Scientific evidence is indispensable for effective policymaking?

47579329_1921628494553476_4938128439438737408_n This is the claim made by SciAm, via Twatter. Actually it's more of a hook, for yet most science communication wittering, because they continue This account definitely isn’t wrong. But the emerging science of science communication, which uses scientific methods to understand how people come to know what’s known by science, suggests that it is incomplete.

But they are lying. Not only is the account not definitely not wrong, it's definitely wrong. In almost all the big areas of policy, science is either irrelevant or trivial. Trade policy? Idiot mechantalists, lead by the Mango Mussolini aka Tariffman, abound. The war on terror? The war on drugs? Education policy? And so it goes on. Global warming, which is probably the one where science is most needed, is arguably sorta lead by science (except for the USAnians, of course), except of course in the economic responses, which is the important bit.

And so the SciAm is displaying exactly the sort of blindness that it decries: because it has the word "science" in it's title, and is run by science-y type folks, they over-estimate the importance of science - and hence themselves - to policy.

Yesterday was the annual Christmas Head race, in which we wacky rowing types display our creativity by dressing up and then rowing. Spot me, and see if you can guess our theme. Another thing that happened on Saturday was the BRIC 2018; in a result that surprised nobody, BR types took the first 6 places, but in a bit of a shocker some bloke called Karel Kabelik from Nines was 9th - ha ha, nice - in 6:04.9 - which bodes well for them. Darling Daughter is still in the 8+ league but I have faith.

Reflections on Peter Stott

Peter Stott has a blog, though it's currently a bit thin, never mind, the one I wanted to comment on is The Climate negotiations in Katowice, Poland. What can I say? It's all so naive; so well-meant; so useless. Why? Let me do the easiest example first: he lingers long on Greta Thunberg. I'm sure she's a wonderful person; but the focus on her is just PR fluff. She has nothing new to say, inevitably. The meeja love her because she is a Newe Thinge in climate change, which they love, because they really don't want to report the same old science all over again. But PS is completely taken in. Of course, he can't risk saying anything that could be interpreted as negative about her; think of the PR rebound that might occur. So he is reduced to go-with-the-flow gushing.

Point two comes from his reflections on various past COPs: At each COP that I’ve attended the atmosphere has felt different. In Kyoto back in 97, there was a fevered air of excitement as negotiators raced towards a historic agreement to reduce emissions. But without progress towards meeting the Kyoto protocol, the atmosphere at the Milan meeting in 2003 felt listless and flat. A catastrophic COP15 at Copenhagen in 2009 took international efforts to deal with climate change to a new low. But COP 17 in Durban felt more hopeful. What he fails to realise is that the ups and downs of the various COPs reflect their lack of substance. They are pretty well just hot air. If they had substance, they wouldn't be so up and down. Consider a supertanker: full, it is hard to deflect. Empty, it can be blown around by the breeze. The COPs are empty.

Third - and most relevant to the title of this blog - we have In the presentation space of the UK pavilion, which came with several rows of benches in front of a large television screen, I presented my results on the UK heatwave in one presentation and in another our latest work on providing scientific advice to help make societies more resilient to the effects of climate change. Even amplified through a microphone it was hard to be heard over the constant, noisy hubbub from the crowds milling around us. This demonstrates the obvious: the science presentations were there for show, as entertainment. What he fails to think of though is: why present the science there at all? Why pay for PS to travel there, emitting CO2 all the way? No-one going there is unaware of the science already done. No-one is going to have a last-minute epiphany because of some presentation. Of course he's only there as a travelling show to entertain delegates as they nibble their nibbles and neck their wine.


Marching for science?
* Policy?
Social Nonscience again - James' Empty Blog
* In the unlikely event of you wanting me to tell you something else that's stupid, then I offer you Lawrence Torcello taking himself terribly seriously and saying We must finally come to grips with the fact that such collusion is best understood as a crime against humanity. Sweetly, he links to a Worde Doc; it's like he hasn't really mastered this web-cloudy stuff. I suspect he'd be happier with a quill pen.
* Some more hopelessly confused #exxonknew drivel in the Graun.
Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report.
AlphaZero: Shedding new light on the grand games of chess, shogi and Go.
No, we do not have 12 years to stop catastrophic climate change #12years - VV


Cory Gardner, climate denier?

The story so far: AGU reception to honor Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), to award them the Presidential Citation for their bipartisan work advancing the Earth and space sciences and this makes some people sad, because Gardner denies that humans contribute to climate change! Shocking. Well, he's a Repub senator so practically bound to be a witch, but shouldn't we at least pretend to have some evidence before lynching him? RR offered "I think the climate is changing, but I don’t believe humans are causing that change to the extent that’s been in the news" which I quibbled with "you and I and all scientists know full well that there's a great deal of drivel about climate in the news" which no-one had an answer too, so let's try something else.

Wiki offers Gardner has stated that he believes climate change is occurring, but he is unsure whether humans are causing it which appears to be a true enough representation of his publically expressed views1. Is it actually denialism? Scientifically its not justifiable. The words are from 2014; if he's said stuff since then, no-one has brought it up. The doubt expressed is scientifically unreasonable and from a scientist with any climate training would amount to denialism; from a pol, since it abstains from the positive, I'm doubtful.

Twatter comes back with a Vice article, Meet Colorado's climate change deniers. But that only provides RR's quote, so meh, that's not good enough. But Wired has HERE ARE ALL THE SENATORS WHO DO AND DON'T BELIEVE IN HUMAN-CAUSED CLIMATE CHANGE (by goodness they're as shouty as RS at Wired); and this includes him in a list of "Voted against the amendment (nay—human activities don’t contribute to climate change)". However... I'm suspicious of course, because they don't provide the text of the amendment, or any link to it, only their own paraphrase,which experiences tells me not to trust2. Indeed there were, on closer inspection, two amendments, neither of which are linked. And I found them hard to find; perhaps I'm just not used to navigating such stuff. Happily Twatter (though not without snark; but where would arguing on the internet be without snark) produced a link to the amendment. Which (whew!) appears to be:

       (a) Findings.--The environmental analysis contained in the
     Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement referred to
     in section 2(a) and deemed to satisfy the requirements of the
     National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et
     seq.) as described in section 2(a), states that--
       (1) ``[W]arming of the climate system is unequivocal and
     each of the last [3] decades has been successively warmer at
     the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850.'';
       (2) ``The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], in
     addition to other institutions, such as the National Research
     Council and the United States (U.S.) Global Change Research
     Program (USGCRP), have concluded that it is extremely likely
     that global increases in atmospheric [greenhouse gas]
     concentrations and global temperatures are caused by human
     activities.''; and
       (3) ``A warmer planet causes large-scale changes that
     reverberate throughout the climate system of the Earth,
     including higher sea levels, changes in precipitation, and
     altered weather patterns (e.g. an increase in more extreme
     weather events).''.
       (b) Sense of Congress.--Consistent with the findings under
     subsection (a), it is the sense of Congress that--
       (1) climate change is real; and
       (2) human activity significantly contributes to climate

Warning: there are at least two versions of this amendment, and possibly another one kicking around, that I found impossible to disentangle; so hopefully I've shown you the right one.

