Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Partial global warming roundup

Way too much stuff happening, but here's a few interesting items:

Ethanol: President Bush says "America is addicted to oil" and to his limited credit, doesn't just say addicted to foreign oil. He adds that we should work on clean coal, and on ethanol from wood chips, with a goal "to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years." Good luck with that.

Mike at Same Facts puts it together, saying that even ethanol that produces less energy than the energy inputs used to create it can still reduce greenhouse emissions "if the CO2 from burning the coal [used in ethanol production] were captured and sequestered." My translation: under most real world circumstances over the next 20-50 years, ethanol hasn't yet been shown to be a winner. Jonathan says the key is that the carbon sequestration is done effectively, but it also has to be done, period (which we're mostly not doing). I'm not saying that ethanol shouldn't be pursued, but we have to recognize some limits for how effective it will be.

Economics: via Mustelid, John Fleck writes about whether the economic forecasts used to predict CO2 emissions are accurate. Short answer from the comments: there may be some bad assumptions that don't affect "business as usual" forecasts but do affect potential impacts and mitigation, if we ever attempt to save ourselves. Science marches on. I especially liked Dano's tangential comment, "our economy depends on the ecosystem as it currently exists providing [benefits]". That answers the rightwing bleating "some warming good, more warming better!" argument that we'll be hearing more of.

Carbon cycle: The Oil Drum has another great post with nifty graphs and pictures that summarizes what's happening with CO2. Not necessary for the expert, maybe, but anyone starting at a lower knowledge level, like me, will find it very helpful.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A just war in Pakistan?

I'm off travelling for a few days, but I wanted to point to this Kevin Drum post, asking whether it's legitimate to kill 18 innocent civilians if that's the only way to get four bad guys.

I think anyone's answer to that now-academic question may be less important than the implications.* If you disagree with Kevin and say "no" it's not legitimate, then you're a near-pacifist - modern warfare has these kinds of ratios all the time, and it would be hard to fight without them. You'd probably have disavow anything short of dangerous, on-the-ground , visual contact-type of military activity.

If you say "yes", then it works both ways. The Pentagon was a military target, not a civilian target, and the civilians who died on the plane crashing into it were just acceptable collateral damage. Of course one could still object that the attack was an unjustified act of war, but not that it was a war crime because it killed civilians.

*Of course, it may not seem academic to the relatives of the people killed.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Yes, you do need to know that I reorganized my blogroll

Besides reorganizing, I added Professor Bainbridge as a Readable Rightie, despite his nonsense in support of Alito. He's still smart, and not a lapdog to conservatives in power.

And for something different, there's Girls Are Pretty, with a new short story every day. Good stuff, and I've been reading it for a while.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Missing something from RP Jr.'s "Turning the big knob" paper on hurricanes

Either I am missing something from Roger Pielke Jr.'s 2000 article "Turning the big knob," or the article itself is missing something. As its subtitle says, it discusses energy policy as a means to reduce weather impacts, and basically concludes, don't bother. I'm not so sure.

The paper attempts a quantitative analysis of increased economic damages from hurricanes whose intensity have been increased by global warming, comparing that to analysis of the increased hurricane costs resulting from projected economic growth in coastal areas that would occur even if the climate were unchanged. The basic argument is that growth costs far exceed the climate change costs, and therefore climate change hurricane costs should be ignored. Climate will increase hurricane costs by about 40-50%, according to the studies cited in the paper. That increase, compared to an assumed $10 billion in annual global hurricane damages in 2000, is $4-5 billion.

By contrast, economic growth and assumed hurricane damages in the future would be 300-600%. Because the damage related to economic growth on lands vulnerable to hurricane far exceeds damages related to climate change, "policies addressing social factors.... [controlling land use rather climate change policies aimed at reducing hurricane effects] should play the predominant role in solicetal response to future extreme weather events.... [several pages later] policy responses to tropical cyclones and other extreme weather events should be decoupled from considerations of energy policy."

