Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A tiny tear for the coal lobbyists

Politico reports that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is doing layoffs:

A leading “clean coal” lobbying shop is cutting half its staff and reorganizing to reflect the U.S. coal industry’s market losses and the industry’s continued financial struggles. The 22-year-old American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity will lay off its chief of staff and also plans to eliminate several middle-management positions. The nonprofit is also seeking to get out of its lease for its downtown Washington office.

“Like many of our members, we are facing tough times that necessitate tough decisions on how best to effectively operate,” the group’s CEO, Michael Duncan, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement Monday morning to POLITICO. Duncan will retain his job at ACCCE, which will see its staff shrink to about eight “senior leaders.” “While leaner, this team will continue to execute strategic advocacy efforts ensuring that affordable, reliable coal-based electricity supplies America’s power for generations to come,” Duncan said. The most senior position to be eliminated is ACCCE chief of staff Robert Paduchik, who will leave at the end of the year.

My guess is the judges presiding over recent coal bankruptcies have decided the lobbyists can be cut loose, but Politico also mentions that some coal-affiliated organizations have become less coal-affiliated and dropped out of the Coalition.

Certainly couldn't happen at a better time. Their ability to screw up the 2016 elections in favor of massive coal pollution will be reduced, this subsidized industry will shrink, and a virtuous cycle will continue.

There's also the question of how effective ACCCE will be - seems like it might now consist of interns, receptionists, and VIPs who don't know the nuts and bolts of how things happen. I went and looked up their Form 990s, most recent is 2013. Revenue $21M, expenses $2M less, asset balance of $3.7M. Their budget in 2012 and 2011 was twice as big, suggesting some long-term struggles.

A far-thinking lobbying leader of a declining industry might build up the assets as much as one could while paying considerable salaries, and then continue to pay considerable salaries for the most senior leaders until the money runs out. Then turn the organization keys over to a recently-graduated, former intern.

Here's a snapshot from 2013:

Not a bad salary for Mr. Duncan, but I'm sure the workers in the mines and in the unemployment lines are glad for the top-notch representation.

We'll see how things play out in 2015 and 2016, although it'll be a few years before we get to see the goods.

Ending for your amusement with their own brief description of ACCCE's mission:  "ADVOCATE PUBLIC POLICIES THAT ADVANCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENT, ENERGY PROSPERITY, & ENERGY SECURITY".  Right there on page 1 - how can you argue with that, warmists?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Eli Explains It All

So the Associated Press has decided that in their style climate skeptics are not skeptical at all, but mistaken.  They recommend referring to them as those who reject climate science or doubters.  Lots of Eli's friends and neighbors have been talking about this.  Victor Venema has a good thumb sucker. Thoughtful, kind, considerate.  In other words not necessarily Eli's sort of thing

Peter Sinclair also comments, and links to an interview Bob Garfield of NPR conducted with Seth Borenstein of the AP.  The problem of what to call people who do not accept scientific evidence is not limited to climate science.  One can toss evolution, vaccination, GMOs onto the barbie.

Dave Roberts has a useful take on this

Personally, I like the term "climate truthers," which better captures the flavor of the thing. It's not like "those who reject mainstream climate science" all have the same story about why they reject it. There are dozens of varieties of counter-theories, as many as there are theories about Kennedy's assassination. What unites them all is a conviction that the official story can't be right, that it's covering for a nefarious agenda, that the truth is out there.
To borrow some words from Jonathan Chait if you dig deeply into any of these you find a tangle of denial and cant undergirding an unshakable commitment to voodoo.  In that spirit, Eli would like to undertake (wonderful word usage there) a short journey into the taxonomy of denial.

In the deppest level there dwell the rejectionists, the folks who know the science, even continue to publish about the science, but completely reject it.  Characters like, well like our second-most current Republican candidate for President, the good Dr. Carson. Usually this rejection has religious or political roots (Hi Dr. Roy), but rejection it is.

Above them are the deniers.  The don't need a reason, they just deny.  They will, of course, accept any silly reason you give them, and they even on occasion try and act out some science.  Here, of course we have the bloggers, Willard Tony Watts, Andrew Montford, those fold, and of course, they need the rejectionist to point to for justification,

ADDED:  The bunnies have uncovered another beast, the groundhog.  The groundhog is well known for popping up at a different place or time with the same argument that was torn apart at a different place or time.  Groundhogs suffer from post traumatic argument memory loss syndrome.

ADDED:  Victor V suggests the butterfly who flits from argument to argument saying whatever he things he can just get away with. From playing the luckwarmer here to fundamentalist ice-ageism at Jo Nova.

Somewhat higher in the circle of denial are the luck warmers.  Yes, yes, the science is fine, but we will just pick the lower limit which may, or may not be so bad, and let's all go out and have a drink. Of course, even if you look at their cherry picks things will be pretty awful.

Then there are the doubters.  The problem with the AP recommendation, is that real doubters are, not involved in denial of anything, but just have not been concerned with the problem at hand.  They have doubts because they don't have information, and unless they think the issue will become important to them, they have no desire to really get any information.

Of course, given family, friends and the internet, the information that is most easily available to anybunny is the information in his social circle, and if that circle includes the circles of denial, it is very easy for them to be mislead.  And the Exxons of the world have paid a pretty penny to make sure that misinformation is readily available

There are also skeptics, people who want to look into everything for themselves.  Given enough time real skeptics get to the right place, but it takes time to understand even simple things about complex issues and there are pitchmen with three cards on every corner.

