US energy agency asked scientists to scrub references to climate change

DSC_6993 Sez Nurture (via SR’s fb feed). Notice how good I’ve been: I didn’t even put a question mark at the end, because Nurture is a WP:RS. Let’s quote:

Multiple researchers who received grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) say that they have been asked to remove references to “climate change” and “global warming” from the descriptions of their projects, they say.

As usual, exactly why this is done is lost in a bureaucratic maze or mirrors (the official…’s office told Nature that she was unavailable for comment, and a PNNL spokesperson referred questions to DOE headquarters in Washington DC. Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes declined to answer questions about the situation, but said that “there is no departmental-wide policy banning the term ‘climate change’ from being used in DOE materials” and so on). But the ultimate source appears to be Trumpian: it appears that DOE programme managers are being careful to make it clear that they are, in fact, following the president’s budget directive. “What else can they do?” he asks. Whether they are actually following it, or being over-cautious, is rather hard to tell. It seems unlike that the budget says explicitly “Thou shall not fund climate change science”. More likely, this is just a change of preferred boilerplate. For years, people have been expected to stuff “…and this research is really terribly exciting and desperately relevant because of #include <std.GW>” into their proposals; now there’s some new boilerplate they should use.

On which point, notice the most important bit, which Nurture ignores: Multiple researchers who received grants (my bold). As far as can be told from this, no-one is having their proposals rejected due to mentioning GW; they’re just being asked to re-write the boilerplate. Would it be better if they didn’t have to? Yes; but better still would be not having to write boilerplate in the first place.


1. The pic is the path to our chalet for our second week, in Vallouise. It has a rather lovely oil-painting quality to it I think. What you can’t see from that is that it was also hot and dry, but if you moved slowly all was well.


DSC_6817 My feed, as you’d expect, is full of stuff from Houston about hurricane Harvey. A typical example is How Climate Change is Making the Houston Situation Worse. Or Stefan’s Storm Harvey: impacts likely worsened due to global warming. I’m sure you can fill in any gaps.

But also Timmy’s It’s amazing how few people Harvey has killed. And ~101 is indeed a very small number for a storm of this size. Of course there are many reasons: (government funded) warning systems; lots of planning; high quality infrastructure; a resilient civil society; and so on.

So the question is: if we temporarily ignore the economic costs, and consider only the cost in human life, has GW made Harvey better or worse? I’m thinking of the (unrealisable in practice) thought experiment of Harvey as it is, compared to Harvey as the same track, but with weaker SSTs and hence a weaker storm, running over a Houston corresponding to a state in which the infrastructure was built with negligible CO2 emissions. GW, let us take as granted, made the storm stronger and pushed the rainfall up to “unprecedented”; but the CO2 used to make the infrastructure makes the deaths fewer. If we compare with analogues in Bangladesh India, of which there’s a recent example, then I think the default case is that Harvey is having a weaker effect than it otherwise would have.

Obviously, this is not a full analysis. You could easily choose to say “screw the people! What about the property damage?” and that would be a valid viewpoint. Or you could, somewhat mischievously, ask (as one of Timmy’s commentators does), that given the usual death rates on Houston’s roads is it possible that Harvey has actually saved lives?

[Update: note the Graun’s It’s a fact: climate change made Hurricane Harvey more deadly. The headline is then, according to me, dubious. The subheadline “We can’t say that Hurricane Harvey was caused by climate change. But it was certainly worsened by it” is fine, as long as you interpret “worsened” to mean “in a meteorological sense”.]


1. Or 30.


* Reconstruction number 5 by RT
* There are bad factions on both sides of this hurricane, claims Trump
* Tamino has a different perspective
* Impacts – XIII – Rainfall 3 by SoD, featuring Ingram (see-also Moyhu).
* Climate change and inequality: The rich pollute, the poor suffer – the Economist.
* Hurricane Harvey and climate change: Is there a connection? – USA Today
* With Ten Times the Usual Rain, Mumbai Heads Towards Imminent Flood
* How Washington Made Harvey Worse – “A federal insurance program made Harvey far more costly—and Congress could have known it was coming”. FEMA and so on.
* CH on prices and “gouging”
* Disaster Relief as Bad
Public Policy

* Houston floods: Uninsured and anxious, victims return home – Beeb.
* THE WRONG STUFF from RS. But the trend in deaths from natural disasters is interesting.
* WMO (World Weather Research Programme) Expert Team on Climate Impacts on Tropical Cyclones statement on possible linkages between Hurricane Harvey and anthropogenic climate change
* Neptune’s revenge by mt.

