An Interesting Error In Timmy’s analysis of Equilar’s Calculations Of CEO Pay

18581603_1454960587902203_7934923190499350154_n Well, interesting to me anyway. As to whether it is an error or not, I’ll let you judge. Please do attempt to judge. Comments saying “I hate Timmy” are about as much use as “Al Gore is fat”.

The story so far: Timmy says Contrary To AP/Equilar’s Research The Top US CEOs Did Not Average $11.5 Million Last Year and his reason for saying that is accounting for stock options. For example

The top-paid CEO last year was Thomas Rutledge of Charter Communications, at $98 million. The vast majority of that came from stock and option awards included as part of a new five-year employment agreement, and Charter’s stock will need to more than double for Rutledge to collect the full amount.

So, for the purposes of discussion, let’s assume that when we think of CEO “pay” we need to be aware that lots of it is not salary, but stock options paying out. We also need to be aware that those options don’t vest in a single year – as in the above, they’ll typically vest over a time period, perhaps 5 years. But Timmy then continues:

But the stock award is over 5 years. So, it’s much, much, more accurate to say that he got $20 million last year, one fifth of the 5 year stock award. The reason Equilar report it the way they do is because the company has had to expense that stock award in the year it was granted… And yes, they then take the mean average of all of the pay packets to give us what the average CEO gets paid. But those top numbers are always going to be inflated by the few CEOs who got multi-year stock awards in any one year. The AP/Equilar measure of CEO pay seriously overstates matters because they’re allocating multi-year stock awards to pay in the year of issuance, not over the period they vest.

If there were only a few CEOs earning big bucks, then Timmy would be right: some years that average earnings would blip up, when they got their awards; but then again other years it would blip down, when they didn’t. But actually, there are loads of CEOs (many of whom will likely, I think, have overlapping awards) so in the end is just averages out; and the above analysis doesn’t reveal any major error in Equilar’s calculations.

But there is an error, a smaller one, ironically hinted at in the quote he quotes: …and Charter’s stock will need to more than double for Rutledge to collect the full amount. Which is they’re calculating as though all these awards will pay out at full value, which of course they won’t all do. I didn’t notice it myself; that’s also from another Timmy column.

Photogenic teens sue US government, part 2

Another in the long disappearing-up-my-own-arse series. Photogenic teens sue US government refers, of course, but so does U.S. fossil fuel groups pull out of climate change court case (via, and I’m sure you wanted to know this, C on Twitter). To whom I’m indebted for The money quote: “But discord arose among them after a judge ordered them to submit a joint filing stating their views on climate science.” Which is glorious, and reflects the obvious and often-stated: that the denialists only real position is denial; they have no concrete worldview to put in its place; no coherent theory of their own, other than “the IPCC is wrong and Al Gore is phat”. Which doubtless sounds great down a bar but isn’t terribly impressive when a judge asks you to state your views.

Need I say more? I hope you like the cartoon. You could have had a picture of my wisteria but I decided you’d prefer the coldness.

Analysis* of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si?

DSCN7826-cathedral-toads I like the “Analysis*”; it reminds me of Tesco’s “Finest*”, where I think they intend the “*” to mean “star” as in quality; but I always read it as “*” as in “footnote: may not actually contain fine quality ingredients”. But I digress. In this case, the “*” really is a footnote: Note that scientists only assessed information related to climate science. The following analysis is not an endorsement of the economic, political, or moral content of the encyclical. One can quibble whether reading only a small portion of a document is a useful overall assessment, but clearly if we’re interested in the science, it isn’t unreasonable.

Oh, didn’t I say? This is an analysis by Climate Feedback, and ends up with an overall grade of “scientific credibility 0.9: high”. Since it gets basically the right answer that was nearly inevitable. I didn’t even especially disagree although quite why they felt the need to assess it when I already had, I don’t know.

