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Climate Change 

August 15, 2012

Populations and consumption

fig2This is a draft figure from an essay that I’ve been working on recently (use your browser to “view image” for a larger size). It is a very simple illustration of (1) the irregular relationship between population size and energy consumption, and (2) the variation of per capita rates of electricity consumption among American states. Here is a relevant excerpt from the text of the essay:

For example, globally the United States ranks first in per capita energy consumption (Figure 2a). Yet, among US states California, the most populous state in the union, has the lowest per capita rate of electricity consumption while Wyoming, with a population 66 times lower than California’s, has the highest rate (Figure 2b). Climatic differences account for some of this disparity, with Wyoming having amongst the coolest summer and coldest winter temperatures in the US. Climate alone cannot account for all the variance, however, because California also has two of the top 10 hottest major cities in the country, along with other populous states such as Texas and Florida. Neither of the latter states is in the top five consumption group. On the other hand, other states in the top five group, such as Kentucky, do not have particularly extreme climates, nor large populations, and therefore have considerable room for reducing per capita energy consumption rates while maintaining high standards of living.

Figure caption: Energy consumption rates. A – Total primary energy consumption of the world’s 10 most populous countries (China, India, United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Russia, Japan), 2009 (BTU = British thermal unit). B – Per capita electricity consumption, United States, 2010. Red – five most highly ranked states (Wyoming, Kentucky, North Dakota, Louisiana, South Carolina), green – five lowest ranked states (California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, New York, Alaska). Florida and Texas are in neither group, but have both high populations and climate extremes.

Filed under: Climate Change,Steinhart Aquarium — Peter @ 10:47 pm

August 3, 2012

Blog policy note


A reader recently submitted a comment which, while expressing a perfectly legitimate personal opinion, quoted material from one of the “Climategate” e-mails. I will not print any material from those stolen e-mails on this blog. The e-mails were obtained illegally, and I consider it a gross violation of both personal and university property. I intend no disrespect to the person who submitted the comment.

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 8:08 pm

July 30, 2012

Thank you Dr. Muller?

“Call me a converted sceptic.”

That quote from a recent piece by UC Berkeley physicist, Richard Muller, in the New York Times. Muller should be congratulated for his objective and scientific approach, and now agrees that the overwhelming majority of ongoing warming is attributable to human activities. HOWEVER, Dr. Muller should not be congratulated for the great disservice that he did to the scientific community when he initially expressed, very publicly, his skepticism for original studies on warming. It is fine, in fact essential, to be skeptical as a scientist. But the proper course of action is to re-examine the study(ies) of which you are skeptical, in scientific and peer-reviewed venues. That is how we test and verify or reject our hypotheses and conclusions. Opinions, no matter how expert, are still merely opinions until tested. Nevertheless, the proper course has been followed, and we should all look forward to the results of Dr. Muller and co-authors’ latest effort. It is, after all, a test of the repeatability and reliability of previous studies. I think that we all need to be careful of not falling into the unqualified and inexpert morass characterized by vessels like Anthony Watts.

The New York Times piece may be found here, and here is an article about that article from the BBC. And a preprint of the study is online here.

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 10:19 am

March 19, 2012

2010 now hottest year

The amendments do not change the long-term trend, but the data now lists 2010, rather than 1998, as the warmest year on record.” Read more here.

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 4:42 pm

March 10, 2012

The reports of the death of climate change science at the Academy have been greatly exaggerated

The “Altered State: Climate Change” exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences has come down after three and a half successful years. The exhibit opened with the new Academy in September, 2008 as one of the major public floor exhibits. I was the lead science curator for the exhibit, working alongside other excellent Academy staff members as well as external content developers and exhibit designers. I must admit that I was a bit sad to see the exhibit come down, for a couple of reasons. First, I personally put a lot of work into it and developed close relationships with some of the other folks who worked on it. Second, the exhibit turnover is a bit of a sign that the “new” Academy is no longer so new, and we’ve settled into our new home. On the other hand, the exhibit is being replaced replaced by an exciting new one on the science of earthquakes and plate tectonics, another topic dear to my academic heart.

Given all this, it was with mild amusement, and some irritation, that I read this nonsensical piece on the typically worthless “Watt’s up with that?” deniers’ blog by Anthony Watt. The basic premise of that post, a guest post, is the claim that the Altered State exhibit was closed down because the “Academy has given up” on climate change. The post is full of its usual deliberate misinformation, misinterpretation and misdirection, so here are a few brief facts to set the record straight.

  1. 1. The Academy has not given up on its study of anthropogenically-driven climate change, nor its efforts to provide information to the general public.
  2. 2. All the main floor exhibits that opened with the Academy in 2008 are scheduled for turnover. The exhibits are not permanent. Short-term exhibits run for 6-12 months, and long-term exhibits for 3-5 years.
  3. 3. Initial planning for the earthquake exhibit that is replacing Altered State started in 2007, even before Altered State itself was built.
  4. 4. The docent supposedly quoted in the post is not a source of information. If the quote is true, then the information offered was both unfortunate and inaccurate. Academy docents are not part of long-term exhibits planning, nor are they privy to exhibit evaluations. But, in keeping with the approach typical of Watt and his friends, no care is given to the accuracy nor reliability of sources or information.
  5. 5. By all standards of natural museum exhibits, Altered State was a smashing success.
  6. I am one of the science content advisors for the earthquake exhibit, so I know what I am talking about. That exhibit will complement a fantastic planetarium show, so I hope that you all will visit! Watt and friends included.

