2021-12-31

Happy New Stoat

It's that time again; the calendar rolls around and I look back over the year and feel old. My major life-event for the year was switching jobs, from Qualcomm to Roku, with a trip to the MonteRosaGruppe in the gap. This year I present the top-posts-by-month-by-numer-pf-comments in an exciting graphical format. Reading over what I wrote I realise how wise I was; and how little I seem to agree with my commentators; I must hope that my lurkers think differently. Speaking of which, Happy New Year, and do feel free to leave Seasons Greetings in the comments.

IMG_20210101_211331_410 loft-chimmney-tiles doughnut claw-of-the-conciliator
Jan - All this fuss over one dickhead (80) Feb - The Tyranny of Merit? (69) Mar - Doughnut Economics (23) Apr - Equity Isn’t Just Ethical, It’s Stupid (26)
PXL_20210516_112750999~2 bc1fc476-3108-48bc-b6d3-b09ed916e40b_IMG_20210622_144550_110 Julian Cope crocodile
Twenty firms produce 55% of world’s plastic waste, report reveals? (22) Separation of powers (19) Book Review: The Righteous Mind (12) Afghanistan (28)
roku tomatoes bigger-tomatoes 1638386151398-80c692d5-93a9-429f-a37e-cae6a182b848_christmas-head
Book review: Climate Shlock (18) Please Don't Give Up On Having Kids Because Of Climate Change? (8) Equilibrium climate sensitivity is... (49) McTaggart on Time and A Research Strategy for Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration (5)
From the other blog, various book and film reviews that migth be of interest: (new) DuneWhite Queen; Time Bandits; Nemesis (Asimov)Moby Fucking Dick; or, The WailTill we have faces (Lewis); The HobbitColonialism, the Golden Years; LabyrinthsEuthyphro; ShikastaOut of the Silent Planet / Perelandra / That Hideous Strength; Lord of the Rings; Time RegainedThe Languages of PaoWhat Makes You Not a BuddhistH G Wells anthology (WOTW; TTM); Our fate moves invisibly! A mystery; I, Robot; Beasts; Foundation; Neuromancer; Swallows and Amazons; Madame Swann at Home; The Iron Dream; Engine Summer; The Communist Manifesto; Across Realtime; The Cadwal Trilogy: Araminta station; Ecce and Old Earth; Throy; The Silver Chair and Dawn TreaderRowan Williams, The Way of St Benedict.

Screenshot_20211231-220259 Possibly also: The hut on chicken's legs.

Refs

BATTER my heart, three person’d God (2020)

You ain't ever gonna burn my heart out (2019)

* The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne (2018)

Goe, and catche a falling starr

2021: A year in review - ATTP

* Martin Rundkvist is Relatively Woke (in my world, anyone self-declaring as a Marxist is a nutter, but MR definitely isn't, so that's OK, errm).

2021-12-23

Coronavirus days: Omicron

PXL_20211217_183113241 Did you know that Omicron means little-o, just as Omega means big-o? Obvious really. Anyway, with Covid surging and Christmas nearly upon us it is time for another post. Not that I have anything to say; this is merely a post-for-my-record so that when I look back, I'll know how things seemed then. 

My last post was in May on the Lab Leak theory. That continues to rumble around but people pay little attention. Lack of any further post since then is due to there not being much to say. Indeed Covid makes little impact on my life, in most ways. Perhaps the major one is that the office is rather quiet: I'm working-from-work, but many others are not; one of many instances where people are making up their own minds, rather than having to follow strict rules. Of course Omicron may well upset all that, depending on how bad it gets. James has a preview. What will happen seems unclear to me: it is very transmissible, but perhaps less severe, and anyway anyone sane is now vaccinated and most are boosted. Certainly the govt is quietly hoping that all will be well, and any new restrictions can be delayed until after Christmas; and I'm happy with that. UK cases are shooting up but deaths are not. And there are strong regional variations, with London worst.

The manager of The Plough in Coton, where we go to drink on Friday nights, was two weeks ago complaining about the vast number of cancellations he had had stretching into January. But on the other hand, last Friday we couldn't even get in because of a private party there, so he can't be doing that badly. So we went to the Blue Ball in Grantchester (see pic) which is in many ways a cuter place. And it has Adnams.

Here's the FT's overall pic:

o

Which I use as support for my general feeling of meh. It flares up in one place and down in another. Whether China will have to abandon its zero-Covid in the light of Omicron indicents is an interesting question.

Over on the politics side, well, there is still lots of politics but somehow it all seems rather unimportant. Every now and then people remind us that getting vaccines to the poor world would be a good idea; but attempting to say they should get priority over rich world boosters is clearly doomed, and is only ritual.

Refs

* Omicron Less Severe Than Delta, But More Contagious - DA.

Ted Nordhaus on how green activists mislead and hold back progress - Economist.

How do scientists assess policy-relevant risks? - Ed Hawkins.

2021-12-11

Two quotes from Leviathan

PXL_20211210_210937610 From chapter 30: And because, if the essentiall Rights of Soveraignty (specified before in the eighteenth Chapter) be taken away, the Common-wealth is thereby dissolved, and every man returneth into the condition, and calamity of a warre with every other man, (which is the greatest evill that can happen in this life;) it is the Office of the Soveraign, to maintain those Rights entire... it is against his duty, to let the people be ignorant, or mis-in-formed of the grounds, and reasons of those his essentiall Rights; because thereby men are easie to be seduced, and drawn to resist him, when the Common-wealth shall require their use and exercise. And the grounds of these Rights, have the rather need to be diligently, and truly taught; because they cannot be maintained by any Civill Law, or terrour of legal punishment. For a Civill Law, that shall forbid Rebellion, (and such is all resistance to the essentiall Rights of Soveraignty,) is not (as a Civill Law) any obligation, but by vertue onely of the Law of Nature, that forbiddeth the violation of Faith; which naturall obligation if men know not, they cannot know the Right of any Law the Soveraign maketh. And for the Punishment, they take it but for an act of Hostility; which when they think they have strength enough, they will endeavour by acts of Hostility, to avoyd. My bold.

And later on: Good Lawes What: To the care of the Soveraign, belongeth the making of Good Lawes. But what is a good Law? By a Good Law, I mean not a Just Law: for no Law can be Unjust.... Such As Are Necessary: For the use of Lawes, (which are but Rules Authorised) is not to bind the People from all Voluntary actions; but to direct and keep them in such a motion, as not to hurt themselves by their own impetuous desires, rashnesse, or indiscretion, as Hedges are set, not to stop Travellers, but to keep them in the way.  And therefore a Law that is not Needfull, having not the true End of a Law, is not Good. Such As Are Perspicuous: The Perspicuity, consisteth not so much in the words of the Law it selfe, as in a Declaration of the Causes, and Motives, for which it was made. That is it, that shewes us the meaning of the Legislator, and the meaning of the Legislator known, the Law is more easily understood by few, than many words. For all words, are subject to ambiguity; and therefore multiplication of words in the body of the Law, is multiplication of ambiguity: Besides it seems to imply, (by too much diligence,) that whosoever can evade the words, is without the compasse of the Law. And this is a cause of many unnecessary Processes. For when I consider how short were the Lawes of antient times; and how they grew by degrees still longer; me thinks I see a contention between the Penners, and Pleaders of the Law; the former seeking to circumscribe the later; and the later to evade their circumscriptions; and that the Pleaders have got the Victory. It belongeth therefore to the Office of a Legislator, (such as is in all Common-wealths the Supreme Representative, be it one Man, or an Assembly,) to make the reason Perspicuous, why the Law was made; and the Body of the Law it selfe, as short, but in as proper, and significant termes, as may be.

