Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Creatively Interpreting the Exxon Dox

... or the ethics of letting your readers (if not yourself) know when you're doing it.


This is a follow-up of sorts on my previous post, Exxon and AGU Funding, to which Shollenberger took exception in comments on my article throwing Cook et al. (2013) under the bus:
I actually think the latest post here on the oil companies is incredibly wrong, and I think blaming "industry liars" for anything is a foolish move that shows a very poor understanding of why the public doesn't call for any strong action to combat global warming.
I agree that the public's attitude toward CO2 mitigation is not simply explained by saying nothing more than "the oil companies diddit".  But arguing that they have not been influential is dubious.  Arguing that fossil fuel interests haven't been actively attempting to influence public opinion would be flat out bonkers.

I clearly don't have a ton of nice things to say about Shollenberger, but batshit crazy hasn't been on the list of taunts.  So I asked:
I would be pleased if you'd trot over to the post itself and describe in comments there which part of it is wrong. Whether it's "incredibly" wrong or right will have to be left to the individual to decide.
He wrote an article on his own blog.  Let's have a peek ...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Partisan Snark

... can be amusing:

Figure 1: Attributed to Daily Kos, but I can't find it on their website. (h/t "Uncle Z")

If you squint hard enough, you might see folks on my side of the argument doing their level best to rearrange the deck chairs.

I'm still getting a good chuckle out of this one:

Figure 2: Credit R. McKee, Augusta Chronicle

Unrealistically bizarre as that might seem, I think this not-pretend argument is even loopier:
End the nuclear age
Greenpeace has always fought - and will continue to fight - vigorously against nuclear power because it is an unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity. The only solution is to halt the expansion of all nuclear power, and for the shutdown of existing plants.
Apparently, someone didn't get the memo:


How Deadly Is Your Kilowatt? We Rank The Killer Energy Sources


Energy Source                 Mortality Rate (deaths/trillionkWhr)
----------------------------  ---------------------------------------------------
Coal – global average         100,000    (50% global electricity)
Coal – China                  170,000    (75% China’s electricity)
Coal – U.S.                    10,000    (44% U.S. electricity)
Oil                            36,000    (36% of energy, 8% of electricity)
Natural Gas                     4,000    (20% global electricity)
Biofuel/Biomass                24,000    (21% global energy)
Solar (rooftop)                   440    (< 1% global electricity)
Wind                              150    (~ 1% global electricity)
Hydro – global average          1,400    (15% global electricity)
Hydro – U.S.                        0.01 (7% U.S. electricity)
Nuclear – global average           90    (17%  global electricity w/Chern&Fukush)
Nuclear – U.S.                      0.01 (19% U.S. electricity)

It is notable that the U.S. death rates for coal are so much lower than for China, strictly a result of regulation and the Clean Air Act (Scott et al., 2005). It is also notable that the Clean Air Act is one of the most life-saving pieces of legislation ever adopted by any country in history.  Still, about 10,000 die from coal use in the U.S. each year, and another thousand from natural gas.


Immediate disqualification due to it appearing in Forbes, perhaps?  I once vetted the figures, particularly the coal death numbers and they look legit having derived from sources like the WHO and NIH.

One way or the other, I think rigidly line-in-the-sand ideologies are humanity's biggest existential threat.  Laughing at it seems the only medicine.

OTOH, at least more of the US public seems to be getting the right idea:

Figure 3 - US public opinion of the cause of observed warming over time.  Credit: Gallup.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Difference Beteween Fraud and Farce, Reflux

... because I must reverse my previously stated positions on Cook et al. (2013)  (hereinafter, C13).  I realize that I can no longer in good conscience defend its design, nor its conclusions as stated.


Following are some issues that I have previously discounted, but which I now consider serious flaws.  Detailed discussion of each, along with suggestions for improvements/alternatives, are in sections below the break:
  1. AGW is inconsistently and therefore ambiguously defined across the eight endorsement categories.  As well, it is vaguely defined in several endorsement categories.
  2. The paper reports results in the abstract and body by combining dissimilar AGW definitions into consolidated endorsement buckets, and nowhere reports statistics at the higher detail level of the original eight endorsement categories.

Update 3/27/2016

Brandon Shollenberger has published a reaction to this post here.  The punchline:
So Gates, you know that part where you made a huge fool of yourself by twisting into a pretzel to criticize me on points I was completely correct about? Yeah, suck it
Which hearkens back to a comment in this article:
No consensus? Confused about what "consensus" means? Suck it Shollenberger. At least one oil company grokked it in the early 1980s. Wake up.
Nothing about this ... episode ... doesn't suck for me.  Hence "reflux" not "redux" in the title of this article.  Like slightly bad fish for dinner, it keeps coming back up.  Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Exxon and AGU Funding

... forgive us Father IF we have sinned?


This note prompted by today's post by Prof. Rabett:
Contrary to the wisdom of many, continents do shift slowly with time, and learned societies do listen to the membership.  Recently a number of members (some very prominent, others not) wrote to the American Geophysical Union asking that the AGU divorce itself from Exxon sponsorship.

This was motivated by a series of articles which exposed Exxon's sponsorship of crank tanks opposing action on climate change, indeed, rejecting the idea that humans are driving climate change in ways that are not so good for the inhabitants, people and other critters.
Eli then quotes part of a letter he received from the Executive Director of the AGU:
In addition to comments on the post itself, over the past three weeks we have received more than 100 emails, letters and phone calls, and countless tweets and comments on Facebook. And the letter referenced in the post, which calls for AGU to sever our relationship with Exxon, has since received additional signatures, growing from 71 AGU members and 33 non-members, to 136 members and 81 non-members (as of 15 March).

