Monday, February 29, 2016

How to Avoid 300,000 American Premature Deaths By Addressing Climate Change*

* and 36,000 a year thereafter.

A paper by Drew Shindell and others in the latest Nature Climate Change finds significant benefits to Americans if the United States does its part to hold global warming to 2°C.

The annual reduction in emissions needed for the US contribution's to 2°C by 2050 is, they find, -2.7% per year. (Details in their Supplementary Material.) That translates into
US transportation emissions reductions avoid ~0.03 °C global warming in 2030 (0.15 °C in 2100), whereas energy emissions reductions avoid ~0.05–0.07 °C 2030 warming (~0.25 °C in 2100).
The important numbers are lives saved, mostly from chocking down less in airborne particulates:
By 2030, clean energy policies could prevent ~175,000 premature deaths, with ~22,000 (11,000–96,000; 95% confidence) fewer annually thereafter, whereas clean transportation could prevent ~120,000 premature deaths and ~14,000 (9,000–52,000) annually thereafter. Near-term national benefits are valued at ~US$250 billion (140 billion to 1,050 billion) per year, which is likely to exceed implementation costs. Including longer-term, worldwide climate impacts, benefits roughly quintuple, becoming ~5–10 times larger than estimated implementation costs. 
Most of the lives saved would, ironically, be in the region of the country most opposed to action on climate change (being among and downwind of coal plants):

The cost of these reductions? They write that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimated implementation costs for the proposed Clean Power Plan are US$7 billion to US$9 billion. This plan, they say, "achieves roughly half of the CO2 emission reductions of our energy scenario."

For the other half of reductions needed?
"Although costs might increase as reductions deepen, this suggests that at least for the first half of the energy sector emissions reductions the net societal benefits are roughly 20–80 times the implementation costs. Furthermore, an analysis with emissions reductions similar to ours estimated 2030 economy-wide additional costs of ~US$110 billion to US$210 billion. Another study found that provision of all energy by renewables could leave energy costs virtually unchanged. Hence, benefits seem to outweigh costs by at least a factor of 5–10 even for deep decarbonization with costs more than tenfold greater than the Clean Power Plan. The air quality-related health benefits are realized almost immediately and are primarily domestic, so that the near-term national gains alone (Fig. 5) are also larger than the implementation costs in contrast to the temporal and spatial mismatches between emissions controls and benefits typical of climate policies."
What's not to like? Only that the reductions make far too much sense for idiotic, dumb-as-dogs U.S. legislators perpetually on their knees before fossil fuel interests.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Today's Head Thumper, Courtesy of the WTO

Trade agreement trumps climate accord: WTO rules against India solar program

For Immediate Release: February 24, 2016

Trade agreement trumps climate accord: WTO rules against India solar program

Today in a lawsuit brought by the United States, a World Trade Organization tribunal ruled that India's national solar energy program violates international trade law because it provides incentives for creation of local green jobs. Many U.S. states have similar programs.

Bill Waren, senior trade analyst at Friends of the Earth had this statement:

Friends of the Earth is dismayed that climate policy is being made by an international trade tribunal. The government of India reasonably provided some preferences for local producers of solar energy in order to convert from a carbon economy to a green economy. The WTO decision, finding India's solar energy program a violation of international trade law, is an outrage. Trade law trumps the Paris climate accord.

Friends of the Earth fights to create a more healthy and just world. Our current campaigns focus on promoting clean energy and solutions to climate change, ensuring the food we eat and products we use are safe and sustainable, and protecting marine ecosystems and the people who live and work near them.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Introduction of a New Order of Things

"It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them."

- Machiavelli, The Prince (1513)

Friday, February 19, 2016

McDonald's is Lobbying Government to Crackdown on Sales of Fruits and Vegetables

So get this -- McDonald's Corporation has started a lobbying campaign to get the US government to reduce quotas on how many fruits and vegetables can be sold in the country.

Well, not really.

But, in fact, General Motors has been heavily lobbying governments -- local, state and federal -- in the last year, asking them to tear out bike lanes and bike paths in most major American cities. 

GM thinks it will help it sell more cars.

OK. Not really.

But did you hear that the Koch Brothers are gearing up to lobby government on its tax breaks for electric cars? And looking to reduce how much solar power is generated in the US?

Yes, both these are in fact true.

What's the difference between the latter and and my made-up stories about McDonald's and GM? Nothing at all. Yet the Koch Brothers are actually trying to obstruct the adoption of electric vehicles, simply because they don't run on oil.

