2018-05-27

President Donald J. Trump is Reforming and Modernizing American Commercial Space Policy?

weasel Well, it's what he says himself, and surely the Mango Mussolini is an RS for his own intent. At least, today's intent.

If you want to know if the regulations governing US launch are badly out of date, then the story about SpaceX not being able to broadcast should do you, involving the usual mixture of stupidity, and govt officials lying through their teeth with complete impunity (The director of NOAA's Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs (CRSRA) office says her staff was not aware of the unlicensed cameras on numerous earlier launches).

You'll be unsurprised to learn that the best bit of the new directive is, in my opinion, "The President is committed to ensuring that the Federal government gets out of the way and unleashes private enterprise to support the economic success of the United States". The worst bit is most of the rest, where despite the deregulatory language you can't avoid seeing a govt desperate to intervene.

This is "Space Policy Directive – 2". In case you were wondering, directive 1 was "send people to the moon again". Phil Plait was, correctly, unimpressed. Almost everything NASA is planning to do with humans, including pouring money down the drain on the SLS, is going to be upset by SpaceX and friends; rendering almost all NASA planning out to 2025 pointless1. At least, if all continues to go well. Less regulation, and an environment that discourages NASA micromanaging SpaceX, will only help that.

Does Trump actually give a toss about space, or NASA? Doubtful.

Notes


1. This must be obvious to insiders; it must be a depressing place to work. An example of the bull case for SpaceX is this.

Refs


* CIP hates libertarians. Who knew?
* I went back to Oxford for the last day of summer eights. It was dead exciting; but alas we failed to close them down, though I think we got overlap. The really exciting bit was on a previous day.
* WATN: Trump - me, 2018/01.

2018-05-24

Non-photogenic wrinklies sue EU govt

Hot on the heels of Photogenic teens sue US government and a pile of other stuff, comes the EU #metoo version. Well, it was inevitable I suppose. It's pretty well the same kind of blather as before: existing stuff must be overturned “since they violate the plaintiff’s rights and are not in line with higher ranking law”; and of course all of these people swear on their mothers graves that they themselves use no fossil fuels at all, and neither do their lawyers, or the legal process they're going to put in place, and so on.

It isn't even a good picture.

Refs


CLIMATE WARS : THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD aka Sealz in hat.

2018-05-23

Sea level rise in pictures

The recent Fred Singer Op-Ed in the WSJ has drawn ire from just about everyone, because it was stupid. I'm guessing the WSJ didn't realise how dumb it was when they published it; they may have thought good ol' Fred was a reliable pair of hands, though why they'd think that I don't know.

Aanyway, I wanted to discuss this pic, which seems to be popular for refuting the Fredster. Mann uses it (somewhat carelessly without attribution; and, now I look closer, merely as a visual: nothing in the text refers to it); ATTP is more careful, and sources it to Hansen et al. 2016. But while ATTP is careful with his sourcing, he is somewhat careless with his phrasing, since the figure apparently shows sea level rise is indeed accelerating. SL is definitely rising; it may be accelerating, but does the figure show that? It shows a long-term trend from tide gauges to 1993, and then a different - well, two different - rates from 1993, from satellite altimetry.

Having two different rates is the first and obvious problem. One of them is wrong, since they appear different enough to be incompatible. As science-in-progress that's fine; SL is rising whether it's rising at 3.3 or 2.6 mm/yr; but putting such a picture up as proof to the general public that you know what you're doing is odd (labelling another, whose data clearly extend past 2010, as "Nerrem et al. (2010)" is also going to confuse thinking people who don't understand the habit of extending datasets according-to-the-method-of, which I assume is what happened in this case).

Oh, lordy, and now I look the Hansen paper the figure comes from is that Hansen paper. But that does allow me to find the caption: "Figure 29. Estimated sea level change (mm) since 1900. Data through 1992 are the tide-gauge record of Church and White (2011) with the change rate multiplied by 0.78, so as to yield a mean 1901–1990 change rate of 1.2 mm year−1 (Hay et al., 2015). The two estimates for the satellite era (1993–2015) are from Nerem et al. (2010, updated at http://sealevel.colorado.edu) and Watson et al. (2015)." The scaling by 0.78 stands out as an interesting point, which Hansen et al. justify with "Hay et al. (2015) reanalyzed tide-gauge data for 1901–1990 including isostatic adjustment at each station, finding global sea level rise to be 1.2 ± 0.2 mm year−1. Prior tide-gauge analyses of 1.6–1.9 mm year−1 were inconsistent with estimates for each process, which did not add up to such a large value (Church et al., 2013)". I'm not going to complain about that, just point out that This Stuff Is Not Simple.

slrKinda nice is this pic from AR5, which shows that changes in ocean mass (from GRACE) i.e. the land-ice-loss and stuff, plus changes due to temperature, about add up to what we see. From eye, the blue altimetry line is 20 mm in 7 years is 2.6 mm/yr, i.e. the green line in the previous pic.

The other obvious point is that the "acceleration" - actually, as presented, change from one linear trend to another - occurs when you switch the dataset from tide gauges to altimetry. It doesn't take much wit to ask: "I wonder if the change is real, or caused by the change of measurement method?" FWIW, if you were going to wonder which was more accurate, I'd go for the altimetry (the case is not analogous to temperature measurement): tide gauges are not global (they tend to be on the edges of landmasses, oddly enough) and require many complex corrections for isostatic rebound; though satellite altimetry isn't absolute either.

Refs

* ATTP links this in the comments, but here (as proof of it's high profile :-) is Gavin's tweet showing that Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise detected in the altimeter era by R. S. Nerem et al., 2018, is yer Top Source for "SLR is accelerating".
Sea Level Data: Church & White, or Jevrejeva et al.? - Tamino.

2018-05-19

L'affaire Foote

Eunice Foote is a recent cause celebre: By all rights, Eunice Newton Foote should be a household name. More than a century and a half ago, Foote was part of one of the most important scientific discoveries of our time: revealing the role of carbon dioxide in the earth’s greenhouse effect. This is, of course, literally bollox. The proposal is to supplant Tyndall's name with hers. But Tyndall is not a household name, and therefore hers would not be either. While I'm on nonsense, mention should go to ThinkProgress's the concept of the greenhouse gas effect was discovered in the 1920s, by Joseph Fourier. Does no-one proof-read this stuff? More, is everyone who read it too ignorant (or, like me, too despairing) to point out the error to TP? But enough footling stuff. What of the substance?

The substance is her Magnum Opus, On the circumstances affecting the Heat of the Sun's Rays (side note: she appears to be part of a scientific family; her husband's somewhat longer paper on a similar subject preceeds hers in the same volume). She takes two jars, with thermometers in each, and exposes them to the sun, having done different things to each. Firstly, one has condensed air; in the other it is exhausted. It gets warmer in the condensed one. She concludes:
foote1
This is wrong. It is colder up mountains because the air is thinner because temperature decreases as air expands, not for radiative reasons. Indeed if anything the sun is stronger the higher up you go, because there is less air for it to be absorbed in. But this bit is uninteresting to the retrospective warriors, and certainly Foote's errors are not of interest to them, so we continue on.

Second, dry air didn't get as hot as damp air. Third, the one filled with CO2 got hotter than the one filled with common air (as she herself says, she had no way of assessing the pressures in the vessels, so there are uncertainties in all this). Oddly, despite tabulating 120 degrees (unspecified units) for CO2 and for damp air, she then claims that CO2 was the hottest, at 125. I don't quite understand that.

