Sunday, November 27, 2016

Basic Geo-Engineering or Cosmic Rays Bite the Particulates

A month ago, before Eli and Ms Rabett fell into deep depression, an interesting and important paper appeared in Science.  While the conclusions are in the paper, the exhaustive supplementary material is where the at is at.

The paper "Global atmospheric particle formation from CERN CLOUD measurements" covers a huge range of experiments done in the CERN CLOUD chamber to try and tease out the source of atmospheric particle formation (that is the title), and the conclusion is about what any rational bunny who has been following the CERN experiments and other work and work from long ago would have expected,

Fundamental questions remain about the origin of newly formed atmospheric aerosol particles because data from laboratory measurements have been insufficient to build global models. In contrast, gas-phase chemistry models have been based on laboratory kinetics measurements for decades. Here we build a global model of aerosol formation using extensive laboratory-measured nucleation rates involving sulfuric acid, ammonia, ions and organic compounds. The simulations and a comparison with atmospheric observations show that nearly all nucleation throughout the present-day atmosphere involves ammonia or biogenic organic compounds in addition to sulfuric acid. A significant fraction of nucleation involves ions, but the relatively weak dependence on ion concentrations indicates that for the processes studied variations in cosmic ray intensity do not significantly affect climate via nucleation in the present-day atmosphere.

In other words, the conclusion from well before the evil danes stirred up the denialists with their cosmic ray fantasy holds.  Cosmic rays do not play a significant, if any role in formation of the aerosols, there are always enough of them around that they are not limiting and the slight increase from cosmic rays plays no role.

What this paper and the supplementary material do is to assemble a large and complete set of laboratory data from which a kinetic model can be built and compared both with experiment and observation.  That is science.

The interesting part, which this work reinforces, but to Eli was first pointed out by a bunch of Finns who instrumented the North Woods, and who are part of the team publishing the current work, is that amines, particularly ammonia turn out to be the limiting factor in the atmosphere for formation of particulates which grow into clouds.  The lab data clearly show the enhancing effect of adding ammonia or amines in small concentration to the chamber, but more interesting perhaps is the model prediction for the effect of the solar cycle (aka cosmic rays) and the increase of ammonia concentration since preindustrial times.
The increase in ammonia concentration comes, in large part from animal wastes, to an extent from ammonia synthesis leakages.

So, given the current dire situation, what does this imply about geo-engineering.  Perhaps something useful.  Instead of pouring SOx into the upper troposphere to raise the albedo, while at the same time increasing the acidification of the oceans, perhaps one could throw some ammonia up there.  The ammonia would actually compensate somewhat for acid rain (although not fully, read the paper) and on a molecule for molecule basis be more efficent.

Yes, Eli could be wittier, but he is one depressed bunny.

Two steps further than I expected, three more to go

As climate chaos marches gleefully towards January 20th, Slate calls for a potential savior, a lawsuit by children saying the federal government has an obligation to protect them against the worst effects from climate. The lawsuit does not rely on the usual tactic of pushing a new interpretation of major environmental legislation, but rather the Constitutional principle of due process lawsuits and the even more exotic public trust concept of environmental resources being held by the government in trust for future generations. 

I studied both principles in law school nearly 20 years ago, and have basically never used them in my environmental career. After some initial excitement about public trust, I eventually agreed with my professor that the concept had played a moderately beneficial role in some states, had become incorporated in the legislative and administrative process, and was unlikely to do more.

But that was 20 years ago. This new litigation has survived initial magistrate review and the initial judicial analysis (magistrates are administratively appointed judges without all the authority of traditional judges). The judicial analysis at this stage looks to see whether there's any way that plaintiffs can possibly win, without having to examine disputes about the evidence. The judge said, yes, maybe, I have to look at the evidence.

I read the actual opinion (website down right now, will look later to see if it's fixed), and there are many barriers for plaintiffs, not least of which is the argument that this is a political question not subject to judicial resolution. This judge has to carefully examine the evidence and rule in favor of plaintiff children, her decision has to be supported by the Ninth Circuit appellate court, and (hardest of all) that decision supported by a Trump-appointed Supreme Court. And this is a case that the Supreme Court would take.

