Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Ethical Depravity of Wishing Coal and Oil on the Poor

Today being Boxing Day observed or maybe later, Eli brings the gift of ethical behavior to his coal tarred friends who remain not in this century but the one passed a hundred years ago, who demand the rest of us remember the poors by giving them the Gift (german usage) of coal.

Yet this is a tactic which reality has passed by, as solar and wind costs rapidly descend today to roughly the price of gas and below.

The perfect storm for oil and gas is the oversupply, to which the investment in renewables is providing additional pressure
Oil and gas woes are driven less by renewables than by a mismatch of too much supply and too little demand. But with renewable energy expanding at record rates and with more efficient cars—including all-electric vehicles—siphoning off oil profits at the margins, the fossil-fuel insolvency zone is only going to get more crowded, according to BNEF. Natural gas will still be needed for when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing, but even that will change as utility-scale batteries grow cheaper.  
Eli has quite enjoyed pointing out to the smug and self satisfied that you really have to hate the poor to condemn them to using expensive and unreliable coal and oil for power and heating.  In the poorest regions coal and oil are unreliable because supply chains are fragile and transportation expensive.  In the developed world fossil fuels are unreliable because of political game playing, as Europe which depends on Russia for gas often finds out

As a tactic crocodile tears for the poor depended on those of us who understand the threat of climate change, or indeed anything, having some regard for the less well off and offering a hand because of the costs.  Of course, if one says well, we can help the poor, those in denial say, not us boss.  Today with solar and wind costing less than fossil fuels the situation has changed for the less expensive renewables

As Tom Peterson put it, we are in a modern age
Eli has pointed out telephone poles cost money and so do fossil fuels.  Fossil fuels are an evil habit that drains the wallets of the poor.  In isolated villages lighting is provided by kerosene lamps, and kerosene costs money, a significant amount for billions of poor villagers in Africa and Asia and Latin America

Transportation into rural areas adds significantly to the cost.  On the other hand sunlight doesn't, which makes the payback time for a solar lantern that is much brighter than the kerosene lamp shorter.  Moreover, kerosene lamps  impose a health cost, solar lamps do not and after the payback time it is all solar lagniappe.

The situation with coal is even worse.  Dirtier, heavier to carry and leaving a poisonous ash behind, to demand that the poor use coal to satisfy the political wishes of the fat and happy deniers of human progress in the developed world is, well what you expect from the fat and happy deniers of human progress in the developed world.

Given the short payback time (8 months and falling) microloans, donations and real charity not fake politically driven croc tears can contribute to lighting the remaining dark corners of the world.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

When the North Pole Melts

Photo by William Yu
Eli, being an elf, or at least a bunny of good cheer would want to brighten your evening, when Santa is able to load up the sleigh and head for the chimneys.

When the young bunnies can look up in the sky and see the sleigh tracks.  When the ice is strong enough and there is enough of it that the Christmas adventure can begin.

But sadly things do not look very promising and the workshop will have to relocate soon. This is not a surprise.  Eli has been shouting pay attention for a couple of decades, but others predate even his awareness.

Back in 1988, the EPA Chorus recorded "When the North Pole Melts".  Yes sir, global warming was an obvious threat even then.

To hear the chorus click here

When the North Pole Starts to Melt?
What is gonna happen to his little elves?
Will they be too busy swimming to make the toys?
And what will Santa do?
If the North Pole melts too fast
Is this Christmas gonna be his last?
What will parents have to tell their girls and bays?

I used to snowski at Christmas time
But now I ski on a lake.
Scandinavia's now growing lemons and limes
And Quebec has rattlesnakes.
The Sahara desert now has grown
To the entire Continent.
But you do not have to lose your home:
Just trust the government!
But What Will Santa Do. . . . .

You may not believe my story because the ending's not very nice,
You may not believe in Santa Claus.
You may not believe in Christ,
But if you don't believe this warning
'Bout the climate and the ozone hole:
Look under your tree one Christmas morning
All you'll see are lumps of coal.
And that's what Santa will do

Well the world took care of the ozone problem, and tho the situation looks bleak politically about climate change, the elves of Zurich (the gnomes better cousins) are working that problem.  Eli will have something to say about that matter tomorrow

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas Gifts for Michael Mann and Rich Lowrey

Lumps of coal for Mark Steyn and Rand Simberg send the elves from the DC Court of Appeals in a decision handed down today.  Of course, as everybunny knows the elves work long and hard, this little sack having taken more than two years after the hearing on November 25 2014 which Eli reported on and which other may need a refresher course.

As the articles that form the basis of Dr. Mann’s complaint make clear, appellants and Mr. Steyn are deeply invested in one side of the global warming debate that is opposed to the view supported by Dr. Mann’s research. Although animus against Dr. Mann and his research is by itself insufficient to support a finding of actual malice where First Amendment rights are implicated, bias providing a motive to defame by making a false statement may be a relevant consideration in evaluating other evidence to determine whether a statement was made with reckless disregard for its truth.
Concluding therefore that
We, therefore, affirm the trial court’s denial of the special motions to dismiss the defamation claims based on those articles and remand the case for additional proceedings in the trial court with respect to these claims.  We reverse the trial court’s denial of the special motions to dismiss with respect to Dr. Mann’s defamation claims based on Mr. Lowry’s editorial and the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The decision is a mixed bag for both sides  given the SLAPP law allowing costs for decisions of motions to dismiss against the losing side.  The DCCoA on the one side holds that Mann's case against Steyn, Simberg, CEI and National Review can go forward but remanding for dismissal the claims based on Rich Lowry's editorial (essentially saying bring it on to MM) and demanding to see the blood in order to allow Mann's claim of deep emotional distress for being compared to Jerry Sandusky
The complaint alleges that as a result of the defamatory statements “besmirching Dr. Mann’s reputation and comparing him to a convicted child molester,” Dr. Mann has suffered “extreme emotional distress,” “mental anguish,” and “personal humiliation.” From the statement itself, a jury could infer that the comparison to Sandusky was particularly hurtful. Dr. Mann’s requests for an apology and retraction, and his undertaking this litigation, would allow a jury to infer that he was so deeply aggrieved that he deemed it necessary to restore his public reputation. Dr. Mann has presented no evidence, however, that his understandable consternation met the high bar of “severe emotional distress,” which requires a showing beyond mere “mental anguish and stress” and must be “of so acute a nature that harmful physical consequences are likely to result.”
Pretty high standard.

