2019-03-22

Top oil firms spending millions lobbying to block climate change policies?

brexit The largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m (£153m) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change, according to a new report, the Graun breathlessly tells us. Can it be true? Exxon is pegged at $40+M, and yet Exxon total lobbying spend per year is around $11M, according to OpenSecrets. How do we reconcile these numbers?

I think that The five publicly listed oil majors – ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total – now spend about $195m a year on branding campaigns suggesting they support action against climate change doesn't help. That's not the same spending as above. However, any just accounting would have to count it towards the "good" side, since it's essentially a positive message re GW. Naturally, the report doesn't count it as such.

To find out more we're going to have to download the bloody report, which creepily requires you to register, these people are friends of the surveillance state. And then, worse, we're going to have to read it. And you know what? It's some kind of shit-for-brains cut-n-paste protected thing too, the scum. Well, don't expect too many quotes then.

20190413_WBC689 Page 10 tells us Exxon's climate lobbying is ~$41M per year, again making no effort to reconcile that to the total $11M figure. But they may be counting social media and advertising as "lobbying". Lots of the report is the traditional I-don't-like-oil-companies stuff; by which I mean the authors struggle - or rather, don't struggle - to stay on topic, and wander off.

So by the time we get to the end of the conclusions, no details of the composition of the numbers have emerged. We need to go into the depths of the Appendix, it seems. But no, that doesn't help either. The appendix has no real data, just a methodology. So it's impossible to tell quite where they've gone wrong, or what they've made up.

[Late addition: pic from the Economist, Lobbying in Donald Trump’s Washington.]

Refs


Banks Funneled $1.9 Trillion Into Fossil Fuels Since Paris Agreement - endorsed by the sainted Greta no less.
* Paasche Says Progress by Bryan Caplan
* There are some more numbers at https://climateinvestigations.org/trade-association-pr-spending/

2019-03-19

Skolstrejk för klimatet

DSC_8439[1] Trigger warning: negativity. If you want to think happy thoughts, go elsewhere.

People say things like "Yesterday, I went to witness the local #ClimateStrike. I found the energy and enthusiasm of these young people very encouraging.  It gives me hope for the future". And that's charming. It's always lovely to talk to nice positive people, rather than unlovely old curmudgeons. And yet the absence of any real idea is becoming glaringly obvious.

No plan, let alone a plan B


I should establish that GT has no plan, since this is important to my argument. She says
People keep asking me ”what is the solution to the climate crisis.” And how do we ”fix this problem”. They expect me to know the answer. That is beyond absurd as there are no ”solutions” within our current systems. No one ”knows” exactly what to do. That’s the whole point. We can’t just lower or heighten some taxes or invest in some ”green” funds and go on like before... We are just passing on the words of the science. Our only demand is that you start listening to it. And then start acting. So please stop asking your children for the answers to your own mess.
I think that serves; she advertises it as a reply to those who keep on lying, spreading hate and knowingly leave out facts but perhaps I can forgive her in time.

We are just passing on the words of the science


Another of those things that people say, but which aren't true. People trumpet Greta Thunberg has done her science homework, but this is to miss the point: as the Alsup trial proved, the science isn't in question, to first order1. Almost everyone - even the Evil Bjorn Lomborg - claims to be just following the science. But actually the (physical) science doesn't really tell you what to do. To decide what to do - well, one version of it - you have to make some semi-arbitrary assumptions, like limit warming to 2 oC or 1.5 oC - in order to make the problem space tractable, and then use the science to turn that into concentrations, and then turn that into emissions, but even then you're still left with lots of policy choices over those emissions. You could for example waste everyone's time propounding drivel like the GND. Or you could throw out the stupid limit and impose carbon taxes instead and hope that solar photovoltaic saves us.

No plan, but...


Actually, it isn't quite true that she doesn't have a plan. There are hints of ill-formed and very bad plans struggling to get out: "We need a new economics", "We need a whole new way of thinking. The political system that you have created is all about competition. You cheat when you can because all that matters is to win. To get power. That must come to an end. We must stop competing with each other". Which is std.fairyland: why can't people just get on and be nice to each other?

