Friday, May 31, 2013

Dear Slate: please fire whoever wrote the headlines below, immediately. Thank you.

Before you read on, decide for yourself what the two headlines mean. Knowing that Solyndra lost the government a lot of money, I took them to mean that the government lost even more money dealing with Tesla, at least a billion dollars. I assumed then it was an expose that showed Tesla paid back government loans via some surreptitious transfer of government funds.

The article itself is badly written and stupid, but it doesn't say what the headlines claim (and I assume Woolley didn't write the headers). The article admits that contrary to Solyndra, the US government made money from Tesla, but it could have made more money if it had structured the deal as an investment instead of a loan. It skates over what else might have changed, but mainly it fails to address the government was trying to promote technological change, not act as a VC company. I only assume Woolley has busted an artery for every government grant that ended up making money for recipients (maybe he should look into the lost patent opportunities in the fracking research grants). He should have many busted arteries.

I also welcome links where Woolley and Slate wrote in 2009 as opposed to long after the fact that the deal should have been structured to allow conversion of the loan to options.

The deal was a success, and slate-pitching a contrarian viewpoint shouldn't cross over into deception like they did here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Portland fluoride vote makes sense given limited information and time

Voters in Portland have for the umpteenth time stopped fluoridation of their water, not long after my water district voted to fund it here in Santa Clara County. I used to live in Portland and still visit regularly.

The city relies on a famous-to-Portland protected watershed for its water supply, the Bull Run watershed near Mount Hood. When I lived there in the 1990s, the Forest Service was still trying to log it. Portland voters of all stripes were generally up in arms. People knew that they had great water quality, and the attitude was it wasn't broken, so don't mess with it.

I've looked around the various news sites for exit polls explaining why Portlanders voted down fluoridation by around 60-40. There's plenty of activist reaction that doesn't tell you too much about the typical voter's reasoning, but my best guess is that it's the same reason they opposed logging their water source 20 years ago:  it ain't broke.

Maybe a typical Portlander sat down to mark the ballot with limited information beyond knowing that the water system is pretty good as is. With time ranging from five minutes to maybe one hour total over the previous several months, they learn that there are vicious arguments over fluoridation. At the upper range of that spectrum they might learn enough that there's a scientific consensus in favor of fluoridation, with only outlier experts in opposition.

For this amount of information about their water system, and for voters who put in only a few minutes to think about it, the vote against fluoridation isn't irrational. On the other hand, people who spend more than a few minutes on fluoridation should begin to see where the weight of scientific opinion is, and those people are acting irrationally when they overturn an unanimous decision by the city council that they had elected into office, reject what is the clear weight of scientific opinion and then don't put much time into examining the evidence themselves. I'll acknowledge that people who have put in a lot of time examining the evidence could often be anti-fluoride, but I suspect they began as anti-fluoride and then let that interest drive them into examining evidence and being biased in terms of what they accept.

If I'm right about this, the people who put very little time into considering the issue would be anti-fluoride, those who put a moderate amount of time would be somewhat more pro-fluoride, and those who put a lot of time would be all over the map, but quite possibly anti-fluoride and highly motivated.

As to its relevance to climate policy, the one advantage we have is that doing nothing seems like the conservative, do-no-harm option on fluoride, but climate activists have a strong argument against that. Still I think this indicates that we have to have a winning argument for people that spend five minutes thinking about the issue. My best nomination is

Climate change is real. Our modern weather isn't what our grandparents had, what we ourselves experienced in previous decades. You feel it in your bones to be true - that's why the other side is denying it so loudly, trying to overcome what we know is right.
Not the most scientific, but not completely unscientific, and maybe it works.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Steal this tactic

On opposing the National Rifle Association:

What Bloomberg has embarked upon now is nothing less than the construction of a mirror image to the NRA. There is plenty of latent public support for gun control, his logic goes, but politicians only see a risk in voting for it. He wants to reverse that calculation.

