Wednesday, June 26, 2019

More #AbiSciCon19

Here's my second article for Physics World on the Astrobiology Science Conference 2019 in Bellevue:

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

AbSciCon 2019

I'm at the 2019 Astrobiology science conference in Bellevue, Washington. I wrote about my first day and a half here for Physics World's blog.

Did you know there are now over 4,000 exoplanets discovered? That there's a portable genome sequencer that weighs 85 grams and fits in the palm of your hand? That 4% of the makeup of Omaha Beach consists of shrapnel?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Wrap-up of Today's Oregon Climate Craziness

End of the day wrap-up on actions surrounding Oregon's cap-and-trade bill, HB 2020.

The Oregon Republican senators are still hiding. The state police seem to be still out looking for them, though I don't know the degree of their vigor. They have been put in a very unfortunate and awkward position.

The Senate R's could not legally accept the GoFundMe money. How about they give it to baby immigrants stuck in a border jail cell? No? Thought not.... But the R's do have a PAC! Because you know there was surely someway to make money out of this somehow.

No shooting yet, but the Oregon Republicans did say they reject the support of right wing militias such as the Three Presenters Militia, who pledged to come to their aid. You'd have to call that a net positive. (Seems that to argue for gun rights, or to be a patriot of the highest order, you have to be against related to climate change.) (I guess I'll never be a 3%er.)

Time, and CO2 emissions, march on.


I'm taking time off. Maybe the whole summer.

Oregon Senator Tries Blaming the World's Poor

Naturally one of Oregon's state senators presented this argument:
After numerous unsuccessful attempts to kill the bill on Monday, House Republican leader Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass) said in a statement, "Climate change is a global problem, not an Oregon problem. Oregon's workers should not be punished for the reckless environmental policies of China and India."
This is a desperate argument, and I think somewhat cowardly, because it seeks to put the blame on the poor of the world, and it arrogantly assumes that Americans have an inherent right to emit more carbon pollution than citizens of another country.

I've probably written about this before, but here are the numbers:

These numbers come from the World Resource Institute's CAIT database, which goes to 2014, and the BP annual reports for 2015-2017. And the data are for energy use only, no changes in land use or other greenhouse gases like methane.)

How can anyone look at those numbers and claim the problem is really China and India??

Of course climate change is a global problem. And the solution is for everyone to solve their share of the problem. Some here in Oregon have expressed concern this will drive industries outside the state to where there are no cap-and-trade limits. (Idaho seems to be the preferred choice.) Has that happened elsewhere? Oregon already has one of the lowest state corporate tax rates of any state (7th lowest). They're going to give that up, just because of CnT? 

Maybe we should divide the troposphere up into N blocks, where N is the world population, and let every person on Earth sell credits to allow CO2 pollution in their block. People could sell their credits to brokers who then trade a large number of blocks. It's reduce emissions and be a poverty relief program as well.

Oregon Fines and a GoFundMe Page

Oregon senators face a $500/day fine for not showing up to do their jobs. Naturally (these days) there is a GoFundMe page to help them out, currently up to $19,375 after one day. 11 senators need to stay away to prevent a quorum, so that's $5,500/day, with the fund already covers at least three days. I'll be surprised if, once the word on the page gets out nationally, there isn't enough to cover the entire time they'd need to be out of state, which goes to the end of the legislative session on June 30th. Though the governor is threatening to call a special session to start July 2.

The Climate Kerfuffle in Oregon

Big troubles in Oregon over the cap-and-trade bill in the Senate. Senate Republicans have fled the state to prevent a senate quorum. There's trouble busin' in from outta state, and the D.A. here can't get no relief. There are rumors of a rumble out on the promenade, and the gamblin' commission's hangin' on by the skin of its teeth.

OK. It's true that enough Senate Republicans have fled the state, mostly to Idaho I read, to prevent a quorum in the Senate so there can be no vote on HB 2020, a cap-and-trade bill. The 2019 legislative sessions ends on June 30th, and they're trying to hide that out.

