best silicon cell, but a lot cheaper to build.  The new twist is to replace all the parts keeping the smile.  Time for a rebuild say Lee and friends, and they substitute the dye with an inorganic perovskite, the titania with alumina and the electrolyte with an organic conductor.  They get 11% efficiency, but it is early days.

Eli, reading the perspective by Norris and Aydil came across a figure showing that since 1975 the cummulative photocell electrical capacity doubles roughly every  2.45 years, but the fit is not quite linear.  Taking Dr. Roy's advice, why use two parameters when you can use four, Eli had a fit

 No problem by 2016:)  More conservatively, fitting a straight line on the semi-log plot which assumes the continued exponential growth, it is all OK by 2030.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

מנא ,מנא, תקל, ופרסין

In a recent EOS, Karl, Gleason, Menne McMahon, Hein, Brewer, Kunkel, Arndt, Privette, Bates, Groisman and Easterling write on recent US climate change involving high temperatures and droughts.  The conclusion is, of course, that thing are changing, especially in the spring and summer with rising maximum (MxT) and minimum (MnT) temperatures.  
The warmth of the spring and summer of 2011 and 2012 is unprecedented in the observational record for its overall magnitude, spatial extent, and persistence and is part of a highly significant national trend. In the absence of trends, the standardized temperature anomaly for spring and summer of 2012 was about a one in 1600-year event for MxT and 450-year for for MnT. The extremely high MxT in the drought-stricken area during spring and summer of 2011 and 2012 is in contrast to the weakly increasing trend of MxT in that area. This is attributed to multi-decadal increases in precipitation in that area, in contrast to the past two dry summers.
Nationally, no long-term trends are evident for drought severity. With increasing temperatures expected in the long term [Karl et al., 2009], continued increases in the extreme upper tails of temperature distribution are likely. During times of drought, the feedbacks of higher temperature extremes and dry conditions are likely to amplify both temperature extremes and drought severity in the United States.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

To the Stars (Cause There is a Problem Down Here)

John Baez has put together the Azimuth Project.  In keeping with Eli's dictum of starting small the goal is to save the planet, but, as he notes, wanting to save the planet means that one thinks the planet is at risk

the very health of the planet is in peril because of the actions of humankind. Whether it is global warming, mass extinction, peak oil, or other problems, we need to be prepared on many fronts for an uncertain future. 
John is a bit younger than Eli, but the Rabett learned that the planet was at risk in first grade, when the teacher made us dive under the desk in case of nuclear attack.  This, perhaps, accounts for the sunny disposition hereabouts, but also explains a generational disposition to think of big problems.  Interestingly the rather older folks tend to think they can engineer their way out, but those of us who majored in desk diving believe something more is needed.

The Azimuth Project has a course (Eli assumes Ankh was already there) on the Mathematics of Climate Change which was taught by John Baez in Fall 2012.  It is not more difficult than Science of Doom, in fact it really is simpler, less detailed and more big picture but it does have the POV of a mathematician.  At first glance, there are also things that the bunnies can help with.  We have been at this game quite a long time. However, remember, there is a tension between what you want to talk to your mom about and what you want to discuss with Raypierre.

The course notes are on the Azimuth blog, so you can comment and ask questions there with the folks at that place
Part 1 - The mathematics of planet Earth.
Part 2 - Simple estimates of the Earth's temperature.
Part 3 - The greenhouse effect.
Part 4 - History of the Earth's climate.
Part 5 - A model showing bistability of the Earth's climate due to the ice albedo effect: statics.
Part 6 - A model showing bistability of the Earth's climate due to the ice albedo effect: dynamics.
Part 7 - Stochastic differential equations and stochastic resonance.
Part 8 - A stochastic energy balance model and Milankovitch cycles.
Part 9 - Changes in insolation due to changes in the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit.
Part 10 - Didier Paillard's model of the glacial cycles.

Climate policy does not need bureaucrats. A carbon tax would work just fine. - Richard Tol

Richard is planning to put a tin cup at every gas station.  Give early, give often.

