Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Kiribati is Low But Not as low as Whale Shit at the Bottom of the Ocean

It is possible to cause a huge (short term possibly reversed) increase in carbon capture by algae by dumping iron sulfate in the ocean. On the other hand, uh, well, maybe it won’t work and you will just get a few tons of fish (not many tons of carbon containing detritus on the bottom of the ocean.

Now the general principal seems to be that, so long as there isn’t proof beyond reasonable doubt that a proposal will work, to stick to the tried and true and first do no harm but rather wait until the tundra melts, methane is released, and the climate is irreversibly altered.

This makes no sense. Conservatism may make sense if the choice is between the current state (which is not ideal) and gambling on something new. It makes no sense if one is careening towards a precipice, as we are.

There is an, as usual, interesting post at Vox.com.   Kelsey Piper discusses the unfortunate fact that rogues might attempt to fight climate change without scientific proof that ocean fertilization works and without international regulation of ocean fertilization. Personally, I think the near certainty of climate catastrophe if we stick to the current approach is a more serious problem.

The current approach is international negotiations to reach non binding agreements which from which Donald Trump withdraws the second largest carbon emitter.

In contrast, the dangerous rogue approach is something allowed by current non law, conducted by Native Canadians which had the side effect of a record salmon harvest.

I want to address two questions. First should we dump Iron Sulfate in the open ocean. I think the answer to this question is obviously yes. I have read no argument with any trace of possible validity against it. I might add that it works better if mixed with silicate and seeded with marine diatoms. But in any case, I have seen no argument anywhere that there is a non negligible risk of undesirable side effects.

Yet the official response, such as it is, is to condemn the efforts and seize everything that can be seized.

I attempt to understand what the hell is going on after the jump.

But before that I note:

What happens when some individual or country wants to go big in the battle against climate change without buy-in from their neighbors? Could a country unilaterally pursue climate solutions that, unlike ocean iron dumping, pose substantial risks?

Note the insanity. In a post on ocean dumping of iron sulfate, Piper says the real issue isn’t any possible bad effects of ocean dumping, but the fact that someone might do something else which is bad some time. But note also that even a tiny country which has authority over a lot of ocean could unilaterally dump iron sulfate. The country doesn’t need a lot of land area. The country doesn’t need high altitude. The country’s average elevation might be two meters above sea level.

Why doesn’t Kiribati dump all the iron sulfate they can buy in the huge expanse of ocean around their tiny soon to be drowned atolls ? What do they have to lose ? Who is going to stop them ? The side effect would be more fish around Kirbati. The policy would make sense even if oceans weren’t rising.

OK so what’s the problem ?

Comments (17) | |

The Western Hemisphere’s portion of the Arctic looks set for a record low

The Western Hemisphere’s portion of the Arctic looks set for a record low

Given Donald Trump’s view that global warming is a hoax, I am surprised that almost 2 1/2 years into his Presidency NOAA’s “Arctic Sea Ice” page is still with us. And since I am a nerd, during the spring and summer it is something I check.

In past years, sea ice melted much more in the Eurasian arctic at the extremities of the Gulf Stream than on the North American side. In contrast, the decline in ice cover in the North American sector of the Arctic is particularly advanced this year. Here’s what it looks like as of yesterday:
With the exception of Hudson’s Bay, it looks much more like the end of June for the past decade in that sector of the Arctic. In order, here are June 2018, 2017, and 2012

Comments (0) | |

FoxConn, Jakarta, and Refugees

FoxConn, Valerie Bauerlein. Microsoft News

“Six miles west of Lake Michigan in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin lies a cleared building site half again as big as Central Park and ready for Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion liquid-crystal-display factory. Contractors have bulldozed about 75 homes in Mount Pleasant and cleared hundreds of farmland acres. Crews are widening Interstate 94 from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line to accommodate driverless trucks and thousands of employees. Village and county taxpayers have borrowed around $350 million so far to buy land and make infrastructure improvements, from burying sewer pipes to laying storm drains.”

The only thing missing to make this site a reality is “Foxconn.” In what could still turn out to be one of the biggest fraud ever, Foxconn has backed away from the table and then came back.

