Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Twitter Vs. Facebook - A Tale of Two IPO's

As someone that actually buys advertising from social media sites, the pricing of the Twitter IPO seems outright stupid. Let's compare the Facebook IPO to the Twitter IPO. Just prior to their IPO, Facebook had literally coined a way to print money. On the other hand, the impact of Twitter tweets is fading into little more than white noise.

Immediately prior to the Facebook IPO, we were re-allocating media spending out of print and into Facebook. The capability Facebook had created that both allowed and forced commercial enterprises to buy promoted posts, was a money printing machine. Facebook's promoted posts were the most cost efficient media buy I could find. And our firm was one of millions that increased their spending on Facebook due to the launch of promoted posts and better mobile advertising opportunities.

So how about Twitter. Frankly, at this point, I consider Twitter basically to be a time suck. Given that we have an active social media program, I have to monitor it, and occasionally post (in part, just to keep up with the competition). Twitter does not offer any compelling advertising opportunities yet. The ad positions available will either fall into the category of suffering from "banner blindness" or be rather ineffectual, as it's challenging to come up with a compelling ad given Twitter's character limits.

While my opinion is based on the results being achieved solely by our firm, given that our target audience is 18-49 year old females. this audience is a pretty good one for getting a handle on social media trends. Given that my most recent Twitter posts have had little more impact than if I had just gone outside and shouted into the wind, this seems like a pretty good indication that Tweets are declining in value. Since our fashion site has  over 3,600 Twitter followers, is it sort of shocking how few clicks my tweets yield. When reviewing web analytics, traffic from Twitter is basically inconsequential.

Want to do your own due diligence? Visit any commercial firm's Twitter posts. Check and see how few retweets they are getting. Then check out the Instagram site of a fashion firm or any company that has great proprietary photography and notice how many "likes" they are getting. Instagram is where the action is these days.

The Information on this blog is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness, or fitness for any particular purpose. YOU SHOULD NOT MAKE ANY DECISION, FINANCIAL, INVESTMENTS, TRADING OR OTHERWISE, BASED ON ANY OF THE INFORMATION PRESENTED ON THIS BLOG WITHOUT UNDERTAKING INDEPENDENT DUE DILIGENCE AND CONSULTATION WITH A PROFESSIONAL BROKER OR COMPETENT FINANCIAL ADVISOR. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dang, An Existing PAC Has Already Grabbed the name Throw The Bums Out

I thought I had an inspired idea the other day. It seemed to me that a "Throw The Bums Out" political action committee was a great idea. Given the anger much of United States shares with me in regard to our current Congress, it seemed like this would be an ideal vehicle for a fund raising effort.

The idea behind the PAC would be to fund the campaigns of challengers that were close in the polls and appeared to have a legitimate chance to defeat an incumbent.

I have been beaten to the punch, and not just be a few days, but by years. Although their site does not seem to be active has a copyright date of 2006.

It is a shame that few Congressman will suffer any sort of threat to their re-election bids despite fomenting the stalemate on raising the debt limit and the harm they are doing to the U.S. economy. Election districts have been so gerrymandered that few seats are in competitive districts. Thus, despite the complete breakdown of competent action on the part of Congress, the U.S. electorate is likely to get basically the same Congress even after the 2014 election.  Sadly, the anger felt toward Congress in general is unlikely to be translated into votes against individual incumbents

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Stifle the U.S. Economy to Set A Good Example on Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

One of the assumptions that guides the posts in this blog is that mankind's pumping of billions of metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is likely to result in an environmental calamity. Mankind is conducting an incredibly risky science experiment regarding the sensitivity of the atmosphere to increasing levels of CO2.  Yet, does it make sense for the U.S. to unilaterally hamstring our economy in order to set a "good example".

An editorial in the New York Times describes the Obama administration proposed federal limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide as a "welcome sign".  Yet, how does it make sense to feed the world's growing demand for coal by shipping U.S. mined coal to countries around the world, while restricting the use of coal by power plants in the U.S.  Restricting the U.S. use of cheap coal to generate power will hinder the U.S. economy while barely having any impact of global emissions of greenhouse gases. Try telling coal miners and communities that are dependent on coal mining that their jobs should be killed in order to set a "good example" for the rest of the world. Furthermore, making U.S. energy more expensive serves to unilaterally impose a tax on the U.S. economy while the rest of the world gets a free ride.

