Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chimp death, unpredictability of smart critters, and relative intelligence

Ed Yong has another fascinating post with videos showing how different chimps react very differently to death in their groups. Among other things, chimp mothers refuse to abandon dead babies, sometimes carrying them for days or weeks. Very difficult to guess what's going on in the mind of another species, but there's a clear recognition that something's happened, and somewhat flawed ways of handling it. Kind of like us.

Five years ago I wrote a post about chimp infanticide and added "Another interesting aspect is that chimp infanticide appears somewhat harder to explain with simple evolutionary principles than is the case with monkeys. That fits my own little theory that behaviour of smart animals is hard to predict...."

With my usual, blisteringly fast analytical skill, I've come up with another theory after five years. Chimp behavior isn't necessarily harder to predict than mouse behavior, it's just that it's harder for humans to predict chimps because the relative difference in our intelligence is much smaller. By analogy, a chess grand master (human) can easily predict the outcome of a chess move by a low-ranked player (mouse) but not so easily playing against a slightly less proficient chess master (chimp). They're a lot closer to our league.

All the more reason why we shouldn't treat chimps, other great apes, and maybe a few other animals as belonging in the same ethical category as mice.

Unsettling video of a young chimp playing with the mummified body of an infant below. An adult is clearly disturbed and wants no contact with the corpse, and the mother eventually scares off the juvenile and takes back the corpse. If you ignore that macabre aspect, though, you'll notice the chimps using stone hammers and anvils to crack open nuts, one of the prime examples of chimp tool use and one of the few that many of us have done as well.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Adding to the Lindzen pile-on, but for an older Wall Street Journal Op-Ed

Richard Lindzen's got a stinky Earth Day Op-Ed at the Wall Street Journal, where Op-Eds go to stink. (A good trick from Coby Beck to get around the paywall and smell the Op-Ed yourself - Google search here, and click the first link.)

The cleanup work's been done at Deltoid and by Arthur Smith, but while snooping around I came across this paragraph that Lindzen dropped four years ago at the WSJ:

....there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system.

A little misleading combination there: it's kind of true to say that CO2's direct effect, absent feedbacks, is relatively minor. What's not true is to say we should've seen more warming than observed, if all you're talking about is the direct effect of CO2. When the Op-Ed was written (2006), the increase was toward the low end of what might be expected, but only when the strongly warming net feedbacks were included. Lindzen has switched from talking about an apple (no feedbacks) to an orange (results expected from feedbacks) without telling his readers. No wonder that denialists, who take Lindzen's non-peer-reviewed ravings seriously, get confused.

And at this point in 2010, with the warmest 12 month period ever recorded happening right now, even Lindzen's exaggeration doesn't make sense.

Anyway, misleading info from Lindzen eventually translates into nonsense in the lower denialist depths, like this from Andy McCarthy:

...On the other hand, the skeptics (I am one) too often deny the [AGW] premise — not because it's false but because it may be frivolous. That is, relatively speaking, it may be nothing more than a drop in the ocean. I suppose it is undeniable, in absolute terms, that the drop increases the ocean's volume. The increase, though, appears so de minimis that denying it makes sense in the greater scheme of things.

Save us from these people and those they choose to be misled by.

Monday, April 26, 2010

It ain't easy being green (green climate legislation in the Senate, that is)

Mostly a link collection:

We're in trouble when the Dem front runner for a Senate seat advertises how he'll do nothing to stop climate change, but his opponent will take action:

Keep that in mind when you decide how pure your climate bill has to be in order to win your support.

Reading this post and some of the comments leaves me a bit bewildered. One way to get Republicans on board is to enable them to be divas, flatter them, let them bask in the media spotlight as they play Hamlet for 6 months, and keep offering compromise after compromise while getting nothing in return, on the off chance that maybe, just maybe, Lindsey or President Snowe or whoever will get on board. Another way to do things is to propose popular pieces of legislation and then make the Republicans eat shit every day they fail to pass it, go send out your charismatic leader to give speeches and hold rallies in their states, mobilize your massive community of supporters to take various actions in support of the legislation, etc. I could be wrong that the latter is the better strategy, both politically and in terms of actually getting s**t done, but it just isn't the case that the options are kissing up to Lindsey Graham or nothing.