I'm not actually sure what will happen next. There may be an attempt for immediate, interlocutory appeal to cut the case short, or maybe the judge might examine the evidence around certain questions like whether the government has any legally-enforceable obligations before considering what the remedy would be, allowing that decision to go to appeal.

Still, this got further than I anticipated, and if nothing else can turn up the heat on governmental inaction.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hello Freedom House: a 40% failure rate rates America as "Partly Free"

Just mentioning this right now as an idea, but I'm thinking of setting up one of those online petitions, this one directed at Freedom House and its rating of countries' freedom. In two of the last five American presidential elections, the candidate who won the most votes was not declared the winner of the election. In what other countries that Freedom House rates as "Free" does that happen?

Parliamentary systems with a minority-party leader as PM are not a counterexample, because that PM has to get support of the parliamentary majority. The state-level, winner-takes-all Electoral College system has no counterpart abroad because it's such a stupid system that no one in their right mind has ever contemplating imitating it. Even Britain's troubling 2015 election that gave a parliamentary majority to one party winning 37% of the vote, at least handed control of the country to the side that won the most votes.

I'm not saying it's impossible for this non-democratic outcome to happen elsewhere but rather I'm not sure that it has, certainly not with a 40% failure rate, and if somehow it did then that country should also be shamed accordingly.

While I'd love to see the Electoral College support the actual winner as others are petitioning, I don't see any real chance of that happening. The real end goal is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a legal work-around to solve the problem. Getting Freedom House to call out what's happening would be a nice step in the right direction.

Will Freedom House do it? I don't know. Their discussion of the 2000 US election is embarrassing, but maybe they'll do better the second time around. Getting them to cast any shade at all would be an improvement.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


A couple of good things.

First, Steve Easterbrook on the sand in the wheels, why it is so hard to get anything done

The second, a commentary in Nature Climate Change by Kevin Trenberth, Melinda Marquis and Stephan Zebiak, setting forth the need for better systems to convey climate information to the public and policy makers.  They also start by pointing out the physical inertia in the system makes it difficult to deal with for the public and policy makers
A major concern of scientists,
not adequately appreciated by the public
and politicians, is that evidence of dangers
warranting policy responses may be delayed
or muted by the tremendous inertia in the
climate system, so that by the time problems
are abundantly clear it may be too late to do
anything about them
A major concern of scientists not adequately appreciated by the public and politicians is that evidence of dangers warranting policy responses may be delayed or muted by the tremendous inertia in the climate system so that by the time problems are abundantly clear it may be too late to do anything about them.
They advocate establishment of a Climate Information System as a "near real time version of IPCC Assessment Reports" to inform the public and policy makers and help guide adaptation and mitigation efforts.  Worth reading for how the links they describe between data and action would function in the best of all possible worlds.

Unfortunately, as recent events have shown, for acceptance of science at all levels, not only climate science, this is not the best of all possible worlds.  IEHO this is very much a physical  scientists' answer.  It does not really affect the bottom half of Easterbrook's oval, not that it is a bad thing, not that real time organization of climate information is a bad thing, but that it would run headlong into the same political barriers that action currently faces.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Eli sometimes gets ahead of himself, this time by a decade when before the 2006 US Election the bunny wrote (more or less with some updating):

After the US election the dour bunny is of the opinion that at a minimum Columbia University is about to receive a gift of GISS. Whether it would be silly enough to accept the donation is another story. Goddard, Langley, JPL,Ames and Glenn are in deep trouble too, as is the entire agency. In one scenario aeronautics would go to the FAA leaving a rump Confederate Space Agency centered around Johnson, Kennedy, Marshall and Stennis. Kennedy would be renamed Strom Thurmond Space Center.

Eli is not a happy camper.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

If you thought that was scary

Sea ice extent measures the area of the sea where there is at least some minimum concentration of sea ice, typically 15% coverage.  Sea ice area is a measure of the actual area covered by the sea ice.  Because extent counts grid cells which only have partial coverage, extent will always be larger than area, but when things are in the deep freeze and there is little breakage at the edges and even in the interior of the ice pack, they will approach each other.  Thus the difference/ratio of the two is a measure of compactness

Everybunny who owns the keys to a blog has been showing Winipus' scary global sea ice extent graph, which if anything as iconic of the mess that we are in of our own doing as any hockey stick.

