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

18 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Jeroen Weimar , head of Victoria’s pandemic modelling team that got us through the big one last year , said today that there is no way NSW will get out of this with the settings as they currently are. Unfortunately NSW s self made problem may well become a national one.

  2. The techbro case for climate optimism

    I’ve just started in on Kim Stanley Robinson’s blockbuster SF novel, The Ministry of the Future, on near-future climate change. Buy it or read the many posts at CT. It’s full of ideas and will take a while to digest. This is about something else.

    The novel is about climate politics and policy. If these are the story, it’s largely one of failure to date, and the future will be both grim and exciting. But what if technology comes to the rescue and saves us in spite of out inept politics? Unlike some others here, I don’t think this is a stupid question. So here goes with the best case for tech optimism, to see how far it can take us. {Spoiler: part-way.)

    It can be summed up in this chart. I’ve used a log scale in which exponential growth becomes a boring straight line. “Renewables” here is just a composite of wind and PV solar, with a global joint CAGR of 18.0% over the last decade. Primary energy demand has been growing at 1.35%. The trendlnes intersect in 2045. at which point all energy is renewable and GHG emissions from energy hit zero.

    Spreadsheet with data, calculations and sources:

    There are any number of technical qualifications you need to make before taking this seriously as a forecast. They include:
    – Real adoption curves have an S-shape, and growth slows as you reach the most difficult last 10%, 5%, and 1%.
    – Lumping wind and solar together downplays the faster growth of solar, which will come to dominate the mix.
    – Massive electrification greatly raises efficiency, notably in generation and transport Jacobson estimates that the transition can offer the same energy services (= lifestyle) with roughly half the primary energy. This brings forward the crossing point on my chart to 2040.
    – The scenario plausibly assumes that growth in wind and solar will not be significantly constrained by raw materials, land use or firming by storage, and that the few remaining technical challenges to zero-carbon (aviation, cement) will be solved. Otherwise it is conservative on innovation. There were few big changes in the last decade – floating wind, hydrogen DRI and V2G are about it – and the projection assumes this slow progress will continue. Any technical surprises are likely to be nice ones (I’m hoping for a breakthrough in geothermal).

    I can’t see any real killer risks on the technical side. Does the wider political economy generate hidden headwinds that can threaten continued growth in renewables? Fossil lobbyists will try but fail to stop it by policy or media capture. Apart from a few temporary local victories, for instance in Spain, Ohio and Mexico, they couldn’t do this in the 2010s when they were much stronger and their renewables opponents weaker: look at stock market valuations, bank lending, insurance, activism and above all, relative prices. Why should things swing in favour of fossil fuels now?

    Stepping back for a longer view, renewables have just lived through a turbulent decade, with any number of shocks – the aftermath of the GFC, the sudden withdrawal of subsidies in Germany and China, and finally the covid pandemic. They finished in a far stronger position than when they started. In 2010 they were still dependent on fragile subsidies in a few pioneer markets; now they are cheaper unsubsidised than new fossil generation nearly everywhere, and often cheaper than existing fossil generation. The gap can only widen.

    The unknowns make it very unlikely that the specific crossover date will be 2045. None of them refute the pretty solid qualitative proposition: on current trends, renewables will replace fossil fuels well before 2050, without dramatic changes in policy.

    So all is well, and the politics of gesture denialism (Morrison, Obrador, Trump, Manchin) are harmless? Not quite.

    The first big problem is that the trend is too slow. On my exponential trendline, three-quarters of the new renewables capacity is installed after 2035. (The non-log chart in the spreadsheet brings this out). We can’t afford to wait that long, for two compelling reasons. First, the climate we have today (a bit over +1 deg C) is already too dangerous, with heatwaves, wildfires, floods, melting ice-sheets, hurricanes on steroids and dying corals. Another half-degree will be intolerable. Second, such regular scenarios, however nasty, are actually the best case. He worst case is triggering positive feedback loops and hitting irreversible tipping points, killing billions. These nightmares make no difference to what we have to do, but they strongly point to doing it fast and not worrying about fine detail of cost-benefit ratios.

    The IEA’s 1.5 degree Sustainable Development Scenario calls for a doubling of investment on renewables, starting just about now. It’s running at ca. $300bn a year (leaving out cars, batteries, and hydrogen), so this needs to go to $600bn. Total energy investment is running at $1.5 trn a year (IEA), so this is mostly a shift not a net increase. Jacobson thinks an 80% green energy supply is possible by 2030.

