Friday, March 29, 2013

As They Say, Nature Always Bats Last

Did you catch this quote at the end of today's NYT story on colony collapse disorder?
But Mr. Adee, who said he had long scorned environmentalists’ hand-wringing about such issues, said he was starting to wonder whether they had a point.

Of the “environmentalist” label, Mr. Adee said: “I would have been insulted if you had called me that a few years ago. But what you would have called extreme — a light comes on, and you think, ‘These guys really have something. Maybe they were just ahead of the bell curve.’”
As they say, Nature always bats last. Environmentalists are the catchers.

More About Stossel's Set-Up

Watching the Stossel show again, I have to say, I thought both scientists did a good job of explaining where they're coming from.

Gavin Schmidt clearly had the tougher job, and knew he was going to be attacked from t=0 in a way that Roy Spencer never would be.

So this, from Gavin, was spot-on:
"I'm not interested in doing this because it's good TV.... I don't need to be arguing with people just to make good TV."
Good TV, of course, is really all Stossel cares about. (And isn't his faux 'astonished-that-anyone-could-ever-disagree-with-me' schtick pretty old by now?)

Like I said, this is a very good example of why scientists routinely decline these kind of "debates" (quote-unquote). Stossel's biases were very, very clear, and the scientist who appears gets bombarded with a series of interrupting, staccato questions -- what about India? What about hurricanes? What about the economy?? -- that simply do not allow for reasoned discussion.

They're only about, as Gavin said, "good TV." And TV has (sadly) never had anything to do with the scientific debates of our time.

Spencer/Schmidt Not-a-Debate on John Stossel's Show

If you're looking for it, here is video of the Gavin Schmidt/Roy Spencer debate/not-a-debate on John Stossel's show.

Stossel really exploited Gavin's desire not to make it a debate.

Stossel's biases are crystal clear. With a treatment like that, you easily can see why no scientists want any part of such a circus.

The Answer 'Science Friday' Should Have Given

Science Friday had some interesting segments today, including "The Secret Life of the Sonaran Desert."

It was live before an audience at (I think) Arizona State University, with Q&A, and one woman asked (paraphrasing): "I moved here in '93, and the amount of expansion into the desert is astonishing. What can we do about it?"

One of the scientists gave a rather bland answer, agreeing with her and discussing urban sprawl, etc., but I think he should have simply said, "Lady, it's expanding because you and I moved here!"

People think it's always the other guy.

The Australian: How to Lie With(out) Statistics

This "haitus" business is really getting ridiculous.

Graham Lloyd at The Australian has now put it at 20 years:
DEBATE about the reality of a two-decade pause in global warming and what it means has made its way from the sceptical fringe to the mainstream.
This is flat-out wrong -- warming over the last 20 years has been about 0.3°C.
  • Over the last 20 years, GISS shows a warming trend of 0.15 ± 0.02 C/decade, or 0.30°C for two decades.
  • HadCRUT4 has it at 0.136 ± 0.014 C/decade, or 0.27°C for two decades.
Both are very statistically significantly different from zero.

Can anyone stretch this lie out to 25 years?

P.S.: Yesterday HadCRUT4 just reported their surface anomaly for February: the 9th-warmest February in 165 years. Some haitus. Even their 15-yr trend is 0.05 ± 0.02 C/decade, and rising fast as the 1997-98 El Nino falls out the back-end of the 15-yr interval, and it's for suckers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Jane Goodall & Gary Larson Story

Jerry Coyne has a nice story (via Wikipedia) about the primatologist Jane Goddall, and the (loved by many scientists) cartoonist Gary Larson:
One of Larson’s more famous cartoons shows a chimpanzee couple grooming. The female finds a blonde human hair on the male and inquires, “Conducting a little more ‘research’ with that Jane Goodall tramp?” The Jane Goodall Institute thought this was in bad taste and had their lawyers draft a letter to Larson and his distribution syndicate, in which they described the cartoon as an “atrocity”. They were stymied by Jane Goodall herself, who was in Africa at the time. When she returned and saw the cartoon, she stated that she found the cartoon amusing and later personally met Larson. Since then, all profits from sales of a shirt featuring this cartoon go to the Goodall Institute. Goodall wrote a preface to The Far Side Gallery 5, detailing her version of the “Jane Goodall Tramp” controversy. She praised Larson’s creative ideas, which often compare and contrast the behavior of humans and animals. In 1988, Larson visited Gombe Streams National Park and was attacked by Frodo, a chimp described by Goodall as a “bully.” Larson sustained cuts and bruises from the encounter.

Double Rainbow, From My Backyard

US 2012 CO2 Emissions Down Almost 4%

Today the U.S. Energy Information Agency put out final energy numbers for 2012.

U.S. CO2 emissions continued to drop, down 205 million metric tons from 2011, or -3.7%.

(But still a total of 5.29 Gt CO2/yr.)

Per capita emissions dropped from 17.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2011 to 16.8 metric tonnes in 2012, or -4.4%.

(But still about 4 times higher than the world average.)

Total energy consumption dropped by 2.3 Quads, or -2.3%.

(1 Quad = 1015 BTU = 1.06 × 1018 Joules)

In terawatts it went from an average of 3.26 TW in 2011 to 3.17 TW last year.

Per capita, it dropped by 353 Watts, or -3.4%.

The C/E ratio of carbon emissions to energy consumption went from an average of 140.5 t CO2/MW to 138.9 t CO2/MW.

The Building of Momentum on the Climate Issue

I keep seeing things that look to me like many are finally starting to take climate change seriously.  There was the letter from the Oregon and Washington governors I wrote about yesterday, and now the state of New York is putting a warning on its bond offerings, "warning that climate change poses a long-term risk to the state’s finances."
The caution, which cites Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee, is included alongside warnings about other risks like potential cuts in federal spending, unresolved labor negotiations and litigation against the state.

“The state determined that observed effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, and potential effects of climate change, such as the frequency and intensity of storms, presented economic and financial risks to the state,” the spokesman, Richard Azzopardi, said on Tuesday.
Then last week German scientists withdrew from a research project looking to curtail environmental damage from the Alberta tar sands:
German scientists have pulled out of an international research project with Canada that was attempting to find ways to minimize the environmental damage caused by exploiting Alberta's oil sands. The move comes after political pressure forced Germany's largest scientific organization, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, to rethink its connections with an industry that many consider to be environmentally destructive.