In short are the deniers and the rejecters doubters? If the AP thinks this so, to use a recent tweet Eli has seen (the author is welcome to claim credit),  irony has had its feeding tube removed,  Death is said to be imminent.  Self-awareness is not available for comment.

Today's News From Wolfsburg

Confirming developments in Dieselgate.

For VW, it is indeed a shit storm (perfectly good German word).

First, Bild reports that the German Department of Motor Vehicles has told VW that they have to present a binding plan on how they will fix the emissions problem in the 2.8 million VW diesels on the road in Germany by October 7.  If not, the government will cancel permission for those autos to be operated on the road in Germany.  It is estimated it will cost between 100 to 200 Euro to bring each auto into compliance, but of course, there will likely be a mileage and performance cost.  That will be left to the lawyers.

Second, the Times of London reports that the European Central Bank at this time will accept no further asset backed securities from VW in its quantitative easing bond buying program.  The assets are, of course, credits for car purchases.  The ECB wants to mull over if VW's credit is good enough to keep it in the program.  That will kick the cost of credit for VW toward Greeceland.  The market risk is, as Brian pointed out, larger than anybunny can calculate

Third, the Frankfurther Allgemeine am Sonntag brings word that, in 2011, an engineer had attempted to inform management they had a small problem with illegal software running the diesels that were being sold (these motors were introduced in 2009 and sold until 2014).  This warning was dug out and presented to the VW board on Friday although the FAS did not know who saw the letter and why it was ignored (stay tuned)

Fourth, while Martin Winterkorn remains on the Porsche Board, it is pretty clear that he will not remain long, and moves are afoot to tell him to go blow on a straw if he tries to claim the money due him according to his contract.

Fifth (added Monday) the State's Attorney in Braunschweig (nearest city to Wolfsburg) has opened a case against Martin Winterkorn for dishonestly allowing cars to be sold whose emission records were falsified (hey, its German).  This follows the complaint forwarded to the State's Attorney's office by VW which named no names.

And to all a good night

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dieselgate: Night of the Long Knives

Link to update

As could have been forecast VW tried to cast a few engineers down the well of forgetfulness, just a small group they would have you know, and they have been suspended

Bernd Osterloh, chairman of VW’s work council and a member of the executive committee, said: “A small group has done damage to our company. We need a climate where mistakes are not hidden.  Müller and Osterloh were speaking at a press conference to unveil the new boss of the troubled German carmaker.
Some of the heads were near the top too, with the directors of development (chief engineers) at VW, Audi, Ulrich Hackenberg and Porsche, Wolfgang Hatz being given their leave as well as the VW chief in the US

This alone would be taken with a small dose of salts, but news from California has it that testing there was tightly monitored and controlled by a number of high ups in the VW management team, closely linked to the recently retired CEO Martin Winterkorn.  It looks like the California testing team is leaking early to avoid being pushed in front of the diesel bus

But electron trails extend far today, and Bild am Sonntag (paywall) has a letter to VW from Bosch, the supplier of VWs engine control software and emissions systems, written in 2007 warning VW that it would be illegal to use Bosch's software to control emissions systems in cars that they sold, but that it was given to VW for testing purposes only.

This clears up the question of where the software came from.

What happened is also a bit clearer.  The diesel engines in question were developed in 2006 to improve VWs performance in the US market.  The development team wanted to use the AdBlue system to control NOx emissions which would cost  ~ 300 for each car.  The pencil pushers said no.  Diesels were expensive enough.

At about that time Martin Winterkorn took over at VW which was having a tough time and his job was to control costs.  The original design team was sidetracked.  Hackenberg and Hatz took over, two of the development directors asked to leave yesterday.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nature Prepares to Launch the Black Helicopters

Implicit to any rational scientific understanding of climate change is the certainty that if the world continues on a business as usual course it will get bad, very bad indeed.  Don't Scare the Children Richard Betts reports

For a scenario of high GHG emissions, the earliest time of reaching 4°C above pre-industrial was around 2070, and the latest sometime after 2100. In the most extreme case, 6°C is projected by 2100 although most models do not show this. If feedbacks are stronger or weaker than in those simulations, the timing could be outside these bounds – but evidence for these would need careful examination before we could be confident in this.
He is telling us that not only will it get very, very bad, but it will do so in a very short time, within the lifetime of children born today.  When he says
Finally, even if the world does make major emissions cuts very soon, this will take time to filter through into tangible effects on global warming. There is already more warming in the pipeline which is unavoidable. Therefore anything projected for the next few years is already unavoidable. If “whole swathes” really will become uninhabitable “in a few years” then there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, however urgently we cut emissions.
Dear Dinosaurs, there is nothing you can do, go ahead munching the grass, the asteroid will hit in about 80 years and you will all be dead anyhow.

But what if the dinos could do something, then, of course Richard also has a word of advice
Secondly, if people come to believe that catastrophic impacts are only round the corner, this could lead to wrong decisions made in panic. A lot is being done to make us more resilient to the climate change we’ve already set in motion – new flood defences, plans for reservoirs and water supplies, and so on. But these are expensive, and doing these too early could cost billions. And if people are scared into moving away from their homelands because they think it will be uninhabitable, this would only add to the existing refugee crisis, for no good reason.
In other words:  Dear Dinos: You could do something by recognizing that there is an asteroid on the way, DASA might be able to help, but maybe you would waste a few dino dollars, maybe the initial response would not be perfectly, scientifically perfect.  If you break up the asteroid maybe some chunks might hit the planet.  Wait, and a miracle might occur.

Very EcoModernist.