Anyway, our man CG was on the Nay side of the vote for this (I did look for, but failed to find, any debate around the amendment; so I don't know if he spoke). So, yeah, you can burn him if you want to. But... this is all in the context of the Keystone pipeline, and politics. It was a political - largely party-line - vote, not his own words. I repeat what I tried to say about ideological purity in the case of Tillerson.

In the meantime, such being the tenor of our times, the AGU expresses ritual humiliation and waits to see if that will appease the pitchfork-waving crowds... ah, that was a couple of days ago, time passes, CG said on receiving the award Solutions for our most serious issues, such as climate change, will require bipartisan action and resolve, and I look forward to continuing to work with the American Geophysical Union to promote research on and tackle issues like climate change, natural hazards, and space; weaselly, but on the right side.


1. Those able to use the edit history will notice that it also links to an NYT article containing the text "a skeptic of human-caused global warming"; but since the word "skeptic" has no clear meaning, it seemed to add nothing to the article and didn't support it was a ref for; so I removed it.

2. If you've read all the way to the end, we can now consider was I right not to trust Wired's paraphrase? And of course I was. Because a "nay" vote is not a positive vote for anything; in particular it is not an endorsement of "human activities don’t contribute to climate change".


* Phil Plait on twatter links to an open letter. Notice that it doesn't find any positive statements by him either. They have the vote, per above; and his voting record; but possibly not neutrally scored, e.g. he gets rapped for voting for Gorsuch. But it has some respectable signatories: Santer, Trenberth, Cane, Shindell, Thompson, Emanuel, Mann, Vermeer, Washington, and many more. I don't see Gavin though.
Tackle global warming with hope, not fear - Mann.
* In Defense Of ‘Dark Money’


New technologies, not Paris climate agreement, will do the job?

13403371_1121168774614721_7270794426077298794_o Or so says Dieter Helm in the FT (arch).Someone called Simon Evans doesn't like it, and although he says it is packed full of wrongness, in an entire Twit thread he lands few if any hits. But I think DH gets some major points right; principally that the entire Kyoto-Paris-etc negotiating theatre is a waste of time and money; and that the response to GW so far, throwing money at subsidies, has been inefficient. What he mostly says is the very limited amount of money that current customers and voters are actually prepared to pay is spent wisely. The money needs to go on those things that might actually make a real difference. I don't think SE likes the "very limited" aspect, but otherwise, the call to spent money wisely should hardly be controversial2; though when phrased as a criticism of the way money is currently being spent it does become so, since it implies that "the" money is currently being spent unwisely. Which I agree with.

But sadly, as soon as DT gets to solutions, he falls into exactly the same trap as the people he is criticising: Instead of putting all the money in the conventional wind and solar panels boxes, some of it should go on research and development. Did you spot the error? The chances are that if you're a researcher you didn't :-). The error is once again trying a top-down directed approach to what should be done. The answer is a carbon tax, and let the market sort things out. Alas people like DT like that idea no more than people like SE like it, because it gives them nothing to pontificate about.

Fortunately there seems to be a genuine chance that solar will spread quickly enough so solve all our problems, despite the general incompetence. And people are currently doing a really bad job on working out the costs of GW1, so this may be for the best. Although effectively saying "don't worry, all will be well" seems a poor plan, given past experience.


Carbon budgets and carbon taxes.
* It took me ages to find this so I'll put it here, but its NSFW: Oglaf/Intermission.
What made solar panels so cheap? Thank government policy?
As Congress Tackles Climate, Markets Are The Engine But Policies Set The Direction - Forbes


1. As ATTP notes in "10% of GDP?"
2. Though now I think about it, I'm actually opposing attempts to spend money "wisely", if "wisely" is read as "after careful consideration by some central authority". But I am arguing for trusting to the "wisdom" or perhaps knowledge of individuals and smaller entities.


4th National Climate Assessment report: Labour

blobs Part two of a series; part one was on Extreme Temperature Mortality. Labour is - IMO somewhat implausibly - the largest economic cost identified. Let's quote them: Under RCP8.5, labor hours in the U.S. are projected to decrease due to increases in extreme temperatures, especially for outdoor industries whose workers are exposed to the elements. Considering changes in both extreme heat and cold, approximately 1.9 billion labor hours are projected to be lost in 2090, costing an estimated $160 billion in lost wages.

So these are no el-cheapo fruit pickers sweltering under the sun; presumably the peons just get to suffer. No, if 1.9 billion labour hours costs $160 billion, then these people are getting about $100 per hour. 1.9 billion labour hours sounds like a lot, but at 300 days a year that's "only" about 6 million hours per day, which for a working population in the hundreds of millions is about 3% of people losing an hour a day. That's within the ballpark I think you'd expect: a small fraction of the population, affected a bit. But again one sees immeadiately that while $160 billion sounds like a large number, it isn't a big fraction of total wages; changes as projected here from GW are going to be a small fraction of changes due to expected growth in the economy over the next 70 years.

But that was all written without reading the chapter. So let's forge on. I find that these losses - which TBH look quite small to me - are regarded as "large" and "very costly" by the report. Hmm, and that's about it.

Well, I say, meh. consider 70 years ago... 1950. Had they projected forwards to now, would they have predicted the increase in mechanisation, and the introduction of air-conditioned tractors? No. And the present report suffers, inevitably, from similar problems. Generic changes in the patterns of employment due to technological and other change are going to be far larger than the changes considered here.

4th National Climate Assessment report: septics are sad

47002156_2100822113316044_1114944158235099136_o It turns out that there's a collection of review comments on, I presume, an early draft of the recent 4th National Climate Assessment report.

One John Christy (I presume it is he) says Half truths are nothing but lies. The oceans are not rising any faster than before. You can see all the correct science at cctruth.org.

David Albert says Climate change later in this century will be dominated by declining solar activity not CO2 or human activity. Human CO2 will never exceed 20% of the atmospheric content (Harde2017). To assert that it will warm in the future and that warming will be controlled by human emissions is speculative not supported by data.

Ross McKitrick says ...The wording in the opening sentence is imprecise and overconfident. There is little reliable information about the pace of changes on decadal and centennial time scales throughout Earth's history, yet you state without any qualifications that modern rates of change are unprecedented...

Angelica Marchia says The report should remove the unsupported major claim in that "... emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming..." The claim (that CO2 causes global warming) is unsupported by any valid method that has been properly published and peer reviewed.

David Wojick says This entire Message states a clearly false claim. The scientific literature is full of discussions of possible natural causes for the observed changes. Moreover, there are numerous studies that suggest that these changes are well within the range of natural variability.

