Quick Takes and Random Stuff Nov 30, 2023
Youth mental health, attractiveness, poverty vs CO2, views on criminal justice, and more...
The youth are not ok
After Babel has been doing an excellent job reporting on the connection between adolescent mental health and the current phone-based childhood. In Suicide Rates Are up for Gen Z Across the Anglosphere, Especially for Girls (10/30/2023), they look at other countries. Here is a quick summary in one graph:
I want to point out how they illustrate one of my data rules: Avoid making assumptions based on a single factor.
Roser is correct that overall suicide rates are not increasing across all nations.1 But it would be a mistake to conclude that the United States is unique, or that there is not a worrying international trend in youth suicide rates. Here are four reasons why:
Those graphs fail to break results down by sex. The mental health crisis is gendered, with girls showing the most substantial and rapid changes in mental illness since the early 2010s.
They fail to consider how young people are doing relative to older people in each country. Anxiety rates are surging among youth, while only slightly increasing for U.S. adults. . . .
They don’t break out data for 10-14-year-olds, where there are the largest relative increases since 2010 in poor mental health. . . .
They fail to consider cultural variation. . . .
Superficial one-variable explanations often miss important trends, and this is a great example of that.
Attractiveness and social mobility
This chart come from the article Physical attractiveness and intergenerational social mobility (11/8/2023), with the conclusion
Physical attractiveness is an independent predictor of intergenerational social mobility outcomes regarding individuals’ educational, occupational, and income attainment.
It isn’t a surprise that being attractive is an advantage, but the chart below has some interesting features. Being attractive is more of an advantage for females in terms of educational mobility than for the other two categories. Attractiveness is a real bonus for income mobility for males, but there is an overlap for occupational mobility. Males that are very attractive have a better advantage, but being merely an attractive male is only about as good as being an averagely attractive female. On the other hand, being very unattractive is generally more advantageous than being unattractive and is often on par with being average.
How hot was October 2023?
The October temperature anomaly was a top-5 anomaly overall and a record for October, but this shouldn’t be surprising. If one follows the red bars and El Niño months, the 2023 anomaly follows that trend, and the expectation is that October 2023 will officially be an El Niño month. Expect more record monthly anomalies because
El Niño conditions that emerged in June continued into October, and according to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center there is an 80% chance that El Niño will continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring (March–May 2024).
The Guardian is late to the party
The Guardian article Richest 1% account for more carbon emissions than poorest 66%, report says (11/19/2023):
Really, the past 6 months? I reported on this two months ago in my post: CO2 emissions are an inequality problem. Worse, I referenced an IEA write-up that was done in February 2023 that references the Stockholm Environmental Institute. I’m not sure what extra they learned in the past six months.
More on the ball than the Guardian, with a lot fewer resources. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Poverty vs CO2 emissions
The World Bank article Illustrating the gap between the global extreme poor and global emissions does a nice job of what the title says with this graph:
In general, wealthy countries are emitting CO2, which is not surprising because they are using all the energy. Greater equity in the world and lower CO2 emissions are really at odds with each other at the moment.
Changing criminal justice attitudes
Two charts from the Gallup article Americans More Critical of U.S. Criminal Justice System (11/16/2023):
This is a big uptick in people who think we are not tough enough in the handling of crime—an 18 percentage point increase in three years. Before anyone says this is all because of Republicans, here is the next chart:
Yes, Republicans and white adults are more likely to say “Not tough enough,” but it is still 49% of people of color and 42% of Democrats. There aren’t a lot of people who say, “Too tough.”
If it costs less, we use more
Another unintended consequence of residential PV adoption under net metering is the likelihood that a solar rebound effect (SRE) occurs, such that PV adopters increase electricity consumption following installation of the PV system. The SRE is relatively new to the economic and policy literature; traditionally, rebound effects have been studied in the context of energy efficiency improvements (Sorrell et al., 2009, Borenstein, 2015, Chan and Gillingham, 2015. But recent empirical research has shown that the SRE is significant, with estimates ranging from 10%− 30% of the counterfactual reduction in consumption of conventional, grid-supplied electricity implied by PV system output (Havas et al., 2015, Deng and Newton, 2017, Spiller et al., 2017, Qiu et al., 2019, Toroghi and Oliver, 2019, Boccard and Gautier, 2021, Frondel et al., 2022; Aydın et al., Aydın et al., 2023, Beppler et al., 2023). The SRE therefore erodes part of the expected environmental (i.e., carbon reduction) benefit of policy interventions designed to stimulate widespread diffusion of residential rooftop PV technology, because it implies residential PV generation displaces fossil fuel generation on a less than one-for-one basis.
One of the current pitches for moving to renewables is that they are now cheaper, supposedly but hard to measure given subsidies, than fossil fuels, but it is common that when something is cheaper, we will use more of it. This article suggests that installing solar panels on your roof will increase your electricity usage. We can (almost) always use more energy. If electric cars are cheaper, will we drive more? If heat is cheaper, will we warm our houses more? All this needs to be factored in when we discuss energy transitions.
Read Robert Bryce’s Bone-Chilling on Substack for an example of our reliance on natural gas.
In bone-dry language, the report “Inquiry into Bulk-Power System Operations During December 2022 Winter Storm Elliott,” explains how the gas pipeline network in New York nearly failed last Christmas when temperatures plummeted during the bomb cyclone. Freeze-related production declines, combined with soaring demand from power plants, homes, and businesses, led to shortages of gas throughout the Northeast. The lack of gas, as well as mechanical and electrical issues, resulted in an “unprecedented” loss of electric generation capacity totaling some 90,000 megawatts. While the lack of electricity was dangerous, the possibility of a loss of pressure in the natural gas network should send a bone-chilling shiver through the sacroiliac of every politician and bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., New York and the Northeast.
A friend who works for the federal government in Washington, D.C., and is familiar with the FERC/NERC report told me last week that the loss of gas in New York City would have required evacuating most of the people in the city. Let that soak in for a minute. New York City has roughly 8.5 million residents. Evacuating even 25% of Gotham’s residents during extreme cold would have required a herculean effort. But even assuming such an evacuation could be accomplished, imagine how the country would handle 2 million displaced New Yorkers who could not return to their homes for months. And while you’re at it, imagine if those 2 million New Yorkers had their homes soaked by broken water pipes.
EIA graph of the week
We project that global energy-related CO2 emissions from consumption of coal, liquid fuels, and natural gas will increase over the next 30 years across most of the cases we analyzed in our International Energy Outlook 2023 (IEO2023).
By 2050, energy-related CO2 emissions vary between a 2% decrease and a 34% increase compared with 2022 in all cases we modeled.
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The spinning CD
A fun instrumental. Barnyard Funk by Mark Stoffel
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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.