“President Trump and Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou hatched the factory plan in 2017. Both participated in last summer’s gold-shovel groundbreaking in Mount Pleasant located just 20 miles south of Milwaukee.”

As of December 2018, the Taiwanese based supplier to Apple has spent 1% of its promised investment in the new US manufacturing facility . . . $99 million. Along with the disappearing promised investment could go the 2080 jobs planned for 2019. The same as any Township Planning Commission might do, Mt. Pleasant is waiting for the factory building plans to be supplied by the hard to find Foxconn contractors. Meanwhile the Mt Pleasant and Racine County are far out on a financial limb in supplying the necessary land needed and other requirements to make the site viable.

“In January, Foxconn said it was backing out of the plan to build an LCD factory in the village, citing high U.S. labor and material costs. Days later, after a phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Gou, Foxconn reversed course and said it would go ahead with the facility making small screens, adding some other functions.”

The local population of 27,000 remain skeptical it will ever be completed.

The first of Many to Come? As Indonesia plans to move its Capital, Yessenia Funes, Microsoft News

On several occasions, I have been to Jakarta to conduct meetings at a plant just outside of the city. The area is beautiful and tropical near the plant. We did not stay but two days at a time as Jakarta is not a friendly place for Americans in general. Monetarily, the exchange rate is relatively high with regards to Rupiahs to the dollar. We elected to use credit cards as we would never be able to get rid of the local money.

Indonesia has decided to move its capital from Jakarta as the city is slowly sinking and will be overwhelmed by the ocean by 2050. Jakarta has dropped 13 feet in the last 30 years and the ocean is expected to rise 20 inches by 2050. The city is home to 10 million people, is congested as many of the cities in Asia are today, and suffers from pollution and global climate change. The drawing of fresh water for human use has caused the land to drop and compact over the years also.

The expected cost of moving the capital from Jakarta will be $33 billion. Jakarta will remain as a city while the capital moves inland.

The US has a history of turning people away whose lives are endangered in their home lands.

A State Department telegram to the people on MS St. Louis: “passengers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.” The message to people fleeing for their lives from terrorism and the threat of death has not changed much over the years. During WWII, the Nazis exploited the unwillingness of other nations to admit large numbers of Jewish refugees to justify their anti-Jewish goals and policies both domestically in Germany and in the world at large. The MS St. Louis returned to Europe and landed in Antwerp. The Jews aboard ship were split amongst 4 countries. Many succeeded in getting US Visas or were able to hide from the Germans. 254 did die in concentration camps.

The man depicted in the picture is Otto Richter who was deported from the US after illegal entry. Protesting a return to Germany, it was reported he either went to Belgium or Mexico. He was fleeing persecution by the Nazi.

11 months earlier the Trump administration separated Byron Xol from his father David after they arrived from Guatemala. It was done under the zero tolerance program. David Xol was deported back to Guatemala despite requesting asylum. Byron was left in the United States and in custody due to not having any relatives or known sponsors. A lengthy court fight ensued with the Sewell family hiring an attorney to represent their interests in Bryon. The Sewells talked with David (father) and both he and his wife agreed to allow the Sewells sponsor Bryan in the US.

As it was Byron’s father David was an evangelical Christian. He had requested asylum for both he and Bryon. According to a court document, David Xol was attacked and tortured and Byron’s life was threatened by MS-13 gang members in 2017 because Xol preached to his co-workers about his religious beliefs and against leading a life of crime.

Some things just never change when it comes to refugees and freedom.

Comments (5) | |

Climate change is the detonation of the Population Bomb

(Dan here…lifted from Bondadd blog)

by New Deal democrat

Climate change is the detonation of the Population Bomb

You know the drill … it’s Sunday so I speak my mind on things non-economic…..

Way back in the days of the dinosaurs when I was a young teen, I concluded that there were really only two extinction level threats to humanity:
1. Nuclear war
2. Overpopulation (a/k/a “The Population Bomb”)

As to the first, fortunately we have gone over 70 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But I find it difficult to conclude that unless something changes, over a long enough time horizon, like 500 years, a nuclear war won’t happen. Just consider the likes of Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un with their fingers on the button, and wonder how long till someone like them makes a fatal mistake.

