Links for the Week Ending 4th August

  • Lots on climate change in my links this week. Methane is the biggest “known, unknown” in climate change science and this comment by Whiteman, Hope and Wadhams in Nature has caused a huge stir and push back from a variety of climate scientists, such as Gavin Schmidt, who I have a lot of respect for (see here for a summary of riposte’s). Here is a defence of the comment by Peter Wadhams. As a reminder, risk is probability  times effect. So even if the probability of a methane burst is small, the harm it would cause could be massive. Accordingly, regardess of the comment in Nature, methane is a major risk that needs to be tracked constantly.
  • Just occasionally, some Republican supporters stand up and say something sensible about climate change, such as this from four Environmental Protection Agency heads who were appointed by the Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II administrations. How I yearn for the days when action on climate change was a bipartisan non-wedge issue—before the insidious influence of extreme right-wing think tanks and lobby groups took hold in the late 2000s. Conservative parties should be natural allies of action to conserve the planet, not to trash it.
  • On a less positive note is the attitude of U.S. farmers toward climate change. Ricky Rood blogging at Weather Underground quotes an academic paper by Arbuckle et al showing that only 10% of Iowa farmers believe humans are causing climate change. A bit more encouraging was the fact that only 5% thought that climate was not changing. The majority, 58%, believed climate change was either a natural process or  a combination of human and natural factors. To me, this is classic denial from those likely to be most hurt by human-induced climate change.
  • On Friday, a lacklustre jobs report was reported in the U.S. But the inability of almost all developed countries to create jobs in what should be the  recovery-portion of the economic cycle remains pronounced as a Floyd Norris article in The New York Times shows. Something different is going on this time around.
  • Gail the Actuary over at the blog Our Finite World has a nice post linking the issues of quantitative easing (QE) and resource constraints. It basically argues that the post-war economic model is grinding to a stop as resource depletion caps growth. I would argue that the nature of technological change and demographics are also important in the mix, but broadly agree with the main thread of her argument.
  • I often talk about the link between the oil price and food prices. The World Bank has a timely study showing this link more formally. This is such an important topic that it deserves a post of its own: so little time, so much to write about!

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