Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

Or, The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government3. From Tacitus, Annals.

I wanted to say something about the Trump victory over Hillary2. I find that writing down what I actually want to say is difficult, because my thoughts are not entirely clear on the matter. But – searching for a latin proverb about the weather, since today’s Fours Head looks to be rather damp1 – I ran across this, which whilst not covering in breadth everything that needs to be said, does I think have depth.

Coming soon: what Hayek and Hobbes have to say on Brexit, and funny quotes from the Times.


1. I didn’t make the crew, tee hee. But best wishes to Stephen, Conor, Simon L, Dan; and Mr T.

2. In case there should be ambiguity, if I’d had a vote I would have held my nose and voted for Hillary.

3. Or, in the Penguin edition translated by Michael Grant that I’m now reading, “Corruption reached its climax, and legislation abounded.” Which does to some extent reverse the sense: corruption has caused law, rather than law, corruption.


* Only in America… because there is – would you believe it? – a Dem Governor called Chickenlooper! Actually you shouldn’t believe it, I added a letter, but the principle remains.
* Timmy offers wise advice about what to do if you fear Donald Trump running global surveillance network
* Timmy, under the heading “India’s Demonetisation – Larry Summers Thinks It’s A Bad Idea”, points out why a certain amount of black-market money is good, but not too much.
* It’s Straight Bananas That Made Me Support Brexit Too – Timmy
* Vox: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed 2016 Campaign. Ignore the infighting bit, read the “what was her message, what was her vision?” bit.

Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission?

I haven’t read the paper (Observed Arctic sea-ice loss directly follows anthropogenic CO2 emission; Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve; Science 03 Nov 2016: DOI: 10.1126 / science.aag2345), of course, because it is paywalled. Curiously, it doesn’t seem to have made anyone else’s blog (a paper about sea ice in Science, and everyone ignores it like it was in poor taste or something?). But I found U.S. and German researchers calculate individual contribution to climate change which offers us the immortal quote

“The observed numbers are very simple,” Notz said. “For each ton of carbon dioxide that a person emits anywhere on this planet, 3 square meters of Arctic summer sea ice disappear.” “So far, climate change has often felt like a rather abstract notion,” Stroeve said. “Our results allow us to overcome this perception. For example, it is now straightforward to calculate that the carbon dioxide emissions for each seat on a return flight from, say, London to New York cause about 3 square meters of Arctic sea ice to disappear.”

The study also explains the linear relationship between CO2 emissions and sea ice loss. “Put simply, for each ton of carbon dioxide emission, the climate warms a little bit. To compensate for this warming, the sea ice edge moves northward to a region with less incoming solar radiation. This then causes the sea ice area to shrink. Simple geometric reasons cause these processes to combine to the observed linearity,” Notz said.

I’m delighted that it has all turned out to be so simple. Imagine all those poor fools who have worked so hard to understand climate all these years, and yet it turns out in the end to be a simple linear relationship between emitted CO2 and temperature; and then linear between temperature and sea ice. Duh. And how convenient that the sea ice “compensates” for the warming.

[Update: thanks for the dodgy link to the paper in the comments, and an anonymous admirer who sent me the paper direct.

Some parts of it seem little more than propaganda: First, the observed linear relationship allows us to estimate a sensitivity of 3.0 ± 0.1 m2 of September Arctic sea-ice loss per ton of anthropogenic CO2 emissions during the observational period 1953–2015. This number is sufficiently intuitive to allow one to grasp the contribution of personal CO2 emissions to the loss of Arctic sea ice. For example, based on the observed sensitivity, the average personal CO2 emissions of several metric tons per year can be directly linked to the loss of tens of m2 of Arctic sea ice every single year. I’ll say no more about that.

Secondly, the idea that the models are rather iffy on the sea ice so you can glean useful information from an empirical study is reasonable. What I’m much less inclined to think reasonable is to extrapolate it so far out. They are very fond of the word “robust” but do no more than hand=wave to support it.

Third, they seem to forget that they don’t know the future: Evaluating the simulated sensitivity, we find that most CMIP5 models systematically underestimate the observed sensitivity of Arctic sea ice relative to anthropogenic CO2 emissions of 3.0 ± 0.3 m2 (see table S1 for details). Across the full transition range to near ice-free conditions, the multimodel mean sensitivity is only… We don’t know what the sensitivity is all that far down,because we have no obs. And if you don’t trust the models, as they don’t, you can’t use those as evidence. So their certainty here is weird.

Fourth, although they insist on looking at spaghetti plots including rubbish models, it is quite plain that lots of models *do* have sensitivities that match the obs. A more fruitful approach might have been to sub-select the models by how well they match the obs instead of using the rather mindless approach of just looking at all the CMIP models.

There’s a bit where they remember (probably the referees reminded them) that radiative forcing is logarithmically, not linearly, related to CO2 concentration. But rather than re-do their analyses they dance some words around.

On the other hand this also explains why the linear relationship does not hold in the Antarctic, where dynamical forcing from wind and oceanic heat transport are key drivers of the large-scale sea-ice evolution – it is good that they remembered to say this. it would have been embarrassing to have constructed an “explanation” that failed in 50% of the cases it was applied to.

I didn’t find their “simple linear model” terribly convincing, but then again I didn’t bother to read it in details so that’s hardly a fair judgement. So, meh, I still don’t really like it even have skimmed the real thing now.]


(Border of the Glacier Blanc, Ecrins)



(Pelvoux behind)


* Arctic summer sea ice to disappear with 2C warming, study says – CarbonBrief
* The Economist on water scarcity
* Arctic sea ice age by Mark Brandon pointing to NASA. oddly, they make new ice grey and old ice white.

WATN: it's November

Those who poke around in obscure corners of the wub may have noticed that Force X from Outer Space was due to be published in October:

We are ramping up the end of this series because we’ve been informed that both of David’s papers will be published in October — one on the error in the climate models and one on the notch delay solar theory.

This was an event of somewhat less note than AW’s epoch-making non-paper but surely it deserves some kind of mockery rather than total contempt? Or perhaps not.

Anyway, it is now November. Perhaps the papers didn’t make Nature after all. I tweaked them but didn’t get a reply.

[Now (written 2016/12/16) we’re a fair way though December. I’ve tweaked them again -W]


* WATN, 2015

One cannot be handcuffed by data on a fundamental moral issue of this kind?

Um, well, yes. What is this stuff? Pointed out to me first by Russell – see-also his Troglodyte narrative. This is about something sent to, or from, John Podesta which has surfaced via the increasingly-suspect Wikileaks. Which is to say MEMORANDUM JANUARY 28, 2014. CLIMATE: A UNIFYINF THEORY TO THE CASE.

An unified theory of climate? Excellent… we’ve all been looking for that.

After reading some dodgy websites I think it was sent by Chris Lehane (“a Democratic strategist and Steyer confidant”; or, if you’re RS, one of “K-Street’s famed Masters of Disaster”. I don’t even know what K-Street is) to “longtime Clinton advisor” JP. Do let me know if I’ve got this confused. So, it would appear to be some kind of advisory document of unclear status. Oh, perhaps the email to which the doc was attached makes things clearer. But WTF, I’ll read the doc anyway. One thing worth noting is the statement we have limited visibility on how the Administration is considering climate in the context of the next three years which suggests it was written by outsiders and/or wannabees; not by anyone well connected to the administration.

the goal is to unify policy, politics, and communications to help the Administration best execute an informed plan over a multi-year time period

That’s clear enough,or appears clear: this is a political and policy document. But it is aimed “to help… an informed plan”, and you would hope that would involve rather more than politics: you’d hope it would involve the long-term good of the nation, or even the planet. The doc, written in 2014, talks about a three-year plan to 2016, aimed at the run-up the the Pres elections now peaking in a paroxysm of… I don’t know what. The aim is to “demonstrate that climate is a winning political issue by 2016” which is a bit icky and political for my tastes, but only in order to “thereby mov[e] the body politic to a place where game-changing climate policy is possible” which is a noble ideal indeed.

The next talking point is Make the case that climate must be approached as a challenge of historical social change where progress will depend in part on successfully casting the issue in moral terms of who is right and who is wrong and here you’ll see it coming into the area that I’m interested in, which rather overlaps We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution? which is the same kind of thinking, and which I didn’t like: Gw is to become not an issue of scientific right or wrong, but moral right or wrong. This moves it from safe and secure ground – scientifically we know that the IPCC, for example, is right whereas the denialist wackos are wrong – to rather more difficult moral ground. I don’t think you can finesse that by saying “but it is wrong to lie, so the denialists are morally wrong too” because while that is true, it isn’t the interesting argument. There are a disturbingly large number of Republic pols who are prepared to talk nonsense about the science of GW but – and you may call be a naive young innocent here if you like – I think that this is less that they actually believe what they’re saying and more that its a shorthand for “we’re not going to do anything about GW” which returns us to “what are we going to do?” which is then the moral question.

