Thursday, March 31, 2016

Eli Heads North

One of the things a smart bunny learns is that if you see something new to you in an area you really don't follow, everybunny else who follows the dots has seen it, but you have not seen them seeing it.  Yet, since on rare occasion they have not seen it because it is so obvious it is worth asking about and one might even learn something

Worse, in Eli's case, this is something that finally percolated through because of nonsense that Andrew Montford at Bishop Hill wrote trying to handwave the weird ice coverage this winter up north (yes, Eli knows everybunny and his brother in law is racing south to watch the Antarctic ice shelves collapse, but this is Rabett Run, Eli and Brian follow their own pipers).  Montford opined

As usual on these occasions, I take a quick look at the Cryosphere Today anomaly page, where I find the sea ice apparently still stuck firmly in "pause" mode.
As fate would have it Eli had been looking at this chart for many a year, and there, as discussed below, were things about it that well stood out to anybunny who spent their life looking at charts, things that were. . .and are . . . maybe. . . .interesting.

For example, it is clear that the nature of the anomalies changed somewhere around 2006.  The pattern of the anomaly between 2007 and 2016 is very different to that previously.  With a thirty day smooth, the post 2007 pattern is hard to miss

There is a clear minimum in September, not very exciting.  One can see this in 2013 and 2014, although not as clearly in the other years, but it is there.  However, there are also secondary minima in May/June in all of these years. 

Equally interesting is the period 1996-2006

Rather than the winter/summer pattern seen in the 2007-2016 period in the anomaly there is a roll off in all seasons, about the same loss of sea ice year round (e.g. the decrease each month was about the same or at least the month to month variation was smaller.  But what about before 1996

Eli will not engage in cycling.  HIt is true that because anomalies compare like with like, e.g. the ice area in the same month against some reference period (1979-2008 in the examples above) looking  just at anomalies can be tricky.  The boys from Bremen have a useful comparison of September minimum extent between 2012 and 1979-83

and if one looks at the period between 1979 and 2015 on the maps at Cryosphere Today the changing pattern in the September ice area is obvious. 

Oh yeah, Cryosphere Today has a useful reminder of the ability of an anomaly to hide the decline

There has been a pretty steady decline in arctic sea ice since ~ 1955.

Monday, March 28, 2016

California water dreaming

Last week I was asked by my Rotary Club to give opening comments before a guest speaker from Lockheed Martin talked about new technology developments, so I decided to talk about water and technology.

To set the stage, we're having an unusually average water year in California. The story about Bill Gates walking into a bar and making the average patron a millionaire applies - California has lots of below-average years and a few really wet ones.

This year's precipitation is kind of average - most of the state had slightly above average rainfall, some slightly below. The snowpack's water content is at or slightly below average. The reservoirs shown above are mostly below average due to the multi-year drought. Groundwater conditions are much harder to find, but we already know the answer - they range from not-good to extremely bad. What little more rain we'll get, however welcome, will not change any of this. We're still in a drought.

So in my comments I mentioned three technologies that could help water supply: low-tech, current tech, and future tech.

The low-tech model being tested now is flooding farmland, even when plants don't need it, to maximize percolation for groundwater storage. This is different from flood irrigation, a common and wasteful way to water orchards and other crops that may have similar groundwater benefits but is taking water at the wrong time, when it's most needed in-stream. Flooding for percolation purposes is being tried in midwinter, and may replace an expensive large reservoir that we'd otherwise be pressured to build. It's an experiment to see how well it percolates and how well the orchards and other areas tolerate it, but seems like a good idea.

The current technological system to change water supply is recycled water for potable use, something I've talked about quite often. My former water district already purifies wastewater to this standard but only uses it for landscaping and industrial uses. In a few years we plan to start drinking it, which has been done for years in other places like Southern California and Singapore, and in space. The main technology involved is reverse osmosis - hardly new, but new techniques make it more efficient.

The same technology is used for ocean desalination, but it sucks up a lot more energy and has other environmental consequences. The biggest environmental difference between potable reuse and ocean desal - aside from energy - is that reuse works best at large wastewater plants in urban areas, limiting sprawl, but ocean desal can open up development in any location near the ocean.

Finally, the future technology I'd like to see applied is a smart grid for underground, residential rainwater retention tanks with two-way pumps connected to storm sewers. When a storm approaches, the grid activates and pumps out the tanks in advance. When the storm hits, the tanks not only take in runoff from roofs but also pump water in from storm sewers, temporarily, shaving the critical peak off a flood. These tanks aren't just for rainwater, they're a form of flood protection, and their combined value makes them worth the price.

