Cumberland Advisors Guest Commentary – Outlook for the 2019 Hurricane Season

Bob Bunting brings his established credentials, including being a Director of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and a Lead Forecast for NOAA, to this guest commentary. He also mentions the Climate Adaptation Center (CAC), of which he is the CEO and which I personally support with money and effort.

Bob Bunting & David Kotok

We thought it timely to share Bob’s views as we in Florida start the summer red tide season and hurricane season with very warm water, even as we digest the newly released FEMA updates on disaster and contingency planning.

We thank Bob for this guest submission and also for agreeing to speak on July 16 at the joint GIC-Keystone Policy Center meeting in Keystone, Colorado. See: www.interdependence.org for details.

Editor’s Update: Bob’s July 16, 2019 presentation is available here – https://www.interdependence.org/resources/adapting-to-a-warmer-climate/


Bob Bunting


And his July 17, 2019 interview in Sarasota, FL can be viewed here:

 



 

Now here’s Bob Bunting. -David


The Hurricane Season 2019 Outlook

By Bob Bunting

Hurricane forecasting has become more a science than an art over my multi-decade career, and that is a good thing! The last few years have not been kind to the US mainland and territories. In 2017, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, all Category 4’s at landfall, caused massive flooding or wind damage; and last year, a slightly above-normal season in the Atlantic, was devastating, with two major hurricanes, Florence and Michael, setting records for wind and rain. These five storms traveled over very warm seas and had explosive development (ED) cycles, and Michael struck the panhandle of Florida as a Category 5, the first ever in the region.

As I look at sea-surface temperature anomalies at present, I do not like what I see! In mid-June there are several areas where sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) are 3°C higher than normal, as you can see in the depiction below.

Bob Bunting Hurricane Image

The coolest water, shown in shades of blue, is off the coast of western Mexico and in the northern mid-Atlantic. Warm water is abundant in the South Atlantic and along the East Coast of the US, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico along the Texas and Mexico coasts. The dashed ovals show SSTs that average 1 to 3 degrees C above normal. An area of very warm water, averaging 5°C above normal, lies along the Mid-Atlantic coastline from Cape Cod to North Carolina.

 

Three of the four areas of warmer than normal SSTs are therefore close to the US mainland and densely populated areas of our country. After the last several years, when we have seen hurricanes develop rapidly from the tropical storm stage all the way to Category 4 and 5 superstorms in just a day or two, we should be concerned!  Incidentally, I have coined a term for such rapid development cycles: explosive development (ED).

During the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey struck the Greater Houston area with peak winds of 130 mph and 60+ inches of rain in places. Then there was Hurricane Irma, which terrorized the Caribbean islands and Florida as it gained and maintained Category 4 and 5 status for days and proved to be the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Finally, Hurricane Maria rapidly developed and whacked Puerto Rico with upper-Category 4 winds, leveling much of the island.

The 2018 hurricane season was active but with only two major hurricanes. Unfortunately, both of them hit the US. Hurricane Florence struck the Carolinas as just a Category 1 but drowned the area with 30+ inches of rain, a record for that region. Please note that the color-coding of the 2018 hurricanes is slightly different, but you will get the idea.

This is Florence:

Later in the season, Hurricane Michael ripped through the panhandle of Florida as a Category 5 storm.

Together, these five storms did an amazing $295 billion in damage, $265 billion in 2017 and $30 billion in 2018 and killed about 4700 people! Fortunately, last year the two major hurricanes hit the US in relatively sparely populated areas.

What is unusual about the last two seasons is that hurricanes experienced ED cycles where they intensified to Category 5 within a day or two. All these storms except Harvey had pinpoint eyes that were 20 miles or less in diameter.  Take a close look at Michael’s amazing pinhole eye as it came ashore. When storms have this extremely compact eye formation, the winds around the eye are like large tornadoes that wipe the landmass clean. Hurricane Michael showed its fury as it leveled the area around Mexico Beach, Florida, and also mowed down more than a million acres of trees in North Florida and South Georgia. Inland Georgia experienced Category 3 winds for the first time in recorded history.

Two of the five storms, Harvey and Florence, dumped record rains as they stalled on the coastline. This, too, is unusual.

What we know is that SSTs are now much warmer than normal on average. When expansive water bodies like oceans and gulfs are warm, they also tend to warm to a greater depth than usual. When tropical systems move over expansive, warm water bodies they intensify more rapidly than they would over cooler water, all other things being equal. They also gather more moisture in the process and can become very heavy rainmakers, especially if they stall or move slowly as they approach land.
Since 1880, millions of verified observations have shown that the Earth’s average air temperature has risen by almost 2°F. That does not seem like much, but in effect it is! Warmer air holds more moisture. We also know that the poles are heating much faster than the equator is, which means the temperature gradient between the equator and poles is diminishing. When that happens, the jet streams weaken and move poleward. The result can be that hurricanes approaching the mid-latitudes can stall or slow down and dump those record rainfalls.

We also know that since 1880 sea level rise has averaged about 9 inches around the globe. When strong storms hit the coasts, storm surges are not only higher now because storms are stronger but also because the surges come on top of already higher sea levels.

So where do these considerations leave us as we consider the 2019 hurricane season? Thankfully, a weak El Niño event is ongoing in the Pacific. El Niño conditions in the Pacific correlate with stronger wind shear in the Atlantic. When the wind speed increases with increasing height, shear is created. Such conditions inhibit hurricane development by disrupting the vertical organization of storms.

Because we know SSTs are warmer than normal overall and wind shear may be somewhat higher than normal, the forecast is for a near-normal hurricane season this year. Normal is defined as about 12 storms total, with two or three major hurricanes. A major hurricane is considered a Category 3, 4, or 5 storm.

Given the normal season expected, why am I more than a little concerned? Because – and you may already see where I’m going here! – the warm SSTs are close to US shorelines, where tens of millions of people live. Thus, hurricanes approaching the US may spin up more rapidly than normal, as has been the case in recent years. Take Florida, for example. Since the 2000 census, Florida’s population has from grown from 15.3 million to 21.6 million today. Should a hurricane rapidly intensify just off the coast of a heavily populated area and then strike within 24 hours, there would not be time for an orderly evacuation. This is a nightmare scenario for planners and a potential catastrophe when it becomes reality.

With very warm water along the eastern seaboard well north of usual warm water anomalies of the past, this may be the year when a storm moving up the East Coast becomes much stronger faster and then maintains super-hurricane status for much longer than usual.

