Category Archives: Uncategorized

The DC Mindset — A License Plate Story

I recently visited Washington D.C.  I rode the Metro, visited several Smithsonian Museums, walked along the Mall and checked out several monuments. I particularly like the WWII Monument and the Jefferson.  A great trip.  I will return.

This trip to DC had a bit of odd thrown in too.  The license plate slogan is a perfect example of DC’s odd mindset.

Most states brag about themselves in their license plates, not DC.  Ohio and North Carolina both claim the Wright Brothers.  Ohio’s plate  – Birthplace of Aviation, North Carolina’s – First in Flight. Idaho has Famous Potatoes, West Virginia is Wild and Wonderful and you can Live Free or Die in New Hampshire.  Minnesota has 10,000 Lakes and Alaska is the Frontier State.  Several states throw in tourism web addresses.

What does DC say on their plate?   Taxation without representation. Yep, the folks in DC are whining because the founding fathers stiffed them when they wrote the US Constitution.  What was James Madison thinking?  And Thomas Jefferson too?  But is DC really getting stiffed?  It is true that only states are allowed to have congressional delegations and DC is not a state.

Should it be a state?

It’s pretty small.

Washington, DC

That’s right, just 68.3 square miles.  And most of the people that live in the Washington DC area don’t live in the Federal Capitol.  The Washington DC metro area has a population of about 5 million but only about 600,000 actually live in DC.

The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution gave DC residents the right to vote for President (DC gets 3 electoral votes).  It fares better than American Territories (American Samoa, The US Virgin Islands) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  They don’t get to vote for President.

Maybe the founding fathers did it on purpose.   DC gets lots of really great stuff because it is the seat of government.   All the museums are free as is the National Zoo.  And it has a great Metro, paid for with Federal Tax dollars.  One could argue that DC already has 100 senators and 435 congressmen living there.  And since they live there, they care about it.

DC is a City with a special status.  And it is getting it’s fare share of the federal pie which would indicate that it is getting represented.

https://i1.wp.com/www.dcfpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/2-7-13-Revenue-Primer-Figure-11.jpg

DC gets 28% of it’s budget in federal grants.  That’s over 2 billion dollars a year in federal money.  Special grants paid for much of the Metro.  DC has the best subway in the US….and we all helped pay for it.  Imagine how much more they could grab with 2 senators and a congressman.

DC’s political status is not going to change.   DC’s demographics virtually assure that it will be a Democrat stronghold politically.   2 more Democrat senators will change the political landscape in ways that Republicans will not like.   Any  change in DC’s political makeup requires a change in the US Constitution.   That’s not going to happen (it was tried in the 1970’s and went nowhere)

What are the powers that be trying to accomplish with their license plate slogan?  You got me.  I have no idea.  It does say something about the Washington DC mindset.  They would rather complain than focus on the positive.

Sea Level — A S.W.A.G. Game

Sea level has been rising steadily since the end of the little ice age some 250 years ago.  It has been averaging about .2 mm per year or about 7 inches per century.  The rate of change has been surprisingly stable as this chart of San Francisco demonstrates:

Sea level in San Francisco has been trending downward since 1998.  This second chart of the same information makes it a bit easier to see the recent decline:

So if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been steadily rising, and the world is a degree warmer than it was 200 years ago, why has sea level has not been rising since it peaked in 1998?

Sea level is a trailing rather than a leading indicator of climate.  And the delay can be as much as a thousand years!  The world warms and then the ice melts.  As fresh water stored over land decreases, sea level rises.  If it stays warm long enough, the deep oceans begin to warm.  As they warm, they expand and sea level rises even more.

The current rising sea level process began about 20,000 years ago as we came out of the last ice age cold cycle.  Here is a chart of that rise in sea level:

Temperature in the Holocene peaked about 10,000 years ago as this chart demonstrates:

The world is a bit cooler than it was 10,000 years ago.  Sea level has been slowly rising the entire period.  Imagine the world of 130,000 years ago when it was much warmer than it is today.

And finally we’ll look at a chart prepared of a Greenland Ice Core:

Greenland is in a cool cycle right now.  It’s a bit warmer than it was a few hundred years ago, but the current period is cold for Greenland in the last 10,000 years.  Greenland is some 2 degrees C cooler than it was just 3000 years ago.  It is worth noting that according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center Greenland has been covered in ice for 18 million years.