    The second big problem is that of carbon removal. Very large-scale carbon removal for decades will be essential given the unacceptability of 1.5 degrees – and there is no way capitalist firms can deliver it without a negative carbon price. We may get lucky here: the dying fossil fuels industry is lobbying for this as a way of financing hopeless CCS bolt-ons to existing fossil-fuel plants, which don’t work but give bipartisan cover to sound policy.

    So there is still a need for policy, politics, and stirring novels about them. Technology will help us a lot, though it’s not enough. It gives us a lifebuoy, but human hands have to reel it in. The remaining challenge for policy is mundane and feasible, as Joe Biden and the EU are showing – though the pressure for greater ambition has to be kept up. The targets that matter are those for 2025, 2030, and 2035. Get these right, and 2050 will take care of itself.

  3. James, thanks for ” The techbro case for climate optimism”. Just right for teenagers final assignment this year.

    Vigilance for “triggering positive feedback loops and hitting irreversible tipping points, ”

    Is any one done a solid projection if such occurs?

  4. Angst inducing Covid Mutations Tracker – “Mutation and case prevalence over time in United States”.(^1.)

    And “Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants and Impact in Global Vaccination Programs against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19” below;(^2.)

    – “of AZD1222 (AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine) in South Africa did not show protection against mild to moderate COVID-19 due to B.1.351 variant” … 

    – “who received Moderna (mRNA-1273) or Pfizer (BNT162b2) vaccines reported a reduced activity against the SARS-CoV-2 variants that contain the E484K or the N501Y mutations or the K417N:E484K:N501Y combination”.
    So… jabs forever.

    No need of gain of function by researchers, as virus is mutating and gaining – on us.

    Compare “Characteristic S-gene mutations in common lineages over the last 60 days” of Australia & USA. As usual,  the USA is exceptional. Looks like more mutations will appear as USA has so many more lineages than Australia, albeit with our dominent strain and small dataset – as yet. And this is just one comparison.

    Here is ^1.
    “Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Mutation Report”

    Updated 9h ago
    2142 sequences

    Sydney strains %: 
    – B.1.617.2 (92%) – Delta
    – B.1.1.7 (6%)
    – Other (2%)

    Whereas the USA strains %:
    B.1.1.7 (54%)
    B.1.617.2 (20%) – Delta
    P.1 (11%)
    B.1.526 (8%)
    Other (7%) –
    AY.2 (1%)
    Note:  “Lineages without daily prevalence > 3% on at least 5 days in the last 60 are grouped into Other”.
    In other words USA has 4 strains circulating > 3% with another 14 strains 3% on at least 5 days in the last 60 are grouped into “Other”
    – Other
    – B.1.1.7
    – B.1.617.2
    – P.1
    – B.1.526
    – AY.2

    Lineage prevalence over time

    Common lineages

    Characteristic S-gene mutations in common lineages over the last 60 days

    Mutations in at least 75% of global sequences (read more)
    View all genes

    Tracked lineages over time in United States
    Estimates are biased by sampling (read more)
    B.1.1.7 + S:E484K

    “Mutation and case prevalence over time in United States”

    Start page:

    Can’t find at time, a conversation chart from b117 to greek alphabet names ala Delta. WHO has one; 

    **** End ^1. ****

    Ikonoclast et al, after seeing above, do you not want scientists to do function gain to get ready? Aren’t vaccines a ‘gain of function’ anyway? 

    Below in “Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants and Impact in Global Vaccination Programs against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19” 

    … “Since all the vaccines that have been administered worldwide are focused on the spike protein, which accumulates high rate of mutations during viral evolution, as evidenced in the genome sequences from the new emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, it is imperative to evaluate the impact of those mutations on the actual efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.”

    “Emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants and Impact in Global Vaccination Programs against SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19

    Publushed March 2021

    …” In this review, we describe the different SARS-CoV-2 variants that have thus far been identified in various parts of the world with mutational changes and biological properties as well as their impact in medical countermeasures and human health.”…

    …”The changes observed in the viral mutation rate during the course of the pandemic indicate a tendency towards a rapid antigenic variation

    …” 76 vaccine candidates based on several different platforms are being currently evaluated in human clinical trials, while 182 candidates are under investigation in preclinical models. 

