Friday, June 26, 2015

Brave New World: Aldous Huxley and Eco Modernism

When Eli was a young bunny being civilized by his teachers, there were two dystopian models of instruction used to warn against the future, George Orwell's 1984 and and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.  1984 is a dark vision of perpetual war and oppression with obvious roots in Stalinism and Nazi Germany, a war just fought and a cold war starting, both with the potential of destroying the world.

Brave New World is an exercise in Paradise Engineering and the best illustration we have to the darker implications of the recent Eco Modernist Manifesto.   Eco Modernism revives the faith in technology of the late 19th and early 20th century, an optimism that found expression in our growing ability to shape the world coupled with hubris and contempt of the natural. Marxists, particularly Stalin and Mao discovered industrial marxism and their many attempts to control nature produced only disasters. Their heavy handed attempts to create technology produced contaminated industrial wastelands.

The obvious parallels of the Eco-Modernist Manifesto to the philosophical underpinnings of modernism and industrial marxism formed Eli's first impression, but a conversation at ATTP has shifted the Bunny's focus to Huxley's vision.  While one can quibble for or against the specific technologies that are recommended, one must seriously consider the implications for the organization of society which make the Brave New World a model for how an Eco-Modernist society MUST be organized to function.

Ecomodernism postulates movement of population to large cities, industrialization of agriculture and the isolation of areas for nature.  It is not that we do not know where that vision leads, and we even have examples today of nations that are essentially single cities such as Singapore and Qatar moving in that direction.

Huxley's brave new world was based on genetically engineered social classes with the Alphas at the top and the Deltas and Epsilons at the bottom collecting the garbage and providing other services.  Today's city states and those of the ecomodernists require vast numbers of Deltas and Epsilons to support the Alphas.  They are ancient greek city states with a small number of citizens benefitting from the labor of a large number of contract workers many on temporary visas.  If you are an alpha, it is a good deal, if not, maybe not so much.

The reliance of the ecomodernist city state on complex technologies requires strong central control to keep the machine running, leaving little room for individuality.  City states may occupy not much land, but they require a great deal of land and resources from that land to provide all that the people living in them need.  Urban organization and governance is complex.  As Izen points out at ATTP, the ecomodern city state requires a social monoculture with no room for dissent and that monoculture is enforced by the power of the state.

The brave new world of ecomodernism will be a very uncomfortable fit to many ecomodernists' dreams.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Divestment and Dilberto si

The encyclical emphasizes a moral element to the climate debate that the drier analyses miss. I wrote previously that a bishop flubbed a response to a Foxquestion about whether we shouldn't do other things to help the poor instead of reducing our precious carbon emissions. He said the encyclical invited people to a dialogue to figure out what to do, so let's just sit down and talk.

The best answer is that Fox is referring to a Lomborgdeception, a study artificially minimizing the impact of climate relative to other impacts, but we might not expect the bishop to know that. The next best answer he should say, however, is that moral questions can have strict answers. If a particular action you're doing is harming someone else, you may prefer to continue harming that person while making it up to them in other ways, but the decision is not up to you. If Lomborg et al. want to persuade the most-harmed that there's a better deal for them, the inactivists can try, but I don't think Australia is where you want to go for that. 

The moral case the Pope emphasizes is that GHG emissions harm the poorest, and the same logic works on divestment. The only reason to invest in fossil-fuel companies at their current price levels is because they make the poor pay a significant portion of the cost of their product, and are offering to pass on part of the resulting profit to you, the investor.

The issue of divestment and the Catholic Church hasn't escaped the notice of many other people, although what's unclear to me is whether much anything is happening within the official church hierarchy, let alone action to reduce the Church's own GHG emissions. Hopefully the encyclical teaching will move to the next steps of action on divestment and on emissions as models that the Church can point to as models for the rest.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Someone should collect these climate conversion stories

There may be some useful common thread to how educated people resist climate science for a while, maybe years, and then come around. And it's probably different than what shifts the average voter who spends very little time thinking about the issue.

The excellent science journalist Dan Vergano gives us his conversion story. Short version is he began as a member of the hippie-punching Cold Warrior tribe who reflexively disbelieved in climate change. His self-image as engineer opened the first crack though, when someone he trusted challenged him to check the data and he was educated enough to understand it. Not enough to be convinced though. 

Convinced happened years later as a science journalist, when he applied the "nut test" to professed experts on both sides of the climate issue. The real scientist acknowledged the possibility of being wrong, while the denialist acknowledged none, and the issue was settled for Vergano.

I still find it somewhat perplexing to understand why people go unpersuaded for years by mountains of evidence and then finally change their minds, but this helps a little. Maybe we need a database about how to shake people from their mental frames.

Ironically, I think solutions work the opposite way for most people who spend little time on the issue and are persuaded by certainty and confidence. "The science is settled" is more persuasive to most people (and also true) than "our horde of scientists are still thinking rationally, while the tiny clique on the other side are controlled by irrational certainty and can't be trusted."