The first smart cisterns are happening in Los Angeles, so making a grid use out of them is the next step.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Value of Open Review

Ethan Allen at ATTP points to responses that James Hansen has written on the Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Paper newly accepted, including a twenty page version  for those bunnies who busy hiding the chocolate eggs tonight (and a fine and well deserved Easter morning to all :) and a comment on why really really really dangerous was a proper description of the path we are on and how the reticence of scientists is at least partially to blame.

Eli would like to take the opportunity to discuss open review, which, as a consequence of the Hansen paper, has come in for a bit of pinata play.

To Eli, the virtue of the EGU open review is the information it provides the casual reader.  To move a bit away from Hansen, et al, remember “Where do winds come from? A new theory on how water vapor condensation influences atmospheric pressure and dynamics”. by Makarieva et al.  It was, IEHO, not even wrong, but Makarieva, who was then the random Russian of the week at a number of blogs on the dark streets of the internet, persevered.  Oh my, did she.  And the truth is that such behavior works, and today with journals breeding like, please forgive the Bunny, bunnies, it is easier than ever.

David Schultz has a good summary of that soap opera pointing to a much earlier quote from G. K. Batchelor

Papers of poor quality do more than waste printing and publishing resources; they mislead and confuse inexperienced readers, they waste and distract the attention of experienced scientists, and by their existence they lead future authors to be content with second-rate work.
But, aha, if Eli can see the open review comments, the Bunny can be both warned and educated, even if the paper is not wild. 

For good papers, the referees comments function as an extended abstract, outlining the contributions of the paper, the caveats of the referees and more. 

Open review has much to recommend it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Listing what Schnare gets right might be easier

John Mashey caught two commonly-repeated, denialist lies about Steve Schneider in a court filing by the unsurprising David Schnare. Read the whole thing etc., it's the lie about Schneider telling people to stretch the truth about climate and also the lie that omits how he told people to be honest. This has been corrected often enough that some of the denialists repeating it have to know they're lying (although I don't know if Schnare is one of those or just lazy). Bad enough to lie about a dead man's life work in general, but getting it wrong in court filings that are supposed to buttoned up is even worse.

Mashey's catch is important, it's about Schnare's attempt to argue that the scientific elite aren't to be trusted and therefore intrusive email searches are in the public interest. I found yet another inaccuracy in Schnare's filing along the same lines - much less important because it's just an incorrect historical flourish, but indicative of the work submitted to the court.


....we begin with a portion of President Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation — one that perfectly encapsulates the reason we bring this case and the legitimacy of the Arizona public records act’s presumption in favor of disclosure, particularly of old and policy-related academic records. 

[T]he free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.1 
Note with care, President Eisenhower does not limit his comments to how research may affect public policy, but focuses specifically on the people who do the research, the scientific-technological elite. Our concern in the instant case is precisely that....

It's actually an interesting Eisenhower quote that could be taken a number of different ways, but the problem is with Schnare's flourish stating that Ike emphasized the sentence about watchdogging the scientific elite above other issues. Schnare's footnote justifying this provides a link to the speech and says of the bolded sentence, "emphasis in the original. Eisenhower underlined this section of his speech notes and gave heavy verbal emphasis to this sentence."

So, three problems:

1. The link Schnare provided doesn't show any emphasis added to that sentence in the speech. That's bad enough - Schnare making a factual assertion in a filing without providing proof. (Update: fixed typo where I said "with providing proof".)
2. When you research it yourself, you find that Eisenhower underlined almost every sentence.
3. When you listen to the speech you find he gave no heavier verbal emphasis to that sentence than he did for any other.

Pictured above is Eisenhower's copy of the speech, and you can scroll through to see other pages - virtually every sentence is underlined, so doing that provides no emphasis.

And here's Eisenhower giving the speech, jump ahead nine minutes for that section:

Ike didn't give any more verbal emphasis of that sentence than he did of any others. He does speak deliberately, but he's an old man who's been giving speeches over scratchy radios and P.A. systems for decades - it's just a way to be clear and doesn't distinguish that sentence.

Again, not the biggest thing in the world, just the very first thing Schnare asserted that I decided to check, and it wasn't right.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Title Is Neither Wine Nor Sausage

Those bunnies interested in sausage making would be advised to read the extended discussions between the referees and the authors of the Hansen, et al paper on potentially catastrophic anthropic climate change, at the bottom of the ACP discussion page.  Eli will lead off with the discussion of the title of the paper. As to why read this stuff, well Stoat has put it clearly, who will read the paper and tell us what it is about.  The answer is the editor and referees, and if you read the discussion, much of the work has been done for you.  That and the video on the previous post.

Frank Raes (R2) starts this off by commenting

The authors ostensibly cross boarders when it comes to describing the possible consequences of the papers results. In the discussion, many have argued that the use of words like “highly dangerous” in the title, and the adding of a (shallow) discussion regarding ethics, justice and prescribing policy action might be out of the scope for a disciplinary natural sciences journal like ACP.

I want to be clear from the beginning. I strongly believe that a collective issue such as climate change can no longer be discussed in scientific terms only, but that the scientific discourse must inform, or even go along ethical and political discourses. There is indeed a role for scientists to engage in the latter discourses, based on the former. However, my point is that there are many other ways to engage in these discourses and to have the voice of science heard. (The first author has made use of these other means frequently and successfully in the past). Putting the full scientific, ethical, juridical, and policy prescriptive discussion in an ACP paper is, in my opinion, not only totally ineffective, but it may put also a good disciplinary journal into problems. It is something for the ACP editors to consider, but gain, there are other means. I will make a suggestion later for ACP for how deal with this with respect to the current paper.

3. My comments and suggestions to ACP are as follows.

3.1 Title

The title presently use by the authors is rather journalistic. That would be OK if the paper would also be written in a journalistic (but correct) way. It isn’t. It is a complex 50 pages long technical paper that even scientists are struggling with. It is too much to hope for that journalists would read it, including all the caveats it contains.

If the ACP editors would like to keep the title to the standards of a disciplinary paper, and stick to what the paper is really about, the title should, in my opinion, be more like:
Non-linear Ice Melt, Multi-meter Sea Level Rise and Superstorms at 2°C Global Warming: clues from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations.
That is already a strong enough title, covering the content of a strong piece of science.

However, in the climate change debate, the term “dangerous” has been given a rather precise definition in Art 2 of he UNFCCC, namely a change that doesn’t allow ecosystems to adapt, that threatens food production and that prevents economic development in a sustainable manner. It is obvious that a multi-meter sea-level rise within a century would be “dangerous” in that sense, at least in low-lying islands and coastal areas.  
I could therefore also live with a title that reads. 
Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming is “Dangerous”.

Where the quotes indicate that a special meaning is given to “Dangerous”. A reference could be made to UNFCCC in the abstract, and a fuller explanation in the body of the text.

Given the many uncertainties and need for further analyses mentioned by the authors themselves and by reviewers in the Discussion, one should however argue for the following title: 
Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations that 2°C Global Warming could be “Dangerous”.
Peter Thorne, (D2?, no R3) who was the least happy with the polemical components of the original paper, was still not thrilled as reflected by his comments on the title:
The title needs changing to reflect that the outcome is inherently uncertain if I am to be able to recommend acceptance. The easiest solution would be to insert Potentially before Highly Dangerous that would provide some sense of the uncertainty in the underlying analysis. More substantial changes would be along the lines of ‘Exploring potential impacts of a 2C world using insights from paleo climate records, modern observations and climate modelling’ or ‘Exploring the potential for tipping points in the climate system before 2C’. Basically, I think the title needs to reflect that the outcome is not deterministic and not guaranteed , even if we are foolish enough to stay on a carbon intensive pathway.
Both the abstract and the conclusions need to make clear that the evidence cannot rule out large - scale changes but that, equally, it is not a given that such changes shall occur. They need to better reflect that there remain substantial uncertainties and areas where further research is required to make definitive conclusions. Such revisions would be consistent with the underlying text and reflect the true state of scientific knowledge in the area.
The editor in charge of the paper relays this information to Hansen and the reply of the authors extends this
You mention that referees R3 and R4 question the title of the paper. The issues raised about the title concern the word “Dangerous” in the title, and they are important because they get at the very heart of our paper and the overall topic of human - made climate change. I think that the discussions raised are pertinent and I am glad that you give us the chance to propose a title and show that it is well motivated. I believe that you may have misread the relevant comment of R4. R4 notes that a major goal of our paper is to define “dangerous anthropogenic interference”, and he then quotes the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as follows

“ achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

 R4 then says that our paper: “...significantly advances this quest for a more quantified definition of such human impact. Very few serious efforts have been made to arrive at a useful definition of ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’. Previous efforts focused on sea level rise have been less rigorous, I believe, with less analysis of the coupling of ice meltwater with oceanic dynamics.” 
R4 does not mention the paper’s title or criticize it, but explicitly recommends publication of the paper. R3, on the other hand, does criticize the title and does so by referring to the UNFCCC, but his reference is not correct. The word “dangerous” appears once and only once in the UNFCCC, namely in the most fundamental phrase of the Convention, which is given in the inset phrase above. R3 says that “ the climate change debate, the term ‘dangerous’ has been given a rather precise definition in Art 2 of the UNFCCC, namely a change that doesn’t allow ecosystems to adapt, that threatens the food production and that prevents economic development in a sustainable manner”. This is a rephrasing of Article 2 that seems to slightly change its meaning. Let us look at Article 2 in its entirety:

The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystem s to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Article 2 thus uses the word “dangerous” with regard to the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The ecosystems/food/economics sentence refers to timeframe in which that level should be obtained. The word “dangerous” is not further defined, perhaps because it is assumed to be well understood.

R2 suggested “potentially dangerous” (probably you meant to refer to R2, rather than R4), but that is too weak. That conclusion already could have been reached without any of the research in our paper.

There is an important issue at play here: overall, it seems to me that the relevant scientific commun ity has been exercising self - censorship in its warning to the public about the danger of human - made climate change. It would be difficult to overstate the threat of increasing human - made climate change, which we suggest threatens to bring about some of th e greatest injustices in the history of the planet: of current adult generations to young people and future generations, and of people of the industrialized North to people of the South, as climate change is due mainly to emissions from nations at middle and high latitudes.

My preference would be to just remove the word “highly” from the title, i.e., replace “highly dangerous” with “dangerous ”, thus making the title slightly shorter and less “journalistic’, which was a concern of at least one referee. However, I understand that some scientists consider that title to be too definitive, so in hopes of avoiding delay in publication we have chosen “ Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations Implies that 2°C Global Warming Above the Preindustrial Level Would Be Dangerous ”, which has been suggested as a possible compromise. I hope that you agree that our proposed alternative phrasing for the title is well motivated.
and, of course, the editor, Frank Dementer, has the final word
following a discussion with the ACP editorial board, I will request one change in the title. In order to bring out even more clearly the element of uncertainty associated with the work to change the word would into could.

The title would thus become:
"Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise and Superstorms: Evidence from Paleoclimate Data, Climate Modeling, and Modern Observations Implies that 2°C Global Warming Above the Preindustrial Level Could Be Dangerous"

L'Hansen, Sato, Hearty Ruedy, Kelley, Massn-Delmotte, Russell, Tselioudis, Cao, Rignot, Velicogna, Tormey, Donovan, Kandiano, v. Schuckmann, Kharecha, Legrande, Bauer, & Lo

est arrive

Published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, with supplement and several newspaper summaries, including those by Chris Mooney and Justin Gillis.

As Mooney points out, the title has been changed from  Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming is highly dangerous to Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous 

Eli is reassured. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Denialism about cats and bird kills

Pacific Standard has an interesting article about how California quail may have disappeared from the semi-wild areas of San Francisco. As both the state bird of California and the official city bird of San Francisco, that's a shame - they're a fun bird to watch.

The truth is they're hardly an endangered bird, so it's not a gigantic loss to biodiversity when they disappear in San Francisco. Still I'd much rather see natural components of environments survive, including in built-up urban areas.

What struck me about the PS article though was the role of cat advocates at the San Francisco Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in preventing real actions to help the birds. Outdoor cats are huge killers of birds, probably hundreds of millions of birds annually in the US, but good luck getting many cat advocates to admit this. The people who feed feral cats drive the numbers even higher, and again they'll just dispute any science that gets in the way of what they want to believe. And in this (admittedly narrow) political area of trying to ban feeding and permanently remove feral cats, they're quite powerful.

Many people have tried to identify denialism that's primarily found on the left side of the spectrum. Vaccine denialism and ridiculous health claims about GMOs find a lot of the same beliefs on the right side of the spectrum. I don't know of any attempts to measure the cat advocates, but I imagine it's possible that this type of denialism may be found predominantly on the left.

I think some animal rights types may also indulge in related denialism, arguing that animal use in medical experiments is never useful, rather than arguing that they're overused.

