Saturday, May 23, 2015

California Democratic Party convention becomes first to call for climate divestment

I was at the party convention when it happened last weekend, but worked on campaign finance disclosure rather than divestment (disclosure got supported too). It's good news:

The California Democratic Party approved a sweeping resolution on Sunday to drop fossil fuel stocks from the state's two major public pension funds, valued at about $500 billion.  
The party also wants the state's 33 public universities to purge such investments from their $12 billion in total endowments. The resolution will not likely result in new legislative action soon.  
However, it could generate enough support among the Democratic majority to pass a less aggressive divestment bill, Senate Bill 185, working its way through the state legislature. Beyond California, this resolution adds to the fast-growing momentum of the fossil fuel divestment movement, which kicked off on college campuses in 2011 and has spread to cities and major corporations worldwide.  
Before the final vote, RL Miller, chair of the California Democratic Party's environmental caucus and author of the resolution, delivered a one-minute speech. In an interview with InsideClimate News she recounted her message: "The world is watching...We need to send a moral message that California will not invest in those businesses that burn our planet in the name of profit and this resolution is that message. Divestment from South Africa helped bring down the system of apartheid and [divestment] will likewise bring down our dependence on fossil fuels. And further, [the] passage of this resolution will help pass Senate Bill 185."

AFAICT and from asking around, it's the first party convention to do this. I was surprised at the lack of coverage originally, but a little more has leaked out over the last few days.

This helps mainstream the divestment movement and show the party leadership where its activist base is coming from. We'll see what happens in coming months.

I've heard from South Africa divestment veterans that climate divestment is happening at a more rapid pace - I guess it depends on whether the starting point for South Africa was 1977 or 1984. Regardless, climate divestment is at least comparable.

UPDATE:  wiki says the South Africa divestment movement got 53 educational institutions to fully or partly divest in 1984, 127 in 1987, and 155 in 1988, so there are some markers to measure against. The link at the top says about two dozen universities have done some form of climate divestment so far.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Falling out of the clown car, down the stairs and into the electric eel pond.

I don't have much to say beyond go read how the $2m lawsuit against John Mashey by luckwarmists didn't go well. It's a heartwarming tale, and congrats to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund for their great work.

My one semi-serious comment is that this is the quality of the opposition. We ought to be kicking their butts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Sound of Global Climate Change

From the University of Minnesota, Daniel Crawford, Scott St. George and GISSTemp comes

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Climate Club Adopts Eli Rabett's Simple Plan

In the New York Review of Books, William Nordhaus(the intelligent one, not Ted of the BTI) looks Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planetby Gernot Wagner and Martin L. Weitzman. Nothing in the review and book will come as a surprise to bunnies who have been paying attention.  Nordhaus discusses the three themes of the book, that attempts to control climate change have a serious free rider issue, that tail risks must dominate any discussion of policy to deal with climate change and that geo-engineering to control climate change has serious risks that make it inadvisable (see, Eli can be nice).

The free rider issue is the key to action,
If the fat tails of climate change are perilous, and geoengineering is itself a dangerous solution, what remains? Here, Wagner and Weitzman largely follow the standard economists’ prescription: “Stick it to carbon.” We might think that capitalism is the problem because economic growth has led to rising emissions. But, they argue, a modified invisible hand is the only workable solution: “It’s capitalism with all its innovative and entrepreneurial powers that is our only hope of steering clear of the looming climate shock.” 
 and Nordhaus has another suggestion
The major challenge for climate policy is to overcome free-riding. The answer, I would suggest, is to rethink the design of climate treaties. We can look at successful treaties such as the European Union, the World Trade Organization, or military alliances as models for a more promising climate treaty.The essence of these successful treaties is the “club model.” A club is a voluntary group deriving mutual benefits from sharing the costs of producing an activity. Members get the benefits but also pay the dues. The benefits of a successful club are sufficiently large that members will pay dues and adhere to club rules in order to gain them. If we look at successful international clubs, we might see the seeds of an effective international system to deal with climate change.

I recently described a possible Climate Club in the American Economic Review.4 Under the club rules, participating countries would undertake harmonized but costly emissions reductions. For example, they might agree that each country would implement policies that produce a minimum domestic carbon price of $40 per ton of CO2. The easiest way to raise the price is through a carbon tax, but countries might prefer other approaches such as setting quantitative limits on emissions, or hybrid approaches.