Antient ice

I don’t see anyone else blogging this, so I will, even though it is old news. Record-shattering 2.7-million-year-old ice core reveals start of the ice ages says Science, but you have to immeadiately know the caveat: it isn’t a continuous 2.7 Myr core. In fact, before long you discover that it’s kinda the same thing as Atmospheric composition 1 million years ago from blue ice in the Allan Hills, Antarctica from PNAS, 2015, which I also unaccountably failed to blog or see blogged.

So, stepping back: rather than take a core vertically through relatively undisturbed ice, which is what Vostok or EPICA did, these folks have deliberately selected an area where the ice is flowing, bringing old ice near to the surface. And as it happens they drilled horizontally. So, you kinda get potluck for whatever you pull out. And as you can see from the figure (from the 1 Myr 2015 paper) it is much less fun to interpret (if it isn’t obvious: what you get is the box with the rounded edges, and the dots inside): their Argon dating only gives them age to within ~100 kyr; and they can’t pull out a continuous record, they just get a range.

1 Myr is only just outside the previous 800 kyr. 2.7 Myr is older; still, you’ll notice that the Science article, while gushing, doesn’t actually say much. Neither does their conference abstract: The old ice can be binned into three age groups: 1 Ma, 1.5 Ma, and 2+ Ma, disturbed by layers of ≤800 ka ice. This age-depth relationship indicates large-scale disturbance in the ice stratigraphy, reinforcing the concept of climate snapshots instead of time-series. Three climate proxies (Xe/Kr, δDice, and pCH4) fall within the range of variations in the recent 100-kyr glacial cycles, but with reduced variability. Hopefully, there will be more later.


* Now I “remember”: it was CR who first pointed this out. Which has just made it’s way to wiki.

Kant’s cats

You’re wondering – I know you are – about the unexplored connection between Kant and Cats. And I need to begin by disappointing you: this is not one of his. This is nameless cat from Vallouise whose only sin was to stumble into my viewfinder. I should continue by saying that I’m going to parrot Popper, because I think Popper has it right; and has explained something I’ve wondered about for a bit, viz why anyone takes Kant seriously3.

Start, if you don’t mind, with the usually moderately reliable Wikipedia, and ponder their Kant’s antinomies page. It is, I hope you can agree, impossible to understand. WTF is Kant actually trying to prove with his “proofs” that contradict each other? In fact, there’s a hint there, which is readable if you already know the answer: He used them to describe the equally rational-but-contradictory results of applying the universe of pure thought to the categories or criteria, i.e. applying reason proper to the universe of sensible perception or experience (phenomena). Empirical reason cannot here play the role of establishing rational truths because it goes beyond possible experience and is applied to the sphere of that which transcends it. Well, it is a hint, but it is garbled and incomplete. Another somewhat garbled version I found on the wub is from Michael Allen Gillespie: On the face of it, these two assumptions seem to contradict one another. Kant, however, attempts to show that this contradiction only arises when reason transgresses its own limits and seeks to grasp the infinite. Reason thereby becomes dialectical and is lost in a realm of illusion where it is misguided by imagination and rhetoric. The solution to this problem, in Kant’s view, is a critique of reason that makes its limits clear. This is the goal of The Critique of Pure Reason. On the basis of this critique, Kant believes it will be possible to distinguish the legitimate philosophical use of reason from its dialectical or rhetorical use, and thus to guarantee the rational foundations of science while leaving room for morality and religion. Which is roughly right; though it is odd that MAG, presumably a scholar, doesn’t credit Popper with having already said it.

Now, let’s try Popper’s version1:


This actually makes sense; if it wasn’t what Kant actually intended to say, I’m sure it’s what he would have intended, had he thought of it. It chimes very nicely with Hobbes’s hatred of the “Schoolmen” and Popper’s own views; and, I think, with mine. And with a view of science as theory grounded in experiment. Just to be clear, since I’ve included a non-searchable image, the argument here is that pushing abstract reasonning too hard without any attempt to check it via experiment – or into domains where it cannot be checked – will inevitably lead to a large pile of words with no real meaning.

And this, to return to my title, is how the Antinomies are like Schrodinger’s Cat: misunderstood by most people. Just as Kant did not try to argue that contradictions make sense – quite the reverse – so Schrodinger did not try to argue that a cat can end up with a waveform representing Dead and Alive combined.

[Late update: I think I should add that I am suspicious that Popper is merely fathering his own ideas on Kant. If true, that wouldn’t make the ideas wrong, it would merely weaken Kant’s reputation. Furthering this suspicion is Kant’s “Matter is infinity divisible” statement / “proof”.]



