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 Post subject: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:47 pm 
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I'm watching coverage of the aftermath of the hurricane and I can't help but think that there is an opportunity here.

Hurricanes tracking much farther north is explained by climate change. But even if you don't want to believe in climate change, the recent experience is that storms ARE hitting farther north. If you don't believe the factual evidence, well, there is no hope for you. Because the fact is we've have dramatically more major storm damage in the last 10 years than we have in the 100+ before that.

The opportunity lies in just accepting that we are going to have more stuff like this happen and maybe we might just want to upgrade our infrastructure to be able to cope next time. Regardless of who gets elected, this could be the interstate highway program of our generation. It could create millions of jobs and put us in a much better position. Of course we'd need to figure out how to pay for it but I am confident we can do that.

In any case, if you are in the impacted area, best wishes and I hope you are safe.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 1:57 am 

Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 2:11 am
Posts: 192
So, finance by taxes or increasing debt from 100% of GDP til 140%? You have a point, the problem is US don´t have the mussle to do it. The country is in for 20 years of debt reduction; federal, states - and people in general.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 3:26 am 

Joined: Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:33 pm
Posts: 1126
Location: Illinois
Quote:
Hurricanes tracking much farther north is explained by climate change.

So New York has never been hit by a hurricane before?

Quote:
But even if you don't want to believe in climate change, the recent experience is that storms ARE hitting farther north. If you don't believe the factual evidence, well, there is no hope for you.
Seems to be a very small sample size to definitively say it is because of climate change, but perhaps you could provide some additional evidence? It could be true, but I also recall the climate change advocates (for lack of a better word) immediately after Hurricane Katrina telling anyone who would listen that climate change was the cause and we would have multiple hurricanes of that strength and stronger make landfall in the U.S. every year from then on... of course that didn't happen.

Quote:
Because the fact is we've have dramatically more major storm damage in the last 10 years than we have in the 100+ before that.
I'm dubious of this claim. Where's the data and how is it measured?

Quote:
The opportunity lies in just accepting that we are going to have more stuff like this happen and maybe we might just want to upgrade our infrastructure to be able to cope next time.
Upgrading infrastructure is, however, something I could agree with.

For the record, I don't dispute that there is climate change. I just think many things are attributed to climate change, without enough evidence, for political reasons.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 5:21 am 

Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 8:14 pm
Posts: 1748
Northern light wrote:
So, finance by taxes or increasing debt from 100% of GDP til 140%? You have a point, the problem is US don´t have the mussle to do it. The country is in for 20 years of debt reduction; federal, states - and people in general.

See the National Debt thread. We managed from the end of WW2 to 1980, we managed to build the Interstate Highway System, fund the Space Program, fund 2 wars, and do all kinds of other things, all while reducing the National Debt (as a percentage of GDP).

Could we do it again? Probably, but at a slower rate. Nobody, including me, wants to see the tax rates that were in effect during some of those years. Still, we managed to reduce the National Debt and even had some surpluses during the Clinton years. Surely we could find some balance in terms of investing and reducing debt. But for that to happen, Americans need to understand that if they want something like decent roads and bridges that don't collapse, they have to pay for them. Either way, we'll get exactly what we deserve. We'll either get a crumbling infrastructure because we don't want to pay for upgrades, or we'll suck it up, fix things, and pay for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 7:35 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1321
The fact that this hurricane struck land farther north isn't related to climate change; hurricanes have a long history of striking the Northeast. It's possible that this hurricane's path was influenced by climate change in an indirect fashion, ultimately due to the loss of sea ice in the Arctic (which affects weather patterns farther south and may have influenced the formation of the storm that drew Sandy inland). And climate change can affect the frequency and/or severity of hurricanes simply because it leads to warmer ocean temperatures.

Munich Re has done a lot of research on trends in losses from natural disasters, because it matters to them: reinsurance companies are the companies that insure insurers, so the buck effectively stops with them. Their research shows that storms have been becoming more frequent and severe in some parts of the world over the past several decades, in line with climate change projections, but at the same time people are insuring more stuff and that stuff is worth more, so losses are higher. Plus populations are growing in vulnerable areas like the Florida coast, the Gulf Coast, and other coastal regions. And sea levels are rising, so a coastal storm will do more damage than the same-sized storm would have done 20 years ago. All of these trends are converging to create a "perfect storm" of higher losses from any given event.

Adapting to climate change really starts with adapting to current variability in weather. If we can't deal with today's storms, we have little hope of being able to deal with bigger or more frequent storms tomorrow.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 8:33 am 

Joined: Sat Jun 16, 2012 2:11 am
Posts: 192
VinTek wrote:
We managed from the end of WW2 to 1980, we managed to build the Interstate Highway System, fund the Space Program, fund 2 wars, and do all kinds of other things, all while reducing the National Debt (as a percentage of GDP).

USA people states and government have never been more in debt than now, and that while government deficit is stuck at 10% of GDP. At the same time growth is as low as unemployment is high.

USA 1945-1980 had good growth, and was one of the worlds most competetive economys (still competetive, but falling sharply) and people had low debt compared to income. Public pension was not a problem when civil servants were few compared to taxpayers, and few lived beyond age 75.

