Thursday, July 03, 2014

May I bring up climate change?

A few days ago, I drove up the Califonia coast to help my son move. The trip coincided with the attempted (3 am) launch from Vandenberg AFB of JPL's Orbiting Carbon Observatiory -- OCO-2 -- which will nail down Earth's CO2 cycle. OCO is part of a constellation of five earth-sensing satellites bring launched just this year. (The first OCO failed, weirdly, and others were canceled, back during the Bush Administration. Whereupon it took a while to re-start the earth-sensing programs.)

That late night - early morning - my son and I stood with 1000 invited onlookers, not very far from the pad. In fog that was deemed "no problem," we murmured along with fellow True Believers in science as the count-down reached T-minus forty seconds... and the announcer called "hold-hold-hold - there's no water!" 
Alas! Someone forgot to turn on the water sprayers near the rocket nozzles, meant to dampen the sonic vibration when they ignited, and - with the 30 second window lost - the launch was scrubbed. (This keeps happening to me!) We could have gone back the next morning at 3am, but we were already wiped... 

 Still -- OCO went up! And civilization ekes another small step forward, against the screaming resistance of ankle draggers who want us wallowing in dark ages.

=The smart-rich stand up for their own long term self-interest: civilization=

Recall a while back, when I cited Greg Page, executive chairman of Cargill, Inc., who leads a large group of very conservative agri-businessmen that — despite strong GOP bias — broke with the Fox Party Line on climate -- turning instead to face our desperate need to save the planet.

Climate-changeThey aren’t the only ones! Think. What businesses will be hurt most by the ever rising instabilities we face? 

News item: an insurance company is suing nearly 200 Chicago-area towns for failing to do more to prevent damages it says are linked to climate change. Farmers Insurance is asking the communities to return flood claims from the spring of 2013, which caused at least $218 million in losses. The towns should have done more to fortify their sewers and stormwater drains, the group argues.

So, as the smart-practical conservatives peel away, what is the Fox-Koch end game plan for when obscurant denialist delaying tactics hit the inevitable wall? It happened before, to “cars don’t cause smog!” And when — after 25 years and 20 million lost lives — the Tobacco Lobby finally surrendered and admitted “we lied.” Campaigns that used some of the very same advertising and public relation gangs ... I mean firms.

What happens then. Will they declare “we never obstructed!”

To hasten that day, here’s the bullet I find most effective, because your crazy uncle will not have an answerOcean acidification.

Roll the words over your tongue, and your keyboard.  Ocean Acidification.

It is blatantly happening. It has no other possible cause than increasing atmospheric CO2. It is already damaging the seas upon which we depend. Watch, when you raise this point, what happens next! your crazy uncle quickly changes the subject by pointing somewhere else and yelling “squirrel!”

== Just how evil is efficiency? ==

CAFE-AUTO-FUEL-STANDARDSUnder the new, 2009 CAFE standards, the U.S. auto industry is required to raise the average fuel efficiency of its vehicles to 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025. But consumers have been slow to adopt hybrid technology, so car companies have to find other ways to get fuel savings. All automakers are pushing efficiency RandD hard. Fuel economy is right up there with safety. This article describes some of the innovative ways that the companies are making cars far lighter while just as strong and safe.

The GOP delayed raising auto efficiency standards for 25 years, shouting it would “destroy Detroit.” Ironically, when the CAFE standards were finally raised, in Obama’s 1st year, guess what happened? (1) The GOP tried - openly and vociferously - to destroy the U.S. auto industry by refusing loans to GM and Chrysler (loans that are now 90% repaid). (2) The mileage standards are working! Mileage is rising rapidly, American drivers are saving billions at the pump, the automakers are highly profitable, the air is cleaner… a positive sum game with no negative aspects at all...

And this is a perfect example of TWODA. Improvements in efficiency that are win-wins, that would help us deal with Climate Change and that would still be worthwhile, even if every single climate scientist turns out to be an insane idiot (as portrayed on Fox!)

twoda-brinTWODA - Things We Ought to be Doing Anyway - whether or not climate change is real. (It is real, by the way.) In other words, there are scads of things we can do, without risk of “ruining the economy.” (Almost all TWODA measures would help the economy, in fact, not hinder it. As happened with the CAFE standards.)