Note the amusing UPDATE (25 May 2017): The Encyclical has been edited, clarifying one of the statements that scientists had highlighted here. The problematic statement initially read “Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space” and has been updated to “As these gases build up in the atmosphere, they hamper the escape of heat produced by sunlight at the earth’s surface“. I’d described that as an oddity back in 2015; sadly Da Pope doesn’t listen to me. Some of the reviews are rather damming with faint praise; Andreas Klocker writes Some facts are a bit oversimplified (but not wrong) and Alexis Berg writes In the few passages dealing with climate science, this text does not contain major scientific inaccuracies.

Obviously, I should quibble what they say. Where to start?

Kerry Emanuel , Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT

Says The Pope’s encyclical is strongly aligned with the scientific consensus about the reality and risks posed by global warming. The most striking feature of the encyclical is its linking of environmental degradation to cultural and political decline, painting it as a moral issue, not just a practical problem. Well, maybe. But KE seems to have rather strayed from his brief of assessing the science. Jonathan Lauderdale falls into the same pitfall with The key part of this document is bridging the gap between the scientific observations that we make, which often do not engage the public’s attention, and the moral implications of humans as guardians of our planet (whether you are religious or not, this still makes sense).

Various other people make minor quibbles, although these do rather amount to “if one of my students had written this, I’d tell them to do it again”.

Reading past chapter 1

None of them bother read past chapter 1, so they all miss Da Pope’s attack on science: This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation… It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society.

Oh well. They really should have asked Mialambre for his opinion.


* An Answer to the Pope, a Leader of Libertarianism’s Critics.

The polar amplification asymmetry: role of Antarctic surface height

ant1 I apologise for breaking into the stream of politics for some science: Temperatures in the Arctic are increasing around three times as fast as the global average, yet the pace of warming has been much slower at Earth’s other pole. A new study, just published in Earth System Dynamics, suggests the difference might – in part – be down to the great heights of Antarctica’s land surface. The article is The polar amplification asymmetry: role of Antarctic surface height by Marc Salzmann. And since it’s open-access I’m sure they won’t mind me copying from their abstract:

Previous studies have attributed an overall weaker (or slower) polar amplification in Antarctica compared to the Arctic to a weaker Antarctic surface albedo feedback and also to more efficient ocean heat uptake in the Southern Ocean in combination with Antarctic ozone depletion. Here, the role of the Antarctic surface height for meridional heat transport and local radiative feedbacks, including the surface albedo feedback, was investigated based on CO2-doubling experiments in a low-resolution coupled climate model. When Antarctica was assumed to be flat, the north–south asymmetry of the zonal mean top of the atmosphere radiation budget was notably reduced… between 24 and 80%… of the polar amplification asymmetry was explained by the difference in surface height, but… might to some extent also depend on model uncertainties.

So there you go. I’ll assume you’ve read the (open access) paper. And you get the idea from the image I’ve cut-n-pasted: under 2xCO24, the Arctic is hardly affected by flattening Antarctica but Antarctica warms much more. However, although this isn’t unbelievable, it kinda goes against what I thought I knew – which is to say, the conventional explanation that they quote -, so I should look for some flaw in it. As should you! Don’t take anything for granted. Ideally you’d do that by carefully reading the paper and pondering it’s arguements, but life is too short so I’ll leave that to you; I’ll just do some drive-bys1.

ant2 As the abstract hints, this is not a sooper-dooper hi-rez model, and they give some evidence of not fully trusting it. I’m not going to quibble any details, but see this second pic I’ve inlined. It is the zonal average response, over 600 years vertical time. And you’ll see two odd things. One in the control runs, which I’ll come back to in a moment, and the second in the 2xCO2 runs.

