The world will one day adopt a carbon tax—but only after exhausting all the alternatives

carbon-tax-now Says the Economist.

THIS is an unusually busy moment in the unhappy history of efforts to curb climate change. In two weeks at the end of June the world’s three biggest polluters unveiled carbon-reducing measures. In China and America these are more ambitious than previous policies. But they fall far short of what is needed to rein in the relentless rise in global carbon emissions… Many of the American and Chinese moves are of the command-and-control variety… In China there is a public-health justification for this sort of approach. Beijing suffered an “airpocalypse” in January, with smog 40 times above safe levels: too high at any price. America has no such justification. Mr Obama is using measures associated with Soviet central planning out of desperation: he cannot get climate laws through Congress, so executive orders are his only weapons… The trouble is, such measures are not very accurate. Bans or quantitative limits restrict emissions without considering the policy’s full costs… you want the biggest bang for your buck. The way to get that is to use market mechanisms to discover, say, the most efficient way of cutting carbon. America does not have such a mechanism at the federal level and is struggling to set one up. Europe can claim to be ahead here… But the scheme is complex and has been undermined by vast exemptions—flaws which apply to China’s new scheme, too… Winston Churchill famously said America would always do the right thing after exhausting the alternatives. The right thing in climate policy for all the big countries is a carbon tax, which is simpler and less vulnerable to fluctuations in emissions than cap-and-trade schemes.


The right response to Obama’s climate push – when P3 and the R Street Institute agree, you know something must be true.

Evaluating Obama’s speech: follow the money

Need I say more?


Source: QS. Oh go on then. I’ll say more. Here’s a different pic:


which is from Or you can read the PDF. So, full marks for heart-in-the-right-place kind of stuff, and of course he’s fighting a Congress stuffed full of wackos.

The bit that seems to have got most attention – e.g. from the Graun is

But his boldest move by far was the decision to bypass a deadlocked Congress and issue an executive memo to the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for new rules curbing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants… However, the measure ran into fierce opposition from Republicans and industry, even before Obama had delivered his speech.

What the plan actually says is

President Obama is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. This work will build on the successful first-term effort to develop greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. In developing the standards, the President has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to build on state leadership, provide flexibility, and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies includingmany actions in this plan.

I think if I were a coal seller I wouldn’t be too unhappy with that language – its all tolerably vague.

[Update: I’d assumed QS had cached the pic, but he hadn’t. So I’ve replaced it with a 5-day pic that still shows yesterday’s rise clearly.]


* Critics call Obama’s climate change plan a ‘war on coal’

Read more:

Unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?

(I’m sorry, I’m doing it again. I’ll try to stop, honest. Grammatical errors are in the original, don’t blame me guv).

Via Bruce Schneier an interesting article about Spear Phishing Attack Against the Financial Times. What’s so lovely about it is that they’ve used genuine FT email text, and segued straight from warning people about not clicking links in emails straight into providing a link in the email to lure people in. And apparently it worked, somewhat.

Meanwhile (ah, you knew this was coming, I’m sure) anonymous contributor “Abzats” has an essay at WUWT entitled Peer Evil – the rotten business model of modern science. It pretends to be an attack on peer review, but no, its actually an extended exercise in irony. You can tell this because fairly near the top we find:

All the reviewers are anonymous. That is, they know your name but you do not know theirs. This is the first red flag: unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?

And, of course, the guest blogger, “Abzats”, is anonymous. Therefore, by his own logic, he’s clearly planning on doing something really bad. Arguably, posting to WUWT fits the bill, but probably isn’t really bad. Therefore, I deduce, he’s a deep cover liberal doing a Sokal on the poor guileless Watties.

Back in the good old days when I reviewed manuscripts, I generally put my name on the review – there was an option to do so. I think that, in general, I didn’t find my peers doing the same in return. But this is a well-known problem, and there is an extensive literature and blogosphere discussion on the topic of peer review, and there are various attempts to fix it, moving away from what one might call “the classical model”. Naturally, you’ll find none of that discussed in the WUWT article, firstly because they’re all to ignorant to know about them, and secondly because the purpose is just a Daily Mail style “stir up indignation”, not to actually try to move forward.

To make up for the contentless nature of this post, here’s a link to JA talking about EGU’s multi-stage open peer review.

It speaks clearly to truth

What a weird phrase. It sort of sounds like it ought to mean something, but it means nothing at all. “It speaks clearly of truth” would be better – but the grammar doesn’t quite work. The alternate title to this post, incidentally, was “Like a trouser, yet not a trouser“. I’ll reserve that for future use.