Why is this potential developing? We cannot say with absolute certainty that any particular storm is a result of climate warming. But what we can say is that much warmer sea surface temperatures create increasing probabilities of bad outcomes.

Climate warming impacts are here now Isn’t it time that we begin to plan, adjust, and mitigate the worst impacts of climate-induced changes like sea level rise and the changing characteristics of hurricanes? We know a lot about how to mitigate, plan, and adjust; but thus far our response has been too slow for the level of threat we now face. This just isn’t smart!

USF Climate Change Event Jan 2019 - Bob Bunting

These are among the threats that have led to the creation of the Climate Adaptation Center (CAC). While the initial center will focus on local and regional climate-related issues in Florida, we hope the first CAC will be a prototype for other CACs worldwide to deal with local impacts. Adaptation and mitigation actions can help us to successfully deal with the worst impacts of a warming climate. While a global solution to the warming climate may evolve in the decades ahead, we now have little choice but to adapt in ways that protect our way of life. Climate warming is not only a problem for future generations; it is a problem for us! For more information about the CAC, please contact me at bobbunting@comcast.net. We need your help now!

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio

Bob Bunting
Atmospheric Scientist, Author, Educator, and Entrepreneur
Email | Bio


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Fed and Climate Change

My note today puzzles over the Fed’s sitting on the sidelines while other central bankers act together to mitigate a growing risk to national economies and the global financial system. As context for this discussion, please take a minute to read this report about the accelerated melting of ice in Antarctica: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/16/thinning-of-antarctic-ice-sheets-spreading-inland-rapidly-study.
Fed & Climate Change
Now to the issue. Can you imagine a meeting of most of the world’s largest central banks plus BIS and the World Bank, without a nominal and publicly identified presence of the Federal Reserve? Well here it is.

In December 2017, responding to climate-related risks to the world financial system, the Banque de France, along with eight other central banks and banking supervisors, established the Network of Central Banks and Supervisors for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) at the Paris “One Planet Summit.” Since then, the NGFS has grown to 34 members and five observers from all over the globe. The list continues to grow.

On April 17, 2019, the Banque de France convened a one-day conference, with all NGFS members and observers in attendance, to present its first comprehensive report, titled “A call for action: Climate change as a source of financial risk.” The United States was not represented at that meeting.

Now we know the Fed is aware of the subject of climate change and has connections to many of the institutions and individuals who were in attendance at this gathering. We know that numerous studies are estimating the financial cost and credit risk exposure of the United States as the sea level rises. And we know that financial risk runs to our banking system and to many financial intermediaries connected to or of interest to the Federal Reserve.

So the real question is, why no Federal Reserve public profile when the conversation is about climate change-related financial risk? Is there some edict by the Trump administration that prevents the Fed from attending? We know of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord, and we know something about his political position.

“I’m not denying climate change,” Trump told interviewer Lesley Stahl in an interview on CBS’ 60 minutes (Oct 15, 2018).

At the same time, though, Trump suggested that climate change might not be caused by humans; that he did not want to take any action that would harm the American economy; and that the warming of the planet by industrial emissions would reverse of its own accord.

“I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again,” said Trump. “I don’t think it’s a hoax. I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade. I will say this: I don’t want to give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don’t want to lose millions and millions of jobs.”

Trillions of dollars?  Shouldn’t this be of interest to the Fed. But we also know that financial risk is intensifying, and we know that the sea level is rising. So where is the Fed?

Readers are invited to look at the report and conclude viewpoints for themselves. The full report is available here: https://www.banque-france.fr/sites/default/files/media/2019/04/17/ngfs_first_comprehensive_report_-_17042019_0.pdf.

Some excerpts from the report follow:

“We collectively face the effects of climate change, as it reaches beyond economies, borders, cultures, and languages. In 2017, air pollution was a cause of almost 5 million deaths worldwide while 62 million people in 2018 were affected by natural hazards, with 2 million needing to move elsewhere due to climate events. A transition to a green and low-carbon economy is not a niche nor is it a “nice to have” for the happy few. It is crucial for our own survival. There is no alternative. Therefore, we need to come together and take action to create a bright, sustainable future….

“Climate-related risks are a source of financial risk and it therefore falls squarely within the mandates of central banks and supervisors to ensure the financial system is resilient to these risks.”

– From the foreword to the report, by Frank Elderson, board member, De Nederlandsche Bank, and chair of the NGFS

“The legal mandates of central banks and financial supervisors vary throughout the NGFS membership, but they typically include responsibility for price stability, financial stability, and the safety and soundness of financial institutions. Even though the prime responsibility for ensuring the success of the Paris Agreement [on climate change] rests with governments, it is up to central banks and supervisors to shape and deliver on their substantial role in addressing climate-related risks within the remit of their mandates. Understanding how structural changes affect the financial system and the economy is core to fulfilling these responsibilities.

“Climate change is one of many sources of structural change affecting the financial system. However, it has distinctive characteristics that mean it needs to be considered and managed differently. These include:

• Far-reaching impact in breadth and magnitude…
• Irreversibility…
• Dependency on short-term actions….

“While today’s macroeconomic models may not be able to accurately predict the economic and financial impact of climate change, climate science leaves little doubt: action to mitigate and adapt to climate change is needed now. The NGFS recognises that there is a strong risk that climate-related financial risks are not fully reflected in asset valuations. There is a need for collective leadership and globally coordinated action and, therefore, the role of international organisations and platforms is critical….

“The NGFS, as a coalition of the willing and a voluntary, consensus-based forum provides six recommendations for central banks, supervisors, policymakers and financial institutions to enhance their role in the greening of the financial system and the managing of environment and climate-related risks….

Recommendation 1: Integrating climate-related risks into financial stability monitoring and micro-supervision…
Recommendation 2: Integrating sustainability factors into own-portfolio management…
Recommendation 3: Bridging the data gaps…
Recommendation 4: Building awareness and intellectual capacity and encouraging technical assistance and knowledge sharing…
Recommendation 5: Achieving robust and internationally consistent climate and environment-related disclosure…
Recommendation 6: Supporting the development of a taxonomy of economic activities….

“There is still a significant amount of analytical work to be done in order to equip central banks and supervisors with appropriate tools and methodologies to identify, quantify and mitigate climate risks in the financial system. This calls for a close and specific dialogue with academia and for further technical work to translate the NGFS recommendations or observations into operational policies and processes.

