Economy shows resilience despite mounting recession fears
Recent indicators suggest that the two-year old expansion – while slowing from an unsustainable pace of annual growth near 7 percent late last year – shows little sign of slipping into reverse. The labor market is churning out “help wanted” signs faster than employers can add workers. Consumers and businesses are flush with cash. And by some measures, the bond market appears less worried about inflation than do many pundits.washingtonpost.com
"Zombie fires" are real, and poised to worsen with global warming
"Zombie fires" may sound like something straight out of science fiction, but they're a real phenomenon that is likely to become more common in the area ringing the Arctic, and possibly the Arctic itself, as climate change continues, a new study finds. Why it matters: The study, published in the journal Nature, provides conclusive evidence that zombie or "holdover fires" exist and can be monitored, and it helps to begin to quantify their impact on global climate change. Get market news worthy of your time with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free.Context: Zombie fires are blazes that ignite and burn in one season and then smolder through the winter by slowly combusting within peat and other soils, emitting smoke but little or no flames. Then they reemerge during the next spring, erupting into flames once again. Numerous zombie fires were reported in Siberia last summer, which featured a particularly severe fire season, and such fires were also anecdotally reported during the summer of 2019, Merritt Turetsky, a University of Colorado professor who studies peat and wildfires, tells Axios. (Turetsky was not involved in the new study.)Peat is damp soil that contains decaying plant material, and when burned, it can release large amounts of global warming pollutants. Zombie fires have long been discussed in certain corners of the wildfire and climate science communities, but with this study, they've finally been quantified. Turetsky describes zombie fires as a "legacy" in the climate, where one fire season can return to "haunt" the following one. "It's like a ghost of last year's fire season continuing to pop up and influence the contemporary season," she said.How they did it: For the new study, researchers focused on fire activity in two sections of boreal forest, one in Canada's Northwest Territories and another in Alaska. They used an algorithm to detect zombie fires using satellite imagery as well as data from the ground. What they found: Holdover fires in boreal forests tend to be more prevalent during long, hot summers, which have become more frequent in recent decades. In general, the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe. The study finds that between 2002 and 2018, zombie fires (referred to in the study as "overwintering" fires) caused about 1% of the total burned area in the study regions. However, this varied considerably — in some years, such blazes accounted for nearly 40% of the total burned area.A key indicator of a zombie fire versus a new ignition, the study concludes, is that new fires tend to start later, when the lightning season commences. In contrast, zombie fires can ignite again as soon as the weather warms up and vegetation begins to dry out. By the numbers: The researchers found that between 2002 and 2018, zombie fires in Alaska and the Northwest Territories emitted 3.5 million metric tons of carbon. The majority of these emissions occurred in just two fire seasons: 2015 and 2010.The study cautions that this may be an underestimate, however, since computer models may not capture well the smoldering phase of these fires. The carbon emissions from zombie fires comprise a relatively small amount (0.5%) of the total carbon emissions from fires in Alaska and the Northwest Territories. "Yet this fraction may grow larger with climate warming," the study states. The big picture: Global warming is already supercharging fire seasons in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, as evidenced by the destructive fire seasons of 2019 and 2020. Some, like Turetsky, are worried recent severe Arctic fire seasons are a sign that climate change is destabilizing ecosystems, with severe fire seasons becoming the norm. There are three main factors that help drive zombie fires and that are tied to global warming: summer temperature extremes, large annual fire extents, and fires that burn deeper into the soil. Already this spring, fires are erupting in Canada and Siberia, with scientists tracking them, often via Twitter, using satellite imagery, Turetsky said. What they're saying: The paper underscores the need for governments to start collecting official statistics on holdover fires and early season peat fires, said climate researcher Jessica McCarty of Miami University in Ohio, who was not involved in the study, in an email to Axios."More importantly, this paper gives our first estimates of how much holdover fires may be contributing to annual burned area totals and from there we can better understand emissions," she said.More from Axios: Sign up to get the latest market trends with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freenews.yahoo.com
Yellen's encore: Lending economic heft to Biden's virus plan
“Yellen is uniquely poised," said Brian Deese, director of Biden’s National Economic Council. "She has as much experience and expertise of addressing the challenges of our time as any living economic policymaker today. AdYellen juggled parenting with her work as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in the 1980s, helping to build her son’s pinewood derby car as a colleague fed economic data into a computer. It’s an argument cultivated from years of research that fully blossomed during Yellen’s time as Fed chair. She said Yellen values differences of opinion and diversity because that helps her get a fuller sense of the economy.
Yellen: Biden's plan could restore full employment by 2022
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday the country was still in a “deep hole” with millions of lost jobs but that President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan could generate enough growth to restore full employment by next year. Summers also contended that Biden’s plan would make less money available for other initiatives such as improving the nation’s infrastructure. The proposal will be part of the COVID-19 relief bill they are writing that is expected to largely follow Biden’s plan. Under the House Democrats’ plan, those amounts would begin to phase out for individual parents earning $75,000 yearly and couples making $150,000. She said if Biden’s relief package is approved, the country could get back to full employment by next year.
Gary Oldman on finding the frequency of 'Mank'
But Fincher cast Oldman’s manager, Douglas Urbanski (as Larry Summers in ’The Social Network”), before he called up Oldman about another role. Orson Welles was a genius and if everybody doesn’t know that, I don’t know what to say.”In crafting the portrait of Mankiewicz, Fincher wanted Oldman as himself. Oldman was himself once an alcoholic and, like Mank, prone to audacious gambles. Back when he was drinking, Oldman chose between two simultaneous offers — “Waterworld” and “The Scarlet Letter” — with a coin flip. In a court filing in 2001, Fiorentino alleged that Oldman hit her with a telephone, an allegation that Oldman strongly denies.
Tax avoidance by the rich could top $5 trillion in next decade
The top 1% of taxpayers would likely avoid about $5 trillion in taxes over the next decade unless the IRS improves its enforcement, according to a new analysis. The "tax gap" the difference between the amount due to the IRS each year and the amount collected grew to just under $400 billion in 2013, according to the IRS. Summers and Sarin estimate based on current income and IRS trends, the tax would total $7.5 trillion over a 10-year period from 2020 through 2029. "The sheer magnitude of the tax gap suggests that there is substantial revenue-raising potential from shrinking it through well-targeted enforcement measures," they write in the paper. Summers and Sarin concede that the tax gap can never shrink to zero.cnbc.com
How much would a wealth tax really raise? Dueling economists reflect new split in Democratic Party
The wealth tax proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren has sparked a fierce and increasingly personal debate between the party's traditional academic elite and the darlings of the new left. The op-ed, written with economist and lawyer Natasha Sarin, argued that estimating revenues from new taxes is notoriously difficult. Using the estate tax as a model, Summers and Sarin said the rich could use loopholes, valuation schemes, trusts and other structures to lower or avoid much of Warren's wealth tax. "We suspect that to a great extent, (the estate tax) reflects the myriad ways wealthy people avoid paying estate taxes that in some form will be applicable in any actually legislated wealth tax," Summers and Sarin wrote. Piketty's 2014 book, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" became a global bestseller and gave a boost to advocates of a wealth tax.cnbc.com