Friday, November 29, 2013

If you have too much time on your hands

after battling the Black Friday crowds, or are simply sitting in the emergency room waiting for word on your loved one trampled at Walmart, read the Amazon reviews for the Denon AKDL1 ethernet cable

2,455 of 2,533 people found the following review helpful
By Daniel A. Koblosh TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 16, 2008
After I took delivery of my $500 Denon AKDL1 Cat-5 uber-cable, Al Gore was mysteriously drawn to my home, where he pronounced that Global Warming had been suspended in my vicinity.

Yes, I had perfect weather: no flooding, no tornadoes, the exact amount of rain necessary, and he pronounced sea levels exactly right and that they were not going to rise within five miles of my house.

Additionally, my cars began achieving 200 mpg and I didn't even need gasoline. I was able to put three grams of cat litter into the tank and drive forever.

What's more, the atmosphere inside my home became 93% oxygen and virtually no carbon dioxide. In fact, I now exhale oxygen.

One heck of a cable.

Didn't notice any improvement in audio quality though.

The $800 Apple iCable is clearly superior.
Eli Rabett neither endorses nor recommends this product.

Using Nanothermite to Blow Up Denialism

Noam Chomsky on denialism, in this case the 9-11 brand, but the points he makes are the right ones.  To be honest, Eli is not a huge Chomsky fan, but the guy is smart and will update his priors

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Updating your priors after the Iran deal - no one's doing it

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone in the US and everywhere else. Seems like a good time to note we've found a way to step back from yet another war, a good thing to be thankful about. Political stuff below - please skip it if you don't want to deal with that on this holiday.

Moving away from war seems good, except to the Republican leadership, who see no success with the interim deal. They've forgotten that if somebody's trying to get something you don't want them to get, then delaying them is generally a victory for your side. And this is more than a delay - the highly-enriched uranium will be processed into an oxide form that is at least an additional step further away from being useful for a nuclear bomb. So six months from now, Iran will be (slightly) further away from a bomb than they are now, and with much more extensive verification. Seems preferable to me over an ongoing program of blowing up large chunks of Iran now and repeating every two or three years as a politically-united Iran rebuilds its nuclear program.

So not much learning on that side of the fence, but I'm not sure the left is much better. Juan Cole's been my go-to expert on the area (I suppose I should like his recent emphasis on climate but I don't think he brings nearly the value added to that as to the Middle East). He strongly supports the deal, but has also strongly opposed the sanctions that made the deal possible. His opposition stemmed partly from the valid argument that they impose real hardship on Iranians, but also from the very dubious claim that they make war more likely, and from the legally ridiculous assertion that western use of financial tools to block oil sales "is a financial blockade, and blockades are acts of war." Nothing in his recent posts indicate a reassessment of that position.

So everyone's prior assessment was right, and the new information about the success of the approach they had opposed doesn't change anything.

And then there's yours truly. I fell to somewhat to the left of Obama, repeatedly buying Seymour Hersh's statements over the years that the US was just a few months away from starting an air war in Iran. I considered it crazy to attack Iran, and contra Obama, that living with a nuclear Iran was better than a bombing campaign. I still think that's true, but the question is whether the threat of a potential attack added to the pressure created by sanctions to get Iran to this agreement.

It seems likely to me that the military threat helped more than harmed the process to agreement. Iranian hardliners may have welcomed an attack as a way to weaken internal opposition but they don't seem ascendant now. So maybe Obama was right about making the threat. Actually carrying through on the threat is a different matter - you are allowed to bluff in this game, although you need to do it carefully.

Anyway, as with the case with the narrow issue of chemical weapons in Syria, we're in something close to a best-case scenario. Thankfully.

The Vanishing Bio-Diaper

Superabsorbent disposable diapers have been a world changer for the ladies who cheerfully don't hunt diaper pail door busters on Black Friday ( as Ms. Rabett puts it, any store that opens on Thanksgiving, is a store she will not set paw in) and for bunnies like Eli who are moving into the Alzheimer generation.  The key is polyacrylic acid, made, guess what, from acrylic acid.  And what, say the bunnies, is acrylic acid made from?  Well propylene.  And what is propylene made from, well oil, specifically as a byproduct from ethylene crackers in Texas and LA, e.g. heavy oil.

A recent article in C&E News, the American Chemical Society social magazine (they have obits and promotions, but sorry, pay wall), discusses the possibility of superabsorbent bio-diapers, which comes down to whether there is a route from plants to acrylic acid which is cheap enough to compete..

As with any commodity chemical the question is price.  That is the only question as far as substitution.  Worse, it is not a question of whether something is cheaper now, as whether it will be cheap enough  in the future to justify investment in plant and equipment now. 

The situation is not simply whether you can produce cheaper acrylic acid from propylene wrested from tar sands or Orinoco basin oil, but even that is being displaced by even cheaper propylene from ethane separated from natural gas which is increasingly cheap given the expansion of cracking.  So the propylene price point at which it pays to invest in bio-acrylic acid is also a bet on how long fracking will provide cheap natural gas, and to an extent a bet on the ethane content of what comes up in the future.

While bio-acrylic acid may get a bit of a lift from those who want to be as sustainable as possible and  the iPhone effect (eg be the first on your block), that soon wears off and babies and the incontinent get through a mess of diapers.  So price is indeed the only point and early enthusiastic adopters would be a help at the introduction of the product but should not be counted on long term

A good illustration of how this all doesn't work is the glycerin route which has fallen victim to the bio-fuel bust. Glycerin comes from fats and oils in plants extracted in the processing of bio-fuels.  While that business was growing great guns in the early part of this century, growth has slowed, the price of glycerin has not fallen to where it would be competitive as a feed stock for acrylic acid.

There are two solutions, and probably both.  First, the price of oil and gas can be increased by a tax or a market mechanism to increase the price of fossil fuels.  A point for though is that at least as far as commodity chemicals made from oil and gas, the market mechanism and taxes have to hit at the well head and not at the point of emissions.  Second, the price of the bio-routes can be lowered.  Right now they are moving out of the lab to pilot plant and some progress might be anticipated, but probably not enough to completely close the price gap.

BTW, for bunnies who want to paint the town red, about half of the 5 million tons of acylic acid made ever year go into acrylic paints, most of the rest is for the diaper trade.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dueling policy tips II: tips for scientific and other experts when dealing with policy-makers

(Dueling policy tips part 1 here.)

I'm no big fish politically, but I have experience with scientists and other experts that provide advice to us at our water district and I know lots of local level politicians with similar interactions. The tips for the experts listed below are based on actual events that happened to somebody:

Don't change your mind. I know, the objections are starting, but I just want you to understand the effects first. Want to know what ruins a politician's day? When she has taken a public position based on your expert advice, especially a position that's against her political interest but you told her it was necessary, and then you reverse your opinion. If you want a policy-maker to listen to experts, then you have to be aware of this problem.

