2018-04-29

For out of olde feldes, as men seyth, Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere

Chaucer, of course. Beautiful. Used as a chapter heading by C. S. Lewis in his The Discarded Image; you should read it. But it turns out that a fuller quote (from the prologue to the Parliament of Fowls) is
For out of olde feldes, as men seyth,
Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feyth,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere. 
And that isn't so good. For those with poor early-English skilz, that is:
For out of old fields, as old wives say,
Comes the new corn from year to year,
Just so do old books, seen with new eyes
yield all that is new, that we call Science.
And that I gather was indeed how they thought in those days: the old ways are the best. It's all very Platonic. Nowadays, we regard science as grounded in experiment. Unless you're a string theorist, of course. Wiki provides a dream-like summary, which suggests PoF is about the importance of freedom of will, which would be good. Maybe I'll read it some time. But that brings me to the start of Pof:
The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.
Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne;
Al this mene I be love.
That too is hard, but I'm going to leave it untranslated (there's a version here if you like). The last line tells us it is about love, but it doesn't have to be.

2018-04-25

Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and the displacement of people in East Africa

Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and the displacement of people in East Africa (note: although that link is to nature.com, the journal appears to be Palgrave Communications. This is slightly confusing, but never mind) by Erin Owain & Mark Maslin says
...this study analyses whether climatic changes between 1963 and 2014 impacted the risk of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa... found that climate variations as recorded by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and the global temperature record did not significantly impact the level of regional conflict or the number of total displaced people (TDP). The major driving forces on the level of conflict were population growth, economic growth and the relative stability of the political regimes... Instead, we suggest rapid population growth, low or falling economic growth and political instability during the post-colonial transition were the more important controls...
I've elided a bit there that I'll come back to, but I'm showing the important bit. This via an article on it at the Conversation. I find this unsurprising, because I said much the same in Infertile Crescent: these people's major problem is that their government is crap. As O+M point out, Halvard Buhaug reached much the same conclusions in 2015, and nicely notes that journals and journalists alike appear especially attracted to sensational findings and tabloid conclusions, with the result that researchers are pushed to oversell their findings. Oh, and also it does not follow that a long‐term shift in normal conditions (e.g., a 2°C warmer world) will have the same impact on social systems as a short‐term anomaly of a similar magnitude (2°C above monthly mean). Unfortunately, researchers are often not clear on the distinction between climate variability and climate change, and findings of behavior related to the former are often used as foundation for projecting impacts of the latter. And if you're interested in climate change, and people's vulnerability to it, then In unstable corners of the world, ending violent conflict may be the most efficient and cost‐effective way to improve social resilience to climate change. I seem to have got a bit distracted from O+M, sorry.

Back at O+M: I've just skimmed it. It isn't desperately exciting, I'd say. Their method - take a bunch of things and correlate them against another bunch of things - doesn't seem very powerful, and since there are piles of correlations floating around, some are likely to be significant by chance. The one thing they find is The displacement of people, particularly across international boundaries as refugees, in this region is also shown to be in part driven and exacerbated by intense droughts which can be in part linked to the long-term drying trend that has been ascribed to climate change, which is what I elided from the blockquote, because it's rather minor.

So, there we go. What I thought I already knew is reinforced. If you'd like to be told otherwise, then maybe try Jesse Anttila-Hughes, in particular Different perspectives on climate and conflict.

And to avoid the obvious misunderstanding, neither I nor O+M are suggesting no role for climate change. Just that other things are significantly more important. And also, I'd argue, more fixable. At least in principle. In practice, less so.

Refs


FirstEnergy Seeks Bankruptcy Protection for Ailing Coal and Nuclear Subsidiaries.

2018-04-22

Economics, Law and Ethics

I've been off in the lakes reading literature; and also running badly; so not much blogging. But I've been reading, and recently found Ethics of Mathematics by Light Blue Touchpaper. This is a slightly surprising concept, which is why as he says it is the world’s first conference on ethics in mathematics. But anyway, his contribution is his slides on from his course on Economics, Law and Ethics. This comes with some at-first-sight startling assertions; for example, Economics deals with mechanisms whereby global equilibria emerge from the local behaviour of a number of selfish agents; many of my readers will be happy with his there are many reasons why market mechanisms may fail, or yield an equilibrium that is far from the social optimum; but will be surprised by his Law deals with rules developed to remedy this. But these are interesting perspectives. My own humble opinion is that he is too interested in the things he can do with his maths - prisoners dilemma and so on - and insufficiently interested in the real world. I'm not going to be distracted into writing in detail, though.

