Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fidley Watch: Political Science

(As seen in the December issue of Pacific Maritime Magazine)

The Dog Ate My Data
As the old adage says, bad decisions make good stories. According to a recent story in the London Sunday Times, Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have admitted throwing away much of the raw temperature data on which their predictions of global warming are based.

According to the Times, the data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals were dumped to save space when the Climate Research Unit (CRU) moved to a new building.

The revelation comes shortly after a hacker exposed more than 3,000 emails and documents from computers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) in the UK. The CRU is the data repository for much of the world’s climate research and is a major source for the judgments reached by the UN’s climate reports. The emails, widely disseminated on the web, show the “science” behind the theory of ‘anthropomorphic (man-made) global warming’ (AGW) on which the world is basing its environmental policies. Some excerpts:

“Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise.”
“…try and change the Received date! Don’t give those skeptics something to amuse themselves with.”
“If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”
“This is the sort of “dirty laundry” one doesn’t want to fall into the hands of those who might potentially try to distort things...”

A reputable scientist should be ready to stand behind his data, not fudge it or throw it away if it doesn’t fit is pre-conceived notion.

Waiting to Exhale

Washington State House Bill 2815, that passed in 2008, requires the owners or operators of large fleets of vehicles and large stationary sources of greenhouse gases to start reporting their emissions in 2010.

The first reporting period will be for 2009 emissions, and emitters whose 2009 emissions meet the reporting thresholds must report their emissions to the Department of Ecology by Oct. 31, 2010.

The rule will apply to owners or operators of sites or fleets of non-road mobile sources that produce more than 10,000 metric tons (MT) of CO2, or fleets of on-road motor vehicles that produce more than 2,500 MT CO2 per year.

The State bases its science on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. The IPCC get their data from the CRU, mentioned above, whose data has been cast under suspicion by the release of the offending emails and the discovery that much of the raw data on which the scientific community has based its global warming theories was discarded. Seth Preston, Ecology communications manager, says he hasn’t heard of any change in the Bill since the aforementioned emails were made public.

The proposed 129-page rule can be found here: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/activity/wac173441.html

Some portions of the proposed rule:

If a marine vessel’s arrival and departure points are both inside the waters of the state, then the owner or operator must assign greenhouse gas emissions to Washington State.

“Fugitive emissions” means emissions, which could not reasonably pass through a stack, chimney, vent, or other functionally equivalent opening.

And of course, the most important part of the rule:

An inventory of greenhouse gas emissions will support the legislature’s intent to limit and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases consistent with the emissions reductions requirements established in RCW 70.235.020.

The bill was sponsored by 32 Democrats and one lone Republican. As an exercise, I calculated the carbon emissions (respired, mind you, not ‘fugitive’) likely to come from State Employees.

A human emits roughly 510 lbs. of CO2 per year. Washington State has 63,566 employees in the executive branch, producing 31,512,390 lbs. or 14,294 metric tons of CO2 per year- more than enough to qualify as either a site or mobile source. Add the Legislative Branch (729) and the judicial Branch (606) and the CO2 emissions pass 15,000 metric tons.

Will the State be hiring more staff to calculate staff emissions?

Robert P. Magee, Jr.

One of my first interviews as new managing editor of Pacific Maritime Magazine was with Robert P. Magee, Jr., then President and CEO of Totem Ocean Trailer Express, for a story on the company’s 25th anniversary. I found him to be very engaging and generous with his time, and in the years that followed, I was impressed that a man who was running such a large company always seemed to have time to chat, answer questions or give advice. It was with sadness that I learned late last month that Bob had lost his struggle with cancer.

Bob is survived by his wife, Marie, two grown daughters, and thousands of friends in the commercial maritime community.

Chris Philips, Managing Editor