Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death?

europe George Monbiot, in the Graun, with a lead pipe. By which I mean it is the usual bludgeoning. He has various points, many of them semi-valid, including the superior efficiency of a non-beef diet, to which I feel a great deal of sympathy. But I don't want to talk about that, I want to look at a thing he points at for his cropland doom, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification's Global Land Outlook. I went expecting to be disappointed and they didn't disappoint me about being disappointing. You can skip the next couple of paragraphs if you don't care about that stuff but only want the yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands stuff. I find some interesting discussion of vaguely similar points from a 2008 post of mine. In 2009 I looked at Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization? but failed to say "Betteridge".

As you'd expect, the report isn't friendly to agribiz; their solutions are about "managing" things. Bureaucrats good, never markets. And we get stuff like Small-scale farmers, the backbone of rural livelihoods and food production for millennia, are under immense strain from land degradation, insecure tenure, and a globalized food system that favors concentrated, large-scale, and highly mechanized agribusiness. No, that's not the right way to think about that kind of problem; this is more longing for the Merrie England Happy Peasant type stuff that no-one who can possibly avoid it will actually choose to live with. People abandon peasant agriculture when they can, for the obvious reasons. Their Happy Peasant culture of dancing around maypoles will be lost, just like ours has been.

Much of the early sections reads like boilerplate; things that other people have written, and they've copied, without even thinking about. Take, for instance, The widening gulf between production and consumption, and ensuing levels of food loss / waste, further accelerates the rate of land use change, land degradation and deforestation. What does that even mean? There can't be a large excess of consumption over production, the gulf can't be that way round, otherwise we'd run out of things to consume, which is physically impossible. So they must mean that production now greatly exceeds consumption. If true, that would be mad, but it would also be a cause for hope: because if you could then cut down on the waste - presumably, the "gulf" in that case comes from waste, I think even the EU has stopped just throwing food away, though even that is indeed waste - you could feed more people from the same land, which would be good. Is that what they mean? I don't know. I get the feeling they've been told to bang out a report, lots of references, at least 1" thick 2" would be good, never mind about the actual words too much.

Anyway, so much for intro, the bit I wanted was A significant proportion of managed and natural ecosystems are degrading and at further risk from climate change and biodiversity loss. From 1998 to 2013, approximately 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated land surface showed persistent declining trends in productivity, apparent in 20 per cent of cropland, 16 per cent of forest land, 19 per cent of grassland, and 27 per cent of rangeland. These trends are especially alarming in the face of the increased demand for land-intensive crops and livestock.

But we also learn, from the start of Chapter 4, that Over the last 20 years the extent of land area harvested has increased by 16 per cent, the area under irrigation has doubled, and agricultural production has grown nearly threefold. These two ideas aren't incompatible of course. We can be increasing productivity in some places while losing it in others. We could be grabbing good new land while throwing wrung-out old land away. Maybe.

key But as Chapter 4 says, Measuring the extent of land degradation is difficult, so we didn't try to do it we just nicked The World Atlas of Desertification (WAD) instead. It appears to be an EU product. For an example pic, see Europe inlined above. I've cheated; Europe is the greenest. But is that cheating? Europe is intensively inhabited and intensively farmed; why isn't it desertifying, if that's the problem we're worried about? The answer is obvious: Europe is also run by wealthy people who look after the land, in general. Perhaps that's the solution?

The report is keen to guide your eye, and will tell you for example that Indications of decreasing productivity can be observed globally, with up to 22 million km2 affected, i.e., approximately 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated land surface shows persistent declining trends or stress on land productivity. But if you look at Europe, you'll see that more than 50% is deep-green, which is to say "increasing". That doesn't get a mention (they can't avoid mentioning Europe entirely of course, so they say Local farming practices often result in water and wind erosion and other degradation phenomena that, however, cannot be captured universally at the scale of analysis with the current datasets available; they know there's a problem, even if they can't see it). Even globally, the "deep green" total is bigger than the red-plus-yellow bits. That doesn't mean all is well, but it does deserve noticing; I can't think that a report that doesn't notice that is balanced.

I'd better stop before I channel any more of the spirit of Bjorn Lomborg. Global warming is bound to bring shifts to rainfall patterns that are bound to disrupt our agriculture and natural ecosystems in ways that are hard to predict in any kind of detail. I do caution against lack of caution.


* Does Eating Meat Contribute to Global Warming?


Photovoltaic growth: reality versus projections of the International Energy Agency – the 2017 update

A fascinating picture, and blog post, comes my way, ht CR. There are various ways of looking at the same numbers; I've picked solar PV additions on a log scale, but you can also look on a linear scale, or look at total installations; see the post for more.

What we're seeing is that "official" forecasts of solar PV have lagged waay behind actual installations, and have done so with remarkable consistency. Despite repeated failure they have learnt nothing year on year. There's some discussion of just why the forecasts have been so bad, up to and including capture by Evil Fossil Fuel Barons, even though it isn't clear how that would make sense. Greenpeace also don't do a very good job, as the post notes. I tried to trawl back through GP's reports. But I got stuck because the 2005 report has ~70,000 PJ/a total energy baseline for 2000, whereas the 2010 one has 400,000; and that's illogical, captain. Also unpresciently, 2005 lumps solar PV, hydra and wind together; and the 2010 report is lead by pix of shiny mirrors.

The blog post quotes the IEA as pointing out that its reports are not supposed to be forecasts; this is probably about as useful as the IPCC saying the same about its projections. The IEA claims not to take into account new policies or "major new technologies" and that second point gets closest to the problem. Which I take to be not, really, any major new technologies but just steady technological improvements. Wiki has a nice pic showing growth by region; you can see the overall exponential growth continues, but Europe has clearly tailed off.

Although this is somehow news to me - clearly I've been asleep - others have noticed. The linked blog post provides examples, one of which is David Roberts at Vox. And, delightfully, I find myself able once again to disagree with him. He quotes GP saying Everything beyond projections for the next 10 years is simply a political statement from us, indicating what we want to see happen. This also becomes a work plan for us. If we see a renewable energy market isn’t performing as we want it to, we’ll try to jump in with campaigns—against fossil and nuclear fuels and in favor of renewables. And he likes this; because, effectively, he's a campaigner; and campaigners need something to campaign for. And I disagree because I wonder...

What are the consequences of this mis-forecast? Off in the real world, as opposed to scenario-land, solar PV keeps getting cheaper and people keep installing more of it. We can assume this is likely to continue, regardless of who campaigns for what and, probably, by this stage, largely regardless of government policies. Carbon taxes would help it, of course, but carbon taxes (or anything vaguely equivalent) are moving so sloowly that it seems solar PV will likely leap straight past that hurdle. I'm speculating here, of course. So a possible consequence of all this is that CO2 becomes less of a problem than we thought. Could it be that John McCarthy's semi-magical techno-optimism was actually right?


* US carbon emissions


Temptation of Saint Anthony in visual arts

sta The Gods Themselves is a novel by Asimov. One of the few - perhaps the only one of his - to feature aliens; and quite decent aliens too. Whereas the picture, as you'll instantly recognise, is one of the Temptation of St Antony, a theme that appealed to the more psychedelic (psychotic?) painters. Temptation is rather an odd word, because although he is tempted by Lust and all the usual, rather more of the story seems to involve him being beaten, perhaps to death, by demons.