Refs


Hayek vs Hobbes and the theory of law
* The rule of law
* Retraction watch: Flawed climate science paper “exposed potential weaknesses” in the peer review process. Harde nonsense.
* Graun: Finland ends UBI trial scheme; but with no explanation.

2018-04-11

Fortran puzzle!

And the puzzle is not "why does anyone use Fortran", because that's unfair. Via James, from Rolf, is the excellent:

CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC
       PROGRAM OBFUSCATE
        CONSTANT = 5.
          INVERSE = 1./CONSTANT
              photo1 = 5.*INVERSE + 5.
                  pH = CONSTANT + 3.
                  X = photo1 * pH
C         strange combination of pH and photolysis...
     GOTO      1
                  X = X + 17.
   1      CONTINUE
        IF (X .LT. 60.) THEN X = X + 7.
      PRINT *,'RESULT=',X
            STOP 
        END
CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC

Hopefully the formatting comes out OK; consult the original if in doubt. The question, of course, is what does the code print, and more importantly exactly why? I'm off to the Lakes for a few days to get rained on, so unless you can work out the answer for yourselves, you'll have to wait till I come back.

Obviously, C would never do anything so odd.

Answer


And the answer, as EFS found, comes in three parts:

1. The easy one is that without IMPLICIT NONE, any variable starting with I (to N) is implicitly an integer, so INVERSE is 0, not 0.2.

2. The first amusing one is that any non-blank character in column 6 is a continuation marker. Comments are discarded, so we have:
      X = photo1 * pH
          OTO      1
and since spaces are also discarded, we actually have
      X = photo1 * pHOTO1
So (since case is also discarded) after that X is 25. To which we add 17, getting 42, of course.

3. Then, lastly, Fortran has a block IF, but also a single-line IF, and
      IF (X .LT. 60.) THEN X = X + 7
can't be a block IF (despite the formatting trying to make the end-of-code "END" look like it's closing), so it's actually
      IF (X .LT. 60.) THENX = X + 7
And so we end up with a variable called THENX with value 49, and X with value 42.


2018-04-04

Monckers him even more back

Monckers him back refers. There's an update to the trove of court dox in the Alsup case1. Most of them are unbearably tedious, and one of those is SPECIAL STATEMENT OF AMICI CURIAE IN REPLY TO RESPONSE BY PLAINTIFF TO MOTION TO FILE AMICI CURIAE BRIEF by Monckers et al. Whatever they're paying Alsup, it can't be enough for reading all this stuff. How he must be regretting the failure of The People to oppose the Amicus Curiae briefs (though the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council wazzocks got rejected for being too late).

The plaintiffs poke at Monckton's peerage, his Birtherism, and the HIV stuff, and M can't help himself from poking back. Charmingly, M demonstrates his hi-tech credentials by providing a "Basic" program. Quite what the court, or his fellow Amicae, make of all this is anyone's guess, but I'll skip over it to focus on me, me, me. Or at least, maybe me. Because M also can't resist whining about Wikipedia:
This matter [Legates vs State Climatologist] is incorrectly recorded at the relentlessly unreliable Wikipedia, where climate campaigners tend to rewrite the biographies of those skeptical of the official position on the climate in such a way as to cast them in a maximally unfavorable light. Any attempt to correct such errors is simply deleted, usually within minutes. One such campaigner has rewritten some 2,000 biographies of skeptical researchers, some of them many times, in each instance with intent unfairly to harm their reputations.
Is he referring to moi? Well who else could it possibly be? But "has rewritten some 2,000 biographies of skeptical researchers" appears to be simply made up; the brief provides no source for the claim. It is somewhat reminiscent of A Child's Garden of Wikipedia, but in that case the relevant 2,000 comes from "When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions." Which is nonsense, as the link shows; but at least it contains the number 2,000.

My best guess is that M made up the 2,000 number, possibly from a hasty skim of the linked article. But suppose one were to try to justify it... how could one? There's no edit counter that records edits to Category:Living People, and anyway that has 800k+ people in it, most of them nothing to do with climate. There's the List of scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on global warming, but that contains nothing like 2k people.

Other stuff


There's a pile of motions to dismiss. Here's ExxonMobil's version; the joint defendants one is possibly more interesting. I've no idea whether they are likely or not; my guess would be that hizzoner wouldn't have bothered go this far if he was intending to drop the shiny so early.

Oh, god, there's more. Alsup pokes at the responsibility defence, at least that's my interpretation:
Identify and describe all state and federal court decisions sustaining a nuisance theory of
liability based on the otherwise lawful sale of a product where the seller financed and/or
sponsored research or advertising intended to cast doubt on studies showing that use of
the product would harm public health or the environment at large. Also, identify and
describe all decisions rejecting such a theory
And that's just part 1. Part 2 is the same, but in the context of GW. Part 3 asks about Noerr-Pennington. Part 4 is:
If plaintiffs’ theory is correct, why wouldn’t everyone involved in supplying carbonbased
fuels (or in otherwise increasing carbon dioxide, e.g., deforestation) be liable upon
a showing that they questioned the science of global warming or sponsored research
intending to question it?
This one will run and run. However, I do very much approve of the judge posing questions like this.

Refs


Federal, State or Dismissal? Here’s the State of Play in the California Nuisance Lawsuits by the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, part of NAM.

Notes


1. I'm somewhat unsure of the status of that link; I don't think it is official; it seems slow to update. As I write [2018/04/11] these words, insideclimatenews.org has a link to statements they've uploaded (you can tell it is them, not official, because the filenames are non-neutral). They parse BP, Shell and Conoco as agreeing, and Exxon as differing, but I don't think that's really true. All of them tried to say as little as possible, and none of them have any substantive points of difference. The implication of all of them - and (re)stated explicitly by Exxon - is that the case won't be about climate science.

2018-04-03

Who was that masked man?

masked With glowing red eyes, horns, goat's feet and a pitchfork, smelling of sulphur?It is of course Lucio Noto. And why do we care? Because of EXCLUSIVE: Newly uncovered video shows Mobil CEO admitting climate change connection by ThunkProgress (arch). By-lined As oil companies face numerous climate lawsuits, archival footage contains "significant" statement, experts say. Ah, "experts say". I've heard that one before. And I'm an expert, and I say otherwise. Well, never mind all that, if we discard the attempts to bias your judgement, what is left?

Mostly, we're left with TP rather belatedly picking their brains up off the floor where they've flopped out after exploding at the fallout from the Alsup case, since TP have finally realised that the oil companies aren't going to fight on the science.

As TP say:
Boutrous is arguing that the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions are the result of people burning fossil fuels; the companies should not be held responsible for this portion because all they have done is extract the oil, coal, and gas. But archival video footage of a Mobil Oil meeting seen by ThinkProgress indicates that 20 years ago, employees were raising concerns about the company’s responsibility for climate change...
(my bold). But notice that TP's "but" doesn't make sense. "And" would make sense. "But" would mean that the two sentences in some way contradict or contrast with each other. But they don't. They are entirely compatible; clearly, TP haven't quite scooped all their brains back in yet.

There are various other misrepresentations and misunderstandings in the TP piece, but they're all variations on the same theme. For example:
...Even if you say greenhouse gases are human-caused, we’re only responsible for 5 percent of it. We’re not responsible for everything we put out there; you’re the ones using it. That’s what I understood him to be saying.” This question of responsibility has been a focus of scientists and researchers for several years. In order to link emissions to specific companies, the Carbon Majors Database was set up in 2013 by researcher Richard "Dick" Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute. Heede’s peer-reviewed study featured in the database showed that nearly two thirds of all global emissions can be linked back to just 90 entities — oil and gas companies, coal producers, and cement manufacturers — responsible for extracting most of the fossil fuels burned since the industrial revolution...
(again, my bold). Heede also rather gives his game away. I covered the Heede stuff at the time2. But then, TP didn't say "can be linked back to", they said Ninety Companies Responsible For Two-Thirds Of Global Warming Emissions. What I think TP are rather painfully discovering is that their automatic unthinking "the FF companies dunnit" is open to question (note that I'm not trying to suggest the FF companies were white as snow; they clearly weren't; see-also what-I-said).

Never mind, we've done all this before, you either agree or you don't. Moving on.

What did that nice Mr Noto actually say?


I'm glad you asked. If you listen to the video, do make sure you listen to the full clip, not the artfully cut one. My service to the world will be to transcribe his words (done by listening to Youtube and 0.25 speed, which just about reduces him to my typing speed. I went back a few times, and there are small uncertainties, but I think this is essentially correct). Take it away, Lucio:

There's been a lot of publicity on climate. Some of our employees are very upset about what they think Mobil's negative attitude is on the Kyoto so-called climate agreement. Let's try to put things into perspective. We are not in any way saying that greenhouse gases can be dismissed as a risk or the climate change associated with the build up of greenhouse gases can be dismissed on a scientific basis as a non-event. We think it could potentially be a big issue. We're also not prepared to admit that the science is a closed fact and that we should take draconian steps tomorrow to reduce CO2 gases. We do think that a prudent company should take steps to do what it can on a win-win basis to try to reduce its own and its customers emissions of greenhouse gases as best it can. What is Mobil doing?

[WMC: gloss: not-dismiss-not-draconian is a nice way of putting yourself somewhere in the middle between 0 and 1, but not saying at all where you might be in that space. Prudent-company-win-win is better and shows willing, but of course you should do win-win thing anyway.]

Number one, we started an inventory of gases that we are responsible for in our facilities. And that's probably only 5% of the issue in Mobil's case. Our customers using our products probably account for 95% of those emissions. But with the 5% that we're responsible for we're doing an inventory - the Excom has gotten the board's approval - that if there are projects we can undertake which perhaps don't meet out own internal rate of return standards but do have a major impact on our own emissions of greenhouse gases, we're gonna do them. We think its prudent, we think its responsible to do that.

[This is the bit most interesting for the current case. If you're Mobil then - contra TP - you'll be delighted with the bit, because it shows the not-us-but-you wasn't invented just for the trial, it was what the company thought all along. Also note the bit I've bolded.]

Number two, we are spending money with oil companies and with university institutions to do research on how our customers can use our products more effectively and more economically and more efficiently. It may mean a loss of potential sales in the short term. Very frankly, it doesn't bother me. We think we should do everything possible to make our product environmentally welcome for the 21st century. We wanna make it cleaner. Mobil has taken a lead on trying to take sulphur out of US gasoline. We haven't had support of as many of the API companies as I'd like to see, but we agreed with Brian that if the API doesn't do something significant, we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it on our own. We may not get any benefit for it, we're certainly not gonna get any money for it, but we think its the responsible thing to do, our research says sulphur's a bad actor. And we're prepared to step out on that. Customers are gonna use our products more efficiently, we won't sell as much, but we will cement a value relationship for our bread and butter package of materials and products for the 21st century, that's our obligation.

[Note long-termism.]

Number three, we are prepared to put money into projects like reforestation in some of the countries that we operate in that we think make sense, both from a community contribution point of view and from a greenhouse gas abatement point of view. So we're doing that. We're not doing this just to get kudos, we're not doing this just to have some feel-goodism, we think its good business. But at the same time we will continue to oppose mandates like the ones in Kyoto which make no sense which are no based on sound science and which have potential draconian consequences which absolutely no-one understands. That may make some of our people feel uncomfortable. Too bad. That's where we are. We will not take the BP position that says the science is closed. The science is not. One of the silliest things this Earth could do is to start to adopt a policy which we have available today to try to fight a problem for 2010-2012 instead of waiting for the technology that's going to roll off the boards. So we will continue to be a company that does does what we think is prudent but continues to oppose mandates imposed by politicians who have no idea of the consequences of what they're doing. If you had read president Clinton's speech about what his terms of reference were for the US delegation to the Kyoto convention and if you compared those terms of reference to what was signed in Kyoto by the American delegation you would fire everybody that he sent to Kyoto. Period. And so we're gonna speak out against this. At the White House the other day at a breakfast with secretary Rubin and Erskine Bowles and secretary Daley from commerce and Gene Sperling and we had a rather animated conversation on climate and I said you know there is no smoking gun technology in somebody's draw that you could open and use and suddenly maintain economic growth and and maintain jobs and maintain and the benefits that people have earned and still reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly the thirty to thirty-five percent that you have to reduce them by to meet the Kyoto targets for 2010-12. And they said to me "president Clinton has a word for people like you, he calls them lemon suckers". So I said "yes I'm a lemon sucker then". And one of them said "well you got a few more round this table". This is gonna be an interesting one, you have a bunch of folks who are absolutely committed to doing the right thing, and they think the only way to do it is to set a mandatory line in the sand and force industry to approach it. And if they can't make it so what we'll change the line later on. they don't understand the disruptions that we could start to have in our economy in our company if we start to take action today based on a mandate for 2008-2012 which in investment terms is tomorrow. With the wrong technology at the wrong pace. So Mobil is gonna have a two sided attitude toward climate. If you feel uncomfortable about Mobil's position let us know. We'd like to have your input. We an outside scientific advisory council now which ?Mike Grammidge? put together we met with them coupla weeks ago to talk about climate in general. These are absolute first-quality outside third-party scientists with no axe to grind. They gave us some suggestions as to how we might make our statements clearer so that people would understand them better but I think basically they gave Mobil high points with the program that it had embraced and was subsidising paying for.