You have to understand your audience. Some years ago at my water district when it considered fluoridation, I was annoyed with the pro-fluoride proponents who claimed certainty that fluoridation was safe. The other side was even worse and I sided with fluoridation, but both were using the wrong arguments with me.

Side note:  here's 10 minutes of pretty favorable coverage of the Pope's encyclical on Fox News Sunday. That type of coverage could help given the network it's on. Wallace trots out a version of the Lomborg nonsense about doing something to help the poor other than fixing climate, and I think the bishop flubs his response, but the back and forth is less important than the overall favorable coverage.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Papal Encyclical Bingo

Eli, of course, remembers the old days of global climate denialist bingo, and with the coming of the Laudato Si, driving the crazy to infinity, thought it might be time to hand our new cards.  To get the bunnies started, the Rabett has filled in a few of the squares and welcomes suggestions for others.

There is a world of hurl out there to snark at, feel free.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Catholic opinion on the death penalty tells you about the encyclical's future effect

It tells you first that Catholics are about 10% less supportive of the death penalty than the general population. One would have to adjust for other factors to prove that's driven by being Catholic as opposed to something else, but it seems in large part to be real. (See also this article showing on issues where the Church is conservative, regular churchgoers are more likely to take the same position.)

Contrary to a poorly-reasoned article in Grist, religion can have an effect on politics, and looking at where Catholics stand now doesn't tell you where they will be if action on climate gets enmeshed in Catholic teaching. The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops calls the encyclical their "marching orders on advocacy."

Death penalty advocacy is a different apple, though. It's something the Church has been beating on for decades, so it could be a while for the encyclical to have a similar effect, assuming the Church even maintains the interest that Francis has directed. OTOH, I think normal folks are more likely to have their own intuition on the death penalty than they are to have one on climate change, so the Church's effect on death penalty opinion has had to push against a stronger current.

I'll gladly take a 10% shift in Catholic opinion, which doesn't even account for an increase in priority that supportive Catholics will place on the issue. It also might help fracture the tribal identity that drives Catholic conservatives to denialism. I think at least of equal importance will be its effect on pushing other religions to also up their game on the issue.

It's a marathon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bringing Catholic science to the climate change fight

Don't know how I missed this video, but definitely worth watching.

I planned to write something the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that the Pope has a strong scientific backing for tomorrow's encyclical, but Bloomberg already did it.

The leaked draft sounds good and is stirring up trouble. We'll see what happens. Catholic support played a role in Nebraska's repeal of the death penalty, so there's still some political heft in religious affiliation. Probably more of a long-term effect, but it's a marathon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Lomborg Convergence

The "Coal for Africa" aka Ecomodernism campaign has run head on into its internal contradictions with the emergence of Pope Francis' new encyclical, totally exposing the common roots of climate change denial and luckwarmerism.  The twitter is ablaze.

It is really hard to tell who is the most angry at the exposure of their moral corruption, the Steve Milloys or BTI guys or the Bishop Hills.  Twitter tells all

From Votaire to Hitchens, the belief in progress has for hundreds of years been synonymous with renouncing Catholicism & the Pope.

But he's not! Church is all about materialism — for the priest class. $10 - $15 B in assets.

  1. Pope's Leaked Encyclical: Pope says air pollution kills people. This is demonstrably FALSE.
  2. Pope's Leaked Encyclical: Popes says we have a harmful 'culture of waste.' Uh, we call it an economy.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Who Is Afraid of Pope Francis?

Gary Wills at the New York Review of Books, asks who is afraid of Pope Francis.  His answer is

. . .as the pope prepares a major encyclical on climate change, to be released this summer, the billionaires are spending a great deal of their money in a direct assault on him. They are calling in their chits, their kept scientists, their rigged conferences, their sycophantic beneficiaries, their bought publicists to discredit words of the pope that have not even been issued
Francis, in the brief time he has been pope has made his devotion to the poor a watchword, which is why Wills (and Eli) believe that they will not succeed, indeed why this attack should be hung about their necks when they dare to show their faces in public.
They do not know exactly what the pope is going to say in his forthcoming encyclical on preserving God’s creation, but they know what he will not say. He will not deny that the poor suffer from actions that despoil the earth. Everything he has said and done so far shows that Francis always stands for the poor. 
Those who profit from what harms the earth have to keep the poor out of sight. They have trouble enough fighting off the scientific, economic, and political arguments against bastioned privilege. Bringing basic morality to the fore could be fatal to them. That is why they are mounting such a public pre-emptive strike against the encyclical before it even appears. They must not only discredit the pope’s words (whatever they turn out to be), they must block them, ridicule them, destroy them.
Indeed the reaction today to a leaked draft of the encyclical has been furious, so Eli would like to do some record keeping for Steve Milloy who is indeed frothing.  In keeping with the good Sou, Eli has archived the froth for posterity or hilarity




There is a lot more and they make about as much sense.  While Eli most assuredly will not agree with everything that Pope Francis writes or does, he will not claim that Francis is a people hater, or adolescent or insipid.  Eli certainly will defend the proposition that Steve Milloy is all of these.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Four Pests Campaign

Nononono, not Roger Pielke Jr, Bjorn Lomborg, Willard Anthony Watts, or Matt King Coal Ridley.