When I look at the last two charts I must give Mother Nature her due.  Sea level has been rising since we came out of the last ice age some 20,000 years ago.   And that’s a good thing!   We don’t want the climate we had even 15,000 years ago.  Sure we had lots more land above sea level, but much of it was frozen.   Think Greenland …then imagine the Northeastern USA and you’ll get the idea.

The IPCC appears to be ready to predict (in their 2014 Climate Report) a rise in sea level of from 10 inches to 3 feet and they attribute it to man caused events (according to a NY Times article).   I suspect wild ass guessing.

Changes in sea level we see in the next 86 years are more likely than not a function of the climate we have been having for thousands of years.  The IPCC thinks most variation seen before 1950 is natural climate variation. That’s a lot of change.  How do they know the current changes are not natural climate variation.  How can they know?

One tenet of the IPCC climate change group is that it is cheaper to try to mitigate climate change than it is to adjust to it.  I’m not so sure, I fear they underestimate nature.

  • When I look at the San Francisco chart I see a relatively steady increase since the beginning of the chart in 1850.
  • When I look at the Greenland chart, I see lots on natural climate variation.   Greenland has been lots warmer in the recent past than is today…and that was a natural event.  Will carbon dioxide make it warmer than it otherwise would be. Probably.  But it could get lots colder soon too if history is a guide.  How much of any short term  change is natural and how much is man caused?  I don’t know.
  • When I look at the last 150,000 years I’m glad we live in the warm time we live in.

When I step back and look at the big picture…a steady increase in sea level seems possible as long as we don’t start another ice age cool cycle.  It could be accelerated by an increase in melting from Greenland and Antarctica.  Greenland had an average melt year in 2013 and Antarctic Ice has been actually increasing in recent years.   Sea level has been declining since 1998.

What will the future bring?   I don’t know but I do know this:   Many of the changes in sea level that are a result of today’s weather will show up hundreds of years from now….even if the IPCC is right.

And when I look at the IPCC….I see guessing…..wild ass guessing.

Disease Statistics — A SWAG guessing game

This morning I was reading an Anchorage Daily News article about how keeping your brain active by working longer delays dementia.   Smack dab in the middle of the article was this dementia factoid:

ABOUT DEMENTIA: About 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type. In the U.S., about 5 million have Alzheimer’s — 1 in 9 people aged 65 and over.

The numbers didn’t seem right to me.  I immediately suspected wild ass  guessing.  I decided to look at the data a bit more closely.

If there are 35 million people in the world with dementia, and there are 5  million Alzheimer cases in the USA, then….there are probably at least 7 or 8 million cases of dementia in the USA or  about 20% of the world’s dementia cases.  20% of the total is in a 4.7 % population sample.  Does the USA have dementia at 5 times the worldwide average?    Probably not?

I then looked at the CIA life expectancy data.   If enough of the world’s population had a very low life expectancy then the numbers might make sense.  There are places in the world where most people don’t live long enough to get dementia.     Places like Chad (last on the list) or South Africa where the average person doesn’t see their 50th birthday.  But is it statistically significant?  Chad probably gets lost statistically because the population is too small at 11 million.

There are 30 countries in the world where the average person lives less than 60  years (Ethopia is #193 on the list of 223 countries at 60.00 years), but there are also 50 countries in the world where people can expect to live longer than the USA’s 78.62 years.

The data is full of odd little facts.   People in Hong Kong live 7 years longer than do people in the rest of China.   And people in Puerto Rico live longer than the average for the entire USA.   And Italians live longer than any other large group of Europeans.  Go figure.  I wasn’t surprised that Monaco topped the list at over 89 years, but having Macau come in second did surprise me.

I’d expect many  dementia cases in say…Japan (#3) where the average person lives to be 84.

