I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.
By: RickyRood, 6:10 AM GMT on December 23, 2009
Yaris, the Blizzard and Me
As those of you who read Jeff’s blog, and everyone does, you know that Jeff declared me snowbound in the Great Blizzard of 2009. (I met a woman whose admiration for Jeff’s blog had him at the celebratory level of Robert de Niro.) This is my story of the blizzard.
Before I got to Maryland, I had looked at the forecast. Of course, I dismissed the threat of being “snowbound” based on my Washington-DC-press index of blizzard forecast exaggeration.
Figure 1: As I recall, the total accumulation of a 2005 Major Winter Storm in Washington, DC.
On the other hand, when I worked in Washington, I saw the forecast of snow cause panic, leading to fleeing from the office to the grocery store to buy 24 rolls of toilet paper and tubes of 8 D-cell batteries. It is easy to bring Washington to a halt with a “dusting,” and bring out the news reporters talking about DC as a “Southern City.” (Is there an archetypical Southern City these days? Could it be Tallahassee? Mobile? Memphis? Charlotte is pretty new South. Richmond? ) Anyway, having looked at the forecast I thought about it a little.
On Friday night the snow started out 3 hours earlier than predicted, and I was motivated enough to go public on a Washington Post web page with “starts early, ends early and less than six inches of snow.” I mean, for the storm to deliver it required the development of a secondary low pressure system to the south and west of the original low, which I will call a Hatteras low because I am old and partial to North Carolina. Historically, models have had a little problem with this situation, and despite the fragile credibility of my entire life having to rest on numerical models of the atmosphere, I really wanted to have a nice little storm with six inches of snow on the hilly side of DC.
I was staying in Rose Haven, Maryland, in the Herrington Harbor Inn. The Inn sits on the south shore of Herring Bay, with a view straight up the core of the Chesapeake Bay to the north and west.
Figure 2: Rose Haven and Herring Bay, Maryland. On the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
At dawn, I looked out the window and the grass showed through the little bit of icy snow on the ground. This was very encouraging to my desire for a lot of wind and a little snow. I turned on the TV and excited reporters in fur-lined hoods where standing in ankle deep snow on empty Saturday-morning streets in Baltimore. On the ubiquitous WU web site, there were still in BIG RED LETTERS, a blizzard warning for Anne Arundel County.
I had been sleeping with the window slightly open (and, yes, the heat was off, I have some carbon scruples), so I closed it and went back to sleep. About an hour later I got up, opened the door, and noted it was, perhaps, windy. The tall grasses in the new eco-scaping were blown to about a 45 degree angle. The stems were wrapped in ice and held stiff. The tufts of seeds moved back and forth like small brooms. Deciding, “coat,” I went out towards the back of the Inn, away from the Bay to see if the road had been plowed, and if the car could be had. It was and it could. When I came back from behind the building into the wind the ice and snow stung my face so much I had to retreat. Down closer to the water a bundled man struggled with a snow blower. The wind was blowing not only the snow back, but the man and blower.
The decision of “coat,” had fortunately brought the provision of “hat,” and it was, without hyperbole, stinging ice and blow-you-backwards wind. It was then that I noticed, that the grassy ice laid in striations where the high-speed currents of air that were stripping the snow from the ground. The already cleared side walk had 6 inches of snow, in the lee of the clumps of grass were two feet of snow. (A more poetic version, perhaps.) The television in the breakfast room said the wind gusts in Annapolis were 34 miles per hour. The wind coming from down the core of the Bay, I doubt, was ever less than 34 miles per hour. (I was once a reasonably proficient sailor, and have a propensity for standing in driving rain, perhaps with a bit of surf spray. This was unpleasant, and though perhaps a bit softened by age and the mild winters of the Southeast Michigan and the Colorado Plains, well, this weather was actually scary.)
Figure 3: Snow in the wind, on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Yaris is visible in the background.
The walk downwind, back to my room, was more difficult than the upwind walk. I have never been the fan of the unplanned jibe, and liked to avoid the run, even the broad reach. I could not hold the cup of calming lemon chamomile tea still in the wind. More than half of it shook out.
Let me introduce Yaris. Yaris was new to me. This follows, I am sure, from my consuming commitment to all things climate and the construction of a very fine chicken coop. But Yaris, I had to look it up to make sure it was not Varis (note to marketing department, new font), was provided to me at the airport in a line of compact cars I could choose from. It said Toyota on it, and it was odd and small and very red, and I decided to see if such a creature could be in my future.
