Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mother Nature is Not Sitting Idle

She doesn’t do politics — only physics, biology and chemistry. And if they add up the wrong way, she will take them all down.
Here’s my bet about the future of Sunni, Shiite, Arab, Turkish, Kurdish and Israeli relations: If they don’t end their long-running conflicts, Mother Nature is going to destroy them all long before they destroy one another.
Tom Friedman (and Eli usually has not much use for Tom Friedman, the definition of conventional wisdom being what Friedman hallucinates in cabs), has noticed that physics, biology and chemistry have the last word and the ecological soup of sciences has been quite poisonous lately in the Middle East, thanks to the global cooks.

Friedman has been reading the news, and notes that this summer has brought unprecidentedly high temperatures and humidity, approaching the 37 C heat stroke barrier, above which all die, and that coupled with bad generation and distribution of electricity has made air-conditioning a rumor in Iran, Iraq and other places.  The heat killed more people in Pakistan this year than terror attacks

Ministers have been fired, riots in the street have happened. and it is the water supply too
see Syria: Its revolution was preceded by the worst four-year drought in the country’s modern history, driving nearly a million farmers and herders off the land, into the cities where the government of Bashar al-Assad completely failed to help them, fueling the revolution.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Brother Tap

Coal collapse and the first burst carbon bubble

The last few months have seen major bankruptcies among American coal companies and the near-elimination of the market value for the rest over the last 5 years (another Hockey Stick, except mirror-imaged and with the stick part also tilted down). What hasn't changed much is the amount of coal reserves these companies have. To the extent that these companies had been valued based on the reserves they own, usually the major component of their value, then the climate divestment argument that fossil fuel stocks are overvalued by a carbon bubble gets a lot of support. The market appears to be saying that a lot of that coal these companies own is now worthless and will stay in the ground.

I shouldn't overplay that argument as it applies to climate divestment. A number of these companies took on a lot of debt several years ago buying other coal companies and their reserves in a bet that there would be a major expansion in coal usage - a bad bet. The low-to-negative valuation reflects that debt in part, not a market assessment that all of their reserves are staying in the ground. OTOH, even before these purchases the coal companies had a much higher valuation, so if you assume that the recent coal acquisition is balanced out by recent debt, you still have to explain why the all the coal owned by the companies from prior years is valued so low.

Some parts of the bankrupt companies are still profitable under current law that allows them to impose pollution costs upon neighbors and the entire planet, so some of their reserves will get used. We might have a better idea based on the valuation when they emerge from bankruptcy and can see then whether the carbon bubble in coal bounces back.

This is a pretty useful example for climate divestment. Six years ago no one could have predicted it. While natural gas had started its expansion, everyone expected unabated demand in China and India. Now it's much more up in the air, and meanwhile the bankruptcy papers are shaking out some interesting connections between climate denialists and previously undisclosed coal funders.

During the years that natural gas got primary credit for driving out coal, the renewable industry grabbed nearly half as much away from coal (see page 3, and good reference on coal's problems in general). That trend can accelerate.

One other question is whether climate divestment played a role in coal's trouble. You hear zero credit given to the movement, which I think is slightly unfair. When I'm watching a random business cable channel and see a discussion of the carbon bubble, I think divestment helped highlight that. And while I'm no stock expert, I don't see a lot of opportunistic buying of the still-standing companies even though you can get them over 90% cheaper than they used to be - as divestment grows and increasingly focuses on coal, it can help create uncertainty that blocks funding for the companies.

What Climate Change Adaptation Looks Like

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Rick Piltz's Legacy

Eli's friend Rick Piltz passed away last fall.  In keeping with his wishes that Climate Science Watch continue it's work, his heirs, both family and professional have worked with the Government Accountability Project to launch his successor site the   Climate Science and Policy Watch.  His wife, Karen Metchis put it plainly

 "Among Rick's last wishes was his hope that his fight for the integrity of science against the climate deniers would continue. He recognized the need to protect our children's future from those who would sacrifice it for short term gain by denying the coming calamities if climate change goes unaddressed. It is gratifying to me to see Rick’s work continue. He always believed that GAP’s mission helping others reveal the truth fills an essential role.”
Michael Termini who worked with Rick at CSW and GAP is the interim director
"Rick was crystal clear about his expanded vision and where the effort needed to go, given the high-ground he and his team had achieved over the years with Climate Science Watch. After months of preparation by a team of contributors, composed of experts and colleagues Rick had mentored and worked with, today's launch is the first step in realizing that vision. Following his precise guidance, it is my privilege to lead the charge Rick sounded."
CSPW sees the continuing Climate Science Watch as its outreach to the public, but its primary work as within the government to oppose the obscurantists and highlight the contradictions within the current administration's policies.