"The Kochs Are Plotting A Multimillion-Dollar Assault On Electric Vehicles,"

They're out to get solar power, too:

"The Koch Brothers' Dirty War on Solar Power,"
Rolling Stone, 2/11/16

And yet Charles Koch has the gall to write this in the Washington Post:
The senator [Bernie Sanders] is upset with a political and economic system that is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged. He believes that we have a two-tiered society that increasingly dooms millions of our fellow citizens to lives of poverty and hopelessness. He thinks many corporations seek and benefit from corporate welfare while ordinary citizens are denied opportunities and a level playing field.

I agree with him.
These men can't simply seek to do better in their own market; they have to destroy all other markets that might compete with it, regardless of how that affects even a single person on Earth now or far into the future.

They are the opposite of capitalists.

These men are worth about $100 billion dollars. Their greed is clearly infinite in size. That -- and their actions that result from it -- are evil.

Yes, a strong word, but, I think, the right one.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Global Sea Ice Sets a Record: Lowest Annual Minimum for Extent

Global sea ice extent is just the sum of Arctic SIE and Antarctic SIE. Since 1979, the trend in the annual minimum of global SIE is -320,000 km2/decade (-1.8% per decade). This year's minimum could still go lower.

(The data are from NSIDC, and are preliminary ("recent," see below) since 1/1/15.)

Data sources:
Long-term Arctic sea ice extent
Recent Arctic sea ice extent
Long-term Antarctic sea ice extent
Recent Antarctic sea ice extent

Here's how the daily anomalies look:

The trend here is -230,000 km2/decade. Baseline is 1981-2010.

NOAA: "January was the 9th Consecutive Month of a Record Warm Globe"

From NOAA's monthly media briefing

Other: Alaska in 3rd consecutive warm winter with no deep cold, statewide.

"Regarding El Nino:
  • El Niño is now past its peak intensity in term of SST anomaly values 
  • transition to ENSO neutral is anticipated during the late spring or early summer 2016
  • Enhanced odds of La Niña are forecast by late summer and early fall" [about 50%;  too soon to make forecasts of how strong a La Nina might be].
Still uncertain if convection from this El Nino will bring record warmth in troposphere.

Drought Outlook: drought to persist in most of Oregon, Idaha, and northern and southern California. Drought to persist in central California but with some improvement.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Great Article on Temperature Adjustments

If you're still confused, puzzled or unsure about temperature adjustments -- and who the hell isn't -- and you're looking for just one article to read, this one by Scott K. Johnson in Ars Technica is the best, most understandable and most thorough one I've come across. It covers both surface and satellite measurements, too. Very worth the time to read carefully.

When Will We Pass 2 °C?

Here's an interesting result, from Jiang, Sui and Lang -- the time when global temperatures will past 2°C, based on each RCP:
"...we perform an analysis of all pertinent experiments within the framework of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). Considering equally all available CMIP5 models, the probability of crossing the 2 °C target before the year 2100 is 26, 86, and 100% for the Representative Concentration Pathways 2.6 (RCP2.6), 4.5 (RCP4.5), and 8.5 (RCP8.5) scenarios, respectively, with the median years of 2054 for RCP4.5 and 2042 for RCP8.5."
It's looking more inevitable all the time....

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Speed of Gravitational Waves Based on LIGO's Observation

Since last week's announcement of the direct detection of gravitational waves, several little papers have shown up on the arXiv about what it means.

He's a nice one, constraining the difference in speeds of gravitational waves relative to light speed.

Einstein didn't assume the gravitational waves predicted by his equations moved at the speed of light -- his equations predicted it.

How? What did his equations of gravity know about light? Nothing, per se. But he did know his equations had to match Newton's equation for the force of gravity, the familar F=Gm1m2/r2 for weak gravitational fields.

Sure enough, for low speeds and in small gravitational fields, Einstein's equations reduced to Newton's equation to a very close good approximation, provided a free parameter of Einstein's, a constant, was a certain simple function of G and c, Newton's gravitational constant and the speed of light.

That let Einstein write his equations as

There's no point here in getting into what these 16 equations mean (only 10 after symmetries) -- basically they say the geometry of spacetime is proportional to the energy density in that spacetime.

Anyway, the 8*pi*G/c4 was the constant Einstein deduced from comparing the low energy form of his equations to Newton's.

Given that, he shows his equations predicted gravitational waves with a speed of c -- though these waves aren't the simple sinusoids we are familar with from electromagnetism.