Relatedly, if politics keeps feral cat colonies around, then one new option may be to give male cats vasectomies instead of neutering them - when they mate, the females enter a 45-day "pseudo-pregnancy," lowering lifetime fertility. These sterile-but-non-neutered males also tend to drive away other adult male cats that would create litters.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Exxon and the AGU

Contrary to the wisdom of many, continents do shift slowly with time, and learned societies do listen to the membership.  Recently a number of members (some very prominent, others not) wrote to the American Geophysical Union asking that the AGU divorce itself from Exxon sponsorship.

This was motivated by a series of articles which exposed Exxon's sponsorship of crank tanks opposing action on climate change, indeed, rejecting the idea that humans are driving climate change in ways that are not so good for the inhabitants, people and other critters.

Today an interesting letter came into Eli's mailbox from the Executive Director of the AGU
In addition to comments on the post itself, over the past three weeks we have received more than 100 emails, letters and phone calls, and countless tweets and comments on Facebook. And the letter referenced in the post, which calls for AGU to sever our relationship with Exxon, has since received additional signatures, growing from 71 AGU members and 33 non-members, to 136 members and 81 non-members (as of 15 March).

This feedback, from AGU members and others in our community and beyond, expressed a wide variety of views, ranging from requests to completely sever the relationship immediately to suggestions for how the relationship could be expanded and made more productive to the view that severing the relationship would violate our scientific integrity. While the social media posts and public comments have tended to be one-sided, the emails received directly from members have been more nuanced and diverse in views expressed. A major theme that emerged is a strong desire among our members to see this issue is treated thoughtfully and with integrity, and to ensure that our discussions be representative of all sides of AGU’s community.
The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote on the matter to the AGU late last year and the issues was not simply shrugged off by the AGU.  In the Feb 21st newsletter Eli read
Since the policy’s approval, we have received inquiries about AGU’s relationship with our partners, in particular, the one we have with ExxonMobil. The concerns brought to us stem from reports about ExxonMobil’s past actions that have appeared in the press and elsewhere, and the assertion that the company is today engaging in the promotion of misinformation about climate change, climate science and the role of human activity in climate change, or actively supporting organizations that do.

One of these inquiries came in the form of a letter from a representative of the Union of Concerned Scientists AGU received last year. Because we take such concerns seriously, the Board conducted its own research and discussed the issue at great length during the September 2015 meeting. At that time, we decided that ExxonMobil’s current public statements and activities were not inconsistent with AGU’s positions and the scientific consensus.

It cannot be said that Exxon’s past positions and actions regarding climate change were in keeping with our policy or with the company’s current public positions, and we will be monitoring the results of the investigations by the Attorneys General of New York and California into those past actions. Yet our research did not find any information that demonstrates that they are currently involved in such activities.
Another letter, with over 100 signatories was delivered the next day and the number of signers has grown.  Since that time more information on Exxon's position has come to light.

The matter had been discussed at the AGU Council meeting
Finally, the Council addressed a recent request from members and non-members for AGU to sever ties with Exxon Mobil (From the Prow, 22 February 2016). Specifically, the Council was asked to consider Exxon’s current positions and statements in light of our recently approved organizational support policy, as well as the pros and cons of maintaining or ending such a partnership. These questions triggered spirited discussion, and the Council expressed a range of opinions as varied as those that have been expressed by members. These views range from severing ties to always keeping open a big tent, with several nuanced positions in between involving degrees of engagement. These exchanges were not trivial – my own opinion swayed more than once when confronted with new perspectives. Moreover, our debate provided a jumping off point for a broader discussion of the nature and purpose of corporate partnerships. Could AGU better engage its industry partners to foster more effective scientific dialogue at the highest levels? Our collective input will be forwarded to the Board of Directors, who will meet to consider these issues further next month.  
Our conversations around sexual harassment and corporate partnership drew intriguing parallels. Where is the boundary between behaviors that compel AGU to act, and those that do not? Should we distinguish between past and present behavior? Who judges whether behavior is ethical, and how do we identify (and verify) behavior in conflict with our policies? How can we best enforce our policies? Science and ethics are linked and will remain so. These are the types of questions AGU will need to address and revisit now and in the future.
and will be discussed further at the upcoming Board meeting.  The ball is in play.

The climate version of the Buckley Rule

David Roberts has an interesting piece up on Oregon's decision to eliminate coal power and increase renewable power to 50% by 2040 (on top of the existing large amount of hydropower). Quark Soup also covered it.