The scientists who are part of the Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative (HAI) will no longer be involved in developing technologies that improve Alberta's crude oil or treat the toxic effluent from the oil sands projects. Instead, the scientists will focus their efforts on the initiative's remaining research avenues, such as carbon capture and storage and mine site reclamation.
To be sure, putting a warning on bonds or withdrawing from a project isn't the same as shutting down the tar sands or actually reducing global CO2 emissions. But change rarely comes all at once, and on this issue never would have anyway -- it's just too big and too entrenched.

Roadside litter wasn't reduced quickly, or completely or by fiat, but by lots of small decisions to run advertisements and install public trash cans and of people deciding it was unnecessary and calling out those who did it. Same with outlawing pubic smoking (in Oregon the Senate just passed a bill outlawing it in cars that carry kids), or with same-sex marriage, or many other big issues.

Change happens slowly, but the momentum is building -- and it's certainly not going the other direction.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Governors Cite Climate Change for Coal Export Review

It's hard to imagine this happening even five years ago: the governors of Oregon and Washington have cited climate change as a reason for the federal government to more closely examine the proposed export of Powder River basin coal through the Pacific Northwest and onto China.

In a letter to the President's Council on Environmental Quality, John Kitzhaber (D-OR) and Jay Inslee (D-WA) wrote:
Increasing levels of greenhouse gases and other pollutants resulting from the burning of coal, including pollutants other than CO2, are imposing direct costs on people, businesses and communities in the U.S. and around the world. These costs include the public health costs of increased atmospheric deposition of mercury in drinking water sources, as well as costs resulting from ocean acidification, rising sea levels, wildfires, and shrinking snow packs that are key sources of water for the western U.S....

We believe the federal government must examine the true costs of long-term commitments tosupply coal from federal lands for energy production, whether that production occurs domestically or in Asia. We cannot seriously take the position in international and national policymaking that we are a leader in controlling greenhouse gas emissions without alsoexamining how we will use and price the world's largest proven coal reserves.
coal consumption China 1990 2009Carbon dioxide emissions from the exported coal would total about 250 million tonnes a year.

They also scolded the government for giving the coal away cheaply:
As the major owner of coal reserves in the western U.S., the federal government must consider whether it has appropriately priced the coal leases that it continues to grant, including the practice of granting non-competitive leases. Senators Ron Wyden and Lisa Murkowski recently asked the U.S. Department of the Interior for information concerning alleged industry practicesusing in-house trading affiliates to avoid paying royalties that reflect actual export sales. These issues raise significant concerns that we are subsidizing the export of coal at the same time we are winding down domestic consumption due to serious environmental and health concerns.
These proposed coal exports, which are very controversial here -- the Northwest's equivalent of the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline -- are about one thing: coal companies looking at declining U.S. coal consumption and seeing how they can keep their profits up.

U.S. coal production recently dropped below the milestone mark of 1,000,000 K short tons annually, and on a per capita basis has dropped 20% from its peak in just six years:

U.S. per capita coal production (short tons/yr)

(A short ton is the old 2,000 lbs = 0.908 metric tons. When the hell is the U.S. finally going to get with the rest of the entire world on this?)

Monday, March 25, 2013

NASA Suspends All Public Outreach

In response to the budget sequester, NASA has suspended all education and public outreach programs.

Not only can't the U.S. get back to the moon, we can't even tell you about it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Oregon...Ought to Play a Little Hard to Get"

Flowers on a Camellia Tree in my sister's backyard, Portland Oregon

"Oregon is demure and lovely, and it ought to play a little hard to get. And I think you'll be just as sick as I am if you find it is nothing but a hungry hussy, throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that's offered."
-- former Oregon Governor Tom McCall

(I recounted a good Tom McCall story here.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Missing Energy Claimed to be Found

A paper just out in GRL by Balmaseda, Trenberth and Källén claims to have affirmed the location of the "missing energy" in the climate system -- it's (as suspected) in the deep ocean (the 300-2000 m layer, and especially below 700 m).

You can read the abstract here; this is from the paper's conclusion:
The deep ocean has continued to warm, while the upper 300 m OHC appears to have stabilized. The differences in recent trends among the different ocean layers are profound. The small warming in the upper 300 m is belied by the continuing warming for the ocean as a whole, with considerable warming occurring below 700 m. However, this raises the question of whether this result is simply because of the new Argo observing system? The results shown here suggest otherwise, although Argo clearly is vitally important quantitatively. Instead changes in surface winds play a major role, and although the exact nature of the wind influence still needs to be understood, the changes are consistent with the intensification of the trades in subtropical gyres. Another supporting factor is the uniqueness of the radiative forcing associated with global warming.

The magnitude of the warming trend is consistent with observational estimates, being equivalent to an average 0.47 ± 0.03 W m-2 for the period 1975–2009. There is large decadal variability in the heat uptake, the latest decade being significantly higher (1.19 ± 0.11 W m-2) than the preceding record. Globally this corresponds to 0.84 W m-2, consistent with earlier estimates [Trenberth et al., 2009]. In an observing system experiment where Argo is withdrawn, the ocean heating for the last decade is reduced (0.82 ± 0.10 W m-2), but is still significantly higher than in previous decades. The estimation shows depths below 700 m becoming much more strongly involved in the heat uptake after 1998, and subsequently accounting for about 30% of the ocean warming.
Here are some figures from the paper:

Finally, here is their summary of trends for the different layers over different times, which makes it clear why the surface temperature jumped up so much in the 1990s -- the ocean was actually losing energy (heat), mostly because of the big 1997-1998 El Nino -- and why it's been on "haitus" during the last decade -- the ocean took up a huge amount of heat, at a rate far higher even than in the 1980s, with most of it going below 700 meters.

(The number 0.708 is simply the total surface area of all the planet's oceans divided by the planet's total surface area, viz. 70.8% of the surface is ocean.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How Deniers Enfore Solidarity

Here's what you get for trying to comment at Watts:

See how easy it is to enforce unanimity of thought? Stalin Lysenko would be proud.

New GISS Data Just In

We are in trouble -- GISS just posted their new anomaly numbers for February -- +0.49°C.
That makes the past 12 months 0.06°C warmer than the previous 12 months.

