Friday, May 29, 2015

...into the bucket of jellied eels, spread across the Toast Of The Not Knowing

Not Toast Of The Not Knowing

A little more on the lawsuit flop against John Mashey - Stoat has posts (one of them with a brilliant headline), and John M links to his lawyers' brief arguing for dismissal. If you thought the summary of the flaws in the case looked bad, read the full brief. The jaw drops.

Per Stoat, it made Retraction Watch, but just a tiny mention and not a full article that it deserves. I poked around George Mason websites for a combative student newspaper to cover this, but wasn't sure I found much.

UPDATE:  thought I'd respond to the speculation about motivations and timing, that when the effort is this haphazard and flawed, it will be very difficult to figure out what "rational" intent lay behind it.

Needs more glaciers

Good start though.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weird paper claims climate change helps biodiversity

ScienceDaily says a paper found that climate change has less impacts on biodiversity than land use has. My first thoughts were that it's plausible, that the negative effects are combined, and that the priority might depend on the assumptions. I tried to RTFA, but it was paywalled other than a long abstract. The long abstract, however, nearly contradicts ScienceDaily, saying climate change has a mostly positive effect on biodiversity. Weirdly, it said that the climate change effect on biodiversity distribution by altitude was a positive effect in its study area, when I'd think that all other things being equal, a species will find less land available to it as its habitat range moves from lower to upper areas.

So, after some waffling I forked out the six bucks for temporary access, and I now have thoughts. I should be hesitant to pass judgment as a total amateur, so qualify this accordingly, but the main issue I'm fixating on is that they examined a single watershed catchment of a small, steeply-sloped river (1700 square km, elev. 45m to 1700m) in rural China. Your classic watershed is pie-shaped, with more land as you move uphill, even though our planet's land surface isn't similarly shaped. I think their finding, that in their case climate change benefits biodiversity when it moves habitat ranges uphill, is an artifact of their study area's topography. I looked for any discussion of this disparity between their study area and the terrestrial world in general, and didn't see it.

Other thoughts:

  • It studies stream macroinvertebrates, just one specialized aspect of biodiversity, and is very dependent on projected changes in hydrology. I'm surprised to read the claim that one could do meaningful, quantitative predictions for future hydrology at a small scale. Maybe I shouldn't be.
  • Speaking of predictions, the paper ends its predictions in 2050. I'd guess wildly that 2050 is about when land use impacts would've hit their maximum for a rural part of China, but climate change impacts are just beginning. Extending the analysis to a full century might give a different sense about the negative aspects of climate change.
  • The paper discusses the issue of a "summit trap" where the species habitat hits the maximum altitude and then disappears, but apparently it just wasn't an issue in this study.

In summary, I have no sense that paper is denialist or the authors were skewing it in that direction, but the catchment area and 2050 timeline IMHO exclude applying this analysis to saying climate change is secondary to land use in impact, let alone that climate change has a positive impact on biodiversity.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Plain Speaking

Jeff Nesbit on Twitter points to a bit of plain speaking.

Maurice Strong Newman, is the usual "business" advisor to the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.  Strong Newman has the expected attitude about the science of climate, and has expressed on occasion the beleif, well  you can go read his oped in the Australian.  If anything could bring Tim Lambert out of retirement for another go at The Australian's War on Science, this is it folks.  Perhaps some of the refugees from Deltoid might have a crack, which Eli would be proud to publish,

Anyhow, in a meeting of the Australian Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Senator Larissa Walters asked Rob Vertessy, the Director of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology about some of Mr. Strong Newman's beliefs.  Lisa Cox in the Sydney Morning Herald has a report on the hearing.  Strong Newman's beliefs had already been called out as a joke by Christine Figueras, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

There were some lovely deadpan answers, but also a classic example of how to handle mansplaining by Senator Walters after the chair of the committee (a woman) tries to close off her line of inquiry at the start.

Among the highlights was Vertessy's answer to the old red herring of how can there be global warming if people in New Hampshire (people in New Hampshire always freeze their butts off)  the south of England are freezing their butts off.
I think it is referring to a bit of an old red herring that suggests that just because you are getting cold weather in the northern hemisphere it somehow discredits the fact that there is global warming occurring. There is a perfectly good explanation for that.  The theory of global warming does not hold that there will be no any cold weather anywhere.  In fact there is evidence to suggest that global warming will actually intensify the onset of some cold weather due to the effect of the changing behavior of the jet stream  which wanders around a hell of a lot more latitudinally than it used to as a result to the changes to the global climate system and that has the effect of  actually  bringing more polar air into some populated areas of the northern hemisphere as well as bringing up some hot weather as well. So it is by no means any kind of proof that global warming is occuring 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

California Democratic Party convention becomes first to call for climate divestment

I was at the party convention when it happened last weekend, but worked on campaign finance disclosure rather than divestment (disclosure got supported too). It's good news:

The California Democratic Party approved a sweeping resolution on Sunday to drop fossil fuel stocks from the state's two major public pension funds, valued at about $500 billion.  
The party also wants the state's 33 public universities to purge such investments from their $12 billion in total endowments. The resolution will not likely result in new legislative action soon.  
However, it could generate enough support among the Democratic majority to pass a less aggressive divestment bill, Senate Bill 185, working its way through the state legislature. Beyond California, this resolution adds to the fast-growing momentum of the fossil fuel divestment movement, which kicked off on college campuses in 2011 and has spread to cities and major corporations worldwide.  
Before the final vote, RL Miller, chair of the California Democratic Party's environmental caucus and author of the resolution, delivered a one-minute speech. In an interview with InsideClimate News she recounted her message: "The world is watching...We need to send a moral message that California will not invest in those businesses that burn our planet in the name of profit and this resolution is that message. Divestment from South Africa helped bring down the system of apartheid and [divestment] will likewise bring down our dependence on fossil fuels. And further, [the] passage of this resolution will help pass Senate Bill 185."

AFAICT and from asking around, it's the first party convention to do this. I was surprised at the lack of coverage originally, but a little more has leaked out over the last few days.

This helps mainstream the divestment movement and show the party leadership where its activist base is coming from. We'll see what happens in coming months.

I've heard from South Africa divestment veterans that climate divestment is happening at a more rapid pace - I guess it depends on whether the starting point for South Africa was 1977 or 1984. Regardless, climate divestment is at least comparable.

UPDATE:  wiki says the South Africa divestment movement got 53 educational institutions to fully or partly divest in 1984, 127 in 1987, and 155 in 1988, so there are some markers to measure against. The link at the top says about two dozen universities have done some form of climate divestment so far.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Falling out of the clown car, down the stairs and into the electric eel pond.

I don't have much to say beyond go read how the $2m lawsuit against John Mashey by luckwarmists didn't go well. It's a heartwarming tale, and congrats to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund for their great work.

My one semi-serious comment is that this is the quality of the opposition. We ought to be kicking their butts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Sound of Global Climate Change

From the University of Minnesota, Daniel Crawford, Scott St. George and GISSTemp comes

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Climate Club Adopts Eli Rabett's Simple Plan

In the New York Review of Books, William Nordhaus(the intelligent one, not Ted of the BTI) looks Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planetby Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman. Nothing in the review and book will come as a surprise to bunnies who have been paying attention.  Nordhaus discusses the three themes of the book, that attempts to control climate change have a serious free rider issue, that tail risks must dominate any discussion of policy to deal with climate change and that geo-engineering to control climate change has serious risks that make it inadvisable (see, Eli can be nice).