But Oregon's constitution allows the governor to call on the state police to roost them out and bodily bring them back to the state capital, which she has now done. As if that's not bad enough, one state senator is threatening to shoot them if they show up, saying they should be "single and well-armed."

I see two major issues behind all this. One is the unwillingness of Republicans to do anything about climate change. But the second issue is more in play at the moment: the strange political makeup of Oregon.

Oregon is the 9th largest state in the union, and it really should be broken up into two states, divided roughly by the Cascade mountains. Portland is (generalizing) very liberal and backs liberal causes like cap-and-trade. And the county it's in, Multnomah, has about 20% of the state's population. The Portland metropolitan area has over 65% the state's population, though that includes Vancouver, Washington and other nearby towns across the Columbia River. The Willamette Valley, entirely in Oregon, contains about 70% of the state population.

So Portland is the state behemoth. As a result, Democrats have a 3/5ths supermajority in the state legislature and senate, and the governor is a Democrat. So even though the vast majority of the area of the state is red, the blues have a large upper hand. The figure to the right shows the results of the 2018 gubernatorial race, by county, won by Kate Brown, the Democrat.

The state even divides up geographically, with the Williamette Valley being lush terrain from all the rain, and the east, in the Cascade mountain rain shadow, being brown and scrubby high desert.

East of the Cascades and south of Eugene -- so, anywhere outside the Willamette Valley -- is very conservative. But with the supermajority they feel Democrats are ramming through legislation. Which they are. If the situation were reversed, Republicans would, of course, be doing exactly same thing.

So you can see the need for the state to be divided into two, or there will be perpetual political unhappiness on the right. The Democrats have been in power here for decades, and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon, and maybe never.

Republicans say the cap-and-trade bill is unfair, in part because rural people drive more, with all the farmers and long distances between towns. The cap-and-trade bill is estimated to increase the price of gasoline by up to $0.23/gallon, which works out to $25 per metric ton of CO2. Not a lot. The carbon cap would periodically be lowered as time goes on.

Well, if you drive more and emit more carbon, you should, in fairnesspay more. But of course a lot of people don't want to hear it's time to start paying for their pollution.

I suspect the cap-and-trade bill here will pass in some form, perhaps by giving tax credits to farms and businesses in the red counties (or even statewide), or other legislative goodies. It's already a long and complex bill -- a simple carbon tax being obviously too simple (and, moreso, transparent).

Hopefully no state troopers will be shot. (They have guns of their own, you know.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Dead Leaf Butterfly

The Dead Leaf Butterfly
The other day a couple of religious canvassers came to my door. I forget what they said initially, but I gave my standard answer, "thanks, but I'm an atheist."

This usually sends them away, but not always, and this pair was an exception. She asked why I took that position. "No evidence," I said.

She said she recently saw a documentary with a butterfly that looked like a leaf. How could that have happened by itself, without being designed?

"Evolution by natural selection," I said.

What about this house, she said, pointing around her. Who designed it?

An architect, I said. Then I excused myself, said good luck on your efforts, but I was busy and had to go.

I wasn't really that busy, but afterward I thought that the butterfly in the shape of a leaf is about the best example of evolution by natural selection that is out there. I mean, it's perfect.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

No, Greener is Not Better

Just found this article by Carl Zimmer, who is always worth reading, but especially in this case:

"‘Global Greening’ Sounds Good. In the Long Run, It’s Terrible: Rising carbon dioxide levels are making the world greener. But that’s nothing to celebrate."
- Carl Zimmer, NY Times, July 30, 2018

Playing a Chernobyl Game

This article published yesterday in the Daily Beast, by Clive Irving, is in MHO excellent and well-worth reading, especially if you watched the Chernobyl series on HBO, especially the last episode:

Irving is right. The outright denial by liars in the Administration, from the very top (POTUS) down, who lack any capacity to even begin to engage with the scientific argument. Trump himself is so clueless that he thinks this is only about traditional air pollution and traditional water pollution. I don't think he's lying about this -- he just doesn't have the foggiest idea what climate change is about, just like he does not know what trade deficits are about.

