Monday, March 30, 2015

Technical and Esoteric and No Part of Chris Horner's Business


Following up on having their teeth kicked in by the Virginia Supreme Court in their quest for Mike Mann's Emails, Chris Horner and his sidekick David Schnare,  have filed a number of FOIA requests seeking Email from various climate scientists.  Strangely, nowhere can Eli find Roger Pielke Jr. or Bjorn Lomborg railing against that dynamic duo, now doing business as the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute.  Given the rapidity of how they change the name of their shells, Eli might think that business is not excellent.

Today the Union of Concerned Scientists brings word of the Arizona Superior Court handing another set of dentures to the gentlebunnies from E&E (as the Court labels them, perhaps accidental but quite appropriately) .  It was a remarkable decision.

The defendants, the Arizona Board of Reagents, had provided the Court a sample of 90 representative Emails from 1700.  The Court, kinda was like an undergrad with Spring Break reading assignments
The volume and complexity of the records at issue is daunting. Initially, AzBOR provided the Court a CD with approximately 90 emails described as representative of all those requested. While reviewing 90 emails may seem like a relatively easy task, such was not the case here. The emails ranged from one or two pages to multiple pages to at least one exceeding 800 pages in length. Further, to describe the content of the emails as technical and esoteric is an understatement. Many hours were spent reviewing the emails and, by no stretch, was the Court able to fully comprehend the substance of the emails.
At which point everybunny agreed that the 90 Emails were representative and that they did not need a special master or to spend their lives litigating each Email.  The question was, did the  Regents properly withhold the Emails from E&E's FOIA request.

The answer of the Court was comprehensively yes, but for interesting reasons.  Arizona law holds that
“ . . ., the law also recognizes that an unlimited right of inspection might lead to substantial and irreparable private or public harm; thus, where the countervailing interests of confidentiality, privacy or the best interests of the state should be appropriately invoked to prevent inspection, we hold that the officer or custodian may refuse inspection.” 141 Ariz. at 491.
In other words, using FOIA as harassment is not allowed if it causes public or private harm.  Among the categories that the Court held were not subject to inspection were Emails which contained student and personal information, correspondence with attorneys, information about on going research projects and information about prepublication peer review.

What is left are Emails about "prepublication critical analysis, unpublished data, analysis, research, results, drafts, and commentary".  The Court narrowed the question about this to whether the Regents withholding the documents was capricious or arbitrary and answered that
When the release of information would have an important and harmful effect on the duties of a State agency or officer, there is discretion not to release the requested documents. Arizona Board of Regents v. Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., 167 Ariz. 254, 257-58, 806 P.2d 348, 351-52 (1991). After weighing the evidence presented in this matter, the Court cannot conclude that by withholding the remaining emails for the reasons stated, AzBOR abused its discretion or acted arbitrarily or capriciously.  
Schnare and Horner lose.

This is, IEHO, a very important statement that the government of the State of Arizona and its people have a vital interest in supporting the research of scientists at state universities and in state agencies and assuring that they cannot be harassed by those engaging in hackery for fun and profit that Rick Perlstein calls the long con.

And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history—if not, indeed, more so. The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The World Turned Upside Down


In the 1970s investment in renewable energy was killed dead by the realization that the Saudi's could drop the cost of oil to zero making any capital investment in wind and solar foolish, that and the relatively high cost of wind and solar at the time made it certain that the cost curve for renewables would not reach that of oil and coal within the investment horizon.

Fossil fuel energy sources have relatively low capital costs and high (cost of fuel) running costs. Today, no one has any idea of what the price of oil will be next month, let alone next year or the next decade.  Having seen a close to $(US)100/bbl swing within a year, planning is not possible.

The extraction cost of coal is low, but again, anybunny investing in fossil coal plants has to worry about pollution control costs and costs imposed in the future to pay for other externalities such as putting the top back on mountains and disposing of the ash and overburden.

