The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Replicating climate change denial papers

A new paper in the journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology tries to replicate the most-referenced papers in the 3% minority that find alternate explanations for human-caused global warming. Turns out, the deniers are still looking for their Galileo:

This new study was authored by Rasmus Benestad, myself (Dana Nuccitelli), Stephan Lewandowsky, Katharine Hayhoe, Hans Olav Hygen, Rob van Dorland, and John Cook. Benestad (who did the lion’s share of the work for this paper) created a tool using the R programming language to replicate the results and methods used in a number of frequently-referenced research papers that reject the expert consensus on human-caused global warming. In using this tool, we discovered some common themes among the contrarian research papers.

Cherry picking was the most common characteristic they shared. We found that many contrarian research papers omitted important contextual information or ignored key data that did not fit the research conclusions.

We found that the ‘curve fitting’ approach also used in the Humlum paper is another common theme in contrarian climate research. ‘Curve fitting’ describes taking several different variables, usually with regular cycles, and stretching them out until the combination fits a given curve (in this case, temperature data). It’s a practice I discuss in my book, about which mathematician John von Neumann once said, "With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk."

This represents just a small sampling of the contrarian studies and flawed methodologies that we identified in our paper; we examined 38 papers in all. As we note, the same replication approach could be applied to papers that are consistent with the expert consensus on human-caused global warming, and undoubtedly some methodological errors would be uncovered. However, these types of flaws were the norm, not the exception, among the contrarian papers that we examined.

You can count the insurance industry among the groups that believe the science is settled. Insurers appear to have started looking at climate change as an inevitability, not a risk, which changes their models radically:

[F]lood insurance was not a lucrative business to begin with. Congress set up the National Flood Insurance Program in 1968 as it became clear that private companies couldn’t profitably provide coverage. Now, nearly half a century later, the program is—ahem—under water by $24.6 billion. As a result, there’s a push to move flood insurance toward the private market. That could mean less building in flood-prone areas, as they become effectively uninsurable thanks to sky-high rates. Says Morningstar’s Brett Horn: “Frankly, that’s not a bad outcome.”

Meanwhile, the second major hurricane of the season is heading for Florida...

The Mindset List, class of 2021

Today is my birthday, which makes this year's Beloit College Mindset List even harder to read:

Students heading into their first year of college this year are mostly 18 and were born in 1999.

2. They are the last class to be born in the 1900s, the last of the Millennials --  enter next year, on cue, Generation Z!

11. The Panama Canal has always belonged to Panama and Macau has been part of China.

12. It is doubtful that they have ever used or heard the high-pitched whine of a dial-up modem.

16. They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.

25. By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.

38. They have only seen a Checker Cab in a museum.

47. The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.

59. Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton’s aging husband.


Cornstalk Hotel

I'm taking a couple of days to shadow some friends in New Orleans. It's a nice end to summer: while Chicago already feels like early autumn, here it'll get up to 32°C in a couple of hours.

My hotel is historic, and really cute:

Updates as events warrant. Brunch first.

Cheers for the humble disposal

A 1990s study by New York City showed that in-sink garbage disposals punch above their weight in environmental benefits. So why are they so rare in the city? Misconceptions, apparently:

The city installed more than 200 of the devices in select city apartments for a 21-month trial run; they then compared apartment units that had disposers with disposer-less units in the same building. Careful analyses from this study and others formed the basis of DEP’s report: the projected impact of citywide disposal legalization was minimal, and the Department estimated a $4 million savings in solid waste export costs.

Waste disposal is a thorny problem even in small towns, but for New York City, the trash pile continues to mount: The Department of Sanitation handles nearly 10,000 tons per day of waste generated by residents and nonprofit corporations, and the cost of disposal in Manhattan has grown from $300 million in 2005 to about $400 million today. Commercial establishments are serviced by private carting firms who also collect about 10,000 tons per day. All of that trash must be transported to landfills—often hundreds of miles outside the city—where it is converted into methane gas.

[L]andlords may still be reluctant to install the fixtures because of first-time installation costs (which can exceed $600), concerns about maintenance, or because they simply aren’t aware disposers are permitted to begin with. Perhaps the greatest block to in-sink disposal adoption, however, are our own misconceptions about them. Water and electricity use are minimal (according to InSinkerator, disposers account for less than 1 percent of a household’s daily water usage, and the total energy cost is about $0.50 per year); the devices don’t require much maintenance and often last a decade or more; clogged pipes are rare because scraps are entirely pulverized; almost everything can go down the disposer (veggies, fruit, meat, pizza), and newer models are nearly silent (and not deadly).

They also help your kitchen garbage smell better. But that's nothing compared to recapturing millions of tons of methane.

Amazon and Whole Foods

One week after Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods Market, what have we learned? Mainly that Amazon is great at marketing:

Amazon-owned Whole Foods wasted no time in reducing prices on certain food items across the store, including avocados, tomatoes, bananas, ground beef and eggs.

A few examples: At a Whole Foods in Evanston, a dozen white eggs went from $3.39 to $2.99; New York strip steak, from $18.99 a pound to $13.99; and organic bananas from 99 cents a pound to 69 cents.

But some analysts say the price cuts were mostly about creating buzz. Gordon Haskett Research Advisors, a New York-based market research firm, compared 114 items before and after the announced changes at a Whole Foods store in New Jersey and found an average price decline of only 1.2 percent, with 78 percent of the items unchanged from the previous week.

"As Amazon integrates Whole Foods' supply chain and distribution into its existing infrastructure, I think Prime members will become more willing to try Amazon's grocery platform, with the endgame being a higher Prime pricing tier. Still, I believe it will take some time before we can define the acquisition as a success," [said R.J. Hottovy, an analyst with Morningstar, a Chicago-based market research firm].

I went there Monday (see photo above), and saw some items marked down but otherwise not much changed. I'll be watching closely.


More Scotland photos. On the 10th, we visited the Lagavulin Distillery. But we got our first look at it from the ferry two days earlier:

Up close, from the ruins of Dunyvaig Castle, it looks like this:

And for comparison between the LG G6 and the Canon 7D mark II, here's the camera-phone photo I took at about the same time: