Brexit, again

As we get closer to the endgame, Brexit looks more and more like a disaster area. I voted Remain, and would again, but think that the best - and squinting a bit a moderately likely - option is for MPs to vote to rescind article 50, rather than for another referendum.

Which is why the pound went down today when May postponed the vote. Her ostensible reason - to go talk to the EU and get better terms - is delusional. The EU has no interest in helping her, especially at this stage. They, like everyone else, wants her to f*ck off. There was a fair chance that today's vote would have been so disastrous that she would have been forced to f*ck off, in which case other more pleasant options come into play. All she has done is delay those better options.

The path forwards

There are many scenarios from now. Here's my most hopeful one: the vote occurs and goes badly for May. She is forced to resign, and either some vaguely sane leader takes over or perhaps with the leadership weakened the MPs reassert themselves- unlikely I know, they are spineless disorganised and useless, but I can hope. And since we can just rescind article 50, we do so.

Given the cowardice of our MPs, I think my "hopeful" scenario somewhat unlikely; which makes the next-best another referendum, with all the perils of what-should-be-the-question(s); but it would probably work.

The Brexiteers impartially consider'd

Although I voted remain, I have some sympathy for some of the Brexiteers programme: the portion that is Free Trade and freedom from over-regulation. But it has become clear that they are incompetent to achieve these aims. The "hard Brexiteer" faction is now shutting it's eyes, wishing very hard, and hoping to get a Brexit at any cost, in order to renegotiate the deal - or simply break it - when the political climate becomes more favourable to them. Or at least that's their plan, but it is hopeless (the only kind of Brexit that makes any sense and that I could support is a Hard one, and the country will never have the political courage for that). And just as Hobbes teaches us that rebellion is only permissible if you can win, so Brexiting in that manner is only permissible if you can achieve your aims; and they can't.

To be fair, the incompetence is not limited to their side: the Remainers and the Soft Brexiteers and (IMO) the EU are also incompetent; but that's rather the point: there's no-one around competent to negotiate a change of this magnitude.

Another referendum?

I'd rather not. It is slow and error prone. We run a parliamentary democracy, the referendum is advisory, the only thing preventing us from saying "it was a giant mistake, let's not do it again" is the cowardice of MPs.

Theresa May

Is rubbish. But what mystifies me is why she is so dedicated to Leave. Before the referendum she was remain, albeit weakly; she is not a person of any great principle. I can only attribute it to blind stubbornness, which rather fits her image from the Home Office. She still looks to me like a politician - and a person - of no vision, substance, or quality. Her only ability, much touted, is surviving, for which I give her no credit.


James Annan has been predicting Brexit-will-not-happen for a while, and now has a post up with more detail (note: I wrote this post, except for this section, before reading his). Although I think will-not-happen is quite likely, I still fear that our idiots pols could yet by blind stubbornness and cowardice end up leading us over the cliff anyway. But he's been right about a number of things so I'm cheered that he may be right about this too. He's probably right about the value of academics and journos too.


Boris Johnson is a tosser.
* Boris in the bunker.
Brits Could Have a Brexit Cake and Eat It Too - not realistic, but the direction of my thinking.

Tackle climate or face financial crash, say world's biggest investors?

DSC_6075 It is remarkably hard to paraphrase someone else's statement whilst preserving the sense. In this case, the Graun has failed, because it didn't even try, preferring to prioritise it's own concerns above accuracy. So, via Twatter is the Graun, with my headline, and Global investors managing $32tn issued a stark warning to governments at the UN climate summit on Monday, demanding urgent cuts in carbon emissions and the phasing out of all coal burning. Without these, the world faces a financial crash several times worse than the 2008 crisis, they said.

The source for this is 2018 GLOBAL INVESTOR STATEMENT TO GOVERNMENTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE; a statement is signed by 415 investors representing over USD $32 trillion in assets. $32T is a genuinely large number, possibly around 1/3-1/2 of total assets under management, based on a quick skim. But of course they say nothing about 2008, nor a crash. They say the rather more measured Investors are taking action on climate change. The global shift to clean energy is underway, but much more needs to be done by governments to accelerate the low carbon transition and to improve the resilience of our economy, society and the financial system to climate risks.

As far as I can tell, the Graun has simply made up the stuff about 2008 and so on.

What actions do they recommend? Skipping the wurble, and leaving out the transparency-in-reporting, the substance looks to be:

* Accelerate private sector investment into the low carbon transition
* Incorporate Paris aligned climate scenarios into all relevant policy frameworks and energy transition pathways
* Put a meaningful price on carbon
* Phase out fossil fuel subsidies by set deadlines
* Phase out thermal coal power worldwide by set deadlines.

Apart from the second point (and to a lesser extent the last one; thermal coal should simply die of it's own uneconomic nature, if people stop propping it up), that all looks perfectly sensible.


Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford - via TF.


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
Yet More on the Centrality of Consumer Sovereignty - CH


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’