“More precisely, the NGFS is planning to develop: (i) a handbook on climate and environment-related risk management for supervisory authorities and financial institutions; (ii) voluntary guidelines on scenario-based risk analysis; (iii) best practices for incorporating sustainability criteria into central banks’ portfolio management (particularly with regard to climate-friendly investments).”

It is unimaginable that the US would not opt to have a seat at this table and that our central bank would not be preparing with the rest of the world for climate-related impacts to the global financial system and the global and national economy. And yet our public seat at the table remains empty, and our nation is apt to be left behind.

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.




Watch Livestream of Climate Change Summit at University South Florida Sarasota-Manatee

Cumberland Advisors’ Patty Healy is participating in the Climate Change Summit held at USF Sarasota-Manatee today, January 25, 2019. She’ll be speaking to the audience about municipal bond ratings relating to how prepared these entities are for severe weather events, the impacts of climate change, and other factors that may affect credit ratings. I’ll be helping out with introductions, interviews, and as an emcee. Bob Bunting, an accomplished entrepreneur and scientist, will lead the conference through many important topics and panel discussions.

If you’re unable to attend in person, the University has provided this “Livestream Link” as a way to watch: https://buff.ly/2WgFkWU

Livestream - Climate Change Summit at University South Florida Sarasota-Manatee 

More details about the Climate Change Summit at the University South Florida Sarasota-Manatee can be found here: www.usfsm.edu/climate

Thank you,
David

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio




Climate change, a rising tide affecting the muni market

Excerpt from…

Climate change, a rising tide affecting the muni market

By Sarah Wynn
Published January 08 2019, 12:45pm EST

WASHINGTON — Portfolio managers are feeling the heat when it comes to investing in bonds that could potentially be affected by climate change.

Climate change has long been a point of political and social contention, and investors are throwing caution to the wind when making important bond transactions, while using a green thumb to do their part.

With his clients, Mousseau said he discusses climate and infrastructure, especially when it comes to residential developments along the coast.

“Just as a matter of policy, we generally try to avoid credits that are particularly vulnerable along any coasts,” Mousseau said.

Instead, he believes in diversifying by owning county bonds or multiple types of utility bonds, as opposed to smaller general obligation bonds that could get wiped out by a hurricane.

Mousseau said there will be an increase in green bonds — bonds used specifically for climate and environmental projects —and more institutional clients are starting to ask for them.

“I think there’s a heightened sense of people wanting to be involved in investments that benefit the environment and I think that grows every year,” Mousseau said.

Millennials, in particular, have shown interest in green bonds, which could cause a rise in issuance.

Development has increased in energy market countries and Mousseau believes green bond initiatives will become more important.

“All I’m saying is that the idea of green bond initiatives is certainly not stopping here,” he said.

Continue reading (with subscription) at The Bond Buyer website: www.bondbuyer.com




Zika, Climate Change & January 25

On December 30, as 2018 drew to an end, NBC’s Meet the Press aired an entire program on the climate change crisis, well worth watching (https://www.nbc.com/meet-the-press/video/meet-the-press-1230/3850857). Host Chuck Todd gave no air time to climate change denialism. Instead, the episode plunged into analyzing the crisis at hand, what might be done, what impediments slow our time-critical response, and how to overcome those impediments. Florida Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo, among other program guests, called for constructive action. “We need to stop covering the debate and start covering the story, so that people see that this is real, and so that politicians take a more-pragmatic approach and find solutions that are actually achievable,” Curbelo said. The day after Thanksgiving, despite Mr. Trump’s personal dismissal of climate change, the Trump administration released Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (https://www.globalchange.gov/nca4), and we’ve been digesting its deeply concerning contents in the week since.

The impacts of climate change are myriad, affecting our world, our communities, our health, our food supply, and our investments. We will be taking a look at a number of climate-change-related issues impacting Florida and beyond, from sea level rise to red tide to hurricanes to fruitful adaptive strategies and the economic opportunities they present, when we convene on Friday, January 25, at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee for our one-day event, “Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities.” See the full roster of speakers, including our own Patricia Healy, here: http://sar.usfsm.edu/event/adapting-to-a-changing-climate/. We hope to see you there.

In today’s commentary, however, I would like to zero in on the impact of climate change on vector-borne diseases, including Zika. Chapter 14 of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (https://www.globalchange.gov/nca4) addresses the adverse effects of climate change on human health, noting that “Climate change affects human health by altering exposures to heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme events; vector-, food- and waterborne infectious diseases; changes in the quality and safety of air, food, and water; and stresses to mental health and well-being” (p. 545 in the full report PDF). We have no trouble grasping the threats posed by heat waves, fires, floods, and storms that claim lives as well as property, along with droughts that parch crops and threaten water supplies, but we should not miss the implications of climate change for increased vector-borne disease risks. As the report points out, “Climate change is expected to alter the geographic range, seasonal distribution, and abundance of disease vectors, exposing more people in North America to ticks that carry Lyme disease or other bacterial and viral agents, and to mosquitoes that transmit West Nile, chikungunya, dengue, and Zika viruses” (p. 545).

The range of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, for example, a primary vector for dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever, is expected to expand considerably worldwide, exposing far larger populations, particularly in Australia, Europe, and North America, to those viruses. According to one recent study, well before the end of the 21st century, 68%–80% of human populations may share their environments with Aedes aegypti and thus be vulnerable to the diseases that mosquito can carry, with the percentages depending on the climate change scenario that actually unfolds, (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-016-1679-0). In general, lower greenhouse gas emissions translate to less risk for human health.

Risk of mosquito-borne diseases in general is to be understood not just in terms of the range of a particular mosquito species but also in terms of mosquito “disease danger days.” As an August 2018 report published at Climate Central points out, “there’s an elevated risk of disease transmission [assuming disease is present] when temperatures are between 61 degrees and 93 degrees Fahrenheit.” The report notes the circumstances required for disease transmission: “In addition to needing the proper climatological factors for the mosquito to survive and transmit disease, there needs to be the establishment of the disease in the first place — having the proper climatic conditions, a critical density of mosquitoes, and the conditions for the sustained cycle of disease transmission itself. And, in order to transmit disease, a mosquito must bite twice — once to acquire the disease [itself], and a second time to pass it on. The largest number of these twice-biting mosquitoes were produced at 75 degrees Fahrenheit.” (http://www.climatecentral.org/news/us-faces-a-rise-in-mosquito-disease-danger-days-21903)

Climate Central analyzed weather data for 244 US cities to determine the number of disease danger days each city faces now as the climate warms. They found that 94%, or 229, of the cities they studied are already seeing an increase in the number of days when average temperatures fall within the optimal range for mosquito-borne disease transmission. Some areas, however, may become too hot for the mosquitoes themselves. Phoenix, for example, actually has fewer disease transmission danger days than it did previously because of the number of extremely hot days the city must contend with. All in all, only 12 cities are experiencing a decrease in disease danger days. As the climate warms, the report concludes, Americans face heightened risks for dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and West Nile (http://www.climatecentral.org/news/us-faces-a-rise-in-mosquito-disease-danger-days-21903).