Panic, Captain Mainwaring


GT would like us to panic. This is a regrettable turn of phrase, and not one that can be shrugged off as an accident, since it was from a speech at Davos. But panic is not a sensible response to anything, just about by definition. Panic is what you want from other people when you know that calm rational analysis will not achieve the result that you have decided you want through calm rational analysis. At least, I trust that GT is not simply spouting all these words in a state of panic.

Denial Is Not a Policy


ClimateLiabilityNews tells me Striking Students Demand Climate Action: ‘Denial Is Not a Policy’. But, they're wrong. Denial actually is a well-formed and actionable policy - just not one that anyone sane would want the world to follow. In this it differs from GT who, as noted above, has no real plan.

Does any of this matter?


Yes, because if all the happy well-intentioned enthusiasm catches on, their are plenty of the old guard waiting in the wings to steer things their way. For example The climate strikers should inspire us all to act at the next UN summit by António Guterres: Without ambitious action, the Paris agreement is meaningless. Oh, FFS. OK, so that particular old guard is largely harmless, if allowed to splurge large quantities of cash and CO2 on summits. But others maybe less so, and it all distracts from trying to forge some agreement with those who don't want an entirely new economics based on kittens.

Update: nothing useful can happen until people are willing to make hard choices, and for that, an aroused public is necessary


This was CIPs comment. I largely agree with it - with the above caveats about enthusiasm and panic. But I don't see evidence of an increasing willingness to make hard choices2. I see a slew of articles piggybacking on GT to call for Ending climate change requires the end of capitalism, but that's just opportunism, not thought, nor choice.

Update: Greta Thunberg's full speech to MPs 2019/04/23


Read the full text of the speech Greta Thunberg gave to MPs at the Houses of Parliament offers the Graun. There are problems with the speech, you won't be surprised to discover:

But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science - well, no, not really. In terms of the physical climatology, when you talk about that at all, you veer off to the high side. And when you start to talk about what to do, you're off on the politics, not the science.
* The future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. This is bollox. All too common bollox, very seductive bollox, but bollox all the same. It presents us with the alluring idea that all we have to do is to "fix" just a few people or corporations and all will be well; that the rest of us have no guilt. And so, it is wrong.
Around the year 2030, 10 years 252 days and 10 hours away from now, we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, that will most likely lead to the end of our civilisation as we know it. This appears to be (a) the we-only-have-12-years fallacy; and (b) that 12 years is a knife-edge tipping point.

And so on. There's still no plan.

Notes


1. And very funny it was to see all the high-powered Scientists turn up to prove the science with Powerpoint, only to discover that the Evil Oil Companies had forseen that and neatly parried with "yeah, we accept all that".

2. Do please use the comments to provide examples.

Refs


New technologies, not Paris climate agreement, will do the job?
Carbon budgets and carbon taxes
* Guerrilla Education at Princeton: Letter from a Dad by Bryan Caplan
* Increasing The Minimum Wage Increases Crime, Obviously Enough by Tim Worstall
* Later: 3 ways to combat climate change according to young activists. But again, there's nothing resembling a plan. They are 1) learn about climate change; understand govt's role; make pols listen. Which are all splendid, but.

2019-03-16

Governance is hard

13248379_10154192476063200_552999881567266410_o Getting a good government is hard. This is becoming increasingly obvious in the world, perhaps for two interconnected reasons: people are less likely to make govts job easier by accepting that "The Governing Class" will get on with it as best they can; and the interconnected world is just harder to govern.

In a society in which the power at the top is fixed, or defined by someone else, getting the government of the layers that flow down from that to be tolerably correct is not too hard. Such as a colonial administration1. Or an English county. Or a theocracy? But when the entire structure needs to be self-supporting, the problem becomes much harder. Preventing too much drift, whilst also avoiding ossification is difficult. Cue my analysis of the USAnian constitution, in another post.