Okay, you object validly about needing to change your mind sometimes, but you can help in advance if you announce your uncertainty level. If the politician knows there's a reasonable chance you'll change your mind, then her public positions might reflect that, and at least you've got a defense when you get some angry blowback for changing your mind. Related:  if your policy recommendations are based on bright line criteria that are just barely met, then specify that in case a revised analysis shows those those criteria aren't met. This last one happened on my watch, and I could've helped with public acceptance of expert opinion had I known in advance what was going on.

Other tips on mind-changing:  if you do change your mind, tell the policy-maker. The only thing worse for the policy-maker than finding out the experts now have a different opinion is to learn they've had the different opinion for the last six months and never said anything. Give the unpleasant news early, and if it's possible to do so informally and before it becomes public, and then the policy-maker has a chance to neutralize the fallout. Also, if you're Expert B taking over from Expert A, figure out ASAP if you're changing any opinions. The political problem is the same whether it's a changed expert mind or change of expert minds.

As for expressing your expert opinion, translate analysis into policy language but don't push for one outcome. The expert mistakes here are being too far on either side - if you explain your work like you're at a poster session or seminar, then you're not helping. If you're seen as trying to box in the policy-makers, then they won't trust you or your analysis. You should help the policy-maker understand the policy implications without trying to take over the politician's job. Similarly, pointing out the political implications is helpful so long as it doesn't reach political conclusions. If you're supposed to make a policy recommendation, that's fine, and even if you're not, it's no big deal when the policy-maker can read between the lines and guess your opinion. The big mistake is to withhold information that doesn't support your policy recommendation.

Above paragraph applies to experts in their roles of advising policy-makers, but they have every right to wear other hats. Jim Hansen, Carl Sagan, and Rachel Carson were and are right to tell the public on their own time that their expertise leads them to urgent policy conclusions.

The one other exception about not pushing for an outcome is when you're a hired gun for policy advocates instead of policy-makers. In that situation, ethics demand that you be honest, but your job is to present the best case for your side, not a balanced presentation with equal weight given to opposing positions. The policy-makers will know they need to look elsewhere to supplement the opposing position.

I'm sure there's more advice. I've been curious about Pielke Jr.'s book about honest brokers, but his track record is not good. Buying the book will likely provide the wrong financial incentives, so I haven't read it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dueling policy tips: selected tips for policy-makers dealing with science

Interesting article in Nature on 20 weird tips "to improve policy-makers' understanding of the imperfect nature of science" and reduce belly fat. It's good although even better IMNSHO would be directions on how to choose between dueling experts. I'd guess they'd say just discount the experts that run afoul of the most tips.

First few tips are straightforward in theory if not always so in practice, and need no comment. Moving on, regression to the mean and extrapolating beyond a data range strike me as things that smart people don't always understand. Replication versus pseudoreplication is also good - a replication that repeats the same errors in the original study, e.g. not accounting for confounding factors, will just give the same bad results.

Separating no effect from nonsignifance can be huge, and appears to be what drove the stupidity over whether the Oregon Medicaid study showed insurance resulting or not resulting  in improvements in health outcomes. I would also add to the tip "significance is significant", the coda "except when it's not."  Just do enough studies and you'll eventually trip over the 5% threshold due to repeated dice-rolling. That's what gets us cancer clusters (or many of them, anyway), and over multiple decades may even result in global temperatures temporarily going below or above the 95% confidence levels.

Cherrypicking and risk perception also are pretty obvious, but such a huge problem that we really need tattoos.

Scientists are human and become biased, yes. The one trick I'd add from the legal profession is the declaration against interest - if one of the expert's statements goes against what the expert would like to conclude, it's more likely to be true.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Whitehouse Monday

If it's Monday

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eli and the Weasel

While Eli counts the Weasel as a frienemey (they jump about stupidly and eat bunnies you know), the Rabett does think that he is a tad too attracted to the economically attractive counterfactual.   Still, on many things we are friends in fur, and on the immediate threat of methane emissions bubbling out of the Arctic ocean in moderate agreement.

There are others pushing that peanut, amongst the now most active, Natalia Shakhova from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Vladavostok, and, humor abounds in such things, the University of Alaska Fairbanks who works out of the Akasofu Building.  Shakhova and colleagues have published a new paper in Nature

Vast quantities of carbon are stored in shallow Arctic reservoirs, such as submarine and terrestrial permafrost. Submarine permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf started warming in the early Holocene, several thousand years ago. However, the present state of the permafrost in this region is uncertain. Here, we present data on the temperature of submarine permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf using measurements collected from a sediment core, together with sonar-derived observations of bubble flux and measurements of seawater methane levels taken from the same region. The temperature of the sediment core ranged from −1.8 to 0 °C. Although the surface layer exhibited the lowest temperatures, it was entirely unfrozen, owing to significant concentrations of salt. On the basis of the sonar data, we estimate that bubbles escaping the partially thawed permafrost inject 100–630 mg methane m−2d−1 into the overlying water column. We further show that water-column methane levels had dropped significantly following the passage of two storms. We suggest that significant quantities of methane are escaping the East Siberian Shelf as a result of the degradation of submarine permafrost over thousands of years. We suggest that bubbles and storms facilitate the flux of this methane to the overlying ocean and atmosphere, respectively.
with paper flaking going on over at Climate Central.   Eli has some questions about this paper, to be discussed later, for example mixing from storms could enhance solvation and reaction of the methane in the ocean as well as release it to the atmosphere, but here, the Bunny would simply point to methane column density (the amount of methane between the surface and the top of the atmophere) as measured by the SCIAMACHY probe during the summers between 2003 and 2005, the time of year, when, according to Shakhova the emissions from the Siberian coast would be strongest

The emissions from the Arctic do not appear to dominate at that point in time. 

UPDATE:  Here is another map showing the same thing.  Note that the major emissions are across the middle of Siberia, not as one of our fans said, near the Siberian coast


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Eli Has A Journal To Sell You

The Lads from Lagos have pretty well exhausted the sum total of suckers for advanced fee fraud, you know the one where you get a letter, like Eli did

Attn Eli Rabett
8/11/05 6:31 AM

TEL-00228-920 66 79

                                  JOINT VENTURE PROPOSAL
                                LEGAL ATTORNEY & SOLICITOR
I am Barrister DC Ugoh, a solicitor. Am the personal attorney to  late Mr.JB Rabett,A national of your country,who used to Work with Shell Petroleum Company [West Africa] Togo and Rep of Benin Branch here in after shall be referred to as my client. In 2003, my client, his wife and their two children were involved in a plane crash in a village called Adjarra near Porto Novou after take off from Cotonou in Benin Republic.
It was unfortunate that my client and his family all lost their lives in the crash.For more on the plane crash log on to 

Since then I have made several enquiries in Cotonou, Lome-Togo and Porto Novou to locate any of my clients extended relatives, this has also proved unsuccessful. After these several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to track search with his last name to locate any member of his family hence I contacted you.I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the money and property left behind by my client before they get confiscated, frozen or declared unserviceable by the bank where these huge deposits were lodged.