Recently as steam has run out on "Coal for Africa" with the falling prices of renewables making them the power source of choice in the third world, especially the rural third world, we have, courtesy of the Breakthrough Institute, Ecomodernism, which, according to the manifestoso

In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.
It is worth asking how successful such attempts have been.  Eli has learned a lot over the years about how humanity and the natural world are entangled, and how attempts to decouple them have not exactly worked out to plan.  In the twentieth century those attempts were mostly the brainchildren of the "scientific" socialists, aka the communists.  Marxism is industry oriented by birth, and to a marxist, such activities as farming, well, that can be improved on.

One of the best examples of early ecomodernism was China's Four Pests Campaign.  Mao decided that there were four pests holding back China, mosquitoes, flies, rats, and sparrows. 
according to environmental activist Dai Qing, "Mao knew nothing about animals. He didn't want to discuss his plan or listen to experts. He just decided that the 'four pests' should be killed."

Moreover, the idea fit in quite well with Mao's hard-line totalitarian Communist ideology. Marx himself was far from an environmentalist, proclaiming that nature should be fully exploited by humans for production purposes (a legacy which may explain China's poor environmental track record to this very day).
It is amusing to note the marxist roots of today's ecomodernism, the next bright shiny thing being rolled out to block action on real environmental problems.

Well, what happened?  It turned out that of the four pests, the poor sparrow was the one that pissed the powers that be off the most because it ate a lot of grain.  China was mobilized, the birds in hundreds of millions were killed.  Details at the link.  They became extinct in China.

And in the ecomodernist dream world there was lots of food.  Sadly not, because in addition to the grain seed, the birds ate a lot of insects
But the damage was done — and the situation got progressively worse. Locust populations swarmed the countryside with no sparrows in sight. Things got so bad that the Chinese government started importing sparrows from the Soviet Union. The overflow of insects, plus the added effects of widespread deforestation and misuse of poisons and pesticides, were a significant contributor to the Great Chinese Famine (1958-1961) in which an estimated 30 million people died of starvation.

Note to the Observant

The coming June 18th publication of Laudato Si will reaffirm our moral responsibility for the Earth.  Whether that responsibility comes from religious belief or concern for our world and all its creatures depends on each, but the obligation to the present and the future remains. Laudito Si comes from St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of All Creatures

On his trip to the Philippines earlier this year Pope Francis tied the two concerns together
You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens, but also as followers of Christ!
The Pope, of course, takes this to be a religious obligation
As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family. When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling.
Moral framing is basic, not only to climate issues, but all environmental concerns.  It would be a grave mistake to anticipate Laudito Si as being solely about climate change as many political types are (and worthy of derision they are too).  We are of the Earth and have the obligation to preserve it for the future.  Attempts to decouple the Earth and humans are futile, scientifically silly and morally corrupt because of the damage such an attempt would cause. Stephan Gardiner summarized this for climate change, but his statement is equally valid for all other ecological problems driven by humans.
. . .  the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.
 There is, of course, a tension in many religions, between millennialism and care taking, Those who think the end of the Earth is nigh, or, alternatively, that they will dwell in a heaven after but a short time on Earth, are prey to neglecting their current world.  Eli's guess is that Laudito Si will stress that a strong component of where and wither will be the care that is taken in this world, preserving it for the future.

Elizabeth Kolbert, in considering technological enthusiasm for settling Mars has some telling words for the Ecomoderists who are advocating separating humans from nature
Every sensate being we’ve encountered in the universe so far—from dogs and humans and mice to turtles and spiders and seahorses—has evolved to suit the cosmic accident that is Earth. The notion that we could take these forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, and hurl them into space, and that this would, to use Petranek’s formulation, constitute “our best hope,” is either fantastically far-fetched or deeply depressing.

As Impey points out, for six decades we’ve had the capacity to blow ourselves to smithereens. One of these days, we may well do ourselves in; certainly we’re already killing off a whole lot of other species. But the problem with thinking of Mars as a fallback planet (besides the lack of oxygen and air pressure and food and liquid water) is that it overlooks the obvious. Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us. Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not. Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those which survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home, tending their own gardens. 
Finally, Eli recommends some reading of the National Catholic Reporter in the coming weeks.  It already has much on the forthcoming encyclical from the standpoint of the Catholic Church.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

GORESat @ L1

DSCVR has made it out to L1 and is parked.  Long lost in George Bush's back pocket out of envy, the satellite was unpacked and launched because it had space weather monitoring capabilities, and the satellite being used for that purpose was going bad.  As Eli has noted this was a good thing for many reasons.

