Had we but world enough and time – The Angry Amateur No. 4 | Brussels Blog

Had we but world enough and time – The Angry Amateur No. 4

posted by on 22nd Oct 2017
22nd,Oct

Had we but world enough and time

The Angry Amateur No 4

Andrew Marvell (31 March 1621 – 16 August 1678)
MP for Kingston upon Hull

Andrew Marvell was a much better poet than I ever was. His most famous poem is To His Coy Mistress. I encourage readers to go to the Poetry Foundation website and read the whole poem and also forgive me for chopping bits out with my own headings

The world is limited and time is short

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Time really is short.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity

Enjoy life: We can’t stop the inevitable

Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Magic!

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Global Carbon Budgets and Wildfires

posted by on 19th Oct 2017
19th,Oct

Global Carbon Budgets and Wildfires
(with added RCP 2.6)

I’ve tried to keep this post understandable.
For those that don’t like too many numbers, sorry.
Sometimes the small print is important.

Carbon Budgets for 2015 and 2016

I’ve been comparing the Global Carbon Project‘s Carbon Budgets for 2016 and 2015 and found two useful diagrams. Here are the diagrams, with a little bit of extra annotation to avoid the confusion that I had to start with.

Figure A: From Carbon Budget 2015: Heading “The total remaining emissions from 2014 to keep global average temperature below 2°C (900 GtCO2 ) will be used in around 20 years at current emission rates”.

Figure A:The remaining carbon quota for 66% chance <2°C : From the end of 2014

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What can climate modellers tell us about flying and eating beef?

posted by on 13th Oct 2017
13th,Oct

This is a re-post from DontLookNow.org

Representative consumption pathways

Representative concentration pathways (RCPs) are hypothetical emissions of greenhouse gasses and other climate pollutants.  (So why are they called concentration pathways?) The RCPs specify individual climate pollutants, such as CO2, CH4, N2O and black carbon for each year from 2000 until 2100. The RCPs were introduced in IPCC Assessment Report Five (AR5) in 2014. After a selection process four of these pathways – tables of numbers specifying the yearly emissions of each pollutant were chosen as representatives of possible future climate forcing over the century.

Four RCP’s were chosen as standard: RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP 6 and RCP8.5.  RCP2.6 specifies the lowest concentrations of climate pollutants was specified in RCP2.6.  According to climate models, RCP2.6 is the only RCP that keeps the rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial to below 2°C.  The others have worse outcomes i.e. higher average global temperatures.

Different climate pollutants have different warming and cooling effects on the Earth but the effects of different pollutants are often combined into a figure that would equal the effect of carbon dioxide alone. This measure is called carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. Combining the effects of the pollutants for the RCPs give this graph

According to Moss et al, The next generation of scenarios for climate change research and assessment, the global temperature changes in the years to 2100 are given by

Representative Concentration Pathway Temp anomaly °C
  RCP 2.6 1.5 – peak then decline
  RCP 4.5 2.4 – stabilisation without overshoot
  RCP 6 3.0 – stabilisation without overshoot
  RCP 8.4 4.9 – still rising by 2100

Figures taken from Skeptical Science

The United Nations Framework for Climate Change, describe the Paris  Agreement of 2016 thus:

“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to [ keep] a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Since the Paris agreement there have been discussions as to a what temperature rise “above pre-industrial levels” means: e.g. What is the baseline?  In the paper, Interpreting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C temperature limit, Joeri Rogelj discusses natural variability

“Therefore, we argue that the long-term temperature goal in the Paris Agreement should be understood as long-term changes in climatological averages attributed to human activity – excluding natural variability.”

He doesn’t discuss here the issue that has arisen by a paper he co-authored, Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 °C. This paper has caused some controversy partly because it uses the HADCRUT measure of the temperature.  This rates the global average temperature lower than other measures of temperature because it does not include temperatures in the Arctic, where temperatures are increasing rapidly. The quantity of greenhouse gasses that can be emitted before a particular temperature is reached is the remaining carbon budget, usually expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.