There are several problems with this argument, the most important of which is that it ignores the combined effects of climate change and increased economic value. This omission is the most striking because it is the most realistic option for the future: our likely future is that we will do little about climate change and do little to redirect land-use growth away from the coasts. Because they acknowledge that economic damages could increase 50% due to global warming, the actual comparison should be a 50% increase over the 300-600% increase in hurricane damages that would result from their projections of economic growth. That is not chicken feed, and should not be ignored.

Another major problem is the implicit assumption that by controlling land-use, one can in effect relocate away from global warming. Once that implicit assumption is stated outright, the problem with it is obvious. Channeling land-use growth away from hurricane vulnerability while doing nothing about global warming could just increae warming-related costs elsewhere.

A third major problem parallels the problem with Bjorn Lomborg's critique of a lack of economic analysis over global warming, particularly a lack of cost-benefit analysis. The IPCC rejected this for reasons discussed in the Scientific American critique of Lomborg's work (from Sciam.com):

"Application and extension of the economic paradigm certainly focuses attention of cost measures that are denominated in currency, but practitioners have been criticized on the grounds that these measures inadequately recognize non-market costs... Their list [of overlooked measures] includes monetary losses, loss of life, changes in the quality of life (including a need to migrate, conflict over resources, cultural diversity, loss of cultural heritage sites etc.), species or biodiversity loss and distributional equity" (Chapter 2, Working Group 2, section 2.5.6).

Some additional problems:

  • Damage estimates are artificially low because they come primarily from a time when hurricanes were at a low point in their long-term cycle. Recalibrating the damages to include more intense hurricane cycles we are experiencing now would give much larger figures.
  • It's dated. It's from 2000, and relies extensively on 1996 IPCC assessments, which rely on still earlier studies. This isn't a flaw of the study itself, but rather than relying on it, the work should be done again with updated information.
  • It ignores costs resulting from redirecting land use. Businesses that want to locate in Louisiana may find Ohio less profitable. Equally important, much of the economic appreciation is fixed with existing land, homes, and businesses. Tearing up an existing beachfront home and moving it somewhere inland isn't going to give you anywhere near the same value, let alone the future appreciated value.
Finally, while I acknowledge that changing energy policy will be difficult, my professional work is in land use. I think trying to infuse rationality in land use, especially if it affects the development potential of private property, is incredibly difficult. Energy policy may be more than the "big knob." Compared to changing land use, it may be low hanging fruit.

So I will e-mail RP Jr. and see if he has anything to say to set me straight. I would be happy to include that here in the post, or any comments on this posted in the comments sections would be welcomed as well.

UPDATE: Roger's response is here. I'll take some time to think about it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Spooooky - and existential

Carl Zimmer posts about how a parasite present in half the human population may be altering our psychology.

The parasite's ultimate hosts are cats, and it uses rats as an intermediate host. While it doesn't harm rats directly, the parasite does have the effect of making rats bolder and less afraid of cats, and therefore more likely to be eaten by cats.

Human contact with cats have made us an unintended intermediate host. Some preliminary research suggests that our psychology may be affected as well. Infected women tend to be more "outgoing and warmhearted", while men were more jealous and insecure (I grew up with cats).

The existential part of this comes from my experience many years ago in Southeast Asia when I contracted typhoid, a very unpleasant disease. (No, I'm not a carrier.) The drug used for treating me was chloramphenicol, a drug that is rarely used today, and it appeared to have some unpleasant psychological side effects. Besides making me depressed, I was extremely nervous, jumping at the slightest noise.

So a thought experiment - although it is very unlikely, let's suppose that the drug treatment temporarily eliminated a parasite that had always been present in my brain, and that short period of depression and nervous anxiety constitutes my "uninfected" personality. If that's the case, I think my sense of self is one that identifies with the infected, combined organism, rather than the single uninfected human.