But its also totally irrelevant, because I wanted to talk about the lesson from TGT. I've just re-read it for the first time in many years. I remembered the outline of the story, but not the details. Let me tell you the outline.

Aliens (it later emerges) are sending (from their universe, in which the strong nuclear force is stronger than ours) blobs of Pu-186 into ours, in exchange for W-186. As the laws of physics leak into the new material it becomes radioactive; a source (when developed) of limitless free unpolluting energy for both sides. Alas, there is a catch: as the alien law of stronger nuclear force leaks in, our sun risks exploding; but scientists disagree whether the laws dissipate at the speed of light, or more slowly (and hence more dangerously). Eventually, rebel (so to speak) scientists on the moon find a way to pull mass from an even-weaker-nuclear-force universe, and we end up happily in the middle, law balanced.

Naturally, to make a decent story the tension must be maintained, so there is a fair bit of academic rivalry, but also the book does a decent job of making it entirely plausible that people will risk destroying the world in exchange for free energy, and will overlook evidence to the contrary if it is at all marginal; and that to convince them, you must offer a solution. Hmmm, make you think of anything? It also features - well, the title comes from - the famous Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain, which I'm sure we've all used uselessly in our time. The book is 1972, so it is a bit early for the moral I've drawn to be intended to be present. I haven't found any reviews that say it is.

[Update: don't you hate it when you forget to give a post a title and then see what Feedly makes of it?]


The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican Party?

23669069_1631029183628675_3247074209637407602_o Well maybe. But I'm not sure I agree with the logic. Tis Dana Nuccitelli, in the Graun. Specificailly, DN is comparing the scientific consensus on GW ("97%") with economists attitudes to the GOP tax plan. And look! Among the experts who took a position either way, there was a 96% consensus that the plan would not substantially grow the economy more than the status quo, and a 100% consensus that it would substantially increase the national debt. See; there's the number 96%, that's almost 97%, so it is practically the same thing! Well, no.

The 97% for GW is the consensus on the underlying science. If you asked instead for consensus on policy responses to GW, you'd get a much lower degree of agreement. An appropriate concept to try to compare 97% to would be "are protectionist tariffs a bad idea?" To which "all" economists would agree; but of course no significant politicians are prepared to sign up to, much less any political party. On those grounds, I could just as well compare the Democrats1 to denialists. But please don't think that I'm defending the GOP tax plan; as I've said elsewhere it isn't good.

But "not good" isn't the standard; to make DN correct it has to be "economic denialism", and I don't think he gets close to that. Increasing the national debt is one of those things that everyone decries, perhaps the GOP most vigourously, but time after time pols cave in order to buy whatever trinkets their current electorate demand2; at the moment, that's tax cuts. So if that's denialism, practically all pols are guilty. As to "would not substantially grow the economy more than the status quo", by many standards, that's a success; at least it won't shrink the economy. Or would it? We don't know, because the survey doesn't tell us. But again, a tax plan that simply doesn't make anything better is hardly a failure; plenty do worse.

Why do I care: there are lots of wrong things in the world, why pick this one to write about? Pfft, maybe I shouldn't. But it is a part of my long doomed campaign to help people get out more.

[Update: this (from George Will! Boo hiss!) more directly addresses the plan itself (or, in a sense, any plan):  The top 1 percent of earners supply 39 percent of income tax revenue, the top 10 percent supply 70 percent, the bottom 50 percent supply 3 percent, 60 percent of households pay either no income taxes (45 percent) or less than 5 percent of their income, and 62 percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than in income taxes. So, any tax cut significant to macroeconomic policy — any that might change incentives sufficiently to substantially change businesses’ and individuals’ behaviors — must be primarily a cut for the affluent.]


1. Or, I strongly suspect, a fair fraction of my commentators. Nothing new there, then:-)
2. Tell me I'm wrong. Point to Hillary campaigning for tax rises to reduce the national debt.


Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors via mt.
Is the GOP tax plan an unprecedented windfall for the wealthy? We look at 50 years of data to find out - WaPo
Utopias in the Anthropocene - mt criticises progressives and Historicism, but doesn't reach the obvious conclusion.
* Observing for the long haul
* The Economist isn't keen on the budget, but even more on the manner of its passing.


Electric cars already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel?

cars So says the Graun. Indeed it claims an Exclusive: Pure electric cars cost less over four years than petrol or diesel cars in the UK, US and Japan, researchers say, but China is set to lead the market. Quite how it can claim an exclusive when this is based on published research (Total cost of ownership and market share for hybrid and electric vehicles in the UK, US and Japan by KatePalmer, James E.Tate, Zia Wadud and John Nellthorp) is a mystery to me; and anyway I'm pretty sure I've seen similar elsewhere. It is a nice headline and points the way to the future but you won't be shocked to learn that there are a few little details in there to be careful of.

The details are all around the fact that while we're all very interested in money, only evil capitalist scum regard money as the bottom line; we of course care about ecological cost. So we need to notice that Pure electric cars receive a sales subsidy of about £5,000 in the UK and Japan and £6,500 in the US. “The subsidies are reasonably expensive at the moment but they are expected to tail off,” said Tate. He estimates that an electric car such as the Nissan Leaf will become as cheap to own and run as a petrol car without subsidy by 2025. Renault expects this to happen in the early 2020s. Unfortunately it isn't easy to add the £5k onto the chart above; but since they use a depreciation rate of a little under 20%, for a simple approximation, add £1k to the Pure Electric, which still (by eye) leaves it a shade under the Diesel.

Further, its kinda odd that the fuel cost for electric is so much lower than for diesel or petrol. If you ignore nuclear and renewables, then electricity is produced by burning things; burning oil is expensive and falling out of fashion but the cost should be comparable to diesel (within a factor of two, perhaps, in some handy-wavy expectation, mixing in the higher efficiency of large-scale combustion with the losses in power lines). And of course it is; the difference is tax: petrol and diesel in the UK are taxed at about 66% whereas electric is essentially tax free (there's a small carbon tax but I think it is significantly smaller than for diesel) so the diesel cost should shrink for comparability. Of course that's true now. In the glorious future when all our electricity is produced fossil-free the electric regains it's pure advantage; so in a sense this is a pointer to the future.

And the big pale blue elephant in the room is depreciation, which is by far the largest part of the cost for any of the types. This is a real financial cost and a real ecological cost, since it represents the cost of the raw materials to make the car, and the cost of the labour etc. to make it. It is reasonable to suggest that electric will come down in the future, since it is a newer thing; and reasonable to hope that electric cars are fundamentally simpler.

Lastly, there's the things we'd need to add onto the diesel (and to a lesser extent petrol) to be fair: costs of particulates and so on. I don't know what those are, numerically.

Prior art from Brian in 2015: EV costs at a tipping point for un-American countries.


Study discovers why global warming will accelerate as CO2 levels rise?

