Monday, November 05, 2018

Friday, November 02, 2018

Have CO2 Emissions Declined Under Trump?


Yesterday, or the day before, I can't remember, an NPR story that I can't find now, about plastics and, instead, making bottles from paper, said that US CO2 emissions have declined under Trump.

That's false.

Here are the 12-month increases in US CO2 emissions since Trump took office in Jan 2017:

The last six months have shown a clear month/12months-earlier increase in US CO2 emissions. At a rate of about half of economic growth.

Enough to matter? I don't know, how much matters?

As always, click the image for a clear picture, since Blogger renders these images for shit.

Currently US CO2 emissions data go up to July 2018 -- there's about a 4-month lag between now and the latest data -- but already it shows CO2 emissions increasing compared to 12-months before.

I don't know if this is due to policy changes, weather or what. According to my downloads -- which I do in an neverending effort to try to understand what the hell is going on -- the average temperature of USA48 was -1.07°F for March-May (meteorological spring) compared to the same period 1-year before, and +0.47°F for June-July, so far (2/3rds of meteorological summer, so far). Somewhat colder

There is actually a negative correlation between annual US CO2 emissions and the average annual USA48 temperature:

(Sorry, too much trouble to include Alaska and Hawaii. I'm sure they're used to being overlooked.)

So on the basis of temperature we would expect US CO2 emissions to be somewhat higher this year.

PS: That story, which was about replacing plastics with paper bottles (etc), was also sloppy with other parts of the science, I thought.

They noted that plastic was "made from fossil fuels." Yeah, sure. But that oil is sequestered in the plastic (though it might leak out over time. I'm not getting paid enough to figure out how much or how fast).

As well, making bottles of paper requires cutting down trees, and trees sequester carbon. How much carbon is lost after being sequestered in paper bottles? Like making plastic bottles, paper bottles require energy to manufacture. 

So what's the complete carbon budget here? Is it enough to matter, considering the US already emits about 5 Gt CO2? As I wrote, it's above my pay grade, which is $0 per whatever unit of time you wish to choose.

But I thought the NPR article slid over these issues much too slickly....

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sea Level Rise Committment

I've heard of warming commitment -- how much more the surface will warm if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases immediately (it's about 0.5°C), but until this video titled "This is the scariest graph I've ever seen," I had missed this result for sea level rise commitment -- how much sea level rise is "baked in" to the climate system if we stopped emitting GHGs today.

This 2016 paper by Hardy and Nuse finds the following for sea level rise commitment (SLRC):

(Click for a clearer image.)

It's difficult to imagine we will stay on RCP 8.5 until 2100 -- business as usual. But RCP 4.5, which does look imaginable, still has about 3.5 m of SLR, which is 11.5 ft, which already will a huge amount of damage.

There's a lot more to say about this paper, which I hope to do in the near future.

By the way, this Levermann et al 2013 paper finds a SLRC of 2.3 m/°C over the next 2000 years. Smaller than I thought.

PS: The current first comment on that Youtube video is a good one:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Various Stuff

Microplastics reach the top of the food chain. Tiny plastic particles (from 50 μm to 5 mm in diameter) have been found in human poop. That means we're eating or ingesting them from the air (as in the breakdown of synthetic fabrics, breakdown of larger debris like bottles, and from plastic beads in some cosmetics). The sample size was 8, all living in Europe or Asia. All of them produced contaminated poop. Obviously much more work is called for, such as figuring out how much of the plastic remains in the body, where it goes, if it's toxic, and if even smaller plastic particles are "able to penetrate the gut lining and enter the circulatory system and other organs, such as has been found to happen with other nanosize, man-made particles." Lovely. I'd like to think this might deter people from being irresponsible in disposing of plastics, but we all know that won't happen until we're shitting out gallon juice jugs into the toilet.

DeSmogBlog has an article listing many of the climate deniers running for office this November. Probably not all. Obviously all Republicans, except for one North Carolina Democrat who avoided the question in a debate. The question I wish the media would start asking is, "what is the cost of not addressing climate change?" Stop asking if they believe in it or not. That's like asking if they believe in gravity and hearing someone say "no." AGW is a given.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the author, in a discussion with someone, argues that gravity didn't exist until Isaac Newton. I took it he meant the concept of gravity, not the actual curvature of spacetime. That's a book I should put on my list to read again soon.

A 2003 paper by the physicist Brian Josephson (Nobel Laureate for work he did when he was 22 years old) has the title, "We Think That We Think Clearly, But That's Only Because We Don't Think Clearly."

Did Dinosaurs Sleep?

Last night I was reading Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs by Lisa Randall (it's good, not great), and suddenly wondered 'did the dinosaurs sleep?' It never occurred to me before to ask. After a little Googling I found this great picture of the dinosaur Mei long, discovered in 2004, in what sure looks like a sleeping position:

This is a juvenile, about 53 cm long. Another sleeping Mei long fossil was discovered in 2012, but it's not as clear as the above picture.

