In dramatic statement, European leaders call for ‘immediate’ open access to all scientific papers by 2020?

Or so say Science and various others; you can read the EU PR directly. And of course, mixed into the tenor of the times, this becomes “another reason to stay in the EU” (and we’ll quietly forget about an apparently insane new car hire rule). Anyway, what immeadiately strikes me about this “new” thing is that it is what the US has had forever, so why is it being touted as so exciting? Even Science, who are USAnians, don’t mention that aspect, so perhaps I’m wrong. Also, I shouldn’t forget to snark how pathetic it is that in EU-world (or perhaps just snail-like-government-in-general-world) “immeadiate” means 20201.

What I’m thinking of is Copyright status of work by the U.S. government which is a delightful policy in many ways. To quote wiki, A work of the United States government, as defined by the United States copyright law, is “a work prepared by an officer or employee” of the federal government “as part of that person’s official duties.”[1] In general, under section 105 of the Copyright Act,[2] such works are not entitled to domestic copyright protection under U.S. law and are therefore in the public domain. The crucial bit is “in the public domain”. Compare that to Crown Copyright where the reverse applies – everything is copyright; and they have to jump through special hoops to make PR pix available. For example, look at wikipedia. Which is stuffed full of pix produced by Feds; because you can, with no trouble at all. And the US situation isn’t perfect: in some way I don’t fully understand, contractors aren’t covered in some situations.

However, not being a copyright lawyer and hating all that goes with such, I don’t want to go into those details. Instead, let’s turn to scientific publishing. Traditional, non-open-access journals regularly require you to sign away copyright (or rather, because of course you personally don’t own the copyright in your own work because you did it for your employer the government, your institution on behalf of the government signs away those rights). Cue much gnashing of teeth. Unless of course you’re working for the Feds, whereupon the journals just shrug and say “oh well we’ll publish it anyway”.

If any individual scientist, or institution, refused to sign away copyright then their papers would be rejected, because the journals are powerful. But if any major country, or group of countries, did the same, then the journals would just kowtow the way they do to the Feds and say “ah well”. So the mystery is why the UK, France, Germany, and hence the rest of the EU haven’t done this years back; or rather, the apparent mystery, since it isn’t particularly mysterious: no-one in UK government is particularly sympathetic to giving things away for free, because they are stupid; and the journals have lobbying clout; and “it would cost jobs” and similar nonsense.

Notice that making US Fed papers non-copyright doesn’t allow you to download them from the journals themselves, which of course can still charge you for access. But it allows authors to make them freely available. In contrast, the NERC “Open Research Archive” won’t allow you to download papers.

The EU proposal is somewhat vague, at least as I read it. All scientific articles in Europe must be freely accessible as of 2020… Open access means that scientific publications on the results of research supported by public and public-private funds must be freely accessible to everyone… From 2020, all scientific publications on the results of publicly funded research must be freely available. It also must be able to optimally reuse research data. To achieve that, the data must bemade accessible, unless there are well-founded reasons for not doing so…. So this doesn’t mandate publication in OA journals; individual scientists or institutions making papers available would suffice. The data bit would be nice, but from my viewpoint its a far smaller issue than the papers.

So, the overall question is, why is the EU making such a fuss about doing something the US has had for ages? Especially since they’re going to do it in a stupid broken way, instead of just passing a law that say “no copyright in government works”?

[Update: Eli has things to say – oddly enough – one of which was “The UK is already there” which surprised me. It is true that RCUK Policy on Open Access exists, and even a policy, but it is much less clear what it commits the UK to.]


1. NB points out that I’ve misread this: “immediate” doesn’t represent when this is to be done, but qualifies the phrase “open access”, as in no, or short, embargoes.

Say no to Brexit

[Update: and the answer was: leave. Oh dear.]

This indecision’s bugging me
(Esta indecision me molesta)
If you don’t want me set me free
(Si no quieres librame)
Exactly who I’m supposed to be
(Digame que tengo ser)
Don’t you know witch clothes even fits me?
(Sabes bruja ropa me queda)
Come on and let me know
(Me tienes que decir)
Should I cool it or should I blow?
(Me debo ir o quedarme)

I thought the mixed-in Spanish verse was a nice touch for a post about Europe.

