On the one hand, Obamacare just got a boost. On the other, the U.S. tax base is about to implode (bad news for growth-economists). There are so many implications from this, like the suburbs will empty even further and the need for nursing homes will increase exponentially. There won’t be much new land development, which I suppose is good news for environmentalists.
Living to age 90 is a worthy goal Americans are increasingly meeting. The number of people age 90 and older almost tripled from 720,000 people in 1980 to 1.9 million in 2010, according to a new Census Bureau report. And the 90-plus population is expected to more than quadruple between 2010 and 2050. Here’s a look at what life is like in the United States after age 90.
More women. Between 2006 and 2008, about three-quarters (74 percent) of the 90-and-older population were women. In 2006, life expectancy at age 65 was 19.7 years for women and 17 years for men. Women also experienced more rapid improvements in life expectancy than men between 1929 and 2006. Over the past eight decades, older women have added almost seven years to their life expectancy, or a 54 percent extension, compared with 5.3 years for men, a 45 percent extension. Among the age 90-and-older population, there are just 35 men for every 100 women. After age 95, there is approximately one man for every four women.
Married men and single women. Most women who make it to age 90 (84 percent) are widows. Only 6.3 percent of women in this age group are married. On the other hand, 43 percent of 90-something men are married and about half are widowers. “Women tend to marry older men. Traditionally, there is a four- to five-year age difference,” says Wan He, a Census Bureau demographer and co-author of the report. “When they get to age 90-plus, older men are very difficult to find.”
Living alone. Just over a third (37 percent) of people in their 90s live alone. About the same number of people (37 percent) live in a household with family members or unrelated individuals.
The scale of coral reef destruction in south Florida is enormous. Nearly 50% of the coral reefs have died in the past two decades. And the problem is getting worse.
But why does this matter? The Key’s reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, and less coral has a cascading affect up the food chain. This affects the fishing and tourism industries, which (like it or not) makes Florida such a big draw. Coral reefs buffer coastal cities against storm surge, protecting countless real estate and businesses worth tens of billions. And in Florida Keys alone, there are over 33,000 jobs that depend on the reefs.
Check out PBS.org/climate-change. “The world’s ocean are absorbing carbon dioxide at an unprecedented rate and the resulting acidification is transforming marine ecosystems. We look at how ocean acidification is already affecting coral reefs in the Florida Keys.”
“Climate change and other global environmental threats will increasingly become serious barriers to further human development,” says lead author Professor David Griggs from Monash University in Australia. Humans are transforming Earth’s life support system — the atmosphere, oceans, waterways, forests, ice sheets and biodiversity that allow us to thrive and prosper — in ways “likely to undermine development gains”, he adds.
The team asserts that the classic model of sustainable development, of three integrated pillars — economic, social and environmental — that has served nations and the UN for over a decade, is flawed and does not reflect reality.
“As the global population increases towards eight billion people sustainable development should be seen as an economy serving society within Earth’s life support system, not as three pillars,” says co-author Dr. Priya Shyamsundar from the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, Nepal.
The six goals The new set of goals — thriving lives and livelihoods, food security, water security, clean energy, healthy and productive ecosystems, and governance for sustainable societies — aim to resolve this conflict. The targets beneath each goal include updates and expanded targets under the MDGs, including ending poverty and hunger, combating HIV/aids, and improving maternal and child health.
But also a set of planetary “must haves”: climate stability, reducing biodiversity loss, protection of ecosystem services, a healthy water cycle and oceans, sustainable nitrogen and phosphorus use, clean air and sustainable material use.
Co-author Dr. Mark Stafford Smith, science director of CSIRO’s climate adaptation research programme in Australia says:
Wants to include climate change risks in environmental permits. When you build something, such a house or store, you typically need a permit (or three) from the local or state government. Bigger projects require federal approval, such as an oil pipeline or a rail line. So, the larger the project, the more information the government requires as part of those permits.