Today it is a completely different story. People on this forum should know. You can´t borrow and spend your way out of a house under water (financially, not literally), unemployment, massive credit card debt, car loans and so on. There is no shortcuts - you are in for a period of tedious frugality.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:08 am 

Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 8:14 pm
Posts: 1748
Northern light wrote:
Today it is a completely different story. People on this forum should know. You can´t borrow and spend your way out of a house under water (financially, not literally), unemployment, massive credit card debt, car loans and so on. There is no shortcuts - you are in for a period of tedious frugality.

Things have always been different. There are parallels throughout history, but things don't tend to happen in the exact same way. Our economic woes are not at the level of the Great Depression. Total credit card debt ($855B) is down 15% from its high ($1,010B) in 2008, but student loan debt is a looming threat. Car sales are coming back. The housing market seems to be coming back. Unemployment is slowly going down.

Yes, there is going to be a period where austerity is necessary to get things back into a manageable form. But our greatest period of economic growth occurred in part because we invested in the future. We couldn't afford not to invest. So many of the things we invested in (the Internet, the Interstate Highway System, the Space Program) lay the groundwork for great prosperity in future years. Yes, we have new challenges that didn't exist in the past, just as we had new challenges after WW2 that didn't exist before that (remember the Cold War?), but refusing to prepare for the future will surely consign a nation to the past.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:21 am 
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bpgui wrote:
So New York has never been hit by a hurricane before?


It figures you'd want me to produce evidence...

Of course NY has had hurricanes. Here is the historical pattern since 1800 by 25 year period:

1800-1824: 6 storms, 0.3 per year
1825-1849: 6 storms, 0.3 per year
1850-1874: 7 storms, 0.3 per year
1875-1899: 5 storms, 0.2 per year
1900-1924: 4 storms, 0.2 per year
1925-1949: 7 storms, 0.3 per year
1950-1974: 15 storms, 0.6 per year
1975-1999: 21 storms, 0.9 per year
2000-2012: 19 storms, 1.6 per year

Prior to 1800 the rate was about 2-3 storms per century. There are records. But I'd guess they are not very reliable since only the most severe storms would have been noted and many storms that are counted today would have been missed.

I conclude that the rate of severe storms is increasing.

Quote:
Quote:
Because the fact is we've have dramatically more major storm damage in the last 10 years than we have in the 100+ before that.
I'm dubious of this claim. Where's the data and how is it measured?

I think the data above generally support the claim of escalating frequency. But I was speaking loosely and can not support it quantitatively in terms of the value of the damage.

My point was not to argue global warming. I do think global warming is a fact supported by evidence. I am not 100% convinced that human action is the cause. And even if it is the cause I am not convinced that we should or can do anything to "fix" it.

My point was only that it is clear that we could use some infrastructure improvements to mitigate future damage from storms or just normal degradation of equipment and facilities. And the stimulus of making those improvements could help our economy as a side effect much as the public works projects of the 30s as well as teh interstate highway program did.

Quote:
For the record, I don't dispute that there is climate change. I just think many things are attributed to climate change, without enough evidence, for political reasons.

I agree. I would go so far as to say that those who choose to politicize it from both sides are being pretty stupid. One side simply takes the approach that it isn't happening, which is easily refuted by simple measurements. The other side proposes impractical "solutions" that we can't even reasonably say will have an impact.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:22 am 
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brad wrote:
The fact that this hurricane struck land farther north isn't related to climate change; hurricanes have a long history of striking the Northeast. It's possible that this hurricane's path was influenced by climate change in an indirect fashion, ultimately due to the loss of sea ice in the Arctic (which affects weather patterns farther south and may have influenced the formation of the storm that drew Sandy inland). And climate change can affect the frequency and/or severity of hurricanes simply because it leads to warmer ocean temperatures.


Warmer ocean temperatures was the effect I was thinking about. Hurricanes weaken as they move into colder water at higher latitudes. When the western Atlantic ocean warms, especially the Gulf Stream, storms can retain their strength farther north because there is warmer water farther north. While many of the predictions about rising global sea surface temperatures have failed to be detected, warming of the western Atlantic has been documented and is blamed for stronger storms in the US east coast as well as norther Europe.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 10:37 am 
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Northern light wrote:
VinTek wrote:
We managed from the end of WW2 to 1980, we managed to build the Interstate Highway System, fund the Space Program, fund 2 wars, and do all kinds of other things, all while reducing the National Debt (as a percentage of GDP).

USA people states and government have never been more in debt than now, and that while government deficit is stuck at 10% of GDP. At the same time growth is as low as unemployment is high.

USA 1945-1980 had good growth, and was one of the worlds most competetive economys (still competetive, but falling sharply) and people had low debt compared to income. Public pension was not a problem when civil servants were few compared to taxpayers, and few lived beyond age 75.

Today it is a completely different story. People on this forum should know. You can´t borrow and spend your way out of a house under water (financially, not literally), unemployment, massive credit card debt, car loans and so on. There is no shortcuts - you are in for a period of tedious frugality.