This post is largely for me to record my own opinion, so that in later years I can read it and realise how foolish I was. Or how wise; time will tell. But unlike, say, GW vs denialism (the denialists are bozos) or Vim vs Emacs (gvim, of course) or Perforce vs Git (p4, naturally) I don’t have a very strong opinion on Brexit.

Perhaps I can explain that at least in part by pointing you at the closest thing I’ve seen in a public statement to my own opinion, which is a column in the Torygraph Times by Matthew Parris. Who has a better marathon time than JA or Maz, so his views must be taken seriously. Like me, he is keen on the idea of Europe in theory, but has no love for the institutions of the EU as currently constituted; not happy to be in the company of those who wish to leave (Timmy excluded, of course); and wonders what knock-on effects there might be on the world at large. Certainly, now seems a poor time to be rocking the boat. We seem to have stumbled into this whole mess by accident; volume n of “the Tory party tears itself to pieces over Europe”, wished on the rest of us only because Cameron accidentally and unexpectedly won a majority and had to make good on his promises.

My own views were crystallised when I asked my 18 year old just-eligible-to-vote-this-year son how he would vote. I expected indecision and not-really-thought-about-it; instead, I got an instant “In”, and when pressed for why, an excellent reason: because he wants the option to easily work anywhere in Europe.

I’ve seen so many words about this whole thing, and so few of them seem to be worthwhile. Almost all the arguments put forward either for or against appear besides the point, unreliable, or wrong.

Another question is, “Could Brexit be a good thing for Europe?” The FT considered this and pretty well everyone agreed that the answer was No: Brexit would be bad for the EU. I agree with that. We’re mostly deciding for ourselves, I suppose, but shouldn’t be selfish.

The stupid way the EU tries to beat up Google is another reason to dislike it; but a relatively minor one; Google will outsmart them. Would you rather trust the EU or Google to do something useful? Google, obvs.

In a vague nod to the ostensible topic of this blog, The Economist notes the odd connection between Brexy-ness and GW denialism; but the thought doesn’t really go anywhere.

This draft was started about a month ago. I rather hoped to tidy it up into something more coherent before publishing it, but if I keep on at this rate it will be after the referendum; so I’ll just press “publish” in its current state.


* Anything goes
* Jump!
* Caius, Pembroke, Maggie and Clare
* The CDM spawned a small industry of project developers, assessors, MRV professionals and climate finance experts – this from someone who supports it.
* The Stunning Victory Of This Capitalist Neoliberal Globalisation Thing
* James offers sage advice, as ever.


See #4 for my thoughts on Boris. But it seems unfair to criticse him for naked politicking without doing the same for Corbyn: whilst nominally “in” he can’t resist mixing in his own bizarre hobby-horses and damaging the “in”side.

The RICO 20: lessons in stupidity

13248379_10154192476063200_552999881567266410_o Now that Sou has written at length, I can throw in my few thoughts. The first of which is that it is all really very silly indeed, in so many ways, by so many people.

Firstly, what were Shukla, Maibach and all the others thinking when they did all of this from their work email accounts? As wiki says Edward Maibach is a widely recognized expert in public health and climate change communication; he’s a pro. So why is he acting like some naive child in the woods? Half way through they finally get a clue and swap to private email but good grief its a bit late by then. Idiots. They initially try to deny the FOIA requests on the – perfectly reasonable, to anyone in academia – grounds that it was nothing to do with their employment; they just happened to be doing it on what looked like work time. Which, in academia, doesn’t really separate from personal time anyway so who cares? Alas, it turns out that judges care. Note that (contrary to some reports I’ve seen) the letter wasn’t on departmental headed notepaper or anything like that.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, I think the entire idea of using RICO is stupid, as I’ve said elsewhere. However, I have to recognise that people of good faith disagree with me on that one, so I can’t criticise them too harshly for it. But to me, Shukla’s original letter is stupid in mixing science and politics too far: “strong agreement among the scientific community that climate change is real {yes, fine}, it is happening now {fine}, it is human-induced {yeah yeah the IPCC already said all this stuff}, and that we support his proposal [to use RICO] {WTF?}”. No, there is no “strong agreement among the scientific community” supporting Whitehouse’s idea to use RICO. The UCS come out of this looking fairly sane, as they back out of the letter (p 15 of that PDF) since they don’t think there’s a solid enough basis for it. Nor does John Holdren, for the Whitehouse, sound terribly enthusiastic in his thank-you-for-your-letter reply.