The 2015–2016 Zika outbreak drove home the hazards of mosquito-borne diseases, as Zika took a terrible toll on the development of one in seven unborn children whose mothers were exposed to the otherwise generally mild virus (https://www.contagionlive.com/publications/contagion/2018/october/zika-where-are-we-now). Babies were born with microcephaly and/or other birth defects such as vision problems, deafness, and epilepsy. Their lives and their family’s lives were forever changed from what might have been.

In 2018, Zika has not made many headlines in the US, and the case count is down. As of December 4, 2018, the provisional case count for US States is 58 for the year, all travelers returning from affected areas. US territories have reported 116 Zika cases, with the virus presumably transmitted through local populations of infected mosquitoes (https://www.cdc.gov/zika/reporting/2018-case-counts.html). Case counts aside, the virus remains a threat – nothing has changed about its intrinsic potential to wreak havoc. It is still active throughout the South and Southeast Asia region, and some districts in India saw worrisome outbreaks in 2018 (https://www.hindustantimes.com/health/healthwise-new-outbreaks-need-better-disease-surveillance/story-2bSekn9rGCIbWADtk9p2TK.html).

While some experts hypothesize that “herd immunity” has been achieved in areas hardest hit in 2016, Carmen Zorilla, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in San Juan, disagrees. She estimates that about 10.5% of pregnant women in Puerto Rico tested positive for Zika during the outbreak – an infection rate not nearly high enough to confer herd immunity. She observes that such viral outbreaks tend to happen in 3–5-year cycles. (https://www.contagionlive.com/publications/contagion/2018/october/zika-where-are-we-now).

Problematically, some 60–80% of Zika cases are asymptomatic, so Zika can readily go undetected and gain a foothold before it is identified in a particular area. Fewer than half of those infected actually seek medical care (https://www.contagionlive.com/publications/contagion/2018/october/zika-where-are-we-now). Most of the time, symptoms, when people do have them, are relatively mild and somewhat flu-like: fever, rash, headache, achy joints and muscles, and conjunctivitis, though in rare instances a Zika infection can lead to Guillain-Barré syndrome. Currently, the CDC recommends Zika testing for pregnant women with possible Zika exposure and for those who experience Zika symptoms after traveling to areas where they might have been exposed to the virus (https://www.cdc.gov/zika/hc-providers/testing-guidance.html).

Is there room in that surveillance net for a Zika outbreak to fire up before it is detected? Definitely so. In 2016, a research team led by Northeastern University professor Alessandro Vespignani and overseen by the Center for Inference and Dynamics of Infectious Diseases, projected the discrepancy between the number of reported Zika cases and the likely number of actual cases. The team’s models projected that the actual number of infections in July 2016 was likely 25 times the number of confirmed cases (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160802133703.htm).

Dr. Vespignani notes that major outbreaks are associated not only with the right air temperature but also with areas of standing water. In many instances, people educated to understand the risks can manage those, emptying the birdbath or flower pot saucers and the like at least once a week; but after major precipitation events magnified by climate change, when there is standing water everywhere, mosquito populations can spike. The sopping US Southeast, where rainfall records were handily broken in 2018, can testify that there is sometimes “water, water everywhere,” to borrow a phrase from Samuel Taylor Coleridge (https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/2018-leaves-its-mark-in-the-rainfall-record-books-across-eastern-southern-us/70007024).

Furthermore, densely populated areas face elevated risk. Juanita Constible, a climate expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, explains that, for mosquitoes, “extension of habitat is a combination of climate change and human behavior. Urbanization can expand habitats for some species of mosquito that prefer cities [Aedes egypti among them], so as people expand into natural areas, those species will go with them. Not only do urban settings have plenty of habitat and food, but in cities, mosquitoes lack natural predators.” (https://www.citylab.com/environment/2018/10/hurricane-florence-mosquitoes-north-carolina/571912/)

Kate Fowlie, spokesperson for the US CDC, warns, “Mosquito-borne disease outbreaks are difficult to predict. There will be future outbreaks, including large ones, as well as years with reduced transmission, but it is impossible to know when or where these transmission patterns will occur” (https://www.contagionlive.com/publications/contagion/2018/october/zika-where-are-we-now).

It seems obvious that surveillance is key to preventing outbreaks both in the present and in a warming future, but the CDC’s funding for expanded infectious disease surveillance is due to run out in 2019. The CDC is already planning to scale back its participation in the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an early-warning system for infectious disease outbreaks, in 39 of 49 countries (http://www.ghtcoalition.org/blog/global-health-and-medical-research-saved-from-the-chopping-block-in-2018-spending-bill).

While the US will be assisting with infectious disease surveillance in 10 countries, the map of Zika-affected areas around the globe, courtesy of the CDC, is expansive (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/files/zika-areas-of-risk.pdf).

There is a lot of purple on this map, but these are not all the places Zika can go; they are merely places where infection is already a risk. Infected travelers can fly all over the world, and disease-bearing mosquitoes know no borders other than inhospitable habitats. Climate change, as we have seen, will widen the range of vector-borne diseases, sharply increasing the percentage of the global population at risk. Viruses themselves, of course, are moving targets, as they mutate regularly – Zika posed no known risk to the unborn until this century, when a mutation changed what had been a mild pathogen (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/09/28/zika-was-a-mild-bug-a-new-discovery-shows-how-it-turned-monstrous/?utm_term=.af60fd526a41). Scientists also warn us that we may soon be contending with disease-causing bacteria and viruses that have lain dormant for centuries or even millennia, frozen in permafrost that is now melting as the Arctic warms (www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170504-there-are-diseases-hidden-in-ice-and-they-are-waking-up).

As we look ahead, addressing climate change will clearly entail grappling with expanded threats to human health, and one of those threats will be elevated vector-borne disease risks, perhaps coupled with diseases modern medicine has yet to encounter. Climate change mitigation and adaptation, combined with vigilant surveillance, vaccine development, and mosquito population control strategies will all be keys to managing vector-borne disease risks posed by certain species of mosquitoes and ticks.