Perhaps I have allowed myself more than two quotes. But both sre strikingly against modern practice. Hobbes clearly sees a need to educate the populace in the need for and meaning behind the laws. Yet while there are people who argue for this nowadays, it is neglected; certainly in England. For the second, Hobbes is keen on the meaning behind the laws rather than the exact wording. There is more than could be drawn out, but I'm sure you see the meaning yourself; and if you don't, I doubt I can help. Yes, this post is more for my benefit to store these quotes than for yours.

Refs

AD STUDY SHOWS EXXON KNEW ABOUT BIOFUELS IN 1959.

* Gordon Tullock on paying for higher education.

* Rule(s) of Law(s): The problem is monopoly, not violence by Michael Munger.

The ‘Greed’ Fallacy - CH

* CORONAVIRUS: Against Faucism

2021-12-10

An International Institute Will Help Us Manage Climate Change?

PXL_20211205_095610540 Or so assert Sabine Hossenfelder and Tim Palmer. TP at least has some form in this stuff; SH rather less so; perhaps she is going for Publik Interlectewal status a-la ATTP? This is her second climate-y thing in SA with TP; the first was on a similar topic. Of course she has an entree there as a sane physicist and has on-topic articles back to 2015.

Anyway, what do she and TP want? They advocate 

the establishment of a federated international institute for climate prediction, much like CERN, the multinational collaborative particle physics laboratory. The institute would comprise several hubs in different countries, each with dedicated exaflop (one billion billion calculations per second) supercomputing facilities. The centerpiece of the institute would be the creation of a small number of ultrahigh-resolution climate models...

and so on. Does this make sense? Probably not. But the current situation of everybody having their own pet model no matter how rubbish also doesn't really make sense... at least, not in scientific terms. In politics-of-science terms it of course makes perfect sense. And indeed we do want a reasonable number of genuinely mostly independent models. And (they mention ECMWF, so they know this) ECMWF hasn't killed off national weather forecasts from anyone who has their own, though it may have stopped some people bothering to create them. To front-run some of the inevitable pork-barrelling, they suggest six hubs around the world for this "institute", which everyone could have fun fighting for.

Their main complaint and hence presumably the main purpose of all this is rez; A model with a resolution on the kilometer scale, as could be developed at an international institute, would not entirely eliminate this problem of structural error, but it would significantly alleviate it... but are then forced to confess The Destination Earth project, funded by the E.U. Green Deal, will shortly be undertaking important work in developing a prototype kilometer-scale climate model. Other projects to develop kilometer-scale models are beginning around the world. So if all this would do would be to speed things up by a few years, is it worth the money and effort?

The main argument is very much WG1 stuff: better (physical) models. When I read just the title, I thought they were, somewhat more sensibly, arguing for more cross-disciplinary stuff; but no. FWIW, I'm in the "we already know the WG1 well enough, compared to uncertainties elsewhere, but shouldn't stop doing WG1 stuff" camp. "shouldn't stop doing" doesn't imply simply drudging along familiar pathways and doing nothing new; but I'm pretty sure their proposed $1-2B/yr could be better spent.

Finally, although I disagree with the main argument it is mostly sane, unlike their None of the extreme events of 2021 can be simulated in current climate models, because the events were simply too extreme for the models which I think makes no sense. Those events are indeed puzzling; and AFAIK don't replicate in current models; but again AFAIK no-one has suggested model rez as the reason. They also ask How can a country prioritize its spending without knowing which is the more pressing threat: increased flooding and storms, or increased heat waves and drought? but don't extend the question to all the other things a country might wish to spend money on. And I doubt people are going to get good answers to those questions in the near future anyway.


2021-12-08

A Research Strategy for Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration

51733385119_ac259b3ac0_o A Research Strategy for Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration is a report from the USAnian National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Apparently, they did a report in 2019 to provide a research agenda for advancing [Carbon dioxide removal] and, specifically, for assessing the benefits, risks, and sustainable scale potential for a variety of land- and coastal-based CDR approaches. The study found that, to meet climate goals, some form of CDR will likely be needed to remove roughly 10 Gt CO2/yr by mid-century and 20 Gt CO2/yr by the end of the century. To help meet that goal, four land-based CDR approaches are ready for large-scale deployment: afforestation / reforestation, changes in forest management, uptake and storage by agricultural soils, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, based on the potential to remove carbon at costs below $100/t CO2. I missed that, and my prior is that CDR is significantly more expensive that $100/t so perhaps I need to update my priors. Anyway, that was the land report, this is the ocean report. There was a solar geoeng one a half year back, which I barely skimmed, instead concentrating perhaps wrongly on the silly overreactions of some Big Knobs.

What did they consider? Here I'll list their starting points, together with my haven't-read-the-report reactions.

Nutrient fertilization (Chapter 3): Addition of micronutrients (e.g., iron) and/or macronutrients (e.g., phosphorus or nitrogen) to the surface ocean may in some settings increase photosynthesis by marine phytoplankton and can thus enhance uptake of CO2 and transfer of organic carbon to the deep sea where it can be sequestered for timescales of a century or longer. As such, nutrient fertilization essentially locally enhances the natural ocean biological carbon pump using energy from the sun, and in the case of iron, relatively small amounts are needed. 

WMC: seems sane.

Artificial upwelling and downwelling (Chapter 4): Artificial upwelling is a process whereby water from depths that are generally cooler and more nutrient and carbon dioxide rich than surface waters is pumped into the surface ocean. Artificial upwelling has been suggested as a means to generate increased localized primary production and ultimately export production and net CO2 removal. Artificial downwelling is the downward transport of surface water; this activity has been suggested as a mechanism to counteract eutrophication and hypoxia in coastal regions by increasing ventilation below the pycnocline and as a means to carry carbon into the deep ocean. 

WMC: sounds a bit mad to me.

Seaweed cultivation (Chapter 5): The process of producing macrophyte organic carbon biomass via photosynthesis and transporting that carbon into a carbon reservoir removes CO2 from the upper ocean. Large-scale farming of macrophytes (seaweed) can act as a CDR approach by transporting organic carbon to the deep sea or into sediments. 

WMC: also a bit wild-eyed but perhaps possible.

Recovery of ocean and coastal ecosystems (Chapter 6): Carbon dioxide removal and sequestration through protection and restoration of coastal ecosystems, such as kelp forests and free-floating Sargassum, and the recovery of fishes, whales, and other animals in the oceans. 

WMC: sounds rather limited.

Ocean alkalinity enhancement (Chapter 7): Chemical alteration of seawater chemistry via addition of alkalinity through various mechanisms including enhanced mineral weathering and electrochemical or thermal reactions releasing alkalinity to the ocean, with the ultimate aim of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. 

WMC: really?

Electrochemical approaches (Chapter 8): Removal of CO2 or enhancement of the storage capacity of CO2 in seawater (e.g., in the form of ions, or mineral carbonates) by enhancing its acidity, or alkalinity, respectively. These approaches exploit the pH-dependent solubility of CO2 by passage of an electric current through water, which by inducing water splitting (“electrolysis”), changes its pH in a confined reaction environment. As one example, ocean alkalinity enhancement may be accomplished by electrochemical approaches. 