What did Foote actually see? Not the GHE, but most people seem uninterested by this. TP quotes Katherine Heyhoe: Due to the rudimentary set-up of the experiment, Foote “wasn’t measuring what she thought she was measuring, but she actually serendipitously ended up with an understanding that is correct today,” Which is very delicate, but completely side-steps the point, and not I think entirely true2. AFAIK the only person to even look is good ol' Eli; amusingly, TP provides a link to Eli under the misleading text that EF's work was "not definitive". From Eli I copy the interesting "why did Foote observed a stronger effect from CO2 than H2O?  The answer is that she had a much higher partial pressure of CO2 in her containers than H2O because water vapor is condensible at 25-30 C, about 30 Torr", which I think is (a) comprehensible and (b) a bit of a shame that all the revisionsists couldn't also quote. But for the rest: if you ask me to draw an illustrative diagram of the GHE then I can and have; however even after reading Eli's words I'm rather uncertain what EF actually saw. Never mind; no-one else cares so why should I?

Did EF's work actually have any effect, or was it ignored? One of the Justice Warriors says A few years later, Foote’s findings were reflected in the studies of physicist John Tyndall but notice the deliberately ambiguous words used. It implies to imply that Tyndall was influenced by Foote, but there is no evidence for this1.

Note: this isn't new. It first came up in 2011. I thought it was wrong then.

Update thought


On reflection, the fuss around EF most closely resembles that around Bob Carter after his death. Not, I stress, that this reflects in any way badly upon EF, but on her puffers. Just that those who puffed Carter as a great scientist had not the slightest interest in his actual work; refer to Cainozoic history of southern New Zealand: An accord between geological observations and plate-tectonic predictions.

Notes


1. As he says: “With the exception of the celebrated memoir of M. Pouillet on Solar Radiation through the atmosphere, nothing, so far as I am aware, has been published on the transmission of radiant heat through gaseous bodies,”. Roland Jackson writes The saga of Eunice Foote and John Tyndall which considers the possibilities; I think his most compelling evidence of a lack of connection is that Tyndall didn't start with CO2.

2. KH did better in 2016. But there was less sex around then.

Refs


CLIMATE WARS : THE SALT TALKS.
On the Principles of Economic Principles

2018-05-17

There are no short cuts

20232265_1521496491248612_4856287107478719897_o The wit and wisdom of Gavin:
In any contentious science/policy issue it's easy to find people on both sides who resort to ad homs and poor arguments. Using that as a metric to judge any one sides' credibility is a fallacy.
in response to Ted Nordhaus:
In the face of scientific complexities that are difficult to parse, one easy heuristic as to where credibility lies is to what degree partisans resort to ad hominem, misrepresentation of opponents arguments, and sweeping, unqualified assertions.
People often want some simple heuristic to know who to trust, which side is right, in cases where they can't be bothered, or aren't capable, of working out the truth for themselves. To be more accurate, people often search around for a simple heuristic that allows them to choose the side they already know they want to choose, and ignore the inconvenient opinions and facts from the other side.

This is covered in Scott Adams is a tosser.

2018-05-16

The Armalite and the ballot box

31958909_10156297063617350_4583491108612341760_o This is my brilliant idea for "solving" - or rather, ameliorating - the mess the USAnians have got themselves into. I actually think it is - or rather would be - a good idea, for the USA, in that it would make the situation there better. Anywhere else other than Somalia it would make worse. Stop me if you've heard this before:

So the USAnians have loadza Gunz, because they like them, and the constitution says they can have them. But the problem is that nutters then shoot other people with those gunz. Another problem, more serious in terms of deaths but of course getting far less press attention, is that loadsa people top themselves using said gunz.

The constituion sayeth the familiar A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. People don't like the unrestricted right given by the second half, and tend to argue that the first clause renders the rest void; but that doesn't seem to work. Also, people tend to like the idea of removing assault rifles out of the hands of people, even those are probably the most useful things for a militia.

So why not just take the first clause seriously? Allow people to keep their AR-15s, possibly even drop the restriction on fully-automatics; but in exchange for that ask for the "well regulated" piece to be taken seriously; which implies background checks and so on. CIP has some other ideas on what it might entail. I'm dubious that going all the way to you-must-join-the-national-militia would make any sense; indeed, that would effectively sabotage the proposal. My significantly weaker version would allow you to take gunz away from the mentally ill, permit background checks, allow you to oblige training courses, and so on. For all those reasons the NRA would oppose it,  because they're the sort of people that want gunz-without-restrictions; but it would be a constitutional way to avoid unrestricted gunz.

[ps: I wrote this in February but have hastily finished it now as a response to CIP. Also by happy coincidence I now have a pic of our new weaponised cat available, and me wearing a tee-shirt proving my support for gunz]

 Refs


* Armalite and ballot box strategy.

2018-05-15

Carbon budgets and carbon taxes

DSCN2695 Rethinking the carbon budget message at Axios reports on a couple of recent reports that say carbon budgets aren't as useful as they've been touted. And this is true. But to kick off, there's Gavin's tweet:
...There's no connection to speak of between the impacts of carbon emissions (SCC) and the estimates of the remaining carbon budget...
Which made me think. Hey, that doesn't happen often. So, yes, there is no connection between SCC and carbon budget. Because the two ideas are different: SCC is "how much damage does emitting this CO2 do?" whereas a carbon budget is "how much CO2 can I emit before I do any damage?". That's not quite right, I have simplified for effect, to enhance the separation of the concepts. For a carbon budget, you've decided on an acceptable level of temperature change, perhaps 2 oC, and guessed your climate sensitivity, and so decided on an allowable amount of CO2 to emit. If this were, truely, a budget, which you weren't allowed to outspend, then your cost of emission would be zero, up to the limit, and infinite beyond that.

And so of course we're back at the carbon-taxes-versus-carbon-emission-permits debate again. Because the budget stuff is analogous to the permits.

The budget stuff has several big problems, which one study touches on. I'll ignore the quasi-arbitrariness of the size of the budget. The problems are that the budget is global, in space and in time. So no particular place, and no particular time, have any incentive to minimise their emissions. Unlike - ta da - a carbon tax, which conveniently provides incentives, and copes well with uncertainties. The disadvantage of the carbon tax, of course, is that it doesn't invite endless chatter in place of actual activity the way carbon budgets do.

I think you can be stronger than "no connection" between SCC and budgets: that if you're keen on SCC, you have to use that; you can't use budgets as your tool. They become only a useful (perhaps) illustration. Or conversely, if you really want to use budgets, then the implied-equivalent-SCC is just an illustration.

2018-05-13

Engine Summer

MI0001719482 This would naturally be a comment over at CIP's blog, but sadly his comments are broken at the moment1, so it's a post here. CIP's ire, in a post entitled Economics of Climate Policy is raised by my Why Liberal Media Need Conservative Columnists, which confuses me as that post isn't really about economics; though it does link to my On getting out more, which is, sort of. CIP also complains that "when backed into a corner [WMC] tends to disavow relevant [economic] expertise" which I think unfair, because I think I'm usually upfront about it, but to be clear I'll say it upfront here: I have no relevant economic expertise. Other than the ability to think.

And indeed - as I've said before - I'm not trying to teach economics - certainly not in the way I'd try to teach climatology. Picking holes in other people's proposals is far easier than trying to construct a theory of your own; picking holes is what I'm trying to do with "the Left's" economics.

After this, I wrote some words trying to pick apart the ways in which CIP has misunderstood what I wrote, but I fear it is all too much effort, and I gave up; the knot is too tight. I'm reminded of Engine Summer by John Crowley; wiki has a charming summary; you should read it, if you haven't already.