Nico Stehr in Nature continues their tradition of finding ways to blame scientists for what they are not doing. ATTP discusses this, but IEHO misses the point,
More surprisingly, a similar impatience with the political elite is now also present in the scientific community. Researchers are increasingly concerned that no one is listening to their diagnosis of the dangers of human-induced climate change and its long-lasting consequences, despite the robust scientific consensus. 
True enough, but immediately following is this clanger
As governments continue to fail to take appropriate political action, democracy begins to look to some like an inconvenient form of governance. There is a tendency to want to take decisions out of the hands of politicians and the public, and, given the 'exceptional circumstances', put the decisions into the hands of scientists themselves.
Other than those who can don the Lab Coat of Power, this is a complete strawman.  What scientists fear is that when things get bad, very bad indeed, the response of the world will be to launch the black helicopters.  Pfft, there goes democracy and much else of value, well if you and yours have not previously disappeared in the crush.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The smart politics in Clinton's Keystone decision

So Clinton came out against Keystone:

We shouldn’t be building a pipeline dedicated to moving North America’s dirtiest fuel through our communities — we should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. For too long, the Keystone XL pipeline has been a distraction from the real challenges facing our energy sector — and the job-creating investments that we should be making to meet them. Building a clean, secure, and affordable North American energy future is bigger than Keystone XL or any other single project. That’s what I will focus on as president. 
That’s why today I am announcing a comprehensive strategy to modernize American energy infrastructure and forge a new partnership with Canada and Mexico to combat climate change across the continent....As President, I will immediately launch negotiations with Canada and Mexico to forge a North American Climate Compact that sets strong national targets to cut carbon pollution....

News coverage has been low-key, but some bunnies are giving credit to the Blue Green Alliance between enviros and unions. Dirty-oil types had been trying to split off union support with the promise of some thousands of temporary jobs and room-sized number of permanent jobs from construction and operation of Keystone. Blue Green says there are better and more permanent jobs through infrastructure improvements that Republicans prefer crumbled.

The other interesting-to-me politics is Canadian. I wonder if Hillary wanted Canadian voters to take this into consideration as they consider whether to retain their version of a Bush, that the Keystone bucks maybe aren't going to flow and offering Canadians a chance to do more on climate instead. Election in Canada is a month away, so now's a good time for her to add this information. Unclear what effect it will have, but worth the effort.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Current water policies, not water, limits California population growth

I hear from people with no particular expertise in California water issues that we can't have people keeping on moving to our state, especially to the part of the state where those people live.

And I think that's right, iff we keep the same policies and same current water use patterns. That iff could well be right, changing policies is hard. OTOH, here are three facts:

About 20-25% of California water use is urban, where the vast majority of people live and where the overwhelming majority of population increases are occurring. A majority of that urban water use is for landscaping, either residential or commercial. We could virtually eliminate that use and supplement landscaping with graywater, allowing us to double the urban population with no increase in potable water demand. And if virtually eliminating lawns isn't politically feasible, see point 3.

About 75-80% of water use is agricultural, creating about 2% of California economy. At the simplest level then (okay, simplistic), reducing ag water use by 25% would also allow doubling California's urban population while costing 0.5% of the economic output. Hopefully the farming community will be aware of this and encourage innovative ways to conserve water in both urban and agricultural areas. The economic and political risk is obvious.

Recycled non-potable water, recycled water for drinking, shallow aquifers for non-potable use, and desal of brackish groundwater are all new urban water options that limit the pressure for #2 and the severity of #1. That's not even including ocean desal, which I think is mostly a bad idea, but if we are truly in the worst-case scenario of a 100-year drought then even that could play a role.

Summary:  other developed countries like Australia and Israel have shown compatibility with far lower per-capita water use, and we've got additional technological options for water.

Behind this, I'll lay my own biases on the table:  the US has chosen to support policies for a lot of population growth in this country, with a lot more people having American-sized ecological footprints. Not my choice, but given that, I think California is a good place to put a lot of those people, at least in the Bay Area and coastal SoCal where most of the people will go.* We have a smaller ecological footprint here, and our policies other than the egregiously-bad tax policies are pretty good, so why not here. And it's a nice place.

So that bias might color my conclusion, but the opposite bias is in place for many people who've said water is the reason why things shouldn't change from what they remember things to be.

*Also far north California, Redding and west to the coast where there's lots of water, but few people will end up there. It's in Sacramento and points south and east that you see more typically-destructive patterns of urban growth. Some growth will happen there, but that's not where most people will end up

“No one’s dying because of this." Guess again.

Some more on VW:

1. The headlined, poorly-thought-out quote above may be correct as to human drivers but maybe not as to human air-breathers. Nitrogen oxides cause asthmatic attacks; 3,600 people in the US die annually from those attacks, and far more are hospitalized and otherwise suffer. The 500,000 VW diesel vehicles continue to emit as much NOx as 5 million to 20 million compliant vehicles. And then there's the other 10.5 million other diesels that VW admits are problematic - we don't know yet the scope of the emission problems from them. At this scale of emissions over the last 6 years and continuing, it seems certain that people were injured and quite possible that people were killed by VW's fraud.

In an interesting bit of timing, a food company executive was just sentenced to 28 years in prison for fraudulently releasing salmonella-contaminated peanut butter that ended up killing a number of people. Other top officials also received significant jail time. I'd been thinking about VW in terms of limited criminal penalties under the Clean Air Act, but Mr. Peanut here got hit under good ol' fraud, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice charges.

There's a difference in that it's easy to identify who was harmed by salmonella (some of them, anyway). That people were harmed by VW is certain though, as is the case for Exxon if fraud is eventually proven against it.