As to the second, we have the example of Easter Island, where the last tree is cut down, and the last food-source is exhausted. Humanity disappears.  All you need to consider is whether the Easter Island experience can be scaled up to the entire planet. I have thought a lot recently about climate change, and increasingly think it is ultimately a manifestation of the Population Bomb.

 

Comments (8) | |

The Black Bill and the Green New Deal

“When we first came to Washington in 1933,” FDR Labor Secretary Francis Perkins wrote in her memoir, The Roosevelt I Knew, “the Black bill was already before the Congress. Introduced by Senator Hugo L. Black, it had received support from many parts of the country and from many representatives and senators.”

The Black Bill was the Senate version of the Black-Connery Thirty-Hour Bill. On April 6, 1933, the Senate approved the measure by a vote of 53 to 30. Perkins was scheduled to appear before the House committee holding hearings on the Connery Bill:

Roosevelt had a problem. He was in favor of limiting the hours of labor for humanitarian and possibly for economic reasons and therefore did not want to oppose the bill. At the same time, he did not feel that it was sound to support it vigorously. But the agitation for the bill was strong. Its proponent insisted that it was a vital step toward licking the depression. I said, “Mr. President, we have to take a position. I’ll take the position, but I want to be sure that it is in harmony with your principles and policy.”

Roosevelt had another problem. The National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce were adamantly opposed to the Thirty-Hour Bill. Perkins offered amendments to the Connery Bill, the American Federation of Labor offered other amendments and business representatives “proposed crippling amendments that would have destroyed the purpose of the measure.”

On May 1, the administration withdrew its support for the Connery Bill. Roosevelt had concluded that organized business would not support the recovery program if the Black-Connery Bill were to become law. In its place, the collective bargaining provisions of Section 7(a) and wage, hour and labor standard provisions were added to the National Industrial Recovery Act through, in Leon Keyserling’s account, “a series of haphazard accidents reflecting the desire to get rid of  the Black bill and to put something in to satisfy labor.”

The Supreme Court ruled the Recovery Act unconstitutional on May 27, 1935. In its place, the “Second New Deal” consisted of a variety of policies, including, most notably, the National Labor Relations Act, the Works Progress Administration and Social Security.

The moral to the story is that “the” New Deal was improvised, it evolved, was not unitary and its original impetus came from a fundamentally different policy proposal that was anathema to the business lobby. The Thirty-Hour Bill was conceived as a solution to a problem that is no longer polite in policy circles to consider as a problem — “over-production.”

I am sympathetic to the intentions and ambition of the Green New Deal resolution proposed by U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. What I find especially compelling is the inclusion of social and economic justice and equality in the program goals. The vision isn’t just a proposal for “sustainable” business-as-usual, powered by wind and solar.

The day before Ocasio-Cortez and Markey announced their resolution, Kate Aronoff and co-authors presented a “Five Freedoms” statement of principles for a Green New Deal, modeled on Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.from 1941. My favorite, of course, is number two: Freedom From Toil:

We can’t escape work altogether, and there’s a lot of work we need to do, immediately and in the long term. But work doesn’t need to rule our lives.

The great nineteenth-century English socialist William Morris made a distinction between useful work and useless toil: we need the former but should free ourselves from the latter. We can escape the crushing toll of working long hours for low wages to make something that someone else owns.

At present, there’s a lot of work that’s worse than useless — it’s toil that’s harmful to the people doing it and to the world in which we live. But even useful work should be distributed more widely so that we can all do less of it — and spend more time enjoying its fruits.

I suppose there always has been work that is “worse than useless” — bullshit jobs and all that. But there is cruel irony in the fact that the ultimate solution to the 1930s problem of over-production was perpetual creation of useless toil through credit, fashion, advertising, and government stimulus and subsidies. The original proposal had been… shorter working time!

Which brings me back to the peregrinations of the FDR New Deal. The 12-year deadline posited by the I.P.C.C. for keeping within the 1.5 degree centigrade limit brings us to the 100th anniversary of Keynes’s “Economic Possibilities For Our Grandchildren.” Time has run out on his caveat:

But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

We have been pretending long enough now for foul to become worse than useless and to convince ourselves that fair really would be foul. It is past time to stop pretending.