Since it strays into politics, I'll comment on CIP's idea that Ricardo's comparative advantage can be traced back to Plato, in the sense that "if each person does what he does best, more stuff will be produced". I think that's a misreading. Plato (in the Republic) was keen on the idea that people do what they are "best fitted for", but only because he wanted a stable society, with no possibility of the oiks at the bottom troubling the right to rule of the philosophers at the top. This is the complete opposite of the idea that people should be free to choose their own metier.

Notes


1. Aha! And now I know why: his comment scripts are regarded as insecure. See screenshot.

Refs

* NEW CLIMATE WARS ATROCITY : HOCKEY STICK WIELDING WARMIST  WHACKS SKEPTIC'S  SEEING EYE CYBERDOG.

Junk from Bloomberg

32294498_1823033177761607_3314900791784898560_o There's an appallingly bad article (h/t ATTP) from Bloomberg entitled Inspiring Terms Are Simple. ‘Climate Change’ Isn’t; subtitled The doubters and believers aren’t even talking about the same thing; by Flim Flam. This is kinda kicked off by the recent rather confusing PR about Empirical evidence for stability of the 405-kiloyear Jupiter–Venus eccentricity cycle over hundreds of millions of years in PNAS. Which is a paper of almost no interest to the GW debate, as far as I can tell, because it's just about Milankovitch cycles over a longer timer period than usual. And yet because of the goldfish-like memories and knowledge of most writers in the meeja (the article doesn't even mention the M-word, so ignorant is it), it seems like news. Wooo! Jupiter influences the climate, who knew?

And then, after all this confusion, the article complains about communication problems. Idiots. And I don't think that describing the Earth's orbit as more or less "oblong" is terribly helpful either.

The basic problem with GW-as-news is that there isn't really any news. It is the same problem this year as it was last year as the year before that as it will be next year. So journalistic efforts to spice it up inevitably lead to confusion.

Refs


* A Comparative Analysis of Data Derived from Orbiting MSU/AMSU Instruments, by R. Eric Swanson (remember him?).

2018-05-12

Why Liberal Media Need Conservative Columnists

32190945_879835122212809_1030002976569163776_n Via ATTP on Twatter, although I've now lost the direct link, I find David Roberts (yes! Him again!) being wrong on the internet. This is a great crime, and must be investigated in detail and punished by sarcasm. Let's begin with what DR is reacting to, Why Liberal Media Need Conservative Columnists by Jonathan Chait1, in the New York Mag, whatever that is; but it looks Serious and intended to be Taken Seriously. The basic idea of the piece is that while you do really need criticism from "the other side" to sharpen your ideas and avoid groupthink, nonetheless the Left is better than the Right and "Liberalism has succeeded in adapting itself to the world because, unlike conservatism, it has opened itself to internal correction". And this, of course, is self-congratulatory wank; although it could perhaps be rescued by careful choice of exactly which ill-defined groups you're talking about.

DR is similarly unimpressed by the idea of listening to "the other side", because of course the other side are wazzocks: Lemme take my bailiwick, climate & energy, as an example. A "challenge from the right" in my area generally amounts to "climate change isn't happening" or "climate change won't be that bad" or "reducing fossil fuels will destroy the economy.

Listening to the other side - or, done right, Red Teaming - is a good idea. You need someone to bounce your ideas off, or you end up with “Dr” Roy Spencer is sad and lonely and wrong. But you don't just pick any random person who disagrees with you, and in particular you don't deliberately look at the wild fringes, say "oh. Those look wild, I don't fancy talking to them" and retreat back into your comfortable ghetto. Well, not if you're honest.

So while there are plenty of folks you could find on the USAnian Right who will say "climate change isn't happening" it is dishonest to imply that it is difficult to find people who will admit that it is happening, and caused by humans, but that the desired policy response is not Moah Regulation. Something passed my eye yesterday, by someone called Michael L. Marlow: A Carbon Tax That Constrains Government. This, if we believe DR, is one of the topics that he'd like to discuss with the Right.

Also, did I mention that The Left is generally crap at economics?

The great curse of the house, the spirit,
dead weight wrath - and you can praise it!
Praise the insatiate doom that feeds
relentless on our future and our sons.
Oh all through the will of Zeus,
the cause of all, the one who works it all.
What comes to birth that is not Zeus?
Our lives are pain, what part not come from god?

Update: via CIP comes Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think You Are in the NYT, so it looks like they're ignoring DR. I like his throwaway line: People often vote against things instead of voting for them. He could have made more of that. Making something is much harder than breaking something. Deciding that you don't like candidate or party A is much easier than deciding that you're comfortable with all the policies of candidate or party B. People are lazy; they will make their minds up based on some easy test, given half a chance.

Notes


1. A virtue of having a long blog and Google is that I've usually mentioned people before, which helps my fallible memory. In this case I find a side-swipe at him here; someone else commenting on him here; and that's it. So, he's a minor.

Refs

Transparency in climate science - Gavin at RC.
* Why I Escaped the ‘Intellectual Dark Web’: Pissing off progressives isn’t intellectual progress; by Alice Dreger, May 11, 2018.
* American democracy has faced worse threats than Donald Trump; The golden age of American politics was illiberal, undemocratic, and bloody; by Ezra Klein; May 10, 2018.

Crop Yields Under Global Warming

Crop Yields Under Global Warming is a post by David Appell. DA's take-home message is I don't anymore see a big problem here. Am I missing something? Whereas the traditional view of this is ZOMG we're all gonna die.

I guess I need to justify the ZOMG version. For example Climate change will cut crop yieldsAugust 15, 2017 at phys.org: "Climate change will have a negative effect on key crops such as wheat, rice, and maize, according to a major scientific report out Tuesday that reviewed 70 prior studies on global warming and agriculture... the overall trend planet-wide is downward, signaling that steps are needed to adapt to the warming climate and feed an ever-expanding world population". Or the overall global effect of climate change has been small so far: losses of a few percentage points for wheat and corn from what they would have been without climate change. The overall impact on production of rice and soybeans was negligible, with gains in some regions entirely offsetting losses in others... But... temperature increases were expected to accelerate in coming decades, making it likely that the challenges to food production will grow in an era when demand is expected to rise sharply from the NYT in 2011. Or there's some weak stuff from RC in 2014; Eli covered the same thing.

The mistake these are making, and this is DA's point, is to look at crop yield with respect to GW in isolation, and miss all the rest that is going on: the many generic improvements in agriculture and related processing that our modern mechanised industrialised farming provides. Because what you actually care about is the overall crop yield, not the changes in yield broken down into many factors.

Wiki doesn't do a desperately good job either, in the text, making exactly the same mistake. But it does have the great virtue of including a graph, which I've inlined, so you can see for yourself that whatever may be going on in the detail, world food production is heading up. National Geographic does fairly well.

My point, of course, is that I've said all this before, so why did DA need to write his post? Except now I come to look, while I'm sure I've thought all this before, I don't find myself making the point explicitly. I've got close. In 2009, I ask Could Food Shortages Bring Down Civilization? and predicatably answer "no". In 2008 I wondered How overfed are we? and the answer is there is spare in the system. Infertile Crescent?, from 2016, looks at GW and war and concludes that crap govt is the main problem. Climate inaction to be ‘catastrophe’, from 2014, is again skeptical about the crop yield problem, but without making the key point.

The good reason why you'd want to look at changes in yield broken into changes from different components is that it might help predict the future: if you could show that changes due to GW were small now, but could reasonably be expected to increase, and in 50 years overwhelm the changes due to tech, then that would be useful. But none of the ZOMG studies even try to do that, as far as my admittedly small survey shows.

Refs


1. Temperature increase reduces global yields of major crops in four independent estimates, Chuang Zhao, PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1701762114.