2. I can't get over what, if anything, was going on in the collective VW mind after it was contacted in May 2014 by the regulatory agencies asking for an explanation, and why it kept selling fraudulent diesels. Especially, I have trouble imagining their in-house attorneys saying "so I understand we've been intentionally violating a law that carries criminal penalties and you'd like to continue violating it indefinitely, even though the State of California, the EPA, a technologically-sophisticated nonprofit and a university research center all likely suspect what we've done and are one step away from proving it themselves, while we've been lying to them by omission? Sure, go right ahead!" I'd guess their attorneys were only brought in late or had information concealed from them. That doesn't get the rest of the involved staff and the chain of command off the hook, of course.

We haven't heard much about the failed software fix that VW attempted while concealing the real problem. My wild guess is that they tried to defeat the defeat-device software, to conceal what they'd done without anyone the wiser, but it didn't work.

Regardless, I expect these last 18 months to be especially problematic for VW and involve even more people with liability than whoever was originally involved.

3. What I truly don't understand is why no one else suspected this earlier. The European VW diesels performed as well as the American VW diesels, urea injection was not used, but the American diesels had lower emissions. Couldn't a competitor, at least, put it all together? This makes me wonder if there's an 'ethic' against ratting each other out, and wonder what else is out there, at VW or at someone else.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Go to Canada

Greed, in the person of Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceutical, has handed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders a wonderful club to whack the pharma industry with.  Shkreli, candidate for worst person in the world, purchased Turing and Turing bought the exclusive US marketing rights to a drug called Daraprim, which has a number of uses, but not much of a market and upped the price from $13.50 to $750 a tablet.  This is the but the end of the chain.

Daraprim, which is also used to treat malaria, was approved by the F.D.A. in 1953 and has long been made by GlaxoSmithKline. Glaxo sold United States marketing rights to CorePharma in 2010. Last year, Impax Laboratories agreed to buy Core and affiliated companies for $700 million. In August, Impax sold Daraprim to Turing for $55 million, a deal announced the same day Turing said it had raised $90 million from Mr. Shkreli and other investors in its first round of financing.
Since this broke Shkreli has been bragging about what a clever bunny he is and how everybunny else can, well, think of what David Cameron asked his local pig's head to do.

Daraprim is a small molecule that is used for treating toxoplasmosis and other parasitical infections. It is given to people with HIV and to pregnant women in areas subject to malaria.  To understand what happened a good place to start is Derek Lowe's blog at Science Translational Medicine.  For certain drugs where the supply is thin, pharma companies can get an exclusive marketing right for a few years
By various means, old generic compounds have ended up as protected species, and several companies have made it their business to take advantage of these situations to the maximum extent possible. The FDA grants market exclusivity to companies that are willing to take “grandfathered” compounds into compliance with their current regulatory framework, and that’s led to some ridiculous situations with drugs like colchicine and progesterone . (Perhaps the worst example is a company that’s using this technique to get ahold of a drug that’s currently being provided at no charge whatsoever. There are also loopholes that companies are trying to exploit when competitors try to prove generic equivalence: whatever it takes to keep competition away and get unlimited pricing power.
Shkreli is just the latest to push the envelope, but this has popped into the political arena and he is going to have an interesting time.

Daraprim remains available worldwide, both from Glaxo Smith Kline and generic source.  The FDA policy towards drug importation is, well yes, not allowed, but we have enough to do and if you want to go to Canada and pick up a 90 day supply FDA will not hassle you.  However, not everybunny can go to Canada or where ever.

A friend of Eli's had an interesting idea.  FDA could send a letter to the manufacturing pharmacists in the US saying that if they want to source Daraprim FDA won't bother them.

The Mother of All Patches

According to the German press VW now says that 11 million autos are involved which means every damn diesel they sold in the last six years, not only in the US.

Now, Eli is not a lawyer, Brian is, he ducked out for a cup of coffee tho, however if they could have met the emission standards without cheating they would have, which means VW is looking at replacing or paying for 11 million cars worldwide + fines.  The Rabett understands that VfL Wolfsburg will be selling off some players in the winter.

Something additional.  The VW CEO,  Martin Winterkorn recently won a struggle for control with the then Chair of the Supervisory Board, Ferdinand Piech, a member of the Porsche family who still own a large share of the company.  To understand VW, one also has to realize that another large share of the company is owned by the State of Lower Saxony.  Piech was unhappy with the progress Winterkorn had made in the US market, which brings a certain irony to what is happening.

On top of everything, a special session of the board had been called for Friday to extend Winterkorn's contract, but Eli would recommend him staying away from any open windows

MoreBrad Plummer at Vox has a useful description of how the cheating was done

The problem was only uncovered by an independent group, the International Council on Clean Transportation, which wanted to investigate why there was such a discrepancy between laboratory tests and real-road performance for several of VW's diesel cars in Europe. So they worked with researchers at West Virginia University, who stuck a probe up the exhaust pipe of VW's clean diesel cars and drove them from San Diego to Seattle.

What the researchers found was shocking. On the road, VW's Jetta was emitting 15 to 35 times as much nitrogen oxide as the allowable limit. The VW Passat was emitting 5 to 20 times as much. These cars were emitting much more pollution than they had in the labs.

In May 2014, both California's air-pollution regulator and the EPA ordered Volkswagen to investigate and fix the problem, and the company claimed that it had done so. Once again, the cars performed well in testing, but real-world performance still didn't match up. At that point, EPA regulators really started grilling Volkswagen about the discrepancy, even threatening not to approve the company's 2016 line of clean diesel cars. VW finally cracked and admitted the existence of these defeat devices, which had been carefully hidden in the software code. Scandal ensued.
Note how this fits in with the Piech/Winterkorn blow up at VW.  Winterkorn knew what thin ice he was on and deceived the board.  If they had known at the time it is likely that he would have been the one falling over the edge.

