[Schneider] claimed the west Antarctic ice sheet could melt before the year 2000 and inundate American coastlines with up to 25 feet of sea level rise. Obviously, the west Antarctic ice sheet was not raptured away last century, and New Yorkers can still drive rather than swim to work.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Many students, no matter their origin, paste sections of text into their work files picked up from on-line sources. They then, because they are relatively inexperienced, get these copied tracts mixed up with their own commentaries and two years later when they start drafting their thesis inadvertently plagiarize. Unwittingly, when drafting a paper from one of the chapters for publication, some of this copied text is again inadvertently introduced. I and a co-supervisor working up the paper making corrections as we revise their work may spot the problems but then we may not.
So to any who find Wegman guilty as charged remember this: one day when you are a senior academic and when the fire of self-righteous indignation does not burn quite so bright, it might just happen to you.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
- 1. National level. The big thing is climate change. The Republicans, with the help of some environmentalists on the left, killed cap-and-trade legislation. The carbon tax favored by the left environmentalists never got anywhere at all, and that's it for market approaches. What's left is command-and-control regulation through the Clean Air Act and the EPA. Another example is ocean fisheries, where Republicans have killed environmental attempts to establish "catch shares" that individually reward fishers when fish populations grow. So instead, we go with the old-style telling fishers how much of what to catch, when, and how they can do it.
- 2. State level. Here in California, the geniuses behind Proposition 26 have made it much harder to charge a fee on polluters for the damage they cause to the environment. (Incidentally, I attended a conference last week where a room full of lawyers could not figure out the effect Proposition 26 will have on government regulation, so fun times are ahead.) But all it affects is fees, not direct regulation and prohibitions, so one effect is to push direct control instead of recovery of externalities.
- 3. Local level. We've been trying with some success in the Bay Area to reduce the use of single-use takeout bags. The plastic bag industry, even before Prop 26, fought attempts to put a small fee on takeout plastic bags by litigation that argued this promoted paper bags with mixed environmental consequences. The result has been a semi-complete ban on plastic bags, ban on paper bags with no recycled content, and a fee on allowed paper bags. The industry efforts converted the fee into an outright command to ban plastic bags.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
(Reposting this from the Green Foothills blog.)
In a housing deficient area like here in the San Francisco Bay region, it's wrong to simply say any new house anywhere is a good thing. This is true economically as well as environmentally - a potential house 10 miles due east of San Jose might sound like a quick jaunt away from Silicon Valley, but that would actually put it in a place with no roads, no services, no groundwater in reach, and no geologically-safe spot to build on. It wouldn't sell economically, as well as being bad environmentally.
Alternatively, a potential high-density housing location near a train station might appeal to environmentalists but seem too risky economically. There are different tipping points for different issues, and there's increased opportunities for cooperation where they overlap.
So here are some ideas:
Transportation: adding housing in an area that has little future prospect to use public transit is unlikely to help the transit situation. Transportation goes through a tipping point at a certain level of density that can use transit effectively. Any increase in that density makes transit even more cost effective. Proximity to good transit also creates a tipping point, where any increase in density is beneficial. Inner suburbs might be the tipping point density level.
Walkability: making a low density residential area slightly less low-density isn't going to make the area more walkable, it just puts more cars on the roads. On the other hand, adding more housing to an area that is already walkable means more people will be using the local stores, making them more financially viable. The tipping point is when an area is already walkable, or likely to become walkable. Urban townhouses and brownstones are the tipping point.
Natural open space: at first glance, there doesn't seem to be a tipping point: any increase in density decreases open space and habitat potential. Even a tiny yard might offer potential habitat that an apartment block wouldn't. However, dense housing removes pressure to construct less dense housing somewhere else. And habitat values for common wildlife decrease rapidly once roads and structures take up more land than natural habitat. Low-density suburbia probably constitutes a tipping point for natural open space.
Farming: farming may be even more sensitive to density than natural open space. Rural residential levels of density, one house per acre or even less, probably constitute a tipping point.
Financial: up to a certain point, more is better. Two homes on 50 acre lots are worth more than one on 100 acres. A tall apartment building might be more risky and appeal to a smaller market segment than a small condo building, however.
So what's the upshot of all this? From the environmental perspective, somewhere around low density suburbs, maybe two houses per acre, is the point where almost all environmental incentives are to avoid increases in density. Somewhere around the level found in inner suburbs, maybe 10 houses per acre, the environmental incentives are to support increases in density.
And from the inner suburbs up to city areas where multi-story apartments are possible, the environmental and financial interests are closely aligned.
This is all a simplification, of course. Dense housing in the wrong place is just a mistake. Natural open space in an urban area near a stream can also be very beneficial given the importance of stream environments. But it does point to areas of overlap.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Sunday, May 08, 2011
Saturday, May 07, 2011
Thursday, May 05, 2011
With exactly two years since Obama's inauguration having passed, I'm somewhat arbitrarily picking this as the time where his administration bears greater responsibility for anything done well or poorly by the executive branch than any previous administration. Credit and blame can be adjusted on a case by case basis - for example, Bush bears more responsibility for 9/11 than Clinton because he downgraded counter-terrorism efforts - but as a general matter this makes some sense to me.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
In March, members of the water district board were discussing at a public meeting whether to shift money for environmental restoration of streams to flood control work. Schmidt openly asked if he might have a conflict.
He asked water district counsel Stan Yamamoto for a ruling. He met afterward with Yamamoto's staff. The lawyers issued a memo spelling out when Schmidt should recuse himself from voting.
"Before I even started the campaign last year, I said I wanted to avoid any conflicts between my job as an environmental advocate and the work the water district does," Schmidt said Monday.
Yamamoto declined to be interviewed.
Asked to make the memo public, Schmidt said he could not, because he isn't the client in the attorney-client relationship, the water district is. Instead, he said, he has asked the state Fair Political Practices Commission for a ruling. He declined to comment on whether he supports making the memo public.
Apparently that wasn't exciting enough/informative enough though (choose your preferred description), so it was buried away from the lede paragraphs.
Overall, the article could be worse and more innuendo-ey, so I can't complain too much. I can complain some though! My main complaint is that I gave the reporter a reason why I shouldn't publicly declare whether the memo should be public, which wasn't included in the article: because the memo's about me, I shouldn't be involved in the process of deciding whether it should be released, and that includes publicly lobbying the Water District to release it (or not).
Second complaint is that no one ever releases attorney-client communication (for the reason that it would impair frank communication), and the article declined to mention that. I told the reporter that I considered that an essential part of the information that the public doesn't know, but he didn't.
Kind of ironic that we were in disagreement over what the newspaper is withholding from the public.
*Regarding the header to this post, I guess I've previously received criticism from denialists and Roger Pielke Jr., if one considers such a response to be "negative". (UPDATE: responding to the comment from RPJr below: yes, his criticism wasn't of my politics, it was instead his deceptive response when I pointed out that he was being deceptive.)