The free rider issue is the key to action,
If the fat tails of climate change are perilous, and geoengineering is itself a dangerous solution, what remains? Here, Wagner and Weitzman largely follow the standard economists’ prescription: “Stick it to carbon.” We might think that capitalism is the problem because economic growth has led to rising emissions. But, they argue, a modified invisible hand is the only workable solution: “It’s capitalism with all its innovative and entrepreneurial powers that is our only hope of steering clear of the looming climate shock.” 
 and Nordhaus has another suggestion
The major challenge for climate policy is to overcome free-riding. The answer, I would suggest, is to rethink the design of climate treaties. We can look at successful treaties such as the European Union, the World Trade Organization, or military alliances as models for a more promising climate treaty.The essence of these successful treaties is the “club model.” A club is a voluntary group deriving mutual benefits from sharing the costs of producing an activity. Members get the benefits but also pay the dues. The benefits of a successful club are sufficiently large that members will pay dues and adhere to club rules in order to gain them. If we look at successful international clubs, we might see the seeds of an effective international system to deal with climate change.

I recently described a possible Climate Club in the American Economic Review.4 Under the club rules, participating countries would undertake harmonized but costly emissions reductions. For example, they might agree that each country would implement policies that produce a minimum domestic carbon price of $40 per ton of CO2. The easiest way to raise the price is through a carbon tax, but countries might prefer other approaches such as setting quantitative limits on emissions, or hybrid approaches.

A crucial aspect of the club is that countries who are outside the club—and do not share in the burden of emissions reductions—are penalized. Penalties for those outside the club are central to the club mechanism, and penalties are the major difference from all other proposals from Kyoto to the upcoming meeting in Paris. Economic modeling indicates that the most promising penalty is uniform percentage tariffs on the imports of nonparticipants into the club region. A country considering whether to undertake costly abatement would have to weigh those costs against the potentially larger costs of reduced trade with countries in the club.
This, of course, is Eli Rabett's Simple Plan to Save the World, proposed in 2007
Nations wishing to make major progress on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions should introduce emission taxes on all products. These taxes should be levied on imports as well as domestic goods at the point of sale, and should displace other taxes, such as VAT, sales taxes, and payroll (e.g. social security, health care) in such a way that tax revenues are constant, and distributed equitably. 
These should be introduced as an Emissions Added Levy (avoiding the bad jokes). EAL would be imposed on sale for emissions added in the preceding step and inherent to the consumption of the product, as would be the case for heating oil and gasoline. Manufacturers would pay the EAL on electricity they bought, and incorporate this and the levy on emissions they created into the price of the product they sell.

Imports from countries that do not have an EAL would have the full EAL imposed at the time of import. The base rate would be generic EALs based on worst previous practices in the countries that do have EALs, which would be reduced on presenting proof that the actual emissions were lower.

All countries with EAL systems would reserve a portion (say 5%) for assisting developing countries with adaptations (why not use acclimations?) and mitigating programs.

By basing the levy on emissions rather than carbon all greenhouse gases stand on a common level, sequestration is strongly encouraged as well as such simple things as capturing methane from oil wells and garbage dumps (that gets built into the cost of disposal). The multipliers would come from CO2 equivalents on a 10 year basis.

The process can be effective without across the board agreement which means the ability of countries such as the US to bargain the process down is decreased. Further, early adopters will control the process and establish the base rates in concert. Imagine a world wide EAL system controlled by the early adapters. The Simple Plan will advantage them and the world.
Paul Krugman adopted the Simple Plan in 2014, and now Nordhaus comes on board. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Heartland Institute - Convenient Cognitive Dissonance

Coal at any cost to help the poor of Africa and elsewhere has become the cudgel of climate change denial.  Led by Bjorn Lomborg the usual suspects, who never otherwise really gave a moments worth of notice for the people of the developing world, have tried it on.

Eli, Eli is a museum goer, and has seen the pollution and illness caused by burning coal in the world both in pictures from the 19th century and in person. Eli thinks that the developing world does not have to replicate the mistakes and misery the developed world suffered through to get to where it is, which is not such a bad place. The developing world does not need telephone poles, they have cell phones and working cell phone systems.  The same cannot so clearly be said about their centralized electrical generation and distribution systems.  Mini-networks based on solar and wind have many advantages.

So, how bad is it out there in China, whose energy economy is built on coal?  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, prints a letter from a reader about the quality of life there and economic growth

I believe the macro-level statistics and phenomena you discuss are all trailing indicators. I left China with my family almost five years ago as a large number of interrelated quality-of-life issues became increasingly unbearable. Those factors have continued to worsen since then at an accelerating rate, to the point where the economy is now largely driven by people trying to earn or steal enough money to leave.

The once-thriving expat community in Beijing has shriveled to nearly nothing. The cost of living is approaching world-capital (NY, London, Tokyo, etc.) levels for a  miserable existance. The local culture has become increasingly desperate and cutthroat. And Beijing is one of the more attractive places in China to live, work, and raise a family.

People, generally, and Chinese especially, will tolerate all sorts of deprivation in service of a better future for their children. And that is largely what has driven the rapid pace of Chinese development since the end of the Cultural Revolution and the beginning of Deng Xiaoping's opening and reform policies. My feeling is that biggest challenge ahead for China is when the population at large concludes that a better future for their children is no longer in the cards.

When it happens, it will happen gradually, then suddenly. And what happens after that, no one can say, but a continuation of the policies driving hyper-accelerated GDP growth over all else probably isn't it.
It is this sort of misery that lead to the Chinese pledges on climate action for the upcoming Paris talks.

The Rabett's friends at the Heartland Institute, on the other hand, have again shown their adherence to the hypocrats oath.  They too have taken up the Lomborgian call for more coal now, more coal tomorrow, and more coal forever
These policies prolong reliance on open fires fueled by wood and dung. They mean families are denied lights, refrigeration and other benefits of electricity, and millions die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, and other effects of rampant poverty. With hydrocarbons still providing 82% of the world’s energy – and China, India and other rapidly developing countries building numerous coal-fired generating plants – retarding Africa’s development in the name of preventing climate chaos is useless and immoral.
But, of course, the US EPA's new regulations for cleaner burning wood stoves, is to the Heartlanders, an abomination
According to University of Houston professor Larry Bell, “80 percent of wood-burning stoves currently used by homeowners [do not meet the new standards.]”

Close to 2.5 million homes in the United States, 2 percent of all households, use wood as a primary heating source, a figure that has increased 38 percent since 2004. Another 8 percent of households use wood as a secondary heating source.
Of course, the smoke from burning biofuels for cooking and heating indoors, according to the Heartlanders, does nothing in the US, nothing.  Indoor air pollution from burning biofuels only kill Africans and Indians who don't burn Matt "King Coal" Ridley's special blend healing coal.
When EPA proposed the rule in 2014, Stonehill College professor Sean Mulholland submitted comments stating there are “several reasons to be skeptical of the level of benefits claimed from this regulation.” He cited literature questioning the link between particulate matter and mortality, and he criticized EPA for assessing benefits based on national averages rather than accounting for local variability. 
Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, says the link between particulate matter and health problems is not as clear-cut as the agency claims.

“Does [a wood stove] cause smoke? Yeah, of course it does,” Arnold said. “And has that got particulate matter in it? Of course it does. Is it killing everybody? No, it’s not. Is it making everybody sick? No, it’s not. Do some people get sick? Yeah. Is that what’s causing it? Well, EPA says it is, but we really don’t know. But we’ve got predatory scientists who will say it is.”

Critics point out EPA’s new rules will place an increasing financial burden on poor and rural residents who rely on wood stoves as their primary source of heat.
The echos of convenient cognitive dissonance fills the sky.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bjorn Lomborg demonstrates why universities should steer clear of him

Hat tip:  Greg Laden

Australia's do-nothing-on-climate government attempted to foist luckwarmist Lomborg on University of Western Australia, with a sweetener of a $4 million to take him. UWA's administration bent the knee so enthusiastically that they faceplanted, with the actual academics rising up successfully against having this guy join them.

While there are countless reasons why Lomborg doesn't belong at a university, his cover-up of how his "consensus" analysis deliberately underplays the impact of climate emissions shows the lack of honesty that should stop any university from associating with him. It's not just underplaying, it's how he covers up what he's done.

