The Best Argument I’ve Heard To Turn Climate Skeptics Into Believers


Looks pretty peaceful doesn’t it?  I love our part of the Connecticut shoreline.  On most days the waters from Long Island Sound are calm and there is a lovely balance between sky, land and sea.

But what if this picture were to change in the years to come with dramatic sea level rise and climate change?

I’m no alarmist. In fact, it’s quite possible that over the next one hundred years, the average increase temperature will be relatively modest.  Scientists don’t know exactly what will happen. But that’s not an argument for doing nothing.

Quite the reverse.

Environmental economist Gernot Wagner of the Environmental Defense Fund, co-author of the book “Climate Shock,” says “first  and foremost, climate change is a risk management problem.” Even if you are a climate skeptic and believe that the possibility of a global disaster is minimal, consider this: “Most of us have auto and home insurance to cover us in the event of a disaster.”

“If you had a 10% chance of having a fatal car accident, you’d take necessary precautions. If your finances had a 10% chance of suffering a severe loss, you’d reevaluate your assets. So if we know the world is warming and there’s a 10 percent chance this might eventually lead to a catastrophe beyond anything we could imagine, why aren’t we doing more about climate change right now?”

I don’t believe our house here is likely to be flooded or damaged by fire anytime soon, but I still pay a lot money each year for coverage just in case. Shouldn’t we be doing the same thing to deal with the risk of global warming?

Gernot makes the case for an insurance policy. A price would be placed on carbon emissions,  either through a tax or a system of cap and trade.

This would mean ending subsidies for fossil fuels and boosting incentives for renewable forms of energy. “We need new technologies. We need energy efficient technologies,” Gernot said this week on the “How Do We Fix It?” podcast.

“You set the right incentives and get out of the way.”  Use the market to reduce the CO2 emissions. Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley will do their thing.

Before the Industrial Age began in the late 18th Century, carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere were roughly 280 parts per million for thousands of years.  Today the level is 400 parts per million and rising. Even if emissions were stabilized tomorrow the carbon number would continue to rise.

Scientists first made the link between greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures in the 19th century. Today, all but a handful of climate scientists say there is an urgent need for action to reduce carbon dioxide levels as soon as possible.

“We know we need to act,” says Gernot.


Gernot Wagner (right) and Martin Weitzman (left), authors of “Climate Shock.”

Top photo by Linda Jessee.

You’d Be Surprised At The Mistakes People Make…

  

Go ahead.  Google “insurance mistakes.”  There’s a flood of stuff  about the simple errors many of us make – from not having coverage to paying for stuff we really don’t need. 

Laura Adams, who hosts the popular podcast, “Money Girl,” could save you a ton of money and loads of heartache.

Laura is a font of wisdom about insurance and she gives us the basics about auto, home, life and health policies on this week’s “How Do We Fix It?” podcast. She takes a potentially dry subject and makes it approachable and believe it or not, entertaining.

Here are Laura’s 5 insurance fixes…
– Make sure you shop around for insurance. Get several quotes and reach out to an insurance agent who can explain is and is not covered by your policy.
– Learn the basics at insurancequotes.com, bankrate.com or the non-profit Insurance information Institute. http://www.iii.org.
– Avoid duplication. Make sure you understand exactly what you’re buying.

– Many states have programs to help people who can’t afford insurance. Check out your state’s Department of Insurance.
– Term life insurance policies are much cheaper than many people realize, A healthy person under 40 may be able to get $250,000 in coverage for less than $20 a month.

Our Gun Control Debate Misses The Target. We Need A New Conversation.

  

I do a podcast called “How Do We Fix It?.”  And it would be good thing if we could get a conversation going about gun crime. One that went somewhere and introduced some new ideas.

But I’m not sure it’s possible.
It’s been a week since the Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon and America’s debate over guns is still poisoned by anger, fear and incredulity. It is possibly the worst example of how polarized our politics have become.  

One side pretends the Second Ammendment doesn’t exist, while the other insists that levels of gun ownership have nothing to do with America’s very high rate of gun deaths.

Both are wrong.

The ease of buying weapons and our longstanding gun culture lead to large numbers of disputes being settled by firearms. Americans own about 270 million guns, which is more than one for each adult.  About 10,000 people have been killed by guns so far this year and more than 20,000 were injured. 

