Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Water district election update from a guileless heavyweight

The title above refers to a San Jose newspaper article. I've mentioned a while back that I'm running for re-election, and it turns out it's going to be interesting.


People seem to have differing reactions to the column, so read it for yourself and I won't try to bias your view.

What I have been thinking for a while though in this runup to the election is to actually acknowledge the mistakes I've made. I've got one general category, and then one specific issue. The general category is dividing my attention on too many things. Here's an incomplete list of the memos I've written:  too many subjects. Obviously we do a lot more work than can be measured by memos, but those memos should usually be priority items. If I had chosen fewer subjects and put more time into them, we could have progressed further. (I'll still defend our progress overall, though.)

The other, specific issue is pretty technical but involves the best approach to resolving legal and environmental issues under both state and federal law for the protection of endangered steelhead salmon. We'd been attempting to get simultaneous state and federal permits but had been held up on the federal level. Some local environmental groups wanted to split the process to speed up actions to help steelhead under state law; our staff resisted this approach. A few months ago, our staff changed their minds. Maybe that could have happened two years ago instead - the split approach was the right one. Now we have to make up for that lost time.

Anyway, I think you can acknowledge mistakes while still doing a good job, and that's what I hope to do in this election. 

And to be a good politician (or less guileless one), I'll also add that help is greatly appreciated.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

All this has happened before

So Microsoft has decided to ditch the lobbying group ALEC because of ALEC's opposition to renewable energy. As the link says, the lobbying group is facing increasing problems with its corporate members. This is obviously good news and it parallels something that happened years earlier, where a conservative corporate coalition (the Global Climate Coalition) mobilized against climate change was gradually picked apart. In the earlier case, the demise of the conservative coalition received a helping hand from a moderate alternative established by the Pew Foundation. I am not aware of any behind-the-scenes nudging of Microsoft, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Despite this, I stand behind my original admiration for ALEC and think it should be imitated on the progressive side of politics. Maybe we can skip the unsavory stuff though, especially the secrecy that is getting it into trouble.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Roger Pielke Jr.'s Annus Horribilis

As Ethon points out this has been a very difficult year for Roger Jr. who, poor lad, has been exposed to the love that others have for him.  Roger has not taken this well, and his tried and true tactics of lashing out and expecting bunnies to back away have been tried and truly just did not work this time.

Of course the 538 comedy was difficult enough.  Before that there was his challenging John Holdren and having his teeth handed to him (indirectly of course).

The pushback is the result of going to the well too often.  The first rule of life, and academic life is that enemies accumulate.  Roger has any number and some of them now have bigger megaphones than he does.

Brad Johnson put together a fine collection of Roger's best for Grist in honor of Nate Silver shooting himself in the head by giving Roger a forum (a mistake soon rectified).

Pielke's response to criticism at the time was typical, demanding apologies from those who criticized him.

Trenberth said he considered Pielke's email "a threat to me.” “He was very accusatory and threatened me if I did not respond,” Trenberth told HuffPost. 
Trenberth forwarded the text of the email to HuffPost. Pielke wrote that Trenberth had "made some pretty coarse and perhaps even libelous comments" in the ThinkProgress article. Pielke requested that Trenberth correct his public claims and noted that "an apology would be nice also."  
Kevin is, of course, a long standing critic of Pielke Jr., no more clearly put than his review of Roger's The Climate Fix but Roger has never stood by idly when the opportunity beckoned and not loathe to give it a helping hand.

It is indeed a difficult thing to be exposed to the lack of respect others have for you. Given the past, bunnies could only expect the typical victim bully response
Unlike simple passive-aggression, victim bullies use accusations as weapons, and ramp up the accusations over time. Unlike a normal person, who would slink away in shame as the initial accusations are discredited, a victim bully lacks either guilt or shame, honestly believing that s/he has been so egregiously wronged in some cosmic way that anything s/he does or says is justified in the larger scheme of things. So when the initial accusations are dismissed, the victim bully's first move is a sort of double-or-nothing, raising the absurdity and the stakes even more
The absurdity stakes could not be any higher than the denouement of a panel on which both Roger and Kevin Trenberth had at each other last week.
Roger is playing no limit absurdity

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Delicate Flowers

Eli, contrary to rumor, has been following the comings and goings here and abouts.  Even twittering back and forth with Ethon.  As some bunnies may have noticed, this being summer, it is time for delicate flowering, and indeed there have been outbreaks at the usual places, for example, Judith Curry wondering about the road to scientific hell, and then missing all the turn signs.  ATTP tried to play nice (Eli pointed out that she had not a clue about ethics, it got sin binned).

