Friday, March 15, 2019

20th Anniversary of the Hockey Stick

Today is the 20th anniversary of the hockey stick paper by Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes that reached back to 1,000 BP.

Jerry Mahlman, a climatologist at GFDL of NOAA, came up with the term "hockey stick graph." Their first graph was for the last 600 years of the northern hemisphere; today's anniversary is for the paper on the last millennium, then Mann and Phil Jones later reconstructed temperatures back to 2000 years BP.

Their work has been attacked like few others in science, but it has held up just fine. No one expected Mann to be the pugilist he turned out to be, who tirelessly fought off everyone at every turn -- auditors, congressman, lawyers and trolls. Sure, it wasn't the last word in temperature reconstruction, but first papers rarely -- for example, the Bohr Model, pre-Einstein papers on Lorentz transformations, the parton model of hadrons, and many many others in science. (I just happen to know the history of physics better than that of any other field.)

Many papers did their part in backing up the HS result by bringing in new data and improving the methodology. Here's a comparison of MBH98 to the PAGES 2k results of a couple years ago, from Stefan Rahmstorf's Facebook page:

One of the particular advancements of MBH was the inclusion of an uncertainty band around the temperatures.

I don't feel like relitigating any of the particulars of a case against the hockey stick, unless someone wants to bring something up in the comments. As I've written before, the hockey stick is required by basic physics, in particular radiative forcing's logarithmic dependence on CO2, which goes back to Arrhenius in 1896. Given that, it's a short argument to the hockey stick, one that can be condensed into a single tweet:
The hockey stick is required by basic physics:
1. temperature change is proportional to forcing change.
2. CO2 forcing change is proportional to log(CO2).
3. CO2 has been increasing exponentially.
=> hockey stick.
(209 characters.) Before the industrial era, the atmospheric CO2 concentration changed little during the Holocene, which implies the flat shaft of the HS. CO2 is increasing exponentially in the industrial era, which implies a linear increase in temperature, which is the blade of the hockey stick.

It'd be far more surprising if there wasn't a hockey stick in the data.

It's been interesting to follow all the twists and turns over the years of the effort to defeat this graph. It would have been interesting to have had social media during some of the big debates in science, such as the debates over the wave or corpuscular view of light, or the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, or the establishment of evolution by natural selection. (Here's a good book on some notable feuds in science.) I'd glad all that mischief is over. Science always wins. 

Thoreau With a Machine Gun

The New Zealand shooting suspect, Brenton Tarrant, apparently said he is introverted, a racist, and an "eco-fascist by nature."

What is an "eco-fascist?" It's not what you might guess at first, which for me was some kind of right-wing climate denier who's sure green policies will be the death of the modern world. (No, that'd be a US Republican congressman.)

Apparently, eco-fascism advocates using the power of the state to enforce green policies, even if that power isn't based in popular elections and democratic processes. Naturally there's nationalism, racism and genocide involved.

Eco-fascists are "the nature-obsessed, anti-Semitic, white supremacists who argue that racial purity is the only way to save the planet."

Which would almost be funny if one of its adherents didn't just kill 49 people in a mosque.

Eco-fascism hardly seems a consistent ideology, but then consistency is about the last thing you can expect with the banality of evil. A few quotes the Reddit forum r/DebateFascism given by journalist Sarah Manavis last year:
"I believe that both the state and the state’s citizens have the right to use all means necessary to save the environment, including murder and sabotage,” one user wrote. “Murder is okay in this case, as combating climate change is sure to save more lives than it could ever hypothetically destroy.”
“To be fair, the Third Reich was one of the earliest governments to make conservationism a major focus,” wrote another.
“What really pisses me off is how everyone associates deep ecology with Communism and far left ideologies, which are deeply rooted in industrialization. It was Nazi Germany that was environmentally aware not Soviet Russia, with the rabid industrialisation,” one said.
“[Eco-fascists] have put the wellbeing of our earth, nature and animal on the forefront of their ideology.... It’s someone who has also turned away from industrial and urbanite society, seeking a more close to earth way of life.”
So, eco-fascists desire to turn away from industrial society, but only after its war engines have punched out the machine gun you need for your terrorism.