WMC: sounds expensive.

Immeadiately after this is their key take-home message in the form of table S1 on pages 18-21. At least I hope it is, then I can stop reading early. Unfortunately, despite the need they assess for ~20 Gt/y, their "scalability high" is only "more than 1 Gt/y". But happily, that knocks out half of the ideas, leaving only fertilisation, alkalinity, and electrochemical. Coming to cost, of those three only fertilisation comes at under $100, so we have a winner. Well, that was quick.

What do you mean we're not finished? Well, of course not: these are people looking for research funds. Even hopeless ideas will still get something, of course. And at this stage that isn't too silly. Although why they want to shovel the most money at the weird electrochem stuff I don't know.

Although the fertilisation stuff is, as you'd expect, mostly about iron the PR puff says Nutrient Fertilization — This approach adds nutrients such as phosphorus or nitrogen to the ocean surface and mentions iron nowhere, which makes me doubt their good faith. The PR fluff is also careful to avoid any mention of scalability or relative cost of the different approaches.

The recommendations tip-toe around, both to avoid treading on anyone's toes by closing off people's pet ideas, and desperately (and pointlessly) trying to stop the zealots from screaming at them. Recommendation 3, includes "Research agenda that emphasizes advancing understanding of ocean fertilization, seaweed cultivation, and ocean alkalinity enhancement" which is a bit odd; it isn't clear to me why they picked those three.

So, in the end, meh: yes, you shoud do some reseach.

Notes


1. Pic by Nordin Catic at the Christmas Head. We're a scratch mixed VIII.

Refs


* Such evidence of arrogance, incompetence and poor judgment would reflect badly on any government - the Economist on Bojo the Clown.

2021-12-01

McTaggart on Time

1638386151398-80c692d5-93a9-429f-a37e-cae6a182b848_ AKA "Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them". Although in this case I mean philosophers, not intellectuals. And I don't really mean believe - I mean take seriously, give - ha - time to. There are so many totally dumb ideas that nonetheless get ritually considered, because they are part of the canon. And somehow philosophy has no way to purge itself of this stuff. And so we come to The Unreality of Time by the aforementioned McT. My link is to wiki, which offers us McTaggart argues that time is unreal because our descriptions of time are either contradictory, circular, or insufficient. That seems dumb to me: just because we've failed to decribe a thing doesn't make it unreal. I should warn you that I have very little patience with this drivel so haven't exactly studied in close detail; so this is just a rant. If you happen to be a McT scholar who believes this stuff is worth anything, do comment. 

Wiki is, in my opinion, often somewhat dodgy on philosophy, due to WP:OWN problems, so let's turn to SEP instead. That offers us McTaggart was also a dedicated interpreter and champion of Hegel, which lowers him in my opinion, since I take my opinions on H from Popper. It also offers us McTaggart is most famous for arguing that time is unreal. He was attracted to this conclusion early in his career, perhaps as a result of smoking too much weed1, which seems fair. If I follow SEP, then McT's argument begins "Time is real only if real change occurs". It isn't clear what this means. If you use as a model a 4-d space-time Newtonian universe, then in a sense nothing changes; or if you move along the time axis, then errm, things do change. Nothing makes clear which viewpoint he has in mind, if he has anything so clear anywhere. It doesn't get ny better than that, so I'll spare you any further analysis of the A-series and similar.

And lastly, consider the case of A J Ayer, who is I think not a clown, even if the cover photo he presumably chose for his The Central Questions of Philosophy makes him look like a bit of a ponce, although that page does say Beginning with his sceptical dismissal of metaphysics, particularly the British neo-Hegelian thinkers... I give you his text, below, if you can be bothered to try to read it. My wife, when she started reading it, didn't get far before bursting into laughter.

That wasn't very satisfying, was it? Well, not for you. But I enjoyed writing it.

Update: more Ayer

We're on page 32; I'm wading my way through a sea of blood, like MacBeth. He is trying to say something about reality and maths, I think, and asserts that even simple things like length are complicated, because no actual measurement can have an irrational number as its result. But this is wrong. We are used to measuring in units, and integer divisors of those units, but it isn't necessary. We could use irrational divisors of our base unit: I could declare that a given length has been measured as 1 + sqrt(2), just as easily as saying it is 2.141, to that degree of precision. For weights, he regards the possible (true) values (of weighing a given object) as rational but infinite in number (and therefore there are more values than our apparatus can distinguish). But I don't see why this is true; he knows atomic theory; the possible values are finite, even if there are very many of them; nor is it clear why they should be rational.

Another thought: evaluating text

Philosophy is words. Unfortunately, it is hard to evaluate words. Unlike, say, software, which can be evaulated by being compiled, run, tested. Or physics, which can be compared to reality. It is depressingly easy to write piles of words with no meaning; or with ambiguous and therefore useless meaning; and people are good at "rescuing" text from their favourites rather than admit that it is all wank; per Ayer on McT.

Notes

1. I have subtly altered this quotation, see if you can spot my change.

Text from Ayer

Starting at page 15: Let us begin then with the argument by which McTaggart sought to demonstrate the unreality of time. McTaggart begins by remarking that we have two ways of ordering events in time. We speak of them as being past, present or future, and we also speak of them as being before or after or simultaneous with one another. He then argues that the first of these ways of speaking cannot be reduced to the second, since the second makes no provision for the passage of time. Whereas the same event is successively future, present and past, there is no change in its temporal relations to other events. The fact that one particular event precedes another is equally a fact at any time. So to do justice to our concept of time, we have to make use of the predicates of past, present and future. But then, McTaggart argues, we fall into contradiction. For these predicates are mutually incompatible, and yet they are all supposed to be true of every event.

The obvious answer to this is that there would be a contradiction if we supposed these predicates to be simultaneously true of the same event, but that this is not what we suppose at all; we apply them to the same event successively. McTaggart considers this answer, and his rejoinder to it is that it escapes the contradiction only at the cost of launching us on a vicious infinite regress. We say of a contemporary event that it is present, has been future, and will be past; and what this means, according to McTaggart is that the event is present at a present moment, future at a past moment, and past at a future moment. But then the same difficulty arises with respect to these moments. Each of them is assigned the incompatible predicates of being past, present and future. We can again try to escape the contradiction by saying of the moments in their turn that they are present at present moments, past at present and future moments, and future at past and present moments, but then the same difficulty arises with respect to this second series of moments, and so ad infinitum.

The argument still seems sophistic, but it does pose a problem. So far as I can see, there are only two ways of meeting it. The one which I favour is to deny the contention that the predicates of being past, present and future cannot be reduced to the predicates of temporal order. If we take this course, we shall have to maintain that what is meant by saying of an event that it is past, present or future is just that it is earlier than, simultaneous with, or later than some arbitrarily chosen event which is contemporaneous with the speaker's utterance. On this view, the passage of time simply consists in the fact, which is itself non-temporal, that events are ordered in a series by the earlier-than relation. The passage of an event from future to present to past merely represents a difference in the temporal point of view from which it is described. This analysis has the effect of assimilating time to space, and it is, indeed, for this reason that some philosophers object to it. They feel that the river of time has somehow been turned into a stagnant pond.