Renewables are the reverse, high up front capital cost and low running costs with large recent cost drops driven by improved manufacturing.  With over half a decade of low interest rates behind us and no indication of any inflation at all in the developed world, capital costs todaydo not carry high interest, and investment in renewables looks attractive to any organization, even the ones in Texas.

Tom Dart in the Guardian reports that Georgetown, a town of 50,000 in Texas, is planning to go 100% wind and solar.

When its staff examined their options last year, they discovered something that seemed remarkable, especially in Texas: renewable energy was cheaper than non-renewable. And so last month city officials finalised a deal with SunEdison, a giant multinational solar energy company. It means that by January 2017, all electricity within the city’s service area will come from wind and solar power.
This is a 25 year deal.  Especially in Texas, wind and solar have strong advantages, guaranteed (and low) pricing amongst them
The region bordering New Mexico is one of the prime solar resource sites in the US and the wind whistles across the plains to such an extent that, as Scientific American pointed out last year, the state is America’s largest wind power producer – as well as leading the nation in the production of crude oil and the emission of greenhouse gases. 
Renewable energy also uses much less water than traditional power generation – a bonus in a state where half the land and more than nine million people are affected by drought conditions, though Briggs said that for Georgetown, water conservation was only a “side benefit”.
Today relatively expensive W. Texas crude is at more risk from Saudi petro-politics than wind and solar.  Indeed, many commentators thought that the Saudi's dropping the price of oil was directly aimed at killing off the frackers and further expansion of oil drilling in the oceans rather than renewables.


Have Another Drink


Continuing the story of Vlad and Est

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

No SUVs on Mars, and no warming either

After reading recently that pits in the Mars polar CO2 ice caps were determined to be cyclical and not evidence of Martian climate change, I thought I'd do a cleanup post.


Time was that denialists relied on rather thinly-sourced evidence of potential warming on Mars to say it's proved, proved I tell you, that the warming that Earth has not even experienced came from the Sun. You saw and heard stuff like this:



I could've sworn that the SUV reference came from Michael Crichton originally, but digging around didn't confirm it.  Inhoffe was into it, though. Here's the 'scientific' source of the claim:

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of space research at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun. 
"The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars," he said.

So much for that.

To be sure, we don't necessarily know what's happening on Mars, we haven't studied it as long and as closely as Earth. Solar irradiance is well studied though and not the cause of the warming we're seeing on EArth. 

Pesticide drinks for thee but not for me

Patrick Moore, the climate denialist who falsely claims to have helped found Greenpeace (UPDATE: facts are unclear, see David Lewis' comments. Either the pre-2008 documents were wrong or someone did dubious editing at Greenpeace) most recently offered his expertise to deny any health risks associated with glyphosate. Embedding the video didn't work, so here's the link to it, and key dialog below:

Moore:  you can drink a whole quart of it [glyphosate] and it won't hurt you. 
Interviewer:  You want to drink some? We have some here. 
Moore:  I'd be happy to, actually. Not, not really, but... 
Interviewer:  Not really? 
Moore: I know it wouldn't hurt me. 
Interviewer:  If you say so I have some glyphosate... 
Moore:  I'm not stupid. 
(cross-talk) 
Interviewer:  So it's dangerous, right? 
Moore:  People try to commit suicide with it and fail fairly regularly. 
Interviewer:  Let's tell the truth, it's dangerous. 
Moore:  It's not dangerous to humans, no it's not. 
Interviewer:  So you are ready to drink one glass of glyphosate? 
Moore:  No I'm not an idiot. 

Shortly afterwards, Moore cuts off the interview and walks away.

Funny but also sad that an old man like that is so ready to lie. Drinking glyphosate is something that's okay for other people, but he's not stupid enough to actually believe the things he's saying.

I wonder if he continues to use the "you can drink it" line in contexts where he can't be challenged with a glass.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ringberg 2015: Andy Dessler ECS > 2K

Andy Dessler posted his Ringberg 2015 talk on climate sensitivity.