1. The Open Society and its enemies, volume 2, Hegel and Marx2, chapter 12 section II.

2. In which Our Hero defends TOS by attacking some of its enemies, namely Hegel and Marxism. Note that while he spares no sympathy on Hegel, his works, his influence and his followers, he has considerable sympathy for Marx if not for Marxism.

3. I know you’re not interested, but I am: having stumbled across Kant’s Antinomies many years ago – perhaps 20 – I wondered why anyone took this stuff seriously, and just wrote him off as yet another incomprehensible and pointless German Philosophe4. Popper, however, treats him seriously and contrasts him favourably with Hegel; indeed, along with Schopenhauer he is brought in to bolster Popper’s fight against Hegel.

4. Here, for example, from 2008 is me writing him off as “valueless”.

I was a teenage Exxon-funded climate scientist?

Schlock, horreur: Exxon funds science. Yes, we knew that already. More schlock and awww: ExxonMobil deliberately attempts to sow doubt on the reality and urgency of climate change. Yes, we knew that too. This is all kicked off by Oreskes astonishing ability to re-tread the same story again and again; but clearly there’s a big constituency out there that wants to hear it; so if she can make a fine living out of telling the same old fairy story I suppose as a good free marketeer I can’t complain too much.

Before we go on, notice the image I inline. It is part of the evidence against Exxon. It’s a misleading advert, that appeared in the NY Times in 2000. Obviously, Exxon produced the advert, and are therefore responsible for it. But the NYT published it. Are they not at least a teensy bit responsible? Are they not guilty of misleading the public? They certainly don’t seem to feel at all responsible. Their “discussion” of that problem consists only of The Times’s policy on accepting such advertising can be found here. But, oh dear, if you read the policy you find a section on “In general, advertisements in the following categories are unacceptable” whose very first item is “Ads that are misleading inaccurate or fraudulent”. So what happened? The advertorial can certainly be considered misleading; that’s Oreskes point. Perhaps, in 2000, it wasn’t obviously so? But if that were the case Oreskes case collapses. In fact the answer is all too obvious: Exxon paid good money for it, the NYT likes money just like everyone else, there’s a free-speech case, and anyway by 2000 standards it isn’t too terrible1.

Meanwhile, poor Katharine Hayhoe is slightly embarrassed that she did (partly) Exxon funded science in 1995-1997. The science stuff there is all fine; she did something sane and Exxon didn’t try to push her politically and her Exxon full-time colleagues were all great; no surprises there. But what is surprising is Did I know what else they were up to at the time? I couldn’t even imagine it which I do not consider believable. I can find myself being not terribly happy about Exxon in 1997 (What I said about Exxon) and I’m pretty sure I could go back further if required. True, I had the advantage of parents in law (to be, at that point) who worked for Exxon (technically Esso I think, but y’know) who would show me Exxon shareholder reports with similar doubtiness in it. But could you be a scientist, working on climate science, for Exxon and not even notice their reputation? No, you couldn’t. So there’s some air-brushing of history going on there, just as the NYT is rather lightly glossing over their breaking their own advertising policy.

And this, I think, is the problem, as I’ve said so often before. It would be terribly nice if all the evil in the world were done by evil corporations, and all we needed to do to get everyone a pony was to make the evil corporations good, or to just abolish evil corporations. But the world is not like that. The people burning fossil fuels and emitting CO2 are not Exxon: they are you, me, Oreskes and Heyhoe; and similar others.

Meanwhile, to return to the original schlock, as even Oreskes accepts Exxon was producing fine public research on GW, even though she does her best to obscure this point. And although that public reasearch was not easily accessed by the general public, happily we had any number of public-spirited individuals and organisations keen to tell the world about GW, and even an intergovernmental organisation – the IPCC, you may have heard of it – tasked with collating and publishing suchlike.


* Pilloried again (2009).
* Exxon speaks and Oreskes whinges.


1. Or is this their policy? I find it impossible to tell. Because after the “general” stuff there’s a “Advertising Acceptability Policy for Selected Categories” and in “Advocacy Advertising / Opinion Advertising” in which they say We believe that the broad principles of freedom of the press confer on us an obligation to keep our advertising columns open to all points of view. Therefore, The New York Times accepts advertisements in which groups or individuals comment on public or controversial issues. We make no judgments on an advertiser’s arguments, factual assertions or conclusions which gives them a free pass: if they make no judgements then their advertisers can lie themselves blue in the face and the NYT doesn’t give a toss. Fine; but then that rather destroys their high-minded insistence on truth.