The other course is to maintain that being present is not a descriptive property of an event, assigning it to a moment which itself can be described as present, past or future, but the demon strative property of occurring now. Once this is established, the past and future can safely be defined by their relation to the present. The regress is avoided by the fact that 'now' is tied to an actual context. We are not required to say when now is: our use of the word shows it. The disadvantage of this course, as opposed to the previous one, is that it introduces an irreducible element of subjec tivity into our picture of the world. It entails that an observer outside the time series, if such a thing were possible, would not be able to give a complete account of temporal facts. To do so, on this view, one has to put oneself into the picture, as an observer undergoing the passage of time.

We see, then, that while McTaggart did not prove time to be unreal, in the sense of showing all our temporal judgements to be false, his argument does... and he then proceeds to make some rather feeble excuses for why he bothered with this stuff.

Refs

Human society is basically a phenomenon of more or less stable beliefs and patterns of conduct. The principle of [classical] liberalism is that these are not fixed once and for all – historically through prescription by some supernatural (or charismatic) authority – but are always subject to question, discussion, and alteration by agreement. Free society thus stands for progress, and also allows for and approves of much variety in both belief and conduct. From page 125 of the original 1960 Harvard University Press edition of Frank Knight’s collection of lectures, delivered in 1958 at the University of Virginia, titled Intelligence and Democratic Action, via CH.

2021-11-17

Lust for suing

PXL_20211117_194725826 That nice SR is lusting after a bit more suing. Because the existing suing has gone so well, presumbably. The source of this optimism is the ever-reliable WaPo, Drowning nations disappointed with the outcome of U.N. climate summit may have one move left: Lawsuits. Just to make it clear from the outset how hopeless all this is, the article begins: For the Chagossians, the island of Diego Garcia became a paradise lost. In the late 1960s, Britain began forcibly removing the inhabitants of the Indian Ocean atoll — most of them the descendants of enslaved people and laborers — to make way for a U.S. military base. Suing for restitution to this day, the expelled Chagossians would suffer lives as second-class citizens far from their impossibly turquoise shores. I'm not sure Our Hero has actually relised what he is saying here, but I'll make it explicit: if you can't get restitution for obvious clear direct and undisputed harm, what hope GW?

Just to make it clear that Our Hero really isn't thinking, he continues This much we do know: Sea level rise within the next century could submerge entire Pacific nations... Tuvalu, midway between Hawaii and Australia, has an average land elevation of 6 feet 6 inches above mean sea level, with the water rising at almost 0.2 inches each year. Do the math, and those apocalyptic predictions seem conservative. "Do the math" appears to be shorthand for "please do not do the math", or possibly "I'm a Journalist and Thinker, I can't  number": because 0.2 inches a year is 2 inches a decade is two feet in 120 years.

Meh. The article is non-serious. It fails to actually explore the possible suing options in any kind of depth, for the obvious reason that the author really doesn't know anything other than what he reads in the meeja, which is worthless. Still, it is saying the kind of things that SR wants to hear ("sue the bastards") so gets pushed anyway.

Other stupid ideas

However, Stupid Idea Of The Day goes to Peter Kalmus for "If a genie appeared and said "I can make all fossil fuel and FF infrastructure disappear if you choose" I'd say yes, even knowing the chaos it would sadly cause. Because it would still be far less than the irreversible damage and chaos we're heading toward". Even DmcN is capable of realising this is unhelpful, even if he isn't brave enough to say the obvious: it is fuckwitted. If all FF infrastrucutre disappeared, we would all die. Because civilisation would collapse. PK has other dumb ideas that SR is dumb enough to like.

RS makes a good effort with To Fight Climate Change, Los Angeles Bans Unsolicited Ketchup Packets but can't beat PK.

Biden is also a rich source of stupidity.

Refs

Climate change: Conspiracy theories found on foreign-language Wikipedia.

Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

Activists take court action against Boris Johnson over climate crisis - yet more shite, this time in the UK from the Graun.

* The Economist on the growth of government by Alberto Mingardi

2021-11-10

Who knew what when - 1992 edition

PXL_20211105_084010113 When I wrote Who knew what when? I lightly skipped over the 1992 supplement. Because, it didn't really say much. I can prove that, cos wiki sez The major conclusion was that research since 1990 did "not affect our fundamental understanding of the science of the greenhouse effect and either confirm or do not justify alteration of the major conclusions of the first IPCC scientific assessment" - though as it happens I wrote that. My recollection is that 1992 added transient simulations. Which means that 

the evidence from the modelling studies, from observations and the sensitivity analyses indicate that the sensitivity of global mean surface temperature to doubling CO 2 is unlikely to lie outside the range 1.5 to 4.5°C

and

global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3 to 0.6°C over the last 100 years; the size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming; the unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect from observations is not likely for a decade or more

were unchanged. That then leads me to need to explain away (because I've been going on about it recently, wrt 1995) The Economist's

In 1992, when the CO2 level had reached 356ppm and evidence of anthropogenic warming was, if not overwhelming, definitely discernible, the leaders of the world agreed to do something about the potentially catastrophic course they had more or less unwittingly embarked on. In the un Framework Convention on Climate Change (unfccc) agreed upon at a summit in Rio de Janeiro that year, they committed themselves to the “stabilisation of greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”

How do I do that? I go with my previous although human-caused warming wasn't clearly visible by, say, 1990; nonetheless the principle that emitting large and increasing amounts of CO2 was indeed clearly visible by then, and well agreed on. So the Economist is wrong, if by "definitely discernable" they are referring to the anthropogenic signal in the climate; and this is the most natural interpretation. But if you were to mean the principle that increasing GHGs would affect the climate, then yes that was already "discernable" by 1992; enough to explain people being bothered enough to set up the UNFCCC.

Pic: a late sweet pea from a week or so ago.

Refs

* Law is Hell by Bryan Caplan

* Thoughts on Democratic Choice by Donald J. Boudreaux

WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT? - VVats goes further back.

Make extreme wealth extinct: it’s the only way to avoid climate breakdown?

255187755_10158664043408869_8825490267948243956_n This is Monbiot, in the Graun via Timmy. M is riffing off the Oxfam report which I don't really believe, since I think they essentailly use wealth as a proxy for CO2, but feel free to persuade me that I'm wrong about that. M's conclusion is I’ve come to believe that the most important of all environmental measures are wealth taxes. Preventing systemic environmental collapse means driving extreme wealth to extinction. But as Timmy points out, this doesn't work even if you do believe Oxfam, unless you believe that wealth taxes destroy wealth, rather than redistributing it. Because CO2 emissions are (waves hands) sub-linear with wealth, just as consumption is: there's only so many flights you can take and yachts you can own and food you can eat. So redistributing the wealth, without destroying it, would lead to increased emissions rather than a decrease.

My suspicion (other than a total failure of thought on M's part, which I can't rule out) is that M is thinking that redistributing wealth from Nasty Millionaires down to Nice Middle Class People Like Him will work, because the NMCPLH will not consume the wealth, instead they will, errm, just put it in their bank accounts and look at it. And the banks will not of course loan that money out to people who will use it, errrm.

Another possibility (that M hiself does not explore) is that the taxed wealth might be spent on CO2 abatement, somehow, presumably by the taxing govts. It isn't impossible; but then again neither is the idea that the NM's might do that themselves.

