Berkeley Earth Project

The Berkeley Earth Project is a very ambitious attempt to accurately assess the state of “Global Warming” in a very systematic and scientific way, free from the many biases, politics, and advocacy challenges that have arguably plagued the process to date.      Preliminary findings are just out here a bit prematurely, as the director of the project Muller recently testified to the US Congress:

Note that the results here are based on 2% sample they are using to validate their methods before they apply that method to the entire set of some 1.6 billion temperature records, a project that they maintain (and I agree) will result in the best measure to date of global temperature change.

Not surprisingly the 2% looks a lot like the temperature record we see from the major measurers of such things – CRU in England and NASA in the USA.     My gut expectation about the final record is that it will reflect a slight decrease in observed warming along with a significant, though modest, increase in the “uncertainty” of such measurements.     Why?   That finding would be very consistent with the fact that most of the climate scientists are doing excellent work that is good and only very slightly compromised by the alarmist bent.   That bent can’t change the data but I think it has inclined those – particularly in Paleodendrochronology – to view questionable assumptions by other scientists too sympathetically.   Sort of a “circling of the wagons” has happened as tree ring science emerged from almost total obscurity to the single most important “climate signal” in the global warming controversies.  The politics and alarmism and advocacy have very unfortunately led to some questionable interpretations and assumptions despite the obvious which are nearly rock solid findings of a global temperature rise over the last century.

Berkeley Earth is a great approach and I’m anxious to see how their transparent and hopefully unimpeachable methodology will shed light on global warming / climate change issues.

P.S.  IMHO  1.there is slight global warming, 2. it’s mostly human caused,  3. it’s not going to hurt much and 4. (most importantly) YOU (and I, and even the most fervent alarmist) are almost completely unwilling to do the things needed to change our warming prospects enough that it would make more than a trivial difference in the scheme of things.    If you travel much via planes or cars, keep your house between 65 and 85 degrees, fail to retrofit much of your life to save energy, etc, etc, etc then you are THE PROBLEM and you are NOT PART OF THE “SOLUTION”.      Sorry, but you won’t change and many of you won’t even build nuclear power plants – part of the no-brainer solution to energy needs.

The Kennedy Cabinet

OK, so we interrupt our usual rants for an interesting historical question that is also an SEO experiment for my history website  US History – the main website for the travel and history blog

The Kennedy Cabinet was arguably one of the smartest in history, composed of many academics and intellectuals – something of a departure from earlier cabinets which I understand were often political allies, party hacks, etc.   I think most in cabinet positions througout history have been distinguished in their fields, but not to the degree – at least intellectually – that we saw in The Kennedy Cabinet.

So the question at hand is how does the Obama Cabinet stack up to the Kennedy Cabinet?

(no answer needed, though I would be interested in hearing from folks on this).  UPDATE:  What a great discussion below about  The Kennedy Cabinet !   Thanks Horatiox and Fools Gold for, as usual, a lot of very insightful comments.

Thanks, and we now return you to our regularly scheduled rational-but-uninspired ranting…

Stop calling me a climate skeptic just because I don’t believe in alarmism!

*scroll DOWN to skip to the summary*

I’m REALLY getting tired of so many friends and family calling me a global warming skeptic because 1. I am NOT a global warming skeptic and 2.  It distracts from the important debate over warming which is how much it will impact our lives.    There are really only two kinds of Global Warming Skeptics.  The first challenge the fact that the earth, on average, has been warming up a bit.   These folks are generally just stupid or stupidly adhering to the rants of people who are stupid, like Glenn Beck.    The earth is, on average over the last century, warming up.      Not much mind you – most estimates put the warming in the range of a degree C over the last century,  but clearly the earth is warming up a bit.

There is a second kind of global warming skeptic who believes that humans are not the cause of the observed warming.    FYI my misguided friends …  I am NOT in that camp either!     However a lot of bright folks are in that camp and are often scientifically challenging the idea that the observed warming of the last century is caused by human generated greenhouse gasses  or “GHCs”.   CO2 is usually cited as the main GHC culprit but there are several others like methane that are likely to play a role in observed warming.   GHCs are considered the main cause of the small observed warming if, like me, you believe the warming is caused by human activity.    So, I’m not THAT kind of skeptic either!   Some excellent skeptical discussion of warming is at  Climate Audit, the smartest of the “skeptic” blogs, and the counterpoint to Real Climate, the smartest of the blogs that discuss the science behind global warming.   Several key players in the Climate Debate post at RealClimate, many are distinuished NASA scientists.    I’d urge caution interpreting information from other places and even from these “very smart” blogs.   The comments at all blogs tend to be much more biased (often to the point of blatant stupidity) than the posts, which even at advocacy blogs are often somewhat informative  if you keep away from the personal or ego-driven junk.

