Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Florida's Surgeon General LOL

Florida's Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo won't say if he's vaccinated against COVID-19.

That's how far Republicans are going to make political hay out of the pandemic. Because that's all they're doing.

History will record these people as not just fools, but malicious, craven fools. I kind of wish I had the chance to write it.

But at least someone has rightly told him to go to hell:

Ladapo’s pass on his own vaccination status comes after state Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) kicked him out of her office last week for refusing to wear a face mask. Polsky announced in August her battle with stage 1 breast cancer. Florida Politics was the first to report that she told Ladapo and two of his Florida Department of Health aides to leave after they refused to don masks during a meeting inside the Capitol last week.

About That $100 Billion a Year

I got something wrong a few days ago, about developed countries pledging $100 billion in climate aid to developing countries via COP.

It's $100 billion total, for all countries, not per country.

That makes a lot more sense.

From Bloomberg Green:

A blueprint for how developed countries will contribute $100 billion a year to poor nations confronting climate change is set to be unveiled on Monday despite objections from the U.S. and other nations that almost derailed the announcement.

The plan is seen as critical to the success of the United Nations COP26 climate summit scheduled to begin Oct. 31 in Glasgow, Scotland. Rich nations have fallen short of their 2009 pledge to collectively deliver $100 billion annually to help poor countries confront climate change, shift to clean energy and build resilience. And without more money, some developing nations, such as Bangladesh and Indonesia, have said they can’t step up their climate pledges.

Developed countries were roughly $20 billion below the $100 billion target in 2019, the last year for which totals have been released.

The U.S. had objected to a plan to make up for shortfalls in previous donations with higher contributions in future years, according to three people familiar with the matter who asked for anonymity to describe private negotiations. Details of how the matter was settled weren’t immediately available but the people confirmed that an announcement, which had been expected this week, would be made Monday....

President Joe Biden last month committed the U.S. to provide $11.4 billion in climate finance annually by 2024. And Congress is on track to spend between $2.8 billion and $3.1 billion on climate finance in fiscal 2022. Yet that still leaves the U.S. lagging well behind other developed nations in meeting its share of the target.

Whether -- and how -- to account for continued shortfalls this year and last so that finance still reaches a $100 billion annual average between 2020 and 2025 has been a major sticking point in negotiations, said the people. The U.S. was among nations concerned about the ability of the group to collectively increase contributions in future years to compensate, the people said.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

1.5°C Limit Requires Unprecedented Fossil Fuel Declines

To limit warming to 1.5°C fossil fuel use must decline at unprecedented rates. Cell Press:

Limiting climate change to the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Climate Agreement will likely require coal and gas power use to decline at rates that are unprecedented for any large country, an analysis of decadal episodes of fossil fuel decline in 105 countries between 1960 and 2018 shows. Furthermore, the findings, published October 22 in the journal One Earth, suggest that the most rapid historical cases of fossil fuel decline occurred when oil was replaced by coal, gas, or nuclear power in response to energy security threats of the 1970s and the 1980s....

"We also studied recent political pledges to completely phase out coal power, which some 30 countries made as part of the Powering Past Coal Alliance. We found that these pledges do not aim for faster coal decline than what has occurred historically.... In other words, they plan for largely business as usual."

Who believes that's going to happen?

There just haven't been near enough shocking disasters from climate change yet, especially in the developed world, to change the lock corporations have on governments. (1,000 dead in the Pacific Northwest heat wave? Scoff. 3,000 dead in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria? Just throw them paper towels!) 

COP26 is surely going to end with a pledge or plan to limit warming to 1.5°C, and they're going to lose credibility by doing so.

A book I'm reading how, How to Blow Up a Pipeline by Andreas Malm, argues that no great societal transition has come without violence and even political terrorism and that the pacifism of the climate movement isn't working near fast enough and it additionally adopt some new tactics -- property sabotage, violence against property. Malm cites the ways that slavery ended in the US, how women's suffrage was won in the UK, the civil rights movement in the US, and the Poll Tax Riots against Margaret Thatcher's 1990 Community Charge. You could add the eco-terrorism in the Pacific Northwest to save indigenous species, some of which is still going on.

