Saturday, November 09, 2019

Movie Recommendations

I watched a couple of good sci-fi movies recently that are worth recommending.

Anymore it seems like sci-fi movies are the only movies I'm interested in. (But not books, so far.) I'm not sure why, since I didn't grow up steeped in sci-fi. I watched and liked Star Trek (the original series), and read books like 1984 and Animal Farm and Brave New World, but not Asimov's fiction or Heinlein or pulp sci fi. (I did read a lot of Asimov's nonfiction during my teens.) I never got into comic books or superheroes or such. I still can't get into them. The harder the sci-fi, the more I like it.

I did read a lot of Heinlein's fiction later in my 20s. Saw Asimov at a sci-fi con in Stony Brook. Looked kinda like a sad gig for him.

The two films I saw recently that I'll recommend are Apollo 18 and Automata.

Apollo 18 (2011) is about a last, secret Apollo mission to the Moon -- "found footage" (like the Blair Witch Trial) -- that tells the story of one last Moon landing on behalf of the Department of Defense. It's a little cliched in terms of (...spoiler alert...) what the astronauts find there, which are extraterrestrials but not an especially interesting kind. (They creep and crawl, and can exist in a vacuum. Boo.) But it's a good story with a great deal of verisimilitude, which is what these recovered footage films live or die on. This one lives. 7.5 of 10.

Automata (2014) is a film I saw a while back but forgot about, so watching it again was a pleasant surprise. It's really quite innovative with a hard, realistic edge, about (...spoiler alert...) an insurance adjuster who must find out why a robot in his dystopian era of manmade robots has started to self-repair. Such repairs and improvements are a violation of the "second protocol" of the robot's programming (similar to Asimov's laws of robotics, but with only two). But the automata have been learning and growing and evolving and getting rather creepy, with, in the end, nothing humans can do to stop them. Antonio Banderas is really excellent in this movie, and so unlike what I remember seeing of him in the '90s. He carries the entire movie, which is set in a novel environment, with some great minor characters played by pre lip job Melanie Griffith and by Dylan McDermott from The Practice. 8.5 out of 10.

Other than these, you can always watch another episode of Firefly. They never get old. Afterward you can cry (again) that so few episodes were ever made.

Ocean Acidification is Accelerating... the western north Pacific. Not a surprise:
In the Subtropical Frontal zone, we found that the mean rate of acidification tracked the acceleration of the atmospheric CO2 increase; during 2008–2017 the rate of acidification was 30% faster than during 1983–2017.
However, using the monthly Mauna Loa CO2 readings, I find its average from 2008-2017 was 395.5 ppm, while its average from 1983-2017 was 371.6 ppm. An increase of only 6.4%.


Thursday, November 07, 2019

An El Nino This Winter?

It was a very cold October here in Oregon -- the statewide average was 4th-lowest since 1895, according to NOAA's data. 2019's average temperature will very likely be below the 1980-2010 baseline, which hasn't happened since 2011.

In other news, German organizations are forecasting an El Nino this winter by the end of 2020 and spring. This is the first I've seen of such a call.
Early warning: Physicists from Giessen, Potsdam and Tel Aviv forecast "El Niño" for 2020

Researchers at Justus Liebig University Giessen (JLU), the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, find that there will probably be another "El Niño" by the end of 2020. The prediction models commonly used do not yet see any signs of this.
Take that for what it's worth. The NINO 3.4 region has been all over the place in recent months, but not above 0.5 C, the threshold for El Nino events:

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

My Apology to Nic Lewis

Today I sent the following email to Nicolas (Nic) Lewis. I'm posting it here with his permission. Also, I've amended my Nov 15th post of last year to note this apology.
Dear Mr. Lewis,

I'd like to apologize to you for a comment I made after you critiqued Resplandy et al. I wrote a blog post on Nov 15th titled "Nic Lewis Owes Resplandy et al an Apology." I thought you were quick to criticize them for a lack of a quick response, and somewhat still do, but that now seems minor in light of their retraction. I regret my blog post and extend an apology to you.

With your permission I'll post this email to on my blog, and also point to it right under the title of my Nov 15th post, so Google searches see it.