To that end, Bloomberg created a Super PAC, Independence USA. In 2012, it spent $10 million on ads supporting pro-gun-control candidates running against NRA-friendly opponents in districts where polling suggested such a stance should be a liability. This investment was credited with unseating Democratic Representative Joe Baca of California. In the past year, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which now has 975 mayors, has expanded from 15 paid staff to more than 50, with lobbyists in Washington and field organizers around the country who will likely be deployed to states with legislative fights looming. The organization is also developing its own candidate rating system.
We should do this on climate change. Absent Bloomberg's billions, maybe the aim should be lower, like state legislative elections where a state is teetering on the edge of doing something about climate.

(I'm also stealing this idea from someone I had dinner with the other day. Not always sure when someone would want credit.)

UPDATE:  I'll add that given the number of targets we would have, there's no need to be as knee-jerk as Bloomberg's group is (e.g., their attack on a moderate Dem like Begich in a conservative state like Alaska). My favorite would be to fund a climate-realist Republican who's challenging a Democrat who had voted against climate legislation. That's impossible at the federal level but not necessarily so at the state legislative level.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Planet Rock

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tol erasion

Richard Tol is quite busy trying out for his new career as a web based comedian over at twitter.  If there is one thing that Cook et al. are to be thanked for it is the meltdowns that they have set off at Lucia's and Tol's.  Eli has been having a bit of fun here and there, but he needs to share the glory with Tom Curtis at Brisbane's Waters and our friend Willard in the comments at Rabett Run, Dana and many others.

To be honest, and Eli is an honest Rabett, Tol has dug this one so deep that he has called out the Chewbacca team.

I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Richard Tol.  Richard Tol is a famous scientist economist who was the scholar most-cited by the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change.  Richard Tol comes from the Netherlands.  But Richard Tol lives on the planet England. Now think about it; that does not make sense!  Why would a Tol, an 8-foot-tall Tol with very bad hair living under a bridge somewhere, want to publish 122 qualified papers while the bunch of 2-foot-tall Ewoks lead by John Cook can only find 10 of them?  Even though that is what was found in Web of Science using the search strings written about in the paper that the 2-foot-tall Ewoks lead by John Cook published.  That does not make sense! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does not make sense!
And Richard Tol thinks some of the abstracts from those miserly only 10 papers out of 122 from the the scholar most-cited by the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change were rated differently (only slightly) from what Richard Tol the scholar most-cited by the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change would have if he had replied to the invitation to provide his own rating from those 2-foot-tall Ewoks lead by John Cook.
Especially when they excluded all those scientifical journals from the underbelly of scientific publishing like the Journal of Scientific Exploration and the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the ones that come in plain brown wrappers and are stored under the shelf at the Sky Dragon Megastore.  Journals that are open access because you have to give them away, and even then no one takes them and certainly no one except Willard Tony reads them.   Look at me.  I'm the scholar most-cited by the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change, and I'm talkin' about Richard Tol! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberating and conjugating the future of poptech, , does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does not make sense! If Richard Tol lives on England, you must acquit! The defense rests.
Anyhoo, this one has morphed from Tol's original cry of
  • Why did you only rate 10 of my 122 qualified papers.
Short Answer:  Because the Web of Science Topic search using the terms "global warming" and "global climate change" for articles (not books, not proceedings) published between 1991 and May 2012 only found 10. 

Longer Answer:  WoS only looks at a subset of all journals and mostly at scientific journals.  Web of Knowledge is more complete. 

But comprehensive does not necessarily mean all-inclusive.1
It would appear that to be comprehensive, an index of the scholarly journal literature might be expected to cover all journals published. It has been demonstrated, however, that a relatively small number of journals publish the majority of significant scholarly results. This principle is often referred to as Bradford's Law.

In the mid-1930's, British mathematician and librarian S.C. Bradford realized that the core literature for any given scientific discipline was composed of fewer than 1,000 journals. . . .
Each year, the Thomson Reuters editorial staff reviews over 2,000 journal titles for inclusion in Web of Science. Around 10-12% of the journals evaluated are accepted for coverage. Moreover, existing journal coverage in Thomson Reuters products is constantly under review. Journals now covered are monitored to ensure that they are maintaining high standards and a clear relevance to the products in which they are covered.
If you go through the sKs database for the ABSTRACTS that were rated you find that, for example, Judith Curry only has five and Mike Mann two.  This, however, raises an interesting point as to whether the ratings should be normalized so that no one author has many more ratings than another.