Monday, September 21, 2015

German Software Engineering

Do you trust your car's computer Eli asks

The announcement that VW had incorporated software in it's diesels, that turned the emissions system on when it was being tested and off at all other times has, well, think electric fan and moving manure. 

It has been well known for a long time that the manufacturers' test results for mileage and emissions were a lot better than independent labs or on the street tests, and that the various responsible agencies in the US and Europe turned the other way rather than looking at this issue in detail.

Within a few days it will be clear or at least clearer how far the scandal extends, to other manufacturers, and to other types of engines.  Will BMW and Mercedes try and toss VW under the bus?  Will this reach US, Japanese and Korean manufacturers.

A related question is that after this scandal will the manufacturers be able to continue protecting their computer code under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.  The bad faith that VW showed its customers and the regulators is going to make that very hard to defend.

vvats up with VW

Fraud is up with VW. In a sentence, the company designed pollution emission-control software to defeat testing by only working properly during testing, and otherwise not work to the same extent:

The Notice of Violation is here. As the NOV states, defeat devices are expressly outlawed. The letter also says VW was required to list all the emission devices on the car, so failure to list this software appears to be a deliberate omission. Another fun fact from page 4 of the NOV - even after being caught by outside experts with excess emissions, VW refused to admit what it had done until it learned that Californian and the EPA were about to disallow sale of 2016 models. The reason for disallowing is that the agencies had no way of knowing the 2016 models wouldn't also fail, until VW then admitted what it had done with prior year models. Media reports that VW admitted its action after being caught are actually making the company look better than it was. I'm also curious about the delayed public response by the company, and wonder if there's more out there where they haven't yet been caught.

American environmental law allows for criminal penalties, usually limited to when someone intentionally committed the illegal act, and sometimes further limited to when someone intentionally committed the illegal act with the knowledge that it was illegal. Either way, multiple people should be in trouble at VW. A list of criminal provisions under the Clean Air Act are here:  false statements, tampering with a monitoring method, and knowing failure to report at a minimum seem applicable. The NOV, sadly, doesn't say anything about potential criminal penalties. Hopefully that's still to come, and not just symbolic criminal prosecution of the company but of the actual people involved.

Regardless, as the first link shows, there will be lawsuits by the public.

So, differences from Exxon's early knowledge of climate change? The scientific elite knew what Exxon knew in the 1970s and 80s, so that's different, but that doesn't matter a whole lot. Fraud is still fraud even if the defendant argues the victim should've been able to figure out the truth.

The more pertinent difference is that Exxon funded other organizations that said things Exxon knew were untrue, while VW has just been doing the untrue acts directly. Tying Exxon's responsibility to the denialist statements by organizations it funded would take a little more work. More on this later.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Turn Out the Lights

they say that all strange things must end.  

With Pope Francis traveling to the US, the cafeteria Catholics in the Tea Party are having a tough time, not only with his encyclical Laudato Si, but with a whole heap of stuff.  None more so than Congresscritter Paul Gosar who let lose with both barrels in a Townhall.com post.  Townhall is a hangout for the extreme right in the US.  The equivalent on the other side might be something like Daily Kos.  Nothing really special about his post, a standard misreading of Pope Francis.  Nothing bunnies could not read at Bishophill and so forth.  Congressman Gosar will boycott the Pope's speech to the US Congress,
So at this pivotal moment in world history, His Holiness, Pope Francis, is intending to spend the majority of his time on one of the world’s greatest stages focusing on climate change. I have both a moral obligation and leadership responsibility to call out leaders, regardless of their titles, who ignore Christian persecution and fail to embrace opportunities to advocate for religious freedom and the sanctity of human life. If the Pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate change policies, then I will not attend. It is my hope that Pope Francis realizes his time is better spent focusing on matters like religious tolerance and the sanctity of all life. As the leader of the Catholic Church, and as a powerful voice for peace throughout the world, His Holiness has a real opportunity to change the climate of slaughter in the Middle East… not the fool’s errand of climate change.
That dear readers is not the fun part,  The fun part was the voting on Gosar's bleatings.

Wow              5
Important      12 
Insane           30
Ridiculous     64
Surprising       0
Awesome     41
Smart             5

This is from the heart of the beast.  Even Richard Tol could not spin this one.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Exxon Knew and When

UPDATE:  Part 2 is now available

A few days ago Eli pointed out that the damaging "Secret Science" was what commercial research had uncovered and then covered up.  Obvious examples were tobacco and pharma, and the Rabett speculated what the fossil fuel industry had done.  At about the same time MT, in a guest post at ATTP (whatsamatter Mike, Eli not good enough for you?) concluded that it was not possible to construct a climate model that did not lead to significant global warming from increased greenhouse gas emissions, because if it was, the Exxon's of the world would have done so and shouted the results from the tree tops.

Today, Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer at Inside Climate News, lift the veil and detail exactly what Exxon knew (a lot), when they knew it, (by 1980 or so) and when they started the cover-up funding climate change denial (late 1980s).