This commentary has been a deepish dive into just one of the secondary challenges climate change will pose to nations, states, cities, municipalities, and the well-being of Americans. In the instance of Zika, we know that the lifetime cost of caring for one child whose life is profoundly impacted by prenatal exposure to the Zika virus, beyond heartbreak, is likely to reach one to ten million dollars (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/23/1/16-1322_article). Human health is just one area in which proactively addressing climate change and adaptation makes both imminent sense and dollars and cents. Again, if you are in the Sarasota area on January 25, we hope you will join us at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee for “Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities.” Find more information about this one-day event and register here: http://sar.usfsm.edu/event/adapting-to-a-changing-climate/.




Is Climate Warming Creating More Dangerous Hurricanes?

Two Hard-Hitting Hurricane Seasons

Last year was a September to remember in the US as far as hurricanes go. First, Harvey hit Texas with 130-mph winds and thundering rains totaling up to 60 inches in places, setting all-time US rainfall records. Next, Irma created havoc across the Caribbean and Florida as the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, with 185-mph sustained winds that leveled islands and nearly created a nightmare scenario in Florida. And of course no one will forget Maria, which hit an ill-prepared Puerto Rico with catastrophic results.

Here are some recent pieces in which I describe the effects of these hurricanes:

https://www.cumber.com/key-west-bob-bunting/
http://bobsstocks.com/cuba-caribbean-hurricanes-now/
https://www.sarasotamagazine.com/slideshows/2018/7/1/how-cuba-saved-florida-from-a-category-5-hurricane

From June through August the 2018 hurricane season yielded a slightly elevated number of storms, but all were weak. Elevated wind shear, a near-record cold Atlantic Ocean, and Sahara dust clouds combined to lull us to sleep – that is, until Florence formed in September off the African coast, just as Irma had. This time the track was more northwest, across thousands of miles of open water. Finally, Florence hit a patch of warm water, found low wind shear, and fought off the dust. The result was the first major hurricane of 2018 and one that had a clear shot at the Carolina coast.

Packing 140-mph winds after a 24-hour cycle of super-rapid intensification, Florence was not a storm to discount. The Carolinas are a magnet for Atlantic hurricanes: Think Hazel, Hugo, Gloria, and Donna, among others. But what made Florence even more of a threat was both human denial and the natural slope of the continental shelf, which is shallow and thus amplifies storm surge, especially for storms coming into the coast at right angles. Usually storms approach from the south, not from the east. It makes a difference. Florence came in perpendicular to the coast and acted much like a plow pushing the water at the coast, creating a large storm surge even as the storm itself weakened, striking with top winds of 106 mph.

Like Harvey, this massive storm ground to a halt just as it was making landfall. As with Harvey, record rains pelted North and South Carolina for days, dumping trillions of gallons of water on ground already saturated from a very wet summer. With storm surge and 30+ inches of record-setting rainfall, epic flooding resulted. Many rivers crested at levels that are hit only in a 1000-year flood, inflicting widespread major flooding that continued for weeks and killed not only people but millions of animals, creating billions in losses.

Finally, it was October 2018, and many began to think we were done with hurricanes. After all, at this point, although there had been many weak tropical storms and hurricanes, there had been only one major storm, and now Florence was out of the news.

Back in June, the Sarasota magazine published a nice summary of hurricanes, and I was pleased to be part of the spread of articles. Here is an excerpt from the discussion of Sarasota and hurricanes:
“Sarasota is more vulnerable to storms – like Wilma or Charley – that form in the Caribbean and enter the Gulf of Mexico, usually early or late in hurricane season. (The most perilous time for us, Bunting says, is the first two weeks of October.) But even those storms rarely hit our stretch of the west coast. Because of the shape of Florida’s land mass and atmospheric factors related to the rotation of the earth, they tend instead to make landfall to the south, often around Naples, and travel east across Florida, or to curve north and hit the northern Gulf Coast.

“Does this mean we can breathe easy? Hardly, says Bunting, who confesses, ‘I couldn’t sleep’ during the days that Irma threatened our coast. ‘All it takes is one,’ he says. ‘Only one.’”

You can read the entire article(s) here: https://www.sarasotamagazine.com/articles/2018/6/27/major-hurricanes-rarely-hit-our-region-here-s-why

Sure enough, in the second week of October a weak tropical system emerged south of Cuba, in the area climatologically favorable for late-season hurricane formation. This worrying development was made even more scary by a very warm loop current in the Gulf of Mexico, which was moving warmer than normal sea-surface temperatures off the West Florida Centennial Shelf northward to a position near the Big Bend region of Florida. Tropical Storm Michael entered the Gulf, and as it moved almost due north, it began to strengthen.

At first a Category 1 hurricane, Michael soon sucked energy from the warm loop current and intensified with a bang! During the next 24 hours the storm churned northwest of Sarasota toward Mexico Beach in northwest Florida. The Category 1 storm exploded to a very strong Category 4 with 155-mph winds; and the eye wall, surrounding a pinpoint eye, struck Mexico Beach and surroundings like a large tornado, complete with a storm surge. Wiping the Earth’s surface clean at the impact point, Michael registered the third lowest pressure ever recorded in the eye of a US hurricane making landfall – 919 mb. Imagine the panic of people watching the radar images like the one below as the storm approached the beach.

Hurricane Michael ravaged the town of Mexico Beach, Fla

Note, too, the small eye surrounded by the red eye wall as Michael ravaged the town of Mexico Beach. As the hours passed, much of northwest Florida and parts of Georgia saw record wind speeds and mass destruction totaling billions.

Is Climate Change Responsible?

Are hurricanes getting stronger because of climate warming? Are nature’s largest storm events and the rainfall totals they bring being magnified by the climate change? Is humanity responding to the threats or simply ignoring reality in hopes that the threats will go away or that our descendants will mitigate them later? Does sea level rise play a role in what appears, to the uninitiated, to be worsening storm impacts? Are we still dealing with critics who say that what we are seeing is nothing unusual or that everything can be blamed on a warming climate?

Let’s answer these questions to the extent that they can be answered. While 2017–18 featured the strongest set of hurricanes ever recorded, there isn’t enough evidence yet to say that hurricanes are stronger now than they have been in the past. This year, including Florence and Michael, has been above normal with regard to the number of storms (15) but normal with respect to the number of major hurricanes (2). Those two storms happened to hit the Mid-Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast. It just takes one such event to change perceptions, and we had two.