Here's the exchange in Danish newspapers (emphasis added, some typos corrected):

Kare Fog, a critic of Lomborg:
....Lomborg will presumably refer to his Copenhagen Consensus conference, where it is shown with - seemingly - matter-of-fact cost/benefit calculations that it pays better to solve other problems than global warming..... 
[The audience members] do not know that the figures have arisen by discounting calculations and that Lomborg has cheated in these calculations. He has used one discount rate for climate projects, and another discount rate for the remaining projects. 
 If he had used the same rate for all projects, an endeavour for the climate would have appeared much higher on the ranking list; it would have obtained a more favourable cost/benefit ratio than the endeavours against tuberculosis, malaria, child diseases and heart diseases....

Lomborg responding some days later:
Kåre Fog writes...that we in Copenhagen Consensus have "cheated with the calculations", because we have used one rate of interest for climate projects and another rate of interest for the remaining projects. 
This is simply wrong. Indeed, our Nobel laureates have stressed the importance of using the same rate of interest for all projects (which naturally is also the only fair approach), and this yields that solely CO2 cuts are an extraordinarily poor way of helping future generations....

Fog responds again:
....There really have been used different rates of interest. This appears from the papers in the Copenhagen consensus conference, and it has also been confirmed to me by one of the climate economists of the conference, Richard Tol.... Jamison´s text on diseases and in Horton´s text on malnutrition they will see that there has been used a discount rate of 3 percent (as prescribed by Lomborg) (the rate of discount is easily found by searching for the word "discount" in the text). But if they enter the climate papers, they will see that Yohe et al. has a discount rate of 4 to 5 percent, and Green has a discount rate of 4 percent.... 
[Green's] climate project gives a benefit/cost ratio of approximately 16 when he uses 4 percent, but if he uses 3 percent, like in the health projects, this yields a ratio of no less than 28.5.... 
So what does Lomborg do to ensure that the climate projects do not look so favorable? He has them evaluated at a more unfavorable rate of interest....

And then Lomborg again:
...KF claims that the health paper uses only a low rate of interest of 3%. This is wrong; on page 60 it clearly apears that the paper also evaluates a high 6 percent rate of interest.....all papers were asked to evaluate all projects at both 3 percent and 6 percent. In some fields, for instance the climate models, this is extraordinarily cumbersome, and therefore the climate economists chose one rate of interest "in the middle" and made a qualitative evaluation of the estimates at higher and lower rates of interest.
....all the papers have presented, as well as it is possible, costs and benefits for a range between 3 and 6 percent rate....the Nobel laureates insist on thereafter prioritizing all solutions at the same, consistent rate of interest.

Finally, the last from Fog:
....It is a rather large detective work to unravel how the calculations have been made, and especially it is unclear - remarkably unclear - how Lomborg has arrived from the particular cost/benefit calculations to the final ranking list.  
....It is actually true that all other projects than the climate projects have applied a rate of discount of three percent. In addition one has also worked out what the result would be with six percent, but the result of these supplementary calculations has not been used to rank the projects ...[Lomborg] has compared the profitability of non-climate-projects with a rate of three percent and of climate-projects with a rate of four-to-five percent. 
If the climate- and non-climate projects had been calculated with the same rate of interest, investment in climate technology would rank higher than vitamin A supplementation....Thus it must also be maintained that the project calculations are not comparable and that the ranking in Copenhagen Consensus is not worth the paper it is printed on.  
 I have actually waited for a long time when Lomborg would include this detail about the extra six percent as his next step in the process of confusing people....

None of this would have come out if Fog hadn't been as tenacious and knowledgeable, and if the Danish paper hadn't been willing to let the dialog happen. I expect in the vast majority of situations, Lomborg's initial denial would've been the end of it. He's another Benny Peiser, saying something he knows to be wrong when it's possible that the audience doesn't know.

My question for a university dean pondering whether to take the money and have Lomborg on campus is this:  does Lomborg's second response demonstrate whether his first response is honest? That first response demonstrates the quality of work you should expect. Then decide whether the money to take him in is enough.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sites of Seepage Infection

Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell, and Michael Smithson have published  “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community” in Global Environmental Change (open access, but link is not live yet.  Email Stephan for copies), the thesis of which is that

Climate scientists have done an admirable job pursuing their science under great political pressure, and they have tirelessly rebutted pseudoscientific arguments against their work. Nonetheless, being human, scientists’ operate with the same cognitive apparatus and limitations as every other person. In consequence, it is important to be aware of the factors that may cause scientists to take positions that they would be less likely to take in the absence of outspoken public opposition. We refer to this phenomenon as seepage.
This thesis, that denialist mems have been forced into the literature by their ubiquity in the public sphere, a ubiquity induced by a well funded political and public relations effort from a small number of sources, is well explored in the paper (RTFR).  The short form can be found at Shaping Tomorrow's World.

There has been unhappiness with this paper.  The bunnies admire Stephan's touch.  Eli thinks it was John Mashey who pointed out that if we are conducting an experiment in atmospheric physics that everyone is part of, everything that everybunny does is test tube fodder for a social psychologist.

Sou started to dissect the response, when Richard Betts walked into the room at ATTP, so Sou took him apart and Richard Tol let on that he was color blind, which explains a few gremlins and there are various comments worth reading or not all over the place.  However, and there is always a however at Rabett Run, Eli has a thought about the agents of seepage.

While a bunny can always find a journal to hand over her or his publication charge money to, and arXiv exists, entry to CNS journals (the holey trinity of biomed, Cell Nature Science) is controlled by the nomenklatura and novelty is the password, that and being a member of the tribe.  CNS, etc., Eli will grant Cell an honorary membership here, journals are controlled by a small number of editors and function on both public and a professional levels.

These editors are both always look for "what's happening now" papers, and the papers that get published there get looked at by a broad variety of folk, especially if the editors pick one out for a brief, less technical, explication by a BSD (go ask Drug Monkey what that means, this is a family blog).  Taken together that makes CNS articles subject to retractions more than the rest.

Yes, there are ignorable rate journals like JPANDs or E&E or Modern Physics B where anything and everything is published, and specialty journals which will take anything that makes their specialty look important, like Solar Physics, which will take anything that makes solar cycles or cosmic rays look more important than they are, but you have to push the meme into the top journals before it seeps over into general scientific discourse.  Scientists as a group are politically oblivious.  Eli remembers sitting with a British top rate scientist at lunch and pointing out to him that Britain does not have a written constitution.  This surprised him.  Ms. Rabett would say Eli is generally oblivious.

OTOH, it also makes CNS the prime sites for seepage injection and once CNS start to leak, than other journals will join in.  The same argument can be made for funding agencies, program managers look for novelty to justify their programs.  One of the hardest things on a panel (and Eli has done this many times) is to argue for "number gathering".  That everybunny needs the numbers cuts little ice, that the mission of the funding agency is to number gather, cuts even less (well the Rabett team succeeds on occasion, but never enough).  Witness last year's problems keeping the Scripps Mauna Loa measurement program running.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Climate Cognition notes

I attended the San Francisco Commonwealth Club's Climate One meeting yesterday, on "Climate Cognition" with George Lakoff, Kari Norgaard, and Per Espen Stoknes.

Lakoff did his usual thing on framing, YMMV. I think the idea of framing is correct although I'm less sure that the frames he says categorize the political spectrum are accurate. Both he and Espen Stoknes had some useful things to say on ways to communicate (emphasize climate health, risk management as opposed to uncertainty, etc.). Espen Stoknes has a book on climate communication, and I think it looks worthwhile - he may be further down the road of Dan Kahan/cultural cognition stuff then I like, but it's not completely off-base. Lakoff was very negative towards climate scientists for failing to teach "systemic causation", that the inability to attribute a particular weather event with 95% certainty to climate change doesn't eliminate a systemic level of causation of bad things.

I got a much less clear sense of Norgaard's message, not sure whether that's her fault, the moderator's fault, or my fault. Fairly usual ratio for such things, three white men and one (white) woman on the stage.

