Carbon Emissions Growth Expected to Stall in 2015

The Hill:  “According to a study from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project, emissions from burning fossil fuels could fall by as much as 0.6 percent this year, after it grew by only 0.6 percent last year.”

“Emissions have declined in the past, but usually during times of economic problems. If 2015 plays out as the research suggests, this would be the first time there’s been a decline during a time of global economic growth.”

“The average annual growth in emissions over the last 15 years has been about 2 or 3 percent, the head of the study said in a statement.”

“The study said declining coal use in China has driven down emissions around the world. The U.S., the second-largest carbon emitter, is projected to see its emissions fall by 1.4 percent in 2015, similar to declines in other years.”

“But officials said the decline is unlikely to stick even as the world continues its transition to cleaner energy. And the study follows separate reports that have shown record concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, something researchers warn could exacerbate climate change.”

Krugman: The U.S. Economy Doesn’t Look So Bad

Paul Krugman says “the U.S. Economy isn’t doing too badly. So what did we do right?”

“The answer, basically, is that the Fed and the White House have mostly worried about the right things. (Congress, not so much.) Their actions fell far short of what should have been done; unemployment should have come down much faster than it did. But at least they avoided taking destructive steps to fight phantoms.”

“The result of these not-so-bad policies is today’s not-so-bad economy. It’s not a great economy, by any measure: Unemployment is low, but that has a lot to do with a decline in the fraction of the population looking for work, and the weakness of wages ensures that it doesn’t feel like prosperity. Still, things could be worse.”

“Fed officials believe that the solid job growth of the past couple of years — which happened, by the way, as Obamacare, which conservatives assured us would be a job killer, went into full effect — will continue even if rates go up. I’m among those who believe that America is facing growing drag from the weakness of other economies, especially because a rising dollar is making U.S. manufacturing less competitive. But those officials could be right, in which case waiting to raise rates could mean some acceleration of inflation.”

Gun Deaths and Gun Ownership: Is there a Connection?

German Lopez in Vox: “Why is it that for all the outrage and mourning with every mass shooting, nothing seems to change? To understand that, it’s important to grasp not just the stunning statistics about gun ownership and gun violence in the United States, but America’s very unique relationship with guns — unlike that of any other developed country — and how it plays out in our politics to ensure, seemingly against all odds, that our culture and laws continue to drive the routine gun violence that marks American life.”

“The research on this is overwhelmingly clear. No matter how you look at the data, more guns means more gun deaths.”

“This is apparent when you look at state-by-state data within the United States, as this chart from Mother Jones demonstrates:”

Gun ownership tightly correlates with gun violence.

 

Could Trump be the GOP Nominee?

Tyler Bishop, in The Atlantic, writes that “whether or not Trump manages to secure the nomination, … he’s exposed fissures within the Republican Party that will eventually need to be addressed.”

“Consider the arc of the modern GOP. Since ‘movement conservatism’ began to gain steam in the 1950s, small-government, anti-regulation, and hawkish ideas have been enshrined in Republican platforms and campaign rhetoric. In the 1980s and 1990s, the religious right gained prominence within the party, as well, producing three separate movements within the GOP.”

“Republican strategists have often targeted issues that enjoy support from at least one segment of the party, and won’t offend the others … But appealing to discrete segments of the party has been key for many candidates over the last few decades.”

Establishment candidates “have failed to rally voters behind the usual platform. Perhaps that’s because a mudslinging and politically incorrect candidate like Trump, who emerged on his own … has exacerbated a very real thirst for audacity shared by people with varying ideological leanings.”

Trump’s outbursts “don’t fit the rhyme or reason that the GOP leadership wanted to see in the 2016 cycle, and they’ve forced scrutiny on issues that ultimately may not play well for the party this time around. He has, however, piqued the interest of voters who otherwise wouldn’t have heard such rhetoric on the campaign trail.”

Renewables to Provide More Energy Than Fracked Gas

Bloomberg: “New wind turbines and solar panels worldwide will provide more energy over the next five years than U.S. shale-oil production has over the past five, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.”

“The leading renewable-energy technologies will add the equivalent of 6.2 million barrels of oil a day to the global energy mix, exceeding the 5.7 million barrels a day pumped from U.S. shale oil wells since 2010 … Goldman Sachs said the biggest shift will occur over the next decade as demand for renewable energy, LED lighting and plug-in vehicles accelerates.”

“’Wind and solar are on track to exceed 100 gigawatts in new installations for the first time,’ the analysts wrote. Solar and wind energy are saving a gigaton of carbon dioxide emissions annually and the market for four leading low-carbon technologies is now worth more than $600 billion per year.”

The Number of Americans and the Number of Guns

Philip Bump provides a clear visual on the number of guns owned by Americans.

“Historic data was compiled by Florida State University professor Gary Kleck in his 1991 book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America and cited by The Truth About Guns in a look at the growth of gun ownership. Kleck’s research was cited by the Congressional Research Service in its 2012 assessment of the number of guns in America (on which Ingraham based his analysis). Thanks to annual reports from the Department of Justice detailing the number of guns made, imported and exported each year, we can extrapolate outward from a number of points to estimate how many guns are in the United States currently.”

