Eugene Linden
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Latest Musing

Maddening Numbers

The way in which the media and policymakers are using the numbers on coronavirus approaches insanity. Most of the numbers published are about as credible as Trump’s estimates of the size of his inaugural crowd. Absolutely no one with any expertise believes that China has only 80,000 cases o...


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Deep Past
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Articles by Category
endangered animals
rapid climate change
global deforestation


Winds of Change
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Afterword to the softbound edition.

The Octopus and the Orangutan
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The Future In Plain Sight
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The Parrot's Lament
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Silent Partners
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Affluence and Discontent
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The Alms Race
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Apes, Men, & Language
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Global Warming Denial Lite

Thursday May 29, 2014

             There’s more than one type of denialist behavior in the global warming saga. The loudest voices come from the “climate change is a hoax” crowd led by such mental giants as Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma and slavishly adhered to by legions of Republicans who should know better. Then there’s a far more widespread and softer denial, in which people who accept the science on global warming assume that while climate will probably change at some point, it is not something to worry about now. This "lite" denial was very much on display on CNBC this morning as the cast discussed the weaker than expected revision to first quarter GDP.

            The GDP number came in at -1% annualized. Taken out of context, such weak performance would suggest that the U.S. was heading back into recession, but both the pundits and the markets discounted the number because everybody knew that the awful winter in the Midwest and northeast disrupted the economy, and everybody expects that the economy will rebound as people catch up on deferred spending. Really? Why do people blithely assume that once winter is over, the weather will stop disrupting the economy?

            As we have seen over the past few years, the drumbeat of weather extremes is not purely a winter event. The Midwest drought wrecked havoc in the spring and summer of 2012, causing a huge spike in grain prices and disrupting barge traffic on the Mississippi for weeks. Hurricane Sandy disrupted the economy in the northeast that fall, and now extreme drought and attendant wildfires are penalizing the Southwest and California. Now it looks like an El Nino is building in the eastern Pacific. How many years of hurricanes, storm surges, floods, droughts, windstorms, tornadoes, and temperature extremes will we endure before the broad public realizes that extreme weather is the new normal?

            Probably too many.   

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Short Take

A Glimmer of Hope in the Coronavirus News?

I’m usually the most apocalyptic guy in the room, but, maybe, there’s a glimmer of hope in the latest news on the coronavirus. If it’s been circulating in Washington state for several weeks, it’s probably also been circulating in a few other states for weeks as well. And if there hasn’t been a big spike in visits to emergency rooms with respiratory ailments (and I have not read about such), it may well be that the virus is already widely spread in the U.S., but not hitting Americans as hard as it has populations elsewhere. If this turns out to be the case, the difference might be that there are far fewer smokers in the U.S. than in China, South Korea, Japan and Italy, and that the air is far cleaner in American cities than in China’s. 

We’ll find out in the next few weeks whether Americans are better able to withstand the disease. There remain major unknowns about coronavirus; nor do we know how hard the virus will hit the elderly and infirm. Still, this latest news could be a positive. 

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