Particularly where the deceased had an account valued at about $10.5 Million United States Dollars Only (Ten Million , Five Hundered Thousand United States Dollars Only) .. The Management has issued me a notice to provide the next Of kin or have the account frozen within the next twenty one Official working days. Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over 2 years now i seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased since you have the same last name so that the proceeds of this account valued at USD10.5M can be paid to you and both of us will share the money. I have all the necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make.

And this I must do to make sure that this fund is not Wasted or end up in the wrong hands. All I require is your honesty , co-operation to enable us see this transaction through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law. I am waiting your urgent reply.Please you can reach me through this Telephone number :or my private email address.
Thanks for your understanding,

N/B : Please kindly call me as soon as you have sent me an email:00228 920 66 79.

Yours truly
Barrister DC Ugoh (ESQ)
Alternative email address
to which Eli's representative replied on his behalf
Barrister DC Ugoh,
As attorney for Mr. Eli Rabett, I have already claimed the money for Mr. Rabett and we do not propose sharing ANY of it with a charlatan like you!!

Very truly yours,

Ms. Nana Bozho Rabett, Managing Partner
Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, LLC 
 While there are suckers, there are also those who like to play with the wanna be suckees, and they play at the Onion of blogs, Scam o Rama
This site is devoted to the '419' scam - named after Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code. Most '419' e-mails come from West Africa, chiefly Nigeria, or Nigerian expatriates (who happily scam other Nigerians). Although 419ers have their own style, their emails, which smack of political satire, contain elements harking back to 19th century European literature.
Yes, it's a crime, but the letters are funny. Read them out loud at parties and see. So are the responses. 
[Some people write back just to waste the scammers' time. That is scambaiting, and the raison d'être for Scamorama.]
Eli and his friend John Mashey have always been a fan of limited review journals such as JPANDS and the Journal of Scientific Exploration but somewhat of a favorable disposition towards open access journals, aka the vanity press.  While there are opportunities for funny business it is important to differentiate between open access publishers and those who want open access to financial documents.  Starting a year or two ago bunnies in the STEM business have received an increasing number of Emails offering opportunities to submit their excellent thoughts.

Well, business has been slow as the supply of suckers shrinks,  and the Scam o Rama folks have discovered the explosion of new scientific conferences and journals.  Say what you will, they are both funnier and have less of a not very hidden agenda than Nature Magazine, and a much lighter touch.

Lonslo Tossov shows how it is done
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2013
Dear Sir
We wish to submit the results we have lately obtained on dilithium crystal resurgence and Mesocricetus auratus circular designed mobillty units within a flux capacitor model. They have proved very exciting and we have high hopes for commercial exploitation once any issues with possible human fatalites are ironed out.
Do you accept entries from South Africa?
Dr Lonslo Tossov
Tossov Laboratories & Sciences
1 Yanker Ave,
123 Via Costeira - Natal
Phone/Fax: 44 (0)906 517 4050
The abstract for the attached paper
Ilichy Miracsky, DRP, ASSC.
Emeritus Research Fellow of Smegaroon
University and Technical College, assisted by Fergus Paltrooon FRIP, Bart sc.
On Mesocricetus auratus circular designed mobillty units within a flux capacitor model
Investigation of primary motability units within dilithium limits.
(Initial invesigation of vestigial movements)
Aranged prism experiment, with selection of rodenta. The refractive index of a Mesocricetus auratus mobility unit depends on the incident velocity of light outside the prism and its velocity inside the prism after refraction. On Fresnel s fixed ether hypothesis, the incident light waves are situated in the stationary ether outside the prism and move with velocity c with respect to the ether. If the prism moves with a velocity u with respect to this fixed ether, then the incident velocity of light with respect to the prism should be C + H. Thus the refractive index of the glass prism should depend on , the absolute velocity of the prism, i.e., its velocity with respect to the fixed ether. Arago performed the experiment in 1819, but failed to detect the expected change
The paper itself "heavily" quoted, e.g. directly copied Einstein's 1913 paper on relativity. but after a suitable interchange there were some questions
Many thanks for getting back to us so promptly. What is the publication charge? Will we need to send any Mesocricetus auratus circular mobility units along with the submission for practical assessment? To be honest I will glad to see the back of them, they are always on the go and we need the room. The squeaking is intolerable after a while.
There is more at Scam o Rama, and the possibility of more to come remains.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Well, perhaps off topic, but in the US approval of positions for science and science policy agencies often get tied up in the Senate so Eli is not exactly crying about Lucy getting kicked in the head yesterday.  Still, as many have pointed out that while the Republicans were filibustering an awful lot of people, there is some value to it, and sometimes (see Bork, Robert who, btw was not filibustered but rather defeated in a straight vote, or, perhaps more recently Miguel Estrada who was) there is a value to it.

So Eli has a modest proposal, which, as all of Eli's simple and modest proposals, will be ignored.  OTOH, what are blogs for.  Give the minority leader a small number of cards to play, say four or five per year.  When the minority leader decides it is important enough, why yes, that appointment does not come to a vote if there are forty supporters or more.  Since such things are more often tactical than strategic, if say within a month the situation is resolved, the card is returned

ADDITIONAL THUMB SUCKING:  Curious bunnies inquire why a few Republican Senators on the business side of the party did not break away, eliminating the log jam, as happened in 2005 with the business side of the Democratic Party joining with Republicans to make filibusters much harder to do for the Dems.  The answer is simple.  The business wing Senators WANTED Reid and the Democrats to eliminate the filibuster.  The radicals on the right WANT government to fail (what that means perhaps tonight).  The left wing of the Democratic Party (which actually is not so radical) and even the far out left do not.  That means that any Republican business wing Senators who break filibusters would be attacked and primaried from the right.  Eliminating that issue eliminates or limits the treat.  Every damn judge or third level bureaucrat approved does not become a club to be used against them.

Reid and the Dems did the business wing of the Republican Party a favor.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

$200 million hydrogen highway probably won't work and is a good idea

Delayed blogging here, but thought I'd call out an initiative to fund $20 million annually for a decade to create hydrogen fueling stations in California. This should create 100 new fueling stations - currently the state has nine that are open to the public.