And that is, that the warming in the Antarctic is greater than the warming in the Arctic by about the time of, oh, year 130. By bizarre chance, the first inlined pic is from years 80-109. Had they drawn the same pic for year 570-599, it would have looked very different and (dare I say) rather less convincing. Their explanation for this is THC shutdown, which as they say simpler models are rather more prone to. Well actually they say The weaker Arctic warming in the middle of the 2 × CO2 base run (Fig. 13b) is an indication of a slowing of the ocean’s meridional overturning circulation (MOC). Such a slowdown has often been found in CO2 perturbation experiments, and it tended to be stronger in low-resolution, low-complexity models compared to state-of-the-art highresolution models. Since the CESM was run at a low resolution in this study, this finding should also not be overinterpreted. From that I deduce that they didn’t carefully look through all the diagnostics to verify MOC slowdown, but it’s a reasonable guess. Anyway, the point that MS doesn’t then link to is the polar see-saw (that’s my pic!) and it would be natural to suppose that a (relative) Arctic cooling would lead to Antarctic warming. And it is possible (though I admit to not having fully joined the dots) that this is (part of) their enhanced Antarctic warming.

You might also wonder about the spin-up. Coupled models generally require some, and it looks like MS was a bit careless in this regard: It should be noted that Antarctic warming relative to the respective control run (Fig. 14a) was stronger in the flat AA than in the base model setup throughout almost the entire 600-year period. However, even though the temperature in the flat AA control run stabilized after a moderate initial warming and even though the temperature evolution from the control run was subtracted in this analysis, it cannot be completely ruled out that this moderate initial warming could have also played a role in the later development in the 2 × CO2 flat AA run. Therefore, in retrospect2, starting the flat AA 2 × CO2 run from a separate long flat AA spinup run and prescribing a more realistic gradual increase of the CO2 concentration, which would allow the inspection of the first decades of the CO2 perturbation experiments, would have been better.

The last point, which I’ve now come back to, is that despite the “even though the temperature in the flat AA control run stabilized after a moderate initial warming”, I can’t see it. You’d expect some decades of warming in the Antarctic in the control run as heat is advected in as the continent is suddenly flattened. But no; at least, as I say, I can’t see it.

Anyway, there you go. I enjoyed writing that. Rip me to shreds3.


1. At one point, we had a policy against drive-by reviews. Because the thick-as-pigshit management thought that having problems with your code pointed out by people who were too busy to review all your code was bad, because the darling snowflakes sometimes got offended.

2. I read that “in retrospect” as “bollocks, the referees noticed it”.

3. In memory of the Rude Mechanicals

4. Note: these are instantaneous-doubling CO2 experiments, which I thought had largely gone out of fashion, as they are somewhat less realistic that the steady-increase type.

FT: The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable

A happy story for once. Isn’t that nice? The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable (archive) from those commie pinkos at the FT: …the disruptive impact of green energy on companies — and entire industries — around the world. After years of hype and false starts, the shift to clean power has begun to accelerate at a pace that has taken the most experienced experts by surprise… Wind and solar parks are being built at unprecedented rates, threatening the business models of established power companies. Electric cars that were hard to even buy eight years ago are selling at an exponential rate, in the process driving down the price of batteries that hold the key to unleashing new levels of green growth.

One should not get too carried away, because …None of this means the problem of climate change has been solved, or that fossil fuels will vanish in the near future. Oil, gas and coal still account for about 86 per cent of the energy keeping the world’s lights on, cars running and homes warm — a share that has barely changed in 25 years. Coal and gas-fired power plants are still being built, especially in the developing world where 1.2bn people lack electricity. Modern renewables, in contrast, are growing from a tiny base and are often less dependable than dirtier power generators that do not rely on the weather. Wind and solar power accounted for a puny 4.4 per cent of global electricity in 2015, and big battery systems can only store enough power to satisfy a few seconds of global electricity demand, says the International Energy Agency. Electric vehicle sales last year were just 0.9 per cent of all vehicles sold, according to the EV-Volumes consultancy.

And then again But the emerging energy transition is already causing trouble for companies around the world, from writedowns and shrinking sales to sliding share prices and wholesale break-ups.

Aanyway, you get the point. You know all this stuff anyway. The interesting point for me is that the FT choose to splash it all over.