The dive at the end indicates the continuing breakup of the Antarctic ice pack while growth of the ice in the Arctic is historically low.  However Winipus has now produced a sea ice area graph which is beyond scary

In previous years the November peak is well above the June one.  Not this year.

Sea ice is crashing.  The clause is probably human driven climate change imposed on natural variability, but the reticence of scientists can dangerously go the more study is needed route too easily.  Mark Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center has gone the full Al Gore is an alarmist route
The combined number, while easy to derive from our online posted data, is not useful as an analysis tool or indicator of climate trends. Looking at each region's ice extent trends and its processes separately provides more insight into how and why ice extent is changing. Sea ice in the Arctic is governed by somewhat different processes than the sea ice around Antarctica, and the very different geography of the two poles plays a large role. Sea ice in the Arctic exists in a small ocean surrounded by land masses, with greater input of dust, aerosols, and soot than in the Southern Hemisphere. Sea ice in the Southern Hemisphere fringes an ice-covered continent, Antarctica, surrounded by open oceans. While both regions are affected by air, wind, and ocean, the systems and their patterns are inherently very different. Moreover, at any point in time, the two poles are in opposite seasons, and so a combined number would conflate summer and winter trends, or spring and autumn trends, for the two regions.
The detailed mechanisms may differ, but the cause is the same.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

And Then They Came for Richard Tol

As somebunnies may have noticed, Richard Tol is not Eli's favorite economist or much of anything else.  For one thing, well there are a lot of things, but most annoying to Eli is his worship of formalism which blinds him to his own bullshit.  Eli's favorite was this one, but of course, there are lots of gremlin watchers out there.  However, Tolitarians, that is observers of Tol, know that Richard will only be dragged kicking and screaming to admit a mistake, and that he does make a bunch.

Richard  is a very hard worker, a grinder in the language of physicists and if you disagree with him, well it will annoy him exceedingly, but his approach to anybunny who questions him is Donald Trump's approach, nuclear war.  As a result he has managed to shout down a lot of folks, marginalize others and has a raft of people who would rather not be in the same postal code as him.

Which brings us to Brexit, a policy favored by, in general, the leaders of the British Global Warming Denial Foundation (ok change Denial to Policy but Denial is Policy to them).  Tol, of course, because of his luckwarmer model calculations, guided by a judicious choice of data and use of the +/- key on his calculator, is an academic advisor to them.

Which has now put him in a bit of a bind, as he and his wife are not Brits, but are stealing jobs from Brits, which has lead to an interesting interchange between Dickie and the local Sussex MP
Dear Ms Caulfield,  
Yesterday you voted against a motion that would guarantee the right of EU citizens already in the UK to continue to live and work here.  
 I am one of a family of four of such EU citizens. My wife builds sewage treatments plants, a vital if often underappreciated service, for Southern Water. I teach economics at the University of Sussex, probably one of the largest exporters in the area. Our alumni quickly find well-paid and secure jobs. Our children attend the local primary school. We pay our taxes. My wife volunteers in the local PTA. I regularly volunteer my expertise in energy and environment to the Houses of Parliament. We spend most of our income in the local economy. Frequent visits by friends and family from abroad support the local tourist industry. We love Sussex and its people. To the dismay of their grandmother, our children speak English in a Southeastern accent. 
I can interpret yesterday’s vote in one of two ways. Either you think it is acceptable to play politics with other people’s lives, or you would like to see us leave this country. Could you kindly explain why you voted as you did? 

And, what did you expect, she blows him off by saying it wasn't a real vote, he tries to bludgeon her and they agree to disagree.

Which raises the question of what Richard thought he was throwing in with.  The GWPF folk were always coming for him.

Friday, November 18, 2016

When Does Weather Become Climate

By way of the Verge, Eli was lead to a tweet by Zack Labe, one of the folk who hang out at the Arctic Sea Ice Blog, of a figure made by Wipneus of same

So, on the one paw, as far as weather it's pretty clear that you could not get two places much further away from each other than the Arctic and Antarctic, still what that graph is says is that there is a significant Earthball climate driven albedo decrease and a real positive feedback.

For a long time the line has been why worry, be happy, sea ice in the Antarctic is increasing.  Of course, the two poles are like guy and gal.  Antarctic sea ice surrounds a frozen continent, Arctic sea ice fills an enclosed ocean, but ice reflects sunlight, thus energy.