We can probably expect the usual cretins to jump on this eco-fascist angle to ensure us that, see, as we've been saying all along, climate change is just a ploy from those who hate humans, hate civilization, and hate themselves, quote unquote.

And see, one of them has gone there already! So banal.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Greta Nominated

Ha! What did I say earlier? Via HuffPost:

Maybe she doesn't have enough accomplishments and experience yet to win. On the other hand, Malala Yousafzai won the Peace Prize when she was 17, just two years after surviving the assassination attempt against her.

From the article:
“I think we have reached a tipping point where enough scientists are telling it like it is and not being so afraid of being alarmist,” Thunberg told New Scientist on Wednesday, adding it’s been frustrating that many people are paying more attention to her age than the issue at hand.

“They talk about our age, our looks and so on,” she continued. “The emissions are still rising and that is all that matters. Nothing has happened, that is crucial to remember.”
She's right about this, too.

Friday, March 08, 2019

All Things Greta

Photo from
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who speaks truth to power, has been named "Women of the Year" by Expressen ("The Express"), one of two nationwide evening newspapers in Sweden. She has an interesting back story (perhaps required nowadays for this kind of celebrity), such as major depression starting when she was five eleven, Asperger's and OCD. (She can also talk backwards.) From their interview of her (via Google's translation, which isn't perfect):
When I was five [should be 11], I went into depression. I felt very bad, cried every rest of the toiletand [sic] went home and finally there was no point at all going to school because I would still have to go home. I also stopped talking and eating. One big reason I was depressed was that I was worried about the climate and the environment. I felt that there was no point in everything when the system was so wrong and I didn't see that I could do anything about it.
Wow, these are very unfair thoughts for any child to have, let alone a 5-year old. Aren't kids being scared unnecessarily? A while back I saw someone on Twitter write that his 9-year old was looking up his life expectancy, and in the process came across some climate catastrophism and started crying. This (false) "we have 12 years to stop climate change" stuff isn't helping.

She also said:
I really do not like attention and being at the center, but one must take that if that is what is required for the media to start reporting on the climate and people should get their eyes up. Then it's a shame to complain. I myself have put myself in this situation.
I predict his girl is either going to become Secretary-General of the United Nations or a shark of a hedge fund manager.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Bloggable Stuff

More Nuclear: Andrew Sullivan has an article about nuclear power in New York Magazine. (He's for it.) I just noticed it and having read it yet.... But I see that he repeated the claim that the cost of the New Green Deal is estimated to be $93 trillion, which is crap ridiculous. (Most of that estimate is due to the costs of the social changes it advocates -- job guarantees, livable wage, etc. But still.)
Cold and wet: NOAA says the average USA48 temperature for February was in the lowest third of Februarys in their 125-year period. It had the second highest February precipitation, only 1/10th of an inch below 1998's record.

Here, Salem, Oregon had the coldest February in 30 years and the 7th-coldest February on record (since 1893). Eight days with snow, which is very unusual. 
Record electricity: US electricity use set a record in 2018, was up 4% compared to the year earlier, largely because, the EIA says, a colder winter and a warmer summer. Cooling degree-days and heating degree-days both show signs of a warming temperature trend:

Here's another interesting graph. I'm guessing (?) the peak in industrial electricity, and the transition around 1980, is mostly due to the transition to a service economy:

Another hockey stick: In Greenland, from an article by Carbon Brief that also debunks an old Don Easterbrook graph that has wormed it's way through the Web. (I'm sure there will be a retraction any time now.)

Monday, March 04, 2019

Backflipping Bot

A new MIT robot that looks very much like the indefatigable "dog" in that episode of Black Mirror. It weighs 20 pounds, can move along at 5 mph, can do flips (why? Just for fun.) and can right itself when it falls over. Be sure to stay for the shots where it goes haywire.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

60 Minutes on Climate Case (Worth Watching)

David Appell (@davidappell)
This Sunday's "60 Minutes" will have a segment on "Juliana v US," the lawsuit filed by youth plaintiffs against the United States claiming that climate change violates their rights.