On the other facts the DC CoA is not so kind to Simberg and Steyn
We conclude that Dr. Mann hurdled the Anti-SLAPP statute’s threshold showing of likelihood of success on the merits because the evidence he has presented is legally sufficient to support findings by the fact-finder that statements in Mr. Simberg’s and Mr. Steyn’s articles were defamatory, were published by appellants to a third party without privilege, and were made with actual malice.
discussing the nature of the attacks
But defamatory statements that are personal attacks on an individual’s honesty and integrity and assert or imply as fact that Dr.Mann engaged in professional misconduct and deceit to manufacture the results he desired, if false, do not enjoy constitutional protection and may be actionable.
Tarnishing the personal integrity and reputation of a scientist important to one side may be a tactic to gain advantage in a no-holds-barred debate over global warming. That the challenged statements were made as part of such debate provides important context and requires careful parsing in light of constitutional standards. But if the statements assert or imply false facts that defame the individual, they do not find shelter under the First Amendment simply because they are embedded in a larger policy debate.
Specifically the CoA analyzes why Simberg's article is defamatory
Mr. Simberg’s article does not specifically criticize Dr. Mann’s statistical techniques, except by calling him the “poster boy of the corrupt and disgraced climate science echo chamber.” The article’s focus is on Dr. Mann personally, alleging that he has engaged in “wrongdoing,” “deceptions,” “data manipulation,” and “academic and scientific misconduct.” The article calls Dr. Mann “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” comparing Dr. Mann’s “molest[ing] and tortur[ing] data in the service of politicized science” to Sandusky’s “molesting children.” The article also describes Dr. Mann as being, “like Joe Paterno,” a “rock star” at Penn State, who attracted millions of dollars to the University, and, like Bernie Madoff “at the height of his financial career,” “a sacred funding cash cow.”
This court recognizes a dog whistle when it hears it
Appellants contend that Mr. Simberg’s article is more reasonably understood as a criticism of the hockey stick graph and the research that underlies it. This seems to be a forced interpretation — and one that a jury could easily reject — because the article does not comment on the specifics of Dr. Mann’s methodology at all.
But when the phrase is used in conjunction with assertions that Dr. Mann engaged in “deception[],” “misconduct,” and “data manipulation,” and the article concludes that he should be further investigated, the cumulative import is that there are sinister, hidden misdeeds he has committed. These are pointed accusations of personal wrongdoing by Dr. Mann, not simply critiques of methodology of his well-known published scientific research. Cf. Milkovich, 497 U.S. at 21 (“This is not the sort of loose, figurative or hyperbolic language which would negate the impression that the writer was seriously maintaining that the petitioner committed the crime of perjury.”). We conclude that Mr. Simberg’s article is capable of conveying a defamatory meaning.
We note that in the article Mr. Simberg does not employ language normally used to convey an opinion, such as “in my view,” or “in my opinion,” or “I think.” The article’s assertions about Dr. Mann’s deception and misconduct are stated objectively, as having been “shown” and “revealed” by the CRU emails. Thus, Mr. Simberg’s article can fairly be read as making defamatory factual assertions outright.
The court handles the Steyn, not me boss argument with a handy quote from another case
Mr. Steyn first appears to retreat from the comparison to Sandusky, saying that he is “[n]ot sure” that he would have extended the metaphor “all the way into the locker-room showers,” but then adds that Mr. Simberg “has a point.” See Olinger v. Am. Savs. & Loan Ass’n, 409 F.2d 142, 144 (D.C. Cir. 1969) (“The law affords no protection to those who couch their libel in the form of . . . repetition . . . repetition of a defamatory statement is a publication in itself.”) (citation omitted).
and points out that politics does not free one from facts, a novel think these days
As with Mr. Simberg’s article, Mr. Steyn’s is not about the merits of the science of global warming, but about Dr. Mann’s “deceptions” and “wrongdoing.” Like Mr. Simberg, Mr. Steyn compares Dr. Mann’s alleged wrongdoing — “molesting” and “torturing” data to achieve a deceptive but desired result that will court funding for Penn State — to that of Sandusky, which suggests that their characters are similarly base.
On the other hand, they see Lowry's editorial as both protected opinion and a damage limiting exercise
Mr. Lowry’s editorial is clearly an attempt to distance Mr. Steyn’s article that appeared on National Review’s website from Mr. Simberg’s that appeared on CEI’s, and to express to National Review’s readers that it is confident of the success of the vigorous defense that it intended to mount in response to Dr. Mann’s threatened lawsuit. Because Mr. Lowry’s editorial for National Review does not repeat or endorse the actionable defamatory statements in Mr. Simberg’s and Mr. Steyn’s articles or contain defamatory assertions of fact that were provably false at the time they were made, the editorial is an expression of opinion protected by the First Amendment.
Interestingly, the DCCoA goes into detail in analyzing the investigations both in the US and UK of Michael Mann and the UEA emails,
The University of East Anglia Independent Climate Change Emails Review, Penn State University, the United Kingdom House of Commons, and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. National Science Foundation, all conducted investigations and issued reports that concluded that the scientists’ correspondence in the 1,075 CRU emails that were reviewed did not reveal research or scientific misconduct. Appellants do not counter any of these reports with other investigations into the CRU emails that reach a contrary conclusion about Dr. Mann’s integrity.
and smash the argument that these investigations had nothing to do with Michael Mann
Appellants argue that the investigatory reports could not be relied upon by a jury because the investigations Dr. Mann claims exonerate him of misconduct “take no ultimate position,” but only indicate that there was “no evidence” of fraud. This is a quibble about wording that does not call into question the import of the investigations’ conclusions. An investigatory body can report only on what it has found; a determination that there is “no evidence” of fraud is an ultimate conclusion that investigation has not turned up any evidence of misconduct.
There is much more about these validity of the investigations, but this post is long and Eli must go 