Malm is calling for sabatoge against property, not violence against people (such as in the plot, albeit fiction, of Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry of the Future.) 

Malm's book was published in 2018, before Greta Thunberg and the massive youth climate protests that have taken place. Wikipedia says, "However, after the start of Fridays For Future in 2018 and the spread of climate protest camps in Germany and throughout Europe in 2019, Malm described feeling 'elated and encouraged by the wave of activism' but frustrated by the climate movement's "strict commitment to absolute nonviolence." 

It's an interesting and thought provoking book and I'm only 1/3rd of the way through, and looking forward to reading the rest.

COP26 starts in a week, but of course they're already getting their ducks lined up, or trying to.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Key Goals of COP26: Any Hope?

COP26 (Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow runs from October 31st to November 12th. 

An article in Forbes by Marshall Shepard, a prominent climate scientist, lists four things the average person needs to know about it. I doubt anyone reading here is average, but this section was useful, on COP26's Key Goals:

Click on the image to enlarge it if the resolution is Blogger-crappy. 

I can see countries doing #1 and #2, because it's just words and they did the same for Kyoto and Copenhagen and Paris, missing those targets just as they'll no doubt miss any targets they make at Glasgow. Many have already announced net zero targets by 2050 or 2060. Easy to say, it's like a New Year's Resolution that you're going to lose 20 pounds this year. Not so easy to do, and by Jan 15th you're back to your old slovenly ways.

#3 looks unlikely -- $100 B/year? (And that's the minimum COP is asking.) Americans won't accept that. Democrats won't be able to pass it in the budget, with Manchin and Sinema refusing anything climate-related or that might tax the rich. I don't think the average American would be for this anyway -- they're stingy enough on foreign aid as it is. Get this, published in June:
Do Americans want the U.S. government to spend more or spend less on foreign aid? The correct—if perhaps surprising—answer is more, by a lot. Most Americans say aid should be 10 percent of the entire federal budget, almost 10 times more than the roughly 1 percent of the budget that currently goes to foreign aid. But here’s a paradox: When asked whether the U.S. should increase or decrease aid spending, most Americans also say that the government should spend less on aid, not more.

What explains this consistently inconsistent polling result? The problem, as NPR explains, is that Americans massively overestimate the amount the U.S. government actually spends on aid as a proportion of all spending. So instead of thinking accurately to themselves, “We should be spending 10 percent of the budget on aid, and we only spend 1 percent. This is terrible! Increase aid spending!” Americans think, “Gracious, we must spend at least 20-50 percent on aid. That’s too much. It should be 10 percent. Cut aid spending!”
I don't have any idea if European countries would spend $100 B/yr (currently €86 B/yr), but with economies at least a few times smaller than the US's it seems a big ask. 

#4 is more words.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C? COP26 will surely end by stating that goal and some plan to reach it, but it looks impossible now. September: UN Chief says it's impossible without "immediate, large-scale emissions cuts." Well that's certainly NOT going to happen. OK, the laws of physics allow it, and it's technically and economically feasible. But
The IPCC looked extensively at emission reductions required to pursue the 1.5℃ limit. It found getting on a 1.5℃ track is feasible but would require halving global emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 and reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century.
I can't see the world halving emissions (a little more, actually) by 2030, nine years from now. If my math is right, cutting emissions by 50% in 9 years requires an average cut of 7.4% per year. I can't see the US, China, India doing that. Can you? 

Anyway governments can say all they want. The fossil fuel barons have other plans, and by whatever corrupt means it takes they're going to sell their oil, gas and coal regardless of the price of wind and solar.

So I'm pessimistic. (Maybe I always am.) History of COPs doesn't give much reason to be optimistic. I mean, come on. From Climate Central:

Technosignature Article Now Free

My article on technosignatures in Physics World magazine now has an open and free link:

“Scanning the cosmos for signs of technology,” Physics World, October 2021, pp 32-36.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Can't Spell "Manchin" Without a Dollar Sign

Why is Joe Manchin opposed to President Biden's climate plans? Guess. Just go ahead and gue$$. 
Of course Manchin also makes a lot of money off his own coal interests. From The Intercept last month:
For decades, Manchin has profited from a series of coal companies that he founded during the 1980s. His son, Joe Manchin IV, has since assumed leadership roles in the firms, and the senator says his ownership is held in a blind trust. Yet between the time he joined the Senate and today, Manchin has personally grossed more than $4.5 million from those firms, according to financial disclosures. He also holds stock options in Enersystems Inc., the larger of the two firms, valued between $1 and $5 million.
Yet, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Manchin gets to determine Biden's legislation on on climate change. It really is a sick cosmic joke.