CBS, Sunday at 7 pm . Online here at 8 pm ET:

via Our Children's Trust

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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Electricity Percentage from Sustainables Unchanged in 20 Years

Here's a figure that was posted to Twitter the other day -- the world's non-fossil fuel electricity isn't even yet back to its 1995 peak:

Berkeley Earther Richard Rohde called his chart "depressing," and added his this take on it:

Clearly limiting warming to 1.5°C by 2050 requires either a significant new innovation(s) or a quick change of attitude among world leaders. It's difficult for me to see the latter happening -- the money in fossil fuels is just too large, the political corruption just too rampant -- so the former is really the only hope left. And that doesn't look to be anywhere on the horizon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Trump's Nominee for UN Ambassador Is a Tool

Donald Trump is nominating Kelly Knight Craft to be ambassador to the United Nations. She's currently United States ambassador to Canada, her husband is a billionaire Kentucky coal magnate, and she says she supports "both sides" of climate science, because "both sides have their own results, from their studies, and I appreciate and I respect both sides of the science." She comes off as a wide-eyed unthinking puppet who, of course, got the job because she and her husband donated $2M to Trump's campaign and inauguration. How embarrassing. How infuriating.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

One More Quote About Wallace Broecker

From WaPo:
“He has single-handedly pushed more under­standing than probably anybody in our field,” Richard Alley, a geosciences professor at Pennsylvania State University, once told the alumni magazine Columbia College Today. “He is intellectually so huge in how the earth system works and what its history is that all of us are following Wally in some way or another.”
Broecker was dyslexic and never typed or used a computer, and an evangelical Christian.
Dr. Broecker expressed skepticism that humanity would be able to wean itself from fossil fuels anytime soon, and backed proposals for devices such as a “scrubber” that would suck carbon dioxide out of the air so that it could be safely stored underground. Although such an invention seemed drawn from the ­pages of a science-fiction novel, drastic change was essential, he said.

As Dr. Broecker put it, “The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.”
The articles leads off with a good picture of Broecker from 1972, working aboard a ship.

January Globe-wide Temperatures

From a NOAA conference call this morning. (Note, this is a map of percentiles, not temperatures directly.) The January US cold snap seems to have been cancelled out by above average temperatures before & after it. Globally, NOAA found January 2019 to be tied for 3rd-lowest highest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Broecker Quote

Via CNN:

I don't think the CO2-deniers, the dragon people, realize that physics requires global warming. All you need to show this are simple blackbody physics and the infrared emission/absorption spectrum of CO2. Warming necessarily follows. Sure, it's very difficult to calculate exactly how much, but it'd be far more surprising, and concerning, if modern global warming wasn't happening.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Schopenhauer Not Schrödinger?

I've always liked this quote, which I've always seen attributed to Erwin

“The task is…not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”
And there are variations on this, such as "Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought," "Genius consists of..." and "Research is...."

But today, when I was trying to find out where Schrödinger said or wrote this, I found that he doesn't seem to have written it at all.

There are hundreds (about 680) of Google results that attribute it to Schrödinger. Wikiquote says Schrodinger said it, and so does the author Brian Greene.

But googling around I began to see attributions to the philosopher Schopenhauer, and then to the physiologist Albert Szent-Györgyi.

So who gets credit? Schopenhauer, I believe. This site, devoted to investigating quotes, written by a guy who says he wrote a best selling book on such investigations, finds
In 1851 Arthur Schopenhauer published a two volume work written in German titled “Parerga und Paralipomena” which contained a collection of long essays together with a series of short numbered passages. The piece numbered 76 included the following...."

Daher ist die Aufgabe nicht sowohl zu sehen was noch keiner gesehen hat, als bei Dem was Jeder sieht, zu denken was noch Keiner gedacht hat. Darum auch gehört so sehr viel mehr dazu, ein Philosoph als ein Physiker zu seyn.

Here are two possible translations into English:

1) So the problem is not so much to see what nobody has yet seen, as to think what nobody has yet thought concerning that which everybody sees. Also for this reason, it takes so very much more to be a philosopher than a physicist.

2) Therefore the problem is not so much, to see what nobody has yet seen, but rather to think concerning that which everybody sees, what nobody has yet thought. For this reason, it also takes very much more to be a philosopher than a physicist.
I'm not going to go look up the original reference -- I doubt I'd find it in the original German anyway, which I can't read anyway. And while I don't agree that it takes so much more to be a philosopher than a physicist(!) -- at least I can kind of understand the physicists -- this is some good evidence that the words, or something essentially identical to them, came from Schopenhauer and not Schrödinger. Poor Schopenhauer only gets about 25 Google returns for it.

