2019-12-31

You ain't ever gonna burn my heart out

MVIMG_20190725_132014 Aka the year in Stoats, 2019. Following last year's acclaimed tradition, I present posts by month selected by most comments; after all, it's the only objective measure.

* Jan: Aristotle's politics (38)
* Feb: A note on fossil fuel subsidies (30)
* Mar: Brexit schmexit (31)
* Apr: L'affaire Peter Ridd, part 2 (25)
* May: UK Parliament declares climate change emergency? (38)
* Jun: Does J R Oppenheimer ask: can science provide better models for democracy? (48)
* Jul: The One Viable Solution To Climate Change? (35)
* Aug: A dangerous new form of climate denialism is making the rounds? (22)
* Sep: Demons Tormenting St. Anthony (21)
* Oct: Economists greatly underestimate the price tag on harsher weather and higher seas. Why is that? (30)
* Nov: Pielke contra mundum (40)
* Dec: Sigh: DOE announces another lightbulb efficiency rollback (28)

Thanks to all my commentators for their contributions throughout the year. Rest assured that I read them all, and think about them all, and reply when it seems appropriate. To all you lurkers out there: welcome also.

Most of the posts I looked back at had typos; I've corrected some and in a couple of minor places clarified meanings that appeared unclear.

Refs


The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne (2018). Regrettably, I have failed in last year's resolve to insult more people this year.
* ATTP: 2019: A year in review.
* JEB: Review of the blogyear?

2019-12-30

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun

DSC_3744 A bit more Thucydides. This time from the "Mytilenian Debate". A quick precis of the background for those who have forgotten: war between Athens and Sparta is in its third year; the Mytilenians want to go over to the Spartan side1 and the Spartans promised aid; alas the revolt goes poorly, the Spartans prove fairly crap at sea and Mytilene and Lesbos are retaken. The ringleaders are taken to Athens, and the assembly there - no longer lead by Pericles - in anger and fear condemns all the men of Mytilene to death; but sleeping on it they come to be uneasy, and re-debate. The result - not to spoil the suspense - is a close run thing but is narrowly in favour of not killing everyone. Anyway, that's not my point here; what's interesting here is that Thucydides gives us the "demagogic" (Cleon) and "rationalist" (Diodotus) sides as speeches. This is one of his Dramatic Techniques and makes the whole thing more readable; after a catalogue of near-chaotic events and places which constitutes what happens, it's good to get the politics presented.

Aanyway, my real point was that on this my second reading - my first, several years ago, was mainly to get the story - I'm struck by bits of Cleon's speech I didn't notice before; perhaps I skimmed:
The most alarming feature in the case is the constant change of measures with which we appear to be threatened, and our seeming ignorance of the fact that bad laws which are never changed are better for a city than good ones that have no authority; that unlearned loyalty is more serviceable than quick-witted insubordination; and that ordinary men usually manage public affairs better than their more gifted fellows. The latter are always wanting to appear wiser than the laws, and to overrule every proposition brought forward, thinking that they cannot show their wit in more important matters, and by such behaviour too often ruin their country; while those who mistrust their own cleverness are content to be less learned than the laws, and less able to pick holes in the speech of a good speaker; and being fair judges rather than rival athletes, generally conduct affairs successfully. These we ought to imitate, instead of being led on by cleverness and intellectual rivalry to advise your people against our real opinions.
How Brexit is that? Don't trust experts. If you don't understand things, don't worry, just let your common sense guide you. Don't change your mind. It continues with proving that the M's were particularly evil, deserved punishment, and failure to do so would inevitably cause everyone else to revolt too.

Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them


A well known passage, but worth quoting while I'm here.
Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before, carried to a still greater excess the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence.

Notes


1. Athens, though a democracy, wasn't terribly nice as an Empirical Power, the Delian League having decayed into hegemony.

2. If you're wondering about his wonderful memory capable of recording these speeches, be aware that as he puts it sometimes he made people say "what was called for in each situation". And from tis distance, who are we to doubt this?