I picture a large mountain, immaculate and shining with pure snow, glowing with inner fire: Mt Truth, the abode of all that is truthy. And down below, gazing up at the summit glimpsed dimly through the clouds, a small (but clear-voiced) figure speaking. Errm, to the mountain. Is the figure asking a question of Mt Truth? “Dear Mt Truth, I am small and confused, please help me to see further”? Alas no, the figure is hectoring Mt Truth with gobbledegook. Which is probably the fate of all who try to talk to Mt Truth, rather than asking questions of it.


(Here’s my poppy, also glowing with inner fire, or rather with transmitted fire. I like the picture, even though its not really a picture of the poppy – the colours are wrong, the red too orange and not deep scarlet. anyway, on with the show…)

Well, that was a jolly exciting story, no? But what am I on about? Alas, nothing worthwhile. Its yet another of those occasions when WUWT posts nonsense (the “speaks clearly to truth” is part of AW’s intro; perhaps (were we to credit him with sufficient insight) a subtle hint at the garbage to come), this time The “ensemble” of models is completely meaningless, statistically its by Robert G. Brown, some wacko physicist who, in the usual way of these things, may or may not be a competent physicist but is utterly (and like so many physicists, forcefully) clueless outside of his field. Large parts of the post are, I think, literally nonsense; most of the rest and the title point is just wrong, as pointed out by William Briggs, himself a bit of a wacko. But he’s entertaining:

Brown is wrong. What he said was false. As in not right. As is not even close to being right. As is severely, embarrassingly wrong. As in wrong in such a way that not one of his statistical statements could be repaired. As in just plain wrong. In other words, and to be precise, Brown is wrong. He has no idea of which he speaks. The passage you quote from him is wronger than Joe Biden’s hair plugs. It is wronger than Napoleon marching on Moscow. It is wronger than televised wrestling.

That’s Briggs trying to get things through into WE’s thick skull. Naturally enough, it bounces off. Because we’re in New Aristotelians – WE is unable to abstract: he can’t see past his hatred of climate models to the underlying statistics, which is the point that Briggs is trying to make.

I probably shouldn’t snark too much, though. I’ve never been entirely happy with the IPCC habit of drawing spaghetti graphs with little attention to which of the models are any good; and I’ve even got a paper suggesting we might try to weight the models by how much they resemble reality. But really you’re better off reading James Annan.

Oh, but I wanted to add something else: all that stuff is going nowhere; the arguements are not only wrong, but not really interesting or relevant (I’m not talking about JA, of course). They’re just wandering lost in the darkness. But that’s part of the point: for the denialists, the entire point is to go nowhere and understand nothing. I find it hard to believe, though, that very many other than the hardcore really want to go down that path; or that path has any coherence. So while there’t lots of noise, there’s no substance and no weight. The denialists have no “bottom”, to use a seafaring term. The terms of debate are set by the IPCC reports, which are coherent; and the upcoming AR5 will move things onwards, somewhat.

[Update: Briggs says “Update I weep at the difficulty of explaining things” which is fair enough. Its practically a quote from Leviathan in The Deep; or indeed from anyone trying to talk to the more unthinking denialists. On a more serious note, I’m pleased to say that I’m now the #2 google hit for “like a trouser, yet not a trouser” -W]

* Government to reduce cull opposition by demonising literary badgers

Saturn’s hexagon

Isn’t this gorgeous?

Its not new; BA blogged it last year, from Emily Lakdawalla, but I didn’t notice. I forget why I noticed now. Its all fluid-dynamicsy of course; and it (or something very similar) can be recreated in the lab. There’s another very nice image here.

I think its gorgeous partly because you don’t expect hexagons. And note that this isn’t the same sort of hexagon that you get from packed convective cells; that’s a geometrical thing, and occurs because squishing circles together makes hexagons.


* I ran to Ely

How’s my seaiceing?

Its well past time to look at the sea ice extent. I don’t have much to say, so here is a picture:


We’re currently well above the minimum – indeed, we’re pushing the maximum of the AMSR era. That’s not as meaningful as it might be, because 2012 was quite well up until only a few weeks back, so this could all change. But PIOMASS, too, is showing a slight recovery from last year instead of monotonic decline. This should all be no great surprise – we don’t expect monotonic decline.

As usual, if you actually care about seaice you’re probably better off with Neven.


* Girding my loins: sea ice

Super snarky fun!

Yes, its the wonderful Heartland / WUWT own-goal over the Chinese translations of HI’s Climate Change Reconsidered. I have nothing to add except laughter, so you may as well read

* BCL(SB),
* Eli,
* HW.

Not edifying, true, but certainly amusing.

Since I’m here I may as well put up something: can I interest you in this fine photo of a goldfinch, lying symbolically on a bed of peony petals? The peony represents transient beauty, and so it would seem does this particular goldfinch. The culprit may just be circumstance, or may be closer to home.


After a day, she decided to eat it anyway:


Interestingly, in the end, only the colourful bits survived:


PRISM: any substance?

