Interesting & Important News & Analysis, July 1, 2019

“Bernie Sanders is the Enemy to Entrepreneurs” Says the Co-Founder of Home Depot. Kim Iversen says the Co-Founder of Home Depot is talking nonsense. I agree with her.

A Brief History of Doom

Are financial crises avoidable? Richard Vague says yes—by reigning in the excessive private lending that’s driven major crashes over the past 200 years. INET President Rob Johnson talks to Richard Vague about his new book, A Brief History of Doom: Two Hundred Years of Financial Crises.

A leveraged-lending bust could hit economy quicker than subprime blowup, says ex-FDIC boss Sheila Bair

“The parallels to the subprime crisis, are pretty striking, except you are dealing with corporate borrowers instead of households,” Bair said of today’s leveraged-loan market.

“There seems to be a lot of hand-wringing about this. But nobody is really doing anything.”

For those of you who’ve been incorrectly thinking that the tariffs against China are a walk in the park for China to overcome:

China chip designers say Beijing goals impossible without US tech

… even with much-anticipated support from Chinese leaders, Guo is still cautious about whether Beijing will meet its ambitious 2025 targets. “China’s chip industry is on the rise, but it still lags far behind Western peers,” he said. “It will probably take us another decade to catch up.”

They won’t catch up in 10 years unless the US stands still.

Thank the Progressives, Not the President, for ‘Trump’s Economy’

… the Trump administration has chosen policies that, time after time, side with the wealthy and powerful over working people. For example, Americans understand that the president’s massive tax cuts weren’t aimed at working people, but they haven’t yet felt the full impact of efforts to starve federal dollars to states and localities.

The Trump administration also revisited an Obama administration rule that would have significantly expanded overtime coverage for workers who make less than about $51,000 per year in 2020—proposing to lower that threshold to about $35,000. If they complete the rule as-is, it will give workers $1.2 billion less each year than they would have received under the Obama rule.

Worse, the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to make it much harder to hold large corporations accountable if their workers aren’t paid what they’re owed. The Labor Department has proposed a rule that attempts to make it a lot harder to show who’s responsible when workers’ rights are violated in cases where companies use contractors or temporary employees.

What if They Run Out of Juice: Biggest Share-Buyback Queens

When a company buys back its own shares, the shares get canceled and disappear, the cash used to buy them gets handed to sellers and is gone, and “stockholder equity” on the balance sheet drops by that amount.

Buybacks are at the core of financial engineering: They lower the share count, and so earnings are divided by a smaller number of shares, which generates a larger earnings-per-share figure, and a lower price-earnings ratio, to bamboozle people who still bother to look at these metrics after 10 years of being told that fundamentals don’t matter.

I have to tell you. Buybacks are one of the dumbest things a company can do. All that money that’s thrown at buybacks could be, and should be, plowed back into the company in the form of things that will truly enhance the real value of the company. Research and development is just one area where that comes into play. The only major exception is for companies in the wrong business, such as carbon burning. However, even those companies could look to diversify into good sectors where they could then wisely spend on research and development. There are literally endless places and ways to spend money more wisely than on buybacks.

Sounds complicated:

Stanford offers billions for housing in fight with county

Move over, Google: On Monday, Stanford University offered $4.7 billion toward housing, transit, and school costs in Santa Clara County ($3.4 billion of it for housing development), part of a package aimed at resolving a standoff with county officials.

I worked as a janitor to keep my student loans low. Wiping debt punishes students like me.

Wow, what a selfish attitude that is. The logical conclusion of that attitude is to make no progress. Look at people who take care of themselves for decades to avoid diseases. Imagine being upset because of discoveries to cure diseases of those who didn’t take care of themselves? Imagine taking the attitude that the cure is your punishment. Don’t help the homeless if you have a home. The list is endless. Selfishness is a disease I’ve worked hard to avoid catching, but I still hope we come up with the cure for Christian Barnard, who penned his complaint that he’ll be punished if the debts of others are forgiven. There’s no jubilee in Christian’s heart. I say his punishment is self-inflicted.