But it is accurate to say that for each degree the air warms, it can hold nearly 4% more water. It is also accurate to say that warmer ocean waters have more heat potential, thereby increasing storm intensity, all other things being equal. So while the recent record of hurricanes does not prove in a statistical sense that hurricanes are more intense because of a rapidly warming climate, there is room for legitimate concern.

Explosive storm development also seems to be different and more concerning than in the past. Harvey, Irma, Florence, and Michael all had 24-hour periods during which they exploded from Category 1 to Category 4 or 5! Warmer sea-surface temperatures are clearly one major factor. In heavily populated areas, if such explosive storm development occurs, evacuation just cannot happen in time. How to deal with this issue will be one of the most talked-about topics for years to come as we learn how to adapt to climate-warming issues.

There is also evidence that heavier rain events are being caused in some part by the warming climate. First, as noted above, warmer air can hold more moisture; but also, as the earth warms, the jet streams tend to set up further north and are weaker than was normal for most of the 20th century. These two factors mean that storms hold more rain and tend to slow down and meander rather than moving at a brisk clip with the help of jet stream winds. Harvey and Florence certainly did just that, and I agree with the IPCC conclusion that slower-moving storms with heavier precipitation are becoming more common.

What, if anything, are we doing about these trends? Certainly, an effort is occurring in the US and other countries to limit greenhouse gases, with or without the Paris Agreement, and much more is needed in both the short and long term. But with regard to hurricanes in North Carolina, there has been little action to protect the eroding shoreline. A recent news article tells the story:
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/north-carolina-sea-level-rise-hurricane-florence_us_5b985a87e4b0162f4731da0e

In Florida, local communities are getting more involved in protecting themselves, but still there is still too little happening on state and regional levels.

Sea level is now rising about an inch every seven to eight years now. Along the North Carolina coast the sea level has risen about 6.5 inches since 1950. When storm surges occur on top of even a modest sea level rise and the continental shelf is shallow, the surge/flood impacts from both major and minor hurricanes are amplified. This was the case with Category 2 Florence!

An interesting point and counterpoint were recently raised in California regarding climate warming, at the Climate Action Summit (https://www.globalclimateactionsummit.org) in San Francisco, which featured many impressive and interesting presentations.

One troubling takeaway was the emphasis on attributing every bad weather event, from droughts to fires and floods, to climate warming. Fires, floods, and droughts have been around for a very long time. The key point, however, is that our climate is warming much faster now than climatic changes have unfolded in the past. Changes that used to take thousands of years are being compressed into decades. This precipitous rate of change is what is so troubling!

The counterpoint was a series of panel discussions organized by a group called the Hartland Foundation, specifically to rebut the Climate Action Summit and climate warming in general. See https://youtu.be/5_XSrrw4DDc.

This group was less impressive and seemed to focus more on PR than scientific discussion. I was struck by the dearth of IPCC members or representation from first-rate science institutions at this gathering. This group failed to identify the rate of climate warming as unusual and highly correlated to human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

Ignoring what is and hoping for the best is not a strategy. Shooting the messenger , climate science, is costing us big-time, but perhaps the lessons from Florence will lead to a more reasoned and action-oriented approach. As many readers know, I am not in the camp that expects worst-case scenarios of sea level rise by 2100. See my article
https://www.cumber.com/guest-commentary-by-bob-bunting-its-getting-hotter/.

But there is no reason to believe that the past and current trend of sea level rise will suddenly stop and good reason to believe, on the other hand, that the rate will increase as global temperatures continue to rise.

Evidence Calls for Action

While fair debate is welcome and needed, dismissing climate warming as nonexistent is not helpful, nor is sensationally predicting the end of the world by 2100. What is helpful is concerted action to mitigate the impacts of the most likely climate-warming scenarios. Preventing further damage to the climate by limiting greenhouse emissions, pushing technological solutions, and promoting scientific understanding are key to being successful – as I know we can be!

Policy reacts to the will of society but with a time lag. That’s why it’s so important to study this issue and not be drawn in by polarizing positions. It is all too easy to jump on bandwagons, but the answers are now largely known for those who want to deal with high-probability scenarios. In North Carolina an opportunity was missed on a statewide level. During the 1990s, as I discussed in my previous article published by Cumberland, the US and the world missed an early opportunity to deal with climate warming. Now it’s time for local action that will trickle up rather than down. Perhaps North Carolina and its coastal communities will help lead the way.

Florida is one of most vulnerable areas, with $7T in real estate along the beach lying in harm’s way and with climate-enhanced red tide becoming more of a real problem. Florida has the opportunity to lead the climate adaptation movement for local and regional mitigation of the additional climate changes sure to come in the next decades.

Herein lies a series of opportunities for local and regional coordination through a new center in the Sarasota-Manatee area that can take developing climate science and tailor it for decision makers in state, regional, and local governments. Billions of dollars already being spent can be better utilized for the formation of effective, coordinated, and enduring adaptive solutions.

Also, because the adaptation to climate warming is one of the most important issues of our time, the situation is ripe for entrepreneurs who want to stop talking and start doing! I predict that new business development in this area will create an economic boom for those who can seize the opportunity!

Sarasota -Manatee is ground zero for climate impacts from rising sea levels, explosive hurricane development, and red tide. Because it is, it can be a hub that helps Florida, the region, and local levels to create a platform for academia, government, and the private sector to foster mitigation and adaptation as well as to catalyze economic opportunities that mitigation will surely spark.

Florida and the Sarasota-Manatee area have the expertise, financial resources, and leadership to help broker a more effective approach to dealing with climate-change impacts. It’s time to take the abundant resources we have available and organize them, much as Steve Jobs and company did when they reinvented the phone with the iPhone. They took the pieces that we all use in our daily lives, from music to calendars and from news to maps, and handed them back to us in the form of an “on the go” platform that integrated what already existed into a truly transformative device. That example provides the inspiration that we can do it, too; but this time we are challenged to creatively adapt to deal with an issue that will fundamentally impact all our lives. Stay tuned!

We thank Bob for allowing us to publish his work: Bob Bunting – atmospheric scientist, author, educator, and entrepreneur.


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January 25th & Gary Shilling

Gary Shilling is an icon of our finance industry. His monthly missive is priceless. Fred Rossi edits and researches. The work product is extraordinary. We thank them for permission to share the December monthly in full. The trigger for our request was their thorough examination of the climate-change debate and the coincident timing, as registration is now open for the January 25th GIC-USFSM conference, Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities, to be held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
 
Here is a link to the conference presentations lineup: http://usfsm.edu/climate
 
The conference is fully sponsored, so the registration cost is only 50 bucks to cover lunch and direct costs. Issues such as red tide, hurricane intensity, and rising sea levels are among those to be examined. The purpose of the conference is not to find fault; instead, it is to discuss what to do now and tomorrow and next week and next month.
 