Although I tend to agree with you that the US is in as much trouble as it ever has been, at least in a century or so, I don't agree it is quite as dire as you suggest.

Growth has slowed. I attribute this at least partly to greater drags on productivity for security following 9/11. And greater drags because of higher infrastructure maintenance costs are probably a factor as well. But the US has a very large and resilient economy. We are also still the world currency of choice. Perhaps the recent expansion of the money supply has been bad but, really, what other currency stands a chance at being the defacto world currency at this point? As long as we are the defacto currency we can borrow with impugnity if we need to. The fact that our government securities are at record low yields is also indisputable evidence of continuing demand and confidence. We might be sliding down but most of the rest of the world is ahead of us.

Still, I don't think we should finance a bunch of infrastructure with general debt. Much of our infrastructure is private (electrical generation and distribution, railroads, pipelines) and the operating companies are regulated monopolies. If we protect their monopoly status and allow them to raise rates without danger of stranding assets in 50 years, we can pay for upgrading these in regular rates.

Roads and bridges can be fixed with gas taxes. The reality is that improving fuel economy has adversely impacted revenues for road maintenance. If you paid 18c a gallon when you got 18 mpg you were paying a tax of 1c per mile. Now when you get 36 mpg your taxes are half as much and that means half the maintenance budget per car.

We would probably need some additional borrowing and definitely government guarantees on debt from states and private infrastructure companies but if it's done right it does not have to break us.

Honestly, there is plenty for both sides to love and to hate.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:29 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1321
DoingHomework wrote:
While many of the predictions about rising global sea surface temperatures have failed to be detected


Actually that's not true: the rising global sea surface temperature is very well documented:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/trends.html

The maps in the link above show warming of most of the world's oceans since the early 1900s on an annual average basis; the seasonal trends are more varied by region.

The combined land-sea temperature trend observed to date has roughly followed projections by climate models; see this graph:

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:00 pm 
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brad wrote:
DoingHomework wrote:
While many of the predictions about rising global sea surface temperatures have failed to be detected


Actually that's not true: the rising global sea surface temperature is very well documented:
/quote]
Good to know, and I stand corrected.

I had actually found a journal article supporting what I said. The authors argued that, while global sea surface temperatures were following some models, key areas were showing major discrepancies. But the western Atlantic is heating up and that was the part the was relevant. I did not cite it and cannot find it again.

A lot of what I tend to read about ocean temperature is related to coral reefs so some of the noted discrepancies I have read about are in areas where there are reefs - micronesia, Australia, and no forth. Possibly these are more local effects than those graphs can show.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:08 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1321
I think as a general rule you can expect large regions of the world to depart from global trends. The United States hasn't been warming anywhere near as much as the world as a whole, for example, and some regions of the US have actually cooled over the past century:

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:37 pm 
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I'm in Arizona and I roughly follow some of the southwest climate research. I say roughly because I am not diligent about it and have sometimes gone a couple of years without following it. There are pretty good records here of both observations and more analytic data going back hundreds or thousands of years. We can look at native food caches for example and know what was growing and even assess conditions to some extent although that begins to get a little to quasi-science for my taste.

We see conditions now that suggest long term decline and deforestation similar to that at the time of the disappearance of the Anasazi and other native groups around a thousand years ago. (Apologies - Anasazi has become an offensive name but I don't know what else to call them.) Since I was a kid 30 years ago I have witnessed a fairly significant change in winter snowpack and variation. Scientific measurements confirm it as well but the personal observations really bring it home for me. It's easy to dismiss a 1 degree temperature change over 20 years. It's another to visit mountains that used to get a consistent 2 foot snow pack every year now get very little on year and 15 feet the next! Something has definitely changed.

The trouble is, since the last big climate event happened before long before global warming was an issue, and because, from what we can tell, it followed a very similar pattern to what we see today, it could be an entirely natural oscillation. There are believed to have been several severe climate oscillations over about 500 years suggesting an approximate 1 century period. Maybe we are in just a normal cycle. We have similar but less convincing evidence that there were other cyclical dramatic climate events in North America. There are some serious scientists who think it possible that the last 500 years in NA may have been unusually benign.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting unstuck
PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2012 12:55 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
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There are definitely long-term natural cycles, including some I'm sure we haven't discovered yet. There was a paper in Nature about 12 years back where they discovered a climate cycle (I think with a roughly 5,000 year periodicity) tied to long-term variations in the strength of tides. When tides are in their strong phase, there's a lot of mixing and cool water comes up from the ocean depths, causing a global cooling. When tides are weak, there's less mixing and more warming.

The biggest cycles are tied to solar activity -- the ones that cause ice ages etc.

Still, there's so much evidence linking greenhouse gases to the current warming that it's really hard to invoke natural causes (at least KNOWN natural causes) as primary contributors. Climate change from greenhouse gases carries a different geographic and altitude-based "fingerprint" from changes caused by solar variation, for example. There's an entire science around attribution, and the evidence gets stronger every year. The IPCC's 2007 report (which is now dated; they're working on a new one) has some interesting discussion here: http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/mains2-4.html


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