Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Day Late




Maybe not
One of the largest earth and space science meetings in the world is moving to New Orleans in 2017, drawing more than 25,000 scientists to the city.
The meeting will move to Washington D.C. in 2018, then return to its usual home in San Francisco by 2019.

In a news release, the American Geophysical Union said planned renovations at San Francisco's Moscone Center prompted the group's decision to relocate the annual meeting for two years.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Nigel Persaud Dons His Eyeshade and Audits the Auditor


Some time ago Nigel Persaud took up the trade of auditor and inquired about this and that.  Somebunny known here and abouts took up the challenge, only to find that careful examination showed that most of the inquiries were, shall Eli say it, perhaps about nothing at all, but that there were a couple of lacuna, things missing.  They eventually were noted in the appropriate place.

On the scale of errors, there are blunders, there are errors, there is over clever data selection, and there is ignorance.  There might be more, Eli will await word from Willard, but blunders occupy a special and deep circle of academic hell.

One of the auditors, Ross McKitrick, has an impressive case of the blunders.  Tim Lambert made a hobby of finding them.  There was, of course the famous confusion of degrees with radians in Michaels and McKitrick 2004 (MM04) and much much more.

A bunch of the lab mice, Rasmus Benestad, Dana Nuccitelli, Stephan Lewandowsky, Katherine Hayhoe, Hans Olav Hygen, Rob van Dorland, and John Cook have taken MM04 under the microscope as an example of, well, pretty much all of category of errors discussed in their recent paper.  They further respond to the McKitrick beasts wails of hurt in a recent Real Climate post.

There is one crucial point that McKitrick seems to have missed, which is that nearby temperature trends are related because the trend varies smoothly over space.

An important point made in (Benestad et al., 2015) was that a large portion of the data in the analysis of McKitrick and Michaels (2004) came from within the same country and involved common information for the economic statistics (GDP, etc). In technical terms, we say that there were dependencies within the sample of data points.
Bob Grumbine had pretty well nailed this over a decade ago after looking at the original version of MM04
He was fooling around with correlating per capita income with the observed temperature changes. He concluded that the warming was a figment of climatologists imaginations, as there was a correlation between money and warming. ‘Obviously’ this had to be due to wealth creating the warming in the dataset, rather than any climate change—his conclusion.
Along the way he:
1) selected a subset of temperature records
1a) without using a random method
1b) without paying attention to spatial distribution
1c) without ensuring that the records were far enough apart to be independant—ok, I shouldn’t say ‘he’ did it, because he didn’t. He blindly took a selection that his student made and which was—to my eyes—distributed quite peculiarly.
2) Treated the records as being independant (I know William knows this, but for some other folks: Surface temperature records are correlated across fairly substantial distances—a few hundred km. This is what makes paleoreconstructions possible, and what makes it possible to initialize global numerical weather prediction models with so few observations.)
3) Ignored that we do expect, and have reason to expect that the warming will be higher in higher latitudes
4) Ignored that the wealthy countries are at higher latitudes
Hence my calling it fooling around rather than work or study. He was, he said, submitting that pile of tripe* to a journal. *pile of tripe being my term, not his.
and
His main conclusion was regarding climate change—namely that there isn’t any. His secondary conclusion was that climate people studying climate data were idiots. Neither of those is a statement of economics, so my knowledge of economics is irrelevant (though, in matter of fact, it is far greater than his knowledge of climate; this says little, as his displayed level doesn’t challenge a bright jr. high student.).
Now this discussion of McKitrick and Michaels stirred a memory in Eli's rememberer, a comment that Steve Mosher had made when a follow on paper to MM04 and MM07 was being featured by Judith Curry.
I downloaded his data. In his data package he has a spreadsheet named MMJGR07.csv.
This contains his input data of things like population, GDP etc.

In line 195 he has the following data

Latitude = -42.5
Longitude = -7.5
Population in 1979 =56.242
Population in 1989 = 57.358
Population in 1999 = 59.11
Land = 240940 In his code he performs the following calculation

SURFACE PROCESSES: % growth population, income, GDP & Coal use // land is in sq km, pop is in millions; scale popden to persons/km2 // gdp is in trillions; gdpden is in $millions/km2

generate p79 = 1000000*pop79/land
generate p99 = 1000000*pop99/land
So, at latitude -42,5, Longitude -7.5 he has a 1979 population of 56 million people and 240940 sq km and a population density in the middle of the ocean that is higher than 50% of the places on land. Weird.
A few others looked at the spread sheet and saw that well in the words of another McKitrick was spreading the population and GDP of France across a couple of small islands in the Pacific.