Simple and relatively modest investments in RandD, in efficiency, in infrastructure and new technologies that would all be worthwhile, even if all the pointy-headed “climate alarmists” proved to be absolutely 100% mistaken.

Oh, and on the off chance that 97% of climate, weather and atmospheric scientists, and nearly all the science, prove to be right, after all? The guys and gals who gave us the ten day weather report, who successfully model climate on 6 planets and actually know the Navier-Stokes equations and cellular automata models... (do you?) 

What if -- just maybe -- the folks who actually know stuff turn out to be right?

Then we’d have taken prudent measures to save a world for our kids. TWODA.

So why have the masters of one of our parties propagandized like mad against TWODA? Against even modest measures to improve efficiency? Against even sitting down and discussing modest efficiency measures? More important, why does your crazy uncle insist that repeating a few Facebook Jpegs and hannity-rants means that he has no need to discuss ANY efficiency improvements?  Any at all?  Not even those that would save him cash?

Because the co-owners of Fox are the only ones whose wallets would be hurt by TWODA ! Coal Barons and foreign petro-sheiks.

ClimateSkepticsUse this! As they backpedal from “there’s no warming!” to “yes the ice caps are melting and the US Navy is worried, but the SUN is doing it!” to “Okay it’s not the sun, but it ain’t a greenhouse!” to “Okay it’s a greenhouse, but it’s too late already and any effort to ameliorate it would destroy the economy!”… As they backpedal and dodge and weave, have one word in your hip pocket. TWODA.

But again. The most effective thing to raise is ocean acidification. It won’t convert them! No logic or facts can do that. But at least you’ll get a giggle when they point offstage and yell “squirrel!”


Tom Crowl said...

totally off-topic (but at least not my normal hobby horse):

NO MAN'S SKY: Procedurally Generating Science Fiction for the Next-Generation

I'm a gamer... and this looks like a very interesting direction for gaming to take!

Unknown said...

Dr Brin, if launch pad problems occur when you are near launch pads then you need to stay away from launch pads for the love of progress. At least you spent some quality time with your son though. That's always good even if it slows down the progress of science heh heh heh.

Unknown said...

Ah, but did his presence cause a problem with the launch pad... or with plumbing?

More research is needed!

David Brin said...

Pholks know about the Pauli Principle in quantum mechanics. But the Pauli EFFECT was that experimentalists would scream for Pauli to stay away from their labs because experimental apparatus would routinely spontaneously explode!

Jabr said...

If there's evidence that launch pad problems occur when David is near the launch pads, we can't draw any conclusions until we also check whether launch pad problems occur when David is *not* nearby.

Tony Fisk said...

We *are* talking about the author of 'The Practise Effect' here.

Alex Tolley said...

your crazy uncle will not have an answer: Ocean acidification.

Actually he will just use the increasing vulcanism argument. Even possibly suggesting that ocean vent activity is increasing. There fore natural event, therefore we shouldn't try to fix it.

The guys and gals who gave us the ten day weather report

It has been weathermen who have been very vocal AGW deniers. Their view that the chaotic weather processes limiting forecasting also prevents climate predition. Completely wrong, but these people should be kept apart from those studying climate processes.

Tony Fisk said...

A crazy uncle answer to ocean acidification I recently encountered:

"You'll find that the issue with Washington state oysters is due to a lack of aragonite due to upwelling of nutrient poor ocean water. The pH levels in the water cannot be explained by CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. Perhaps you can explain a mechanism that produces massive changes in pH in a particular small area of water using the same atmosphere that has produced very small changes over decades in the rest of the world."

Gaythia Weis said...

Tony Fisks comments on Washington State Ocean acidification are not in accordance with known science.

And the link David Brin gives above is a good overview.

The ocean is a sink for the world's CO2. The upwelling that occurs along the Pacific Northwest coast makes this area among the first to be affected.

David Brin said...