Or, ZOMG! We're all doomed, part N. Via fb (but not so far Twitter), phys.org tells me "Global warming is likely to speed up as the Earth becomes increasingly more sensitive to atmospheric CO₂ concentrations, scientists from the University of Reading have warned. In a new study, published this week in the prestigious journal PNAS, the scientists explain that the influence of increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 on global warming will become more severe over time because the patterns of warming of the Earth's surface will lead to reduced cloud cover in some sensitive regions and less heat being able to escape into space." And so on. However, if you read the article you'll notice one thing missing: any form of quantification. Also, if you miss the "why" in the headline, the article will give you the impression that the paper is reporting the idea of warming speeding up. But it isn't; the paper in PNAS (Relationship of tropospheric stability to climate sensitivity and Earth’s observed radiation budget by Paulo Ceppia and Jonathan M. Gregory) whilst undoubtedly perfectly sensible (or so I assume; I haven't sullied myself by reading it, of course) is actually about explaining the pre-existing observation from modelling studies.

Which rings a bell; and indeed the answer is Beyond equilibrium climate sensitivity by JA, whose picture I have shamelessly stolen; after all, he did too. C+G's abstract reads in part:

The change in climate feedback is mainly associated with a decrease in marine tropical low cloud... and with a less negative lapse-rate feedback, as expected from a decrease in stability... Relationships qualitatively similar to those in the models among sea-surface temperature pattern, stability, and radiative budget are also found in observations...

That gets written up by phys.org as "The findings are supported by observations, suggesting that forecasts made by climate models evaluated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are realistic." I think that is literally true, but very easy to misinterpret as "observations say that warming will speed up", which is not what I think they are saying.

Notice also that while the "speed up" is rather noticeable if you start from year 1, if you compare years 50-100 to 1000-3000, you get a rather small ~10% difference, which is well within the margin of error ECS is "known" to (although that's sort-of not relevant; what this is saying is that whatever the "real" value is, it is a bit bigger than you think. On yet another hand, I'm dubious about worrying about more than a century into the future anyway).

I think my conclusion is that the original "speed-up" idea is interesting but relatively minor; the new paper is scientifically interesting but not of any great interest to the general public (because it simply provides a plausible explanation for an existing observation) and so the PR for it is hype.

I mentioned this came from fb so I'll quote what I saw there, while sparing the blushes of the quotee: "A paper published in the prestigious "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" this week reports that, climate sensitivity, the amount of near-surface planetary mean temperature rise per increase of greenhouse gas concentrations, is increasing. Our planet sees more warming for less CO2. This is a precursor to a "Runaway Greenhouse" condition." This is wrong, obviously; but not too hard to read into the phys.org article.


* There once was a polar bear – science vs the blogosphere - Bart Verheggen


UK emissions

Via Twatter comes this interesting graph. We're back to pre-1900. At first I was deeply suspicious, but I think it holds up. The claimed source is "BEIS and World Resources Institute" via Carbon Brief. And that leads me to UK Carbon Emissions Fall to 19th Century Levels as Government Phases Out Coal (from March, so I'm hardly up to the moment). Which is I think wrong; the UK govt doesn't burn coal, it leaves that up to the electricity generating companies, as you'd expect. If we're attributing most of the drop to the loss of coal, then we can expect progress to plateau soon, because as the detail shows, we're almost out of coal to stop burning.

They say (apropos of this discussion) "Carbon Brief also attributes the precipitous drop in emissions from coal to the country's carbon tax, which doubled in 2015 to £18 ($22) per metric ton of CO2" (so perhaps we can credit the government to some extent :-). Of course, $22 per ton (per C? Per CO2? I can never remember) isn't large by ~$50 type standards which are what I tend to think of as "about the right value". But if that's big enough to have the "desired" effect, then fair enough.




Politics over science

There's a report on a survey in the NYT just recently ("The More Education Republicans Have, the Less They Tend to Believe in Climate Change"), though the survey itself ("College-Educated Republicans Most Skeptical of Global Warming") is reported in 2015. h/t PH.

The NYT chooses to highlight the answer to Percent saying they worry about climate change “a great deal” but that wouldn't be the question I'd choose: what if Republicans are generally happy-go-lucky people, whereas Democrats are worry-warts? The NYT avers that This relationship persists even when pollsters pose different kinds of questions about climate change, and that's sorta true, though just-by-chance they happen to have picked the question with most divergence. The divergence, as you'll see from the pix, is that more educated Repubs tend to believe in GW less than their less educated fellows, whereas the reverse is true for Dems. That's not what you expect if you think that the problem with GW "skeptics" is lack of knowledge; sadly, experience teaches us that isn't actually the problem.

Before you get too carried away, notice that they diverge on other issues too; for example, "Trust and confidence in mass media": Dems agree more with this the more educated they are, with about 80% agreeing; Repubs go the other way, and end with about 10% agreeing. And on this one, the Repubs are clearly correct, as you'd be mad to trust the mass media.

Anyway, let's look at a somewhat better question also in the survey, "GW is mainly caused by natural changes". Demoplebs go for that 35%, Collocrats 13%. Whereas Replebs are 54%, and Collegicans are 66%. Which indeed has the same pattern. Which is explained by, errm, what? I'm not sure the NYT's explanation - people get their ideas on GW from elites - is particularly explanatory.

There's another article, which may or may not include the same poll, I can't quite tell (but is probably this one instead), When Don’t the Highly Educated Believe in Evolution? The Bible Believers Effect (Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.2, March/April 2015). That includes another explanation that I quite like, which oddly enough is from Chris Mooney and they've translated it from GW to Bible and I'll translate it back: "Compared to less well educated,  more highly educated better understand arguments used to deny and are, therefore, better able to justify their beliefs in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary". I quite like that, at least in part because it fits in with my prejudices. It isn't too difficult, with a little education and or reading, to learn enough about GW to upset the easy explanations you'll find on popular websites or in the meeja. Indeed, I suspect, it is easy enough to come up with arguments that people who "believe" in GW will find hard to refute, or even understand. None of them stand up to proper scrutiny, of course, but I suspect that it's enough to (a) give a feeling of intellectual superiority; (b) make it plain that the "believers" are often just believing: they don't actually know (as discussed before, this is inevitable; you are going to rely on scientific authority; perhaps disingenuously people have a tendency to under-emphasise this). Being surrounded by idiots who believe something strongly but who obviously don't understand the reasons why is quite likely a force towards believing the reverse.

Pic: early viewers of this post will have got a disturbing image from 2015 Christmas Head. But then I remembered I wanted to put this lovely B+W pic somewhere, and this is a good post for it.


What Are ‘Theoretical Reasons’? - CH on protectionism


Nuclear winter?

23593387_10212802514451021_6937348403898754147_o One for RS (via a tweet that Mann liked). The Smithsonian tells us about When Carl Sagan Warned the World About Nuclear Winter. And the Smithsonian links it to the treatment of global warming today. I feel uncomfortable with that: the science of GW is good; the science of NW has not aged well.

I've always felt NW was a bit weird. The effects of the bombs themselves would be catastrophic; I really couldn't understand why people would want to make it "worse". Yes, I know that people were talking about "survivable" nuclear wars but these are the same sorts of people who deny GW nowadays; you don't win arguments with such people by telling them that GW or nuclear war will be worse than they think, because... they aren't thinking anyway.