WebHubTelescope summed it up
Whether it is getting radians and degrees mixed up, or doing elementary sanity checks on the data, this stuff isn’t that hard to verify for quality. Could it be that some people just don’t have the feel for the data? Or that they rely too much on blindly shoving numbers into stats packages? McKitrick’s paper has that sheen of mathematical formalism that can obscure the fact that he lacks some the skill of a practical analyst. Beats me as to his real skill level, or that he is just sloppy. 
 As far as Eli can see this "event" was only discussed in one other place, Marcel Crok's blog by Jos Hagelaars. 

Today Eli went and downloaded the file.  Just a quick pass through shows that of the 25/469 stations south of -40.0 latitude, 4 are UK territories and are associated with the population and GDP of the UK and the south pacific data is dominated by french territories.  Oh yeah, the Faroes have the population of Denmark.

Said file is available on request with a donation to the Ancient Bunny Fund. 

Yuck. Supreme Court puts hold on Clean Power, not a good sign for the future legal argument

This afternoon the US Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote issued a stay of the application of the Clean Power Plan to emitters (one example of the stays is here). They contradicted a lower court decision not to issue a stay pending a final legal ruling, so now the requirements are blocked for a period of months or more. The lower court has to issue its ruling, and then the inevitable appeal will be made by the losing party, and the Supreme Court will almost-inevitably accept the appeal and go through its own process. It won't end before the next President takes office.

That's obviously bad news for efforts to fight climate change, delaying initial requirements for taking place. The real question though is what does it tell us about the likely final outcome at the Supreme Court. Stays are generally issued based on four criteria:

(1) the likelihood that the party seeking the stay will prevail on the merits of the appeal; (2) the likelihood that the moving party will be irreparably harmed absent a stay; (3) the prospect that others will be harmed if the court grants the stay; and (4) the public interest in granting the stay. 

It's that first criterion that can set back global efforts on climate change. Courts do a balancing of the criteria, so if the Supreme Court majority weighed the other three strongly against the EPA, then they may be only somewhat doubtful of the Plan's legality. On the other hand, EPA argued that the early stages of the Plan place few restrictions on emitters (the emitters disagreed, saying they have to plan for outcomes many years in advance).

This is a situation where the way you argue at one stage of a case may not necessarily help you later. The winning side hopes the Court ignored their own arguments when it came to potential harm and listened to their arguments on the merits, and the losing side hopes the reverse is true.

It's still very unfortunate. If the Clean Power Plan gets thrown out, then a Democratic Party president will seek some regulation that can partially replace the Plan. A Republican president will doubtless seek to do absolutely nothing, and then face lawsuits by environmental groups and by some states for failure to apply the Clean Air Act. Those lawsuits will take a number of years to move forward, a loss of time that we can't afford.


UPDATE:  some more bad news, from the NY Times:  "The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court." That makes it even more likely that the majority is ready to shoot the law down - they'd otherwise be hesitant to take an unprecedented step.

One consolation is that the constitutional arguments against the law are so silly that even this conservative Court is unlikely to adopt them. It's the statutory interpretation arguments that are more dangerous, and they're most likely to limit the Plan's application, not kill it entirely.

Harvard law professor Larry Tribe, known as a liberal in some circles, makes the invalid constitutional arguments, and it's not the first time he's sought to take down environmental protections. I don't see how his legal philosophy could possibly be appropriate for a judicial appointment by a Democratic president.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Temperature Baths


The key to understanding the greenhouse effect is that it is a problem of energy flows, not of energy per se. a zeroth order thermodynamical model in which there are two large (in thermo speak infinite) heat baths, the sun @ 6000 K and space at 3 K. The earth, stuck between these monsters is too small to be a heat bath is better though of as a heat engine, but a very lazy one producing no work on the external surroundings and therefore having to reject an equal amount of heat to space as it absorbs from the sun.