2018-05-09

L'affaire Schneiderman

18581603_1454960587902203_7934923190499350154_n Schneiderman, Schneiderman, does whatever a Schneider can. But he did too much. Naturally, despite being totally innocent, he immeadiately resigned. Well, if you were intimately familiar with the American legal scene, would you expect justice? Not the finest endorsement of the NY attorney's office; you can't say he didn't have a chance to influence it.

But leaving ES to his demons, what does this do to his suing Exxon? There are a variety of opinions. Seeking Alpha offers Exxon Loses An Enemy, ClimateLiability News a slightly more restrained With Schneiderman Resignation, Exxon Climate Investigation Loses a Leader, and variations on a theme of "well, he was important, but there are others" are manifold; It may be too early to assess the damage to the environmental causes he was pursuing. Much depends on who replaces him as attorney general, how robustly his staff carries on, and how effectively other state officials take up the slack, says ICN. WUWT is of course ROTFL; anything else would be a disappointment. FWIW I think it is significant; but I'm biased because I think the whole thing is stupid.

I think the whole thing is stupid


As you already know, so let's not rehash that. But I cannot resist quoting a particularly stupid statement by Maura Healey:
The American people deserve answers from executives at Exxon about what they knew about the impact of burning fossil fuels on our climate, when they knew it, and what they told their investors and the world.
FFS: what they told their investors and the world? It should be blindingly obvious even to a halfwit AG that what they told their investors and the world is public. And we already know the other stuff too. Also "they" is not very sensible, since they're mostly talking about the 1980's kinda timeframe, when the current execs weren't in their current positions.
By the sword you did your work and by the sword you die

Refs


The 1970s Global Cooling Zombie Myth and the Tricks Some People Use to Keep it Alive, Part II - around the "seminal" Peterson, Connolley, and Fleck 2008.
* A Carbon Tax That Constrains Government. By Michael L. Marlow, May 2018
* DEBATING CARBON TAXES WITH OREN CASS (AND BILL GATES); April 2017; by Jerry Taylor.

2018-05-08

Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably?

Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably: Evidence from a one-year longitudinal study (h/t Thing Finder) appears to be available, at least as a preprint, here (Hall, M.P., Lewis, N. A., Jr., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2018). Journal of Environmental Psychology, 56, 55-62). Abstract:
We conducted a one-year longitudinal study in which 600 American adults regularly reported their climate change beliefs, pro-environmental behavior, and other climate-change related measures. Using latent class analyses, we uncovered three clusters of Americans with distinct climate belief trajectories: (1) the “Skeptical,” who believed least in climate change; (2) the “Cautiously Worried,” who had moderate beliefs in climate change; and (3) the “Highly Concerned,” who had the strongest beliefs and concern about climate change. Cluster membership predicted different consequences: the “Highly Concerned” were most supportive of government climate policies,but least likely to report individual-level actions,whereas the “Skeptical” opposed policy solutions but were most likely to report engaging in individual-level pro-environmental behaviors. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.
(my bold). This has eerie echoes of  Climate chickenhawks (which I re-found via my The Climate Change Hypocrisy Of Jet-Setting Academics?).

They say "Of primary interest was the level of belief in climate change—regardless of cause—over time". This is a problem, as the study runs for only one year. So I'm doubtful that's interesting; more promising is "we found that participants subdivided into three clusters as a function of these belief trajectories". There's a pile of stats there, which obviously I didn't bother wade though, instead I just read their conclusion: Despite these findings about climate change beliefs, self-reported behaviors, and policy support, we were unable to explain why the “Skeptical” low-believers were more likely to self-report more pro-environmental behavior than high-believers. They then go through a list of all the obvious excuses. The one I'd favour - assuming we're far too polite to go for "people are a bunch of hypocrites" - is that "the concerned" are in favour of unified political action, as indeed was discussed in Climate chickenhawks, whereas "the skeptical" as rugged individualists disposed to individual action.

At this point we need to look at the "action" options: public transport, re-usable shopping bags, eco-friendly products. And we observe that all of these would make perfect sense even without a GW problem. So you can perfectly rationally support them, even if you don't "believe in" GW.

Another point that needs clarifying is quite what "believe in" GW might mean. I am perfectly capable of sustaining a clear distinction between believing the science, and the policy options. But long years in the blogosphere convinces me that most people are not. So for most people it is hard to tell whether they really disbelieve the science, or dislike what solutions they think you're going to propose (Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia?).

TF offers the conclusion: If the effect sizes are material, the implication is obvious. Improve the environment, support skeptics. I doubt that works; the skeptics are there already. How about the opposite: convince "the concerned" that individual action is also worthwhile? All that individual action only gets you so far (though as I said in Cl Chk, more individual action will act as useful signalling), so some kind of collective action is likely necessary. Again as per Reg Phobia, the key to that is the type of solutions you're proposing. As Hayek says, it is possible even for a Hayekian who doesn't believe in central planning to rationally desire some taxation (WMC interpolation: e.g. carbon taxes) if they accept there's a problem.

It's all about vested interests


Related, but not the same, Graham Readfearn, in the Graun points to Relationships among conspiratorial beliefs, conservatism and climate scepticism across nations (Matthew J. Hornsey, Emily A. Harris & Kelly S. Fielding, Nature Climate Change (2018), doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0157-2.) though I wasn't terribly interested in that, more in the Attitude Roots and Jiu Jitsu Persuasion: Understanding and Overcoming the Motivated Rejection of Science. Though it has too much sociology for me, it is perhaps a useful list of proposed explanations for behaviour.

Refs


Eating their own, eating their own… by Timmy. concerning (hush yo mouth!) l'affair Schneiderman.

2018-05-06

Notes from the Economist

DSC_7473 The Economist is usually interesting; this week has more than usual. The first, which they title A row over an avian exhibitionist suggests how badly Ryan Zinke is serving America, is about yet more Trump administration blundering around acting without thinking; shades of my last post's warning about acting without thinking; it doesn't just apply to honeybees.

Britain’s space industry, Brexit’s final frontier is about Britain losing access to Galileo, the Europen version of GPS. Since the entire project is stupid, losing access to it will be fine, but for some reason TE is unable to see that; instead focussing on the usual stupid argument that we'll lose hi-tech jobs. Meh. Building satellite payloads seems to be lucrative but we should1 build ones that make commercial sense, not stupid ones built purely because Brussels has US-envy. Also, the reasons we'd lose access to it make no sense at all, other than politicking by idiots.

Chinese investment may help Greenland become independent from Denmark is sort-of about that, but the bit that interests us is
SHORTLY before the start of UN climate talks in Paris, in December 2015, giant blocks of ice were shipped in from Greenland and left to melt outside the Panthéon, reminding conference-goers to get serious about global warming. Ironically, a mere 48 hours after the talks concluded, Greenland, a self-governing part of Denmark, said it wanted to opt out of the climate agreement that had just been reached. The melting of Greenland’s ice sheet, which covers 80% of the island, has turned out to be an economic blessing for most of its 56,000 residents, 90% of whom are Inuit. The territory boasts a tenth of the world’s known deposits of rare-earth metals, and the receding ice is making more minerals accessible for the first time. More bits of the island are also being opened to tourists.
Which should remind us, yet again, that GW will have winners and losers. Meanwhile, Small isn't beautiful is about the swathe of countries with declining populations. It says all the usual obvious things, and I only mention if because of my recent foray into the Papia Poppaea law of Augustus.

Notes


1. When I say "we should" I of course mean the govt should get out of the way and let people build what satellite payloads they like.

Refs

I AGREE WITH ABU HAMZA- UP TO A POINT - Harry Hutton, on the button as usual.

2018-05-05

What to DO about big problems?