Frankly, I am glad that I don't have to make a decision on which way to vote on this proposed legislation. While a worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is urgently needed, unilateral legislation that hamstrings the U.S. economy is challenging to support. And the New York Times rationale of endorsing the proposed power plant emissions limits in order to set a "good example" is not particularly compelling.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Climate Change Will Be Unstoppable By The Time Politicians Take Steps to Mitigate

It boggles the mind that climate change skeptics think mankind can continue to emit billions of metric tons of greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals into the atmosphere every year without altering the environment. Given that Los Angeles, Mexico City and Beijing demonstrate how severely pollution can foul the air on a metropolitan basis, is it such a leap to reach a conclusion that the global atmosphere may be sensitive to the massive greenhouse gas emissions produced by gasoline and diesel combustion in cars and trucks, coal fired power plants, and the plenitude of other sources of air pollution?

It seems unlikely that the pause in the rising global surface temperature during the last decade proves that "global warming is a hoax". Further, any claim that the pause in the earth's warming trend has been greater than a decade should immediately activate BS detectors. A claim that global warming stopped in 1998 can only be made by someone that is illiterate regarding statistics. While the trend of  increasing surface temperature of the earth has has taken a pause for the last decade, it is an exaggeration to indicate the pause has been for 15 or 16 years. The starting point of skeptics exaggerating the length of the pause in global warming is typically 1998, a particularly warm year because of a strong El Nino weather pattern. Cherry picking 1998 as a a starting point is either an indication of statistical illiteracy of an overt attempt to obfuscate the results.

The link between green house gas emission and climate change impacts are firm in some cases and circumstantial in others. The impact upon the oceans are almost certainly related to mankind's activity. The west coast fires, the cycle of heat waves, drought and flash floods around much of the world, and the increased destructiveness of storms such as Hurricane Sandy and other examples of weather on steroids all are indicative of a changing climate.

The greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals emitted to date are already having an impact on the world's oceans. Sea level is rising by 1/10th inch per year and the ocean is becoming more acidic. The mercury content in deep water fish is increasing. Fish are migrating away from the tropics.  Arctic sea ice is declining in the area it covers.

The negative impacts of climate change are leading to worrisome outcomes. As examples, 1) the migration of pests, and 2) reductions in the flow of the Colorado River, could have disastrous impacts if these trends pick up speed. Property insurance rates are increasing to unaffordable levels for many living in flood prone areas.

Yet the question becomes - how much loss of life, property destruction, famine, and economic harm must occur before action is taken to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions? Given that any action that would truly be meaningful to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions must be taken jointly by the U.S., China, and the world's other leading economies, it seems unlikely that anything significant will be agreed upon this decade. The Chinese are moving in slow motion in acting to control the life shortening pollution that clouds the country's major cities. It seems unlikely that a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will become a priority in that country. And in the U.S., much of the Republican party continues to spout a "global warming is a hoax" message.

Thus, given the growth  in greenhouse gasses and CO2 in the atmosphere, we may well be on the path to a climate catastrophe. If the predictions of the climate Cassandras turn out to be true, a very challenging environment awaits future generations. And mankind has no better option than to hope that the most pessimistic predictions of climate change are wrong, because the world's politicians are unlikely to take any action to avert climate change until the impact is upon us and unstoppable.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Environmentalists Block Sensible Solutions To Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A case can be made that the "greens" are often the biggest enemy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions utilizing methods that do more than simply reduce economic activity. The roadblocks the environmentalist put in the way of the development of energy sources hugely hinders the deployment of lower polluting solutions.
An effective energy policy would first seek to allow solutions to develop. If we want to shut down coal plants, don’t make it difficult to replace them.  Such a simple statement, however, one that is oddly prohibited by current policy.  Regulation makes it difficult to obtain permitting for new facilities, as an example water permitting can takes about five years before a construction permit can even be issued.  Want to build a nuke, better start permitting 10-years in advance.  Want to replace old reactors with new reactors, getting a design license through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission takes upwards of 15-years.  Want to build a new combined cycle plant, but you don’t have pipeline access.  Good luck getting the right-of-way for the new pipeline.  Our solution to this is to mandate clean energy, give subsidies, loan guarantees, fund extra research, create dedicated national laboratories, etc. None of these solutions address the fundamental problem, i.e. we presume to know what is best and prohibit meaningful action.  The climate crisis, the energy crisis, the anything crisis are a result of our continued interference and meddling presuming knowledge we don’t have.