Maybe some of the human/parasite melanges, especially the female ones (given the apparent positive effects), would agree with me.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Peer review and the death penalty

Chris Mooney writes about the Korean stem cell fraud:

It's a horrible embarrassment for the journal involved when published results are exposed as fraudulent.... [However,] in a broader sense, science worked in this case. The "research" of Woo Suk Hwang was exposed for what it really was. If anything, this case highlights the strengths of the scientific process....

Before you read the next quote, please decide if Chris is right. Okay, moving on...

Ramesh Ponnuru writes about the exoneration of significant numbers of prisoners awaiting execution:

Death-penalty supporters have sometimes responded to this figure by saying that it shows that the system works. It does, in fact, prevent people from being wrongfully executed. *

I expect most people will agree with one of these authors and disagree with the other. Kind of like Kevin V.'s left-right bugaboos.

*Actually, a Google search primarily shows death penalty opponents claiming that advocates say this, not them actually saying it, but I'll just ignore that inconvenient fact. Ponnuru seems to support it, anyway.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Should we do anything about Lovelock?

James Lovelock finally demonstrates the example of unscientific, global warming alarmism that the denialists claim to see everywhere. His article has been taken apart elsewhere, and Tim Lambert has some good links. This statement is especially ridiculous:

We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.

This is the same type of reasoning used by the denialists who claim that we're just in a natural warming cycle. In both cases, they come up with some kind of reasoning that sounds vaguely plausible to them (smoke to Lovelock, natural cycles to denialists), don't do the hard work of analysis to really test the idea, and then assume the idea is correct and draw all sorts of conclusions from it.

But here's where Lovelock stretches away from the scientific consensus in a measurable fashion:

...as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

The IPCC says the rise will be between 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius, and I have a hard time seeing how even 5.8C matches Lovelock's 5C in the tropics and 8C everywhere else.

Let's say though that Lovelock gives 50% probability to the 5.8C scenario, while the consensus suggests the probability is lower. Because the consensus says you get to 1.4 to 5.8 by starting at .1 to .2C per decade initially, then surely Lovelock must consider .2C/decade as his 50% probability to start with, while the mainstream position would more likely put it at .15C/decade.

In other words, there seems to be room for a bet, using 1:1 odds that temperatures will increase at less than .175C over the next 10 years or .35 over 20 years. Whether we should bet him isn't clear to me though. He wants to do the right thing in general (and it's interesting that he likes nuclear power), but exaggerations like his just get the environmentalists in trouble, even the people who don't exaggerate. How do we rein him in? Is it through a bet offer?

Monday, January 16, 2006

The dream-to-nightmare ratio in Martin Luther King speeches

I think that environmentalists have received a bad rap for the accusation of only having one rhetorical tool, the "I Have a Nightmare" argument, in contrast to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" rhetoric. One thought I had that might prove the bad rap was to look at what King himself had said, because I suspected there was a fair amount of nightmares in King's speeches.

So I borrowed a library book with King's speeches and checked the dream to nightmare ratio, first in the original Dream speech, and then in a eulogy for the schoolgirls that were killed in a church bombing. It didn't back up what I thought I would find. His Dream speech had about twice as many hopeful lines as it had fearful lines. Even the eulogy for the murdered schoolgirls was about equal in the dream to nightmare ratio, talking about the girl's happiness in the afterlife and the hopes that their sacrifice would instill to work for a better future. Other speeches I skimmed were similar. King definitely emphasized hope over fear.

I still think the Nightmare rhetoric of activism is an essential one, pointing out the problems that will occur if things are not changed, but King's hopefulness is also something to remember.


Somewhere, a Power That Is declared the week ending Sunday to be Delurking Week, and I consider this to still be Sunday even though it's after midnight. If anyone's been lurking here and cares to say hello or send a suggestion either in the comments or by sending an email, please feel free to do so (you're very welcome to continue to lurk though, if that's all you want).

And thanks for reading!


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Some doubts about climate change and the froggies

Carl Zimmer has an excellent post about some recent science news concerning the extinction of frog species in Latin America. Short version: climate change may be facilitating the spread of a devastating fungus disease responsible for the disappearing frogs.