Of course NOAA downplays the Earth monitoring capability, but it is there

DSCOVR will eventually replace NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) research satellite as America’s primary warning system for solar magnetic storms headed towards Earth. ACE will continue to provide valuable research data to the science community. <

In addition to space weather-monitoring instruments, DSCOVR is carrying two NASA Earth-observing instruments that will gather a range of measurements from ozone and aerosol amounts, to changes in Earth's radiation budget—the balance between incoming radiation (largely from the sun) and that which is reflected from Earth. This balance affects our climate.

DSCOVR has reached its final orbit and will soon be ready to begin its mission of space weather monitoring for NOAA and Earth observing for NASA," said Al Vernacchio, DSCOVR project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
However, NOAA is stuck with the name:  Deep Space Climate Observatory

Friday, June 12, 2015

No Child Left Inside Legal Defense Fund

An idea I had years ago got called out recently by Richard Louv, author of Last Child In the Woods. Louv was mad about a little girl being forced by city regulators to tear down a treehouse and he remembered something I'd written:

In 2006 [actually 2007 -ed.], an environmental lawyer named Brian Schmidt started thinking about nature-deficit disorder and came up with a novel idea, which he shared in his blog: “Set up a legal foundation that pays the legal defense costs of institutions and individuals who bring children outdoors and then [are] hit with frivolous lawsuits.” In the 2008 update to “Last Child in the Woods,” I passed along Schmidt’s idea, and suggested calling it the No Child Left Inside Legal Defense Fund.

At the outset, the fund would defend people “against the claims that would have established the worst precedents or had the worst potential impact,” he said, in an email. “The fund would support “all or part of defendant’s legal costs afterwards,” if the defendants did not settle the case. “Regardless of how successful this idea could become, it will never cover all the costs of defending against all lawsuits. Still it could help, and just the fact that a defendant knew it was possible to recover costs might make the defendant less likely to settle".....

Who would pay for such a fund? How about trail lawyers and other attorneys, through donations and pro bono services. Many are genuinely concerned about the growth of litigiousness and the kind of regulation enforcement that can give good regulations — the kind that fight corporate polluters for example — a bad name.

“I also expect that businesses that support the outdoors would be interested in funding the foundation,” added Schmidt. He said he was just tossing “this idea out into the Googleable universe, with the additional mention that I’d be willing to put in some of my own money or time as a lawyer if the idea goes anywhere.”
I wrote a little more here.

Louv matched this idea with conservative Charles Murray's wish for a legal organization that challenges onerous government regulations. I can't say I'm a fan of Murray, but I think there are some government regulations that enviros would like to see challenged, like mandatory off-street parking requirements. I've also thought for a long time that zoning should either be aimed at high density or low density, not the in-between density that afflicts suburbia, and high density means lifting restrictions on uses.

For what it's worth, maybe something will happen with all this.

Side note:  a Quora thread on what fossil fuel company employees think of their own role in climate change. Interesting to see different levels of denial, even from people who's deny their in denial about climate change.

Note to the Observent

Bunnies may notice that the tag line above has been changed and the give to save the Keeling curve link removed.  There are two reasons for this.

First, thanks in part to you, maybe a little to Eli, funding for the Scripps program has been saved.  As Ralph Keeling writes:

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego O2 and CO2 programs have received funding from multiple sources that put these operations on a relatively secure footing for the next few years. Support for the Scripps CO2 program has come in from three significant sources: Eric and Wendy Schmidt, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The O2 program has received a new line of support from National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which also operates the Mauna Loa Observatory where Keeling Curve measurements are made. 
People around the world have also taken it upon themselves to support ongoing Keeling Curve measurements. A crowdsourcing campaign was effective in communicating the importance of the project and has helped us meet our operational needs. I’m very, very grateful for all the great support that continues to come from members of the public who demonstrate that they care about preserving careful long-term observations of nature.
Second, today, the American Chemical Society is dedicating a plaque at Scripps, designating the Keeling Curve as a National Chemical Historical Landmark 
The ceremony to unveil a plaque marking the National Historic Chemical Landmark designation will take place at 11:45 a.m. at Ritter Hall on the Scripps campus in La Jolla, Calif., the site of Keeling’s lab, where the current Scripps CO2 Group operations continue today.

"This plaque is a great tribute to all the people who worked tirelessly over the years to sustain these detailed measurements,” said Ralph Keeling. "The Mauna Loa CO2 record changed how we view the world. It proved for the first time that humans were altering the composition of air globally, and it thereby legitimized the concern over human-caused climate change."

