Carbon Sequester Cheaper Than Expected

This is probably the best climate news of the year.

From the story:

A detailed new analysis published today in the journal Joule finds that direct air capture may be practical after all. The study concludes it would cost between$94 and $232 per ton of captured carbon dioxide, if existing technologies were implemented on a commercial scale.

The society cost of carbon is probably about $250, though most studies put it closer to $100 and existing cap and trade systems put our at $10-30. (Per ton).

Math: The rich are more lucky than smart

From the PBS NewsHour:

“The largely dominant meritocratic paradigm of highly competitive Western cultures,” write the authors, “is rooted on the belief that success is due mainly, if not exclusively, to personal qualities such as talent, intelligence, skills, smartness, efforts, willfulness, hard work or risk taking.”

Who would disagree? And meritocracy — rule by the merited — sounds so fair, so just.

“Sometimes,” the authors concede, “we are willing to admit that a certain degree of luck could also play a role in achieving significant material success.” But — and here’s their bottom line — “as a matter of fact, it is rather common to underestimate the importance of external forces in individual successful stories.”

Psychology of Interchangability Between God & Government

This article on how religiosity and government services and inequality  are intertwined.

In short, higher inequality is correlated with a higher level/more responsive government services and average quality of life, as measured by the GINI index.  Government services are in turn correlated with lowers levels of religiosity.  Thus, in countries with higher average qualities of life, there’s a lower level of religiosity.

To me, the most interesting thing isn’t the study — though it is interesting, but the reflections of American society.

Even more interesting is the current feedback loop between conservatism, which pushes lower levels government services, and the leading supporters of conservatism in America — the evangelical Christian demographic.  Conservatism effectively supports religiosity by denying public services to the poor in the name of “helping” them, which shores up religiosity.

Amid the Opioid Epidemic, White Means Victim, Black Means Addict

I’ve been pioneering the differences in the way we have been treating victims and combatants of the “opioid epidemic” and the “war on drugs” for several years now.

We treat both the innocent (addicts vs victims) and combatants (“drug lords” vs “over-prescribers” and “drug companies”).

It wasn’t until 2016 that I realized that the difference is both in the victims and the combatants.

This article covers the victims portion pretty well.

Why People Voted Trump

Now that we are 18 months post Trump election, there is some excellent analysis on who voted for him and why.  I thought this article (in turn based on this scholarly paper) was the best analysis I’ve seen on the topic.  It argues persuasively that voters who went Trump in the last election cycle and especially those who switched, were people who were afraid to loose status to the globalizing, diverse world we are facing.  They wanted to keep the old ways.

It wasn’t economic conditions or pocketbook issues that made the difference.  It wasn’t education that made the difference.  It was the fear of loosing status to the diverse groups, in China, Mexico and concerns about “low status groups”.

Results do not support an interpretation of the election based on pocketbook economic concerns. Instead, the shorter relative distance of people’s own views from the Republican candidate on trade and China corresponded to greater mass support for Trump in 2016 relative to Mitt Romney in 2012. Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups. Both growing domestic racial diversity and globalization contributed to a sense that white Americans are under siege by these engines of change.

Next thing you know, those people will be wanting to do away with the Lottery


For elites, politics is driven by ideology. For voters, it’s not.

I’m an elite and a very high information voter.  You probably are too.  The idea that most people don’t make their political decisions based on ideology is somewhere between odd and crazy.  However, it seems to be true…

From Vox:

If you asked an average voter in 2000 whether they were liberal, moderate, conservative, or none of the above, their answer was only 63 percent predictive of what they’d tell you two years later. For voters with very little political knowledge, ideological identity is so fragile it’s probably not even worth calling it an identity. If you are a diehard liberal or conservative who hasn’t changed your views in 20 years, look at this table and reflect on just how unusual you are.

These findings pose a profound challenge to traditional models of politics. In theory, ideology comes first and party comes second. We decide whether we’re for single-payer health care, or same-sex marriage, or abortion restriction, and then we choose the party that most closely fits our ideas. You’re a liberal and so you become a Democrat; you’re a conservative and so you become a Republican.

The truth, it seems, is closer to the reverse: We choose our party for a variety of reasons — chief among them being the preferences of our family members, core groups, and community — and then we sign on to their platforms. In this telling, write Kinder and Kalmoe, “ideological identification is primarily an effect, not a cause, of a person’s political views.”

This theory makes a prediction: If party identification is stronger than ideological identification, then as parties change their ideological identities, their loyalists will change with them, rather than abandoning them. And that’s a lot closer to what we see. The exception is high-information voters, who keep their party identification and ideological identification linked.

“One enduring lesson to carry forward is an appreciation for the deep divide between elites and publics,” write Kinder and Kalmoe. For elites, politics is driven by ideology, and that seems like the most natural thing in the world. But it’s not, and it’s hard for highly ideological actors to appreciate just how weird they really are.

CO2 levels in atmosphere hit record high in 2016

From CNN, though this is widely reported today:

“Concentrations of carbon dioxide surged at a record breaking speed in 2016, according to the annual Greenhouse Gas bulletin compiled by the World Meteorological Organization.”

The most disappointing bit is that the increase was the largest we’ve seen since we we’ve begun careful measurement of CO2.

Its not just that we are going the wrong way — we are going faster and faster the wrong way. First we have to slow down, then we have to turn around, then we need to go the other way. Every year CO2 levels go up is a year we are digging ourselves into a deeper hole.