Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tom Nelson's Bad Understand of Geography

UK surface area: 243,610 km2
Earth surface area: 510,072,000 km2

In other words, the UK comprises 0.05% of the Earth's surface area... tell me again why its weather is being portrayed as representative of the globe as a whole?
Winter may be coldest in 1000 years

BRITAIN’S winter is the coldest since 1683 and close to being the chilliest in nearly 1,000 years.

Latest figures reveal that the average temperature since December 1 has been a perishing -1C.
That makes it the second coldest since records began in 1659.

US Life Expectancy is now *Dropping*

It got little-to-no attention, but the latest statistics show a drop in U.S. life expectancy.

That's right, an actual drop:
THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Life expectancy dipped slightly in the United States from 2007 to 2008, according to a new federal report -- the first decline of its type in 25 years.

Life expectancy for Americans in general declined by a little more than one month, from 77.9 to 77.8 years.

Whoever heard in life expectancy dropping anywhere, anytime in the last 100 years? It seems to be too early yet to suss out the reasons. But this bears watching. You have to wonder if the failing U.S. health care isn't partly behind it.

Quote of the Day

"You have about 5 percent of the market that is green and committed to fuel efficiency," said Mike Jackson, the chief executive of AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the country. "But the other 95 percent will give up an extra 5 mpg in fuel economy for a better cup holder."

-- Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

US v Europe

Tell me again why the US is supposed to be the greatest country in the world?
Der Spiegel:
The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 40 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane. 
-- Why Germans Think the U.S. is Insane

Tom Minnery Won't Interview

You may have seen the following video, where various conservatives dismiss environmental concerns, and even call it "dangerous:"

I requested an interview with Tom Minnery, Sr VP of Public Policy at Focus on the Family, who appears in the video, dismissing global warming. I asked for a 20-minute interview that I could post here as a podcast.

Devon Williams at Focus on the Family turned me down. His only reason? "Unfortunately, he is unable to accommodate your request. We apologize for any inconvenience...."

Seems to me that Tim Minnery is afraid to answer some solid questions from someone who knows what he's talking about.

If you're going to make outrageous claims, at least have the courage to defend them in an interview. It's difficult to respect anyone who won't do as much.


The target audience of denialism is the lay audience, not scientists. It's made up to look like science, but it's PR. (David Archer)

- from

Too Good

via: Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth, who interviews the video's creator.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cold Spells From Climate Change?

I have to admit, I never understand these explanations about why global climate change is supposed to be behind the cold, snowy weather such as we are recently been seeing.

The New York Times has such an article today: "Bundle Up, It's Global Warming," Judah Cohen, NY Times 12/26/10.

Let's see: overall warming implies (?) cold weather extremes. But snow in Siberia is [why?] increasing. This affects the jet stream and there is now more moisture and... blah blah blah it's supposed to be colder where it's now warmer, and old air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe, and all that.


OK, he's the expert and I'm just a journalist.

But I am still very dubious and have to admit that this all sounds like sophisticated back-filling.

This article reminds me of one that appeared when I lived back in New England: "Why the global deep freeze," by Paul R. Epstein and James J. McCarthy, The Boston Globe, Jan. 28, 2003

Epstein & McCarthy blamed that cold spell on (as far as I can tell) ocean currents, or something.

I've never understood these kind of arguments. Maybe I'm just not an expert. But there seem so many chains of influence that are each somewhat tenuous to cast significant doubt on the final argument. I honestly can't blame the public for being dubious about these kinds of articles and explanations, about being dubious of the claims that global warming implies these kinds of significant cold spells. For I have no doubt that, if it were now a very warm winter in New England or northern Europe, the climatologists and meteorologists would be offering equally logically sounding arguments about why that should be so.

Like I said, I'm just a journalist. But something doesn't smell right here.

The Immaculate Reception

I had a little personal essay in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"A Christmas miracle: The gods gave us the Immaculate Reception"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 25, 2010.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Health & Religion

Gallup has an interesting poll out today, that speaks to the health benefits of being religious:
Very religious Americans are more likely to practice healthy behaviors than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious....

Very religious Americans make healthier choices than their moderately religious and nonreligious counterparts across all four of the Healthy Behavior Index metrics, including smoking, healthy eating, and regular exercise. Smoking is one area of particular differentiation between the very religious and less religious Americans, with the nonreligious 85% more likely to be smokers than those who are very religious.
We've seen these kind of result before.... But I never know what to make of them.

Who doesn't want to be healthier, right?

But at what cost? I feel that I don't have any choice -- I am an atheist because, simply put, there is no evidence of "God" or any gods. It's not about what is or isn't good for me. It's about the truth, as best I can determine it.

Am I supposed to relax my intellectual integrity for the sake of gaining the added health benefits of religion? I can't do that. Maybe some people can, but I can't.

I don't doubt that there are health benefits to being part of a community, such as a religious community, even when it it founded on nebulous facts.

I've just never felt I had a choice, any more than I have a choice over Newton's Laws.

op-ed: "Wikileaks response exposes U.S. hypocrisy"

I have an op-ed in last Friday's Oregonian: "Wikileaks response exposes U.S. hypocrisy":

A Guide to Cherry-picking Temperature Data

With enough cherry-picking of the starting and ending years, you can usually get any temperature trend you want. Here is a nice diagram that shows that -- and that shows that you have to cherry-pick hard to cover up the long-term warming trend:

Here's how to read this diagram: the value plotted at point x = 1980, y = 60 corresponds to the 60-yr trend (°C/yr). (Note: trend is per year, not per decade.) The data source is Hadley's global temperature data (HadCRUT3).

This is from a new paper in BAMS: "Influence of choice of time period on global surface temperature trend estimates," Brant Liebmann et al, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Nov 2010 p 1485. As the authors write:
It is evident that time segments of a few decades or shorter can exhibit either warming or cooling trends, while trends for longer segments are mostly positive, though quite weak compared to those present in shorter segments.

Here's an different presentation of the same data, that shows total temperature change for any interval, versus (as above) the trend:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


"Generally speaking, the smarter move is to invest in the Tiffanys of the world—and shop at the Wal-Marts."
-- Brett Arends, Why I Don't Want an iPad for Christmas, Wall Street Journal

Today's Depressing Statistic on Space Travel

Voyager 1 has been traveling for about 33 years and is now the most remote human-made object, about 16B km from Earth, or 115 AUs (astronomical units). That's about 2.7 times the average distance to Pluto (from the Sun), which sounds impressive until you calculate that it's only 0.0017 light-years.