Maybe I'm being too skeptical, but electric vehicles have a huge leg up on hydrogen and still confront an enormous challenge getting an adequate infrastructure in place, so I have strong doubts about whether this will work. Still, they should try it. Maybe the range advantages of hydrogen will help it catch up with or complement electric vehicles. A price of $20 million annually for something that has enough of a chance to be beneficial is worth it.

Absent the potential fraud issue, Solyndra represented a similar, reasonable investment. It didn't work because the technology costs didn't work as expected. You need to spread your bets when you're dealing with a difficult investment. Other bets, like with Tesla, seem to be going well.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Poor Spit Back on the Rich

As of 4 AM Nov. 20 one hundred and thirty two countries, the G77, China, the African Block and the Island Nations walked out of the Warsaw COP19 conference

Saleemul Huq, the scientist whose work on loss and damage helped put the issue of recompense on the conference agenda, said: "Discussions were going well in a spirit of co-operation, but at the end of the session on loss and damage Australia put everything agreed into brackets, so the whole debate went to waste."
According to the Guardian, the contempt shown by the Aussies for the conference, pigging out, wearing tees and more, was the final straw.  Australia, among the developed nations is the least able to withstand pressure from the G77 and China.  Look at a map.

The substantive issue for the walkout was due to the refusal of the US, EU, Australia and Norway to discuss compensation before 2015.
"This is a red line for us," Munjural Khan, a spokesman for the Least Developed Countries (LDC), told the Guardian. "We have been thinking of ways to harden our position, to the point of walking out of the negotiations."
UPDATE:  Now all the NGOs have told the US, and Europe to go stuff it, walking out
Around 800 people from environmental groups, including Greenpeace and WWF, walked out of U.N. climate talks in Warsaw on Thursday in protest at what they see as a lack of progress towards a global deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Adaptation For Those That Can Afford It

Eli has always pointed out the moral dimension to humans ruining the blue marble, and how this burden falls upon those at the bottom of the barrel.

We are sailing into a moral storm.

The moral dimensions associated with the Anthropocene has long interested Eli, and to be honest many others on a deeper level.  While philosophy is associated with personal responsibility, law concerns itself with assignment of responsibility to others.  As our command of the Earth increases, these must come together
In particular the Bunny has relied upon Stephan Gardiner's description of climate change as a perfect moral storm
the presence of the problem of moral corruption reveals another sense in which climate change may be a perfect moral storm. This is that its complexity may turn out to be perfectly convenient for us, the current generation, and indeed for each successor generation as it comes to occupy our position. For one thing, it provides each generation with the cover under which it can seem to be taking the issue seriously – by negotiating weak and largely substanceless global accords, for example, and then heralding them as great achievements – when really it is simply exploiting its temporal position. For another, all of this can occur without the exploitative generation actually having to acknowledge that this is what it is doing. By avoiding overtly selfish behaviour, earlier generations can take advantage of the future without the unpleasantness of admitting it – either to others, or, perhaps more importantly, to itself.
The storm has arrived

The cop outs are accumulating
Japan could set a new 2020 emissions reductions target of 3.8% on 2005 levels, the Nikkei newspaper reports.

It says Minister of the Environment Nobuteru Ishihara will announce the new goal at UN talks in Warsaw next month
If accurate, the new goal would be considerably lower than the 25% emissions reduction on 1990 levels Japan agreed to aim for in 2009.
Todd Stern, the US lead in the climate negotiations was not helpful. He laid out a position that the US and the other rich nations would  not provide the needed funding.  No, really no.
Munjurul Hannan Khan, representing the world's 47 least affluent countries, said: "They are behaving irrationally and unacceptably. The way they are talking to the most vulnerable countries is not acceptable. Today the poor are suffering from climate change. But tomorrow the rich countries will be. It starts with us but it goes to them."
In light of all this, Eli's friend Dano has a question
In the wake of the destruction from recent typhoons Phailin and Haiyan - Haiyan being the third “most destructive” storm ever in the Philippines in the span of 12 months*, I’ve been reflecting on my membership in the National Adaptation Forum (NAF).

 Many members of the NAF signed up because they found themselves suddenly thrust into a newly-created position and are simply trying to find their way forward and seek other voices of sanity. Plus there is the advantage, in my view, that it is easier to get traction and a few words in a comprehensive plan by saying you want to adapt to changes instead of spending money to reduce emissions to mitigate future changes, so at least there is something to plan for. Cynical, I know: but this is Dano, remember? Mitgation costs money, and who spends money on the commonweal these days? That is: who seriously is considering flood barriers in New York in the wake of Sandy, to control the sea like the Dutch have done?

 But back to adaptation: who were the victims of Phailin and Haiyan? The rich in their fortified and provisioned hilltops, or the lowland poor? That question raises the important question of “who pays for adaptation, and who pays for mitigation?” Or perhaps a related question: “who can afford adaptation protection?” That’s right: the rich can afford to purchase grain, no matter how high the price goes, and the rich already live on high ground, protected from sea level rise and flooding from episodic downpours.

There is no doubt the incidences of severe weather are increasing

and insurers are increasingly incurring losses from severe weather events. But what of the uninsured losses that rarely make the news?

When we talk about adaptation, we should ask “adaptation for whom”, because right now, the answer is “those who can afford it”. Concepts like resilience and “sustainability” (whether we can ever be “sustainable” must wait for another post) are ignored when all we do is adapt. And adaptation is for those people in the future, anyways. Oh sure, mitigation has benefits in the future as well, which is another reason adaptation is so compelling an argument if you don’t think too much about it.

*Dano wrote this soon after Haiyan passed over the islands and before she struck Vietnam, although she appeared to be recurving as of the 21z sat foto.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on the Costs of Climate Change

It must be Monday.

Don't trust civil war predictions. Including mine.

Last week I listened to a Commonwealth Club podcast about Syria from early September, where I heard their invited speakers make retrospective fools of themselves as they poked fun at how the Obama Administration "boxed itself in" on chemical weapons in Syria.

Hearing their predictions of a fiasco on that issue prompted me to write about my own predictions on the outcome of civil wars, which don't seem that great. I can give myself some slight credit in the summer of 2011 when the mainstream said the Libyan war was at a stalemate, I thought that temporary victories by the government obscured a long term advance by rebels. That's pretty much it in terms of good predictions (written down somewhat late) - I could see an existing trend but not a change in trend. Seven months before that I said Qaddafi would be out within a week. My Libya wrap-up concluded that Assad would win in Syria. By July 2012 I acknowledged my pessimism about Assad was wrong but then thought it looked like the rebels were slowly winning. That too was wrong, as we see in the screwed up stalemate today.

