UEA CRU update

Well, in really the first blow against the University of East Anglia in the "climate-gate" scandal, something called the Information Commissioner's Office (www.ico.gov.uk) has apparently found that the university did not handle Freedom Of Information Act requests properly [LINK1 LINK2]. I should mention that LINK1 is pretty slanted in their coverage, and not very clear about what is going on, while LINK2 is mostly concerned with the FOI stuff and not so much in this particular case. I can not find anything on the ICO website, nor on the UEA site to corroborate the news reports. In any case, there will be no prosecutions because of the time between the violation and the complaint. The previous CRU statements say they did handle the requests appropriately, so this finding should elicit some response, I'd think.

As a reminder, the requests for information started flooding the CRU scientists when climate change denier websites started provoking their readers to use the FOI to get the CRU temperature data. The product that the CRU produces is a melding of temperature observations from many stations around the world, using (somewhat) sophisticated mathematical tools to blend the records and make a reasonable estimate of global temperature. As far as I can tell, the FOI requests seek the raw data that CRU uses as input for their processing. As has been covered by numerous blogs and news sites, most of this data is publicly available from the sources institutions. The CRU does not "make" this data, and does not "own" this data, so it would really be the wrong place to request that data; it isn't their job to provide someone else's raw data to the general public. (That requires resources that the CRU doesn't have.) Some of the data is obtained by special agreements with the source institutions, such as national weather services, and the CRU is not allowed to reproduce or disseminate that data. This has been made pretty clear, both to the denier/skeptic community as well as the scientific community. I do not understand why some people continue to declare that the CRU has been hiding data.

There are some of those stolen emails that seem pretty damning, though. Based on what I have seen (and I have intentionally avoided reading the stolen emails), I am not surprised that the ICO would find some faults with the handling of some FOI requests. That said, however, I think there is a reasonable counter-argument, and that is that the CRU was flooded with inappropriate FOI requests and did not have resources to handle all of them. I don't know what the law is in the UK, but I would think that it would be easy to show that most of these requests were unreasonable and would have been denied anyway. This doesn't excuse the CRU, they should have done better, but I'm convinced that these requests were not in good faith, and they were motivated by a desire to bury the CRU scientists in bureaucratic paperwork and distract them from their jobs.

One final side note. Are these stolen emails even admissible evidence? They are stolen property. Would their authenticity have to be verified independently? My hunch is that if the CRU/UEA denied that these emails were authentic, they could avoid some of this difficulty. However, I also guess that the CRU has implicitly stated that the emails are real, and maybe that makes them legitimate evidence. This seems like a thorny issue, and it'd be interesting to hear someone who knows about these issues discuss the case.


Will Obama talk about climate legislation in the SotU?

The NYTimes suggests he should [LINK].

I'd like to see the Prez get up there and shame the Congress for acting like a bunch of whiny babies. With a "filibuster-proof" 60 votes, what did the Senate get passed? Not health-care reform. Not energy reform. The Judicial Branch seems to have taken matters into their own (conservative) hands with campaign finance. Now, with the filibuster on the table, what will get done? Is the Congress paralyzed from the neck up without at least 60 votes on every bill? Ridiculous. When the Dems were threatening the majority Republicans with filibustering, Trent Lott schooled them by essentially threatening to change the way the Senate works through a risky parliamentary procedure [LINK]. Should the Dems turn to this "nuclear option" now, even though they cried foul when the shoe was on the other foot? There's certainly a lot more murmuring about the filibuster being unconstitutional now than I remember then. I do think, though, that having the legislative process completely derailed by the minority party is counter to the values upon which the republic is founded. The filibuster is a bad thing when used for bad reasons. The other side of the coin is that requiring more than a simple majority enforces a conservative (in the real sense of the word) evolution of law, since the most radical ideas will not be passed.

The unfortunate reality is that mitigating climate change (or reforming health-care) requires radical action, which we see is unlikely to come from the Legislative Branch. Problems like this have been dealt with in the past by circumventing the Congress. A perfect, but horrible, example is the development and subsequent deployment of nuclear weapons, which was not approved by the Congress [LINK]. Perhaps in a more transparent regulatory way, the EPA can be used to impose emissions limits [LINK]. This would be a less ideal choice, since the EPA probably wouldn't be allowed to impose a cap-and-trade system (which has been successful in reducing acid rain, LINK). Instead the EPA will impose rules, with some kind of punishment system for polluters. This "all-stick-no-carrot" approach might work, but it'd be better economically to encourage better use of resources and promote innovation and competition [VIDEO].