Don't feed the warhorses, and careful with the lightning rods

People may be sick of political introspection, but for those who can handle a little more, here's a list of old warhorse nominees:

H. Clinton
Bush Sr.

Plausible additions, although not a perfect fit:

These are people that had been prominent for a long time and had done a lot of favors inside their party, so they had built alliances within the elites and started their campaigns with a fair amount of name recognition within their parties. They also didn't do very well in winning the Electoral College. Bush Sr is the only partial exception, going 1-for-2.

I suppose Reagan could be argued as a counter-example, but he wasn't very cozy with Republican elites in 1980, and that's also going back a ways in political history. Even if you did include him, the warhorse win-loss record is pretty bad.

Our political system, for worse rather than for better, values newness and "authenticity" over experience, compromises and baggage. I'm open to suggestions as to how that can change, but I'm not up for beating my head against the wall. The warhorses don't make good general election candidates, and Democrats shouldn't choose them in upcoming elections.

And good news, the only warhorses Ds have lying around these days are former nominees and Biden, none of them likely to run again. But the problem will return someday.

Second and related issue is prominent Democrats becoming lightning rods for Republican lies. Hillary was their target with the willing assistance of the New York Times and some other media. The result made her the second-most unpopular nominee in history.

Hillary wasn't the sole target of hate and lies - before her, it was Gore. While I hate to let the Republicans win their little game, maybe it's time for a little political judo - the Republicans are  spending all their lies on warhorses they see as future nominees, and those people aren't the best nominees anyway. So don't nominate the lightning rods that Republicans have been lying about, and use 2008 as a model. The Republicans had no coherent critique of Democrats, let alone a message of their own, and just had Hatred for Hillary. That let Obama define a completely different, hopeful, and moderately progressive alternative.

We'll see what the Republican game plan will be for 2020 - something tells me that it won't be a positive message based on a record of accomplishments. They also won't have 2008's McCain who tamped down on a new set of lies against Obama.

I'm not saying run from any candidate the Republicans start lying about, just to choose wisely instead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

We'll see

And in other news, I worried in July about the Trump Administration misusing the pardon power to allow the abuse of governmental power, but I underestimated how soon and how stupidly that might come into play.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Emergency kits for the holiday gift season

My annualish post below on home and car emergency kits, something that makes an excellent gift. Even if you and yours are all set, there's always maintaining and updating your kits. Most of this post is a retread; the one upgrade is an inexpensive, solar-powered lantern. 

I've found that emergency kits make highly-appreciated gifts for friends and relatives, one of those things that are on everyone's to-do list but often don't get done. If the entire kit's too expensive, you can just give a car kit, or get a part (I suggest water and water purification) and upgrade over time.

If people have had kits for a few years then it's also time to consider replacing out the food. If you or someone you know uses camping food, you might switch out the old with the new a year or two before expiration, so you can use the food before it expires. Freeze-dried food will probably last longer than the expiration date, so you might replace the older stuff but hold on to it in case the emergency lasts longer than expected.

My emphases were making them easy for me to put together, easy for people with no camping experience to use, and ones that would last as many years as possible without needing replacement or maintenance. In return I was willing to pay more, be more bulky than the minimum possible, and have limited control over food selection.

72-Hour Home kits:
The above is the absolute minimum. Meals can be eaten in their pouches, so no dishes are needed. Flameless heating kits eliminate the need for cooking stoves (water has to be purified, though). Emergency meals also can be eaten with cold (purified) water although they taste bad. The food and flameless kits should be good for at least 3 or 4 years, and probably more than twice that long.
In earthquake country, your kit should be stored outside your home in case you can't get inside. So in your yard, your car, or somewhere else. The only maintenance this requires is to simply look every six months to see if the water's leaked through the seams of the plastic jugs - it happens fairly often.
Additional useful items:
  • MPOWERD Inflatable Solar Lantern, 1 per person. Maybe a cheap flashlight/headlamp too.
  • Spare batteries in clear plastic bag so you can see if they've become corroded over time
  • Plastic tarp and cord as a rain shelter
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Emergency shelter, 1 per adult
  • Cheap or expensive first aid kit (I went with cheap kits from the local drugstore)
  • Cheap rain gear, spare shoes and clothes
  • Toilet paper (in plastic bag to prevent dampness) and trowel
  • Hand-crank radio/flashlight combination (can also charge cell phones)
Don't let the extras delay you from putting together the minimum.
I also made better-than-nothing emergency kits for everyone's car, in case you're stuck on the road:
Car kits:
  • Liter water bottle per person (enough to keep you hydrated for a few hours until you can find a water source)
  • Water purification tablets (can disinfect murky water from ditches, and you might need to) 
  • Emergency shelter
  • Small amount of long-lasting food (I found tins of honey-roasted peanuts that were good for four years)
  • Cheap rain poncho
  • Emergency contact list
  • Shoes you can walk many miles in, if that's not what you normally wear
  • MPOWERD Inflatable Solar Lantern, and maybe a cheap, tiny flashlight
  • wool blanket (additional warmth, or traction under a spinning wheel in the mud or snow). Cheap space blanket is an alternative, but it won't give you traction.
You can do much better than this car kit, but it's something in case destroyed roads/bridges keep you from getting home for 12-24 hours.
Additional tricks for both kits: put the contact lists in their own ziplock plastic bags to reduce the chance that they'll mold/get wet over the years.
Hopefully this is all unnecessary.