Read the entire post by Cal Abel

If the Tea Party ever moves away from their denial of climate change, addressing the above hurdles to the development of cleaner energy sources would be productive.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chicago's Extreme Weather - Are Rainstorms Being Amplified By Increased CO2 in the Atmosphere?

The Chicago area suffered record flooding the other day. While Chicago's weather is famously variable, the fact that 3 of the city's 8 heaviest recorded rainstorms have occurred within the last 6 years certainly raises suspicion that something is amiss. While this correlation between more frequent heavy rainfall and increased CO2 in the atmosphere could certainly just be a due to the random variability of weather, it is cause for concern.

Over at Weather Underground, meteorologist  Dr.Jeff Masters goes out on a limb and declares that
"The new normal in the coming decades is going to be more and more extreme flood-drought-flood cycles like we are seeing now in the Midwest, and this sort of weather whiplash is going to be an increasingly severe pain in the neck for society."
Given the cold spring we've had in the Midwest, it seems hard to accept the global warming could be occurring. However, confusing local weather with global climate change would be a mistake. There are lots of places around the globe which have experienced warmer than usual temperatures in 2013, including the Southwestern U.S., the Arctic and Australia.

The Chicago area  flooding led to my drive to work being greatly extended. As I zigged and zagged due to numerous closed roads, viewing the massive number of other cars on the road  made me pause and think about all the pollution that is being spewed into the atmosphere just from car exhaust. Regardless of how skeptical one is of about whether there is causation between higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the unusually heavy rainfalls, this does not seem to be a good time to be buying a home on a flood plain.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Will A Physical Gold Squeeze Lead To A Rapid Retracement in Price?

One of the few aspects of the markets that seemingly makes sense is that the price of gold is stabilizing. Given the competition among central bankers around the world to win the money printing contest, it seems bizarre that the price of gold is heading toward the production cost of marginal producers. Further, the daily dose of bad economic news from the Euro Zone could also be bullish for the shiny metal.

Over at Zero Hedge, they are suggesting that a shortage of deliverable gold is starting to develop. Assuming that the Zero Hedge post is accurate (and since it is posted on the Internet, it must be true), then the potential develops for a rapid increase in the price of gold as those short of paper gold scramble to cover their positions.
I have no idea where the price of gold is headed in the short term, but suspect that over the long term this will turn out to be a nasty correction in the midst of a multi-year bull market. The risk/reward ratio for shorting paper based gold at this point in time seems abysmally skewed toward being risky. I am most certainly not taking any of my gold jewelry over to the cash for gold shops as long as the price remains close to the marginal producers cost of production.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Global Warming Activists Are Foolish To Focus On 2050 - How About 5 Year Impact?

A new doom and gloom article about the impact of climate change in 40, 50, or 100 years is published at least once a week. However, for climate change skeptics, these predictions are little more than white noise. Given the misses in the predictions from 5 and 10 years ago for global surface temperature, it requires a leap of faith to assume that models can accurately forecast what will occur in the distant future. If meteorologists can only predict the weather 10 days out, how can researchers predict climate change 50 years out?

Climate change researchers should focus more attention on the impact of climate change during the next 5 years if they want to convert skeptics over to their agenda of greenhouse gas mediation. In order to capture the attention of skeptics and the undecided it needs to be shown that there is an immediacy to the impact of pumping billions of metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gaining credibility for long term forecasts requires being able to demonstrate a capability to make accurate medium range forecasts.

While predicting moderate impacts due to climate change occurring during the next five years does not offer the opportunity for producing attention grabbing headlines in the manner that long term catastrophic forecasts do, they do offer a better opportunity for changing opinions.