A bit more mountain, 2017

Just like in 2016, you may have noticed that things have been thin around here recently, and the reason is the same: I’ve been off in the mountains; the Ecrins again. Here is very nearly the same view as 2016. It isn’t quite so good; I lack the fluffy cloud layer; this was taken about an hour later, but also a few weeks earlier. And, the melt back of the snow has continued.


More later when things have settled down. Don’t forget to check back for Kant and his famous antimonies!

Actually, I can’t resist a few more. Here’s people pratting around going from the upper traverse below the “Barre” des Ecrins onto the Breche Lory.


This “should” (as in, it has been in all previous years) be a simple snow slope, but with the snow melting back a crevasse has been uncovered, and now all the poor tourists hoping for a nice Facile 4000 m peak are faced with a somewhat tricky climb up and an abseil back down and fixed ropes and all sorts of fun. You might think (as I did) “why prat around there? Just traverse right a little and the crevasse closes up” but it’s a trap; above there it is distinctly icy and even more fun.

Lastly here, seen gearing up on the glacier itself, and taken from the path down from the Refuge des Ecrins, are the parties who woke up and finished breakfast a little before us.

This proves that we did all get up at a ridiculous hour before dawn (3:15 am).

Economic denialism?

wconnoll Well, the conversation over at Kevin Anderson: how numbers reveal another reality got rather silly and bad tempered, but more than that it also became totally, obviously pointless1. Remarkably, my attempt to enlighten people by pointing out that their attitude to and discussion of economics bore a powerful resemblance to discussions of science at WUWT did not bear fruit.

In other news, the image to the right is my submission for my work pass photo. I’m hoping they’ll use it, even if cropped a little. The image below is prettier but I suspect wouldn’t pass even the cursory scrutiny pass photos get.

Also, I’m looking forward to fun, frolicks and very little death2 in the near future in the Ecrins, so posting will be light for a while.



1. Although there was one bright point.

2. Assuming Trump and the NK nutter can hold off for a while.


* A brief roundup: the BBC and OMICS – ATTP can of course get the science right, unlike Nigel Lawson.
* Dept of Wrong Predictions — No Tricks Zone edition
* IS GREENLAND BURNING? asks VVUWT (I’v corrected the hideous spacing in the headline, though)
* The Axis of Climate Evil
– Paul Krugman in the NYT
* 2019: Kevin Anderson finally begins to realise that the COPs are a waste of time

Ze Robots are comink

Via CIP what I agree is a rather nice story about robotisation, from the WaPo. The bit that seems interesting is that the robots are getting cheaper, and more flexible. You don’t need to convert the whole factory at once; you can do little bits at a time. For the folk doing the work that the robots are going to push out, this isn’t good news, except that they jobs are so mind-numbingly boring that perhaps it is good news, really. They’re now free to do something better, in a slightly richer society. They even find one of the workers to say “It’s not a good job for a person to have anyway”.

In other news, I’m at work on Sunday. But I won’t be next Sunday.

Manichean paranoia?

20617065_1539768166080456_8820204049348327673_o Ha. While I’m wasting my time on heat waves, ATTP is reaping the clicks with Manichean paranoia, a far more amusing topic. After all, everyone loves RP Jr [content advisory: talk given at the GWPF: may pollute your brain]. I’m not terribly interested in most of it, but I’ll talk to “Engage with those with whom you disagree”: which, nowadays, seems to be most of the readers of my blog. At least those who comment; I don’t know about the lurkers. That is somewhat regrettable, but so it goes; I don’t complain.

Roger sets the stage with Senator James Inhofe versus Prof. Michael Mann. That’s probably the kind of thing his GWPF listeners wanted to hear; they know that Imhofe is an idiot, so they love to hear him compared to Mann, who isn’t. Naturally, the other way round doesn’t work so well, and ATTP complains if you think that the two sides of the debate are represented by James Inhofe, on one side, and Michael Mann on the other, then your sense of where the reasonable middle lies is wildly different to where most would regard it and I guess that’s true enough. But this is a case of RP making his point badly, rather than not having a point at all. Instead of the people, let’s try reading the text.

Imhofe’s is std.sci.denialism: “With all the hysteria, all the fear, all the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? I believe it is. This is objectively false, and I have no problem saying so.

Mann says: [T]he villainy that we long suspected was taking place within ExxonMobil really was. It wasn’t just a conspiracy theory. It was a legitimate conspiracy… fossil fuel interests, including ExxonMobil in particular, have been waging a bad faith assault on me (and on other climate scientists) for decades now. It makes me angry that they would knowingly risk the degradation of our planet for future generations in the name of their own short-term profits. This isn’t quite std.econ.denialism, but it is close to it, and it’s invisible to ATTP and all his readers.

