The Earth is exiting a long period of stable ocean and climate levels during which human civilization grew and flourished, and it's almost certainly due to human activity, scientists in the U.S. and Germany said in a pair of papers published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One study, led by Rutgers climate scientist Robert Kopp, mapped out changes in sea levels around the globe over the past 2,800 years; oceans rose or fell no more than 1.5 inches a century from ancient Rome's founding until the Industrial Age in the 1800s, the study found, but rose 5.5 inches in the 20th century alone, accelerating to a rate of 12 inches a century by 1993.
The researchers blamed the increasing sea levels on rising global temperatures they and almost all other scientists attribute to the burning of fossil fuels. "Physics tells us that sea-level change and temperature change should go hand-in-hand," Kopp said. "This new geological record confirms it." Kopp and his team estimate that sea levels will rise 22 to 52 inches by 2100 at the current rate, or 11 to 22 inches if nations fully enact the global climate change treaty negotiated in Paris last year.
The second paper, led by Matthias Mengel of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, similarly estimated that sea levels will rise three to four feet by 2100 if humans don't curb carbon emissions — roughly the same range predicted in 2013 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Both papers acknowledged that there were significant unknowns in their analyses, but not in a way that should make humanity in general and coastal dwellers in particular feel any safer: If the massive ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica melt, as seems likely, most bets are off.
If that seems distant and theoretical, a third, unpublished study released Monday found that rising temperatures are responsible for a sharp increase in "nuisance floods" in seaside towns along the southern U.S. East Coast over the past 50 years, causing millions of dollars of damage due to incursions of a few feet of saltwater. Most of those floods wouldn't have happened without manmade global warming, the team, from Climate Central, reported. "I think we need a new way to think about most coastal flooding," said lead author Benjamin Strauss. "It's not the tide. It's not the wind. It's us. That's true for most of the coastal floods we now experience." Peter Weber
President Donald Trump is famously a Luddite, shying away from computers, email, and even phones. As a 21st century leader, though, that can lead to some odd ways of operating, Axios reports:
With an allergy to computers and phones, [President Trump] works the papers. With a black Sharpie in hand, he marks up the [New York] Times or other printed stories. When he wants action or response, he scrawls the staffers' names on that paper and either hands the clip to them in person, or has a staffer create a PDF of it — with handwritten commentary — and email it to them. An amazed senior adviser recently pulled out his phone to show us a string of the emailed PDFs, all demanding response. It was like something from the early 90s. Even when he gets worked up enough to tweet, Trump told us in our interview he will often simply dictate it, and let his staff hit "send" on Twitter. [Axios]
"[President Trump is] so old-school that he thinks it's awesome to go on 60 Minutes," one friend tried to explain. Jeva Lange
Doublethink. Newspeak. Hate Week. Thought Police. All are phrases that don't sound too terribly out of context in a world of "alternative facts" and Days of Patriotism. The terms, though, originated nearly 70 years ago in George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984, which is eerily finding traction and resonance again today:
— Kristie Lu Stout (@klustout) January 24, 2017
It's not the first time in recent memory that 1984 has appeared on the charts. In 2013, the book also blipped onto the bestseller list — likely because the NSA surveillance scandal at the time sounded frighteningly reminiscent of Big Brother. Jeva Lange
The U.S. stock market went on something of a tear after President Trump's victory in November, and the biggest winners were Wall Street banks, led by Goldman Sachs. The rise in bank shares was a boon for investors in Goldman, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase, and other top banks, but also for their executives, who sold off at least $100 million worth of stock since the election — more than any other November to January period in at least a decade — The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Bank stocks are collectively up about 20 percent since Nov. 9, more than triple the broader market.
That jump in valuation was attributed to expectations that Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress will gut financial reforms put in place by Democrats to prevent another banking crisis, plus enact lower taxes and other bank-friendly economic policies. The skyrocketing bank shares also revived millions of dollars worth of previously worthless stock options about to expire, and executives at top Wall Street banks also sold $350 million worth of stock to exercise those options, The Wall Street Journal reports. Not all banks have reported their executives' stock trades, and only some executives have to file such reports.
"Share sales by corporate executives are often viewed by investors as a sign that insiders could be growing wary of valuations or be less confident in an increase in share prices," The Wall Street Journal notes, though that's not necessarily the case in this round of profit-taking. You can read more about the Wall Street bonanza at The Wall Street Journal. Peter Weber
President Donald Trump meets Tuesday with the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler in the Oval Office:
Will be meeting at 9:00 with top automobile executives concerning jobs in America. I want new plants to be built here for cars sold here!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2017
Trump made a point on the campaign trail of slamming American automakers for importing cars from Mexico and vowed a border tax to prevent companies from moving their assembly plants south, NBC News notes. "I need clarity. I think we all need clarity. And we're not the only ones that need clarity," Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month.