“Using Kleck’s numbers through 1987, a National Institute of Justice survey from 1994 (cited by the CRS) and CRS estimates for 1996 and 2007, we can generate a range of possible values for the number of guns in the United States, as above. In every case, the figure is now greater than the number of people in the United States.”

How Will the Newly Insured Vote?

Drew Altman asks: “How will the newly insured behave at the ballot box? Will they vote? Will they become a Democratic constituency? The ACA may be an issue in the 2016 elections, but the newly insured are unlikely to become an important electoral factor themselves.”

“One potential indicator of future behavior is how the newly insured behaved politically when they didn’t have health coverage … While the uninsured shade Democratic as a group, they are a reasonably heterogeneous … The largest share of uninsured independents describe themselves as not leaning Republican or Democratic. These uninsured independents are the most likely to be disengaged from the political process.”

“Surveys have found that most of the previously uninsured like their coverage–a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 76% do–but it’s not known whether appreciation for that coverage will be a factor when they vote or if they will vote in significant numbers. It is a fair bet that in the short term the newly insured will behave politically much like the uninsured have: Many will not vote, and they will continue to represent a very small slice of the electorate.”

Americans Say Health Premiums Increased in 2015

Gallup: “Nearly three in four American adults (74%) who pay all or some of their health insurance premiums say the amount they pay has gone up over the past year. This percentage is up marginally from the 67% who last year said their costs increased, but it is generally in line with what Gallup has found in yearly updates since 2003.”

Self-Reports of Cost Changes Among Adults Who Pay All or Some of Their Health Premiums

“Though Americans are still more likely to be satisfied than dissatisfied with their personal healthcare costs, the latest poll indicates they are more likely to be grappling with higher premium costs than in previous years.”

“What Americans pay for their healthcare premiums has not noticeably improved since the ACA’s implementation, and experts have stressed that a rise in premiums will continue for several years. Meanwhile, the White House contends that recent premium increases would have been larger if not for the ACA.”

Another Robust Jobs Report

“The American economy created 211,000 jobs in November, the government reported Friday, a robust showing that all but guarantees policy makers at the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade when they meet this month,” the New York Times reports.

“The unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent, unchanged from October.”

Putting Gun Deaths In Perspective

Margot Sanger-Katz points out how rare gun homicides are in other developed countries.

“Here, where the right to bear arms is cherished by much of the population, gun homicides are a significant public health concern. For men 15 to 29, they are the third-leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides. In other high-income countries, gun homicides are unusual events. The recent Paris attacks killed 130 people, which is nearly as many as die from gun homicides in all of France in a typical year. But even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attacks every month, its annual rate of gun homicide death would be lower than that in the United States.”

“The accompanying table shows the mortality rates for gun homicides in a variety of countries, along with a correspondingly likely cause of death in the United States.”

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Krugman: GOP Has Turned Its Back on Science

Paul Krugman claims that should the Paris climate talks fail to yield an agreement, “we may be doomed. And if we are, you know who will be responsible: the Republican Party.”

“What I said is, in fact, the obvious truth. And the inability of our news media, our pundits and our political establishment in general to face up to that truth is an important contributing factor to the danger we face.”

“Senior Republican members of Congress routinely indulge in wild conspiracy theories, alleging that all the evidence for climate change is the product of a giant hoax perpetrated by thousands of scientists around the world. And they do all they can to harass and intimidate individual scientists.”

“It’s true that conservative parties across the West tend to be less favorable to climate action than parties to their left. But in most countries — actually, everywhere except America and Australia — these parties nonetheless support measures to limit emissions. And U.S. Republicans are unique in refusing to accept that there is even a problem. Unfortunately, given the importance of the United States, the extremism of one party in one country has enormous global implications.”

“More important, probably, is the denial inherent in the conventions of political journalism, which say that you must always portray the parties as symmetric — that any report on extreme positions taken by one side must be framed in a way that makes it sound as if both sides do it.”

As Legalization Spreads, Pot Growers Guzzle Billions in Electricity

Quartz: “As more states legalize marijuana in the US, pot cultivation is sucking up an ever-growing amount of energy from the grid.”

“Since most of the legal weed is grown indoors, the pot industry burns through large quantities of electricity used to power lamps, ventilation systems, and air conditioning. A square foot of planting requires some 200 watts of electricity, about the same as a data center, according to a report this year in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law.”

“The paper notes that marijuana plantations soak up at least 1% of the country’s electricity at a cost of $6 billion a year.”

“If all states legalized pot, the amount the industry spends on electricity could go up to $11 billion, High Country News notes.”

“That’s putting enough pressure on electric utilities that regulators discussed the issue at their annual meeting on Nov. 11, in a session titled ‘The Straight Dope on Energy & the Marijuana Industry.’”

Which State Works the Hardest?

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Governing: “This broad definition of work considers the amount of time people spend engaged in income-generating activities, including tasks related to work (business lunches) or time spent looking for a job. Because estimates include those not working, the reported averages are lower than they would be for only employed workers.”