Looking back, I find I've said very little about NW. Probably because while I felt vaguely sympathetic to the idea, I wasn't comfortable with the science so kept quiet. In 2010 I'm snarky about the Economist, and could be read as defending NW along with some other stuff. But the main point at issue there is the Economist evading GW; they wouldn't do that any more. A quick search on sci.env didn't throw up anything there either. I've edited the wiki article; unfortunately it doesn't seem to be possible to get a good link to this, but if you go to the history and put "William M. Connolley" into the rightmost box and press "Isolate history" you see all my edits. I've definitely removed some material critical of it - e.g. this in 2006 - but that was unsourced and OTT. In 2009 I removed the assertion that NW ended the arms race and the Cold War, because that was bollox. This talk page archive is interesting; in 2008 I say I[']m not happy with the Seitz section "A 1986 article by Russell Seitz ...". Basically, Seitz fabricated various quotes. We shouldn't be giving them countenance. Oh dear, I hope he'll forgive me. That links to Nuclear winter: science and politics (Science and Public Policy, Vol. 15, No. 5, October 1988, pp. 321-334) by Brian Martin which I think is worth reading.

The wiki article is ambivalent. The opening para reads:
Nuclear winter is the severe and prolonged global climatic cooling effect hypothesized[1][2] to occur after widespread firestorms following a nuclear war.[3] The hypothesis is based on the fact that such fires can inject soot into the stratosphere, where it can block some direct sunlight from reaching the surface of the Earth. Historically, firestorms have occurred in a number of forests and cities. In developing computer models of nuclear-winter scenarios, researchers use both Hamburg and the Hiroshima firestorms as example cases where soot might have been injected into the stratosphere,[4] as well as modern observations of natural, large-area wildfires.[3][5][6]
and from that you can't tell much about whether it is considered plausible or not. Lower down there's a long "Criticism and debate" section and in the end, my reaction is just to back away from the whole thing as being something like Cold fusion.

Robert Jastrow

One weird bit in the Smithsonian is
In the case of nuclear winter, the consequences of this backlash would be profound. In 1984, a small group of hawkish physicists and astronomers formed the George C. Marshall Institute, a conservative think-tank that supported SDI. Their leader was Robert Jastrow, a bestselling author and occasional TV personality whose politics were nearly opposite Sagan’s.
That is, I assume this Robert Jastrow. But wiki describes him as Robert Jastrow (September 7, 1925 – February 8, 2008) was an American astronomer and planetary physicist. He was a NASA scientist, populist author and futurist. Why would you describe him as a "bestselling author and occasional TV personality" - unless you were trying to diss him? That rather makes me doubt the article.

Whither NW?

The article concludes with "Thus, nuclear winter is still an important area of research, forming much of TTAPS author Brian Toon’s subsequent research". It might well form a large part of BT's work; I don't know. But it clearly isn't an important area of research in general. Hardly anyone bothers.

And as for "Both nuclear winter and global climate change are fairly abstract phenomena that occur on a scale beyond our immediate sensory experience" - WTF? GW is a long slow process, yes. NW isn't; it would be - if it's real - quick. It would also follow a major nuclear exchange, and calling that "fairly abstract" is just off with the fairies.


It was the Cantabs Winter Head today. Sadly the Powers that Be failed to enter the "Four of Whi(ne)" so I ran alongside div 3, and cycled alongside div 4. Div 3 was absolutely appalling; some terrible quality rowing by the first few (college) crews. Division 4 was much better, the highlight being the guests from Heidelberg RuderKlub who were powerful, controlled and relaxed at 33. Perhaps slightly too relaxed; they were 5 seconds behind Downing. And yes, they had an on-Cam cox so they did make it round the corners. But I'm delighted to say that our IV of Steve (with guest star Conor) won the S1 category.


Some links from RS:
 * history-of-climate-science-lessons
 * nuclear-winter-wages-of-hype


Noises off

dick Not much going on is there? ATTP is talking about Mertonian Norms but really, I cannot raise the energy to care so he's welcome to it, and to Warren Peace. Some minor comments on wiki reminded me of my Cogito ergo Stoat, which shows how seriously people take bollox if it comes from famous people. Speaking of which, James Annan is being cwuel to Pat Frank, but someone has to do it.

RS reminds me that reports of my death have been somewhat exaggerated; but it is nice to be noticed. He also notes a bizarre plan to put advertising on an iceberg.

In my own little world I've now written up the first two days of my trip to the Ecrins last summer; more of that anon.

On the politics front, there seems to be some faint hope that Zimbabwe has a chance for sanity. That depends on a lot of things going right, but it seems faintly promising so far. Unlike Brexit, which remains unpromising.

A friend of mine makes the Economist - well, he works for Cambridge Medical Robotics.

And lastly, a US Navy pilot drew a giant cock in the sky. If I was a pilot, it's the sort of thing I'd do, which is one of the many reasons I'm not a pilot. It's not a bad effort but needs some hairs as well as something extra at the other end.



23333947_10155828187957350_1525222338592911454_o Via ATTP on Twatter comes Conservatives probably can’t be persuaded on climate change. So now what? (arch). Since it's by David Roberts, you won't be surprised to find that I disagree with it. Or rather, I disagree with some of it and will therefore violently object to it's very right to exist. His tagline of "One more round of “messaging” won’t do it" is true, though hardly rises to the rank of a Key Insight. Anyway, DR writes:
Dixon’s team found that, in surveys, conservative opinion on climate solutions could not be moved by scientific or religious messages, but it could be nudged in a positive direction by messages that stressed “free market solutions.” Core values, not science, are what drive conservative opposition, Dixon tells Grossman, and “free markets” are a core value for conservatives. They view climate policy as a threat to free markets, which is the real reason they reject climate science, so messaging should assuage those fears. This is wrong. First, the idea that free markets are a core value of today’s US conservatives should provoke only laughter...
and so on. Notice DR is being offered the truth but is blinded to it by his prejudices; we're back at Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia? Or alternatively, we're back at the New Yorker: what Democrats have learned [sic] in the year since they lost to Donald Trump. And if you judge by that article the answer is nothing: they are still pissing around trying to magic demographics instead of finding sane policies, candidates and messages. DR continues:
Most importantly of all, we must note that it’s not true that climate solutions necessarily involve violence to free market principles.
And that is correct; see for example Carbon Tax Now! But DR then asks if it’s not true that climate solutions necessarily violate the allegedly core conservative principle of free markets ... who told them that? (which is slightly oddly phrased; he is of course asking who told the Cons that Clim Sols do violate FMs). To which the answer is: most of the people pushing GW solutions via regulation are saying that very thing.

Well, I wrote the above yesterday and then re-read it and though meh; I've said much the same before. And then today I find that ATTP has posted on the same DR post, so I decided maybe it was thrilling enough to throw out the door. Per all my previous, I think DR is wrong to be giving up on persuasion; he just needs to trying thinking, instead of trying to ram the same wrong-shaped "facts" down unwilling throats. ATTP is of course correct to conclude that there is some core of people who will never be convinced and trying to find clever messaging strategies that might do so, is... a waste of time. I assert that the core is smaller than you think.

But does accepting what ATTP thinks imply those who want to actively promote change will probably have to – at times – approach this more as a fight than as some kind of polite debate? This I find somewhat dubious. If those who wanted meaningful action on GW in the USA had a majority - or the strength in other ways - to act, they would have done so. If the facts and the science are on your side but you're not strong enough to win a brawl then it is foolish to start one.