Willard put it well
Web of Science is not Web of Richard, - So, what search tool would you use, ? Would we need the code too?
Then there is Richards complaint that the ABSTRACT ratings were wrong, to which there are two answers:  a) respond to the survey that Cook et al sent to the authors and b) read your own damn abstracts.  Willard not Tony and Tom have more to say about that.

And finally Rabett Run comes to true dispair
No. Web of Science excludes many peer-reviewed journals. I gather you did not study your data source.
which Barry Bickmore dispatches
Yes, WoS excludes journals until they show they have any standards. Shame on them!
It is pretty hard to top all this, but, somewhere, somewhere in there Richard tries
23 May
Climate change is a problem where complexity meets poor data meets ethical choices. You can't be clear and honest at same time.
as Eli pointed out, it would be good if Richard at least tried.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gradually-increasing gas tax that's buffered against price shocks

That's the answer. The question is what's better environmentally and economically than the current situation of an inadequate gas tax and a price that swings widely.

We need to increase the gas tax, a lot, to cover the economic externalities, decrease overconsumption, accelerate the transition away from internal combustion engines, and pay for infrastructure previously paid for by gas taxes on inefficient engines. At the same time, the public hates increasing gas prices and the more environmentally responsible leaders get beat up politically every time the price goes up, more than they recover politically when the price goes back down.

I think the public would prefer predictability and less variability even if the price goes up on a gradual basis. So here's my suggested deal:  set the federal and/or state gas taxes at the wholesale level and increase them at 5% annually (or whatever set level we can get, hopefully better than the usual inflation rate). That tax increase holds, if the wholesale price of gas doesn't change. If the wholesale price drops, the tax increase goes up even more so the year-on-year change is +5%. And if the wholesale price increases, the tax increases less or even decreases to get the same net increase.

This idea stabilizes the wholesale price, not retail which will vary with other costs, but overall it should dramatically reduce variability.

The downside is that the price doesn't react to temporary price signals so it's less efficient. On the other hand, an increasing tax captures more economic externalities, making the price more efficient compared to the present. I'd say the good outweighs the bad.

Second, the revenue stream is far more variable, but overall it will be better than present.

Just an idea

Unsolicited and sadly unpaid game endorsement: Geoguessr

That is all.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Puzzler

So Eli and Ms. Eli are bundling up for the end of May holiday here in the US and Ethon thought he would take a whack or a peck as the case may be.  This one starts with the set to between Richard Tol (boo, hiss) and Dana Nuccetelli (yea) covered at places which are dangerous but it really is about reading carefully.  You can see their tweets at Twitter, but Eli's friend @Ethon Raptor wants to point to two of them

22 May
Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.
Tol, of course,  like Lucia's friend, misses the point that there are differences between abstracts and papers, something Eli and Dana have been hammering at.
23 May
I already elaborated twice. On top of the abstract/paper issue you suggested it was a fault our sample only included 10 of yours
But, dear bunnies, how can it be that Cook et al, missed those 112 papers that Tol whines about?  (Hint read the methods in the Cook et al. paper)

Pielke class meltdown to follow.

Gone with the floe

The Russians have a program for placing observing stations on stable ice floes, but the number of stable ones is tending to zero and preparations are being made for evacuation much earlier in the melt season than anticipated.  This is a direct consequence of the thinning of the ice

“A collapse of the station’s ice floe poses a threat to its continued work, the lives of the crew, the environment close to the Canadian Economic Zone and to equipment and supplies”, a note from the minister reads. . .

With ice levels in the Arctic reaching record lows, finding a suitable floe for the station proved to be a difficult task last autumn. The icebreaker carrying the station’s crew had to sail all around the North Pole before finding an ice floe solid enough to hold the station. None of the three floes that had been pre-evaluated from land as possible objects were considered safe enough.