3. Pic: the Corinth canal. Somewhat beyond the strength of the Antients. But they did have a cut / road for dragging ships across.

Refs


* BBC Natural World: Weasels: Feisty and Fearless

2019-12-27

Close elections are bad elections; what we need is social consensus

Screenshot_20191223-225856 mt Twote:
Close elections are bad elections. What we need is social consensus. Anything important decided by a narrow fraction of the most disengaged voters is destabilizing.  Professionalization of politics is the problem, not the solution.
Complaining about something like politics becoming more professional, or more efficient, is about as much use as - and indeed, is very similar to - complaining about evolution. But I'm used to disagreeing with mt over politics, so skip that bit as a detail and come to the "close elections" thought.

About which, as I half said in a different context (oh, there are so many thoughts in the world to write down!) in Men spake from God being moved by the Holy Ghost / Every man in his own language, I feel I've said before but can't find, so will say again:

Politics tends to produce close results1, but not consensus2. Nominally, pols are supposed to seek and promote consensus, and mt is still yearning after that idea, but I see little evidence that it is a major part in practice. And politics is backed by coercion: at least in majoritarian states: if you win, you get the power to impose your - sorry, the people's - will; this tempts far too many people. This tends to leave the middle ground barren and dead, populated with the corpses of those attacked by both sides. The solution, of course, is to move as much as possible out of the purview of politics, since anything done there will inevitably be fought over as a zero sum game. And move it out into the free market, where individual decisions are indeed made by agreement.

Update


I should have reffed Aristotle's politics and the quote from Hayek: It is not democracy but unlimited government that is objectionable...

Refs


Does J R Oppenheimer ask: can science provide better models for democracy?

Notes


1. In an idealised society with a spectrum of opinion categorisable as from Left to Right, imagine two parties competing for votes, sure of all those on the side of the spectrum away from the other party; inevitably, they migrate to the centre. This was Tony Blair's chief idea, and lest you dismiss it too readily, notice that he was the only Labour to win an election for uncounted moons. I prefer conviction politicians - Blur IMO had no real ideas about what to do once he achieved power. The idealisation applies but in more blurred form in more complex scenarios.

2. Having commented on closeness, I feel the urge to comment on consensus too, since it is so strikingly absent. At least in the UK and USA; I'm rather less familiar with our Continental friends or those further abroad. But it is hard to know what to say. The UK is split by Brexit as one axis and but whether you dislike Corbyn or Bojo more on another, and that's not helpful. The USA is, apart from the perhaps-superficial Trump/Populist split, also divided between "free market" vs "progressive", but muddily, possibly leaving room for consensus in the details even if on principles there can be no meeting.

3. My picture shows Henry Worsley, who has nothing at all to do with this article. But I love the picture; I got it from the New Yorker. They shoved it into my fb feed for months on end and I finally got round to reading it. To my surprise, it doesn't show a USAnian: to me, he looks like one of the cowboy pilots from Catch-22, or the mad ones from Dr Strangelove. But no, just an Englishman.

Praise is due to all who respect justice more than their position compels them to do

DSC_3794 A fragment from The Peloponesian War. The Athenians are talking to the Spartans, trying to persuade them not to join the Corinthians; and so are defending their own actions and empire. They can't argue that they have been wholly good, and instead Thucydides1 reports them as saying:
praise is due to all who, if not so superior to human nature as to refuse dominion, yet respect justice more than their position compels them to do. We imagine that our moderation would be best demonstrated by the conduct of others who should be placed in our position; but even our equity has very unreasonably subjected us to condemnation instead of approval. Our abatement of our rights in the contract trials with our allies, and our causing them to be decided by impartial laws at Athens, have gained us the character of being litigious. And none care to inquire why this reproach is not brought against other imperial powers, who treat their subjects with less moderation than we do; the secret being that where force can be used, law is not needed. But our subjects are so habituated to associate with us as equals that any defeat whatever that clashes with their notions of justice, whether it proceeds from a legal judgment or from the power which our empire gives us, makes them forget to be grateful for being allowed to retain most of their possessions, and more vexed at a part being taken, than if we had from the first cast law aside and openly gratified our covetousness. If we had done so, not even would they have disputed that the weaker must give way to the stronger. Men's indignation, it seems, is more excited by legal wrong than by violent wrong; the first looks like being cheated by an equal, the second like being compelled by a superior. At all events they contrived to put up with much worse treatment than this from the Mede, yet they think our rule severe, and this is to be expected, for the present always weighs heavy on the conquered. This at least is certain. If you were to succeed in overthrowing us and in taking our place, you would speedily lose the popularity with which fear of us has invested you, if your policy of to-day is at all to tally with the sample that you gave of it during the brief period of your command against the Mede.
I think it fits the USAnian Empire well.