When you set out on your journey to Stockholm, pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge and the Republicans don't win.

Rabett Run's correspondent in Stockholm, Magnus Westerstrand, reports on Robert J. Lefkowitz's Nobel Banquet Speech:

"But of course the annual award of the Nobel Prizes has significance that reaches far beyond the individual experiences of the Laureates. For those of us in the sciences, we watch with delight as every October the eyes of the entire world focus, if only transiently, on the power of discoveries in chemistry, physics, medicine, physiology, and economics to shape our lives.  However, as an American Scientist, and now Nobel Laureate, I have never been more aware or more appreciative of this effect of the Prize announcements.
We have just had a Presidential election in the United States. One of the fault lines in the campaign was the role that science plays in shaping public policy decisions. A clear anti-science bias was apparent in many who sought the presidential nomination of one of our major political parties. This was manifest as a refusal to accept for example, the theory of evolution, the existence of global warming, much less of the role of humans in this process, the value of vaccines or of embryonic stem cell research. Each of us Laureates aspires in our own small way to do what we can to counter these pernicious anti-scientific trends."
 Of course, everyone trying to do science in the US is sweating out the last part of that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eli and the Fox

A number of Eli's favorite folk have asked the Rabett to post their opinions of him encapsulated in the cartoon at the right.  Now some, not Eli to be sure, might think it better to be feared than liked, and he can tell you from experience (on which side is strictly your choice) that the tested way to get a seat on the subway is to act, well, a bit like that with optional drool and froth during rush hour.

At the recent 2012 AGU Meeting many more people were aware of the Bunny than Ms. Rabett thinks healthy.  "You're difficult enough, Eli" she says, but fortunately there are enough distractions by the Bay to busy even the flintiest of soul mates.  Eli is deeply grateful to those who try and publicly confuse him with a dear friend.  Rabett Run appears to occupy a unique ground in the climate blogosphere, and the Rabett is curious about what it is

Here at Rabett Run we try to keep it light.  Observing sheer weirdness, self absorption, concern trolls and just plain vanilla thick can be dispiriting.  Observing the same in folks with pieces of paper on the wall brings new meaning to what Mom Rabett used to describe as the the hard of learning, you know the type in the first row who could learn to read but was not going to give the teacher satisfaction by doing so.  Pointing all this out on occasion can lighten the spirits of the writer and reader.  We don't always have a winner, but the targets are fat, juicy and oblivious and Eli, well Eli is just a bunny.

Who could stay mad at a bunny?  (Names please)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Ray Pierrehumbert's Tyndall Lecture AGU 2012

Lecture starts at 4:10 after the upcoming movie ads

Eli is happy to direct your attention to Ray Pierrehumbert's Tyndall lecture.  Eli was a named bunny in several of the talks, but this one was personally important to him in making clear how the bunny (or at least somebunny) mentored Ray.  You will of course, need to watch the presentation to find out exactly how.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Pay attention you there in the front row entwined in your (temporarily) significant other on date night

Eli occasionally points to important things.  Brian's post on instituting climate impact discussions in all of the Santa Clara Valley water board agenda items is such a thing, something that each of us should press onto our local water authorities, city councils, whatever, whenever we can.  Brian is right, these types of institutional changes are vital,

The long tail of climate change mitigation

Our Water District recently reviewed a draft energy audit on controlling our energy use.  The Board Chair and I had a lot of questions and comments on how we will relate the energy audit to our new goal of achieving carbon-neutrality by 2020.  Some of my general comments are below:

Get Microsoft Silverlight
(Nov. 27, 2012 Board Meeting, Item 4.1)

Later on I suggested that we have a "Climate Impact" discussion included in every agenda item just like we currently have a "Financial Impact" discussion with every agenda item.