PS: This likely interests no one else but me, but I've discovered that Tweets do embed properly if I use the Chrome browser, but not if I use Edge. Google makes Blogger, and Google makes Chrome. Microsoft makes Edge.

They also read properly there too. They don't read properly in Edge. The pictures are much clearer in Chrome as well. I wonder if this is a feature and not a bug.   

I switched to Edge about six months ago because of my Tab Explosion problem -- I usually have about 200 tabs open at any one time, waiting to be read, and because in Chrome each one occupies memory that eventually brings my computer to a near standstill. Edge puts tabs to sleep somehow until you come back to them (I've never noticed a delay when they "wake up"). Of course I could reduce my tab count -- I often don't read most of those 200 tabs anyway, despite my intentions -- but that's a different issue.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

On Climate Terrorism

"It is strange and striking that climate change activists have not committed any acts of terrorism. After all, terrorism is for the individual by far the modern world’s most effective form of political action, and climate change is an issue about which people feel just as strongly as about, say, animal rights. This is especially noticeable when you bear in mind the ease of things like blowing up petrol stations, or vandalising SUVs. In cities, SUVs are loathed by everyone except the people who drive them; and in a city the size of London, a few dozen people could in a short space of time make the ownership of these cars effectively impossible, just by running keys down the side of them, at a cost to the owner of several thousand pounds a time. Say fifty people vandalising four cars each every night for a month: six thousand trashed SUVs in a month and the Chelsea tractors would soon be disappearing from our streets. So why don’t these things happen? Is it because the people who feel strongly about climate change are simply too nice, too educated, to do anything of the sort? (But terrorists are often highly educated.) Or is it that even the people who feel most strongly about climate change on some level can’t quite bring themselves to believe in it?"

John Lanchester, London Review of Books, Vol 29 No 6 March 2007

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

One of the Best Novels I've Ever Read

This is one of the best novels I've ever read in my life. It's about trees. And, yes, people, insofar as they relate to trees. But mostly about trees. And life. Life in the long-term, measured in tree-years, species-years, gene-years. People are in there, for the moment. That's about all I'm going to say about it, because this is really more than a book, it's a gift waiting to be discovered by a reader, like if you didn't know about flowers, or Pythagorean's theorem, or had never seen the rings of Saturn in a telescope, indescribable. It's that kind of thing. At least, it was to me. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Joe Manchin's Excess Deaths

For some reason Tweets are no longer properly embedding in Blogger, so I have to cut and paste them. Blogger sucks more and more all the time.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

My Article on Technosignatures

I also have a feature article in this month's issue of Physics World magazine, on technosignatures:

“Scanning the cosmos for signs of technology,” Physics World, October 2021, pp 32-36.

At the moment it's only available to registered users of the site, but registration is free. In a week or so there'll be a publicly available link and I'll post that then. 

"Technosignatures" are any sign of technology on another planet. Examining the "technosphere" is a burgeoning field that astronomers and astrophysicists are starting to think about, especially as the James Webb Space Telescope is about to launch (December, they say now) and as even better telescopes might come online next decade if recommended by the forthcoming NASA Decadal Survey. 

For the last two decades astronomers and astrobiologists have been thinking about how they might detect life on exoplanets, via "biosignatures." These might be the detection of methane in a planet's light spectrum, large amounts of oxygen, and a host of other possibilities, due to microbes or plant life. If life is ever detected on another planet, it's likely it will be via some type of biosignature -- it could happen in the next couple of decades.