I also think While the emissions of the world’s middle classes are expected to fall sharply over the next decade, thanks to the general decarbonisation of our economies, the amount produced by the richest will scarcely decline at all is voodoo. Because... I doubt I believe their methodology. They don't make it easy to find it, either; but I waded through it before. And we end up with We assume, based on numerous studies at national, regional and global levels, that emissions rise in proportion to income, above a minimum emissions floor and to a maximum emissions ceiling. "In proportion" (in their terms, elasticity = 1) doesn't seem too plausible to me; but I now realise I need to find their "ceiling" number... rootles around... aha, here: 300 tCO2/person/y; about 15 times the average USAnian. I notice that M says The richest 1% of the world’s people (those earning more than $172,000 a year) produce 15% of the world’s carbon emissions: twice the combined impact of the poorest 50%. On average, they emit over 70 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person every year, and he is semi-quoting the report here, but he is wrong: the 172k figure comes from "Annual income in 2030 ($2011PPP) of richest 1%: >$172k" and 2030 is not now1. The 70 figures is also 2030; the figure for now is ~73. But my point is then that the 300 number leaves a lot of headroom in the 1%, if the average is ~70. And if the economy decarbonises for the NMCPLH, it will likely decarbonise for the NM too.

Is this (I mean M, not me, obvs) anything but noise: does he really expect to be read and influence people? Or is it just filler for the Graun?

Notes

1. According to a crappy WAPO calculator, which was the best I could find, income of ~$80k/y puts you in the top 1%. Or did, in 2018. Which puts me in the global top 1%. But not close to the UK top 1%.

Refs

Climate Shock Bet: Daniel Reeves Responds. See-also: Book review: Climate Shlock.

2021-11-03

Equilibrium climate sensitivity is...

PXL_20211103_095829745 Something I missed from the AR6 - because, of course, I didn't read it - was

The equilibrium climate sensitivity... Based on multiple lines of evidence21, the very likely range of equilibrium climate sensitivity is between 2°C (high confidence) and 5°C (medium confidence). The AR6 assessed best estimate is 3°C with a likely range of 2.5°C to 4°C (high confidence), compared to 1.5°C to 4.5°C in AR5, which did not provide a best estimate.

Though to be fair to me I didn't notice anyone else blogging it (because I was asleep in summer? ATTP did, but quietly. Also - whippersnapper - noted that he'd been around at least since AR5. But Gavin didn't mention it in his six-of-the-best, even if he did elsewhere). I notice now because of PF's Twit. Of course, we've known that ECS is 3 oC for some time, but the narrower range is interesting.

Pic: globally warmed tomatoes still going in November despite our first frost. But they are quite sheltered.

Refs


2021-10-31

There should be a law to the People besides its own will

DSCN1031-rip A quote from Lord Acton. It is a good quote, found via CH, but what does it mean?

If you rewrite it for individuals, "there should be a law to a person besides their own will", then it becomes rather obvious. Or the phrase But to live outside the law, you must be honest comes in (note: that linked post contains nothing to the point).

For a society - and I think we're considering a society in isolation - it is somewhat different. This is most easily considered as a warning against majoritarianism, to which all good constitutionalists will happily nod along (see also Russell on Aristotle's Politics). It could also be a reflection on the need for a constraining morality, or even a religion, but I'm not going to consider that.

It is most naturally considered as a need for a constitution, or some other form of slowly-changing law or meta-law, to constrain passing (perhaps decades-long) whims of the majority. But in that case, instead of being constrained by its own will, society is constrained by the dead will of the past; why is this better? If you're rigidly constrained by the dead will of the past, as Plato desired, because you fear change, then this is bad, not good. Because no matter how wise those past folk might have been, they cannot forsee everything. But if you are constrained, but not rigidly; if you can change those constraints if enough people agree; then I think that it is good.

That was somewhat abstract. Let's consider an example: gunz is the obvious one. The USAnians arguably have too many, and many folk there would like tighter laws on who can own them and where they can carry them. But they are bound by the 2nd amendment, if anyone can work out what it means. But the fight is in the courts: no-one significant wants to change the 2nd amendment because everyone knows that would be hopeless, because not enough people agree. So they are in the position of non-rigid constraint. Not everyone gets what they want, and some people get death who didn't want it, but there is no perfection in politics.

Refs

The Problem Is These Numbers Are Wrong - Trains, Planes and Automobiles

2021-10-28

Fueling the Climate Crisis: Exposing Big Oil’s Disinformation Campaign to Prevent Climate Action?

1635279188500-0ff470b4-77ce-4788-a4c9-85685a07b987_ Some kind of hearings off in the colonies. Mostly I think grandstanding by pols, but did anything come out of it? There's the usual bullshit like "The fossil fuel industry has had scientific evidence about the dangers of climate change since at least 1977" but I've debunked that to death. The people making a career out of lies and disinformation are "on our side" but no-one calls them out. Anyway, Oreskes & Cie have been Twatting about the hearings, so I thought I'd browse their feed for killer titbits. Here's what she's got:

Summary of what we heard  @OversightDems hearings: A lot of tap industry dancing [shurely "industry tap dancing" - ed.] and & (at least) two lies.1) Fossil fuels ARE subsidized. $20 billion pa direct in US alone. 2) ExxonMobil statements were NOT consistent with the science at the time.  Anyone want to add to this?

Which is nothing. And the $20B in subsidies is dubious; the dubious bit is the word "direct"; try looking at the breakdown; they're accounting stuff, tax offsets; not direct xfers of cash from govt to EFFs (and now I look in more detail, her Twit was OK now a CEO has flat out lied.  "Our products are taxed, not subsidized.". Which is false; their products most definitely are taxed). Point 2 is rather vague. I'll give her it (see-also what I've said in the past) but I think EFFs have been fairly careful recently - well, since Lee Raymond retired with a stonking payoff.

Is there anything more? Apparently they are refusing to say what carbon price they would accept; meh. Now @shell is trying to deny any responsibility for @APIenergy's anti-methane fee, and anti-EV advertisements. I think that's a bit better, but still thin. From someone elseExxon's Darren Woods: "As science has evolved and developed our understanding has evolved and developed" on climate change. Efforts by Maloney to have him respond to Exxon memos and ads over the year that show otherwise have not yet knocked him off talking points. Which points to how useless these kinds of hearings are, if the attackees stay cool and the attackers don't have much. I'm not sure what the memos are; probably the usual dox that the usual over-excited folk misread.

Anyway, that seems to be about all for now. If there's a transcript, I might read it, but I'm not going to watch the vidz.

Robert Brulle

I couldn't help looking at the train wreck a bit more. Robert Brulle Twots Exxon maintains their public statements on climate change were in line with the scientific consensus.   This is historically untrue. After the 1995 IPCC report that stated there was a “discernible impact” on climate by anthropogenic emissions, Lee Raymond still said the link was unclear. But... this is dodgy. IPCC '95 was rather more tentative than Our Hero suggests; see here. Or just read the thing yourself, of course. They said Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the expected signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors... Nevertheless, the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate. So, he is wrong (or, in hysterical-Oreskes-speak, HE LIED) because IPCC '95 did not "state" a discernable influence it "suggest"ed same. We don't have a direct quote from The Evil Lee Raymond (before your time, children) but if he said "the link was unclear" then, in 1995, that was defensible (denying any link would not be, of course). Mind you, TELR said plenty of other things that weren't defensible; but it's weird how hard a time these people have in finding it.

[Update: even Rahmstorf, who really should know better, is buying this shit.]