The interesting question that remains is that since they did not disclose their knowledge to shareholders, will some lawyers get rich?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pattern Recognition in Physics Gets a Shrink

Some of the bunnies may remember (and it was only two years ago, which shows something or other) Pattern Recognition in Physics, and attempt of the dowsers to get their own journal, the first and only issue of which folded because, well, it did not meet standards.
Pattern Recognition in Physics in March 2013. The journal idea was brought to Copernicus' attention and was taken rather critically in the beginning, since the designated Editors-in-Chief were mentioned in the context of the debates of climate skeptics. However, the initiators asserted that the aim of the journal was to publish articles about patterns recognized in the full spectrum of physical disciplines rather than to focus on climate-research-related topics.  
In addition, the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing and not in accordance with our publication ethics we expect to be followed by the editors.  
Therefore, we at Copernicus Publications wish to distance ourselves from the apparent misuse of the originally agreed aims & scope of the journal as well as the malpractice regarding the review process, and decided on 17 January 2014 to cease the publication of PRP. Of course, scientific dispute is controversial and should allow contradictory opinions which can then be discussed within the scientific community. However, the recent developments including the expressed implications (see above) have led us to this drastic decision.
Of course, PRP had an all start cast, Nils Axel Mörner, Nicola Scaffetta, Tallbloke and more, and they were not about ready to take this lying down, they were going to continue publishing on their own.  That lasted about a week, although the web site still exists.

So today, creeping into Eli's Twitter feed comes Hetrodox Academy, a web site dedicated to giving the whiners a voice in social psychology, because, you know, everyone gets to waste other people's time.  Well, Jose Duarte is there and Judith Curry is there and Steven Pinker is there, but what this is, is a cry for attention, another damn National Academy of Scholars.

This is the full Donald Trump comb over.  Adam Gopnik, writing in the New Yorker today sums it up so well, that all Eli has to do is make minor changes to express the attitude of the Hetrodox Academy at appropriate places
The outsiders are swamping us, and the insiders are mocking us—this ideology alters its local color as circumstances change, but the essential core is always there.  They look down on us and they have no right to look down on us.   
Indeed, the politics of Jose Duarte, far from being in any way new, are  exactly the politics of Huck Finn’s drunken father in “Huckleberry Finn”: “Call this a science! Just look at it and see what it’s like . . . . A man can’t get his rights in a field like this.” Widespread dissatisfaction with all in the profession, a certainty of having been “sold out,” a feeling of complete alienation

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Heat over California

Hot few days until recently in this part of California, maybe a good match for what's happening on climate issues in the state.

Two steps forward, one step not taken:  SB 350 passed both houses (and will get signed by the Governor), minus one of its star attractions, a proposed 50% cut in petroleum use by 2030. On the one hand, it's disappointing that even in a state this blue, the oil industry could throw enough clout and lies around to win. No, you don't need gas rationing - just increasing mileage standards could do most of the work, with EVs, PHEVs, and alternatives to cars doing the rest. Still they came close to getting the provision, they can try again next year, and the other two provisions mandating 50% increase in building efficiency and 50% renewable power by 2030 are moving forward. I'm happier about this outcome than many other enviros

One step not taken:  SB 32 which would've update the main California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (then numbered AB 32), didn't have the votes to pass and is being delayed to next year. California's main environmental procedure law requiring environmental analysis on projects that could have significant impacts (CEQA), has been under attack for years. SB 32 would require 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and CEQA opponents are claiming that near term projects would be tied up in knots under CEQA because they couldn't show how they would lead to an 80% GHG reduction. This is of course nonsense - California has regional planning. If a region develops an adequate regional plan that complies with SB 32 goals, then development not in violation of the plan will not have CEQA problems. I think CEQA opponents know this, but are really just doing some hostage taking. We'll see how it plays out next year.

A great step forward:  AB 185 passed, and hopefully will get Governor's signature, requiring divestment of state pension funds from coal stocks. First state in the country to do this, and it won't be the last, with other states having bills pending. Many kudos to RL Miller for working on this through the California Democratic Party.

Also the massive University of California system has sold its coal and oil sand stocks. While not an official divestment policy, I think the writing is clear enough. Hopefully it's an expansion of the divestment effort whereby if an institution divests short of all fossil fuels, it doesn't just stop with coal but with oil sands as well.

Finally, the California Academy of Sciences will not accept fossil-fuel funding, another step in delegitimizing the fossil fuel politics. To state the obvious, it's the politics and the current level of overuse of fossil fuels that's the problem, not the use of any fossil fuels at all. These steps help correct the real problem.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Troll Needs a New Bridge

To start at the middle, Daniel Sarewitz had a rather confused, but typical, thumb sucker in Nature (Similar but wrong link:  This is the one that Eli should have used)which Gavin Schmidt got in one tweet:

Sarewitz's hook is the recent failed attempts to replicate a number of psychology studies especially in concert with the glam mags (Science, Nature, Cell) pursuit of the novel.  That is a valid issue, and it raises troublesome questions:
As the spotlight shines on reproducibility, uncomfortable issues will emerge at the interface of research and 'evidence-based' policy.
But there are strawmen to build, and Sarewitz quickly passes over to the Republican attempt to limit the EPA
Consider, for example, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, a US bill that would “prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible”.
This is pretty universally acknowledged as another attempt to hamstring the EPA but it is a platform for DS to talk about the difficulty of reproducing large surveys
Replication of the sort that can be done with tightly controlled laboratory experiments is indeed often impossible when you are studying the behaviour of dynamic, complex systems, for example at the intersection of human health, the natural environment and technological risks. But it is hard to see how this amounts to an argument against mandating open access to the data from these studies. 
Growing concerns about the quality of published scientific results have often singled out bad statistical practices and modelling assumptions, and have typically focused on the very types of science that often underlie regulations, such as efforts to quantify the population-wide health effects of a single chemical.
I other words the problem is bad studies, bad scientists.  That the funding agencies have instituted mandatory data sharing and maintenance plans appears to have, well, not been discussed.