My point in mentioning this is that these types of actions fall somewhere in the long tail of actions to fight climate change - a program that can affect a lot of people while falling far short of the headline-generating action on a state or national level.  Just as individuals changing their behaviors can make a difference, though, so can these types of institutional changes.  I don't know of a good way to isolate and measure the effects of voluntary actions by local and regional institutions to address climate change, but they shouldn't be ignored.


Going to the AGU Fall Meeting clarified many issues for Eli

First, there is a clear and strong consensus supporting the main pillars of the IPCC AR4, and the USGCRP.  Climate change is occurring, driven by human influences and dangerous.  Action to stop carbon emissions is needed immediately.

Anyone doubting this need only go through the myriad abstracts.  You might find one or two amongst the thousands that disagrees with this, but this is the clear opinion of the climate science community.  Where doubts exist, they are doubts about how bad it is going to be and how fast climate change is coming.

Second, the mood of the attendees had also shifted.  It was much sourer about the few in the atmospheric science community still running interference for in activism.  People were being called out in private, but also in public and not just in sessions dealing with education and communication and blogging.

It is now clear to the climate science community that keeping your head down has not been an effective option for climate scientists for quite a while (see Kathryn Hayhoe).  The denialists and their funders are  coming for you in the Niemoeller sense, sooner or later.  This means that many in the community have woken up.  Those who do not, or believe they cannot, are feeling guilty about not supporting the science they are part of.  Those folks need to be encouraged and supported and come out.

Third, as John Nelson-Gammon put it, climate science is complex and there is no way in hell that the average person is going to master the scientific basis.  What people will do is look to trusted intermediaries.

This means that climate scientists are going to have to master communicating their broad agreement while maintaining a skeptical point of view on detail.  Like it or not, every statement that X (Gore, Hansen, and similar) is irresponsible is irresponsible.  Does that mean that everyone has to agree with X, no, but you have to communicate a level of trust on the basics for those who understand the basics

The trusted signifiers have to be climate scientists such as Richard Alley.  Michael Tobis had a talk, more or less about how we (Eli and friends) have lost the internet.  It's our own damn fault.  We have not lost the argument, we have allowed the McIntyres and Watts to tear down the reputations of such as Michael Mann, Al Gore, Ravindar Pachuri, Bob Watson and others.  Now some, not Eli to be sure, might agree with these worthies on every point, but one does have to defend them against the mean girls.

Third, the issue is not scientific uncertainty, but the risk that inaction, and inadequate actions consigns the world and its people's to.  We can say with certainty that 2X climate sensitivity cannot be less that 1.5K unless perpetual motion is available on demand.  The lower limit is set by conservation of energy.

Even at 1.5K, globally, the world becomes a lot less people friendly in  a century or a bit more.  Given a higher climate sensitivity troubles come faster and the costs of dealing with it are even more expensive.  3K or 2.7K to be a bit more precise is the best estimate we have based on today's knowledge.  As the Idiot Tracker pointed out lukewarmers are in the position of the frog in a pot.  Their unwillingness to take immediate action is intellectually and morally bankrupt because unless carbon emissions are stopped very soon (remember that the damage is cumulative so continuing to emit at current of even reduced rates still causes additional damage hundreds if not thousands of years into the future.)

Friday, December 07, 2012

Time to show fingerprints on Syria issues

From NYTimes:

The Obama administration secretly gave its blessing to arms shipments to Libyan rebels from Qatar last year, but American officials later grew alarmed as evidence grew that Qatar was turning some of the weapons over to Islamic militants, according to United States officials and foreign diplomats.... 
The experience in Libya has taken on new urgency as the administration considers whether to play a direct role in arming rebels in Syria, where weapons are flowing in from Qatar and other countries.

The Obama administration did not initially raise objections when Qatar began shipping arms to opposition groups in Syria, even if it did not offer encouragement, according to current and former administration officials. But they said the United States has growing concerns that, just as in Libya, the Qataris are equipping some of the wrong militants....  
Relying on surrogates allows the United States to keep its fingerprints off operations, but also means they may play out in ways that conflict with American interests....