The nearest star to our Sun is Proxima Centauri, 4.2 light-years away. In other words, Voyager (traveling about 15 km/sec) has only covered 1/2500 of that distance. In 33 years.

At this rate it would take until the year 84,000 A.D. to get to our nearest star, if it were traveling in the right direction. (It's not.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Strange Photo from Hubble

I hadn't seen this Hubble photo before, but just noticed it on the Boston Globe's Bigpicture Blog: a photograph of a very weird starfish-like object, thought to be the result of a collision between two asteroids:

Time to Polarize the Hull Plating

The AP says that "More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined."

The guys who have to pay for this ought to know, right?
Disasters from the Earth, such as earthquakes and volcanoes "are pretty much constant," said Andreas Schraft, vice president of catastrophic perils for the Geneva-based insurance giant Swiss Re. "All the change that's made is man-made."
"Through Nov. 30, nearly 260,000 people died in natural disasters in 2010, compared to 15,000 in 2009, according to Swiss Re. The World Health Organization, which hasn't updated its figures past Sept. 30, is just shy of 250,000. By comparison, deaths from terrorism from 1968 to 2009 were less than 115,000, according to reports by the U.S. State Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory."


In the summer, one weather system caused oppressive heat in Russia, while farther south it caused flooding in Pakistan that inundated 62,000 square miles, about the size of Wisconsin. That single heat-and-storm system killed almost 17,000 people, more people than all the worldwide airplane crashes in the past 15 years combined.
The excessive amount of extreme weather that dominated 2010 is a classic sign of man-made global warming that climate scientists have long warned about. They calculate that the killer Russian heat wave - setting a national record of 111 degrees - would happen once every 100,000 years without global warming.
There are lots more interesting facts in the article.

Surprising they don't mention 2004, the year of the Boxing Day Tsunami, which killed about 230,000. That shocked me and still does. But until I read the AP article I didn't realize that the Haiti earthquake was about the same, killing 220,000. Why don't I feel the same degree of shock over that?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gallup News, Good and Bad

Good News and Bad News from Gallup Polls:
  • Only 45% of Americans now get their health insurance via their employer. This is down from 50% only three years ago. Three years ago, 14.8% of Americans had no health insurance coverage. Now it's at 16.1%. Does anyone complain? Are there any protests? Do Republican Congressmen even notice? Do Democratic Congressman notice? Why isn't this considered a crisis of the highest order?
  • 40% of Americans believe in "strict creationism." That is, they "believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago." 
This last point raises the question: does a country of such incredible stupidity deserve to continue into the future? Maybe global warming and the our other environmental/scientific problems are Nature's way of weeding out those societies who are too irrational to make the cut, who are too... well, too stupid to deserve to continue.

The End of DADT

Wow, something positive just actually happened in this: Don't Ask, Don't Tell will end and gays and lesbians will be able to openly serve in the US military. (Or, as a commenter on Kevin Drum's blog put it, "now gay people are free to help the neocons terrorize the middle east and otherwise sow chaos throughout the world. Yeah!")

As Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, "I don’t care who you love. If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are."

This is a big victory for what America is all about (and naturally, those who consider themselves the biggest patriots screamed the loudest against it). And it was an inevitable victory, as these things always are, though it took far longer than it should have. MLK Jr said "...the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." Now it bends a little more.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Watts Up With This Error?

Here is why you shouldn't take blogs for your scientific advice:

Anthony Watts writes that GISS's global temperature anomaly is (suspiciously) higher than that obtained by satellite measurement by UAH:
Hansen feels the need to explain why GISS is high in the midst of frigid air
I was working on a general report yesterday, but in checking background for it, I discovered this recent missive from Dr. Hansen. I suppose when your agency is the “odd man out”, you feel a need to explain yourself. Note the difference in November 2010 global temperature anomaly metrics:
UAH: 0.38 GISS: 0.74°C
Apparently it never occurred to Watts to actually compare the numbers scientifically -- that is, to note that GISS's baseline is 1951-1980 and UAH's baseline is 1981-2010. So it's little wonder that GISS gets a higher number.

This is how, I suppose, you get elected one of the best scientific blogs of the year. How reassuring.

Energy Pipe Dreams

Here is an interesting review of the quest for renewable energy, straight out of Green Central (Portland, Oregon):
In April 2001 the Portland City Council under the leadership of Mayor Vera Katz approved an aggressive plan aimed to combat global warming by decreasing carbon emissions by 10% from their 1990 levels by 2010, thus making Portland an icon in the renewable energy movement. An important part of this plan mandated that the City of Portland acquire one hundred percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2010. This would be accomplished through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) from public utility companies, renewable energy installations at city and county facilities and the sponsorship of local renewable energy projects. Nine years later the City of Portland has demonstrated the ineffectiveness of a government-led push for renewables by utterly failing to achieve its goal of 100% renewable energy. As of 2010 only 9% of the Portland city government’s power comes from renewable energy sources.
Via the Oregonian, via a report by the (free market) Cascade Policy Institute.

Is there any reason to believe that anyone, anywhere, can make reductions in their CO2 emissions until we admit that these reductions cannot be made by willpower alone but require a massive, almost total rebuilding of the energy infrastructure, at all levels?

PS: Beware, though, that the Cascade Policy Institute is another of those conservative astroturf organizations who won't reveal their funding. They aren't interesting in solving the problem, just raising doubts about it.

Today's Nugget of Wisdom

"You have been negotiating all my life," 21-year-old Mima Haider of Lebanon told delegates at the United Nations climate negotiations in Cancún. "You cannot tell me you need more time."
-- from "The Cancun Compromise" by Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation, Dec 16, 2010

Climate Poll

Everyone else runs unscientific polls, so why can't I?

Over on the right side of this page is a simple question: compared the the start of this year, are you more or less confident that average global temperature can be kept below 2°C, compared the preindustrial baseline? (Right now world temperatures are at about 0.7-0.8 °C above baseline.)

Remember, 2.0°C = 3.6°F.

Voting closes at midnight on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Incredible -- Mooney on AGU Board!

This is impossible to believe -- Chris Mooney has been appointed to the board of the American Geophysical Union!

Jesus--are there no standards anymore, anywhere?

Mooney has repeatedly shown himself to be a disaster as far as science and science communication is concerned. He is utterly biased politically and has demonstrated no objectivity -- first writing an utterly biased book that attacked the right but ignored all the massive leftist misconceptions of science (such as GM foods and Alar and the like), and, worse, acted like "opinion journalism" is a valid way to encounter science. It is not, but merely the weak fall-back position of someone who cannot be bothered to actually study and understand the relevant science.