So what sort of 5 year predictions should climate researchers be making? Here are some examples:
  1. rise in sea level
  2. reduction in arctic sea ice extent
  3. number of hurricanes hitting the U.S.
  4. increase in price of wheat due to extreme weather
  5. increase in the price of rice due to extreme weather
  6. increase in cost of property insurance
  7. number of acres burned by forest fires
  8. increase in pH of the ocean
Predicting global surface temperature should probably be ignored for a couple of reasons: 1)  the variability of  weather gives the expected global surface temperature five years out (2018) a randomness that probably makes it too challenging to accurately predict; and 2) attention should be focused on "climate change", not "global warming".  ("Global warming" still gets more searches than "climate change" according to Google - last month the ratio was 2.2 million searches versus 1.8 million, respectively).

While there is a downside to getting short term predictions wrong, as pointed out in a post by Roger Pielke, Jr., the upside is that getting predictions right offer the opportunity for a researcher to gain minor celebrity status. Maybe it is not a good analogy, but recall how much fame some psychics have gotten from making highly specific predictions that turned out to be accurate, regardless of their overall batting average. Accurate medium term climate change predictions offer a much greater opportunity to win over skeptics than do impossible to verify catastrophic long term predictions.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sea Level Rise Resumes Upward Trend - Where Are The Headlines?

Over the past couple of weeks, the leading climate change news stories in the main stream media have come from opinion poll results. Regardless of whether reporting on opinion polls is really news, doing so works well for main stream media because it is neither a complicated, nuanced story, nor does it alienate advertisers.

Thus, we have been informed that:

  1. 37% of Americans think global warming is a hoax; and 
  2. 82% of U.S. adults reported that they believe climate change is already occurring 

Of note, there was little questioning of the results of either poll, despite that fact that they add to 119% and both report higher percentages than previous polls.

The really big story in climate news has not gotten much attention from the press. The fact that the trend is intact in sea level rise of 1/10th inch per year (actually 0.13 inches) must not have seemed terribly headline worthy. However, the fact that the two year respite from sea level rise during 2009-2011 was just an anomaly is incredibly concerning. In fact, the trend of 0.13 inch annual rise in sea level in intact due to the sea level having risen an average of 0.4 inches in each of the past two years..

On a "if it bleeds it leads" scale, the rise in sea level of a fraction of an inch is not a very big deal. However, anyone that can do math can come to the conclusion that if this trend remains in place for the next 40-100 years, the consequences will be disastrous. Regrettably, due to the paucity of reports about the small but pervasive rise in sea level, there is not much knowledge about this trend among the general public.

While I do not have poll numbers at my disposal to prove how few U.S. adults are aware of the trend in sea level rise, it is simple to confirm this on an anecdotal basis. Simply ask your friends and associates if they know by how much the sea level is rising annually. Ask them if they are aware that the two year hiatus in the sea level rise came to an end in 2011, and that the there has been reversion to the trend line of 0.13 inch annual rise. My experience in asking these questions is that the level of knowledge on sea level rise is not very widespread. A number of those that I discussed this with were both surprised and concerned to learn how fast the sea level is rising.

Obviously, the key question is how much will the sea level rise in the future? Even the folks at NASA are having difficulty coming up with a model that accounts for all the variables, as indicated during a recent "Google+ hang-out".  But anyone that ignores the trend in sea level rise does so at their own peril.

Related Post
The Skeptical Science blog explores one of the issues touched on during the NASA sea level chat — the role of year-to-year shifts in water between oceans and terrestrial reservoirs in short-term changes in sea level. This article explains why the sudden 3x increase in annual sea level rise of the past couple of years from 0.13 to 0.4 inches may not  indicate that an  acceleration has already started in the rate of rise .  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Climate Change Debate - Today's Best Posts From A Denier and an Alarmist

Two posts that provide particularly good examples of the diametrically opposed viewpoints of climate change deniers and alarmists were published today.

Over at American Thinker, Jonathon Moseley states:

The Coming Global Warming Voter Backlash

"So what will voters do to Democrat candidates in 2014 and 2016 when the former realize that the Democratic Party was lying to them?  Is it time to run away from the issue for Democrats, journalists, and Hollywood personalities?"

An opposing view was posted on Skeptical Science by Dana Nuccitelli:

The Fool's Gold of Current Climate

"Climate change hasn't yet resulted in terribly negative consequences, so (can we really assume) maybe it's nothing to worry about.  Unfortunately that conclusion flies in the face of a vast body of evidence indicating that if we continue on our current course, the climate consequences will be very bad, and potentially catastrophic".