Antarctic sea ice is a consequence of increased snow down there as the oceans warm and absolute humidity increases.  Eli wrote about that in Curry vs. Curry, a wonderful example of how Antarctic sea ice extent encourages cognitive dissonance and cherry picking, but of course increasing Antarctic sea ice is a prime tree that the denialists swing on.  Of course also, it was also obvious to Manabe in the 1990s that as warming increased the snow would turn to rain, sea ice would start to melt and Antarctic sea ice would decrease.  Even Curry signed on to that.  It has, the Arctic sea ice is growing in more slowly and the Earth is warming.

Weather has become climate to our ill fortune.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Solutions, We Need Them More Than Ever

The replacement for my old Prius

Thought I'd blog about something a little less depressing.

This picture makes me look more green than I am - maybe I should show half of a Ford Fiesta instead. Regardless, as of a week ago my wife and I are down from two cars to one. She almost never drives for work, I only drive sporadically for work, and our off hours we usually either don't drive or drive together. We live three minutes' walk from a Caltrain station that we take to San Fracisco for work, and Bay Area BikeShare gets me to my office in 10 minutes.

I've got a monthly pass on Caltrain, and BikeShare unlimited rides for $90/year. My community, Belmont CA, is very walkable/bikeable if you live down by the train where we do instead of up in the hills. The main street in San Mateo County, El Camino, even has pretty good bus service every 15 minutes, although I don't use it enough.

It finally occurred to me that I could save about $1000 annually on insurance and $1k-plus in depreciation by not replacing my aging Prius, and then do an occasional Lyft or rental. We'll see if this will keep us out of cars even more, but being able to do this is an advantage that decent public transit and land use has given us.

The Prius was a great car though - 12 years, 187,000 miles, still getting 43 mpg at the end and still working when we donated it. No huge issues with it, some occasional work. I blew out the rear shocks by driving too fast on 50 miles of washboard road in Death Valley, but I may share some of the blame for that.

Two related points - Bay Area BikeShare is expanding from 700 to 7000 bikes starting next year. We're hardly pioneers with this idea, but I'm glad to see it take off here and help solve the Last Mile Problem. The bikes work pretty well - they're as durable (and heavy) as hell.

And a secret for those flying into San Francisco Airport that took me years to figure out - the city bus service is your friend. Anywhere from Palo Alto to San Francisco (depending on where specifically you're going in your city destination), bus service is likely faster than getting someone to come pick you up, maybe faster and definitely cheaper than BART, and not that much slower than Lyft or taxi, if the bus departure time is close to when you're ready. More info here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

PicoSolar: Better, Faster, Cheaper

There is a new buzzword on the street, PicoSolar for electrification of the developing world.  While full electrification with renewables will require wiring, lighting and powering small devices such as cell phones is very low hanging fruit.  Turns out Dan Golden was right and the NASA engineers wrong you can have all three

A bit of a while ago Eli pointed to an IEA report on the costs of power up Africa which by implication also covered poorer parts and villages of the world.  In no to low power situations maintaining fossil fuel electrification has a number of not hidden but not the first thing people in the developed world think much about issues.

The cost of building out a distribution network exceeds that of putting in solar or wind (follow the Eli link).  A small amount of electricity would bring infinite improvement to the lives of the global poor.  When you do not have electrical lighting 900 lumens (about equivalent to a 60 watt incandescent bulb) is the difference between your kid not being able to study at night and going to university later on.  It's the difference between closing shop at dusk and keeping open for a couple of hours into the evening when customers are around.  Cell phone networks are a lot easier to put up and protect for communications Protect is important in poor places because a lot of copper and power gets, shall Eli use the word borrowed.  Telephone poles and wires are useful for using and selling and keeping the wires humming can be nigh on impossible, let alone the cost of putting them in in the first place.  In India a bit over a quarter of all electricity never goes through a meter but disappears.  Since electrons, at least according to physicists, are conserved, somebunny is kidnapping them.

Then, of course, for fossil fuel, there is the cost of getting the stuff to where it is being used.  Coal is not light, roads into the bush tend to be, well primitive, and trucks, railroads have maintenance of rickety stuff issues.  Putting up a large coal burning power plant in a central location does not necessarily help much with respect to providing power to rural areas.   Even in urban locations everybunny who can afford it has a kerosene generator for the frequent power failures.

