Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

13 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Quiggin Purple Air comment

    The latest WHO estimate of annual excess deaths globally from ambient air pollution (cars, trucks, poer stations) is 4.2 million, not counting a similar number from indoor air pollution from burning biomass and kerosene. What can we do about this? Activism for better policy, switching to an electric car, bike, and hob. There is also one cheap and geeky contribution: better data.

    My networked particulate air pollution sensor from PurpleAir is up and running. World map here, search east of Malaga for “Caleta de Velez”. It’s crowdsourced science: the idea is to complement the official network of high-precision but expensive and therefore sparse testing stations with an army of less precise ones, generating masses of fine-grained data for analysis as well as a DIY early warning system. If you live in a poorly covered area, consider joining in. The sensor costs $250, is straightforward to set up, and runs without attention. If you are by any chance a pollution researcher or meteorologist with a discretionary budget, consider putting a few cheap Purple Air sensors on remote sites – crowdsourcing does not work where there aren’t any people. All you need is a power supply, Internet and wifi. You can select different metrics: I picked ther aw PM 2,5 number, as AQIs are relative to standards, which differ and evolve.

    A couple of points of possible general interest. As context for the lowish values here (typical PM2.5 around 5μg/m3) I wondered what the global background level of air pollution is. I looked for sensors in remote places. There’s one in Pitcairn Island, but it’s indoor which makes it useless for the purpose. I did find two: one in a health centre near Sitka in the Alaskan panhandle, another high on Mauna Loa in Hawaii’s Big Island, at a very oddball research outpost for testing Mars rovers and training areonauts on a lava desert, height 2,500 metres. The interesting thing is that the PM 2.5 readings at Sitka are much lower than on pseudo-Mars: last week’s average PM 2.5 of 3 versus 15. (The map does not show periods longer than one week).

    Now why? One would need to rule out local sources on Mauna Loa. Rock dust from the regolith? The particles would surely be bigger. Wind-borne pollution from the coast road far down below? Maybe. But the Occam’s Razor hypothesis is that it’s catching a high-altitude plume from half a billion urban southern Chinese. Follow the winds west from Sitka, and the nearest dense industrial centre is the Siberian Kuzbass, halfway round the world and orders of magnitude smaller anyway.

    Which raises a far more important question about the Keeling curve, the atmospheric CO2 record at the Mauna Loa Observatory. It’s treated as the observational gold standard. But is the sensor catching a uniformly mixed troposphere, or sitting in another CO2 plume from China? Gas and particles are not the same thing, and the observatory is 900 metres higher than the Mars habitat. Still, it’s a fair question. Perhaps the Keeling curve is more like the real gold standard than the metaphorical one: working most of the time, but sometimes misleading and unreliable.

    Second point. Targets are not uniform. The PM units are microgrammes per cubic metre.The EU annual maximum is 25; the WHO recommends an average exposure limit of 10. From a recent WHO report
    (page 6) “All-cause daily mortality is estimated to increase by 0.2–0.6% per 10 μg/m3 of PM10. Long-term exposure to PM2.5 is associated with an increase in the long-term risk of cardiopulmonary mortality by 6–13% per 10 μg/m3 of PM2.5.[…] There is no evidence of a safe level of exposure or a threshold below which no adverse health effects occur. […]
    (page 9) Results [of the Harvard Six Cities study] show associations between chronic exposure to PM2.5 and all-cause, cardiovascular and lung cancer mortality, with health effects seen at any PM concentration”

    So don’t think that a “low” PM 2.5 of 5 is truly safe. Reports like the WHO one may be solidly based on the science, but they lack emotive force. So let me show you more graphic illustrations.

    There’s a sleepy university town in Flanders called Hasselt, with next to no industry and admirably low residential PM2.5 values; for the population studied, of 0.63–2.42 µg per m3. (The mothers probably had higher exposure at work etc.) Pollution nirvana? Not quite. Researchers looked at placentas from live and still births to women residents. Those living on main roads had placental concentrations of black carbon nanoparticles of 20,900 particles per mm3; for side-roads, 9,500 per mm3. Taking a mean volume for a full-term placenta of 428 cc, that would give rough particle counts of 9 billion and 4 billion respectively. You can’t for obvious reasons readily look at the hearts and brains of the formerly attached babies, but they are sure to be full of tiny soot particles too. Don’t tell me this is harmless.

    Another way of giving the dry numbers more impact is to convert the particle density to absolute numbers of particles. This can’t be done in real time, only illustratively. There does not seem to be a standard conversion, but I found an article that does the job for a single sensor station in a suburb of Turin: .

