Friday, January 30, 2015

POPA throws a curveball

The American Physical Society has some fracticiousness going, centered on the rewriting of a 2007 statement on climate change.  The latest to emerge from the sausage factory is a report by Philip Taylor, representative of the Forum on Physics and Society (the extreme "left wing" as it were of the APS) on the Panel on Public Affairs (the establishment) charged with issuing position statements.

As readers of Rabett Run know, Eli has been. . . well Eli has been rather doubtful of the approach taken by the APS.

Taylor reports on the goings on
I hope that I can reassure you with an emphatic and wide-awake denial of any tendency to drowse during POPA proceedings (although some of my co-panelists might have wished I had taken a nap or two as the discussions became more pointed). The reason for my silence lies in the familiar sausage-factory analogy: if you want to have confidence in the final product, it is best not to observe the manufacturing process too closely. We were enjoined to silence on the minutiae of the discussions. My lips are thus sealed as far as describing the contents of successive drafts and iterations, and what relation they bear to the 2007 statement.
However this does not cover the process.  As bunnies may recall, POPA self selected a group of refugees from the nuclear complex to review the statement on climate change, held a farcical panel of experts hearing featuring Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry and John Christy on one side and Isaac Held, Ben Santer and William Miller on the other which only exposed the naivety of the drafting committee members about climate science, and then were surprised when the head of that committee, Steve Koonin went Wall Street Journal nuclear on them.
This rumbling drumbeat of public commentary continued through the summer, as an enlarged subgroup of POPA continued its efforts. An impartial observer with no inside knowledge of the inner workings of POPA might conclude that matters came to a head in September with the publication in the Wall Street Journal of an Op-Ed piece by no other than Steve Koonin himself. It was entitled “Climate Science Is Not Settled”. This was met with a forceful rebuttal from Raymond Pierrehumbert, a professor in geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago, who then commented on the procedures that the APS had adopted for reviewing the 2007 statement. He opined that “The choice of its drafting committee indicates some serious problems with the APS process for its climate change statement, as the committee did not include a single physicist who was actually doing work in the area of climate science. Given that, one might think the committee would avail itself of the opportunity to become better educated through hearing from the best and most representative experts the field has to offer.” Eli Rabett, following an earlier post in which he says that the APS “might as well have picked a bunch of squeegee guys from off the street” for its review subcommittee, makes some even more forceful but less reprintable comments, and includes rumors of Steve Koonin's resignation from POPA, a conjecture confirmable by the disappearance of his name from the APS POPA web site.

There are interesting goings on, something made clear in the February and June POPA minutes.

What you say Eli, something interesting in committee.  Well yes, but only by inference and more will be known after the October 2014 and January 2015 POPA meeting minutes are posted.  First, let us set the stage from the February 2014 meeting minutes, a meeting so fracticous the the minutes were only posted after the October meeting, having been rejected in June.  The October meeting minutes which will should be posted in after the January meeting may be similarly interesting.

The February 2014 meeting was held a month after drafting subcommittee had met with the 3/97 and 3/3 experts representing both sides.  John Oliver had it right.  At that point Steve Koonin was chair to be of POPA and chair of the drafting committee
Climate Change Statement Review 
Background information and an overview of the progression of the review was provided. 
A “minimal statement” on climate science was presented. Discussion ensued on the science issues related to climate change. POPA was presented with the actions up for debate, including:
(1) The format POPA should employ to keep membership updated on the review process; 
(2) Deciding on alternatives to the “minimal statement” on climate science. 
It was decided that a webpage dedicated to the review process would be produced. APS Staff and the Review Subcommittee were tasked with reworking a webpage mock-up within the week, to be presented electronically to POPA for comment and a vote. Four alternatives to the “minimal statement” were presented: 
(1) Retaining the existing statement;
(2) Recommending the null statement;
(3) Recommending a new (non-null) statement;
(4) Writing a new statement that would accompany the current statement.
MOTION: To strike the option of retaining the existing APS Climate Change Statement from the possible options of how to proceed.
Other options that were discussed and are still available: “the null statement”, a new statement that replaces the current statement, a new statement that would accompany the current statement. (Barletta/Rosner)
ACTION: Motion carried (15 for, 4 against)
First, Eli will speculate that the "minimal" statement was a lukwarmers special pushed by Koonin and maybe Rossner of the type more research is needed.  But allow the Rabett to point out that this is only speculation.  The rejection of the 2007 statement as a basis for further discussion is may mark a point of divergence for the POPA from just about every other scientific society on earth (maybe not the geologists).