    …” Since all the vaccines that have been administered worldwide are focused on the spike protein, which accumulates high rate of mutations during viral evolution, as evidenced in the genome sequences from the new emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, it is imperative to evaluate the impact of those mutations on the actual efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.

    2.1. B.1.1.7 (VOC 202012/01 or 20B/501Y.V1) Variant

    …” Compared to ancestral viruses containing the D614G mutation, the B.1.1.7 variant has accumulated 23 mutations, and it is not phylogenetically related to the viruses circulating in the UK when it was detected. Of these mutations, 14 are non-synonymous:

    …” Finally, a new study assaying the antibody responses and memory B cells in volunteers who received Moderna (mRNA-1273) or Pfizer (BNT162b2) vaccines reported a reduced activity against the SARS-CoV-2 variants that contain the E484K or the N501Y mutations or the K417N:E484K:N501Y combination [31]. Overall, these data reflect a more pronounced decrease in the efficacy of antibody-based vaccines and therapies against this variant.”…

    “Finally, a clinical trial evaluating two-dose regimen of AZD1222 (AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine) in South Africa did not show protection against mild to moderate COVID-19 due to B.1.351 variant “…
    2.3. P.1 (B. Variant
    ….” and was isolated from four travelers who arrived in Tokyo from Amazonas, Brazil, on 2 January 2021 at airport control. P.1 variant was later identified in Brazil, where it has become the dominant circulating virus [37]. The rapid increase in the number of hospital admissions by COVID-19 in January 2021 (six-fold higher than the number reported in December) [38] is unexpected and worrying considering that this city reached 76% seroprevalence during the summer wave [39].
    “One of the most worrying mutations in terms of immune evasion is the E484K, which is shared by the P.1 and the B.1.351 variants.”
    “The efficacy of serum neutralization against the virus carrying the E484K mutation was reduced in both vaccination samples and convalescent sera. However, sera with high anti-S IgG titers were still able to neutralize the virus with the mutation, indicating that it is important to induce the highest possible levels of specific antibodies through vaccination to improve protection against emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2 [41].”

    3. Other Variants of Interest
    …”As clinical outcomes have yet to be established, the functional effect of CAL.20C variant regarding infectivity and disease severity remains uncertain.”…

    “The most common sets of spike mutations in B.1.526 are L5F, T95I, D253G, and E484K or S477N, D614G, and A701V. This lineage appeared in late November 2020, and it accounts for ~5% of coronavirus genomes sequenced and was deposited in Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) during late January 2021 [49]. ”

    “5. Defining SARS-CoV-2 Variants More Resistant to Vaccine Action

    “These new vaccines modified in their specific platforms would entail additional costs and could in turn lead to more resistant variants with additional mutations due to selective pressure from the immune system. We hope this does not occur, but we must remain vigilant about the evolution.”

    6. Concluding Remarks
    “The virus tries to counteract the host response, giving rise to mutations. Within a year since the virus first appeared in China and its rapid spread, we are confronted with the emergence of variants of concern in different parts of the world. The main characteristics are higher binding affinity for the cellular ACE-2 receptor than the parental Wuhan virus, the enhanced resistance to neutralizing antibodies, and increased virulence.

    “It will be only through the detailed understanding of the virus structure, biology, and vaccine developments that we can finally achieve the control of SARS-CoV-2 infections.”

    Vaccines (Basel). 2021 Mar; 9(3): 243.
    Published online 2021 Mar 11.doi: 10.3390/vaccines9030243

    Carmen Elena Gómez, Beatriz Perdiguero, and Mariano Esteban!po=37.2000
    *** End ^2. ****

    Cheery wrap! I need to remain positive.

    Plenty of Covid mutation identifiers, which looks like we will need;
    “The uppercase and lowercase forms of the twenty-four letters are: Α α, Β β, Γ γ, Δ δ, Ε ε,Ζ ζ, Η η, Θ θ, Ι ι, Κ κ, Λ λ, Μ μ, Ν ν, Ξ ξ, Ο ο, Ππ, Ρ ρ, Σ σ ς, Τ τ, Υ υ, Φ φ, Χ χ, Ψ ψ, and Ω ω.

    10,000 words from Rowe, in fine form.
    – NSW outbreak, EURO 2020, grim reaper & defenders Scomo & Josh.
    – Glady’s the goal keeper does not inspire confidence.