In order to get a permit, you need to conduct some studies and write a few reports, typically these include an economic feasibility and an environmental impact statement. For federal permits, these studies are made public. This “public comment period” gives everyone, including other businesses, a chance to voice their opinions on the project.
Now, Obama wants to change the rules. He is proposing that the federal permit process should include risks and impacts from climate change. These climate risks will be part of the environmental impact statement.
Businesses do not like permits - but not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s very expensive to conduct the required economic and environmental studies. Businesses have to hire specialists just for these permits. Often, these studies delay projects, which makes the projects more expensive to build.
The biggest complaint is that rules are inconsistent - they’re difficult to comply with, unclear in their intent, guidelines are always changing, and (worst of all) they’re unevenly enforced. Sometimes a politician will intervene - essentially subverting the law. Political intervention creates an atmosphere of unfairness and favoritism (but, that is discussion for another post).
In the permitting world, lawsuits abound. And lawsuits compound the costs of building and it generally pisses off a lot of people.
So, when you hear complaints that “environmental permits hurts jobs” it’s not that the developer hates the environment, it’s that the rules are a convoluted, expensive mess. It’s also a clever way for politicians to dismantle environmental regulations because, after all, the rules “hurt jobs” - a line that resonates with the voting public.
Thus, from the perspective of business, Obama’s proposal to increase the rules for environmental permits has businesses - and the politicians that they’ve bought - shaking in their boots.
Queue a big political fight on this one.
President Barack Obama is preparing to tell all federal agencies for the first time that they should consider the impact on global warming before approving major projects, from pipelines to highways.
The result could be significant delays for natural gas- export facilities, ports for coal sales to Asia, and even new forest roads, industry lobbyists warn.
“It’s got us very freaked out,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based group that represents 11,000 companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Southern Co. (SO) The standards, which constitute guidance for agencies and not new regulations, are set to be issued in the coming weeks, according to lawyers briefed by administration officials.
In taking the step, Obama would be fulfilling a vow to act alone in the face of a Republican-run House of Representatives unwilling to pass measures limiting greenhouse gases. He’d expand the scope of a Nixon-era law that was first intended to force agencies to assess the effect of projects on air, water and soil pollution.
“If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said last month during his State of the Union address. He pledged executive actions “to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
Strong reporting on how U.S. farmers cannot adapt to more big droughts like the one of 2012. Insurance companies covered billions in losses last year, but if 2013 is as bad as 2012, portfolios may shift to safer options.
US farmers are bracing for long-term challenges from climate change including blasting heat and more capricious rainfall.
About 80 percent of the farmland in the world’s biggest soybean and corn (maize) producer was scorched by extreme heat and drought last summer, savaging crops and sending global prices for the key food commodities soaring, hurting poor countries that depend on imports.
Across the heartland of the corn crop in the Midwest state of Iowa, farmers have turned a jaundiced eye on last season’s disaster to focus on this year’s weather conditions.
By early March, 53 percent of the land was still abnormally dry or suffering drought.
But as more and more accept that the climate is changing, farmers are putting their faith in technology to help them beat global warming…
Insurers compensated the losses with a record $14.7 billion in payouts — enough to allow farmers to get ready for a new season.
Now some investors are taking another approach. Working under the assumption that climate change is inevitable, they’re investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter. (The World Bank says the earth could warm by 4C by the end of the century.) Their strategies include buying water treatment companies, brokering deals for Australian farmland, and backing a startup that has engineered a mosquito to fight dengue, a disease that’s spreading as the mercury climbs.
Derivatives that help companies hedge against abnormal weather and natural catastrophes are drawing increased interest from some big players. In January, KKR (KKR) bought a 25 percent stake in Nephila Capital, an $8 billion Bermuda hedge fund that trades in weather derivatives. (The firm is named after a spider that, according to local folklore, can predict hurricanes.)
“Climate risk is something people are paying more and more attention to,” says Barney Schauble, managing partner at Nephila Advisors, the firm’s U.S. arm. “More volatile weather creates more risk and more appetite to protect against that risk.”