Jan Dash (who has a PhD, you know) adds a comment that apparently comes from " Richard McNider and John Christy, The University of Alabama in Huntsville": In the last 25 years climate science assessment documents from the IPCC to the Present NCA-4 have devolved from a rational accounting of knowns and unknowns to a one-sided epistle for climate action...

Michael MacCracken says lots of things, but since he's mostly sane I didn't bother read any of them.

There are 251 pages of comments in total. Lord help anyone who has to read it all.


4th National Climate Assessment report: Extreme Temperature Mortality

blobs Yes, the post you've all been waiting for. Before reading my take you should of course read RealClimate, but I suspect like me you'll be a touch disappointed, because that post is bland. I shall quote from it: The summaries and FAQ are good, and the ClimateNexus briefing is worth reading too. The basic picture is utterly unsurprising, but the real interest in the NCA is the detailed work on vulnerabilities and sectorial impacts in 10 specific regions of the US. The FAQ is also unsurprising if you know this stuff, but does include a ref to our ice-age myth stuff, which is nice.

You'll also be disappointed - perhaps shocked - to discover that I haven't read the whole thing. Instead I looked for something to latch onto, and found this pic, which is from... well, OK, let me tell you a story. The pic is a version of something I saw in a Twit, and thought, hmm yes very interesting but where do I find the data, analysis, discussion? So I looked through the report chapters (sorry, the report format appears to be shitty javascript written by script kiddies, making it impossible to link directly to the chapter overview) and failed to guess which of the chapters it might be from. Fortunately, Google is more useful than NCA, and site:https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/ "annual damages" found me what I wanted: Chapter 29, Mitigation. Of course. As an aside, the report to me appears to be waaay behind the IPCC reports in terms of sourcing the summaries back to the chapters. Anyway, that bit of Chapter 29 sources itself to Multi-Model Framework for Quantitative Sectoral Impacts Analysis: A Technical Report for the Fourth National Climate Assessment, and so I looked at that.

As you'll see, the three biggest impacts on that graph, as measured by dollars, are: Labour, Extreme Temperature Mortality, and Coastal Property. To a first approximation, each of those are a quarter, and everything else is another quarter. I was going to do Labour, but the first one along was ETM, so I thought I'd do that instead. Note first that The study also only considers deaths related to extreme temperatures, though extreme heat will... do other stuff too; so this isn't complete.

$141B/yr is a Big Number, but we all known that Big Numbers without some kind of context or referent are meaningless. Let's try to put it into place. As the report says, This analysis estimates the number of deaths over the course of the 21st century attributable to extreme temperatures in 49 cities in the contiguous U.S., which account for approximately one third of the national population. So that's a bit funky: you might at least expect them to multiply it by three or something. That number - by 2090 - represents 9,300 deaths/yr which is ~$15M/life by a quick in-my-head calc; and looking at footnote 142 I see I'm right. Soooo... how might we assess that? Imagine (I do this just to wind you up, you understand) we were talking not about people, but about industrial plant. Then we'd want to compare those 9,300 people to the replacement rate; which is currently abut 1%, of about 300M, which is to say the population is growing by 3M/yr. Against which 9,300 is about 0.3%, if I have my maths right. Scaling that, we might expect a similar number from the GDP figures: $141B is large, but the US GDP in 2018 was ~$20Tr, of which $141B is about 0.7%, which is close enough, as I haven't been very careful about what year I'm looking at.

The next interesting thing to consider is Mortality from extremely hot days decreased more than 50% under both RCP8.5 and RCP4.5 in 2050 and 2090 when the human health response to extreme temperatures was evaluated using Dallas’ threshold for extreme heat (in all cities with thresholds initially cooler than Dallas), as a sensitivity analysis to consider the effect of adaptation. Which is a good place to remind ourselves that, for simplicity, the initial figures are with no adaption, a not very plausible scenario. Unfortunately they don't really explore Dallas-world in depth, so it is nothing but a sensitivity analysis; but if you think $141B is large then you presumably think $70.5B is also large, and so should be very interested in exploring an effect that large.

If you follow the spiral of bubbles down to near the centre you'll eventually come to "shellfish" at $23M/yr. Now I quite like shellfish, some of my best friends are shellfish, but compared to the uncertainty in $141B, 23M is less than a rounding error, so why they bothered - other than pressure from the shellfish associations - I really don't know.

I should also point out that these are RCP8.5, which you can call too high if you like, and can consider RCP4.5 if you prefer, in which case you get to cut the numbers in half.

Update: I didn't explicitly note it here, but their estimate of the (small) changes due to winter mortality don't look plausible to me, especially in the face of stuff like Excess winter deaths in England and Wales highest since 1976 from the Graun.


The management apologise for any inconvenience - aka Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States by Solomon Hsiang et al., Science 30 Jun 2017.
10% of GDP? - ATTP


Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70's? No

DSC_3261-w-ma-great-aunt-jess With the recent drivel in "Metro" making the news, it may be time for another anti-ice-age-myth post; the last from me that I can see is from 2015, when the Squareheads went mad. To remind you, the "proper" scientific source for all this is Now out in BAMS: The myth of the 1970s global cooling scientific consensus, which is my wild-eyed enthusiasm, Thomas Peterson's careful scholarship, and John Fleck's journalistic flair. My1 RC post from 2005 is also worth a look.

But what I wanted to link to here, for those young 'uns who don't know the history, is http://www.wmconnolley.org.uk/sci/iceage/. Which is hosted on my web site (remember when people had personal web sites?) and will probably one day disappear when I forget to pay the bills; happily there's an archive of it. As you can tell, it is a page that Just Grew; I even felt moved to add a note to new readers at one point. So all this started in the sci.env days, let us say around the year 1995-2000. In those days GW "skepticism" was a little bit more respectable, the evidence wasn't all in the way it is now, and one of the themes was the familiar "but you were all predicting ice ages in the 70's", and what I discovered was that when you actually read the papers that people were putting forward, you discovered that no, people weren't predicting ice ages (with a few exceptions).