I have some doubts about this. While the extent of climate change and the warmth that we currently have exceeds anything in the last thousand years or more, that is just a wink of an eye in the biological lifetime of a species. These frog should have faced prior similarly warm global temperatures, which presumably would have had similar microclimate effects. If the frogs made it through similar periods in the past, why are they in so much trouble now?

The difference between me and my conservative friends who deny global warming is that the denialists would rely on this amateur doubt to conclude that the experts were complete frauds, and stop thinking about it any further. In my case, I haven't even read the original scientific articles, and because I'm not an expert I acknowledge that I might be missing something. Or maybe the experts argue that this is a contributing cause, not the exclusive cause of potential extinctions, which would make sense to me. Anyway, in my head this subject is getting filed under the heading, "Things That May Be Happening but I'm Not Sure Yet".

One final note: I was curious about the fact that none of the climate-focused bloggers on my blog roll had written on the subject. Then it occurred to me - they're climatologists, not biologists, so they decided not to write about something outside of their expertise. Fortunately, I can easily surmount barriers that stop mere experts.

UPDATES: more developments - in comments, James mentions a post by Pat Michaels (whoops, wrong link there, here's the right one) that suggests the fungal disease is a new, accidental human import. I see no innate conflict between the disease being new and it being made worse by climate change. The disease being new could also explain why past warmings didn't have similar extinction effects. Tim L. disputes another part of Michaels' post, and in general isn't impressed with Michaels' work. I'd also note that that Michaels' discussion of annual average cloud cover figures isn't very helpful - you really need seasonal and day/night cloud cover data.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Watching the Stardust spacecraft reentry from the western United States

People in the western United States, north of central California, will have a chance to watch the Stardust spacecraft reenter the Earth's atmosphere in the early hours of Sunday morning.

This site has some additional viewing information. For people like me in the San Francisco Bay area, you need to look very low in the sky to the north, starting around 10 minutes before 2 a.m.. The weather looks kind of difficult for viewing here so I will just have to see how it works out.

Sadly, the last time I watched for a spacecraft reentry was in February 2003, when I watched the shuttle enter the atmosphere from a viewpoint in San Francisco. It looked like a very bright long meteor, and I didn't notice anything wrong. I went back to bed and then found out the next morning that the shuttle had disintegrated minutes after it disappeared over the horizon.

Compared to that, the worst case scenario for Sunday is no big deal.

UPDATE: well, I saw nothing even though skies were clear - the same result as with other space nuts I know who went out to watch. But it landed safely, which is the important thing.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

They won't put up or shut up, but they will ban me

It's been fun - or maybe not. Anyway, I've been de facto banned from Tim Blair's site for pointing out that he and his fellow denialists ought to put their money where their mouths are, and bet me over global warming. The site administrator had resorted to inserting obscenities into the comments I posted, thereby proving that the denialists are right and the consensus science position is wrong. I consider that a ban, and this is the banning thread if you want the details.

They lasted longer than the "Free" Republic, but with the same result - shut someone up when they point out your hypocrisy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bremer and the screwup from the beginning

Paul Bremer has been making the media rounds to try and salvage his reputation while promoting the book he authored on his experience in running Iraq.

This post has some information on what he is saying now in the contrast to what he said earlier, when it would have been useful for the public. The one thing I would add is that I listened to Bremer get interviewed on National Public Radio. He discussed how very early in the occupation, our military intelligence was not concentrating on fighting the initial insurgency but rather on trying to find the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.

Among the many reasons to despise our current president is that the administration magnified its mistake of invading Iraq by mishandling the crucial first weeks and months following the successful overthrow of the Iraqi government. To the extent that we invaded based on incompetence and lies over WMDs, Bremer's comment that we lost crucial time trying to validate the lie just supports the argument that the invasion was fatally flawed from the beginning.