Refs

* Wikipedia and the Representation of Reality by Ian Ramjohn

* GLOBAL REBRANDING CRISIS: ZUCKERBERG THREATENS TO DROP ATEMIC BOMB ON METACLIMATE CHANGE

Exxon CEO accused of lying about climate science to congressional panel says the Graun, but they're just parrotting the (Dem) pols - there's no information content. Speaking of lobbying, you might want to see me here. FWIW, I believe that pols have a strong interest in there being as much lobbying as possible, and act to make this so.

* We want environmental action, but don’t want to make the lifestyle changes, Cambridge-led poll finds - truely astonishing.

* More bollox from Supran; the same tired old stuff.

* SCOTUSblog: Justices agree to review EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

* What should have happened in 2008-09 by Scott Sumner

Episode IV: The Evil Empire strikes back (2015)

* 2022/01: Graun: How Exxon is leveraging Texas courts to silence its climate critics.

2021-10-27

Study shows shocking impact of 'photo-hoarding' on carbon footprint?

n_photos Found via an IET press release. They're trying to convince you that the CO2 costs of storing pix online are substantial, and larger than a couple of other randomly selected things: flying, for example. About 3.7%, because flying isn't that bad really. I'm not sure I trust their numbers - this is nominally the press release for a study, but doesn't link to the study, and the one ref to the actual costs of data storage is actually a ref to vehicule emissions. But never mind; take their numbers as read. So what is the solution?

With Brits admitting to taking an average of five pictures for everyone they post online – and 10% taking ten or more – a life lived through social media with endless selfies, scenic snaps, and ‘food porn’ needs to be managed. Producing a carbon footprint over a lifetime equivalent to driving from Lands’ End to John O’Groats, happy snappers are today being urged to simply ditch the dupes to slash their carbon footprint.

But... this is unrealistic. Anyone taking large numbers of photos knows: deleting duplicates is hard work, and most people simply won't do it1. Urging people to "ditch the dupes" is classic eensy-teensy-steps stuff, which is more of a distraction from real solutions than any useful solution in itself.

The solution, obvs, is twofold: improvements in cloud infrastructure to use less power; and decarbonising the cloud via renewable energy2. Since it already runs on electricity, this is "merely" a matter of finding more renewable power; unlike rather harder problems like aircraft.


Notes

1. I make this worse because my pix go onto Flickr - via autouploader - and also onto Google Pix, because I have a Pixel phone.

2. Google, to take a random example, alreaady does this. There's an ever-so-slightly weaselly "matched 100 percent of its global electricity use with purchases of renewable energy" in there, but I think it is good enough.

Refs

Epistemic Minor Leagues - ACX

2021-10-21

COP26: Document leak reveals nations lobbying to change key climate report?

PXL_20211019_214048473 Well, no. If you already know what this is about, you can just about unpick the Beeb's shit reporting to understand the rather mundane truth. The IPCC AR reports go through drafts, and - strangely enough - they invite comments on the drafts, and - strangely enough - people and govt representatives comment. And sometimes the comments are sane, and sometimes they aren't. But they aren't ever "lobbying" - that bit hass been done earlier when the SPMs are approved by govts.

Calling it a "huge leak of documents" is wanky too: it is just an enormous amount of - assuing it fits the pattern of previous ARs - mostly deeply tedious comments. All this is presumably just a desperate attempt to stir up interest in the upcoming COP; which looks increasingly like a party that no-one will bother to attend1.

Notes

1. No-one that matters, that is. The usual pile of waste-of-time freeloaders will show up by jet and moan about CO2 emissions, of course.

2021-10-20

Fossil fuel production set to soar over next decade?

PXL_20210818_173430033 Says Auntie; parrotting the UNEP production gap report. They are worried that some of the biggest oil, gas and coal producers have not set out plans for the rapid reductions in fossil fuels that scientists say are necessary to limit temperatures in coming years. Which doesn't really make any sense; why would you expect companies to set out plans to suiicide themselves, if people remain keen to buy their products? And if people don't want to buy, well, where's the problem? The problem of course is the plan-loving bureaucracy.

Continuing, I'm struck by According to our assessment of recent national energy plans and projections, governments are in aggregate planning to produce around 110% more fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with... whatever arbitrary targets are fashionable at the moment. What's odd about this is that, apart from banana republics like Saudi or Venezuela, sane govts don't plan fossil fuel production because they don't produce fossil fuels; companies do1. But I guess that's not the sort of thing the UN bureaucracy wants to think, because it wants govts to negotiate with and make plans with.

The sane answer is of course a carbon tax, as any fule kno.

Notes

1. Yes, I know about 50% is produced by SOEs.

Refs

The Distorted Market for Woke Capitalism


2021-10-13

Please Don't Give Up On Having Kids Because Of Climate Change?

PXL_20211009_151129246 As A notes, a recent post at ACX was "Please Don't Give Up On Having Kids Because Of Climate Change". It rather touches on various things I think I know, but perhaps haven't written down. So to start at the top, I agree with the overall conclusion if not the exact reasons for reaching it. 

Not having children because the climate will get worse is wrong, if you're in the First World: as ASX points out, conditions are so much better than in the Third World, and will stay that way; so if you genuinely believed the idea, you'd have to believe in no-one in the Third World having children.

Not having children because they'll emit CO2 is I think wrong, too. After all, we're expecting to get to carbon neutral at some point, like 2050 perhaps, so they're free after that.

And then some notes on some specific points.

The current scientific consensus, as per leading scientific organizations like the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is that climate change will be very bad, but not world-endingly bad. And the link is to a Vox article Is climate change an “existential threat” — or just a catastrophic one? Vox isn't really an RS for this stuff; the reason that ACX doesn't link to the IPCC itself is of course because the IPCC says no such thing.

Climate change will cause worse hurricanes, fires, and other disasters. It will lead to increased spread of invasive species and diseases. It will hit subsistence farmers in poor agricultural countries very hard, and some of them will starve or become refugees. But it won’t cause the collapse of civilization. It won’t kill everyone. Life in the First World will continue, with worse weather and maybe a weaker economy, but more or less the same as always. This is all a bit funky. Hurricanes, well, there are plenty of people to tell you about that. Invasive species are I think rather more spread by global transport and travel, not GW. The best hope for subsistence farmers in poor countries is that they stop being subsistence farmers, and that their countries stop being poor. Refer to Adam Smith for a short - but, it would seem, quite hard to achieve - set of conditions. The collapse of civilisation seems vanishingly unlikely. Life in the FW will not continue "more or less the same as always" because, errm, things will change; technology and politics and society will progress. GW will probably decrease GDP from the value it would have had with no GW, but GDP will continue to increase anyway, just by a bit less.

focus on sea level rise because it’s easy to quantify and display. People often choose SLR because it is unambiguously bad; but it is hard to get any significant damages by 2100 because the expected rise just isn't big enough.

* let’s say there’s still a 1% chance that everyone’s wrong and [a runaway greenhouse effect] can happen. 1% is clearly not exact; it's a proxy for "unlikely, but not negligible". But this is wrong; the real assessment is more like virtually impossible, though as with all these things you never can tell. However, using a lower probability wouldn't affect his argument.

