Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Please take 30 seconds to sign the Consensus For Action

Statement here and at the California Governor's office. IIRC, it originally just had scientist signers but is now open to the rest of us. While it leads with climate change, it includes biodiversity, loss of natural lands, pollution, and (brave for a politician) overpopulation.

I could see some quibbling with the one-page summary describing quality of life to suffer "substantial degradation by 2050" if problems aren't fixed, but not enough to avoid signing. For certain aspects of quality of life it's definitely true (four of those five challenges, mixed result for pollution) and the quality of life will be much worse than it would be if we don't address the challenges. A large number of people will die as a result of the failure to solve those challenges. Whether economic outcomes will be worse than present seems hard to justify, but that's not the only way to determine quality of life. The important thing is to do something about these challenges, and taking 30 seconds to endorse it seems reasonable.

Gort upgrades the Climate Changeometer with Ocean Dethermalization

When Gort first visited in 1951, it spent little effort on climate change issues, focusing on other aspects of our planet instead:

Gort returned in 2012 to answer puny human climatologist questions about whether climate change caused particular weather phenomena by making an obvious point:  rather than struggle with theoretical analysis, you can simply use your Climate Changeometer to remove all the excess greenhouse gases and aerosols above natural levels and then measure the outcome. Comments at the link suggested temps on land would respond to Gort quickly, within a week or so, while temps above the oceans could take months and years.

Gort now brings us an upgrade.

The Climate Changeometer now comes with Ocean Dethermalization. The point is to think how current weather patterns are affected by anthropogenic climate change, so it's necessary to consider the vast majority of that heat accumulating in the oceans. Gort instantly removes that heat at the same time as it put the atmosphere back to 1860 levels. The Dethermalizer also depuffenates the oceans from the sea level rise caused by thermal expansion. I'm not sure how quickly the oceans would drop - if it's instantaneous, let's assume Gort will buffer any tsunami type effect.

I'd guess is that if you apply this experiment to a tropical storm a few days away from landfall, it would have a significant effect on that storm. I think this is a helpful way to communicate how we've changed our climate. It's probably more scientifically meaningful on a global and longer term level than about immediate weather phenomena, which might be why there's actual scholarship about it (thanks MMM). On the level of immediate weather, this combats the delayist/denialist dodge that attribution for individual weather events is impossible (allegedly), so there's no point in discussing climate change when we face weather tragedies that are made more likely by climate change.

One other point - I do like the argument that we're living in the Anthropocene such that but for climate change, the individual weather events we see wouldn't have happened. I made the argument a while back, glad to see it more prevalent now.

(And btw, credit to Aaron in the 2012 post for also thinking about ocean heat.)

Lewandowsky helps Kahan look a little better

newish Inquiring Minds podcast by Mooney and Viskontas features a good dialogue between Stephan Lewandowsky and Dan Kahan. Eli and yours truly haven't been all that persuaded with Kahan's interpretation of his own work, which is very critical of climate hawks and pretty silent about the denialists, but in Lewandowsky's presence he moderates it and comes off much more persuasively.

Kahan says he supports trying all approaches (not quite what he said earlier). He acknowledges communicating information can actually persuade people in the lab, which is good, but suggests it hasn't worked in the wild, somewhat contradicting his claimed preference for science over impression-based analysis

I think the framing analysis and group identitity analysis has a lot of value to it, and that's why communicating the 97% agreement among climatologists is so useful. The people who doubt climate science don't perceive themselves as 97% out of the mainstream (disregarding all the Galileos). When they understand where the consensus exists, that's their mental framework of where they belong and where the scientists who share their group identity also are found.

And that's ignoring the fence-sitters and those who are open to the science but don't know how strong it is, and by knowing that can give it a higher priority in their politics.

UPDATE:  thought I'd add that Kahan and later Viskontas assumed some unproven facts so I thought I'd do the same - if the climate hawks hadn't been out there all these years arguing the facts against the liars and misleaders, then we'd have an even worse public understanding than the present.