Clare M1 at today's head-to-head; they're good, but they aren't Maggie. Eric Steig, on Twatter:
Here's a question for those who are scientists & who teach. Many students want to figure out what to DO about big problems, but have little patience for hard-nosed science & analysis. How do you guide the former, without neglecting the latter? #weneedtochangetheworld.
Well, I'd start with "is a 140 (now 280) word medium a good place to ask difficult questions requiring subtle answers?", to which I'd give the obvious answer: "no". Why is why I'm writing this instead.

A disclaimer: I'm quite... compartmentalising, perhaps I'd put it. I like different people to have different tasks. A certain amount of cross-fertilisation is great, but carried too far it all turns to mush. So my initial offer would be... actually, let's just stop a moment. Because I can't possibly pass up have little patience for hard-nosed science & analysis. By implication, the question is about students of science, and yet they have no patience for, essentially, science. Perhaps they should seek a different path. Perhaps that's why they want to go into politics instead. Also, it seems rather irrelevant to the question at hand, which I suggest is better as "how should scientists go about helping solve problems like global warming, rather than just studying them?"

So back to my initial answer: don't. Your job as a scientist is to understand the problem, and present your analysis  - probably via the scientific literature - to the world. That's what your job is, it is what you've been trained to do, and it is - presumably - where your skills lie. But it gives you no special insight into how to solve the problem; or indeed, how to balance putting resources into solving that problem versus solving a variety of other problems. Quite the reverse: you are very likely to be biased. Most likely, you will think that your problem is the world's most exciting and most urgent. After all, that's why you're working on it, maybe.

Also, almost everyone underestimates how complicated and difficult the world is. There's a lot to be said for the idea that no-one under 40 should be allowed to vote (or 50, or 30, take your pick. There's also a lot to be said for the idea that voting isn't a good idea, either). Hordes of eager young bunnies rushing naively out into the world to "solve" problems isn't a good idea. HONEYBees2 frustrated that the evil world won't listen to their brilliant solutions and getting angry with said world also doesn't help. Further, in my jaundiced eyes, the honeybees are far too keen on solutions that involve them actively doing things and instructing other people to do things, and not keen enough on freedom.

Who else says "#weneedtochangetheworld"? Some bloke called Peter Jacobs says The politics of the status quo is still politics. Scientists, when you look back on your life, you will not regret being chided for "advocacy". You will regret saying nothing and I don't object to that; speaking out is fine, if you have something to say1. Someone else: Jennifer Glass says let’s switch from physical to virtual conferences & seminars. This is a sensible thought, which weirdly enough others have already thought of, but it is down in the trivia. Here's a bad answerWe can plan for 7 generations. No, we can't.

So what should you do, if you want to Make The World Better? The obvious first step is some level of understanding, because absent understanding you cannot do any good - simple passion is not enough. Understanding, inevitably, involves context, because the world is far too complex to understand without examples, which is to say History. And, inevitably, patience. Lack-of-patience was one of the constraints of the original formulation, but that must be discarded. Stepping slightly closer to specifics, Honeybees generally aim to solve problems by regulation; which is to say, force; rather than persuasion or providing access to better things. I may have said this before.

Notes


1. That link misses the important part; Marlow's respect that, at the end, Kurtz had something to say.

2. I realised that if I add "naive" between "of" and "eager" I can make an acronym, HONEYBs.

Refs


The Greatest Liberty Of Subjects, Dependeth On The Silence Of The Law.
Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges.
* Speaking of #H2H, here's us. As always, the video flatters: we are irritatingly down to bowside.
HOME,  HOME,  ON  DERANGE.
* Speaking out, by ATTP.

2018-05-03

Formerly we suffered from crimes, now we suffer from laws

Via Thing Finder. The original is Tacitus, on Imperial Rome: utque antehac flagitiis ita tunc legibus laborabatur. And possibly you, like me, were not well enough brought up to translate that directly. You could try Google, which offers the cryptic and that the laws of distress from the past atrocities of that at that time, which doesn't help. This is close to, but not quite, corruptissima re publica plurimae leges which can itself be read in multiple ways: it's definitely asserting a relationship between corruption and the number of laws, but which way round causation is intended is unclear.

Coming back to my headline quote, my Penguin translation produces the far less memorable The danger now was not so much misbehaviour as the law, and is largely talking about informers, and use of the law for personal gain in disputes. If you read the text in context that fits rather well as a replacement for the text in bold:
It was next proposed to relax the Papia Poppaea law, which Augustus in his old age had passed subsequently to the Julian statutes, for yet further enforcing the penalties on celibacy and for enriching the exchequer. And yet, marriages and the rearing of children did not become more frequent, so powerful were the attractions of a childless state. Meanwhile there was an increase in the number of persons imperilled, for every household was undermined by the insinuations of informers; and now the country suffered from its laws, as it had hitherto suffered from its vices.
And the point of all this? Well, it is interesting. Or so I find. That there were laws against celibacy which could lose you your property reminds us how weird the olde folke were. Which ought to also remind us that reading their words under layers of translation and attempting to understand them is likely to be difficult. By which I mean there's no harm in using a snappy slogan, but attempting, implicitly, to use the authority of Tacitus on your side is dubious. And if there's a motto from Tacitus, it is that individual corruption and loss of morality in public life is fatal; hmmm, what does that bring to mind?

2018-04-29

For out of olde feldes, as men seyth, Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere

Chaucer, of course. Beautiful. Used as a chapter heading by C. S. Lewis in his The Discarded Image; you should read it. But it turns out that a fuller quote (from the prologue to the Parliament of Fowls) is
For out of olde feldes, as men seyth,
Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feyth,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere. 
And that isn't so good. For those with poor early-English skilz, that is:
For out of old fields, as old wives say,
Comes the new corn from year to year,
Just so do old books, seen with new eyes
yield all that is new, that we call Science.
And that I gather was indeed how they thought in those days: the old ways are the best. It's all very Platonic. Nowadays, we regard science as grounded in experiment. Unless you're a string theorist, of course. Wiki provides a dream-like summary, which suggests PoF is about the importance of freedom of will, which would be good. Maybe I'll read it some time. But that brings me to the start of Pof:
The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.
Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne;
Al this mene I be love.
That too is hard, but I'm going to leave it untranslated (there's a version here if you like). The last line tells us it is about love, but it doesn't have to be.

2018-04-25

Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and the displacement of people in East Africa

Assessing the relative contribution of economic, political and environmental factors on past conflict and the displacement of people in East Africa (note: although that link is to nature.com, the journal appears to be Palgrave Communications. This is slightly confusing, but never mind) by Erin Owain & Mark Maslin says
...this study analyses whether climatic changes between 1963 and 2014 impacted the risk of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa... found that climate variations as recorded by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and the global temperature record did not significantly impact the level of regional conflict or the number of total displaced people (TDP). The major driving forces on the level of conflict were population growth, economic growth and the relative stability of the political regimes... Instead, we suggest rapid population growth, low or falling economic growth and political instability during the post-colonial transition were the more important controls...
I've elided a bit there that I'll come back to, but I'm showing the important bit. This via an article on it at the Conversation. I find this unsurprising, because I said much the same in Infertile Crescent: these people's major problem is that their government is crap. As O+M point out, Halvard Buhaug reached much the same conclusions in 2015, and nicely notes that journals and journalists alike appear especially attracted to sensational findings and tabloid conclusions, with the result that researchers are pushed to oversell their findings. Oh, and also it does not follow that a long‐term shift in normal conditions (e.g., a 2°C warmer world) will have the same impact on social systems as a short‐term anomaly of a similar magnitude (2°C above monthly mean). Unfortunately, researchers are often not clear on the distinction between climate variability and climate change, and findings of behavior related to the former are often used as foundation for projecting impacts of the latter. And if you're interested in climate change, and people's vulnerability to it, then In unstable corners of the world, ending violent conflict may be the most efficient and cost‐effective way to improve social resilience to climate change. I seem to have got a bit distracted from O+M, sorry.