The theme continues. This political social movement must be founded on moral principles with stark definitions of who is right and who is wrong and again, being divisive is perhaps good for pols who want their constituencies but I’m dubious it is a good way of “moving forward” as they say on GW. By pursuing this as a political social movement, President Obama and his Administration will best be able to assure that his legacy includes his unprecedented leadership on climate that initiated the shifting of the country’s political tectonic plates to enable transformative climate change policy, before it was too late. Well, that didn’t work and the constant thinking of “we must do something within X short-term horizon” isn’t good either. This activity in the context of the 2016 presidential cycle will have the consequence of forcing the Republicans, due to pressures within their primaries, to adopt an even more extreme, and therefore politically non-viable general election position. Um, joy. Again, as politics this may be fine but deliberately forcing a block of people off into an extreme position is not good from a viewpoint of solving the problem. it is an interesting insight into how non-bipartisan politics comes about, I suppose. But perhaps hardly novel.

But it is not all bad. while climate is an enterprise threat to humanity, it is not yet understood as such by the public to a point where it is demanding action. Consequently, if we do not now pursue an approach to accelerate the public’s demand for change, by the time the public does demand change because the climate impacts have become so extreme, it will be too late is quite defensible, and noting the opposition includes some of the most powerful, well-resourced, and deeply-entrenched interests seems reasonable. but then the strategy must… be based on… an exercise in political social change. By its very definition, social change means that any approach must at its essence be designed to leverage the inherent moral nature of the issue. And with that, he’s lost me. Why “By its very definition”? So if we were to suppose that we need “social change” – and you could probably argue that agreeing a carbon tax, and its consequences, would need social change, why must that be thought of as moral, rather than simply economic? The two are not orthogonal, of course, but why think of it as in-essence moral?

From ending slavery to women’s suffrage to worker rights to Civil Rights to anti-smoking to gay marriage — the issue was truly joined and decisively won when it became defined not merely as a worthy policy but a moral issue of right and wrong. Um, again. This makes it ever more starkly clear: the issue is to be moral right and wrong, and anyone who doesn’t agree with your policies is a Bad Person and can therefore be ignored. Then comes the offending and slightly ambiguous one cannot be handcuffed by data on a fundamental moral issue of this kind which I really cannot like; but it is all of a piece with the rest.

There’s a section called “the Big Idea”, which I think is supposed to be the bit that convinces you this is all Moral, rather than the rest which simply asserts it is so, but it is rather thin:

* Anti-Basic Science – OK, this is an issue of right and wrong, granted. But I’ve covered that above.
* Intergenerational Equity – this is a moral issue (by definition, since it has the world “equity” in it) and it is relevant. I’d still be happier with a carbon tax than a moral crusade though.
* Fair Shake/Risky Business; and All In This Together – not quite sure what they are getting at there. Possibly linked to the unequal burden / benefit problem; needs to be clarified.
* Justice – errrm yes a moral issue again by definition. But it rapidly goes off the rails: This idea encompasses several sub-ideas and provides a straightforward moral framework of right and wrong. It starts by making a basic distinction between those who profit (fossil fuel companies) and those at risk (the rest of us). Because that is wrong in so many ways. We all gain to some extent by burning fossil fuels: that is, after all, why we do it. And fossil fuel companies are owned by people. People via their pension funds, for example.

That’s enough of this stuff, isn’t it? far more than enough I think.

Location fun

This will be old hat to most people but I’ve discovered two funky new location-type things today.

Number one, after I got a puncture and so needed a taxi back home, was getting a text from the taxi company saying “your driver is 2 mins away; click this to track him” whereupon I did, and got a cute Google map that showed him moving up the Milton road, stopping at all the traffic lights. I haven’t tried Uber; I presume it is similar.

Number two was after I discussed with him how this was done. It is, of course, as I should have guessed but didn’t, not a special hardware fit to the vehicle but just an app on a phone that tells Control where he is. And he pointed out that I could do the same, most easily on Google+. So I turned it on, and lo! Now I can see where my daughter is and she can see where I am.

Don’t worry, the niceness won’t last. Another inflammatory post of a political nature will be along Real Soon Now.


* Card Game Based on the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma
* America Can Run Trade Deficits Forever