People, that's a warming rate of 11°F per century.

We are doomed (according to people like this)!

Seriously: the 15-yr trend -- which, remember, is for suckers -- is +0.07 ± 0.04°C/decade (2σ), which is totally significantly significant and not all that small.

Just 5 months ago it was +0.05°C/decade.

I told you it would be increasing as the 1997-98 El Nino slides out the back end of the 15-year window.

Live by crappy insignificant trends, die by crappy insignificant trends.

A climatologically relevant trend -- say, 30-years, in case anyone still cares about actual climate science anymore and not just point-scoring -- is still 0.17 ± 0.02°C/decade(*).

*Uncertainties are 2-sigma basic OLS statistical uncertainties. Autocorrelation increases them; see here for more details, but certainly not all of them. Or even half of them. Use the SkS trend calculator if you need to.

First they Came for the Political Scientists....

...and I didn't speak out
because I wasn't a political scientist.

Yesterday the U.S. Senate voted to restrict NSF funding for political science. An amendment that was submitted by Tom Coburn (R-OK) reads:
Purpose: To prohibit the use of funds to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation, except for research projects that the Director of the National Science Foundation certifies as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.
Of course, "the economic interests of the United States" is a nebulous, undefined term, which is perhaps the way Coburn prefers it.

In a March 12th letter to NSF, Colburn wrote:
"Studies of presidential executive power and Americans' attitudes toward the Senate filibuster hold little promise to save an American's life from a threatening condition or to advance America's competitiveness in the world." Coburn wrote in a letter to NSF director Subra Suresh last week explaining his proposal.
Of course, that's true of much of the research intended to develop pure knowledge. Do grants to differential geometers promise to save anyone's life or advance America's competitiveness in the world? They do, but not perhaps for decades, but the likes of people like Colburn cannot see that far.

After the voice vote approving the amendment, Colburn said in a statement:
"I’m pleased the Senate accepted an amendment that restricts funding to low-priority political science grants. There is no reason to spend $251,000 studying Americans' attitudes toward the U.S. Senate when citizens can figure that out for free."
Yes, Americans are certainly serious students of the intracicies of Congress, the shifts in Executive power, the knowledge of other political systems (especially "American Idol"). Aren't they?

FRED Graph
To me it looks like Colburn is attacking knowledge itself? (To you?) If it were just about the budget, he's issue a statement saying something like "we regret our inability to fund the valuable work of the many dedicated scholars across our nation, but these are dire times for the federal government and we must cut back where we can."

Even if federal receipts are at a 60-year low (because, you know, we can't fairly tax millionaires).

But Colburn isn't saying that, is he? No, he's saying the very essence of their scholarship isn't valuable.

And that's dangerous. What will he next decide isn't worth it? Theoretical physics? Mathematical biology? Climate science?

This is how nations decline, people. It's exactly how they decline.

More Properties of Your Universe

Here's just one of the papers containing the Planck results, with more authors than there stars in some globular clusters.

Besides the results I mentioned earlier, here are some of the big ones:

No evidence of cosmic strings

No evidence for more than three families of neutrinos: Neff = 3.30 ± 0.27 families, as are in the Standard Model. 

Upper limit on the sum of neutrino masses is 0.23 eV.

The Hubble constant, describing the expansion of the universe:

H0 = 67.3 ± 1.2 km/s/Mpc

More detailed results than you probably want to know about can be found here.

You can't help but be really impressed about how far cosmology has come and how much it's been able to tell about not just the overall structure and history of the universe, but about the parameters of elementary particles and their interaction. The last 35 years or so, since the dawn of cosmic inflation -- the exponential expansion of the very early universe -- have been a true scientific revolution. Alan Guth (at least) really ought to win a Nobel Prize now (in 2006, in the wake of the WMAP results, Sean Carrol said it was a little early still).

More: Cosmologist Richard Easther, who live-blogged NASA's announcement, has much more here.

P.S.: See, there is more to life than AGW.

Universe Older, Less Frightening Than it Was Yesterday

The Universe just got 100 million years older -- or, rather, it's 100 Myr older than previously thought -- according to the Planck satellite results released today.

That makes it 13.8 billion years instead of 13.7 Byr.

There's also a little less dark energy (68.3%, compared to the previous 71.4%) and a little more dark matter (26.8%; was 24.0%). Since no one has a clue what dark energy is, that makes the Universe just a little less scary than it was yesterday. Of course, no one knows what the dark matter is either, but it's matter, which is somehow less intimidating than some invisible spooky energy field that repels and reaches everywhere.

But normal matter is now known to comprise 4.9%, up from 4.6%. (That rumor that the difference is due to terrestial carbon emissions is untrue.)

Still, we don't know what 95% of the Universe is composed of. It's astonishing if you think about it, especially at night if you look up at the stars. I really don't think this has sunk into the public conscoiusness yet, who fret about more prosaic concerns like American Idol or health care.

(I wrote about the Planck mission, before it was launched, for Scientific American.)

Here's a nice comparison showing the progress in satellite measurements of the temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background:

The Universe Comes into Sharper Focus

Still no evidence of any gods, though (unless they're made of dark energy).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Greening Arctic

Here's a map from NASA that shows the amount of vegetative growth in the western hemisphere of the Arctic over the past 30 years. (The eastern hemisphere is even more impressive.)

The Greening Arctic
Color bar for The Greening ArcticIt's mostly tundra and tiaga.

These images accompany a new paper in Nature Climate Change, that says latitudinal shifts in vegetation in the Arctic -- essentially, how fast the greening is moving north -- is 4-7° in 30 years. If I figured correctly, that's 445-778 km in 30 years, or about 50 meters a day, or about 2 meters an hour.

The paper says climate models predict the shift will be 20° more by the end of the century. That's about 1400 miles.

Denver will move to Mexico City. Saskatchewan will move to Houston. Fairbanks, Alaska will move to Portland, Oregon, and Portland will move somewhere equivalent to Miami's latitude. Unless someone can find a way to alter the molecular properties of carbon dioxide. I hope someone, somewhere, is working on that.

Who Cares What Daily Mail Readers Think?

Maybe we have entered an era where scientists have to write an op-ed or FAQ every time they are misrepresented by a journalist or blogger. (That is, you know, going to but into their time doing science.)