    For a mean PM 2.5 of 35, their total number of particles per cc was 247 (Table 3). With simple arithmetic, this gives the daily count of particles breathed in by an inactive adult as 378 m for PM 2.5 = 5. Quick consistency check with Hasselt: for 280 days of pregnancy, that gives 106 bn particles per mother. The placenta is say 1%-1.5% of the mother’s body mass, so proportionately you would get 1 bn -1.5 bn particles there – the order of magnitude looks OK, given that the placenta is rapidly growing tissue. Spreadsheet with sources supplied to JQ.

    You heard me right the first time. In clean air by today’s standards, you are breathing in a third of a billion soot nanoparticles every day. In Delhi (PM 2.5 often >500), it’s 30 billion a day.

    Footnote for John: a resting adult breathes around 11m3 a day. Intense exercise like a triathlon can increase respiration by a factor of eight. Train hard for an hour and your daily breathing volume could go up by 40%. Running outdoors on suburban roads will further increase particle exposure. The Tour de France, with professional racing cyclists riding at the limit for five hours a day on narrow roads surrounded by media motorbikes and team support cars, is a pollution nightmare. Cortège is the right word: it’s the term for a funeral procession.

  2. James Wimberley,
    Mauna Loa Observatory is one of three Premier Global Baseline Air Pollution Monitoring Stations.

    The Mauna Loa Observatory, at about 3400 metres above sea level, measures atmospheric CO2 levels made by two independent CO2 monitoring programs (NOAA and Scripps). In 1958, Charles David Keeling of Scripps Institution of Oceanography began measuring atmospheric CO2 concentrations – now known as the Keeling Curve. NOAA started its own CO2 measurements in May of 1974, and they have run in parallel with those made by Scripps since then.

    The other Premier Global Baseline Air Pollution Monitoring Stations are:

    * Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station (CGBAPS), located on the NW coast of Tasmania, first began measuring the composition of the atmosphere in April 1976 and has been in continuous operation since that date. CGBAPS is a joint responsibility of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

    * Dr. Neil Trivett Global Atmosphere Watch Observatory, located about 6 km (3.7 mi) south south-west of Alert, Nunavut, on the north-eastern tip of Ellesmere Island, about 800 km (500 mi) south of the geographic North Pole, was established on August 29, 1986. This station is operated by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

    Due to their locations far from industrial activity, these three Premier Global Baseline Air Pollution Monitoring Stations provide the international scientific community with a baseline high resolution “intercomparison” record of atmospheric chemistry.

  3. James Wimberley, thanks…
    1) for reminding me of Purple Air

    2) for scaring the crap out of me because the sensor near me shows yellow – 55+ pm2.5’s [3 x coal mines <40kms – love you not joel] compared to Sydney 10-19. I'll check sensor owner and have alerted a councellor. I won't hold my breath as council will NOT let you call the temporary position environment officer.

    3) sending spreadsheet with sources to JQ.

    The key phase covering all of this:
    (^1.) – "but does not account for exposure variability". Says it all.

    "the WHO recommends an average exposure limit of 10."
    Port Pyrie smelter agreement is average per 3mths. Lead levels are still rising.

    Here is how SA Health dept covers it ('self')…
    "Port Pirie blood lead levels half yearly report 2020 [ as the smelter was shutdown!]
    Monday, 24 August 2020
    …" said the improvements in the first half of 2020 could likely be attributed to the lower average lead-in-air levels in 2019 reported by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA). … As the smelter was shut down for extended periods of time, "… [ making the headline half a headline]

    …" new 12-month interim EPA licence came into effect from 1 July 2020. This licence is intended to provide greater surveillance of emission spikes by introducing a
    * shorter three-month averaging * period for some lead-in-air targets. The annual average lead-in-air limit has also been reduced by 20 per cent in the new EPA licence."

    * With 3 month average, the smelter probably could explode, and they'd still be within 3mth averages of licence!

    Here is the ABC on lead levels in Port Pyrie 3 mths later:
    "Lead levels in Port Pirie toddlers highest since testing began, says SA Health data
    Posted Mon November 2020
    [Cherry pick ]
    "… tested children with blood lead levels above 5 mcg/dL, at which national guidelines require further investigation, also increased in the first nine months of 2020 to nearly 60 per cent, up around 2 per cent on past year."

    Then one month later, making SA Health look like lead apologisers…
    "EPA to investigate as Nyrstar admits Port Pirie smelter will exceed annual lead emissions limit
    Posted December 2020 – abc

    Need I say more about averages. (James, was it you who posted a couple of months back on 'averages' and air force seating?)

    USA says about model: "nationally representative BLLs (0–23% relative error)" and this model averages 30d but 2 day averages tucked into Supplemental data.
    "…and 2-d analysis results are provided in Supplemental Materials for comparison; pros and cons of both are in the Discussion. IEUBK blood Pb estimates do not reflect interindividual behavioral and pharmacokinetic differences; a geometric standard deviation (GSD) of 1.6 is applied to outputs to account for biological variability and measurement error, but does not account for exposure variability (^1.) (Hogan et al. 1998; White et al. 1998). The SHEDS–IEUBK modeling only represents exposure variability; thus, a variability factor is needed to reflect real-world BLLs that also account for biological variability (this term may also account for other sources of variability, such as measurement and/or model error), and this factor is affected by the model averaging time period."