It is no longer believable that the next decade won't be 0.2°C (0.3°F) warmer than this decade just ended, which was by that amount warmer than the one before it, and that warmer than one earlier.

Friday, June 14, 2019


I can easily see this photograph representing 9/11 in a history book 100 years from now.

China Has Twice the Environmental Taxes cp the US

This chart is from an interesting research document from the OECD, China's Progress Towards Green Growth: An International Perspective, October 2018. It shows that China has about twice the environmental taxes than does the US:

Personally I am very tired of claims that I see again and again that it's China and India who should be cutting back their use of fossil fuels, since they're the largest emitters.

First of all, the US emitted 2.2 times as much as does India in 2017, according to the 2018 BP report. Cumulatively, since 1850, the US has emitted 7.7 times what India has. So the India part of the assertion is just a dumb argument.

Cumulatively (since 1850), the US has emitted about 1.9 times more CO2 than has China, which I calculated from the World Resource Institute's CAIT database and the 2016-2018 BP reports.

And, I calculate that in 2017 the US emitted about 2.3 times that of China on a per capita basis.

The US has mucked up the atmosphere far more than China has, and continues to do so on an individual basis. It's not like an American newborn has an inherent, god-given right to emit twice as much CO2 as does a Chinese newborn.

The US is still the world's primary energy hog, and the US should be leading the fight to get rid of fossil fuels. Instead the Administration is going in the opposite direction, the future climate be damned.

1988: Climate Change VP Debate Question

In 1988 a question on climate change was presented to Dan Quayle and Lloyd Benson at their vice-presidential debate, by a smart reporter, Jon Margolis:

Lloyd Benson (a Democrat from Texas, no less) shows he has at least some handle on the question, suggesting a transition to natural gas. Dan Quayle (Republican) comes off as clueless, which was his trademark, providing the most generic, meaningless answer possible, all in that dullard countenance he was known for.

Of course, later in that debate Benson put Quayle to the canvas in perhaps the most famous debate response in US history:

Alas, Bush Sr and Quayle won the election. Then introduced the idea of cap-and-trade.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

What the Hell? (Solar Luminosity)

I found the following graph on Wikipedia, when I looked up solar luminosity.

It shows that solar luminosity was significantly lower in the past, which counters the denier argument that "well if CO2 was 6000 ppm back then, why wasn't there immense warming?") But I do not understand this graph. Why is temperature so constant? The Sun is the perfect example of a blackbody -- it absorbs all radiation incident upon it. (And everything else, too.) So why doesn't it follow the Stefan-Boltzmann law, where

luminosity = sigma*T4 ?

I'm confused. Can anyone help me?

River of Melted Permafrost

Not something you see every day -- a river of melted permafrost:

Friday, June 07, 2019

Michael Mann Wins a Court Case

Michael Mann and the The Frontier Centre for Public Policy Inc. have settled their case in the Canadian Supreme Court, with the Frontier Centre issuing a retraction & apology:

Mann sued Tim Ball and the Frontier Centre for libel. From Forbes 2012, where Larry Bell predicted the wrong outcome:
The first law suit was filed against Canadian climate scientist Timothy Ball who humorously commented  in an interview published by the Frontier Center for Public Policy, a Winnipeg think tank, that Penn State researcher Mann should, instead, be in the state pen.
Mann says he has not settled his claims against Tim Ball, who remains a defendant in the lawsuit. We'll see about that "humor."

Tim Ball's scientific reputation has already been shredded in a Canadian court, as it's been admitted in a court of law that he is not a climate science expert.

After the Calgary Herald published an op-ed by Ball on April 19, 2006, whom the newspaper identified as the first climatology PhD in Canada and a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg for 28 years, they published a letter on April 23, 2006 from Dr. Dan Johnson, a professor at the University of Lethbridge, who pointed out that neither of those descriptions is true; that Dr. Ball's credentials were being seriously overstated. Ball later threatened Johnson and the Herald and ultimately sued for defamation.