He has kindly accepted my apology.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Ocean Heat Content and a Lost Island in Chesapeake Bay

The 3rd quarter numbers for ocean heat content are in. Needless to say, the trend continues.

Both the 0-700 m region and the 0-2000 m region will very likely set records for the year, which is usually the case these days.

Also, an educational center on Fox Island in the Chesapeake Bay is closing due to sea level rise. The Fox Island Environmental Education Center run by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been on the island for 40 years, but due to "sea level rise and erosion" protective salt marshes have washed away; they had reduced the impact of wind and waves on the center. "Over the past 50 years, more than 70 percent of the island’s land area washed away."

Fox Island is only about 5 miles from Tangier Island, which is also being lost despite strong denialism there and the promises of President Trump.

Here's a 25-year comparison:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Carbon Savings From the Internet

This is a little interesting: a plot of real US GDP (in 2012 dollars) versus miles driven by all Americans:

It shows a clear shift around 1995, just when the Internet came up -- US GDP took off relative to the miles driven by Americans.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Oops on Older Comments

I have to apologize -- I failed to sort through the comments here that were flagged as possible spam, and found several that were real comments. I just approved them. I only moderate comments that are > 14 days old, to reduce spam, but get about 2-4 flagged comments a day, 90+% of which are spam. But I neglected to look for a few months. There were over 900 there, so I might have missed a few from several months back. Sorry.

I'll try to do better.

Guest Post: Climate Implications of the Canadian Election

Guest post by: Layzej

In a recent episode of "Patriot Act", Hassan Minhaj took Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to task for the Liberal government's apparently inconsistent position on climate change.

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Trudeau proclaimed "There is no country on the planet that can walk away from the challenge and reality of climate change."

But Minhaj pointed out that just months earlier at an energy conference in Texas he said, "No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there."

"Does he think you can just do both of those things?" Minhaj asked "Because we did the math and there is no overlap."

On policy the Liberal government appears just as conflicted. On the one hand they have implemented a revenue neutral carbon tax to curb demand for fossil fuels. The tax would encourage consumers to adopt alternatives to fossil fuels and stimulate the development of alternative technologies. Since the tax is revenue neutral, all profits generated would be returned to the taxpayer in the form of rebates. Economists largely agree that a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary.

But at the same time the Trudeau government is working aggressively on an oil pipeline expansion that would triple the existing pipeline's capacity to 890,000 barrels a day and bring Alberta's oil to an international market. This effort included nationalizing the pipeline project at a cost of $4.5 billion, after the company that owned the pipeline threatened to cancel the project in the face of mounting opposition.

Canada's oil sands are the third largest oil reserves in the world -- they account for 10% of the world's oil reserves. Some have argued that fully exploiting the Canadian reserves would mean "game over" for the climate. According to Prof James Hansen, "We are getting close to the dangerous level of carbon in the atmosphere and if we add on to that unconventional fossil fuels, which have a tremendous amount of carbon, then the climate problem becomes unsolvable."

In the “Patriot Act” interview, Trudeau justified the apparent contradiction by claiming that the intent was not to increase production, but only to ship the product more efficiently. While it is true that a pipeline is a more efficient means of delivery than tuck or rail, it is not true that tripling pipeline capacity would not result in increased production. Trudeau did not provide a coherent defense of his government’s position.

But the position is defensible. Canada is doing its part to curb its own fossil fuel demand. If every country followed Canada’s lead and implemented a carbon tax, we could start to move more aggressively towards the new energy economy. It is true that Canada could diminish the global supply of oil by leaving its resources in the ground, but eliminating 10% of the world’s oil would not go far in diminishing the global appetite for fossil fuels.

It seems unreasonable for Americans Hansen and Minhaj to ask Canadians to not only address their own fossil fuel consumption, but to bear the burden of reducing global consumption as well. The United States is a country without a national climate strategy. Canada has demonstrated a strategy that can work. It’s time for America, and the world, to catch up.

Layzej is a long-time commenter on this site.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Annual Increases in CO2 Emissions

BP has released its Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, which always looks authoritative because there are many pages of numbers all neatly aligned in rows and columns, and that's what counts, right.