* What we actually need is concerted government action... But your choice not to have children makes that government action less likely to happen. Suppose 1-2% of Democrats stop having children because they’re worried about climate change. Meanwhile, Republicans don’t care about this and have just as many children as ever. Since children tend to share their parents’ political beliefs, this skews elections in favor of the Republicans, who will prevent strong government action. I don't think this makes any sense. Because politics simply doesn't work that way, with fixed party boundaries; instead, the parties shift to pick up voters.

Update: Chilling Effects

See-also his In what sense do 10% of people die of the cold? And why is heat-related death most common in Greenland? Note the Epistemic status: Extremely confused! Low confidence in all of this. But also the I’m not really impressed with the people working in this field.

Refs

Climate crisis to shrink G7 economies twice as much as Covid-19, says research?

* Authoritarian Left, Authoritarian Right by Pierre Lemieux

* CPI Bias vs. the Penn Effect by Bryan Caplan

* Highlights from the Nobel Committee Report by David Henderson, which I mention so I'll be able to find his criticism of the Card/Krueger minimum wage stuff that everyone is so keen to spout.

An Honest Appraisal of the Global Temperature Trend - Tamino.

There must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population - TF.


2021-10-05

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2021?

PXL_20211005_115952391 Bit of a weird one this. First of all, if you'd rather read something other than my bitter and twisted ramblings, you can read DA or SE or indeed a zillion others. So, I'll spare myself the trouble of saying nice things - it doesn't come naturally - and pick at the nits. Chad Orzel is grumpy cos the Nobellers have mixed up climate with spin glasses thereby ensuring that all the luvverly press coverage goes to climate, because who has a clue what spin glasses are, but that's a different matter. Mind you, I'm listening to R4 garbling it all right now, so I don't think he should care too much. Other idiots whinge about gender balance.

Probably, this is a quasi-political thing: recognise GW type stuff in the run up to COP<n>. As several people have said on Twatter, "why these two"? Amongst climatologists they are worthy, but you could find others equally so. Perhaps that's how Nobels work: "we're going to award in area X, now pick two big ones at random (without replacement)".

The citation (or is this just the headline) is for the physical modelling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming. But the "reliably predicting1 GW" bit is weird. Some idiots will even tell you he got his 1970 prediction spot-on and that is to his credit. But of course it isn't. It was just luck. He could easily have been out by a factor of two or more. Had he been, absolutely no-one sane would be saying "oh dear his original prediction was wrong, that's a problem". And if being wrong wouldn't be a problem, then being right is no big thing either. Shades of obsessing over Hansen's predictions.

My other - actually my main - nit is that Manabe's stuff at least is all rather engineering. Which is a worthy thing, I speak as a (software) engineer myself - but it isn't really the stuff of Nobel prizes, at least to my thinking. Or is this just a prophet shall have no honour in his own land? The idea of taking CFD equations and stuffing them into a computer is not exactly genius, and he wasn't even the first.

Lastly - that's not a promise, mind - I dislike Complex systems are characterised by randomness and disorder and are difficult to understand. This year’s Prize recognises new methods for describing them and predicting their long-term behaviour. Because this appears to be a rather thin attempt to link disparate subjects in a not-very-convincing attempt to pretend that the two halves of the prize have any connection. Weather is chaotic but climate isn't2 - which is obvious, if you think that Manabe made reliable climate predictions, duh. Klaus Hasselmann almost links climate and QM, but perhaps not really - I can't quite tell. Note that there's been a massive burst of editing on his wiki page just recently (surprise!) so it may not be stable. I removed Hasselmann was the first to demonstrate human influence on the climate because I think it either isn't true, or is too vague as stated. Do feel free to correct me. Hasselman's stuff isn't really about chaos either - it is about integrating noise, which is different. Unless I've mis-guessed what they meant.

Notes

1. And let's leave out the IPCC's habit of avoiding the word "prediction".

2. See my Climate is stable in the absence of external perturbation, which will obviously convince you.

Refs

Quotation of the Day… "Even though talent, circumstance, and luck play a role in human behavior, we all are spared an enormous administrative burden if we mutually renounce any claim to these assets of others...".

Quotation of the Day… "To develop one’s judgment properly, one first needs the freedom to make decisions for oneself, because judgment, like other skills, must be practiced to develop. But one must also be held responsible for one’s decisions, because it is through feedback – negative or positive, as the case may be – that one learns to correct, hone, and develop one’s judgment".

* Gavin at RC.

* Gavin in SciAm.

2021-10-01

Yet more Exxonknew drivel

evil Only this time it is #humbleknew, not such a popular tag. But, addd to the Wiki Exxon page, because people like their drivel to be in visited places. And the drivel was:

Prior to its purchase by Exxon, Humble Oil had conducted a study titled "Radiocarbon Evidence on the Dilution of Atmospheric and Oceanic Carbon by Carbon from Fossil Fuels" in 1957.  The report warned that rising carbon dioxide levels as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels would result in increases in temperature at the Earth’s surface and that significant increases in temperature could have numerous consequences, including causing ice caps to melt, sea levels to rise and oceans to warm. Unfortunately for humanity, this report was consequently hidden from the government or public, so that Humble Oil, and later Exxon could increase their profits.<ref>https://www.ucsusa.org/about/news/new-evidence-reveals-fossil-fuel-industry-funded-cutting-edge-climate-science-research</ref>

The "Unfortunately for humanity..." obviously fails NPOV and got removed; but the rest was left, because poeple tend to trust people; and who can actually be bothered to read sources nowadays? But if you look at the UCS report, none of the text is justified, apart from the title of the report. And if you read back a little, the title of the 1957 doc gives you a hint why. I've removed it now, BTW.

The text of the report is available from https://www.smokeandfumes.org/documents/7. If you go there, S+F will "helpfully" put up a popup telling you that This 1957 study conclusively demonstrates that, by no later than the 1950s, Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil) was aware of climate risks and actively engaging in climate science, just in case you're not able to think for yourself. But if you the report itself, it is dull (well, to me). It is about exactly what the title says: Radiocarbon Evidence on the Dilution of Atmospheric and Oceanic Carbon by Carbon from Fossil Fuels. And... it is in Transactions of the AGU; i.e., fully public. So once again, there were no secrets, and the correct hashtag is #everyoneknew. The UCS doesn't actually say the dox were sekrit, but it does do its best to imply so, breathlessly: A trove of documents released today by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) reveals that..insideclimatenews does lie to us, asserting it shows that the risks of climate change were being discussed in the inner circles of the oil industry earlier than previously documented but that is bollox: just because they did some research does not show that anyone at the top much cared.

Update 2021/11: I find The state of the science at the time (say, the mid 1970’s), based on reading the papers is, in summary: “…we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate…” (which is taken directly from NAS, 1975). In a bit more detail, people were aware of various forcing mechanisms – the ice age cycle; CO2 warming; aerosol cooling – but didn’t know which would be dominant in the near future. By the end of the 1970’s, though, it had become clear that CO2 warming would probably be dominant; that conclusion has subsequently strengthened at https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/01/the-global-cooling-myth/

Refs

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

Early oil industry knowledge of CO2 and global warming?

* Exclusive: GM, Ford knew about climate change 50 years ago?

What Exxon Knew and When, round three?

Yet more Exxon drivel (includes more people lying about the 1957 report)

What’s the Least Bad Way to Cool the Planet?

2021-09-25

Book review: Climate Shlock

PXL_20210922_092023032 By that nice Gernot Wagner2. And some bloke called Weitzman. I now notice that I've discussed GW's work before, and that work reffed Schlock, which dates from 2015. The subtitle is "The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet".