My only defense is that I don't think my predictions are worse than what you'll find in the MSM. I welcome links to someone who got predictions consistently right, and made them early. Meanwhile I think it's still useful to make predictions - the people who make policy recommendations without predicting what results will come from those recommendations aren't adding any value.

Keeping track of those predictions and eating some crow as appropriate is still required, though.

UPDATE:  more Commonwealth Club, more foolishness about Syria and chemical weapons. This time from the moderator, Janine Zacharia, former Wash Post Bureau Chief. Even more depressing was the Israeli consul, who outright refuses to believe that the Arab Spring could be remotely about a drive for democracy as opposed to basic instincts of an honor-driven society.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pics and video from last week

First anti-CO2 graffiti I've seen. Apparently they're anti Peets Coffee as well. I don't know, I think Peets is fine. 

I attended a student rally on Monday at Stanford to promote climate divestment, about 40-50 students there. Not too bad. Their Facebook page is here.

Video from the rally.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miscellaneous Debris, or the AR5 Estimates of SLR

Ever since this came up in a twitter exchange between Aslak Grinsted and Tamsin Edwards somewhere about Halloween,

Eli has been peeking at a couple of pages on the formers web pages fittingly enough for an ice sheet expert called miscellaneous debris.  As the bunnies will see, it really is scary stuff.

Grinsted, as many ice sheet folk, is, shall the Rabett say, not very impressed with the AR anything's estimate of sea level rise from the wastage of ice sheets, which he describes as optimistic and overconfident, and ok, the AR5 did put a caveat in in fine print, that well, if there is a collapse in Antarctica all bets are off.  Grinsted shows the various estimates of sea level equivalent rise due to the ice sheets wasting away.

Most of the labels are self explanatory, but you can get the details amongst the debris.  The ranges are the 5-95% range. the whte line the best guess.
AR5 process based model projections are much more conservative/optimistic and has much more narrow uncertainties than the ice sheet experts (Fig.1). There can be no good reason for why the AR5 authors have much greater confidence in their ability to project ice sheet loss than ice sheet experts themselves. Notably the best guess view of ice sheet experts nearly falls outside the AR5 process based range. The worst case scenario from ice sheet experts is more than 60 cm higher than the worst case from the AR5 process models.

Clearly the process based SLR projections from AR5 are over-confident and too conservative by themselves.
The ice sheet experts estimates come from Bamber and Aspinall (2013). 
A major gap in predictive capability concerning the future evolution of the ice sheets was identified in the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As a consequence, it has been suggested that the AR4 estimates of future sea-level rise from this source may have been underestimated. Various approaches for addressing this problem have been tried, including semi-empirical models and conceptual studies. Here, we report a formalized pooling of expert views on uncertainties in future ice-sheet contributions using a structured elicitation approach. We find that the median estimate of such contributions is 29cm—substantially larger than in the AR4—while the upper 95th percentile value is 84cm, implying a conceivable risk of a sea-level rise of greater than a metre by 2100. On the critical question of whether recent ice-sheet behaviour is due to variability in the ice sheet–climate system or reflects a long-term trend, expert opinion is shown to be both very uncertain and undecided.
Grinsted points out that in the current situation, although the uncertainty monster may not be perfectly represented in models, the experts have laid hands on the beast and they
. . . know the models and they have an idea of what processes are poorly represented. They can have an informed opinion on what that means for projections.
and, oh yes, if you want the total sea level rise, you have to include expansion of the oceans due to warming (22 cm), glacial melt (15 cm) and water mining as in pulling water out of deep reservoirs (5 cm).  Add it all up as Grinsted does and one is well over a meter for worst case and damn close for best guess.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Roger Pielke Sr. Was Right

if you want to see where the energy is look in the oceans.  Albatross in the comments points to an analysis by the NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab of the engine room for Super Typhoon Haiyan below the surface of the ocean.

The intensification of Super Typhoon Haiyan is being fueled by "ideal" environmental conditions - namely low wind shear and warm ocean temperatures. Maximum sustained winds are currently at 195 mph, well above the Category 5 classification used for Atlantic and East Pacific hurricanes. Plotted here is the average Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential product for October 28 - November 3, 2013, taken directly from NOAA View. This dataset, developed by NOAA/AOML, shows the total amount of heat energy available for the storm to absorb, not just on the surface, but integrated through the water column. Deeper, warmer pools of water are colored purple, though any region colored from pink to purple has sufficient energy to fuel storm intensification. The dotted line represents the best-track and forecast data as of 16:00 UTC on November 7, 2013.
Greg Laden goes through this layer by layer from the surface down

The IPCC has a comment about storm surge, or at least the base upon which the surge was built.  The Western Pacific is one of the places where the sea level has been rising fastest.

Jeff Masters, at Weather Underground compiles the rankings and Haiyan comes first at 195 mph at landfall.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Short Note From Dano and Some Comments From Eli

In the original Rabett Run post on parking and ecology Eli muttered

Let Eli point out one place where he and Dano disagree.  The later writes

Parking lots afford an excellent opportunity to achieve heat island reduction and canopy cover goals. A commitment must be made to allow for fewer parking stalls, as a parking surface area must be reduced and dedicated to tree roots. Progressive jurisdictions may be able to easily make these commitments, as there is growing indication that many areas in the USA may be providing too much parking for various reasons
So many years ago Eli and a buddy found about 100K for a liquid nitrogen tank at the Uni.  Went to the Dean of Engineering to pitch the thing, and the only issue
 was "Not if it costs parking spots"

===================== And the belated reply

My momma taught me that it is bad manners to disagree with my host. And it’s true that some bunnies here might have witnessed Dano get cranky and disagree on occasion. And I hope this next line doesn’t make my ‘but’ look big: things are slowly changing.

For whatever reasons, there are places these days – mostly in the places that are early adopters (see image) – that are actually reducing parking spaces. The old school way was to use the International Transportation Engineers – ITE – Blue Book. This book is the ‘bible’ for transportation folks with regard to quantifying trips, miles, and parking for Privately Owned Vehicles (POVs). Developers are learning that surface parking costs them money: rents on office or residential per square foot are higher than for parking. And the cost per stall to build a parking garage mean that some tenants are priced out because parking fees become out of reach for small business.

Dano just got back from California for some urban forestry work (he wrote part of this in the airport) where increasingly cities are requiring that developers install trees, such that they cover X% of surface after Y years. A typical ratio is 50% tree canopy coverage after Y years (depending on location and climate). An adequate  space for tree root volume is typically the same size as a parking stall. To get 50% coverage you need to take every 8-10th stall for a tree. Developers are learning that they can get away with this because the old ITE way of writing the bible is…well…old. Lots of places are “over-parked” because the way the ITE Blue Book is written is that their numbers are to accommodate peak requirement, which happen only  a handful of days a year. On every other day, there are empty spaces as far as the eye can see.