So now I have to go all over the Web correcting everyone who said it was Schrödinger. I'll return to blogging in 2020 when this task has been finished.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Michael Mann, Warren Washington, Win the "Nobel Prize for the environment"

From UCAR:
"The 2019 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement – often described as the "Nobel Prize for the environment" – has been awarded to climate scientists Warren Washington of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University."
Here's a description of the prize:
"The Tyler Prize recognized the efforts of both men in explaining key tenets of climate science to influential audiences. Washington advised six consecutive U.S. presidents, while Mann has spoken extensively with media organizations and leading public figures."
The press release also contains a biography of each winner.

Each laureate receives $200,000 and a medallion. Past laureautes include some very important scientists: Wallace Broecker, Richard Alley, Jared Diamond, Charles Keeling, Jane Goodall, Roger Revelle and Edward O. Wilson.

Mann has won so many prizes now that I've lost track. As far as I know, Steve McIntyre was once co-winner of the immensely prestigious 2007 "Weblog Award for Best Science Blog."

Added: HuffPost has a nice article on Warren Washington. He was born and raised in Portland (Oregon), and went to Oregon State University, where his freshman advisor said he "shouldn’t stay in physics because it was probably too hard for me."

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Who Gets How Much in a Carbon Tax-and-Dividend?

I was curious about how a carbon tax-and-dividend would play out. The plan would collect a carbon tax at the wellhead, mine or (for imports) the port-of-entry, then distribute all tax collected back on an equal per capita basis.

Warning: Wonky Ahead

First, I'm sure this has been done by some economists already. At an AGU talk a few years ago James Hansen mentioned an economic study, and I asked him about it afterward and he told me the firm's name but now I can't find my notebook from then, but I think it started with an "E." 😒  Anyway I didn't Google much because I wanted to try to calculate it myself.

The most recent chart of income vs CO2 I could find was this 2017 study about the US, by Lutz Sagar of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, which splits 2009 households (HHs) into ten deciles:

Here the wealthiest decile emits about three times the CO2 as the poorest decile.

I'll assume the carbon tax-and-dividend has no administrative costs (it's easy to add them in if so). The US had 117.181 M households in 2009, so there will 1/10th this in each decile. I digitized the above graph with Web Plot Digitizer, which was fairly easy to use. Then it's just calculating, which I'll leave in a footnote below, but I should note here that something doesn't add up somewhere, because the chart implies US 2009 CO2 emissions were 3.81 Gt CO2, when they were actually 5.39 Gt CO2. That's a big difference, but I don't know what it's from -- maybe someone reading this can make suggestions. (One thing I'm assuming is that the study alloted the emissions from businesses, industries and land changes to households.) Meanwhile I'll plow onward.

Given that, here my results for a carbon tax of $40, $100 and $300 per metric ton of CO2, where a positive "net dividend" is how much a household receives above what they paid in carbon fees:

The inflection point is at about $46,000/HH/yr in 2009 dollars, which is about $55,000/HH/yr today.

Personally, $300/t CO2 sounds right to me, if not low. Perhaps $500/t would be even better. It would help the poor quite a bit, and the upper middle class and wealthy would barely notice it.

Here's my calculation for a carbon tax of $300/t CO2. (I didn't worry about significant figures here because this is just blog work):

Thursday, February 07, 2019

The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal (text here) looks whacked -- of course we won't get to a carbon-free society in 10 years -- and surely the authors of the proposal know that. But I think what they have in mind is putting a stake in the ground -- stating what's really needed to stop climate change -- so that later piddly proposals can be compared to it.

But I wish it was only about carbon without the social welfare proposals, such as

(G) ensuring that the Green New Deal mobilization creates high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages....
(H) guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States;....

(I) strengthening and protecting the right of all workers to organize, unionize, and collectively bargain free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment;....

(O) providing all people of the United States with
        (i) high-quality health care;
        (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing;
        (iii) economic security; and access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.
You may or may not think these are worthy aspirations, but such social engineering proposals are exactly what turns off some of the (rational) opponents of action on climate change. And I can't say I blame them. If Republicans came forth with comprehensive climate/energy legislation that also included banning abortions, ensuring nationwide right-to-work laws, and (still more) tax breaks for the wealthy, I'd oppose it no matter what the climate section proposed. I don't understand why AOC and the 37 other sponsoring Democratic representatives don't see that.