“The Keeling Curve is an icon of modern climate science,” said Thomas Barton, PhD, immediate past president of the American Chemical Society. “Dave Keeling’s meticulous research provided scientifically credible evidence that has proved critical to understanding and addressing human impacts on our environment. Keeling recognized in 1960 that fossil fuels are driving global atmospheric change, which presents serious challenges for Earth and its people. The global impacts of climate change are what make Keeling’s work so important, and so celebrated, today.”
Congratulations to all

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Nick Stokes Goes There

A while ago the GWPF (yes, just as dumb as trying to pronounce Joe Btfspik) tried one on, claiming that they were going to conduct a "temperature data review".  Nick Stokes has made a habit, indeed a retirement of going there, in his own way, of challenging the ungodly in hell, or Climate Audit and the like, but Eli repeats himself.  Bunnies should read Nick's submission, but there is one paragraph that Eli would like to emphasize, because while it is obvious, it is so obvious that entire castles of fancy have been built on ignoring it

Global averages are averages of millions of individual readings. Unbiased noise is very heavily damped in the result. The big source of error is bias, which is not damped in the same way. The essential purpose of homogenisation is to identify and minimise this bias. The tradeoff vs added unbiased noise is advantageous, because of that damping. 
In short averaging handles noise, homogenization is necessary to take care of bias.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

GCMs: Explicative value is strong, predictive only in the long run

Twitter, can be succinct

Damn well better, but Steve Easterbrook has a nice explanation of what GCMs are and are not.  As he points out,
you don’t actually need a computer model to predict climate change. The first predictions of what would happen if we keep on adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere were produced over 120 years ago. That’s fifty years before the first digital computer was invented. And those predictions were pretty accurate – what has happened over the twentieth century has followed very closely what was predicted all those years ago. Scientists also predicted, for example, that the arctic would warm faster than the equatorial regions, and that’s what happened. They predicted night time temperatures would rise faster than day time temperatures, and that’s what happened.

So in many ways, the models only add detail to what we already know about the climate. They allow scientists to explore “what if” questions. For example, you could ask of a model, what would happen if we stop burning all fossil fuels tomorrow. And the answer from the models is that the temperature of the planet will stay at whatever temperature it was when you stopped. For example, if we wait twenty years, and then stopped, we’re stuck with whatever temperature we’re at for tens of thousands of years. You could ask a model what happens if we dig up all known reserves of fossil fuels, and burn them all at once, in one big party? Well, it gets very hot.
Post Script: Isaac Held has some essays on the speakable and unspeakable in climate models. Last The quality of the large scale flow simulated in GCMs, instructions on How Not to Evaluate Climate Models, and a bug-a-boo of Eli's, Addicted to Global Mean Temperature.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

On the Margins

Recently, there has been considerable interest in a paper showing that rainfall in the Sahel has increased likely due to sea surface temperature trends in the North Atlantic as compared to the oceans in general.  Now Eli is not here to tell you about that paper by Alessandra Giannini, she has done it herself,

and so have others, but a related one that seemingly has snuck in under the radar, "The dominant role of semi-arid ecosystems in the trend and variability of the land CO2 sink", by a large group of authors, including Michael Raupach to whom the paper is dedicated as he died before publication. The paper appeared in Science, 11 May 2015.

The authors show that while the carbon sink is dominated by forests, especially tropical forests, the annual variability (hi Victor) in the carbon sinks is dominated by arid lands such as the Sahel which makes sense, because in wet years, the semi-arid lands will bloom, in dry ones, not much.

The figure to the right requires some explanation.  The y axes are percent contribution to the biosphere's net carbon flux from each of the land types listed at the bottom.  It is the difference between the global primary production and the respiration.  LPJ-GUESS is a biogeochemical vegetation model and TRENDY is a model intercomparison project, go read the paper for details.  IAV is the interannual variation.

Semi-arid lands like the Sahel dominate both the trend and the interannual variation, which makes sense, they are on the margin and small differences in weather make a large difference in the amount of vegetation.

The paper points out that in 2011 there was a large increase in the carbon sink, which is attributed to a very wet year in Australia.

As to the future, a large increase in the carbon sink appears when it is cool and wet in the semi-arid regions, a large decrease when it is hot and dry.  In general the level of precipitation is more important than the temperature.

Taking this into account bunnies should go back and look at Giannini's video.  If the Sahel is wetter, then there will be more primary production of vegetation, but if it is hotter, there will be more respiration and decay.  That means more food, a very good thing, but not as much natural carbon sequestration as if it were cooler

Maxim Lott must be a great uphill runner

Maxim Lott sees the slope of the line for the last 17 years as being virtually flat. I imagine that if he went for a run and came to a hill, he wouldn't even notice it.