I'll say this for Lakoff - after the taping, a long line formed to talk to him, and he stayed to answer every person's question. I stopped Espen Stoknes to ask him about my hobbyhorse, the fact that many children alive today will live to see the world's climate in 2100 and whether that might make the distant problems of climate seem more real. He said it's not enough to refer people to real children they may know, that you have to tell a story and give a sense of what kind of life that child will face in 2100.

The podcast should be up soon, and you can also watch the video at some point.

UPDATE:  one thing in particular that Lakoff said that I found interesting - the only style of argument found to appeal to conservatives regarding climate change is to associate unchanged climate with "purity". I don't think the term has a lot of scientific meaning, and on one level maybe that doesn't matter. OTOH, if climate "health" and climate "integrity" are useful buzzwords for conservatives, they at least have a nodding acquaintance with the real world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Turn Out the Lights

While the proposed $300 million budget cuts to NASA Earth Science emerging from the House Science Committee have been receiving a lot of press, the knives of science denial are out for other agencies that study climate issues.

DOE's Biological and Environmental Research program gets a cut of 42 million from its current $592 million, and the proposed $612 million.  The BER program support climate research at such places as Lawrence Livermore and other DOE labs.  The draft bill, approved by the Republicans on the Committee (with no Democrats voting for, indeed they only saw the Bill as it was introduced), contains a poison pill or two, for DOE.  First, a direction that climate research is not to be a priority

(a) PROGRAM.—The Director shall carry out a program of research, development, and demonstration in the areas of biological systems science and climate and environmental science to support the energy and environ- 6 mental missions of the Department. 
(b) PRIORITY RESEARCH.—In carrying out this section, the Director shall prioritize fundamental research on biological systems and genomics science with the greatest  potential to enable scientific discovery. 
and then the real poison pill
The Director shall not approve new climate science-related initiatives to be carried out through the Office of Science without making a determination that such work is unique and not duplicative of work by other Federal agencies. Not later than 3 months after receiving the assessment required under subsection (c), 23 the Director shall cease those climate science-related initiatives identified in the assessment as overlapping or duplicative, unless the Director justifies that such work is critical to achieving American energy security.
Not much better at NSF, with a cut to 1,200 M$ from 2015's 1304 M$ and a request of 1,365 M$.

Of course DOE ARPA-E takes a proposed 56% cut and social sciences at NSF gets a 45% cut.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Denial, Luckwarmers and Evasion

Well, it's pretty clear what you call those in complete denial about the muderous human induced climate change coming the world's way, denialists.  And on the other hand the denialists have a word for those who believe the IPCC, warmists, which, though kind of mealy mouthed and weak, is what they like.  No arguing with taste.

As Eli has pointed out the Idiot Tracker nailed the self styled "lukewarmers", the it ain't gonna be bad crowd, the group that Eli calls the luckwarmers, for their dreams to come true would require a great deal of getting lucky.

Here's the problem. Lukewarmism doesn't get its adherents where they want to go – because even if we accept at face value their claims, the world would still require intense efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in order to stave off disaster. . .

However, when you begin to argue that not only does science have climate sensitivity wrong but also emissions and maybe impacts to boot – well, you're going to have a hard time explaining why thousands of scientists have made not one but a series of mistakes, all supposedly exaggerating the dangers of global warming. Go down that road, and pretty soon you're right back in the tinfoil-hat camp lukewarmist rhetoric was supposed to deliver you from. If you allege not one but a whole series of gigantic mistakes by huge numbers of investigators, all tending to undermine a scientific conclusion (only rapid reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases can prevent a substantial risk of planetary disaster) to which you are avowedly hostile, the simplest conclusion is not that you are a genius and the rest of the scientific community are fools; it is that you are a partisan and you are attacking science with implications contrary to your political goals.
But there is another group which claims to accept the IPCC consensus on climate change but always finds reasons to do nothing, or next to nothing about it, often because they say there is something else that is more important, which, of course, they also do nothing about other than try and use it as a club against those who think we should be doing something about climate change. The hallmark of these types, like Bjorn Lomborg, just to name one, is to loudly proclaim that those who see the dangers of climate change and want to do something about it, care nothing for the Poors, especially the African Poors these days.  Of course, in the end the Breakthrough Institute types and other Lomborg's of the world take the money for themselves and do nothing for the Poors.

Recently, Nature published a jerimand by one of these, an Oliver Geden, saying that we must be honest, 2 C is blown, no way no how to hold the line. Richard Tol weighed in with
Geden’s point is simple. In private, there is a consensus (>97%) among climate policy analysts that the 2K target is impossible. In public, the same people pretend that it can be met. Perhaps it is time to reclaim our academic freedom and present our research findings, however unpalatable.
and, indeed this is not so far from Eli's observation that policy makers in the US Government see 3 C as the new 2C.

How to deal with this in the public discussion is no simple matter.  Eli's approach has been to point out the rhetorical nature of the full Lomborg, to challenge anybunny who takes up that cudgel to actually do something to help the poor, rather than just talk about it.  Since most of the luckwarmers and denialists are from the far right and oppose government money to help anyone but themselves, this has a certain success.

Paul Price in the comments at ATTP deals with the issue in another way
Oliver Geden is firmly in the Pielke/Hulme/Breakthrough Institute ‘climate mitigation-action delayer’ camp as his previous publications and citations amply demonstrate – just as this latest one does. Several times on Twitter, as with the BTI, I have tried to get Geden to answer the question: if not 2ºC then what temperature and related carbon budget limit target would he prefer? He always dodges while claiming to be objective and pragmatic, which is entirely evasionary. If he is suggesting a different path then he should tell us what he is suggesting and why that is better.

Yes, let’s admit that limiting to 2ºC is already very difficult but that does not mean that the pragmatic policy is to give up on 2ºC. It should mean that the alarm is ringing very loudly to say that the ‘honest brokering’ of policy advisors like Geden has entirely failed to move policy in the direction of actually achieving the emission cuts necessary. This latest article is just another attempt to evade the culpability of ‘advisors’ like himself for this ongoing policy failure. Shooting the messenger, he wants to blame climate scientists for pointing out inconvenient truths: so much for his integrity as a policy advisor. It’s hard to see Geden’s article as anything more than another prolonged effort to keep reality from intruding on his own political preferences for climate inaction.

Rather than giving up on 2ºC as a target limit we should be redoubling (trebling, ten-folding) efforts to achieve the related, future, capped global carbon budget. It may well be that this requires negative emissions (as well as massive social change) and it may well be that we don’t achieve them, but with very strong policies aiming at 2ºC we might still miss and hit 2.5ºC. Whatever your politics that’s bad but it’s a hell of a lot better than Geden’s argument, which still pretends it is pragmatic to go on until we actually hit walls at 3ºC, or 4ºC, or now if you live in Kiribati with the sea already coming in. This version of ‘pragmatism’ (aka Pielke Jr’s rusty ‘law’) is just excuse-making for continuing to do little or nothing even in the teeth of the evidence.

Concentrating on the difficulties in policy is not smart or pragmatic if it just avoids stating the realities of the extraordinary global climate risk that our actions right now directly affect. We may desire to avoid driving into a brick wall but that does actually require a policy that involves *not* steering directly toward it and accelerating. Geden clearly finds the emission projections presented by climate science as “sometimes unwelcome — perspectives to the global climate-policy discourse”. It is mitigation action evaders masquerading as honest brokers who need to wake up to physical reality if they are to finally show some integrity as climate policy advisors. It would be great if they could wake up and help hit the brakes before we all run out of road.
Price has solved the problem of how to characterize the Lomborg/Pielke/Hulme/Breakthrough Institute types, they are Evasionists and the question to ask them is what level of climate change would bestir them to action.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Heard of these - DIY glaciers

A retired civil engineer in Ladakh is detaining flowing water in high-elevation shaded areas in winter to create "glaciers" (really ice fields - these things aren't moving). He has nine glaciers going so far, storing water that melts much later in the summer than the snow, providing water when it's most desperately needed.

