What has improved (and not) between rich and poor countries?

The St. Louis Fed post, Healthier Countries, if Not Wealthier Countries by Guillaume Vandenbroucke (12/26/2019) notes

The income gap between rich and poor countries doesn’t seem to be closing. In fact, it seems to be getting wider. However, the gaps between these groups of countries when it comes to health may indeed be narrowing.

For example, the graph copied here provides time series of GDP of high-income countries and Sub-Saharan African countries. The gap between the two cohorts has grown. Yet,

Not surprisingly, sub-Saharan African countries exhibit a lower life expectancy at birth and a higher crude death rate than the high-income countries. What is surprising, however, is that these measures of health are converging to that of the rich countries, unlike GDP per capita.

There are two other graphs in the post. The data is from the world bank and can be found.

What is the role of nuclear energy related to carbon emissions?

The IEA report Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System (May 2019) has this to say:

Nuclear power has avoided about 55 Gt of CO2 emissions over the past 50 years, nearly equal to 2 years of global energy-related CO2 emissions. However, despite the contribution from nuclear and the rapid growth in renewables, energy-related CO2 emissions hit a record high in 2018 as electricity demand growth outpaced increases in low-carbon power.

According to the chart copied here, nuclear energy generated more TWh then wind, solar, and other renewables combined in 2018. The report has eight charts with links to the data.

How are household numbers changing?

The Our World in Data post, The rise of living alone: how one-person households are becoming increasingly common around the world by Esteban Oritz-Ospina (12/10/2019), provides the chart copied here.

National income per capita and the share of one-person households are strongly correlated…

These correlations are partly due to the fact that people who can afford to, often choose to live alone. Indeed, rising incomes in many countries are likely part of the reason why people are more likely to live alone today than in the past.

But there must be more to it since even at the same level of incomes there are clear differences between regions. In particular, Asian countries have systematically fewer one-person households than African countries with comparable GDP levels.

The article contains two other charts and data.

What progress has been made in the poorest countries?

The World Bank Blog post Chart: Two decades of progress in the world’s poorest countries by Donna Barne (12/11/2019) provides the chart copied here.

The last two decades have seen significant progress in many of the world’s poorest countries. The extreme poverty rate fell from more than 50% to about 30%. Child mortality declined from nearly 14% to 7%. Access to electricity increased by 57% and the share of people using at least basic drinking water and sanitation services increased by 22% and 41%, respectively, among other results.

Below the chart in the post is is a link to the World Bank IDA RMS Database where you can get the data for the chart and more (individual county data or different variables). Note for the chart for this data select IDA total for country.

Is the Arctic “greening”?

MaxNDVI (Maximum Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) during 1982-2018 for the North American Arctic (bottom), Eurasian Arctic (top), and the circumpolar Arctic (middle).


One section of NOAA’s Arctic Report Card: Update for 2019 is on Tundra Greenness.  The graph here from their report is for maximum NDVI:

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), which is sensitive to the unique properties of photosynthetically-active vegetation in the Red and Near Infrared wavelengths. NDVI is highly correlated with the quantity of aboveground vegetation, or “greenness,” of Arctic tundra (Raynolds et al. 2012).

The graph here shows an upward trend, but it’s complicated:

Arctic lands and seas have experienced dramatic environmental and climatic changes in recent decades. These changes have been reflected in progressive increases in the aboveground quantity of live vegetation across most of the Arctic tundra biome—the treeless environment encircling most of the Arctic Ocean. This trend of increasing biomass is often referred to as “the greening of the Arctic.” Trends in tundra productivity, however, have not been uniform in direction or magnitude across the circumpolar region and there has been substantial variability from year to year (Bhatt et al. 2013, 2017; Park et al. 2016; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019). Sources of spatial and temporal variability in tundra greenness arise from complex interactions among the vegetation, atmosphere, sea-ice, seasonal snow cover, ground (soils, permafrost, and topography), disturbance processes, and herbivores of the Arctic system.

The report has two maps and another graph.

Got water?

A 2016 article in Nature, The world’s road to water scarcity: shortage and stress in the 20th century and pathways towards sustainability by M. Kummu et. a., looks at water scarcity and shortages (The dotted red line in the graph copied here is the proportion of the population dealing with water scarcity issues. )

Due to increasing population pressure, changing water consumption behavior, and climate change, the challenge of keeping water consumption at sustainable levels is projected to become even more difficult in the near future5,6.