The toll in the U.S. is far worse than in almost any other industrialized nation.  But ever since white settlers first arrived in the early 1600s, guns have been a fundamental part of the American story.  The frontier was settled with guns.  

Writing in The National Review, Rich Lowry is right to point out that banning semi-automatic assault rifles and closing gun show loopholes would do little to reduce the number of homicides or horrific mass killings. 

Also, you may argue that the U.S. Constitution is a deeply flawed document in this regard, but it very clearly states: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Gun rights opponents often say the bit about “a well regulated militia” confuses the meaning of the second part of the sentence.  But let’s say the Constitution gave completely a different reason.  Doesn’t matter. The right to keep and bear arms still remains.

The only way to implement strict gun control would be to strike down or alter the Second Ammendment. And that’s not going to happen anytime soon. 

Hillary Clinton has called for tighter gun-control, including expanded background checks, but Congress is in no mood to approve them.  If elected she’d also consider executive power to achieve her goals. That may please supporters and help win Democratic primaries, but the growing use of executive orders by Presidents of both parties is damaging to our democracy.  

Support for gun rights is strong.  Many believe passionately and perhaps wrongly that having several guns in their homes makes them safer.  The NRA is strong because it has a very large and passionate membership. 

As The New York Times reports, in Roseburg, Oregon, the site of last week’s massacre,  “Some said they were planning to buy guns. Others said they would seek concealed-weapons permits. Others, echoing gun advocates’ calls for more weapons on campus, said the college should allow its security guards to carry guns.”

Others argue that having guns in churches, schools and supermarkets comes at a terrible cost, making us more suspicious, fearful and less safe.

“Firearms are America’s Pandora’s Box,” writes Justin King in an article with the headline  ‘The Facts That Neither Side Wants To Admit About Gun Control.’ The box is open and more legislation won’t have a major impact, he argues. “If you want to change society, you have to actually change the whole of society.”

That’s a conversation that would be worth having.  Perhaps it can begin with an honest, compassionate debate about how we treat mental illness and better enforcement of the background checks that we already have.

Photo (above) Jim Wrigley Photography on Flickr Creative Commons license

Why You’re Crazy To Panic When The Stock Market Drops

  
The stock market has gone wobbly again with more dire headlines about quarterly losses and worries over  the state of the global economy. 

But how much has really changed in the past few months?  Not much. Our knowledge of the world is pretty much the same.

The U.S. economy is still in better shape than most of the rest of the world.  Commodity prices are still low (a plus for consumers), and there are still plenty of good companies to invest in.

“The media is out there hyping the activity in the market,” says equities expert Susan Schmidt of Westwood Holdings in Dallas.  “They’re focusing on what’s happening during the day, but investing is really about focusing on the long term.”

I’m a journalist and I have an ego. I know that she’s right.  It’s fun when your story is the lead item on the network news. 

Newspapers, radio and TV cover what changes from one day to the next, but Susan says that should be of little concern to the 55% of Americans who have money in the stock market.  Think decades not days should be their mantra.  Over decades your retirement savings nearly always do better in stock funds than in cash or bonds.  Especially in this very low interest rate environment.

  
Susan Schmidt.

 “It’s a lot about keeping your cool and looking for the long term and keeping keeping your eye on the bigger picture… Be the cool customer and don’t panic,” Susan told us on the latest How Do We Fix It? podcast. 

“No investor is right 100% of the time and if they say they are! they’re lying.” Listen to what she said here.

If you’re scared that Wall Street is nothing more than a giant casino, here are some fixes.

–  Look at the stock market’s performance over the long term. Ignore the noise of daily news coverage.

–  Diversity your investments and spread risk. Consider low-fee large and small stock funds as well as US and international investment products.

–  Learn the language. Investing basics are easier to grasp than you may think.  Big investment firms can help you take the first steps. Find out what you need to know at at fidelity.com, TDAmeritrade or Vanguard

–  “Morningstar is the equivalent of Rotten Tomatoes,” Susan tells us. “Morningstar gives stars to mutual funds.” From one to five stars – “the more stars the better.”. 

Top photo from the front page of the Financial Times. September 30, 2015