Victory for Journalist as Accuracy Complaint by ‘Contrarian’ Climate Scientist Thrown Out (Professor Ray Bates and the Village Magazine)
* Today's contribution to the tariffs debate from CH
'I'm not a bigot' Meet the U of T prof who refuses to use genderless pronouns


No nation should be allowed to exit

DSC_6220 Anyone who has read my previous comments on Hansen will know that I find him somewhat over-excitable, and this one - Global Climate Justice: Making the Carbon Majors Pay for Climate Action - is no exception. It is I think a speech at COP-23. My title quote - that I find rather hard to parse - comes from
I have come to note that greenhouse gas climate forcings are accelerating, not decelerating, and sea level rise and ocean acidification are accelerating. We confront a mortal threat, now endangering, only at first, the very existence of island and low-lying nations in the Pacific and around the planet. Accordingly, ambition must be increased and enforced. No nation should be allowed to exit. Moreover, the unrequited provisions of the SUVA Declaration, Article 19, must be revived. Effective action must be undertaken not only to keep temperature rise below 1.5° C but, in my view, to return it to below 1° C to preserve island nations and global shorelines.
All fine sentiments, but what does "No nation should be allowed to exit" mean? It might mean that no nation should be allowed to exit the Paris agreement. Which would be a splendid sentiment until you came to think of how a recalcitrant state - perhaps a powerful one, like the USA - might be "persuaded" against it's well. Never mind; that's the dull interpretation. The more interesting interpretation is "No nation should be allowed to [cease to] exi[s]t". That's interesting, and I'll talk around it lower down; but first I need to fly off the handle about various crapness from Hansen.

The main of which is "Funding is required. As a matter of justice it should be extracted from those who benefitted most from fossil fuel burning -- the so-called Carbon Majors". This isn't true, as previously discussed. We had some debate about whether consumers deserved all or just most of the blame; but I don't think anyone believed that oil companies deserved all of the blame. But Hansen does. Why? Is he... totally economically illiterate? Or just propagandising? It's hard to know. He also appears to believe that the Carbon Majors have somehow extracted all this profit and piled it up in a big heap somewhere untouched, all ready for Hansen to expropriate. But of course it isn't sitting around. The carbon companies have paid it out to their shareholders. Sue all the carbon companies to death if you like and you can; you still won't get the money; it isn't there.

But Hansen wants Moah Litigation - how very Libertarian of him :-):  more effective legal action is needed... Legislators around the world could clarify the law related to liability for climate change, but courts are able now to assert jurisdiction to require fossil fuel polluters to pay their fair share. Legal scholars have outlined the path forward, and one of them is with me here today. And links to Atmospheric recovery litigation: making the fossil fuel industry pay to restore a viable climate system; Wood and Galpern. That feels somehow familiar but I find no references in my past. However, that purportedly scholarly article says "the primary responsible parties are the major fossil fuel corporations", which is clearly just more of the same drivel (and, incidentally, name-checks Hansen, so this is all going round in circles).

Hansen ends with The period of consequence requires honesty and courage. Nothing less will do. These are stirring words! But is (self-assessed) honesty and courage enough? No. It also necessary to be correct, and to have a clue what you're talking about.

No nation should be allowed to [cease to] exi[s]t

A fine sentiment: but is it true? I'm sure we'd all be happy to agree that no individual person should be killed (absent suitable exclusions for those who like the death penalty, and wars, and whatever else you need to find exclusions for). But should nations have similar rights to life? Obviously it is no defence to say that this or that nation has been killed in the past; that wouldn't establish it was all right to kill them. And nor would saying that the international order has decided it would be politically expedient to not extinguish nations make it not-right now. Somewhat belatedly bothering to look for prior art I find Right to Exist on wiki. As that says, that tends to get wrapped up in Palestine-Israel wars, so (invoking an analogue of Godwin's law) I'm not going to talk about it in that context and any comments that do so will get deleted. Meh, but apart from that there is little there, so I'll go back to making things up.

My point is that - in moral terms - we don't apply cost-benefit to individual lives; it is considered reasonable to regard them as infinitely precious. Obviously in the real world governments don't actually do that, they use value-of-life in cost-benefit all the time; but that's not morality.

Should we regard nations as also, individually, infinitely precious? I don't see why we should. One island nation (we're talking about nation-death-risk from SLR, so it's an obvious example) is much like the next island nation. Many of them are smaller than English counties, and English counties are not regarded as worthy of special protection against individual extinction.

Hansen kinda sources himself to "the SUVA Declaration, Article 19". Article one notes "existential threats to our very survival". It isn't clear what "our" means. It might mean "the nation"; that would be consistent with Hansen. Or it might mean the individual people; in which case it is somewhat dubious - they could move.

I'm expecting a certain measure of disagreement to my view from readers. If you comment, it would be nice if you could distinguish moral outrage from facts or logic or theory.


The sun in your eyes made some of the lies worth believing

TheAlanParsonsProject-EyeintheSky I am the eye in the sky, Looking at you-o-oooh I can read your mind.
I am the maker of rules, Dealing with foo-o-oools, I can cheat you blind.

At least, that's what Alan Parsons thought. But today we have Donald Trump accused of obstructing satellite research into climate change by the Graun (via, for example, See No Evil: Trump/GOP Trashing our Eyes in the Sky, which is my excuse for invoking the sainted Alan); well, it's on their website but it's actually the Observer, specifically Robin McKie and I'm a bit dubious about him.

The article sayeth President Trump has been accused of deliberately obstructing research on global warming after it emerged that a critically important technique for investigating sea-ice cover at the poles faces being blocked, but articles often say that kind of thing, and in this case it undermines itself by quoting no source for these accusations. It's possible that the fling at Trump is mere ritual, because the substance, as far as I can determine it, is Republican-controlled Congress ordered destruction of vital sea-ice probe.

That does appear to be true, though exact details are murky. What is not-being-launched is DMSP-20, a replacement for DMSP-19. The wiki page on DMSP is useful, if you don't even know what they are, but of DMSP-20 it says "The failure [of DMSP-19] only left F16, F17 and F18 – all significantly past their expected 3–5 year lifespan – operational. F19's planned replacement was not carried out because in 2017 the Republican-controlled Congress ordered the destruction of the already constructed F20 probe to save money by not having to pay its storage costs." Spacenews (from March 2016) tells me "...the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said... that while the Defense Department still expects to complete the termination of the DMSP program by Dec. 20, DMSP-20 remains properly stored in Sunnyvale... study, completed in September 2014, recommended against launching the satellite. But the Air Force said in April 2015 that it intended to launch the satellite in 2018... opted not to fund the program in a massive spending bill in December, kicking off plans to dispose of the satellite."

Inside Defence tells me that the "tear down" of DMSP-20 started in November 2016, "Based on the deputy secretary of defense and Air Force decisions and in accordance with congressional direction". So blaming that on Trump seems hard to justify (and Trump isn't responsible for all the world's evil  just because we all agree he's a bozo). https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/d/dmsp-block-5d looks like it ought to be definitive but clearly isn't, since it hasn't noticed the sad deaths of either DMSP-19 or 20.

So does anyone have the real story? Or is there no real story, other than someone having kicked McKie?

rmg says "...Comparable (better) instruments are on the JAXA-NASA AMSR-2. But it, too, is past its design life".

Update: RC now has a post which substantially says what I said above, but with more detail. Gavin is more politic, of course, writing that the "headline is not really correct", but I think it is now clear that the headline is the usual drivel you expect from headlines. RC also points at a Nature article, Ageing satellites put crucial sea-ice climate record at risk (arch), which I inexplicably missed.