A stupid article in LATimes

I don't have anything else to really say than the title would suggest. Here's an article in the LATimes that basically says nothing at all about global warming, but does almost report on the results of a recent gallup survey [LINK]. It's an opinion piece, so I suppose that lowers expectations, but the journalism involved is piss poor to use a colloquialism. The author is Meghan Daum, who I've never heard of, but is apparently on staff at LAT. I hope I never have to read a word written by her again, it wasted several minutes of my life.


No they di'n't!

Turncoats? Yes, I guess so. And doing so on a hopeless measure shows they mean it.

3 Democrat Senators support global warming [via Yahoo! via AP]

*Groan* Here's more about this ridiculous assault on science and reason: Murkowski


Disappearing physicist?

I have never until today heard about Ettore Majorana, an Italian physicist who was a contemporary of Fermi. A new book about Majorana's life and mysterious disappearance is outright panned in Nature (last week, LINK) by Frank Close. While I certainly won't read the book under review, I can't help but be fascinated by this bizarre story, and may have to follow up with some additional reading.


The Dolphin Situation

It seems that dolphins may be "non-human persons," and deserves special rights above other animals [LINK]. Maybe we can just have the dolphins figure out a way to suck the CO2 out of the atmosphere and avoid making their own underwater world an acid bath. Go Dolphins!


Those Damned Tree Huggers

A thought just crossed my mind that I thought I'd share. I think that anytime you read/hear the term "tree hugger," you can immediately parse the statements of the source as biased and probably wrong. This is probably true even in those rare instances when the term is used endearingly or positively. Has this always been true? Maybe this is totally obvious. I'm going to keep my eye out for exceptions.


Coolest thing I've seen all day

If you can, watch in full screen with HD for full effect:

A related comic version: http://xkcd.com/482/


Greenland probably seeing record highs

Stop crying about being cold. Have you seed the temperature anomalies over northern Canada and Greenland? Crazy, 30 degrees above normal. Warmer in Greenland than Florida. See Jeff Masters' blog here.


Democracy? In California?

For those in or interested in California, there's an interesting bit of news happening. Linguist George Lakoff is trying to amend the California state constitution. There's a NYTimes story about the effort [LINK]. The beauty of the potential proposition is that it is 14 words, a single sentence. It will insert into the constitution:
All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be
determined by a majority vote.

That's it. The goal is to allow the majority party to actually make decisions to govern the state, which if you've been following hasn't happened in quite some time.

I'm not sure this would be enough, but at least it would be a start, so I wish Lakoff good luck. A signature gathering campaign is ongoing, as is fundraising. For more information, please visit http://ca.restoremajorityrule.com/ and/or http://www.californiansfordemocracy.com/


Welcome to 2010

Happy new year to everyone. Here's hoping 2010 sees more progress toward mitigating climate change.

Here's a quick, 2-cent review of our current standing:

1. The University of New South Wales has released a summary of climate research, basically as a interim assessment report between AR4 and AR5. The findings say that emissions are growing rapidly, temperature is increasing faster than many estimates, sea-level is rising twice as fast as the AR4 predictions, and both land and sea ice are in rapid decline. [news, orig]

2. The COP-15 didn't go so well. Some might say it was a disaster [LINK], while others are cautiously optimistic about the last-minute actions of Barrack Obama [LINK], but I think the truth is that no one knows how to interpret the outcomes yet [LINK, LINK]. That said, the meeting did not lead to a binding agreement, which means that it failed to achieve the real goal of the process. We're really left with the thought, "well, next year in Mexico City."

3. The Arctic sea ice formation season is here, and it looks like this winter is very close to the the record low sea ice extent. [LINK]

4. The year 2009 was one of the warmest ever (5th according to the Met Office), and 2010 is likely to break the record (and the arguments) for number 1. [LINK]

5. Many people still don't understand the difference between weather and climate, and climate change deniers continue to get their voices heard despite rational discussions of evidence [EXAMPLE, also see this counterpoint].