Which is what Myles Allen did today in The Guardian, after being misrepresented by David Rose. You can read Allen's specific response to Rose's characterization of his views, but what I find more interesting is the near the end of his column:
Many Guardian readers might be inclined to shrug "who cares what Mail readers think, anyway?" Well, I care. We all deserve an informed and democratic discussion about what to do about climate change, whatever our political persuasion. How many Mail readers realise that one of our government's top climate policy advisers, Dieter Helm, is recommending what, to them, would be an eye-wateringly high carbon tax. This might do wonders for the deficit (interested, George?) but, I would argue, won't solve the problem (we didn't save the ozone layer by taxing CFCs).

This is an interesting discussion: subsidies for renewables versus carbon tax versus (my personal preference) upstream regulation of the fossil fuel industry to drive the development of carbon capture. Mail readers should be part of it. But they are firmly excluded by headlines dismissing the whole of climate science as a "great green con" – despite their correspondent certainly giving me the impression he understands the problem better than that....
This is the same message Scott Denning told a Heartland Conference audience.

Conservatives/feptics can only put their fingers in their ears for so long -- CO2 isn't going to stop absorbing infrared radiation, and the Earth isn't going to stop emitting it. Meanwhile their explanations look increasingly absurd, and the world will move on without them. Which is too bad, because the problem is so huge and so hard it needs all the brains it can get, and if a (so-called) free market can do that best, so much the better.

"We Didn't Tax CFCs"

"...we didn't save the ozone layer by taxing CFCs."

-- Myles Allen, The Guardian

Yeah, but....

Please Adjust Your Climate Accordingly

The Spring Equinox just happened, at 11:02 am UT. (That's 7:02 am Pacific Time.)

Welcome to spring. It's raining cats and dogs here. (The dogs are handling it better than the cats.)

Gravity apparently still works the way we thought it did. (There's a "consensus" on that, you know.)

Starting today, the North Pole begins to receive sunlight, and its ice-albedo feedback moves into its final seasonal gear. Please adjust your climate accordingly.

[Of course, the opposite (in sign) feedback change occurs in the Antarctic, but there it matters less (over the course of a year). More reason to be concerned about Arctic melting.]

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oregon could ban genetically engineered fish, require labeling of genetically modified foods

Oregon's legislature is considering 8 bills that would either require labeling of food that contained genetically modified ingredients, prohibit GE fish, or put restrictions on the planting of GM crops.

One country is going to vote on banning GM crops altogether.

If this comes to pass, people are going to be surprised about how much of the food in the grocery store is GM. (Essentially all processed foods contain GM ingredients.)

Liberals, too, have their own problems with science.

Again With the David Rose Hole

David Rose has another feptic article in the Daily Mail, with false claims about global warming not meeting projects, etc. Phil Plait does a thorough debunking here. One thing Rose wrote is
The graph confirms there has been no statistically significant increase in the world’s average temperature since January 1997 – as this newspaper first disclosed last year. 
This is misleading in two ways.

If you take the HadCRUT4 global data, the ordinary least squares linear regression trend since January 1997 is 0.045 ± 0.036 C/decade, where the uncertainty is the OLS uncertainty representing the 5-95% confidence level.

That's positive (i.e warming) and statistically significant.

This wasn't true just few months ago, when I wrote about the David Rose hole.

It's now true.

If you include autocorrelation (as you ought to), the trend (from the handy SkS trend calculator) is 0.046 ± 0.124 C/decade, where the uncertainty is 2σ.

That's warming, but with a statistical significance of only 54%. Canonical climate science usually considers 95% to be the standard, though if you're worrying about the future of civilization you might relax that a little.

The large uncertainty that accompanies the autocorrelated result says that your time interval is too short to make statistically meaningful conclusions.

A short time interval is always going to have large trend uncertainties like this -- because, you know, the climate has noise in it -- and unless your warming is always greater than about 0.124 C/decade, or your cooling is always less than about -0.124 C/decade, you're usually not going to be able to make statistically significant conclusions about the trend. Period.

Here is some history of the 15-yr trend for the Hadley data:

It varies a great deal. That makes it not very useful. What would feptics have said in 2007, when it was 0.29 C/decade? I suspect they would have said, yabbit it's abnormally high because you had an El Nino in 2002 and 2004 and 2006 a big one in 1998, and those are skewing the results upward.

Well, now the 15-yr trend is abnormally low, because there was a large warming El Nino on the back end of the interval, and a big La Nina on the front end, and this is skewing the results downward.

The 15-year trend is for suckers. It measures weather, not climate, except the weather is in the fluid ocean and not just the fluid atmosphere.

This is all going to change in 6-12 months, when the 1997-98 El Nino falls out the backend of the 15-year window. In fact, looking at the chart above you see this already starting.

Like I said, the 15-year trend is for suckers. [And of course it's a lousy place to look for an energy imbalance anyway.]

Monday, March 18, 2013

Feptic Falsehoods About "Global Warming"

An interview of renowned climate science expert Anthony Joules-per-second by goes astray right from the very start: We see a lot of confusion among readers over the terminology here. What is the difference between “Climate Change” and “Global Warming”? Which is the more loaded term, and why?

Anthony Watts: “Global warming” suggests a steady linear increase in temperature, but since that isn’t happening, proponents have shifted to the more universal term “climate change,” which can be liberally applied to just about anything observable in the atmosphere.
In fact, the UNFCCC dates from 1992, and was never called the "United Nations Framework Convention on Global Warming."

Likewise, the IPCC has never gone by the name "International Panel on Global Warming."

The 1965 report to the Johnson Administration, “Restoring the Quality of Our Environment,” has a chapter titled "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" that reads (pg 113)
"The possibility of climatic change resulting from changes in the quantity of atmospheric carbon dioxide was independently proposed by the American geologist T.C. Chamberlain (1999) and the Swedish chemist S. Arrhenius (1903), at the beginning of this century." [Emphasis mine]
(American-centric, they overlooked Arrhenius's 1896 paper, didn't they?)

I've never heard a (real) scientist say AGW implies a steady linear increase in temperature, for a good reason: it's ridiculous. But it's a convenient meme for fake skeptics ("feptics?") -- as long as there is some downward jog in surface temperatures they can cry "foul" and claim it means something.

Skeptical Science has a much longer deconstruction of this interview, which, based on its first sentence, you should not waste your valuable time reading.