Back at O+M: I've just skimmed it. It isn't desperately exciting, I'd say. Their method - take a bunch of things and correlate them against another bunch of things - doesn't seem very powerful, and since there are piles of correlations floating around, some are likely to be significant by chance. The one thing they find is The displacement of people, particularly across international boundaries as refugees, in this region is also shown to be in part driven and exacerbated by intense droughts which can be in part linked to the long-term drying trend that has been ascribed to climate change, which is what I elided from the blockquote, because it's rather minor.

So, there we go. What I thought I already knew is reinforced. If you'd like to be told otherwise, then maybe try Jesse Anttila-Hughes, in particular Different perspectives on climate and conflict.

And to avoid the obvious misunderstanding, neither I nor O+M are suggesting no role for climate change. Just that other things are significantly more important. And also, I'd argue, more fixable. At least in principle. In practice, less so.

Refs


FirstEnergy Seeks Bankruptcy Protection for Ailing Coal and Nuclear Subsidiaries.

2018-04-22

Economics, Law and Ethics

I've been off in the lakes reading literature; and also running badly; so not much blogging. But I've been reading, and recently found Ethics of Mathematics by Light Blue Touchpaper. This is a slightly surprising concept, which is why as he says it is the world’s first conference on ethics in mathematics. But anyway, his contribution is his slides on from his course on Economics, Law and Ethics. This comes with some at-first-sight startling assertions; for example, Economics deals with mechanisms whereby global equilibria emerge from the local behaviour of a number of selfish agents; many of my readers will be happy with his there are many reasons why market mechanisms may fail, or yield an equilibrium that is far from the social optimum; but will be surprised by his Law deals with rules developed to remedy this. But these are interesting perspectives. My own humble opinion is that he is too interested in the things he can do with his maths - prisoners dilemma and so on - and insufficiently interested in the real world. I'm not going to be distracted into writing in detail, though.

Refs


Hayek vs Hobbes and the theory of law
* The rule of law
* Retraction watch: Flawed climate science paper “exposed potential weaknesses” in the peer review process. Harde nonsense.
* Graun: Finland ends UBI trial scheme; but with no explanation.

2018-04-11

Fortran puzzle!

And the puzzle is not "why does anyone use Fortran", because that's unfair. Via James, from Rolf, is the excellent:

CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC
       PROGRAM OBFUSCATE
        CONSTANT = 5.
          INVERSE = 1./CONSTANT
              photo1 = 5.*INVERSE + 5.
                  pH = CONSTANT + 3.
                  X = photo1 * pH
C         strange combination of pH and photolysis...
     GOTO      1
                  X = X + 17.
   1      CONTINUE
        IF (X .LT. 60.) THEN X = X + 7.
      PRINT *,'RESULT=',X
            STOP 
        END
CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC

Hopefully the formatting comes out OK; consult the original if in doubt. The question, of course, is what does the code print, and more importantly exactly why? I'm off to the Lakes for a few days to get rained on, so unless you can work out the answer for yourselves, you'll have to wait till I come back.

Obviously, C would never do anything so odd.

Answer


And the answer, as EFS found, comes in three parts:

1. The easy one is that without IMPLICIT NONE, any variable starting with I (to N) is implicitly an integer, so INVERSE is 0, not 0.2.

2. The first amusing one is that any non-blank character in column 6 is a continuation marker. Comments are discarded, so we have:
      X = photo1 * pH
          OTO      1
and since spaces are also discarded, we actually have
      X = photo1 * pHOTO1
So (since case is also discarded) after that X is 25. To which we add 17, getting 42, of course.

3. Then, lastly, Fortran has a block IF, but also a single-line IF, and
      IF (X .LT. 60.) THEN X = X + 7
can't be a block IF (despite the formatting trying to make the end-of-code "END" look like it's closing), so it's actually
      IF (X .LT. 60.) THENX = X + 7
And so we end up with a variable called THENX with value 49, and X with value 42.


2018-04-04

Monckers him even more back

Monckers him back refers. There's an update to the trove of court dox in the Alsup case1. Most of them are unbearably tedious, and one of those is SPECIAL STATEMENT OF AMICI CURIAE IN REPLY TO RESPONSE BY PLAINTIFF TO MOTION TO FILE AMICI CURIAE BRIEF by Monckers et al. Whatever they're paying Alsup, it can't be enough for reading all this stuff. How he must be regretting the failure of The People to oppose the Amicus Curiae briefs (though the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council wazzocks got rejected for being too late).

The plaintiffs poke at Monckton's peerage, his Birtherism, and the HIV stuff, and M can't help himself from poking back. Charmingly, M demonstrates his hi-tech credentials by providing a "Basic" program. Quite what the court, or his fellow Amicae, make of all this is anyone's guess, but I'll skip over it to focus on me, me, me. Or at least, maybe me. Because M also can't resist whining about Wikipedia:
This matter [Legates vs State Climatologist] is incorrectly recorded at the relentlessly unreliable Wikipedia, where climate campaigners tend to rewrite the biographies of those skeptical of the official position on the climate in such a way as to cast them in a maximally unfavorable light. Any attempt to correct such errors is simply deleted, usually within minutes. One such campaigner has rewritten some 2,000 biographies of skeptical researchers, some of them many times, in each instance with intent unfairly to harm their reputations.
Is he referring to moi? Well who else could it possibly be? But "has rewritten some 2,000 biographies of skeptical researchers" appears to be simply made up; the brief provides no source for the claim. It is somewhat reminiscent of A Child's Garden of Wikipedia, but in that case the relevant 2,000 comes from "When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions." Which is nonsense, as the link shows; but at least it contains the number 2,000.

My best guess is that M made up the 2,000 number, possibly from a hasty skim of the linked article. But suppose one were to try to justify it... how could one? There's no edit counter that records edits to Category:Living People, and anyway that has 800k+ people in it, most of them nothing to do with climate. There's the List of scientists who disagree with the scientific consensus on global warming, but that contains nothing like 2k people.

Other stuff


There's a pile of motions to dismiss. Here's ExxonMobil's version; the joint defendants one is possibly more interesting. I've no idea whether they are likely or not; my guess would be that hizzoner wouldn't have bothered go this far if he was intending to drop the shiny so early.

Oh, god, there's more. Alsup pokes at the responsibility defence, at least that's my interpretation:
Identify and describe all state and federal court decisions sustaining a nuisance theory of
liability based on the otherwise lawful sale of a product where the seller financed and/or
sponsored research or advertising intended to cast doubt on studies showing that use of
the product would harm public health or the environment at large. Also, identify and
describe all decisions rejecting such a theory
And that's just part 1. Part 2 is the same, but in the context of GW. Part 3 asks about Noerr-Pennington. Part 4 is:
If plaintiffs’ theory is correct, why wouldn’t everyone involved in supplying carbonbased
fuels (or in otherwise increasing carbon dioxide, e.g., deforestation) be liable upon
a showing that they questioned the science of global warming or sponsored research
intending to question it?
This one will run and run. However, I do very much approve of the judge posing questions like this.

Refs


Federal, State or Dismissal? Here’s the State of Play in the California Nuisance Lawsuits by the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, part of NAM.

Notes


1. I'm somewhat unsure of the status of that link; I don't think it is official; it seems slow to update. As I write [2018/04/11] these words, insideclimatenews.org has a link to statements they've uploaded (you can tell it is them, not official, because the filenames are non-neutral). They parse BP, Shell and Conoco as agreeing, and Exxon as differing, but I don't think that's really true. All of them tried to say as little as possible, and none of them have any substantive points of difference. The implication of all of them - and (re)stated explicitly by Exxon - is that the case won't be about climate science.