Some flavour of sci.env comes from Re: control the climate by Michael Tobis in 1995, or Cooling vs. Warming by Robert Parson in 1993. In some ways the best summary is by Dick "Mad Dog" Lindzen:
Many studies from the nineteenth century on suggested that industrial and other contributions to increasing carbon dioxide might lead to global warming. Problems with such predictions were also long noted, and the general failure of such predictions to explain the observed record caused the field of climatology as a whole to regard the suggested mechanisms as suspect. Indeed, the global cooling trend of the 1950s and 1960s led to a minor global cooling hysteria in the 1970s. All that was more or less normal scientific debate, although the cooling hysteria had certain striking analogues to the present warming hysteria including books such as The Genesis Strategy by Stephen Schneider and Climate Change and World Affairs by Crispin Tickell--both authors are prominent in support of the present concerns as well--"explaining'' the problem and promoting international regulation. There was also a book by the prominent science writer Lowell Ponte (The Cooling) that derided the skeptics and noted the importance of acting in the absence of firm, scientific foundation. There was even a report by the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences reaching its usual ambiguous conclusions. But the scientific community never took the issue to heart, governments ignored it, and with rising global temperatures in the late 1970s the issue more or less died. In the meantime, model calculations--especially at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton--continued to predict substantial warming due to increasing carbon dioxide. Those predictions were considered interesting, but largely academic, exercises--even by the scientists involved.
though of course you can't trust everything that article says. The 1975 US National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Report is also worth a look; and since Big D mentions it, here's my read of The Cooling.


* 2012: Carbon Dioxide: Our Salvation from a Future Ice Age?


1. Now assigned to "group" but as the archive shows, it's mine.
2. The pic is me - I'm the little one - my mother, and Scary Great Aunt Jess. at their house in Leighton Buzzard, in 1964 I'd imagine.
3. A point that VV makes in hist comment elsewhere is that even if the meme were true - if the consensus had been for cooling then - it still wouldn't affect the quality of today's science. That is logically true, but I suspect it wouldn't play well politically, so it isn't my lead argument. I prefer to go with the argument that the entire meme is broken, which it is.


What made solar panels so cheap? Thank government policy?

It's by that nice Dave Roberts, in Vox (arch). Naturally, he omits the second question mark. His text is Evaluating the causes of cost reduction in photovoltaic modules by Goksin Kavlak, James McNerney and Jessika E.Trancik. I'd feel guilty for not reading it but it's paywalled so I'll rely on DR's paraphrase.

Anyway, the paper takes the observed steep decline in solar PV price, and tries to work out what caused this: things like building bigger plants, efficiency (of the panels) and R+D. This is a sensible thing to do, and nicely they do it over two decade-length times, so you can see to some extent how the drivers change over time. Read Vox, I won't re-say it here.

DR's point is that it were the gummint that dunnit, and naturally I'm a bit dubious about that. If you break down the drivers into "low level" and "high level", then each contributes about 100% (by a quick by-eye addition), and the largest single factor is a high level one, public and private R+D, which is ~60%. Unfortunately it then starts to get blurred: DR doesn't split R+D up into the obvious categories of public and private. Then "market-stimulating policies" come in from the left field, and are policies "which create legal or economic incentives for private actors to research, develop, and invest in technologies"; and apparently "do the bulk of the work". So it was mostly private R+D, stimulated by govt policies? This is believable.

While I'm here, I should link to Auke Hoekstra's update of his "solar PV is doing much better than the projections" that I blogged as Photovoltaic growth: reality versus projections of the International Energy Agency – the 2017 update.


* Extinction rebellion - ATTP. Well, someone had to write it. I notice he isn't brave enough to venture an opinion. Having written that, I suppose I ought to. Reading Rupert Read, philosophe, it would seem that they're fine because they're "righteous"; I'm dubious.
Transportation is the Biggest Source of U.S. Emissions - from 2017, but the point is interesting: with large-scale solar supplying more power, and coal less, there will come a point where addressing (electric) transportation becomes more important. Fortunately, that's already happening to some extent.
* Thanksgiving in Little Hill Village - Scott Sumner
* Astonishingly, Timmy has a different answer: It’s Capitalism That Made Solar Panels Cheap. Capitalism And Markets, Not Public Policy. Although actually he mainly points out that the paper doesn't answer the question he is interested in.
* Nice cartoon.


Early oil industry knowledge of CO2 and global warming?

evil The world is clearly desperate for information on this topic, because a minor and rather unimportant letter on the subject makes Nurture (to me via Twitter; actually maybe it's only NatureClimateChange, possibly in lower case, I find it hard to keep up). The author, one Franta, came to my attention with similar stuff earlier: On its hundredth birthday in 1959, Edward Teller warned the oil industry about global warming? I find this disturbing, because I think people are jumping on this rather foolish bandwagon under a kind of group illusion that because other people publish drivel, they should too (and this isn't free; it distracts from reality); see-also The oil industry knew about climate change long before the American public did? You can hear the salivating in These archival discoveries add to the growing body of information regarding  fossil fuel producers’ knowledge of climate science over time12. Such information  may assist in understanding the history of climate policy efforts and assessing  the responsibilities of fossil fuel  producers today. FFS, that ref 12 is not to any scholarly article, it's to Exxon: the road not taken by InsideClimateNews. Terribly nice people I'm sure, but their entire series was broken, as I may have mentioned more than once before.


UN environment chief Erik Solheim quits amid expenses row.


The Carbon Tax Is Dead, Long Live the Carbon Tax?

vie Or; alas poor I-1631, I knew you well. Tyler Cowen ventures to hope that its failure on the ballot in Washington state will inspire economists to come up with better arguments. TC doesn't address the rather messy nature of 1631. I noted that parts of it appeared to have been written by children, and no-one disagreed. In comments elsewhere, I said to PH that
You have a bind: there are two versions of the "carbon tax initiative": the "pure" one, which can attract thinking Repubs, and ought to have the support of Dems; but which offers no pork-barrelling, which people have come to expect as a right, so struggles to get enough support. As you found, this version doesn't get 100% Dem support, because they want the moon on a stick, so it fails. The other version is the distinctly impure one, where revenues are used to buy off a pile of special interests. Now you can get all the Dems on board, but you repel a lot of Repubs. There isn't an easy answer to this, other than to slap the over-fussy Dems around and get them to vote for the "pure" version.
Joe Romm at ThinkProgress roundly blames Big Bad Oil for the defeat; but that's just excuse-making and infantilising the electorate. Doubtless money has some influence; but telling how much is impossible, and in the end the electorate are responsible for the little marks that they put on the little pieces of paper. TC says
Like many economists, I have long supported the idea of a carbon tax, and still do. Government has to tax something. So why not tax those activities which generate social costs, in this case through disruptive climate change? It is a very intuitive argument that has persuaded many economists on both sides of the political spectrum.
So far so obvious. But also
The doomsday wing of the carbon-tax movement has long faced a tension in its proclamations. On one hand, it argues that relatively modest carbon-tax proposals will bring significant gains for the global climate. On the other, some of the more extreme advocates argue that without such taxes, the climate will take a disastrous turn. The reality is that carbon taxes would simply be accelerating the natural course of technological progress — electric cars in five years rather than 15. That’s a net social benefit, but it is unlikely to make the difference between environmental balance and doom.
which I rather like. How can sane people - like him and me - convince anyone that carbon taxes are a good and useful idea, if other people are loudly shouting that doom is just around the corner? Clearly, a modest (say, $20 / tonne) carbon tax cannot be the difference between Doom and Not-Doom; it is easy enough to morph that into "oh well in that case let's not bother".