I've heard of examples like this (more are discussed in the article) and it may be something we'll want to copy here in California. "Guzzlers" are common at lower elevations to provide water to wildlife - I have doubts about their wisdom in most circumstances, but it's an example of dispersed manipulation of water systems. I could imagine installing cheap stream diversions on mountainsides that move some flowing water to from southern to northern exposures and spread it out to freeze. This might support a more natural hydrograph than one without adaptation to climate change.

Not certain it's a good idea, but maybe worth considering.

In other news, a very nice salute from Jonathan Zasloff, "Requiem for a Bottom Feeder" about the retirement of Don Shoup, the land use planning academic who wrote The High Cost of Free Parking. Shoup decided to focus on the lowest prestige/least-researched issue in his field, zoning regulations, and ended up doing great things because of it. Quite a contrast to the tiny handful of mediocre academics who decided to reach out for prestige that's eluded them by refuting the entire field of climate science.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Still wary, but a reasonable defense of Trans Pacific Partnership is here

UPDATE:  a slightly (just barely) contrary opinion on TPP from my go-to guy Paul Krugman. More like he doesn't think it's worth the bother.

From Brad DeLong's blog, with him quoting Gary Hufbauer. I'm a big fan of Elizabeth Warren, but she is still a national-level politician.
As one of the people who did the NAFTA economic impact estimates for the Clinton Administration. I definitely have some explaining to do.

Our models showed NAFTA as:

a small plus for the American manufacturing sector, including manufacturing workers; a larger but still small plus for American consumers; a substantial plus for Mexico; and a minus for other developing countries that were potential competitors with Mexico for the American market. In reality, it turned out to be:

a substantial short-run minus for Mexico (the 1994–95 financial crisis; a long-run plus for Mexico that I still hope Will be larger than the short-run minus (guaranteed tariff- and quota-free access to the US market is worth a good deal); a bigger plus then I expected for Wall Street; a plus for American consumers; a small minus for American manufacturing; and a minus for other developing countries that were potential competitors with Mexico for the American market. It turned out that the most important aspect of NAFTA was not the increase in balanced trade from lower trade barriers, and was not the increase in factory construction in Mexico because of increased confidence in Mexico’s government and in US willingness to except Mexican exports and in US manufactured equipment exports to enable that construction.

It turned out that the most important aspect of NAFTA was the Mexican financial liberalization that allowed Mexico’s rich to cheaply purchased political risk insurance from Wall Street by getting their money into New York.

That experience--my personal analytical nadir as an economist, I might add--convinced me that analyzing modern trade agreements as if they were primarily Ricardian deals is likely to lead one substantially astray. One has to think, and think deeply, creatively, and subtly, about all the potential general equilibrium effects. One has to work hard to bound their magnitude.
Gary Hufbauer: Senator Warren Distorts the Record on Investor-State Dispute Settlements: "ISDS provisions enable a foreign investor to seek compensation in an amount determined by an impartial panel of arbitrators... ...if a host government expropriates its property, or regulates its business in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner. Such protections have been deemed necessary in agreements going back at least to a Germany-Pakistan accord in 1959.... Starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, the United States has also included ISDS in the investment chapters in nearly all its free trade agreements (FTAs), now numbering 20. Given this rich history, Senator Warren should be able to cite actual examples of the multiple abuses that she claims have occurred. She has not done so, because she cannot. Senator Warren makes a big deal about the hypothetical outcome of the old Methanex case against California’s regulations on gasoline additives, but the case was decided against the Canadian corporation....

Over the decades, only 13 ISDS cases have been brought to judgment against the United States. The United States has not lost a single case. Why? Because the United States does not expropriate private property without compensation, and the United States does not enact arbitrary or discriminatory laws against foreign firms. Contrary to what the Senator implies, American taxpayers have not had to cough up millions and even billions of dollars in damages. They have not had to cough up anything. To be blunt, Senator Warren has no facts.... Her op-ed... resorted to hypothetical scenarios that had no basis in 50 years of ISDS history....

Senator Warren...warns that plaintiffs may succeed in suing such countries as Egypt, Germany, and the Czech Republic to overturn their laws. But these are hypothetical scenarios. The cases have not been decided and the countries in question may well prevail. Her descriptions of these lawsuits overlook something that Senator Warren should know as a former law professor: Lawyers often bring cases seeking huge damages precisely when the facts are against their claims. Just look at the 13 ISDS cases brought against the United States and dismissed, or the 175 cases dismissed worldwide. Sounding like a Tea Party politician railing against the United Nations, Senator Warren contends that international courts might replace the US legal system. Again she has the story backwards. The United States has been the chief architect of ISDS and other forms of international dispute settlement precisely because the United States has been able to export its legal principles to other countries....

Since NAFTA was ratified two decades ago, ISDS provisions have been amended to ward off frivolous claims involving environmental, health, and safety regulation of corporate practices. We do not yet know the precise terms of the ISDS provisions in TPP. A good guess is that they will follow the template found in the Korea-US FTA. That template might be further improved by requiring briefs to be published at a suitable time and establishing an appeals mechanism. But just because the existing ISDS template falls short of perfection is no reason to jettison the concept. It is even less of a reason to reject the entire TPP, though that seems to be Senator Warren’s objective.

My little California DISCLOSE Act video project

Been working on this for a bit, making fair use of snips from the Star Wars trailers to highlight legislation to reform the California political process:

I think it's working now - had some hiccups yesterday. for more info.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Why Hart Found Narrow Ecospheres — A Minor Science Mystery Solved

In searching for habitable exoplanets, knowing where to look is an important issue.  At least for humans there is a continuously habitable zone (CHZ), a region where life as we know it could appear and persist. This is also important for our understanding the young Earth.  Escape from Snowball Earth is still an area of investigation, how the Earth managed the great escape.

As in any field, there is secret sauce, magic ingredients that appear in the literature and no one quite knows where that came from.  Barton Paul Levenson has tracked down the source of one of those, an early estimate of the outer limit of the CHZ.  This will appear in Astrobiology, but, alas there is a rather high paywall.  Barton has sent Eli a summary of the paper.

There are some interesting hints in this and connections to current issues, the attitude of Elsasser to global warming for example.  So with no further introduction


In 1953, Hubertus Strughold coined the word "ecosphere" (from Greek οικος, house) for the distance range where a star can have habitable planets. Too close in, the planet will be too hot.  Too far out, too cold. Rampino and Caldeira (1994) called this "[t]he Goldilocks Problem."

Early estimates of the Sun's ecosphere were optimistic. It might reach from 0.7 to 1.5 AUs, 1 AU being the Earth-Sun distance. Venus and Mars might both be habitable, at least for some forms of life.

By the early '60s we knew Venus was too hot and Mars too cold and airless. Dole (1964) found temperatures of 273-303 K were limits for human habitability, then used a static climate model to estimate a 0.86-1.24 AU Solar ecosphere.

Then, Michael Hart at NASA (1978) noticed that since stars increase in luminosity across the main sequence, the "Habitable Zone" (HZ) moves outward with time. The region where things are clement for long periods is the narrower "Continuously Habitable Zone" (CHZ). A planet too close undergoes a runaway greenhouse and winds up like Venus. A planet too far ices over. Hart found the narrow range of 0.95-1.01 AU for the Solar CHZ, later (1979) revised to 0.958-1.004 AU.

His findings hit the ETI community like a bombshell.  Isaac Asimov (1980) said: "[I]f Hart's computer simulation of Earth's past history is accurate, then it is very likely that no planet at all will form within the ecosphere... all the planets near the star will be Venuslike or Marslike... The probability of a planet within the ecosphere would then be close to 0.0.