The NASA data he cites is here (which doesn't include any of the scorching 2015 data), and his article here. Sadly, his article is a cut above the normal Fox News piece in that it least includes, if buried somewhat down the piece, the statement by scientists that possibly-increased rain in Africa is outweighed by risks and costs of climate change.

The article otherwise contains the mixed messages that the climate isn't changing, the climate is always changing naturally, and that the climate change we're causing is having beneficial effects. Fox News and Maxim Lott haven't quite figured out what the message is, but I doubt many Fox readers click on the link they're given to see if NASA actually says what's claimed.

I emailed Lott last week about this. I assume he's very busy.

And yes to the idly curious, he is John Lott's son, the "Ma" of Mary Rosh. That's not his fault, but this article is.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine

Haven't done a foreign policy post in a while, so here's three in one:

1. The list above shows messed-countries and messed-up outcomes, so that part's consistent, but what's inconsistent is the level of effort by the US to change the outcome. Whether the US did relatively little like in Syria or a lot like in Libya, things didn't go well.

For Egypt in particular, the US has done everything right AFAICT since the beginning of the Arab Spring and it made no difference to the final outcome. It might have helped save Egyptian students from a massacre in 2011, and that's not nothing, but it's not permanent change either.

Overall I think the lack of results counsels in favor of less interference. I'd also say it might support defensive support over aggressive support. Stopping Qaddaffi from massacring people in Benghazi is good, as is stopping ISIS aggression in Syria. OTOH, helping what appears to be Shiite militias in Iraq with little government control attempt to take over a major Sunni city sounds like a situation to stay away from, at least until government control and Sunni support become real and not fig leafs.

2. One thing Obama did that has turned out fantastically well is in making his Syria red line comment. Before the comment, Syria had lots of chemical weapons, and now they're gone. I'm still incredulous that people call it a loss for the US, including in the current issue of The Economist.

A good thought experiment is to imagine what an honest answer from Assad would be, as to whether the hundreds of millions of dollars Syria spent over the decades on chemical weapons turned out to be money well spent. Or imagine whether some tinpot dictator in some other country thinking about establishing a chemical weapons program to be deployed on his own or neighboring people would be encouraged or discouraged by what happened with chemical weapons in Syria. Yet many people who think they're qualified to discuss foreign policy would prefer that Obama had ignored any chance to consult Congress and blow up a few air bases in Syria, and count that a better outcome.

I could see an argument that the US was lucky in how it turned out, but there's no question that the world's in a much better shape with how it happened.

3. An accountability moment for myself - in early 2012, when things were going really well in Libya, I offered a bet over Libya's long-term future:

So, Freedom House gave Libya the worst possible ratings in 2010 on a scale of 1 to 7, with a 7 for political rights and 7 for civil rights.  I predict at the end of 2013 there will be at least three grades of improvement, e.g. political rights could improve to at least 5 and civil to at least 6, but it could be in other combinations.  My guess is that it'll be more like four or five (and one has already happened), but I think three grades clearly represent a benefit to the country.
No one took the offer. Somewhat strangely, I would've won. Things weren't that bad in 2013 but got much worse starting in 2014 - although Freedom House still gives Libya slightly better ratings than under Qadaffi. I don't think a technical victory from my perspective is much of a vindication. 

FWIW, I think Libya still has a shot at a much better future than the past it had under Qadaffi or the pretty-rotten present.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Where Did That Come From

In the discussion about Fred Seitz that John threw the burning tree onto Willard pointed to an answer that Eli had not known.  Maybe John Mashey had figured it out but not Eli.

So everybunny today older than about 12 years knows about the OISM petition, a mail campaign started in 2003 based on a Monckton class deceptive paper by Soon, Baliunas and Robinson, Robinson being Art Robinson, a chemist who used to work with Linus Pauling and went off to form a home schooling operation housed in a barn in Oregon called the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.

The mailing was wall to wall and was fronted by a deceptive introduction from Frederick Seitz

Enclosed is a twelve-page review of information on the subject of "global warming," a petition in the form of a reply card, and a return envelope. Please consider these materials carefully. 
The United States is very close to adopting an international agreement that would ration the use of energy and of technologies that depend upon coal, oil, and natural gas and some other organic compounds. 
This treaty is, in our opinion, based upon flawed ideas. Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful. 
The proposed agreement would have very negative effects upon the technology of nations throughout the world, especially those that are currently attempting to lift from poverty and provide opportunities to the over 4 billion people in technologically underdeveloped countries. 
It is especially important for America to hear from its citizens who have the training necessary to evaluate the relevant data and offer sound advice. 
We urge you to sign and return the petition card. If you would like more cards for use by your colleagues, these will be sent. 
Frederick Seitz
Past President, National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.
President Emeritus, Rockefeller University
Now Seitz, say what you will about his politics and ethics, was a BSD as Drug Monkey would put it.  BS here standing for Big Swinging, while Robinson, at best would fit neatly into any box labelled crank.  Baliunas was an astronomer at Harvard Smithsonian, but also connected to the George Marshall Institute, an organization that Seitz, William Nierenberg and Robert Jastrow had formed to support Star Wars.