Eli would only point out that if you plot people and urban planners on a Venn diagram, the overlap ain't great.  FWIW, in Washington DC, the zoning gods are demanding that parking spaces go away if new buildings are permitted in transit corridors.  They may put it gently here, but make no mistake they are not doing so when granting permits.
In its final submission to the Zoning Commission, planners proposed eliminating the mandatory minimum number of parking spaces developers will be required to construct in new buildings in an expanded downtown D.C., leaving the decision entirely to the marketplace. In transit corridors, mandatory parking minimums would be reduced by fifty percent.
Oh yeah, and at most universities you buy a hunting license and have to get there at six in the morning if you don't want to ride the Greyhound to your office.

The Tulane parking Stasi have an honest answer
Question: Why do you sell more permits than there are spaces?
Answer: When you purchase a parking permit we are essentially buying a hunting license, and you are not guaranteed a space. If we reduce the number of permits sold more people who now qualify for permits would not be able to obtain them, so they would not have the opportunity even to look for a space. If sales were capped, permits would have to be rationed and the price of the permit could increase substantially to cover expenses. (Note: Resident freshmen do not qualify for the permit program.)
Question: Why is parking so expensive?
Answer: Parking is actually a bargain compared to charges at some other universities in situations similar to Tulane's. For example, Loyola and Emory, both land-locked universities in urban settings (like Tulane), have higher parking fees than ours. These institutions struggle with the same issues that Tulane faces, such as, where do we put new buildings? (answer: on parking lots), and how do we replace parking spaces? (with garages).

Narderev Sano at the Warsaw Conference

Sorry for the ad, but just click through it.

Places to donate 

UPDATED:  Anyone wishing to claim that intense storms are not getting more intense should read The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones by James B. Elsner, James P. Kossin2 & Thomas H. Jagger before making a fool of themselves

For the Western North Pacific basin since 1981, Elsner,et al find that the speed of the fastest typhoons, e.g. the Cat 5s corresponding to the last two columns, the worst 2.5% or 1% of the 698 storms in the basin, have significantly increased

Statistic     Quantile    
0.85 0.90 0.95 0.975 0.99  
698 typhoons   Western North Pacific    
W (m/s) 58.9 63.7 69.6 73.1 77.6
Trend (W/yr) 0.12 0.14 0.09 0.29 0.36
S.E. (W/yr) 0.190 0.177 0.192 0.116 0.023
P 0.520 0.434 0.647 0.012 0.115
W (kph) 212 229 251 263 279
W (mph) 132 143 156 164 174

Kevin Trenberth and Jeff Masters will be PBS Newshour at 6:12 EST today to talk about Haiyan. 

Keith Kloor Does Jellyfish

Now that Keith has decided the genetically modified organisms are the best club to bash hippies and bunnies with, Eli has figured out the solution to the coming jellyfish is the only thing in your fridge epoch

Business as usual:  We will choke down jellyfish burgers.

Adaptation:  Monsanto will engineer better tasting jellyfish burgers to choke down.

Mitigation:  The Pielkesphere don't do that.

Looks like the use of Round-up Ready crops has hit the wall, in what, 20 years.

The area of U.S. cropland infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds has expanded to 61.2 million acres in 2012, according to a survey conducted by Stratus Agri-Marketing.

Nearly half (49%) of all U.S. farmers interviewed reported that glyphosate-resistant weeds were present on their farm in 2012, up from 34% of farmers in 2011. The survey also indicates that the rate at which glyphosate-resistant weeds are spreading is gaining momentum, increasing 25% in 2011 and 51% in 2012.
Which means, pretty much, if there is an environmental advantage to any GMO, it is going to spread into the wild in about the time needed to grow up for college.  So if we want to introduce something new, it had damn well better be something we want our grandbunnies to live with.  Not saying that there are not such things (maybe Golden Rice, for example), but we better be prepared and ready for the spread.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Republican politicians are soft on crime

1. Opposing attempts to get innocent people out of jail means letting the guilty run free. Eschaton and LGM covered this recently (the Texas Monthly story is incredible).

2. The Bush Administration decreased enforcement of environmental and white collar crimes, and you can expect similar results at state levels.

3. Republican elites hide behind pretenses of defending individuals from overzealous prosecution while serving the worst corporate excesses. Read this Redstate article on Criminalizing America - not once is protecting lawbreaking corporations mentioned. I stopped and read while skimming Redstate because of the name of the author, alecstates. Anything from ALEC deserves special attention and admiration. Read the actual model legislation and its slightly clearer that requiring intentional breaking of the law, and not just intention to commit the act, is meant to make it incredibly difficult to prosecute a corporate entity. That particular proposal apparently traces back to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, part of the Kochtopus.

I'm sure there's more.

(And it goes without saying that Obama should have pushed much harder on financial crimes related to the Great Recession, although it looks like some things are finally happening.)

Places to Donate for Haiyan Relief

This list will grow in the next few days - Eli

Interaction has a web page of about 40 suggestions, mostly US centered

UPDATE:  Two other suggestions, more off the beaten track

NAFCON:  National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. NAFCON is a national multi-issue alliance of Filipino organizations and individuals in the United States serving to protect the rights and welfare of Filipinos

TEAM RUBICON:  Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.  They have deployed a strike team to conduct a medical search and rescue mission in the Philippines in response to Typhoon Haiyan.  Some matching is available

From KVUE TV in Texas
TO FIND VICTIMS AND SHELTERS: Google launched a crisis and relief map including evacuation shelters, crisis areas and relief drop zones. Go here for the map. Google also launched a person finder. If you're looking for loved ones in the area that may have been affected or if you have information about someone, go here.
RED CROSS: The Philippine Red Cross is working to provide rescue and relief supports to those affected by Typhoon Haiyan. To donate directly to the typhoon relief efforts, go here and select "Supertyphoon Yolanda (HAIYAN)" from the "campaign" drop-down menu.
The American Red Cross has also deployed two people to assess with efforts in the Philippines. They suggest donating by sending a check to your local Red Cross and writing "Philippines Typhoons and Flood" in the memo line.