Speaking of short-term trends, a recent paper in Nature Geosciences finds little change in global radiative forcing from aerosols (at least for clear-sky conditions):
Aerosols both scatter and absorb incoming solar radiation, with consequences for the energy balance of the atmosphere. Unlike greenhouse gases, atmospheric aerosols are distributed non-uniformly around the Earth. Therefore, regional shifts in aerosol abundance could alter radiative forcing of the climate. Here, I use multi-angle imaging spectroradiometer (MISR) satellite data and the Atmospheric and Environmental Research radiative transfer model1 to assess the radiative effect of the spatial redistribution of aerosols over the past decade. Unexpectedly, the radiative transfer model shows that the movement of aerosols from high latitudes towards the Equator, as might happen if pollution shifts from Europe to southeast Asia, has little effect on clear-sky radiative forcing. Shorter slant paths and smaller upscatter fractions near the Equator compensate for more total sunlight there. Overall, there has been an almost exact cancellation in the clear-sky radiative forcing from aerosol increases and decreases in different parts of the world, whereas MISR should have been able to easily detect a change of 0.1 W m−2 per decade due to changing patterns. Long-term changes in global mean aerosol optical depth or indirect aerosol forcing of clouds are difficult to measure from satellites. However, the satellite data show that the regional redistribution of aerosols had little direct net effect on global average clear-sky radiative forcing from 2000 to 2012.
That is to say, you can't blame the "haitus" on China.

The 15-year haitus (which isn't real anyway) isn't going to last much longer, because soon the 1997-98 El Nino is going to fall out the back of the 15-year window, and that will pull down the back end of the linear regression line and quickly make the slopes less negative/more positive.

Besides, using a short interval like 15 years is a sucker's game. Just a few years ago, in spring 2007, the 15-yr trend for HadCRUT4 was 0.29 C/decade. That wasn't any more meaningful on the high end than the current value (0.04 C/decade) is on the low end.

In a few years (unless they're a big volcanic eruption) feptics will be the ones shouting about too-short intervals (or maybe, much like this, complain that it didn't warm from one year to the next, or that yesterday was warmer than today). That should be fun.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Very Opposite of a Eureka! Moment?

At the Huffington Post, John Heilprin writes:
In what could go down as one of the great Eureka! moments in physics – and win somebody the Nobel Prize – scientists said Thursday that after a half-century quest, they are confident they have found a Higgs boson, the elusive subatomic speck sometimes called the "God particle."
Really?? It's been more like E................................ur...............e.............k................a, with the exclamation point left off for the sake of politeness.

Seriously, has any scientific discovery ever been milked strung out to such lengths? (Maybe the announcement of the sequencing of the human genome -- how many of those were there?) From Wikipedia:
Data collection at the LHC finally commenced in March 2010. By December 2011 the two main particle detectors at the LHC, ATLAS and CMS, had narrowed down the mass range where the Higgs could exist to 115–130 GeV. In addition, both experiments were starting to see hints of a new particle that could be the Higgs with a mass around 125 GeV [Dec 2011] It was therefore widely expected around the end of 2011, that the LHC would provide sufficient data to either exclude or confirm the finding of the Standard Model Higgs boson by the end of 2012, when their 2012 collision data (with slightly higher 8 TeV collision energy) had been examined.[13 Dec 2011]
Frankly by this point, when it's finally confirmed, it's very anticlimatic -- it would have been more exciting if they'd concluded, no, that's not it at all. Never mind. Sorry.

I realize a lot was a stake: a Nobel Prize, the PR value of a major discovery in an age of diminished funding, the need to justify all the money that was spent on CERN, etc. Maybe in this day and age, when universities and national laboratories have more public information officers (PIOs) than there are journalists, and where insiders leak rumors to bloggers, hype of every detail, every sigma increase in uncertainty was inevitable.

But it seems to me to have been overdone -- the opposite of a Eureka! moment, which I associate with something instanteous like Newton getting clunked on the head with an apple, or at least something everyone wasn't expecting. (But then, why am I expecting scientific accuracy from The Huffington Post?)

Sean Carroll said,
Finding a Higgs more or less as expected is actually a bit deflating, Carroll said, because physicists had also hoped that an unexpected type of Higgs might open windows into yet more mysteries of the universe.

"Scientists always want to be wrong in their theories. They always want to be surprised," he said. "It's a bittersweet victory when your theory turns out to be right, because it means, on the one hand, you're right, that's nice, but on the other hand, you haven't learned anything new that's surprising."
(Except climate scientists never get that luxury, do they?)

Peter Higgs


Outflow from the bottom of a Greenland glacier, from a new paper in Nature Geoscience by Bhatia et al.

Global Warming Causing Sinkholes (Really??)

Discover has a news piece that claims global warming (in the form of higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations) is causing more sinkholes.

I'm extremely dubious. Christina Reed writes:
Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to rainwater containing higher levels of carbon dioxide, otherwise known as acid rain. When carbon dioxide in water is given a carbonate ion, it prefers to make bicarbonate ions rather than staying happily in the water minding its own business. Any rock or shell made of carbonate then becomes more at risk of dissolution as the ocean and rainwater become more acidic, much like tooth enamel dissolves away when soaked in a glass of soda pop.

Once the bedrock starts to dissolve and erode away, the type of surface sediment makes the difference as to whether the sinkhole will be catastrophic or not.
I just can't believe that a small change in rain acidity caused by higher CO2 is enough to make a difference in sinkhole formation (I would guess more rain would be a bigger issue, or local issues like drainage), or that if rainfall acidity is increasing, it wouldn't have been noticeable in many other places (forests, for one) like now.

I really don't want to have to lookup up the changes in pH or changes in weathering reaction rates, because this seems like obvious baloney. Anyone disagree?

Update: Discover links to this USGS page about sinkholes, which doesn't mention acidity but does say this about human induced sinkholes:
New sinkholes have been correlated to land-use practices, especially from groundwater pumping and from construction and development practices. Sinkholes can also form when natural water-drainage patterns are changed and new water-diversion systems are developed. Some sinkholes form when the land surface is changed, such as when industrial and runoff-storage ponds are created. The substantial weight of the new material can trigger an underground collapse of supporting material, thus causing a sinkhole.