The next motion is a not so gentle nudge to the drafting committee that they need to get their shit in order without quite saying so.  This is, of course, Eli's opinion.
MOTION: To have the Climate Change Statement Review subcommittee revise the statement in light of the discussion at the February 7, 2014 POPA meeting. (Rosner)  
Amendment: To also have the subcommittee include recommendations on how they envision the process moving forward and the technical pieces that will be included. (Rosner accepted the amendment.)  
Amendment: To request that the subcommittee consult with the steering committee and other experts from the climate science community, as well as interested POPA members, as they revise the statement. (Rosner accepted the amendment.)  
To have the Climate Change Statement Review subcommittee revise the statement in light of the discussion at the February 7, 2014 POPA meeting and to include recommendations on how they envision the process moving forward and the technical pieces that will be included. They should consult with the steering committee and other experts from the climate science community, as well as interested POPA members, during the revision process. (Rosner/Barletta)  
: Passed unanimously
Now some, not Eli to be sure, might wonder what part of the drafting committee's drafting was front ended by Koonin, but without being in the room it is not possible to really say.

However this brings the bunnies to the June 2014 meeting the minutes of which start
Concerns were raised over the accuracy of the February 7, 2014 meeting minutes. Discussions were overly paraphrased and incomplete; charts referenced were not included. It was generally agreed that a higher-level perspective of the meeting was not captured. 
and then goes on to deal with the Committee to Mess About the APS Statement on Climate Change
Climate Change Statement 
The POPA Energy and Environment Subcommittee reported its review of the Climate Change Review Subcommittee’s draft statement and proposed an alternative for POPA’s consideration. There was discussion regarding the statement drafting process and how the E&E Subcommittee arrived at its proposal. A motion was presented by the E&E Subcommittee to adopt its draft statement, subject to a set of amendments suggested by POPA members, as the framework for further work on a final draft statement. This motion was opened for discussion.  
The Energy and Environment Subcommittee is a larger subcommittee of POPA with a significant representation of DOE lab directors and other worthies.  The subtext here is they did not like what the drafting committee had drafted and that the Koonin directed drafting committee had probably not taken the hint to consult and modify.  This, of course, is all supposition on Eli's part.  The E&E committee provided its own draft, which again bunnies may believe was significantly different from the drafting committee's draft.
Six amendments were offered, each briefly introduced by a subcommittee member. After discussion, each motion was defeated.  
A POPA member presented the case for keeping the current APS Climate Change Statement in place. A motion was then made to amend the motion on the floor by substitution.  
The amendment proposed to replace the E&E Subcommittee draft with a draft statement –– referred to as the “Tri-Statement” –– more closely aligned with the original Climate Change Review Subcommittee’s draft statement.  
Tri WHAT, well there appear to be three drafts in play.  First the draft of the drafting committee, then the draft of the E&E committee and finally the official 2007 APS statement.  Rabett runners might assume that this Tri-Statement is a melange, aka a camel trying to look like a horse made up of the three.  But again this is a suppository.
The amendment was discussed, the question was called, and the motion to amend carried without opposition. The Tri-Statement was debated and a motion to make it the foundational statement upon which continued work would proceed was made. The motion carried unanimously.  
Finally a motion to refer the “Tri-Statement” to committee for further refinement in light of the extensive discussions that occurred throughout the meeting was presented. The committee, which would be known as the “Plenary Group”, would include all members of the Energy & Environment Subcommittee as well as members of the original drafting group (the Climate Change Statement Review subcommittee). The motion passed unanimously. 
and here comes the hammer.  The four on the drafting committee less Koonin maybe are now overwhelmed by the eight more from the E&E committee two of whom are on both.  Well, let's wait and see what the October and January meeting bring and brought.

UPDATE:  Note that it was a couple of months AFTER the June 2014 POPA meeting and probably AFTER some "Plenary Group"  meetings that Koonin went to the WSJ and let it all hang out.  Bunnies may speculate that things did not go well for his POV in those meetings.

The moral of all this, of course, is that the arrogance of the APS has brought them to this impasse where, no matter what they do, they expose their incompetence.  Perhaps they will learn.  OTOH they are physicists and perhaps not.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Good news from one political weather vane

(UPDATE:  well, so much for Mitt. We can only hope he joins the handful of retired Republican leaders that no longer have to win Republican majorities and are telling the truth about climate change.)

Mitt Romney now rebelieves in human-caused climate change:

Romney, though, kept his focus on the issues. He said that while he hopes the skeptics about global climate change are right, he believes it's real and a major problem.

He said it's not enough for Americans to keep their own carbon emissions in check when much of the rise in greenhouse gases globally is coming from countries such as China and India.

Climate change drew little attention from either candidate in 2012, when Romney sought to deny President Barack Obama, a second term. At that time, Romney said he believed global warming was occurring but he was skeptical of its man-made origins and questioned spending to curb carbon emissions.