The LIGO observation of gravitational waves allowed this to be checked. They did this by comparing the timing of LIGO's wave with independent observations of gamma ray photons from the same black hole-black hole merger, seen in the Fermi Gamma-Ray Burst Monitor and published only four days ago, seen 0.4 seconds after the gravitational wave event was detected.

The black hole merger was 1.3 billion light years away, and the grav waves showed up 0.4 seconds before the time that EM wave took to get here -- about 4e16 seconds. That's about one part in 1017. So the Ellis et al paper concluded the speed of gravitational waves and electromagnetic waves differ by, at most, only 1 part in 1e17:

It really is amazing how much Einstein was able to deduce -- well, make very smart guesses about -- from thinking clearly and deeply of very general principles about how light and gravity should behave.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Favorite Story About Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died, and condolences to his family.

Yippee for the rest of the country -- one less activist, heartless, arrogant judge with a penchant for saying and writing vile things.

My favorite story about Scalia is this:
WHEN U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke Tuesday night at NYU's Vanderbilt Hall, "The room was packed with some 300 students and there were many protesters outside because of Scalia's vitriolic dissent last year in the case that overturned the Texas law against gay sex," our source reports. "One gay student asked whether government had any business enacting and enforcing laws against consensual sodomy. Following Scalia's answer, the student asked a follow-up: 'Do you sodomize your wife?' The audience was shocked, especially since Mrs. Scalia [Maureen] was in attendance. The justice replied that the question was unworthy of an answer."
Of course, the question was worthy of an answer...and at least temporarily, Scalia was shamed....

We need more impertinent questions in America, not fewer.

Added 2/15 6:12 pm: More of Scalia's wit:
Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive.
By that logic, America would have never freed its slaves.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Who Will Win the Nobel Prize for Gravitational Waves?

When the announcement come of the direct detection of gravitational waves comes, probably tomorrow, should it win a Nobel Prize? 


This is very basic physics, core-of-the-Universe type stuff. Something that will be remembered and celebrated 50, 100, 500 years from now.

Clifford Burgess, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, said:
"If this is true, then you have 90 percent odds that it will win the Nobel Prize in Physics this year. It's off-the-scale huge," Burgess told Science magazine.
So who should get the Nobel Prize?

I've always thought a nice Prize about black holes would be to jointly award it to Stephen Hawking, Kip Thorne, and Roger Penrose, all of whom made fundmental contributions to gravitation on the theoretical side, especially to the properties of black holes.

Kip Thorne in 1972
But of the three, only Kip Thorne would get a Nobel Prize for gravitational waves. There is a great passage in his book Black Holes and Time Warps (well worth reading, with more flavor than Hawking's books), where he writes about walking around Pasadena, California late one night in 1976, trying to decide if he should commit to building a gravitational wave detector and all the work, scientific, political and organizational, that would entail.

He did decide to go for it, so this discovery is his as much as anyone's. He worked hard at it for a long time, and LIGO would probably not have come about without him. So he definitely deserves a piece of the prize.

Who else? The Nobel Committee has always been reluctant to award the prize to an organization as a whole, without giving part of it to an individual who led the projects -- think Al Gore and the IPCC, or Carlo Rubbia and CERN -- but I think this should come to an end soon. Collaborations are just too important now, especially in experimental physics -- the projects are too big, and the influence of any one person too small -- for that award structure to continue.

So I'd like to see half the prize got to Kip Thorne, and half to the LIGO research and engineering team, both in Hanford and Louisiana, of course.

If LIGO announces a detection tomorrow morning, this prize could be awarded as soon as this fall, depending on what collaborating evidence might exist, from astronomers or other, smaller, less resolute gravitational detectors around the world. Though I doubt many physicists would immediately doubt the announcement of a detection.

Expected Tomorrow: Annoucement of Direct Detection of Gravitational Waves - What Does It Mean?

The LIGO Collaboration has called a press conference for tomorrow at 7:15 am PST, and everyone expects it is to announce the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves.

Otherwise, as Peter Woit says, there is going to be a lot of disappointment.

Assuming it is that announcement, what does it mean?

I think it means that detecting gravitational waves via Advanced LIGO is relatively easy. Advanced LIGO -- the last phase of the project that started early in the '00s -- only started up in September of 2015, and even then it was being phased in over a couple of months, I was told.

So they've really only had a month or two of quality observing time. So direct detection of gravitational waves seems relatively easy -- i.e. the machine is working as it was designed to do.

It does not mean that we now know gravitational waves exist. We've known that for a few decades, since the work of Joseph Taylor Jr and Joel Weisberg based on the pulsar discovery of Richard Hulse and Joseph Taylor, Jr.

