What I've been reading, featuring the remarkable efficiency of the kidnapping industry, the science of suppressing disease-vector mosquitoes, and the monotony of op-eds

Robinson Meyer on the new IPCC report on climate change and land is terrific.

In some ways, this is the most unavoidably political document that the IPCC has ever published. Its report last year, on the dangers of global warming beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, called for an unprecedented transformation in the globe’s energy system… But talking about the energy system is, in this context, relatively easy… land is different. It is home, and the possibility of home. The relationship between people and land is the most treasured and unresolved idea in global politics.

…“A lot of countries want to make sure that they see themselves, and their specific interests and issues, in every single paragraph. Land is something that’s so local. People come with the land- and food-security issues in their country. You can tell people in the room care really deeply about these questions, but it has made things incredibly slow. There’s also some really complex political issues at the center.”

The biggest of these issues: Land can’t really multitask.

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What I've been reading, featuring the imperialism of data analytics in the NBA, academic gatekeeping, and Bill Hader's "Barry"

Finally returning to writing up some of what I’ve been reading after a more-than-four-month hiatus. Was tied up with commitments to my thesis and preliminary exams and then I had an extended post-exam period of absolute indolence, which included watching that new Netflix show about competitive glass-blowing (recommended!). In that time, I’ve accumulated a large stack of unread publication subscriptions I’ve neglected and over a hundred browser tabs of links I’ve saved to sift through. A first run-through:

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What I've been reading, featuring climate change only: “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells, the moral imperative of alarmism, and climate intersectionality

“The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells

The title serves mostly to make explicit the book’s origin as the author’s 2017 long-form (here’s a version annotated by scientists), which quickly became New York magazine’s most read article ever (though it’s since been unseated by a “Fire and Fury” excerpt). Many called the original article’s focus on and presentation of worst-case scenarios sensationalist, maybe most prominent among them the climatologist and climate science communicator Prof. Michael Mann. In Mann’s words, his problem with the article was “the fact that there were SCIENTIFIC INACCURACIES that PREFERENTIALLY fed a somewhat doomist narrative.” In contrast, with this book adaptation, “David has done his due diligence, vetted the science, and gotten it right.” Since the publication of the original article, Mann and Wallace-Wells have participated in a public conversation hosted by NYU to discuss the communication of climate science and have jointly promoted the book.

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What I've been reading, featuring carbon dividends, Robert Caro's research process, and a breakthrough in non-line-of-sight imaging

"The last four people to lead the Federal Reserve, 15 former leaders of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and 27 Nobel laureates signed a letter endorsing a gradually rising carbon tax whose proceeds would be distributed to consumers as ‘carbon dividends.’"

  • With an emphasis on bipartisanship, WSJ has the statement. If paywalled, see this Bloomberg link.

  • The consensus endorsement of a rising carbon tax is not new, but to me and at least one climate economist, the dividends part was a surprise (Tyler Cowen, for one, is skeptical). He also told me he and other prominent economists had intended to also endorse the letter, but the form would not allow anyone without an American postcode to co-sign.

  • Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R): “This is a turning point in Republican climate policy, where the GOP economic brain trust unites behind the Baker-Shultz carbon dividends plan.”

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What I've been reading, featuring my vote in the 2016 election and the mediocrity of “Vice”

There was a special futility in my mailing my overseas ballot against Duterte in 2016 when I lived three minutes from Facebook’s East Palo Alto–gentrifying campus. Like even though I could well have been the only voter in the Philippine elections living in this historically disenfranchised American city still suffering from its legacy of redlining, racial segregation, crime, violence, and public neglect, the net contribution of my small neighborhood to my home country 7000 miles away was nothing less than the corrosion of its democracy.

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What I've been reading, featuring the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event and the infuriating etymology of narwhals

I became very angry upon learning that narwhals are “named rather ungallantly for the Old Norse word nar, meaning ‘corpse’, and hvalr, ‘whale’, after their mottled grey markings.” How soulless must the scientist have been to discover a species of literal water unicorns and decides to name them after their skin blemishes? This would garner a failing grade in Taxonomy 101.

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