Adam Smith Blog

Graphic detail

The state of the climate in 2016

AS UN climate talks in Marrakesh enter their final few days, leaders have a lot on their minds. Political support for a green agenda will wane in America next year. Barack Obama has led international environmental-protection efforts; Donald Trump plans to oppose them. The switch comes just as a new report from the World Meteorological Organisation, a UN body, confirms that this year is virtually certain to be the hottest ever recorded—stealing the title from 2015. This will mean that 16 of the 17 most sweltering years ever tracked have occurred since the millennium.

Global temperatures this year are about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial ones—dangerously close to the warming limit of 1.5C that politicians hope to achieve, as agreed during last year’s round of talks in Paris. Particular hot spots include Arctic regions, which are heating up at twice the rate of the…Continue reading

A Trump trade agenda

“WE DON’T win at trade,” Donald Trump frequently told supporters during his presidential campaign. America, he claimed, was “getting killed” by China, Mexico and Japan. On the campaign trail, pundits often dismissed such trade-bashing rhetoric. In particular, his comments about Japan—which by his reckoning sells America cars “by the millions” but buys “practically nothing” in return—were mocked as an outdated throwback to the 1980s. But with just weeks to go until he enters the White House, Mr Trump’s trade policies must be taken seriously. And they are no laughing matter.

Mr Trump has long argued that American firms are victims of a rigged trading system. To even the playing field, he has pledged to impose a 45% tariff on imports from China, which he said manipulates its currency to gain an unfair advantage. He has also promised to slap a 35% tariff on goods from Mexico, a destination for outsourced American jobs. The president-elect has vowed to renegotiate existing agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he called the “worst trade deal ever”, and to pull…Continue reading

Diabetes is no longer a rich-world disease

EVERY six seconds a person somewhere in the world dies as a consequence of diabetes, according to estimates by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). In 2015 5m lives were lost to the disease, more than were claimed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Moreover, the toll is rising faster than forecasters have expected. Nearly half of these deaths are among people younger than 60. In parts of Africa, where the condition is much less likely to be diagnosed, that share is more than four-fifths.

The rise of diabetes has been misjudged repeatedly. In 1995 the World Health Organisation estimated that 135m 20- to 79-year-olds had diabetes, and that this figure would more than double in three decades. But reality outpaced this stark projection by a huge margin: just twelve years later the number of people with diabetes had already nearly doubled. Since then, the rise of diabetes has been so steep that prevalence closed in on projections even faster. In 2015, the estimated global prevalence had reached 8.8%, nearly double that in 1995. By 2040, the IDF reckons that a tenth of humanity will have the condition. Already, diabetes gobbles up 12% of health…Continue reading

A country divided by counties

MORE Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump on November 8th, and it wasn’t particularly close: once all the ballots from the West Coast are counted, she is expected to win the popular vote by 1m-2m. But her supporters were inefficiently concentrated in already-blue states like California and Maryland. Mr Trump, in contrast, banked his votes where he needed them: in closely divided Florida and North Carolina, and above all in the Midwest, where Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and (probably) Michigan all swung from blue to red, the latter three by the narrowest of margins.

As our map (above) of America’s voting patterns on a county-by-county basis going back to 1952 makes clear, Mr Trump’s gains were concentrated in rural areas across the northern United States. Republicans have long held the edge in America’s wide-open spaces, but never has the gap been this profound: a whopping 80% of voters who have over one square mile (2.6 square km) of land to enjoy to themselves backed Mr Trump. As the scatter plot below demonstrates, as counties become increasingly densely populated,…Continue reading

Where the polls went wrong

THE national presidential polls were actually not too far off. RealClearPolitics, a polling aggregator, had Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote by three percentage points. With votes still being tallied, she currently looks poised to win by roughly one. Unfortunately for her, a two-percentage point polling miss can make all the difference in a tight race. Polling errors in states tend to be correlated with misses by demographic, meaning that if a state is off in one direction, similar states will follow. Mrs Clinton’s two-point polling slip cost her dearly in the “Rust Belt”, a collection of states surrounding the Great Lakes characterised by manufacturing-oriented economies that have been decimated by globalisation.

For months, Donald Trump has claimed that he would excel in the region. However, pundits had little reason to believe him as polls had him behind in most of the area. On election night, Mr Trump’s thesis was validated as he went on to win the states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, despite polling that claimed otherwise. He also came close in Minnesota, and seems to poised to even take Michigan.

Polls underestimated Mr…Continue reading