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.