Mooney's second book, on the the supposedly stormy weather that the world is supposedly bound to experience, has been an utter bomb, as shown by (among other studies) Ryan Maue's tabulation of Accumulated Cyclonic Energy (ACE) for the last several decades -- currently at a 35 yr low.

Mooney is an ENGLISH MAJOR! He knows nothing about science, let along the geosciences, and has demonstrated this time and time again with utterly bad and irrelevant advice. He thinks that he, a mere liberal arts major who probably doesn't even know what a differential equation is, can dare to tell PhD scientists how they should behave.

Has the AGU suddenly lost all concern for scientific competence?

Don't You, Sort of, Miss College?

Interesting Things

Some interesting stuff:
  • "The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth's Climate History," talk by Richard Alley (Penn St Univ), AGU Fall Meeting 2009
  • Currently, the desert (U.S.) Southwest uses 76 percent of its total surface water to support its population. This will rise to 86 percent with a doubling of urban population (expected in 50 to 100 years). Sustainable balance for the region is achieved when 40 percent of total surface water is used.
  • More evidence that money does not buy happiness: "Across a worldwide sample of 37 countries, rich and poor, ex-Communist and capitalist, Easterlin and his co-authors shows strikingly consistent results: over the long term, a sense of well-being within a country does not go up with income.
  • Wimps or victims? We're getting sicker...."A 20-year-old today can expect to live one less healthy year over his or her lifespan than a 20-year-old a decade ago, even though life expectancy has grown."
    "A male 20-year-old today can expect to spend 5.8 years over the rest of his life without basic mobility, compared to 3.8 years a decade ago — an additional two years unable to walk up ten steps or sit for two hours. A female 20-year-old can expect 9.8 years without mobility, compared to 7.3 years a decade ago.
    "There is substantial evidence that we have done little to date to eliminate or delay disease while we have prevented death from diseases," Crimmins explained. "At the same time, there have been substantial increases in the incidences of certain chronic diseases, specifically, diabetes."
  • Calculating carbon footprints can be quite uncertain....

Wikileaks and Government Secrecy

Some recent links on Wikileaks I have come across, especially regarding government secrecy:

The Atlandtic: Wikileaks vs the growing culture of official secrecy & 
stilling of public discourse

In context with Wikileaks vs habitual secrecy, Wash Post. "Top Secret 

Bill Moyer's Journal. Rick Karr on Government Secrecy (video).

More on the growth of gov. secrecy. Bill Moyer's Journal - The Need to Know.

RT @DanielEllsberg EVERY attack now made on Assange and @wikileaks was made 
against me and release of Pentagon Papers

RT @wired Military bans disks, threatens courts-martial to stop new 
#WikiLeaks -

RT @fastcompany With @WikiLeaks Looming Large, @StateDept Announces Hosting 
of Press Freedom Event

Infoworld: WikiLeaks persists despite massive, multifaceted attacks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oregon's Gas Tax

Oregon is raising its tax on gasoline by 6 cents/gal when the new year starts (to repair bridges and roads, politicians say), and naturally people are whining about it. But, in fact, in real dollars OR's gas tax, even with the increase, will be the the lowest it's been in about 20 years - and quite low by historical measures:

Funny thing is, Oregon's roads are generally in pretty good shape, in my experience, compared to roads back east, because they don't undergo significant/any thaw-freeze cycles. (I never knew about "frost heaves" until I moved to rural New Hampshire, but they can be legendary.) On the other hand, there is a bridge in Portland, the Sellwood Bridge, that everyone expects to crash down at any minute.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


“You are complete joy to me,” Mrs. Edward wrote. “I hope you will always know that. Wherever I am, wherever you are, I have my arms wrapped around you.”
-- Elizabeth Edwards, letter to her children

What Science Isn't

Phil Mote, Oregon State University:
"You can't just spend a weekend with an Excel spreadsheet and issue comments. I wanted to make sure that what we were passing out was scientifically vetted." (Oregonian, Nov 27, 2010).

Climate Stuff

  • GISS's data says last month was the warmest November in their records: +0.74°C. That's a lot higher than RSS or UAH and perhaps a bit suspicious, or maybe that they have better polar coverage.
  • GISS also said that 2010 was the warmest meteorological year (Dec 1 - Nov 30) in their records: +0.65°C above the 1951-1980 baseline. (2005 is in second place.)
  • If a country is inundated by rising seas, does it still exist?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Actors at Any Age

In the upcoming remake of "Tron," actor Jeff Bridges is digitally altered to look much younger. He thinks this is a good thing:
In "Tron: Legacy," which opens Dec. 17, 61-year-old actor Jeff Bridges will play Kevin Flynn, at his natural age, and a computerized avatar called "Clu," who hasn't aged since around the time he was first created in the original Tron in 1982.
Clu bears Bridges' face, altered to make him about 35 years old, but it's grafted onto a younger actor's body.
While it may be eerie for audiences to see a new performance from a younger-looking Bridges, it was no less strange for the actor himself.
"It's bizarre. It's great news for me, because now it means I can play myself at any age," Bridges said.
I am not so sure. I think audiences like seeing actors they are familiar with play different roles, and they like seeing their evolution over time. They don't want to see them playing roles they should have played 30 years ago.

(I didn't understand this until recently. I remember being a kid and being puzzled about why my parents and/or grandparents were so keen on identifying actors in movies and equating them with previous roles. Now that I'm older I understand it and I understand why we like seeing familiar actors in new roles in new movies.)

As just one example: Jeff Bridges was wonderful in the 1973 version of "The Iceman Cometh." I only saw this performance last year, and you really have to see it if you like good, old-fashioned drama. It's a wonderful movie of a wonderful play, and Jeff Bridges did a very memorable job in it (as did several other actors).

Bridges' youth was a crucial part of his role in TIC. It was indispensable. But you can't put a 61 year old's face on that body and get the same play, or put a 25 year old's face on that body and get the same play. It's more than a matter of looks, but one of attitude and inflection and diffidence. Any actor must know that.

I'm sure Bridges would like to extend his career. We all would, or will, at his age. But it can't be done.

And yet, I'm sure it will be done, and the art of acting will suffer for it -- though producers and studios will make lots of money off of it so that, like all things, it will turn into profitable crap.

Travel Trade-Offs for Scientists

A letter in the most recent issue of Science puts it bluntly -- scientists have a large carbon footprint. Is this bad? I don't know.... I suspect that the carbon footprints of all professionals in all fields are larger than average -- but then, so is their impact. In fact, I would expect (but cannot prove) that their impact and carbon footprint are correlated.. But how do we decide such things? Should there be a straight, proportional cost for one's carbon footprint?
Almost certainly, as individuals, scientists are responsible for an order of magnitude more greenhouse gas emissions than the average global citizen, in large part due to travel associated with our scientific interactions, presentations, and service to the scientific community....