Actually, in terms of "getting s**t done," as in getting climate legislation through the Senate, I think it's pretty clear that the choices really are kissing up to Lindsey Graham or nothing. I welcome the explanation as to how we're going to get 60 votes for a better climate bill without him, though. Or an explanation of how our charismatic leader is going to turn a likely loss of several Senate seats into a gain of several seats - otherwise the 60 vote hurdle gets even worse for at least 2 more years.

The only question in my mind is whether the cost of Republican support is worth it, in terms of restricting the ability of the EPA and the states to act independently. We won't know until we see the legislation.


As for seeing the legislation at all, John Kerry says it ain't over. It's worth mentioning than Graham had said before that health care legislation was killing the climate bill, and then returned to the negotiating table.

Larry Shapiro's smart view on why immigration is replacing climate as a legislative priority, and its effect:

Finally, with no movement capable of forcing a robust response to the climate crisis, the only way Sens. Graham, John Kerry (D-Mass.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) could have gotten the Senate to pass a bill would have been to appease the special interests at the root of the problem.

Not sure I agree with his assessment that the legislation is dead, or that it's not worth the price paid to special interests, though. And personally I support a no-net-immigration policy, probably my most pseudo-rightwing political view (except that I'm also pro-amnesty, but whatever....).


Something unrelated - peak phosphorus? A new one to me, no idea whether it's a real concern.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Scientist versus denialist defamers, part 2

(Part 1 here., all about a defamation lawsuit by a climatologist filed against denialists.)

Continuing through the writ:

Writ page 20: the National Post said Weaver's calling for replacement of the IPCC leadership, when he says he specifically told the reporter he's not. Again, a question of interview tapes or credibility. Here's a sidenote: I think the question of the National Post's accuracy as editors or as reporters can be brought into question as a general matter if they're going to defend themselves by asserting that they're accurate and Weaver's lying. Totally unrelated claims by people that the National Post had a pattern of misrepresenting them after being interviewed could be introduced as evidence. I think. Could make for some fun impeachment of witness credibility at open trial, and even more fun depositions, discovery of internal email/documents, etc.

Pp 20-21: Weaver says he's been consistently cautious about linking current weather events to global warming. This will be an interesting/potentially important. Defendants will say any description of a potential link, no matter how cautious, is sensationalizing, while a court that's had enough of the defendants might decide otherwise. For some reason, the public seems to listen to judges, so a court decision on this issue could be good PR. Also, the 'screams global warming' fake quote is a pretty good claim in that it seems tied to specific weather events and not the long term increase in temps.

I'm skipping some defamatory claims that were the same as above but repeated in later publications.

So that's the most interesting and important stuff, IMHO. One other thing I'll add is that Weaver's lawyer, Roger McConchie, appears to specialize in this field, so he's likely to get good representation. This could be very interesting.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Scientist versus denialist defamers, part 1

I'm celebrating Earth Day here by going through the defamation case filed in Canada by a climatologist against some misleading defamers that was made in the Canadian tabloid press.

The 48 page writ and other docs are here, I've only got time to look at part of it, but I will pull out the best claims and the most important claims for comments.

Standard disclaimer: not exactly my legal field, not my country.

I'm seeing contrary info on whether Canada/British Columbia applies the same higher bar that England apparently has for a public figure to establish defamation. Whether the plaintiff Andrew Weaver qualifies as a public figure under BC law is yet another question. Those two issues are likely the most important ones in the success of the case, and I have no idea how they'll play out. Let's ignore them!

Moving on, the good stuff begins on pages 10-12 of the pdf (pages 5-7 of the writ): two defamatory claims - that Weaver claimed the fossil fuel industry was behind two break-ins in his office, and that he doesn't understand "solar climate theory". The first one is a really good claim depending on evidence, while the second is the important claim.

Weaver denies he ever linked fossil industry to the breakins, so it's a simple factual dispute. The question is what does the evidence show - if there's a tape of the interview and he doesn't make the link, he's won the case (or this part, anyway). If there's no tape but his interviewer alleges he did make the connection, then it's a matter of who seems more credible.