In my opinion, Mr. Moseley is terribly wrong about voters punishing the Democratic party for supporting efforts to mitigate climate change in either 2 or 4 years. Does he really think that the average voter will not be concerned about the potential consequences of mankind annually pumping 30 billions metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere? Despite the fact that the earth's surface temperature has not warmed during the last 17 years, this has not ended the global warming debate. Another 2 to 4 years of stable surface temperatures is unlikely to change the consensus (further Moseley's claim that temperatures have not gone up over the last 20 years is incorrect, only by cherry picking a warm year for a starting point such as 17 years ago, does the claim hold up that the earth's surface temperature is stable). 

Notably, every example of extreme weather, regardless of whether there is any impact from climate change, will potentially be attributed to climate change in the minds of many voters. As an example, is today's unseasonably warm 50 F degree temperature in Nuuk Greenland just an example of the variability of weather, or is it evidence of global warming?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Global Action to Address Climate Change - What Would It Require?

For the last few years, environmentalists in the U.S. have been calling for direct action to "solve the climate crisis". This message was basically falling on deaf ears until the Keystone XL Pipeline controversy came along. However, regardless of whether this serves to energize the climate change movement or not, it is basically a sideshow. Until the Republicans in the House of Representatives, the leaders of the Chinese Politburo, the Indian Parliament, and other world leaders decide to enact policies for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, local efforts to fight fossil fuel extraction will only be important if they end up playing a role in stirring up a populist movement.

Serious efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions will not happen until there is overwhelming popular  support for international treaties.  An example of a national leader responding with a populist agenda is demonstrated by Richard Nixon's strong environmental legacy, which may in fact only be due to his pandering to the public rather than any personal commitment to environmentalism.  

Unilateral action to limit the extraction of fossil fuels within the U.S. will not have much impact on a global basis. The U.S. is no longer the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. COemissions from the U.S. and the other economically developed OECD countries now account for only one third of global emissions – the same share as that of China and India, where emissions increased by 9% and 6%, respectively, in 2011 according to the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

The efforts of European nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions shows the futility of any one nation or even a region attempting to unilaterally reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their minimal reductions, which are largely due to a lessening of economic activity, have been completely negated by the increases in emissions from Asia. And the European efforts have been completely self defeating if the claims are correct that their policies are leading to energy intensive manufacturing being shipped off to Asia with no net reduction in emissions. 

The efforts to-date to develop international treaties to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions have been fruitless. The Kyoto accord had no teeth, and was never signed by the U.S, China, or India. Only a treaty that is backed by all the leading emitters of greenhouse gases has much likelihood of making a difference. As long as the public in North America and Asia remains indifferent to the signing of climate accords, little will be accomplished by the annual UN climate conferences. 

Meaningful policies to reduce greenhouse gas emission mitigation would require actions that would be hard to stomach. Treaties that require actions such as: 1) a carbon tax; 2) more expensive, reduced polluting gasoline and diesel; 3) , reduced burning of cheap coal, and 4) reduced highway speed limits, will not gain public favor in the near future. 

So, what would be required before the public pushes government leaders to impose policies that  mitigate greenhouse gas emissions?
  1. Readily observable changes in the weather - As long as the earth's surface temperature remains steady, as it has for the past decade, climate change skeptics opinions are unlikely to budge. And those that accept that climate change is occurring are unlikely to agree to lifestyle altering restrictions until or unless climate change negatively impacts their weather and lives
  2. Catastrophic extreme weather would have to become more commonplace -- Even with extreme weather events such as the drought in the Southwest and Superstorm Sandy, there is little call for dramatic action within the U.S.. And the increase in catastrophic extreme weather would have to occur on a worldwide basis . 
  3. There would have to be serious hits to the pocketbook due to factors such as:
    a) worldwide food shortages causing higher food prices (and starvation in nations across the globe)
    b) Dramatically higher property and casualty insurance
Little action is likely unless the dramatic scenario outlined above occurs. Even if climate change accords are eventually reached, it will take months or years of bickering before the industrialized nations, BRIC nations, and developing nations can agree to an accord that is perceived to fairly treat each group, and actually has  teeth to it.. 