Please take a look at the excellent data assembled by Gary and Fred, starting on page 31 of Gary Shilling’s Insight for December, available here as a PDF file: https://cumber.com/pdf/A.-Gary-Shilling’s-INSIGHT-December-2018-(Climate-Change-A-Look-From-Both-Sides).pdf – page=31.
 
Also look at the latest official US report on climate change, released by the Trump administration on the day after Thanksgiving: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/.  
 
Another valuable source of reliable analysis of climate change comes from the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics of the University of Chicago. Their working paper 2018-51 is entitled “Valuing the Global Mortality Consequences of Climate Change Accounting for Adaptation Costs and Benefits” (August 2018). It’s available here: https://bfi.uchicago.edu/Greenstone-WP-201851.
 
We hope that you will join us at the USFSM auditorium on January 25 for the conference. Please forward this message to anyone who might be interested in this subject.

GIC & USFSM - Adapting to a Changing Climate - Challenges & Opportunities




Climate Change Resources

Cumberland Advisors is a sponsor of the upcoming USF-GIC event,

“Adapting to a Changing Climate: Global to Local Impact”

GIC & USFSM - Adapting to a Changing Climate - Challenges & OpportunitiesClimate Change Resources

Cumberland Advisors, the Global Interdependence Center, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the Science and Environment Council and Atlas Insurance are the primary sponsors in this event that will feature Bob Bunting among other luminaries invited for this very important discussion.

In this post you’ll find a compilation of resources that can be referenced as part of the ongoing conversation on climate change and its impact.

Event links

USFSM Website & Event Registration: http://usfsm.edu/climate

Flyer for event:

(Long URL) https://www.cumber.com/pdf/USFSM-GIC-January-25-2019-Agenda-for-Adapting-to-a-Changing-Climate-Global-to-Local-Impact.pdf

(Short URL) https://buff.ly/2QqOQY9

Cumberland Advisors Commentaries

123

Research

Red Tide Current Status: http://myfwc.com/redtidestatus

NASA Climate Change Resources: https://climate.nasa.gov/resources/

Press Releases

123

Press Coverage

Sarasota Magazine – Climate Change Conference Set for Jan. 25.




Climate Change Conference Set for Jan. 25

Excerpt of Sarasota Magazine’s…

Climate Change Conference Set for Jan. 25

Topics will include the implication of rising sea levels for Florida, the effect of climate change on hurricanes, whether climate change worsens red tide and more.

By Staff 12/4/2018 at 10:37am

Cumberland Advisors, the Global Interdependence Center, the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, the Science and Environment Council and Atlas Insurance are organizing a conference that will examine “Adapting to a Changing Climate.” The featured speaker will be Bob Bunting…

Read full article at Sarasota Magazine.




January 25th and California Fires

The January 25th GIC-USFSM conference on adaptive climate change, Adapting to a Changing Climate: Challenges & Opportunities, to be held at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, includes discussion of fires as well as hurricanes. Here is a recent Bloomberg story for reference: “What Wildfires and Hurricanes Mean for the Global Economy” (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-11-22/what-wildfires-and-hurricanes-mean-for-the-global-economy).

2018 has been a horrible and murderous year for fires. We all know that. The issue for climate change deniers and for climate change believers is whether we can expect normalcy or whether something is different now, requiring adaptive solutions. January 25 will focus on that question.

Cumberland Advisors is proud to sponsor this conversation, which presents skilled professionals in a transparent and independent forum. Attendance costs only $50 to cover lunch (registration here).

Now we offer a guest commentary about the California fires. We thank our good friend and GIC board colleague Philippa Dunne for sharing her essay with our readers. Philippa is coeditor of three  macroeconomic newsletters – The Liscio Report, which has a trading focus, Sightlines Bulletin, which offers “concise data-driven monthly analyses of the direction of the American economy,” for professionals and academics, and TLR Wire, frequent, short notes and graphs on important aspects of fresh data missed by the mainstream intended for all readers You can learn more about both and subscribe at http://www.tlranalytics.com.

California Fires, by Philippa Dunne

Two differences jump out when we attend conferences with a higher percentage of speakers who were not born in the US, but may teach here, and we share these now as observations, not criticism. There is considerably more concern voiced about the effects of market concentration and pricing power, which we have outlined; and there is a general sense that US citizens, perhaps especially those in the financial markets, are not accurately anticipating the market impacts when, say, lawsuits and insurance claims caused by extreme weather start rolling in at an ever faster pace.

I grew up in Malibu, where fires were a central part of my childhood.

Every fire has its own unforgettable personality. One marches as a belligerent wall, missing little in its path to the shore; one changes its mind at the last minute, trapping the fire crews and their equipment on the wrong side of the column; and some, like the recent Woolsey fire, flame seemingly in all directions, pouncing on areas the size of football fields in a second.

And they all have different ways of introducing themselves. Sometimes a bunch of tumbleweeds thud into the house: the Santa Ana wind. Sometimes sirens race up the highway; by the time I was five, I could tell which canyon they turned into; and sometimes I would first see reflected flames flickering in my window. Then it’s grab all the animals and your toothbrush, unlock all the doors and gates for the firemen, kiss the ground by your bedroom door with hope, and head for the Georgian Hotel in town. From our rooms there we would stay up all night, looking out across the bay as the unspeakably beautiful flames winged up and down the mountains, seemingly in silence although we knew they were panting.

Firefighting is a male-dominated field. The first female firefighter in this country was Molly Williams, Volunteer #11, a slave owned by a New York City merchant. There have been all-female forest crews since the 1920s, but in the US only 2% of firefighters are women. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti promised that by 2020, 5% of the LAFD will be women; currently that’s 3.5%. I’m not being sexist when I refer to my wonderful childhood heroes as men.

An owl lands on the beach; a coyote limps on singed foot pads, showing no interest in a fleeing rabbit. A firefighter staggers in the wind.

The fires have always been unpredictable and terrifying, but they have moved into a new dimension. The Paradise fire has set records, but the recent Woolsey fire that flew to the beach in west Malibu, bad as it was, isn’t up to today’s standards. In 1970, the Santa Ana, blowing at 80 miles an hour and gusting to twice that, drove a 30-mile wall of fire from Newhall to Malibu. First we heard it mentioned on the news, and then it was barreling over the mountain so quickly that we barely had time to load up the animals. It did take out the Spahn Ranch, where Charlie Manson and his crew lived (no comment), but also the iconic Serra Retreat, a real loss. That fire was a record-setter then, but it isn’t even in the top twenty these days.