Worth noting here that Canada has a "responsible communication" defense - even if the interviewer lied or negligently screwed up, no other co-defendant (besides that defendant's employer) is also liable unless they also practiced negligent journalism. Knowingly employing someone who's a bad journalist probably isn't responsible journalism though.

The interesting and important second claim major claim is that Weaver was defamed by the assertion that he doesn't understand "solar climate theory," something that a climatologist who studies climate change would be expected to understand if he were at a basic level of competence. This could go beyond fair comment/expression of opinion, something where the defendant better have some evidence on his side. The other interesting thing is I'll bet there's well-defined case law on to what extent you can allege a professional is incompetent, and when the false allegation gets specific enough to be defamatory. Obviously there's no precedent for climatologists, but that doesn't matter - similar cases made by doctors, could provide guidance.

On writ page 8, the claim that "models are all falling apart" when they're not, is also important. Mainly because it could get a judge to weigh in on computer models. The issue might get tossed as simple opinion, though.

The anonymous posters on page 11 and 12 may have defamed Weaver, especially the second one, but it's harder to see whether anyone would take them seriously, meaning their defamation wasn't capable of causing much reputational damage because they're obviously just two boneheads.

Page 14 "Doc Weaver was publicly blaming the oil industry" for the break-ins. Someone made a very big mistake by putting that word "publicly" in the article, because it doesn't matter then whether the interviewer claims Weaver blamed the oil industry. If they don't have a public expression somewhere to cite to, they're in trouble. Best claim I've seen so far. (UPDATE: thought about it some more - if the the interviewer will claim that Weaver made the connection speaking to her, then the defendants will say that counts as public. Kind of a thin reed.)

Kind of fun, on the same page, is the claim that McIntyre "broke Mr. Weaver's hockey stick". Weaver says (p. 15) that he had nothing to do with the Hockey Stick temperature record, and that puts the defendants in a bind: if a court says the hockey stick isn't broken, then they've defamed him, and even if the court somehow says it was broken, they've defamed him by blaming him for something he didn't screw up. Some wiggle room though with defendants claim that Weaver supports the Hockey Stick, and it's all just opinion, anyway.

That's enough for now, I'll have to come back later for more fun.

(One addition - the Deltoid link at the very top has a discussion of a case where Fox News was legally allowed to lie (allegedly). It's not a defamation case though, so it's not relevant to this discussion.)

UPDATE: second half here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Would Poizner, Whitman, and the other anti-AB 32 people want the rest of the world to act like them?

I'm pretty certain that governor candidates Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman accept climate change even while they propose suspending California's premier law to address the issue, AB 32.

I would love to see someone corner them with this question: should the rest of the world act just as they would, and suspend action to address climate change for the same one or more years that they suggest? Do they really want China to keep building coal plants at the same rate? If they think that China shouldn't increase its emissions, when China's emission are one-third the per-capita emissions of the US? I'm pretty certain that even if AB 32 is implemented without delays, China's per-capita emission in 2020, the law's final year, will be less than California's.

I just can't see how they could give a satisfactory answer to this question. A child could see through a response that says we should "temporarily" quit trying but the rest of the world must keep trying, and saying everyone should quit trying for years is unacceptable. I expect they'd try to avoid answering it, but at this stage of the game, an extended interview could force them into uncomfortable positions.

Somewhat related: I was reading the nonsense put out by the Orwellian AB 32 Implementation Group, which included a claim that the law would cost $60/ton and cost "a winery" $2.6 million annually. First, $60 sounds pretty high for a law with modest aims, and the figures in the same document from the California government seem to show it as the high end of plausible figures. Also, dividing 60 into 2.6 million gives 43,000 tons of CO2, which also sounds like a lot. Is it? The Climate Registry claims to create public reporting of GHG emissions, and it has at least one winery (Sokol) as a member. The only thing I can't find on their incredibly extensive website is this public registry of emissions, not just for Sokol but for anyone. So much for this one effort to fact-check the forces of evil, and meanwhile I'm wondering what the heck is public about the Climate Registry.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

All your astrophotography are belong to us

Here begins my career as an astrophotographer - I took this picture of Saturn by awkwardly jamming my cell phone alongside my telescope eyepiece. I'm sure I'll be beating out the Hubble in picture quality in no time.