What, Eli has frequently asked himself, brought these two sides together?

Willard points to a post by Things Break which was written during the Nierenberg matter, a back and froth five years ago now when Nicholas Nierenberg appeared at the Weasels to defend dear old dad.  TB had found a video of WN talking to the 17th annual meeting of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, an ur-prepper group connected both with OISM and the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, that published the Soon, Baliunas and Robinson paper after people pointed out that what Seitz had mailed out was not a refereed paper, but garbage wrapped up nicely to look like a PNAS paper.  Doctors for Disaster, obviously was well aligned with GMI on star wars and related issues.

What is interesting that remains, is why did the GMI not send out the letter themselves? Implausible deniability suggests itself.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Problems with Wood for Trees data

UPDATE:  problem seems fixed, for now anyway. See comments.

David Appel says Wood for Trees, a fun site for us amateurs to play with climate data, has wrong data and unclear sources. Too bad, but worth passing along.

Maybe they'll fix things.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The role of Fred Seitz

Apparently in criticizing Fred Seitz I have hit a nerve in Russell Seitz.

From my files:
On October 11, 2007, I received a letter from Frederick Seitz, signed as

“Past President, National Academy of Sciences, U. S. A.
President Emeritus, Rockefeller University.”

Seitz (Fred, not Russell) writes that “Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful”.

The letter from Seitz has a return address of
Box 1925
La Jolla, California 92038

The GWPP stands for Global Warming Petition Project.
Fred Seitz urged me to read an article by Arthur Robinson, Noah Robinson, and Willis Soon, published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (vol. 12, pp. 79-90, 2007), entitled Environmental Effect of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. The institutional affiliation of the three authors is listed as the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, in Cave Junction, Oregon. The article has the same format and font as the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS took the unusual step of specifically denying any connection with the article. Here is the Robinson, Robinson and Soon article.

In his letter, Fred Seitz urges me to sign and return a petition rejecting the Kyoto protocol of 1997. The petition asks for my name and my academic degree (BS/MS/Ph.D).
The number of people who signed and returned the petition were later touted as people who denied global warming in the Global warming Petition Project.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Rabett Run Goes to the Movies

On April 17, I took my wife to the movies to see Merchants of Doubt, the movie.

I have already read the book, by Orestes and Conway.

The movie has its own website! All new movies do these days.

The movie starts off with Stanton Glantz, professor and tobacco-control activist, speaking about the efforts of the tobacco companies to deny the findings of medical science, that smoking causes cancer.
The tobacco companies fought back with a PR campaign. They did not bother to engage with the scientific community, because that would have been hopeless. Instead, the tobacco companies aimed to propagandize the public directly, bypassing the scientific community. The tobacco companies financed the work of a handful of denier scientists, including Fred Seitz and Fred Singer.

The movie is quite thorough in describing the tobacco companies and their PR strategy. Doubt is their real product. They didn’t have to win the debate, they just aimed at a draw.

After a thorough discussion of the tobbacco companies and their strategy, the movies discusses the climate change deniers.

Same PR strategy, and some of the same cast of characters.

Fred Singer is shown in three consecutive clips:
in clip #1 he denies the climate is warming,
in clip #2 he proclaims that the climate is warming, but it’s not manmade.
And in clip #3 he proclaims that the climate is warming, and the warming is manmade. But he says it would be ruinous to the economy to stop global warming.

Other global warming deniers featured include Stephen Malloy (, and Marc Morano (former Inhofe staffer, now running the fog machine at ClimateDepot)

The film features an honest conservative, Robert Inglis, former Republican Congressman from South Carolina. Inglis is a conservative Christian with a lifetime rating over 95% from the American Conservative Union, and support from the anti-abortion lobby and the NRA. He was upset in the Republican primary in 2010, attributed to his rejection of global warming denial. Inglis strikes an oddly positive tone to the movie.

My wife and I saw the movie in a nearly empty theater: Only about ten seats were occupied, in a theater with a capacity of a couple hundred. The movie only played for a few days in Las Vegas, whose metropolitan area includes two million people. I didn’t see any advertisement for the movie.
Documentaries sometimes jump through hoops to qualify for consideration for awards. There was acknowledgement of support from the Omidyar Network, founded by Pierre Omidyar, eBay founder whose fortune is estimated at $9 billion. So there are backers for the movie.

Let's hope the movie wins an Oscar.

The envelope please!

Die Paradigmgemeinschaft

IEHO, paradigms is one of those word like elucidate whose time has come and deservedly gone.  Eli remembers when elucidate had crept into every other abstract as in this paper elucidates the changing climate or whatever.  Paradigm is another.  Of course one can wish for a paradigm shift in the use of paradigms, unlikely to be granted as it is the go to for every third rater on the planet.  