The default option for lighting in the developing world are kerosene lamps.  They befoul the room that they are used in, The indoor pollution they generate sickens people, and keeping them lit is expensive, ~$150 per year,  when you are trying to survive of two euro/dollars a day.  When a quarter or so of your income is going for lighting it is pretty hard to escape poverty

As is typical with fossil fuel solutions, they are a constant drag on both the family and national economy, because countries have to subsidize (above the $150 yr) the cost of fuel to keep it available to the poorest.

It is this constant drag on funds which illuminates the ethical bankruptcy of fossil fuel advocates when they claim the war on coal is the war on the poor.  Like the old dope peddler they want to keep the poor hooked.  They advocate giving away free telephone poles because they know full well that today's innocent poor will become tomorrow's buyer of coal.

Large power plants are slow to deploy. Supply chains for the fossil fuels have to be established and fed.  Building out distribution networks takes time and lots of money.

There is a useful answer, solar powered LED lamps (of course there is a battery involved you dolt), which are displacing kerosine lamps.  The cost is OOO $10-$20.  One could have a split system, but the least expensive ones are put out during the day to charge and brought in at night to use.  While they are currently within the reach of those feeding a kerosene habit, there are also organizations working to bring first world dollars to purchase and provide the lamps.  And oh yes, guess who is taking the lead in clearing kerosene lamps out of African homes.  Here is a hint, it ain't the Breakthrough Institute, the breakthroughs are here including inexpensive (a friend of Eli taught him never to use cheap when describing elegant and useful things that don't cost a lot) LEDs and solar cells along with improvement in battery technology, and it ain't the Trump Foundation in case anybunny is wondering why Eli is so depressed.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Republican white nationalist vortex

If you're a national-level Republican official and care about your party tribe and nothing else, then I suppose you should enjoy this moment, because it's downhill from here. You lost the popular vote, three times in a row and six times out of the last seven, and that'll likely get worse next time and definitely for several cycles afterwards.

Some people have interpreted exit polls to show that Trump did not get a reduced share of the minority vote compared to Romney. Best analysis I've seen is that the exits aren't sampled to accurately measure sub-groups - they say so themselves - and Trump lost share with Hispanics. I'd guess the same is true with almost all other communities of color. African-Americans might be different in the short term, no longer voting for the first black president, but the Republican vote share isn't going anywhere far in that community.

The white nationalist vortex is going to drive moderating voters, those from minority communities, out of the Republican Party. The Republicans had some tiny chance of escaping the vortex if they had lost the presidency and then reconsidered anti-immigrant policies, but that's gone now. Instead the outcome is going to be which type of white nationalist vortex they fall into for national politics:

1. Anti-Muslim immigrant only (also bias against black people is assumed in all categories)

2. Anti-Muslim and anti-Hispanic immigrant

3. Anti-immigrant generally

4. Anti-immigrant with extra-overt bias against black people

5. All the above plus anti-Semitism

6. All the above plus anti-Mormon

My guess is the Republicans will mainly fall in Category 3, although there will be some Republicans in the other categories. Anti-Semitism was barely visible in American life prior to 2016. Now it's back, but I'm hoping it'll drop back down to the background noise that it was. Some evangelical Christians have a very patronizing attitude towards Judaism and Israel, but I don't think they'd support overt anti-Semitism given their attitude towards Israel and the imminent End Times.

That same group would determine the attitude towards Mormons - many in the past did not think of Mormons as Christians, and if that attitude came back it would have a powerful dynamic in Utah and other Western states.

It almost doesn't matter which category dominates the white nationalist party. In each election cycle, the white nationalist vote will be a smaller overall percentage, but will demand loyalty to the white nationalist position on immigrants. It won't be until some combination of white nationalists aging out of dominance of the conservative demographic, plus other ethnic groups becoming less tied to immigrant communities, and the unknown political affiliations of large groups of people with mixed race backgrounds, that the nativism could be replaced among conservatives.

As everyone keeps saying, we've seen this game here in California. It's worth acknowledging that it'll be another 30-50 years for the rest of the county to have California's demographics. OTOH, California Republicans today hold no statewide offices and struggle to hold a third of the seats in the legislature - we don't need that level of demographic overkill to get real change in political power.

