Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Emissions match Hansen Scenario B; Keystone delay is a victory; EDF Insider podcast; and Machete Order Star Wars

Three climate shorts here.

First, maybe others have already known this for years, but I'd been bothered by claims that Hansen's 1988 worst case emission scenario matched actual emissions while temps were far cooler.  Of course that's not true.  Actual emissions were slightly under Hansen's middle road scenario.  Temps were also under the middle scenario, partly because of emissions.  His model may have been slightly oversensitive for temperature reaction to GHGs but overall looks good. David Evans sadly has it wrong, is strongly criticized by William.

Second, in my comments elsewhere:
In my career, I've won much more often than I've lost when I'm on defense, trying to stop something I oppose, rather than trying to achieve something I support.
We're on offense on many aspects of climate, but on Keystone we're on defense.  I've also found in my career that delay is good when you're on defense.  Keystone now has to spend money while waiting longer to make a profit, making it somewhat more likely that they'll throw in the towel.  And even if they do build their monstrosity, doing it later makes it more likely to happen when the evil Harper/Santorum government of Canada is replaced by something reasonable that would put some restraints or mitigation on the project.

Third, Environmental Defense Fund did another of their irregular podcasts.  Highlights include a non-rejection of a carbon tax approach to climate mitigation.  OTOH, they say that in the end, groups should coalesce around a single approach at the national level, and we can predict what has the best chance of being that approach.  They also say that things  may get so bad that we might need to consider geoengineering and should be trying to figure out how we can research that approach carefully.  Sounds reasonable enough, sadly.

Finally and unrelated:  watching Star Wars movies in Machete Order.  Good way to introduce them to newbies.

Putting some credibility behind predictions of Libya's future

In the spirit of William's sea ice bets, I'd like to see if the people who call intervention in Libya a mistake, based on what will happen in the future, are themselves willing to put some money behind those predictions.  It's the same idea of betting elsewhere, I think it concentrates the mind and reduces some level of over-expressed certainty.

So, Freedom House gave Libya the worst possible ratings in 2010 on a scale of 1 to 7, with a 7 for political rights and 7 for civil rights.  I predict at the end of 2013 there will be at least three grades of improvement, e.g. political rights could improve to at least 5 and civil to at least 6, but it could be in other combinations.  My guess is that it'll be more like four or five (and one has already happened), but I think three grades clearly represent a benefit to the country.

I'm looking at small scale bets, $50-$100, where the actual bet is ego-based and the money is just to make it a little more real.  You can judge my lack of confidence in making huge bets (and my lack of huge assets) accordingly.  Bets open to people who seem real to me, and especially open to people who posted their various predictions of doom on the web.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Santorum will be the Republican nominee, in 2016

(Idle speculation time here....)

Interesting NYMag article here on the Republican race and its repercussions depending on who wins.  I'm sticking with my prediction from last August that Romney will win the nomination, and I think he'll probably (hopefully) lose the election.  Then what?

Two factors then push in the same direction in 2016 - the Republicans will turn against the faction that led the way to failure in 2012, and the Republicans strongly favor nominating the "next in line" who was closest to winning the nomination.  The NYMag article somehow misses how well Santorum would be set up in '16, especially given the inevitable claim that the Rs failed to be true to their roots by nominating Romney.

Santorum would be an exceptionally weak candidate given demographics, increasingly secular voters outside of the GOP, and increased acceptance of homosexuality.  He'll respond to this problem but he would tack slightly, only slightly, to center, de-emphasizing some social issues and maybe even changing  a bit on a few.  Mostly he'll spend the next four years raising money for himself, creating an organization, and putting deposits in the favor bank among the GOP.  He'll defeat a libertarian challenger and someone attacking him from the right.

The Ds won't be that strong, either.  The ruling party tends to get tired and accumulate scandals after eight years and will be without an obvious successor, although a 69-year old Hillary Clinton will have set herself up for running by leaving the Obama Administration four years earlier.  Balancing that out against Santorum, the Democrats win.  Then what?

I've thought for a while that Republicans need to lose consistently before they'll change.  Losing this year isn't enough, but it might be in 2016.  Hopefully more will have wakened from the Republican opium dream of climate denial.  We could see a more realistic Republican party by then.  Maybe 2020 or 2024 there will be a Republican President Chris Christie, not nearly as good as a Democrat but not a total disaster.