Yaris was sitting in the parking lot “across from Mango’s.” Thanks to the wind, and not, now I understood, a lack of snow, it was pretty clean. It being that I was in a “Southern City,” there was no ice scrapper, no broom. Yaris, while not buried in snow, was like the grass stems, encrusted. Yaris, sounds male and from the early 1900s Chicago slaughterhouses – he warmed quickly. Now you have to understand that the tires on Yaris are about the size of the tires on a modest size boat trailer, perhaps a large wheelbarrow. My impression of Yaris on the drive down had been, “souped up version of my 1980 Chevette.” Perhaps it is the Mini’s mini. I put Yaris in drive, it would be a pretty cool car with a manual transmission, and started crunching through the parking lot.
Forward momentum was possible. Yaris reliably crunched forward. Given Yaris’s size and my size, much of Yaris’s momentum relied on my mass. The immediate challenge was the modest ridge of crunchy plow tailings at the mouth of the parking lot. With the tools at hand, Yaris’s bumper and a bit of momentum, I flung Yaris into the tailings, only to be thwarted. But Yaris was able to back up, and back up he did, and again he rammed forward.
Now being trained in the basics of physics, though I am sure many of my scientist friends would claim there is no evidence of this, I became concerned about the presence of “the ditch.” Yaris was deflecting more and more to the left. Having recently been assured that gravity still works independent of Mr. Newton’s personality, there was the potential situation that always motivated my college roommate and me to say, “that’s a funny place to park.” I decided to stop the Hagar the Horrible strategy and get out and look around. Opening the door in the snow helped me appreciate just how low to the ground Yaris stood. The door pushed back the snow. He was doing pretty good, not Subaru good, but pretty good. (Subaru is, at least, some sort of appreciated standard. Not Humvee level, which apparently DC Police get in snow storms.) I stomped a couple of wheel tracks through the pile of road plow, got back in Yaris, took aim, and like an FSU running back bursting through a paper Seminole, Yaris made it onto the road. (In this whole time, not a single car had passed.)
A couple hundred yards from the water the wind died down, and the snow was piling up quickly. But given a half plowed road, Yaris moved reliably forward, and backwards when called upon.
Those of you who have read far more of my writing than is normal might remember Christmas at the 7-11. This part of Maryland is a place of big pickup trucks, and eventually Yaris was amongst the trucks and the Jeeps. (One of my favorite snow driving experiences is the happy Jeep driver coming up behind me, casually pulling out to pass, pulling back in, and proceeding quite directly into a yard full of dogwoods and redbuds and safely (I checked in my rearview mirror.) stopping at someone’s front porch.) I will spare you many of the exciting moments of the 45 mile drive at the height of blizzard to BWI Airport, where because I had given the weather forecast some credibility, I had arranged a room at the airport hotel. I did befriend a big pickup truck with a blade on the front to make a path around a less able Ford Fiesta. I think by the official definition, there were whiteout conditions. I was fearful of the plow tailings at the exit ramp from I-97, but I followed the tracks of a MUCH wider vehicle and the nearly round Yaris did not even threaten to fishtail. We arrived with a wind shield that looked like Charles Lindbergh in an ice cloud. Many greater vehicles did not make it.
Figure 4: Taken by my brother Bob in Esmont, VA, which was not even officially blizzard, and it snowed "a few more inches." Used without permission.
I can now officially say that I made it out of B’more on Sunday. This is thanks to a major Chicago based airline and no thanks to an airline commonly associated with Detroit, Minneapolis, and now Atlanta, which seemed in total collapse. (Have seen total collapse in that Chicago-based airline as well, but Sunday they behaved real smart.) I am where I want to be.
There were many, many soldiers heading home on Sunday. A bunch got upgraded to First Class on this plane. I am, without exaggeration, stunned at their youth. Many of them are young women. Over the last 5 years, I have come to notice, far more, youth and its strengths and fragilities. The students I teach are older than many of these soldiers, and even 4 years older they are still at the beginning. There are middle-aged men in the National Guard who are living a different life than they once imagined. These people are doing, hard, hard things, and I hope they made it to peaceful homes.
Let Jeff know, I was not snowbound.
OK, climate change question? What may a record December snow storm in the East say about climate change? Anything? In many places this storm exceeded the average snow totals for the entire winter. It was forecast magnificently, and that is more often the rule than the exception. What is the value of this forecast?
Updated: 6:17 AM GMT on December 23, 2009
By: RickyRood, 11:33 PM GMT on December 17, 2009
The Party is Over: Copenhagen Devolves
First, I want to thank all for the emails and comments on my last blog. Here is the link to it “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”, and I have posted it at climatepolicy.org (Facilitating Disruption).