Judith Curry has some thoughts on her Congressional testimony on Wednesday, and they're worth reading in full. She ends with this:
No-regrets, win-win solutions seem politically palatable to the Republicans; it remains to be seen if Democrats will make incremental no-regrets policies such as proposed here the enemy of their grandiose ideas such as Green New Deal.
I think that's a wise statement.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The Reluctant Radical

Last night I went to the Salem library to see the documentary film The Reluctant Radical, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker and the subject of the film, Ken Ward of Portland. The link has a trailer for the film.

The movie follows Ward, a 20-year employee of Greenpeace who then went out on his own to protest fossil fuels. It showed him trying to get in front of a Royal Dutch Shell ship leaving for the Arctic in 2015 -- the protest in Portland where about, notably, a dozen or so Greenpeace activists hung from a bridge, trying to keep the ship in harbor. (Actually the ship was a required vessel to deal with well blowouts that might happen in the Arctic.) Ward is shown at a Mobil gas station -- once on Christmas Eve dressed in a Santa suit -- with a sign board saying "Evil" and passing out an informational page about the news that ExxonMobil knew about human-caused warming in the 1970s. (He was arrested there more than once, and received community service.) Last, he broke into an oil pipeline safety valve station and turning the valve shut, temporarily blocking tar sands oil coming to the US from Canada. For this last act he faced several charges for trespassing, breaking and entering, and one felony (I forget what for), but a jury in Washington state deadlocked ("hung") on all the charges. And, as of the time of filming, he faced other charges too.

Ward has very strong and dire opinions on climate change. Some you can hear in the film: "the world as we know it is ending," we are at "the end of conditions that make civilization possible," "we're fucked," "we need to remake society or we're fucked." "We need moral clarity, lines to be drawn." His 15-year old son was shown saying "the world's [the human species is] screwed no matter what we do."

Ward is a very committed man, brave, willing to take risks that few are. I didn't know how I felt about that before the film, and after seeing it and hearing him, I still don't. His protests, of course, don't directly stop any fossil fuel use. But it does draw attention to the problem, and I suspect he's made some number of people wonder why he goes to such lengths, drawing their attention to the issue. Others, of course, see him as a zealot and a nuisance.

In the film a district attorney in Massachusetts said, when he decided to drop charges against Ward from earlier actions in that state, that we revere the civil disobedience of the Boston tea party. Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi used civil disobedience to great effect. Someone in the jury in Ward's trial that ended the film must have thought the same of Ward.

But it bothers me that, at the same time, Ward got some of the science wrong, even though the film showed him spending a period (when he couldn't find a job) reading all he could about climate change. He said we will have 5 ft of sea level rise by 2050. (I don't know of any science showing it will be that abrupt.) He said the melting Arctic will swamp Florida. (Arctic ice is mostly floating, so its melting doesn't affect sea level rise.) He mentioned a study that has just come out that day, saying, he said, that 80% of Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2050. (It actually said at least a third by 2100.)

These falsehoods matter. For me, they are egregious enough to make me doubt everything and anything he says about climate change. But then I know the subject well; most in the audience didn't. (One question was from a woman who said they had taken a trip to North Dakota, and the region was rife with oil trains. Where are they all going, she asked. Into your gas tank I wanted to say, but didn't.) I don't see Ward's errors as much different from some of the falsehoods put forth by climate deniers -- at least, the ones who clearly don't know any science. (Professional liars like Heartland and Watts are a different group.) You've got to get your facts straight if you're going to advocate. You gotta.

And at one point last night Ward said that coal power plants like those in West Virginia should all be simply shut down tomorrow. That's way beyond radical -- it's stupid. Ward called cap-and-trade, which is being designed now in the Oregon legislature, "a terrible idea, far more of a problem than it's worth," and that the time to do it was 20 years ago.

