An eminent climate scientist describes the frontiers of climate science

Summary: Here is a status report on climate science by an eminent climate scientists, helping us see its frontiers and so better cope with one of the major challenges of the 21st century. (Second of two posts today.)

A new paradigm for assessing the role of humanity
in the climate system — and in climate change

By Roger Pielke, Sr.
Posted with his generous permission.

A note about progress in science

Geological ages ago at Cornell, I learned that science usually takes place on the frontiers of observation. That’s the important insight Thomas Kuhn overlooked in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Freeman Dyson described this hole as “tool- or instrument-driven revolutions.” These are as or more common than paradigm-driven revolutions. Galileo looks through his telescope at the moons of Jupiter and our view of the universe changes. Watson and Crick looked at an X-ray diffraction image of DNA and saw its structure; four years later Watson formulated the “central dogma of molecular biology” and began a revolution still in its early stage.

My guess (guess) is that new observational tools, not just new theories, will end the climate wars. If not, then eventually the changing climate will tell us which side was correct.

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Stratfor gives us the good news: Red China Goes Green

Summary: A key piece of the doomsters’ “world ending” story is that the leaders of China are fools, not seeing or acting to address their economic problems — and especially the pollution produced by their decades of rapid growth. As this report by Stratfor shows, they’re not fools — and they are taking bold steps to fix their ecology. (First of two posts today.)Stratfor

Red China Goes Green

Stratfor, 17 March 2017.

Forecast

  • Because stricter environmental policies align with its strategic goals, Beijing may be able to accelerate the pace of its environmental reforms.
  • Enforcing environmental policies across the country’s diverse regions, however, will continue to pose a challenge for Beijing as each province and municipality weighs the risks and rewards of compliance.
  • The central government will use its growing role in international climate change policy and renewable technology to reinforce its position as a world leader.

Analysis

China’s economic growth over the past four decades has been staggering. The environmental damage it has caused is no less impressive.

China is dealing with widespread pollution problems, from thick smog in the northeast to contaminated water and soil throughout the country. But now a combination of domestic pressures and geopolitical strategy has put environmental issues at the top of the Chinese government’s priorities. In the past three years, and particularly since the release of the 13th Five Year Plan in 2016, Beijing has started rolling out stricter environmental policies. The transition is hardly surprising, following decades of rapid industrialization and coinciding with the emergence of a new middle class and a shift in the Chinese economy. It will, however, be challenging. The country’s vast territory and regional diversity make enforcing national laws at the local level an uphill battle. Even so, the strategic gains that stricter environmental policies promise — both domestically and internationally — could help Beijing speed the process along.

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Single payer healthcare is coming to America. It’s inevitable.

Summary: Conservatives’ bold propaganda have made Americans fear the health care systems of our peer nations, systems that produce equivalent care a half the cost (or less) or ours — but cover everybody. America’s march to universal coverage began with Medicare (1965) and Medicaid (1966). Obamacare expanded it, covering more people but at unsustainable cost. Here Ed Dolan looks at the facts and draws the obvious conclusion: single payer insurance will come to America. The longer we wait, the more difficult the transition.
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Health Care Reform

Single Payer Healthcare is Coming.

Stop Fighting It.
Start Figuring Out How to Make It Work.

Guest post by Ed Dolan.

As everyone knows by now, the United States is alone among advanced economies in not having a single payer healthcare system with universal coverage. It is, however, already much closer to such a system than most people realize, and the current round of Republican healthcare reforms, if enacted according to plan, will bring it even closer. Yet there is no reason to fear the single payer future. Read on.

The true scope of government in our healthcare system.

The federal government already operates three large healthcare systems, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration. Each of the first two is comparable in size to the single payer systems of most European countries. If we categorize healthcare expenditures by the type of primary payer, the three big federal programs accounted for roughly a third of all spending in 2015, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services:

Who pays for health care?