Climate Change is Devastating India With Heat Waves and Water Shortages

India’s climate disasters are fueled by its governments’ resource mismanagement and fossil fuel consumption, says political economist Shouvik Chakraborty.

Huston, we have a global problem.

“… 114.6 degrees Fahrenheit was reported in Gallargues-le-Montueux, in southern France.

Look, people are dropping like flies in India and elsewhere too. We can’t wait. We must declare a global war on global warming. The time for excuses and for worrying about jobs and profits in the carbon-fuel sector is over. It would be more sensible to pay that sector and all of its employees to stop than to pay the coming costs of global warming if we don’t end carbon burning, if we don’t totally sequester the now excess CO2 and other greenhouse gasses we’ve released into the atmosphere. This is an existential threat to the world as we’ve known it. If we don’t act quickly enough, a global disaster will be inevitable.

Ah, unsurprisingly, the best anti-Facebook Libra article yet:

Libra: Facebook’s Audacious Bid for Global Monetary Control

A currency intended for trade on a national—let alone international—scale needs to be not only centralized but democratized, responding to the will of the people and their elected leaders. Rather than bypassing the existing central banking structure as Facebook plans to do, several groups of economists are proposing a more egalitarian solution: nationalizing and democratizing the central bank by opening its deposit window to everyone. As explored in my latest book, “Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age,” these proposals could allow us all to get 2.35% on our deposits, while eliminating bank runs and banking crises, since the central bank cannot run out of funds. Profits from the public medium of exchange need to return to the public, rather than enriching an unaccountable, corporate-controlled Facebook Trojan horse.

I will not use or accept Libra. If the US government allows Libra as currently planned by Facebook, it will be the US government debauching the US dollar. The handling of the US dollar is bad enough without Facebook usurping it.

Facebook’s plan is exactly backwards. We need to improve the US dollar, not weaken and destroy it. We could eventually move to a single global currency, a move I fully support; but, until that time, we need democracy in the form of people voting with ballots, not dollars or Libra.

Some people have more dollars than others and would have more Libras than others. That gives, and would continue to give, them more say than others and more ability to control politicians than others. That’s anti-democratic and the result of fundamental unfairness at the creation: when the nation’s government was formed. It was coerced into existence with only a few making the decisions because they were willing to kill for the sake of their personal estates over the welfare of all together.

Not our typical topic to cover, nevertheless:

US Appeals Court Says Judge Went Too Far on Drug Data Order

Some of the data was made public in 2016 when the Gazette-Mail obtained it from the West Virginia attorney general’s office. The Gazette-Mail used that information in a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation that found that 780 million pills flowed into the state of 1.8 million people from 2007-2012, a period when more than 1,700 West Virginians died from opioid overdoses.

Arizona Fire Highlights Hazards for Energy Storage

APS has assembled a team of engineers, safety experts and first responders to work with the utility, battery-maker Fluence and others to carefully remove and inspect the 378 modules that comprise the McMicken battery system and figure out what happened.

Nearly all of the utility-scale batteries now on the grid or in development are massive versions the same lithium ion technology that powers cellphones and laptops. If the batteries get too hot, a fire can start and trigger a phenomenon known as thermal runaway, in which the fire feeds on itself and is nearly impossible to stop until it consumes all the available fuel.

Problems with lithium ion batteries have periodically triggered fears following outbreaks of spontaneous fires in Samsung phones, hoverboards and Boeing’s 787 aircraft.

Researchers are working to educate firefighters on how to deal with battery fires. It was a topic of discussion at a conference this week of the National Fire Protection Association, which has developed an online training program for first responders, said Christian Dubay, the group’s vice president and chief engineer.

Federal Lawsuit Charges Amazon’s Alexa Violates Children’s Privacy

According to the suit, Amazon doesn’t have to make permanent recordings. Audio interactions could be processed locally on the device, which could send a digital query, rather than a voice recording, to Amazon’s servers.

The suit says Apple Inc.’s Siri product, unlike Alexa, stores recordings only for a short amount of time. Likewise, the automobile manufacturer Mercedes has developed a virtual assistant that likewise does not store recorded communications.

Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Gets Pushback from Global Financial Watchdogs

“It’s out of the question” that the social-media giant’s digital money compete with sovereign currencies, Le Maire said.