Actually, Asimov failed to do the math. Planet orbits are spaced roughly evenly on a log scale.  Given that, the spacing ratio difference between Dole's ecosphere (1.24 / 0.86) and Hart's (1.004 / 0.958), compared to a mean 1.73 in the Solar system, lowers the chance of a planet in the ecosphere from 67% to 8.6%, a factor of 7.8. Compared to Dole's estimate of 600 million habitable planets in the Milky Way galaxy, this would still leave 77 million such planets.

But the effect of Hart's articles was disproportionate. Climate scientists Schneider and Thompson (1980) felt compelled to respond that the scientific knowledge available was too uncertain for such estimates. Schneider wrote me in 1983 that Hart's conclusions were "completely unjustified."

In 1981, Walker et al. found a stabilizing feedback that prevented runaway glaciation at the outer boundary.  A more ice-covered Earth has less weathering of rock. Less carbon gets washed to the sea, and CO2 from volcanoes builds up in the air, eventually melting the ice. James F. Kasting and his colleagues at Penn State used this information in 1992 to find a wider Solar CHZ, 0.95 to 1.15 AU.

Later discoveries about warming from high-altitude CO2 ice clouds extended the outer HZ limit as far as 1.7-2.4 AU.  This puts glaciated Mars well inside the HZ! But because of its small size, Mars cooled off early, plate tectonics never started, and it has no active volcanoes to add CO2 to the atmosphere. Walker's feedback doesn't exist for it. If Mars were Earth-sized, it might be habitable.

Most (not all) estimates for the inner CHZ boundary are still close to Hart's.  But his outer estimate puzzled everyone.  It was an advance to account for thermal runaways in a planet's history to find CHZ boundaries, as Hart did. It was another advance to include Walker et al.'s stabilizing feedback.  But a certain mystery still surrounded Hart's findings. Kasting wrote in 2010: "Exactly why [Hart's] model failed to recover from runaway glaciation is not clear. It was a highly simplified model, though, and its treatment of both radiation and convection left much to be desired..."

How Hart got it wrong puzzled me for years. I wrote an indignant, completely incompetent reply to his 1978 paper the same year, when I was a high school student, and of course it got rejected. Hart, oddly enough, phoned me from the Manned Space Center in Houston, Texas (I was living in Charlotte, NC at the time) to discuss it. He and I were ideologically opposed on many points, and not just in science, but I have never forgotten how kind he was to a geeky kid. Nonetheless, I recently decided to revisit his model, and this time I got an accepted paper out of it.

Computer power was far less in 1978 than today. Hart's simulation was probably written in the procedural language Fortran IV, and either punched into cards to be read in batch mode by a mainframe computer like an IBM 360, or entered via teletype or CRT-screen to a minicomputer like the DEC PDP-11. Although radiative-convective models (RCMs) of Earth's atmosphere had existed since 1964, a geohistorical model like Hart's would have needed far too much computer time to repeatedly run one.  His simulation used a time step of 2.5 million years and an Earth age of 4.5 billion years, requiring 1,800 iterations of the main processing loop. A detailed temperature model would simply have cost too much.

So Hart substituted an iterative semigray model. He estimated the infrared optical thickness of Earth's atmosphere at τ = 2.49, which for Earth's effective temperature Teff = 255 K, gives a surface temperature Ts = 332 K.  This would be true for a purely radiative situation, but conduction, convection and evapotranspiration cool Earth's surface at the expense of the atmosphere.  Thus he introduced a "convection factor" Fconv = 0.43:

Ts = Teff + [(1 + 0.75 τ)1/4 - 1]Teff Fconv

Hart took water vapor and carbon dioxide as the only greenhouse gases for present-day Earth.  He added ammonia and methane for a primitive Earth assumed, in line with theory at the time, to have a reducing atmosphere.  For present Earth he found τH2O = 2.34 and τCO2 = 0.15, for relative contributions of 94% and 6% to Earth's greenhouse effect. By way of contrast, RCM studies show the clear-sky greenhouse effect to be 9-26% from carbon dioxide.

Consider Mars, where almost all the greenhouse is from CO2 and very little from H2O.  A temperature model that undervalues CO2 will be more vulnerable to glaciation as sunlight lessens. I eventually concluded that Hart never realized he was treating CO2 as too weak a greenhouse gas, and missed it because his results were in line with climatological thinking at the time.

It turns out narrow CHZ boundaries were actually found much earlier--but no one considered both limits together until Hart did. In 1969, Ingersoll used a gray model to explain how the runaway greenhouse effect might have taken place on Venus. A year later, Rasool and de Bergh (1970) estimated the inner boundary of the sun's CHZ at 0.93-0.96 AUs.

Also in 1969, Budyko found an outer CHZ boundary of 1.008 AUs, based on a one-dimensional (in latitude) energy-balance climate model. The same year, Sellers, without knowing of Budyko's work, estimated the outer boundary at 1.01-1.025 AUs, also based on an energy-balance model. These models were considered state-of-the-art back then.

So years before Hart, the literature already implied a CHZ stretching from 0.93-0.96 AU at the inner boundary to 1.008-1.025 at the outer, for a spacing ratio of 1.05-1.10. Hart's 1978 paper cites both Budyko's paper and Sellers's. His simulation only reinforced a conclusion already "out there."  In short, he had no reason to question his results. This "ice catastrophe" had been in the air in professional circles for many years; he got the answer he almost certainly expected.

The only remaining question is why he took CO2 as too weak a greenhouse gas. Hart cites the seminal work of Elsasser and Culbertson (1960) in his references. I collected estimates for CO2 absorption coefficients in the band most important for terrestrial planet temperatures, the 15-micron (μ) band. In SI units, the geometric mean of Elsasser and Culbertson's figures from 14 to 16 μ is 0.438 m2 kg-1. The mean figure for Hanel et al. (1963) is 0.07, while Gonima (1992) finds 20 and Evans (2001) reports a point measurement of 16.3. Clearly 1960s figures are very low compared to later ones.

Nowadays, a researcher who wants to create a band scheme for a planet's atmosphere uses "line-by-line" software on the Air Force HITRAN or HITEMP line data compilations.  From individual lines, one estimates a mean absorption coefficient in a given wavelength domain.

But HITRAN only came out in 1973. Elsasser and Culbertson based their work on laboratory test data on carbon dioxide in glass tubes, with nitrogen as a line-broadening agent. Either because of problems with their mathematical model, or problems with the lab procedure, they concluded that carbon dioxide was a much weaker greenhouse gas than it really is. Similar problems must have arisen for Hanel et al. By the time of Gonima's paper, both better models and better data were available.

So because of earlier work which showed Earth orbiting very near the outer edge of a narrow CHZ, in danger of runaway glaciation if sunlight fell by even a few percent, and because of mistakes about radiation transfer in the source material available to him, Hart's planet temperature model really did have serious problems, as Kasting proposed. A better semigray model might have provided different results, even without considering the stabilizing feedback of Walker

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Biodiversity loss is an order of magnitude worse than other climate impacts....

...if you measure by recovery time. Full recovery of the climate from anthropogenic GHG emissions will take hundreds of thousands of years. Recovery from mass extinctions, like the one that climate change is exacerbating for 1 out of 6 species, can take 10 million years (or longer).

The biodiversity crisis seems underemphasized to me. I think there's a chance that with a combination of luck both on climate sensitivity and speed of technological change, together with achieving the better end of the range of feasible political action on climate, we can escape a climate tragedy (for most people). The mass extinction, though, is already here. It's just a matter of how much worse we'll make it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Why Jim Hansen Worries

Back in 1988, in the original GCM, Hansen summarized the situation going forward.  The most important part of this figure is that grey band, and the implication that the world would soon enter that region,

as indeed it has.  The top end of the gray Eemian is well below 2 C  pre-industrial, something that scared Hansen thirty years ago, because he knew what that meant for the world.