Thus, it seems almost certain the annual pumping of 30+ billion metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere  will continue unabated for a number of years. For those that judge that this makes climate change inevitable, then the best strategy is to be prepared for the adaptations that will be required. From an economic security standpoint, preparing for global climate change will open up a huge new set of risks and opportunities.

Related Post

Below Average Extent For February Arctic Sea Ice A Mixed Signal For Global Warming Alarmists and Deniers

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Was Superstorm Sandy A Tipping Point In Regard To Opinions About Climate Change?

The persistent skepticism of Americans concerning climate change may have been altered by reactions to Superstorm Sandy. In a recent national survey, 82% of U.S. adults reported the they believe climate change is already occurring according to researchers at Stanford University.

In particular, many of those directly impacted by the storm appear to accept that climate change is occurring. As reported by
New Yorkers overwhelmingly agree that climate change was behind super storm Sandy. Fully 69 percent of Empire State residents blame climate change for the storm, while just 24 percent think it was “isolated weather events,” according to a Siena Research Institute poll. That includes at least 63 percent of voters in every region of the state, and even a near-majority — 46 percent — of Republicans. Two-thirds of independent voters also blame climate change. “There may be a debate about what has caused the global climate change, but for most New Yorkers there is no debate that it is occurring,” said pollster Steven Greenberg of the strong consensus.
Personal experience with extreme weather events is probably a huge driver of the increasingly common belief that climate change is occurring. The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, as well as all the other extreme weather events of the past two years that have directly impacted U.S. adults, seems like an opinion changer. Of course, the cold weather this spring may lead some folks that are on the fence about climate change to jump back to being skeptical.   

As pointed out by pollster Steven Greenberg, the debate about the causes of why global warming is occurring is likely to persist for quite some time. Many will continue to believe that global warming is a naturally occurring trend and be skeptical of suggestions that man made greenhouse gas emissions are to blame. 

While it is impossible to pinpoint whether any single extreme weather event is caused by climate change, I suspect that if we have another hot summer, the number of U.S. adults that are worried about climate change will be on the increase. 

As discussed in a previous postour minds are hard-wired to spot patterns as it helps us make sense of the world. Thus, we often confuse correlation with causation. In the case of extreme weather, at least some of the droughts, flash floods, and record breaking snowfalls of the last few years probably can be attributed to global climate change. It is easy to make a connection between changing weather patterns and the climate, and one that some researchers judge to be scientifically valid. Once an individual has made a connection between extreme weather and global climate change, it becomes more likely that they will make a connection between every extreme weather event and global warming.  

Related Link

Global Warming Scare May Be Overblown In Short Term, But Increased Droughts, Flooding and Wildfires Are Here Today

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Deep Ocean Warming - Yet Another Subject For Climate Change Alarmists and Deniers to Disagree Over

According to a recent study of ocean warming published in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén (2013). the deep ocean is warming dramatically. However, whether this is major finding or not is open to question. The Skeptical Science blog states that the new research confirms global warming has accelerated. On the other hand, I seriously doubt that climate warming skeptics will change their minds due to this new research. It seems pretty likely that Rush Limbaugh will continue to proclaim that "global warming is a hoax".

This research brings up the question of "what would it take to convince the those that are skeptical that the millions of tons of CO2 that humans are pumping into the atmosphere will lead to climate change? For those that are already convinced that climate change is a time bomb, this ocean warming research is important because it provides an answer to the question of why the models predicting a rise in the earth's surface temperature have been wrong. Yet for those that are skeptical about "global warming", this new research is probably meaningless.

My best guess is that there are a couple of things that could change the skeptics opinion about "climate change": 1) the weather changes so dramatically, that there it becomes obvious there is some sort of climate effect, or 2) TV weatherman start spouting a climate change message on a regular basis. Until one of those two things occur, Rush Limbaugh will continue to have an audience that buys into his "global warming hoax" message.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Cold March Just Fluky Weather or Beginning of Reinforcing Cycle of Climate Change

The first day of Spring in Chicago is 60 degrees colder this year than last. Despite the wildly differing temperatures, both extremes could in part be due to the impact of the thinning of arctic sea ice upon the jet stream.