Experts Ponder Why Administration Released Tough Climate Report, says EOS. Quite possibly because it would be too much trouble to censor. But that's just another way of saying they couldn't be bothered to censor it. So another spin is because the report just says what all the other reports have said - after all, it would be rather odd if it differed substantially. Obviously the Trump administration is trusted by no-one other than fools, so pretty well everything it does will meet with this kind of response: if you hate it, you'll whinge; if you like it, you'll wonder what the hidden reasons were.

Trump is the current La-Di-Di?

What is it with all this Trump-is-the-cause-of-everything stuff? Now we have the New Yorker saying With the tacit support of President Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his powerful son launched an unprecedented purge of their own family over the weekend. C'mon, bullshit. The Saudi dictatorship continued to act like a dictatorship and they're quite capable of doing that all by themselves. You're wondering what "la-di-di" is, aren't you, but somewhat afraid to ask. Come on... person who sells lots of newspapers... sadly deceased... try pronouncing it as though French... that's right, it's a frog trying to say "Lady Di(ana)".

For NPR's take, you get With Saudi Arrests, Crown Prince Shows He Can Force Change. But It's Not Democracy. Um, yes. The clue is in the words "Crown" and "Prince".


Trump Wrongly Blamed for Destroying Sea Ice Satellite: November 6th, 2017 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.


Anti-fb drivel

23157071_768966359966353_3134902088891222076_o I finally got sick of all the anti-fb drivel coming out. But perhaps your experience isn't like mine. Here's what I see (PF(S|B)F = post-from-(scientific|blogging-)friend:

* "Publication suggérée" (IBM flash storage)
* PFSF (in foreign)
* PFBF (about Ian McKellen)
* PFSF (about a concent)
* PFF (about dance)
* New Yorker (about some silly Sean Hannity film)
* New Yorker (Things to secretly love about NYC)
* God about Jesus Memes
* World Rowing about Teaser Aegon European Rowing Indoor Championships 2018
* "Publication suggérée" about some cycling thing
* New Yorker (again!) about Gordon Ramsay
* God: a fun cartoon about cycling in America
* Friend suggestions
* Unfunny New Yorker cartoon
* Rowing: Cantabs advert for the Winter Head
* Discarding images: Ants
* Rowing: Concept2: inspirational picture
* Running: Parkrun pic
* Teddy Hall: upcoming events
* Artfinder advert (I must stop seeing that stuff... I can't recall why I decided to follow them. Unfollowed)
* "Publication suggérée": BFI player

That's a little atypical; normally I have more posts from friends, mostly about rowing. At this point I got bored, so let's skip everything non-political.

* SR: about his http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2017/11/el-nino-and-the-record-years-1998-and-2016/
* NY Times: Did the World Get Aung San Suu Kyi Wrong?
* New Yorker: Mueller's indictements, Ryan's tax plans.
* SR: Das CO2-Budget ist fast verbraucht
* MM: Humans 'dominant cause' of climate change, government report says
* "Publication suggérée" by Jacobin Magazine

22424347_1608398379230566_5482377878423454436_o And now I've scrolled deep into my feed, where it is generally admitted people just don't go. It's probably fitting to end with this tasteful tee-shirt.

So my conclusion is that if people are trying to feed my stuff, they aren't doing a good job. Maybe I'm not their target demographic. But anyway: that's what I see. Now let's consider two other views:

An opinion piece, Beware: this Russian cyber warfare threatens every democracy by Natalie Nougayrède in the Graun (aside: increasingly I've grown dubious about the virtue of "columnists" in the papers. Just like financial advisers (if you were any good, why aren't you too rich to bother advising me?), if a columnist was any good, why wouldn't they be in policy?) Notably, it has no solutions, other than that scary-faced women should tell fb what to do, in the name of course of Democracy. The closest she comes is
Interestingly, the Facebook representative was then asked whether the platform would suppress specific content in a geographical area to abide by local laws including, for example, taking down a Chinese dissident’s postings. He partly deflected the question by answering that Facebook did so already in Germany, where legislation bans Holocaust denial. That moment, if anything, brought a small glimpse into the many complex aspects of a debate that will define much about whether democratic principles can be upheld in a technologically interconnected world.
Which is kinda cute, and rather analogous (I know, this is well over the top) to Jesus's answer to the Pharisees. Early on she admits
We don’t yet know the full picture. In particular, we don’t know if Russian-promoted bots, trolls and online ads had an impact that in any way altered the outcome of the US election.
but only immeadiately after quoting with approval the scary-faced woman:
says sternly to the Facebook, Twitter and Google representatives (whose evasive answers have exasperated her): “You don’t get it! This is a very big deal. What we’re talking about is cataclysmic. It is cyber warfare. A major foreign power with sophistication and ability got involved in our presidential election.”
So there you have it: we don't know these ads had any impact, but nonetheless it is cataclysmic. Can you say America is facing an epistemic crisis, children? These people are clearly not capable of thinking; not capable of forming logical connections between related sentences. Because their aim is propaganda for their favoured solution which is (you knew this was coming, didn't you?) moah regulation. That's also The Economist's solution (arch); their reasoning is better although their tagline (Facebook, Google and Twitter were supposed to save politics as good information drove out prejudice and falsehood. Something has gone very wrong) is drivel.


Two Basic Foundations - Science of Doom
* Timmy finds another example


An epistemic crisis

America is facing an epistemic crisis says David Roberts at Vox. I'm used to disagreeing with DR, though everyone else seems to lurve him, so it's no surprise that I disagree this time, too.

The first thing wrong with it is that it's yet more stuff about Trump and Mueller, and the world already has far too much of that. In a sense it isn't really about Trump though - he's just the peg to hang off "thoughts" about the Evil Right Wing (DR's Left Wing is much nicer) and then a tiny bit of climate at the end.

I imagine that you (well, except for RS) like me can never remember what all the wanky Philosophy words like Ontological and Epistemology actually mean. DR thoughtfully explains that Epistemology is the branch of philosophy having to do with how we know things and what it means for something to be true or false, accurate or inaccurate. And further notes that The US is experiencing a deep epistemic breach, a split not just in what we value or want, but in who we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know — what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening. And that I think is reasonably fair, though I think if you probed it more deeply you'd find extensive areas of shared agreement. I'm pretty dubious about The primary source of this breach, to make a long story short, is the US conservative movement’s rejection of the mainstream institutions devoted to gathering and disseminating knowledge though. DR's free pass for the left wing doesn't seem terribly plausible to me.

But anyway, what this all ends up meaning is that you can't win arguments on the internet. Which those of us who've been arguing on the internet for a while have already noticed. It isn't particularly new; that there are partisans for causes who cannot meaningfully be reasoned with is familiar to anyone who has commented at WUWT and elsewhere. There are many many problems but one of them is that any given issue can (and must be, if you want to nail down anything) be hair split into so many parts and chased down into so much detail that if you've wasted vast time finally nailing down the most carefully hair-split detail, then (a) all the audience has got bored and left, and (b) you've only settled the tiniest fingernail of uninteresting detail. And of course "winning" on that one point of detail does you no good, because no-one has any honour; "losing" a point means nothing; it establishes no precedent for trustworthiness or otherwise.