    James W said "So don’t think that a “low” PM 2.5 of 5 is truly safe."

    And no, nor do I. Especially Pb.

    In the spirit of your "lack emotive force" let me show more graphic illustrations. … lead poisoning:
    "The brain is the most sensitive.
    Symptoms may include
    abdominal pain,
    memory problems,
    infertility, and
    tingling in the hands and feet.
    causes almost 10% of intellectual disability … and can result in behavioral problems.
    Some of the effects are permanent.[2] In severe cases anemia, seizures, coma, or death.

    Average days at the regulatory office (bau) is a killer.

  4. Activists Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg et. al. have published an open letter to world leaders, beginning with:

    “You must stop pretending that we can solve the climate- and ecological crisis without treating it as a crisis”

    Further along:

    “Net zero emissions by 2050 for the EU, USA – as well as for other financially fortunate parts of the world – equals surrender. This target is based on a carbon budget that only gives a 50% percent chance of limiting the global heating below 1,5°C. That is just a statistical flip of a coin which doesn’t even include some of the key factors, such as the global aspect of equity, most tipping points and feedback loops, as well as already built in additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution. So in reality it is much less than a 50% chance.”

  5. Book recommendation: Qualityland 2.0 is out so far only in German. That will change soon: Qualityland 2.0, Kiki´s secret
    For those who have missed the first part:
    “Bestseller in Germany, this knockabout dystopia unfolds in the rampantly consumerist state of QualityLand, where mending is outlawed (“To make the markets fly, we just have to buy!”) and citizens are ranked by algorithm, dictating “the intensity with which the police will investigate if one is unlucky enough to be murdered”.”

    “While TheShop is ready to sue over the implication that its analytics aren’t accurate, the story is only a prop for Kling’s satirical world-building. From driverless cars that avoid rundown neighbourhoods to match-making apps that tell users to dump their partners, the novel’s profuse invention suggests the dark clouds behind big tech’s blue-sky thinking. When Peter and his girlfriend, Sandra Admin, discuss having a child, a message from QualityPartner PartnerCare pings up on her glasses: “A new, better partner at a higher level is now available for you. If you would like to connect with him, choose OK now.” Peter’s QualityPad beeps to say his relationship is “unexpectedly terminated. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope to be able to greet you again soon as a QualityPartner customer.”

  6. Geoff Miell : thanks for the reassurance on the Keeling curve. I miss an edit comments function!

  7. James Wimberley,
    CarbonTracker published a YouTube video on 26 Nov 2019 titled “Carbon Dioxide Pumphandle 2019” showing an animation of the history of atmospheric CO2, from 800,000 years ago until January 2019.

    The animation starts at Jan 1979, showing atmospheric CO2 data at the NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory (red curve), South Pole (blue curve), and at other multiple locations around the globe (including Cape Grim), then proceeds through to Jan 2019. Then it adds in the Keeling Curve data (green curve working from 1979 back through to 1958), then works back further, using various Greenland and Antarctica ice core proxy data through to 800,000 years ago.

  8. The Australian Open tennis begins in Melbourne soon .Lots of players had to do a 2 week quarantine ( due to positive cases on their flights ) which seemed a surprise to them . Believing themselves to be self made winners who dont owe anyone anything they complained alot but quickly shut up once they found thats not how we do it here .The event will be beamed around the world and played with half crowds ,nothing like this has happened for a while .Apart from the question of should it have been held in the first place ,I hope that this event will demonstrate to the world how Covid could have been done .People in badly affected countries complain about the crushing feeling of helplessness while we here ,by pulling together and following the rules ,feel empowered .Effective government ,not minimum government ,yields maximum freedom .

  9. I’ve recently had a bit of trouble with one friend and one relative that have fairly mainstream (right wing) views .Normally this isnt a problem for someone like me who can get along with most people ,but these two have inquiring minds and like to talk about it and also sometimes to make pronouncements unprovoked .Both eventually respond badly to having their views frustrated or complicated no matter how mild or unoffensive I try to be. They are both good people so I dont know what the problem with acknowledging my side should be ,I acknowledge the truth of what they say wherever i can .

    I think the problem may be that the mainstream position is now so far right that compromise is too difficult . To go further right would involve celebrating mass misery rather than just saying ‘ thats unfortunate but its unavoidable ‘ . I keep trying to recognise each others good points and truth and then at least aim for a reality somewhere in between. But for them to recognise my position at all would mean that the world needs to change toward it and away from theirs alot – this is unsettling for them . Also there is a widespread view that any step toward equality would result in eventual totalitarianism – that interfering with markets as they currently are sets society and/or the world on a slippery slope to the gulags.

