Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Raymond on Ryan and Romney

Raymond Pierrehumbert scores the top slot on Slate over Paul Ryan's climate denialism and general simplistic view on climate and the environment.  A great read in general but I'll focus on this:
One of the little fantasies that many of us progressives use to fend off the nightmare of a Romney win in November is the idea that he has flip-flopped so much on his way to a presidential candidacy that maybe once in office he'd flop back to the old Romney and give us a Nixon-in-China moment on climate change. There may have been fat chance of that, but with the choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate, even that illusory comfort is denied to us.
Yep.  I didn't really have that fantasy for a President Romney, but we have seen a small number of Republicans who started acknowledging climate reality once they're away from office.  A defeated candidate Romney, I thought, might make the switch.  I still wouldn't rule it out sometime for him, but it will take years.

The one I've wondered about is whether a President McCain would've done what candidate McCain promised.  While it wasn't as good as Obama's cap-and-trade, it would be better than what we've got.  OTOH we've already run a movie version of that with candidate Bush in 2000 promising to regulate CO2 as a pollutant if elected.

We'll never find out what McCain really would've done, but the contrast in this election could hardly be clearer.  One party has done something, if not enough, and the other is disastrous.

Still, we will have to have either a change to weaken the Senate filibuster, a climate disaster, or some sitting Republican senators willing to do the right thing before we can get a real national climate policy.  It won't be easy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I'd seriously like to make a Wall Street Journal Daily LaughAlong App

This information on environmental stupidity in the Wall Street Journal editorial pages since 1976 should be expanded into a smartphone app.  Each day you could find out what obvious reality was denied on that day of the month in the WSJ in the past, as a balance to whatever new nonsense will be showing up.

LaughAlong at the Journal, though, not with the Journal.  Beats crying, anyway.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rommin Rommin Rommin

Three things I learned listening to Chris Mooney's interview of Joe Romm about rhetoric:

1.  It's pronounced "Rome" and not the way I've been mentally pronouncing it for years.

2.  Are you a scientist or (in my case) a pseudo-wannabee who tries to think like one?  Joe's not writing for you.

3.  Bloggers should spend as much time formulating blog titles as they do on anything else the post (the one I did here took hours to craft).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I'm a carbon neutral delayist - until 2020

At Monday's Water District meeting, we revised our greenhouse gas/climate change policies.  The prior policy was to reduce emissions "when feasible".  Staff's new proposal was to "strive for carbon neutrality".  The Board Chair (and the other enviro on our board) wanted more.  She said she wanted to achieve carbon neutrality and to give a date, even though it was one she didn't expect to meet.  The date she gave was 2015.

I didn't know she was going to do any of that, so it was a pleasant surprise.  I thought having a date, or figuring out a date soon, was good but we need it to be defensible.  We're already pretty good on emissions, getting most of our power from carbon neutral hydro, but we still use a lot of other power, have a lot of vehicles, and a lot of construction.  I argued for either 2020 or for setting up the process now for establishing a date.  By 2020 I said we should be well along in San Francisco Bay wetlands restoration, which should absorb a huge amount of carbon emissions and make carbon neutrality possible.  The Board settled on that date.

Video below, or go here, click on August 20, and start watching at about 3 hours in.

The reference to "purpa" is actually the Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority, a joint government agency that buys power directly from providers instead of going through utility companies, giving us a lot more control over our carbon emissions.  This is why we have a chance of achieving neutrality.

The truth is I'd be thrilled if we achieved carbon neutrality by 2020, but let's see how close we can get.  I need to start working on the planning for it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

That cat won't hunt, hopefully

A short non-climate post here.  I've followed the outdoor-cats-are-killers issue for some years now, and as a local conservationist I've seen places where people are supporting large populations of feral cats by feeding them, usually places with lots of vulnerable wildlife nearby.  The capture-spay-and-return argument fails to realize that the non-spayed population will quickly increase to reach the area's carrying capacity.

More recently a non-peer reviewed study (what have you wrought, Muller and Watts?) put video cameras on 60 cats for a week and found nearly 30% hunted successfully in that week, killing 2 animals each.  If those numbers hold up, the figure translates into billions of animals killed by cats annually in the US.  This suggests that owned cats are significant problem as well as feral cats, and that well-fed feral cats will still hunt.

One obvious solution is to stop feeding feral cats and ultimately to ticket people who won't stop.  Another is to stop letting cats outdoors, although that encounters somewhat more reasonable resistance. A third solution I hadn't heard of before today is cat bibs that impede their pouncing. Might be a good thing to use on feral cats too, and a lot cheaper than neutering them.

Then there's my idea - if a majority of pet cats don't hunt for a week, a significant percent probably don't hunt at all, or hunt very little.  It should be possible to create a breed of cats with this temperament a fixed aspect of their personality.  While I'd normally encourage people to get pets from a shelter instead of a shop, if the intent is to have an outdoor cat then maybe a breed that's known not to hunt is a good idea.  And then give it a bib.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hi Mom

Hi Mom (and thanks for letting me post this reply),

Yes, I am familiar with the term "watermelon" as applied to environmentalists (green on the outside, red communist on the inside), and have even used it myself.  Sarcastically.  I'm also familiar with James Delingpole, conservative blogger at the Telegraph.  I'm not directly familiar with Delingpole's book, "Watermelons:  the Green Movement's True Colors",* but I think I know what I need to know at this point.

Their watermelon "analysis" just proves the intellectual bankruptcy on the anti-environment right.  They can't think of anything relevant to say, so they fight dead battles of the past.  Communism, really?  And in the Western world?  If the right hasn't realized as the rest of the political spectrum has that the foreseeable future is a market economy with varying levels of government intervention,  then they're showing they haven't had an original thought since the 1980s.  No wonder they haven't liked a Republican president in a quarter-century.