I used to wonder about the Berrigan brothers, who were in the news for a few decades during the '60s and after. Both priests, they first protested the Vietnam War, then political injustice in general, then protested a nuclear armament facility by breaking in, destroying some things and pouring blood on documents. They both spent several years in prison, in total. Did they do any good? I think, for me, they made me think, and in some small way contributed to my overall progressivism. I couldn't do what they did, or what Ken Ward does, though. I don't know if that makes me a coward, or just rational. I tell myself I can't protest because I write about climate change and I shouldn't look biased. Like I matter or anyone would notice. Maybe that's just fear rationalizing. I tell myself I don't have the personality they do, and their all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking. But then it's not just a matter of personality -- the film shows Ward talking to himself before chain cutting his way into the safety valve area, and saying he was afraid. I'm sure he is sometimes. He seems sincere. Maybe we all need to be that angry, at least to making changes in the political arena. We're all so passive. I just wish he'd stop exaggerating the science. 

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Why Climate Models are So Complex

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Elon Musk's Carbon Footprint

WaPo calculated that Elon Musk flew 150,000 miles last year in his private jet. Let's calculate estimate his carbon footprint.

Musk flies in a Gulfstream G650 ER private jet, a top of the line airplane. It has a cruising speed of 890 km/hr. I'll assume this speed for all of his flying time, though of course it's lower during takeoffs and landings, or "short" trips at lower altitudes, etc. We're just doing an estimate here, a lower limit.

So Musk spent at least 271 hours flying privately last year. That's 11 days, or 3.1% of the year.

Musk may have flown with family and friends, but since the trip was being taken at his behest, he alone owns all the fuel burned and carbon emitted.

I couldn't find fuel data for the Gulfstream G650 ER, but did find this for the Gulfstream 400: fuel consumption of 32 liters/minute. Let's use that.

Note added: See below.

So Musk burned about 520,000 liters of jet fuel last year. That's 138,000 gallons, or 21% of the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Jet fuel emits 9.57 kg CO2/gallon. I don't know about fuel for private jets, but let's use this figure for the estimate. I'll assume jet fuel has the same density as water.

So Musk's flying footprint for 2018 was 1.4 M kg CO2, or 1.3 kt (kilotonnes).

US per capita CO2 emissions are about 17 t CO2/yr, so Musk's total is equivalent to about 77 Americans.

But World per capita CO2 emissions are about 5 t CO2/yr, so Musk's emissions were equivalent to 263 average world citizens.
Note added 12:40 pm: I found an important number and can improve on this estimate some: the Gulfstream 650 burns 1,100 kg of jet fuel per hour. This brings Musk's flying carbon emissions for 2018 down to 750 tonnes of CO2, or 0.75 kilotonnes, which is like 44 average Americans or 150 average global citizens.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Funny Letter to the Editor

A letter to the editor of the American Journal of Physics in 1989:

Mermin is both quite a character and quite a good scientist -- I used his textbook on solid state physics, written with Ashcroft, as either an undergraduate or graduate student. (The latter, I think.) He also named the boojum.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Dead Horses in Australia

Wild horses at a dried up watering hole near Alice Springs (BBC). Temperatures reached as high as 49.5°C (121°F). This must be a very terrible way to die.

Thursday, January 24, 2019


Greta Thunberg, the (now) 16-year old who spoke truth to power at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, is at the World Economic Forum in Davos after riding a train from Sweden for 32 hours, shunning a flight as too carbon intensive. Again she sounded like the only adult in the room, and again she told it like it is:
About 1,500 private jets flew to Switzerland for the Davos conference.

Today about 35,000 students in Brussels skipped school to gather as "youth for climate." Thunberg started the first school strike in Sweden just in August of last year, by herself.

At this rate she's going to win the Nobel Peace Prize in a few years. (I'm not kidding; I have half a mind to nominate her myself. But I don't qualify.) This is one very brave kid person.

Doomsday Clock is Still Set to 2:00 'til Midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists declined to change the time on their Doomsday Clock -- it's still 11:58:00 pm. "As dangerous as [the Cold War in] 1953.... We are is very close to disaster.... The fact that there's no change [in the clock setting] is bad."

(Or, as someone commented online, "two minutes to Donald.")

Here's their full statement. The time setting is more conservative than I expected.

The Bulletin has labeled this time as "The New Abnormal...unsustainable and unsettling...a disturbing reality in which things are not getting better." Among their reasons:
  • Climate change in an "existential risk."
  • Relations between US and Russia remain "unacceptably strained."
  • Information warfare and fake news are allowed to flourish. 
Quotes above & below are paraphrased and not always in order.

