If You REALLY Cared about Climate Change … You Would Stop Promoting Solutions which Do More HARM than Good
Like Bush Saying “You’re Either With Us or Against Us”
Waste is a many splendid thing that in all circumstances we attempt to reduce and get rid of, shunning it like a pariah. Well, perhaps almost all circumstances. There are times when waste is just the by-word for government these days. But, are we all equal in the quantity of waste that is generated in our countries’ governments?
For the past few weeks we have seen stock markets surge as macro-economic data has collapsed around the world. The 'excuse' given for this apparent dichotomy - weather. But now it seems "weather" is to blame for other problems in the world too. As Russia Today reports, in its latest Quadrennial Defense Review, the US Department of Defense (DoD), stressed threats to global stability and American hegemony posed by climate change warning that that an erratic climate will likely cause increased “terrorist activity,” among other impacts..."The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world...these effects are threat multipliers."
The promise that each generation will be better off than the last is a fundamental tenet of modern society. By and large, most advanced economies have fulfilled this promise, with living standards rising over recent generations, despite setbacks from wars and financial crises. So far, every prediction in the modern era that mankind's lot will worsen, from Thomas Malthus to Karl Marx, has turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Technological progress has trumped obstacles to economic growth. Periodic political rebalancing, sometimes peaceful, sometimes not, has ensured most people have benefited, albeit some far more than others. But past growth performance is no guarantee that a broadly similar trajectory can be maintained throughout this century.
The last 3 weeks have seen the macro fundamentals of the G-10 major economies collapse at the fastest pace in almost 4 years and almost the biggest slump since Lehman. Despite a plethora of data showing that 'weather' is not to blame, US strategists, 'economists', and asset-gatherers are sticking to the meme that this is all because of the cold on the east coast of the US (and that means wondrous pent-up demand to come). However, as the New York Times reports, for the earth, it was the 4th warmest January on record.
Renowned behavioral economist Dan Ariely explains why humans are biologically wired to make irrational decisions when money is involved. It's a case of our evolutionary wiring interfering with the decisions we face in a modern world very different from the one our ancestors adapted to. For instance, he explains how one of the easiest phenomena to create in a lab are valuation "bubbles". Our vestigial herding instinct encourages us to imitate the actions of those around us (e.g. bidding for a particular asset), which then strengthens that signal for others (leading to even higher bidding), resulting in behavior not justified by the underlying fundamentals of reality (asset prices destined to crash)... " I do think that we need a new generation of bankers. I think you cannot take the old generation of bankers and rehabilitate them. Recent history is not showing us that this is something we should hope for. But there is a real question of, How do we create a new generation of bankers that are going to think of themselves as the caretakers of society, rather than the rapists?"
As the State of the Union address highlighted, both the Russia Federation and the United States have leaders that lean toward various degrees of autocratic government to achieve their agendas. President Putin rules with an iron fist and treats the legislative branch as an afterthought to use as needed but otherwise ignores. President Obama declares he will use executive action to get what he wants and quietly uses government agencies to intimidate and stifle his opposition in flagrant abuses of power. Putin has dismantled the Russian free press and imprisoned vocal opponents. The majority of the American press does Obama’s bidding for him while the administration puts movie makers in jail.
China and Japan’s war of words reveals a larger struggle for regional influence akin to a mini Cold War. Last week's tempestuous pissing contest in Davos, which The FT's Gideon Rachman notes left people with the belief that "this is not a situation that is getting better; it is getting worse." Following Abe's analogies to WWI, China's Yi compared Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine to Merkel visiting the graves of Nazi war criminals and as the rhetoric grows the US has asked for reassurance from Abe that he will not do it again. So we have two countries, each building up their militaries while insisting they must do so to counter the threat of their regional rival. Added to this, a deep distrust of each other’s different political systems coupled with a history of animosity makes the two nations deeply suspicious of each other. Each country insists it loves peace, and uses scare tactics to try to paint its opponent as a hawkish boogeyman. Sound familiar to anyone else?