As for Delingpole himself, I thought I'd written about him but can only find a comment I wrote about his self-introduction on his blog, "James Delingpole is a writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything."  It reminded me of something:
Al Franken coined the term “kidding on the square” for statements that a speaker knows he actually believes more than is publicly acceptable, so the speaker makes the statement in a jocular fashion.

I’ve never been able to read Dellingpole’s blog because I can’t get past the introductory statement that he’s “right about everything.” Just by reflex, my fingers hit the browser’s back button. 
That statement and other stuff by Dellingpole I’ve seen quoted are classic kidding on the square, and give a good idea of the uselessness of the writer.
My coblogger Eli has been able to push his way through Delingpole's work, though, and has a few thoughts about this video:

Eli also provides links to other analyses of Mr. Right About Everything.

I wish I could point you to a honest and scientific conservative who disagrees with action on climate change, but they're thin on the ground.  Even my betting opponent thinks we should take reasonable actions to reduce CO2 emissions.

The best I can do is this Point of Inquiry podcast by science writer Chris Mooney with the politically conservative climatologist Kerry Emanuel.  He doesn't deny the need for action, but just disagrees on the best form of action.  Unfortunately, the conservatives who understand climate seem to be active scientifically but not so much politically.  The famous climatologist Jim Hansen is supposed to be a Republican, maybe that explains his preference for a revenue-neutral carbon tax over more complicated solutions that may have (or at least, used to have) better political prospects.

One last thought - the "watermelon" insult is vacuous and wrong, but it's only 99% wrong.  People will fit potential solutions into their own political framework.  I think some on the left may resist carbon sequestration, large scale solar power plants, and even last-ditch ocean iron fertilization, not only because of the not-unreasonable arguments against those solutions but also because they do not help the left's political "side".  I just wouldn't forget the converse is equally true about the corporate right, and I think that side has a heck of a lot more power.

*Interesting that a Brit would spell "colors" that way.  I guess he knows which country he's targeting.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

We've got enough problems without shooting ourselves in the foot

A somewhat depressing article in the NY Times about wasted money being spent on the waste gas HFC-23, so much so that it's been produced in order to be destroyed.  It looks like the problem is finally being brought under control, with the UN tightening down what qualifies and the Europeans finally rejecting outright doing any more future payments for this.  Still, the problem has been obvious for years.  Offsets can work, but only if they're done right.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting Romney's culture quote just right

There may have been some confusion about what Romney actually said about culture and economic success, so I thought I would document it:
I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things....As you come here and you see the G.D.P. per capita, for instance, in Massachussetts, which is about $53,000, and compare that with the G.D.P. per capita just across the state of Mississippi managed by Governor Haley Barbour, which is more like $31,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality....If you could learn anything from the economic history of the world it’s this: culture makes all the difference.... I recognize the hand of providence in selecting this place.
I think I got that right.  If not perfectly correct, then I'm certain it fits the spirit of what he was trying to say.

News report of quote is here, and economic info here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Some real progress on California renewable energy

The California Public Utilities Commission announced recently that our three major private utilities had already hit the legally-required 20% renewable power standard, 18 months before the end of 2013 deadline.  Next up is 25% by end of 2016, and 33% in 2020.

Will it happen?  The original legislation in 2001 set the 20% standard in 2010, which was then reset in 2009 to give more time and more ambitious goals.  So if history's a guide, some slippage is possible, but this is doable.

In other news, California legislators are debating Senate Bill 843, which would allow renters and homeowners with property badly situated for solar (like me) to buy solar power from facilities off of their property.  In other words, a type of carbon offset, and a good one.

UPDATE:  more on the history of the California program.  Target dates have fluctuated over time:
In 2002, California established its Renewables Portfolio Standard Program, with the goal of increasing the percentage of renewable energy in the state's electricity mix to 20 percent by 2017. The Energy Commission's 2003 Integrated Energy Policy Report recommended accelerating that goal to 2010, and the 2004 Energy Report Update urged increasing the target to 33 percent by 2020. Governor Schwarzenegger, the Energy Commission, and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) endorsed this enhanced goal for the state as a whole. Achieving these renewable energy goals became even more important with the enactment of AB 32 (Núñez, Chapter 488), the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. This legislation sets aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals for the state and its achievements will depend in part on the success of renewable energy programs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Obama's tightrope on European airline emissions

Obama and the Senate Democrats are playing dangerous games, hopefully with care, with Europe's attempt to reduce carbon emissions from airlines.  The EU is applying cap-and-trade not just to internal flights but also flights to and from Europe.  For that, the US lines up with China and Russia saying the Europeans shouldn't care about emissions that start outside of their own borders.

This is important even if you don't like cap and trade and prefer a carbon tax.  How one area that's controlling its emissions interacts with other areas that aren't has to be resolved or the system will break down.  The key method is some kind of carbon emission tariff, and the EU system for airlines parallels that. A legitimate complaint could be made that the EU is keeping all the money for the carbon allocation emissions - it should instead divide up the money for carbon reductions with the outside countries.

I'm going to be optimistic that Obama hopes to use the crisis to push for a global framework on controlling airline emissions.  Using a crisis to achieve a resolution better than the status quo ante is a standard technique, but a risky one. A global airline emission framework has been in the works, for fourteen years.  The EU has every reason not to wait, but hopefully their push forward can move the rest of the world forward.

Airline emissions also aren't trivial and likely to increase substantially.  Anyone who's calculated their own carbon footprint can see that months of efforts to control emissions get ruined by a single cross-country flight.

Electricity from renewable energy can transform ground transport but can't do the same in the air.  Jet fuel from biofuels is barely getting started, so this is a serious problem.  Let's hope we don't stumble.