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What We Read Today 12 August 2017

Econintersect: Every day our editors collect the most interesting things they find from around the internet and present a summary "reading list" which will include very brief summaries (and sometimes longer ones) of why each item has gotten our attention. Suggestions from readers for "reading list" items are gratefully reviewed, although sometimes space limits the number included.

This feature is published every day late afternoon New York time. For early morning review of headlines see "The Early Bird" published every day in the early am at GEI News (membership not required for access to "The Early Bird".).


Every day most of this column ("What We Read Today") is available only to GEI members.

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Topics today include:

  • The Uninhabitable Earth

  • Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production

  • Climate Change Will (Probably) Not Destroy the Global Economy but That Doesn't Mean We are Out of the Woods

  • Michael Mann Responds to 'Uninhabitable Earth'

  • The New World Order Is Leaving the U.S. Behind

  • Global Bond Bubble

  • There is a Much Weaker Consumer Story than Believed

  • Trump Condemns ‘Hate’ in Charlottesville Clash Amid One Death

  • Minutes from missiles, Guam islanders get to grips with uncertain fate

  • Residential Investment Growth in the U.S.

  • Retail sales across the Eurozone are on the rise.

  • Top UK ministers: Brexit transition cannot be back door to staying in EU

  • China's Xi Seeks to Calm North Korea Tensions in Trump Call

  • Canadian pastor returns home after release from North Korean prison

  • And More

Articles about events, conflicts and disease around the world


  • The New World Order Is Leaving the U.S. Behind (Bloomberg)  American allies have decided Trump is simply not someone they can do business with.  Of all the global consequences of President Donald Trump’s first half-year, surely one of the most surprising is the rise in multilateral diplomacy.  A funny thing happened on the way to the disintegration of the international liberal order. It’s started to reconstitute itself -- only not with the U.S. at its center. 

  • Global Bond Bubble (Twitter)

Click for larger image.


  • There is a Much Weaker Consumer Story than Believed (The Daily Shot)  Despite a strong labor market, US households are saving less than previously thought. The chart below shows the declining savings rate. The latest BEA adjustment (discussed here) tells a much weaker consumer story than economists had believed.

  • Trump Condemns ‘Hate’ in Charlottesville Clash Amid One Death (Bloomberg)  President Donald Trump condemned hatred, bigotry and violence “on many sides” after clashes erupted during a white nationalists’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and an incident involving a car at the scene left one person dead and 19 injured.  Trump said during an appearance Saturday in Bedminster, N.J.:

“We must love each other, respect each other and cherish our history -- together." 

  • Minutes from missiles, Guam islanders get to grips with uncertain fate (Reuters)  Fourteen minutes is not long to prepare for a potential catastrophe. That's the estimated time taken from a launch of a mid-range ballistic missile in North Korea until impact on Guam, where residents seem resigned to the belief that their fate is out of their control.  The local government of this tiny U.S. Pacific island issued preparation guidance to its 163,000 people on Friday on how best to hide and deal with radiation after threats by Pyongyang to strike Guam, or test its missiles in its surrounding waters.

  • Residential Investment Growth in the U.S. (The Daily Shot)  This chart shows quarterly residential investment growth.  Note how Other Components (mostly home improvement spending) shows much less volatility than single-family construction while multi-family is even less variable.




  • China's Xi Seeks to Calm North Korea Tensions in Trump Call (Bloomberg)  China’s President Xi Jinping moved to calm growing tensions over North Korea, telling U.S. Presient Donald Trump in a phone call that all sides should maintain restraint and avoid inflammatory comments.  Xi’s comments, reported by China’s CCTV, came shortly after Trump added to his recent aggressive tweets by saying that U.S. military options were “locked and loaded” if North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un acted unwisely. China is North Korea’s main benefactor, providing most of its food and fuel.


  • Canadian pastor returns home after release from North Korean prison (Reuters)  A Canadian pastor who was imprisoned in North Korea for more than two years quietly returned to his home in a Toronto suburb on Saturday following a long journey on a private government jet via Japan.  Hyeon Soo Lim, formerly the senior pastor at one of Canada's largest churches, had disappeared on a mission to North Korea in early 2015. He was sentenced to hard labor for life in December 2015 on charges of attempting to overthrow the Pyongyang regime.

Other Scientific, Health, Political, Economics, and Business Items of Note - plus Miscellanea

  • The Uninhabitable Earth (New York Magazine)  See also following three articles.  The author posits that global warming could result in the mass extinction of humans.  Here is an excerpt:

Until recently, permafrost was not a major concern of climate scientists, because, as the name suggests, it was soil that stayed permanently frozen. But Arctic permafrost contains 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. When it thaws and is released, that carbon may evaporate as methane, which is 34 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas warming blanket as carbon dioxide when judged on the timescale of a century; when judged on the timescale of two decades, it is 86 times as powerful. In other words, we have, trapped in Arctic permafrost, twice as much carbon as is currently wrecking the atmosphere of the planet, all of it scheduled to be released at a date that keeps getting moved up, partially in the form of a gas that multiplies its warming power 86 times over.

Growing evidence demonstrates that climatic conditions can have a profound impact on the functioning of modern human societies12, but effects on economic activity appear inconsistent. Fundamental productive elements of modern economies, such as workers and crops, exhibit highly non-linear responses to local temperature even in wealthy countries34. In contrast, aggregate macroeconomic productivity of entire wealthy countries is reported not to respond to temperature5, while poor countries respond only linearly56. Resolving this conflict between micro and macro observations is critical to understanding the role of wealth in coupled human–natural systems78 and to anticipating the global impact of climate change910. Here we unify these seemingly contradictory results by accounting for non-linearity at the macro scale. We show that overall economic productivity is non-linear in temperature for all countries, with productivity peaking at an annual average temperature of 13 °C and declining strongly at higher temperatures. The relationship is globally generalizable, unchanged since 1960, and apparent for agricultural and non-agricultural activity in both rich and poor countries. These results provide the first evidence that economic activity in all regions is coupled to the global climate and establish a new empirical foundation for modelling economic loss in response to climate change1112, with important implications. If future adaptation mimics past adaptation, unmitigated warming is expected to reshape the global economy by reducing average global incomes roughly 23% by 2100 and widening global income inequality, relative to scenarios without climate change. In contrast to prior estimates, expected global losses are approximately linear in global mean temperature, with median losses many times larger than leading models indicate.

  • Climate Change Will (Probably) Not Destroy the Global Economy but That Doesn't Mean We are Out of the Woods (Ed Dolan's Econ Blog)  Hat tip to Sig Silber.  The affects of climate change on society and global economies is "more complex than you might think", according to the author.  He uses the data published in the preceding article (research paper) to create a very interesting graph (below).  What the research evaluated was how much global warming would impact the GDP of individual countries by the end of this century.  For each country in the world the GDP projected without global warming was compared to that estimated with global warming.  Note:

  • For many countries there is projected to be much less GDP growth with climate change than without.

  • For a few countries GDP growth rates will be increased by climate change.

  • The wide scatter of red dots indicates both uncertainty and the order of magnitude (or greater) economic impacts possible for some countries.

  • Averaging the data over all countries yoelds a global slowing of economoc growth by 23% at the end on this century (2099).

Click for larger image.

  • Michael Mann Responds to 'Uninhabitable Earth' (The Daily Shot)  Dr. Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, with joint appointments in the Department of Geosciences and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI). He is also director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC).  Prof. Mann responds to the first article in this section (third article above).  Click on title above for transcript.

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