Thursday, September 14, 2017

Still in one piece

Image from
So, for what is apparently no reason whatsoever, the baddest hurricane in Atlantic recorded history rampaged its way past Tampa without leaving so much as a scratch on my family. When we hurried back from PA last week to help prep boats and get the kids out of harm’s way, the prospects for such an outcome seemed slim. For a while, sitting in the hotel room in Atlanta and watching Irma track further and further to the west, there seemed little chance that we could come away unscathed. In the last few hours before reaching the Tampa area the storm wobbled north instead of north by north west. That sixty miles, in a storm that measured hundreds of miles across, was the difference between us spending the rest of this week getting things back to normal, and spending it trying to figure out how to rebuild our lives. A strange week, provoking some odd thoughts.

I have, after more than 5 decades of miscellaneous adventuring doing this or that, had my fair share of close calls. This one was different. My normal brushes with disaster normally have nothing to do with losing stuff and everything to do with me not being around to enjoy the stuff any longer. They also tended to last just minutes, sometimes seconds; not days. The profound sense of relief after this close call is balanced with being a bit embarrassed at being so relieved. It was, after all, only stuff that was at risk.

We ran north in a compact rental car filled mostly with clothes, electronics, and a few odds and ends. Next time I think I’ll take some tools along…just in case. Had things gone the other way it would be difficult to replenish the cruising kitty and get our feet back under us based on just my good looks and sunny disposition. A few screw drivers, a handful of wrenches, and a hammer or two wouldn’t take up much room. They could also have ended up being the most useful things still in my possession.

We may be hanging around the Tampa Bay area longer than we thought. Key West, Marathon, Biscayne Bay, and the Dinner Key marina took a real beating. There are stories of sunken and lost boats with navigation markers missing in pretty much all the water that surrounds Florida. We often think of Biscayne Bay as our “US home”, and Dinner Key is one of our favorite places. But those are all places that will be a long time recovering, and really don’t need us in the way until they do. So it may be a while before leaving the Tampa area via a small sail boat makes a lot of sense. And it may be a while before leaving a job fixing boats in the Florida area makes a lot of sense either.

A photo by Douglas Hanks as seen in a article

I am not a fan of Florida’s Governor Rick Scott who, among his other policy failures, walks in lock step with the science-rejecting Republican party. Yet he relied on that very same science to track the hurricane’s progress, to anticipate storm surges and flooding potentials, and to estimate potential wind damage. He issued evacuation orders base on what the scientists were telling him without hesitation, and likely saved many lives in the process. He was relentless in his warnings about the dangers of this storm and was tireless in addressing issues like fuel shortages in order to get people the resources they needed to flee. He must have been instrumental in getting the hundreds upon hundreds of utility company trucks and crews flowing into the sate to restore power and repair infrastructure. It is too early to tell how he will fair now that the storm has passed and the long, and expensive, clean-up commences. But there is reason to hope he will look past his ideology and see the needs of people instead. A rare and wonderful thing for any American politician to do these days, Republican or Democrat.

Survivor’s guilt is a real thing. We know so many people whose boats were lost, who are still in shock just trying to grasp the enormity of the blow they have taken. Good people, the kind you hope your kids and grand kids grow up to be. Seasoned too, many of them; well aware of the challenges of living this close to nature, not easily caught off-guard and unprepared. But no one can stand up to a storm like this one. Luck, good and bad, makes the call. And yet, somehow, that isn’t enough to explain why some lives have been irrevocably split between "before Irma" and "after" while, for others, Irma will fade quickly from everyday thoughts.

The spike in fuel costs from Harvey and the fuel shortages in Florida in the face of an impending Irma have me rethinking the thought of buying a trawler. No gas, no go, no matter what. I know they shouldn’t…but they do.

The paint booth we fixed after the Monday morning tropical storm of a few weeks ago wasn’t up to this challenge. It caved in, part of it landing on the stern rail of a boat strapped down near by. That appears to be the only damage done. Maybe we should have left that rope tied to the tree?