I am, officially, back from Copenhagen; a few of our delegation remain there. It was obvious Monday morning that the character of the meeting was changing. There were massive lines at registration. When I arrived at the Metro Station for the convention center, I exited into a small open area with people 10 deep on both sides of me. In one direction the people extended into the convention center, in the other direction people extended out of the Metro Station. Security told me that they were no longer allowing people into the center, but that was not true; it was just how they were dealing with the crowd at the subway station.
In a couple of hours, after getting some information from inside the center, I went to a nearby subway and walked to the Bella Center. Having already registered, I walked into security where there were very small lines. However, the newly arrived students who were waiting in the massive registration line, were to spend more than 10 hours there. On Monday, they never got to register, but through some luck I have yet to understand they managed to register and get into the meeting on Tuesday.
On Tuesday the meeting as a whole started to devolve. A little bit of detail. There are different types of credentials for the meeting. Our delegation has “observer” status, and we can get that being “a non-governmental organization” (NGO). There are credentials for press, which if I go again, I might try to get, and of course, United Nations employees, and a few other types. The NGOs are pretty low priority, and great in number, perhaps the proverbial unwashed masses. According to a news report I heard on the British Broadcasting Corporation, 45,000 people had been allowed to register. The Bella Center only holds 15,000. People come and people go, but as the second week started, it was obvious that more were coming than going.
This new flood of people was in addition to the beginning of arrival of top diplomats. Previously, the delegations had been dominated by career diplomats and professionals. When the various cabinet secretaries and prime ministers and presidents started to arrive, security increased, and so did the numbers from the press. So by Monday afternoon there were these small scrums of people moving around, with some celebrated figure in the middle of the scrum cell, and cameras and microphones hanging over it all. By mid-day Tuesday it was obvious that the overwhelming number of people, the newly arriving people, the increased security, the increasing protests – well, it was obvious that things would go downhill from the point of view of the NGO observer. Even those who had already registered were being denied entrance. I’m certain that this is the last Conference of Parties that will be handled quite like this.
In terms of disrupting the meeting, at some level security organized to keep the diplomats and the negotiating delegates in action. The impact of the over registration and the protests were, as best as I can tell, largely outside the meeting.
As I mentioned in my first blog from Copenhagen, the voices of those seeking climate justice were amongst the loudest. This, big picture, reflects the divide between rich and poor, which is one of the fundamental divides in addressing climate change. It is true that many of those who face the consequences of climate change are low, very low, emitters of carbon dioxide. Low emitters are generally not rich countries, and therefore, not well prepared to deal with, for example, sea level rising. These less wealthy nations are not only speaking for themselves, but they have picked up support from many NGOs in the developed nations. There have been large protests organized around these issues, and the first big protest was over the weekend.
The reporting of the weekend protest is interesting. One of the UoM Michigan delegates, Aubrey Parker, with a camera crew from Circle of Blue, marched with the protest and reported a far more peaceful event than appeared in the much of the reporting that I saw on the web and in videos. Here is Aubrey’s much more detailed Detroit Free Press blog, and link to her team’s videos. In general this protest was driven by those who think that governments are not doing enough on climate change, and demanding to do more. From the point of view of people at the meeting, there was far more talk and disruption by those who have accepted the scientific findings and don’t think enough is being done, than by those who do not accept the science and try to disrupt from that perspective.
More visceral, perhaps, are the protests of the credentialed NGOs who were denied entrance. For some groups, they felt that being at this conference, inside, observing getting to talk to people, that this was their only voice. The delegations from their countries are small and relatively weak. Therefore, their denial of entrance led to spontaneous protests. Again according to the BBC, there were some small groups burning their credentials, and some of the groups who got inside were staging their own protests. Here is a link Ben Robert’s interviews with protesters.
Inside, however, sat Prince Charles. I mention the Prince, as some of the people who came in the UoM delegation got to help the entourage that was coming to film an event where Prince Charles was presenting a set of environmental awards (The REDD Gala) )REDD=(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)). Senator John Kerry said hi to some of the U.S. students who had been denied entrance.
But all of the protestation and angst is still not the main core of the meeting. It amplifies, however, the words flowing around the world about whether of not the meeting will “end in failure.” Prior to meeting the expectations of “success” were getting low, and expectations were being managed. (Rood: WU Blog) People like me, expert in nothing and vain enough to write and talk about it, were saying that having an official commitment to some of the things that matter in the short term, valuation of efficiency, development of alternative energy, development of technology – having a commitment to accelerate these meaningful, required, sensible paths was crucial. I was concerned about becoming wrapped up in the exact size of the 2020 or 2050 reduction, because right now there IS NO EVIDENCE that we can achieve real sustainable reduction of emissions. I was concerned about getting hung up on the size of what rich nations would pay poor nations. (Rood: Pre-conference Interview)
The big issues of negotiation remain the same. The U.S. wants to be able to verify that China and India are meeting their voluntary reduction goals. Less wealthy nations are looking for money from more wealthy nations. In things that have changed in the last 20 years, China, China, China. And there is no evidence that the next 20 years will not feature more of China. China no longer asks for money. China can now provide money to other nations as a way to build influence, build alliance, and acquire resources. Also different than 20 years ago is the real expectation that something will happen. At this point for something real to happen, China and United States will have to come forward with a convincing break in their positions that will bring them more into alignment with the European Union. The U.S. has some, weak guidance from the Waxman-Markey Bill and various bills in the Senate. There is strong pressure not to repeat the story of the Kyoto Protocol where the agreed upon plan was dead on arrival in the Senate.