Scientists must lead the charge against “business as usual” by demonstrating a different way of doing business. The technology is available, and it is time for us to find ways to promote scientific progress without contributing so substantially to the climate change problem we study.    
-- "Travel Trade-Offs for Scientists," Ingrid C Burke, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Science v 330, 10 Dec 2010, p 1476

PS: But it's going to be a very boring world if we all have to stay home and do everything by teleconference....

Consensus, or Not?

Isn't it funny how climate change deniers stomp up and down to insist there is not such thing as "consensus" in science... and then repeatedly make lists about all the scientists on their side?

Basic Physics

"If  you put heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, it will trap heat. It's basic physics."

-- Waleed Abdalati, Director of the Earth Science and Observation Center, University of Colorado.

China's Response to the Nobel Prize

Liu.pngWatching official China stomp and whine after the Nobel Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo is really quite amusing (and, as well, rather sad). They seem like a six-year old -- or, rather, like any bully who ever lived. James Fallows nails it:

The Chinese central authorities no doubt intend all these as demonstrations of strength. In the rest of the world's eyes, of course, there could be no more dramatic demonstration of weakness and insecurity

Ai Wei Wei, a Chinese artist who was recently prohibited from leaving the country:
"If the Chinese people ... don't know why this prize should be given to Liu Xiaobo, now they should understand."

Too Good Not to Post

Arctic Sea Ice (Extent) Again at a Minimum

These things fluctuate, but right now Arctic sea ice extent is the lowest it's been, for this date, in JAXA's nine year history. I'm just sayin'.

Ice volume (the better metric) looks as scary as always.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hillary Clinton Before Wikileaks

Hillary Clinton, Jan 2010:
In many respects, information has never been so free. There are more ways to spread more ideas to more people than at any moment in history. Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable.
During his visit to China in November, President Obama held a town hall meeting with an online component to highlight the importance of the internet. In response to a question that was sent in over the internet, he defended the right of people to freely access information, and said that the more freely information flows, the stronger societies become. He spoke about how access to information helps citizens to hold their governments accountable, generates new ideas, and encourages creativity. The United States' belief in that truth is what brings me here today.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


“In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble,”

-- Ron Paul

Sunday, December 05, 2010

On "American Exceptionalism"

Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State puts it accurately and succinctly:
After the European settlement, strange ideas about "manifest destiny" were used as an excuse to push Native Americans from their land. Later, in the antebellum South, some preachers routinely endorsed the thesis that slavery, American-style, was endorsed by God. Today's "exceptionalists" are really no different, a theologian's equivalent of the child in the backseat telling his sister that "Mom likes me better than you!"
God doesn't play favorites among nations. Any "exceptionalism" in the United States is because of the character of her people and a structure of government which doesn't pick sides in theological debates either. When we start thinking that God is patting us on the head more regularly, we'll be "exceptional" only for our vanity and pride.

Christopher Booker Has No Shame

Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker has such a incorrect, stupid, and dishonest sentence (in an otherwise incorrect, stupid, and dishonest column) that it's impossible to believe it could appear in newspaper at all concerned with its reputation -- or even simple honesty. Booker writes:
"Far from the oceans acidifying, their pH currently ranges between 7.9 and 8.3, putting them very firmly on the alkaline side of the threshold, at 7.0."
This is just unbelievably stupid. I can't even believe even Booker thinks this is an accurate description of ocean acidification, which is, of course, about the ocean's pH getting lower, regardless of its starting point.

As others have noted, "ocean acidification" is not perhaps the most compelling term, especially in a scientifically illiterate world that seems to need every little detail spelled out. But Booker's statement is akin to saying that a temperature increase from -10°C to -5°C isn't "warmer" because it's still below the freezing point.


Leaks, China vs U.S.

Commenter in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The U.S.government is doing the same thing to Wikileaks that the Chinese government did to Google.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Schizophrenia in Action

Washington Times, Dec 2: "Wave Goodbye to Internet Freedom"

Washington Times, Dec 2: "Assassinate Assange"

Ron Paul on Wikileaks

Ron Paul Tweet:
"Re: Wikileaks - In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble."

Thursday, December 02, 2010


"Anytime's A Good Time To Move On."
-- "Anytime," My Morning Jacket

Oregon's "Civil War"

Here in Oregon the annual football game between the University of Oregon and Oregon State University is referred to at "the Civil War." This year it happens this Saturday.

I'm not sure why, but I've always found this offensive.

620,000 Americans died in the (real) Civil War. (So horrible was this war that more were killed than wounded.)

If the same happened today, the equivalent number would be over 6 million. That's impossible to even imagine.

Of course, Oregon barely existed during the real Civil War. It got statehood in 1859, and had a "whites only" clause in its state Constitution. Some of its men went east to fight, but Oregon saw little-to-no blood.

Maybe it's because I grew up in Pennsylvania, but the Civil War was always big in my mind. I probably went to Gettysburg six times by the time I was 15, on various field trips or vacations, and each time (it seemed) we'd go to the the theater-in-the-round and see the electronic map of the battle and then go see Little Round Top and the field where Pickett's charge took place. I still remember an exhibit in a Gettysburg museum of two bullets that met in mid-air and fused together. Can you even imagine?

If I believed in reincarnation I'd swear I was killed behind a certain stone wall in Devil's Den.

Anyway, the Civil War seemed real to me. But I don't get the impression here that it seems very real here. So it's easy to name a football game for it. Lots of states have competing universities who are rivals on the field. But no one else thinks it's the Civil War. I think Oregon is treating a terrible tragedy too cavalierly, and usurping something they didn't earn.

Some Interesting Stuff

The WMO says 2010 will be one of the three warmest years since record keeping began in 1850. More significantly, the first decade of this century will be (by far) the warmest decade. "There is statistically significant warming above the normal variability," says the WMO's Director General.


The Oregonian has a nice profile of OR State Univ climatologist Phil Mote, who heads the Oregon Climate Change Research Center.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wikileak's Latest Leak

People like Max Boot think the job of journalists is to blindly ensure the supremacy of their particular nation-state, but fortunately some people still think otherwise.

The best defense of Wikileaks that I've read is by Simon Jenkins in yesterday's Guardian:
Anything said or done in the name of democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be "world policeman" – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global.

Governments at all levels seem to have completely forgotten this.

Wikileaks asked the US govt for a list of people who might be put at risk by release of the documents -- the US, typically high-handed, refused to answer. Jenkins writes:
It is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Al Gore May Have Just Lost All Relevance

All of a sudden, Al Gore may no longer be a credible player in the debate over global warming.