Comments (7) | |

The Nobel Economists Petitiion on Carbon Tax And Dividend Plan

The Nobel Economists Petitiion on Carbon Tax And Dividend Plan

As many now know, a large group of prominent economists, led by a large group of Nobel Prize winners, has published a petition in the Wall Street Journal.  This petition declares the idea of putting a tax on carbon and then returning the receipts from it to the population on an even per capita basis to be the best and most efficient plan for dealing with global warming.  This group continues to encourage more professional economists to sign this petition.  I had previously received an invitation from Janet Yellen to do so, and today one came from Larry Summers.  I kind of doubt that either specifically directed that I receive the invitation or, less likely, actually sent the message, although I could be wrong as I do know both of them.  This petition shows how powerful this revenue neutral carbon tax fad has become.

As it is, I have not signed it, and my use of the word “fad” indicates my attitude.  I really do not get why so many proiment and clearly highly intelligent economists have signed onto this proposal as being the one and only way to deal with this problem.  Why are these people not mentioning cap and trade as an alternative (formerly known as “tradeable emissions permits”).  There are multiple reasons to believe that cap and trade is at least as good if not better than this tax dividend proposal, both in terms of effectiveness and also in terms of the politics of getting something done.

The most famous cap and trade plan was that enacted in the US in 1990 for SO2 emissions.  This plan eventually got superceded, but until that point it was universally viewed as a successful program, substantially reducing such emissions in a manner that did not trigger noticeable economic pain.  There are now a substnatial number of carbon cap and trade systems in place, with the first one out the door being that of the EU, put in place to obey the Kyoto Protocol, which actually favored such systems.  That system has faced criticism and had a major decline in its price in 2006, but has since stabilized, a fact not widely reported. Very recently the system has been put in place by the world’s largest emitter, China.  Other nations or major sub-national units adopting cap and trade for carbon include South Korea, California, and Ontario,  The closest we came ot having a national program to deal wiith carbone emissions in the US was early in Obama’s first term when he  got a cap and trade plan passed by the House of Representatives, only to have it blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

Comments (0) | |

Economic Growth and Climate Change: Mistaking an Output Variable for an Instrument

Economic Growth and Climate Change: Mistaking an Output Variable for an Instrument

When I first started arguing against the degrowthers, I thought they were a small, uninfluential fringe, important only because they had a sway over a portion of the left—what we might call the Naomi Klein left.  That was then.  Today degrowth is entering the mainstream, as can be seen by the latest David Roberts piece in Vox.  Roberts reviews a discussion between several economists on the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) website.  (INET is a Soros-affiliated outfit whose mission is to push economics in a more progressive direction.)  The key article is by Enno Schröder and Servaas Storm; using historical data, they test for the potential of decoupling economic growth and carbon emissions, finding the scale of decarbonization we need is incompatible with economic growth—hence the need to reject economic growth as a social objective.  A similar perspective is provided by Gregor Semieniuk, Lance Taylor, and Armon Rezai, while a rebuttal comes from Michael Grubb.  All three papers are authored or coauthored by important figures in the academic left or center-left, and their point of dispute reflects the expanding influence of the degrowth perspective.

If I had more time I’d write up a response in the form of a paper.  (Actually I am writing a response, but it will be a book.)  For now a blog post will have to do.  Here’s what I think these estimable economists are missing:

1. Economic growth is not, not, not a policy variable.  There is no magic button available to society that delivers a given rate of economic growth, or degrowth for that matter.  It’s an outcome of a host of factors, some of which are controllable, others not.  Indeed, as we wait for quarterly GDP numbers to be revised several quarters later, we still don’t know what economic growth or contraction we’ve experienced.  It is true that politicians often speak of the need to adopt some policy or other for sake of economic growth, but at best they are proposing to push on one of the many factors that influences it.  There is no growth dial, and even if there were, twisting it a few notches would have almost no impact on carbon emissions, which need to fall by nearly 100% within two generations.