  5. My vaccine appointment booking returned “Location not found” – on my Android device. Hmmm. Went and tried Apple device.

    JQ just published
    “One failure too many”
    … and said “Unfortunately, the chances of getting R below 1 with voluntary vaccination alone are negligible.”

    Another failure too many.

    NSW Health Covid eligibility prerequisite questions, then taken to bookings  page.
    Booking page asked… “Input postcode” via dropdown menu. Selected postcode & Suburb.

    Returned ” Location not found”.

    Checked cookies etc, refreshed and still returned “Location not found”.

    Hmmmm…. my reaction was unusual. Zero reaction. I just took screenshot. And got another phone, an iPhone. 

    Page returned map & vaccine centres on Apple device.

    But town where jab probably administered – Goulburn – has had 2 x positives. Lucky humans are still in the loop as I will be talking now not clicking.

    This vaccine rollout is not a rolling stone.

  6. A crypto kick for NO!
    More in thread by;

    “Jackson Palmer

    “”I am often asked if I will “return to cryptocurrency” or begin regularly sharing my thoughts on the topic again. My answer is a wholehearted “no”, but to avoid repeating myself I figure it might be worthwhile briefly explaining why here

    “After years of studying it, I believe that cryptocurrency is an inherently right-wing, hyper-capitalistic technology built primarily to amplify the wealth of its proponents through a combination of tax avoidance, diminished regulatory oversight and artificially enforced scarcity.”

  7. New climate tipping point.
    ” The researchers uncovered these tipping points in flood numbers by studying 89 tide gauge locations in every coastal U.S. state and territory but Alaska. They created a new statistical framework …”

    NASA & Hawaii Uni say in: “Brief: In the mid-2030s, every U.S. coast will experience rapidly increasing high-tide floods, when a lunar cycle will amplify rising sea levels caused by climate change.”

    “Study Projects a Surge in Coastal Flooding, Starting in 2030s

    ..” the new study shows that high tides will exceed known flooding thresholds around the country more often. What’s more, the floods will sometimes occur in clusters lasting a month or longer, depending on the positions of the Moon, Earth, and the Sun. When the Moon and Earth line up in specific ways with each other and the Sun, the resulting gravitational pull and the ocean’s corresponding response may leave city dwellers coping with floods every day or two.”…

    “In half of the Moon’s 18.6-year cycle, Earth’s regular daily tides are suppressed: High tides are lower than normal, and low tides are higher than normal. In the other half of the cycle, tides are amplified: High tides get higher, and low tides get lower. Global sea level rise pushes high tides in only one direction – higher. So half of the 18.6-year lunar cycle counteracts the effect of sea level rise on high tides, and the other half increases the effect.”


    3.4 (± 0.4) mm/yr

  8. KT2: I’m not sure I understand what a “tipping point” is – will any maximum, minimum or point of inflection do, or does the curve have to be discontinuous? – bu I’m pretty sure tides don’t have them: a completely predictable and stable Newtonian physical system, entirely outside human control. No doubt the forthcoming IPCC report will provide an authoritative definition.

    Talking of floods, the Florida condo collapse is not encouraging for the long-term survival of Miami with a higher sea level. It’s built on porous limestone, so water will find its level by osmosis in spite of any sea wall. One solution touted is to become a Venice, abandoning basements and getting round in boats. But Venice is built on thousand-year-old rotproof wood plies sunk into mud. At a pinch Venetians can just abandon the current ground floors and move up a storey. Miami’s buildings are constructed, to standards we are just discovering, with concrete reinforced with mild steel rebar, which seawater (rising and falling with the tides) will find and destroy.

  9. Not just osmosis. Plain old surge and flow. Myriads of sink holes and subterranean streams of Florida’s limestone khast flow and open to sea caves. Florida is a goner. Fifty percent of the state is currently less than 6 ft. above sea level… but not for very much longer.

  10. Why are removalist teams even operating?
    How are they an essential service? Who hasn’t had to have furniture in storage, or to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive?

    Some very strange choices have been made, with respect to what to bother with…

    Delta variant ain’t no joke.

  11. James Wimberley: – “I’m not sure I understand what a “tipping point” is – will any maximum, minimum or point of inflection do, or does the curve have to be discontinuous?”

    From CarbonBrief, dated 10 Feb 2020:

    “These “tipping points” are thresholds where a tiny change could push a system into a completely new state.”