UPDATE, March 1:  might as well add another idle prediction - Ron Paul won't run on a third party ticket. Not for the general reason that this would make trouble for his son, but the specific reason that his son would have to choose between endorsing his father and endorsing his own party, which would be bad for Rand's future.  Blood is thicker than libertarianism.

UPDATE, March 7:  the Lamestream Media catches on to Santorum 2016.  No hat tip but I doubt I was the first to publicly notice it, and Santorum probably thought it through as a possibility when he was still a polling asterisk.

Syrian safe havens, and R2P overreach in Libya

I supported and continue to support the vast majority of what international community did in Libya.  For those who continue to predict bad things in Libya's future, I'm going to put up a post soon to give them a chance to put their money where their mouths are, while I do the same.

Our governments did, however, go too far at the tail end of the war and I opposed it. There were earlier examples too were we twisted the international authorization of force under the Responsibility to Protect civilians doctrine and used it for the only-partially overlapping goal of regime change.

That's part of the problem in Syria today, that the military overreach in Libya makes it harder to apply R2P in Syria.  But that doesn't mean we should put all military options off the table.

I partially disagree with Marc Lynch and his analysis that no military options should be pursued.  Asad should be given a choice (in private communication), to either back off from rebel-held zones or face the establishment of safe havens along the Turkish border.  Safe havens wouldn't be the first choice but it would be the alternative.  There also should be some, only some, covert military assistance to the armed opposition - not an attempt to make them strong enough to win, but to help them be strong enough to protect the areas they control and retain the possibility of further fractures in Syria's military.

Marc is right that armed observers are useless absent Syrian authorization, which won't happen, and that a no fly zone is a bad idea (mostly).  Punitive air strikes are also useless in themselves, but not as a limited mechanism to protect safe havens.  If safe havens become necessary, Asad gets warned (privately) that any attack on a safe haven will face reprisal air strikes that will degrade his air defenses, making it incrementally easier to do still more punitive strikes or establish a no fly zone.  We don't need to do a no-fly zone, just make him fear one.

(More after the jump....)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Keep your eye on the ball

Here's an aside in a post I wrote about Roger Pielke Jr. two years ago, who was mad about a study criticizing his father but didn't have much substantive to say about it:
an interesting choice of tactics here - during the whole stolen climate emails thing, some people wanted to focus on the privacy invasion and illegal theft, which I thought would be viewed as an attempt to distract people from the content when the content wasn't that bad.  Here, denialists and unhelpful types like Pielke Jr. are ignoring the PNAS study content and screaming about blacklists.  Maybe it's like the lawyer's saying that if you can't pound any arguments in your favor, pound the table instead.
I'm just trying to be consistent here.  Content is king.  Set aside the strategy document.  Heartland has now had plenty of time to review and deny the accuracy of the other documents and it hasn't.  The docs seem generally supportive of John Mashey's analysis of public records.  The outrage you're hearing from the denialists are attempts to distract people from the content when the content is bad.

Time to send the IRS and state attorney generals after these fake charities.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

On being reasonable

Nice video:

Like most humans, I find this difficult.  If you don't, you might check on Dunning-Kruger.

I especially agree with the idea of self-identifying as a truth-seeker rather than as conservative, progressive, libertarian, climate hawk/sceptic etc.  Still doesn't make it easy though.

And just to balance out the reasonable video with a vitriolic one about sports:

via MT.

UPDATE:  a previous post on persuasion that I forgot about, referring to Kevin Drum:

And another on persuasion: 
My own experience, which I think is fairly generalizable, is that within the course of a single conversation hardly anybody ever changes their mind — including me. 
He says he changes his opinion over time, though. What works for me is new information. Even if I'm not persuaded originally, new info might convince me - but maybe not so much because it's new but because it's a crutch, an excuse that lets me shed my stupid original opinion. Anyway, good for Kevin for reacting to Libya.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Steve Goddard steals Pat Michaels' trick of deleting inconvenient data

Pat Michaels got in trouble for repeatedly deleting data that is inconvenient to his denialist viewpoint.

Now Steve Goddard is trying his hand at the same "hide the incline" trick.  He puts up a post with this graph to claim sea levels aren't rising:

and adds a link to the dataset that inconveniently omits the much more extensive datasource that comes with its own graphs.  Shall we help out Mr. Goddard?  Yes!  Just click the link, click "Time serie" and away we go!

First graph:

What do you know - same data (Envisat, no inverted barometer, no seasonality removed, no isostatic adjustment), but it comes complete with nifty smoothing and an inclined trendline.  Instead of just pasting in the url for this graph, Goddard downloaded the data and recreated a graph without inconveniently trending trendlines.