2018-04-03

Who was that masked man?

Dana Nuccitellimasked With glowing red eyes, horns, goat's feet and a pitchfork, smelling of sulphur?It is of course Lucio Noto. And why do we care? Because of EXCLUSIVE: Newly uncovered video shows Mobil CEO admitting climate change connection by ThunkProgress (arch). By-lined As oil companies face numerous climate lawsuits, archival footage contains "significant" statement, experts say. Ah, "experts say". I've heard that one before. And I'm an expert, and I say otherwise. Well, never mind all that, if we discard the attempts to bias your judgement, what is left?

Mostly, we're left with TP rather belatedly picking their brains up off the floor where they've flopped out after exploding at the fallout from the Alsup case, since TP have finally realised that the oil companies aren't going to fight on the science.

As TP say:
Boutrous is arguing that the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions are the result of people burning fossil fuels; the companies should not be held responsible for this portion because all they have done is extract the oil, coal, and gas. But archival video footage of a Mobil Oil meeting seen by ThinkProgress indicates that 20 years ago, employees were raising concerns about the company’s responsibility for climate change...
(my bold). But notice that TP's "but" doesn't make sense. "And" would make sense. "But" would mean that the two sentences in some way contradict or contrast with each other. But they don't. They are entirely compatible; clearly, TP haven't quite scooped all their brains back in yet.

There are various other misrepresentations and misunderstandings in the TP piece, but they're all variations on the same theme. For example:
...Even if you say greenhouse gases are human-caused, we’re only responsible for 5 percent of it. We’re not responsible for everything we put out there; you’re the ones using it. That’s what I understood him to be saying.” This question of responsibility has been a focus of scientists and researchers for several years. In order to link emissions to specific companies, the Carbon Majors Database was set up in 2013 by researcher Richard "Dick" Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute. Heede’s peer-reviewed study featured in the database showed that nearly two thirds of all global emissions can be linked back to just 90 entities — oil and gas companies, coal producers, and cement manufacturers — responsible for extracting most of the fossil fuels burned since the industrial revolution...
(again, my bold). Heede also rather gives his game away. I covered the Heede stuff at the time2. But then, TP didn't say "can be linked back to", they said Ninety Companies Responsible For Two-Thirds Of Global Warming Emissions. What I think TP are rather painfully discovering is that their automatic unthinking "the FF companies dunnit" is open to question (note that I'm not trying to suggest the FF companies were white as snow; they clearly weren't; see-also what-I-said).

Never mind, we've done all this before, you either agree or you don't. Moving on.

What did that nice Mr Noto actually say?


I'm glad you asked. If you listen to the video, do make sure you listen to the full clip, not the artfully cut one. My service to the world will be to transcribe his words (done by listening to Youtube and 0.25 speed, which just about reduces him to my typing speed. I went back a few times, and there are small uncertainties, but I think this is essentially correct). Take it away, Lucio:

There's been a lot of publicity on climate. Some of our employees are very upset about what they think Mobil's negative attitude is on the Kyoto so-called climate agreement. Let's try to put things into perspective. We are not in any way saying that greenhouse gases can be dismissed as a risk or the climate change associated with the build up of greenhouse gases can be dismissed on a scientific basis as a non-event. We think it could potentially be a big issue. We're also not prepared to admit that the science is a closed fact and that we should take draconian steps tomorrow to reduce CO2 gases. We do think that a prudent company should take steps to do what it can on a win-win basis to try to reduce its own and its customers emissions of greenhouse gases as best it can. What is Mobil doing?

[WMC: gloss: not-dismiss-not-draconian is a nice way of putting yourself somewhere in the middle between 0 and 1, but not saying at all where you might be in that space. Prudent-company-win-win is better and shows willing, but of course you should do win-win thing anyway.]

Number one, we started an inventory of gases that we are responsible for in our facilities. And that's probably only 5% of the issue in Mobil's case. Our customers using our products probably account for 95% of those emissions. But with the 5% that we're responsible for we're doing an inventory - the Excom has gotten the board's approval - that if there are projects we can undertake which perhaps don't meet out own internal rate of return standards but do have a major impact on our own emissions of greenhouse gases, we're gonna do them. We think its prudent, we think its responsible to do that.

[This is the bit most interesting for the current case. If you're Mobil then - contra TP - you'll be delighted with the bit, because it shows the not-us-but-you wasn't invented just for the trial, it was what the company thought all along. Also note the bit I've bolded.]

Number two, we are spending money with oil companies and with university institutions to do research on how our customers can use our products more effectively and more economically and more efficiently. It may mean a loss of potential sales in the short term. Very frankly, it doesn't bother me. We think we should do everything possible to make our product environmentally welcome for the 21st century. We wanna make it cleaner. Mobil has taken a lead on trying to take sulphur out of US gasoline. We haven't had support of as many of the API companies as I'd like to see, but we agreed with Brian that if the API doesn't do something significant, we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it on our own. We may not get any benefit for it, we're certainly not gonna get any money for it, but we think its the responsible thing to do, our research says sulphur's a bad actor. And we're prepared to step out on that. Customers are gonna use our products more efficiently, we won't sell as much, but we will cement a value relationship for our bread and butter package of materials and products for the 21st century, that's our obligation.

[Note long-termism.]

Number three, we are prepared to put money into projects like reforestation in some of the countries that we operate in that we think make sense, both from a community contribution point of view and from a greenhouse gas abatement point of view. So we're doing that. We're not doing this just to get kudos, we're not doing this just to have some feel-goodism, we think its good business. But at the same time we will continue to oppose mandates like the ones in Kyoto which make no sense which are no based on sound science and which have potential draconian consequences which absolutely no-one understands. That may make some of our people feel uncomfortable. Too bad. That's where we are. We will not take the BP position that says the science is closed. The science is not. One of the silliest things this Earth could do is to start to adopt a policy which we have available today to try to fight a problem for 2010-2012 instead of waiting for the technology that's going to roll off the boards. So we will continue to be a company that does does what we think is prudent but continues to oppose mandates imposed by politicians who have no idea of the consequences of what they're doing. If you had read president Clinton's speech about what his terms of reference were for the US delegation to the Kyoto convention and if you compared those terms of reference to what was signed in Kyoto by the American delegation you would fire everybody that he sent to Kyoto. Period. And so we're gonna speak out against this. At the White House the other day at a breakfast with secretary Rubin and Erskine Bowles and secretary Daley from commerce and Gene Sperling and we had a rather animated conversation on climate and I said you know there is no smoking gun technology in somebody's draw that you could open and use and suddenly maintain economic growth and and maintain jobs and maintain and the benefits that people have earned and still reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly the thirty to thirty-five percent that you have to reduce them by to meet the Kyoto targets for 2010-12. And they said to me "president Clinton has a word for people like you, he calls them lemon suckers". So I said "yes I'm a lemon sucker then". And one of them said "well you got a few more round this table". This is gonna be an interesting one, you have a bunch of folks who are absolutely committed to doing the right thing, and they think the only way to do it is to set a mandatory line in the sand and force industry to approach it. And if they can't make it so what we'll change the line later on. they don't understand the disruptions that we could start to have in our economy in our company if we start to take action today based on a mandate for 2008-2012 which in investment terms is tomorrow. With the wrong technology at the wrong pace. So Mobil is gonna have a two sided attitude toward climate. If you feel uncomfortable about Mobil's position let us know. We'd like to have your input. We an outside scientific advisory council now which ?Mike Grammidge? put together we met with them coupla weeks ago to talk about climate in general. These are absolute first-quality outside third-party scientists with no axe to grind. They gave us some suggestions as to how we might make our statements clearer so that people would understand them better but I think basically they gave Mobil high points with the program that it had embraced and was subsidising paying for.

