Warren and Buttigieg on the move, Both Sanders and Biden dropping

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Biden announced he’d run for President around April 23rd. AFter that, he climbed steadily in the polls, mostly taking air out of Sanders’ previous lead as well as the undecideds. He had already held a commanding, leading, position in the polls before he was running, but that is not quite the same thing. But a month later, Biden’s lead sagged significantly and he has been at a steady 35% since, dropping a couple of percent in the last few days. Sanders, having lost wind with Biden’s entry, regained some of those numbers apparently off of Biden’s deflation, and has been holding steady since about May 26th at 16%. That is just looking at the ongoing average of all the polls. Looking at more detail is more dangerous, but when we do that, we see the most recent poll, YouGov, with Biden falling off sharply and Sanders steady but dropping a little.

Simpler version of the above, for the last couple of months, Biden has led Sanders and the two held the top two positions, with variations in their poll trajectories resulting from Biden’s entry and a subsequent cool off.

But forget about those guys for a minute. Consider Buttigieg and Warren. Both have had numbers that varied a lot over several weeks, but both have trended upwards in the most recent polls. Buttigieg’s most recent poll numbers (from mid May to the present) were 6,5,5,7,8,10, respectively. Warren’s were 10,5,7,10,5,12, more variable, several times in the double digits. Harris has had a couple of good days, but for the most part, Warren and Buttigieg seem to be the only two with a good chance of establishing two digit status in the near future.

But the most interesting recent development is Iowa. Here, we have these numbers:

Biden 24
Sanders 16
Buttigieg 14
Warren 15
Harris 7
Everybody else: Never mind.

New Hampshire also has this as a more or less four person race between Biden, Sanders, Buggigieg, and Warren (with Harris not far behind), in that order. Polls in South Carolina have a very strong Biden followed by Sanders, Harris, Booker, and Warren. A tiny bit of polling has Nevada going for Biden then Sanders, but almost tied, followed by O’Rourke, Warren, Harris.

So there are two horse races going on. The boring one where Biden is firmly ahead of Sanders and they are just running along in the top two slots in this order, and the more interesting one, where Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, and maybe O’Rourke are trading places across time and space. Significantly, none of the other candidates seem to have emerged as factors yet.

I predict … a horse race that continues to be interesting.


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Michael Mann Wins

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During the late 20th century, Michael Mann and colleagues published research showing that then recent warming, believed to have been caused by human caused changes in atmospheric chemistry, were indeed large and unique over a very long natural record of about a thousand years. The graph showed what looked like a hockey stick laying down, with the blade, sticking abruptly up, indicating the dramatic increase in average surface temperature of the planet. See this book for an overview of the climate science.

Over subsequent decades, a handful of individuals, organizations, and at least one media outlet decided to attack Mann over his research. These attacks falsely claimed that Mann had faked or altered data in order to show that global warming was real when it wasn’t. To be clear: Global warming is real, and Mann was not making up or faking data. See The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines for more on that. See also this book for just how crazy this can all get.

Mann, in an effort to defend the science, took these various and sundry entities to court, to compel them to retract their lies and apologize. Today, June 7th, one of those law suits ended with such an apology.

For historical context, I give you the aforementioned events superimposed over a graph showing the steady rise of the Earth’s surface temperatures:

Then, the retraction:

This isn’t over. The story of these law suits is complicated by several factors. At least one “think tank” changed its name a couple of times. Individuals or other entities have counter sued. Other things. There are still open cases. Eventually, it will all be settled. See this post for more information.
Well, the law suits will be settled. And, the science is settled. But we need to do a lot more work to decarbonize our economies and limit the effects of global warming.


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Alicia Plerhoples for Fairfax County Board Chair

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I know some of you are in Fairfax County, Virginia. If you are, please send this around to your climate-loving local people who are presumably voting in the upcoming primary election (June 11th).