The meeting, therefore, is encouraging in the sense that there are people, companies, and countries who are trying to make progress on issues without regard to whether or not the big players have figured out how to play with each other. The meeting is disappointing to see this continuous push of fragmented self interests at all levels, and the seeming irreconcilable differences on who will pay what when, how to allow growth, jockeying to protect interests, total emissions and emission intensity (emission per capita). A reconciliation of big players is needed to match the top and the bottom, to define the regulatory and policy environment in which people will play, to motivate and accelerate the growth of good ideas and technology. I personally don’t see carbon emissions decreasing soon; coal is too easy to burn. (See Amrita’s Good Cop / Bad COP)
From the point of view of taking a student delegation, the meeting was nothing but successful. There are many excellent posts at the UoMichigan COP15 Blog website.
And here is
Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org
Updated: 3:27 PM GMT on December 18, 2009
By: RickyRood, 1:30 AM GMT on December 14, 2009
“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”
Yesterday I got into an exchange with a person who posted a comment wishing the curse of a pox to the students writing on the UoMichigan COP15 Blog . It reminded me of Joseph Welch’s question to Senator Joe McCarthy, “You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” (Welch-McCarthy Exchange from American Rhetoric)
In the United States we devolve into something that is more like tribalism with sides taken based on the color of your uniform or who pays you the most. Discussion is based not on ideas and solutions, but on who makes a statement. Issues are advocated, and ideas are placed into extremes that take on attributes such as good and evil, for and against. The other side is wrong, and their intentions are of hidden control or hidden profit. This threatens our credibility and our viability.
US Senators pursue an investigation of climate science based upon the stolen and published correspondence of a small clutch of prominent scientists. Here at the Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen the news says that we should anticipate a visit by Congressman Sensenbrenner to call for the end of “climate fascism.” This will place this US political tribe in solid alliance with, perhaps, Saudi Arabia.
For the conference as a whole, I, my students, my colleagues, new people I meet, the discussion in the plenary sessions – from all of these sources, I hear no serious discussion about any challenge the CRU emails present to the basic conclusions that the Earth will warm, ice will melt, sea level will rise, and the weather will change. I have had a small number of interviews, and the question is asked almost as a curiosity. It’s more like the scandal of the emails is really a scandalous aspect of the US culture, like displays of disfigured animals in the back lot of a traveling freak show.
Some of my American colleagues, those closest to the IPCC, these people spend time developing rational responses to calls for investigations, allegations of lies, searches for conspiracies, and efforts to control the participation of individual US scientists in IPCC assessments. They work to craft rational responses to the irrational. Members of the Congress form and dissolve COP delegations. The rationalist’s response to a process that is being managed to be irrational is, itself, irrational. As the rationalist counters the irrational, their irrationality becomes more and more damaging.
It took me several years of management at NASA to realize that there were some people who thrived on the fight. There were those who were disruptive and sometimes deliberately hostile. Others, who benignly fueled chaos. These efforts to cause organizational dis-structure, to increase organizational entropy – these efforts were their strategy for success. Or if not a strategy for success, it was a strategy to keep others from succeeding, of using the distraction to outlast efforts they viewed to their disadvantage.
I spent some time as a manager of scientists trying to find the rational arguments that would help people see the intent and advantage of what I was trying to do and to develop buy in. I had some success, but there was always a group that worked, deliberately or subconsciously, to sabotage. Their strategy was often to create disorder. Their tactic was often to isolate facts or conjecture that in their isolation suggested rationality, compelled a rational response. The rational response was, ultimately, parried with the next isolated fact or conjecture. This is a tactic to build selective doubt.
While at NASA I had the experience of being on a long camping trip with a person who had a psychotic episode. My companion started to hear voices in the radio background, and transmissions through rusted cans lying on the side of the trail. There were always perceived people with weapons in groups of people near us. My first response was to discuss the inability of people speaking through rusted cans. Then I proceeded to showing that nothing bad did occur following the perceived threat. I tried to use a rational description of reality to prove a point that was motivated and fueled by extreme irrationality. Irrationality ultimately anchored in fear.