It all might still be delayed. I read a depressing political/econ analysis saying the economy might be ready now to really take off, and Trump's inefficient tax cuts and infrastructure spending may accelerate that. The effect may be to give a "Morning in America" economy in 2018 that Trump will take credit for, and even in 2020, the incumbent advantage might overcome demographic change. On the other hand, maybe not. And demographics is not a maybe.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The American people have spoken, and they chose Hillary Clinton

UPDATE NOVEMBER 13:  it's fitting that in the currently-first entry in a Google search about election results, the Trump supporter response to losing the popular vote is to deny that he lost. Also says something that he provides his source - a guy named Mike who typed contrary results in a Tweet. Anyway, numbers and text updated below, and I'll revise one more time in a week when almost all the later and provisional ballots have been counted. Hillary beat Donald by even more than Gore beat Bush.

Top line figure if you're asking who Americans chose:

Clinton:  62,523,126
Trump:   61,201,301

Those figures are as of November 13 but they've been trending in her favor since Tuesday and are likely to only grow a bit more. Criticize us Americans, rightly, for only rejecting Trump by a small margin but that's what we did. It's the Electoral College system that decided the loser should be President, not the public.

That's not to say we should be reassured - we shouldn't.

Continued federal action on climate change via Obama's climate plan will go away. Trump's replacement for Scalia on the Supremes will eviscerate one key section of the plan. Another part of the Clean Air Act might save it or might not, but Trump will follow regulatory processes to destroy the plan and possibly legislative action too. It's up to the states to act now, and to our international partners. Paris Accord will survive to the next election.

Obamacare is less clear - not sure how willing Trump and Republicans are to take health care away from 20 million people, although they might - these people aren't that powerful and don't vote Republican. Malign neglect of the law, which needs technical fixes, might give them a chance to trash it while blaming the law itself.

For an authoritarian, Trump is less interventionist than I'd expect, although he talks big talk on ISIS in a non-nuanced way that is scary, especially considering he is puzzled by why we don't use nuclear weapons. Let's hope Mosul is done and Raqqa gets close to falling before January 20th.

Alternative interpretation - authoritarians don't always start out as military aggressors in foreign countries, it's just a trick they turn to when they get dangerously unpopular. So wait for it.

About as important is the general incompetence we're likely to see - unless he chooses aides who aren't sycophants. Good luck.

As soon as one liberal leaves the Supreme Court, give it a few years more and gay marriage will no longer be the law of the land, but up to each state. 

And finally, whether he'll take any steps to really, fundamentally destroy American democracy, following the Caesar route. I'm guessing he's too incoherent to have a plan to do this, but he would do it if the chance arose. Then we see how well American institutions work.

So what to do:

Give Trump a chance? Sure, why not? He's one of the worst people in America, but he's not the absolute worst. Maybe the one in a million chance will play out that he'll change. His misogyny and racism are secondary to his narcissism so maybe he'll moderate. What I can't support is sucking up to him.

Anyone living in a state where the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact isn't approved should get their Democratic legislators to introduce it. Even in a hopelessly Republican state, their failure to pass it gives yet another thing used to beat them over the head.

Could the Democrats, please, please, finally support term limits for Supreme Court judges? A lot of Republicans do. If the Dems had done that 8 years ago, we'd be facing 19 year appointments by Trump, instead of 40-50 year appointments of relatively young, super-conservative nominees.

And act locally, especially on climate change - that's the option we've got.


UPDATE:  and one more idea for a campaign slogan - Warren 2020, A Clear Vision for America

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Vote-swapping is back and it's always been legal

If you or someone you care about can't bring yourself to support Bernie Sanders' and Elizabeth Warren's choice of helping Hillary (brief summary of what she'd do on climate is here), there's still another way to avoid handing the Electoral College to Trump. If you're in a swing state, you can swap votes with a Hillary voter in a non-swing state. Go to #NeverTrump to see how it works, a pretty simple process of connecting with your counterpart in another state and agreeing to swap (a news item about it is here).

These swaps first started in the final weeks of the 2000 election, but some Republican state leaders sent threatening letters with the facetious claim that swapping votes was buying votes. With all deliberate speed, a mere 7 years later the courts found it wasn't illegal, so this time they won't be shut down. The vote numbers don't change, it's just getting the votes where they count the most.