So when CIP comments that Brexit allows us Yanks to imagine that we might not be the stupidest democracy in the world I can but agree. Both Brexit and Trump are many things, but arguably manifestations of the public's separation from The Ruling Class and their increasing distrust of it. But this separation and distrust is also largely correct: TRC are not competent to their job2. Unsurprisingly: the chief qualification of a pol is the ability to get elected, which has little correlation with their ability to be competent in office; Darwinism applies in many areas, we should not fall victim to the error of believing in Intelligent Design.

How could you solve this problem? In a way, it ought to be self-solving: when the public becomes disenchanted and elects unsuitable people, those pols not elected, and those on the selection committees, and those voting in primaries, ought to learn from this and choose more suitable candidates. Alas, the feedback loops often don't work. Sometimes they are even unstable: if you're not elected, it is easy to decide this was because you weren't radical enough, and you move in the wrong direction. See-also rational ignorance. I don't see the Dems learning anything from 2016; and I don't see the UK or EU pols having learnt anything useful from Brexit.

I have come increasingly to believe that the direction to move in - this isn't a Final Solution, so I don't need to define it too carefully, it is more a direction to travel - is to have govt do less. They are, manifestly, not competent; so they should do less4. This though goes against the direction we've been moving for centuries; and directly opposes the Progressive View which invariably involves Govt Must Act. It is supported by only a small minority; even those parties that might nominally support it - Repubs in the USofA and Cons in the UK - don't actually support it.

Different views of competition


There are two sorts of competition: good competition, which acts as a spur to innovation and responsiveness, and results in a better world. And bad competition, in which two sides grind themselves down into the dust in a ding-dong battle to beat the other side. War is bad competition, unless you can win it quickly and cleanly. Civil war - a la Syria - is particularly bad. Market competition is generally good3. Political competition where it offers voters a choice of policies is good. But when it polarises into two parties fighting it out and turns into deadlock, it is bad. Is it a co-incidence that our two exemplars of bad governance - Trump and Brexit - come from systems with first-past-the-post electoral systems? [Note: this is not a suggestion that the best thing to do is to focus on the electoral system.]

Other things that are not the real problem


mt twote: The biggest public question in my opinion is not climate change. It is not global security. It... is bullshit immunity whose failure is at the root of all those other risks. I attempted to suggest that he meant governance, but he denied it, asserting that [BSI] has rapidly decayed of late. I don't believe that; I never trust the age-of-gold "it has rapidly decayed of late" stuff. That opinion is heavily influenced by Popper; for that see my Why don’t people pay attention to the future of their own world?

Notes


1. Cue howls of outrage. Yeah, I know it wasn't all roses or even close. Don't get too hung up on the details or my lack of history. I've read Heart of Darkness.

2. In all likelihood, they never were. But the increasing complexity of the world makes the job harder, and the increasing transparency of the world makes the failure more obvious. Meanwhile, the selection process for pols becomes ever more ruthlessly focussed on electability, which selects out competence.

3. Progressives will leap in with the other sort of bad competition - fake competition - where evil companies or pols gang up behind the scenes and agree to pretend to compete but actually collude, thereby ripping off the public. But this isn't actually competition, so doesn't need to go into my taxonomy.

4. For an example of people pushing this idea, the market reduces or eliminates the need for collective or political choices to be made concerning composition, organization, extent, and distribution of valued product.

Refs


The left has no theory of the behavior of the government?
* Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious; from George Orwell's review of Power: A New Social Analysis by Bertrand Russell in The Adelphi, January 1939.
Factcheck: Is 3-5C of Arctic warming now ‘locked in’? - carbonbrief

Brexit schmexit

53172815_1106348306228155_6328474207160107008_n We appear to be reaching the End Times, so I feel the need for another post. I was hoping that nice Dr Annan would spare me the trouble but he's too busy twitting agit-prop3.

So: last week was dramatic and exciting, and slightly confusing, so I hope I've got the story straight.

On Tuesday, May's stupid deal was voted down yet again1.

On Wednesday, MPs rejected leaving with no deal2.

On Thursday, they voted to delay Brexit.

This - with some minor quibbles, see the notes - forms a creditably logical sequence, and is an advert for representative government over referenda, since it would have been impossible to do this via a referendum.