I'm not sure why, but seeing this picture was somehow soothing, realizing that some dinosaurs, at least, had some peace (maybe) in a red-in-tooth-and-claw world. Did the brontosaurus sleep? How, on its side? If so, how would it ever get up? Maybe it slept standing up, perhaps in water to relax its muscles some? What about Tyrannosaurus Rex? Did he lay down and, when he woke, did he push himself up with his tiny little arms? If he laid down, did his body mass nearly crush his torso? Elephants, who only sleep about 2 hours a day (because they need to find so much food every day) sleep both standing up and lying down. So their body mass, as least, doesn't crush them. There are too many interesting things to learn about.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Picture of a Human Tear Drop

Below is a picture of a pizza human tear drop, by Norm Barker of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Department of Pathology & Art as Applied to Medicine, a winner in Nikon’s micro-photo competition, and published in the Washington Post.

The Post published several more winners, but most are of more complicated, biological lifeforms. As a physicist, this one appeals to me for its relative simplicity and symmetry. But I wonder what the patterned lengthy objects are -- salt crystals? Any ideas? Why aren't there many in the center?


Saturday, October 20, 2018

"The Expanse" Season 3 on Amazon Prime Nov. 15th

Yeah -- season three of The Expanse is coming to Amazon Prime (without extra fees) on November 15th.

This is IMO the best sci-fi show since Star Trek: Enterprise, and every bit as good as Firefly, so mark your calendar. And you might want to watch season two again to recall the plotline.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What Percentage of Arctic Sea Ice is Gone?

Over six years ago (omg) I wrote about the percentage loss of Arctic sea ice, by volume, and came up with a nice little formula to calculate it under the assumption of a linear trend.

It was, then, -39.0% gone since Jan 1979.

Now it's just over six years later, and I just wanted to note that, as of Sept 2018, the figure is now -47.3%. Arctic sea ice is disappearing at over 1% per year.

Using the linear trend of -306 km3/yr, the sea ice volume loss since Jan 1979 is now -12.2 Kkm3, or -10.6 trillion tonnes.

Using a quadratic fit (easily better, in the least-squares sense), the loss is accelerating at -11.2 km3/yr2.

By the way, this acceleration is down from a (negative) peak of -22.2 km3/yr2 in Nov 2012. Sea ice loss is stalling a bit. It's done this before, and is no big deal -- there is no scientific reason to expect it will continue forever.


William Nordhaus
I was happy to see that William Nordhaus won (half of) the Nobel Prize in economics this year.

First, because it highlighted the importance of the impacts of climate change, and also because (and no one I read mentioned this) it was kind of a slap across the face of Republicans.

Nordhaus was an architect of cap-n-trade, back when Republicans at least pretended to care about climate change, in the GHW Bush administration. Cap-n-trade was then seen as the free market solution to global warming. It didn't come to much, but is still often the preferred method of addressing climate change (as in Oregon), because, as far as I can tell, it allows politicians to put real caps on greenhouse emissions, and because it doesn't involve the word "tax," as in "carbon tax."

Nordhaus now thinks a carbon tax is superior. My impression is that now a carbon tax (revenue neutral, possibly with a dividend) is seen as the most efficient program. But it's still seen as a tax, and changing the wording to "carbon fee" doesn't seem to fool anyone.

Anyway, a few years ago I read Nordhaus's book The Climate Casino. I have to admit I didn't get a lot out of it. He didn't get into the guts of explaining his DICE model, which is what I was looking for, but maybe not the general reader.

I try to understand economics when I come across it, but a few things get in my way. I am terrible at understanding graphs like this one -- I don't know if I have a mental block or what, but I always have to think hard to puzzle my way through them.

What could be simpler, right? But by now I partly freeze-up when I see one, just due to anxiety from past anxieties, and have to overcome that to see what the graph says. Dumb.

But I do like collecting economics data from, and looking for trends and changes.

It bothers me that economists never put error bars or uncertainty bands on their results. I'm guessing that's because it's hard enough to just get a model -- in the case of environmental economics, just to come up with basic equations that relate economic observables to climate observables -- let alone to worry about the uncertainties. This seems, to me, to imply that env econ results are far more precise than they really are.

Also, I've always found the equations economists come up with to be exceptionally ugly. At least compared to those of physics. They're full of asterisks and twiddles (tildes) and hats (carets) and primes, and subscripts high and low. Even subscripts on subscripts. They're just a mess. Here's an example of what I mean, from a more-or-less random paper I found by Paul Krugman:

Really?? And there are worse. 

Anyway, I heard Nordhaus being interviewed on the radio the other day when I was driving somewhere, and he seemed like the nicest, most gentle guy anywhere.