Notes


1. Crawley translation from Gutenberg. The Warner translation, which I'm reading, is somewhat different and appears to be more popular to quote. So you can key it if you want to, it starts "Those who really deserve praise are the people who, while human enough to enjoy power, nevertheless pay more attention to justice than they are compelled to do by their situation".

2. Yes I know: Mycenae predates this period by many years.


Refs


* Our holiday there some years back.

2019-12-26

Goe, and catche a falling starr

songAh, beautiful. The full - though alas modernised version - is available from e.g. here. I've used this before, though only incidentally so I think I'm allowed to use it as the headline now. The song is lovely though in my humble opinion runs out of steam and sheer madness in the third verse. While I'm on poetry I can also recommend So That's Who I Remind Me Of by Ogden Nash, h/t TF.

In other news, I managed my by-now-traditional Christmas day half, though not particularly quickly. And after some effort, we managed to set the Christmas pudding on fire. Boxing day will be quieter.

Refs


* The new spending bill is a disaster by Scott Sumner
* Economics as the Study of Peaceful Human Cooperation and Progress by Steven Horwitz
* Speaking of raving wackos: Trump on Wind (Oy Vey) - QS
* Christmas Trilogy 2019 Part I: Would the real Mr Newton please stand up? - RM
We need to make the labor force as flexible as the capital force - DMcC

2019-12-22

Happy Solstice

A re-tread from 2012. Doesn't time fly?

  DSC_1537-sunrise-w

A summer picture for the winter solstice. Which I'd forgotten until Amy reminded me.

This year's reminders from TPP and RM.

Refs


* Book of the New Sun. I still think Gene Wolfe does a better job of capturing the wonder of the Apollo programme with that brief paragraph that anyone else ever has.

2019-12-21

Sigh: DOE announces another lightbulb efficiency rollback

IMG_20191217_182721_122 More broken logic. Well, not really even an attempt at logic. The story from The Hill via Twatter:
In its latest move to roll back energy efficiency measures, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced Friday that it would block a measure designed to require more efficient lightbulbs, arguing the policy would be too expensive for consumers.  The announcement applies to widely-used, pear-shaped incandescent lightbulbs. Coupled with another controversial rule finalized in September, the move cements two remarkable decisions taken by the department this year to hamstring efficiency requirements for nearly every type of bulb used in America. The announcement follows earlier messaging from the department that market forces, and not the government, should guide consumer choices.
And so on. The lack of logic is:
consumer protection groups and environmentalists have widely panned the measures, saying consumers will be stuck with a higher electric bill spurred by inefficient bulbs... This law should have saved U.S. households more than $100 annually... You wouldn’t use a phone from the 1870s, so why use Edison’s 1870s light bulb?
But of course the change merely allows people to choose their own bulbs. If they value saving $100 per year, then they'll do that, and the law will have no effect. But they have the choice not to, if that's what they prefer. Those who think that the entire populace are feckless incompetents will argue that people should not have the choice, but I can't support that. As to phones, people migrate to modern phones with no coercion from the govt, so if that's your analogy, it argues against the regs.