Meanwhile, Waters said Libra is “like starting a bank without having to go through any steps to do it,” and that it’s seeking to “compete with the dollar without having any regulatory regime that’s dealing with them.”

UK’s Legal & General Is Divesting Exxon Shares Over Climate Change

Several other companies are “on the cusp” of divestment when it comes to climate action, according to Sacha Sadan, the director of corporate governance at the insurer’s investment unit, without saying which ones. And even those that were named as particularly strong on sustainability compared to their peers, such as Equinor ASA and French bank BNP Paribas SA, will be expected to continuously move their businesses away from polluting activities or risk being divested.

“This engagement is not about picking up the laggards, it’s about pushing up the whole industry,” said Omi. “We need to keep the pressure on.”

Returns at Legal & General’s Future World funds will suffer very little as a result of the divestments, Omi said. The difference between what the funds would return without divesting and what they will return otherwise, which she called a “tracking error,” will be less than 0.3%.

If you’ve watched what has happened to Bayer over Monsanto’s glyphosate, consider what will happen to Exxon and the others over global warming. Are you sure you want to own those stocks?

Shortsighted, money-now move:

Oregon Lawmakers Repealed Tsunami Zone Building Law

Oregon has a 30 percent chance of experiencing a 9.0-magnitude-plus Cascadia subduction zone earthquake in the next 50 years. The quake would be followed by a tsunami similar to the one that devastated eastern Japan in 2011.

A Directors & Officers (D&O) issue:

Purdue’s Sackler Family Must Face Opioid Suits in New York

Under New York law, he wrote, “a director may be held individually liable for a corporate tort if he or she participated in its commission or else directed, controlled, approved or ratified the decision that led to the plaintiff’s injury.”

Many issues arise. Was it intentional? Did they know harm would result? Does the insurance policy use any terms that would be defined or interpreted by the court(s) for or against the insurer or insured? (See: “Insurance Coverage for the Opioid Crisis“)

This is subrogation.

High School Student Sued for Activating Virginia Hotel Room Sprinkler

Anderson’s attorney says his client hung his uniform on a sprinkler to properly affix all of the ribbons and medals. When he took the uniform down, the sprinkler activated.

Okay, was the sprinkler defective? That wouldn’t necessarily absolve him, but it would be mitigating.

Michigan City to Pay $1.25M in Sewage-Flooded Basements Suit

Water Backup and Sump Overflow coverage isn’t automatically included in every policy. Sometimes, it isn’t available even as an option. That’s why many people sue the government. If coverage is in place, the insurance companies may seek reimbursement from the applicable government(s).

Sewer backflow preventers can come in handy and be a wise investment.

Jump in Western U.S. Wildfires Means Smoke’s Health Impact Will Spread

Carbon burning is causing global warming and worsening forest fires. The cumulative impact of poor land and forest management hasn’t helped. In the Northwest, many people don’t have refrigeration. On hot days, it’s not feasible to close all the windows to keep the forest-fire smoke out. It becomes necessary to use special and expensive air filters designed to remove the small particulate matter from the air entering the home. People also must use special face masks to go outside or when an air filtration system isn’t in place in a window or other opening to the home. Security also becomes an issue concerning such fans with filters in window openings.

Those are makeshift remedies. We need to remedy global warming by ending carbon burning and by dramatically and quickly ramping up carbon sequestration. We should also subsidize the poor concerning filters and masks. They should be given away for free and installed for free too for those who require the assistance.

Poll: Majority of Americans Say Global Warming is Affecting U.S. Weather

Nearly seven-in-ten Americans believe global warming is happening, while only 16 percent think global warming is not happening.
Fifty-five percent understand that global warming is mostly human-caused, while 32 percent think it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment.

Climate Costs in 2040

$400 Billion for Seawalls. Big Oil wants you to pay.

