1. Piss-poor prior planning about sea level rise (repost of funny op-ed within)

    TMP Muckracker has reported that

    "Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are circulating a bill which would limit their state agencies’ ability to calculate sea-rise levels, a proposal that one member of the state’s Coastal Resources Commission science panel has termed “bad science.”

    The bill has not yet been introduced, but the language in the version being circulated would make the Division of Coastal Management the only state agency allowed to produce sea-level rise rates, and only at the request of the Coastal Resources Commission, and then only under the following conditions:

    These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios of accelerated rates of sea-level rise.

    In other words, instead of taking into account global warming to predict higher seas, as expected by most scientists, the bill would have the state rely only on the historical record.”

    This is, of course, playing with fire (or water, in this case).  Sea level rise is one of the most well studied of the impacts of climate change, and it’s going to be a serious issue. As I wrote in Cold Cash, Cool Climate

    The best current estimates for scenarios similar to the MIT no-policy case project a 1.4m (4.6 foot) rise in sea levels from current conditions by 2100, which would represent significant challenges to human society.”

    The craziness embodied in the North Carolina proposal made me think of an op-ed I wrote with Elizabeth Brown in 2003 to make fun of a ballot initiative that would have prevented the state from collecting data on race and ethnicity for any reason.   It appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on September 18th, 2003, p.7B.  The article no longer appears on the SJ Merc’s web site—I’ve reposted here so others can have a chuckle.    If someone from the SJ Merc can give me a link, I’ll happily post it here (and shorten the posted op-ed on this site).

    Who needs numbers? Not California

    Stomp out `facts and figures’ that only hurt sensitive ears

    By Jonathan G. Koomey and Elizabeth A. Brown

    At a press conference in Los Angeles last month, Arnold Schwarzenegger declared that “the public doesn’t care about facts and figures.” We think Arnold touched a nerve with this comment, because people are downright sick of reality intruding into public debates. This explains why many support Proposition 54, which will prohibit the state from collecting and reporting data on the racial origins of California residents. It is a first step toward eliminating inconvenient data from California life, but lawmakers could do more to complete the job.

    First, California corporations should no longer be required to report their profits, losses and other large numbers to the state. After all, it was just this kind of reporting that caused the downfall of corporations like Enron and Worldcom. Instead, detailed income statements should be replaced by a simplified one-page form that looks like this:

    How did your company do last year? (choose one):

    a) Well

    b) Not so well

    Please indicate how much you are willing to contribute to California’s state government this year (choose one):

    a) $100

    b) $1,000

    c) $100,000

    d) $1,000,000

    e) We prefer to contribute only moral support this year.

    California politics would also be simpler with this approach. Voters would no longer have to keep track of, say, whether the state’s deficit is $8 billion or $38 billion, which are numbers too big for most people to grasp anyway.

    Second, those food labels that have proliferated in recent years cause all sorts of harm. Listing the amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein right on the food itself effectively discriminates against companies whose products are made with perfectly natural ingredients, like lard. Moreover, these labels encourage worry among health-conscious citizens, providing them and the rest of society with more information than they can handle. To stop these data from wreaking havoc, the California border patrol should dedicate part of its personnel to placing self-adhesive smiley faces over the nutrition labels of all foods entering California. Our citizens are quite sensitive, and there is no need to impose disturbing statistics on them.

    Finally, it’s time for California to stop collecting statistics on pollution from industrial facilities. After all, knowing about pollution means that companies might have to spend millions of dollars cleaning it up. Better that this money is spent on political campaigns, where it can do some real good.

    We shouldn’t stop there. Our next governor should petition the federal government to omit California statistics from all future U.S. government reports and excise them from previous ones. If we’re going to adopt the core philosophy behind Proposition 54, we should go all the way.

    Analysts, number-crunchers and geeks of all kinds will find their employment options somewhat restricted if these measures occur, but that is a price we’re sure the public will be willing to pay.

    Proposition 54 is a crucial first step in California’s data reduction campaign. The additional proposals outlined here, while simple in concept, will have dramatic effects. No longer will so-called “problems” rear their ugly heads. Instead, our citizens will be able to make decisions unencumbered by inconvenient facts – and that’s a notion that Californians of unspecified racial origin should be proud to support.

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I research, consult, and lecture about climate solutions, critical thinking skills, and the environmental effects of information technology.

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