UPDATE: forgot to add this link: total war costs could top $2 trillion, slightly more than the $50 billion estimated by people in the Bush administration prior to the war.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Per capita emissions, not 1990 levels, should determine needed CO2 reductions

There is an equity problem with the Kyoto Protocol approach of looking at the 1990 CO2 emission levels and having each nation reduce its emissions from those levels. If it were applied to the developing world, it would punish them for not polluting as much in the past as the developed world, and make them unable to compete with developed countries that are allowed higher per capita emissions. This is the obvious reason why the Kyoto Protocol wasn't and shouldn't have been applied to the developing world, but it gives conservative wing nuts the stupid argument that they had been using incessantly ever since ("poor countries are allowed to pollute - that's not fair!").

A better approach would be to figure out on a worldwide basis what the total emissions can be, and divide that up to the nations of the world on a per capita basis. The nations that are above their per capita limit will have to reduce their emissions or trade with countries that are below the limit, which almost certainly will be the poorest countries in the developing world. This would allow all nations to participate in the reduction strategy and not be an unfair limitation that gives high per capita limits for developed nations and the reverse for poor nations.

Two refinements could improve this strategy. First, population growth should not be rewarded, nor should population decline be punished. The per capita emissions allocation should be based on a nation's percentage of the global population but fixed at a certain time period, so that unrestrained growth or responsible decreases in population face the correct incentives. A couple of dates are possible but I think the three best are 1960, when overpopulation first became obvious; 1980 when global warming theory became a strong possibility if not likely based on what was understood at the time; or the 1990 target date fixed by the Rio global warming convention.

The second refinement would be to adjust for immigration and emigration. The adjustment would be that the emissions allocation follows the immigrant. Nations should not be punished for taking on immigrants.

Both of these refinements should make this proposal somewhat more palatable to the developed world. And all other respects, I think it is just a matter of fairness.

One final idea - Third World nations could just pledge that they will never produce as much CO2 emissions per capita as the US or Australia. That SHOULD shut up a lot of Kyoto critics (but in fact would not).

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Prius and the burger

My Prius is at the shop right now - it seems that the rear shocks did not like all the back roads that I drove on at Death Valley National Park. At least the repair is under warranty. I still like the car.

Meanwhile, hybrid vehicles are under attack as not being as carbon efficient as switching from a meat eater's diet to a vegan diet. In defense of my hybrid vehicle, I would note that part of the problem with this study is that it is conducted by Europeans, who know nothing about what gas guzzling entails. They probably compared the hybrid vehicle to a car, rather than a large SUV that God gave to Americans.

Another problem is this other site which says that switching to a hybrid vehicle saves 1.9 metric tons per year, not the one ton mentioned in the latest study. If the larger figure is right, then the hybrid is even better than switching to a vegan diet. Finally, becoming a vegan is not easy, as many vegetarians can attest. If you're not up for veganism, switching from grain-fed to grass-fed beef could do a lot to reduce to CO2.

UPDATE: James Annan also jumps on this meme sweeping its way through the nerd blogs. I'd add that here in the Bay Area, cattle ranching provides a land-use alternative to sprawling subdivisions that are bad for emissions, even if filled with lentil-eaters. Also, hybrids are a good stepping stone to plug-in hybrids, and that can give us some real emission reductions.

I didn't like James' blonde joke though. It's mean, it wasted A WHOLE LOT of my time, and I was embarassed when someone explained it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Multiple comment problems here

1. Haloscan appears to have lost comments posted on this blog prior to September this year. I'm trying to figure out what happened and if they can be recovered; meanwhile I'm very sorry if your comments are gone. I did not delete anyone's comments. I hope this problem won't continue, but I can't guarantee that. (UPDATE: looks like they're "archived" and I'll have to decide whether to shell out some cash to get them viewable.)

2. Blogger didn't have comment-posting capability when I started blogging, so you had to use Haloscan; now Blogger has its own system. I enabled it several weeks ago and don't like it, but I also don't like Haloscan losing old comments. The upshot is that I now have two separate comment systems enabled here, which is very stupid. Almost everyone is using the Haloscan comments so far, and I hope to figure out what to do soon.