Mind you, I also think he is wrong about his case: US institutions are stronger than he gives them credit for. But I'm not at all sure this kind of hand-wringing is useful; helping strengthen those institutions would be better. Perhaps that's what he thinks he is doing?

Of course, if you don't like disliking DR, you can always dislike the American Enterprise Institute instead; the post and comments there provide a nice example of the problem. You'll wonder (I hope) how I got there; the answer is via Cafe Hayek who, whilst a nice economist, is rather naive about GW and the truthiness of Patrick Michaels.


Mark Jacobson Abandons Science, Takes Up Barratry - mt
A  Mind Böggling Development In Energy Storage & Zeppelin Parking - RS
* ATTP joins the epistemic bandwagon: Jordan Peterson speaks the truth.


Trump adviser lied about Russian links

Trump adviser George Papadopoulos lied about Russian links, the Pope shits in the woods, SpaceX successfully launches another rocket, and in other news Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016Last year's increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years. Um well Aunty I'm glad you phrased it like that; I like so many other people are thoroughly familiar with what the average rise was over the past 10 years so that immeadiately puts it into context. Or, perhaps more helpfully, 2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 parts per million, up from 400ppm in 2015. Is 3.3 ppmv really so much larger? And then when I go looking for the actual numbers I find Carbon Dioxide Is Rising at Record Rates from ClimateCentral which tells me the rate in 2016 was 3, just a shade less than 3.03 in 2015. Ah, and the source of the Beeb's article is the WMO.


Donald trump, ha ha ha



So the nice Catalonians have declared independence and the nasty Spaniards have revoked regional autonomy. Both sides now have to try to make their ideas into reality, ideally without doing too much damage to the real world in the process.

But the main point of the post - other than weakly declaring my support for self-determination, which I hope you've already guessed - is to note the disappointing role played by the EU in all of this. In my idea of Europe - and nominally, of the EUs too I think - nationanlism becomes less important. You're not setting economic policy locally, your borders with fellow EU entities are nearly meaningless, so whether you're part of one state, or another, or independent to whatever degree should matter much less. And this should be one of the major advantages of EU membership.Notice that, unlike Scotland, which would run such a massive deficit that it wouldn't meet the EUs rules for admission, Catalonia would qualify.

But instead of acting as any kind of shining ideal, the EU is falling back on a strictly nationalist thuggish "enforcer" role, making it look unattractive. Also, Rajoy is clearly a tosser. So is May, but you knew that already.

[Update: to avoid confusion - and to record my opinion for my own future reference - the above should not be mistaken for full-throated endorsement of Catalan actions. I'm with Hobbes: you're allowed to revolt against central authority, but only if you have a good chance of success.]


Catalonia and Scotland at core of Europe's geopolitical conundrum - euobserver
* Llamas
* Timmy agrees


Keep your identity small

DSC_2561 Is a 2009 post by Paul Graham. I read his Hackers and Painters in 2008 and recommended it then. I return to him via johnlawrenceaspden but I don't want to go down that road now; instead, I want to look at the identity post:
any mention of religion on an online forum degenerates into a religious argument... people don't feel they need to have any particular expertise to have opinions about it. All they need is strongly held beliefs, and anyone can have those. No thread about Javascript will grow as fast as one about religion, because people feel they have to be over some threshold of expertise to post comments about that. But on religion everyone's an expert... Politics, like religion, is a topic where there's no threshold of expertise for expressing an opinion.
And - as I'm sure I've bemoaned in the past - you could add global warming to the list. PG continues with some of the obvious explanations for why those topics end up like this:
they deal with questions that have no definite answers, so there's no back pressure on people's opinions. Since no one can be proven wrong, every opinion is equally valid, and sensing this, everyone lets fly with theirs.
And one could include GW by replacing "definite" with "currently well-known from observation". But this doesn't quite satisfy him, since he observes the obvious, that other issues with unclear answers don't end up such a mess. Instead, he offers:
they become part of people's identity, and people can never have a fruitful argument about something that's part of their identity. By definition they're partisan... you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn't engage the identities of any of the participants. What makes politics and religion such minefields is that they engage so many people's identities.
I think that's correct; or at least part of the correct answer. PG deduces from this that:
If people can't think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity, then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible.
Because if you do that, you'll be able to think clearly about as many things as possible. Do you see where this is going now? Oh, good. Just in case you don't, I refer you to stuff like Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia? where I've been criticising "my own side" and getting nothing but grief for it. To be fair, I've probably forgotten why I thought it was a good idea, but the PG post provides part of the answer: I'm complaining about people who have gone off and let too much GW into their identity.

You weren't expecting a fully formed coherent system of thought, were you?


* Dilbert 2017/10/25.


Autumn beekeeping

Always late. But this time, not so bad. Apart from the bit of Apistan I found, which must have been left in since last autumn, which is bad. Altogether it has been a much better year than 2016.

First (but I actually did it second) is what used to be the first hive but is now the second. Here you can see the result of not giving the poor bees enough frames; but actually it's all right and they'll be happy. For the sake of a simple life I decided not to take any honey off this one; it was getting rather late in the day and the amounts would have been marginal anyway.

What is now the first hive got a new copper roof this summer, but as can be seen the floor was past it's best and really needs replacement or repair: there's a hole in the side (woodpecker maybe?) big enough to let something much larger than a bee through. Note the bright yellow pollen though: a good sign.


A full super is heavy, so getting the floor replaced meant taking both supers off (though it is being run as brood-and-a-half due a slight accident a few years back, gosh was it really 2009?, and I wasn't going to change it now), lifting the brood plus old floor off the stand - it promptly stuck, of course - putting the new floor on the stand on and then lifting the brood box onto the new floor. The bees being creatures of habit are still clustered around the hole that is no longer there, I hope (on the corner nearest us).


The whiteish stuff visible on the super is just crystallised (rape) honey that I ought to deal with. I took off most of the top super. I mostly spun off, though some had set; and I stuffed it all back in again in the evening, leaving melting down till next spring.


Here are some of the frames I took off, looking suitably dark and not too messy.


Ocean heat content dogfight!

2015-08-22 13.22.44 Gosh, how exciting! A little while ago I noticed several posts and twits about ocean heat content, which I ignored, because it is dull. But now it turns out to be exciting, because someone has stolen RP Sr's idea! (archive, since the Peilke's do not have a stellar record on keeping blogs going). Well, you can read RP Jr for his opinion (I found this via Retraction Watch).

My memory of this is having long, ultimately fruitless arguments with RP Sr (all arguments with RP Sr were ultimately fruitless) pointing out that OHC was undoubtedly a very nice thing, but the time series wasn't as long as the sfc temperature one and so wasn't so useful. So I can confirm Jr's point that Sr was indeed very interested in the idea quite some time ago. Looking back for posts of mine on the issue I don't find much. Here's Detecting anthro change from 2005 - Barnett; and Hansen, not RP - gosh, can you imagine a time so far in the past that people were interested in detecting climate change? I also find this from 2007 which is interesting only insofar as it refers to, e.g. http://climatesci.colorado.edu/2007/12/02/misinterpretion-of-reality-check-1-by-william-m-connolley-on-the-weblog-stoat/http://climatesci.colorado.edu/2007/12/02/misinterpretion-of-reality-check-1-by-william-m-connolley-on-the-weblog-stoat/, which sadly seems to have vanished from the wub. I hate it when people don't take care of their old blogs, couldn't he take the trouble to archive things properly?

