Yet another sea ice update

Every now and again I remember to look at this year’s sea ice, and it is as depressing as looking at the share prices 😦


2011 is already #3, and will almost inevitably make #2, though probably not #1.


* Betting on sea ice: $10,000
* This year’s sea ice
* Around Bee Rescue, Honey and Rancor
* Neven

Comment policy

This is my site, and one of the facilities I provide is a signal to noise ratio. You want unmoderated discussion? Go and drown in usenet, which I abandoned years ago.

In other words, I reserve the right to trim or delete junk [*]. Naturally, since they are your words, you will not see them as junk and will instantly accuse me of censorship and membership of the Sekret Kabal (though you may misspell it). If you accusations are amusing, I’ll keep them and reply with mockery. If they are boring, I may delete them [*]. Although usually I’ll shuffle them off to the Burrow where they slumber quietly not interrupting the flow.

If you have loong things to say then you really need to put them into your own webspace and post a link as a comment, together with a brief summary. The world will either love you or (more likely) ignore you. Loong things that are on topic, and well referenced or well argued, will generally be kept. Loong things that are off topic, or which tendentiously rehash basic theory, won’t.

A corollary of the I-will-delete-trolling policy is that regular folk should avoid feeding the trolls.

Finally, a plea for politeness and civility, though it will appear strangely misplaced after the above. Obviously rude words are out; deliberately dismissive diminutives of other peoples names are discouraged; I know it irritates me when people do it to me, so I don’t see why anyone else should do it here.

[*] It has been pointed out to me that simply deleting comments means that those who reply to comment #17, or whatever, look silly when they all get out of order. Ah well, I’ll try to blank rather than delete tripe, but I don’t promise anything.

Even more finally: email addresses. The comment section has a portion for email address. Please use it, with a valid address. I won’t disclose your address. But if I delete your comment, I may well tell you why if you’ve given a valid address. In this world of throwaway gmail addresses that can do redirect, you have no excuse for not providing a valid address. Not providing a valid address is grounds for having your comment deleted, if I care.

I may experiment with


Updated on: 2012/11/25

The Truth About the Truth About Greenhouse Gases?

Clearly, everyone wants to have a long discussion about GW etc etc, and maybe I haven’t provided a venue for this for a while. But I’ve now found an excuse, prompted by (or perhaps more accurately, simply ripping off) mt, who has looked at The Truth About Greenhouse Gases by William Happer.

mt says various wise things, and I too balk at the very first thing he says about climate, viz:

The argument starts something like this. CO2 levels have increased from about 270 ppm to 390 ppm over the past 150 years or so, and the earth has warmed by about 0.8 C during that time. Therefore the warming is due to CO2.

This is a common septic meme, but Happer should be aware that it is wrong; so either he is ignorant or lying; I can’t tell which.

There is a wiki page about this, [[Attribution of recent climate change]] and although it isn’t great, it is better than Happer, and at least points you to the correct sources. And it says:

Attribution of recent change to anthropogenic forcing is based on the following facts:

* The observed change is not consistent with natural variability.
* Known natural forcings would, if anything, be negative over this period [The page says, earlier, “particularly on the last 50 years”].
* Known anthropogenic forcings are consistent with the observed response.
* The pattern of the observed change is consistent with the anthropogenic forcing.

And so we head off for IPCC AR4 chapter 9. And read the Exec summary: It is extremely unlikely (<5%) that the global pattern of warming during the past half century can be explained without external forcing, and very unlikely that it is due to known natural external causes alone. The warming occurred in both the ocean and the atmosphere and took place at a time when natural external forcing factors would likely have produced cooling.

And so on; you can follow it to whatever level of detail you please. So the question is, how can Happer not be aware of this? He is not obliged to agree with the IPCC report, but he cannot but realise that it is the authoritative voice of the position he disagrees with; he is obliged to at least know what it says and (if he is being honest) he is obliged to report (and then, if he can, refute) its arguments. It is dishonest of him to substitute strawmen.