As a manager, I became more aware of fear and the fear of change. I tried to make my contribution as organizing disorganized systems. I hired a sociologist to work with me at NASA. What I learned is that this tactic of developing the rational response to the isolated assertion, conjecture, or fact was, fundamentally, ill posed. I learned that irrationality and sabotage were a natural part of getting the job down. I learned that if you allow the isolated assertions, conjectures, and facts to grow to dominate the job, then progress will be slowed, perhaps stopped. I learned that if you want to make progress then the leader has to differentiate her/his self from the turmoil, objectify the irrationality and sabotage as part of the whole – and manage it. Place the disruption in its place – the place of the disruptors.
I also learned that it is important to listen to the disruptors, to truly understand the motivation of the disruption. Almost always a sound foundation of the disruption is offered. It was my job to determine if the stated foundation was the real foundation – what is the subtext? It was my job to determine if I needed to accommodate the concerns of the disruptors into the direction the project or organization needed to take. The reason people disrupted ranged from a true conviction that a certain path was wrong to strong emotional attachments to particular ideas and, even, pieces of software. There were always some who where, often by their own admission, contrarian. And, if one is contrarian, it is usually because being contrarian has been a successful strategy in their lives. There are a host of reasons to disrupt, to resist, and to sabotage change.
As long as the community of climate scientists engages in the disruption and the creation of selective doubt, the disruptors will garner attention and an exaggerated amount of success. The march forward will be slowed. The behavior of all will be reduced to one where it makes sense to question decency. The disruptors cannot be convinced by the exposition of the rational totality; they are not looking to be convinced. Their motivations are elsewhere.
The person who made the original comment on the blog responded to me that their comments represented civility in 2009 and suggested that I would be intimidated by and unwelcoming of the language of Shakespeare. I do not, however, accept that participating in this game of personal attacks, repeated slogans, and outrageous assertions is the form of how we must now carry out deliberations of serious issues. I find no relevance of the curses of MacBeth’s witches. If I behave like a character in a tragedy, then it is likely the results will be tragic.
This behavior of disruption is an old and common tactic. It is always in present in politics and management - really throughout life. It is something one imagines as absent in the purity of science, but it is not absent in the best of worlds; it is a community peopled by scientists. We in the US have allowed it to grow to a way of doing business that threatens our relevance and our viability.
I sit here in Copenhagen, not far from Hamlet’s castle of tragedy. I hear quiet men developing community-based climate adaptation plans to link to development activities in their countries. I see interesting technology in transportation and energy from countries eager for wealth. I see policy and practices developing in other countries that promote efficiency and environmental trade. I see the US distracted and wasting its intellect and time on disruptions designed to play to people at home, and which will assure to hasten our marginalization as a great culture. We don’t even look smart to our own children.
Other relevant blogs
Paul Edwards: IPCC Press Briefing
Paul Edwards: "Climategate," Not IPCC
Jeff Masters: Manufactured Doubt
Jeff Masters: Don't Shoot the Messenger
Rood: Climategate Copenhagen Impacts
Rood: Update from Copenhagen
And here is
Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org
Updated: 2:17 PM GMT on December 17, 2009
By: RickyRood, 11:44 AM GMT on December 11, 2009
Update from Copenhagen
There's nothing new from me here, but I wanted to give some specific links to the blogs from our delegation in Copenhagen. Some are leaving today, a few more are coming. The meeting is half over.
I've been looking at the coverage on the newspapers' web sites. With the exception of the Washington Post and the New York Times coverage of COP15 seems to have dropped off the front page. I can't figure out the Wall Street Journal, as it keeps redirecting me to the European edition.
If you are paying attention to the news, then you know there were some big protests urging the "leaders" to act more definitively.
March on Copenhagen
Demonstration and Candlelight Vigil
50,000 Protesters Expected
Global Climate Day from the Detroit Free Press
Population and Climate Change
IPCC Press Briefing and Climategate
IPCC Press Briefing
Climategate: Not IPCC
Breaking the Funding Deadlock
Financing the Beast
There's a LOT more there, and I just don't have the ability to list them all. Just started at the top and worked backwards.
And I know no one starts here and then goes to Jeff, but I was completely unaware of this paper. The Arctic Dipole
And my current entry.
Copenhagen: What’s going on here?
In the English newspaper in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Post, there is a front page story of the statue that sank and has been recovered. The statue is by Jens Galshoit, and is “an obese Lady Justice sitting on an emaciated African man.” A protest piece on temporary exhibit, whose toppling and sinking was a seeming act of vandalism. That is one of the themes here, protest, advocacy, and social justice.