Criticism of this paper has come from one of the co-founders of Real Climate, Gavin Schmidt. Dr Schmidt is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. On his Twitter feed he said:

“Headline claim from carbon budget paper that warming is 0.9ºC from pre-I is unsupported. Using globally complete estimates ~1.2ºC (in 2015)”

Dr Richard Millar, is the lead author of the “Emissions budgets” paper is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Oxford Martin Net Zero Carbon Investment Initiative where Professor Myles Allen is co-director.  Professor Allen is also one of the co-authors and one of the best known climate scientists in the UK.  It may not be an inaccurate characterisation to call this a debate between Myles Allen and Gavin Schmidt.

Using the HADCRUT as the measure of global average temperature, the”Emissions budgets” paper reports  a smaller rise in temperature since pre-industrial. This helps the conclusion that the world can emit more greenhouse gasses (has a larger carbon budget) before the 1.5°C limit is reached: More greenhouse gasses than other scientists have calculated using  “globally complete” measures of average global temperature, such as GISTEMP from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Sciences.

Perhaps we should note, whatever the difference between the HADCRUT and GISTEMP measures on this day in October 2017, the actual physical state of the Earth (no) is unchanged. It is what it is, recent floods, droughts, hurricanes, wildfires and all.

The calculations  for remaining carbon budgets are made using climate models.

Future physical states of the Earth are predicted by climate models. These are used to estimate remaining carbon budgets by counting emissions as global temperature changes. However, the same “global temperature” may describe many different physical states. For example global sea level may be different so might the  size of remaining ice masses. Even these two are composite measures that can have different detailed structure. E.g. Will the Himalayan glaciers have disappeared or even more been shaved off the Greenland Ice Sheet?

To gather together all the characteristics that are used in complex climate models into one number, global average temperature, may be a useful shorthand but it is a fudge. It ignores not only regional temperature variations but also other measures, which are also fudges; but like sea levels, remaining ice mass and ocean heat content, they add more to the climate picture necessary for policy making.  And, let’s not forget the problem that looms in many scientists minds: ocean acidification.

Perhaps the “global average temperature” fudge is good for getting political agreements in the hands of skilled political operators but it isn’t enough to drive grown-up policy.  A more detailed picture of future possible climates and their consequences is necessary.

As well more detailed consequences of a changed climate ,  policy makers should know more about the levers of mitigation that are possible. Here, concepts like carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) which conflate several different climate pollutants become concepts that can be confusion: e.g. whether the short lived pollutantsin the CO2e composite should be calibrated for 20, 100 or 500 years.

In Well below 2°C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes, Ramanathan et. al discuss three possible groups of levers for mitigating climate change. These are (1)cutting CO2 emissions, (2)cutting short lived climate pollutants and (3)sequestering carbon. Although these are levers of a sort, more direct mitigations might be based on altering consumption:

  1. Cut down on aviation
  2. Cut down on fossil fueled land and sea transport
  3. De-carbonise electricity
  4. Build with wood not bricks and steel
  5. Cut beef and lamb consumption
  6. Stop open wood fires

And lots more.

Changing any of these climate levers independently changes the mix of climate pollutants: a change that cannot be represented by Representative Concentration Pathway because the concentrations come from fixed tables of pollutant concentrations.

It would help if the effects of  these climate levers were outputs from climate models – separate effects like sea level rise or Himalayan glacier retreat but driven by measures of consumption like changes in aviation and diet.

Representative Concentration Pathways  used in climate models confuse the effects of consumption-based levers. Will there be, any time soon, climate computer models that can have Representative Consumption Pathways which could tell us the effects on climate of halving air travel or changing our diet from beef and lamb to more climate friendly diet?

An angry amateur exposes himself – The Angry Amateur No 3

posted by on 26th Aug 2017
26th,Aug

‘You pretentious git’, said Dave. He had just read the first line of my last posting:

Once upon a time I was a poet. Quite a good one.