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 10:16 pm

February 3, 2012

Letter to the Wall Street Journal: Check With Climate Scientists for Views on Climate

Thirty eight scientists, with expertise and who actually research climate change, address the Wall Street Journal.

Do you consult your dentist about your heart condition? In science, as in any area, reputations are based on knowledge and expertise in a field and on published, peer-reviewed work. If you need surgery, you want a highly experienced expert in the field who has done a large number of the proposed operations. ” (read the rest here.)

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 8:58 pm

January 30, 2012

The Wall Street Journal could find only 16


The Wall Street Journal published an “Opinion” on January 27, entitled “No Need to Panic About Global Warming“, with sub-title “There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.” The article has 16 signatories, claimed by the editor to be scientists. The piece itself is a whiny, soap opera-type yarn detailing the horrors supposedly faced by the “growing” number of scientists who disagree with: the overwhelming consensus within the scientific community that global warming is ongoing, and that it is primarily the result of human greenhouse gas emissions. The story rambles from that of Dr. Ivar Giaever, Nobel Laureate in Physics who resigned from the American Physical Society in disgust at its embrace of the global warming consensus, to the lack of warming over the past decade (never mind measurement to the contrary), to a defence of carbon dioxide as “not a pollutant” (reminds me of Arnold in that movie with the kids). One could spend some time picking at these well-worn stories for their personal myopia, abuse and distortion of empirical data, and reliance on public misunderstandings of greenhouse gases, but I don’t have time for that. Instead, what I would like to take issue with is the notion, promoted by that Wall Street Journal, that the signatories represent, in any way, an august body of sixteen. Who are these signatories anyway, and how should they be received? As expected, the qualification of the group is dubious (I’m being generous here) and most of the members are absolutely not qualified to issue a scientific opinion of any weight regarding climate change. Some, however, are quite qualified. So what I did was to devise a very crude and simple scoring system to help you to sort them out. Scores are based on whether a signatory has: (1) a Ph.D. (yes, sorry folks, but it really does help to have one), (2) a Ph.D. in a science directly related to climate change (e.g. Meteorology, Geology, Oceanography), (3) a Ph.D. indirectly related to climate change (e.g. Ecology, many areas of Physics, Mathematics), (4) holds or has held a position requiring the conduct of original research, (5) holds or has held a position requiring the conduct of original research into climate change, (6) published research on climate change in a peer-reviewed journal within the past 10 years, and (7) has published any research in the past 10 years. The maximum score possible is 8, but realistically, with most individuals earning a single Ph.D., it’s 7. Here’s how they stacked up:

  • Claude Allegre – 4
  • J. Scott Armstrong – 3
  • Jan Breslow – 3
  • Roger W. Cohen – 2 (being a big cheese in Exxon earns you no extra points)
  • Edward David – 3
  • William Happer – 4
  • Michael Kelly – 6 (finally, someone actually qualified to say something!)
  • William Kininmonth – 3
  • Richard Lindzen – 7 (yes, quite qualified it seems)
  • James McGrath – 4
  • Rodney Nichols – 1 (and I am being very generous here)
  • Burt Rutan – 0 (generosity has its limits)
  • Harrison Schmitt – 3
  • Nir Shaviv – 4
  • Henk Tennekes – 6 (qualified)
  • Antonio Zichichi – 4

What should we make of this? In my opinion, this is a list of 3 (folks ranked 6-7). I must question their judgement, however, based on the company that they have chosen to keep, but to each his/her own. (Oh wait, no women are on the list, but this is science after all). I’m not sure how to judge the significance of the rankings, since that would require a lot of random selecting and leg work on my part, and I do have a day job. But just for fun, I applied the scoring to that old lightning rod, Michael Mann, and myself (shoot away).

  • Michael Mann – 7 (I would hope so!)
  • Peter Roopnarine – 6 (I dabble)

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 11:35 pm

January 23, 2012

The trend continues

NASA’s GISS has now concluded that year 2011 was the ninth warmest year on record, globally, since the modern meteorological record was started in the 1880′s. This continues a trend of the warmest years on the record accumulating in the most recent decades. I am now personally comfortable recognizing that we are well past the point of possible coincidence. You can refer to my earlier post on this. The Earth is on a definite warming trend, and it is probable, again in my opinion, that the most recent increases in weather variance are early indicators of shifting states of regional climates. Take a moment to watch NASA’s excellent video.

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 6:58 am

October 21, 2011

Embracing Uncertainty

The following is a presentation that I gave at The GLOBAL WARNING symposium, organized by ZER01: The Art and Technology Network, the City of San Jose Public Art Program and CADRE Laboratory for New Media at San Jose State University in collaboration with LEONARDO/ISAST, with additional support from the Montalvo Arts Center in September, 2010. Full details can be found here. The presentation was motivated by the somewhat widely held opinion that uncertainty in science, and especially the issue of current global warming and climate change, is something which should not be communicated to the broader public. I do not hold that opinion, and here I try to explain why I both personally, and as a scientist, choose to embrace uncertainty in my everyday life.

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 10:25 pm

September 23, 2011

Adapting to Climate Change

Indigenous populations are especially vulnerable to the effects of global climate change. A new research project aims to help them adapt. (From The Scientist. Read more here)

Filed under: Climate Change — Peter @ 7:40 pm
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