I recently visited friends in Santa Barbara and finally saw firsthand the incomprehensible destruction in the path of the fire and floods of last year. One friend, a real estate agent in Montecito, one of the most idyllic places on earth, said that he is having a tough time determining if business is slow because of interest rates or because buyers are afraid to invest in multi-million-dollar properties threatened by fires and rushing mud. We drove through the slide area: Geologists are still calculating how much the mud (A Look Inside the Montecito Disaster Probe), the consistency of honey and traveling at up to 27 miles an hour, was needed to launch “giant boulders” down the washes.

Thank you, always, to the fire crews, both the pros and the inmate volunteers making $2 a day (and $1 an hour when they are fighting active fires) – may many more go on to join Cal Fire; to the California Highway Patrol – you haven’t lived until a CHP yells at you to “gun it” in order to get over a smoldering divider; and to the migrant farmers who kept working in the fields through the smoke.

My job during the fires was always to drag panicked horses out of their stalls and onto the beach. They really do run back into burning barns. To give you an idea what it’s like, during the Newhall-Malibu fire I was pulling a mare across the sand when I noticed I was stumbling inexplicably, or so I thought. I looked down at my foot, now in slow motion, which was sitting on a board. I picked up my foot and the board came with it, held by a large nail that I couldn’t feel. A stranger ran over, said “It’s okay to scream,” pulled the board off, and raced me across the sand to the vet’s office. I got a tetanus shot and no other treatment. There was no time for that. And mine was just an ordinary fire experience.

No horses were lost in that canyon, but we feel a bit like those horses right now. We’re not a political newsletter, and this is one of the most divisive topics in our country right now. Voicing these opinions could lose subscribers, but we are willing to take that risk. We all have different opinions and want to hear yours.

The optimistic approach is the one that takes steps to slow the climate changes that produce increasingly heavy weather and the historic droughts that make devastating fires more likely. Stephen Pekar, who runs the paleoclimate research lab at the City University of New York, among his many other activities, notes that climate changes are now taking place between 100 and 1000 times faster than they have in the past. To get to the point of taking steps to curb climate change, we have to change the conversation. The risk is asymmetrical – didn’t that Schopenhauer guy have something to say about that? While it’s true that there have always been dramatic shifts in climate, the drivers of those shifts can be measured, and they do not fully account for what we are seeing. We all need to know what the cores drawn from the Greenland ice sheet are telling us. That key research is beautifully chronicled in Richard Alley’s Two-Mile Time Machine (https://www.amazon.com/Two-Mile-Time-Machine-Abrupt-Climate/dp/0691102961). Otherwise we have only opinions.

There are tremendous opportunities in the renewable energy sector, jobs that would help balance the increasingly unequal opportunities available to our working classes. For renewable sources to really take off, we’d have to drop subsidies for the fossil-fuel producers and let the markets work. When the mechanization of our farms sent farm work tumbling from something like 30% of the workforce to the current 1–3%, depending on how you jigger the numbers, the transition was largely enabled by the war effort. Workers were moved from the farms into the factories, and much of what they made was battle-related. Had they been left in the rural areas to fend for themselves, as so many of our machinists have been, what would have happened? Of course, we’d advocate for a green-energy rebuild and retrofitting, not more weaponry, and the tools are ready at hand.

Frank Nutter, head of the Reinsurance Association of America, told writer Eugene Linden a quarter of a century ago that “global warming could bankrupt the [reinsurance] industry.” Linden also points out that while the Insurance Information Institute was singling out Florida as having the greatest exposure to the combined effects of a changing climate, Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio went on record to dismiss the threat.

Cargill’s Gregory Page agreed to be on the board of bipartisan Risky Business, which aims to put a price on all of this. You can tell he doesn’t like being there, and good for him for stepping up. He did say he was willing to do so only because the outfit aims to document risks, not look for solutions. Whatever, but he did add that in agriculture the “threat of long-term weather-pattern changes cannot be ignored.”

The IMF produced a 2015 report (https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2015/09/28/04/53/sonew070215a) showing that around the world fossil fuel subsidies amount to $5.3 trillion, or 6.5% of world GDP. Climate-minded economists reckon it would take 1% of world GDP to devise and implement remediation. But that $5.3T amounted to more than total health spending of all the world’s governments at the time. Apparently, the IMF rechecked their work when they saw their results, and we rechecked ours. (Read that again if you need to.)

Around the world we’re using big tax dollars to support a backward-looking sector, making it harder to implement programs tailor-made to get us beyond stagnant wage growth of our middle classes. Although fossil fuel operations lift wages in a slim tranche of well-paid workers, they are not engines of job creation. Green projects, whether they be high-tech explorations or muscle-power retrofits, create jobs that pay well, and retrofits are labor-intensive. They also offset municipal costs for heating and cooling, and cutting back on the time we spend stuck in traffic jams would raise productivity. There’s a lot more data; but as long as people see climate change as an ideological battle, data do not help much. We’ll be happy to send links; just email Philippa: philippa@panix.com

Cue in the creative destruction of a true market economy.


Here is the link to the latest US government report on climate change. We recommend perusal with and open mind and a willingness to alter views: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States, https://nca2018.globalchange.gov.

For more information on how to join us in this important conversation at the January 25th GIC-USFSM conference, please visit www.usfsm.edu/climate.

GIC & USFSM - Adapting to a Changing Climate - Challenges & Opportunities
 

David R. Kotok
Chairman and Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio


Links to other websites or electronic media controlled or offered by Third-Parties (non-affiliates of Cumberland Advisors) are provided only as a reference and courtesy to our users. Cumberland Advisors has no control over such websites, does not recommend or endorse any opinions, ideas, products, information, or content of such sites, and makes no warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of their content. Cumberland Advisors hereby disclaims liability for any information, materials, products or services posted or offered at any of the Third-Party websites. The Third-Party may have a privacy and/or security policy different from that of Cumberland Advisors. Therefore, please refer to the specific privacy and security policies of the Third-Party when accessing their websites.

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Cumberland Advisors Market Commentaries offer insights and analysis on upcoming, important economic issues that potentially impact global financial markets. Our team shares their thinking on global economic developments, market news and other factors that often influence investment opportunities and strategies.