I then went over and looked at the world population totals by country and compared that data to life expectancy data.  I then prepared a table of the 25 most populous countries….and here it is,  the world population top 25:

Country                    Population            Life Expectancy         Life Ex. Rank   Year

China                     1,347,350,000                        74.99                         100          2102 India                      1,210,193,000                         67.48                         163           2011 USA                           313,478,000                         78.62                            51          2012     Indonesia                237,561,000                         71.90                          138          2010  Brazil                        192,376,000                          73.02                         127           2011  Pakistan                 183,000,000                          66.71                          167          2013  Niger                       158,423,000                           54.34                        207          2010 Russia                     143,056,000                           69.85                         152          2012 Bangladesh            142,319,000                           70.36                        150           2011  Japan                       127,650,000                           84.19                             3           2012  Mexico                    112,336,000                           76.86                           72          2010  Philippines             92,340,000                            72.21                         135          2010  Vietnam                   87,840,000                            72.65                        130           2011 Ethiopia                   84,321,000                            60.00                        193           2012 Egypt                        82,019,000                             73.19                        124           2012 Germany                 81,858,000                             80.32                          28            2011     Iran                           76,348,000                             70.62                        149           2012  Turkey                    74,724,000                             73.03                        126           2011 Congo(DROC)      65,966,000                              56.14                       200           2012 Thailand                 65,500,000                             74.05                        115           2010 France                     65,350,000                              81.56                           15           2012  United Kingdom 62,262,000                              80.29                          30           2010   Italy                         59,464,000                              81.95                            11           2011  South Africa         50,586,000                             49.48                         222           2011  South Korea         48,580,000                             79.55                            42          2010

Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh definitely pull the numbers down……but I’d suspect quite a few cases in China and Western Europe…so….I still have doubts.  I wonder if Vodka consumption has anything to do with the Russia numbers?

I still think either the USA number is too high or the rest of the world is too low.  We could have over diagnosing in the USA or ….more likely… we have places where the data is inaccurate.   I still expect SWAG…..and under reporting in the developing world and China.

Mr. Obama and the Flat Earth Society

Last week I became a member of the Flat Earth Society….or so says my President.  He was discussing the urgent need to take action on global climate change.

Come on Mr. President, it’s recycled data.   The IPCC President used that one in 2002.   Al Gore has linked skeptics to people that thought the moon landings were faked.   And in MR. Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, skeptics were equated to the smoking lobby…complete with slides of old magazine advertisements of doctors recommending smoking.    The climate change boogie men have been using this tactic since the 1980’s.  When challenged attack the creditability of your opponent.

It helps to have a thick skin if you going to question the conventional wisdom of the day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the world is a bit warmer than it otherwise would be because of man caused global warming gases.   I simply think the ecosystem is so complex and has so much natural climate variation that it is impossible for anyone to KNOW how much of the recent warming in natural climate variation and how much is man caused.   Everybody is guessing.   And the recognized experts (the IPCC)  have….at least so far….been dead wrong as this chart demonstrates:

This  chart is from a draft of  AR5 (the 5th Climate Assessment) that has been making the rounds at various skeptic sites.   AR5 will be published in 2014. Every few years the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issues a climate synopses report.   The first one (FAR) was published in 1992.   The reports take a long time to write, so the data is usually about 2 years old when published.

Let’s look at the AR4 data.  The Forth Assessment (AR4) was prepared in 2005 and published in the fall of 2007.  The orange color as depicted on the chart is the probable range of  temperatures the IPCC anticipated.  Every year since 2005 has been low.   The data in the chart stops in 2011 because the draft was being prepared in 2012.   2011 was a cool year by 21st century standard.  2012 was above 2011 but just barely,and so far 2013 has been a bit cooler than either 2011 or 2012.  Every year since 2005 has been cooler than the IPCC predicted and every year since 2011 has been so cool as to be below the minimum range prediction made by the IPCC in 2007.

The First Assessment (FAR)  was prepared in 1990.  Every year except 1998 has been lower than the IPCC predicted.   If there is one pattern that has emerged….it is that the IPCC has been wrong in their predictions.  They have tended to be wild high.   I’m not one of those people that thinks I know how to calculate the right temperature for any given time.  I’d argue that anybody that tries is guessing…..and the IPCC has ….so far…been a lousy guesser.

And a note to Mr. Obama….just because everybody you associate with agrees with you does not mean you are right.

I’m all for making a reasonable effort to limit our carbon footprint, but I question his assertion that there is no time to critically evaluate the science. The track record of the experts suggests that they are guessing….and guessing badly.

Three quotations out of the past sum up my position on this issue.

Sinclair Lewis is credited with the following:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Both Mark Twain and Will Rogers made similar statements that go something like this:

It’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. it’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.

Another Will Rogers quotation:

Be thankful we’re not getting the government we’re paying for.

The new Obama Keystone Pipeline miscalculation

First an admission –  I voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, but I voted from Mr. Romney in 2012.   It was a tough call, but I took the economy over social issues and went with the guy that, in my estimation, better understood the business that is the US economy.  Unfortunately Mr. Obama has proven to be as I expected.