The overburden sediments that cover buried cavities in the aquifer systems are delicately balanced by ground-water fluid pressure. The water below ground is actually helping to keep the surface soil in place. Groundwater pumping for urban water supply and for irrigation can produce new sinkholes In sinkhole-prone areas. If pumping results in a lowering of groundwater levels, then underground structural failure, and thus, sinkholes, can occur.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When Paul Ryan was in Favor of Stimulus


My God, how do these politicians live with themselves?

What a bald-faced liar.

Really -- how do they do this, turn from one position to another depending on whatever they think will get them somewhere?

I can't comprehend this at all, and I can't imagine living with myself for more than about 48 hours if I lied like this.

What property of our system tolerates such outright liars? Elevates them, even?

This question should be a priority among social scientists. Has it been?

Climategate 3.0

A Number Too Big for Your Head

Here's an interesting skit about Graham's Number g64, the largest number ever to appear "constructively" in a mathematical proof (except maybe for g64+1). The part up front about why it wouldn't fit into your head is also clever:

Mathematicians really are some of the most interesting people I have ever met. In graduate school I fell into a crowd of them during my last year, and it was the most probably the funnest year of my whole life. (Somehow, I managed to get my thesis written too.)

Via io9.

Marcott Reax

By now it's clear that the group of deniers/[fake] skeptics/scoffers has winnowed itself down to those who have an emotional need to deny climate change.

Reaction to the Marcott is a case in point. I suspect some psychology student out there has decided to get their thesis out of it.

The embargo on the paper broke at 2 pm Eastern time on Thursday, March 7th. Andrew Revkin's article was up at 2:07 pm. The first comment on the first WUWT post about it was at 5:21 pm ET. It was, of course, immediately dismissed, based only on the press release and some tweets.
I had to chuckle at the cacophony of Twitfests going on today over this new study from Marcott et al. I especially liked the Mother Jones headline being Tweeted: “The Scariest Climate Change Graph Just Got Scarier”.

It rather reminds me of some people being fearful of certain religious icons.
Here are the reasons some of his commenters immediately dismissed it:
OSU, well that says it all.
If the paper is correct and the world was cold until the industrial revolution then it’s hard to argue that global warming is a bad thing.
they say “warmer than 70-80% of the previous 10,000 years” so the obvious question is:
What happened during the missing 20-30%? ...And how much warmer were they, to be so carefully omitted?
Here is my take away: The current temps are not as high as past interglacials. The warming trend of the past 100 years is not duplicated in the paleo record. The rest of the press release is the normal propoganda. Warmer than 70% of the previous record? Spin baby spin!
A drought of science and intelligence. -- Don’t any of these “scientists” have a clue? Don’t any of these “scientists” have any shame? Don’t any of these “scientists” realize how hostile the public is going to be towards them when they decide they have had enough and rise up?
And these are just from the first dozen comments, of over 150. No intelligent thought at all -- Everyone just stupidly piled into their clown car, until finally someone calls them on their reflective thoughtlessness:

The paper has set the site into a worried frenzy, with at least a half dozen posts already -- with one post claiming it couldn't be true because its global reconstruction didn't agree with a single ice core from a single location. One, by Don Easterbook, actually analyzes the paper without bothering to obtain any of the data:
Without any original data to assess, how can we evaluate the validity of the conclusions? 
Everyone piles back into the clown car, until Steve McIntyre points out that, yes, the data is available:

In other words, Easterbook, who calls himself a scientist, had his mind all made up before seeing any of the actual data, or even trying very hard to find it. I'm sorry, but that is not how scientists do things.

Alas, it doesn't seem to have shamed him.

So Kudos for Steve McIntyre. But then he writes a blog post based on an email he sent to Marcott which was rather accusatory in a way I can't imagine scientists ever doing based on looking at such complex data for just a couple of days. And even though Marcott replies that their results for 1890-1050 A.D. are "probably not robust" (scientist-speak for 'not reliable'), McIntyre doesn't think that's good enough:
I agree that the 20th century portion of their reconstruction is “not robust”, but do not feel that merely describing the recent portion as “not robust” does full justice to the issues.
What do make of all this?

Marcott et al is a complicated paper. It combines a lot of data and statistical analysis and the scientific people at least ought to soak in it for a good while before firing aimlessly. I guess the days when people wrote rebuttal papers, or even a letter to the journal editor, are over for good.

Reactions from certain quarters were completely predictable, data or not. That is to say, they're coming from an emotional need, not a scientific need.

There is obviously no data that will convince these quarters, no results, on any part of the picture. All the data is bad -- all of it, except what agrees with their position, which will be accepted immediately and equally without thought.

Anything that goes against their emotional need will be immediately dismissed, emphasis on "immediately."

They won't even bother to get the data. Most won't even read the paper. Many won't even get past the first paragraph of the press release. They just go to WUWT to commiserate.

It's their fault really. People like Watts & 90% of his commenters clearly aren't interested in the science, even though they pretend to be. They've made that clear by their actions. Too many obvious pieces of bullshit like this and this and this.

At the same time, while I don't think this kind of raw denialism will ever go away completely, I get the sense their heart isn't in it anymore. Not really. Too much data has piled up -- oceans warming, ice melting fast, sea level rise continues, big storms and heat waves and droughts get too much attention -- and they realize the world has turned a corner. Nations might not cut greenhouse gas emissions, but they know that by not cutting them they are causing climate change. They, everyone, knows we should be cutting them, somehow, that we need to be doing something about the problem, even if it's just agreeing to accept the consequences.

I think the debate has come a long way in the last several years, despite the "haitus" (that really isn't) and the hacked emails and failure at Copenhagen and the other COPs. The professional deniers at the D.C. think tanks don't seem to have the same enthusiasm for their game, we have a President who at least accepts that climate change is occurring and who at least appoints people who want to do something about it. Climate scientists have fought back against their harassment. Marcott and his co-authors seemed completely prepared for this kind of reaction from certain quarters, and effectively blunted it.