Lots of great comments when I did this post in 2013 here, and a resource link at Making Light.

Friday, December 09, 2016


Duncan Black can be both pithy and right.  He hit it out of the park today.  So with just a teensy bit of the [Pielke] brackets
 It's been a long time since I've been in academia, but one thing I know is that good research (or even bad research, really), in social science and [climate science], is a long, grueling process. One reason it takes people a long time to get through grad school is that it takes a long time to process and understand the relevant "literature" for whatever issue they're looking at. It isn't just enough to know The Math or The Statistics, it's necessary to know the evolution of thought and rough consensus to understand where the current thinking is both about a particular problem and the best ways to approach looking at the problem. It takes a hell of a long time to essentially create the "lit review" for your dissertation, however much of it actually makes it into your dissertation. 
Gotta know what came before to understand where we are now. In the great and glorious age of the internet it's easy for everybody to do a quick search, punch up an abstract of some study or review of studies that somebody has done, maybe go as far as reading the conclusion, and declare the problem solved and your point proved fucking right. But it really isn't that easy.
FWIW he is an economist

Betting Trump/fans over coal jobs and other issues in 2020

The slight consolation I get as global temperatures keep climbing is that I'm winning my bets on the issue. So how about the same for Trump. I need bets based on what Trump has promised or described, bets that have some objective basis for measurement. I'd like the bets to pay off at the beginning of 2020, so they play some tiny role in the 2020 election (assuming we have one).

Coal seems like an obvious one. Brad Plumer has a good explainer on Trump promising he'll "put our coal miners back to work" and why that's a lie. Clinton at least had a $30b plan to help transition coal workers. Trump's plan is to eliminate environmental regulations - might help the company owners make some money and even slow the loss somewhat, but doesn't help or pay for a transition.

I've got $5,000 that says coal employment at the end of 2019 will be lower than the day Trump is inaugurated. He doesn't have to bring a single job back like he promised, just stop the slide. Actually I'll make it even better - if he keeps the slide to no more than 2% a year on average, 6% total loss, then I'll fork over $5k. (UPDATE:  I think it's reasonable to address the optics question that David Appell raises in the comments. I will note the bet premise is that coal workers would be better off if they supported Clinton, although the coal CEOs would not, and betting is a way to demonstrate that prior to the 2020 election. But to avoid any misunderstanding, I've always been open to having my bets directed to charity instead of personal enrichment of the betting parties. Let's make this one's payment directed to charities in coal country - my direction would be for a charity helping transition away from coal, my opponent could choose whatever suitable direction he likes (it's going to be a "he" if it's going to be anybody).) (ANOTHER UPDATE, FEBRUARY 2019: well I'm glad no one took me up on this coal bet offer, and I'll now rescind it. Trump certainly hasn't brought back coal, but the decrease in jobs has stalled, for a while. I think it'll start up again no matter what happens but will definitely take off when the next global recession hits.)

For Obamacare, I'm trying to think of an objectively-determined outcome to bet over - let's say that if Republicans repeal or repeal/replace Obamacare before the end of 2019, the percentage of Americans with health care coverage through private or governmental plans will drop. Defining this may be a bit difficult - it would have to be something rejected by most Democrats, not a grand deal. It would also have to be more than a fig leaf - I could see Trump and pals making a small change to Obamacare and present it as revolutionary fix. Good outcome, but not a test of Republican versus Democratic policies. So that bet might need an umpire. $5k on offer.

And finally, climate change isn't a hoax. Hard to test that in a short period of a few years with all the variability, but sea level looks like a higher signal-to-noise ratio. Lets make it four years, July 2016 to July 2020, I put up $5k at 2:1 odds that sea levels will be higher at the end. Details TBD.

I'm not betting some anonymous Trumpkin, but will take on somebody serious and real.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

What Loomis said on Standing Rock and direct action

Go read. I tend to fall too much into the camp of people he's complaining about, and he's got a point.

Even more worthwhile, the statement from Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman:

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision.

We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.

Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.

We hope that Kelcey Warren, Governor Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point. When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes.

Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples. To our local law enforcement, I hope that we can work together to heal our relationship as we all work to protect the lives and safety of our people. I recognize the extreme stress that the situation caused and look forward to a future that reflects more mutual understanding and respect. Again, we are deeply appreciative that the Obama Administration took the time and effort to genuinely consider the broad spectrum of tribal concerns. In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful.

UPDATE:  after reading the comments at Loomis' post, I'll agree that direct action blocking highways and transit is only a way to be counterproductive. Civil disobedience needs to be closely connected to the immoral act that is being protested.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Basic Geo-Engineering or Cosmic Rays Bite the Particulates

A month ago, before Eli and Ms Rabett fell into deep depression, an interesting and important paper appeared in Science.  While the conclusions are in the paper, the exhaustive supplementary material is where the at is at.

The paper "Global atmospheric particle formation from CERN CLOUD measurements" covers a huge range of experiments done in the CERN CLOUD chamber to try and tease out the source of atmospheric particle formation (that is the title), and the conclusion is about what any rational bunny who has been following the CERN experiments and other work and work from long ago would have expected,

Fundamental questions remain about the origin of newly formed atmospheric aerosol particles because data from laboratory measurements have been insufficient to build global models. In contrast, gas-phase chemistry models have been based on laboratory kinetics measurements for decades. Here we build a global model of aerosol formation using extensive laboratory-measured nucleation rates involving sulfuric acid, ammonia, ions and organic compounds. The simulations and a comparison with atmospheric observations show that nearly all nucleation throughout the present-day atmosphere involves ammonia or biogenic organic compounds in addition to sulfuric acid. A significant fraction of nucleation involves ions, but the relatively weak dependence on ion concentrations indicates that for the processes studied variations in cosmic ray intensity do not significantly affect climate via nucleation in the present-day atmosphere.