Roberts discusses whether the out-of-state coal power currently bought by Oregon will now just be sold to another state - he says California's experience shows that won't happen. I'm not quite as confident, but I do think it creates problems for coal power - no business wants to be shut out of a market where competitors have easy access.

I'm not clear about this but the EPA Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions could also play a role, if it survives Republican shutdown attempts. I think the emissions would count against the state utility that buys the power, not against the state where the power's produced, but maybe I'm wrong.

The other relevant point is where Roberts says the Oregon law worked by shutting out Oregon Republicans, who did everything they could to stop it but also had no control over it. This relates to the question of whether you should compromise/weaken your proposal in order to get a winning coalition.

In Oregon, they didn't need to include Republicans, but the state has Democratic majorities in both houses and a Democratic governor. For the 25 years I've followed the state, it's been Democratic-dominated, so they could do something that most states can't.

The Buckley Rule for conservatives said, more or less, that they should support the most conservative candidate who can actually win. A similar rule for climate policy should support the strongest policy that can actually pass. In Oregon they didn't need to weaken the proposal to get Republican votes, and it still won. That sounds like a great approach when that situation allows it to happen.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My rejected Nature (Futures) submission

Something different today - Nature magazine has a science fiction feature, and a while back I tried my hand with a submission. It didn't fly, so I'm putting it here instead.

I'll guarantee it exactly meets the quality you would expect from a first-ever attempt at science fiction writing. It starts after the jump.

Friday, March 11, 2016

What to Do When The Sun Don't Shine

In developing countries there is a tension between building out electrical networks and installing micro or even nano nets, e.g. small to minuscule electrical systems.  The former are (usually)  in discussion associated with large central generation, especially coal.  The latter are more suited to solar and wind.

There has been a concerted effort by the ignorant trying to guilt everybunny into considering coal heated power plants with a massive net build out.  Net build out is expensive, network distribution is subject to theft and chaos. Then you have to move the coal, worse, if that choice is made the people pay for that choice forever, having to both buy the coal continually, and suffer from the health effects of burning coal.  Coal is not an ethical choice and anybunny who thinks so is a moral degenerate like the Breakthrough Boys, Schellenberger and Nordhaus the Lesser

Eli has had something to say about this issue.  The fall in prices for solar and wind making it competitive and the obvious choices for remote locations without electrical supply.  A major issue, of course is what do you do when the sun don't shine.

Eli has an elegant answer with simple technology.  You dig a lake at the top of a local hill and when the sun does shine, you use excess power to pump water from local sources up to the top.  At night you reverse the pumps and use them as generators and distribute the water into irrigation networks.

Appropriate technology.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The left's stereotype of the right is blinding them to Trump

In a sentence:  people on the left who view the right as a bunch of cartoon villains don't realize it when an actual cartoon villain shows up.

Maybe I should stop there, but of course I can't, I'm a blogger. Some blogs I normally enjoy are doing a lot of simplistic snark of the things they don't like, and actually seem happy to extend that simplistic snark to anyone slightly to the right of them or further right. Naming names, that would be Atrios and some (not all) of the bloggers at Lawyers Guns and Money (and while it should always go without saying here at the hutch, this is just Brian talking, not speaking for Eli or John). Both blogs still have great stuff, but the noise is up.

So that's one trend. Another trend that those two blogs aren't that guilty of but is still irritating in the left blogosphere, is the clash of the Bernie and Hillary fans. The Bernie folks have been pretty simplistic for a while now, but Hillary's people have been catching up some in the last six months. Reasonable criticism of either one, whether it's Bernie's denial of economic reality or Hillary's too-close familiarity with FDR's malefactors of great wealth, both get hyperbolic responses.

And meanwhile we see assertions that Trump isn't worse than the other Republicans, based on what Trump has said that he would do. Add to this a complete inability to see why many Republicans are panicking about Trump, so they instead believe silly reasons for the panic. It's blindness.

To be fair, if Trump weren't in the race then I'd probably view Cruz as a cartoon villain, based on the metric that GW Bush was the third-worst president in American history and Cruz is far worse than Bush. But Trump is in the race. Cruz is many terrible, terrible things, but he's not the buffoon amalgam of Aaron Burr, Andrew Jackson and John Calhoun that Trump embodies. We have a new standard to look at.