That’s enough about them. On the Dork Side, CEI get to jump up and down and cheer that a judge supported them, which is good for them briefly, but rather destroys their paranoid conspiracy theories that the world is against them. They get some mostly uninteresting emails to play with (and AFAIK they haven’t yet written a “here is what we learnt from the emails post”), but which inadvertently contain fascinating snippets like (thanks to Sou for the text version)

GA Tech climatologist Peter Webster (husband of Judy Curry) is a long-time friend of Shukla. He sent Shukla several emails asking Shukla to retract the letter. In those emails he states that Curry, Pat Michaels and Roger Pielke are actively collaborating with Marc Morano and well-funded groups to come after us. Curry, Michaels and PieIke apparently feel that our letter made them targets – so they are fighting back.

That’s pretty murky; Eli also picks up on it.

A vision for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement?

As I’ve argued before, carbon taxes are better than carbon trading because they are simpler, there is less bureaucracy, less room for political interference, and less room for a parasitic class to form. In witness of which, David Hone’s article about the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA)’s “vision”.

Well, that was a bit short, wasn’t it (I couldn’t be bothered to do any more). Now I remember a rather silly recent article at RC, Recycling Carbon? by Tony Patt of ETH Zürich, which says We know, from two decades of social-science research, that [carbon tax or cap-and-trade] do work to bring about marginal reductions in emissions, largely by stimulating improvements in efficiency. We also know that, at least so far, they have done virtually nothing to stimulate investment in the more sweeping changes in energy infrastructure that are needed to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels as the backbone of our system, and hence reduce emissions by 100%. Idiot.


* Why CCS implies over regulation
* A frog out of water

Climate sensitivity, again

There’s much tweeting going on of Real Global Temperature Trend, p18 – Now how high is climate sensitivity? Here’s the answer of the world’s 13 leading climate experts! especially by those blessed to be in the magic 13. However, I like Jonathon Gregory’s answer:

It’s a good question but I don’t place any confidence in gut feelings, so my answer would be the likely range of the AR5. I found Kahneman’s discussion convincing in “Thinking, fast and slow” of the ways in which intuition misleads us, and in particular that experts are overconfident.


* If We Don’t Know Where The Jobs Are To Come From Then How Can Government Create Them?
* The oldest working door in Britain. We know because tree rings!

Peabody coal's contrarian scientist witnesses lose their court case

It’s in the graun, so it must be true. However, just for once I’m going to agree with them. So, quick summary: Minnesota has a social cost of carbon, ish, and a Commission to quantify and establish a range of environmental costs associated with each method of electricity generation; and requires utilities to use the costs when evaluating and selecting resource options” in some sense or another. They were sued to update the value they used, from a rather low one set in 1997, to the current federal government’s Social Cost of Carbon. That was always going to be pretty hard to defend against; they weren’t asking for some huge value plucked out of thin air by some wild-eyed eco-freak, but just to use the value set by the feds (there was other stuff too but I’ll ignore that). The full report is here.

Naturally, various companies objected, including down-on-its-luck Peabody. And so, a court case, and voluminous court papers.

Peabody argued that only half of the CO2 in the atmosphere is due to fossil fuel emissions. The remainder comes from natural processes.41 According to Peabody, the claim that all increases in atmospheric CO2 are from human causes is simply unfounded.42

41 and 42 are “Ex. 207 at 6 (Lindzen Direct)” and “Ex. 207 at 6 (Lindzen Direct); Ex. 213 at 29 (Lindzen Surrebuttal)”. That’s simply astonishing. You have to be really dumb – or really clever-clever and think you’re talking to dumb people – to say that. Barry Bickmore has a post about Dick Lindzen, Prager U., and the Art of Lying Well but this isn’t lying well, it is lying badly. All – indeed, more than all – of the recent increase in CO2 is human caused. Why start off with a statement that clearly establishes that you’re lying?

Peabody argued that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)49 simply assumed global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions is greater than warming caused by natural variability, and therefore attributes the warming observed since the 1970s to anthropogenic causes.50

50 is, yes you guessed, Lindzen again. And this claim is, again, easily refutable drivel. I think old L has spent too long in the denialist echo chamber being lauded for everything he says. He has lost touch with reality, and hasn’t had his arguments sharpened by contact with genuine opponents. There are shades of “Dr” Roy Spencer is sad and lonely and wrong.