I had to agree it read like I am pretentious git but the reality is more complicated. I get embarrassed when people praise me too much. I usually utter a quick “F*** off”, look away, put my head down with my right palm covering my eyes. I don’t make eye contact. I’ve just rehearsed it with Ezekiel to check.

In this picture I was given the instruction “Go right over there, Geoffrey, and bounce a ball”.
That was a metaphor for my place in the school classroom. Not really fitting in. Can you spot me?

As a child, I wasn’t an outcast but I didn’t fit in well with the rest of the kids. I used to blame it on the fact that I lived in a bungalow the other side of a big hill away from the friendly terraced streets near the school. But it was probably more down to my personality – a sort-of loner. Later I learnt to be more gregarious but it didn’t come naturally. To be an Angry Amateur it is necessary to have some distance from the rest and be separate from the group think of the crowd. Actually it’s even less definite than group-think more like a subliminal group-smell as in that Guardian piece, Can you smell the perfect partner?

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Leon Festinger, the BBC, cognitive dissonance and Ezekiel the Alien

posted by on 24th Aug 2017
24th,Aug

I wrote this months ago but held off posting it after a
  discussion with an advisor as to whether referencing
Wikipedia was good enough. I have disputes with Wikipedia
but I still rely on it – after exercising my own judgement
. That is what I do when I read peer reviewed stuff
– use my judgement.  So does Eziekiel the Alien.

Leon Festinger and the Aliens

Drifting to sleep last night listening to the radio, a mention of one of my heroes woke me with a start.

In 1950, Leon Festinger had showed that people tend to befriend their neighbours. It was a brilliant piece of work which I read when I was a Research Fellow at Leeds School of Architecture. I must have read it in 1971 or 1972 because, it guided us in choosing a house to live in: We moved into a co-operative housing development in 1972. Using Festinger’s book we chose the house positioned to make it easier to know our neighbours. It was a good choice.

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The Joseph Rowntree Foundation could do better – The Angry Amateur No. 2

posted by on 22nd Aug 2017
22nd,Aug

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation
could do better
(The Angry Amateur No. 2)

Once upon a time I was a poet. Quite a good one. You can read some of my stuff on Auntie Jayne Solves Your Poem, unless you are in Morrisons Supermarket, where it is banned. Morrisons allows the Racing Post but not Oddschecker (reason=GAMBLING ). Most of my other websites are banned too but the reason fields are blank. Pity. Morrison’s customers are a refreshing change from the pretentious middle classes who shop at Waitrose – F&H, M&J and a few others are obviously excepted from this slur. (Note for US readers: In the UK the “middle class” are considered a step up the social scale from the “working class” but it’s complicated.)

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In 1972 I stopped the York Inner Ring Road – The Angry Amateur No. 1

posted by on 13th Aug 2017
13th,Aug

The Angry Amateur No. 1

Yes. I stopped the York Inner Ring Road!

Some of my friends think I’m rather self-obsessed. It is a fairly consistent response so there may be some truth in it. Introspection tells me their view is too simple.  However, in the case of the 1970s proposal for a York Inner Ring Road, I’m not even going to pretend to be humble. If anyone stopped it, it was me. I did it.

Que moi? Yes me!

The proposed ring road crosses The Mount

In 1972 I gave evidence to the York Inner Ring Road Inquiry as an individual, having broken from the main protest group York 2000. I felt too many of them just wanted to stop their houses being knocked down.

On the other hand, my motivation was to see traffic kept away from York City Centre, allowing out-of-town development for the motoring classes to use. (Now we know the devastating toll motor cars have on the climate, my views on this have modified somewhat.)

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Benzodiazepine addiction

posted by on 24th Apr 2017
24th,Apr

To the Daily Mail: Congratulations

A few days ago the Daily Mail published an article on the prescription of benzodiazepines. It starts

Countless thousands of Britons have become addicted to pills that have been prescribed by their doctors for pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and depression.