To get a true picture of the government role in healthcare, though, we need a different perspective. If we categorize expenditures by the source of the funds, instead of the type of payer, the government share of spending is much larger. Partly that is because state and local governments account for 17 percent of all healthcare spending, not fully reflected in the chart above. Also, that chart hides the extent to which federal tax expenditures finance much of our ostensibly private health insurance. According to data from the Tax Policy Center, deductions and exclusions of health insurance premiums and related tax breaks cost the federal government some $250 billion in revenue in 2015 — as big a burden on the federal budget as if Uncle Sam wrote a check for that amount.

Deductibility of employer healthcare expenditures account for about three-fifths of total tax expenditures. The remainder come in the form of exclusions of Medicaid benefits from declared income, deductibility of insurance for self-employed individuals, tax breaks for some kinds of out-of-pocket costs, and other items. If we categorize healthcare expenditures according to the ultimate source of funds rather than the primary payer, we find that government budgets account for over half of all spending, as the next chart shows.

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Surprising revelation: Janet Yellen reveals why the Fed is raising rates!

Summary: Usually we can only guess at the motives of our senior officials. But on rare occasions they give us clues to their real priorities and objectives. The Fed is especially opaque, so we speculate about their odd rate increases during a slow and slowing economy. Yesterday Janet Yellen explained why. The answer is shocking (to those who do not know the Fed’s history).

Seal of the United States Federal Reserve Board

 

From TIME’s transcript of Janet Yellen’s press conference, where she explains why the Fed raised rates in a slow economy. Bloomberg reporter Kathleen Hays asks why. The answer should be read by every citizen. Yellen confirms the suspicion long held by many of us: the Fed serves our corporate rulers. Among other things, they fight “wage inflation” — aka workers sharing benefits of America’s rising productivity.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Kathleen Hays

—————————-

Hays: I’m going to take the opposite side of this, because — and this question about market expectations, and how the markets got things wrong, and then how you say the Fed suddenly clarified what it already said. But if you look at the Atlanta Fed’s latest GDP tracker for the first quarter, it’s down to 0.9 percent. We had a retail sales report that was mixed. …the consumer does not appear to be roaring in the first quarter …

If you look at measured of labor compensation, you note in the statement that they’re not moving up. …And you yourself said …that is perhaps an indication there’s still slack in the labor market.

…What happened between December and March? GDP is tracking very low. Measures of labor compensation are not threatening to boost inflation any time fast. The consumer is not picking up very much. Fiscal policy, we don’t know what’s going to happen with Donald Trump. And yet, you have to raise rates now. So what is the motivation here? The economy is so far from your forecast in terms of GDP, why does the Fed have to move now? What does this signal, then, about the rest of the year?

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America’s military hits a defining moment: how they react to defeat

Summary: Slowly voices inside the US military speak out about its inability to respond to its manifest failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the large price paid in blood and money for the lessons given. The military has proven unable to take the first step of admitting that they lost. Here Gregory A. Thiele (LtCol , USMC) puts our defeat in a historical context, explains what we did wrong, and gives recommendations. Let’s hope the Marines listen.
— See responses to this in the comments from several experts.

4GW
Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid.

Our Jena-Auerstädt?
“Coming to grips with fourth-generation warfare.”

By  LtCol Gregory A. Thiele, USMC.
Marine Corps Gazette, November 2016.
Reposted with their generous permission.

Echoes of history.

In 1806, the Kingdom of Prussia went to war against France and Napoleon Bonaparte. Prussia suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat. In a pair of battles, Jena and Auerstädt, both fought on 14 October 1806, the Prussian Army was defeated, and the existence of the Prussian state was placed in jeopardy. Prussia survived and reformed its army — an army that later played a pivotal role in Napoleon’s final defeat.

The U.S. military in general — and the U.S. Marine Corps in particular — is at a similar crossroads today. Marines are faced with twin defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan. These failures are clear indications that the character of war has changed. The Marine Corps must adapt to meet the challenge of this new face of war. A closer look at Jena-Auerstädt may suggest some ways to do so.

In 1806, Napoleon was at the height of his power. Napoleon, and France, posed a threat to the long-established monarchies and order of Europe. In July 1806, Prussia allied with Russia against Napoleon.

