1. 2021 in graphs
Peter Martin has assembled 10 graphs from articles he has edited in 2021.
Each tells a powerful story. For example, it is clear that sooner or later something will have to be done about JobSeeker when it is forecast to become a mere fraction of the old age pension, which is miserly by international standards. Remember around a third of pensioners already live in poverty.
This one on the effect of the carbon price looks clear:
However, if you go to the graphs in the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Quarterly Update: June 2021 you can play with the interactive graph showing the various sectors individually or together in any combination. This is what emissions look like without electricity and LULUCF (basically land clearing and tree growth):
In fact the big reductions have come firstly as a result of Queensland vegetation management legislation, which had a marked effect on Queensland cattle graziers’ ability to clear regrowth from 2007, and secondly policies to promote and subsidise renewable energy. Neither has anything to do a carbon price/tax, so I remain sceptical about the efficacy of generalised carbon tax.
Three graphs address the housing price situation. Back last century the average house cost less than three times the average income. Now this ratio has moved to above six:
Home deposits now almost require a whole year of household disposable income:
This one shows an incredible increase in home building, but an unexplained failure to finish:
My guess is disrupted supply chains and labour availability, shredded by COVID.
Crime is reducing, but we are locking more people up:
Deaths from COVID 19 have not markedly changed the pattern of deaths overall:
2. Climate change bursting out all over
The literature of climate change certainly has, with torrents of reports and warnings. One of the neater summaries of the year’s action was captured by Lethal Heating – 8 ominous climate milestones reached in 2021. As usual they add masses of links. The original in Live Science is worth a look, because they have links after each of the eight sections which LH leaves out.
Here we go:
The 2015 goal is already out of reach, we already committed to greater warming. See We’ve already blown past the warming targets set by the Paris climate agreement, study finds
Was the study too late to be part of the IPCC considerations?
NASA GISS scientists put 2020 slightly ahead of 2016, NOAA scientist think it was slightly behind. For both it means trouble.
- Prior models estimated that by the year 2100, global sea-level average would likely rise by 3.61 feet (1.10 meters), but scientists now suggest that oceans will rise even more rapidly than that, based on sea level rise events in Earth’s distant past.
The Gulf Stream has slowed dramatically and could stop completely by 2100, if global warming continues at its current pace.
We knew that.
Many tropical rainforests such as the Amazon are releasing more carbon than they absorb.
Just north of Greenland is the Wandel Sea, known as the Last Ice Area. It is thinning more than thought, and could melt away in summer as soon as 2040.
Here, courtesy of NASA, we have Earth from a space station:
The shine is coming off our planet due to human action.
Also it seems someone other than James Hansen has thought of clouds. Plus planting trees does not help shininess.
- While we can’t turn back the clock and reset Earth’s climate to conditions that predate the Industrial Age, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about climate change. … we can still slow or stop some of the global changes that are already underway, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events.
That’s a soft-soap finish to the article to make us feel better. Balance that with Even Drastic CO2 Cuts Won’t Bring Back The Climate We’ve Lost, or better still, follow the devastating narrative of the real scientific situation portrayed by David Spratt, Ian Dunlop and Luke Taylor in their recent Climate Reality Check 2021, backed up by 72 citations of scientific literature.
If you want to be further impressed and depressed about the progress of dangerous climate change, try these:
15 Bleak Photos From 2021 That Sum Up The World’s Climate Crisis
Scientific American – The Five Biggest Climate Stories of 2021
David Spratt – Climate stories and insights in 2021
That last one is blood-curdling.
- Three environmental risks – climate action failure, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss – were more worrying than anything else, according to the World Economic Forum’s annual survey of global risks.
Except for the Brits, where climate change does not appear in the top five, being more concerned about cyber insecurity.
3. The fight for American democracy
This article In-Depth: From the Capitol riot to vaccines and climate change, a look back goes through the year in the USA date by date, starting with pro-Trump rioters storming the US Capitol as members of Congress meet to certify the Electoral College results of the 2020 presidential election.
A very troubled country.
Jon Meacham, Presidential historian and former Biden speechwriter says that if Trump runs for POTUS in 2024 there will a constitutional crisis because ‘whatever happens, he will claim he won’.
Three retired US generals wrote a recent Washington Post column warning that another coup attempt “could lead to civil war”. Apparently one in 10 of the Capitol Hill insurrectionists found guilty of a felony had a military background.
In this article Barbara Walter, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, and author of a new book, How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them thinks “It would look more like Northern Ireland and what Britain experienced, where it’s more of an insurgency”:
- “It would probably be more decentralized than Northern Ireland because we have such a large country and there are so many militias all around the country.”
“They would turn to unconventional tactics, in particular terrorism, maybe even a little bit of guerrilla warfare, where they would target federal buildings, synagogues, places with large crowds. The strategy would be one of intimidation and to scare the American public into believing that the federal government isn’t capable of taking care of them.”
Some 90% of the Republican Party are white. Some 71% of republicans
Now the Assault on American democracy has gained pace since US Capitol attack. A tsumami of voter suppression laws has emerged in the states, which run the elections:
- There was also a surge of bills last year that sought to interfere with election administration in 2021. As of mid-December last year, 262 election interference bills had been introduced in 41 states, according to the States United Democracy Center. Thirty-two of those bills have become law in 17 states.
More are on the way.
Trump owns the Republican Party. Politicians and candidates not adopting his view of history and politics are being shoved aside, and now Trump acolytes vie for key election oversight posts in US midterms. The people who will do the hands-on work in 2024 are elected officials from the mid-terms in 2022.
Biden is pushing voting rights legislation, but it is held up in the Senate. Republicans are using the notorious filibuster rule to prevent the legislation to be brought to a vote, saying it is unnecessary, and Federal government overreach.
Correct me if I’m wrong, I think the filibuster rule could be knocked out on a simple majority vote – it’s just that conservative Democrats Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona and Joe Manchin from West Virginia won’t do it even though they support the voting rights legislation.
Just suppose the legislation does pass. The chances are that each state would operate under its own laws, ignoring the federal law, unless challenged in the Supreme Court.
My untutored view is that American democracy, never strong, is going down the crapper as we speak.
Time is running out’: can Congress pass a voting rights bill after months of failure?
4. German democracy OK?
I have not done an in-depth analysis, but my impression is that German democracy is still working, where the largest party vote was for the SPD (Social Democrats) with only 25.7% of the vote. Here’s the vote result in an image:
The four parties that have sufficient trust and respect for each other to potentially join in a coalition are the SPD (206 seats), the CDU/CSU (196), the Greens (118) and the Free Democrats (92). A total of 368 seats is enough to form government. So the options were by colours, red and black (Grand Coalition), red, green and yellow (Traffic lights) and black, green and yellow (Jamaica).
Effectively the smaller two were the king-makers, and chose the SPD, so Traffic lights was the go.
I heard that 22 separate groups involving around 280 people sat down for about three months and hammered an agreed policy framework and program for the new government for next four years.
It seems to me eminently sensible and civilised, compared with the US and here where respect and trust have broken down.