Chicago Temperature
Actual High on March 20, 2012: 85 Degrees
Forecast High for March 20, 2013
: 25 Degrees
Difference: -60 Degrees

Some researchers think the thinning arctic sea ice may be leading to a weakened, meandering jet stream. When the jet stream meanders to the north (2011-2012), the Midwest gets a mild, dry winter. When it meanders to the south as it has this month, the Midwest gets cold, snowy weather.

While the southern dip of the jet stream has led to cold, snowy weather in the Midwest, it has also produced near record warm weather for March in Greenland. Temperatures above the arctic circle have peaked above freezing on numerous days instead of hovering around 20 F degrees. Thus, the start of the arctic sea ice melt season is starting even earlier that usual. Given the early start of the melt, this year the arctic ice extent may again decline to record or near record lows. (Last year set a record low for arctic sea ice extent)

Here is where the reinforcing feedback loop could be coming into play. If the low extent of arctic sea ice is indeed leading to the meandering jet stream and the unusually warm above freezing temperatures above the arctic circle, this could lead to even more melting of arctic sea ice. The further reduction in arctic sea ice could have an more extreme impact on the weather in the future.

Admittedly, the above theory about climate change being in a reinforcing cycle is just speculation. We could just be the victims of fluky weather.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Below Average Extent For February Arctic Sea Ice A Mixed Signal For Global Warming Alarmists and Deniers

Arctic Sea Ice Extent - February
Arctic sea ice extent for February 2013 was 
14.66 million square kilometers 
(5.66 million square miles). The magenta line shows 
the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. 

In the ongoing battle between global warming alarmists and deniers to make their case, the non linear nature of weather makes it challenging for either side to win the hearts and minds of the undecided. An unusually hot season which seemingly provides evidence of global warming is often followed by a season of fairly normal weather. On net though, the failure of global and regional temperatures to move in a linear pattern from season to season and/or year to year is a factor that provides ammunition for the climate change deniers.

The recent publication of the measured extent of arctic ice extent this winter is yet another example of the non-linear nature of weather making it confusing for the undecided to make heads or tails of the global warming debate. The February Arctic sea ice extent is the seventh lowest in the satellite record since 1979 according to the Colorado-based National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Given that the arctic sea ice extent was the lowest ever recorded this summer, it would help make the case of  global warming alarmists if the new record lows had been recorded again this winter. However, being the 7th lowest February arctic ice extent is a real glass half full/half empty result. Both sides in the global warming debate can use it to help make their case. 

If the global warming alarmists are going to be able to make a case that tilts opinion toward their arguments, the shrinking arctic sea ice extent may be their smoking gun. Since the weather is so variable, and CO2 emissions are not visible to the eye, proof of carbon emissions causing global warming that the masses can believe in may come from the melting of arctic sea ice  And although the plight of polar bears due to shrinking arctic sea ice is probably being wildly overstated, photos of starving polar bears might be an effective way to engage the masses in the cause of reducing carbon emissions. 

So here's a big question, will the arctic sea ice melt during the summer 2013 set new records, or will the non-linear nature of weather win out again and result in a sea ice extent that is below average but nowhere near as low as last summer? The only thing that seems certain is that regardless of the loss in arctic sea ice this summer, neither the global warming alarmists nor the deniers will admit that it proves they might be wrong.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Is The 1/10 Inch Per Year Rise In Sea Level A Big Deal?

One of the most the maddening aspects of the global warming debate is the challenge in pinning down facts. As an example, the question of whether the oceans are rising should seemingly be a question that is easily answered by hard facts. However, the skeptics and alarmists make conflicting claims over the data. A key issue is that the change in sea level is not uniform; the ocean is rising in some parts of the world and falling in others. Thus, any aggregated measurement of the ocean's rise conflicts with local observations. Also, the differences in measured change in differing locations creates lots of issues prompting attacks upon the methodology used in determining the aggregated rise in sea levels.

The most frequently referenced source of data on annual sea level change is provided by the Colorado University Sea Level Research Group. Viewing their sea level graph derived from the TOPEX satellite data published last year shows a key factor fueling the debate. As shown in the chart below, as of last year, it seemed as if the rise in sea level had stalled. The skeptics jumped on this result as proof that the sea level had stopped rising.

Global Mean Sea Level By Year (Year Ago)

However, there was significant rise in sea level in the past year, and the trend in the increase in sea level rise is once again intact. Notably, the global warming skeptics have tended to ignore the updated results that weaken their case that the sea level is not rising. Here is the updated chart.