The American automakers will likely try to make their case for why it would be a strain to make all of their cars within the U.S., with some experts estimating Trump's proposed tariffs and taxes would drive up car prices and leave consumers with fewer options. Jeva Lange
The first few days of the Trump administration have publicly played out in front of a behind-the-scenes power struggle involving the "Big Four" Trump advisers — Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and son-in-law Jared Kushner — though "at the center, as always, is Trump himself, whose ascent to the White House seems to have only heightened his acute sensitivity to criticism," The Washington Post reports, citing "interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers and confidants."
Many Trump campaign loyalists say that Kushner is trying to elbow aside anyone who might prevent him from being Trump's "chief consigliere," and that included trying to keep Conway out of the White House, The Post reports. Other insiders suggest Conway is trying to undermine press secretary Sean Spicer, an ally of Priebus from the Republican National Committee and not Trump's first choice for the job. The Post also has this tidbit:
Because Conway operates outside of the official communications department, some aides grumble that she can go rogue when she pleases, offering her own message and promoting herself as much as the president. One suggested that Conway's office on the second floor of the West Wing, as opposed to one closer to the Oval Office, was a sign of her diminished standing. Though Conway took over the workspace previously occupied by Valerie Jarrett, who had been Obama's closest adviser, the confidant dismissively predicted that Trump would rarely climb a flight of stairs. [The Washington Post]
Trump, however, is publicly effusive in his praise of Conway, and by all accounts privately values her dogged and skillfully befuddling defense of him. While "some Trump allies were unsettled by her performance" on Meet the Press Sunday, The Post reports, Trump "called Vice President Pence to rave about how she handled questions from [host Chuck] Todd... and called Conway to offer his congratulations," though he was "perturbed that the media focused on two words from Conway's interview: 'alternative facts.'" Still Conway's role as Trump's most visible aide has come at a cost. Due to "threats against her life," The Post reports, Conway "has been assigned a Secret Service detail, according to someone with detailed knowledge of the situation." You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, Britain's Supreme Court ruled 8-3 that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot start the process of pulling the U.K. out of the European Union without an act of Parliament, putting a speed bump in May's plans to invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty by March. The Supreme Court, the highest court in England and Wales, agreed with a lower court that May can't use executive powers called the royal prerogative to trigger Brexit because it would affect the rights of Britons conferred by Parliament in 1972 in order to join the European Union.
It is not yet clear what kind of legislation May's government will introduce to get Parliament's assent, or whether Brexit skeptics will be able to wrest concessions in the process, but May is expected to gain approval in both the House of Commons and, despite more resistance, the House of Lords. The Supreme Court unanimously decided that May does not need to consult regional governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which would have proved a bigger obstacle.
May has one more court she could appeal the ruling to, the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, but she won't do that, the BBC reports. First, that would just delay her Brexit strategy, and more importantly, her "government has made great play of the fact that, by leaving the EU, it will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the U.K. and restore the supremacy of British courts." Peter Weber
Last weekend was the debut of "our new celebrity a-president," Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live, "and you know how sometimes there's a lot of hype for something and then when it finally happens, it disappoints? Well, that was certainly not the case for President Donald John Madden Trump this weekend — he is off to a flying start."
Kimmel started with Trump's make-up visit to CIA headquarters, where he talked about everything from his "genius" uncle and his own intelligence to the number of times he's been on the cover of Time. But mostly Trump berated the media for saying he had a small crowd at his inauguration. "He is so focused on size — nobody asked him about that, by the way, he brought it up," Kimmel said. "He's focused on the size of his crowds, the size of his ratings, the size of his hands, the size of, well, everything. And again, he's there to make peace with the CIA but he couldn't help himself, he had a crowd and he just started going. Instead of the CIA, he should be talking to a C-I-chiatrist."
Kimmel thanked the audience for laughing at his dumb joke, then shook his head: "Who cares? He won the election — it's such a tiny thing to be mad about, but he was so mad he made his press secretary — this guy, Sean Spicer, who hadn't even had his first press conference yet — he made him gather the press, immediately on a Saturday, to yell at them." He showed the clip." No one had numbers, but it was the largest, period," Kimmel repeated, laughing. "That poor bastard doesn't even know where the coffee machine is yet, he's already having to yell at everybody." Kellyanne Conway "managed to top that" on Sunday, with her "alternative facts" line, Kimmel said. "Not since 'consciously uncoupled' have I heard something as conveniently skewed as 'alternative facts.' I wish I'd known about alternative facts when I was in high school — I would have had straight As." He finished with some "alternative facts" about himself, including some exaggerated audience estimates and other... things. Watch below. Peter Weber