In early October 1806, Prussian troops marched against Napoleon’s forces. They marched slowly in order to allow their Russian allies an opportunity to come to their support. Napoleon, wishing to defeat the Prussians before Russian troops could join them, moved rapidly. On 14 October, Napoleon’s army engaged the Prussians in two battles fought a dozen miles apart. At Jena, Napoleon routed a portion of the Prussian army while one of his marshals defeated a much larger Prussian force at Auerstädt.

The defeats were decisive, and the Prussian army disintegrated in the pursuit that followed. By the spring of 1807, the only unconquered territory left to Prussia was around the city of Memel on the Baltic coast. The Prussian King, Frederick William III, sought terms from Napoleon.

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So many open jobs for truck drivers! It’s another bogus skills shortage story.

Summary: Today we learn about all those open jobs for truck drivers, waiting for lazy Americans (or more immigrants) to fill them. It is another bogus “skills shortage” story, revealing much about how America is changing.

The road to larger trucking industry profits.

Trucking Industry Profits

The plutocrat revolution against America has many fronts. One of the most important is their ongoing program to hammer down wages and boost profits. One aspect of that is their propaganda campaign to convince the public that there is a labor shortage. Today’s example: “Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2015” by Bob Costello and Rod Suarez (Chief Economist, Economic Analyst), American Trucking Associations — Opening…

“Over the past 15 years, the trucking industry has periodically struggled with a shortage of truck drivers. The first shortage during this period was documented in a 2005 report. At that time, the shortage was roughly 20,000. During the last recession starting in 2008, the driver shortage was eliminated as industry volumes plummeted, resulting in fewer drivers needed. However, as industry volumes began to recover in 2011, the shortage slowly returned. The driver market continued to tighten and the shortage skyrocketed to 38,000 by 2014.

“There are many reasons for the current driver shortage, but one of the largest factors is the relatively high average age of the existing workforce. The current average driver age in the OTR (Over-the-Road) TL (Truckload) industry is 49.

“…If the current trend holds, the shortage may balloon to almost 175,000 by 2024.

The ATA lists five causes of the “shortage”: aging workforce, gender (too few women drivers), drivers have a difficult lifestyle, better jobs available, and too many regulations. The ATA has recommendations, which include government action to boost truckers’ profits. Given the high accident rate of 18-20 year-old young adults, this is quite mad. But profits matter more than lives to our owners.

“Lower Driving Age: Interstate driving currently has an age minimum of 21. The 18-20 year old segment has the highest rate of unemployment of any age group, yet this is an entire segment that the industry cannot access (with the exception of local routes, which is generally reserved for seniority). Additionally, potential drivers are likely to have found another career path (that they are already 3 years into) by the time they reach 21.”

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See what Trump has wrought so far, telling us what to expect next

Summary: By now we can see the outlines of the Trump era. Both Left and Right misrepresent these events, but the truth can be seen — if we look at what Trump has done, and what we should expect next.

Donald Trump signs Orders

The latest hot meme among journalists and pundits is that Trump’s agenda is in trouble. For example…

Gutting Dodd-Frank Is Hard, So Republicans Focus Elsewhere” by Elizabeth Dexheimer at Bloomberg. “Key Republican lawmakers turn to less controversial measures. Rolling back Dodd-Frank financial law isn’t close at hand.”

A Key Part of the GOP’s Plan to Overhaul the Tax Code Is in Deep Trouble” by Lynnley Browning at Bloomberg — “The hard reality is the border tax is on life support.” Trump’s idea has little support among Republicans, from the mega-corps that own the GOP, among trade experts (it violates core treaties), and among economists (who warn of its likely calamitous results).

Trump aides weighing staying in Paris deal, but rejecting Obama pledge” by Andrew Restuccia at Politico. “Trump administration officials are considering a plan to remain part of the nearly 200-nation Paris climate change agreement, while weakening former President Barack Obama’s pledge to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, multiple sources told POLITICO.”

And, of course, critics point to the incompetently conceived and executed immigration restrictions — which mobilized Trump’s opponents and remains hung up in the courts. It’s a gross misrepresentation of Trump’s actions since January 20.

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