But there is something more concerning here that Eli sought to bring to the reader's attention (slightly edited):
One wonders which bridge Daniel Sarewitz is playing troll under. One of the scandals of the last century, brought to light in the master tobacco settlement, was the suppression of their own data by the tobacco industry. Of course, the tobacco industry also demanded that FDA and EPA only use "public" and "statistically significant "data in their rule making. There is strong evidence that many studies about pharmaceuticals have not been made fully public by the pharmaceutical industry and reasonable suspicion that similar chicanery has occurred with studies undertaken by industry with respect to fossil fuel extraction and usage.

Still, Prof. Sarewitz uses a study of replication of psychology experiments  as a strawman to support an attack on the EPA and its use of scientific results. He generalizes to an overarching conclusion on science placing the blame squarely on scientists.

Perhaps Prof. Sarewitz might poke his head from out under the bridge?
However, beyond troll baiting there is a serious point.  We know of how industries on both sides of the GMO bridge are funding academic scientists to advocate for them.  We know how tobacco has funded scientists and economists to push their POV on legislation and how this information was kept secret.

The problem is not public science, but private science.  Think you are going to read about that in Nature bunnies?

(Added:Thanks to EFS for pointing out the wrong link.  OTOH the fact that both are strumming the same guitar is a useful piece of information)

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Well it's one solution: go marry a climate denialist

Interesting article from a man married to an anti-vaxxer. It reminds me a little about studies showing that a prejudiced people need intense contact with the members of the group they're biased against before eliminating their prejudice; casual contact can be counterproductive.

In the case of the article, overcoming bias was a two-way street, with the author having to abandon his (lazy) belief that anti-vaxxers were just uninformed and stupid. He ascribes his wife's viewpoint to casual and highly negative contact with conventional medicine creating a fear of vaccines. He also mentions her affiliation to her sister, whose professional career is naturopathy (there really is something to the whole Dan Kahan/cultural cognition thing; it's just too bad he exaggerates it so much).

In the author's case, it took years of conversation before his wife finally let her daughter get vaccinated, but it did work. Single people out there who believe in science, you now know what to do.

Or short of that, some empathy for those who only sip at the cup of denialism, while laughter may be more appropriate for those who wallow and profit from it.

ELI:  Perhaps the bunnies might send a delegation to Peter Webster and ask how that has turned out?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Go Read

John Chait in New York Magazine, has a thumb sucker balancing between glory and despair about the upcoming Paris conference

For human to wean ourselves off carbon-emitting fossil fuel, we will have to use some combination of edict and invention — there is no other plausible way around it. The task before the world is best envisioned not as a singular event but as two distinct but interrelated revolutions, one in political willpower and the other in technological innovation. It has taken a long time for each to materialize, in part because the absence of one has compounded the difficulty of the other. It is extremely hard to force a shift to clean energy when dirty energy is much cheaper, and it is extremely hard to achieve economies of scale in new energy technologies when the political system has not yet nudged you to do so.
This, and the displacement of harm in space and time of course make climate change the perfect moral storm as Richard Gardiner (echoed by Rabett Run) have been pointing out for many years.  But there is reason for some hope
And yet, if you formed a viewpoint about the cost effectiveness of green energy a generation ago (when, for instance, Ronald Reagan tore the costly solar panels installed by his predecessor off the White House roof), or even just a few years ago, your beliefs are out of date. That technological revolution is well under way.
The falling price of solar and wind have beat Moore's Law as applied to renewables, with the cost of installed solar now below $0.50 US per Watt, and, of course, the coal industry, the savior of the Breakthrough Institute/Lomborgian dystopia, has fallen into the toilet.
For most of the 1.3 billion people globally without access to electricity, building new solar power is already cheaper than fossil-fuel generation. And so, the possibility has come into view that, just as the developing world is skipping landlines and moving straight into cellular communication, it will forgo the dirty-energy path and follow a clean one. The global poor can create a future of economic growth for themselves without burning the world.

That is the achievable — truly achievable! — task now before the world as its leaders gather in Paris. For the first time, countries are negotiating an agreement while both revolutions, political and technological, are under way and mutually reinforcing. The plummeting financial cost of renewable energy has decreased the political cost for leaders of the developing world. 
Of course, Americans have to deal with the dysfunction of the Republican party on climate change.

Eli suggests the bunnies read the article and leave some droppings in the comments.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Three Minute El Nino for Mom

Nicolas Klingaman and Ed Hawkins from U Reading help Channel 4 news explain El Nino in three minutes.  

Richard Betts Puts the Frighteners on Eli

As somebunnies may or may not be aware, Emma Thompson had some things to say about the threat of the changing climate a few days ago.  In talking about Shell's drilling and particularly their drilling in the Arctic:

They continue without cessation, to extract and they continue their plans to drill in the Arctic. They have plans to drill until 2030 and if they take out of the earth all the oil they want to take out, you look at the science, our temperature will run 4 degrees Celcius by 2030 and that is not sustainable.
This lit Richard Bett's torch.  Betts was inflamed with this "non scientific" claim and Prof. Betts took to the twitter.  Eli trusts the smart readers here can find the tweets, but what this post is about is one of the first
Now Eli is not going to get involved about whether ET was talking about a committed rise to 4C by 2030, or an actual rise, of what the people she talked with were talking about.  Gavin pretty much summed that part up
and Eli had a few things to say along that line.  Eli and Gavin were not pleased by Richard Betts' tweeting, and perhaps in response, he posted some remarks on Facebook September 4:
If global greenhouse gas emissions do not begin to decline in the next few years, the chances are that global warming will exceed the 2°C “guardrail” that the EU and UN aim to stay below. HELIX is researching the impacts of higher warming levels, specifically 4°C and 6°C. What would a 4°C or 6°C world look like, and when could these be reached?