And  more and more scientists and technologists agree that the case for AGW has been made, the problem is real and we need to do something about it, whether it's energy miracles or more nuclear or geoengineering (and certainly less coal). And especially the younger generation doesn't have the truculence and anger of the old white guy conservatives. People are understanding that it's not whether climate models predict every little up and down in annual temperature, but that you can't keep adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at this rate without some kind of significant changes over the decades. Maybe it's the heat waves in Moscow and D.C., or maybe it's the drought in Texas, or maybe even Hurricane Sandy, but there seems to be a sense things are indeed changing, that the monkey is loose, and I think that has taken some real steam out of the denier movement. And people are just disgusted with how they play the game:

In a hundred years, when the history of these decades is written, this picture will grace some chapter on climate change and readers will shake their head in disbelief, that people once actually thought and acted like that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Too Big to Fail, or Jail

This is appalling:
"...the attorney general [Eric Holder], while testifying before the Judiciary Committee, was challenged by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) about the glaring absence of any indictments against leading bankers or big banks coming out of the financial collapse. Holder responded that, essentially, these banks were too big to jail.

"'The size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy,' he said."
In other words, once the mob gets big enough, they can get away with anything. Holder's statement is one of the most depressing things I've ever heard said about America.

Someone really needs to smack this country upside its head and knock some sense into it. Please hurry.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Marcott (Comma) and the Ghouls

Oregon Public Radio had an interview today with Shaun Marcott, lead author of last week's Science paper reconstructing the last 11,300 years of surface temperatures.

They also had a segment about how a carbon tax might work in Oregon, basing it on British Columbia's experience. (Yes, B.C. has had a revenue-neutral carbon tax since 2008, now up to $30/tonne CO2e.) B.C.'s 2010 emissions were 4.5% lower than in 2007 (though I wonder if the financial downturn had anything to do with that). 

The National Journal asked Marcott about entering the fray of the climate change "debate;" he told them
Marcott admitted he was apprehensive about charging into the fully-mobilized troll army, but said he was grateful scientists like Mann had "gone through hell" before him to build a support network for harassed climate scientists.

"When Michael came along there was a lot more skepticism about global warming, but the public has come a long way," he said. "I'm curious to see how the skeptics are going to take this paper."
Sure enough, the usual ghouls have already pinned Marcott's email address on their Outrage Boards. That will teach him for daring to do science!

Papal Elections Holding Down Global Temperatures?

The Vatican Enclave signals the failure to elect a new pope by sending black smoke out of the Sistine Chapel's chimney.

But what's the impact on global temperatures?

Maybe this is why temperatures have been on a haitus since John Paul II died -- too many papal elections involving too many indecisive Cardinals.

The papal aerosol effect.

Energy Miracles and Energy Efficiency

In his NYT column "In Search of Energy Miracles," Justin Gillis writes:
"Many environmentalists believe that wind and solar power can be scaled to meet the rising demand, especially if coupled with aggressive efforts to cut waste."
and, of course, that's the canonical view.

But the other night I listed to an interesting podcast(*) interviewing David Owen, author of The Conundrum: How Scientific Innovation, Increased Efficiency, and Good Intentions Can Make Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse.

He's writing about Jevon's Paradox: "technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource."

Owen stated it in a way that makes it obvious: paraphrasing, the entire history of civilization has been a quest to use energy more efficiently, yet we're using more of it than ever. So why do we think still more energy efficiency will reduce energy consumption?

It's not an easy question, but the answer isn't obvious either. If you look at a plot of energy use vs national well-being, as proxied by the Human Development Index, you find this:

Higher energy consumption greatly improves life, but only up to a point (about where Italy is right now). After that the returns are very slight.

And, in fact, U.S. per capita energy use peaked in 1979, at 12.1 kW/person. It's now (annualized) 10.1 kW/person, a decline of 17%, and is still falling:

Total (annualized) U.S. energy use peaked in Dec 2007 at 3.39 terawatts, and is now at 3.18 TW, but as population increases that will probably increase too.

The World total is going to do nothing but go up, and if the US energy path is any guide it may peak at roughly 100 TW, a six-fold increase from today's ~17 TW.

Energy efficiency isn't going to do much except enable us to swim in place, at best.

(*) The podcasts at are very interesting, and not limited to just economic topics. I found it after reading Paper Promises: Debt, Money, and the New World Order by Phillip Coggan, a book about global money and debt. (It made me realize that the feedbacks in the economic system put climate system feedbacks to shame.) The host of EconTalk, Russ Roberts, is a Hayekian, but an honest one -- he asks as many hard questions of his right-leaning guests (and of himself) as he does of the liberal guests. Every podcast I've tried is a good hour of intelligent conversation by intelligent people taking the time to explore compelling and important topics, while realizing how little they know but how interesting it all is.

I recommend it (and Coogan's book, too).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Have They No Grandchildren?"

Posted by a commenter at the NY Times:
“The obfuscators’ simple and direct motivation – making money in the near term, which anyone can relate to – combined with their resources and, as it turns out, propaganda talents, have meant that we are arguing the science long after it has been nailed down. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: 'Have they no grandchildren?'"

-- Jeremy Grantham, GMO Summer Essays, July, 2010, #4 Everything You Need to Know About Global Warming in 5 Minutes 
Note: "GMO" is the asset management company Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo, not the things they're doing to organisms these days.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Hockey Stick Gets a Much Longer Shaft

Science publishes a paper tomorrow by Shaun Marcott (of Oregon State University) et al that reconstructs Earth's surface temperature for the last 11,300 years. Here's one view of their results -- the purple line, with the blue band being the 1-sigma uncertainty -- and, for the last 2,000 years, comparing it to Mann's (et al's) results (in the gray):

Andrew Revkin has great coverage, including a video interview with one of the authors and thoughts from Mann.

 It sure looks like we ought to have be heading into another glacial period, doesn't it?

Update: From the press release:
"During the warmest period of the Holocene, the Earth was positioned such that Northern Hemisphere summers warmed more," Marcott says.

"As the Earth's orientation changed, Northern Hemisphere summers became cooler, and we should now be near the bottom of this long-term cooling trend--but obviously, we're not."

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Global Disaster Losses: Error Bars for Economic Data?

Roger Pielke Jr's Graph of the Day for yesterday was

Data is from Munich Re, the large German reinsurer, and the United Nations, and is discussed in this peer reviewed paper by Neumayer and Barthel.

One thing I wish is that economists (etc.) would put error bars on their data, so when it's aggregated like this there's some idea of the quality of the result. This graph suggests that we know global losses due to weather disasters to the nearest 0.01% of global GDP, or less -- or about $7 billion. Given the wide range in the quality of governments around the world, and the secrecy of many (especially China), I'm dubious their data provides this kind of resolution.