Ira Flatow correctly equates climate and evolution denialism

Public Radio's Science Friday program knows how to deal with science denialism -Ira correctly discusses climate denialism in the same way as evolution denialism. A while back I heard him say that he doesn't discuss whether creationism is right, because that's not a science question. Instead he discusses why people believe in it. Congrats to Ira for handling science denialism over climate change in the same way.

The one thing Ira didn't do was to explicitly make the comparison, but that's okay.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I had no idea about the extent of slavery in Eastern Europe in the 19th Century

I'm not sure I even realized that Eastern Europe had slavery that was distinguishable from serfdom, with people that could be bought and sold. Right now I'm reading the book Bury Me Standing, about the modern Roma (Gypsy) people in Eastern Europe after the Cold War. The parallels between the Roma underclass in Europe and African-American underclass in the US were striking to me even before the book started discussing the extent of slavery in Romania and how it lasted until the mid-1850s.

I had to go to wiki to confirm it, and it's all true. At least in America, the vast majority of people with IQs above the plant life level acknowledge slavery as one of our two Original Sins, while Europeans seem pretty happy to sweep their version under a rug.

Not that we don't still have plenty of recent wishful ignorance about the cause of the Civil War - the one upside of that is learning how clearly the Southern Secessionists told the world that they seceded because of slavery. Some good history learning is possible.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One-way evolutionary arms race solves invasive species problems, but it's slow

An interesting post by biology blogger Biotunes about predation of native species on problematic, invasive species raised some ideas in my mind as to how the invasive species eventually come under control. Obviously the current levels of predation isn't an efficient control, or the invasive species wouldn't be problematic - it would be extinct or just occupy a small niche in the ecosystem.

Over time, however, there should be evolutionary pressure on predators to prey more efficiently on invasives, while the invasives will not adapt in response. So long as the predators are inefficient, the evolutionary pressure on invasives should be to outcompete within its own species, by reproducing more and reproducing more quickly. A mutation that adapts to predators is unlikely to spread because it will likely impose a cost on reproduction (spend more time hiding and less time feeding, say) that exceeds the benefits of escaping not-very-efficient predation. The effect is a one-way evolutionary arms race.

Only when the predators become efficient at controlling the invasive population, will the invasive start adapting in response, and at that point the invasives won't be that much of an environmental problem.

So, great. Next question is how long does this all take? We've had invasive plants in the Americas for hundreds of years, and invasive animals for a century or more. I'm no expert on these things, but I do read about them and I've not heard of any invasive gradually receding to become a background species. The few that have disappeared or become minor have done so when we've imported biological controls or have adopted scorched-earth campaigns to get rid of the species.

If on a scale of a century or more, very few or no invasives have been brought to heel by the one-way evolutionary arms race, then the time-scale for this to work on most invasives has to be much longer, maybe many thousands of years. This long-term solution helps us understand how nature handles the rare, natural introduction of a new, invasive species. Considering everything else we're doing to screw up our ecology right now, however, the natural solution isn't something we can rely on as a substitute for our own action to deal with the problem we've created.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We have a record - hottest 12 months since modern record-keeping began in 1880

Via David Appell and this commenter, NASA records show the last 12 months, April 2009 to March 2010, to be the warmest 12 months since global records began, 130 years ago.

What is important about this record is how it fits a trend. It would be interesting but unimportant (kind of like the occasional record cold or snow we see in some locations are interesting but unimportant) except that it further confirms the long-running trend for warmth, and contradicts the denialist claims that temperatures have been cooling in recent years. I'm not sure if we need further confirmation of something like gravity, but it's been checked and it's still there. With Kerry and Graham set to unveil their new climate bill next week, I think it would be appropriate to make a big deal out of this.

The satellite sets don't yet show a record, but they measure slightly different things, and they're going up too. I wonder how long it will take people like Roy Spencer to continue reporting warming before they finally break down and admit what's happening. It would also be interesting to see what other surface record compilations give for their results on a running 12 month period.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong understands the value of emphasizing this record.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Actually, a criminal inquiry by a powerful Senator is kind of a big deal

Ages ago by blog reckoning, but I thought I'd pull up some stuff by good ol' Roger Pielke Jr., wherein he blames Rick Piltz for indiscreetly saying that climate denialist Senator Inhofe is investigating climatologists for alleged legal violations, including one criminal law violation.