Also the previous shift of Russian scientists experienced problems with the ice situation in the Arctic. In late April the members of North Pole-39 had to move the whole research station to another ice floe because the first one was breaking up.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The dialects of brainfuck

nononono, Eli is not forgetting the filth commandment, brainfuck is a compiler,

Hell it's in the Wikipedia

The brainfuck programming language is an esoteric programming language noted for its extreme minimalism. It is a Turing tarpit, designed to challenge and amuse programmers, and was not made to be suitable for practical use.[1] It was created in 1993 by Urban Müller.
The entire syntax is composed of eight commands  >< +-.[], brainfuck ignores anything else. Eli was splendidly unaware of this until sucked in by the kind of marvelous indirection that blogs can deliver, first a reference in passing to "a comma based operating system" at Popehat which produced a pointer to the wikipedia in the comments.

There are dialects

Anyone Eli Knows?

On another topic, but just as telling

Don’t assume people are nutballs just because they question the current conventional wisdom
We don’t. We assume they’re nutballs because science has spent far more time than it really should patiently addressing all of their concerns, and discovered that they’re basically horseshit, and yet they still won’t shut up.

Live blogging Jim Hansen et al.

I'm trying this out as an experiment, will expand as he and others talk. We're at the WEST 2013 Sustainable Silicon Valley Summit. I'll occasionally throw in parenthetical comments.

Their big new thing is a Consensus Statement on Science, seeking endorsers here.

2 degrees C rise = 6 meter (feet? didn't catch it) sea level rise in the long term

Renewables just a small sliver of energy use relative to fossil fuels, can't do it on its own.

Fee and dividend - put cost at mines or point of entry

Start at $10/ton, increase $10 year

Arrgh, he's done already. Okay, on to Anthony Barnosky to discuss impacts

Incredible extinction crisis, this is the sixth. The current extinction rate is faster than anything since the dinosaurs.

90% of big fish are gone. From one to three centuries from now, we'll lose 75% of species will be gone.

40% of land surface is already transformed, and we're going to add another 2.5 billion people to population. Sometime this century the percentage will be 50% plus.

Standard Beijing air pollution reference.

More work days lost to enviro pollution than malarai AIDS and tuberculosis.

(Seems like he's talking about non-climate impacts we're having on environment)

Technology isn't obstacle to solutions. In 50 years we've built enough roads in the US to go around earth twice.

Cooperation from local to global (yes!)

(More below the jump, including Gov. Jerry Brown who's sitting in the audience right now listening to scientists)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Organizing for America (nee Obama for America) is engaging in a wish-washing (TM -RR) exercise, barrel shooting Republican rejectionists, while ignoring the in the room approval of the Keystone pipline.  Greg Laden posted about a local meeting in Minneapolis where OfA gathered together local activists to discuss climate change activism, and trying to avoid talking about Keystone

There are two things that I now know for certain. The first, which I learned tonight, is that Obama for America will not have an effective climate change component if Obama does not come out in opposition to Keystone. Every single one of those activists is involved in a half dozen different projects, some focused on one issue, other on many, that they devote considerable time to, and that they regard, quite rightly, as very important. Many of the individuals in the room are heavily involved already in climate change activism and are already working with existing political groups, churches, or other organizations on climate change (our local guy was there for example). These climate change activists don’t need the OFA, though the OFA needs them. . . .  Right now, Obama has not moved forward enough for us to find any space behind him so that he can actually lead us.