If the world does warm by 4°C, this can be expected to have profound implications. Previous research shows that some areas could get a lot drier, while others a lot wetter. Many places will warm by more than 4°C, and indeed we’d expect more of the major heatwaves such as that which caused many deaths in India this summer. Also of course we’d be locked in to ongoing sea level rise due to melting ice and swelling of warming ocean waters.
Emissions are growing along a high pathway, as high or higher than the ones Betts and co-authors considered
For a scenario of high GHG emissions, the earliest time of reaching 4°C above pre-industrial was around 2070, and the latest sometime after 2100. In the most extreme case, 6°C is projected by 2100 although most models do not show this. If feedbacks are stronger or weaker than in those simulations, the timing could be outside these bounds – but evidence for these would need careful examination before we could be confident in this.
Richard Betts worries that Emma Thompson is crying wolf.  Eli would point out Richard Alley's remarks on such
You have now had a discussion or a debate here between people who are giving you the blue one and people giving you the green one. This is certainly not both sides. If you want both sides, we would have to have somebody in here screaming a conniption fit on the red end, because you are hearing a very optimistic side
Strangely though he is most concerned about premature concern with climate disasters to be
Secondly, if people come to believe that catastrophic impacts are only round the corner, this could lead to wrong decisions made in panic. A lot is being done to make us more resilient to the climate change we’ve already set in motion – new flood defences, plans for reservoirs and water supplies, and so on. But these are expensive, and doing these too early could cost billions. And if people are scared into moving away from their homelands because they think it will be uninhabitable, this would only add to the existing refugee crisis, for no good reason.
This is absolute and dangerous nonsense.  The people who are going to be pushed out of their homes by climate change are almost all very poor, and are not going to start moving until they start dying.

POSTSCRIPT:  Anybunny who thinks they can move a billion or more people in a few decades is sipping some interesting stuff (AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN

The deadly temperature rise is going to be a committed temperature rise decades before they reach full effect. The most likely scenario are hot summers in the Ganges and Indus valleys which reach or approach the wet bulb temperature limit for survival.  This is already close to happening.

Sherwood and Huber who were the first to write on the wet bulb temperature limit wrt climate change said
We conclude that a global-mean warming of roughly 7 °C would create small zones where metabolic heat dissipation would for the first time become impossible, calling into question their suitability for human habitation. A warming of 11–12 °C would expand these zones to encompass most of today’s human population. This likely overestimates what could practically be tolerated:
One of the bunnies back in 2010 added
It's the creeping statistical hints between the lines of this paper that really bother me. Long before or even if we never see broad areas permanently enter a existentially threatening torrid regime, what about excursions? For instance, Pakistan this year has seen record temperatures approaching 54 degrees C in places where many people live, fortunately with lower humidity and only for handful of days but what about when/if such aberrations extend to a handful of weeks and are accompanied by inexorably increasing humidity? The resulting disaster would cause migrations. The worst-case scenario in Sherwood and Huber would not have to happen before we effectively lose major swathes of territory for year-round habitability.
What is scary is that Richard Betts thinks that 4 C by 2060 is possible, and by ~2100 inevitable on current emissions.  We are now 1 C from pre-industrial.  Richard Betts thinks we are going to triple that in 85 years.  There is a chance the globe will warm to 6 C by then.  Richard Betts says stay calm and carry on.  That is not very good advice.

Among the things that Thompson has said is that she would rather die than see another Spiderman movie.  Kumbaiya my bunnies Kumbaiya

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

If the Foo Shits

Stefan Rahmstorf has been having fun analyzing Bjorn Lomborg's scientific publication record.  Stefan has not been impressed, 20 publications, 54 total citations and an h index of 3 using the Thompson Reuters Web of Science.  Eli gets about the same with Elsevier's Scopus data base.  Both WoS and Scopus only look at articles published in peer reviewed journals, so popular pot boilers like Lomborg's Sceptical Environmentalist are not tracked.

For giggles Eli went and looked up Chris Monckton's record.  Chris has been bragging on how he is " the author of numerous peer-reviewed papers on climate change" in the Augusta Free Press.  That Chris writes a lot on climate change and other things like miracle cures for everything is not under question.  How much of it appears in the peer reviewed scientific literature is another.  The answer is not a drop, or maybe one.  Here is the Scopus report.
Legates, D.R., Soon, W., Briggs, W.M., Monckton of Brenchley, C. Climate Consensus and 'Misinformation': A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change (2013) Science and Education, pp. 1-20. Article in Press. Cited 1 time. DOCUMENT TYPE: Article in Press SOURCE: Scopus  
Monckton Brenchley, C. Global Brightening and Climate Sensitivity (2011) Evidence-Based Climate Science, pp. 317-333.  DOCUMENT TYPE: Book Chapter SOURCE: Scopus  
Monckton, C.W. Free speech about climate change (2007) Society, 44 (4), pp. 14-17.  DOCUMENT TYPE: Note SOURCE: Scopus  
Sawyer, N.E., Monckton, C.W. 'Shoe-fit' a computerised shoe print database (1995) IEE Conference Publication, (408), pp. 86-89.  
One cite Chris.  Oh Foo