Still, it's not going up quickly, so that's something.  Or is it?

Same data, except with inverted barometer:

I've poked around about whether applying the inverted barometer adjustment is a good idea.  My best guess is it's unnecessary in the long term, but this short data set makes it helpful (see Realclimate).  Goddard denies it, but in general I find him unpersuasive.

How about other data?

Maybe Jason:

Maybe Multi-mission:

Plenty more variations out there for you to try yourself, but the pattern sticks.  Goddard cherrypicked a short dataset that most favored his position and then recreated the graph to hide the incline.  It then got picked up by Watts (who tempered it slightly) and spewed everywhere (I found it first at TigerHawk and traced it back).

The one useful conclusion to this is if you do feel it necessary read Goddard, do so by reading ReallySciency who's watchdogging him, including on this issue.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The dead are allowed to vote - on the Board of Directors of a denialist, tax-supported charity

John Mashey has his latest opus up, on the malfeasance of various denialist organizations that should be investigated for violations of their IRS 501 c/3 tax-deductible charity status.  I greatly enjoyed assisting him a bit with some of the research on this.  John's work is separate from the leak of secret documents from one of those groups, the Heartland Institute.

Please go read what John has to say, but the summary is that Fred Singer's Science and Environmental Policy Project, the Heartland Institute, and possibly others have given more than sufficient grounds for IRS agents and/or state Attorney General offices charged with supervising charities to start using some subpoena power.  They're supposed to be educational, but are the opposite.  In SEPP's case, they appear to have a non-functioning board, including a chairman who continued to supervise Singer two years after the chairman had died.  They sign affidavits saying they're not lobbying when they sure appear to be doing so.  And money flows are incredibly weird, with assets disappearing and sometimes reappearing in strange ways.

I'll just pull out two examples:  first, on page 23, rows A36 and A37 - over $100,000 in assets mysteriously disappears between the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004.  Must've been quite a New Year's Eve party, but I think IRS might want to check the bank statements.  Second is on page 181 where they use 6-degree polynomial overfitting to pretend there's a decline in temperature.  Statistical nonsense like this is possibly the best arguments for why Heartland et al. aren't educational for 501 c/3 purposes, because there's no counterargument that they're right.  There's no minority opinion, no Richard Lindzen-style stats professor out there who would defend that analysis.  The fact that it's delivered to an unsophisticated audience who won't figure it out on their own magnifies the problem.  The likelihood that whoever created the analysis is also sophisticated enough to know it's wrong means it's an intentional attempt to reduce public understanding of climate.  They're not just non-educational, they're anti-educational.

If mutual fund managers issued a prospectus using a 6-degree fit to show they're beating the market, they could go to jail.  Heartland wants a tax break for doing the same thing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Climate betting update - back to where we started, and I'm not worried

Several weeks ago I received my annual friendly email from David Evans, my betting partner/opponent over future temperature increases, with the 2011 temp data from GISS.  Bet details are here, summary is that I've bet $9,000 and David $6,000 for a series of decade-plus bets over whether temps will increase somewhat near the IPCC projected rate or at a much lower rate.

David mentioned that the five-year average we're betting on is, for 2009, back to where we started in 2007, which would be very bad for my side of the bet, but he also politely added that we've had some La Ninas to affect things.  I'm not too worried for my pocketbook - the five year average for 2009 overlaps too much with 2007 to expect a lot of movement.  The five year average for 2012, which we won't know until 2015, will be the first that has no overlap.  First bets pay out or are voided in 2020, so as David says, this betting will take a while.

One way to look at it is to assume a counterfactual that the bet started in 1989 and ended in 2009 - fair from my viewpoint of expecting past rises to continue/accelerate, but not what David expects.  My calculation is that I win all three of the low end bets, void one of the high end bets, lose the other two high end bets, and come out ahead $1000.

Not much other activity from me on the climate betting front, and I haven't heard much from others either besides William's sea ice, unless I've missed it.  I've been thinking that sea level rise might be less noisy than temps, allowing shorter bet periods and maybe using three year averages.  Maybe will look into that later.

Last year's betting update here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

An alternative approach to the contraception coverage issue

I don't have an ethical problem with Romneycare's support for mandating birth control coverage by religiously-run institutions doing secular activities like running hospitals, with similar provisions in many states, or with similar provisions in Obamacare.