CARE is delivering food, water, shelter and other essentials to the survivors of the typhoon. To donate to CARE's efforts, go here or call 1-800-521-2273.
HABITAT FOR HUMANITY plans to give 30,000 shelter repair kits to those that were affected by the typhoon. To donate to the Disaster Response Fund, go here.
UNICEF is accepting donations to provide children affected by the typhoon with clean water, food and shelter. To donate online, go here. You can print a form to be mailed in by going here. Donate over the phone by calling 1-800-FOR-KIDS (1-800-367-5437).
SAVE THE CHILDREN is also working with affected children in the Philippines, Laos and Vietnam. Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Children's Relief Fund by going here or by calling 1-800-728-3843.
WORLD VISION has launched an emergency response to provide food, clean water and shelter to an estimated 400,000 people. Donate online here.
WORLD FOOD PROGRAM USA is helping to provide food and other assistance to those affected. Donate online here.
CONVOY OF HOPE was already in the Philippines providing assistance to those affected by the 7.1 magnitude earthquakethat struck there a few weeks ago. They're expanding their efforts to include assistance to typhoon victims. They currently have four shipping containers full of food en route to the Philippines and are preparing containers full of hygiene pouches, canned foods and fruits as well as 100 water filtration units. To donate online, go here. You can also donate by calling 1-417-823-8998.
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL TEAMS CORPS sent a team with medical supplies to assist with the injured affected by the typhoon. You can go here to support their efforts online or donate to the organization by calling 1-800-481-4462.
From Time, some others
OXFAM has emergency responders on the ground to assist with relief support. The organization is asking for contributions to its Typhoon Haiyan Relief and Recovery Fund online.
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS has had 15 members of an emergency team in Cebu since Saturday. The organization is sending more staff to assist with medical and psychological treatment as well as items such as medical kits, vaccines and hygiene kits over the next few days. An additional cargo with an inflatable hospital and medical material is being prepared to leave later this week. Donate online.
From the Toronto Star:
CANADIAN RED CROSS  The Canadian Red Cross has been assisting its Philippine counterparts since Friday, working to meet the needs of individuals in crisis.

HUMANITARIAN COALITION  The Canadian aid coalition of CARE, Oxfam, Plan Canada and Save the Children have been working with its member agencies on the ground in the Philippines since the disaster struck.
GLOBAL MEDIC The Canadian emergency-relief charity has departed for the Philippines and is focusing on water-purification in the affected regions.

Canadians looking for information on friends and relatives who may have been caught in the affected areas can call Foreign Affairs’ 24-7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre at 1-800-387-3124 or 613-996-8885.
Still others
PHILIPPINE RED CROSS: Donations will help mobilize teams on the ground with rescue and relief efforts.
CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: CRS is helping with the storm's aftermath by getting supplies and staff into the area.
Trust everybunny but cut the cards.  Some good advice on donating  from WCNC
COLLECTING CLOTHING AND GOODS WITHOUT VERIFYING THAT ITEMS CAN BE USED - Unless you have verified that a charity is in need of specific items and has a distribution plan in place, collecting clothing, food and other goods may end up being a wasted effort. Relief organizations often prefer to purchase goods near the location of the disaster to help speed delivery and avoid expensive long distance freight costs. Also, sending non-essential items may actually slow down the charity’s ability to address urgent needs.

SENDING DONATIONS TO INEXPERIENCED RELIEF EFFORTS - Good intentions alone are not enough to carry out relief activities effectively. If the charity has not previously been involved in disaster relief, or does not have experience in assisting the overseas nation(s) that have been impacted, this likely will hamper their ability to work well in the affected areas.

RESPONDING TO ONLINE AND SOCIAL MEDIA APPEALS WITHOUT CHECKING- Don’t let your guard down just because the appeal is online. Don’t assume that since a third-party blog, website or friend recommended a relief charity that it has been thoroughly vetted. Check out the charity’s website on your own.

- Find out if a charity meets recognized accountability standards. If you want assurance that the charity is transparent, accountable, and well managed, see if it meets the BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s 20 “Standards for Charity Accountability” by visiting The following 25 organizations are BBB Accredited Charities (i.e., meet all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability) that have announced on their website that they are accepting donations for typhoon relief activities. Donors are encouraged to visit the charities’ websites to find out more about the nature of the assistance they are providing. Some organizations are engaged in immediate relief while others are focused on longer term recovery efforts. This list does not include all of the charities involved in typhoon relief.
Government efforts:  (Ongoing, obviously these are not final amounts and the list of countries is only partial)

United States:  US Embassy in the Philippines immediately released $100,000 for relief.  Military flew in C-130s, carrying personnel and equipment
Australia: Pledged $A10 million immediately

European Commission  Pledged E3 million immediately

UK:  Support package worth $9.6 million

Germany:  Flying in aid and rescue teams are on site now

New Zealand: Providing NZ$2.15 million

Canada Pledged up to $5 million US to aid organizations

Taiwan: providing immediate cash aid of US$200,000 and the

Singapore:  donated US$40,000.

Japan:  Medical rescue team dispatched

UAE: Dh37 million

Does the World Need a Category Six For Cyclones

With the disaster in the Philippines wrought by super typhoon Haiyan, once again the unseemly arguments appear about exactly how fast the winds were blowing at landfall and aw gee there were worse storms, the damage to global GDP was minor.  Eli however, and some others have another question.  Would it be useful to reformulate the Saffir-Simpson scale?  Actually two.  Would it also be useful to coordinate the new Saffir-Simpson scale with the Enhanced Fujita scale for tornadoes?

The argument, at least the one the Bunny is making, has nothing to do with climate change, and everything to do with policy, construction codes, public safety and history.  Both the Saffir-Simpson and the Fujita scales were designed for public officials to use in determining how to react to cyclones and tornadoes.  The ranks are set not so much by wind speed and other parameters such as precipitation, as to the expected damage that a storm would do.

Eli will argue that forecasting and construction progress has overtaken the Saffir-Simpson scale and it is time to revise it.  Moreover, while there are few places which are subject to both hurricanes and tornadoes, a uniform scale would prevent the public from perceiving a lesser/stronger danger when warnings are issued.  The Fujita scale itself was revised in 2006 with this in mind by the Wind Science and Engineering Center at Texas Tech

Although the Fujita Scale has been in use for 33 years, the limitations of the scale are well known to the users. The primary limitations are a lack of damage indicators, no account of construction quality and variability, and no definitive correlation between damage and wind speed. These limitations have led to inconsistent rating of tornadoes and, in some cases, an overestimate of tornado wind speeds. Thus, there is a need to revisit the concept of the Fujita scale and to improve and eliminate some of the limitations.

F Number Fastest 1/4-mile (mph) 3 Second Gust (mph) EF Number 3 Second Gust (mph)
0 40-72 45-78 0 65-85
1 73-112 79-117 1 86-110
2 113-157 118-161 2 111-135
3 158-207 162-209 3 136-165
4 208-260 210-261 4 166-200
5 261-318 262-317 5 Over 200

The new scale was built by polling experts on the upper and lower bounds of wind speed that would cause different types of damage to various types of buildings and structures (including trees).  Details, as always, at the link.  The experts then aligned the Enhanced Fujita scale to the old Fujita Scale.

This history is important, because defenders of the Saffir-Simpson scale, including Saffir, claim that there is no need for a category over 5, because at 5, nothing is left.