This feedback, from AGU members and others in our community and beyond, expressed a wide variety of views, ranging from requests to completely sever the relationship immediately to suggestions for how the relationship could be expanded and made more productive to the view that severing the relationship would violate our scientific integrity. While the social media posts and public comments have tended to be one-sided, the emails received directly from members have been more nuanced and diverse in views expressed. A major theme that emerged is a strong desire among our members to see this issue is treated thoughtfully and with integrity, and to ensure that our discussions be representative of all sides of AGU’s community.
All links in original.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Gas in a Closed System Part 1

... does it maintain a temperature gradient after it comes to rest?


As an extension of the conversation on the Competing Mechanism thread, Chic and I have been swapping e-mails behind the scenes.  Over the course of the exchanges, some thought experiments have been proposed which I think warrant an article of their own, and Chic has given me permission to publish whatever portions of our private communications as grist for that mill.

As some of these thought experiments get quite long, this will be a multi-part series.  First thought experiment is an actual experiment ...

Monday, March 14, 2016

PG&E's Solar Choice Program

... does it make sense?


I'll let Wikipedia do the first part of the intro for me:
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company, commonly known as PG&E, is an investor-owned utility that provides natural gas and electricity to most of the northern two-thirds of California, from Bakersfield almost to the Oregon border. It is the leading subsidiary of the PG&E Corporation.

PG&E was founded in 1905 and is currently headquartered in the Pacific Gas & Electric Building in San Francisco.
It's major "competitors" are Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.  Scare quotes because, like many public utilities, PG&E and its cohorts have had virtual monopolies in the regions they serve.  Being investor-owned (publicly traded on the NYSE, ticker = PGE) and not publicly owned, it not surprisingly has a history of dubiously taking advantage of California's ballot initiative system to maximize shareholder value at the expense of its customers' choices and pocketbooks.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Difference Between Fraud and Farce

... because apparently some people don't recognize the difference.

Update 3/24/2016

Since writing this post, I have reversed my position on the reliablilty of Cook (2013).  The short version is that I no longer stand by its methods and don't have high confidence in its conclusions.  The long version may be found here.


Much has already been written about Cook et al. (2013), Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature, so a brief summary should suffice.  Taken directly from the abstract, the salient findings are:

We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors’ self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
My bold added, because it's the source of much consternation.  Unpacking those particular statistics gives this expanded tally:
 62.7% support AGW
 35.5% no position
  1.8% reject AGW
100.0% total

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Lapse Rate on Venus, Part 2

Review of Part 1

In the first post of this series I made two plots which warrant being shown sequentially without any intervening verbosity:

Figure 1 - Observed and (simplistically) modelled temperature profiles of Venus from the surface to 150 km altitude.

Figure 2 - Calculated blackbody radiant fluxes of the temperature curves shown in Figure 1.
As I see it, some takeaways from Figure 1 are:
  1. The dry adiabatic lapse rate as modelled by -g/Cp explains most of the observed temperature profile up to 60 km with reasonable fidelity.
  2. Extending the lapse rate curve much past 80 km altitude results in a physically ridiculous negative absolute temperature prediction and ..
  3. ... it's obviously inconsistent with observation above 60 km.
  4. As drawn, the dry adiabatic lapse rate curve intercepting observation at (261 K, 60 km) predicts a surface temperature of 887 K, or 148 K higher than the observed value.
  5. According to some class notes I obtained from a quick Google session, dry adiabatic lapse rate should be less than observed lapse rate in a convective atmospheric regime.  In Part 1 I goofed: the other way of saying this is that when actual absolute temperature is greater than what -g/Cp would predict, the atmosphere is destabilized from below by the relative buoyancy of the warmer air, and convection is the result.
  6. Above 60 km, stuff happens which -g/Cp cannot explain, but neither should it be ignored.
Point (5), being an egregious error on my part, needs to be sorted first ...

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lapse Rate on Venus, Part 1

... does it explain why the surface is so hot?


One ... occupational hazard ... of invoking Venus as the Solar System's poster-child example of (runaway) CO2-induced global warming is that some folks (properly) don't take the proposed mechanism of its lead-melting surface temperature lying down.  Sometimes, they even raise (annoyingly) good questions.  Here's Chic Bowdrie from a comment in the Competing Mechanisms article:
The surface of Venus is 740K. The temperature is 310K at 53 km. That makes the lapse rate 8.2 K/km. This is pretty close to a value of 7.4 K/km calculated from g/Cp using 8.87 g/sec2 for the gravity on Venus and 1.2 J/g-K for the heat capacity of CO2. Radiative forcing is not required to explain the temperature profile of Venus.
 A visual may be of some help:

Figure 1 - Temperature profiles for Mars, Earth and Venus taken from Astronomy Notes by Nick Strobel.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

MODTRAN Radiative Atmospheric Model Part 1


MODTRAN is a spectral band radiative transfer code first developed in the late 1980s by Spectral Sciences, Inc. in partnership with Air Force Geophysics Laboratories.  It was essentially a higher resolution (1.0 cm-1) version of AFGL's LOWTRAN code which integrated radiation transfers over 20 cm-1 wavebands.

The most recent version, 5.2, was released in 2009 and is proprietary.  A single license runs $1200, technical support and updates are extra.  Too rich for this hacker.

Older versions are in the public domain with the full FORTRAN source code available for anyone to download, compile, and execute on a local machine.  Too much hacking for this poseur.

Some smart folks at U. of Chicago have been kind enough to host a web-enabled copy of MODTRAN3 Version 1.3 12/1/95, which sports a simple and mostly intuitive GUI and outputs some pretty pictures:

Figure 1 - The graphical output for a model run with default options set.  Isn't it purty?