And in the latest Trump news, the amalgam's campaign manager denies throwing a female journalist nearly to the ground, contravening eyewitness testimony, and blames her instead. (A tangent:  recently I've approvingly retweeted something from Mitt Romney, approvingly linked to Jonah Goldberg, and am now approvingly linking to Breitbart. That's how bad Trump is.)

The affinity for violence that we haven't seen in other Republican campaigns, including crazies like Cruz and Santorum, is bad enough. I don't think Trump is fascistic - you need an ideology to be a fascist - but he's definitely authoritarian. What could hold back real threats to democracy by a President Trump is the people around him, but if he's surrounded not just by Yes Men but by snakes, then the danger gets even worse.

Two final notes:  first, it would be ridiculous for me to criticize snark, it's the simplistic stuff I dislike. Second, this is a real drag to think about, with the Republican Party sinking further into delusion. So here's a diversion, courtesy of Saturday Night Live:

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Lancaster exception

I volunteered at The Business of Clean Energy Symposium last Friday, the second annual conference focusing on Community Choice Energy (also called Community Choice Aggregation). CCE could be seen as a hybrid of private and publicly owned power:  the private utility continues to own transmission, distribution and billing, but the community decides and buys the (usually much-cleaner) energy that the private utility will transmit. The three existing CCE programs in California include your typically liberal Bay Area, Marin and Sonoma Counties, and also the solidly Republican city of Lancaster in Southern California.

I've wondered how some issues like criminal justice reform become less politicized over time. Criminal justice was far more politicized and partisan in the 1990s then climate change was, and now the reverse is true. I'm guessing one element isn't so much an admission of wrongdoing by one party as it is a reinvention and taking independent leadership by conservative Republicans (combined, maybe, with willfully ignoring the many years of leadership on the progressive side). I'm still not sure why Lancaster acted differently from other Republican areas. And maybe I'm oversimplifying - a number of red states have strong renewable energy programs. We need much more of this, though, and hopefully we'll get it.

All California CCE programs emphasize low-carbon power, locally-produced energy, and they usually match or slightly beat the cost for private utilities. I'm on the board of Carbon Free Mountain View, working to establish a CCE in Silicon Valley later this year. I've helped with a similar effort in San Mateo County that's also near completion, and a third effort in San Jose is getting off the ground. A lot is happening, and that's just my local area.

Some other notes from the symposium, after the jump:

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Interesting Is Always a Dirty Word

Eli appears to have done a bit of torching with respect to the sacred Cruz satellite record, you know the one on the hill. Steve Mosher (more on that soon somewhere) is twirling the data and both Everette Sargent and Eric Swanson are poking the pile.

Eli, Eli is a small timer and has been spending his time wondering about the yuuuge difference between the surface records and the  satellite records both in the 1997-98 and the 2015-16 el ninos.  There may be some progress on this front.  A bun could start, for example by comparing the RSS record against HadCRUT4

where it really looks like RSS overestimates the change, which comes a bit late.  The usual handwave is that this is related to how long it takes for the warming to propagate through the atmosphere.  Now some may believe that, and others not, but the big El is a phenom of the tropical pacific and that happens if Eli uses Wood for Trees to compare RSS to the tropical section of HadCrut4

That is a pretty clear.  Nowadays v6.0 UAH has been adjusted to pretty much track RSS so not much to be added by considering it.  OTOH, the fact that the satellite heat up starts well after the surface heatup but cools down along the same track as the surface is suggestive  But why?

Looking at El Nino from this year which is tracking along 1997 (the 1997 maps are not there) gives a strong hint

El Nino4, covers the region close to the Peruvian coast. It appears to be the key.  Perhaps the warm winds from the surface are driven up high in the the troposphere when they hit the Andes.  Just a wild guess.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Eli Hates to Tell You About This

Many of the oil exporting states have built up yugeeee sovereign wealth funds that they use for such things as building infrastructure, supporting retirement payouts and whatever else.  These funds are being hammered on both ends, by the price of oil and low (now negative in some places like Japan) interest rates on bonds.

One of the largest, Norway's showed a loss last year, and things do not look very promising this.  Given how large these funds are, a sell off would threaten everything and everybody

Few sovereign wealth funds report their stock holdings across sectors and regions, but based on information from those that do, J.P. Morgan's global market strategist Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou estimates that oil producers' funds hold around $2 trillion of publicly listed equities worldwide. 
Extrapolating further, he estimates that up to $700 billion of that total could be invested in western European equities, with between a quarter and one-third in banking stock
2008 redeaux, except worse.