    Tipping points are abrupt changes into a new state, that once initiated are very difficult to reverse.

    See also “Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”, PNAS.
    Including Figure 2:

  12. Re. Tipping points.

    Place a glass on the edge of a table. Tip it a little. Watch it right itself. Tip it again, further and slowly, until it tumbles off the edge of the table and smashes on the floor. Voila! You understand a tipping point.

    It doesn’t necessarily have to do with a maximum, minimum or point of inflection or a discontinuous curve. It has to do with positive feed-backs. Even in the glass example, the glass’s moment of inertia works against the force of your finger tending to right the glass… until the glass is pushed over its own tipping point (not the edge of the table) and this moment of intertia then begins to work in the same direction (has one vector component the same) as the push of your finger, Then the glass keeps tipping even if you desist from pushing it.

    Earth systems are much the same essentially. We force them out of “kilter” (present stable system state) and they tend back to balance. However, force them too far and new feed-back forces arise which accelerate the forcing and push the system “over the edge” to new state (say much more frequent extreme events and higher temperatures) . The new state (in the case of climate heating) has more energy is likely to be a much less stable system, suffering larger gyrations and extreme events.

    Humanity has already pushed the earth system past many of its tipping points. For example, the Amazon forest now emits more CO2 than it absorbs. Tundra emissions of CO2 and CH4 are accelerating. We have already started serious feedback loops. Even if we stopped all human emissions tomorrow, the climate would heat and de-stabilize for further centuries and very likely millennia. We are already past the point of no return. Our civilization is the glass in free-fall. We have to turn the glass into a wooden beaker during the free-fall (so it is not so fragile), hope it bounces the right way on impact, then hope it lands upright with some contents remaining. Those are about our chances.

  13. This morning on ABC Insiders, David Speers asked Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce if he will support net zero emissions by 2050.

    Barnaby Joyce: “Generally how restaurants work is you go in and you get a menu, and they’ve got what’s on the menu for lunch and what the price is…”

    “Our approach is we want to see exactly what’s involved, and we want to see exactly what the cost is. I think that is the rational process of how you go about anything…”

    What’s the ‘menu’ price for humanity and human civilisation NOT drastically reducing our GHG emissions ASAP, Barnaby?

    We are already seeing the prelude for a more hostile planet for humanity and human civilisation – see the BBC’s Ros Atkins tweet:

    “The heatwaves in North America are being explictly linked with climate change. And scientists worry they show that climate change may be more severe than predicted and that the current global response may not be enough.”

    When damages from NOT MITIGATING the climate crisis are beyond calculation – that is when the damages are infinite, which is what we are facing – then cost-benefit analysis, conventional risk analysis, and learning from failure, are approaches which do not work.

  14. Geoff M, quotes Barnaby Joyce:
    “Generally how restaurants work is you go in and you get a menu, and they’ve got what’s on the menu for lunch and what the price is…”

    “Our approach is we want to see exactly what’s involved, and we want to see exactly what the cost is. I think that is the rational process of how you go about anything…”

    Geoff, I think Barnaby equating futures & cost of action on global heating to a restuarant menu is just another delaying tactic of a closet denier.

    Nothing in his mind to do with as you say “What’s the ‘menu’ price for humanity and human civilisation NOT drastically reducing our GHG emissions ASAP, Barnaby?”

    That is not the trade of Barnaby has in mind. His trade off is simple -FUD –
    the climate deniers fave legal reps…
    Fear Uncertainty & Doubt Inc.

    And never will they ask the counterfactual as sensible people do “When damages from NOT MITIGATING the climate crisis …”.

    Tomorrow, re tipping elements, points & sea level;
    …” 7. The detailed knowledge of these cycles which are based on the Metonic meteorological cycle (19 years) and of the way they evolve is very important in the elaboration of long-term forecasts (more than 10 days).”


  15. Climate Change costings have been done by Melbourne University. Action = $122Billion. Inaction = $1.19Trillion.

    That looks like a ‘menu’ price to me, Barnaby.

    U.S. National Academy of Sciences member and climate/water scientist, Peter Gleick, tweeted on Jul 17:

    “Seriously, if you’re still denying human-caused climate change and the role of greenhouse gases, you’re a danger to society and all future generations.”

    When are voters going to wake up to the dangers climate science deniers in parliaments are to the futures of society, people and their children/grandchildren and not vote for them or support them any more?

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