The other fodder is a section called “Thanks, Germany” which says When the definitive history of the energy transition is written, the taxpayers of Germany will deserve their own chapter. They bankrolled the green energy revolution known as the Energiewende, pioneering generous subsidies nearly 20 years ago that helped drive renewables up from 9 per cent of Germany’s electricity mix in 2004 to 32 per cent last year. As other European nations — and some US states — boarded the green power wagon, it kindled a wave of demand for wind turbines and solar panels that helped drive costs down worldwide. Solar’s price fall was especially steep after a Chinese manufacturing boom spurred global over-supply. So, yeah. It probably needed subsidies to kick start this stuff. It probably wasn’t the most efficient way (Carbon Tax Now) but meh.


Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts?

A bit weird, this. The Graun reports

No seeds were lost but the ability of the rock vault to provide failsafe protection against all disasters is now threatened by climate change… the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel… soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault… “A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” she told the Guardian. Fortunately, the meltwater did not reach the vault itself, the ice has been hacked out, and the precious seeds remain safe for now at the required storage temperature of -18C. But the breach has questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes. “It was supposed to [operate] without the help of humans, but now we are watching the seed vault 24 hours a day,” Aschim said. “We must see what we can do to minimise all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”… The vault managers are now taking precautions, including major work to waterproof the 100m-long tunnel into the mountain and digging trenches into the mountainside to channel meltwater and rain away. They have also removed electrical equipment from the tunnel that produced some heat and installed pumps in the vault itself in case of a future flood.

It would be nice to have more details but the vault’s own page doesn’t deign to notice the problem.

So you can say two things about this. One is the obvious: ZOMG Global Warming is Worse Than We Could Possibly Have Imagined! But the other is… this is really rubbish planning and design. Something that was supposed to be proof against centuries of GW was really badly designed. The wiki page helpfully tells us Running the length of the facility’s roof and down the front face to the entryway is an illuminated artwork named Perpetual Repercussion by Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne that marks the location of the vault from a distance. In Norway, government-funded construction projects exceeding a certain cost must include artwork. KORO, the Norwegian State agency overseeing art in public spaces, engaged the artist to install lighting that highlights the importance and qualities of Arctic light. That’s all terribly sweet, but would it have been a good idea to have less art and more engineering? As wiki puts it, Competence is required.

Update: there’s now a (somewhat belated IMO; probably it took them a while to get their line straight) press release but in my browser that’s sh*t; you may prefer to read the archive instead. Top line: Svalbard Global Seed Vault is facing technical improvements in connection with water intrusion which I take to be a fossil of hasty drafting; presumably the first version said “facing technical challenges” or somesuch.

And then again, popsci says it’s all fine. Why not just release some pix?



* Middle-aged hamster buys expensive new wheel – DailyMash
* Adam Smith makes the case for free trade and warns against the sophistry of domestic producers seeking protectionism – AEI
* A basic guide to software engineering terms
* CIP on speed
* from page 418 of Thomas Babington Macaulay’s magisterial The History of England (1848-61) via CafeHayek
* WaPo

Moon Jae-in orders shutdown of old coal-fired power plants

18491371_10155308407957350_3412797447490309162_o A minor note; President (Moon Jae-in)’s decision to halt operating aged coal-fired plants shows his strong will to provide a fundamental solution to the current fine dust problem,” said Yoon Young-chan, the chief press secretary. Yoon also said Moon has ordered the senior social affairs secretary to create a special task force to deal with measures to combat fine dust here via VV on Twitter.

Which is to say, it seems likely that lots of coal will be retired for it’s other polluting properties, rather than it’s CO2 emissions. This isn’t a new observation of course.

Meanwhile, it’s springtime in the garden and the irii1 are out.

In other news, yet another successful SpaceX launch, yawn :-).


1. Of course I don’t know.


* Quotation of the Day at Cafe Hayek from page 154 of John Cochrane’s superb 2014 speech “Why and How We Care About Inequality”.
* 21st Century College Admissions: Bidding for Brains – via CafeHayek