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