Just in the last couple of years scientists have also begun thinking about "technosignatures," signs of technology akin to how biosignatures are signs of life. If other planets have an advanced technological civilization, akin to ours or more advanced (since ours is rather nascent), there may be signs we can detect astronomically. These might be city lights on their nightside, industrial pollution in their atmosphere, solar panels on their surface or in orbit, or megastructures like a Dyson sphere* or swarm or ring, or who knows what. People are making calculations of what might be detectable by the Webb telescope or TESS, and by telescopes that are hopefully recommended like LUVOIR and HabEx. There will be an enormous amount of data to sift through, looking for anomalies. I tried to cover some of this rapidly expanding field in my artice. 

* As you may know, a Dyson sphere is a hypothetical structure that would completely surround a star, thereby capturing all of its energy output. (Such an structure around our Sun, at Earth's distance, would capture 2 billion times as much solar energy as falls atop Earth's atmosphere.) Except a Dyson sphere isn't mechanically stable -- they would likely break up due to any drift, as Dyson wrote about in 1960 when he first proposed this idea. (A Star Trek: The Next Generation features a Dyson sphere. [Video] Magically it was stable.) If it could exist, a Dyson sphere would heat up and radiate outwards. A Dyson sphere at Earth's orbital distance would radiate at Earth's brightness temperature, 255 K, so with a blackbody spectrum with a peak wavelength of about 10 microns, in the infrared. People have actually done searches for Dyson spheres in the galaxy. 

Instead, a civilization might construct a more stable Dyson configuration like a swarm or ring or bubble -- I've used the figure from my article below. Why? One idea is to capture solar energy on them and beam microwaves to the planet's surface. But who knows what an advanced civilization might do with them -- maybe live on them! These should have a radiative signature too, a technosignature. It's all hypothetical of course, but fun to think about.... It was a fun article to write.

Friday, October 08, 2021

My Wash Post Article

I have an article in today's Washington Post. It's accompanied by a nice piece of artwork, by Amy Ning

"The climate crisis is spawning weird ideas to fix it. They might be all we have." https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/10/08/mammoths-climate-ideas-desperation/

"The Trick" Trailer by the BBC

Not a fan of the title.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

YouTube Bans Ads on Climate Denial Videos

 This is big; NYT:

Can't wait to hear all the whining.

Google also owns Blogger (blogspot blogs, like this one). Wonder if its climate denying blogs are next. I'd guess not.

Nb: corrected my original headline.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

A Trillion Dollar Coin

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Nobel Prizes for Climate Science

Today's Nobel Prizes in Physics goes to three men who played very important roles in the early development of climate science and the analysis of complex dynamical systems. Quanta magazine has a good summary

At first I was surprised, because it wasn't awarded to anyone in fundamental physics research, as usual. But then I realized it made perfect sense, and sends an important message as well, and just before COP26. 

I'm more familiar with Manabe's work than the other two. In fact, a few years ago I wanted to profile Manabe for Yale Climate Connections, but he wouldn't do an interview. Beforehand I had read some of his early papers with Richard Wetherald -- Manabe did the physics, Wetherald did the computer programming -- such as this famous 1967 paper, and they were remarkably well written and exceptionally clear. 

Here's a 1989 oral interview of Manabe by Spencer Weart of the American Institute of Physics.

And, let's say it: Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann, who also built climate models, were right in their predictions -- they correctly predicted the Earth's response to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Here's a nice evaluation of Manabe and Wetherald's 1967 result: they predicted a CO2 climate sensitivity, when CO2 goes from 300 ppm to 600 ppm, of 2.4°C, which is in today's range of 1.5-4.5°C.  just shy of AR6's range of 2.5 - 4.5°C.

And, as that blog post notes, they made their prediction in 1967, at a time when the Earth's surface temperature was in a slight 20+ year cooling period. But they got a bit lucky -- if that cooling period was caused by atmospheric aerosols -- air pollution from vehicles, mostly -- they couldn't have known it would be cleaned up by the proliferation of clean air laws in the 1970s in the US and Europe. 

I don't know as much about the work of Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi, but am looking forward to learning more today.

A very thoughtful Prize.

Monday, October 04, 2021

It Doesn't Matter if You Believe In Climate Change....

WaPo story here.

Polar Sea Ice Extent Updates

 Just thought I'd post the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents, through September 2021. These are the 12-month moving averages, so lag latest conditions a bit. It will be interesting to see where the Antarctic goes --  back on its old trend?