World general acidification is CO2 based. Local variations have to do with nutrient and oxygen circulation. The Black Sea is dead and the Mediterranean and Caribbean are in trouble because they "drain" poorly and agricultural runoff can build in low oxygen areas. Apparently, strong current areas have their own problems.

Alex do you have stats on weather men opposing climate change or denying? All the ones I have seen stand by climate science.

Jumper said...

Alex Tolley said...

stats on weather men opposing climate change or denying?

David, I'm afraid not. I just know that there is a vocal group that opposes AGW. They may be just a small vocal group while their majority colleagues stay quiet. The refs below however suggests they are more skeptical, as a group, than climate scientists.

Two refs:

Weather forecasters are in the general population's living rooms on a daily basis, so they can exert more influence than faceless climate scientists.

thrig said...

"American drivers are saving billions at the pump, the automakers are highly profitable, the air is cleaner… a positive sum game with no negative aspects at all..."

Mere bunk blinkered optimism cheering business-as-usual (if a dab more efficient) happy motoring in America. Negative aspects include the 30,000+ slaughtered annually—a close to $900/per person/per year cost, if like Ford-of-the-burning-customers-fame you price out the resulting disfigurements and death. Then there's the raiding of the general fund to prop up the failing road system—how exactly will the road system be maintained? It was built by oil that cost somewhere shy of $100 a barrel, and the gas tax is now running on fumes in part due to the "no negative aspects" of the fuel savings. Whoops! Well, if an alcoholic can solve their problem by switching from whiskey to wine—hooray for worthwhile changes!

Put down the bottle, and try walking everywhere for a year.

Alex Tolley said...

thrig - Federal gas taxes: "Since 1993, the U.S. federal gasoline tax has been 18.4¢/gal" -

California has the highest gas tax rates in the nation at 71.3¢/gal

Compare that to the UK at £2.19($3.76) per U.S. gallon. We don't need to go that far, even though that would really stimulate efficient car buying and development. We just don't want to pay for our infrastructure repair.

As for the road slaughter, it will take technology (self driving cars) and lots of public transport (like Europe) to overcome the usage patterns we have now. Walking really isn't an option in most towns of the US.

David Brin said...

Wow! Thanks guys for opening my eyes to the large minority of "weathermen" who are dubious of climate change... and of course it is malarkey. I would wager their positions correlate very strongly with the political leanings of the stations where they work. To call a media Weatherman" a "meteorologist" seems a real stretch.

Watch "Anchorman."

David Brin said...

Comments guys? Google Is Removing Negative Coverage Of Powerful People From Its Search Results

Alex Tolley said...

Re: Impact of EU decision on being 'forgotten'.
I think the blogosphere has been very active on this and generally negative. It isn't as if you can just arbitrarily request removal. There is the issue of public interest, and this is the bit Google was ignoring until it was brought to their attention with a bat to the side of their collective head. Google has been just as dumb with YouTube take down notices.

A nice piece on GigaOm:

Like privacy and encryption, this cannot work. Google can only remove likes from Google's EU domains. Use the US domain and the data is searchable. Don't be surprised if someone starts tracking these requests and sets up a non-EU site to expose these stories and bring them everyone's attention again (or asks for money to remove them).

Tony Fisk said...

I thought it clear I was quoting a crazy uncle argument, not offering my opinion.

In other news, I take it back. With 11 hours to go Lessig's MayPAC pledge is now only $200,000 short of its target.

"Now get in there!"

Tony Fisk said...

In fact, at current rate, pledge will be met in 2-3 hours.

Tony Fisk said...

That was a conservative estimate. Pledge met

Jumper said...
Good 4th reading.

Paul451 said...

Re: EU "Right to be forgotten" and Google "being stupid"

It's in Google's interests to mindlessly obey the letter of the law regarding these take-down requests, as they do with DMCA take-downs. It both protects Google from lawsuits under those laws, and gives anti-take-down protesters ammunition and publicity. With luck, from Google's point of view, if there's enough anger, the law will be struck down.