Refs


* Ra ra: If you like your lightbulbs, you can keep your lightbulbs! The Obama Admin tried to limit Americans to buying more-expensive LED bulbs for their homes—but thanks to President
@realDonaldTrump, go ahead and decorate your house with whatever lights you want

2019-12-20

Historic Urgenda Climate Ruling Upheld by Dutch Supreme Court

80657110_1340083109521339_6781348271953543168_o I haven't written about Urgenda before. As they say themselves On 24 June 2015 the Urgenda Foundation, together with 900 citizens, won the Climate Case against the Dutch Government, forcing it to take more measures against climate change. On 9 October 2018 the judge in High Court again ruled in favour of Urgenda and the climate. The government appealed again. The final ruling of the Supreme Court will be on 20 December 2019. And Climate Liability News will tell you about the just-in victory: The HAGUE—The Netherlands’ Supreme Court upheld the landmark ruling in Urgenda v. the Netherlands, announcing its decision on Friday that governments have a human rights duty to protect their citizens from climate change. The strongly worded judgment orders the Dutch government to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by the end of 2020, compared with 1990 levels.

As I think I've said before, I don't like this version of "human rights". I like the version of the US constitution, most notably the First AmendmentCongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. This is "rights" as it should be done: by preventing govt f*ck*ng around with you. That way, you don't have to worry what the phrase "human right" even means. But when you end up deriving a "right to climate" from the state had clear obligations to protect the environment under Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights involving the right to life and the right to a private and family life then things have, in my opinion, gone wrong. Read my insightful review of Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower for more.

And, of course, I think the whole targets idea is wrong.

On the overall concept, which is citizens suing their govt to do something, I think that is intrinsically weird. Holland is a democracy. They elect people to represent them. Attempting to manage govt through the courts is odd. The courts should be a check on the abuse of power by the govt; and on the govt over-stepping its authority; but I don't like them being used to prod the govt into action. In that case, your remedy is to get another govt. If you reply is "but a different govt wouldn't act either" then my reply is "that is telling you something rather important". The only counter argument to this is that it acts to prevent govt lying: if they've got in by saying they'll do X, then I have some sympathy with the courts forcing them to do X. But I don't think that applies in this case.

Refs


Reading of the Urgenda Verdict - QS

2019-12-19

Climatic Impacts of Wind Power

80620812_1339153616280955_2067261372671983616_o By Lee M. Miller and David W. Keith in Joule. In 2018, so I'm well behind the times; but so is RS. This is fundamentally the same idea as Zhou et al. in 20121: wind turbines mix the boundary layer and so tend to warm the surface when it is colder than aloft. The effects are significantly larger at night than daytime, as you'd expect (during the day gradients are small anyway due to solar mixing from the sfc; at night the sfc cools). There are two elements of confusion to address. The first is trivial: the turbines are not generating any significant amount of heat; they're just mixing it. This is obvious and I only mention this because people have otherwise got confused in the past. And secondly, that while you might want to therefore say "there is no contribution to rising global temperatures and their associated problems" (especially if you're the AEWA) that's not really true. Because as conventionally understood GW applies mostly to the sfc temperature, and wind farms do have the potential to change that.

This is but a humble regional model, and so can't give you global impacts. Possibly, warming locally might be mitigated by cooling elsewhere; but then again it might not be.

Comparing Climatic Impacts to Climatic Benefits


So does this have any bearing on the GW-related virtues of windfarms? If you're the AWEA the answer is of course no no good grief what were you thinking? The Science Media Centre has some reactions most of which are also keen to minimise the relevance of this; the only one worth reading is by Stephen Mobbs.

The paper says "We find that generating today’s US electricity demand (0.5 TWe) with wind power would warm Continental US surface temperatures by 0.24 oC... The warming effect is... large compared with the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing US electricity with wind". But what is even the correct measure? You should compare the (global) changes, not just the changes over the US... they say "Assuming emissions cuts are implemented globally, then the climatic impacts of wind power affecting the US in 2100 are approximately equivalent to the avoided warming from reduced global emissions" which I think implies a sort of net loss until 2100.