Tranquillisers such as benzodiazepines (also used as muscle relaxants for pain) are highly addictive, yet many medics continue to hand them out for longer than they should.

actionagainsttranquiliseres.org.uk (2003-2016)

The  article in the Daily Mail prompts me to re-post an item from an old website, actionagainsttranquiliseres.org.uk  started in 2003 -but the problem is rather older:  The Independent reported in 2010 in Drugs linked to brain damage 30 years ago. Now that’s 37 years ago.

Anyway, here is something from 2003. It’s a submission that a voluntary organisation made to government when there was even less public awareness of the benzo issue. The document was written as background information which in the late ’90s/early 2000s was still very scarce. It was one of several compiled by grassroots organisations intended to inform Government.  A Hidden Epidemic was submitted to Home Office Minister Caroline Flint in 2003.

Since then nothing much has changed for people suffering harm from drugs they have been prescribed – particularly, the benzodiazepines. A Hidden Epidemic noted that consumption of  benzodiazepines was rising and misuse was widespread. Short term benzodiazepines could be useful but long term effects are horrible:
Dependence

“It is more difficult to withdraw someone from benzodiazepines than it is heroin” “the withdrawal symptoms are so intolerable that people have a great deal of problem coming off”. Lader M.1999

Cognitive impairment

“Most benzodiazepines impair and compromise a wide range of basic skills which are absolutely necessary for coping with the intellectual and psychological demands of everyday living.” Hindmarch I. 1999

Agoraphobia

Cognitive and other coping mechanisms are vital for negotiating busy streets etc. With these abilities impaired by BZs, many long-term users find themselves increasingly housebound with agoraphobic-type symptoms.

Co-ordination

the benzodiazepine tranquillizers and hypnotics, more than double the risk of injurious accidents/ the use of the most frequently prescribed impairing medication, the benzodiazepine tranquillizers and hypnotics, more than double the risk of injurious accidents 32 De Gier 1998/9.

Benzodiazepine misuse

– Increased drug-related deaths

– Risks to the unborn child

– Crime and criminal behaviour

 

Next time I get a chance, I will ask Caroline Flint whether A Hidden Epidemic got through the departmental filter and she got a chance to read it.

After 37 years it’s good to see the Daily Mail on the case. The problem hasn’t disappeared.


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A second note for the Commission on the Future of Work

posted by on 18th Apr 2017
18th,Apr

Every tool in the box – even Realpolitik

Special Interest Propaganda

This second note has a slightly a perspective than my first note. It has been prompted by the sugar conspiracy as reported in the Guardian, the Telegraph, BBC Radio 4 or the New York Times. The NYT said

The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.

Special interests hide truth with well funded propaganda campaigns. The most documented is the way the tobacco industry hid the link between smoking and cancer. The US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health in The history of the discovery of the cigarette-lung cancer link: evidentiary traditions, corporate denial, global toll. The NIH reported

Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the [lung cancer] epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s, with the confluence of studies from epidemiology, animal experiments, cellular pathology and chemical analytics. Cigarette manufacturers disputed this evidence, as part of an orchestrated conspiracy to salvage cigarette sales…

As late as 1960 only one-third of all US doctors believed that the case against cigarettes had been established.

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Plotlands and prefabs on ProgressOnline

posted by on 16th Mar 2017
16th,Mar

ProgressOnline were kind enough to publish my The return of plotlands and prefabs?

There wasn’t enough room for more than one image of a prefab so I reproduce some more here by permission of The Prefab Museum and Wolverhampton History & Heritage Website.

Unflattering visual images of prefabs too often fuel misleading prejudices. The prejudice against prefabs may have blinded planners and academics to their success. As PrefabsAreForPeople put it more crudely:

  • People liked prefabs
  • Multistorey mass housing failed
  • The planners didn’t notice
  • They will get it wrong again

Three images from the Prefab Museum

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