[In the case of the EU's right-to-be-forgotten, it would make more sense for a EU-appointed body to assess requests for take-downs before issuing orders to a specific company. (Which, in this case, should have been the BBC first, not Google.) It's insane to expect a private company, even one as large as Google, to have to assess the merits of each request under the extremely ambiguous court ruling.]

Jerry Emanuelson said...

When discussing weathermen and climate change, you have to listen very carefully to the specific questions they are being asked, and also to their very specific responses.

Media weathermen are most frequently asked whether a particular storm or cluster of storms, such as the 2005 hurricane season or certain clusters of severe tornado outbreaks, are caused by climate change.

I have seen weathermen argue emphatically, and at length, against these particular storm events being caused by climate change without ever uttering a single sentence denying climate change itself.

Many weathermen argue, for example, that severe hurricane outbreaks seem to come in roughly thirty-year cycles that have their own unique atmospheric causes. Statements such as this, however, should not be interpreted as an argument against climate change.

Inattentive or biased listeners may interpret the argument that Hurricane Katrina was not caused by climate change as an argument against climate change itself. These, however, are two completely separate things.

Alex Tolley said...

@ Jerry - the survey of the American Meteorological Society is not about whether a specific storm is due to GW, but about general views on GW. What was interesting to me is that political ideology was a factor in the survey responses.

While a specific weather condition cannot be attributed to climate change, it becomes much harder to deny predicted weather changes as the statistics accumulate.

We can see the damage caused by the general population in California. We are undeniably in a drought. The governor called for a 20% reduction in water use. The response? A statewide 5% reduction. In addition, farmers with wells are simply drawing down the Central Valley aquifer even faster. You can see which field are being watered and those that are not.

We have neighbors that continue to over water their lawns. The responses to questioning about the drought include "Scientists are lying". If you suggest they look up pictures of Sierra snowfall you can get "Pictures can be faked". This denial is almost certainly fed by Conservative talk radio. You can just imagine the outcry if mandatory rationing is imposed, as it will generate cognitive dissonance which we know will result not in a change of mind, but a deepening of the original belief.

Lest one think that a university should be better behaved, think again. Our local university continues to over water the lawns when they should be letting the lawns die and just protect the trees. And when I say over water, it means that when you walk on those lawns, it is like walking on a wet sponge. This from a university that that is very energy conscious and even wants to ban bottled water to reduce the carbon footprint of deliveries. Talk about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Anonymous said...

You would love this article by a billionaire arguing that a strong middle class, and $15 minimum wage, is the best for capitalism:

Alex Tolley said...

@Tony Fisk - I think Larry learned the lesson that you really need to get at the influencers. Apparently George Takei gave the PAC a huge boost yesterday with his endorsement and huge following.

David Brin said...

" Apparently George Takei gave the PAC a huge boost yesterday with his endorsement and huge following."

Huh. I thought it was me...

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

The mileage standards are working! Mileage is rising rapidly, American drivers are saving billions at the pump, the automakers are highly profitable, the air is cleaner… a positive sum game with no negative aspects at all...

Well, if you're a Kock brother or an oil billionaire or a Saudi prince, then "saving billions at the pump" is a negative aspect. And since those are precisely the interest groups who own our politicians and Supreme Court Justices (pardon the repetition there), they kind of do get to decide what counts as a negative aspect.

Thus, your evaluation smacks just a bit of Homer Simposon defending the run of gambling wins he rung up making use of Lisa's predictive abilities:

"And it's a victimless crime. The only victim is Moe."

Tony Fisk said...

Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman were also carrying on about MayPAC

David Brin said...

.... onward to a controversial one!

Anonymous said...

Up here in Canada, the Koch company spokesman has gone from denying climate change to saying that it is inevitable, we can't stop it even if we totally stop using oil, so we might as well keep the Tar Sands going and be comfortable. (I'm paraphrasing, obviously.)

Turns out the Kochs own controlling interests in over half the Tar Sands, which means they have a significant stake in the Harper government™.

Nick said...

Score another one for us crazy uncles. Ocean acidifcation is Phraudulant just like the fake surface temprature record and the artic sea ice decline and the Hockey stick that came from the "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science" Michael Mann.