Tim Ball can't meet Trumps' timeframe for disavowal of Velikovsky

Trump had to think long and hard about whether he should disavow support from white supremacists, but after a day or so he decided to do it. I have no knowledge of whether denialist Tim Ball has similar ethical blinders, but his mental blinders are appalling.

Outsourced to Sou:

....Anthony Watts has got Tim Ball resurrecting Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision. Scientists pointing out that the 1950's book was gobsmackingly stupid is another sign that climate science is a hoax....

Tim Ball wrote: Nature Climate Change is owned by the Nature Publishing Group that is a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. This is interesting because they were the publishers involved with the Velikovsky travesty, one of the most egregious examples of the conflicts that occur between publishers and a search for the truth....

Velikovsky became a target for Carl Sagan, an early promoter of human CO2 caused global warming. That claim became central to the argument about the threat of higher CO2 levels. He challenged the claims of the levels and cause of temperatures on Venus. Sagan felt so threatened that he published a book Scientists Confront Velikovsky. It is about all his claims thus collectively including Venusian CO2. He is not to be believed on anything.

In case you missed it, here is the Wikipedia article describing Velikovsky's book from 1950 - how he figured that Venus shot out from Jupiter as a comet, almost sideswiped Earth causing lots of catastrophes, then swung back again causing more catastrophes on Earth. In its wild screeching journey, Venus pushed Mars which also nearly hit Earth and caused a heap of other catastrophes.
Words fail. Even some Watts commenters acknowledge this puts Sagan in a good light, which it obviously does. Sou says Ball backtracks a bit on Velikovsky in his own comment, claiming he was "not pushing" Velikovsky. However, I don't see a disavowal in that statement or in anything else Ball wrote at that post, just uncritical sympathy for Velikovsky being "censored".  Saying you're not pushing something means it could be right or it could be wrong, and you're choosing not to comment about that.

Tim Ball needs to disavow this nonsense that he chose to highlight favorably, and nothing is stopping him from doing that except his own choice.

UPDATE:  more from Sou - Ball and even Watts are going two steps down, one step up at the Velikovsky Hole.

Christie isn't the only one regretting his Trump endorsement

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Chinook? or Not

The DiCaprio Chinook follies continue.  Before getting too deeply into this Eli would like to quote a comment by Aaron in the previous post

Leo got up in front of 30 million people and said something about climate change that 25 million people could understand.
That is better than 97% of scientists have done.
Convincing people to act on climate change is not about facts and figures, it is about winning hearts and souls. Winston Churchill did not convince Britons (and the US) to support the war, by reciting facts and figures. No! He stood up in front of people and said things they could understand. Winston Churchill knew the facts and figures, but his speeches were about blood, sweat, tears, and work.
We knew the score, and should have phased out carbon fuels by 1990. But, the industry tugged at heartstrings with words like "jobs" and "economy". Facts and figures say there are more jobs and a better economy with renewable energy, but they beat us on oratory, while we squabbled over details.
Which is what Eli was trying to point out.

Now on the scientific front, the first thing to point out is that the filming was done in the mountains to the west of Calgary, near Canmore, not in Calgary.  The nearest Canadian weather station to Canmore is Banff and Banff is really close as things go, 26 km on the road, maybe less than 20 if a bunny is taking the crow, something bunnies tend to avoid.

With that out of the way, let us look at the climate variable most closely associated with what the film makers wanted, snow on the ground (in cm damn it the is a scientifical blog, no ethical scientist uses feet or inches)

 FWIW 120 days is the end of April, the Chinook that hit Calgary came in Jan 25, and yes, bunnies can see the warmish weather from it, but then the snow on the ground in 2015 (red) remained low to zilch for the rest of the season.  That is a hell of a Chinook, maybe never was such a thing.

Well how about the temperature.  Eli can graph the average temperature

Gavin and Mike Mann for the win

also, of course Leonardo D!

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Iran election links

Vox Sentences has a good rundown on links about Iran's election over the weekend. The last three are the best. If you only have time for one, read The Guardian.

A point I haven't seen:  everyone agrees it wasn't a free and fair election, but as a test of whether the Iranian people want this nuclear deal with the US and with the rest of the world, it could not have had a clearer result. If anything, the hardliners interference in the election downplays how much the people clearly want the deal.

The hardliners now running for the Republican nomination seem to think Iranians would welcome more sanctions and maybe a few airstrikes. Guess again.