Another way to handle this issue though is to require the same total level of financial commitment from religious employers and then let them choose something additional to cover, to make up for their decision not to cover contraception.  Their hospital employees can get breaks on plastic surgery, while other hospitals' employees get contraceptive coverage.  No financial reward accrues to a religiously-based resistance to coverage, and secular employees can keep the coverage differential in mind when deciding which jobs to apply to.

This could be done even more broadly:  rather than every insurance provider being required to cover the same standardized basket of services, just figure out how much that basket would cost for your average provider, and tell other providers that they can choose a different basket so long as that different basket, if paid for by the average provider, cost at least as much as the standardized basket.  If they can then figure out a way to do things differently and cheaper, then more power to them.

I doubt these solutions are allowable currently, but maybe that could change someday.  I generally prefer determining the fair cost approach for someone who wants to deviate from a standard, like requiring lifelong coma/quadraplegia insurance for motorcycle riders who don't want to wear helmets, rather than simply telling them what they can or can't do.

UPDATE:  Apparently I should clarify.  I was comparing replacement of contraceptive coverage with something trivial like plastic surgery not in order to indicate that contraceptive coverage is trivial, but that employers IMO are unnecessarily and significantly reducing the value they provide to employees if they really want to follow this unwise path.

UPDATE 2:  Just like I don't have a problem with the original proposal, I don't have a problem with the new one.  The cost issue is less than entirely clear to me - if it's really the case that it saves insurers money, then that's fine, but if the coverage costs money on net, then there's the question of who pays for it.  And the Catholic Bishops want to exempt not just the religious charities but any business run by Catholics from the same obligations as other business, which is a real race to the bottom if the exemption saves them money.  And there's self-insured Catholic charities, but they're getting ever further afield from religious service and being more like any other business entity in that case.  I still think the best approach would be to develop a basic cost basket, and a clear, mandatory disclosure of when the insurer deviates to add and subtract from the standardized basket.

What the heck, UPDATE 3:  my classmate Laura MacCleery battles it out on Fox News.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

One of these things not like the other?

The ad that so offended Karl Rove:

The ad that didn't (AFAIK):

I have a hard time seeing the difference, except that Rove is sorry that things worked out well in Detroit.

Incidentally, that second ad is kick-ass. That's the kind of thing that the green side of the equation needs.

FN.  Clean coal is a misnomer if it includes mountaintop removal or excludes carbon sequestration.  I'm not yet prepared to say it's always a misnomer, though.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Energy-disaster conversions by Arthur Smith

I don't have much value to add, just go read him convert between energy scales between earthquakes, nuclear bombs, power plants, and the sun.  What interests me is how large human energy uses are, that a 1 GW power plant produces more energy in a year than is released in fifteen Magnitude 7 earthquakes.

In the end, the sun wins.  Go solar!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Romney's Kinsley Gaffe, in context

I'll leave 'poor' Mitt Romney alone for a while after this, but I wanted to highlight Chait's identification of Romney's statement that he's "not concerned with the very poor" as a Kinsley Gaffe, where a politician makes the mistake of saying something that the politician actually believes.

Romney has deliberately lied about Obama, changing Obama's statement about the McCain campaign by removing the context in order to claim it was Obama's statement about himself.  Adding context to Romney's statement doesn't help him much though - he's not concerned because the poor have a safety net, and he even generously offers to fix any holes "if" any exist.  What this indicates is his true belief that there were no holes in the safety net before the Great Recession, and that nothing the Republicans have done or plan to do will create more holes.  He further believes that the very poor don't work, or apparently don't even want to work, so they're unaffected by increased unemployment and depressed wages.

Republicans with responsibilities at local and state levels are often a little more realistic than this (I know some of them), so that a former governor can actually believe this is pretty depressing.  Massachusetts is a prosperous state, so Romney didn't have to focus on the poor in quite the same way as elsewhere, but that's not a good enough reason.

Chait's one mistake is creating a distance between Romney and his campaign.  Whatever Romney "really" believes eliminate [EDIT:  should've said "does not eliminate"] his primary responsibility for his campaign.  And his Kinsley Gaffe tells us about Romney himself.

UPDATE:  Romney backpedals and acknowledges the safety net has holes, throwing under the bus those people who backed him with statements that the poor have more than enough safety nets.  Given that he's been running for president for over six years now, I'd expect him to be able to identify at least one of those holes and what he'd do to fix it.  Since he hasn't, we can weigh his promise to identify and fix the holes with an appropriate level of credulity.