Drought is helping spur business at Water Asset Management. The New York hedge fund, which has about $400 million under management, buys water rights and makes private equity and stock market investments in water treatment companies. “Not enough people are thinking long term of [water] as an asset that is worthy of ownership,” says Chief Operating Officer Marc Robert. “Climate change for us is a driver.”
Two million tombs in Zhoukou, one of the oldest cities on the mainland, have been removed over the past few months under a new provincial government policy to make more land available for agriculture.
A spokesman from the city’s civil affairs bureau, which is in charge of the grave demolitions, said the city government had no intention of halting the campaign, even though the State Council last Friday struck out a clause from regulations that allowed for forced demolition of grave sites.
“We are still clearing graves for farmland and we will definitely continue doing that,” he said. The spokesman said the State Council announcement only meant the civil affairs bureau had no right to carry out compulsory demolitions. “The courts and the police bureau will instead take responsibility for execution,” he said.
The revised version of the funeral and interment control regulation removed a sentence in Article 20 that allowed for forced demolitions.
Despite these achievements, the system by which Fair Trade USA hopes to achieve its ends is seriously flawed, limiting both its market potential and the benefits it provides growers and workers. Among the concerns are that the premiums paid by consumers are not going directly to farmers, the quality of Fair Trade coffee is uneven, and the model is technologically outdated. This article will examine why, over the past 20 years, Fair Trade coffee has evolved from an economic and social justice movement to largely a marketing model for ethical consumerism—and why the model persists regardless of its limitations.
Surprisingly bold call for adapting to climate change by Chiemi Hayashi of the WEF. She calls for heavy investments in climate adaptation now while leaders figure out how to tackle the current economic crisis.
She doesn’t quiet say it, but Hayashi implies that efforts to reduce carbon emissions have failed. And since those efforts have failed, we have to deal with two crises that are sneaking up on us right now: an economic crisis and a disaster management crisis.
Climate change threats are being neglected to tackle short term economic stresses but it would be wise to invest in climate change adaptation now.
The world is facing an unprecedented dual crisis. But with economic and environmental stresses playing out over different timeframes, deep-rooted biases in the way we judge risks may mean we are too preoccupied with firefighting short-term economic problems to tackle longer-term climate threats.
That is one of the key messages to emerge from the Global Risks 2013 report, published by the World Economic Forum. The report is based on an annual survey in which experts share their perceptions of how global risks may unfold over a 10-year time horizon.
Highlighted concerns left no doubt that the continuing fallout from the financial crisis of five years ago is likely to dominate leaders’ attention over the coming decade. Growth prospects remain relatively weak, and intense pressure on public finances is set to continue.
Meanwhile, experts rated the systemically most important environmental risk to be failure to adapt to climate change – in contrast to last year, when rising greenhouse gas emissions topped the results. This reflects a wider shift in recent conversation on climate change, from the question of whether our climate is changing to “by how much” and “how quickly”.
The transition can be seen in a spate of recent reports on climate adaptation efforts. Examples of adaptation initiatives include flood defences for coastal cities, strengthening the capacity of critical infrastructure to survive freak weather events, and researching crop varieties which are more able to withstand swings between extremes of drought and flood.
While the numbers involved vary widely according to different climate change scenarios, it is clear that the costs of investing in adaptation measures and curtailing greenhouse gas emissions are greatly outweighed by the likely future costs of failing to do so. One recent report by Mercer estimates the economic costs of climate change as likely to fall between $2tn and $4tn and (£1.25tn and £2.5tn) by 2030. In addition, we are observing nascent trends of climate change-related litigations, which could compound the cost of climate change significantly.
Logic dictates that it would be wise to bear the costs of investing in climate change adaptation now, rather than shouldering the greater future costs of climate-related disasters. However, humans suffer from several well-established cognitive biases which may hold us back from doing so.
The term “hyperbolic discounting” refers to the tendency to give immediate costs and benefits disproportionately more weight than delayed ones. Researchers have also found that we place too much emphasis on recent personal experience when estimating the future likelihood of a given risk occurring – for instance, taking out flood insurance immediately after a flood, and letting it lapse after a few years without a flood.