TC doesn't have any geat ideas for how to address this problem, and neither do I. We could just hope it will solve itself; Lazards Levelized Cost of Energy and Levelized Cost of Storage 2018 looks good (and see-also Storage will replace 3 California gas plants as PG&E nabs approval for world's largest batteries).

Brian has a go, at Eli's.


What is the revenue generation model for DuckDuckGo?
* Legal Responses to Regulatory Capture SENATOR SHELDON WHITEHOUSE United States Senator from Rhode Island; aka "drop Chevron deference if the agencies make decisions I disagree with".
* Elon Musk weights in.
U.S. Coal Plant Retirements Near All-Time High.
The E15 Mandate is Poor Environmental Policy - USA corn ethanol boondoggling.
Will Trump Join the "Fight for $15?.
There are No Natural Resources… - CafeHayek
Yes, a carbon tax - Timmy
Low-skilled Immigrants are Productive, Too - CafeHayek
* Markets fail, use markets - EconLib
It is impossible, however, to guarantee that force will be limited to maintaining good civil order.

von Neumann on climate, in 1955

vonn Via Twatter, I discover that Every president since JFK was warned about climate change. That doesn't seem especially plausible to me - at least, in the conventional sense of the phrase "climate change", which is used to mean "global warming" - and the sense of the word "warn". Since I suspect attacking this would be more shooting fish in a barrel, I won't bother; instead I'll look at the source of JFK's warning, which was apparently from the great von N, no relation to von S. If you look, you'll easily find Can we survive technology? (Fortune, 1955) which purports to be a reprint from the archives. Alas, you'll search in vain for climate there, and you may be rather confused by the somewhat abrupt ending of the piece, without even the dignity of a final full stop. And then it becomes clear that whoever was tasked with transcribing this stuff just got bored after a bit and stopped.

Happily, there's a copy at http://activistpost.net/Can-We-Survive-Technology.pdf1

I don't have a great deal to say about it, though. He knows about CO2 causing warming; he knows about aerosols causing cooling. However, he doesn't seem to be concerned, as we are now, with inadvertent warming from CO2 emissions; rather, his interest is in deliberate modification.

At this point I need some text to fill out the blank space before the next image comes in. I could read more of the article itself, but don't feel inclined to. Instead, I'll tell you about my sculling outing today. I didn't get out until 2:30, by which time the early sun had gone; and I had to fight my way past endless novice VIIIs tangled up with each other, and the moored boats; but once on the Reach it was lovely. Then it began to rain, and on the way back it absolutely hammered down so that it was hard to see. Ah, I see I've hit my quota. Excellent, on with the show.

vonn1 He realises that trying to change the climate might not please everyone; he is bizarrely confident of our ability to do it, however.

Perhaps not unreasonably, Senator Clinton Anderson chose to bring this to the Prez's attention, but under the rather weak rubric of "I mean only to suggest to you that this is an interesting subject and one which should not be put entirely on the shelf.

For my general opinions about "early warnings", see In the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis? and indeed Who knew what when? not forgetting The oil industry knew about climate change long before the American public did?


1.  Warning; that nice PDF came via this, which begins In the course of exposing chemtrails... and then ...is the most potent evidence yet in support of the assertion that the theory of man-made global warming is a cover story for the biggest scientific effort in history. However, that does have a plain-text copy of some of the von N text, which I'll paste in here for convenience: The carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by industry’s burning of coal and oil – more than half of it during the last generation – may have changed the atmosphere’s composition sufficiently to account for a general warming of the world by about one degree Fahrenheit. The volcano Krakatao[sic] erupted in 1883 and released an amount of energy by no means exorbitant. Had the dust of the eruption stayed in the stratosphere for fifteen years, reflecting sunlight away from the earth, it might have sufficed to lower the world’s temperature by six degrees (in fact, it stayed for about three years, and five such eruptions would probably have achieved the result mentioned). This would have been a substantial cooling; the last Ice Age, when half of North America and all of northern and western Europe were under an ice cap like that of Greenland or Antarctica, was only fifteen degrees colder than the present age. On the other hand, another fifteen degrees of warming would probably melt the ice of Greenland and Antarctica and produce worldwide tropical to semi-tropical climate.


A study of climatological research as it pertains to intelligence problems
Trump cancels US cemetery visit amid diplomatic embarrassment


Jordan Peterson is a tosser

#1 in a series of "my friends have taken this idiot seriously so I paid some slight attention"1. ATTP has discussed him and his a few times and it wasn't very interesting. But now JP has chosen to say things about global warming which makes it obvious that he's a fuckwit, so I can conclude my opinion-forming process with "tosser". There's a convenient transcript of some of his words by CliSep, who I think are dodgy, but ATTP Twitted their link, so I guess that's OK.

We start off with Well, I don’t really have beliefs about climate change, I wouldn’t say. I think the climate is probably warming, but it’s been warming since the last ice age, so... This is a bit shit, taken together. There's nothing wrong with "Well, I don’t really have beliefs about climate change, so I'd rather not answer your question" or some other such deflecting formula; but having professed no knowledge, there's no justification for going on and pushing out your beliefs2. There's a get-out-card available for him, perhaps, if he wishes to distinguish "beliefs" and "knowledge": perhaps he knows a lot, but doesn't "believe" in it? But if so, he should be clearly distinguishing the two; otherwise he's just guilty of muddled talking, and probably muddled thinking.

In answer to "But It’s dramatically accelerated in the last couple of decades" we have Yeah, maybe, possibly, it’s not so obvious, I spent quite a bit of time going through the relevant literature, I read about 200 books on ecology and economy. Again, there's the contradiction between his original assertion of lack-of-belief, and his apparent vague but firm knowledge that "it's not so obvious". This is then followed up by a claim to have looked at the "relevant literature", which then turns out to be ecology and economy.

These are obvious points the interviewer should have picked up on. But the interviewer is as thick as pigshit and totally fails to notice, so JP gets a free pass in the interview. But not from me. Is he genuinely so muddled that he doesn't know that he needs to look at physical climatology, if he is interested in the temperature record? That the IPCC is the obvious source; and that there's a convenient summary available? Of course, if you're a provocative public intellectual, then simply agreeing with the relevant authorities is uninteresting and might diminish your aura of controversiality.

But actually the answer is that he's even more muddled, because he segues straight into I find it very difficult to distinguish valid environmental claims from environmental claims that are made as a secondary anti-capitalist front. And indeed, that's a separate muddle one can get into, but it is nothing to do with temperature rise.

So, far from a clear-thinking intellectual, he's just a rather confused talking head.


1. Number 2 actually happened first and is over here, deliberately obscure, but I link it for completeness. This one was a-friend-down-the-pub, and to be fair they were only going to listen to him speak.