I could go on, but can’t quite see the point. The Happer text is just the std septic mish-mash. It doesn’t even know what the position it opposes is, so cannot say anything interesting about it.

[Update: this was a “s(k)eptic test” post. The question was: “is it possible to argue coherently against the IPCC position, but at the same time realise that Happer had misrepresented it”? The answer, on a sample of one s(k)eptic so far, is no: either because it is necessary to defend Happer from any charges of error, or perhaps because the attempt to compare what Happer said to what the IPCC said is too difficult; it would require reading and understanding what the IPCC said -W]


* John Mashey is a destructive force

Schneier confuses life with death

Steve [*] Schneier (security expert and tee-shirt provider to the cognoscenti) has a post in which he pokes at the massive costs of counter-terrorism, apparently out of all proportion to the threat. However, he has a bizarrely wrong calculation: I quote:

The death toll of all these is… sixteen deaths in the U.S. to terrorism in the past ten years. Given the credible estimate that we’ve spent $1 trillion on anti-terrorism security (this does not include our many foreign wars), that’s $62.5 billion per life saved. Is there any other risk that we are even remotely as crazy about?

I’m happy with the last sentence, but not the one before it: no Steve, that is $62.5 billion per person killed not per person saved. We’ve got no idea form the info you quote how many people were saved, so we can’t do the calculation you want to.

This obvious point is made in the comments, and SS even answers there, apparently failing to get the point. Certainly, he has updated the post several times, but still hasn’t corrected this rather basic blunder.

And just so I’m not being purely negative in this post, here is a nice picture from mt:

(I don’t agree with the exact shape, but the concept is correct)

[*] Ahem. See comments.

[Update: in the comments, MV manages to find a way to make BS’s numbers work. I think it is somewhat smoke-n-mirrors, but the logic seems fine:

We assume that spending more resources leads to fewer deaths, but not to none. And we adopt the simplest possible model of this, viz:

R = k / D

Therefore, the cost of preventing one more death is (approximately) 1.dR/d(-D), which is

k / D^2 = R / D

Neat, eh?]

Comparing radiation doses

fukushima-july-2011 This post is more an appeal for info than anything useful in itself. But I’ll probably update it if I get anything. Fukushima refers. My question, in the context of the area around Fukushima that is contaminated by radioactivity, is

how much is actually contaminated, in the sense of now having radioactivity levels higher than naturally occurs in granite-based areas like Cornwall? How much has been officially declared “contaminated” isn’t a very interesting number

In response, M points me to map around FukushimaNPP/; here for example is July 2011 (take care to do what I didn’t, and scroll down to the integrated dose map. But unfortunately I don’t know how that compares to radiation levels in Cornwall. I made brief pathetic efforts on google to find out, but then gave up and wrote this. Over to you.

[Ah, hold on, I’ve just realised something. Thinking forwards, we don’t care about the integrated dose from the start, if we’re worrying about what will be uninhabitable in the future. What we care about is the area that will settle, in say 6 months time, to a value that will be bad, then -W]


* More stupidity about Fukushima
* More dangerous than nuclear meltdowns…
* Kan Canned
* Nuclear meltdown in Hokkaido [that’s enough JEB – ed]

Good fortune to Libya


Time to be nice about something. I was quite cynical in February, but to my surprise we did do something useful, the rebels were brave enough to overcome their lack of organistaion, and after much chaos and death it has worked; the “rebels” are now the government, Gaddafi is a fugitive from justice. The fighting isn’t over but the result of the fighting is not in doubt.

However, as we managed to conclusively demonstrate in Afghanistan and Iraq, winning the war is the easy bit. Likely, everyone has learnt lessons from that. And likely, Libya is in a better starting position that either. So, my best wishes to them all (I never know what to say in such times; I don’t wish people “good luck” before a race, because it isn’t a matter of luck. I could wish them “try hard”, but that is patronising).