- Emerging market sell-off raises specter of contagion (Reuters)
- China Bank Regulator Said to Issue Alert on Coal Mine Loans (BBG)
- Argentina to Ease FX Controls After Peso Devaluation (BBG)
- Pimco's Gross problem: who can succeed the 'Bond King'? (Reuters)
- Ukraine protesters seize building, put up more barricades (Reuters)
- Mideast Turmoil Dominates Gathering of Business Elite (WSJ)
- Central Banks Withdraw Dollar Funding (WSJ) - oh really?
- Samsung warns of weak earnings growth this quarter (FT)
- Three explosions rock Cairo, killing 5 (USA Today)
Dedicated readers of The Wall Street Journal have recently been offered many dire warnings about a clear and present danger that is stalking the global economy. They are not referring to a possible looming stock or real estate bubble. Nor are they talking about other usual suspects such as global warming, peak oil, the Arab Spring, sovereign defaults, the breakup of the euro, Miley Cyrus, a nuclear Iran, or Obamacare. Instead they are warning about the horror that could result from falling prices, otherwise known as deflation. Get the kids into the basement Mom... they just marked down Cheerios!
... We have created an apparently wonderful economic model that seems to provide us with so many benefits. When you consider the incredible feats of technology and the global consumerist lifestyle we enjoy it is easy to marvel at what has been achieved. Of course what may be less obvious is the dark side of the growth economic model which is deeply inequitable, restricting its benefits to the relative elite in the western world and trapping the rest of the world in poverty. Most dangerous of all is the unsustainability of the model and where it is taking us in the future. There is now a perfect storm gathering that includes economic indebtedness, resource shortages, population pressures, and climate change that is guaranteed to derail civilisation. Despite this the political and economic mainstream are largely in denial about what is happening– like the hapless engineer and politician in the story everyone agrees that we must restart the ‘growth economy’ and continue to progress down the business as usual pathway. Very few people are taking the long term view and watching the direction towards doom that this pathway leads us. Too invested in the benefits of our current lifestyle, no one wants to hear the counsel of the philosopher who sees the disaster that looms ahead.
Heading into the North American open, stocks in Europe are seen broadly higher, with peripheral EU stock indices outperforming after Ireland successfully returned to capital markets with its 10y syndication that attracted over EUR 10bln. Financials benefited the most from the consequent credit and bond yield spreads tightening, with smaller Italian and Spanish banks gaining around 4%. Following the successful placement, IR/GE 10y bond yield spread was seen at its tightest level since April 2010, while PO/GE 10y spread also tightened in reaction to premarket reports by Diario Economico citing sources that Portuguese govt and debt agency IGCP consider that the current level of yields already allows Portugal to go ahead with a bond sale. Looking elsewhere, the release of better than expected macroeconomic data from Germany, together with an in line Eurozone CPI, supported EUR which gradually moved into positive territory. In addition to that, smaller MRO allotment by the ECB resulted in bear steepening of the Euribor curve and also buoyed EONIA 1y1y rates. The Spanish and Italian markets are the best-performing larger bourses, Swedish the worst. The euro is stronger against the dollar. Japanese 10yr bond yields fall; Spanish yields decline. Commodities gain, with wheat, silver underperforming and Brent crude outperforming. U.S. trade balance data released later.
While America is preparing to usher in the coldest days of the 21st century, some other places around the globe are hardly as worried. Below is a photo from Rio's Ipanema beach over the weekend, where temperatures hit 51 degrees. Celsius.
From ironic to ironic-er... the Chinese icebreaker ship that helped rescue the 52 Australian global warming researchers from being trapped in Antarctic ice has found itself stuck in heavy ice. As Reuters reports, The Snow Dragon had ferried the passengers from the stranded Russian ship to an Australian icebreaker late on Thursday. It now had concerns about its own ability to move through heavy ice, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said.