Exhausting


Eli is famous for finding simple solutions to complex problems, although also aware that while every complex problem has a simple solution it is often wrong.  Be that as it may, the recent post about indoor air pollution pointed out that the problem, and it is a big one, is not the cooking stove, but the exhaust, better put the lack of it, because it is real hard to ween anyone away from their accustomed way of fooding and because of that, introduction of fancy dancy cooking stoves has not worked.  Worse, although many are burning shit (dried shit, but shit none the less) or dead plants, and these are not ideal fuels, they are cheap fuels and there is no hope of weaning the poor away from them as long as they are poor.

Now the moral of the tale here is that Eli is perturbed, nay angry, that the following simple solution occurred to the bunny when egged on by Tom Fuller.  Angry?  Well it means that Eli can no longer think of Tom as useless, but here it is.   Tom ended a comment with

Your argument about the ventilation being the problem rather than the cooking is true, but really reminds me of what a SF comedian used to say--'Guns don't kill people. It's those darn bullets.' 
To which Eli replied off the tip of his ears
For venting, even a small fan run off solar electricity in the wall near the cooker could make a significant contribution.
But this is not such a bad solution, because moving the effluvia out of the house, while it would not completely solve the problem, would certainly minimize it and save much health and lives.  So, of course, there is always the google and the google found a solution, a small exhaust fan with an integrated solar cell panel that could easily be put into just about any house or hovel.  Turns out, and on reflection, no surprise, that such things are made for RVs.  Still probably too expensive, this one is $25.67, but in large quantities, maybe not made so well, it looks like it could make a difference.

Put a simple screen filter on it and it would be even better.  The fan units are designed to be mounted on RV roofs, on top of plumbing vents and come with a one year guarantee.  Just the sort of thing that people could donate to organizations like Heifer International or Oxfam or the Gates Foundation could buy by the millions.



Monday, March 23, 2015

On Cooking Steak


Since Rabett Run appears to be working on the culinary side, and the first steak has been thrown out opening the barbecue season in the Northern Hemisphere Eli thought he would share a useful trick.

The problem with cooking steaks or roasts is to get a nice crusty outside while leaving the center, well, unshoeleathered, or the inverse, with the center nice and the shade of red you like while the outside is pasty brown.

What the Bunny is about to betray is one of those utterly revolting secrets that works on the thickest steaks and roasts without the expense and time necessary for using a sous vide.

Build the hottest fire you can, or turn the broiler up to nuclear or heat the frying pan red hot  THEN toss the steak into the microwave for a minute to three or so minutes.  Season the steak with salt and pepper and a little olive oil.  The time for microwaving depends on how red you want the center, from blu to rare to medium rare.  That takes a bit of trial and error and the degree of doneness should be a bit less than you want to eat because of what follows. Another benefit is that even for thick cuts, the meat is evenly done inside.  A little more olive oil, maybe even butter and salt and pepper at this point is a good thing.

You then toss the steak onto the fire, into the oven, into the pan, in front of the blowtorch, into the pit of hell, whatever and crust the outside.  This procedure shortens the cooking time by separating cooking the inside and the outside.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

On Cooking


This started out to be a very very very very snarky take on why Bjorn Lomborg, Roger Jr. and assorted others are just dangerous when they go on about how coal electrification is needed to eliminate indoor pollution in Africa and Asia, but indoor pollution from cooking and heating using biomass or coal is a huge problem, killing many each year, and among many there is a dangerous naivety.

Further, this problem is no secret, and there is a considerable literature, easily found, but allow Eli a few moments to lay it out.

The first point is that the issue is not fuel, but ventilation.  Many bunnies have, or have prior experience with wood stoves and the older amongst us with coal stoves.  While there are issues with external air pollution, a good chimney moves the problem out of the house.  Of course, if your house is a hut or less, a good chimney is well beyond the cost of your house.