“....When you have an intermediary, you are going to lose control.”
The obvious reaction is either stop getting involved or stop worrying about showing your fingerprints. I'll go for Door #2.  I supported making the threat of limited military involvement in February and more actual support for the opposition in July, and I think either case would have shortened the time frame of the civil war and improved a future transition.  I remain concerned about ethnic massacres and religious instability in the post-Assad future.  Supporting groups that are less likely to do this, and especially getting Alawite opposition groups into a prominent position in the opposition military forces, could be crucial for the country's future.  Unfortunately, I think the war might still grind for months more, giving time for this option to work out.

For my less interventionist friends, I'll just mention that until recently I hadn't been too opposed to the drone war in Pakistan overall as a legitimate function of self-defense against Al Qaeda, but I'm reconsidering.  Al Qaeda in Pakistan isn't that big of a threat, while Pakistan itself desperately needs stability.  Pakistan is simply more important, and the drone strikes aren't helping.  Not sure if I'd completely eliminate them, but the go/no go decisionmaking needs to change.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A modest carbon tax has modest carbon reduction results

Been meaning to highlight Brad Plumer's post on a paper about the effect of a carbon tax on emissions (full paper here).  A tax of $20/ton, with an inflation-adjusted 4% annual increase, knocks emissions down 14% by 2020, and a larger number in 2050 if you believe economic projections that far in the future.

I include my caveat about 2050 because economics modeling is far harder than climate modeling.  In particular I can't tell what assumptions they make about the cost of renewables in the future, which seems like a game-changer to me.

Still this seems a reasonable argument that a carbon tax has only modest benefits.  By all means we should do it, but also use the funding for renewables, and pursue stricter regulation.  One aspect that surprised me is how much money this tax would raise, over a trillion dollars in the next decade.  That can really help with deficit reduction and maintaining social welfare programs as well as renewable energy funding.

UPDATE:  I really should've mentioned that an annual 4% real increase is not enough in their model to drive large decreases in emissions.  The implication is that if you choose a small initial tax then you need a higher annual increase.  The California cap's minimum price is even smaller than this study ($10/ton), and has a 5% annual increase.  Still it's just part of the pricing system, with emission allowances hopefully functioning as the real control on the amount, together with regulation.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Good Yglesias, Bad Yglesias

In the Good Yglesias category, we have "the spice must flow" problem in that stopping the Keystone XL pipeline and other pipeline-fighting as led to a boom in shipping oil by rail.  This correctly points the problem with a regulatory approach to carbon reduction - someone looks for a way around the regulation.   OTOH, oil is not the same as Herbert's spice - it's a lot more price elastic in the long run, and anything running up the price will reduce the quantity purchased.

Regulation is an imperfect substitute for a carbon cap or carbon tax, but it's better than nothing.

For Bad Yglesisas, we have a cursory rejection of the idea that people making over $400,000 could have their entire income taxed at the highest rate instead of just the amount falling in the highest bracket.  The flaw is a simplistic approach Yglesias takes - identify a problem and then pronounce the whole thing dead.  Yes, as he describes, a ten-dollar increase in income could result in tens of thousands of dollars in additional taxes.  He fails to take the next step to see if the problem has a solution.  In this case, just alter the proposal so that the more a person's income exceeds $350,000, the larger the share of that person's income under $200,000 that gets taxed at the top rate.  It satisfies the Republicans' inane criteria of not raising the top rate while getting more tax money out of the top earners.  The solution isn't too difficult.

That's not to say it's a good idea when compared to simply raising the rate as Obama proposes, along with restoring estate tax rates to the 2009 level.  John Sides notes this proposal protects the ultra-rich by going after the rich.  That seems to be a common theme in Republican Party policy.

UPDATE:  Pat Robertson finds a nut.

Climate change would also fall under a "revealed science" category to the extent that category equals "about as proven as you're going to get in science."