William Perry (old-time nuclear scientist) says climate change is "likely to lead to a climate catastrophe."

Susan Solomon, MIT: (paraphrasing) "Global emissions resumed after apparently plateauing. Worldwide emissions must be cut to zero well before the end of the century. US has the more resources to develop and implement a renewable energy system.... US failure to act is "an act of gross negligence." Paris Agreement is threatened.... World is losing ground in reducing emissions. Greenland's ice melting at unprecedented rate. 2018 to be 4th warmest, despite no El Nino, has contributed to some very serious wild wildfires in California, wildlife deaths in Australia and US.... This coming decade is absolutely critical, and we're running out of time.

Herb Lin had some prescient thoughts on information problems which I failed to capture while listening.

Jerry Brown was the most animated and most adamant. I'll try to find a transcript. He mostly talked about the nuclear situation, and said "It's late and it's getting later, and we've got to wake people in Washington up.... As far as I'm concerned, there's massive sleepwalking all over the place."

I'm hoping I'm alive when the Clock is set to sometime around 8:00 am. That will be a good day.

Monday, January 21, 2019

"Third Thoughts" by Steven Weinberg

“It is generally foolish to bet against the judgements of science, and in this case, when the planet is at stake, it is insane.”

- Steven Weinberg, Third Thoughts; The Universe We Still Don't Know, Google Books:
This is from a new book of essays by Weinberg. I haven't read it yet, but it got a great review in Physics Today, who called it "a delightful collection of essays for the general reader." They wrote, "Weinberg often hits the nail right on the head."

PS: Interesting book cover. I wonder what it means. (Weinberg is now 85.)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

South Pole Warming

Eric Steig put this graph on Twitter:
The data are here. Here's a little smoother presentation of the data, in terms of anomalies relative to 1957-1986:

It's just one location -- Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station -- so it can't speak for the whole continent, and it's almost two miles in elevation, but it's still interesting.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

China's Energy Consumption Has Flatlined

I didn't realize that China's energy consumption had flatlined. From the EIA:

Per capita, these data imply that the average American uses 3.1 times more energy than the average Chinese (in 2016). And that US per capita energy use is down 12% since 2000. Increased efficiency? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

How to Exploit Your Idiot Customers

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Guesses For the Update of the Doomsday Clock?

The Doomsday Clock, set every year by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Science and Security Board, will be reset this January 24th. It's currently set at 11:58:00 pm, up one full minute from 2016. (Here's their full list, which goes back to 1947 when it was 11:53:00 pm.)

Any guesses? There isn't much space left, but I'd be surprised if they can ignore Trump's heedless craziness for even a year, and the contribution of climate change to the hurricanes and wildfires in the US last year.

So I'm guessing they will set it forward by a half-minute.

You can watch this year's announcement on 1/24 on their Web site or Facebook page.

Are Underwater Volcanoes Causing Ocean Warming?

There's important climate news in the last week -- ocean warming has been found to be 40% higher than was given five years ago by the IPCC 5th Assessment Report, bringing it in line with climate model predictions. And Antarctic ice melt is six times greater than it was in the 1970s.

But I feel like blogging about the skeptical conjecture that underwater volcanoes are causing the observed ocean warming. For example, the radio host Lars Larson, whose show I was on last summer, conjectured that recently on Twitter:
Could this be causing ocean warming? Seems unlikely....

1) these volcanoes and vents didn't suddenly flare up during the Industrial era or in the 1970s -- they've been there for, what, billions of years at mid-ocean ridges where tectonic plate spread apart? 