In an ideal world - in which we clearly do not live - da govt would now go to Brussels, ask for an extension, be told they can only have a nice long one of several years, and say oh-all-right-then. Several years is long enough for passions to deflate, May to be replaced by someone competent, and indeed any number of dei-ex-machina to swoop in and save us.

In the non-ideal world, May appears to want to put her rubbish deal to MPs again next week4, presumably in the hope that now they see that if they vote that down the only alternative is a long extension - which many would rightly fear would turn into no-Brexit - they will hold their noses and vote for her rubbish deal. However, I think that is unlikely to work. Many MPs live in fear of their constituencies, or in fear of the more vocal parts thereof - and arguably, so they damn well should - but those said constituencies are unlikely to rip them too badly for voting down May's deal, since everyone knows it is rubbish.

That passed, the other obvious problem is negotiating the extension. Here it would be easy between two parties of good faith, but it isn't obvious that either party will act in same. May could just as easily sabotage her own negotiation in order to end up with no deal, and I find it impossible to read her motives - I cannot understand how she behaves as she does, so I cannot predict her behaviour. JA's favourite response is to say that her plan is to survive and wait and see what turns up, which argues for her not turning down whatever the EU offer.

So, my not-very-confident - because it is the outcome I'm hoping for, and I've been disappointed so often by this process - prediction is for May to ask the EU for an extension, and them to give her a long one.

Notes


1. By a large margin - 149 votes - but less than the first time; though I haven't seen anyone trying to spin that into a victory.

2. This is one of the more confusing bits, if you care about the detail, which I am by no means sure you should, since I doubt the detail is important in this case. There were two votes. The first, narrowly won by four votes, was to reject no deal under any circumstances. The second - arguably unconstitutional, since it was a subset of the previously decided matter - was to not leave with no deal on the 29th, and was won by forty-three. [Update: see comments by PS and CR. It looks like I misinterpreted it (to be fair to me, the Beeb who I was skim-reading didn't report it clearly): the first vote was to amend the motion which the second then voted on.]

3. Update: James speaks.

4. Arguably unconstitutional, again as per point 2 but more correctly; and now appears to have been so determined by the Speaker. Tee hee.

Update


Parliament has spoken. This is what it said:


Meanwhile, TM has offered to fuck off, but only if her deal is passed, which is fuckwitted of her.

Refs


The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity
* Dec 2012: JA: The failure of brexit; me: Brexit, again.
* How much has Brexit uncertainty slowed growth? by Scott Sumner; EconLib

Godwin's law

rowbridge Godwin's law, strictly speaking, is merely an Internet adage asserting that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1". But I use it in a more restrictive sense: a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that, when a Hitler comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever made the comparison loses whatever debate is in progress. This is to counter laziness. It is the same concept as unparliametary language. It is perfectly possible to insult people in parliament: you just can't do it by calling people fuckwits; you have to be more inventive. Comparisons to Hitler spring too readily into people's mouths and fingers. If you can't think of another example that illustrates whatever point Hitler was your exemplar for, you probably don't have a point. And if you can think of another example, you should use that instead.

Refs


* DeepMind and Google: the battle to control artificial intelligence -  Demis Hassabis founded...

2019-03-13

Climate Litigation Watch?

52914641_2234973423234245_4035702518594928640_o Life is dull after Lents. Ah well, I can but look forward to Mays and the future. In the meantime, I run across Climate Litigation Watch, not to be confused with Climate Liability News. You won't be astonished to discover they are opposing sides, though I think both pretend to be neutral.

Who are these people? Let's try to find out, and compare. For CLW, of course, we look at the "about" page, and discover Climate Litigation Watch is a project of the 501(c)3 legal non-profit, Government Accountability and Oversight, dedicated to providing a complete, accurate and objective record of litigation related to climate change. There's more text but no more information about the identity of the perpetrators. CLN themselves had a go, writing Christopher Horner, an attorney and senior fellow at Competitive Enterprise Institute, is a leading figure behind the nonprofit funding this site, Government Accountability & Oversight. (That group takes on the acronym GAO, potentially confusing people with the federal government’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.) Which is probably fair enough; there's no tracing other than their being part of the not-the-GAO. I notice, also that the only twits in their sidebar are by Chris Horner or themselves.