[This one is perhaps the most important, and the most likely to be misunderstood. Partly, this is back to Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia? which I wrote to great acclaim a while back so won't repeat. But more, there is a genuine fear - the fear is genuine I think, you can argue whether it is justified or not - on the part of business folk that, as they see it, the fuckwits from the gummint will finally commit to and attempt something impossible and damaging to their industry. Notice what LN think will happen if the thing turns out to be impossible: he expects the gummint to simply give itself permission not to do the thing after all. But what he fears is the gummint committing and holding him to doing something impossible.]

I'm sorry for that interval but I know a lot of people around the Mobil world have been very concerned about Mobil being too negative. Mobil's negative on Kyoto its a bad deal bad negotiation stupid. Mobil's not negative on taking reasonable steps. Frankly because we don't know enough about how dangerous or undangerous greenhouse gases are so we'll do what we can do in a sensible fashion but continue to oppose mandates.

And there it ends. The insistence on the 2010-ish timeframe is odd, but perhaps it's the Kyoto timeframe.

Other opinion


Other opinion will not be as valuable as mine, of course. But sometimes it is revealing to look at their errors. climateliabilitynews, who I thought might be sane, say A recently discovered video shows Mobil chief executive Lucio Noto admitting in 1998 that the company’s product is responsible for both emissions released during production and emissions released when it is used by consumers which is stupid of them, because he actually says the reverse, as you can see for yourself.

Notes


1. Not Sulfur; I'm English. Also, sorry, I couldn't be bothered to draw in the other bits.

2. I also used the same unfunny joke, too, I see.

Refs


Who were those masked men?
* ExxonMobil: Positioning for a Lower-Carbon Energy Future?
* The courts are deciding who's to blame for climate change - Oil companies? The government? The public? All of the above share the blame". Dana Nuccitelli in the Graun; perhaps they're starting to get a clue.

2018-04-02

The Climate Change Hypocrisy Of Jet-Setting Academics?

Via Sou, who sources WUWT and HuffPo. I recall discussing air travel recently, but can't see where1 (Climate Chickenhawks probably applies). Somewhere during that discussion came the assertion that global flying is only 2% of global CO2; I can find that sourced in wiki from 1992; and via ATAG to current-but-unclear. Can it really not have grown, as a proportion, in more than two decades? Theconversation, whilst linking to the 2% figure from ATAG, nonetheless says 2.5%, and worries that it will increase. Never mind. I think I shall assume that whilst globally small it can be a significant factor for some individuals or groups, and that academics are one of the groups that it could be significant for.

Aanyway, I don't want to rehash the whole conversation, but I do want to comment on Sou's

Now I don't know about you, but I've never tried to hold a phone or Skype conversation with more than about 15 people at a time, twenty max I think. I've attended lots of teleconferences and web-based discussions lately, and with almost all of them there have been communications difficulties. Even today one cannot be confident that simple telephony will work for everyone for a couple of hours. Most of the electronic meetings involving 10 to 15 people have suffered with static/hiss, drop-outs, difficulties with web-documents and so forth. To hold a conversation with upwards of 30 people is quite a challenge, let alone gatherings of hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of people.

This is classic "perfect substitution threshold" stuff: we won't accept your new way of doing things, unless it does all the old things, and better. But why would you want to do this? The current way of holding conferences - correct me if the world has evolved in the ten years since I left Science - is that a pile of people turn up in a place and so you have to work out what to do with this pile of people, and the obvious thing is to dump them in a lecture theatre and have them be lectured at. There are usually poster sessions, coffee breaks, breakout sessions and so on; but conferences are usually built around the armature of lectures.

And yet time after time people report that the most productive part of conferences is meeting and talking to individuals. Sometimes because you've been sparked by something in their lecture, sometimes by some other chance or design. The idea, in this day and age, that you need to go to a conference to read someone's presentation is absurd; they are all online, or could be, far more conveniently.

And so if you were going to re-invent conferences online, there's no reason why you'd want to replicate the current format, or anything close to it. There are various obstacles in the way of Nirvana, of course. The linked articles note that going to lots of conferences is one marker of status. Not mentioned - but the reason that I mostly went - is that it is of course fun to go to foreign places with someone else paying. There's also the huge academic inertia of the current conference circuit.

Notes


1. Probably chez ATTP, though I didn't join the conversation.

Refs


How much would we have to adjust our lifestyle to stop global warming?