In any case, which always goes around in the best circles, Eli was wandered over to an interview of Robert Bindschadler by Dahr Jamal.  Bindschadler a ice mass specialist now emeritus at NASA is one of the ones in the corner screaming bloody murder.  He is very pessimistic about ice on the planet, looking at major losses to the ice sheets in the 100-200 year time frame.

To reinforce your sense of well being, Eli would point you to the final report of the Dark Snow Project,

In the interview he describes how at the time of the first IPCC report, 1991, significant losses from Antarctica and Greenland were not even considered because it was assumed that the time frame for such would be well outside the next century horizon of the report.  As SAR, TAR, AR4 and now AR5 followed, and the weakening of the ice sheets became clear, the issue crept into the IPCC reports, but often in strange ways
Then we get up to the fourth IPCC report in 2007, and we were starting to get some models that incorporated our best understanding of the ice sheets that were showing that there might be some dramatic impact in terms of contribution to sea level. They were acknowledged, with verbiage like, ice sheet dynamics can change rapidly and contribute large amounts of water to cause excess sea level rise, but the dynamics are not well enough understood for predictive capability. The sea level numbers were pretty low, and the words around said they didn't really know how high they might go. So the story at that time was that we didn't really know what the numbers were. 
I asked the head of Working Group I on that report which had ultimate responsibility for everything that was in the Working Group I report, I said, "All the words say don't trust the numbers; why are there numbers there at all?" She told me that governments insisted that there be numbers, that they gave them the table and said you put the numbers in this table. Thus, she felt compelled to do that because the report was not going to be accepted by the government until there were numbers in the table.
Bindschadler was and is alarmed by this and, as he says, he started to engage
The shortening of the time scale that glaciers can now contribute to sea level rise and climate change drew me into the debate. And the science is solid. There's no question about it. Even in the early days it was solid. So I came down hard on the side of yes, it is happening, and I can speak to that when it comes to sea level going up as a result of shrinking ice sheets. That is going to happen.
 That gave me my entrance onto the stage where these nasty debates are going on. I wasn't that far away from the general expectation within the scientific community that said that as long as we spoke from the facts, and stayed secure with our caveats that have to be there, we will be listened to and it will have a positive effect on necessary policies that need to start being put in place. It was that naïve expectation that we're the experts, and scientists are usually pretty well regarded as credible, and that's never changed.

But there was such a strong blowback from climate change skeptics and deniers, using their bad science, and we felt there was a failing in the reporting of that, and even though the vast majority of the scientists, and back in those days it was 90 to 10 percent, it would still be reported as an equal debate.
But the dagger, was of course from the delicate flowers
The other thing that led me into a retreat is you would go out there and try to limit your emphasis on caveats and speak more crisply or without the caveats and with more black and white and you would be shot in the back by your colleagues. So I would be quoted in the paper making a rather bold statement and a colleague would call me out and say, well you didn't mention the uncertainty factor, and sounds like you know more than you know you do. But you have to consider the audience. If all you do is lace it with uncertainty, it gives them reason to do nothing. 
But there was not uniform agreement within the scientific community that that was the way to go. So I retreated.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sorely Missed Already - het

Coby Beck reports that Harold Elmer Taylor has died at the age of 68.  het compiled a graceful and humorous weekly summary of climate news and blog posts at A Few Things Ill Considered.   It was, however, not short of concern for what we are doing to the Earth.

"Harvey E. Taylor, aka het, died Monday, July 14, 2014 at his home in Portage la Prairie, a small town in Manitoba, Canada.  All I know of it is from one brief online obituary and one more detailed one at the website of a funeral home. It says he died peacefully and in his home."
He was also working on a novel called "The Bottleneck Years" parts of which were published on the blog over time.

Short memory candles   can be left at the funeral home site.  Longer one's at A Few Things.

We need a wake to ease the loss.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Chait gets it

The focus on per-capita emissions, the obligation to look at total emissions that have brought us to this point instead of ignoring the disparate emission levels between nations in the last decades, and the completely ignored commitment (okay, something of a commitment) by India and China not to reach American levels of per capita emissions.

Best paragraph:

The United States has emitted far more carbon into the atmosphere than India or China — indeed, more than India and China combined. The United States continues to emit several times more carbon per person than either China or India. Since China and India have vastly more people and are industrializing, they are likely to increase their per-capita emissions over time. I have seen no morally cogent explanation as to why the entire burden of sparing the world from runaway global warming should fall on the countries that have contributed the least to its existence. Developing countries have already made the significant concession that they will not be allowed to follow the cheap dirty-energy developmental path used by the West.
Read the whole thing.