But enough of the evil-doers hiding in darkness. What of the Light Side? Well... they say Climate Liability News is a project funded by donations to Climate Communications & Law, a new 501(c)3 nonprofit. Climate Communications & Law but continue on to tell us who the CCL Board are:

* Kert Davies—Executive Director of the Climate Investigations Center. Davies is a well-known researcher, media spokesperson and climate activist who has been conducting corporate accountability research and campaigns for more than 20 years.
* Alyssa Johl—An attorney, Johl is a veteran international environmental and human rights campaigner, and former Senior Attorney with the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law.
* Richard Wiles—Director of the Center for Climate Integrity at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. Prior to that, Wiles was Senior Vice President at Climate Central and co-founder and Executive Director of Environmental Working Group.

So I think that's a pass. Score one to the Good Guys1.

Notes


1. Although, as it happens, whilst I disagree with CLW on the reality of Global Warming - on that, they're a bunch of wackos - I happen to agree rather more with their stance on suing, as you already knew.

Refs


* Shark Tank Take Two- Pop Culture Myths that Need Undoing - by Garreth Bloor: ABC’s Shark Tank is popular culture’s take on entrepreneurship
Decisions are hard enough to take; to change them is even harder - TF - Auden, Pound, Huey Long
Adam Smith, Loneliness, and the Limits of Mainstream Economics - Russ Roberts
* The Spirit Level Delusion by  Alex Tabarrok
Ode to the Medieval Poets - W. H. Auden
The Principal Costs of Minimum-Wage Legislation
The Killer Had An Ideology

2019-03-11

Minor note re IPCC 1990 fig 7.1(c)

songe Listening to the usual idiots bleating about adjustments to the temperature record, I was struck by a comment in the Jones et al. paper which contains the definitive tracking of where 7.1(c) came from. That quote is:
...the source can be isolated to a series used by H.H. Lamb, representative of central England, last published (as figure 30 on p. 84) by Lamb (1982)... The ‘Central England’ curve also appeared in Lamb (1965: figure 3 and 1977: figure 13.4), on both occasions shown as an ‘annual’ curve together with the extreme seasons: winter (December to February) and high summer (July and August). The IPCC diagram comes from the 1982 publication as the vertical resolution of the annual plot is greater. The data behind the 1977 version are given in table app. V.3 in Lamb (1977), but these are essentially the same as previously given in Lamb (1965)... The 1982 version dispenses with the three possible curves evident in Lamb (1965, 1977) and instead uses a version which accounts for the ‘probable under-reporting of mild winters in Medieval times’ and increased summer temperatures to meet ‘certain botanical considerations’. Lamb (1965) discusses the latter point at length and raised summer temperatures in his Mediaeval reconstructions to take account of the documentary evidence of vineyards in southern and eastern England. The amount of extra warmth added during 1100–1350 was 0.3–0.4°C, or about 30% of the range in the black curve in Figure 7. At no place in any of the Lamb publications is there any discussion of an explicit calibration against instrumental data, just Lamb’s qualitative judgement and interpretation of what he refers to as the ‘evidence’. Variants of the curves also appear in other Lamb publications (see, eg, Lamb, 1969).
So the point - in case you missed it - is that Lamb happily and with no real explanation other than personal taste adjusted his data. And - but you knew this already of course - not one of the "skeptics" either knows or cares.

Refs


More use and abuse of IPCC 1990 fig 7.1(c).
Adoration of the Lamb.

2019-03-10

Lents 2019

Another fine Lents, this one happily not truncated by inclement weather. Stars of the show were Caius who went head on their first day, according to Pembroke regatta, where they we two lengths faster than Maggie or Downing over about a km; and indeed they caught Maggie around the Plough. For the women, Newnham were convincingly faster than Downing and then Jesus. Elsewhere there was lots of excitement, including me flinging my GoPro into the river 30 seconds after taking this on Saturday, and a cold wet time I had recovering it.