The second point is that the poor will always use the cheapest fuel, that is why they are called the poor, so substituting a more expensive fuel such as LPG or natural gas and certainly not fossil fuel generated electricity simply does not work.   It has been tried.  Further, in poor places, an entire infrastructure has been developed to provide biomass fuel of all types, if you forbid burning of biomass, many people who were making a bare living providing the fuel no longer have an income.

The third point is that a better, more efficient stove has value, the value is in lower pollution because the burning is more efficient, less fuel needed, e.g. less deforestation, etc., but the problem, of course is that better stoves are more expensive and unfamiliar.  There have been successes, but these involved subsidies for the stoves, creating local industries to manufacture the stoves, and careful attention that the stoves were not far removed from what people were used to cooking on so that there was no culture shock. Improved cookstoves designed in a laboratory for maximum efficiency and minimum pollution without consideration of convenience and how people cook simply are rejected even when handed out for nothing. Solar cookers run headlong into this problem.

OK?  Eli will turn the snark machine on again, but do go do some reading.  Here is a review article.

Majic Words


From Forecast the Facts a bit of interplay about FEMA's new rules on disaster planning in view of climate change.  Government employees in Rick Scott's Florida have a problem


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Arguing From Both Sides of Their Wallets


Bleating about the poors from the receiving end of one percenter funding is a sure marker that the debate is going badly for them.  They only pretend to care when they profit from the pretend.

Consider the response when bunnies point out that the first big losers from climate change are going to be the South Asians and the Africans:  Ain't happening, not our problem is what Eli hears from the Willard Tony crowd. The good Bishop blesses the happening. The Luckwarmers snipe from the sidelines, more into the game than the reality.  But reactionaries know that those seeking to limit damage from climate change and environmental degradation have a concern for others and the Earth which is why they try it on in an attempt to slow down progress

Allow Eli to step back to yesteryear, in some sense to yesterdays, or the days before, when Rabett Run pointed out the amoral use of the "hurting the poors" argument in the Spectator, which he found in a jeremiad by Fred Singer.  Singer, of course, is quite the amoral contortionist, but he outdoes himself, when on one page he berates those concerned with the ozone depletion for harming the poors

The bitter irony, not mentioned in the article is that even if the CFC-ozone theory were correct in all respects, darker skinned people living in the tropics would get none of the alleged benefits of "protecting" the ozone layer.  The depletion of ozone is calculated to occur mainly at middle and high latitudes, and skin cancers are confined almost exclusively to fair-skinned people.  What then is the incentive for tropical nations to phase out CFCs?  And if they don't go along, will it be worthwhile for the developed countries to impose high costs on their citizens for a negligible return, in the absence of full international participation
forgetting (even then Fred was very old and very deviously delusional and very well paid to write such stuff) that a page back he had accused the developing countries of extorting the developed world
Of course, the key to the CFC content of the atmosphere is eventually in the hands of the developing countries that make up the bulk of the world's population.  These countries have asked for side payments, properly referred to as bribes, in order to accede to the Protocol. . . . 
To the developing countries the Protocol is simply a means to advance their concept of "international equity" which began nearly 25 years ago with the New International Economic Order.  "China and India threatened to increase their uses of CFCs, thereby breaking the Montreal Protocol if the fund were not approved.  Harris then recounts how the United States finally gave in to blackmail by "the major international donors joined with the developing states and the World Bank"
Substitute Agenda 21 for the New International Economic Order, coal for CFCs and the same nonsense can be found in every James Inhofe wanna be speak.  It really gets quite old.  Fred, of course, is not one to miss a trick, and after accusing the developing world of extorting payments, goes on to moan about how loss of CFC's would hurt the people of the developing nations, which, of course, assumes no benefit from those "bribes".

This is really quite spectacular, first S. Fred argues that the developing nations want financial help for adopting the Montreal Protocols and phasing out CFCs, and this is greedy of them.  Then he argues that the developing nations and their people would not be hurt by ozone depletion so they should not adopt the Montreal Protocols.  A new high for convenient cognitive dissonance.

Eli inquires:  Has Bjorn Lomborg hired Fred Singer as chief ghost writer?