It's also true that "the direct climatic impact of wind power is immediate but would disappear if the turbines were removed, while the climatic benefits of reducing emissions grows with the cumulative reduction in emissions and persists for millennia". However, in line with my std.policy that you shouldn't care too much past 100 years out, I don't think you should weigh the effects out to millenia highly. You might also attempt to assert that warming at night when it's colder anyway is better than warming during the daytime, perhaps.

What I said last time


To be honest, I should quote what I said last time, though of course you can read it all from the link. Most of the previous post was debunking misunderstandings, but as to the GW stuff I said: But if you’re silly, like the Torygraph, you find yourself obliged to headline your story Wind farms can cause climate change, finds new study. The actual article itself isn’t too bad – it correctly notes this is a local effect, largely night-time only, and it permits itself a little speculation that if done on a large enough scale this might just be noticeable regionally. And, being generous, you could call this “climate change” – though to most people, “climate change” will mean global climate change, which this isn’t. That was true in the old context, which was just about small - by comparison with the considerations of the current paper - wind farms. But is perhaps a little too dismissive of the potential GW impacts.

Notes


1. Except Zhou was real observations not models.

They are openly admitting they have no intention of trying to slow climate change?

79756170_1337096576486659_3664121601915355136_n More anguished twatting about oil companies: ExxonMobil’s 2019 Outlook for Energy predicts “no reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector through 2040—and no date at which emissions reach net zero”. They are openly admitting they have no intention of trying to slow climate change.

This is just a dumb category error, confusing predictions with intentions. The obvious analogy is with IPCC / SRES (or whatever replaces SRES; see how out of date I am): just because the IPCC predicts / projects future CO2 emissions increasing doesn't imply they have no intention of helping reduce them.

Exxon's outlook for energy - which, obviously, I haven't read; see-also ExxonMobil: Positioning for a Lower-Carbon Energy Future? - is their best-guess at the future. It's them trying to read the tea-leaves, guess what will happen, what people will want, how the idiot pols will fuck things up, and so on. All of that occurs within a political and societal context, which they're trying to guess. But asking them to be in control of that context is ridiculous. And do people really want Evil Fossil Fuel Companies in control? Of course not.

Society is a big complex self-organising institution with some top-level control from govt, usually done badly. Within that various instituions like EFFCs operate in response to people's desires. If you want what they do to change you need to change your desires. Saying you want lower CO2 emissions and then flying off to COP25 is about as much use as a fat man saying he wants to be thin while still scoffing all the pies - see-also Climate chickenhawks. You should pay more attention to what people and pols do, rather than what they say. the key phrase is "revealed preferences". If you want EFFCs to count the SCC, then impose a carbon tax.

My appropriate picture shows the Angel of God chaining the demon of Lust. Jan Steen ~ ca.1660. Museum Bredius. See wiki for the full pic and full story, which is weird.

2019-12-12

Exxon Found Not Guilty of Deceiving Investors Over Climate Risks

79024836_1331247397071577_3374945770317807616_o This was the case that I commented on in L'affaire Schneiderman and noted briefly in refs a month ago. Broadly speaking though I thought the case silly and politically motivated and didn't much cover it. Summary: the City of New York decided to use some valuable taxpayer dollars suing Exxon for securities fraud and racketeering: their assertions were that Exxon had made misleading declarations to investors, and had committed deliberate fraud. The latter allegations were even less plausible than the former and NY dropped them a month back. Now Exxon has been found not guilty of the former.

The case was always stupid. In practical terms, NY was trying to show that Exxon had failed to tell investors that there were risks of "stranded assets" and that it's business could be seriously impeded by action on GW. And this is drivel because no sensible investor could possibly be unaware of those issues; there was no need at all for Exxon to tell anyone; and, anyway, they had. So the case was never about bad behaviour by Exxon; it was just an attempt to sue someone that NY didn't like on a technicality. And, deservedly, it failed.

