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Quick Takes and Random Stuff Aug 30, 2023
Straws, COVID, energy, racial wealth gap, a cool sea level visual, the spinning cd and more
COVID doesn’t explain youth problems
From Drum (8/25/2023):
There's just nothing there. If I were less lazy I'd do a scatterplot for all 50 states, but I really doubt we'd see anything much different. Despite all the conventional wisdom, it looks like closing schools really didn't make much difference. Something else about COVID was responsible for the score declines.
The black dotted line represents the average change in NAEP scores, and there is no pattern as to whether schools were open or not compared to how much change, positive or negative, occurred. Although Drum suggests “something else about COVID was responsible,” maybe COVID had little to do with the decreasing scores.
I agree with Haidt (see After Babel) that phones and social media are a primary cause impacting our youth. This graph from his article The new CDC report shows that Covid added little to teen mental health trends which says a lot.
When school closures and social distancing were implemented in 2020, teens had already lost most of their social lives to their phones. You can see the spectacular loss of time with friends in this graph of time use data plotted by age group:
Pones are having an impact on social interactions, mental health, focus, and study skills, to name a few. From my perspective, there is a focus on campus that students having academic issues are all about COVID, and this one chart suggests otherwise. As long as we focus on COVID as the explanation for the decline in test scores and study skills, we are focused on the wrong problem and hence not searching for solutions.
From Electrek: In a new milestone, renewables generated 25% of US power in the first half of 2023 (8/25/2023). This is false, and all one has to do is read the first line of the article:
Renewables provided a quarter of the US’s electrical generation during the first half of 2023 – a slight increase from 2022, according to new US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.
US power and US electrical generation are not the same. People remember and often only read headlines. Writers need to be more careful with headlines. Here is an accurate representation of energy consumption:
Racial wealth gap: the myth of housing
Real Clear Markets has a good summary article about the impact of housing markets, or lack thereof, on the racial wealth gap in The Racial Wealth Gap: Myths and Realities (8/4/2023). There are no charts to copy here, so a few good quotes instead.
The left-wing blogger Matt Bruenig found that if black households in the lower half of their distribution had their wealth raised to be exactly the same as white households in their lower half, the overall racial wealth gap would be reduced by just 3 percent. As a result, he concluded, “What this shows is that 97 percent of the overall racial wealth gap is driven by households above the median of each racial group.” Indeed, over two-thirds of racial gap reflects the differences in assets held by the top ten percent of households in each group. Class, not race is the major driver of wealth inequality.
Matt Bruenig’s article has charts and is worth reading, even though it is a few years old.
To be sure, racial disparities in home ownership rates persist. But a significant share can be explained by family structure. In 2022, overall black homeownership was 44 percent; but for married couples it was 64 percent, virtually the same as the overall white homeownership rate.
The media has a fixation on systemic racism as the cause of all Black-White disparities. There are other explanations, and, as I mentioned with COVID above, if we have the problem wrong, then solutions won’t be found. The last paragraph of this article provides solutions.
This suggests that help for the black community should be targeted to those vulnerable urban communities: support for young mothers and vocational education to help young black men onto the first rung of success. But most of all, dramatically reducing the gun violence that permeates the poorest black neighborhoods with law enforcement playing a central role, coordinating with community groups and service professionals.
Cool sea level visualization
From NASA, really watch it.
El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific. The warmer water associated with El Niño displaces colder water in the upper layer of the ocean causing an increase in sea surface height because of thermal expansion.
This visualization alone warrants a subscription. You can sign up for free, which is a vote to keep me writing.
Adaptation to climate change again
From the Washington Post: Europe blinks in its commitment to a great green transition (8/6/2023)
Britain and the European Union have pledged to go “net zero” by 2050, with steep cuts by 2030. But across Europe — where this summer has brought brutal heat waves and raging fires in the Mediterranean region — a backlash is simmering against some of the world’s most ambitious green targets.
Last week, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak traveled to Scotland to announce with a big splash his decision to open the North Sea to more oil and gas drilling.
When push comes to shove, people will want affordable energy no matter what, so adaptation matters. Technology also matters, and this, Can vacuums slow global warming? Administration bets $1.2 billion on it (8/11/2023), which might be a more viable path than the climate activists want to admit:
But many mainstream climate scientists and environmental economists no longer see the carbon vacuums as a fringe technology distracting from cutting the emissions created by fossil fuel use and other accelerants of global warming. As temperatures rise and prospects for hitting climate action targets diminish, a consensus has emerged at organizations like the International Energy Agency that technology to suck emissions from the air will be an important component to curbing warming.
The Biden administration plans to award a total of $3.5 billion to direct air capture hubs across the country. There are at least 11 projects vying for the cash infusion.
Modeling the African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, populations
If you really want to dig into some mathematical modeling, then you want to read Climate change is predicted to cause population collapse in a cooperative breeder (8/22/2023). On the off chance you don’t, here is a quick summary.
Climate change, however, may push species beyond their ability to cope with extreme climates, and reduce the group sizes in cooperatively breeding species to a point where populations are no longer viable. Predicting the impact of future climates on these species is challenging as modelling the impact of climate change on their population dynamics requires information on both group- and individual-level responses to climatic conditions. Using a single-sex individual-based model incorporating demographic responses to ambient temperature in an endangered species, the African wild dog Lycaon pictus, we show that there is a threshold temperature above which populations of the species are predicted to collapse.
There are 12 variables and 15 parameters in the modeling that result in these graphs
Basically, the population size (b) goes to 0 if the daily maximum temperatures get too high.
News you can use: Avoid Paper Straws
"Eco-friendly" paper drinking straws contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals, a new study has concluded.
This is from Paper drinking straws may be harmful and may not be better for the environment than plastic versions, researchers warn (8/24/2023). Overall
The paper straws were most likely to contain PFAS, with the chemicals detected in 18/20 (90%) of the brands tested. PFAS were also detected in 4/5 (80%) brands of bamboo straw, 3/4 (75%) of the plastic straw brands and 2/5 (40%) brands of glass straw. They were not detected in any of the five types of steel straw tested.
It seems to me that straws other than steel should be avoided.
Weekly eia graph: solar panel shipments
Solar panel shipments set a record high in 2022, but notice that the growth has slowed.
The spinning CD
I just discovered Lovejoy. The recently released single Portrait of a Blank Slate is good.
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Disagreeing and using comments
I'd rather know the truth and understand the world than always be right. I'm not writing to upset or antagonize anyone on purpose, though I guess that could happen. I welcome dissent and disagreement in the comments. We all should be forced to articulate our viewpoints and change our minds when we need to, but we should also know that we can respectfully disagree and move on. So, if you think something said is wrong or misrepresented, then please share your viewpoint in the comments.