We spent nearly 70 hours driving since leaving for PA, 70 hours in 12 days. I don’t like driving that much any more. If I ever do buy another car, it will certainly not be a Chevy Sonic. What a horrible little thing. I’m glad it belongs to Enterprise and not to me.

Weather in Pittsburgh was in the mid to upper 60s, low 70s during the day. Weather in Atlanta was upper 60s to low 70s. Here in Florida the forecast is for upper-upper 80s, some 90s…all the way to the end of the forecast period. Hurricanes, thunderstorms, (it turns out the boat parked next to us took a lightning hit which wiped out all of its - very expensive - electronics) floods, heat. The weather in Florida is getting old.

Backing Kintala out of the haul out pit to put her back in her slip reminded me that she still doesn’t reverse worth a damn.

But I am sure glad she is still in one piece.


Unknown said...

So happy you are ok and back on your u

hypathia hunter said...

Glad all is well... There is a special kind of sad feeling that only sailboat owners get when they see the battered and broken hulls of sailboats tossed around like toys after a weather event...

The Cynical Sailor said...

I'm so glad Kintala fared well. I've been thinking about what we might do differently if we had to evacuate again. We did bring things we would need if we lost the boat and camper and had to go into "survival" mode like tools, a generator, food, tent, sleeping bags etc. but I did a poor job in packing clothes. I forgot that not everyplace is sweltering hot like Florida.

Unknown said...

Whew. I grew up near the NC outer banks and so have a long hate-hate relationship with hurricanes. While it is true that inland, being far from the eye vs. close can still be a very similar experience (rain and flooding being the main problems), on the coast, even a few 10s of miles can make a huge difference in the damage a hurricane does. I am so glad for you. I know well the feeling of hoping the hurricane misses me, while understanding that it only means it gets someone else.

I suppose I will state the following as an opinion, but climate change is real and it is here. I don't think it will be a catastrophic event for most of the US, but for those living on the coast and near sea level, it is going to slowly become impossible to afford living or vacationing there. Insurance rates are going to go extremely high and that will eventually stop development on the current coastal areas, except for those who have the resources to continually rebuild. The two economic areas that I do worry a lot about are food production and fuel. As weather patterns shift, it is probable that the areas where crops can be grown economically will shift and it is not easy to move a farm. Fuel production and refining in the US is heavily dependent on the Gulf. That is another industry that didn't grow there overnight. The polymers and chemicals industries are also located largely there due to access to raw materials. There are only so many times you can flood a chemicals plant before it becomes too expensive to rebuild. However, the US is relatively lucky by comparison; climate change for poorer nations will mean starvation for many while I think for many in the US, it will simply mean a loss in standard of living due to increased costs. I am not an optimist in this area. We have two rational paths; take drastic action to reduce CO2 emissions and adapt to moderate climate change or plan for major climate change. There is no sign we are taking either approach so the only option is to become reactive, which will be very expensive in the long run. For boaters, the go-to destinations on the East Coast of the US can only stand so many cat 5s before there is insufficient economic incentive to keep up the infrastructure that recreational boaters desire. I am afraid the BVI, Bahamas, and Keys we know today will be a thing of the past in the next 25-50 or so years. I plan to get to the BVI in the next couple of years (doing the Bahamas this summer on a charter) and have always loved the Keys. There may be new go-to destinations but in the interim, there are going to be people in a world of economic hurt who can't adapt fast enough. I will be largely isolated from it, other than the inconvenience of not having the cool bars and places to visit, but I do feel for those that will experience the full brunt.

Feel free not to allow this post. Mostly, I am glad to hear you are all OK.

Unknown said...

I've been waiting with trepidation for this post. So glad it is news that it good! That makes it two for two as my mother in law in Fort Myers faired ok as well. Yay for safe and sound.

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

Hurray! Glad Kintala, et al, are well! As far as Rick Scott: much science is simply fact, while, for reasons I don't understand, climate change has become tribal: if you don't toe the party line, you are suspected of not really being a full member of the tribe.

TJ said...

Thanks we are waiting to see if Maria will swing out to sea; and it appears already too late for our friends in the Islands that Irma has already trashed. When we first headed to PA before this whole thing started my sister called to remind us that we should bring jackets, socks, and shoes. It was a good thing she did too, as we were thinking "summer" still had a few more months to go.

Climate change is far past being an "opinion", not that Mother Earth cares what we think. And I'll take it as some small step forward that some Republicans are now admitting that sea level rise and warming temperatures are real, they just dismiss the idea that 7 billion people pumping uncountable trillions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere (as if it was some kind of universal garbage dump) is the cause. At least we can start modifying building codes and insurance requirements to reflect reality.

I would like to say that I don't understand the Republicans being wedded to an anti-science ideology; but I think most of us really do understand. Follow the money first. The carbon industry and, to a smaller degree, the banks holding mortgages along the east coasts (particularly FL) are facing a real crises of devaluation. Buying time to squeeze that last bit of profits out of dying economic models is the best they can do. Second, the Republican base is largely made up of a particular brand of American Evangelical fundamentalists; a group that has always been anti-science and anti-education; in addition to having a deeply racist and misogynistic history and some really weird phobias when it comes to things like gay sex. They are also pretty sure that Jesus will return soon and usher them into heaven while sending most of us to hell. So what we do to the earth doesn't matter. Mix the carbon industry's money to that particular base and what you get is Republican ideology.

By the way, I use the term "American Evangelical fundamentalists" to deliberately focus on a particular - and very narrow - ideology. I know lots of Christians and the overwhelming majority reject that ideology as either biblical or Christian.

Anyway, my tribe of live aboard cruisers is taking a real beating this hurricane season, and my thoughts are with everyone who is struggling to recover; cruiser or no.

Robert Sapp said...

Some quick thoughts:

Genetics is science. Most scientists agree that GMOs are safe. Geology is science. Most scientists agree that fracking is environmentally safe. Physics is science. Most scientists agree that nuclear power is the only viable renewable energy option capable of scaling sufficiently to power a modern industrial economy. Biology is science. Most scientists agree that vaccines are safe and effective and have no link to autism. These are views that are not embraced by many (most?) leftists. I guess because they're anti-science?

Thank God for the evangelicals. Here's an article that describes everything that the Southern Baptists have been doing to help the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

I did a quick Google search, and couldn't find a single mention of a soup kitchen or relief convoy organized by Antifa, Black Lives Matter or the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Polls show that about 45% of Republicans identify as evangelicals. But the same polls show that so do 35% of Democrats. What's the percentage at which an entire party becomes "anti-science?" Somewhere between 35% and 45% I guess? Or is it just "anti-science" to reject the leftist religion of Gaia worship?

Governor Scott did a good job because 1) he's had quite a bit of experience with this and 2} he's a businessman and not a politician. Likewise President Trump has been doing a pretty good job due to his background as a businessman. You can tell he's doing well because the press really hasn't been able to find much to criticize. You know they'd be screaming from the rooftops if they could find anything that would stick.

Glad you guys made it through OK. Our big storm was Ivan in 2004, which was a strong category 3 (130 mph) when it made a direct hit on Pensacola in September of 2004 (it had been a Cat 5 when it crossed the Caymans earlier in the week). It took a while to recover, but in the end things here are much better as a result.

Did you happen to read my blog post about the 12,000 that died in Galveston in the Great Storm of 1900? Irma was huge, but certainly not anything special or all that unusual. It's only claim to fame is that it hit Cat 5 while still in the Atlantic rather than waiting until it crossed the Leewards. Other storms probably have as well, but we didn't have the technology to know until the last 40 years or so.


Robert & Rhonda
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, Florida

Unknown said...

The number of people who die in a hurricane historically is a bad metric for determining how unusual it is. Since 1900, the ability to predict, plan for, and build for hurricanes has dramatically improved. There is no way to determine if a particular hurricane is "better/worse" than one 115 years ago based on the number of people who died. Also, the number of people who died in Galveston is recorded as between 6,000-12,000. 8,000 has become the "official" best guestimate. Flooding from storm surge and the surf were the main problem for Galveston. Galveston is on an island. Today, the island would be evacuated and the death toll would have been orders of magnitude lower, perhaps less than 100 people. But that is anyone's guess. Some darn fools will stay no matter what.

As predictive models get better and planning improves, deaths from hurricanes will continue to decrease. It is the frequency of hurricanes coupled with sea level rise that will be the real problems for the coast, in my opinion. Rebuilding after a hurricane strike every 15-20 years is doable, if the property value and rental income can keep up. Increase that frequency to every 2-5 years and it will simply be too expensive to maintain.

As I mentioned above, for recreational boaters, significant impacts will be that current choice cruising grounds will be uninhabitable with no amenities due to the cost of maintaining them. Certainly, it is awesome to visit a deserted beach, but a seaside bar is hard to beat on a Friday night. Also, it is certainly more enjoyable to keep your boat in a marina without fear of a hurricane wiping it out than not.

I spent the weekend with a friend who is a scientist who participates in climate science, primarily now as a planner and manager of resources, but previously in climate monitoring and modeling. The facts are: 1) sea level is rising and the rate of increase is accelerating. Significant portions of the US coast will be uninhabitable in the 50-100 year time scale, possibly sooner depending on your definition of "significant" (Google "surging seas risk finder"). 2) the Atlantic ocean temperatures are rising. 3) mean atmospheric temperatures are rising and the rate of increase is accelerating. 4) the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice coverage are decreasing and the rate of decrease is accelerating.

I'm an engineer by training, not an atmospheric scientist. I am in research now, but in my previous life it was my job to take facts as inputs, extrapolate to likely outcomes, and design the best systems subject to economic, environmental, etc. constraints to accommodate the outcomes. Now, about half my job is to teach young people to do this. From an engineer's point of view, to refuse to plan for or ameliorate expensive system effects is just stupid and wasteful. The above effects, when combined, will, as undoubtedly lead to economic stress, at a minimum. I am not much of a fan of Neil Degrasse Tyson but I think he is probably correct when he said recently that it may be too late to halt climate change. I'd go so far as to say it is a virtual impossibility given the lack of public resolve to deal with it, but I've never been accused of being an optimist.

I will admit, my motives are selfish. In 200 years or so, perhaps the climate will stabilize and adjust to the effect of releasing the CO2 sequestered in fossil fuels over the past 100s of thousands of years. Or there will eventually be sufficient development of energy technologies in the intervening years to make the mining and refining of fossil fuels more expensive than other options. However, I am pretty sure I will not be around in 200 years. I'd prefer to see the Great Barrier Reef, the BVI, Bahamas, the sunset from Mallory Square, polar bears, etc. in person. Call me crazy, but that just how I roll. I'd also prefer to have them available for my kids and their kids (one day, fingers crossed). Hey, I'm not completely self-centered.

Unknown said...

(Had to add it in two parts. Too long as a single post. Story continues below...)

I understand people's skepticism. It is difficult to see the effects of a system input that occurs over long time scales. There are still people who refuse to believe that species evolve because they didn't see a giraffe's neck suddenly get longer to reach a leaf higher in a tree. Perhaps it is a leap of faith for some people, but you have to go with the best tools and people you have.

As far as Trump being a businessman, I have to chuckle. The only business enterprise he has been shown to run effectively is branding. He would have made more money since 1988 if he invested in index funds. But I digress.

Unknown said...

PS: I should have mentioned that I read both this blog and "Life On the Hook". I enjoy both. My taste in boats currently runs more like those of Robert and Rhonda's but mostly due to familiarity and I really like the open transom for swimming, diving, etc. Would probably be different if I were circumnavigating.

Finally, for a first charter outside the US: BVI or Bahamas?
Want to dive, see some cool night spots and enjoy unspoiled nature as well. Prefer to rent nearly all diving equipment but would prefer diving on our own. I assume the BVI will not be the best spot next season due to hurricane rebuilding, but interested in the opinions of anyone in the know.

TJ said...

Robert, I was wondering if Irma went far enough west to make you duck for cover. It was looking rather iffy there for a while. You and I are never going to agree on climate science, (unless you change your mind), but I am a bit curious. Since you are so on board with the science of geology, biology, and physics, why do you reject the discoveries of climatologists? Your arguments is that leftists are wrong to question the wisdom of GMO foods, fracking, and nuclear power plants, but you are somehow right to question the wisdom of climatologists even as sea levels rise, ocean temperatures rise, and glaciers all over the planet disappear? How does that make any sense? Or did I misunderstand and you agree with (some) leftists when it comes to biologists, geologists, and physics?

I happen to know lots of "leftists" who are not opposed to GMOs, fracking, or vaccinations. I know others who are more ambivalent. But that isn't the case with climate science. The only people I know of who oppose climate science are conservatives.

We are never going to agree on religion either or, at least, on religious fundamentalism. Our world is awash in hatred and, more often than not, some form of religious fundamentalism fuels that hatred. A few soup kitchens isn't going to balance the scales.

Unknown said...

And then there is the collapse of Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation...

As described in Forbes:

You know, in Forbes, that bastion of liberal group-think, with the motto "The Capitalist Tool".

TJ said...

pfrymier1, the US military admits to climate change. BP, Chevron, ConocoPhilips, and ExonMobil all admit that climate change is a serious issue (though I suspect they lobby against the laws to mitigate it) Insurance companies REALLY admit to climate change, since they often foot the bill for climate disasters. Every government on the planet (with the exception of 3) is trying to be responsible in dealing with climate change. The Catholic Church admits to climate change. The American Protestant churches are split on climate change; no surprise there. But not even Protestants are universally science deniers, though I think it safe to say that a large percentage of science deniers are Protestants.

It seems that those who deny climate change are a rather small, and shrinking, group. Unfortunately that group includes the POTUS, a majority in the Senate and House, conservative judges, and my friend Robert. All bad news for the USA, but the rest of the world is getting pretty good at both ignoring us and moving on, leaving us behind. In fact I read an article just this week that suggested that the world is shifting to renewable energy sources much faster than anyone anticipated, and thus we might have a little more breathing room (no pun intended) when it comes to addressing climate change. Which might be a bit of a hard sell to all of our friends who have lost everything they owned to the recent rampage of Cat 5 storms.

Still, if we could just pry the nukes out of Trump's and Kim Jong Un's hands, human kind may still have a real future. Though I would not be a bit surprised if that future does not include the political empire once knows as the United States of America.

Robert Sapp said...

This is a broad issue to tackle in some blog comments. The short answer is that any rational person believes in climate change. But I reject the mythos of climate alarmism and the underlying religion of Gaia worship. 25,000 years ago most of the world was covered in ice a mile thick and seawater levels were hundreds of feet lower than now. Due to climate change, the ice melted and seawater levels rose. When the Vikings settled Greenland 1000 years ago it was warm enough to grow crops. Then the Little Ice Age occurred and froze them out. The climate cycle repeats continuously. The North Atlantic current turns on and off. Earth’s temperature rises and falls. A climate rationalist realizes that the only thing constant about the Earth’s climate is that it constantly changes. But to climate alarmists, this constant and ever-present change is now considered an existential threat.

Climate alarmists believe two things that I considered logically absurd. The first is that even though for most of Earth’s history the climate has been from somewhat to significantly different than current conditions, the climate on Earth today is the one true, perfect climate, and any deviation from it will result in massive, unprecedented catastrophe.

Second, there’s the belief that complex computer models that cannot accurately predict weather more than a few days in advance are nonetheless capable of determining what the weather will be on Earth a century from now, with a precision of a tenth of a degree. Models that have all been consistently wrong over the last 30 years by the way, grossly overestimating warming. It was that great climate scientist Al Gore after all who said that by the year 2015 we’d have runaway warming, massive sea level rises and drowned cities.

Climate alarmism is modern day Lysenkoism with the peer review and grant approval process replacing the Gulag as the mechanism to punish those who will not fall in line. The 97% consensus myth reflects the fact that only research that supports the government approved outcome is funded and published. Meanwhile there are so many climate scientists that reject climate alarmism that they hold their own conference annually, the International Conference on Climate Change.