In their Statement of Defense filed in Court, the Calgary Herald submitted the following:

1. "...that the Plaintiff (Ball) never held a reputation in the scientific community as a noted climatologist and authority on global warming.

2. "The Plaintiff has never published any research in any peer-reviewed scientific journal which addressed the topic of human contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming

3. "The Plaintiff has published no papers on climatology in academically recognized peer-reviewed scientific journals since his retirement as a Professor in 1996;

4. "The Plaintiff's credentials and credibility as an expert on the issue of global warming have been repeatedly disparaged in the media; and

5. "The Plaintiff is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist."

Ball dropped his lawsuit.....

Source: The Calgary Herald, Statement of Defense – paragraph 50, Dr Tim Ball v The Calgary Herald, In the Court of the Queen’s Bench of Alberta Judicial District of Calgary, Dec 7, 2006 (

More at:

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Wind Power Now Surpassing Coal Power

From Quartz, about a month ago:

In March 2019, renewables generated more electricity than
coal for the first time in US history.

Quartz gives the chart below, but it clearly has problems, because a megawatt/day is not a unit of energy. Perhaps they meant megawatt-days. And renewables only out-generate coal in the projected part of their graph, not in March 2019, when it actually does. And they only show four data points a year, when they're writing about an individual month. Sloppy.

Not only this, but wind turbine technician is now the fastest growing occupation in the US, a job that pays a median of $51,000/yr. Wind generated about 5.5% of electricity in 2016. The wind industry employs over 100,000 people; solar about 260,000. The number of coal miners is now about 53,000.

By the way, the EIA's Electricity Monthly Update front page gives no mention to renewables at all. It's like they don't even exist. Or like they don't want them to exist.

Ladybugs On the Move

Too good not to blog:

Jobs By Energy Source

Here's a little chart I whipped up for the number of US jobs per unit energy for the major types of energy source*:

PJ = petajoule = 1015 joules (J)
EJ = exajoule = 1018 joules (J)
M = mega, B = billion, kWh = kilowatt-hour
pv = photovoltaic, h&c = heating and cooling

*Numbers in blue are data I looked up, numbers in black are calculated.

This isn't just for electricity, but all primary energy production. Of course, for solar and wind and coal it's almost all electricity, except for the occasional coal-powered vehicle. I did that calculation too; it's the last column in the chart.

There's a lot to quibble with here -- this is down and dirty. I'm not a professional analyst getting paid to do this perfectly. Most of concern to me is that I'm not sure "oil and gas extraction" includes any related management jobs, like in corporate headquarters. Same for coal. (And, for that matter, solar and wind.) It doesn't include the jobs in coal powered electricity plants (or solar plants). But the differences in jobs per energy are so large -- by one order of magnitude for wind, and two orders of magnitude for solar -- that one would have to do a whole lot of quibbling to make a difference in the conclusion that there are many more jobs in renewable energies than in fossil fuels, per unit of energy generated. (Why is this?)

And remember, despite the larger number of jobs, solar and wind power are now cheaper than coal in 3/4ths of the country.

Sources, jobs:
Renewable energy and jobs, Annual Review, IRENA
FRED for oil and gas and coal mining jobs

Source, energy:
EIA Energy Overview, Table 1.2

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

"Climate Denier" Is In the Dictionary

How About This for Calculating the 1-year Moving Average?

Update 6/10: A commenter got me thinking about this more, and I'm convinced now that there is no problem using the 365-day moving average for the 1-year moving average. See the comments for more explanation. Thanks Victor!

So I've been thinking more about how to calculate the 1-year moving average (MA) of daily data, which is complicated by leap years, which over several decades can leave you astray by several days, which affects the value of the 1-yr MA. (About 10 days over 4 decades, a third of a month.)

Any opinions on this proposal?

To me this seems the least arbitrary of anything I've seen so far. Thoughts?