But directly detecting them is crucial, because it opens up the universe -- we can now see it with new eyes.

And new eyes have always brought vast new insights into the physical nature of the universe, whether it was Newton's experiments with prisms that resolved white light into its constituent wavelengths, or Hertz's findings with electromagnetic waves, or Curie's discoveries about radioactivity. As I wrote in my September Physics World article:
Whatever its cosmic source, the first direct detection of a gravitational wave will be big news. It will confirm a prediction from general relativity, but more importantly it will also give astronomers, astrophysicists and gravity theorists entirely new information about the objects they study. Indeed, astrophysicists hope that gravitational-wave observatories will someday operate as routinely as optical telescopes do today. If that happens, gravitational waves could fundamentally alter our picture of the universe, just as radio-wave and X-ray astronomy altered it from the placid, silent galaxies Edwin Hubble observed at visible wavelengths to the raucous universe we know today, full of quasars and pulsars, black holes and neutron stars. At some point, it may even be possible to observe cosmic events such as supernovae with light-based telescopes, neutrino detectors and gravitational-wave observatories – a new type of science dubbed “multimessenger astronomy”.
We'll see. I don't expect the announcement to be disappointing.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Quote For the Day

“Some people don’t want to see GE (genetically engineered) anything. It’s an emotional response. It’s hard to reason people out of a decision they didn’t reason themselves into.”

-- entomologist Raymond St. Leger, distinguished university professor at the University of Maryland

From a Yale e360 article about genetically modifying mosquitos.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Those Arbitrary Changes to UAH's Model

Am I really the only one who is stunned by what Roy Spencer wrote on his blog yesterday?
"We had been concerned that the LT temperature trends over land were too warm compared to the ocean. One hint that something might be wrong was that the trends over very high elevation portions of the Greenland ice sheet and the Himalayas were much colder than the surrounding regions (see Fig. 4 here). Another was discontinuities in the trend patterns between land and ocean, especially in the tropics.

"We determined this is most likely due to a residual mismatch between the MSU channel 2 weighting function altitude on the early satellites versus the AMSU channel 5 weighting function altitude on the later satellites. We already knew AMSU5 peaks lower than MSU2, and had chosen Earth incidence angles in each to get a match based upon theory. But apparently the theory has some error, which we find equates to about 150 meters in altitude. This was enough to cause the issues we see….land too warm at low elevations, too cold for elevated ice surfaces.

“We therefore changed the AMSU5 reference Earth incidence angle (from 35.0 to 38.3 deg.) so that the trends over Greenland and the Himalayas were in much better agreement with the surrounding areas.”
(Emphasis mine.) Changing model parameters by hand to eyeball it towards a predetermined goal? What the hell....?

Landslides and Debris Flows

Some impressive videos, via AGU:

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Earth’s energy imbalance | Climate Lab Book

Good reading:

The Ted Cruz Pause is On Life Support

The UAH anomaly for the lower troposphere for January is +0.54°C.

While this is greater than the threshold I gave a few weeks ago, where there would be no cherry picked starting point that would give a negative slope to the present, there were sufficient adjustments on the cool side to prevent that from happening.

In the coming days there will be some adjustments to the data before the latest 13 months that Roy Spencer gives on his post, but for now there is one and only one month which, if chosen as the starting point, gives a negative linear slope to January 2016: December 1997 (18.1 years ago), for which the slope is

and the R2 is a whopping 4.0e-11.

UAH made more adjustments to their version 6.0beta4. It's a good example of the complexity of their model, and of the open parameters they have to play with. Roy Spencer writes:
We determined this is most likely due to a residual mismatch between the MSU channel 2 weighting function altitude on the early satellites versus the AMSU channel 5 weighting function altitude on the later satellites. We already knew AMSU5 peaks lower than MSU2, and had chosen Earth incidence angles in each to get a match based upon theory. But apparently the theory has some error, which we find equates to about 150 meters in altitude. This was enough to cause the issues we see….land too warm at low elevations, too cold for elevated ice surfaces.

We therefore changed the AMSU5 reference Earth incidence angle (from 35.0 to 38.3 deg.) so that the trends over Greenland and the Himalayas were in much better agreement with the surrounding areas. We also find that the resulting LT trends over the U.S. and Australia are in better agreement with other sources of data.

The net result is to generally cool the land trends and warm the ocean trends. The global trends have almost no change from beta4; the change mostly affects how the average trend in 2.5 deg. latitude bands is ‘apportioned’ between land and ocean.