Gore sold-out. There are few other ways to interpret his recent admission that he supported ethanol not because of its potential to (partly) solve manmade climate change, but because he wanted votes for his presidential candidacy.

Let's be clear: ethanol was a decent effort. Not every proposed solution to the global warming problem is going to pan out, and it is often not clear whether a solution will pan out -- in whole or in part -- until you start down its path and learn about its problems, and its unintended consequences, in detail. (And you will only learn about some details by starting down the path.)

So I don't think you can fault anyone for having backing ethanol. But you can fault them if the primary reason they backed it was to garner votes -- which is what Gore seems to say he did:
"First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small," he said, referring to how much energy is produced in the process.
The U.S. ethanol industry will consume about 41 percent of the U.S. corn crop this year, or 15 percent of the global corn crop, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.
Gore explained his own support for the original program on his presidential ambitions.
"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president" in 2000."
This is a noble proclamation -- but no less damaging. Gore did exactly what so many have accused climate skeptics/deniers of doing -- taking a position for political and/or economic gain.

Tonight, I can't see how he can outlive this or get his former credibility back.

America is No 1!

Here is a stunning portrait of where America ranks today, from a recent column by Thomas Friedmann:

  • sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade; 
  • 11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school; 
  • 16th in college completion rate; 
  • 22nd in broadband Internet access; 
  • 24th in life expectancy at birth; 
  • 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 
  • 48th in quality of K-12 math and science education; 
  • 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

On Golf

I like this, from some (unfortunately unacknowledged) AP writer in today's NY TImes:
Earl Woods understood golf is a solitary game played across the 5½-inch course between your ears. So that's where he set out to make his son unbeatable.

National Geographic's 2010 Photo Contest

Here's a great picture from National Geographic's 2010 Photo Contest, of a valley near Boise, Idaho. Many more great pictures here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

China is now the Big Dog -- Kinda

Well, at least China is being honest about it:
China acknowledged on Tuesday that it is the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, as it called on the United States to ensure climate change talks opening next week make progress.

Of course, their per-capita emissions are only about 1/4th that of the US, which keeps the moral responsibility for global leadership firmly in the US's hands. Not that we will do much with it. But let's at least keep the morality clear here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Glenn Beck: Suck This

For an American historian who researches totalitarianism and genocide, nothing is more disheartening than facile comparisons sometimes heard between Western leaders and Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin. When we are so wrong about history, we do a great injustice to ourselves.

The Stalin comparison rests on a basic misunderstanding of the history of communism. Americans often seem to think that social reforms are somehow steps toward communism. History tells a different story.

...Had Barack Obama been born in Nazi Germany, of one white and one African parent, he would have been sterilized. His election as president was actually one of the strongest refutations ever offered to Nazi ideology.


It goes without saying that Hitler and Stalin controlled parties that opposed democracy and legitimated themselves by ideology, propaganda and force rather than free elections. In both the Nazi and Stalinist cases, the rise to power required violence, and the sustenance of the regime more violence.

That some people would compare their own peacefully elected president to ideological mass murderers is a sign of reckless and shameful disregard for some of the most important lessons of history.

-- Timothy Snyder, NY Times, 11/16/10

Please, Shoot Us Now

It is starting to get very, very embarrassing to be an American, thanks to numskulls like this:
“The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth,” he said. “This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”
“I believe that’s the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it’s going to be for his creation,” he said.

This is Republican John Simkus of Illinois, vying for control of the House Energy and Commerce committee, which has significant influence on federal energy policy and climate change regulation and legislation.

Earlier, Mr. Shimkus referenced what he called a theological debate over whether the Earth was a “carbon-starved planet.”
“If we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?” he asked a committee witness. “We could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.”

How can you possibly overcome such an insane level of stupidity? Seriously.

Effect of the Montreal Protocol

Not all GHGs are CO2:
The Montreal Protocol has already delayed climate change by 7-12 years."

-- Mario Molina, UC San Diego, quoted in Environmental Science &Technology, Jan 1, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kill All the Drinking Cats

If I see one more link to another article about how cats drink I just might finally go live in a cave.

For some reason this week's Science magazine thought that news of cutting edge science should include an article about how cats drink water.

I was unaware that this was one of the great scientific problems of our age, but I must have been wrong.

True to form, every publication in the galaxy highlighted the story as if it were a major breakthrough, just as Science magazine knew they would. This is because science journalists, most of who have little scientific training, were thankful to finally have something to write about that they could understand, and that their increasingly uneducated readers could relate to.

Because no one cares that we have no idea what 96% of the Universe is composed of, or how we might solve our long-term climate issues, or even whether our standard view of particle physics is correct.

No, we need to know how cats drink.

What's worse is that I'm sure Science published this article, knowing it had no scientific importance and was merely an application of 150-year old physics, because they knew it would gets lots of attention from the hoi polloi and their magazine's name would be scattered across the publishing universe.

Not that anyone learned anything useful, except that fluid mechanics works. Not that that was ever in any doubt, of course, being a simple application of Newton's 400-yo laws of motion.

We can all be glad, of course, that cats are still escaping dehydration, and that they apparently have the necessary smarts to solve the differential equations to get fluid into their yaps.

But what about raccoons? Horses? Ferrets? I see a great many papers to come....


In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.
-- Yogi Berra

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How *Not* to Advocate for Your Science

Great. Chris Mooney thinks climate scientists are supposed to make their case by... not being scientific:
So any scientist walking into this context had better be ready for one obvious trap: Being lured into talking about uncertainty to the detriment of what we actually know. It’s easy to ask a scientist a question that will invite a large volume of caveats and doubt-generating statements without leaving much time to discuss what’s firm, what we can rely on. A question like, “what are the limitations of existing climate models?” You get the picture.

Hey, you know what? Uncertainty is part of science. A big part. An inevitable part. Acknowledging the uncertainty of scientific conclusions is important. It's crucial. A scientist who doesn't talk about the limitations of his conclusions isn't a scientist, but just a pundit.

And God knows we have too many pundits out there already.

Anything else is, in fact, is a kind of lying. Is Mooney really suggesting that scientists should lie (i.e. not present the whole truth) for the sake of an agenda?

That would be exactly the wrong approach. You don't bow down to the audience. You elevate them and teach them what science is really all about.

