Unemployment is not as important as we think, when it comes to predicting the next President

Make no mistake: the higher the unemployment rate in November 2012, the less likely President Obama is to win a second term.

But we should be careful about asserting that there is any particular threshold at which Mr. Obama would go from favorite to underdog, or any magic number at which his re-election would either become impossible or a fait accompli. Historically, the relationship between the unemployment rate and a president’s performance on Election Day is complicated and tenuous.

…historically, the correlation between the unemployment rate and a president’s electoral performance has been essentially zero.

Unemployment increased by 1.9 percentage points over the course of Richard M. Nixon’s first term, but he won re-election easily. It also increased in George W. Bush’s and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first terms, and their re-election bids were also successful. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent from 5.3 percent, meanwhile, in Bill Clinton’s second term — but his vice president, Al Gore, could not beat Mr. Bush in the Electoral College.

There are also cases in which the data behaved more intuitively: Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush all faced high unemployment rates when they lost their re-election bids, as did Gerald R. Ford in 1976, and that was surely a factor in their defeats.

 

Keep reading: On the Maddeningly Inexact Relationship Between Unemployment and Re-Election

 

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World scientists – we can’t raise the temperature by more than two degrees Celsius

The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius.

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.)

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees.

We’re not getting any free lunch from the world’s economies, either. With only a single year’s lull in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, we’ve continued to pour record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, year after year. In late May, the International Energy Agency published its latest figures – CO2 emissions last year rose to 31.6 gigatons, up 3.2 percent from the year before.

  • America had a warm winter and converted more coal-fired power plants to natural gas, so its emissions fell slightly
  • China kept booming, so its carbon output (which recently surpassed the U.S.) rose 9.3 percent
  • Japanese shut down their fleet of nukes post-Fukushima, so their emissions edged up 2.4 percent.

 

Keep reading: Rolling Stone – Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

 

 

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