The cumulative effect of such cognitive biases is that we tend to find reasons to persuade ourselves that it is not necessary to focus on risks which are perceived to be long term, creeping and relatively uncertain. And while some degree of climate change is now inevitable, there remains great uncertainty about its likely extent and local manifestations.
The latter is especially significant, as climate adaptation is inherently local.
This is a great article. Honest and clear-eyed. I highly recommend my followers to take some time to read it. Via The Guardian
In Austerity Crisis, Greeks Turn to Wood-Burning, Illegal Logging
“A steep increase in heating costs has led many Greeks to switch from heating oil to wood-burning. But the price of using cheaper fuel is growing.
Illegal loggers are slashing through forests already devastated by years of summer wildfires. Air pollution from wood smoke is choking the country’s main cities. And there has been an increase in blazes caused by carelessly attended woodstoves.
Three children died in a northern village last month when a fire gutted the home of their grandparents, who had recently changed from oil-fueled central heating to a wooden stove to save money.
In Athens, the capital, officials have warned of severe health risks from the low-lying smog that smothers the city at night, when fireplaces and woodstoves burn at full blast in poorly insulated homes. Greece’s leading medical association is demanding urgent action to clean the air. But those warnings have largely been ignored for a simple reason: Burning wood provides the same warmth as heating oil, for roughly half the cost.
For the past three years, the country has been wracked by its worst financial crisis since the end of World War II. Living standards have plummeted, pensions have been slashed and a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, following deeply resented cutbacks demanded in return for international bailouts shielding Greece from total ruin.
The heating crisis was triggered by taxation changes, and made desperate by financial woes. For years, fuel for vehicles was taxed more heavily than heating oil. That encouraged crooked traders to sell heating fuel for use in vehicles and pocket the difference.
Hoping to boost faltering revenues and foil tax fraud, the government this year harmonized taxes on vehicle fuel and heating oil, which now costs about 40 percent more than last winter, although lower-income residents of colder areas get a rebate. Critics say the move backfired due to a drastic decline in sales.”
Part of this complicated issue is that Greeks aren’t used to paying market rates for basic services. Nor is the government itself used to the process of collecting taxes (sounds weird, but true). After recent austerity cuts, taxes and public services adjusted to (or attempt to) reflect a more market-oriented structure to help create a less corrupt, tax-dodging culture. The measures, as the above shows, may have been too strong and too fast, causing more damage to the country than taking a slower approach.
A group of European researchers say shareholders should be held liable for the environmental damage caused by the companies they invest in. Researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, a Vienna-based think-tank, say increasing shareholder liability could force investors to consider better energy technologies and infrastructure.
I devoured Lord Stern’s now famous report six years ago (has it been that long!?). At the time Stern’s report was very controversial. It focused primarily on the economic impacts from climate, and had included some incredibly high numbers. It was widely thought to be out-of-touch with reality - that his numbers were wildly overestimated and his analysis of the models was flawed. True, this reception has softened somewhat over the years.
Now Stern says he didn’t go far enough.
Lord Stern, author of the government-commissioned review on climate change that became the reference work for politicians and green campaigners, now says he underestimated the risks, and should have been more “blunt” about the threat posed to the economy by rising temperatures.
In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Stern, who is now a crossbench peer, said: “Looking back, I underestimated the risks. The planet and the atmosphere seem to be absorbing less carbon than we expected, and emissions are rising pretty strongly. Some of the effects are coming through more quickly than we thought then.”
The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are “on track for something like four “. Had he known the way the situation would evolve, he says, “I think I would have been a bit more blunt. I would have been much more strong about the risks of a four- or five-degree rise.”
He said some countries, including China, had now started to grasp the seriousness of the risks, but governments should now act forcefully to shift their economies towards less energy-intensive, more environmentally sustainable technologies.
“This is potentially so dangerous that we have to act strongly. Do we want to play Russian roulette with two bullets or one? These risks for many people are existential.”