Out in front of the discussions are the issues of justice. Sometimes it is social justice, but more often it is a matter of economic, financial, and ethical justice. As is recognized by most, the developed nations have largely used and benefited from the use of fossil fuels – they are rich. In many cases developing and poorer nations suffer the consequences. The consequences come in two sorts: 1) Those associated with the impacts of climate change, and 2) Those associated with the possibility of retarding economic development in order to mitigate climate change. Many of the words I hear from the official plenary sessions are just how little has been done on issues of carbon dioxide emission reduction and on addressing these issues of justice and fairness in the duration of the Kyoto Protocol.
The meeting has formal sessions discussing issues of policy and science informing policy. Much of the activity, however, is on the floor of the events and side shows that are outside of the official meeting rooms. There are people protesting and advocating specific many positions. This morning I saw signs talking about how carbon offsets are a false solution … something I agree with. There are people dressed up like aliens looking for the absent climate leaders. There is a vocal group advocating vegetarianism and how being vegetarian would have vast changes on the environment.
There is a lot in interest in the Michigan Delegation in finance and the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). One of most informative discussions I have had was with an employee of the Global Environment Facility , which is an organization that helps to take current development programs and provide the incremental financing for those programs to also address climate change. Since my life seems a long quest of reducing ignorance, this organization has been around since 1991. They have been addressing adaptation to climate change since the Kyoto Protocol was implemented; they work with the countries that ratified the Protocol. So this organization is doing things. I love to find these organizations that push on, trying to do smart things, despite all of the turmoil and the rhetoric that goes on about global warming.
Speaking of the rhetoric, I have heard remarkably little about the emails of climategate. This seems to be an issue of, primarily, the U.S. It has riled up U.S. politicians, and in particular Congressman Sensenbrenner has called for action to not allow certain U.S. scientists to participate in future IPCC assessment activities. This is the sort of overt politicization that occurs in the U.S. which, ultimately, serves to politicize both scientists and science. It’s an escalation. What is, perhaps, a more consequential result of climategate in the U.S. will be any investigation that occurs due to perceived violations of the Freedom of Information Act. (this article again).
I think it is safe to say that this does not really impact the conference as a whole. It creates anxiety amongst those directly involved with the IPCC and some of the government agencies. It creates an extra level of people who have to deal with the turmoil, but there are others who carry on with the work. It is the type of wasted aggravation that contributed to my leaving the U.S. government.
Enough for now. Given the immense size of this meeting, the scores of nations, it is an amazingly well run meeting. I sit amongst the 100s of computers that have been set up for the participants. There are signs all over the city directing people to the right trains and buses. Haven’t found where I can buy the COP scarf. Every one searches for their platform, to say what they feel they need to say.
If you want to see the statue mentioned above click here
And here is
Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org
Updated: 8:21 AM GMT on December 13, 2009
By: RickyRood, 12:04 PM GMT on December 09, 2009
Copenhagen / Countdown (4) / Conference Starts
As luck would have it, I, the so-called leader of the UoM/Alma Delegation to the Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen – I have not made it to Copenhagen. I sit in the Frankfurt Airport. That nasty weather in Chicago was going to be a problem, and I used my fabulous skills to rebook to Frankfurt, which it turns out is not, in fact, Copenhagen. But soon I will be there. Our delegation has an increasing presence there and you can see student blogs at UoM at COP-15 and one of our team has been picked up by the Detroit Free Press. (I admit a visceral response when I see nasty comments written to the student’s posts.)
And Jeff Masters in his blog seems far more able to stay on top of things than me. The COP15 website does a good summary of the meeting.
Here are the things that strike me as most worthy of mention. Late last week I was on a telecon that also included Jim Hansen. I asked him if he was coming to Copenhagen, and he strongly stated that he was boycotting the meeting because of the weak position being taken by the U.S. and the politicians in general. Here is an op-ed piece he wrote in the New York Times , and from his web site a more cutting piece about cap and trade. Jim is one of the most prominent advocates for reduction of greenhouse gases NOW, and he is clear that he feels that congress and expediency of policy are dominating the discussion at the expense of the Earth. Jim, a growing number of scientists, and I all agree that cap and trade does not look like there is any there, there. Hence a more viable policy vehicle to me is based on fees or taxes. (Rood and Thoumi at Mongabay)
Jim is also strongly driven by the legacy that we are leaving to our grandchildren, and wants to be remembered as someone who gave a damn. The power of legacy always comes up in my class as one of the most important motivators to address climate change. Here is an old blog on "taking back the planet".
Jim is prominent enough that his boycotting gets attention. I, on the other hand, feel that it is more important for my students (and me) to understand the climate-policy interface. I have already given up on curbing emissions in the near-term and see that in placing the next generation at the forefront of problem solving is the best contribution I can make.