Jr presents Sr's brilliant idea as originating in BAMS in 2003. Which is an odd idea; the idea of detecting change through the oceans isn't exactly a difficult one; it seems unlikely that was the first occurrence of the idea; and indeed, the presence of "Barnett, T. P., D. W. Pierce, and R. Schnur, 2001:
Detection of anthropogenic climate. Change in the world’s oceans. Science, 292, 270–274" in the reference lists suggests otherwise.

The paper that raises Jr's ire, Taking the Pulse of the Planet, seems as stupid as the original pushing. Let me share some of their brilliant game-changing insights with you: we suggest that scientists and modelers who seek global warming signals should track how much heat the ocean is storing at any given time. What, really? And apparently they're so convinced that this is a new idea that they go on termed global ocean heat content (OHC). Err, there's a f*ck*ng wikipedia article on Ocean Heat Content, you really don't have to treat the idea as though it's new (yes, yes, I know; I exaggerate for effect. But still). Anyway, as it happens, scientists already do track OHC so there is no particular need for EOS to suggest they start.

Looking further, the even the dispute doesn't seem original. In Pielke Senior has a blog, I find... well, more links to dead RP blog posts, archive your stuff children, it is really annoying when you don't [Update: thanks to L, here's an archive of the wayback machine's copy.]. Anyway, I do find this rather delightful review comment, whose full context future historians of really rather dismissive reviews will doubtless find enthralling: The exchange is not worthy of publication. In fact, I do not understand why P&C even wrote their piece in the first place. They continually destroy whatever point they had in mind by noting Hansen ‘did it right’... None of the participants in this pathetic exchange seem to have the slightest clue about the large decadal noise that exists in the oceans and some ocean models.

Update: Gavin provides this rather ironic twit (archive); more (archive).


* Pic: Daniel, 2015, Stubai, on the wand leading to the Lisenserfernerkogel, I think. Normally snow covered but it was a dry year.


Oh no, not again - not really relevant to anything, but I like my "RP Sr’s one-man kamikaze attack against the IPCC continues".
* ATTP notices that it doesn't get better. Weird, that.
* Pielkes all the Way Down - Only in it for the Gold, Friday, August 14, 2009


Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia?

Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia is a paper by Professor Edward L. Rubin of the Vanderbilt University Law School. Is he respectable? I don't know. I come to this from an article in the Graun recommended by Bart, who is normally sensible. When I came to read the abstract I recognised it, but as something that I hadn't felt inclined to finish when I first saw it. So now I'll try a bit harder.

The beginning, it seems clear that the most significant impediment to a worldwide effort to combat the disastrous consequences of climate change is the United States.1 It seems equally clear that the reason why the United States has assumed such a counterproductive role is the existence of a set of attitudes within its political discourse that is generally described as climate change denial is perhaps defensible but not how I'd put it. For reasons I tried to explain just recently. This could be described as a matter of exposition of interpretation. But a few paras later we come to footnote 3: Climate change denial is the official position of the Republican Party. This is quite simply a lie. You may strongly dislike the GOPs position on GW, and you may well think it unwise, unscientific, unthinking, and un-many-other-things; I certainly do. But to allow your enthusiasm to overrun into lying that it is their official policy is denial unacceptable. Is this really an academic paper, that passed peer review? Or is it just one bloke's ranting? Certainly, there's no pretence at unbias.

But continuing we come to Underlying these two groups of elite actors, however, is a broad base of support within the American populace. Business firms, whose self-interest is obvious, would have difficulty persuading people ofsomething they were not prepared to believe. Politicians whose positions depend on being elected are unlikely to announce or support views that are antithetical to a large majority of their constituents, which I'm happier with. As regular readers know, I've said much the same myself.

Then we immeadiately hit the problematic, and central, ...number of studies that assess public attitudes toward climate change... agree on several basic observations regarding those who deny that anthropogenic global warming is a reality. First, the deniers are willing to reject an overwhelming scientific consensus that the problem exists and poses a serious or possibly catastrophic threat to the welfare of future generations. I don't think it is reasonable to characterise a substantial number - close to 50% perhaps - of USAnians as denialists. It is certainly true (IMO) that if you allowed a popular vote on "should Obama's plans for dealing with GW be implemented?", then a majority would vote no. But that is a different question. Most would be voting largely on ignorance, not denial. The number of actual denialists is much smaller; perhaps 10%; I wouldn't really want to try to put a number on it.

Again, I point you towards my earlier work: Talking past each other: Trump Pick for Top Environment Post: Carbon Dioxide Is 'The Gas of Life'. But I need to expound it further, it seems:

Most people (you must be aware of this) don't make decisions on how to vote, or on what attitude to have towards various issues, based on a close and careful (and expensive, in terms of time) study of the issues. They adopt attitudes based on friends, family, respected pols, meeja, and (importantly) how they fit into their world view in general. And, conversely, how they see those issues presented by their "enemies". If people you dislike tell you in strident terms that you must do such-and-such a thing or you will be a Bad Person in their eyes... can you really believe that works? What if these people not only tell you that, but wrap up all presented solutions to the problem in the guise least favourable to your worldview? That is what we're seeing with GW. This is what we're seeing with this paper (including the comical ideas at the end).

The abstract ends with The reason they do so in this case is that a rational policy to combat climate change seems to demand a major alteration of society. Combatting climate change not only expands the scope of regulation, but involves regulations that effect a major transformation of our basic economic system and our personal lifestyles. Almost uniquely (toleration would be another case), it demands a transformation of internalized attitudes. This has produced what can be fairly described as a phobic reaction among many people, that is, an irrational and persistent fear of a given situation. The article concludes by considering some policies that might circumvent this phobic reaction: mass transit for commuting, intelligent homes, and the encouragement of local food production. In each case, these policies create appealing options for people without demanding major changes in their lifestyle.

You're a Nice Person, no doubt. Maybe you're even Dutch :-). When you read the bit about "mass transit for commuting" your head nodded happily: you like mass transit (although obviously bicycles are better). Everyone should like mass transit (second to bicycles). How could anyone think differently? You might have felt a touch queasy about "the encouragement of local food production"; it causes you to wonder if that is really going to help against GW? Is it really sufficiently important to mention at this level; indeed, would it help at all? But nonetheless the author clearly has his "heart in the right place" so you feel reassured. But unfortunately the Bad People don't feel like that, so all these happy ideas are doomed. They all amount to Moah Regulation and Moah government. Because they are minor, and because they would (being market-distorting ideas) effectively generate rents for some people, there is some chance they might actually happen; sometimes it seems that in general, the stupider the idea the more chance it has of happening.

Really, I'm trying to say a variation of what I said in Morality and economics. And that didn't get through, so I doubt this will. That if you want to speak to the perhaps 50% who don't agree with you, you'll need to find a better way to speak; and to present solutions that aren't designed to grate.


IoT Cybersecurity: What's Plan B? by Schneier on Security is probably an example of what might be good regulation (but it looks to be meeting the fate of all good things).
PUBLIC CHOICE THEORY AND THE POLITICS OF GOOD AND EVIL - contains some decent thoughts, even if I don't agree with it all.