According to Peabody, global atmospheric temperatures are measured by surface thermometers, weather balloons (radiosondes), and satellites.54 Peabody claimed all three methods of measuring atmospheric temperatures show no warming since 1998.55

55 is, ha ha got you, its Spencer. But again, while it plays well in the denialosphere, its not going to survive real examination. This gem is also Spencer:

Peabody placed significant weight on the failure of the IPCC’s climate models to explain the hiatus in warming after 1998 except by the introduction of ad hoc mechanisms, such as aerosols.60 Peabody contended the IPCC’s climate models have no utility if they cannot reliably predict temperature change from CO2 emissions.

I’ve seen denialists say that: you’re obliged to explain all temperature change on CO2, you’re not allowed to use aerosols. Their fan base laps it up but can they possibly expect anyone else to believe it?

Interestingly, By driving current global GDP with carbon emissions, Peabody calculated that “at present, each ton of carbon used produces about $6,700 of global GDP”. I don’t have a strong feeling for whether that is true or not. But suppose it is; then a carbon tax of 1% of the benefits to account for the costs seems entirely reasonable, on their numbers, so what are they complaining about?

There’s a note – para 49 – “The Commission and the Minnesota Court of Appeals recognize the IPCC as a source of expertise on climate change” which is an additional problem for the denialists. Courts and governments and so on are inevitably going to recognise the IPCC as such, and aren’t going to fall for the black-helicopters nonsense. There’s also – para 51 – “In 2007, the United States Supreme Court observed that “[t]he harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized. The Government’s own objective assessment of the relevant science and a strong consensus among qualified experts indicate that global warming threatens <whatevs>… In making its observations regarding climate change, the United States Supreme Court favorably cited the IPCC”. Peabody are arguing directly counter to that. They can do so, of course, but in doing so credibly they would need to address the stuff they disagree with. Again, this is so redolent of the “there is no prior art (that I can be bothered to look up)” that renders so many denialist sites worthless.

And so we end up, inevitably, with

The Administrative Law Judge concludes that Peabody Energy has failed to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that climate change is not occurring or, to the extent climate change is occurring, the warming and increased CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere are beneficial.

Then we move onto the IAMs, which I mostly skipped (limitations: para 143); fans of the long discussion on discount rates we had in the comments a post or so back will be delighted to know they used 2.5, 3 and 5%; with 3% as the central estimate; see para 120. The table in para 137 shows that this matters, a lot. Both sides argued discount rates back and forth – because they do matter – but in the end, meh, you’ve got to use something. There’s also some rather half-hearted arguing about ECS but again; a few comments from a few blokes aren’t going to dent IPCC.

Oh, joy, I nearly missed:

Peabody disagreed with the CEO’s claim that 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists concur that humans are causing climate change.681 Peabody contended that science is based on evidence, not agreement, and that consensus should not be given any weight. Peabody provided examples of scientists, including Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein, and several contemporary scientists, who made significant breakthroughs in science despite being at odds with a majority consensus.


Para 13: IAMs are appropriate in this case and

The Administrative Law Judge concludes that, based on unreported and underreported health and environmental impacts, along with the IWG’s acknowledgement that the FSCC is not based on the most current research, the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that the FSCC understates the full environmental cost of CO2.

On ECS, Peabody gets comprehensively stuffed:

…Peabody failed to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that an ECS value of 1 or 1.5 degrees centigrade is correct and that an ECS of more than 2 degrees centigrade is “extremely unlikely.”… the preponderance of the evidence demonstrates that the ECS doubling ranges as reported by the IPCC in the IPCC AR4 (2.0-4.5 °C) and the IPCC AR5 (1.5-4.5 °C) are more accurate ECS ranges than the range advanced by Peabody because the IPCC ranges are representative of a comprehensive, peer-reviewed body of scientific study based on multiple lines of evidence.

and in the end the judge

recommends that the Commission adopt the Federal Social Cost of Carbon as reasonable and the best available measure to determine the environmental cost of CO2, establishing a range of values including the 2.5 percent, 3.0 percent, and 5 percent discount rates…