And just to be contrarian, I'll agree with Kahan on something and partially disagree with Lewandowsky. Kahan said we should watch for and attempt to prevent partisan group identity development where it has not yet occurred, like on GMOs and vaccinations. Sounds fine to me. Lewandowsky said politicians have not been pushing hard enough on climate - that sounds a bit like the bully pulpit argument that has not fared well among political scientists. I'm not sure the bully pulpit is so completely ineffective in the long term though, and Lewandowsky may have just been arguing that it's time to try out all their new techniques for science communication.

My immature reaction to the allegedly-controversial use of the Hiroshima heat widget

Eli's post below refers.

I'll just add one response to this statement by Tom:  "if you consider yourself a skeptic of climate change science, think the risks have been overblown, and oppose intervention in the economy to mitigate climate change, you probably find the comparison outrageous, and maybe even offensive." My response is to ask Tom or anyone to point to a statement by denialists about the science that is both true and outrageous. If they can find something, then maybe they have a point. Otherwise, not so much.

Giving and maintaining emergency kits for the holiday gift season

My kind-of annual post below, with a few changes. I've found that emergency kits make highly-appreciated gifts for friends and relatives, one of those things that are on everyone's to-do list but often don't get done. If the entire kit's too expensive, you can just give a car kit, or get a part (I suggest water and water purification) and upgrade over time.

If people have had kits for a few years then it's also time to consider replacing out the food. If you or someone you know uses camping food, you might switch out the old with the new a year or two before expiration, so you can use the food before it expires.

Easy-but-not-cheap 72-hour emergency kits for home, with purchase links

There are nine members of my wife's family in the Bay Area, and when I found out no one had the 72-hour emergency kits we're supposed to have, I put them together as presents (in-laws loved the kits, too). My emphases were making them easy for me to put together, easy for people with no camping experience to use, and ones that would last as many years as possible without needing replacement or maintenance. In return I was willing to pay more, be more bulky than the minimum possible, and have limited control over food selection.

72-Hour Home kits:
The above is the absolute minimum. Meals can be eaten in their pouches, so no dishes are needed. Flameless heating kits eliminate the need for cooking stoves (water has to be purified, though). Emergency meals also can be eaten with cold (purified) water although they taste bad. The food and flameless kits should be good for at least 3 or 4 years, and probably more than twice that long.

In earthquake country, your kit should be stored outside your home in case you can't get inside. So in your yard, your car, or somewhere else. The only maintenance this requires is to simply look every six months to see if the water's leaked through the seams of the plastic jugs - it happens fairly often.

Additional useful items:
  • Cheap flashlight/headlamp
  • Spare batteries in clear plastic bag so you can see if they've become corroded over time
  • Plastic tarp and cord as a rain shelter
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Emergency shelter, 1 per adult
  • Cheap or expensive first aid kit (I went with cheap kits from the local drugstore)
  • Cheap rain gear, spare shoes and clothes
  • Hand-crank radio/flashlight combination
Don't let the extras delay you from putting together the minimum.

I also made better-than-nothing emergency kits for everyone's car, in case you're stuck on the road:

Car kits:
  • Liter water bottle per person (enough to keep you hydrated for a few hours until you can find a water source)
  • Water purification tablets (can disinfect murky water from ditches, and you might need to) 
  • Emergency shelter
  • Small amount of long-lasting food (I found tins of honey-roasted peanuts that were good for four years)
  • Cheap rain poncho
  • Emergency contact list
  • Shoes you can walk many miles in, if that's not what you normally wear
  • Cheap, tiny flashlight
  • wool blanket (additional warmth, or traction under a spinning wheel in the mud or snow)
You can do much better than this car kit, but it's something in case destroyed roads/bridges keep you from getting home for 12-24 hours.

Additional tricks for both kits: put the contact lists in their own ziplock plastic bags to reduce the chance that they'll mold/get wet over the years.

Hopefully this is all unnecessary.

Lots of great comments here, and a resource link at Making Light. UPDATE:  and see the comments below.