A couple of days ago Jim Hansen laid it out for Australian Broadcasting in detail.  You can listen to Fran Kelly's interview, or read it at Rabett Run.  Eli reserves the right to inject a word or two here and there.  Kelly (in italics) introduced Hansen who was at the 2015 Conference on Advances in Nuclear Power Plants and inquired why he refused to sign the Nuclear for Climate Declaration from the  conference.  Hansen pointed out it was not that Declaration he refused to sign

That's regarded by most as being the safe level of climate change and it's the same goal that will be on the table at Paris later this year at the UN Climate Talks. . . .  The top US climate scientist James Hansen thinks says the goal is a nonsense and the world is on the wrong track thinking that two degrees of warming is safe.  . . . James Hansen you have long been a supporter of nuclear power because it can significantly limit global warming but you are refusing to sign this Nuclear for Climate Declaration

No, someone has misinformed you.  What I refused to sign the Vatican Declaration which had the 2 degree limit and the reason I do not sign that is that the 2 degrees is actually a prescription for disaster. That’s actually well understood by the scientific community.

We know that the prior interglacial period about 120,000 years ago – it’s called the Eemian in Europe –but it  was less than 2 degrees C warmer than pre-industrial conditions and sea level was a least 6 to 8 metres higher, so it’s crazy to think that 2 degrees Celsius is safe limit.

The only thing you can argue is that, well, it might take a while for the sea level to rise that much, but we know that it would happen because once the fossil fuels are burned to reach that level they are not taken out of the systems for millennia, and it does not require millennia for the ice sheets to disintegrate.

If you say it would be crazy to shoot for two degrees but that is exactly what we are going to be shooting for in Paris at the global climate talks

That number (2 degrees) was chosen because it was convenient and thought that well that will give us a few decades so we can set targets for the middle of the century.

Actually what the science tells us is we have an emergency, this is actually a global crisis and the science for that is crystal clear. It’s not obvious to the public because the climate system responds slowly, the ocean is 4 kilometres deep, these ice sheets are 3 kilometres thick. They only respond over timescales of decades to centuries, but once the processes are started it’s going to be extremely difficult if not impossible to stop them.

So what the science actually tells us is that we should reduce emissions as fast as practical, bearing in mind the economic consequences, but in fact the actions that are necessary are not economically harmful. You just have to make the prices of fossil fuels honest

I just want to stay with reducing emissions as fast as practical. Is that why generally the global community including what is on the table at Paris is looking at two degrees because that is what is practical

That's what they would argue but they are talking about ways of doing it which are extremely ineffectual like the Kyoto protocol. This cap and trade with offsets, it is very ineffectual.  What you actually need to do is make the price of fossil fuels honest instead of subsidizing them. It's been shown with economic studies that if you add a gradually rising fee to carbon collected from fossil fuel companies at the source, the domestic mine or the port of entry, and distribute that money 100% to the public, an equal amount to all legal residents  it will actually spur the economy and increase the GNP and allow you to phase down emissions  much more rapidly than with these screwy cap and trade with offset schemes

So you are saying that is much simpler kind of system than a cap and trade or what Australia had

A system that's designed for the public not for special interests.  In the United States we had a bill introduced 3500 pages of give aways to every special interest that could lobby Congress and get its favorite thing in there.  But that is not what you need. You need a simple honest system which would require one or two pages.  But that's what politicians have not come up with yet

Eli:  The laws and procedures for levying, collecting and distributing that tax would require much more than one or two pages.  Much, much more. Hansen is either being naive or political here. 

You are right that's what politicians have not come up with, but the scientists, the IPCC they are still talking about a 2 degree limit.  The assessment report five that came out of the IPCC last year predicted sea levels will rise between 22 and  86 centimeters by the end of this century.  You are actually saying  it will rise much more than that and even more quickly

The paleoclimate evidence indicates the ice sheets are much more sensitive than the glaciologist, the modellers of ice sheets have indicated and furthermore we now have satellite data over the last 12 years that confirms that ice sheet disintegration is a non-linear process that should not have been surprising, and I have been saying that for 10 years, but now this satellite data confirms that.

The ice sheets are losing mass faster and faster with a doubling the of about 10 years. If that continues, we would get sea-level rises of several metres within 40 to 50 years.

So we really do not want to continue forcing the system at the rate we are doing now

So spell that out for us James before we move on, sea level rises of several meters in forty years, what would that look like in terms of our lives

The consequences are almost unthinkable. It would mean that all coastal cities would become dysfunctional, some parts of the cities would still be sticking above the water but they would not be habitable, so the economic implications are incalculable. We really cannot go down that path, this is an issue of intergenerational injustice.   It’s a moral issue because the current generation is burning the fossil fuel and getting the benefits and creating a situation that for young people, our children and grandchildren and future generations is going to have enormous consequences.

James Hansen a report from the UK Grantham Institute this week makes it clear that based on current pledges and targets the world is not even close to delivering on a 2 degree goal which you say is not enough.  Does that mean that we have to be looking elsewhere, seriously at some sort of negative emissions technology, drawing down atmospheric or  ocean carbon what may that technology be.  Is that answer nuclear.  A emergency requires emergency actions.

I hate to sound like I am disagreeing with all the scientists but that's not true that we are necessarily beyond 2 degrees, we could actually come in below 2 degrees.  We could actually come in well under 2 degrees.  But it does require beginning to phase down  fossil fuel emissions and that requires two things.  The most fundamental is making the price of fossil fuel honest and that would encourage alternatives.  But those alternatives are going to have to include technological advances

You mentioned that I have been supporting nuclear power for decades but that is not actually true.  It is only in the last several years as I have begun to look at the energy situation and see what is actually happening.  You hear all this stuff about renewables.  Solar are becoming very cheap and they are taking over.  Well, in fact, non-hydro renewables are providing only 3% of the energy even though they have been subsidized heavily for several decades.  They are an important part of the solution but not an adequate part.  

Eli:  Those subsidies are beginning to pay off big time with huge decreases in the cost of solar and wind power as economies of scale and research advances begin to bite.  Whether these will be enough to save the day without nuclear power is a debate between Hansen, Barry Brook and Joe Romm.  Eli's POV is somewhat intermediate, that nuclear to carry the entire load requires new reactor designs, but today's reactors can contribute.

Nuclear power is the one thing that could help give us carbon free electricity, and if we get carbon free electricity as Sweden has right now, then the problem can be quickly solved.  

The only thing that would be required in addition is liquid fuels but you can make non fossil fuel liquid fuels, but you can do that with energy from electricity.  So if we have carbon free electricity the problem is solved. 

And that's a doable thing.  But it does require technology development as well as a rising fee on fossil fuels.  

As you say you have been sounding this alarm for a long time now and many others have too.  But for some years there the whole argument descended into a debate between the so called climate skeptics and the so called global warmists.  Are we through that yet and what do you think the voice of the skeptics vs. the others 

On the surface that appeared to be what was happening but in reality the contrarians were representing the conservative side who felt that liberals are going to use this as a method to raise taxes and increase control over their lives and that's exactly what they do not want and I don't blame them.  But they were simply denying the science because they did not want those political consequences.  It did not really have much to do with science and it still does not.   and we really do need to get the conservatives to understand the situation because they need to be part of the solution and I think that they will be but it needs to happen pretty quickly.

Eli: Hansen underestimates the role that the fossil fuel company rat-fuckers have played.

2 - 3 < 0 Or Why Natural Sources and Sinks Are Not the Source of Increased Atmospheric CO2

Of course, this is an old argument. Eli prettified it up a bit at Bishop Hill and repeats the argument here in polite company (You, yes you in the back.  Stop laughing).  Apologies to the original source

Postscript:  Dikran with the algebra at QuantPaleo


Δ - is the change in atmospheric CO2, over any period of a year or greater  
He - is the emission of CO2 due to humans burning fossil fuel, 
Ne -  is the natural emissions of CO2 from all sources. Here, Eli is using the word nature to stand for everything except CO2 generated by burning fossil fuels. 
Na - is the total natural absorption of CO2,
We can simply write
Δ = He + Ne - Na
This is an accounting identity. Rearrange the equation by subtracting He from both sides of the equation
Δ - He = Ne - Na
We know that emissions from humans burning fossil fuel He are greater that the change in atmospheric CO2 by about a factor of 2, so He > Δ and (Δ - He) is negative.
0 > Δ - He = Ne - Na
This means that Ne - Na must be negative, so the natural emissions must be less than the natural absorption or, Ne < Na, and nature is not the source of the observed increase in CO2 since the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere by everything except burning fossil fuels is less than the amount of CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere by both physical and biological processes.