Who is supposed to read this stuff? A general audience. Will they, and should they? Probably not: or at least, if they read the words, I doubt they'll be understood. There's nothing too complex, if you're familiar with the ideas, but there's enough that's hard on the surface that people who want to not hear will just bounce off.

Chapter 1 starts with the Chelyabinsk meteor and is edging towards the idea of taking sensible precautions in the face of unknown potential disasters. We learn that "many observers" regards GW of more than 2 oC as potentially leading to "catastrophe" but that economists struggle to understand that term, without a dollar value: 10% of GDP? 50%? What? Then we segue onto the familiar-to-us-all problems of dealing with GW: it is global; slow; irreversible; and plagued by uncertainties. Fat tails get a mention, but we'll come back to them later. Time to quibble: Fourier didn't discover the GHG effects of CO2 at any time let alone in 1824 as any fule kno. The book has references, but they're all tucked away into the back to avoid scaring the horses, so you have to keep flipping around to find out what is well reffed and what isn't. They correctly point out that the solution to GW is Pigouvian taxes4; and discuss why we can and can't actually do anything.

Chapter 2 is a series of definitions, sort of, or perhaps very brief discussions of relevant points; but e.g. reducing the history of climate science to 4 bullet points is too brief; this is part of the awkwardness of the book's target-audience-point.

Chapter 3 is about "fat tails" and is I think... hmmm, well, let's say "overly pessimistic". We're arguing about the value of Climate Sensitivity, and hence the expected warming for 2x CO21. Certainly the values they choose are higher than AR6 gives. I think they'd like to be talking about Weitzman's Dismal Theorem but they back away from it. Tol has stuff to say, too. [Aside: they use the familiar idea that people insure against large improbable risks. But I don't think this analogy helps them, quite the reverse: the point is, that people do choose to run these risks: they don't do absolutely everything possible to avoid them; instead they insure. We now return you to...] There's familiar stuff about DICE damage functions and related matters. There's discussion of whether damage functions should affect rates rather than levels, and so on. What there isn't is (as Tol notes) is any discussion as to whether flailing around with climate policy might leave us overall poorer. In the end, they go for "it is all too complex; let's use $40/ton" which is fine by me7. On discount rates, I think I'm going to rely on my A review of a Review of The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change which I think is very much the same stuff. There's a brief (and erroneous) discussion of the analogy of an asteroid-heading-towards-Earth-in-a-century3. Some bits have got slightly out of date: he bemoans - well, as I did - the ETS because the carbon price is too low - but it isn't any more.

Chapter 4: willful blindness. The debate about whether to act on GW should be over, they say, and even on how to act; the question is how high should the price be? While I would love to believe that, it is not true5. A majority of economists would accept it, but not a majority of pols, and not even a majority of scientists - as for the general public, they haven't even thought of the question. Just read the bloody comments on any of my posts on carbon taxes. They return to $40/t, but are then forced to confront a problem: according their analysis, the risk-of-catastrophe is quite high, let us say 10%, and for that $40 is a paltry price... should it not be $400, or $4000, to prevent catastrophe? This analysis spirals out of control as JA noted and fundamentally goes nowhere, and we move on to the next chapter, geoengineering.

Chapter 5: geoengineering, or rather, not (see-also my Reflecting Sunlight). Anyone talking about GW has to talk themselves out of geoengineering, because it is cheap. They point out all the obvious problems - not a full solution, what if we suddenly stop, winners and losers, governance, ocean acidifcation, blah blah the usual stuff. I think their conclusion insofar as they have one is weakly in favour of research8; I'm rather more strongly so although TBH I think it is likely doomed because of the screachers. Notice that some of their objections (geoeng will cool; some people might like it warmer) are dumb, because exactly the same objections exist to halting CO2 increases or CO2 capture; and their distinction between active and passive is I think spurious.

Chapter 6: for no obvious reason they have another chapter on geoeng, but don't really say anything else. Also, they're desperately focussed on reflecting sublight and barely a word and no detail on ocean iron fertilisation. Are they embarassed because as economists they're unable to recommend the cheap solution?

Chapter 7: what to do? This is all worthily sensible and makes all the obvious suggestions. Except... they're all, like everyone else's, somewhat superficial. Suggesting that we help educate our citizenry to have better ideas is perhaps too slow. Given that most of the solution is likely better solar, better wind, electric cars, perhaps they could encourage people to help this effort? Or, they could adopt my solution6.

Notes

1. Yes, 2x is arbitrary and CO2 doesn't stop at 2x if you keep emitting; but we have to concretise the discussion somehow, and we shouldn't care too much about post 2100.

2. What are GW's real credentials? He calls himself a climate economist; Tol calls him a cliamte activist. You be the judge. MW's credentials are of course impeccable.

3. What should you do if your observations and calculations suggest that a large asteroid will hit the Earth in a century or so? Not much. Improve your observations; re-check your calculations; perhaps boost research into rockets. But instituting a crash programme of rocket building would be dumb. To make that more obvious, consider what if, a century ago, people had discovered an asteroid heading our way in two centuries.

4. Or should be. Increasingly, though, it is looking more and more likely that we'll get a somewhat less efficient transition: wind and solar will just become cheaper, we'll swap to that, and there will be a tremenous froth of pointless nonsense on top.

5. Thus their chapter title is self-referential, tee hee.

6. Which is using my native intellect and high quality education to... write software. And, of course, helpful blogs: if only anyone would listen. This of course is nothing to do with my desire for money but because I'm inclined to trust the market to find the most useful use for me; but happy co-incidence, that's whoever will pay me most.

7. Most people in favour of carbon taxes end up about there; like most people interested in CS end up at 3 oC or thereabouts; that doesn't mean that all the words wrapped around it are worthless, but I think if I was a general reader I'd be disappointed: so many quibbles, ideas, qualifications, and we just shrug and pick a number.

8. To be fair to GW, he is still Twitting in favour of research into solar geoeng.

Refs

* Climate Shock Bet by Bryan Caplan

The Cost of Insuring Expensive Waterfront Homes Is About to Skyrocket - if only. If we (well, OK, not me, those funny USAnians and their disfucntional govt) can't even get simple things like this right, what hope for harder stuff?

‘Greenflation’ threatens to derail climate change action - FT

What does "local control" actually mean? by Scott Sumner

Whither Tartaria? - ACX

* Rational Irrationality in High Places by Bryan Caplan; on Pinker: It’s really only with I think the Enlightenment more or less that the idea that all of our beliefs should be put in the reality zone, should be scrutinized for whether they’re true or false. It’s actually in human history a pretty exotic belief. I think it’s a good belief, a good commitment, but it doesn’t come naturally to us. See-also Review – Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker by CIP.

Alito blasts media for portraying shadow docket in “sinister” terms.

* [2021/11] I Win My Climate Shock Bet by Bryan Caplan - no great surprise. Worth reading though for how the Other Half reacts; see esp Social Desireability Bias: "Frankly, it looks like Wagner and Weitzman want to impoverish the world by many extra trillions of dollars to ensure that humanity’s savior is the United Nations instead of the United States or (horrors!) Elon Musk... sound like typical smart people under the spell of Social Desirability Bias.  They care [m]uch more about solving climate change inoffensively than solving it cheaply." And a response; to which I commented.