Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Yuck. Supreme Court puts hold on Clean Power, not a good sign for the future legal argument

This afternoon the US Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote issued a stay of the application of the Clean Power Plan to emitters (one example of the stays is here). They contradicted a lower court decision not to issue a stay pending a final legal ruling, so now the requirements are blocked for a period of months or more. The lower court has to issue its ruling, and then the inevitable appeal will be made by the losing party, and the Supreme Court will almost-inevitably accept the appeal and go through its own process. It won't end before the next President takes office.

That's obviously bad news for efforts to fight climate change, delaying initial requirements for taking place. The real question though is what does it tell us about the likely final outcome at the Supreme Court. Stays are generally issued based on four criteria:

(1) the likelihood that the party seeking the stay will prevail on the merits of the appeal; (2) the likelihood that the moving party will be irreparably harmed absent a stay; (3) the prospect that others will be harmed if the court grants the stay; and (4) the public interest in granting the stay. 

It's that first criterion that can set back global efforts on climate change. Courts do a balancing of the criteria, so if the Supreme Court majority weighed the other three strongly against the EPA, then they may be only somewhat doubtful of the Plan's legality. On the other hand, EPA argued that the early stages of the Plan place few restrictions on emitters (the emitters disagreed, saying they have to plan for outcomes many years in advance).

This is a situation where the way you argue at one stage of a case may not necessarily help you later. The winning side hopes the Court ignored their own arguments when it came to potential harm and listened to their arguments on the merits, and the losing side hopes the reverse is true.

It's still very unfortunate. If the Clean Power Plan gets thrown out, then a Democratic Party president will seek some regulation that can partially replace the Plan. A Republican president will doubtless seek to do absolutely nothing, and then face lawsuits by environmental groups and by some states for failure to apply the Clean Air Act. Those lawsuits will take a number of years to move forward, a loss of time that we can't afford.

(Cross-posted at LinkedIn.)

Monday, February 08, 2016

Temperature Baths

The key to understanding the greenhouse effect is that it is a problem of energy flows, not of energy per se. a zeroth order thermodynamical model in which there are two large (in thermo speak infinite) heat baths, the sun @ 6000 K and space at 3 K. The earth, stuck between these monsters is too small to be a heat bath is better though of as a heat engine, but a very lazy one producing no work on the external surroundings and therefore having to reject an equal amount of heat to space as it absorbs from the sun.

If the heat engine slows down because some thermal radiation is blocked by greenhouse gases, other parts of the spectrum have to heat up to compensate.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Saturday, February 06, 2016

So much for that - the Washington State's renvenue-neutral carbon tax proposal

Too bad:

The carbon-tax effort has also struggled to attract support from progressives and Democrats, who are concerned that the proposal isn’t really “revenue-neutral.” The latest news from the Evergreen State suggests that this effort may well be doomed: 
 [T]he Washington State Democratic Party [has gone] on record as opposed to CarbonWA’s I-732, joining the Washington State Labor Council and [the Washington Council of Machinists] in the no camp. I-732 is a complex tax swap proposal that would levy a carbon tax while also reducing sales and business & occupation taxes. 
CarbonWA and other I-732 proponents contend that their tax swap is “revenue neutral” (meaning it would not increase or decrease state revenue). Nonpartisan legislative staff and the Department of Revenue don’t agree. According to DOR’s calculations, I-732 would reduce revenue by nearly $1 billion over the next four years.... 
CarbonWA’s endorsements page doesn’t list a single organization affiliated with the Republican Party or active in the conservative movement. And, as even CarbonWA has admitted, polling suggests right-leaning voters in Washington are incredibly hostile to the idea of levying a carbon tax.

I'm no expert in Washington state politics, but the Democratic Party is against it as not being truly revenue neutral, major unions are against, and no Republican leadership is for it. You're not going around these folks and getting a majority of the grassroots.

I think this thing is on the ballot and can't be changed. So support it and maybe some fluke will get it through, and if not then back to the drawing board.

Tom Steyer and friends have an alternate proposal for WA that I've heard about, but I suspect they're not going to get something on the same ballot. Maybe it'll be their turn next.

Monday, February 01, 2016

We made it to 3000

3000 posts at Rabett Run, that is.

Somebody get Eli and Ethon a gold watch and a toaster.

Cruz has a plan for the nomination that the others don't - in 2020

While Trump may well take Iowa tomorrow, it's widely acknowledged that Ted Cruz has the strongest grass-roots level of organization among conservative evangelicals and other conservatives, in contrast to Marco Rubio's weak organization that relies on media rather than putting people in the field. I'm not absolutely convinced that Rubio's strategy is wrong for this election, but the election's not the only thing that's in play.