See how easy it is. It is only necessary to know two things.

First that the change in CO2 atmospheric concentration, Δ, is positive. That comes from the Mauna Loa observations, ice cores, you name it. Second that emissions due to burning of fossil fuel would increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere more than the observed increase (Δ-He < 0).

That is known both from the source term, the amounts of fossil fuels mined (coal and tar sands), pumped (oil and gas) and a sink term, the amounts burned to generate electricity, run cars and trucks, etc. I f anything the measures of He are underestimates.

Monday, May 04, 2015

More on APS statement on climate change

The APS is soliciting comments by its members on a draft statement on climate change, following up their 2007 statement.

The current draft has three sections: On Climate Change, On Climate Science, and On Climate Action. Eli has written earlier about the near-kidnapping of the process by a subcommittee stacked with several climate change deniers. Here is the draft of my suggestions. The draft was reduced in length to match APS's 3500-character limitation.
Suggestions for APS statement on climate change

Change the last sentence of the first paragraph (On Climate Change) to read….

The potential consequences of climate change are great: rising temperatures, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and more intense extremes of the hydrological cycle (drought and floods). Some of these consequences of anthropogenic global warming (including melting of the polar ice caps) are happening now, and will become more severe in the future. The policies of the next few decades will determine human influences on the climate for centuries.

On Climate Science

The basic ideas underlying the Greenhouse Effect have been recognized for nearly two centuries. The atmosphere is largely transparent in the visible part of the spectrum, and largely opaque in the infrared part of the spectrum. This fact, combined with the Stefan-Boltzmann law, explains why the Earth is warmer than it would be in the absence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A simple calculation shows that in the absence of greenhouse gases, the earth’s surface temperature would be -18 C, colder than the freezing point of water. Instead, the Earth’s surface is +15 C, which is 33 C warmer. This naturally occurring Greenhouse Effect is a large effect, which has existed ever since the early Earth acquired a greenhouse atmosphere billions of years ago.

Since the industrial revolution two centuries ago, the burning of fossil fuels has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This leads to an anthropogenic enhancement of the greenhouse effect and further warming. The argument is a short and simple one: burning of fossil fuels —> increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide —> enhanced greenhouse effect —> modern anthropogenic global warming.

Modern climate scientists argue about the details, but not about the basic finding; i.e., whether or not anthropogenic global warming is happening at all. A useful analogy is with evolution in biology: Nearly all biologists believe in evolution. Biologists argue about the details of evolution, but not about whether or not evolution is happening at all.

A crucial question is whether or not modern anthropogenic global warming will cause a temperature rise that is large enough to cause a problem. The research, summarized by the IPCC, has asked what temperature rise would result from a doubling of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere compared with preindustrial levels. Estimates center on a temperature rise of 3 C. While this result is calculated by computer modeling, it agrees with estimates using the sensitivity of the earth’s climate, as measured using the empirical data from the Earth’s warming at the end of the ice ages. This enhances confidence in the computer models.

A temperature rise of 3 C will be enough to melt the polar icecaps. Indeed the polar icecaps are starting to melt already.

On Climate Action

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are currently 400 ppm, 43% higher than the preindustrial level of 280 ppm. A level of twice the preindustrial level (560 ppm) will be reached within a few decades if current trends continue. The situation is urgent because increased carbon dioxide concentrations persist in the atmosphere for centuries.

After the current final sentence:

The APS further urges physicists to collaborate with colleagues across disciplines in climate research and to contribute to the public dialogue.

Add the following…
The APS is not acting in isolation, as shown by the 36 science academies from countries or regions around the world that have issued statements accepting global warming.

These include: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, the Caribbean region, China, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, New Zealand, Russia, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

National and international organizations from nearly every field of science have issued statements accepting global warming. No scientific organization (which excludes denier websites and front groups) has issued a statement rejecting the basic findings of human-caused global warming.

The list of over 60 organizations includes: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, American Association of State Climatologists, American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, American Astronomical Society, American Chemical Society, American College of Preventative Medicine, American Geological Institute, American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, American Institute of Biological Scientists, American Institute of Professional Geologists, American Medical Association, American Meteorological Society, American Physical Society, American Public Health Association, American Quaternary Association, American Society for Microbiology, American Statistical Association, Arctic Climate Impact Association, Australian Coral Reef Society, Australian Institute of Physics, Australian Medical Association, Australian Meteorologic and Oceanographic Society, Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, Engineers Australia, European Academy of Sciences and Arts, European Federation of Geologists, European Geosciences Union, European Physical Society, European Science Foundation, Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, Geological Society of America, Geological Society of Australia, Geological Society of London, Institute of Biology (UK), Institute of Professional Engineers (NZ), InterAcademy Council, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, International Association for Great Lakes Research, International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, International Council on Science, International Union for Quaternary Research, International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, National Center for Atmospheric Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Research Council, Network of African Science Academies, Pew Center on Climate Change, Polish Academy of Sciences, Royal Meteorological Society (UK), Royal Society of New Zealand, Society of American Foresters, State of the Canadian Cryosphere, The Wildlife Society (International), Union of Concerned Scientists, US Geological Survey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Woods Hole Research Center, World Federation of Public Health Associations, World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Wildlife Fund.

Reference for the science academies and professional organizations: James Lawrence Powell, The Inquisition of Climate Science, Columbia University Press, New York, 2011, reviewed by me in 2012.

Quadratic Coke

Eli has been spending some time over at Bishop Hill's talking the Salby.  To be honest Frederick Engelbeen has been carrying the load, but Eli has been ducking in now and again.  The issue, of course is whether pCO2, the pressure of CO2 above the oceans follows the temperature (Salby) or drives it (Everybunny sensible).

There are lots of reasons to hold that the Murray is wrong, not only the old standbys, but some new ones, which will be discussed in a following post, but something interesting (to Eli, but Eli is easily amused) about the fizzy coke effect came up, how useful is Henry's law for describing the equilibrium concentration of CO2 above the ocean given the complex equilibrium between CO2 in the gas phase and in the ocean, and the carbonic acid, H2CO3, the hydrogen carbonate ion, HCO3-, and the carbonate ions CO32-.

Henry's law states that the pressure of CO2 in the gas phase is related to the amount of CO2 dissolved in the liquid,

pCO2 = k[CO2(aq)]

For most purposes, e.g. physical chemistry classes, k is treated as a constant.  Not a bad approximation, but really is a function of temperature, T, and in the oceans, the salinity, S

k= exp [-60.2409 + 9345/T + 23.3585 log(T/100)]
 + S [0.023517 - 0.00023656 T + 0.0047036 (T/100)2]
Fortunately, there is an app for that, which includes the nice figure to the right, the R code for the calculation and the applet, and a discussion of the chemistry involved with pointers to the original articles.

For this Eli has to thank Scott Denning at Colorado State and his group.

Runing the calculation at fixed alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon over a range of temperature more or less representative of what is found in the oceans shows that pCO2 varies pretty close to quadratically with temperature

Both the Henry's law constant, k, and the  [CO2(aq)]/[HCO3-(aq)] equilibrium ratio change quadratically with temperature over the same range.  As a practical matter, 
pCO2(T) = k(T)[CO2(aq)](T) 
where all three terms are quadratic functions of temperature (ok, well approximated as quadratic functions, but R2  >  .9997 for all three)

The oceans are non-linear fizzy coke.