They give lots of data on energy generation, such as
  •  renewable energy generation in 2018 was up 14.5% compared to 2017, but that's only 1/3rd of the total power increase.
  • Coal consumption was up 1.4%.
  • "Global energy demand grew by 2.9% and carbon emissions grew by 2.0% in 2018, faster than at any time since 2010-11." 
  • "The United States recorded the largest-ever annual production increases by any country for both oil and natural gas, the vast majority of increases coming from onshore shale plays."
Here are some CO2 emission numbers. The US annual increase was greater than both China's and the world's. For energy we were even hoggier than we were before.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Mess in California

The power outage in California is making a mess of some people's lives.

  • a woman had to spend the night in her wheelchair because her special air mattress with circulating air to avoid pressure wounds deflated. She thought the outage wasn't going to happen to the next day.
  • a man with COPD who relies on an oxygen generator was feeling congested and short of breath.
  • a paraplegic with a bone disease that requires a powered wheelchair, and a pump to keep blood circulating in his legs, said he won't be able to withstand a few hours without power. “I can’t be moving around too much because my wheelchair will die within a couple hours.”
This seems especially believable:
Napa resident Gina Biter-Mundt said that’s a common problem among people who have health issues — they lack the mobility or the money to prepare appropriately, even if they are well informed.
But the article does say "there had been no reports of individuals in immediate danger due to the outages."

Cost estimates range from $65 M to $2.5 B, though some economists say it's not calculable. PG&E has no plans to reimburse anyone.

To the extent climate change is involved in this -- deeper drought perhaps, hotter temperatures and hotter win -- this might open some eyes. Perhaps Hurricane Katrina did as well, and maybe Hurricane Maria and this year's Hurricane Humberto in the Bermudas and 40 inches of rain dumped onto Houston -- twice in three years. This is an interesting thought:
“It’s not worth the risk to them,” Alan Scheller-Wolf said about PG&E’s decision to preemptively shut off power. He said the utility “might be signaling to the powers that be that the business environment of providing power to people is fundamentally changing and they need help adjusting to it.”

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

CA Blackout: "Another version of the problem"

An article in Slate by April Glaser, a Californian, gives a good picture of the blackout situation in California and failures of the power company, PG&E.
It’s true that the lights can go off at any time due to a storm. This happens to all of us at some point in our lives. But this feels different. It usually happens because of a natural disaster, like a snow or thunderstorm. This is primarily an unnatural disaster, a disaster of neglected maintenance of power lines owned by PG&E. It feels like the company doesn’t want to be blamed for another tragedy, so it’s just shutting the whole thing down. It also feels like the company doesn’t realize that real people are trying to live here—that this is not a solution, but another version of the problem.

California Shutting off Power!

If it comes to a dystopia this will seem one early step down the road. Power companies in California are shutting off power to 800,000 people in 31 counties because of the potential for wildfires in the current windy, dry conditions.

That's difficult to believe, but it started today at midnight -- about 513,000 customers without power in 22 counties. A second phase starts at noon today for another 234,000 customers, and the remainder later. Officials don't know how long it will last -- it could be several days, as they inspect every inch centimeter of their power lines .

There have actually been two previous shutoffs this year, one iSeptember and last weekend, but on a much smaller scale (just three counties). I haven't read about what the impacts might have happened for those.

But this seems kind of crazy. Just imagine: no hot showers. No hot food. Everything in your refrigerator could spoil. No easy way to charge your cell phone (you can always do it in your car, assuming you have one). No use of medical equipment like CPAP machines and ventilators. No Internet, unless perhaps if cell towers are still working. Street lights? Presumably hospitals already have generators, but what about grocery stores and gas stations? How many businesses will this close temporarily? It could well have an effect on California's GDP. Schools are closed in the Bay area.

I realize big wildfires are dangerous (especially when power companies aren't properly trimming the conditions around their lines), with winds tonight in the Bay Area expected at up to 65 mph. but cutting power like this seems almost as dangerous.

Anyone in California affected by this? (DiC?) Does it seem as difficult, even scary, as it looks to me?

PS: And there's this:
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. diverted more than $100 million in gas safety and operations money collected from customers over a 15-year period and spent it for other purposes, including profit for stockholders and bonuses for executives, according to a pair of state-ordered reports released Thursday.

Sunday, October 06, 2019