Like Jeff Masters I also will mention the U.S. EPA’s decision to regulate carbon dioxide. This decision is based on the public health aspects of global warming, and follows from the 2007 Supreme Court Decision. This decision seemed significant at the time as it offered a lever into the controlling greenhouse gases in the absence of policy-based solutions. No one is really in favor of a regulation-based solution, but this tension between policy, regulation, and regulation enforcement is part of the slow path of policy development in the U.S. This will lead to a lot of litigation. It is interesting that the automobile industry is likely removed from the argument because of the new mileage standards that came from the economic bailout. (Did you think of that lever a year ago? Does that fuel the idea of controlling what humans exhale? OK …. I am off my usual narrative distance.)
Finally, I want to mention the Press release from the WMO (World Meteorological Organization). It has been pretty clear that 2000-2009 would be the warmest decade in history. That’s what this press release says. It also says 2009 will be quite a bit warmer than the La Niña cooled 2008. I leave it to the readers to rationalize the warmest decade and the currently popular arguments that its still not getting warmer.
Off to that final leg to Copenhagen, and to increase my carbon footprint (yes, I know).
And here is
Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org
Updated: 5:21 PM GMT on December 09, 2009
By: RickyRood, 6:46 AM GMT on December 06, 2009
Copenhagen / Countdown (3) / Climategate
In the last blog I said … Of course, the leaked “climategate” emails gather a lot of attention. It’s food for those who want to argue and find scandal and conspiracies. I don’t have anything intelligent to add to that conversation. But whether or not I have anything intelligent to say, I have gotten several calls about the impact that the hacked and published emails will have on the Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen.
So my take on the impact is that the actual impact on the conference will be far smaller than the exaggerated attention that the emails will attract. (Has it really caused Al Gore to cancel his appearance?) My analysis is based on several facts. First, the people doing the real work in Copenhagen are all knowledgeable in the science and the politics of climate change. Part of what they know is that there has been a community of people who have continually challenged the conclusion that the Earth is warming and that a large portion of the warming is due to greenhouse gases released by burning fossil fuels. Similarly, there are those who feel that there should be no policy to manage the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Hence, the emails do not really change the constituencies; they give one constituency something to crow about, and another constituency something to defend, and if the world is as usual, most people will, practically, proceed without much attention to either. So it is a distraction, and that aspect reminds me of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight - a complete master of chaos and disruption.
There are both the facts and the emotions that are expressed in the emails. A lot of the “factual” part that floats to the surface concerns the figure known as the “hockey stick” . My first reaction to that is that the science and the presentation of this figure has been controversial enough that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences did a whole report on the “hockey stick.” This report, which included climate scientists, did not simply rubber stamp the figure, and pointed out issues with the data and the presentation. They were also critical of the way the figure had been used. The news article from Nature is a good summary. Therefore, emails that discuss management and presentation of this figure are not surprising.
What seems more surprising is the emotion of the scientists, perhaps, at times, the intent of the scientists. The desire to advance and defeat certain points is not limited to climate scientists. It is an integral part of the competitive nature of our species; it is something that some of us laud and advocate in markets. Similarly, in markets, some despise the harsh competiveness and its lack of compassion. There is an element of science that is a market of ideas, and the competition of ideas is generally viewed as a strength. Peer-review is not perfect, but it does, for the most part, work to keep fields honest. Another metaphor I am reminded of, the description of the U.S. democracy as imperfect, but the best that we have.
As we all know, climate science became overtly politicized as soon as there was widespread belief and evidence that there was human-caused global warming. The permeation of knowledge of global warming throughout society occurred long before the hockey stick figure. The politicization of climate science has influenced the behavior of climate scientists and scientific programs for at least 20 years. When I worked in the U.S. government there was stunning sensitivity to well-placed Senators, Representatives, and even the beliefs of examiners in the Office of Management and Budget. Scientists and program managers would tip toe around special words, and many of my colleagues behaved as if there was bureaucratic death around ever corner in the contorted corridors of government buildings.
With the politicization of climate science, there was also introduced the role of lobbyists and interest groups. Some of these interest groups set as their goals the personal discrediting of individual scientists. One of the most widely reported of these instances is the case of Ben Santer. Given the politicization and concerted personal attacks, it is not surprising to see hostility expressed and the development of a bunker mentality.
The practice of science in the best of circumstances is messy and ripe with the flaws and inconsistencies of humanity. The scientific investigation of the Earth’s climate has long been out of the domain of the community of scientists. The circumstances have long been difficult.