Another slow-moving outgrowth of the 2000 debacle where Gore won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College is an agreement between states to award their electoral votes to the popular vote winner. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will come into effect when states controlling a majority of the popular vote join; it is 61% of the way there so far. If your state hasn't joined, then it should.

Friday, November 04, 2016

VW: First it wasn't us, then it's not so bad

There is news on the VW scandal.  While the company is close(r) to settling with customers and the EPA in the US, strange things are happening in Germany, where the company in response to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, WDR and NDR is claiming that "no unpermitted defeat devices according to European law existed", but anyhow they are working on fixing the cars in the interests of their customers.  What they want to do is avoid fines and compensation in Europe even though they have more or less agreed to same in the US.

The line they are taking is that the autos met the limits on the test stand and that is all that was required but more interesting is that VW states is going the CO2 is wonderful route

To date there is insufficient information about an actual casual relationship between NOx in the environment and specific medical symptoms. Existing scientific studies do not provide a clear picture about the effects on humans of NOx at concentrations found in the atmosphere and do not allow making definite conclusions about the actual danger.  
SZ had another quote from VW
A serious evaluation of illnesses or even death (from this cause) for different demographic groups is according to our knowledge not scientifically possible"
Although NOx in its various forms is no walk in the park as Eli could tell the bunnies having had a few face fulls of the same, this is just nonsense because the issue is not the concentration of NOx that is blowing out bug (or Jetta or whatever) butts,  NOx is the principal precursor for tropospheric  ozone, and why yes there are serious evaluations of illness and death out there from ozone for the boys from Wolfsburg and lots of studies about how NOx emissions lead to smog and privation.

It would be interesting to actually see the Email that VW sent. Perhaps one of the bunnies can find it, but as the lawyer from one of those suing VW said: first, it wasn't us, then, it's not so bad.

But really this is not so new.  Focus (a German new magazine, somewhat to the right) had a similar story back in June with the title "Crazy trick  argument from VW: There was no defeat device" referring to a brief that the VW lawyers (crafty bastards) had sent to the German Environmental Ministry.  VWs lawyers argue that
One can only talk about a defeat device if the effectiveness of the the emission control system would be reduced during actual driving conditions.  This is, however not the case.
OK, how do they define their way around this.  Easy if you are a VW defeat device denier (D3.  You just point out to the helpful (hopefully) court that
The system which recycles the exhaust gas is not a part of the emission control system.  Thus a necessary condition for legally defining how  a defeat device works figuratively speaking is that normal operation is interfered with
ClimateBall Rules

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Your California/SF Bay Area election recommendations

Thought I'd put in a word here for my employer, Greenbelt Alliance, and its Voter Guide to housing, transportation, and open space ballot measures in the SF Bay Area. I had a hand in some of these recommendations.

Something unrelated to my employer is candidate recommendations based on environmental credentials. I spent a number of years on the board of the Santa Clara County League of Conservation Voters interviewing candidates, also involved with the Loma Prieta Sierra Club Chapter, and they both generally recommend good candidates (and have ballot measure recommendations too.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area and California, you can get environmental recommendations from some regional Leagues of Conservation Voters, or google to find your local Sierra Club chapter.

Kevin Drum is also a good source on state ballot measures. I'm not as anti-voter initiative as he is, although there are arguments against them on the state level that don't apply on the local level (a super-majority requirement for change can be created by constitutional amendment at the state level; the only way to make important things somewhat harder to change locally is by local voter initiative).

Prop. 54, a 72-hour waiting period on votes for bills, was a hard one for me. I'm distantly, tangentially involved with state legislation - it's a very inefficient process and this will make it even worse. OTOH, it's an incredibly non-transparent, undemocratic process too. I support 54 and hope for the best. Somewhat relevant, California's experience as a one-party state while the California Republicans continue their implosion means we need to reinforce democracy.

A few others:  Prop. 63 background checks for ammunition purchasers - yes, ammo control has a number of advantages over gun control, so let's explore it further.  Prop 64 legalizing pot - yes but could be done much better (a blog post for another time). Some serious environmental repercussions that need to be dealt with from pot legalization as well. Prop 65 is meant to screw up legislative deals with grocers done to get plastic bags banned - IMO to stop similar legislation in other states - so definite no to 65 and yes to 67.