Well, I share Roger's outrage at Piltz for saying Inhofe is claiming one potential criminal law violation. Inhofe is claiming three potential criminal law violations, at least (see pp. 29-31: False Statements Act, False Claims Act, and obstruction of justice, with some weird statement about an "OSTP Policy Directive" that is poorly written but probably doesn't assert criminal violations). A Roger Reader wouldn't know that Inhofe had said boo about crimes, where Roger only quotes Piltz and not Inhofe talking about such things, and Roger cheerily dismisses Inhofe's legal threats of any kind as inconsequential.

Not so fast, though. I'm not worried too much about the False Claims Act, which would only apply if climatologists got paid for work and didn't do it. False Statements and obstruction of justice, however, could come down to whether the climatologists misleadingly answered or deliberately failed to meet legal mandates to answer certain questions or information requests. Denialists are probably ready to call anything misleading and any omission deliberate. In a normal world this is almost never applied to responding to Congressional inquiries (when the tobacco execs said cigarettes aren't addictive, nothing happened to them), but the denialists are trying to shape a different world.

One would think that a political scientist like Roger would know that Inhofe will regain subpoena power as the EPW Committee Chairman if the Republicans get the Senate back, allowing him to cause endless trouble and to assert new legal violations if subpoena responses are deemed inadequate. If Roger knows this, he fails to mention it.

As for actual prosecution, it's highly unlikely so long as Democrats run the Department of Justice. Again though, I'd think that a political scientist would remember that the Bushies placed quite a few arch-conservatives at DOJ in the civil service, and those folks are still there and capable of making trouble. They'd most likely get shut down long before doing anything too serious, but those people could also make life difficult for scientists. And a still more serious issue, IMHO, is Inhofe's repeated mention of "debarment," which could make the climatologists and possibly their institutions ineligible for federal funding. No scientific institution wants even a whiff of that idea near them. The 2012 election isn't far off, and while President Sarah Palin is unlikely, she's not impossible. It's not over the top to worry some about this.

As Eli pointed out, there is a new McCarthyism, and it's from the denialists. Roger sees nothing to worry about though, so YMMV.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Perception and reality of counterinsurgency war

This is what a chickenhawk perceives counterinsurgency warfare to be (first three minutes is all you need):

Counterinsurgency war:

As Glenn Greenwald said, the issue here isn't the soldiers who did the shooting, it's about running a counterinsurgency war in a foreign country.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

I wonder if I could work out a bet with James Hansen over cap and trade

In the very small category of people who have done a lot to help on climate change but have also damaged the cause, number one on the list has to go to James Hansen.  The help far outweighs the harm in his case (in contrast to the number two person, James Lovelock), but he's really being problematic with his opposition to even the squeaky-clean, cap-and-dividend bill in Congress, the one that I think has little chance of passing.  Check the link for Joe Romm's critique, which I think is accurate.  Hansen supports alternative legislation, a revenue-neutral carbon tax where the money is redistributed back on a per-capita basis except with limits to families with too many children, which I think is just great and that maybe 5 percent of the country at most would also agree that it's great.  Thanks for that practical suggestion.

So I don't have a specific bet in mind, I'm just thinking that if Hansen believes Cantwell-Collins will have "only a small impact on emissions" then the European Union's cap-and-trade must have a near-zero effect.  I think the EU scheme should do most of what it intended.  Maybe that's sufficient daylight between positions to set up a bet.

There's the issue of offsets that would complicate the bet.  If I buy solar panels on my roof to reduce emissions, that's great.  If my roof doesn't work and instead I buy solar panels for your roof, that's an evil evil offset (yes, I'm exaggerating, but I'm not sure it's by much).  I think though that even if we disallow offsets for wrong reasons, there's still a net reduction in cap-and-trade, so maybe some more research could give room for a bet.

Much better news about Hansen is this piece of info I didn't know - that he called present-day warming as happening as early as 1981 (not just a prediction of future warming).  Impressive.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Not your typical SETI conspiracy

Nature has a recent "Podcast Extra," an extended interview with physicist Paul Davies that I listened to while injuring my foot on a trail run.  He's got an interesting book, The Eerie Silence, about the failure so far of SETI to detect alien intelligence and what the next steps might be.