A crucial aspect of the club is that countries who are outside the club—and do not share in the burden of emissions reductions—are penalized. Penalties for those outside the club are central to the club mechanism, and penalties are the major difference from all other proposals from Kyoto to the upcoming meeting in Paris. Economic modeling indicates that the most promising penalty is uniform percentage tariffs on the imports of nonparticipants into the club region. A country considering whether to undertake costly abatement would have to weigh those costs against the potentially larger costs of reduced trade with countries in the club.
This, of course, is Eli Rabett's Simple Plan to Save the World, proposed in 2007
Nations wishing to make major progress on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions should introduce emission taxes on all products. These taxes should be levied on imports as well as domestic goods at the point of sale, and should displace other taxes, such as VAT, sales taxes, and payroll (e.g. social security, health care) in such a way that tax revenues are constant, and distributed equitably. 
These should be introduced as an Emissions Added Levy (avoiding the bad jokes). EAL would be imposed on sale for emissions added in the preceding step and inherent to the consumption of the product, as would be the case for heating oil and gasoline. Manufacturers would pay the EAL on electricity they bought, and incorporate this and the levy on emissions they created into the price of the product they sell.

Imports from countries that do not have an EAL would have the full EAL imposed at the time of import. The base rate would be generic EALs based on worst previous practices in the countries that do have EALs, which would be reduced on presenting proof that the actual emissions were lower.

All countries with EAL systems would reserve a portion (say 5%) for assisting developing countries with adaptations (why not use acclimations?) and mitigating programs.

By basing the levy on emissions rather than carbon all greenhouse gases stand on a common level, sequestration is strongly encouraged as well as such simple things as capturing methane from oil wells and garbage dumps (that gets built into the cost of disposal). The multipliers would come from CO2 equivalents on a 10 year basis.

The process can be effective without across the board agreement which means the ability of countries such as the US to bargain the process down is decreased. Further, early adopters will control the process and establish the base rates in concert. Imagine a world wide EAL system controlled by the early adapters. The Simple Plan will advantage them and the world.
Paul Krugman adopted the Simple Plan in 2014, and now Nordhaus comes on board. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Heartland Institute - Convenient Cognitive Dissonance

Coal at any cost to help the poor of Africa and elsewhere has become the cudgel of climate change denial.  Led by Bjorn Lomborg the usual suspects, who never otherwise really gave a moments worth of notice for the people of the developing world, have tried it on.

Eli, Eli is a museum goer, and has seen the pollution and illness caused by burning coal in the world both in pictures from the 19th century and in person. Eli thinks that the developing world does not have to replicate the mistakes and misery the developed world suffered through to get to where it is, which is not such a bad place. The developing world does not need telephone poles, they have cell phones and working cell phone systems.  The same cannot so clearly be said about their centralized electrical generation and distribution systems.  Mini-networks based on solar and wind have many advantages.

So, how bad is it out there in China, whose energy economy is built on coal?  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, prints a letter from a reader about the quality of life there and economic growth

I believe the macro-level statistics and phenomena you discuss are all trailing indicators. I left China with my family almost five years ago as a large number of interrelated quality-of-life issues became increasingly unbearable. Those factors have continued to worsen since then at an accelerating rate, to the point where the economy is now largely driven by people trying to earn or steal enough money to leave.

The once-thriving expat community in Beijing has shriveled to nearly nothing. The cost of living is approaching world-capital (NY, London, Tokyo, etc.) levels for a  miserable existance. The local culture has become increasingly desperate and cutthroat. And Beijing is one of the more attractive places in China to live, work, and raise a family.

People, generally, and Chinese especially, will tolerate all sorts of deprivation in service of a better future for their children. And that is largely what has driven the rapid pace of Chinese development since the end of the Cultural Revolution and the beginning of Deng Xiaoping's opening and reform policies. My feeling is that biggest challenge ahead for China is when the population at large concludes that a better future for their children is no longer in the cards.

When it happens, it will happen gradually, then suddenly. And what happens after that, no one can say, but a continuation of the policies driving hyper-accelerated GDP growth over all else probably isn't it.
It is this sort of misery that lead to the Chinese pledges on climate action for the upcoming Paris talks.

The Rabett's friends at the Heartland Institute, on the other hand, have again shown their adherence to the hypocrats oath.  They too have taken up the Lomborgian call for more coal now, more coal tomorrow, and more coal forever
These policies prolong reliance on open fires fueled by wood and dung. They mean families are denied lights, refrigeration and other benefits of electricity, and millions die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, and other effects of rampant poverty. With hydrocarbons still providing 82% of the world’s energy – and China, India and other rapidly developing countries building numerous coal-fired generating plants – retarding Africa’s development in the name of preventing climate chaos is useless and immoral.
But, of course, the US EPA's new regulations for cleaner burning wood stoves, is to the Heartlanders, an abomination
According to University of Houston professor Larry Bell, “80 percent of wood-burning stoves currently used by homeowners [do not meet the new standards.]”