Mother Jones has more of Romney's history.

My guess from this and some other Romney statements is that he figures there's no point winning the nomination and then losing the general election. American voters want to do something about climate (without paying too much) and that somewhat favors a more activist position. Or he just wants to try something different from the severely conservative tactic he took in 2012.

If he or Christie get the nomination and stick with a semi-realistic position on climate, that would make three out of the last five Republican nominees claiming they want to take action on climate (not Bush in '04 or Romney in 2012). Obviously there's a real issue with whether they could be trusted given subsequent actions by the national Republican Party.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

In the Beginning

In the Beginning of Rabett Run, before Eli had slipped into gear, there were rants (Rant 1 Rant 2 and Extra Good Rant) about the costs of textbooks.  Eli feels about textbook publishers the way James and the Weasel feel about journal publishers.  Today, well actually a couple of weeks ago, SMBC comics brings the iron

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Hanoi beats Jakarta on climate (plus some random Indonesia notes)

My last two overseas trips were to Vietnam two years ago and Indonesia last month, so it makes sense in my mind at least to compare them.

Summary is that Hanoi has the opportunity to avoid the mistakes of American city development while Jakarta has already made them. Hanoi could focus on bicycle and electric bike-oriented transportation, and we saw a good number of electric bikes when we were there. Good luck seeing more than a handful of bicycles in Jakarta though (the city is trying a tiny bit, we did see a bike lane). Motorcycles are common but the electric motorcycle industry seems years behind the electric bicycle industry. Jakarta will likely have to follow the American future of electric cars plus some public transit combined with renewable energy.

On the good side, Jakarta has a pretty successful Bus Rapid Transit system, with dedicated bus lanes and the feeling of light rail without the infrastructure cost. We saw it and wished we had used it instead of making the mistake of walking through three miles of motorcycle exhaust. We’re trying to get BRT here in the South San Francisco Bay, although my home of Mountain View is dragging its feet.

Hanoi and northern Vietnam had a reasonable number of solar thermal water heaters and a tiny amount of photovoltaics. We saw no solar thermal in Jakarta (to be fair, hot water seems less necessary there). Seemed like there was less PV in Indonesia too, although on a boat trip in Borneo we noticed many of the boats had a couple of PV panels, so that’s something.

Random Indonesia notes:

From our limited exposure to much smaller Indonesian cities, they seemed much less car-dependent, so they’ve got a chance to avoid Jakarta’s mistakes.

Indonesia’s new, reformist president took advantage of low oil prices to remove most fuel subsidies. They function mostly as price ceilings so it was easy to do. We’ll see how it goes when prices rise again.

President Jokowi is the first national leader not from the elite family dynasties, so it’s a good sign for their democracy. The people I talked to seemed pretty enthusiastic about him, although the old parties still control a majority in the legislature.

We did orangutan boat tours in Borneo/central Kalimantan. I’ve got a thing for great apes and have seen all but bonobos in the wild – if I had to choose one to see it would be the orangutans. Something about their faces and their eyes really make it seem like there’s a person looking back at you.

Palm oil is everywhere in Indonesia. The Europeans really made a mess of this issue. In addition to cutting down the original forests, in Borneo they drain peat soils before planting, making the carbon emissions much worse.

I’ve got no doubt that eco-tourism is good for protecting jungle habitat in Borneo (and the coral we saw diving in Sulawesi). Whether it makes up for our carbon emissions in getting there would likely depend on some heroic assumptions. Carbon isn’t everything, though.

One welcome sight was Indonesian tourists visiting Indonesian national parks, something I haven’t seen in other, admittedly poorer, developing countries. They do have a problem with leaving plastic trash everywhere, especially visible when you’re diving.

Man, the Indonesians are friendly. Highly recommended if you have a free day in Jakarta is the Hidden Jakarta tour to get taken into the slums of Jakarta, where people welcome you with open arms.

By jarring contrast to that friendliness, there are still unoccupied buildings in Jakarta from the anti-Chinese race riots in 1998. As tourists, we can only have a superficial sense of what’s going on in the country.

Recommendations for tourists:

*Orangutan Voyage to see orangutans in Central Kalimantan – they went the extra mile for us. If you’re there for a while like us (8 days) you need to add different things to do. I’d skip the sea turtle hatchery and maybe do an overnight/multiple day trek instead. It is hot hot hot though.