From Adam Siegel, Virginia-based energy expert and climate hawk spotter:

Fairfax County Democratic voters face — for the first time in decades — a real choice as to their nominee for Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. It isn’t just that there are four candidates seeking our support, but that a reasonable person paying even superficial attention to the race should be able to articulate reasons to vote for (or not vote for) each of the four. This is a good situation for voters, and a reason why I have thought long and hard before coming out with a public endorsement in this race. After consideration of many factors (see discussion below), the choice has become clear to me…

For the details, read: Alicia Plerhoples for Fairfax County Board Chair: Adam Siegel Explains His Choice

There is another endorsement of Alicia Plerhoples here.

Plerhoples herself is also covered here: Under my leadership, says Plerhoples, Fairfax will be a greener county

Also, look at Dick Saslaw’s race. I hear he is a fossil fuel favorer and it might be nice to have him not running in the election, so when the Democrats take back the Senate, their Majority Leader is not a Carbon-symp. This is Virginia State Senate district 35, where Yasmine Taeb and Karen Elena Torrent are primary-ing Dick Saslaw. I have nothing to provide in the way of guidance for choosing between those two candidates.


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State of the climate, 2019

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The year 2018 was warm, but since previous years had been super warm, it may have seemed a bit cooler. There was indeed a downswing, but only a little one.

However, 2019 is looking like an upswing year. It will not be as warm as the recent El Nino year, but it will be close, and it will follow the predicted upward course of global warming caused by our release of greenhouse gasses and the effect of those gasses on delicate and critically important atmospheric chemistry.

Climate Central has a a State of the Climate report here.

Note that the various predictions for the activity level of the 2019 hurricane season suggest an average year. The most common midpoint of estimates for the number of actual hurricanes is five, with 2 major ones, in the Atlantic. The long term average for those numbers is 6.4 and 2.7. However, the estimate for the total number of named storms is a bit higher than the average of 12.1, suggesting between 10 and 14 or so. We have already had one, before the official start of the season, but the Atlantic has been relatively quiet since then.

This Spring’s unprecedented flooding is of course directly related to climate change, and there isn’t a sane person on the Earth who doesn’t accept that as truth. You will have a harder time finding people accepting a link between tornado activity, which has been very high this year, and global warming, but it is also true that a) there has been a very well entrenched and active non-acceptance of that relationship for years in the meteorological community and b) it seems that having a few bad years in a row, as we have had with hurricanes, is required before enough people put their thinking caps on and think. So, I await a possible shift in position on tornadoes and global warming.


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What The DNC Just Did Wrong

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You are probably aware that the DNC has just put the kibash on having a climate change related debate in the primary process.

Climate change, Perez says, is a single issue and no single issue is worthy of elevation to this level. Here are some of my thoughts on this, and below find a link to Adam Siegel’s excellent post on the subject, where you will also find the DNC’s position.

The climate crisis is not a single issue, Mr. Perez. It is an existential issue that permeates all of the other issues, an economic issue that will shape our entire agenda, an issue of national security that should be of great concern, and the number one premier health issue of the century. It is a moral issue that tests our the ability of our elected Democrats and candidates to lead.

The moment at hand has bee a long time coming. This is the first election cycle in which climate change and its effects are being taken serious by almost all Democratic candidates and voters. This issue has to be part of the conversation from now on, indefinitely.

Perhaps instead of driving climate change into a corner, or ignoring it, you actually meant to challenge the current framing of such a debate. Indeed, Democrats do not have to debate “climate change.” We all know it is real, critically important, and that we must address it. That is not a matter of debate.

But we do need to discuss, and debate, the solutions. What kind of Green New Deal do you want, candidate? How do you propose we harness market forces to hasten the transition away from fossil fuels? Do you like bridge fuels like Methane or are you on board with following a direct line to zero-Carbon? What about Carbon pricing, fee and dividend? How can we keep the economic benefit that will come with decarbonization in the US, by supporting local union industry in the construction of wind, solar, and storage facilities? Can the benefits of this energy transition be made available to most citizens? Is there a way to have economic benefits that go to more than the 10%? Should there be improved national best practices and regulations to push utilities to help more with this? What about divestment from funds that invest in fossil fuel extraction, processing, and distribution? What is your favorite pipeline story and what does it tell us about our commitment to changing things? What sorts of mandates can hasten widespread access to technologies like heat pumps and geothermal heating and cooling?

