Reading the entrails of chickens

Or, Reading the entrails of chickens: molecular timescales of evolution and the illusion of precision. Pointed out to me by a palaentologist friend. There’s a pdf here. Nothing at all to do with climate, but an interesting tale nonetheless. Or so I assume: it seems sensible, and was recommended by someone sensible, but may have been superceeded since 2004 for all I know. But this is the first time I’ve heard this wonderful story, and as someone who occaisionally reads about molecular clocks in the papers and assumes its all kosher, this article was a surprise.
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CO2 and T over ice age cycles

A reader writes: where is the paleontological data showing the correspondence between CO2 levels and ice age events?. The answer is, all over the place; here is one possible source. The correspondence isvery good.

At this point, the s(k)eptics jump up and down and say, aha, but the T leads the CO2. To which the answer is, so what? The lead is small (on the scale of these things: maybe 800y) and hard to even measure (you certainly can’t see it on the scale of that graph). We *know* it takes feedbacks between T and CO2 to create the ice age cycles, which because of their periodicity are presumed to have orbital forcing as their ultimate pacemaker.

The Economist on climate change

The Economist has a special survey on climate change (you get to read the intro for free. The rest is sub-only :-(). Its headlined “The heat is on” and storylined “Global warming, it now seems, is for real.”.

[Oh wonderful. I read the special supplement on the assumption that it has most of the content, and then I get to the leader column which is far more interesting. I need to add an addendum to this post…]

Their conclusion is:
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Uprising of the poodles?

If you haven’t been following UK politics recently, you can be excused, cos its been dull. The main story has been “when will Blair go” and “will he name a date”. My reading of this has been, why should he, when no-one has the guts to push him out. Yesterdays news was that the Sun (dubious low-iq semi-porn paper with a large readership and hence influential, hence seems to get more that its fair share of leaks) reported that the date would be next may; this was interpreted as being “given the wink” by Blair since he didn’t deny it. So far so dull and much the usual slimy politics.

But today: excitement: the Grauniad (non-dubious high-iq no-porn 😦 paper with smaller and less influential readership :-() reports: Blair faces crisis over resignations… Tony Blair today faced an implosion of his authority after seven government members resigned in protest at his refusal to publicly name a departure date. They are fairly minor people, true. Possibilities: they have summoned up the backbone to do what they think is right despite the consequences (unlikely). Or, they have seen which way the wind is blowing and want to show loyalty to the new regime (more like it).

Or am I too bitter and cynical in my old age?

Chronicle article: Climate Science on Trial

Via Prometheus (who misrepresents it) I found Climate Science on Trial: How a single scientific graph became the focus of the debate over global warming. Its well worth reading. Towards the end we have this wonderful bit, demonstrating the sheer ignorance of many of the septics:
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CO2 airbourne fraction

http://www.gci.org.uk/briefings/rising_risk.pdf asserts that the “airbourne fraction” of CO2 is coming up to 100%, having been 50%: The point of great concern here is that over the last couple few years 2003/4/5 the rate of increase has jumped to nearer 3 ppmv per annum. This gives a loading of the atmosphere by weight that is roughly equal to not half but all the emissions from fossil fuel burning.

As far as I can see this is wrong. In 2003/4 growth rates were 2+ ppmv and heading downwards.

But the main point of this post was to inquire if anyone knows where the 2005 data is hiding. I can only find up to the end of 2004 (http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/ftp/trends/co2/maunaloa.co2 via http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/trends/co2/sio-mlo.htm ).

[Update: two people have now pointed me to http://www.cmdl.noaa.gov/projects/src/web/trends/co2_mm_mlo.dat – thanks. Now to update the pic… -W]

[Update: OK, so the pic up to 2005 is:

i-a37538bd60b90526822b69b147f15464-co2-rise.png which is trending upwards somewhat, but not to any very exciting degree – the black mean line in the top pic is somewhat above the 20 year trend, but not by any huge amount -W]

Could individuals be converted from a sedentary lifestyle to the use of bicycles for transportation at a cost of less than 1740 USD/yr?

John Fleck found a great paper by Karl T. Ulrich on the ultimate energy costs of using bicycles versus cars. The bottom-line argument is that cycling saves energy, but because you live longer your lifetime emissions will be greater. Such fun. However: Those who adopt the bicycle as a means of transportation could potentially develop an increased awareness of the environmental impact of their actions and may over their lifetimes reduce energy consumption substantially in their other, non-transportation activities.

Some tit-bits:
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pgp / gpg

I have a load of files encrypted with pgp (2.6.2i, since you ask). But the machine at BAS this runs off is soon to be turned off, so it seems I need to upgrade to gpg instead. So… in a break from climate, can I ask the security gurus out there (are any of them reading this?)…

Can I read pgp in gpg? (I tried it a year or so ago, and failed on importing my old keys into gpg: just tried again: died on some message about missing self-signature)

Otherwise I have to decrypt 200-odd files and re-encrypt them as gpg. Not too tedious. Except I have a few others out on the web in odd locations I may struggle to find…

[Aha: progress: DanR says (see comment 1; thanks) “use –allow-non-selfsigned-uid”. This works to import my key, hurrah. Now I have a problem that my old pgp files use IDEA (see http://www.gnupg.org/(en)/documentation/faqs.html#q3.3 ) so I have to get our IT folk to upgrade gpg to use this…]

Gas prices to fall?

Gas prices are currently high and have been rising in the UK… however, British Gas is running adverts in UK newspapers offering “Fixed prices that fall in December 2007”. This might or might not show you the advert, depending on when they update it.

Which lead me to wonder if they knew something that no-one else does. However, looking at the small print Fix and Fall rates are at our current new standard variable prices from date of registration until the 3 September 2006. New standard variable rates apply from 4 September 2006. From this date or date of registration if later, until 30 December 2007 a discounted rate of 2.84% below our new standard variable prices applies for domestic electricity and a premium rate of 1.6% above our new standard variable prices for domestic gas applies. From 31 December 2007 to 31 December 2008 a discounted rate of 13.8% below our new standard variable prices applies for domestic electricity and the premium rate of 1.6% is removed. says something rather different… you actually get to pay a *premium* on gas prices, the discounts are on electricity (note to foreigners: in the UK, energy companies can sell you gas and/or electricity).

Still, its unclear why they are betting on electricity prices falling.