2. Unless you're a talking-head public intellectual too dumb to realise that you're not obliged to have an opinion or know things about all subjects.


What the Word Liberalism Means, If Anything.


More bad news for photogenic teens

DSC_6095 Via ClimateLiabilityNews, Alaska Judge Dismisses Youth Climate Suit Vs. State Government. Looks to be very similar to a Washington case, which itself was similar to the Alsup one. Meanwhile the original photogenic teens have their case stayed (update: and now unstayed... now more, see update #2). On what bizarre grounds was the current one dismissed, you will wonder?
If this court were to bypass the executive or legislative branch and make a policy judgment, it would violate the separation of powers.
So there's a pattern emerging, because that's essentially the same reasoning used in the other cases. That dealing with this problem is one for the legislative and executive branches. I agree with that, as I've said before. It would be a case for relief-by-law in the normal courts if there was a clear law being broken; but there isn't. And it would be one for the constitutional courts of there was some clear violation of the constitution or your rights. But despite the rather implausible stretches in the cases, there isn't.

That leaves you with the unpalatable problem that the L+E branches won't do what you want them to do. So that's the problem you need to address, rather than wasting your energy in the courts. I offer my wise advice about What to DO about big problems? over there.

Just as I'm writing this, Previously Unrecognized Rights: Climate Change Lawsuits and the Rule of Law comes my way. I seem to largely agree with it. Notice also that my view of "rights" as expressed in Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you? also largely agrees with that link's disdain for over-creative claims of "rights".

Update: from CleanTechnicaIf the political process is hijacked by rabid climate change deniers at a time when an environment suitable for human existence is threatened, the courts have no choice but to put aside legal niceties and force the hand of the Congress and the president. That’s what the Juliana case is really all about, although the plaintiffs can’t say that openly. But of course, the courts will not put aside legal niceties.

Update #2: The case was stayed, by Roberts, and then unstayed, by the full court, but when you read the reasoning carefully, it was less due to lack of merit and more because if that's what was wanted, the appeal court could have done it instead. So the govt applied to the appeal court ({{cn}}) and now have got a temporary stay while they think about it.


* A eulogy to Guardian's Climate Consensus - the 97%
* Is Kids Climate Case Coming to an End? - Volokh: The "trial of the century" may not happen after all; Jonathan H. Adler


Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Continuing my art series, wherein I offer you plebs advice about which pictures are worth your attention, from the heights of my cultured elegance. It also serves as a partial answer to CIP's "eh it were better in t' old days", first popularised by Plato. But then so does Heart of Darkness.

Path: Gustave Moreau: The Apparition, via fb; to Musée d'Orsay; to Gustav Klimt.


* The ParkBuchenwald I.


Death of an Onion

deathDie KlimaZweibel pegged out some time in early 2017 (arch from now; it's last post was mostly in German). You'll have to forgive me for not noticing earlier; I'd rather stopped visiting after his hit post on me, which I thought careless. People kinda just got bored or ran out of things to say, which happens.

But I shouldn't allow it to pass un-noticed. Other hits from down the years include Junk from von S (about the Lovelock affair in which von S deletes some of my comments, the cad; but can a squarehead be a cad?) and Werner Krauss is a tosser in which I delicately express my opinions. On a lighter note, there's von S’s testimony.

This may a good place to lament the death of blogs in general. People with short thoughts seem to Tweet them; and those with slightly longer ones, ridiculously, break them into a sequence of Tweets. Young folk nowadays, they have no respect.


Well Done – Entirely, And Totally, Misunderstanding Canada’s Carbon Tax - Timmy
* Reducing Your Carbon Footprint Still Matters; In fact, getting politicians and industry to address climate change may start at home - Slate; the idea that your actions will influence others; ah, yes: that's my Climate chickenhawks.
The crisis as reported is just the crisis of a few.


Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you?

The idea that "it's not pie" and that "equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you" is such a commonplace that you can get it on a tee shirt.

But is it true?

In Hobbes' world, in the State of Nature we all have equal rights to all things; but we agree to give up some of those rights in order to allow Civil Society to form. And in exchange for, for example, the right to settle our own disputes by force if needed, we agree to submit to a Sovereign's adjudication of disputes: in practice, a court system.

That system inevitably involves balancing some rights against others. For example, does a baker's right to "free speech" in the form of no-forced-speech trump a gay person's right to have a cake baked from them by the bakery of their choice? The answer turned out to be in the baker's favour. Can you call the Prophet a "paedophile" because of his child marriage? Not in Austria; it would seem that religion's freedom from having unpleasant things said about it trumps free speech1. I don't think it would in the US of A. Contrariwise, the "right" to an abortion doesn't obviously involve others losing anything that could be called a right2.

Part of the answer is going to turn on what-are-(human)-rights, anyway? As I've said before, or perhaps edged towards, or avoided, I rather like Hobbes' version: rights are what you have naturally, the aim is to lose as little as possible3. That fits with the Declaration of Independence's famous We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights... Which says that the rights are prior; the govt does not create any more, it helps secure pre-existing rights.


1. Religious beliefs must be subject to criticism and denial, the ECHR observed, but when statements about religions went beyond critical denial and were likely to incite religious intolerance, states could take proportionate restrictive measures, it seems. Hobbes would thoroughly approve: the sovereign may judge what opinions and doctrines are averse, who shall be allowed to speak to multitudes, and who shall examine the doctrines of all books before they are published.

2. At least, not without contortions. As I understand it (I'm talking US law here) the "right" to an abortion is founded on the "right" to privacy, which itself is founded rather weakly on the Due Process Clause. So again, there's a balance between an individual's right to privacy and personal life, against the Sovereign's "right" to maintain society.

3. An example again from the USA: your right to freedom of religion is protected by the constitution forbidding the state to make any laws about it; not by any positive legislation.


A Brazilian in Canada - When one person’s right is another’s obligation. How transgender rights sometimes lead to conflict - the Economist.
UN Urged to Recognize Healthy Climate As a Human Right; or, "people who get paid loads to globetrot about human rights and the environment advocate for more gravy".
* But where do rights come from? An opinion, from CafeHayek.


Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty

44519460_2151550924897512_776482657792950272_n The IPCC "1.5 °C" report's full title is Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. I'm not making this up; their press release says so. Wisely, RC doesn't tell you the full title, because unless you're a bureaucrat, you can immeadiately tell that for something to end up with a title like that, something must have gone badly wrong.

One of the things that is going wrong is that people are misinterpreting it. For example, the wiki article says in the lede Its broad findings are reported as being that drastic action must be taken in limited time to avoid severe and worsening consequences. But the report doesn't actually recommend any action at all, still less use the word drastic. The press release does it's best to hide this, saying:
Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5ºC compared to 2ºC could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday.
But as the background saysthe Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at its 21st Session in Paris, France (30 November to 11 December 2015), invited the IPCC to provide a special report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways (my bold). And so that's primarily what it is: a report on the impacts.


