Local Weather Forecasts Depend on Global Cooperation

The U.S. would undermine its own progress by trying to go it alone.

Two of today’s most important global trends are the return of nationalism and the explosion of privately held high-quality data. The potential side effects of both are on vivid display in one unexpected endeavor: weather forecasting.

In his new book, “The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast,” journalist Andrew Blum explains how rapidly forecasts have been improving. Quality is gaining roughly a day a decade, so that a 5-day forecast is now about as good as a 4-day forecast was a decade ago, and a 2-day forecast 30 years ago.

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Guess What’s Holding Back Wind Power in the U.S.

One man’s failed attempt to build a transmission line illustrates a unique American obstacle to clean energy.

The cost of wind energy has dropped drastically over the past several decades as the technology has advanced, especially in the size of turbines. Since 2009, the unsubsidized average cost of onshore wind-energy production has fallen to 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour, from 13.5 cents in 2018, according to an analysis by Lazard, the company I work for. After including U.S. tax subsidies, the cost of building wind capacity is often lower than the marginal cost of generating electricity with existing coal-powered plants. Thus wind energy now offers great opportunities for lowering carbon-dioxide emissions.

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One Small Step for Sensible Policymaking

Trump just signed a new law to help measure the effectiveness of government programs. That’s good, but not good enough.

The government had been shut for more than three weeks when President Donald Trump decided to strike a blow for sensible policymaking. (Go figure.) On Jan. 14, he signed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, legislation that aims to improve data analysis and program evaluation.

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Stimulus Worked in 2009. Next Time It’ll Have to Work Better.

Government spending and tax cuts kept the financial crisis from getting worse. They also taught fiscal-policy lessons the U.S. might need soon.

t’s been a decade since Congress approved a huge emergency package of spending projects, payments to individuals and tax cuts to stimulate a U.S. economy staggered by the 2008 recession. We know now that it worked, limiting the damage caused by the downturn and vindicating the idea that government spending during periods of economic weakness saves jobs and speeds recovery. We also know that it could have worked better.

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Medicare Advantage Is Curbing Opioid Abuse

The drug and medical program gives insurance companies an incentive to take into account the effects of prescription drugs on the cost of care.

Recent data show that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were 10 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, with an almost 50 percent increase in those related to synthetic opioids. A new research paper points to a glimmer of hope in this otherwise bleak story: Medicare Advantage insurance companies seem to be doing a surprisingly good job at mitigating opioid abuse.

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