The Problem of Choice

Eli is in San Francisco with about 15,000 other science nerd.  He, however, has the good fortune that Ms. Rabett has decided to come along and visit some of her favorite fiber arts emporia.  However that does not detract from the fact that stuff is going on from early to late and no one wants to miss anything. 

This year AGU will put several of the symposia up on the net as video on demand, live stream a couple of the big talks, and your favorite scientists might make their posters available for viewing at home.  The program, with abstracts is here

Among the talks to be live streamed, which will also be available within 48 hours as video on demand is

Event: AGU Union Frontiers of Geophysics Lecture
Speaker: Professor Sir Bob Watson, CMG, FRS and Chief Scientific Adviser to Defra
Date & Time: Wednesday, 5 December: 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. PST

In the video on demand category we have

GC13E. The National Climate Assessment: Draft Findings, Building Capacity, and Implementing a Sustained Process (Video On-Demand) 
a feature here will be the scene setter by Walsh and cast on The Science of Climate Change
John E. Walsh; Donald J. Wuebbles; Katharine Hayhoe; Kenneth Kunkel; Graeme L. Stephens; Peter Thorne; Michael F. Wehner; Josh K. Willis; Russell Vose
GC14C. The North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program: Studies Based on NARCCAP Simulations (Video On-Demand)

PA21B. Communication of Science Through Art: A Raison d’Etre for Interdisciplinary Collaboration I (Video On-Demand)
which includes a talk on the Politics of Snow, by an artist, Diane Burko who

The creation of this body of work was made possible because of the collaboration of many glacial geologists and scientists who continually share their visual data with me. Since 2006 I’ve been gathering repeats from people like Bruce Molnia (USGS) and Tad Pfeffer of Alaskan glaciers, from Daniel Fagre (USGS) of Glacier National Park and Lonnie Thompson and Jason Box (Ohio University’s Byrd Polar Center) about Kilimanjaro, Qori Kalis and Petermann glaciers as well as from photographer David Breashears on the disappearing Himalayan glaciers. In my practice, I acknowledge the photographers, or archive agencies, such as USGS, NASA or Snow and Ice Center, in the title and all printed material. 
Bjerknes Lecture: A22A. Tropical Convection: A Half Century Quest for Understanding (Video On-Demand)

by Robert Houze and the Charney Lecture (Drew Shindell)

Charney Lecture: A22B. Mitigating Near-Term Climate Change While Advancing Human Development (Video On-Demand)

 Much else going on including (of course) PA 13A Strategies for Neutralizing the Negative Commercial Influence on the Conversation Around Climate Scienceand PA 13B Countering Denial and Manufactured Doubt of 21st Century Science

A choice that is driving Eli nuts is U12A with Molina, Cicerone, Isaksen, Steed, Watsoh and Reifsnyder talking about the ozone story and P12B with Ray P and others talking about planetary atmospheres.

Where is bilocation when a bunny needs it?

More tomorrow.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Bad Attitudes

In the November 2 issue of Science, Mary Claire King, president of the American Society of Human Genetics wanders into Egyptian politics but what she says has implications for how scientists need to confront those who are peddling follishness.  Prof. King describes the reporting of an Egyptian graduate student Mona Seif, from Ta hir Square.  Seif, when asked about her science and her activism described how both

are very time consuming, time and energy and emotions.  And I'm only beginning to get a handle of doing both at the same time and juggling between my activism and my work.
The response from Mary Claire King was heartfelt
Mona Seif's story illustrates for me the essence of the scietist as a citizen of the world.  Scientists insist on believable data both in work and in public life.  Bright young scientists do not accept nonsense from those in power, and they will not be eternally patient with those responsible for it.  The response of the scientist to nonsense is both conceptual  and practical:  to recognize it, to expose it and to try and fix it.  And because scientists are connected through worldwide networks we can stimulate each other to do the same.
Perhaps not only the young, but ostriching into the laboratory is no longer a viable way of doing science, nor is putting silently up with those who spew nonsense.

Saturday, December 01, 2012