Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Quick report on Shibatani talk on climate change & Sierra water resource management, at Fri May 21 Sierra Club meeting

(The talk was announced here (fixed link))

We need climate communication that tells citizens what they need to know, to make informed and responsible decisions.

But as with just about all communication on climate that's gone on in this county, I found Friday's talk frustrating - largely because it was a talk on what Shibatani has to offer, not on what we-the-public need to know; and he's a hydrology consultant for organizations like NID, so his talk was geared toward their issues. Its two themes were uncertainty and the need for adaptation - I didn't hear much if anything about topics like the following: the fossil-fuel-funded effort to confuse the public about climate, evaluating whose interpretation of the science to trust, ocean acidification, weather vs climate, the difference in robustness of global vs. regional predictions, insurance against risk, uncertainty not being our friend, signal vs. noise, the "bathtub" metaphor, lag time (largely due to the persistence of CO2 in the atmosphere), the fossil-fuel-funded effort to stop AB32, mitigation (prevention) as economically far preferable to adaptation, or where we-the-public should be focusing our efforts.

The talk was aimed at water managers, not at citizens.

...and from the content of the Q&A, IMO the citizens badly need to hear what the talk didn't deliver; "straining at the mosquito while the elephant is running wild" comes naturally when you're in an "act-locally"-oriented mindset, but if it's not countered, it's going to trample us.

And a fair amount of disinformation did slip in - primarily but not entirely in the "uncertainty of climate models" section, since to emphasize what's uncertain without also addressing what's robust & why, doesn't serve the audience well. And I heard mention of cooling in the last 10 years, when actually we've just had thehottest 12-month period in recorded history (plus heat's still going into the ocean (img)). And the talk implied that the climate threat's been oversold, when in fact it's been undersold.

Recommended for those who don't think CO2 is as important as it's cracked up to be: Richard Alley's "CO2- the biggest control knob" AGU lecture.

I also got the impression this was a talk by a consultant (tone: "this topic is complex so if you can't follow it, you need me") not by an educator (tone: "here are the important things for you to know"); though others may have come away with a different impression.

A good general presentation on climate change is the Hayhoe slideshow, followed by Krugman's climate economics and Begley's what-we-should-do, & then as needed, Coby Beck, or the EPA "CO2 endangerment" responses to comments (pdf for now), for addressing commonly held (and promulgated) misbeliefs.

(E.g. to counter the monckton/sppi "29 year temp rise has undershot the IPCC prediction" graph (top one here) from the talk, you can go to EPA Response (4-26) (pdf) ( "Two recent studies have addressed whether recent temperature trends are consistent with model runs, and both...find that the recent trends are well within model variability." )
(plus, as mentioned above, the oceans - where most of the heat goes - have continued to warm.)

This isn't an issue we can afford to stay uninformed about.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Union stop-AB32 story today ignores Natl Academies reports, misleads re Stop-AB32 effect

The Union reporter Dave Moller's stop-AB32 story today, State study says AB32 could fuel inflation, comes two weeks after his previous stop-AB32 story.

Today's story omits any mention of yesterday's National Academies' "Strong Evidence On Climate Change Underscores Need For Actions To Reduce Emissions And Begin Adapting To Impacts" climate reports. And further, in saying that proponent Dan Logue (merely) wants to phase AB32 in, in order to ease economic blows, this story builds on a misleading assertion from the earlier story - namely, that the proposed threshold unemployment level for reinstating AB32 was last reached just three years ago - whereas the bigger-picture fact, that the full-year-threshold requirement has been reached for only 3 short stretches in the last 30 years (link), would give the reader a much different, and more accurate, perspective.

Perhaps Moller and his editor were unaware of the National Academies reports? Perhaps they were unaware that the initiative's economic threshold is so stringent as to effectively kill AB32?

Perhaps; but after the previous story I did alert Moller to the "only 3 stretches" fact:
[Dave, your] story doesn't mention that the "one full year" reqt has only been met 3 times in the last 30 years, as documented here:
"...once in the late 1980s (for about ten quarters), a similar stretch in the late ‘90s, and once in 2005-06."

"Ignore is the root word for ignorance."

Climate action now, say National Academies of Science and Engineering reports

The National Academies, fulfilling a congressional request, have issued a trio of invaluable reports affirming the scientific case for a growing and largely harmful human influence on climate; proposing a path and strategies for curbing American emissions of heat-trapping gases; and urging the country to work to cut risks attending life with no new “normal” climate patterns or coastlines.

Read more
(and see the National Research Council press release here.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

The wonders of Nevada City nature

...some of which are more wonderful than others.

A ponderosa pine doing its best to become a flowering plant:

A black morel, I'm told; "probably the greatest tasting mushroom you will ever find" (although I myself wouldn't dare). From last month, in a shady north-facing side yard.

What is this?

And, in the "red in tooth and claw" dept, it seems the Hall's Hardy Almond isn't so hardy after all, at least not in the Glacier Gulch area (microclimate) of Nevada City; the street trees I planted and nurtured (and sometimes neglected) are dying.

They came down with gummosis; I was told to rub the wounds with bleach, but I guess once it's systemic, it's too late.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pie chart showing Stop-AB32 contributions so far

Here's how the numbers (data sources here) came out for me ( warning, it may not be 100% accurate):

$3360 contributions $1000 and under (12 contributions)
$60,000 misc over $1000 (3 contributions)
$102,300 Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Assn (3 contributions)
$498,000 refused to state (1 contributions)
$1,588,000 coal, oil, gas (23 contributions)

Climate hubris - TV weathermen prone, but also [anti-woo] skeptics

In reading this, please keep in mind the distinction between real skeptics (who critically examine evidence) and climate pseudoskeptics (who have closed minds and hold anti-science views); and realize that as a layman you can do just fine avoiding the evidence altogether, as long as you're smart about whose judgment to trust.

The Columbia Journalism Review had a wonderful post titled Hot Air - Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?, examining why so many weathermen are climate doubters: in short*, although they have no climate science training, they're the science alphas of their realm, and it's hard for a lone alpha to see when he doesn't know, or to know who the genuine experts are.

(an education lets you avoid this - when you're thrown in with a lot of people who know far more than you, you quickly come to recognize it.)

And in What, If Anything, Can [true] Skeptics Say About Science?, Daniel Loxton's saying much the same thing, about his community -
"...many [anti-woo] skeptics have limited scientific qualifications...Even skeptics who do have scientific qualifications are frequently called upon to comment outside of their area of domain expertise..."
"people turn to [real] skeptical media to find out what’s really true about weird things... Skeptics solicit that trust. We make the implicit (and sometimes explicit) promise that we are able to provide the nuanced, objective, evidence-based facts."

So these fellows are being accorded science-alpha status just like the TV weathermen, which encourages them too to see themselves as better judges of climate science than the climate scientists; at which point they too are acting beyond their level of competence, and are disserving those who look to them for information.

Loxton reminds them that:
"...the consensus(*) is the result of the scientific process that as [real] skeptics we supposedly believe in. It is the whole point of the movement. So, when you scoff at the consensus(*) you are scoffing at science itself – in effect you are arguing that the scientific system doesn’t work, at least at this time of civilization."