These public relations people and English majors are going to ruin everything.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Chris Christie and Global Warming

Why doesn't the vaunted governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, believe in a human influence on global warming, as do essentially all earth scientists in existence? Because, well.... he can't really say. It seems to depend on which TV program he watched last night:
Mankind, is it responsible for global warming? Well I'll tell you something. I have seen evidence on both sides of it. I'm skeptical -- I'm skeptical. And you know, I think at the at the end of this, I think we're going to need more science to prove something one way or the other. But you know - cause I've seen arguments on both sides of it that at times - like I'll watch something about man made global warming, and I go wow, that's fairly convincing. And then I'll go out and watch the other side of the argument, and I go huh, that's fairly convincing too. So, I go to be honest with you, I don't know. And that's probably one of the reason's why I became a lawyer, and not a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, because I can't figure this stuff out. But I would say at this point, that has to be proven, and I'm a little skeptical about it. Thank you.

I wonder if he makes all his big decisions this way?

What Happened to Pittsburgh

Some blog called Urbanophile, written by Aaron M Renn, seems to know the big story about what happened to Pittsburgh and its environs in the '70s and '80s:
The lesson to be gleamed from Pittsburgh isn’t so much in what steps it’s taken on its way to recovery. Rather, the lesson to be learned from Pittsburgh is what happened to its Great Recession hit in 1983.

It failed. The steel collapse decimated Pittsburgh and its region, taking with it nearly 1 out of every 10 jobs there. Entire towns surrounding the city became obsolete. But it is because of that failure, that absolute bottoming-out, that Pittsburgh has been able to cast aside its past and emerge as a unique showcase of what a small, bustling, connected American city can eventually become.

Via Andrew Sullivan

This is the kind of bullshit I really can't stand, because if you lived anywhere near Pittsburgh in the '70s and '80s you know the truth about what happened and not what some theorist thinks happened.

You know that men in the prime of their lives, their 30s and 40s and 50s, lost their jobs with little understanding of what was going on. These were the men, or the descendants of the men, who, as Bruce Springsteen wrote, "did what Hitler couldn't do."

Yet they were still tossed aside as soon as it was convenient.

I knew these men. They were my father and my uncles. They went to work every morning or every evening on the night shift and labored in front of superhot furnaces and did what they were asked to do. My dad worked in a Pennsylvania steel mill, and I remember after he was promoted to supervisor I once went in to see him at work and to see his office, and was shocked to see that it was a tiny, very dirty glass enclosed space in the middle of a big mill, full of noise and dirt and torn manuals, and not at all like the position I thought my dad held as a "supervisor." I never quite saw him the same way after that.

These guys worked really fucking hard, and they always came home hungry, with dirt on their hands, and they drank Iron City beer on the weekends and never once complained, and when these big corporations were done with them they tossed them out and these guys had to became bar tenders or cut grass or moved thousands of miles away to jobs with less pay, their pride hurt in ways I never imagined until now.

So don't tell me how this was all great part of some big urban renewal. It was not. Pittsburgh isn't now some great center of creativity and rebirth. It is, in fact, a shell of its former self. It is still beneath the boot, the same boot that has always tread over working men in America, always in the apparent name of progress, always leaving broken bones (and broken families) in its wake. Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities and all the hard-working people in southwestern Pennsylvania suffered greatly in its contraction and never again found their previous glory, and never will, and trying to imply that Capitalism and the free market eventually made everything alright is complete bullshit. Capitalism has winners and losers, and it's a great system if you're one of its winners, but if you're one of its losers you're supposed to suffer in silence and think that it's all your fault for not being more ambitious or for not working harder. Which is shit. The only people who like capitalism are its winners. And they're the only ones that you hear about. The rest, and their suffering, are always and forever forgotten, and have forever been expected to remain so. Who speaks for them?

A Few Recent Amazing Things

  • About a thousand people (!) now live in the drainage tunnels beneath Las Vegas.
  • An amazing 90% of members of a downtown Portland health club are willing to give up their fingerprint for easier access. (Americans are so incredibly stupid.)
  • Only 7% of Oregon's high school graduates have the math skills "to compete for top jobs in the global market." And that's above the national average....
  • Reuters: Europe no longer sees the US as an important player in climate change. Imagine...the US not a factor in the most important long-term issue of our age. If that's not an indication of US decline and the dangerous path down which Republicans are taking us, I don't know what is.
  • NASA GISS: Oct 10 was the 2nd warmest October in their records. 2010 is almost certainly going to be the warmest year in their records.... I haven't yet done the calculations for the other three data sources (HadCRUT3, RSS, and UAH, though usually GISS is the highest among them).

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Quitter

How can you not like this?

Climate Scientists Fighting Back?

So besides that AGU has disputed some of today's LA Times story, I haven't heard much about what will actually occur. But I think it's a good thing that at least some climate scientists are planning to fight back.

I don't see this as activism. At all. These scientists aren't saying we should tear down oil wells or transition to electric cars or that Congress should enact cap-n-trade -- I don't think I've ever heard a single climate scientist say anything like that. They are simply communicating the science --that GHGs + land use changes are going to, in the long-term, change our climate. And for that, for their science alone, they are being attacked, and being accused of all manners of fraud and lies and misrepresentations. This is unprecedented and unacceptable, and they have a right to fight back about the science.

Personally I think some scientist ought to sue someone like Moran or Tom Nelson when they label them a "fraudster." That would get attention.

AGU disputes LA TImes story

In a press release just distributed, the AGU says that today's LA Times story (on climate scientists fighting back) represents its position:
WASHINGTON- An article appearing in the Los Angeles Times, and then picked up by media outlets far and wide, misrepresents the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a climate science project the AGU is about to relaunch. The project, called Climate Q&A Service, aims simply to provide accurate scientific answers to questions from journalists about climate

"In contrast to what has been reported in the LA Times and elsewhere, there is no campaign by AGU against climate skeptics or congressional conservatives," says Christine McEntee, Executive Director and CEO of the American Geophysical Union. "AGU will continue to provide accuratescientific information on Earth and space topics to inform the general public and to support sound public policy development."

..."AGU is a scientific society, not an advocacy organization," says climate scientist and AGU President Michael J. McPhaden. "The organization is committed to promoting scientific discovery and to disseminating to the scientific community, policy makers, the media, and the public, peer-reviewed scientific findings across a broad range of Earth and space sciences."

Friday, November 05, 2010

At Least Kitzhaber Still Cares about the Environment

Environmentalism may have lost big time on Tuesday, but at least it's still a strong value of the incoming Oregon governor, John Kitzhaber:
At a rally to celebrate his election victory, however, the Democratic former governor also made it clear that environmental protection -- often a wedge issue between Oregon's urban and rural communities -- would return as a hallmark of his new administration....