 Welcome back

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Open Thread - Meta Climate Division

Some things which caught Eli's Eye, but, it being summer, only a few comments from the meadow are likely.

- Andy Revkin don't take criticism lightly and is not above manipulating a few words to benefit his self image.  As the bunnies may remember, Andy blog posted an unsolicited review of the Hansen, et al we (or at least our grandkids) may die unless we do something paper, and both Eli, and Hansen, et al, had some comments on Andy's review.   

We were aware of those papers but included in our discussion only those mechanisms that could plausibly account for the relevant geological features. Our overall objective, improved insight about the threat of sea level rise and storminess posed by global warming, requires integrated analysis of information from paleoclimate and geologic studies, global modeling, and observations of modern climate change – together constituting a substantial undertaking. Thus we limited marginally pertinent material to avoid an unacceptably long paper. 
Which pretty much aligns with dsquared's comment on Twitter:  "devastating critique" is my word for when half-bright self-appointed science police get on the case of actual researchers.  Not that there aren't issues with this paper.  Hansen's POV is that Weitzman was right and what bunnies should be concerned about are the outliers, and here they are.  One may argue that he doesn't balance enough (on the other hand, that maybe Gentleman Jim is leaving this for others like Matty Hoerling).

Of course, Andy Revkin is defined by his control of NYTimes real estate, and he is not one to leave sleeping bunnies lie on the the beach when he can control the dialog.  In a rather meandering apologia he highlights his piece, buries the first submitted solicited review from David Archer, in the 10th paragraph or so, and highlights in the first a later, more critical review from Peter Thorne in the first paragraph.  Make, no mistake, both the Archer and Thorne reviews were professional and useful to both the handling editor, the authors and current and later readers of the paper.

Archer's bottom line is that there are warts, but "This is another Hansen masterwork of scholarly synthesis, modeling virtuosity, and insight, with profound implications".  Both Archer and Thorne have problems with the sprawling nature of the paper.  Archer concludes " Due to its important conclusions, primarily about the ice sheet melting climate feedback, I expect this paper will be widely read, but it will make its readers work for it".  Thorne, OTSH is really uncomfortable with the food fight that broke out and the length of the paper "The paper is of inordinate length closer to a thesis than a scientific paper in nature", and really really uncomfortable with the voice of the paper and the blog post like advocacy that he sees.

Both reviews, as well as the paper, deserve serious discussion.  On balance (there Eli goes again), Thorne has a strong argument that the paper may fit Climate of the Past better.

But the best part of Andy's review of the review, is his "re-outing" tamino and walking it back
One last thought. Perhaps Tamino can step out from behind the shield of anonymity (which too often fuels vitriol) and confirm if he is indeed Grant Foster (quoted on Climate Central).* Foster has published quite a bit on climate, including with Stefan Rahmstorf, a leader of that 2014 review of experts on sea-level rise that is a far cray from what the new paper is projecting. 
And we are both musicians, it seems. Although that perhaps doesn’t go well with the rigor “Tamino” requires in paper reviewers. 
Footnote, July 30, 11:30 p.m. | * I added a link to an Open Mind post in which the blogger known as Tamino acknowledges he is Grant Foster.
From this Eli concludes that Andy Revkin will defend his position in the nomenklatura to the last barrel of ink.

Open Thread - Science Division

Some things which caught Eli's Eye, but, it being summer, only a few comments from the meadow are likely.

- A really interesting paper in Climate of the Past Discussions, a collaboration between the PAGES2K (turbo proxy reconstructions) and PIMP3  PMIP3 (modeling of the past) groups "Continental-scale temperature variability in PMIP3 simulations and PAGES 2k regional temperature reconstructions over the past millennium" which will not bring smiles in certain quarters.  Warning, it is another Hansen, et al seventy pager.  To quote from the abstract:

Here, the recent set of temperature reconstructions at the continental scale generated by the PAGES 2k project and the collection of state-of-the-art model simulations driven by realistic external forcings following the PMIP3 protocol are jointly analysed. The first aim is to estimate the consistency between model results and reconstructions for each continental-scale region over time and frequency domains. Secondly, the links between regions are investigated to determine whether reconstructed global-scale covariability patterns are similar to those identified in model simulations. The third aim is to assess the role of external forcings in the observed temperature variations. From a large set of analyses, we conclude that models are in relatively good agreement with temperature reconstructions for Northern Hemisphere regions, particularly in the Arctic. This is likely due to the relatively large amplitude of the externally forced response across northern and high latitudes regions, which results in a clearly detectable signature in both reconstructions and simulations. Conversely, models disagree strongly with the reconstructions in the Southern Hemisphere.
It is not clear whether one should trust the models or the reconstructions, if for no other reason than there are fewer proxy's from the South.  Get busy.