Eli has seen one reaction from a hurricane forecaster which is typical
CAT 5 is already catastrophic.  What is to be gained by our making a distinction between catastrophe and armageddon?

CAT 5 landfalls are rare, three times in a century for the US. When there is a clear forecast of a CAT 5  hurricane landfall, motivation levels are already so high that additional stimulus is likely to produce a decline in rationality and performance among evacuees. Even if a hurricane were to reach CAT 6 or 7, it would most likely be weakening by the time of landfall. Since the object of the game is to communicate with people in a way that helps them make life saving decisions, we don't want to redefine the SS Scale in a way that exaggerates the hysteresis in public perception that already occurs when a formerly very intense weakening---but now weakening---hurricane approaches landfall.  
Eli begs to differ.  Nothing is left maybe, with the construction techniques of 50 years ago.  Even in favelas, third world shanty towns, there is the occasional masonry building, and especially with roof straps and other techniques, such buildings can be used as shelters from low end Category 5 storms.  With more money, bunnies can hurricane proof their burrows, but when hit with a > 200 mph gust, well. . .

And thus the need

UPDATE:  For a somewhat different POV which reaches the same conclusion see Climate Crocks 

Coby chimes in 

Three words missing from the Caldeira/Emanuel/Hansen/Wigley letter supporting safer nuclear power

The letter's here, with the operative sentence "As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems." I would change the ending of that sentence to safer nuclear energy systems if fiscally prudent.

I personally couldn't support the letter as written just as I couldn't support the reverse, a letter urging unqualified opposition to nuclear energy. The reverse may be somewhat worse in the real world, because I think much of the opposition to nuclear energy isn't empirically based but tiered off of Cold War era ideological battles. Still, I don't see a whole lot of empiricism going on here. Why not urge advocacy and deployment of carbon capture and sequestration? CCS certainly has economic issues but adding 40% to the cost of coal might still keep it cheaper than nuclear, and CCS of biomass power is a carbon negative solution, one of the very few available. I'm not saying we must do CCS - maybe it doesn't pencil out - but then the same flexibility should apply to nuclear.

Just adding those three magic words may not be enough. We might need to finish the sentence  as safer nuclear energy systems if fiscally prudent and if nuclear proliferation issues are addressed. Nuclear power won't be a large solution to the climate change problem unless it spreads to many countries where it doesn't currently exist, maybe virtually all medium-sized and larger countries. Al Gore used to be a national security guy before he went green, and I think proliferation is one of the reasons for his nuclear skepticism.

Finally the sentence might need to read if fiscally prudent and if nuclear proliferation and terrorism issues are addressed. Terrorists causing catastrophic radioactive releases or getting their scheming hands on some radioactive material from these thousands of new nuclear plants around the world could be problematic. I'd concede this one isn't as important as the other two, but it's there.

The letter writers are right that accidents and nuclear waste, the issues most opponents emphasize, are way overblown, but they take a big step from that point to saying nuclear is therefore a good idea.

I'll stay a nuclear waffler for now.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Good Life

Je rêve toujours d´me tirer, d´me barrer, 
D´me tailler, de foutre le camp
Moi qu´aimerais tant m´arrêter d´cavaler
Prendre le temps D´avoir des chats, des petits chats,
Des chiens, des tas d´enfants,
Un vieux fauteuil au coin du feu
Où me laisser glisser à deux,
Avoir mes bouquins sous la main
Qui s´ouvrent d´eux-mêmes
Aux pages que l´on aime
Et qu´on relit sans fin
Parce qu´on les aime

Un petit clocher de Cocagne
Que j´entendrais tinter
L´hiver tout comme l´été,
La nuit, le jour, sur la campagne
Me donneraient envie de n´plus changer ma vie,
On verrait chaque soir
L´tourbillon fou du monde devant la télé,
Mes chats, mes chiens roupillant à nos pieds
À poings fermés
Et qu´au dehors le vent d´hiver
Se donnerait un mal de chien
Pour faire plier les peupliers
Que nous aurions plantés à deux
Et les soirées d´automne couleraient
Douces et monotones
Et chaque nuit on se dirait "chéri, on réveillonne"

Aïe! Quelle petite vie de Cocagne
L´hiver tout comme l´été
J´pourrais pas m´en lasser,
La nuit, le jour, dans ma campagne
Ni vue et ni connue dans mon petit coin perdu

Mais v´là qu´il faut me tirer, me barrer,
Me tailler, foutre le camp,
J´ai même pas l´temps d´m´oublier
Un instant loin du présent,
Adieu mes chats, mes petits chats, mes chiens
Adieu le vent,
Ce vieux fauteuil au coin du feu,
J´m´y serais jamais planquée à deux
C´est bête ce rêve que j´fais chaque jour
Dans ma p´tite auto
En venant du bureau
Qui pourrit ma vie de nostalgie.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Your friendly water district lobbyist, reporting out

Our water district goes to Washington DC twice annually to either look for help or avoid regulatory problems with our environmental restoration, flood control, and water supply projects, and my turn was this last week. The team had 21 meetings in 2.5 business days, occasionally splitting up.

FWIW, the shutdown is still affecting government function - permits we hoped to have received are now behind schedule.  The Corps of Engineers contracts out a lot of its work, so it first issued stop work orders and then issued start work, both of which take time.

One of our messages to government regulators was that we're doing the right thing because we want to, not just because we're told to, in the hope that it earns us some trust. I played on my background with environmental groups  like EarthJustice and Natural Resources Defense Council. We have a recent example of taking water we import from the Bay Delta area for water supply and using it to keep a crucial steelhead-bearing stream wet - no regulation forced us to do this (to be fair, we get a lot of that water back when it percolates underground).

The meeting with EPA was pretty interesting - staff there said that the new Administrator, Gina McCarthy, is definitely prioritizing climate change and water. I talked about how we're committed to carbon neutrality by 2020, but I chose not to bring up our climate divestment policy -I thought that might be controversial. Not always easy to figure out what to emphasize in these 30-60 minute meetings.

Hopefully these trips are worth the costs - we contract with consultants to represent and lobby for us there, but they say they're convinced its important for the regulators to be able to attach hometown faces to the projects they read about on their computers.

UPDATE:  should add this as well - our water district was featured on National Public Radio for our all-new Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center that will treat recycled wastewater to drinking water standards (although it won't be drunk, yet). Recycled water is good and bad from a purely climate perspective. Good in that it's an adaptive response to the loss of snow in the Sierras. Bad in that it takes a lot of energy to run reverse osmosis systems, but good in that it takes much less energy to recycle wastewater than it does to desalinate ocean water. Overall it seems like a good idea to me from a climate perspective, although conservation is better still.