If the heat engine slows down because some thermal radiation is blocked by greenhouse gases, other parts of the spectrum have to heat up to compensate.


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Saturday, February 06, 2016

So much for that - the Washington State's renvenue-neutral carbon tax proposal

Too bad:

The carbon-tax effort has also struggled to attract support from progressives and Democrats, who are concerned that the proposal isn’t really “revenue-neutral.” The latest news from the Evergreen State suggests that this effort may well be doomed: 
 [T]he Washington State Democratic Party [has gone] on record as opposed to CarbonWA’s I-732, joining the Washington State Labor Council and [the Washington Council of Machinists] in the no camp. I-732 is a complex tax swap proposal that would levy a carbon tax while also reducing sales and business & occupation taxes. 
CarbonWA and other I-732 proponents contend that their tax swap is “revenue neutral” (meaning it would not increase or decrease state revenue). Nonpartisan legislative staff and the Department of Revenue don’t agree. According to DOR’s calculations, I-732 would reduce revenue by nearly $1 billion over the next four years.... 
CarbonWA’s endorsements page doesn’t list a single organization affiliated with the Republican Party or active in the conservative movement. And, as even CarbonWA has admitted, polling suggests right-leaning voters in Washington are incredibly hostile to the idea of levying a carbon tax.

I'm no expert in Washington state politics, but the Democratic Party is against it as not being truly revenue neutral, major unions are against, and no Republican leadership is for it. You're not going around these folks and getting a majority of the grassroots.

I think this thing is on the ballot and can't be changed. So support it and maybe some fluke will get it through, and if not then back to the drawing board.

Tom Steyer and friends have an alternate proposal for WA that I've heard about, but I suspect they're not going to get something on the same ballot. Maybe it'll be their turn next.

Monday, February 01, 2016

We made it to 3000

3000 posts at Rabett Run, that is.



Somebody get Eli and Ethon a gold watch and a toaster.

Cruz has a plan for the nomination that the others don't - in 2020

While Trump may well take Iowa tomorrow, it's widely acknowledged that Ted Cruz has the strongest grass-roots level of organization among conservative evangelicals and other conservatives, in contrast to Marco Rubio's weak organization that relies on media rather than putting people in the field. I'm not absolutely convinced that Rubio's strategy is wrong for this election, but the election's not the only thing that's in play.


Rubio's strategy is based on everything working out just right, as it indeed has so far in his short political career, but he's not building anything that lasts beyond this election. Cruz is building an organization and cadre of loyalists. If Cruz wins the nomination, then that's great according to him. If he doesn't, and the Republican nominee doesn't win, then Cruz enters the 2020 race for the nomination with the best field organization of any candidate already in place.

And of course there's more - if another Republican wins the presidency, Cruz will be a stalking horse for the next four years, threatening to run against that Republican if he turns out to be too moderate. Cruz also will not be relying on building influence within Republican elites, so he's creating an alternative power structure that he can use to pressure the Republican leadership.

Kind of obvious, but I haven't seen it remarked elsewhere. Good thing his anti-charisma limits his reach, but we're going to have to be dealing with him until demographics fix Texan politics. 

With that happy thought, we'll see which disaster gets chosen by Iowa Republicans tomorrow.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Undercover journalism and prosecutorial discrection

Given the recent initiation of criminal prosecution against the people who made the defamatory video about Planned Parenthood, I thought I'd quote what journalism says about undercover journalism:

CJR:

Undercover reporting can be a powerful tool, but it’s one to be used cautiously: against only the most important targets, and even then only when accompanied by solid traditional reporting.
And Society for Professional Journalists:
Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
So they're saying do it rarely, only when necessary, and do it well.

The prosecution against the undercover activists isn't for doing it badly, it's for doing it at all. It would apply equally to many groundbreaking investigations by true undercover journalists. And the line between journalist and activist is a slippery one that maybe doesn't matter (e.g., the people exposing animal cruelty at factory farms).

As a practical matter I don't see a good way to modify the law to say "don't use fake identification unless you're working undercover." That's where prosecutorial discretion comes into play. The grand jury has no role in that discretion and district attorney seemed to ignore her responsibility.

This indictment will be used to keep corporate crimes hidden. Go after these people for doing a bad job via defamation suits instead, but don't ban undercover operations.