The economy has improved since the election because housing and energy and autos are booming.   Housing and autos were going to boom no matter who was in charge, but the resurgence in US oil production has been in spite of Mr. Obama (even though he likes to take credit for it).    Case in point, linking the Keystone Pipeline to a global climate initiative.

Mr. Obama and his friends don’t like fossil fuels, so anything that aids in the production of them is necessarily an environmental problem.  So we get statements like:

Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest

and also:

And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward

The Obama administration is hiding behind the notion that a single pipeline project can have a significant impact on global climate.   And other administration officials are interpreting that to mean any increase in carbon dioxide is significant.  Both positions are surprisingly stupid and more than a little bit naive.   An Ostrich with his head buried in the sand immediately comes to mind.

Let’s start with an assumption, the Canadians are going to produce the oil and it is going to get to a market somewhere.   The US State department has said as much in their review of the project.  And now the EPA is suing the State Department, saying they violated EPA law…go USA.

If there is no Keystone pipeline, the oil may cost a small amount more to transport and will need a higher clearing price to be profitable but it will be produced.

Since the oil is going to be produced, the trick is to find the most efficient way to get it to market.   There is only one answer…a pipeline.  Pipelines are the most efficient way to move oil.  Sure rail works too, but it is less efficient.  The Canadians have two choices, the Keystone project or a pipeline (or rail) to British Columbia and marine transport to Asia.   Which is better for the environment?  Remember the Exxon Valdez before answering!

Duuuuh.

Doing nothing is not a choice.  But let’s suppose the Canadians chose not to produce the oil.  We would have to get our oil from someplace else….like Venezuela or Russia or perhaps Saudi Arabia.  All have environmental and political costs associated with their production and transportation to market.

All the alternate feasible energy options will have some environmental risk and could have much greater political risk than the Keystone Pipeline. For my money, oil from Canada trumps oil form anywhere on the other side of the Atlantic.  When I think of Iraq or Iran or Saudi Arabia, I have no difficulty coming up with a positive public interest finding for Keystone.

Pipelines do scar the land during construction, but that damage is temporary and easily mitigated.  There is some risk of a spill, but the risk is relatively low and the cleanup (particularly when on land) is relatively easy to mitigate.  Environmentally, pipelines are generally a good choice, particularly when comparing them to the alternatives.

Come on guys….

And now for the really stupid part….the implication that any single relatively small project can have significant worldwide climate implications or the notion that any amount of  additional carbon in the environment is mathematically significant.  It doesn’t matter whether you believe in global climate change as predicted by the UN or not, the math makes no sense.   Any single project is just too small to matter.

The notion that there is a clear national interest in denying the project….well that’s just extra special stupid.  Allow me to explain.  Three charts should do the job, and here they are.  The first is total green house gas emission in the USA by sector:

Most of the Industry section (20% of the total) is end use energy  consumption.  Either heating or process fuels.  All the pipelines in the USA are but teeny tiny part of the Industry section. The best ways to reduce carbon dioxide in the USA are to reduce transportation fuel (better gas mileage vehicles) and to use less coal in power generation.

There are lots of pipelines.

How can one pipeline really matter?

Carbon production is a world wide story.  Thinking regionally doesn’t work when counting carbon.   In 2005 the USA produced more man caused carbon dioxide than any other country.  In 2006 China passed us…and by 2011 they produced 50%  more than the USA.   China now (2013) produces more carbon dioxide that the USA and the EU combined.

Any solution that reduces world wide carbon production must include China.

The natural cycle creates about 97% of all carbon produced at any given time.  The 3% man produces is probably changing the balance as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has steadily risen by 1.5 to 2 ppm since the beginning of the industrial revolution.  Earlier this year it topped 400 ppm for the first time in over a million years.

China is increasing their carbon production by about 8% per year.  That 8% is a huge number.  It overwhelms every other number in any carbon dioxide calculation.

In summary

  • All pipelines collectively are but a tiny piece of the 20% Industry component of the US carbon footprint.
  • The USA represents about 16% (in 2013) of the world wide total.
  • China is growing their carbon footprint at 8% per year and is about 29% of the total.  Each year China increases the worldwide total by about 2%.
  • There are literally millions of miles of pipelines in North
    America

It is impossible statistically for one 2000 mile pipeline to become significant mathematically?   The impact is going to be so small as to be unmeasurable.   And China goes and goes and goes.   If China doesn’t change their ways what we in the USA do doesn’t really matter.