Global Mean Sea Level By Year (Current)

Thus, based on this evidence, the proposition that the sea level is rising by about 1/10 inch per year or more seems to be the most likely conclusion. It also seems likely that the sea level will continue to rise. Based on the results from the past couple of decades this increase will be about 1/10 inch per year (although some researchers predict that rate of rise in sea level will accelerate in the future). 

The consequences of a continuation in the trend of rising sea levels largely depends upon time frame. If the sea level rises by 1/10 inch per year, the consequences over the next decade or two is vastly different than the consequences over the next 60 years. An inch or two rise in sea level will not be nearly as damaging as a 6 inch or greater rise in sea level. Thus, for those with an expected life span of 20 years or less, the rising sea level may not be a big deal during their lifetime. However, for those with a 60 year expected lifespan, and those that are concerned about their children and grandchildren, the rise in sea level is likely to be a  very big deal. A study by Climate Central suggest that 3.7 million people in the U.S are vulnerable to flooding over the course of the next century. The damage from future hurricanes could be even more severe than from Katrina and Sandy. And the consequences on a world wide basis could be life changing for hundreds of millions of people

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Both Sides Of The Global Warming Debate Use Same Data To Make Their Case

In a post on by contributor James Taylor published on  3/6/13, he stated that "global temperatures are essentially the same today at they were in 1995". The statement directly contradicts a claim made in a post on published on 2/27/13 that indicates "climate change is making the world, on average, a warmer place. The United States is no exception".

The reason that both claims can be supported is that by cherry picking the starting point on a step chart it is possible to support vastly different conclusions.

As shown in the chart below, adding a trend line to U.S. temperatures going back to 1900 shows a steady rise . However, graphing a line from 1995  to 2012 indicates that the U.S. temperature has remained relatively unchanged.

The above chart offers a good illustration of how cherry picking the starting point on a step chart can dramatically impact the slope of a trend line. The case made by global warming skeptics that the earth is not warming would be stronger if they were able to make their case without cherry picking the warm years of 1995, 1998, 2002, 2007, or 2010. It could well be that Mr. Taylor is correct that the earth's temperature has stopped rising. However, it seems much more likely that he has disingenuously cherry picked a starting point that allows him to make his case. Using a 17 year period to measure a trend seems rather unusual unless talking about cicadas.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Will Beijing Real Estate Market Stumble Due To Pollution Problems?

Who wants to live in a city where the air pollution is so bad that it is damaging to the health of your family? That is the question that confronts the citizens of Beijing. The smog was so bad during January that it was referred to as "airpocalypse" or "airmageddon"

On January 12, the index for airborne particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM 2.5) reached 886 micrograms per cubic meter, about 35 times the guideline set by the World Health Organization. These particulates contained a “complex mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances” that contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and lung cancer.

While the elevated levels of smog only lasted for 20 days, it seems likely that air pollution will get even worse in the future and that Beijing's blackest day is still to come (as predicted by While the P.M 2.5 level returned to levels below 20 in early February, a combination of a sandstorm and smog raised the level back to 500 again on February 28.  

The wealthiest residents of Beijing (and presumably government officials) are purchasing pricey air purifiers and sending their children to the elite schools that can afford expensive air filtration systems. However, this does not seem like a very desirable long term solution for those with sufficient financial resources to leave Beijing and is not a viable solution at all for the vast majority of the population.

While most of the 20 million residents of Beijing have little choice but to remain in the city due its position as China's political, cultural, and economic center, and headquarters city for many of China's state owned companies, at least a small exodus may be in the offing. So far, despite the pollution, housing in Beijing remains tight. Thus, at present there is no basis to support speculation that the air pollution levels will lead to a population exodus  However, as the problem worsens, there is certainly the potential for an out migration to occur among those that have the wherewithal to leave the city. And if this exodus occurs, the real estate market will stumble. 

It may be that the bigger short term threat to the Beijing real estate market is China's recently implemented property curbs. However, if smog inversions become more common, it would be a serious threat to the real estate market.

Time will tell if the cost of residential real estate in the prime areas of Beijing remain at $1,600 a square foot. However, current prices seem insane for real estate in a city which already is having bouts of toxic air quality and is likely to have more in the future.