Rubio's strategy is based on everything working out just right, as it indeed has so far in his short political career, but he's not building anything that lasts beyond this election. Cruz is building an organization and cadre of loyalists. If Cruz wins the nomination, then that's great according to him. If he doesn't, and the Republican nominee doesn't win, then Cruz enters the 2020 race for the nomination with the best field organization of any candidate already in place.

And of course there's more - if another Republican wins the presidency, Cruz will be a stalking horse for the next four years, threatening to run against that Republican if he turns out to be too moderate. Cruz also will not be relying on building influence within Republican elites, so he's creating an alternative power structure that he can use to pressure the Republican leadership.

Kind of obvious, but I haven't seen it remarked elsewhere. Good thing his anti-charisma limits his reach, but we're going to have to be dealing with him until demographics fix Texan politics. 

With that happy thought, we'll see which disaster gets chosen by Iowa Republicans tomorrow.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Undercover journalism and prosecutorial discrection

Given the recent initiation of criminal prosecution against the people who made the defamatory video about Planned Parenthood, I thought I'd quote what journalism says about undercover journalism:


Undercover reporting can be a powerful tool, but it’s one to be used cautiously: against only the most important targets, and even then only when accompanied by solid traditional reporting.
And Society for Professional Journalists:
Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information unless traditional, open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
So they're saying do it rarely, only when necessary, and do it well.

The prosecution against the undercover activists isn't for doing it badly, it's for doing it at all. It would apply equally to many groundbreaking investigations by true undercover journalists. And the line between journalist and activist is a slippery one that maybe doesn't matter (e.g., the people exposing animal cruelty at factory farms).

As a practical matter I don't see a good way to modify the law to say "don't use fake identification unless you're working undercover." That's where prosecutorial discretion comes into play. The grand jury has no role in that discretion and district attorney seemed to ignore her responsibility.

This indictment will be used to keep corporate crimes hidden. Go after these people for doing a bad job via defamation suits instead, but don't ban undercover operations.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


With rapidly approaching retirement and other life altering events, Rabett Run has come perhaps to a fork in the roast.  Eli has questions:

1.  Should RR put up a donation box? After all income is required for trips to AGU, gifts for Ms. Rabett so she allows Eli to go to AGU and housing at AGU.   The holes that the Rabett has been hutching up in San Francisco, are, to put it mildly, very 1950s motelish.  Not quite rent by the hour but not . . .

2.  Or should RR take advertising, which, since it requires that readers actually click on something is not a wealth generating activity either as Eli judges that his Rabett Run Readers are as cheap as he is.  Sou appears to make a buck or two from this, but really, how low can Eli and Brian and John sink?

3.  All in favor Eli's handing the keys over to Brian and slinking into the twittering sunset raise your paws. You will be ignored.

4.  Anybunny interested in a book of RR's best takes showing how Eli was there before there was?  Self publishing is a thing these days and one can pray for an Amazon review by George Taki

Reheating the Michaels rehash

An easy blog post when Pat Michaels keeps reposting the same old thing, every time a new global temperature is associated with El Niño, or simply when the year after a new record happens to be slightly colder than the previous year. It's a recipe for cooking him, dating back to my early blog years of 2006:

How to cook Tim Blair, Andrew Bolt, and Patrick Michaels

1. Place Blair, Bolt, and Michaels in a large, water-filled pot equipped with a step ladder they can use to escape at any time. Set initial water temperature at average levels.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We're quite comfortable, thank you!!

2. Increase temperature to an unambigous, new historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: No big deal! Not going to last!

MICHAELS: Want to bet it won't be this warm again?

3. Drop temperature back down, but still far above average.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: See!! Vindication!! There is no potboiler warming! Not a problem!

4. Gradually increase temperature to near or above the historic high.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: We deny it's above the historic high! Deny it!

MICHAELS: And, uh, the bet offer is withdrawn.

5. Keep temperature very high, but a tiny bit below Step 4.

BLAIR/BOLT/MICHAELS: The science behind potboiler warming is bogus, and we'll stay here for as long as it takes to prove it!

BLAIR: I'm not feeling hot - crank it up, people!

BOLT: Me neither!

6. Repeat Steps 2 through 5 until done. Don't worry, they won't use the step ladder to get out. Process will be sped by the fact that their brains were already cooked.

Please, please, please, may some denialist point out to me that we haven't yet repeated Step 2 - just be prepared to put your money where your mouth is about what will happen in the near future.

(Hat tip: Deltoid.)

UPDATE [from 2006]: From RealClimate:

Most bizarre new contrarian claim:
"Global warming stopped in 1998".
By the same logic, it also stopped in 1973, 1983, and 1990 (only it didn't)
So we have repeated steps 2 through 5, multiple times.

UPDATE 2016:  you'd think the Wall Street Journal would want to publish something original, but maybe they're hard up for content.