2) But let's do a little back of the envelope calculation to estimate their influence -- for underwater volcanoes, at least. (Plus it's always fun to get a chance to make LaTeX equations again.) Here's what I found:

"About 5 cubic-miles of lava erupt every year along the mid-ocean ridges and submarine fault systems associated with subduction zones...." (Forbes)

The lava is at a certain temperature TL, and the ocean at (an average of) TO. As the lava pours into the ocean, it gives up heat to the ocean, raising the temperature by ΔT. The final temperature of the lava will be TO + ΔT. Then by energy conservation, the heat gained by the ocean is the heat lost by the lava:

where M is mass and C is specific heat. Then


Here are the numbers I found for lava:

where 1200°C was the maximum value in the given range. For the ocean:

(The initial temperature of the ocean doesn't matter much, since TL is over an order of magnitude larger.) So

α = 4.7 × 109 ≫ 1
ΔT = 3 × 10-7 K/yr

so tiny, as expected. Converting this to a ocean heat gain gives

ΔQ = 1 × 1018 J/yr = 4 × 1010 W → 1 × 10-4 W/m2

over the Earth's surface area. Compare that to the trend found in the first paper mentioned above of about 0.60 W/m2.

So undersea volcanoes only contribute ~0.1% of the ocean's heat gain.

(I think it's hard to imagine just how huge the ocean is. For example, it's 1.5 times more massive than Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt, with a diameter of almost 600 miles.)

Anything I missed?

Tuesday, January 08, 2019


Pacific Island Represent! (@PIrepresent)
We had the honour of meeting .⁦‪@GretaThunberg‬⁩, 15 year-old Swedish climate activist, at the global climate talks in Poland - #COP24. Change is coming ✊

Saturday, January 05, 2019

A Professional Scientist Actually Cited This Graph

Who? Roy Spencer. I'm not sure where it comes from, but it doesn't matter -- he needs to retake an undergraduate course in the proper presentation of data, because this graph is scientific malpractice. The proper response can only be this.

Of course, a proper graph -- recall from 5th grade that the point of a graph is to convey as much information as possible -- looks something like this:

and it would have error bars which I'm not going to bother with here. But you get the point. (Note 1/7: I replaced the original graph with one that includes the 1-year (4-quarter) moving average.)

And the 0.04°C on Roy's graph? (I get 0.05°C, but it makes little difference here except that it's just a little tiny additional 25%.) A real scientist would understand (as I'm sure Roy does; he's just more interested in propaganda) that: 

(a) it's really about heat gained, not temperature change, which for these data I find to be 1.4 x 1023 J. All that heat will not necessarily stay in the ocean, but much will come out to the atmosphere over millennia. The ocean is vast, and has a higher specific heat than air; if this amount of heat were in the atmosphere instead, the temperature change would be ~1000 times larger.

(b) for living things, the problem with ocean warming is that many of them live near the surface, for which the temperature change is much larger. (I wanted to plot the 0-100 m change in the ocean, but NOAA's site is down now because of Trump's moronic government shutdown.) So I have to go with this:

Comparatively, the temperature change of the top 700 m of the ocean is, over the same time period, 0.08°C, and the temperature change of the global sea surface is (HadSST3) 0.26°C. 

Ironically, Roy's post is about Chuck Todd's decision not to allow "climate deniers" on his television show, and how Roy claims there really aren't any climate scientists who deny that the climate isn't warming and man isn't partly responsible. (Except Fred Singer.) So Roy isn't a full-blown climate denier, but then he use the standard dumb denier trick graph that's the most climate denying graph of all. 

One more point. Roy ignores the entire professional literature and cites just one paper by Lewis and Curry, as if it's the final word. And he cheats on that, too, citing the CO2 climate sensitivity they found to be 1.0°C, when that's only the lowest value of their range (added 1/6: and anyway it's the range for the transient climate response -- the warming at the moment CO2 doubles, not ECS), which is 1.0-1.9 C (5%-95% confidence limits). 
Spencer: "...the lastest (sic) analyses (Lewis & Curry, 2018) of what this would mean leads to an eventual warming of only 1 deg. C from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 (we are currently about halfway to that doubling)...."
Now how can Roy think CO2's climate sensitivity is as low as 1.0 C, when 

(a) we've already had 1.0°C of warming.
(b) polluting aerosols are holding warming down by about 0.5°C, and
(c) CO2's share of manmade radiative forcing is, for 1990-2017, 66%.  

These would imply CO2's warming so far is (assuming CO2's radiative forcing fraction is the same since the pre-industrial era) 0.66*1.5°C = 1.0°C, when CO2 hasn't even increased by 50% yet, let alone doubled. 

And Roy is upset that Chuck Todd doesn't want to have the likes of Roy Spencer on his show, and in writing about it shows exactly why Todd doesn't.