Russia Moves on Climate Change, While the U.S. Stalls

Today’s Agenda

Russia Moves on Climate Change, While the U.S. Stalls

An Inconvenience Truth 

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- If you’re like me, you ignore health problems that aren't worth the hassle of a doctor visit. Emergencies get medical attention; everything else gets WebMD. Americans are like that with climate change, except the emergency is already here.

Massive storms, wildfires, droughts and more make it clear we have a worsening climate problem. But as Noah Smith points out, we can’t yet be bothered to truly do anything about it. One straightforward tool for curbing carbon emissions is taxing them a bit more, for example. But we vote that down whenever it’s on the ballot. Keeping warming within tolerable limits will require decades of sacrifice and upheaval far beyond a little tax. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can solve our problem.

Things may be changing at the margins. The collapse of travel agency Thomas Cook may herald the decline of the kind of the pre-packaged tourist experience it invented, writes Leonid Bershidsky. A spreading woke-ness about authentic experiences is part of this, but so is guilt over the environmental impact of living like a pasha everywhere you go.

The cruise industry is a small but exemplary part of this travel-industrial complex. It has a massive negative environmental impact, Adam Minter writes, and consumers and governments are noticing. But the cruise industry is about as slow to change course as, um, a very large, ponderous watercraft. 

Vladimir Putin moves a bit faster. Russia has long been a climate ignorer; it even stands to benefit from unfrozen Arctic waterways. But it recently joined the Paris climate accord, and Julian Lee explains one reason why: Thawing permafrost undermines the stability of Russian oil and gas projects. That might make gasoline a bit more expensive, and we can’t have that.

Further Energy Reading: Oil and gas stocks avoided an embarrassing index-name change but can’t avoid harsh reality. – Liam Denning

Impeachorama

President Donald Trump continued to respond to his growing impeachment threat by watching television and tweeting. The latter included increasingly hostile attacks on the whistle-blower and Democrats; today he called for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to be arrested for treason. Such vitriol is a reminder that Trump’s real enemy isn’t some amorphous “Deep State,” but the entire apparatus of state itself, writes James Gibney. If it doesn’t serve him, then it must be destroyed.

So far, Attorney General William Barr has been on the Trump-friendly side of the divide, helping him snuff out his little Mueller Report problem and also swatting down the whistle-blower complaint about Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. In fact, writes Stephen Mihm, the Justice Department has a long history of cronies holding the job. Barr keeps that tradition alive.

Still, Trump’s jeopardy grows the more we learn about what's on the secret White House server where staffers quarantined his most toxic conversations. Tim O’Brien notes Trump has always hated leaving a paper trail. Now there’s one that includes much more of interest to an impeachment inquiry than just his chat with Ukraine’s president.

Warren’s No Socialist

Wall Street is apparently terrified of an Elizabeth Warren presidency; even Democratic fundraisers would rather keep Trump around another four years than face the horrors of a Warren administration. But she’s getting a bad rap, writes Joe Nocera. Warren favors capitalism over socialism; she just wants it to be more fair. Wall Street hated FDR too, Joe notes, but he restored faith in financial markets by reforming them. Even on health care, she has not exactly been a Medicare for All zealot, writes Max Nisen.

Trump’s Dangerous China Threat

Stocks rebounded today partly on hopes Trump will come to his senses about curbing U.S. investment in China, which would have devastating repercussions, John Authers notes. For one thing, it would  give China incentive to start selling Treasury bonds, writes Shuli Ren. For another, American investors already are woefully underweight China stocks, which will probably outperform U.S. stocks for the foreseeable future, writes Nir Kaissar. And turning financial markets into political weapons would set a terrible precedent for the world. 

Further China Reading: Starbucks Inc. must walk a fine line in Hong Kong between fostering its China expansion and not openly opposing the protesters. – Nisha Gopalan 

Austria’s Do-Over

Austrian political wunderkind (if you can call a 33-year-old a wunderkind) Sebastian Kurz seems headed back to the chancellorship after his center-right party won a plurality in snap elections. The first time he got the job, he partnered with the far-right Freedom Party. That was a disaster that cost him his government, and he shouldn’t make the same mistake again, Bloomberg's editorial board writes. Leonid Bershidsky suggests he’ll probably form a coalition with the surging Greens, which could be a harbinger of what’s to come in Germany.

Bonus Editorial: California should jump on a proposal to ease the state’s housing crisis by  helping homeowners rent out parts of their property. 

Telltale Charts

Millennials will soon be the biggest demographic in the U.S. economy. Can they help it boom again? Brian Chappatta and Elaine He look at their balance sheets and find they’re making and saving money but aren’t building wealth and are weighed down by student loan debt.

Russia Moves on Climate Change, While the U.S. Stalls

Forever 21’s woes show the tide has turned against fast fashion, writes Sarah Halzack

Russia Moves on Climate Change, While the U.S. Stalls

Further Reading

Boeing Co.’s safety overhaul is an overdue step in the right direction. – Brooke Sutherland

WeWork says it’s only temporarily shelving its IPO; junk bond investors don't seem to believe it. – Brian Chappatta 

Turkey’s finance minister looks back on the recovery from last year's turbulence. – Berat Albayrak  

How long must we sing Bono’s Irish tax-rate song? – Lionel Laurent 

ICYMI

Rep. Chris Collins of New York resigned from Congress ahead of an insider-trading plea. 

What's your wealth number?

Kickers

Worms with three sexes thrive in arsenic-poisoned lake. (h/t Mike Smedley)

China grew two cotton leaves on the Moon.

Note: Please send cotton leaves and complaints to Mark Gongloff at mgongloff1@bloomberg.net.

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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