Close to 2.5 million homes in the United States, 2 percent of all households, use wood as a primary heating source, a figure that has increased 38 percent since 2004. Another 8 percent of households use wood as a secondary heating source.
Of course, the smoke from burning biofuels for cooking and heating indoors, according to the Heartlanders, does nothing in the US, nothing.  Indoor air pollution from burning biofuels only kill Africans and Indians who don't burn Matt "King Coal" Ridley's special blend healing coal.
When EPA proposed the rule in 2014, Stonehill College professor Sean Mulholland submitted comments stating there are “several reasons to be skeptical of the level of benefits claimed from this regulation.” He cited literature questioning the link between particulate matter and mortality, and he criticized EPA for assessing benefits based on national averages rather than accounting for local variability. 
Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, says the link between particulate matter and health problems is not as clear-cut as the agency claims.

“Does [a wood stove] cause smoke? Yeah, of course it does,” Arnold said. “And has that got particulate matter in it? Of course it does. Is it killing everybody? No, it’s not. Is it making everybody sick? No, it’s not. Do some people get sick? Yeah. Is that what’s causing it? Well, EPA says it is, but we really don’t know. But we’ve got predatory scientists who will say it is.”

Critics point out EPA’s new rules will place an increasing financial burden on poor and rural residents who rely on wood stoves as their primary source of heat.
The echos of convenient cognitive dissonance fills the sky.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bjorn Lomborg demonstrates why universities should steer clear of him

Hat tip:  Greg Laden

Australia's do-nothing-on-climate government attempted to foist luckwarmist Lomborg on University of Western Australia, with a sweetener of a $4 million to take him. UWA's administration bent the knee so enthusiastically that they faceplanted, with the actual academics rising up successfully against having this guy join them.

While there are countless reasons why Lomborg doesn't belong at a university, his cover-up of how his "consensus" analysis deliberately underplays the impact of climate emissions shows the lack of honesty that should stop any university from associating with him. It's not just underplaying, it's how he covers up what he's done.

Here's the exchange in Danish newspapers (emphasis added, some typos corrected):

Kare Fog, a critic of Lomborg:
....Lomborg will presumably refer to his Copenhagen Consensus conference, where it is shown with - seemingly - matter-of-fact cost/benefit calculations that it pays better to solve other problems than global warming..... 
[The audience members] do not know that the figures have arisen by discounting calculations and that Lomborg has cheated in these calculations. He has used one discount rate for climate projects, and another discount rate for the remaining projects. 
 If he had used the same rate for all projects, an endeavour for the climate would have appeared much higher on the ranking list; it would have obtained a more favourable cost/benefit ratio than the endeavours against tuberculosis, malaria, child diseases and heart diseases....

Lomborg responding some days later:
Kåre Fog writes...that we in Copenhagen Consensus have "cheated with the calculations", because we have used one rate of interest for climate projects and another rate of interest for the remaining projects. 
This is simply wrong. Indeed, our Nobel laureates have stressed the importance of using the same rate of interest for all projects (which naturally is also the only fair approach), and this yields that solely CO2 cuts are an extraordinarily poor way of helping future generations....

Fog responds again:
....There really have been used different rates of interest. This appears from the papers in the Copenhagen consensus conference, and it has also been confirmed to me by one of the climate economists of the conference, Richard Tol.... Jamison´s text on diseases and in Horton´s text on malnutrition they will see that there has been used a discount rate of 3 percent (as prescribed by Lomborg) (the rate of discount is easily found by searching for the word "discount" in the text). But if they enter the climate papers, they will see that Yohe et al. has a discount rate of 4 to 5 percent, and Green has a discount rate of 4 percent.... 
[Green's] climate project gives a benefit/cost ratio of approximately 16 when he uses 4 percent, but if he uses 3 percent, like in the health projects, this yields a ratio of no less than 28.5.... 
So what does Lomborg do to ensure that the climate projects do not look so favorable? He has them evaluated at a more unfavorable rate of interest....

And then Lomborg again:
...KF claims that the health paper uses only a low rate of interest of 3%. This is wrong; on page 60 it clearly apears that the paper also evaluates a high 6 percent rate of interest.....all papers were asked to evaluate all projects at both 3 percent and 6 percent. In some fields, for instance the climate models, this is extraordinarily cumbersome, and therefore the climate economists chose one rate of interest "in the middle" and made a qualitative evaluation of the estimates at higher and lower rates of interest.
....all the papers have presented, as well as it is possible, costs and benefits for a range between 3 and 6 percent rate....the Nobel laureates insist on thereafter prioritizing all solutions at the same, consistent rate of interest.