To start off and be really picky, is it true that Exxon have been at war with Mann for decades? As in, for at least two completed decades? No. Mann wasn’t notable until MBH98, which is less than two decades ago. And I’m not even sure his visible-to-Exxon notability started then. Reader competition: what’s the first actual attack on Mann by Exxon that you can find? Actually, can you find any direct-by-Exxon at all? If not, attacks by “Exxon stooges” will have to do.

Being less picky, while I’m sure lots of people are nasty about Mann now, I don’t think it is true that Exxon hates him at all. This line of arguement by me will be familiar to any of you who read Yet more Exxon drivel and so on, so I won’t belabour it here. But I will point you at on getting out more, even though I know it’s hopeless. The discussion in Why don’t people pay attention to the future of their own world? is relevant, too.

Side note: RP’s slides include Appoint a devil’s advocate” and “Establish contrarian teams” and i can’t help but feel that he senses the approach of the Red Gravy Train and is hoping for a ticket. Against that, his Trump slide is headed “Manichean paranoid-in-chief?” and rumour has it that Trump is thin-skinned.

BTW: if you’re wondering what the inlined picture is for, the answer is that it’s a cute optical “illusion”. Don’t give up until you’ve “seen” it; it’s worth it, I promise you. As a bonus, it is almost relevant.


* Quotation of the Day from CH.

Extreme weather ‘could kill up to 152,000 a year’ in Europe by 2100?

heatwavesIt is summer. Normally the time for relaxation, but even though the rowing is over (alas) there’s a T/O coming up and little freizeit; and after that I’m off on holiday; so I should squeeze off a quick cheap post to keep those clicks coming in. And on a summer’s day when it is rather cool and pouring with rain (although, the mercurial English climate being what it is, it has changed since I started writing this to glorious sun; by the time I’ve finished, we’ll probably be onto hails of frogs), what better topic than Extreme weather ‘could kill up to 152,000 a year’ in Europe by 2100?

Heat waves would cause 99% of all weather-related deaths… Deaths caused by extreme weather could rise from 3,000 a year between 1981 and 2010 to 152,000 between 2071 and 2100 is that even possible? 1% of 152,000 is 1520 so if heatwaves currently cause 50% of all weather-related deaths, yes, it is just about possible. If I search around for causes of death I find this nice chart and, as you’d expect, with 1.5 k out of 300,000 k people, at 0.005%1, weather isn’t even close to making the chart; the lowest there is cancer of the uterus, which I’m fortunately immune to, at 6-per-thousand. Even pushed up 100-fold to 152,000 that’s only 0.5% (do I need to throw in the conventional “and of course every one of those deaths is sad”? OK then, consider it done) which still isn’t even close to making the table; more than another factor of 10 is required. There’s a list of tables available. Which one should I look in for weather / climate? None of them it seems. Ah well. The Lancet paper is available, and in the appendix is the table of deaths (table S6 is the one I want). Here is discover that in the EU+, deaths per 10,000,000 from heatwaves is 54 (I omit the spurious precision of “.07”); multiplied by ~30 that indeed comes to 1,500 ish. I inline the table for you; click for a larger view, or indeed proceed to the original.

Note that the UK is not, as I thought smugly, in the “Northern” category that hardly has any deaths even by 2100; that turns out to be Scandinavia, lucky people. We’re in “Western”, along with France, which extends quite a way South and, I suspect, supplies many of the deaths. I am slightly reluctant to accept the balance of heat-to-cold deaths as presented there; an overall ratio of 25-to-1 seems implausibly low, on the cold side (recall the arguements from long long ago in sci.env).

The obvious response to this is “adaption”. So obvious indeed that the Beeb quotes Experts from South Korea’s Seoul National University warned that the study’s results “could be overestimated”. “People are known to adapt and become less vulnerable than previously to extreme weather conditions because of advances in medical technology, air conditioning, and thermal insulation in houses,” they wrote in a comment piece published in the same journal. That seems like a reasonable comment.

[Update: As TB points out in the comments, people can adapt, but the rest of the world rather less so. That’s a massive weakness in any attempt to evaluate GW based only on human mortality; indeed I think it is obvious that any changes large enough to serious affect adaptable humans are going to cause massive problems for slower-adapting ecologies -W]


* European heatwave kills five as temperatures soar above 40C


1. Ahem. Or more accurately known as “0.0005%”, I seem to have lost a 0. See comments.