The consensus at tonight’s meeting was this: The local Minneapolis OFA has to take a message back to Obama and OFA headquarters: Yes, of course we’ll help. But first you need to get your head out of the sand. In particular, the Alberta tar sands. And then we will do more than help. We’ll carry you.
Eli, in the comments were a bit blunter
The problem, of course, is that being from MN you were too polite. You should have told the guy, “look, this is our key issue. Either Obama kills the pipeline or he kills all support from environmental and climate change activists. Take that message back to Chicago.”
Eli might have added something about the hippy punching first term not having exactly built a level of trust.
Then you leave.
There is a saying that the Republicans fear their base and the Democrats despise theirs. It really is time to demand results, and to start putting up candidates in primaries even if that means loosing a few elections.
OFA is a pressure point because they need the spirited.
Now Eli does not do huffs, but Ms. Rabett has a policy that when someone gets difficult with her of sending in Eli with the admonition, Eli, you know how you are. Be that way.
Unfortunately some are falling for OfA's wish-washing (TM-RR) campaign, or at least giving it legs.  In the words of Mr. Dooley, trust everybunny, but cut the cards.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why MOOCs fail

Thoreau at High Clearing has been going on for some time about MOOCs and why he thinks they are a failing fad. He proposes a new buzzword, Hight-Touch Engagements, e.g. small classes,
Online tools won’t go anywhere* (despite my bitching, I use a few of them to supplement my evil in-person class, I just don’t go around preaching that I’m saving the world with some new religion), but in a few years the fad will switch from sending everybody to college on their sofa with an LCD to some sort of opposite extreme.  I predict, on the basis of zero evidence**, that the fad will be something like “High-Touch Engagement.”  We’ll be told that traditional education has been predicated on a factory model, with faculty focusing on lectures and avoiding one-on-one mentoring and interaction, and we need to change this.

At this point some of you are saying “That’s not true!  A lot of faculty want a model of small classes, mentored research projects, etc.  In fact, isn’t that what a lot of STEM pipeline programs are about?  Isn’t that what small liberal arts colleges are about?”  And my answer is:  Shhhh!  I’m trying to start a new fad to counter the push to move college to the couch with an LCD.
Eli doesn't exactly disagree.  To the Bunny, the danger of the MOOCs is that in a disengaged class it is too easy for students to find a simple entry to some Rabett Hole that leads them nowhere, e.g. there is no experienced person to say, whoa, you got that bass ackwards Bunny.  But there is also another reason why universities will not prosper by MOOCs alone and it is encapsulated in the Urban Dictionary definition of Rabbi
By metaphor from the Jewish religious role, an older, more powerful or higher-ranking person in the corporation where one works (but usually not in the chain of command) who can give good advice about office politics, and may be able to pull strings, remove heads, or otherwise provide protection from hostile forces.
You don't get that in a 10,000 student MOOC.  IEHO, the real opportunity is for colleges and community colleges to run MOOC recitations for small groups of 10-15 students for money, of course.

Poster from Michael Branson Smith

The Tornados of Tomorrow

    The news from Oklahoma is heart-wrenching. Houses totally destroyed. Devastation. The dead and wounded, and the glassy-eyed survivors. Global climate change will cause more storms and stronger storms in the future, including tornadoes.

    Meanwhile, most Americans think that global warming and clean energy should be priorities for Congress and the President, according to a recent poll by Yale and George Mason University. Most Americans support reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, support taxing carbon, support giving tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels, and funding renewable-energy research. So the problem is not with popular opinion.

    The problem is with an important policy current within the ruling class. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe has been lubricated by more money from oil companies than any other Senator, raking in $662,000 between 2000 and 2008. Not coincidentally, Inhofe has been a vehement opponent of climate science, claiming it's all a liberal hoax. In Washington, the facts are always negotiable.

    Both of Oklahoma's Senators (Tom Coburn and James Inhofe) are against any disaster aid, unless the Federal budget is cut by an equal amount somewhere else. If there are any grassroots citizen action organization in Oklahoma, they should publicize this among their fellow Oklahomans. "Your Senator is against Federal disaster relief to you!"

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Rabett Exclusive

Ethon came flying in the window with a missive from John Cook.  Based on the cross-tabs from the prequel survey, the bunny wondered what the distribution of No Position ratings from the abstracts would be in Cook et al based on the responses of  the authors who responded to the Email survey.