Davies talked about his position as chair of the SETI post-detection task group, which is where the not-very-secret conspiracy issue arises and where he said some things that contradicted statements I've heard from SETI guy, Seth Shostak.  He said that if they receive a signal demonstrating alien intelligence that has no policy implications beyond the demonstration of its existence, then the world should be told.  If, however, the communication has implications like instructions for how to transform our technology, the potential disruptive impact means we shouldn't immediately disclose the news.  He also said we should be very careful and controlling of what information humanity should send in response.

I'm just going off of memory, but I think Shostak has said the exact opposite - that all information should be disclosed, and that a cacophony of signals sent to the aliens might actually give them a better idea about us than careful control would.  I think Shostak's right.

As a practical matter, I don't think SETI scientists are capable of keeping secret something this important, and I'm not sure they and anyone they recruit in the decision-making has the right to keep the information secret.  And as I'm certain I heard Shostak say, it's not possible from stopping anyone with a two-bit radio antennae from making their own broadcasts in response.

Otherwise, Davies had some interesting stuff to say, and his book might be worth picking up.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Scott Armstrong losing the skewed bet his side set up at Intrade

(Greetings, Andrew Bolt readers!  Please let Andrew know that I'd love to bet him personally over global warming, and my bet offers are here.  I'd also happily bet him even odds over the Armstrong bet offer discussed below.  You might also be interested in a 2006 post I wrote on how to cook Andrew Bolt, as he now seems to be using the same excuse, arguing the current warming isn't part of a long term trend.)

The last we heard from climate denialist Scott Armstrong was several years ago when RealClimate took apart his convoluted offer to "bet" in some form against Al Gore over whether climate models were accurate, where the offer was only against certain fixed locations and while not allowing the climate models to operate properly.

Unfortunately for Armstrong, someone on his side of the fence took the denialism seriously and tried to apply it in a clear format.  Crandles alerted me to some climate- and weather-related predictions at the Intrade betting market (you have click on "Markets" and then click through the left-side menu), and one of them is somewhat inappropriately titled "Climate Change Prediction: Al Gore v Scott Armstrong. Armstrong to Win"

Details are at the "Contract Specific Rules".  Instead of the convoluted original bet, they simply want to compare 2007 to 2010.  A period that short throws a lot of random noise into the analysis, but that only slightly benefits someone who's making a bad prediction.  They've also selected UAH satellite data out of all the half-dozen possible surface and satellite datasets, the one that has shown the least amount of increase, another way to slightly skew the odds.

Most ridiculous though is how they make the comparative predictions for purposes of settling the bet, which is worth quoting:

  • Armstrong forecasts no change in global mean temperature over the next ten years. He predicts the 2010 annual global mean temperature will be 0.284, the same as 2007.
  • Gore has not made an official forecast. He did, however, imply that the global mean temperature would increase at a rapid rate - presumably at least as great as the IPCC's 1992 projection of 0.03°C-per-year. Therefore the IPCC's 1992 projection will to be taken as Gore's forecast. This forecast predicts the 2010 annual global mean temperature anomaly to be 0.374 (0.284+[3*0.03])

Really, Gore implied that?  A citation would be useful, especially one with a date attached.  Actually, two citations are needed since I don't think the IPCC made short-term predictions in 1992 or otherwise indicated the temperature rise would be stable over the next century.  In 2001, the IPCC predicted .15 to .2C rise in the first few decades, and in 2007 it predicted .2C in the first decades.  Armstrong supporters were either unaware of the subsequent 15 years of climatology, or they were purposefully trying to skew the bet - take your pick.

But the irony stems from 2010 shaping up to be a hot year so far even according to UAH, with both January and February over .6C above the the mean.  Armstrong fans lose if 2010 is above .328C.  Unsurprisingly, the bet last traded at 30, or more than 3:1 against Armstrong.  Funny how there are no updates at the denialist website since January data came online.