In other words, the conclusion from well before the evil danes stirred up the denialists with their cosmic ray fantasy holds.  Cosmic rays do not play a significant, if any role in formation of the aerosols, there are always enough of them around that they are not limiting and the slight increase from cosmic rays plays no role.

What this paper and the supplementary material do is to assemble a large and complete set of laboratory data from which a kinetic model can be built and compared both with experiment and observation.  That is science.

The interesting part, which this work reinforces, but to Eli was first pointed out by a bunch of Finns who instrumented the North Woods, and who are part of the team publishing the current work, is that amines, particularly ammonia turn out to be the limiting factor in the atmosphere for formation of particulates which grow into clouds.  The lab data clearly show the enhancing effect of adding ammonia or amines in small concentration to the chamber, but more interesting perhaps is the model prediction for the effect of the solar cycle (aka cosmic rays) and the increase of ammonia concentration since preindustrial times.
The increase in ammonia concentration comes, in large part from animal wastes, to an extent from ammonia synthesis leakages.

So, given the current dire situation, what does this imply about geo-engineering.  Perhaps something useful.  Instead of pouring SOx into the upper troposphere to raise the albedo, while at the same time increasing the acidification of the oceans, perhaps one could throw some ammonia up there.  The ammonia would actually compensate somewhat for acid rain (although not fully, read the paper) and on a molecule for molecule basis be more efficent.

Yes, Eli could be wittier, but he is one depressed bunny.

Two steps further than I expected, three more to go

As climate chaos marches gleefully towards January 20th, Slate calls for a potential savior, a lawsuit by children saying the federal government has an obligation to protect them against the worst effects from climate. The lawsuit does not rely on the usual tactic of pushing a new interpretation of major environmental legislation, but rather the Constitutional principle of due process lawsuits and the even more exotic public trust concept of environmental resources being held by the government in trust for future generations. 

I studied both principles in law school nearly 20 years ago, and have basically never used them in my environmental career. After some initial excitement about public trust, I eventually agreed with my professor that the concept had played a moderately beneficial role in some states, had become incorporated in the legislative and administrative process, and was unlikely to do more.

But that was 20 years ago. This new litigation has survived initial magistrate review and the initial judicial analysis (magistrates are administratively appointed judges without all the authority of traditional judges). The judicial analysis at this stage looks to see whether there's any way that plaintiffs can possibly win, without having to examine disputes about the evidence. The judge said, yes, maybe, I have to look at the evidence.

I read the actual opinion (website down right now, will look later to see if it's fixed), and there are many barriers for plaintiffs, not least of which is the argument that this is a political question not subject to judicial resolution. This judge has to carefully examine the evidence and rule in favor of plaintiff children, her decision has to be supported by the Ninth Circuit appellate court, and (hardest of all) that decision supported by a Trump-appointed Supreme Court. And this is a case that the Supreme Court would take.

I'm not actually sure what will happen next. There may be an attempt for immediate, interlocutory appeal to cut the case short, or maybe the judge might examine the evidence around certain questions like whether the government has any legally-enforceable obligations before considering what the remedy would be, allowing that decision to go to appeal.

Still, this got further than I anticipated, and if nothing else can turn up the heat on governmental inaction.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hello Freedom House: a 40% failure rate rates America as "Partly Free"

Just mentioning this right now as an idea, but I'm thinking of setting up one of those online petitions, this one directed at Freedom House and its rating of countries' freedom. In two of the last five American presidential elections, the candidate who won the most votes was not declared the winner of the election. In what other countries that Freedom House rates as "Free" does that happen?

Parliamentary systems with a minority-party leader as PM are not a counterexample, because that PM has to get support of the parliamentary majority. The state-level, winner-takes-all Electoral College system has no counterpart abroad because it's such a stupid system that no one in their right mind has ever contemplating imitating it. Even Britain's troubling 2015 election that gave a parliamentary majority to one party winning 37% of the vote, at least handed control of the country to the side that won the most votes.

I'm not saying it's impossible for this non-democratic outcome to happen elsewhere but rather I'm not sure that it has, certainly not with a 40% failure rate, and if somehow it did then that country should also be shamed accordingly.

While I'd love to see the Electoral College support the actual winner as others are petitioning, I don't see any real chance of that happening. The real end goal is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a legal work-around to solve the problem. Getting Freedom House to call out what's happening would be a nice step in the right direction.

Will Freedom House do it? I don't know. Their discussion of the 2000 US election is embarrassing, but maybe they'll do better the second time around. Getting them to cast any shade at all would be an improvement.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


A couple of good things.

First, Steve Easterbrook on the sand in the wheels, why it is so hard to get anything done

The second, a commentary in Nature Climate Change by Kevin Trenberth, Melinda Marquis and Stephan Zebiak, setting forth the need for better systems to convey climate information to the public and policy makers.  They also start by pointing out the physical inertia in the system makes it difficult to deal with for the public and policy makers
A major concern of scientists,
not adequately appreciated by the public
and politicians, is that evidence of dangers
warranting policy responses may be delayed
or muted by the tremendous inertia in the
climate system, so that by the time problems
are abundantly clear it may be too late to do
anything about them
A major concern of scientists not adequately appreciated by the public and politicians is that evidence of dangers warranting policy responses may be delayed or muted by the tremendous inertia in the climate system so that by the time problems are abundantly clear it may be too late to do anything about them.
They advocate establishment of a Climate Information System as a "near real time version of IPCC Assessment Reports" to inform the public and policy makers and help guide adaptation and mitigation efforts.  Worth reading for how the links they describe between data and action would function in the best of all possible worlds.

Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, for acceptance of science at all levels, not only climate science, this is not the best of all possible worlds.  IEHO this is very much a physical  scientists' answer.  It does not really affect the bottom half of Easterbrook's oval, not that it is a bad thing, not that real time organization of climate information is a bad thing, but that it would run headlong into the same political barriers that action currently faces.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Eli sometimes gets ahead of himself, this time by a decade when before the 2006 US Election the bunny wrote (more or less with some updating):

After the US election the dour bunny is of the opinion that at a minimum Columbia University is about to receive a gift of GISS. Whether it would be silly enough to accept the donation is another story. Goddard, Langley, JPL,Ames and Glenn are in deep trouble too, as is the entire agency. In one scenario aeronautics would go to the FAA leaving a rump Confederate Space Agency centered around Johnson, Kennedy, Marshall and Stennis. Kennedy would be renamed Strom Thurmond Space Center.

Eli is not a happy camper.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

If you thought that was scary

Sea ice extent measures the area of the sea where there is at least some minimum concentration of sea ice, typically 15% coverage.  Sea ice area is a measure of the actual area covered by the sea ice.  Because extent counts grid cells which only have partial coverage, extent will always be larger than area, but when things are in the deep freeze and there is little breakage at the edges and even in the interior of the ice pack, they will approach each other.  Thus the difference/ratio of the two is a measure of compactness

Everybunny who owns the keys to a blog has been showing Winipus' scary global sea ice extent graph, which if anything as iconic of the mess that we are in of our own doing as any hockey stick.

The dive at the end indicates the continuing breakup of the Antarctic ice pack while growth of the ice in the Arctic is historically low.  However Winipus has now produced a sea ice area graph which is beyond scary

In previous years the November peak is well above the June one.  Not this year.

Sea ice is crashing.  The clause is probably human driven climate change imposed on natural variability, but the reticence of scientists can dangerously go the more study is needed route too easily.  Mark Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center has gone the full Al Gore is an alarmist route
The combined number, while easy to derive from our online posted data, is not useful as an analysis tool or indicator of climate trends. Looking at each region's ice extent trends and its processes separately provides more insight into how and why ice extent is changing. Sea ice in the Arctic is governed by somewhat different processes than the sea ice around Antarctica, and the very different geography of the two poles plays a large role. Sea ice in the Arctic exists in a small ocean surrounded by land masses, with greater input of dust, aerosols, and soot than in the Southern Hemisphere. Sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere fringes an ice-covered continent, Antarctica, surrounded by open oceans. While both regions are affected by air, wind, and ocean, the systems and their patterns are inherently very different. Moreover, at any point in time, the two poles are in opposite seasons, and so a combined number would conflate summer and winter trends, or spring and autumn trends, for the two regions.
The detailed mechanisms may differ, but the cause is the same.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

And Then They Came for Richard Tol

As somebunnies may have noticed, Richard Tol is not Eli's favorite economist or much of anything else.  For one thing, well there are a lot of things, but most annoying to Eli is his worship of formalism which blinds him to his own bullshit.  Eli's favorite was this one, but of course, there are lots of gremlin watchers out there.  However, Tolitarians, that is observers of Tol, know that Richard will only be dragged kicking and screaming to admit a mistake, and that he does make a bunch.

Richard  is a very hard worker, a grinder in the language of physicists and if you disagree with him, well it will annoy him exceedingly, but his approach to anybunny who questions him is Donald Trump's approach, nuclear war.  As a result he has managed to shout down a lot of folks, marginalize others and has a raft of people who would rather not be in the same postal code as him.

Which brings us to Brexit, a policy favored by, in general, the leaders of the British Global Warming Denial Foundation (ok change Denial to Policy but Denial is Policy to them).  Tol, of course, because of his luckwarmer model calculations, guided by a judicious choice of data and use of the +/- key on his calculator, is an academic advisor to them.

Which has now put him in a bit of a bind, as he and his wife are not Brits, but are stealing jobs from Brits, which has lead to an interesting interchange between Dickie and the local Sussex MP
Dear Ms Caulfield,  
Yesterday you voted against a motion that would guarantee the right of EU citizens already in the UK to continue to live and work here.  
 I am one of a family of four of such EU citizens. My wife builds sewage treatments plants, a vital if often underappreciated service, for Southern Water. I teach economics at the University of Sussex, probably one of the largest exporters in the area. Our alumni quickly find well-paid and secure jobs. Our children attend the local primary school. We pay our taxes. My wife volunteers in the local PTA. I regularly volunteer my expertise in energy and environment to the Houses of Parliament. We spend most of our income in the local economy. Frequent visits by friends and family from abroad support the local tourist industry. We love Sussex and its people. To the dismay of their grandmother, our children speak English in a Southeastern accent. 
I can interpret yesterday’s vote in one of two ways. Either you think it is acceptable to play politics with other people’s lives, or you would like to see us leave this country. Could you kindly explain why you voted as you did? 

And, what did you expect, she blows him off by saying it wasn't a real vote, he tries to bludgeon her and they agree to disagree.

Which raises the question of what Richard thought he was throwing in with.  The GWPF folk were always coming for him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

When Does Weather Become Climate

By way of the Verge, Eli was lead to a tweet by Zack Labe, one of the folk who hang out at the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, of a figure made by Wipneus of same

So, on the one paw, as far as weather it's pretty clear that you could not get two places much further away from each other than the Arctic and Antarctic, still what that graph is says is that there is a significant Earthball climate driven albedo decrease and a real positive feedback.

For a long time the line has been why worry, be happy, sea ice in the Antarctic is increasing.  Of course, the two poles are like guy and gal.  Antarctic sea ice surrounds a frozen continent, Arctic sea ice fills an enclosed ocean, but ice reflects sunlight, thus energy.