This is another side of victory. Great for a while but needs to fade quickly; likely it will.

More stupidity about Fukushima

The Fukushima stuff was all very exciting, and doubtless still is if you live nearby (James?). But it does seem to lead to high levels of drivel from the more soppy-hand-wringing Guardianista types:

We had a pretty good warning earlier this year, when the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused an even bigger tragedy when the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered a meltdown

The tsunami killed 20k people, or whatever. Fukushima killed no-one, directly, though it wouldn’t be surprising if it kills a few eventually. So why was Fukushima an “even bigger tragedy”? Perhaps Kate Sheppard is really really sad that it harmed the image of nukes, and values that image more highly than peoples lives?

But more likely she just wanted some cheap fodder for an article without actually troubling to think at any point. h/t to Timmy.

[Update: I’m still with my, and Timmy’s, reading of the piece. But for the sake of fairness I should say that KS has turned up in the comments and interprets her words differently – see there.

And updated to add the pic, prompted by a comment by RP at KK’s place -W]

Can we Grow the Economy Any More??

Note the double question mark. That is because I’m quoting Can we Grow the Economy Any More? I’ll let you go off and read that post now, if you like.

Done so? Good. Now for my ignorant rant:

What strikes me particularly is point 6, or a variant thereof: effectively, that we’re too fat, as a society. We’re so rich that it is barely worth our time picking off the parasites. By parasites I don’t mean the low skilled workers, or even the discontent rioter-types – because broadly speaking, those types stay in the background and are quietly bought off. I mean the H+S zealots, OFSTED (bit of a UK-centric one that, but I’m sure you have your local equivalent), the lawyers, patent trolls, bureaucrats, whatever; I can’t even be bothered to make a list. They are just an accepted part of life; they make things worse but its easier going round them than fixing them, so no-one does. If we were poorer, like the Chinee, we wouldn’t be able to afford all the parasites.

Agnotology as a Teaching Tool: Learning Climate Science by Studying Misinformation


ABSTRACT: Despite the existence of a clear scientific consensus about global warming, opinion surveys find confusion among the American public, regarding both scientific issues and the strength of the scientific consensus. Evidence increasingly points to misinformation as a contributing factor. This situation is both a challenge and an opportunity for science educators, including geographers. The direct study of misinformation–termed agnotology (Proctor 2008)–can potentially sharpen student critical thinking skills, raise awareness of the processes of science such as peer review, and improve understanding of the basic science. This potential is illustrated with examples from a small, upper-division collegiate weather and climate class. Key Words: global warming, agnotology, misinformation, active learning

Need I say more? Oh, other than noting his good taste in reffing me :-?.

Well all right I will. They say (quoting only the headers):

Specific learning outcomes addressed by using agnotology are as follows:

1 Understanding the true nature of the scientific consensus on global warming
2 Understanding the processes of scientific inquiry
3 Strengthened critical thinking skills
4 Strengthened understanding of the basic science of weather and climate

I’m entirely happy with the last 3. I’m (obviously) also quite comfortable with the first point in general, but I think I’d rather they hadn’t included it in that list. 2 and 3 are general skills which anyone who is trying to make up their own minds needs; 4 is valuable in and of itself; 2-4 could be agreed on by all “sides”. 1 is a bit too specific to this particular debate, and too easily seen as advocacy (though the accompanying text, Assessing the veracity of agnogenesis claims about the scientific consensus requires looking at the documented evidence, and determining the value of the evidence presented (such as interviews or speeches compared with peer-reviewed research) could just about be considered neutral, if you were being understanding. At the least, I’d have demonted 1 to the end of the list as more of an end-result of applying 1-3.


* Agnotology as a Teaching Tool: Learning Climate Science by Studying Misinformation, Daniel Bedford, Journal of Geography, 109: 4, 159 — 165, DOI: 10.1080/00221341.2010.498121
* New Moon On Monday
* A nice story about trust, from Timmy
* Link to a screen capture of me on the front page 🙂