Paying Farmers Fairly Could Curb Climate Change and Hunger

“We need to think about the parity model and getting farmers a fair wage for what they produce. If farmers got paid a fair price, they wouldn’t need to continuously overproduce just to make more profit per unit of production, because they’d be getting a fair wage for whatever they did produce. We’d eliminate a lot of the surplus we have in dairy, beef, and commodity crops, and we could grow a lot less, and we wouldn’t need to be looking for alternative uses for the things we grow and trying to get people to eat more meat and more dairy products. People could make the choice to have a healthier diet that is grown locally, and we wouldn’t be flooding the world market with really cheap commodities that are breaking farmers who are just trying to stay in business.”

Of course, then agro-industry would not be able to sell so many farm inputs and the food and feed processors would have to pay farmers more. The CAFOs would not get cheap feed (which would go a long way to putting this dirty industry out of business).

Eighty years ago, when we were an agrarian nation, parity was a powerful concept for social and environmental justice. We no longer are an agrarian society, but agriculture—and family farmers—are still central to our economy, and parity is still essential for a just, transformative food system.

Pollinator-friendly solar energy becomes the norm in Minnesota

Foolish, shortsighted, more expensive later:

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle [emphasis added].

All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers.

None of the studies were focused on the causes of global warming – an often politically charged issue. Rather, the research examined the wide-ranging effects of rising carbon dioxide, increasing temperatures and volatile weather.

The administration, researchers said, appears to be trying to limit the circulation of evidence of climate change and avoid press coverage that may raise questions about the administration’s stance on the issue.

“There’s a sense that you should watch what you say,” said Ricardo Salvador, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s going to result in some pretty big gaps in practical knowledge. … it will take years to undo the damage.”

… at least 45 ARS studies related to climate change since the beginning of the Trump administration that did not receive any promotion, according to POLITICO’s review. …

The president has also repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus on climate change. After the government released its latest national climate assessment in November, a sweeping document based on science, Trump bluntly told reporters: “I don’t believe it.”

Officials at USDA apparently took the hint and the department did not promote the report, despite the fact that it was drafted in part by its own scientists and included serious warnings about how a changing climate poses a threat to farmers and ranchers across the country.

… the rice paper attracted substantial international press coverage, largely because many of the outside institutions that collaborated on the study, including the University of Tokyo, promoted it.

The USDA’s efforts to hide climate work aren’t limited to ARS. A review of department press releases, blog posts and social media shows a clear pattern of avoiding the topic. These platforms largely eschew the term “climate change” and also steer clear of climate-related terms. Even the word “climate” itself appears to have now fallen out of favor, along with phrases like carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and sequestration.

Real Organic Project:

The Hydroponic Threat to Organic Food

Hydroponics is a system that relies entirely upon processed inputs to feed the plants. The old organic adage is, “Feed the soil, not the plant.” The guiding principle of conventional agriculture is: “Feed the plant, not the soil.” Obviously, hydroponic production is the most extreme example of this philosophy.

The inclusion of hydroponics in organic certification is thus not an example of innovation and improvement. It is an example of conquest and colonization. It is simply a hostile takeover of organic by economic forces. It has been widely resisted by the organic community, but the USDA continues to embrace hydroponics as organic just as they embrace CAFOs as organic. Their redefinition of organic is in opposition to the law and to international norms. …

At this time, huge quantities of hydroponic berries, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and greens are being marketed as “Certified Organic” in partnership with the USDA. And there is no way of identifying what is hydroponic in the organic label [emphasis added].

The Real Organic Project was created to challenge this process. Our efforts include the creation of an add-on label so that real organic farmers and eaters might be able to find one another in a deceptive marketplace.

Hacked Ad Server Pushes SEON Ransomware, Trojans Via Malvertising

… Malwarebytes said they were able to track a malvertising campaign to a popular video converter site called onlinevideoconverter[.]com. According to Similarweb, this site has over 200 million visitors per month and is the 159th largest site in the world.

When visitors came to the site to convert their videos, the ad server would load the exploit kit. This was done by the ad server offering up a fake GIF file that contained JavaScript that would redirect the user to the exploit kit gate.

This is one reason many security-minded users have ad blockers set to block all ads by default.

Phishing Security Controls Fully Bypassed Using QR Codes

To lure the victims to their phishing landing pages, the crooks added a GIF image containing the QR code which would redirect them to the hxxps://digitizeyourart.whitmers[.]com/wp-content/plugins/wp-college/Sharepoint/sharepoint/index.php domain designed to pose as a SharePoint-related site.