* Having finally done what I'd promised not to do, i.e. write this post, I guess I should link to James' version.
Eli sat in on an interesting conversation last week at the Brookings Institution involving Chris Crane the Excelon CEO.
Climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response? - me in 2015.
* Don't miss: (Move log); 23:10:54 . . Brandt Luke Zorn (talk | contribs) moved page Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC to Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C over redirect ‎(as pointed out on talk page, the page title incorrectly used an ordinal indicator (º) instead of the degree symbol (°)).


A large part of the planet will become unlivable: either too hot or too dry?

americanpieVia Twatter, I discover to my alarm1 that A large part of the planet will become unlivable (either too hot or too dry). It's in Salon, which isn't where you'd normally go for scientific accuracy. But it's by that nice Michael Mann, who you'd rather hope wouldn't talk drivel4. To complete the quote, he also says And more and more of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming to feed a growing global population. That means more concentrated human settlement—and probably a lot more conflict.

He also says We will need to adapt to a world where damaging extreme weather events are far more common. If we don’t act, these events will become both more extreme and more common. Whilst a touch repetitive, it is at least defensible. But let us return to my headline quote. It isn't clear exactly when he imagines this will occur; perhaps 2050 (a date mentioned later in the article, by Trenberth) or perhaps 2100. Never mind; sometime in the future. For the sake of argument, let's pick Trenberth's 2050, when the world is 2 oC above pre-industrial, so (picking numbers rather out of the air) perhaps northernish land areas are +4 oC, since land warms faster than sea and so on.

Heat and Dust

I find it hard to see how just getting warmer will make the world unliveable, at least for humans. People already live in places that are significantly warmer than where I live. Unprotected humans definitely feel uncomfortable if they get too hot, but that's a rather different matter. And air conditioning makes a huge difference, as Florida shows. Naturally, you'll say that air conditioning takes energy and making it hotter just to cool it down is a bit mad, but there it is. You'll also say that poor people don't have a/c2,, but part of GW is increased CO2 emissions is from the world getting richer, per SRES and so on3.

This doesn't mean there wouldn't be a fair bit of adaption needed, but if we have 30+ years to do it, it will be possible. To point out the hopefully obvious I'm not suggesting that just because we can adapt all is fine; but suggesting areas will become unliveable requires some evidence. Perhaps Mann is on a dial-up line and unable to transmit many bytes.

Dryness and drought is a more plausible problem, but it won't make places unliveable. Because (I hope you guessed this) people already live in areas that are far dryer already. For people, greater dryness isn't a problem, though it may be bad for their lawns. But lawns aren't a good idea anyway.

More of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming

Agriculture and farming as well? My, the land will get crowded if they have to do both in the same place. This is a more serious concern, at least when linked to the dryness, because obviously enough droughts are bad for crops. And yet, much of the world's agriculture is dreadfully inefficient, and many of the world's food chains are very badly run, with a large proportion of crops wasted. The answer, of course, is more efficient western style farming and supermarkets, and fewer happy peasants and charming but inefficient mom-and-pop stores. We could feed a growing global population off less land, and return some back to wild, if only the world was better run. Though improving the world's government is not a trivial task.

If the climate changes, the optimal crops for various areas will inevitably change. In Ye Olde Dayes, this would have been a problem, because people didn't have instant access to information and predictions, and didn't have ready access to advice on what other crops they might plant. Happily, now they do.

Wild Thing

You make my heart sing. But this doesn't address the non-human-sphere component, which IMO is where the problems are most likely to lie. But nor do I know much about it, so I won't say much.

More concentrated human settlement

Is a fairly safe prediction. But is it a bad thing? Probably not; probably it's a good thing. Let's concentrate the people and leave the wild alone. Most of the settlement patterns, at least in the West, are a fossil of the days when mot people spent most of their time grubbing in the soil. Most people don't do that any more, so most villages are functionally redundant, other than to cater to tourists coming to look at nice villages.

What should be done?

Bizarrely, having asked two physical climatologists about the likely consequences of GW - an entirely reasonable thing to do - Salon then goes on to ask them about what should be done; an area in which neither Mann nor Trenberth have any particular expertise. Naturally, they have nothing particularly interesting to say.

Science advances one doctorate at a time

I briefly considered writing a post taking the piss out of John McLean's shit PhD thesis, but ATTP has said that it's rubbish, with his habitual disappointing lack of rudeness, and really it's better to leave it to die quietly in a ditch than talk about it.


1. Don't worry. Whilst I take GW seriously, as you'd expect, I don't find this particular story very alarming. Or at least not in it's original sense. I do find it quite alarming that respectable people will say this stuff, though.

2. Unless they're poor USAnians, of course.

3. Which I haven't looked at in yonks, of course; hopefully my fallible memory isn't misleading me or you.

4. Mann says sane things, for example, here. He's also getting rather political; e.g. Brick by brick, Trump and his enablers are dismantling the incredibly fragile geopolitical and societal infrastructure... But (whilst agreeing that Trump is a twat, and probably a dangerous one) "incredibly fragile" is wrong. It must be. If it was so fragile, it would no longer exist.


Credit where it's due - JEB
Wages Reflect Underlying Economic Realities - CafeHayek
* Is Quantum Mechanics a Probabilistic Theory? - NotEvenWrong
Politicians say nothing, but US farmers are increasingly terrified by it – climate change - Graun
* The space race is dominated by new contenders; Private businesses and rising powers are replacing the cold-war duopoly - the Economist


The producers of hydrocarbons have made astonishing returns over decades?

DSC_7960 The Carbon Majors Report, linked by the Graun (under the Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, which I was so rude about), sez
‘Carbon Majors’ offers insight into responsibility from the perspective of the producers of hydrocarbons; those companies that have made astonishing returns over decades through the extraction and production of greenhouse gas emitting products. 
Normally one's eyes pass straight over that kind of stuff as boilerplate, but just for once I read it, and thought "huh? Really?". It is fine rhetoric, but how does it compare to reality. This matters, of course, in two ways: for one, part of "the people's" anger at FF companies is them making vast unjustified profits; and the second of course is that luvverly idea that there are oceans of profits just waiting to be taxed to pay for damages.

Quora from 2017 offers me about 4.5% for Exxon. Forbes, in 2011, says on average, between 2006 and 2010, the largest oil companies averaged a profit margin of around 6.5%. This pales in comparison to profit margins in just about every other industry. The pharmaceutical industry, for example, routinely averages a profit margin of about 16%. The soft drink market is even more lucrative... And so on.

So it is hard to see their profits as "astonishing", or even much out of the ordinary. Which is what you'd expect: oil is a competitive industry, there isn't much room to make extraordinary profits.