While Kitzhaber said his goal is to "create that political center" that can tackle the state's long list of recession-caused troubles, the jeans-and-boots-wearing white-water rafter asserted himself once again as the chief steward of the state's natural bounty.

In addition to tipping his hat to job-seekers and school children, he thanked "everyone who sees our state and recognizes its natural wonder, and knows it's worth fighting for, and that it's a legacy to be passed on to future generations. It's your victory, too.
This is especially quotable:
"The challenges aren't blue, the challenges aren't red," Kitzhaber said. "Hell, they're green."
It's almost embarrassing to say, but it's nice to have a governor who actually believes what scientists are saying (for decades now).

Just a Gesture

Steve Chapman, Hit and Run:
Some 300 candidates nationally have signed the Tea Party "Contract from America" calling for a balanced budget, radical simplification of the tax code, and strict limits on federal spending. The chance that any of those will come to pass in the next two years? Zero.

Our campaigns are generally a matter of theater, not to be taken literally. We like to be the kind of people who vote for drastic change, but we don't want to be the kind of people who actually experience it. The gesture is generally enough.

Feynman on Magnetism

Here's a great clip where Richard Feynman explains how magnets attract or repel on another. He answers it as only Feynman could.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Some Good News

From California:

Voters rejected a controversial proposal to suspend California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law Tuesday, showing their support for the state's efforts to lead the nation in confronting climate change.
The measure, Proposition 23, would have suspended the state's climate law until unemployment dropped below 5.5 percent for 12 months, which economic analysts said was not likely to happen for several years. Proponents called the measure a responsible response to the economic slowdown, while opponents painted it as a hostile and thinly veiled attempt by Texas oil companies to kill California's progress on the issue.

Back and Forth

In a way, all this gets kind of tiring.

Now the Republicans win. Two years ago the Democrats won, and four years before that the Republicans held and four years before that Gore lost and six years before that the Republicans took over Congress yet again and blocked Clinton.

And yet what changes, really?

The economy goes up for awhile, then it goes down. A little lower this time, a little higher at other times. Some people get jobs, and some people lose them. People lose health insurance at the rate of about 1%/yr, and nothing seems to change that. Clinton or Obama try to make changes, and the Republicans try to cancel them out.

Meanwhile corporate interests make steady increases in influence year after year, since... when, at least since the '60s now?

Government gets bigger no matter who is in charge. Government gets more intrusive no matter who is in charge. People work even harder no matter who is in charge, and fear for their jobs no matter who is in charge.

Aren't we supposed to be progressing towards a kinder, more beneficent future, where people work less and have more time for their families and their leisure and opportunities to read great literature and see theatre and dance and movies? Isn't that what all this is supposed to bring us?

It seems like all we're supposed to do is work harder to beat (now) the Indians and the Chinese, instead of (then) the Russians and the Japanese.

Is this really progress?

Am I really supposed to think that that Republicans are now going to save our union, when four years ago they seemed to be doing all they could to screw it up? And that the best Democrats can do, with the White House and both houses of Congress, is to cap unemployment at 10%?

What exactly am I waiting for? Can you tell me?

Where are the Aliens?

Robert Park, What's New, Oct 29, 2010
The great physicist Enrico Fermi asked, "Where are they." This is referred to today as the Fermi paradox, but there is no paradox. They are peering through their telescopes, calculating the incredible difficulty of traveling to another star, and deciding to let others, somewhere else, make the effort. That's what I would do.

Of course, some people aren't content to just stay home, sipping Chardonnay in comfort.... But some people are.

Big Review Article on Solar Influences

There is a big review article on solar influences on climate that, if you want to preach on the topic, you definitely need to read first:
REVIEWS OF GEOPHYSICS, VOL. 48, RG4001, 53 PP., 2010
L. J. Gray, et al.

Read it. Then, read it. Once again, read it before you tell us how solar variability is responsible for recent decadal increases in worldwide temperatures.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

At Least Oregon Seems (Mostly) Good

Ron Wyden (Dem) {maybe the best Senator I've ever seen} wins.

David Wu (D) beats Ron Cornilles (in my district).

Peter DeFazio is leading the nasty climate skeptic Art Robinson (who was behind the infamous Oregon Petition). This is a defeat for climate skeptics, and should be the end of Robinson, who is now 68 years old.

Still unknown: John Kitzhaber (Dem) vs a basketball player.

A Natural Shapeshifter

Kind of spooky:

America's Turning Point?

NY Times:
In a CNN interview, Rand Paul, the newly elected Senator for Kentucky, defends extending the Bush tax cuts by saying that "we all work for rich people or sell stuff to rich people."

Really, is there any reason not to give up on America right now? I'm very, very serious about this -- is there any longer a reason for a rational, thinking person to stay here, to expect that the future is going to be better than the past?

Do any of you really believe that life in America is going to get better in the near future and not worse? -- that it's not going to continue on the path it's taken for 3 decades now -- middle-class wages absolutely stagnant, and about a 1%/yr decline in the population with health insurance?

I know not everyone can just pick up and leave. But some of us can....

O'Donnell loses

At least Christine O'Donnell has lost. Perhaps America still has an infinitesimal chance of survival.

Open Water

For reasons that still elude me, the vast majority of people who come here via Google searches come looking for "shark attacks."

Anyway, if that's you you should definitely watch the 2004 film Open Water. Not just for the sharks. In fact, not even primarily for the sharks. But just to have the complete crap scared out of you.

Like the Blair Witch Project, it's a very visceral movie that cuts right into what you know most. No birds pecking at your head, no shower scenes -- just situations you can easily imagine. Which makes it all the worse.


"What I desire is a corner of myself that is still unknown."

-- Paul Gauguin, 1889

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Worst Kind of Climate News

This sounds like not just bad news, but even dangerous news:
Several key Republican Congressmen — most notably Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who could take over the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — have said they plan to investigate climate scientists they contend manipulated data to prove the case that human activity is contributing to global warming. (LA Times)
It doesn't seem to matter an iota that three (isn't it now?) investigations have cleared climate scientists of any wrongdoing with regard to the Climategate emails -- Republicans and other climate bullies seem determined to pound on this until blood appears. Yes, actual blood. What worries me is that someone might get seriously hurt, just like the Tides Foundation barely escaped violence due to Glenn Beck's inaccurate and relentless accusations.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Manfred Max-Neef; But....

Here's a very interesting interview with Manfred Max-Neef, a leading economist from Chile.