This is why security-minded users have their email client set to block all images by default. Those users have to allow images per message. They only allow images in messages from those they trust. It’s not foolproof, but it’s better than allowing all images by default.

Even with end-to-end encryption, it’s not assured hackers won’t break the encryption to steal your personal data in transit over the Internet. Take away end-to-end encryption, and what are people supposed to do who are responsible for taking required steps (such as using end-to-end encryption) to keep your data secure during transit?

The Trump administration is thinking about banning end-to-end encryption

Bitcoin-powered dark web:

German police raid another Bitcoin-powered dark web marketplace

Shutdown Bitcoin.

White House Considers Capital Gains Tax Break That Would Benefit Wealthy

The office of the President does not have the legal authority to do that.

Trump Proposal Would Force 25,000 Families to Split Up or Lose Rental Assistance

A proposed Trump Administration rule would ban certain families with immigrants from most federal rental assistance programs, forcing tens of thousands of eligible people to split up their families or lose their assistance and risk eviction and homelessness. Despite the Administration’s claims, this rule wouldn’t free up resources to provide more housing assistance for the 3 in 4 households that qualify but don’t receive any due to limited funding.

The rule would take assistance away from eligible people if they live in a “mixed-status” family — one with at least one person who doesn’t have an eligible immigration status. For decades, federal law has limited rental assistance to U.S. citizens and people with certain immigration statuses, such as lawful permanent residency or refugee status. When families include an immigrant whose status doesn’t qualify them for assistance, longstanding policy carefully prorates assistance, ensuring that ineligible family members don’t receive it. The Administration’s proposal would end the sensible proration policy and would take rental assistance away from eligible people.

Legal versus illegal, or any term you care to use, is a difficult issue. So many people on either side of the issue treat it as cut-and-dried.

It appears that the laws don’t reflect what a huge percentage of Americans believe is moral. On the other side, a huge percentage believes not enforcing laws (that have not been repealed or overturned by the courts) is likewise immoral. It also appears that both sides are talking right past each other on it.

Personally, I’m conflicted. I think laws should be enforced (and modified to make them jibe with humaneness), but, regardless, we need to be completely hospitable to those waiting for approval. I could go on and on about it.

It’s true that there are criminals who enter the US through the porous border, but the vast majority of those who enter are simply fleeing severe hardship, or worse, that’s often been exacerbated by wrongheaded US foreign policy.

Mexico is in the process of making it easier for people waiting near the US border on the Mexican side to be employed in Mexico, which can use the workers there. I think that’s wise. I hope everyone benefits. The US should help in that while we make needed changes on our side in the law and in how we treat people and in the facilities where we process them and where they stay while waiting. We should have the best facilities in the world for that.

Here’s an example of wrongheaded US foreign policy that has only made things worse and caused more people to want to, and need to, flee from Honduras. It’s from November 22, 2017.

Honduras: Social and Economic Indicators Since the 2009 Coup

The last election was rigged so that the coupsters remained in power. They were recognized by the Trump administration. Trump has cut the funds flowing there until Honduras cuts the number of people fleeing toward the US. It’s a very confused, counterproductive, and inhumane foreign policy.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya: 10 years after coup, US controls country

The Grayzone’s Anya Parampil sat down for an exclusive interview with Honduras President Manuel Zelaya, who discusses how, after a US-backed right-wing military coup overthrew him on June 28, 2009, “The United States has almost complete control over Honduras.”

Low Income People Have More Student Debt Than Realized

… student debtors who live with their parents, which many do in part because of their student debt, are either absent from the survey sample or being counted as part of their parent’s PEU.

Greed isn’t good. Greed is downright dumb.

The Economist Who Put Stock Buybacks in Washington’s Crosshairs

In 1984, Lazonick said, “no one was talking about ‘shareholder value.’ ” But, by 1986, “everyone was talking about it.”