There is, indeed, a great deal to debate. Not climate change per se, but rather, how we save the future for our children and grandchildren. As noted by “Climate Hawks Vote,” climate change is a single issue: the survival of humanity. That is worth a debate.

Have a look at this thoughtful and informative post by energy expert A. Siegel to see how debating climate change can work as a political tool to the benefit of Democratic candidates and the party.

Coming out against a climate or energy debate is ethically questionable and politically foolish. Lets expand, rather than contract, this vitally important conversation.


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Best Children’s Book on Human Evolution

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Aside from evolutionary theory itself, the teaching of Human evolution involves physiology and reproductive biology, behavioral biology, genetics, and the fossil record itself with details of a concomitant history.

And finally, there is a children’s book that addresses the latter, in amazing detail!

There are very few good (or even bad) children’s books about evolution, and far fewer about human evolution. And when a children’s book touches on human evolution, it is usually just about Neanderthals.

When We Became Humans: The Story of Our Evolution by Michael Bright with illustrations by Hannah Bailey is a very good book on human evolution. The book is over 60 pages long in large format, and my copy is cloth bound. The production quality of the book is outstanding. (That is generally the case with this publisher.)

I am am impressed with this title, and I strongly recommend it for anyone looking for a book for a kid of a certain age to read, or a younger kid to get read to.

What is that certain age? I’m thinking 10 plus or minus 2, depending on the kid. The publishers say 8-11. So somewhere around there. A 10 year old who absorbs the material in this book will do OK on an intro college human evolution midterm that focuses on the fossil and archaeological record. Or at least, the child will be able to effectively challenge the professor in a grade grubbing situation.

When We Became Humans: The Story of Our Evolution covers primate evolution, key moments in hominin history, bipedalism, early tools, brain evolution, the origin of fire (nice to see my research embodied as fact in an actual children’s book!), Homo erectus and Neanderthals, modern humans, foragers, early agriculture, holicene history, language, art, early burial, and other things such as hobbits.

There are only four places where I would take issue with the facts as presented here. The root hypothesis for the human-chimp split is left out, I would discuss early tools differently, the author embraces the scavenging hypothesis too kindly, and the great global diversity and overall craziness of the agricultural transition is glossed in favor (mostly) of the old Fertile Crescent story, which is not wrong, just limited. Given that this book presnets roughly 165 facts or perspectives, me disagreeing with this small number is rather remarkable.

The art is great, the typefaces well chosen, the layout is artful and foregrounds the aforementioned are and the facts.

You can preorder this book now; it will be out mid July.


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Bigfoot might not be real

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Hereis the Bigfoot Report from the FBI. This has just been released to the public.

This report details the analysis of 15 samples of hair and tissue submitted by a citizen, Mr Peter Byrne, director of the Bigfoot Information Center.

In this report, the FBI documents extensive correspondence as well as submitted newspaper reports regarding Bigfoot.

The samples, it turns out, are from the Cervid family.


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Terry Pratchett-Neil Gaiman Book As a Mini-Series

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Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman looks like a good book, written way back in 1990. I’ve not read it.

But now, Amazon Prime is coming out with a TV mini-series based on it.

It stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen as the main evil and good characters, and is variously written and/or created by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Here is a trailer.

As an ex-catholic who was raised to believe that things like angles and demons exist, with all the trappings, I suppose I could be either repulsed by or attracted by such fiction. Turns out, I’m attracted. My religious upbringing didn’t traumatize me all that much, and I get more of the jokes.

I may be watching this alone but I will be watching it.


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Eco, James, Longitude, Cheap Books

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In Kindle form, worth checking out if you don’t already have them:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.

A Taste for Death (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries Book 7) by PD James.

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that “the longitude problem” was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day-and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives and the increasing fortunes of nations hung on a resolution. One man, John Harrison, in complete opposition to the scientific community, dared to imagine a mechanical solution-a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land.

Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest and of Harrison’s forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.


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