    ” The strongest support of the trend towards socialism comes today from those who claim they want neither capitalism nor socialism but a ‘middle way ‘ ” . To follow them he argued was a sure path to socialism ,and ” socialism as much as fascism or communism inevitably leads into the totalitarian state ” – Frederick Hayek 1979

  10. Chinese coal update
    China claims to have installed 133 GW in new renewable capacity in 2020. The astonishing figure for new wind (+72 GW) has raised a lot of eyebrows, and many analysts suspect this includes partly-completed farms. Still. even if they are not all finished, they soon should be. Now at a modest 25% CF, this equates to annual production of 291 bn Kwh. China’s electricity consumption rose last year by 3.1%. or 230 bn Kwh. New renewables will be similar in 2021.

    Logically, coal burning for electricity should be falling now. It’s possible electricity consumption will rebound and give coal a respite, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If you feel like checking my working, the source numbers are here:

  11. “Our estimates suggest that up to 49 percent of the global economic costs of the pandemic in 2021 are borne by the advanced economies even if they achieve universal vaccination in their own countries.”[1]

    Easy choice – you’d think.
    – Cooperation – less than $40Bn and shared cost
    – ‘Us’ first: – between $1.8 trillion and $3.8Tn – just us tribalists pay

    Two papers so you experts are able to inform me of the economic consequences, as a symptom revealed by the pandemic, not necessarily a consequence of the pandemic.

    JQ how do you decide when parsing social, political, co-op vs hoarding, to reveal economic vs psycho / political / social consequences for pandemic please?

    “Why Rich Countries Should Subsidize Vaccination Around the World

    …”The authors of the study (which was commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce) found that unequal vaccine access among countries will likely lead to a “total cost for the world” between $1.8 trillion and $3.8 trillion, with up to half the losses paid for by wealthier nations. In contrast, the cost of vaccinating one-fifth of the world’s vulnerable population, as the World Health Organization’s covax initiative aims to do, would cost less than forty billion dollars, with expenses decreasing over time.”

    muhammed a. yildirim: “But this is not just two countries; this is happening globally. So, if you treat this disease in advanced countries only, because of the trade relationships, the advanced economies will still be affected tremendously. So that’s the bottom line of the paper. Even without the moral argument, if you’re thinking about this in terms of return on your investment, it makes sense to do this investment of vaccinating other nations.”


    “The Economic Case for Global Vaccinations: An Epidemiological Model with International Production Networks | NBER

    …”We show that the global GDP loss of not inoculating all the countries, relative to a counterfactual of global vaccinations, is higher than the cost of manufacturing and distributing vaccines globally. We use an economic-epidemiological framework that combines a SIR model with international production and trade networks. Based on this framework, we estimate the costs for 65 countries and 35 sectors. Our estimates suggest that up to 49 percent of the global economic costs of the pandemic in 2021 are borne by the advanced economies even if they achieve universal vaccination in their own countries.”

  12. Who knew?! I wonder the gender ratio is if recent GameStop etc traders?

    And dense with 223 References

    “Corporate Governance and the Feminization of Capital

    Between 1900 and 1956, women increased from a small proportion of public company stockholders in the U.S. to the majority. In fact, by the 1929 stock market crash, women stockholders outnumbered men at some of America’s largest and most influential public companies, including AT&T, General Electric, and the Pennsylvania Railroad. This Article makes an original contribution to corporate law, business history, women’s history, socio-economics, and the study of capitalism by synthesizing information from a range of historical sources to reveal a forgotten and overlooked narrative of history, the feminization of capital—the transformation of American public company stockholders from majority-male to majority-female in the first half of the twentieth century, before the rise of institutional investing obscured the gender politics of corporate control. 

    “Corporate law scholarship has never before acknowledged that the early decades of the twentieth century, a transformational era in corporate law and theory, coincided with a major change in the gender of the stockholder class. Scholars have not considered the possibility that the sex of common stockholders, which was being tracked internally at companies, disclosed in annual reports, and publicly reported in the financial press, might have influenced business leaders’ views about corporate organization and governance. This Article considers the implications of this history for some of the most important ideas in corporate law theory, including the “separation of ownership and control,” shareholder “passivity,” stakeholderism, and board representation. It argues that early-twentieth-century gender politics helped shape foundational ideas of corporate governance theory, especially ideas concerning the role of shareholders. Outlining a research agenda where history intersects with corporate law’s most vital present-day problems, the Article lays out the evidence and invites the corporate law discipline to begin a conversation about gender, power, and the evolution of corporate law.”

    52 Pages
    Posted: 8 Dec 2020
    Sarah C. Haan
    Washington and Lee University – School of Law
    Date Written: December 1, 2020

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