Finally, the last from Fog:
....It is a rather large detective work to unravel how the calculations have been made, and especially it is unclear - remarkably unclear - how Lomborg has arrived from the particular cost/benefit calculations to the final ranking list.  
....It is actually true that all other projects than the climate projects have applied a rate of discount of three percent. In addition one has also worked out what the result would be with six percent, but the result of these supplementary calculations has not been used to rank the projects ...[Lomborg] has compared the profitability of non-climate-projects with a rate of three percent and of climate-projects with a rate of four-to-five percent. 
If the climate- and non-climate projects had been calculated with the same rate of interest, investment in climate technology would rank higher than vitamin A supplementation....Thus it must also be maintained that the project calculations are not comparable and that the ranking in Copenhagen Consensus is not worth the paper it is printed on.  
 I have actually waited for a long time when Lomborg would include this detail about the extra six percent as his next step in the process of confusing people....

None of this would have come out if Fog hadn't been as tenacious and knowledgeable, and if the Danish paper hadn't been willing to let the dialog happen. I expect in the vast majority of situations, Lomborg's initial denial would've been the end of it. He's another Benny Peiser, saying something he knows to be wrong when it's possible that the audience doesn't know.

My question for a university dean pondering whether to take the money and have Lomborg on campus is this:  does Lomborg's second response demonstrate whether his first response is honest? That first response demonstrates the quality of work you should expect. Then decide whether the money to take him in is enough.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sites of Seepage Infection

Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell, and Michael Smithson have published  “Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community” in Global Environmental Change (open access, but link is not live yet.  Email Stephan for copies), the thesis of which is that

Climate scientists have done an admirable job pursuing their science under great political pressure, and they have tirelessly rebutted pseudoscientific arguments against their work. Nonetheless, being human, scientists’ operate with the same cognitive apparatus and limitations as every other person. In consequence, it is important to be aware of the factors that may cause scientists to take positions that they would be less likely to take in the absence of outspoken public opposition. We refer to this phenomenon as seepage.
This thesis, that denialist mems have been forced into the literature by their ubiquity in the public sphere, a ubiquity induced by a well funded political and public relations effort from a small number of sources, is well explored in the paper (RTFR).  The short form can be found at Shaping Tomorrow's World.

There has been unhappiness with this paper.  The bunnies admire Stephan's touch.  Eli thinks it was John Mashey who pointed out that if we are conducting an experiment in atmospheric physics that everyone is part of, everything that everybunny does is test tube fodder for a social psychologist.

Sou started to dissect the response, when Richard Betts walked into the room at ATTP, so Sou took him apart and Richard Tol let on that he was color blind, which explains a few gremlins and there are various comments worth reading or not all over the place.  However, and there is always a however at Rabett Run, Eli has a thought about the agents of seepage.

While a bunny can always find a journal to hand over her or his publication charge money to, and arXiv exists, entry to CNS journals (the holey trinity of biomed, Cell Nature Science) is controlled by the nomenklatura and novelty is the password, that and being a member of the tribe.  CNS, etc., Eli will grant Cell an honorary membership here, journals are controlled by a small number of editors and function on both public and a professional levels.

These editors are both always look for "what's happening now" papers, and the papers that get published there get looked at by a broad variety of folk, especially if the editors pick one out for a brief, less technical, explication by a BSD (go ask Drug Monkey what that means, this is a family blog).  Taken together that makes CNS articles subject to retractions more than the rest.

Yes, there are ignorable rate journals like JPANDs or E&E or Modern Physics B where anything and everything is published, and specialty journals which will take anything that makes their specialty look important, like Solar Physics, which will take anything that makes solar cycles or cosmic rays look more important than they are, but you have to push the meme into the top journals before it seeps over into general scientific discourse.  Scientists as a group are politically oblivious.  Eli remembers sitting with a British top rate scientist at lunch and pointing out to him that Britain does not have a written constitution.  This surprised him.  Ms. Rabett would say Eli is generally oblivious.

OTOH, it also makes CNS the prime sites for seepage injection and once CNS start to leak, than other journals will join in.  The same argument can be made for funding agencies, program managers look for novelty to justify their programs.  One of the hardest things on a panel (and Eli has done this many times) is to argue for "number gathering".  That everybunny needs the numbers cuts little ice, that the mission of the funding agency is to number gather, cuts even less (well the Rabett team succeeds on occasion, but never enough).  Witness last year's problems keeping the Scripps Mauna Loa measurement program running.