UPDATE:  from the comments, Raypierre has a well-developed paper on the whole issue. I'll quibble with one point:
Perhaps there should be a statute of limitations for carbon emission. This cannot be justified on the basis of ignorance of consequences of carbon emissions, since that has been known for well over a century,
I can understand a start date of responsibility for past emissions in 1896, but I think the stronger argument is that the scientific notice given to the public and policymakers of a substantial risk from GHG emissions was insufficient prior to the 1960s or 1970s. The latest start date could even be the Rio Declaration, when you transfer from a risk of a problem to a near-certainty of a problem. I think the better argument is that a realistic and reasonably understood possibility of risk, communicated to the broader community, should be the start date of responsibility.

This part nails down the overall issue:
Some forms of unequal circumstances at birth (being born black, or female, or poor) are clearly irrelevant to the question of access to something like education or adequate health care, and need unconditional redress. The question of whether a person should suffer a reduced share of the Carbon Commons simply because she was born African or Indian falls naturally into the same category.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Morally Confused

Judith Curry has wandered into ethics, without much of an understanding about such things.  She enjoys going on about how she is the protector of research integrity, without really understanding scientific ethics, perhaps first investigated by Max Weber, although Eli is sure that Willard may know of earlier sources.  There are many interesting things about this, first, that scientific ethics as distinct from ethics could not have been a subject much earlier, because science as a stand along thing really only blossomed at about the same time as global instrumental temperature measurements started in the late 1900s.

Second, that separating ethical behavior as a scientist from ethical behavior in general is not something that your average bunny in the street holds in high regard and is one reason that many people distrust science and scientists, as in Godless Scientists, etc. which is really a belief that science and scientists would gladly sell everybunny down the river for a Nature pub.  

Be that as it may, Weber pointed out that the distinction must be between facts and value judgements.  Since as has been mentioned here a few times, we have no data from the future, value judgements about the future must condition our views of how what we are doing now will affect the future.  Stephan Gardiner explains how this can easily lead to moral corruption

In conclusion, the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself
In discussing the House of Parliament Committee on Energy and Climate Change report Judith Curry shows how only valuing the things of today leads to such corruption
If people are concerned about the adverse impacts of extreme weather events, reducing CO2 emissions are not going to have any impact on policy relevant time scales, even if you accept the IPCC analyses.  Resources expended on energy policy are in direct conflict with reducing vulnerability to extreme events.
Oh yeah, that and as Gardiner call out, the full Lomborg, that you can't spend resources on both.
The first is the threat of a false dichotomy. Arguments from opportunity cost crucially rely on the idea that if a given project is chosen, then that choice forecloses some other option. But this is not the case in Lomborg's version. Helping the poor and mitigating climate change are not obviously mutually exclusive. . .

Second it is not clear even that the two projects are independent of each other, in the sense that they are fully separable opportunities rather than necessarily linked and perhaps mutually supporting policies. . . .

Third, it is not clear that the opportunity that Lomborg wants to emphasize is really available.
The good Lord protect the future from the defender of research integrity.

Tip of the ears to Matt at the Weasel's for pointing to this

Color Blind

The National Review, through its lawyers has filed a new pleading in Mann vs. Steyn as it has popularly been labelled.  Now Eli, not being a lawyer is not going to go through the lawyerly stuff, e.g.

Dr. Mann Cannot Demonstrate Actual Malice By Clear and Convincing Evidence Because National Review Sincerely Believes In The Truth Of The Statements
or
Read in context, Steyn’s commentary was protected rhetorical hyperbole, not a literal accusation of fraud or data falsification

Lowry’s phrase “intellectually bogus and wrong” is not actionable
which appear to be somewhat in contradiction, but one thing in the brief, emphasized by Willard Tony struck Eli as world class
 Third, critics have argued that the hockey stick is misleading because it splices together two different types of data without highlighting the change: For roughly the first nine centuries after the year 1000 A.D., the graph shows temperature levels that have been inferred solely from tree-ring samples and other “proxy” data. But from about 1900 onward, the graph relies on readings from modern instruments such as thermometers. In the words of one review conducted by a panel of independent scientists, many consider it “regrettable” that temperature reconstructions “by the IPCC and others” neglected to emphasize “the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century.” 
 Eli, being a RTFR type of bunny went and read Watts Up With That.

Eli has a copy of a figure from Tom Fuller guesting as the local expert on WUWT showing the MBH99 reconstruction as featured in the TAR together with the Lamb BON (back of napkin) sketch that John Mashey has had such fun with



for the colorblind in the IPCC TAR featured figure on the right, the black is the smoothed proxy reconstruction, the red the instrumental data.  Don't believe everything you read over there.