3. I appear to need a comments policy, so here it is:
  • Obscenities are not allowed and can get a poster banned.
  • All non-obscene insults directed at me are allowed. If it overwhelms actual dialogue, I'll tighten the policy, but really, I don't care if I'm insulted.
  • Over-the-top insults directed at other people who post here are not allowed and can get a poster warned or banned - there's a gray area between sparring and insulting, but please keep it civil.
Hopefully that'll work for a while.

UPDATE: I changed the site so only Haloscan permits comments. I'll see about getting the old comments public as well.

Friday, January 06, 2006

New, preliminary data testing the "more abortion, less crime" hypothesis

I've been very interested in the hypothesis from the book "Freakonomics" that mothers who abort their pregnancies are often poorly situated to provide their children with a good upbringing. The hypothesis goes on to state that where abortion is illegal, the children are born and due to inadequate upbringing end up committing crime at a higher rate than the background average. With abortion, you get less crime. The book authors refer to certain data from Europe as well is from the United States, but I am particularly interested in Romania.

The authors state that the Romanian dictator Ceaucescu banned abortion in the 1960s, resulting in increased crime rates when those children reached their teenage years. The authors go onto state that abortion was quickly legalized and widely used starting immediately in the year following Ceaucescu's overthrow, which would be 1990. It occurred to me that we are reaching a point where the children born after the revolution are getting old enough so that we can test the hypothesis and see whether it applies to them.

I trekked over to the Stanford University Library yesterday, with great hopes of finding the Romanian crime rate for 13 year olds and for 16-year-olds from the years 2000 through 2004. All 13-year-olds in 2004 will have been born after the revolution, while all 16 year olds will have been born prior to the revolution.

It turns out that information is not as easy to get as one might hope. Two wonderful Stanford research librarians and I spent over an hour trying to find the data but were unable to do so. I had to leave, but then received an e-mail seven hours later (!) from one of librarians with some pretty good information. It is the number of crimes committed in Bucharest from 2000 to 2004 by adults and also by minors, separated into the categories of those less than 14 years old and those from 14 to 18 years. So it isn't a national figure and it isn't a crime rate, but assuming that the teenage population in Bucharest did not change dramatically in those five years, then it seems to be a reasonable substitute for a crime rate. It's also in Romanian, but seems to be fairly understandable.

These are the total crimes committed from 2000 to 2004 separated by age category [my notes in brackets]:


a. pina la 14 ani: 124 [in year 2000], 47, 91, 60, 34 [year 2004]

b. 14-18 ani: 1594 [year 2000], 1767, 1545, 1158, 2016 [year 2004]

- tineri [apparently means "youths"] (18-30ani): 9607, 9579, 9003, 7818, 9238

So in this data, we have three categories. Everyone in the first category was born after the revolution, the second category is mixed (although we can guess that it is strongly dominated by people born before the revolution), and everyone in the third category was born before the revolution. The relevant data is that from 2003 to 2004, crime went down in the first category and up in the latter two categories. This tends to reinforce the argument from Freakonomics that abortion reduces the number of children growing up in social situations more likely to produce criminal behavior.

A couple of cautionary notes: I assume this is the age when arrested, not age at some later point like when sentenced. Also, I am not a statistician so I can't say that change from 60 to 34 is significant, although I suspect it is. The strong swings in the data over the years could also make it harder to identify a particular trend, and there is always a possibility of confounding factors. Despite all this, it seems to be some preliminary evidence in support of the thesis.

Equally important, we will be able to continue to test the hypothesis with increasing confidence over the next few years. The first category should have a different trend in its crime rates than the third category, and the second category should increasingly resemble the first category in the trends for its crime rates.