And if the Keystone pipeline is not built…the oil will go to China where it will be consumed in plants that pollute the air and raise the carbon levels more than if the pipeline had been constructed.

400 year old plants come to life in Canadian Arctic

I just finished an article in The Atlantic.  The article is titled Jurassic Park is Real…for 400 year old Arctic Mosses. Yeah, it’s a stupid title ..but just go with it.  It turns out that mosses that have been under glaciers for 400 years come back to life as the glacier melts.   This discovery surprised the scientists doing the research.  They did not expect the glaciers to melt so rapidly and they did not expect the plants to come back to life.

As I read the article I was fascinated by the way the conventional wisdom of the day was being changed by new information….science at work.

And then I got to thinking about climate change.  These plants were on glaciers way up north in Arctic Canada, very near the Arctic Ocean.

Just 400 years ago they were growing plants, that surprised me.  I would have guessed the glacier ice in that specific location to have been around for a longer span of time.   These plants were knocked off by the end of the little ice age.   Wow.   I wonder what it was like up their during the height of the medieval warming period around a 1000 years ago?

This region appears to be changed by fairly small changes in temperature….and it may actually be  trailing rather than a leading indicator of regional climate.    The plants were destroyed near the end a cooling period and it took 250 years of warming to rediscover them.  I suspect the whole Arctic ecosystem could be a trailing rather than a leading indicator.

World temperatures peaked in 1998.  Since then there has been a very slight cooling as this UAH worldwide temperature chart demonstrates.

Ice melting in the Arctic has continued to melt ever more rapidly as 2012 was a  record year with ice being the lowest in history; if you can call a data base that started in 1979 significant.

Small data base, lots of noted change, what does it all mean?   Beats me.   How can one really know.  One thing is certain, the changes the plants saw 400 years ago were a part of natural climate variation.

Each summer our local paper includes several Arctic warming articles full of global warming gloom and doom.  How can we be sure the change we are now seeing is man caused?   I suspect widespread SWAG. I remain convinced that  too many hawkish climate scientists underestimate the power of natural climate variation!

Juneau Snow Record

I am ever amazed by my local papers efforts to fill space with local news.   Today I found this little gem on page A-4 column 1 of the Anchorage Daily News:

Snowfall break record by 3.3 inches

A Spring storm has brought record snowfall to parts of Juneau.  The National Weather Service said a snowfall record for the day was broken at the airport, where forecaster Richard Lam said 3.5 inches of snow had been reported as of 10 a.m. Friday.  Lam said the prior record for the day at the airport was 0.2 inches, in 1964.

The article goes on to say that parts of town got rain instead of snow and it was expected to stay wet in Juneau through the weekend.

Why is any of this newsworthy?  Parts of the city got a little wet snow and it set a record.  Give me a break.  Juneau is a very wet place.  Sure it rains more than it snows and snow this late in April is a bit unusual, but the surprise is not that a record was set, but that the old record was so low.

Weather records seem to be broken all the time.   It didn’t used to be that way.   A record snowfall had to be the biggest ever or at least the biggest in the month involved, but not anymore.  Today we have daily records, which give us lots of opportunity to set new records.

30 snowfall records for April alone.  Juneau began as a mining town in about 1880.  Record keeping began some time after that so  the probability that Juneau will have a daily snow record in April is 25% (30/120).  And we have records for high and low temperature, rain and wind.

We keep so many records, that it is virtually impossible not to break old records with regularity.  Juneau’s old record was a trace of snow and now the record is 3.5 inches or about a quarter inch of rainfall equivalent.  By Juneau standards both are low numbers.

Juneau had managed to not have any snow for over 100 years on April 26th, and then it snowed on that day in 2013.   Where is global warming when it’s needed?

And while I’m grousing about weather silliness….what’s going on at the weather channel.   Who gave them permission to start naming winter storms….and who picked the names?  When I was a kid only hurricanes got names, now the Weather Service names all tropical systems.  Storm names are here, there, everywhere.

So many records broken, so many named storms; it’s easy to conclude that the world’s weather must to be getting worse.  Perhaps the only thing that has changed is the way we talk about the weather.  Today we are better at making “much ado about nothing”.