He makes a lot of very good points about his time with the poor, and the failure of conventional economics to incorporate external costs (mostly environmental) costs -- until 40:24, where he says that there are a lot of catastrophes due to "storms, earthquakes, and volcanoes...." (emphasis mine). Amy Goodman, unfortunately, doesn't call him on it at all (yet another example of how the lack of scientific education undermines their efforts). That completely burst the bubble, for me -- it's difficult to respect anyone who thinks man is causing an increase in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, no matter what else he says.

Ultimately, disappointing.


"Nostalgia locates desire in the past, where it suffers no active conflict and can be yearned toward pleasantly."

-- Robert Haas, "Lowell's Graveyard"

Greenberg again

John Fleck has pointed me towards the document in question:
Science Advice to Congress
by Michael Gough, Daniel S. Greenberg, and Richard E. Rowber

This is a transcript, and I can't fault Greenberg at all for appearing at a Marshall Institute event to offer his viewpoint. I'd  easily have done the same.

It seems that Mann et al definitely misfired on this one.

Greenberg Update

John Fleck comments:
Re: "Greenberg, Pielke Jr, Mann, Ehrlich and Rahmstorf":
The answer is that Greenberg seems not to have written something for Marshall. They transcribed and published his comments from the round table discussion in which he participated.
That's certainly very different than if Greenberg had accepted a writing assignment from the Marshall Institute, and so I was wrong to attribute any nefarious purposes to him, and I hereby apologize. As should Mann, Ehrlich, and Rahmstorf.

Where America Ranks

Thomas Friedman gives a nice little picture of where America is today:
“Here is a little dose of reality about where we actually rank today.... sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade; 11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school; 16th in college completion rate; 22nd in broadband Internet access; 24th in life expectancy at birth; 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 48th in quality of K-12 math and science education; and 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people.
Personally, I think the Tea Partiers are actually concerned about stuff like this, but don't follow the details enough to even know it. So they rail against the obvious problems that get big media coverage, like the deficit, or taxes. But all they really know -- like you and I -- is that America isn't keeping up and is on the decline.

They won't say it.... If I had children, I would definitely encourage them to seek the good life in another country. Everything ever feared about the future of the US (especially corporatism) is indeed coming true....

Greenberg, Pielke Jr, Mann, Ehrlich and Rahmstorf

I guess the latest climate kerfuffle (who can keep up?) is about Daniel Greenberg's review of Roger Pielke Jr's new book in Nature magazine.

By now the pattern is obvious. Someone writes an article. A few people object. Several others object to the objection, and that gives bloggers something to chew on for a day or two as the rhetoric continuously degrades until Godwin's Law takes hold. The climate bullies blow it completely out of proportion, and the public is once again misled.

Then it's on to the next faux outrage.

In this case, Greenberg was mostly reasonable, except for this:
In pursuit of public support and government action, Pielke charges, mainstream researchers in the climate-change community have fudged the science, compromised the peer-review process and encouraged governments to pursue dubious remedies, while neglecting possibilities for averting climate-caused disasters. Unrealistic scenarios for reducing carbon emissions have been pushed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he argues, and the leaked e-mails from the notorious ‘Climategate’ episode have emboldened sceptics and diminished public confidence in scientific integrity.

Now, this is what Greenberg is saying that Pielke Jr wrote. But the problem is that he doesn't challenge it at all. These are extremely serious allegations. I haven't read Roger's book yet, but I certainly have not seen any evidence that any climate scientist has "fudged data" or "compromised the peer-review process" or made any "dubious recommendations."

Greenberg ought to have spent more space in his review on these incredible allegations.

Nor do I think it's problematic for Mann, Ehrlich and Rahmstorf to question Greenberg's judgement as exemplified by his background.
Nature should have pointed out to its readers that Greenberg has served as a round-table speaker and written a report (see for the Marshall nstitute (see

OK, nothing wrong with speaking somewhere, so that arrow should have remained in its quiver. But I can't imagine a legitimate science journalist taking an assignment from the Marshall Institute to write a report for them. Greenberg would have known exactly what the MI wanted in such a report, and he knew (or certainly should have known) that that was not consistent with today's climate science.

So how could any legitimate writer or journalist take such an assignment? Who would possibly want a Marshall Institute report on their CV?

If I were Mann and Ehrlich and Rahmstorf or any of those guys, I would by now be very fed up with people questioning my integrity and making accusations about my honesty. Legitimate scientific debate is one thing -- scurrilous attacks are something else else entirely. The climate bullies have driven this situation completely out of hand (which was, of course, their goal all along). Scientists ought to be defending themselves.

There are no fouls here, just sharp elbows. Play on.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Science Bullies

There's a good letter in the Oregonian on school bullying:
One of the most interesting factors in our American culture is the way we adults bewail the social crime of bullying in our schools while applauding it and laughing at it on a daily basis as we watch the bullies of Fox TV and other bully pulpit programs beat up on people who have something good, factual and educational to share.
This planned system of bullying, breaking into a person's response, ridiculing, telling lies about others, name-calling, harassing and making endless innuendoes about others is exactly the set of tactics used by individual and groups of bullies in our schools.
Hmm.... ridiculing, lying, name-calling, harassing (such as publishing email addresses), endless innuendos.... Remind you of anybody?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hal Lewis Knocks Out Hal Lewis in the First Round

Hal Lewis, the physicist who two decades ago warned about the dangers of greenhouse gas warming, has become a cause celebre for now changing his mind and now coming out against the problem. Anthony Watts even somehow managed to get an op-ed published in the Christian Scientist Monitor, proclaiming Lewis as the next Martin Luther, the most hyperbolic statement I think I have ever encountered in my life.

Anyway, Lewis told Revkin something that gives away the game:
I believe I was chairing JASON in the early 1970s when Gordon MacDonald ran our first computer modeling on the subject, and the results were not all that different from what people get now using the same methods.

In other words: The science of greenhouse gases is so straightforward that 35 years of advances in computer science and climate science have hardly changed the major result. Actually, they’re now even that from what Arrhenius calculated, by hand, over a hundred years ago.

That is to say: Greenhouse gases warm planets, and more of them warm it more. That's the problem in a nutshell.

We need to know all the details, but this is the basic concern, not whether climate models predict the exact year of the last Himalyan glacier. In one sentence, Lewis succinctly states what all the hoopla is about – and he doesn’t even seem to recognize it.

PS: Indeed, Lewis wrote in his book: "The broad outline is clear."

Also, he told Revkin: 
No one knows how much humans can (your word) warm the planet — the science is complicated. It might be a degree or two (Celsius) per century, but anyone who says he knows is committing fraud.
This is a very irresponsible use of the word "fraud," because, of course, climate scientists don't say they know how much warming will occur -- the IPCC ARs give a relatively wide range for the prediction. Surely Lewis has heard of error bars?