[This one is perhaps the most important, and the most likely to be misunderstood. Partly, this is back to Rejecting Climate Change: Not Science Denial, but Regulation Phobia? which I wrote to great acclaim a while back so won't repeat. But more, there is a genuine fear - the fear is genuine I think, you can argue whether it is justified or not - on the part of business folk that, as they see it, the fuckwits from the gummint will finally commit to and attempt something impossible and damaging to their industry. Notice what LN think will happen if the thing turns out to be impossible: he expects the gummint to simply give itself permission not to do the thing after all. But what he fears is the gummint committing and holding him to doing something impossible.]

I'm sorry for that interval but I know a lot of people around the Mobil world have been very concerned about Mobil being too negative. Mobil's negative on Kyoto its a bad deal bad negotiation stupid. Mobil's not negative on taking reasonable steps. Frankly because we don't know enough about how dangerous or undangerous greenhouse gases are so we'll do what we can do in a sensible fashion but continue to oppose mandates.

And there it ends. The insistence on the 2010-ish timeframe is odd, but perhaps it's the Kyoto timeframe.

Other opinion


Other opinion will not be as valuable as mine, of course. But sometimes it is revealing to look at their errors. climateliabilitynews, who I thought might be sane, say A recently discovered video shows Mobil chief executive Lucio Noto admitting in 1998 that the company’s product is responsible for both emissions released during production and emissions released when it is used by consumers which is stupid of them, because he actually says the reverse, as you can see for yourself.

Notes


1. Not Sulfur; I'm English. Also, sorry, I couldn't be bothered to draw in the other bits.

2. I also used the same unfunny joke, too, I see.

Refs


Who were those masked men?
* ExxonMobil: Positioning for a Lower-Carbon Energy Future?
* The courts are deciding who's to blame for climate change - Oil companies? The government? The public? All of the above share the blame". Dana Nuccitelli in the Graun; perhaps they're starting to get a clue.

2018-04-02

The Climate Change Hypocrisy Of Jet-Setting Academics?

Via Sou, who sources WUWT and HuffPo. I recall discussing air travel recently, but can't see where1 (Climate Chickenhawks probably applies). Somewhere during that discussion came the assertion that global flying is only 2% of global CO2; I can find that sourced in wiki from 1992; and via ATAG to current-but-unclear. Can it really not have grown, as a proportion, in more than two decades? Theconversation, whilst linking to the 2% figure from ATAG, nonetheless says 2.5%, and worries that it will increase. Never mind. I think I shall assume that whilst globally small it can be a significant factor for some individuals or groups, and that academics are one of the groups that it could be significant for.

Aanyway, I don't want to rehash the whole conversation, but I do want to comment on Sou's

Now I don't know about you, but I've never tried to hold a phone or Skype conversation with more than about 15 people at a time, twenty max I think. I've attended lots of teleconferences and web-based discussions lately, and with almost all of them there have been communications difficulties. Even today one cannot be confident that simple telephony will work for everyone for a couple of hours. Most of the electronic meetings involving 10 to 15 people have suffered with static/hiss, drop-outs, difficulties with web-documents and so forth. To hold a conversation with upwards of 30 people is quite a challenge, let alone gatherings of hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of people.

This is classic "perfect substitution threshold" stuff: we won't accept your new way of doing things, unless it does all the old things, and better. But why would you want to do this? The current way of holding conferences - correct me if the world has evolved in the ten years since I left Science - is that a pile of people turn up in a place and so you have to work out what to do with this pile of people, and the obvious thing is to dump them in a lecture theatre and have them be lectured at. There are usually poster sessions, coffee breaks, breakout sessions and so on; but conferences are usually built around the armature of lectures.

And yet time after time people report that the most productive part of conferences is meeting and talking to individuals. Sometimes because you've been sparked by something in their lecture, sometimes by some other chance or design. The idea, in this day and age, that you need to go to a conference to read someone's presentation is absurd; they are all online, or could be, far more conveniently.

And so if you were going to re-invent conferences online, there's no reason why you'd want to replicate the current format, or anything close to it. There are various obstacles in the way of Nirvana, of course. The linked articles note that going to lots of conferences is one marker of status. Not mentioned - but the reason that I mostly went - is that it is of course fun to go to foreign places with someone else paying. There's also the huge academic inertia of the current conference circuit.

Notes


1. Probably chez ATTP, though I didn't join the conversation.

Refs


How much would we have to adjust our lifestyle to stop global warming?

2018-03-31

A little bit more climate suing stuff

sx Following on from More climate suing stuff, Alsup, and Who knew what when with a side order of Para 67, there's a period of rest for the court, so let punditry thriveStanford law and science experts discuss court case that could set precedent for climate change litigation is mostly good, but with key problems.

The tutorial revealed that there is not going to be a lot of fighting about the fact that human activities are causing accelerated climate change is true, and it seems to have been a rather efficient and trouble free process. Why do you think both sides are largely in agreement on the science? gets the obvious answer "because both sides are using the same source, viz the IPCC"1. But it isn't quite obvious: Chevron could perhaps have chosen to quibble it. I'm glad they didn't; it would be stupid and unsustainable and messy; and as I've been saying for years, there are better fields to fight on. Which brings us to:

What can science tell us about whether companies or individuals are more responsible for climate change-related impacts? Mach: Science doesn’t have a single best answer... but no no no no: the correct answer is that this isn't a scientific question. Mach is apparently a research scientist, so it is perhaps natural that she attempt to provide a scientific answer, diverting over to current versus historical emissions. But that's not the line of defence that Chevron has put forward; they have put forward the rather more fundamental "FF companies producing FFs don't cause GW, people burning FFs provided to them by FF companies cause GW".

Another interesting point that strikes me, now, is that Chevron put forward a lawyer saying "we accept the IPCC". The cities put forward some well-known scientists. It was a climate tutorial, so perhaps that was fair enough, but the cities will need to pivot somewhat away from the science, if it isn't going to be a point of contention. They can't win the case on the science.

There's a nod to the propaganda aspect: the plaintiffs must show that a 50-year or whatever delay caused by the industry cover-up is the cause of damages that they are experiencing today. That’s a tall order. And speculation: testing out legal theories and strategies designed to shake the country out of its complacency and highlight the need for much more urgent and robust action.

Meanwhile, elsewhere


There's a case involving a Gorette in Roxbury, wherein Judge Mary Ann Driscoll found the defendants not responsible, saying she agreed with their argument that their actions were necessary to combat climate change... “Based on the very heartfelt expressions of the defendants who believe, and I don’t question their beliefs in any respect, who believe in their cause because they believe they were entitled to invoke the necessity defense, I’ll accept what they said,” which reads pretty weirdly to me. The idea that you can get off due to the sincerity of your belief is odd; but it was a minor case, and their "crime" had already been downgraded to parking-ticket status. But despite quasi-diligent searching I can't find the actual court proceedings, or even discover the actual case name.

[Update: astonishingly, there is some intelligent comment at WUWT on the issue.]

Notes


1. With quibbles, of course. Chevron are hewing to the conservative IPCC line; and getting a lot of flak from their opponents for not using post-IPCC-AR5 science; but this is trivia, in the great scheme of things. Indeed, it begins to seem more like a knee-jerk from people who simply knew they were going to find something in the science Chevron presented to disagree with.


Refs


Climate Change Movement Retreats to California Courts
* Space-X: Iridium-5