You probably heard that last year was The Hottest Year Ever. You’d have to dig pretty deep to see that it was the hottest by .001°C, with a margin of error of .1°C. When you’re reporting a scientific “fact” as having a margin of error that’s 100 times the data signal, you’re dealing with faith, not fact.

It is now being proposed by many that people who resist climate alarmism should be subject to criminal prosecution. They desire to punish climate apostasy.

If you believe in the perfection of creation (the current climate is the only true climate and no deviation can be tolerated), the infallibility of revealed truth (the hallowed computer models are to be trusted, even though they don’t work) and desire punishment for apostasy, then guess what? You’re a follower of a religion, not a believer in science.

Robert & Rhonda
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

P.S. Paul, I wouldn't advise having the BVIs in your sights for at least a few years. There won't be any charter operators there for quite some time, as their fleets were destroyed. Even if they obtain new boats, the region is just too devastated to consider for a vacation. It's a shame, because it was much nicer than the Bahamas. The water wasn't quite as clear, but the reefs and sea life were much much better.

TJ said...

Robert, what is really kind of fun is that everyone on the planet who is working to counter climate change is basically trying to catch up with the likes of you and me, and a good portion of the rest of the cruiser tribe. You, on an individual and personal basis, are doing more for the cause than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Al Gore, combined. They live in multiple mansions burning through huge amounts of energy and resources supporting thousands of square feet of living space they never use, then jet around the world giving speeches about environmentally responsible living. We live in “tiny houses”, point produce much of our energy and, as compared to most Americans, leave a tiny footprint behind. You are, in spite of yourself, one of the good guys of sustainable, responsible and, dare I say, progressive living. Of course those trying to catch up to us are doing so on the massive scale of whole societies, so they have a lot bigger challenge than we do as individuals.

Everyone knows that some days it rains, and some days the sun shines, and some days both happen. Everyone knows that the earth has seen ice ages and sea level changes, and everyone knows that is not what the discussion is about. The climate claims of Trump worshipers are untenable and have already been dismissed by virtually everyone on the planet. Around the world countries are invigoration their economies by inventing new technologies, embracing new concepts of energy production, distribution, and use. They are dumping fewer toxins into the air and water while improving the quality of life for their citizens. The same is happening here in the US. States, cities, townships, and local communities are all working to catch up with us cruisers, Trump and the Republicans be damned. Even here in our Red State of Florida cities like Hollywood, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale work to mitigate a rising sea level, dismissing Rick Scott as irrelevant to those efforts.

Robert my friend, you really are on the wrong side of history on this one. The conservative movement would take a huge step in reclaiming some credibility if it would give up on the “climate change is a world wide liberal conspiracy/hoax” bullshit. That bullshit is so blatantly a result of pure corruption and influence peddling that any other claims the conservatives make get tainted by that same aroma.

Unknown said...

Hmmm. I thought maybe the BVI would be OK by 2019. I'll check back in a year. Thanks for the heads up.

I would add a few thoughts: the ability to predict the weather has gotten pretty good actually. The improvements in just the last 20 years are amazing. Of course, if the wind is stronger by 5 knots or stays from the "wrong" direction for 24 extra hours, I'm not currently affected very much. On a daily basis, I pretty much want to know the temperature, and if it is going to rain and when.

Weather and climate are two different things, of course, and I am sure most people understand it. However, I think it would do many people a world of good to actually talk to a climate scientist instead of listening to someone with little knowledge about climate science talk about climate science. Every time I hear of some "well-known" scientist coming out against the consensus of climate science, the person is more likely than not: a) not be a climate scientist or even close, b) retired, and/or c) not research active and virtually not published.

Now, if you are not in the research business, you might argue that this would make the person more objective, but as a person who makes his living in the research business, it would be akin to trusting a chiropractor to perform open heart surgery. He might have the classes and is entitled to his opinion, but you'd be a fool to have him carve you open. It just does not work that way. I am not saying that it is impossible for non-specialist to view the data objectively, but as a non-specialist, they are not actually familiar with the literature and tend to cherry-pick to prove the outcome they desire. This is not only true in climate science and you usually see these people crop up when any research topic becomes part of the public discourse.