The increases in population and per capita water consumption resulted in a total water consumption increase from 358 km3 yr−1 in the 1900s to 1500 km3 yr−1 in the 2000s (Fig. 1B).

The article has 6 figures and two data sets available (under electronic supplementary material – right side bar). The richness of the figures makes them useful in a QL or stats course.

A related article from National Geographic, The world’s supply of fresh water is in trouble as mountain ice vanishes by Alejandra Borunda (12/9/2019), discusses the impact of climate change on water supplied by glaciers.

The high mountains cradle more ice and snow in their peaks than exists anywhere else on the planet besides the poles. Over 200,000 glacierspiles of snow, high-elevation lakes and wetlands: All in all, the high mountains contain about half of all the fresh water humans use.

The high mountains are warming faster than the world’s average; temperatures in the high Himalaya, for example, have crept up nearly 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) since the beginning of the century, compared to a planetary average of just about 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C).

“120 million people live along the Indus,” says Immerzeel, “but the Indus plain is like a desert. It’s completely reliant on the water from the thick glaciers above.”

Of the five most important water towers in the world, three are in Asia: the Indus, the Tarim, and the Amu Darya.

How do we learn about how currents transfer heat in the ocean?

The NASA Vital Signs of the Planet article Seal Takes Ocean Heat Transport Data to New Depth by Esprit Smith (12/4/2019) explains (note photo from the article):

But how the current transfers heat, particularly vertically from the top layer of the ocean to the bottom layers and vice versa, is still not fully understood.

Equipped with a specialized sensor reminiscent of a small hat, the seal swam more than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) on a three-month voyage, much of it through the turbulent, eddy-rich waters of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The seal made around 80 dives at depths ranging from 550 to 1,090 yards (500 to 1,000 meters) per day during this time. All the while, it collected a continuous stream of data that has provided new insight into how heat moves vertically between ocean layers in this volatile region…

This type of data is available from Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans Pole to Pole database.

Since 2004, several hundred thousands profiles of temperature and salinity have been collected by instrumented animals. The use of elephant seals has been particularly effective to sample the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific. These hydrographic data have been assembled in quality-controlled databases that can be accessed through this portal.

How is U.S. life expectancy changing?

The Economist’s daily chart Why are Americans’ lives getting shorter? (11/27/19) provides the graphic copied here.

After climbing gradually over the past half century, life expectancy in America reached a plateau in 2010 and then fell for three consecutive years from 2015 to 2017, the latest for which data are available.

Why? Some of it is due to “deaths of despair” with a 386.5% increase in adult drug overdoses from 1999 to 2017. Still:

But the authors note that mortality has increased across 35 causes of death, suggesting that the problem is systemic. Moreover, all racial and ethnic groups have been affected.

OECD life expectancy data.  Starting point for CDC data.


What is the leading cause of child mortality?

The article by Our World in Data, Pneumonia – no child should die from a disease we can prevent, by Bernadeta Dadonaite (11/12/19) reports:

Every 39 seconds a child dies from pneumonia.

5.4 million children under five years old died in 2017. Pneumonia was the cause of death of one-in-seven of them. . . pneumonia is the leading cause of child mortality globally and has been the leading cause for the past three decades.

What is the distribution of deaths around the world:

As the map shows, children are most likely to die from pneumonia across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Just 5 countries — India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia – accounted for more than half of all deaths from childhood pneumonia in 2017.

The disease is therefore most common in places where healthcare infrastructure is lacking and people are least able to afford treatment.

Progress but not enough:

The number of children dying from pneumonia has decreased substantially over the past three decades. In 1990, more than two million children died from pneumonia each year; by 2017 this number had fallen by almost two-thirds.

The post has three graphs with the data.

How hot was October 2019?

From the NOAA Global Climate Report – October 2019 page:

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average for October 2019 was the second highest for October in the 140-year record at 0.98°C (1.76°F) above the 20th century average 14.0°C (57.1°F). This value is just 0.06°C (0.11°F) shy of tying the record warm October set in 2015. The 10 warmest Octobers have occurred since 2003; however, the five warmest Octobers have all occurred since 2015.

This occured with ENSO-neutral conditions during October 2019. Also, January through October for 2019:

The first ten months of 2019 ranked as the second warmest January–October on record, with a combined global land and ocean surface temperature of 0.94°C (1.69°F) above the 20th century average of 14.1°C (57.4°F). This is only 0.09°C (0.16°F) shy of tying the record warm January–October set in 2016.

October time series data from 1880 through 2019 is available here.