I think this is relevant to a discussion that came up in Tim Lambert's blog over whether it is possible to do an honest scientific analysis of a politically charged issue. It is hard to cherry pick your data sets if what you are doing is making predictions for the future. When I started researching this, I had no idea what the data would show, nor do I have much invested in the outcome. I obviously have no control over will happen in the future in Romania, so again by making these predictions, I think it is possible to make some progress on politically-controversial scientific questions.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I will bet that temperatures will drop in 10 years, if...

...I am given 20:1 odds in my favor.

I am offering this bet for the benefit of my new conservative friends that I've made lately. I've gone to a number of conservative web sites that deny or question whether global warming is happening, and posted my standard offer to bet against people who take this position. This has turned out to be a great way to make new friends, as much discussion has ensued (for an example, see here starting at comment 25). Strangely though, no one seems interested in betting.

The standard bet that I offer is that I will give out 2:1 odds in their favor if temperatures drop instead of rise 10 years in the future. A common objection that I hear is that it is impossible to know whether temperatures will rise or fall, and therefore the fact that I am giving them favorable odds is meaningless. This new bet that I am offering, where I am taking the side that temperatures can drop, is meant to help them understand that it's their argument that's meaningless.

Presumably, they would also be willing to bet that temperatures will drop if given 20:1 odds. Their willingness to accept 20:1 odds while refusing 2:1 odds means that they think they actually do know something about what will happen in the future. They think that the odds of temperatures in 2016 being colder than today are greater than 5% but less than 33%. That's the only way to make sense of the betting propositions and their differing reactions to them. So in other words, they are admitting that the probability that temperatures will rise is greater than 67%. Sounds like they are on the side of global warming to me but are just unwilling to admit it, or to do anything about it.

(NOTE: I've recopied the previously-posted comments from the Blogger comment system to Haloscan. To view or post a comment, please click on the word "Comments" below the bottom of this post.)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Checking the local levees

On Friday night we had quite a bit of rain, so on Saturday I went out to look at the levees. Our house is about one third of a mile from the San Francisco Bay and almost as close to the local creek emptying into the bay.

In some places, the creek was within 3 feet of the top of the levee. We managed to avoid all but the most minor local flooding in this part of the Bay region, but even a slightly-wetter storm 60 years from now would likely have a different outcome because of global warming and elevated sea level. Rain induced river flooding can top levees when the rivers near the ocean, and will do so if the oceans are higher because of global warming.

Whoever owns our house a generation or two in the future is going to have to be ready.

UPDATE: I had written "the same storm 60 years from now would likely have a different outcome", but that's a little stronger than justified from a projected 9-90cm sea level rise.

December 2005 Iraq casualties

December statistics:

Avg. daily military fatality rate (nearly all of them Americans): 2.16. November was 2.87, October was 3.19, and December 2004 was 2.45. Overall average to date is 2.33, down 0.02. Total US dead as of today: 2180.

Iraqi monthly military/police fatalities: 193. November was 176, October was 215, and no stats published for December 2004 (January 2005 is when the stats started: 109). Total dead: 3890.

Iraqi monthly civilian fatalities: 344. November was 581, October was 465, stats begin in March 2005: 240. Note that the civilian numbers may be less accurate than others, but could still be useful in determining trends.

Comments: a better month than we've had in a while. Let's hope it continues.

And welcome, CNN Netscape readers - I put up this statistical snapshot near the beginning of every month, sometimes with a little more commentary. Last month is here, my more-general Iraq posts are here, and the blog's main page is here. Thanks for stopping by! (And if you're tired of me and want to go back to CNN, click here.)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Lighter fluid alternatives

Turns out that camp stove fuel (gasoline) is an exciting alternative to lighter fluid when trying to start a large New Year's Eve bonfire. I don't mind the change, really. While my eyelashes are considerably shorter, they look fuller, and the brown color has a lightish frosting at the ends. And did you know that blond eyebrows singe a little reddish?

And yes, it also starts a fire really well. Some people may prefer to light a wad of paper and throw it into the fire, though, instead of reaching in to light it.