I have degrees through a PhD in engineering and that does not make me any more knowledgeable about climate science than the next person. However, what it does do is give me personal exposure to some of the brightest minds in the field and an understanding of research and I can tell you that the overwhelming preponderance of data supports the conclusion that the increase in CO2 emissions since the 1850s has caused the types of world climate effects that will favor extreme weather events on coastal areas as well as increased coastal flooding. It is as unavoidable as evolution. I am not a climate alarmist, I am a climate realist. I understand perfectly that if I want to mitigate the effects of climate change on me personally, I can simply stay away from the coast. I have enough money and live in a country sufficiently affluent that I and mine will be just fine, for the most part.

It is also true that, at least for some people, their micro-climate is likely to improve, from their point of view. The problem is that we can't pick up and move the infrastructure, at least not in a hurry. As I said in an earlier post, a perfectly rational approach would be to plan for climate change if it occurs over a sufficiently long time scale, but if you deny it exists, you can't do that. Given a long enough time, evolution will lead to adaptation by the natural world, but I (and my children) will not be around at that point. So again, you might say I have a self-centered outlook. The universe certainly doesn't care if polar bears, or coral, or humans for that matter exist or not, but I do.

Unknown said...

Sorry to belabor the point, but I took a look at the webpage of the so-called "International Conference on Climate Change" and the list of speakers for the 2017 conference. I don't have the time or interest to check the participants from the institutes that I've never heard of or are known to be highly politicized, but I'm pretty comfortable looking at the credentials of the academics. Academics are a special breed of narcissist, which I feel confident saying because I am one. They don't try to hide their CVs, in fact quite the opposite, they put it right out there. Consequently, credential checking, unless they flat-out lie, is pretty easy. Here is a list of the academics from the 2017 conference and their professional training/affiliation:

J. Scott Armstrong, Professor, U. Penn, Marketing
Susan Crockford, Adjunct Professor, University of Victoria, CA, Zoology
Randy Simmons, Professor, Utah State, Political science, economics
Daniel Sutter, Professor, Troy University, Economics
Don Easterbrook, Professor Emeritus, Western Washington University, Geology
William Happer, Professor, Princeton, Physics (optics, atomic physics)
Ross McKitrick, Professor, University of Guelph, Economics
Robert Mendelsohn, Professor, Yale, Agricultural Economics

Now I am pretty sure that many of these are excellent speakers and may be quite well-known in their fields. The one guy who caught my eye has possibly having relevant professional knowledge was Don Easterbrook, although he is retired. The page on the conference website said he had 150 publications (which would be an impressive number) and his field might give him insight into sampling methodology, which is key in determining past global temperatures. Using the ISI Web of Science database (the most comprehensive citations database for the physical sciences) I get a total of 20 publications with an h-index of 11. A couple of things here for the non-researchers. He might actually have 150 publications, depending on what you count as a publication, but from my search, only 20 were in publications indexed by Web of Science. That would indicate that most are not peer-reviewed, which basically could mean they are anything, including a comment in a campus newspaper. Finally, if a person has 11 papers with at least 11 citations, then his h-index is an 11. An h-index of 11 could not get you tenure in any geology program at any ranked public institution in the country. It is a very low number. However, one could argue that for older scientists, it was the quality and not quantity of publications that is important. There is some truth in that; for example, Albert Einstein has an h-index of 108 (using Google Scholar, which is usually a bit higher than Web of Science, but will be close). 108 is a pretty high h-number, but there are a number of people not nearly as famous that have h-indicies that are close. Even half that would be impressive. However, Einstein also has a citation count of 110,688, which would be a measure of quality. Don Easterbrook has a citation count of 375. Now, comparing him to Einstein is not at all fair, but I am just illustrating that a low h-index can be compensated for by a high citation count, but does not appear to be the case for Dr. Easterbrook.

All of this is to say that the so-called, "International Conference on Climate Change" is hardly a conference on climate science at all. There are no apparent experts in climate science on their speaker list.