Antarctic sea ice is a consequence of increased snow down there as the oceans warm and absolute humidity increases.  Eli wrote about that in Curry vs. Curry, a wonderful example of how Antarctic sea ice extent encourages cognitive dissonance and cherry picking, but of course increasing Antarctic sea ice is a prime tree that the denialists swing on.  Of course also, it was also obvious to Manabe in the 1990s that as warming increased the snow would turn to rain, sea ice would start to melt and Antarctic sea ice would decrease.  Even Curry signed on to that.  It has, the Arctic sea ice is growing in more slowly and the Earth is warming.

Weather has become climate to our ill fortune.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Solutions, We Need Them More Than Ever

The replacement for my old Prius

Thought I'd blog about something a little less depressing.

This picture makes me look more green than I am - maybe I should show half of a Ford Fiesta instead. Regardless, as of a week ago my wife and I are down from two cars to one. She almost never drives for work, I only drive sporadically for work, and our off hours we usually either don't drive or drive together. We live three minutes' walk from a Caltrain station that we take to San Fracisco for work, and Bay Area BikeShare gets me to my office in 10 minutes.

I've got a monthly pass on Caltrain, and BikeShare unlimited rides for $90/year. My community, Belmont CA, is very walkable/bikeable if you live down by the train where we do instead of up in the hills. The main street in San Mateo County, El Camino, even has pretty good bus service every 15 minutes, although I don't use it enough.

It finally occurred to me that I could save about $1000 annually on insurance and $1k-plus in depreciation by not replacing my aging Prius, and then do an occasional Lyft or rental. We'll see if this will keep us out of cars even more, but being able to do this is an advantage that decent public transit and land use has given us.

The Prius was a great car though - 12 years, 187,000 miles, still getting 43 mpg at the end and still working when we donated it. No huge issues with it, some occasional work. I blew out the rear shocks by driving too fast on 50 miles of washboard road in Death Valley, but I may share some of the blame for that.

Two related points - Bay Area BikeShare is expanding from 700 to 7000 bikes starting next year. We're hardly pioneers with this idea, but I'm glad to see it take off here and help solve the Last Mile Problem. The bikes work pretty well - they're as durable (and heavy) as hell.

And a secret for those flying into San Francisco Airport that took me years to figure out - the city bus service is your friend. Anywhere from Palo Alto to San Francisco (depending on where specifically you're going in your city destination), bus service is likely faster than getting someone to come pick you up, maybe faster and definitely cheaper than BART, and not that much slower than Lyft or taxi, if the bus departure time is close to when you're ready. More info here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

PicoSolar: Better, Faster, Cheaper

There is a new buzzword on the street, PicoSolar for electrification of the developing world.  While full electrification with renewables will require wiring, lighting and powering small devices such as cell phones is very low hanging fruit.  Turns out Dan Golden was right and the NASA engineers wrong you can have all three

A bit of a while ago Eli pointed to an IEA report on the costs of power up Africa which by implication also covered poorer parts and villages of the world.  In no to low power situations maintaining fossil fuel electrification has a number of not hidden but not the first thing people in the developed world think much about issues.

The cost of building out a distribution network exceeds that of putting in solar or wind (follow the Eli link).  A small amount of electricity would bring infinite improvement to the lives of the global poor.  When you do not have electrical lighting 900 lumens (about equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent bulb) is the difference between your kid not being able to study at night and going to university later on.  It's the difference between closing shop at dusk and keeping open for a couple of hours into the evening when customers are around.  Cell phone networks are a lot easier to put up and protect for communications Protect is important in poor places because a lot of copper and power gets, shall Eli use the word borrowed.  Telephone poles and wires are useful for using and selling and keeping the wires humming can be nigh on impossible, let alone the cost of putting them in in the first place.  In India a bit over a quarter of all electricity never goes through a meter but disappears.  Since electrons, at least according to physicists, are conserved, somebunny is kidnapping them.

Then, of course, for fossil fuel, there is the cost of getting the stuff to where it is being used.  Coal is not light, roads into the bush tend to be, well primitive, and trucks, railroads have maintenance of rickety stuff issues.  Putting up a large coal burning power plant in a central location does not necessarily help much with respect to providing power to rural areas.   Even in urban locations everybunny who can afford it has a kerosene generator for the frequent power failures.

The default option for lighting in the developing world are kerosene lamps.  They befoul the room that they are used in, The indoor pollution they generate sickens people, and keeping them lit is expensive, ~$150 per year,  when you are trying to survive of two euro/dollars a day.  When a quarter or so of your income is going for lighting it is pretty hard to escape poverty

As is typical with fossil fuel solutions, they are a constant drag on both the family and national economy, because countries have to subsidize (above the $150 yr) the cost of fuel to keep it available to the poorest.

It is this constant drag on funds which illuminates the ethical bankruptcy of fossil fuel advocates when they claim the war on coal is the war on the poor.  Like the old dope peddler they want to keep the poor hooked.  They advocate giving away free telephone poles because they know full well that today's innocent poor will become tomorrow's buyer of coal.

Large power plants are slow to deploy. Supply chains for the fossil fuels have to be established and fed.  Building out distribution networks takes time and lots of money.

There is a useful answer, solar powered LED lamps (of course there is a battery involved you dolt), which are displacing kerosine lamps.  The cost is OOO $10-$20.  One could have a split system, but the least expensive ones are put out during the day to charge and brought in at night to use.  While they are currently within the reach of those feeding a kerosene habit, there are also organizations working to bring first world dollars to purchase and provide the lamps.  And oh yes, guess who is taking the lead in clearing kerosene lamps out of African homes.  Here is a hint, it ain't the Breakthrough Institute, the breakthroughs are here including inexpensive (a friend of Eli taught him never to use cheap when describing elegant and useful things that don't cost a lot) LEDs and solar cells along with improvement in battery technology, and it ain't the Trump Foundation in case anybunny is wondering why Eli is so depressed.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Republican white nationalist vortex

If you're a national-level Republican official and care about your party tribe and nothing else, then I suppose you should enjoy this moment, because it's downhill from here. You lost the popular vote, three times in a row and six times out of the last seven, and that'll likely get worse next time and definitely for several cycles afterwards.