- And indeed some have.  In a related development Sigi and about twenty others, settle the issue of when volcanic  eruptions took place in the past by aligning ice core proxy records.   "Timing and climate forcings of volcanic eruptions for the past 2,500 years"(no open source at the moment) provides a huge lever for the paleoclimate types to move their work forward on both the physical and historical levels.
Volcanic eruptions contribute to climate variability, but quantifying these contributions has been limited by inconsistencies in the timing of atmospheric volcanic aerosol loading determined from ice cores and subsequent cooling from climate proxies such as tree rings. Here we resolve these inconsistencies and show that large eruptions in the tropics and high latitudes were primary drivers of interannual-to-decadal temperature variability in the Northern Hemisphere during the past 2,500 years. Our results are based on new records of atmospheric aerosol loading developed from high-resolution, multi-parameter measurements from an array of Greenland and Antarctic ice cores as well as distinctive age markers to constrain chronologies. Overall, cooling was proportional to the magnitude of volcanic forcing and persisted for up to ten years after some of the largest eruptive episodes. Our revised timescale more firmly implicates volcanic eruptions as catalysts in the major sixth-century pandemics, famines, and socioeconomic disruptions in Eurasia and Mesoamerica while allowing multi-millennium quantification of climate response to volcanic forcing.
Variation in timing smears out and diminishes the effects of large eruptions and disappears that of smaller ones.  This new work, and aligning it with PAGES2K certainly requires a re-evaluation of Maas and Portman who in 1989 concluded that only the effects of the larges eruptions could be seen in the climate record records.

IEHO comparison of PAGES2K regional reconstructions using the Sigi et al chronology will allow major progress in identifying the sites of the smaller (and some of the larger) eruptions as well as refining estimates of global and regional volcanic forcings.  This, in turn will drive progress in paleoclimate modeling as well as estimation of immediate and equilibrium climate sensitivity.

Consider this an open thread.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Time Series Homeopathy

Recently Doug Keenan has again taken up the cudgels against the Met Office with backing from the usual suspects and indeed, the Met Office has taken a decision not to engage further.  While the Met Office thinks that some things Keenan says are interesting and very brave, with the greatest respect and they will hear what he says and bear it in mind, well, they choose not to devote further time to dealing with him.  A feature of these attacks are Keenan's claims that the best time series analysts tend to be in finance (see comment).  This, of course, is something that Richard Tol also firmly believes, giving rise to an hilarious disputation over at ATTP.

Eli has thought about this for a while and concluded that Keenan's claims about time series analysts in the financial industry are a clear reference to chartists, which happen to be the homeopaths of stock pricing.  There is no there there, only a few lucky winners when they roll up the sidewalks

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The End of This Road

Many have remarked about how hot the world is this year.  Not too surprising given the shift to a strong El Nino, with the global temperature anomaly moving up.  Some have proclaimed it the end of the "hiatus"
whatsoever the hiatus may be.

Ethically this is a problem.  While Eli has always warned that global warming driving climate change is a sure thing, or as close to sure as you get these days, the outcomes are not going to be pretty.  Many people are going to be seriously hurt, so what should one's attitude towards those who have spent their time belittling the IPCC, and climate science, and preaching delay in one sauce or another.

Not simple.  Eli is of the opinion that reminding comes before forgiveness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


RWE (Rheinisch-Westfälischen Elektrizitätswerk) is one of the largest electrical power companies in biggest soft coal (aka dirt or lignite) mining operations in the world.  It is also home base for Fritz Varenholt, one of Germany's most active solar fans (nonono, not wind energy, he don't like that or solar power either, but the sun, the sun, not greenhouse gases are the thing for Fritz).  Anyhow RWE is in big trouble because of the Energiewende, folks are not paying as much for what they make because they are using less of it and RWE is deep into coal and gas power generators.
Germany and operators of one of the largest lignite (brown coal, aka dirt) mines in the world

The Sueddeutsche brings news of a major reorganization typical of a failing concern that had overexpanded in the fat times.  Many of the 100 formerly more or less independently operating subsidiaries, with their own boards, are being hovered up into 32 and what is left will be directly controlled by the mothership. The command module will, of course, expand.  The large pink elephant of a headquarters building has been sold off, from which bunnies gather that they are turning stuff into cash as fast as they can.

What will make this change hard is that RWE has large public ownership, the cities of the Ruhr own great chunks of stock and depend on the profits cast off from the company for significant parts of their budget and, of course, while upper management grows, employment will shrink, which makes the unions happy.

Eli was thinking of this today when he read a re tweet from

Dortmund, Essen and the like are too deeply dug into RWE to get out.  OTOH, the fat times are over.  The lignite mines may have taken their last church.