We're all trained to ask about error bars on results from the physical sciences, but never ask for them from the softer sciences that are trying to be hard. Here they may well be important, or at least helpful.

Nocera, Hansen, Pipelines and Activism

Joe Nocera of the NY Times doesn't seem to like James Hansen much, and the feeling perhaps is mutual. Yesterday in the NY Times Nocera wrote, in a piece that calls Hansen's activism a "crusade" that is "misguided"
"Finally, and most important, Hansen has placed all his credibility on one battle: the fight to persuade President Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline. It is the wrong place for him to make a stand. Even in the unlikely event the pipeline is stopped, the tar sands oil will still be extracted and shipped. It might be harder to do without a pipeline, but it is already happening. And in the grand scheme, as I’ve written before, the tar sands oil is not a game changer. The oil we import from Venezuela today is dirtier than that from the tar sands. Not that the anti-pipeline activists seem to care."
I don't think his point is true at all. It's no doubt true that if the Keystone XL pipeline isn't built the Canadians will find another way to get the tar sands oil to the market -- perhaps by a pipeline to the West coast, or by rail and barge. But it will be more expensive, which, like a carbon tax, would incentivize, in its way, a transition to other fuels.

I'm not sure how I feel about the pipeline -- or rather, I have opinions about it all but they go in different directions and, like a quantum cat in Schrodinger's box I'm in several different states at once because my wave function hasn't collapsed -- but I can certainly see why activists have chosen it for their "crusade." It's a definite piece of the big problem, something you can point to instead of all the thousands of smaller supplies all over the world. It impacts private properties, so they can get those concerned about that on their side. It's a definite decision that has to be made by the President, so they can apply attention and pressure to that specific decision instead of asking nicely if we all wouldn't burn so many fossil fuels, and you too China, please.

From the point of view of strategy, it's a smart place to plant your crusade.

Nocera concluded:
A carbon tax might be worth getting arrested over. But by allowing himself to be distracted by Keystone, Hansen is hurting the very cause he claims to care so much about.
But a carbon tax is too broad a target for activism, too abstract, too, well, wonkish. You can protest U.S. torture policies in the abstract, or you can protest that Guantanamo prison ought to be shut down. The latter is always going to get more attention, because it's a definite place were people can picture definite people where definite acts take place.

And if any scientist in the world has the right to be speak out on this issue, surely it is James Hansen. He's been working to understand all this since forever, and has forgotten more than Nocera will ever know on the subject. (Same goes for those ex- NASA employees, who may have walked on the moon but don't seem to know the science yes I'm talking about you Harrison Schmidt.)

Should scientists just collect data and piece it all together and not speak up if they see a huge problem happening because their work is ignored? Really? Should Oppenheimer not have expressed his concerns about the bomb? Linus Pauling? Should the Director of, say, the NIH not speak up about concerns over vaccinations rates, or just tell us how many people aren't getting them?

Should Edward Teller not have expressed his belief we needed more and bigger bombs? That was a form of activism too.... Same for scientists who spoke out in favor of SDI back in the 1980s, some of whom worked for Los Alamos.

Hansen is the Director of a major climate research institution. Aren't we paying for their expertise and judgement as well as their data?

I suspect Hansen made a decision some time ago that the carbon problem is so huge, so potentially harmful, that not speaking out would be deeply immoral. How can you be a scientist (not to mention a human being) who sees society driving itself into the ditch and not advocate we turn the wheel?

And the thing is, if people like Hansen don't speak out and we do go into this ditch and maybe even over the cliff, you just know that everyone in the future is going to look back on these guys and say, you knew all this could happen and you didn't say anything?? You, with all that data, with your expertise, with your position, and you didn't risk speaking out and giving everyone a warning? You should have standing on your desk screaming your head off! Thanks a lot, pal.

So in a way, James Hansen can't win. I (strongly) suspect that the future will unanimously see him as prescient, correct and even courageous, and they will probably wonder what all the controversy was about anyway, much like we have a difficult time understanding how anyone back when could advocate for slavery or smoking, and until Joe Nocera knows what James Hansen does and can do as good a job explaining it all, Hansen should just ignore him. Which can't be easy, but he should.

Update: Joe Romm has more (albeit typically hysterical) words for Nocera.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Very Weird Fact About Venus

I was playing around with numbers trying to understand things, and wanted to calculate the mass of Venus's atmosphere. I knew its surface pressure pwas 92 times Earth's, and the mass of the atmosphere can be obtained from

Matmg = ps

where g is the surface gravity and A is the planet's area. (This assumes g is constant throughout the atmosphere, which is a good approximation for these purposes.) The planetary data is here and here.

To my surprise I found that the mass of Venus's atmosphere is 92 times Earth's, the same ratio as the surface pressures. Why would that be?

Since g=GM/R2 and A=4πR2, this means the ratio


must be nearly the same for both Venus and Earth (M=planet mass, R=planet radius). And they are, to about 0.1%.

Why? There's no reason I can see; they just are.

Am I missing something obvious? It's late and I've been working all day....

(By the way, this isn't true for Mercury or Mars.)

Early Roots of American Anti-Intellectualism

In discussing the long history of anti-intellectualism in the U.S. in her book The Age of American Unreason Susan Jacoby writes:
"[George] Washington, whose education was sketchier than that of many of the other framers of the Constitution, held higher learning in such esteem that he left a bequest of several thousand dollars worth of securities in his will in an effort to persuade Congress to appropriate money for a national university. His legacy went unclaimed in a political dispute that set the tone for many future controversies of the federal government's involvement in education. Congress, afraid that the use of Washington's bequest to found a national university would be seen as an assault on colleges founded by religious institutions, wanted nothing to do with the project."
Or, as nonframer Rick Santorum put it over 200 years later:
"If you look at the popular culture and what comes out of Hollywood, if you go to our schools and particularly our colleges and universities, they are indoctrinated in a sea of relativism and a sea of antagonism towards Christianity.

"Abortion is a symptom. Marriage is a symptom. Pornography [is a symptom]. All of these are symptoms to the fundamental issue that we've gotten away from the truth and the 'Truth-Giver."
Jacoby's book is pretty good, if a bit strident. She's probably not a woman you'd want to get in an argument with, unless you could keep from taking it personally.