So the world is desperately excited by a programme called “PRISM”, and we learn that – shockingly – the NSA reads people’s emails. Can that possibly be true? Hard to believe, I realise, but stay with me.

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian

sez the Graun, and the WaPo says much the same (Update: care! See below). But Google says they’re wrong:

we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers.

Early Warning, who is usually sensible, says Google is lying. But I tend to trust Google, certainly more than I’d trust the Graun or WaPo to understand tech. EW’s belief that Google is lying appears to stem from the US Govt confirming the existence of PRISM: but its an awfully long way from “existence” to “details of the story are correct”. And indeed the US have said explicitly that details are wrong.

I can’t tell where the truth lies, but I suspect that the Graun has indulged in what Wiki would call “Original Research”, which is to say connecting the dots a bit further than the sources permit. This is the key slide, and the key words are “Collection directly from the servers of…”. Weeell, its only a powerpoint slide, hardly a careful analysis. It looks like the real meaning of “directly from the servers of” is actually “we put in requests, following the law, and they comply with that law by providing data”. Which is a very different thing to direct access. The former is known and boring (even if you don’t like it); the latter would be new. The Graun knows about the distinction and is definitely claiming the latter (they have to be, otherwise there is no story): Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers.

Another thing that suggests strongly to me that this is only an analysis-of-received-data type operation is the price tag: $20M/y. That doesn’t sound like the kind of money to fund searching through all of even just Google’s vast hoards of data, let alone all the rest.

If you wanted a conspiracy theory, the one I’d offer would be that this is to deflect attention from the “Verizon revelation” about the phone records. You get people wildly excited about direct access, based on some ambiguous slides. That all turns out to be nonsense, and so people then start waving all the rest away.

[Update: According to Business Insider the WaPo has modified and weakened its story somewhat. It does indeed say “updated”, though not in what way. I did like BI’s “Many have questioned other aspects of the revelations, such as the amateurish appearance of the slides (though they are believable to those with government experience)”.]

[UUpdate: there is a US govt factsheet. Some of it is potentially weaselly Under Section 702 of FISA, the United States Government does not… – yeah, but what about things *not* done under section 702? However, it does make some direct positive statements PRISM is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program. It is an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers… So it looks more and more to me as though either the US govt, and Google, are lying to us directly; or (far more likely) the Graun and WaPo are wrong.]

[UUUpdate: the Graun sez Technology giants struggle to maintain credibility over NSA Prism surveillance. The substance is the same: Graun makes claims, the companies say they’re wrong, and the Graun has no evidence. The institution that is leaking credibility is the Graun, not the companies.

And: just when you thought they couldn’t lose the plot any more, we have them calling this the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history. That’s twaddle. So far, this is nothing: they have no substance.]

[UUUUpdate: at last, the dog that didn’t bark in the night speaks, though softly. Bruce Schneier, who I’d have hoped would be on top of this, has some stuff to say. He praises whistleblowers in general; I agree. But he only talks about PRISM in an afterword, and its pretty clear that he doesn’t know what is going on either. He praises Edward Snowden but I think that is premature – some of the stuff the Graun has him saying makes him sound rather tin-foil-hat to me.]

[Late update: the Graun has now admitted that the original story as wrong, although to their discredit only by implication. They were no honest enough to publish an upfront correction – or, in other words, they are simply dishonest.

Kevin Drum points out that the Graun was mislead by the words “direct access” in the original powerpoint -and makes the obvious point (that I’ve though of, but not written down): why didn’t Snowden tell the Graun this? Its hard to think of a reason that rebounds to his credit. the most obvious are (a) he’s clueless, or (b) he knew that with that error corrected, the powerpoint was dull. Its not possible that it was an oversight, since the Graun talked to him *after* the story was public, and this was a major point.

More: The Graun (or is it just Glenn Greenwald?) is claiming total accuracy and no backpedalling. Read his point (4). How odd.]

Much later: even though the “direct access” claim has been thoroughly refuted, the Graun is still peddling this crap on Friday 12 July 2013. Have they no shame?


* NSA admits it created internet so it could spy on it
* Google’s Real Secret Spy Program? Secure FTP

“Dr” Roy Spencer is sad and lonely and wrong (part II)

This spawned by reading DA, who comments that “Roy Spencer has a very unprofessional post”, EPIC FAIL: 73 Climate Models vs. Observations for Tropical Tropospheric Temperature. And it is very unprofessional: its just not what you write, if you have any hope of belonging to a scientific community. Its what you write if you know you’ve marginalised yourself and there is no way back. And as DA points out, the UAH record itself has suffered numerous disastrous failings over the years, up to and including getting the very sign of the temperature change wrong.

“Dr” Roy Spencer is sad and lonely and wrong refers.

Update: DA thinks Judith Curry is going down the same road.


* Roy Spencer’s latest deceit and deception – Hotwhopper, 2014/02.