Sadly CLN doesn't link to the judgement, so I have to go to the Dork Side for that. I've read / skimmed it all. I think that NY were hoping for a technical victory: that Exxon's words, though irrelevant to any investor's decision, nonetheless could be construed as misleading. But the judge doesn't even give them that, deciding that there must be "actual significance to the deliberations of the reasonable shareholder", and that's not going to fly. The allegations are mostly around a couple of reports from Exxon in March 2014, said to be misleading, but as the court notes "there was no evidence adduced at trial that the publication of the march 2014 reports had any market impact...". And just to grind it in, "evidence at the trial revealed that Exxon executives and employees were uniformly committed to rigourously discharging their duties in the most meticulous and comprehensive manner possible". Perhaps importantly, hizzoner notes that NY offered no testimony from any investor who claimed to have been mislead. There's also some stuff about Roger Reed, a market analyst, who didn't change anything due to the March reports, so that's pleasingly empirical. Also, NY's experts seem to have been a bit crap compared to Exxon's ("the testimony of the expert witnesses called by the Office of the Attorney General was eviscerated on cross examination").

If all this sounds like I'm gloating, I am. This was a stupid case that distracted attention from actual real world problems.

This may be a good place to link to my Exxon disclaimer, which I find I first noted in 2006 and certainly re-said in 2015.

Refs


* “Barking Cats” by Milton Friedman h/t TF

2019-12-02

If you’re a climate or energy researcher, chances are the fossil fuel industry owns you?

evil If you’re a climate or energy researcher, chances are the fossil fuel industry owns you was a cheery Twit by Benjamin Franta. A variety of people were tewwibly offended, but really, the question should have been why did they expect any sense out of him in the first place? The entire Exxonknew drivel he's promoting is drivel and always has been. I felt obliged to tell otherwise intelligent people Yes, which is why it's all drivel. There's nothing at all new there; and the intent to report is as though it was is, is spreading lies / PR. As I said "you were all happy with F when he was spreading drivel you liked". Now it's drivel you dislike, and you're all astonished.

But it perhaps needs laying out in more detail than Twatter is capable of coping with, so here (for those who found Early oil industry knowledge of CO2 and global warming? for some reason hard to understand) are some words.

1. Back in Ye Olde Dayes, GW was but a twinkle in people's eyes and so there was lots of speculation and inquiry around the subject, including stuff written by Exxon, and even by coal companies.
2. The idea that anyone actually knew exactly what was going on, or could make confident predictions, is wrong. See for example In the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis? for my discussion; but I think it's definitely correct that any date before 1990 is unreasonable. Yes, it's possible to cherry pick pictures that people created in the 80's and declare them to be uncannily prescient, but this is also silly. Incidentally, I think that predicting future CO2 turned out to be much easier than anyone expected. But just cos you know now that it was accurate(ish) doesn't mean you knew it then.
3. The idea that one graph by one person at Exxon proves that "Exxon knew" is also drivel. Exxon is quite a large organistaion. It doesn't have one mind that is always in full agreement with itself and that knows everything it is doing, any more than the USofA does.
4. Everything that the Evil Fossil Fuel Companies knew then was public. So if your complaint is that all this was secret, then you're an idiot. If you think the public were not fully informed of all this vital information, then your complain should be with the govt. The govt is the entity charged with spreading such vital-to-the-general-public information; not EFFCs. See-also #exxonlied;  or The Climate Deception Dossiers? Oreskes is the leader in this kind of drivel, writing stuff like "At least fifty years ago, Defendants-Appellants (hereinafter, “Defendants”) had information from their own internal research, as well as from the international scientific community, that the unabated extraction, production, promotion, and sale of their fossil fuel products would result in material dangers to the public. Defendants failed to disclose this information...". If you can't tell why this is drivel, you haven't been paying attention.

It is possible to complain that after the naive early days, the EFFCs starting spreading misinformation. I think this is a valid complaint (see-also What I said about Exxon). But, it really isn't that exciting. As well as misinformation from the EFFCs there was also lots of good information available from govts and the IPCC; anyone who wanted to be well informed could be; those who wanted to be lied to, were. To get round this problem you need a population that wants to know the truth. Alas, such are hard to find.