*At Bunaken National Park in Sulawesi we stayed at Living Colours dive resort – a very nice, Finnish-owned place with half the guests from Finland, so we got a little taste of Finnish culture in an unexpected place. I loved the diving, lots of big sea turtles and fantastic coral walls, although visibility in during monsoon season is variable.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Twitter Is Not A Communications Medium

Last week, NOAA admitted that the 0-2000 m ocean heat content went off the chart.  Literally

so they rescaled

The sharp eyed will notice that not only does the ordinate (the y axis to the unmathed) but also the abscissa (the x axis) has changed.  The latter, because the graph since it's inception in 2012 only extended to 2015.  The former, well, the former because the ocean heat content has increased an awful lot and it went off scale, well above what was anticipated when it was first introduced in February of 2012.  The interesting question is whether the ordinate was increased enough, or this graph is going to break in ~2018 or so if the current trend continues or even speeds up.

Clearly when Tim Boyer at NOAA started to display the 0-2000 m data he made the decision not to dynamically rescale but to use the same limits which is a better when people compare what is happening from month to month, year to year, If a bunny extends the trend at 2012, there is plenty of room at the top when 2015 comes

But time moves on and more importantly growth of the 0-2000 m ocean heat content in the last three years has accelerated

John Abraham had heard about this and he wrote on it in the Guardian under the headline

The oceans are warming so fast, they keep breaking scientists' charts 

NOAA once again has to rescale its ocean heat chart to capture 2014 ocean warming 

OK, headlines are headlines, and John explained it in the text

And just recently, perhaps the most important bit of information came out about 2014 – how much the Earth actually warmed. What we find is that the warming is so great, NOAA literally has to remake its graphs. Let me explain this a bit.
But some only read headlines and promptly don the harumphing regalia
This touched off the usual low level grousing, including comments on how dynamic rescaling is trivial, well, until Michael Tobis challenged the pecksniffian Betts

and Richard Betts drew his gown up about his knees to stomp off

where upon Dana Nuccitelli showed up and questioned the now wound up Richard Bett's expertise in climate communications

At this point the entire thread was lost as the aforementioned Richard Betts and the now mentioned Doug McNeil decided that the herementioned Dana Nuccitelli was responsible for it all, whatever that was

As this went on everybunny seemed confused, that the article was written by John Abraham and who knows who wrote the headline and NOAA had not changed the limits of the graph until this month and why.
Eli found the entire exercise rather looking glass.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Editolial Discretion

One of the bunnies points to an interesting post at Naked Capitalism, indicating the travails of a paper submitted to an editor in chief, one of Ethons favorite bites, the good Professor Richard Tol.  Now some, not Eli to be sure might have some doubts about the net of implausible deniability of the editors (there are a few, Dr. Richard Tol, Dr. B. W. Ang and Dr. U. Soyta) in chief and Ms. Donna de Weerd-Wilson, Executive Publisher at Elsevier, but suffice it to say that the paper was slow walked, till it was rejected because, and Eli kids you not
The reason your paper is never reviewed is because the Energy Economics’ Editors-in-Chief tried their best, for over seven months, to find suitable reviewers, but none could be found.
Well, it was only from March to November, and of course, Richard's advice when asked about the paper by the author, Eric Prentis, was
and, after the stonewall, the Editors In Chief put on full huffing regalia and wrote to Eric P on November 9
The author lacks confidence in the editorial team of Energy Economics and is thus best advised to take the paper elsewhere.
Which reminds Eli, he owes someone a review

UPDATE:  Yeah, Prentis is a bit over the top, but OTOH, Eli knows Dick.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Today's king tides, tomorrow's normal high tide

Literally today's king tides - they're happening this week and people are encouraged to go out and document what sea level will be bringing us at some future point, so off I went on my bicycle this morning to snap some blurry pictures on my phone.

This picture has San Francisco Bay at my back, looking towards land in the South Bay (Mountain View). That slough-looking thing on the right would be Stevens Creek under normal conditions. Background buildings are part of the Googleplex on the right and NASA Ames/Moffet Airfield on the left.

Levee freeboard here is about two feet, so even a modest flood at this inconvenient time would be enough to overtop into the saltponds on the left (and other ponds you can't see on the right). That's not great but OTOH they're just ponds. Not a big deal so long as the overtopping doesn't destroy the levee.

My attempted artsy photo of the creek mouth, taken where the razor-wire fence ends the trail on the levee.  Normally the mouth is further down (this was my running route before my ankle gave up running). Reaching through the razor wire to take the picture wasn't easy.

Further upstream here, closer to Google campus and NASA Ames. The creek surface is significantly higher than the land surface, but the freeboard here is more like 6 to 8 feet. That would take a bigger flood, and I also happen to know that the creek has another breakout point a mile or two upstream that would relieve the flooding (onto somebody else).

Someday the Water District will fix that breakout though, so the increased maintenance cost and increased risk from elevated water levels will be permanent.