Related to this is The big lie we’re told about climate change is that it’s our own fault over at Vox. It's the usual anguished stuff and rather carelessly written. It's also rather vapid: stripped of the emotionalism, there's almost nothing there, apart from the assertion that it isn't our fault, oh dearie me no not at all, it is all the Evil Oil Companies to blame. Weirdly, having got that bit wrong, it then gets we can’t pretend that some unnamed cavalry is coming to save us. We are the adults in this room. We have to save ourselves right, which is a nice surprise. At least, the words are fine (apart from the dubious assertion that such people are the adults). Is the hyperlinked list of "10 ways to accelerate progress against climate change" any good?

#1 is "Price carbon emissions" which is a good start. They spoil it a bit by offering DR's quibbling at the end, which is all a recipe for special interests. #2 is "Subsidize clean energy, and end subsidies for dirty energy". Meh. And, so on. I think I'll not go through them in detail here; I'd rather have a separate post on "what to do".

[Pic: Dolomites, chapel carved into the rock, at the Apostoli hut.]


Fixing the tomato: CRISPR edits correct plant-breeding snafu.
* More on the Long Run - CafeHayek.


The Fall of the Rebel Angels

I don't have much to say at the moment - except it would seem in the comments - but I've had this up in a tab for a week now. Isn't it gorgeous? I find it wonderful that something most of 500 years old can be so good; and it is hardly alone.

In other news we came third in the IM3 IV+ in Robs's Autumn Head today; but only by 1.6 seconds. Despite a strong headwind, and a rain shower while marshalling, it was a lovely day, unseasonably warm.


Kavanaugh's other dangerous assault - on the environment?

So says Michael Mann. Although that link is only to someone else reposting something Mann said, and annoying only "said" in the form of an image1.

Aanyway, the relevant case is I believe Mexichem Fluor, Inc. v. EPA. And since I took the trouble to find that out, and read some of the decision, I shall blog about it. You'll be unsurprised to learn that while MM's soundbite is mostly true, it elides a great deal of important detail. For example, just like the recent Alsup case, K was entirely happy to take all the GW science at it's word.

The actual judgement is here (or here). The argument, as in so many of these cases, is arcane and complex, hinging (sort of) on the meaning of the word "replace". It's worth pausing for a moment to think about this point: the higher courts don't hear simple cases where the answer is obvious to the lower courts; or indeed so obvious that it never comes to court. This kinda returns us to a point I was trying to make before: that if the legislature wanted to make these points beyond doubt it could. It could either explicitly give the EPA authority, or withhold it.


Quite some time ago, in 1990, section 612 of the Clean Air Act was passed, and requires manufacturers to replace ozone-depleting substances with safe substitutes. In fact that - although a quote from the judgement - is a slightly dodgy paraphrase; the exact rule is quoted later: To the maximum extent practicable, class I and class II substances shall be replaced by chemicals, product substitutes, or alternative manufacturing processes that reduce overall risks to human health and the environment. What that adds to the paraphrase is "to the maximum extent practicable" - but that's not important, because no-one tried to contest that point - and using "reduce overall risks to human health and the environment" instead of the hard-to-interpret "safe". But as it happens, that didn't matter either, because K was entirely happy that HFCs could be called, colloquially, "unsafe", because they cause GW. Indeed, K was quite happy for the EPA to move HFCs from the "safe" list, where they had previously been (because they didn't deplete ozone) to the "unsafe" list (because further research had revealed they cause GW). Indeed, he's even happy that the EPA, in doing that, may prohibit anyone from replacing an ozone-depleting substance with HFCs2.


So what does that leave as a problem? The problem was that the EPA wanted to use that authority to oblige people using HFCs to replace them with something that doesn't deplete ozone, and doesn't cause GW; or at least not so much. However, the act appears to only give the EPA authority to force people to replace ozone-depleting substances; and HFCs aren't. Is this a bit Jesuitical? Yes, but that's the law for you. Is it a reasonable reading of the law? I think so; and of course on of the other two judges on the case concurred. Could one make a reasonable case for the opposite? Yeees, probably. Indeed the dissent (Wilkins) does so (page 26). Is this an example of K clearly being unreasonable? No.


As Hobbes puts it, concerning ambiguity in the law,
In all Courts of Justice, the Soveraign (which is the Person of the Common-wealth,) is he that Judgeth: The subordinate Judge, ought to have regard to the reason, which moved his Soveraign to make such Law, that his Sentence may be according thereunto; which then is his Soveraigns Sentence; otherwise it is his own, and an unjust one.
So it is pleasing to see K address this by referring to what the Senate considered, when writing the law:
The Senate’s version of the safe alternatives policy would have required the replacement not just of ozone-depleting substances, but also of substances that contribute to climate change. Id. sec. 702, §§ 503(8), 514(a). In other words, the Senate bill would have granted EPA authority to require the replacement of non-ozone depleting substances such as HFCs. But the Conference Committee did not accept the Senate’s version of Title VI. See H.R. Rep. No. 101-952, at 262 (1990) (Conf. Rep.). Instead, the Conference Committee adopted the House’s narrower focus on ozone-depleting substances. Id.; see S. 1630, 101st Cong. sec. 711, § 156(b) (as passed by House, May 23, 1990). In short, although Congress contemplated giving EPA broad authority under Title VI to regulate the replacement of substances that contribute to climate change, Congress ultimately declined.


There was a petition for a rehearing en banc4, that was simply denied; so it is appealed to the supreme court.


1. I can't find the quote via Google. Reverse image search says the image appeared in Mann's Twitter feed some time in 2017, and I have no reason to doubt it is his. The slightly odd "Secretary of Science and Environment" bit is from the Shadow Cabinet.

2. Although, as the judgement notes, this is probably unimportant, as it is unlikely if there is anyone left still using ozone-depleting substances. Update: ah no, That's not quite what it says: footnote 2 is: The parties disagree over whether, as a factual matter, any manufacturers still make products that use ozone-depleting substances. EPA says yes. Mexichem and Arkema say no. We need not resolve that factual dispute here, as it has no bearing on our legal analysis of the meaning of Section 612(c). 

3. Also note that "flying under the radar screen" is an odd way of putting it. The analogy is with a plane, flying underneath the radar beams. The "screen" is just the read-out from such a radar; a plane would not meaningfully fly under the operator's screen.

4. Which I'm guessing means "with a wider panel of judges", perhaps the "full court".

5. laws, when good, should be supreme; and that the magistrate or magistrates should regulate those matters only on which the laws are unable to speak with precision owing to the difficulty of any general principle embracing all particulars - Aristotle, Politics.


What Brett Kavanaugh on Supreme Court Could Mean for Climate Regulations
Schumpeterian Profits in the American Economy: Theory and Measurement – Yale economist William Nordhaus
* VIM cheatsheet; thanks Paul.
* Salon thinks we're about to exist under an oxymoron: Neoliberal fascism by Tim Worstall.
Climate change and compassion fatigue - ClimateSight.