Some people have interpreted exit polls to show that Trump did not get a reduced share of the minority vote compared to Romney. Best analysis I've seen is that the exits aren't sampled to accurately measure sub-groups - they say so themselves - and Trump lost share with Hispanics. I'd guess the same is true with almost all other communities of color. African-Americans might be different in the short term, no longer voting for the first black president, but the Republican vote share isn't going anywhere far in that community.

The white nationalist vortex is going to drive moderating voters, those from minority communities, out of the Republican Party. The Republicans had some tiny chance of escaping the vortex if they had lost the presidency and then reconsidered anti-immigrant policies, but that's gone now. Instead the outcome is going to be which type of white nationalist vortex they fall into for national politics:

1. Anti-Muslim immigrant only (also bias against black people is assumed in all categories)

2. Anti-Muslim and anti-Hispanic immigrant

3. Anti-immigrant generally

4. Anti-immigrant with extra-overt bias against black people

5. All the above plus anti-Semitism

6. All the above plus anti-Mormon

My guess is the Republicans will mainly fall in Category 3, although there will be some Republicans in the other categories. Anti-Semitism was barely visible in American life prior to 2016. Now it's back, but I'm hoping it'll drop back down to the background noise that it was. Some evangelical Christians have a very patronizing attitude towards Judaism and Israel, but I don't think they'd support overt anti-Semitism given their attitude towards Israel and the imminent End Times.

That same group would determine the attitude towards Mormons - many in the past did not think of Mormons as Christians, and if that attitude came back it would have a powerful dynamic in Utah and other Western states.

It almost doesn't matter which category dominates the white nationalist party. In each election cycle, the white nationalist vote will be a smaller overall percentage, but will demand loyalty to the white nationalist position on immigrants. It won't be until some combination of white nationalists aging out of dominance of the conservative demographic, plus other ethnic groups becoming less tied to immigrant communities, and the unknown political affiliations of large groups of people with mixed race backgrounds, that the nativism could be replaced among conservatives.

As everyone keeps saying, we've seen this game here in California. It's worth acknowledging that it'll be another 30-50 years for the rest of the county to have California's demographics. OTOH, California Republicans today hold no statewide offices and struggle to hold a third of the seats in the legislature - we don't need that level of demographic overkill to get real change in political power.

It all might still be delayed. I read a depressing political/econ analysis saying the economy might be ready now to really take off, and Trump's inefficient tax cuts and infrastructure spending may accelerate that. The effect may be to give a "Morning in America" economy in 2018 that Trump will take credit for, and even in 2020, the incumbent advantage might overcome demographic change. On the other hand, maybe not. And demographics is not a maybe.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The American people have spoken, and they chose Hillary Clinton

UPDATE NOVEMBER 13:  it's fitting that in the currently-first entry in a Google search about election results, the Trump supporter response to losing the popular vote is to deny that he lost. Also says something that he provides his source - a guy named Mike who typed contrary results in a Tweet. Anyway, numbers and text updated below, and I'll revise one more time in a week when almost all the later and provisional ballots have been counted. Hillary beat Donald by even more than Gore beat Bush.

Top line figure if you're asking who Americans chose:

Clinton:  62,523,126
Trump:   61,201,301

Those figures are as of November 13 but they've been trending in her favor since Tuesday and are likely to only grow a bit more. Criticize us Americans, rightly, for only rejecting Trump by a small margin but that's what we did. It's the Electoral College system that decided the loser should be President, not the public.

That's not to say we should be reassured - we shouldn't.

Continued federal action on climate change via Obama's climate plan will go away. Trump's replacement for Scalia on the Supremes will eviscerate one key section of the plan. Another part of the Clean Air Act might save it or might not, but Trump will follow regulatory processes to destroy the plan and possibly legislative action too. It's up to the states to act now, and to our international partners. Paris Accord will survive to the next election.

Obamacare is less clear - not sure how willing Trump and Republicans are to take health care away from 20 million people, although they might - these people aren't that powerful and don't vote Republican. Malign neglect of the law, which needs technical fixes, might give them a chance to trash it while blaming the law itself.

For an authoritarian, Trump is less interventionist than I'd expect, although he talks big talk on ISIS in a non-nuanced way that is scary, especially considering he is puzzled by why we don't use nuclear weapons. Let's hope Mosul is done and Raqqa gets close to falling before January 20th.

Alternative interpretation - authoritarians don't always start out as military aggressors in foreign countries, it's just a trick they turn to when they get dangerously unpopular. So wait for it.

About as important is the general incompetence we're likely to see - unless he chooses aides who aren't sycophants. Good luck.

As soon as one liberal leaves the Supreme Court, give it a few years more and gay marriage will no longer be the law of the land, but up to each state. 

And finally, whether he'll take any steps to really, fundamentally destroy American democracy, following the Caesar route. I'm guessing he's too incoherent to have a plan to do this, but he would do it if the chance arose. Then we see how well American institutions work.

So what to do:

Give Trump a chance? Sure, why not? He's one of the worst people in America, but he's not the absolute worst. Maybe the one in a million chance will play out that he'll change. His misogyny and racism are secondary to his narcissism so maybe he'll moderate. What I can't support is sucking up to him.

Anyone living in a state where the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact isn't approved should get their Democratic legislators to introduce it. Even in a hopelessly Republican state, their failure to pass it gives yet another thing used to beat them over the head.

Could the Democrats, please, please, finally support term limits for Supreme Court judges? A lot of Republicans do. If the Dems had done that 8 years ago, we'd be facing 19 year appointments by Trump, instead of 40-50 year appointments of relatively young, super-conservative nominees.

And act locally, especially on climate change - that's the option we've got.


UPDATE:  and one more idea for a campaign slogan - Warren 2020, A Clear Vision for America