Comments (2) | |

China Is Selling More EVs Than the US

Cars:
The electric car is becoming prominent China. China registered as many as 352,000 new electric vehicles (EV) in 2016 compared to 159,000 cars registered in the US during the same time period and mostly in California.

Automotive analysts suggest China’s numbers could be inflated due to subsidy cheating: but, even the lower estimates remain higher than the US. Navigant Consulting puts China’s 2016 figure at an approximate 250,000, but, it expects new registrations will nearly double this year in 2018.

China wants 11% of all vehicle sales to be EV by 2020 and would add up to 3 million sales annually. It is thought most of the next generation will never own a gasoline powered vehicle.

Two Wheelers:
Electric two-wheelers have transformed the way people move in most Chinese cities. In just ten years, the growth in the electric two-wheelers category (that includes vehicles ranging from electric bicycles to electric motorcycles) has increased the total number of vehicles in China. Electric bike sales began modestly in the 1990s and started to take off in 2004, when 40,000 were sold. Since then, over 100 million have been sold and now more than 20 million are sold each year. Electric two wheelers, in short, represent the first mass produced and adopted alternative fuel vehicles in the history of motorization.

Batteries:
Cobalt is a key ingredient used in lithium-ion batteries to power everything from Apple products to Tesla cars. As it happens, the great cobalt boom of 2017 follows a bumper year for lithium, which rose by around 80% in price in 2016. More than 60% of the world’s Cobalt reserves are in the Democratic Republic of Congo making it one of the hardest things to get a supply of today. The Republic of Congo uses children labor as young as 5 years old to mine the mineral. Many companies have signed agreements not to use minerals mined in the DRC.

The shortage of Cobalt has promulgated a rise in pricing and an investor can make a serious amount of money in a short amount of time by buying cobalt. The price per ton of the metal has soared by almost 70% this year, driven by demand for rechargeable batteries in EVs.

In the mean time, US automakers continue to invest in more efficient gasoline driven larger vehicles such as SUVs and trucks. Many of them are eliminating automobiles as demand has decreased. We have been down this path before when foreign automakers started shipping more smaller vehicles to the US to fill the gap. I suspect we will see the same happen in the near future.

Tags: , , Comments (4) | |

On the Front Lines of Climate Change: Old White Homeowners, Many of them Upper Class

On the Front Lines of Climate Change: Old White Homeowners, Many of them Upper Class

The other night I was sitting at home, locked in a conversation about climate change and race.  How is this a racial issue, I asked?  I realize that the society I live in has pervasive racism, and one should always keep this in mind, but how specifically is climate change worse for nonwhites?

Well, it’s all about first and worst impacts, I was told.  People of color are on the front lines.  They are the one experiencing the most severe consequences, and therefore failure to act against climate change is environmental racism.  The key example is Hurricane Katrina.  That was an early impact of global warming, and what was it if it wasn’t a racist horror show?  Whose houses were flooded?  Who was forced to flee the city?  Who were gunned down by police and blocked by white vigilantes along the way?  Whaddyamean climate change isn’t about racism?

OK, I replied.  I understand the racial geography of New Orleans, and the aftermath of Katrina was every bit the nightmare you say it was.  But what about the recent Camp Fire in California?  That was an early impact of climate change too, and lots of people were killed.  Even more lost everything they had.  But from what I could see in the coverage of it, most of the folks out there were white working people or retirees who were priced out of the Bay Area.  I guess that makes the vanguard of the movement against climate change a bunch of older white dudes.

Comments (4) | |

Arctic Report Card

Via NPR on the Arctic:

The Arctic has experienced the “most unprecedented transition in history” in terms of warming temperatures and melting ice, and those changes may be the cause of extreme weather around the globe, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2018 Arctic Report Card.

The annual report released Tuesday says rapid warming over the past three decades has led to a 95 percent decline of the Arctic’s oldest and thickest ice. This research comes as world leaders convene at the U.N. climate summit in Poland this week where they are debating whether to embrace the findings of an October report by the International Panel on Climate Change.

The melting of sea ice is one of the most conspicuous examples of climate change in the Arctic, and scientists say it may be the catalyst for extreme environmental events across the world.

According to NOAA, the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, which is melting some of the region’s oldest ice.

Comments (1) | |