Jensen and his ideas proved to be hugely influential. Through the rest of the decade, as President Ronald Reagan pushed for tax cuts and eliminated business regulations, the shareholder-value philosophy became the norm. Companies began giving much of their extra capital back to investors in the form of dividends rather than investing it in areas that could have strengthened the business in the longer term, such as new facilities, new products, worker training, and employee raises.

Average Age of Vehicles Sets Record, New-Vehicle Sales Drop to Where They Were 20 Years Ago. What Are Automakers Doing?

What’s left for automakers to do to increase revenues in this environment of two decades of stagnating unit sales? A three-pronged industry strategy has emerged: Shift customers to more expensive vehicles, such as from cars to trucks and SUVs; load the vehicles with more goodies each year, such as driving-assist features; and jack up the prices pure and simple.

And automakers have been doing it across the board, which has the effect that for many Americans, new vehicles have become too expensive, and they stopped buying them, which puts further downward pressure on unit sales. But Wall Street, which keeps pushing automakers to go further and further upscale – because that’s where the money is – hasn’t figured this out yet.

US generates more electricity from renewables than coal for first time ever

“Trump has made a promise that will be broken, which is a tragedy for coalminers who were told they don’t need to get other jobs or get new skills,” said Webber. “They have been sent the wrong signal and now there are lay-offs.”

“Free trade” that ends up collectively costing us more than we get out of it is unfair and inherently wrong. It’s nothing to celebrate but rather dread.

EU and Mercosur agree huge trade deal after 20-year talks

… environmental group Greenpeace said the deal – and the likely growth in demand for Latin American agricultural products – amounted to a “disaster for the environment on both sides of the Atlantic”.

Ahead of the deal’s announcement, it said the agreement would lead to more destruction of the Amazon rainforest and attacks on indigenous peoples.

Cattle farming is already the biggest driver of deforestation, Greenpeace says.

Critics say Mr Bolsonaro’s plans to weaken environmental protections also threaten the Amazon.

I’m all for new housing (affordable) to satisfied demand, but the following strikes me as an odd and perhaps unworkable way of going about it.

California will sue, fine cities that don’t build enough housing

In a deal brokered Thursday between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California legislature, California cities may soon face lawsuits and six-figure fines if they don’t produce enough new housing to satisfy capitol demands.

Some places can’t squeeze in more housing without building up. Land values, material and equipment costs, and labor shortages make things hard without help from those with bottomless pockets (the federal government). Also, throwing money at a problem doesn’t work when there’s poor or no planning.

World’s Largest Solar Power Plant Switched On

As of today [2019-06-29], the Noor Abu Dhabi project with a total capacity of 1,177MW is the largest operational single site solar project in the world.

Europe Circumvents U.S. Sanctions On Iran

Exactly how does INSTEX facilitate trade with Iran without making sanctions-busting cross-border payments? In a word – barter. INSTEX matches the Euro payments of companies buying goods from Iran with the Euro receipts of companies selling goods to Iran. Imagine a company based in France wants to sell transport equipment to a buyer in Iran. Receiving Euro payments directly from that buyer would break U.S. sanctions. So instead, the French company would register the sale documentation with INSTEX. INSTEX would look on its own books for a company buying foodstuffs from Iran. It would match the two cash flows so that in effect the two European companies pay each other. The goods would still travel to and from Iran, but the money would stay entirely within the EU.

On the Iranian side, INSTEX is mirrored by a similar SPV, known as STFI. STFI would likewise match incoming and outgoing transactions. So the two Iranian entities would also effectively pay each other. Thus, everyone would receive their goods and payments, but no money would cross the Iranian border.

It would appear that the only way the US could try to stop the flow of goods would be to physically block their transport or sanction the nations that allow their transport to and from Iran. The US runs the risk of blowback: nations cutting off trade with the US so those other nations may carry on trading with each other as if the US doesn’t exist. Would that lead to world war with the US going it alone against its former allies? I don’t see the American people going along with that at all. Do you?

Hotter than Death Valley: Europe burns, sweats in record heat

The World Meteorological Organization said this week that 2019 was on track to be among the world’s hottest years on record, which would make 2015-2019 the hottest five-year period.

The European heatwave was “absolutely consistent” with extremes linked to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the WMO.