Many blogs in the warming discussion take the form of advocating either for alarmism or skepticism rather than trying to review the science and the logical actions suggested by that science.   I’m particularly not fond of Joe Romm’s ridiculous  “Climate Progress” which is mostly a constant attack on even well-informed skepticism and dissent from the climate alarmist “party line”.   He seems to immediately ban  even well reasoned dissenters from the comments, leaving … a fools pool of alarmist nonsense and political advocacy.     Anthony Watts “Watts Up With That” is, IMHO, smarter and far more balanced than Climate Progress but is still pretty darn “skeptical”, tending to feature information that supports a skeptical view rather than promoting a more balanced perspective.

Summary:   I AM NOT A DAMN Climate SKEPTIC! However I am not worried much about global warming.  It’s impact so far has been trivial and it appears it will remain trivial, especially when we compare the likely impacts with current ongoing catastrophic conditions in much of the developing world, where water, disease, and poverty run rampant.   Let’s fix that stuff first, since we can actually have an impact in that arena, and fast.

P.S.  No, I have NOT changed my view about this, you just weren’t listening …   See?

Oregon Coast – Brookings, Oregon

Lone Ranch Beach is four miles north of Brookings, Oregon on the fabulous Oregon Coast.   This is a pretty secluded beach a few miles north of Brookings’ very popular hiking and camping area and state park called “Harris Beach”.   Winter is my favorite time to visit the Oregon Coast because the wave action is almost always spectacular.     On this trip we also examined some of the tsunami damage to the docks and boats in Brookings Harbor, and heard from locals about the evacuation and somewhat anticlimactic tsunami –  a series of water surges in the harbor – from the Japan earthquake

Oregon Coast – Brookings, Oregon 067

Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

Collective Bargaining Rights, Wisconsin, and the end of Western Civilization as we know it….

A Facebook friend’s debate has me writing too much over there in private that should be written here in the bright light of the blogging sunshine where everybody can check in and …. YELL about it!

The question over there from my pal in Wisconsin was this:  “What will be the benefit and what will be the cost of removing the right of public workers to form collective bargaining groups?”

We went round and round about what I see as a critical issue in that debate which are the unfunded liabilities – mostly pension obligations – that seem to have come from collective bargaining aggressiveness.    Surprisingly to me there are still a few large hold out advocacy organizations claiming we don’t have a pension crisis – NIRS is the best example.   But clearly we DO have a crisis and it’s potentially very serious.

I’m hoping to hear from Fools Gold and Horatiox on this one as  I think we  may be coming close to an informed answer.  The benefit to society: Slightly lower taxes from the reduced pressure on public spending. Assuming that bargaining bumps up public compensation costs by 10% (based on a conservative CATO paper that should not tend to make this a low number) we are probably talking about something like 5-7% “savings” to taxpayers if we eliminate bargaining (I’m assuming 50-70% of the cost of public sector is in form of compensation and related liabilities).

The cost to society: reduced public worker morale, perhaps reduction in productivity, and probably a reduced quality of workers who chose public service. Although these costs are hard to measure, it seems to me that the modest tax increase is probably worth those benefits to the extent the government services are justified.

A caveat for me would be whether collective bargaining tends to increase total public sector employment. To the extent it does it presents potentially much higher costs to the system. I do not believe the public sector is sustainable in current form and size without tax increases that are politically impossible (and ill advised anyway).

So for me a far more important current question is how we can  get the softest landing as we scale back the bureaucracy from its current bloated conditions to a manageable size.


It’s sure nice to be back in the USA after a month traveling in SE Asia.    The trip was great, filled with great new friends from very different cultures (though at the core, I’d say, folks are all pretty similar), wonderful sights and sounds, and a LOT of great food  (many MANY pictures of food to come over at the Online Highways and US History companion Travel Blog:

However on balance I can’t think of any place I’d rather live than right here in loverly Southern Oregon USA.   We’ve got the natural beauty, nice folks, cheap and plentiful food  (e.g. the big juicy ribeye steak I’m having for lunch today), clean bathrooms (more on my somewhat narrowly avoided international incident with Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body … later…. and clean water that comes magically right out of the tap.    I still marvel at how many highly travelled folks don’t seem to make the obvious and logical connections between the US economic system and the amazing prosperity we enjoy here.      It’s almost as if the guilt of living so well blinds them to the fact that we do live very well.    And NOT at the expense of the other countries mind you – in fact their challenges are usually because they have failed to implement the unique blend of democracy, massive public infrastructure, and entrepreneurial capitalism that have made the American experiment the most successful prosperity booster in the history of humanity.

But I digress….. Vietnam is a fantastic place with wonderful folks and some amazing natural beauty.    Over the next few months I’ll recap the trip day by day at Travel and History along with supplemental history and travel information that’ll flow into the Online Highways Travel Website where we’ll be adding sections on Vietnam and Thailand.