However, Eli's friend Willard is one to dig in to such things and has sent Eli a note about one Oliver Geden, who is trying to set up as the next honest broker, sitting astride the science/policy interface and telling all what to do.  To be frank Eli finds Dr. Geden's take a bit less than sophomoric as shown by a couple of twits
But parsing such is Willard's joy, and so Eli gives you Die Paradigmschaft

Dr. Oliver Geden (hereafter Oliver, as we’ve been introduced), Head of the EU/Europe Research Division of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, has circled around the contrarian bandwagon, e.g. at Pierre’s or Judy's. The title at Pierre’s intrigued me: Oliver sees a “paradigm shift.” This may not predispose Eli, who is not exactly a Kuhn fan. However, there is a stupendous entailment: this paradigm shift leads to a “depolitization” of climate science. I find the possibility tempting enough to start to believe in paradigms beyond hi-fi stuff. (No affiliation; I’m a Lynn snob.)

So, what’s up with Oliver’s paradigm shift?

Let’s start in May 2012. Like any ClimateBall episodes, it starts with something in disarray. At the time, twas international climate diplomacy. Congeneric to Nietzsche with God, Fukuyama with History, and REM with the World, Oliver proclaims the End of Climate Policy as We Know It:

Without a paradigm shift, the path of climate diplomacy leads directly into self-inflicted irrelevance and “the end of climate policy”. The well-practised strategy of papering over current failures by announcing even greater future efforts cannot be maintained for long with the 2 degree target formally accepted at Cancún in 2010.

As soon as science tells us that reaching the 2 degree target is impossible, the top-down paradigm will eventually fall apart.

Will everything collapse?  Not if we accept some paradigm shift. Good. No need to hold our breath and count to ten.  

As we will see, Oliver’s ultimatum will become important in his punditry.


August 2013. A New Climate-Policy Paradigm is more than looming:

In order to ensure this outcome, the EU must begin preparing a Plan B that accounts for the coming climate-policy paradigm shift. Such a plan would prioritize measurable progress toward decarbonizing the world’s largest economies over the establishment of global climate treaties or long-term global targets.

Brace yourselves, forewarns Oliver, paradigms are shifting (see photo).  We need measurable progress, not treaties. With a different semantic field, targeting a different audience,  with another suggested presentation of policy products, Oliver rediscovers Eli’s plan to save the world. That would be a paradigm that ought to make Eli happy, no?

No, he told me: too much grand proposals to write. It looks too much like the honest broker dance to be true. Plus, Eli's in the East Coast frame of mind.


March 2014. Energiewende, the flagship project of Germany’s energy sector, raises concerns. What would be the biggest one, bunnies may ask Oliver? Why, of course, a paradigm shift:

In light of the complex constellation of interests in EU negotiations, the paradigm shift underway in energy and climate policy, and the continued broad consensus on the transformation of the German energy system, a relatively pragmatic strategy appears to be the most advisable.

The last sentence is impressive: we get “the 2 degree target is impossible” and “the top-down paradigm” right next to one another. How these two constructs are connected is left as an exercise to readers everywhere Oliver can spread the P word.


April 2015. Suppose we submit the “Palestinian question” to Oliver. (Which question matters little - it's dissertation parlance.) His solution? Wham. Europe needs a Paradigm Shift:

The historic December 17 vote is not solely definitive of this paradigm shift; rather, this vote is the culmination of a recent and unprecedented trend where countries across Europe–such as Sweden, Ireland, England, France, and Portugal–have passed resolutions at the national level asserting their wishes to recognize Palestine as a free and independent state.

Shifts in paradigm are seldom temporary, more so when Oliver's around.


May 2015, Oliver makes a conceptual breaktrough with his P idea, and connects it with good ol’ “pragmatism”. Let's all come down to earth:

As a consequence, to many observers, little seemed to change in EU climate policy after the failure of Copenhagen. Frictions inside the EU and a paradigm shift in EU climate governance, however, became evident with the beginning of the negotiations for a new energy and climate framework until 2030.

Not only is the paradigm shift becoming necessary, it already is self-evident. Many observers, whose job is to observe such things as frictions, told him so. As the Energy Post states in its tagline: independent, international, and incisive.


Since 2012 at least, the paradigm shift has shifted. The shift is still occurring as we write. Where does that leave us? Down to earth. Totally evidence-oriented. More pragmatic than ever. Witness what Andrew Adams tweeted me the other day:

Personally I've always been inspired by MLK's "I have a pragmatic expectation" speech.
I remember the maps of the Holy Land. Coloured they were. Very pretty. The Dead Sea was pale blue. The very look of it made me thirsty. That's where we'll go, I used to say, that's where we'll go for our honeymoon. We'll swim. We'll be happy.