What would be far more interesting is an accurate Armstrong v. Gore bet, or maybe more appropriately titled Armstrong v. the IPCC.  Make it a ten year bet instead of the tiny, three-year period, and center it halfway between no warming and the IPCC prediction of .2C per decade.  With Armstrong in bad shape in the current unfair bet, his side should do even worse in a fair bet.  Might be worth suggesting to Intrade, though, as something that could accomplish the prediction that James Annan called for several years ago.

UPDATE:  March has come in even warmer, at .65C.  Armstrong's side is looking very embarrassed now.

UPDATE 2:  Intrade now bidding at 20, or 5:1 against Armstrong's side (UPDATE UPDATED:  per the comments, I screwed up the ratio which is actually 4:1 against at price of 20).  I think a more interesting prediction would be when the denialist website that focuses on this bet, quietly folds up shop.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Deep thought on opinion poll democracy

If Republicans think it's illegitimate for Democrats to have passed health care reform over contrary poll numbers, will they agree that Bush was an illegitimate president when 500,000 more voters chose Gore instead?

(My opinion:  the Bushian illegitimacy comes from the shenanigans to keep black voters, including non-felons, off voter rolls in Florida, and not from losing the popular vote.  Our nation's electoral college system is the one we've chosen, just like our system of representative government that's not decided on polling survey numbers.)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Obama's offshore drilling not completely crazy, but....

My first reaction to Obama's unilateral concession to allow offshore drilling was the same as all the other envirobloggers:  "Wait, what?"  Maybe do it as part of a broader deal to protect the climate, but why give away a bargaining chip?

Due to my patience and prudence (aka, not getting around to blogging about it), I can now write something slightly different.  The second wave of analysis was that it's part of an executive branch group of activities that otherwise are beneficial, and more importantly that its intent is to reinvigorate climate/energy legislation, especially to bring oil-patch Democratic senators on board:
"The President has put forward his plans on offshore drilling after hearing from key Senators that it's a necessary step to succeed in passing climate and energy legislation in the Senate," reads a reluctantly supportive statement from the Environmental Defense Fund, which tends to take less of a hardline than other leading environmental groups.
This view was echoed to TPMDC by several Senate Democratic aides and environmental movement sources, both supportive and unsupportive of the move. But the Senators in question aren't by and large Republicans, whose votes will be needed to overcome an expected climate and energy filibuster. They're Democrats -- Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jim Webb (D-VA) -- who seek assurances that a comprehensive bill won't harm their state interests, and hope that new drilling will result in revenue for their states.
A Landrieu staffer tells TPMDC that while Landrieu's vote for a climate and energy bill will depend on its substance -- and its impact on Louisiana -- she views this as the removal of a major obstacle. "She's got a little more fire in her belly right now for energy and climate issues," the aide said. "What the President did -- he took a major stumbling block off the table ... without that I don't think it would've had any legs."

Yeah, okay, but why not "invigorate" the legislation by putting the decision to open up for drilling in the legislation itself?  One reason may be that the forces of inertia and stupid are so vast that they can demand this unilateral concession as the price of even thinking about doing something sane.  Or it could be a matter of control - who knows what craziness would result in the final legislation once you opened the potential for increased drilling, while Obama's decision at least has some geographic limits.  Or maybe it's just a mistake.  I don't know, but I don't think Obama's stupid, and I know that Environmental Defense Fund knows very well what the prospects are for a climate bill to get 60 votes in the Senate.

And on my third hand is the concern that the resulting legislation will overrule more-stringent legislation that is already happening in some states.  That's often the price you pay - industry gets a uniform national standard more stringent than they'd like, while the most-stringent state standards are relaxed - but you have to make sure the price is worth it.

Meanwhile, Senators Cantwell and Collins have a nice, clean, uncompromising cap-and-dividend bill that I support 100% unless it can't get 60 votes, in which (very likely) case we need to also be preparing to get into the mud.

UPDATE:  Fran has a good point in the comments that it's only exploratory drilling, so the store hasn't been given away yet.  Still, discoveries will create a lot of pressure for follow-on drilling, and it's still giving something away with nothing definite in return.  It'll be interesting to read the memoirs in a few years to find out what the inside story was for all this.

Unrelated note:  turning off comment moderation for recent posts, and we'll see how much of a spam problem we get.