So the emails reveal the flaws and inconsistencies of humanity. They reveal competitiveness, people trying to find advantage, and to message. In many instances, these are attributes that are admired. The fact that these notions emerge from the purity of “the science,” is perhaps shocking to some. More likely it is not shocking but it can be conveyed as such by a group that is competitive, trying to find advantage, and to message.
So when I sit down with diplomats and people who have been in government for a long time, it always amazes me how immune they are to the distractive disruption that is manufactured. They just see it all as part of the game; it does slow things down. There is nothing in those emails that will allow us to reject the conclusion that the Earth’s surface is warming, sea level will rise, and the weather will change. The real impact of the leaked emails will be small.
At the bottom are a few more links that I have found useful or just plan silly.
Sell your stocks / Global Warming Death Nail
Elizabeth May: An informed look
Thomas Zurbuchen: Messy Science
Rood comment over on the side
And here is
Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org
UoM at COP-15
Updated: 4:59 PM GMT on December 06, 2009
By: RickyRood, 5:22 AM GMT on December 03, 2009
Copenhagen / Countdown (2) / Adaptation
Still overwhelmed with getting ready for the Conference of Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen in December. There is a UoM/Alma webpage that features blogs from the students. It is here. On that webpage is a podcast by yours truly Rood Interview. Have had numerous calls from various organizations about wanting support for different causes such as Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice , an organization that wants to make sure that adaptation plans don’t come without consideration of the impact on the poor.
There is a lot of position taking and trying to push the COP this way or that. On one hand it is exciting that both the U.S. and China have come out with ideas to push forward CO2 emission reduction. They aren’t exactly stunning commitments, but they do start to push towards rather than away from climate policy. The European Union is calling for funds to help developing nations. The U.S. and China motivate India.
Of course, the leaked “climategate” emails gather a lot of attention. It’s food for those who want to argue and find scandal and conspiracies. I don’t have anything intelligent to add to that conversation.
Based on one of my blogs I was asked to contribute to Euronews Comment visions. There are some interesting comments from interesting people there. This month they are addressing the question: “As the first decade of the 21st Century closes, can we be pleased with the progress we have made in the development of energy efficiency and the mitigation of climate change?”
I was in the November Forum and the question was: “How must society adapt to rapid climate change to minimise severe upheaval?” Here it is at Euronews or >>>>>>
“How must society adapt to rapid climate change to minimise severe upheaval?”
Societies and civilizations have always had to adapt to climate change. As it has gotten warmer and colder, wetter and drier, people have sometimes thrived and expanded their dominion, and at other times have been forced into migrations, dissolution of societies, and death. Until our time, we have only had the ability to respond to changes in the climate, to wonder what will come next. The predictions of global warming based observations and physical climate models offer us a unique and extraordinary opportunity. We know with significant certainty that the surface of the Earth will warm, sea level will rise, and the weather will change. We have evolved to function with a certain set of expectations of, for example, rainfall and snowmelt, the onset of spring, the intensity of summer heat. The changes in the climate will impact our evolved behavior in both expected and unexpected ways.
What are sensible strategies for societal adaptation? There are some obvious answers - we need to decouple our consumption of energy and economic success from burning of fossil fuels with uncontrolled emissions of waste products into the atmosphere, ocean, and land. We need secure and reliable sources of energy and water. These are enormous challenges in a world of more than six billion people even without the prospect of global warming.
The accepted definition of adaptation to global warming is what do we do in response to the consequences of a warming planet? How do we react in the face of sea level rise and the alteration of availability and scarcity of water? We can imagine sea walls, dikes and levees, dams, tunnels and canals, and these will be required. Real upheaval comes, however, from people and governments. Bangladesh faces displacement of people due to sea level rise and larger storm surges. This is in a crowded country that cannot absorb this disruption into the interior. Bangladesh relies on the flow of fresh water from the high Himalaya, where rain and snow and snow melt will, with confidence, change. The head waters of the rivers that supply Bangladesh its water are not in Bangladesh; they are in larger, wealthier neighboring countries. Adaptation is as much issues of diplomacy, policy, and management as it is a technological and engineering problem.
To avoid serious upheaval, we must use the knowledge that we have extracted from the study of climate, anticipate change, and find policies and practices that advance development at the same time as accommodating adaptation to climate change. Development activities often address existing problems of water management, water policy, and land use. Climate change exacerbates existing problems, and global warming might push things to crisis and upheaval. Aligning policy, practices, and the development of infrastructure to anticipate the impacts of global warming, to assure the availability of water, and to prepare for the disruption and displacement of coastal populations, all are critical if we are to minimize severe upheaval from rapid global warming.
Faceted Search of Blogs at climateknowledge.org
Updated: 11:52 PM GMT on December 03, 2009