Among papers whose abstracts were rated "no position", according to self-ratings (which is a proxy for the endorsement level of the full paper):
228 endorsed AGW
213 had no position
11 rejected AGW

In other words, most of the climate papers with "no position" abstracts go on to endorse AGW in the full paper. We explicitly mention this in the paper. So whenever the deniers are saying "66% of climate papers have no position on AGW", they're simply wrong and either haven't read the paper or are misrepresenting the paper.
the self ratings being the ratings by the authors.  As Eli remarked before, the No Position abstracts, themselves are attached to very few papers that reject AGW.

Those interested in shark jumping can hi thee over to Lucias.  Eli will not post the link the level of parsing over there is growing dangerous but then again . . . sport:)

The "doing something that's short of everything is nothing" fallacy

Above is the best name I've got for the fallacy I keep seeing in many contexts. Somebody else should come up with a better name.

There are some good arguments against expanding nuclear power as a solution to climate change (economics economics economics), but saying we shouldn't do it because by itself it won't solve the entire problem isn't a good argument. I've also seen it locally when some people argued that funding to remove barriers to fish passage is useless when it removes 90% of the barriers on a stream but not 100% of the barriers.

There's some inability to see one effort as part of a broader effort instead of being the magic solution. Maybe the name is "You're Not the One, So Go Away Fallacy"? "Magic Solution or Bust Fallacy"?

The latest manifestation of this is Dan Kahan, who should know better, and his unhappiness over/despite the spate of publicity for the Cook et al. survey of climate abstracts (see Kloor for the same but there's little hope for him). Eli's been blogging about our prequel survey - I would've pushed harder if I had realized how much coverage it could have received.

In essence, Kahan visually demonstrates all the media this study's achieved in a short time period and then says it hasn't solved denial of climate change, so what's the point? To be fair, he isn't claiming ownership of the Magic Solution himself and just poses questions.

Maybe my best response to Kahan's question are a few of my own. Let's forget the rejectionists right now and focus on the fence-sitters and those who generally accept climate change. Do all of those people understand just how strong the scientific consensus is? They're not the ones predisposed to reject these facts.

I'm just a lazy blogger and won't dig it out, but my guess is the Pew and Stanford polling would show that a large fraction of them don't know the strength of the consensus, and those are people that should be receptive to this information. Getting people to move from wishy-washiness and tribal loyalties to increased personal understanding and commitment to the issue is a significant part of the battle.

As for the Magic Solution, you got me. I think we do have to beat the drums for the truth, and having a consistent story that 97% of the abstracts and 97% of the relevant climatologists and over 95% certainty in the IPCC all say the same thing, is really helpful. We have a complete story that satisfies the need for closure while rejectionists have coincidences and conspiracies. The 97% agreement among abstracts reinforces the story.

UPDATE:  and this:

Republicans’ aggressive campaigning against Obama’s clean-energy agenda was “an overreaction,” Feehery said. “It made us seem like enemies of the environment. The idea that government has absolutely no role, that the climate is absolutely not changing—it’s not smart,” he said. “It’s also not smart if you’re talking about all the farmers in red states that make money off windmills. A lot of the base is there.”
The Magic Solution might be to quintuple wind production in Texas.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cross Tabs

As Eli mentioned previously, the cross tabs have some of the most interesting information from the Prequel

The most interesting cross tabs in the prequel, now in the recovery room, were those that were put into the middle, the ones where at least one of the two bunnies that looked at an abstract though that the abstract fell into one of the five middle categories, discusses AGW (D), discusses methods (M), paleoclimate (P), unrelated to AGW (UR) or undecided (UD.  The crosstabs below are for the two ratings when one of them was in the middle categories.  EE and IE are explicitly endorses and IE is implicitly endorses.  Similarly IR and ER are implicitly rejects and explicitly rejects.  Two votes for a particular rating (e.g. D/D) were counted as two votes for that position

These are ONLY the cross-tabs for ratings that INCLUDED one of the middle categories.  These are NOT cross-tabs for cases where both raters agreed that the ABSTRACT either supported or rejected AGW.

Those are further below 
























































The telling thing about these cross-tabs is how few split votes there were for the rejectionist position, and on inspection of the actual abstracts, the number appears to be inflated. 

As to the affirm vs. reject side of the ratings, well, it ain't a contest














The generic 97%