Sorry for such a long post about the tedium of academics. But they live and breathe by their reputations are credentials and this group does not have any reputation or credentials in this area. The academic speakers probably got a nice honorarium for attending. Academics are shameless that way. What can I say? Guilty as charged ;-)

Unknown said...

PS: I misspoke above. An h-index of 11 would be perfectly acceptable for tenure in geology at most universities. I meant to say promotion to full professor.

TJ said...


No problem. In fact thanks for taking the time, I found your comments to be very interesting. Unfortunately, in a country completely awash in propaganda backed by big money interests, it is very hard to parcel out the voices of those who are telling the truth. It doesn't help that even finding sources that one can (nominally) trust becomes an issue. I tend to look to the BBC first for general information. After that is is catch as catch can. I tend to avoid anything that come out of the six corporations that control about 90% of American media; at least insofar as information or "news" goes. Their only concern is making money for their shareholders, and that is all about market share and advertising.

One can go out on the web and search for specific issues, and even look at the counter attacks. I have done quite a bit of that in the climate change debate. The nay-sayers generally come up pretty pathetic, with weak and easily falsified arguments. Indeed, they often sound much like the "flat earth", "young earth creationists" and "moon landing hoax" folks. Casual entertainment and good for a chuckle. Trump and the Republicans are in a different category of course, given the fact that they can and are doing real damage when it comes to meeting the challenges we face. But the vast majority of the world, and much of the country, is moving on without them, so I suspect they are of less importance than they like to think.

Many on the left make Trump sound like the first of the four horses of the apocalypse and I will admit to loathing the man with a certain amount of enthusiasm. Partly it is personal; my youngest Daughter and thus one of my grand daughters are bi-racial. Partly it is political. He is the embodiment of corrupt, predatory, late stage capitalism. And partly it is just a human reaction to a deeply flawed, perhaps ill, possibly psychotic, individual. He appears to be a sexual deviant of some note, is petty and shallow, lacks any hint of intellectual curiosity, and has the impulse control of a two year old.

On the other hand, I also see him as a symptom more than the disease. It is a desperately ill society that ends up with a person like Trump in the highest office of the land; evidence of a political system possibly broken beyond repair. Assuming the asshole doesn't start tossing nukes around, the world will survive him without much effort. It will take considerably more effort for the US to recover after Trump is gone and, truth to tell, I don't know that we have it in us. Then again, history suggests that it isn't a bad thing when an out of control empire implodes; and that is a pretty good description of the US of A at the moment.

Deb said...

Paul- regarding your interest in chartering in the BVIs, keep an eye on the blog of a friend of mine, Brittany Meyers of They ran a charter business there before the hurricane and they lost their own personal boat and three of their four charter boats. They are actively involved in the reconstruction in the BVI's and have a lot of current information on their blog. They intend to be fully functional within a much shorter timeframe then is being publicized in the sailing media. I think that you can support the BVI's by scheduling your charter with them. Yes, it will involve giving up a little bit of the beauty and entertainment aspect of a charter, but you would be doing a good thing by contributing to the incomes of those who need it most right now. If you're interested in the area you can go to their website and donate to their personal fundraiser. They have already raised over $150,000, have purchased many tarps, generators, medical supplies and construction materials for those in need. It's a good cause and a trusted friend and 100% of the proceeds are going to those in need. We

sv.sampaguita said...

TJ- I have read this blog from the start and I agree with about 99.9% of what you have written. Which might make for a boring conversation if we were to meet. Just a lot of "yep I agree" on my part.

Anywho... your comment ["On the other hand, I also see him as a symptom more than the disease. It is a desperately ill society..."], reminded me of a study out of Harvard that I found disturbing. Not sure if you read it so here is the link.

TJ said...

Thanks for the link, let me trade you a book recommendation in exchange. "The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's earch for Meaning " By Jeremy Lent. It is a very detailed study of the history that led to our modern society, and laid a solid foundation under many of my own misgivings about the world view that lies behind our civilization. It isn't an easy read nor is it particularly optimistic about what may be our future. But it certainly shed some light for me.