53323519_10156971639812350_7178433168293232640_o

Rather than point you - and my future self - at the individual days, there's an entire playlist to go through. As a bonus, I've included a few other people's vidz in the list. If you want to watch any, they're all dead thrilling, but Saturday's M2 has a particularly exciting finish.

Refs


* 2017
* 2016
* How to get ze legs down.
* Large teams develop and small teams disrupt science and technology by  Lingfei Wu, Dashun Wang & James A. Evans; via Dominic Cummings.

2019-03-03

Two creaky sci-fi books about Mars

vonb By slightly odd co-incidence, I'm currently reading two creaky old sci-fi books about Mars. I've finished neither, but never mind, I'm going to blog them anyway. Not the stories, which you can read for yourself if interested, but the errors. The first is The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke; the second and somewhat more interesting is Project MARS: A Technical Tale by Wernher von Braun (do not, as I did, read wiki's The Mars Project and go "duh! Of course it is fiction" because that is about the technical appendix, not the novel). Text available in various places e.g. here.

What both books get horribly wrong is what all such do: they vastly overestimate how quickly space travel would occur and they totally fail to predict automation, computers and the like. For example, von B has a Hubble-like space telescope floating in space: but to use it, you have to visit it. And you point it by hand1. For example: von B has an expedition to Mars... but not preceded by any robot probes. von B also has canals on Mars, but never mind, they are going to be part of the story, I can forgive him those.

Clark has his boyz head off from Earth for Mars, in a ship rather reminiscent of an English steamer, but I think stuffs up the orbital mechanics. After leaving the jolly old Earth behind, he is saddened when Earth eventually becomes invisible, blotted out by the solar corona. Because of course the path from Earth to Mars is outwards, and so Earth and the Sun will be in line. Oops. von B, by contrast, as you'd expect gets the orbital mechanics right - at least as far as I can tell - but goes wrong in my highlight, where he is explaining temperature maintenance in space (aside: very quaintly, his space station is powered by solar power... but by steam solar power: a mirror boils water, and the spokes of his space station wheel serve to condense it).

This is radiative physics, and somewhat reminiscent of The idealised greenhouse effect model and its enemies. The easy one first: a fully reflective sphere at all wavelengths with no conduction will neither absorb nor emit radiation, and so will maintain whatever temperature it starts with, whatever that might be; there is no "temperature of equilibrium" because there is no transfer to permit equilibriation. But a fully black sphere at all wavelengths (idealised to have a superconducting surface, unless you want to think about the temperature distribution) will not. It will have some equilibrium temperature; if you start it hotter it will cool down, if you start it colder it will warm up. This, incidentally, is from page 93. On page 94 we find the statement that a mirror-polished spaceship will simply retain it's temperature, which is much better, though slightly wrong, because of course the people inside and equipement will emit heat, so it will slowly warm up. So p 93 might be an oversight, or perhaps a translators error; but probably not, because the same error occurs just a little above my quote.

Update: it turns out that Martians exist. They live entirely underground, but their pumping of water from the poles is visible. They are entirely benevolent and more advanced than us, but in need of rejuvenation. There are some tedious dialogues about religion and stuff that I skipped. Despite being more advanced, the Earthmen learn nothing from them; in turn the Martians have at no point listened to Earth radio broadcasts. The return-to-Earth happens with no assistance from the advanced Martians, presumably because von B wanted to prove his point that it could be done.

docking

Notes


1. Its also not in constant use. It seems to be available and unused whenever our heroes happen to want to look at it.

2. Also, his propellants are hydrazine and nitric acid. Failing to think of liquid oxygen is odd, I think. For propulsion, that is. There's liquid oxygen for cabin air.

3. Page 102: it turns out that the guidance for the ships will be calculated by giant electronic super-brains, and stored on thousands of magnetic tapes, which tapes will be carried aloft and run by hand through the ship's course-correction facilities. Though a super-special lightweight machine was also to be carried, capable of producing tapes en route.

4. There's also some stuff about nuking the Commies into submission, so cue Tom Lehrer.