Issue 21: new year, new rules

Biden versus China, nuclear Biden, superforecasting a pandemic, 60 harvests & a hot 2020

Dear reader,

Welcome to this week’s issue of the Anti-Apocalyptus newsletter. Each week I send you five links about some of the most important challenges of our time: climate change, weapons of mass destruction, emerging technologies, mass causes of death and great power wars. If you haven’t done so yet, feel free to subscribe at the button below, hit the heart button or share this email with anyone who could be interested.

Hi everyone,

A happy 2021, and glad you’re reading issue 21 of this newsletter, this first one of this year.

I’m only starting the newsletter now, two weeks into the year, because I made some changes to the format. I’m still going to provide five links, each week about challenges such as climate change, weapons of mass destruction, emerging technologies, mass causes of death and great power war. But I’m not going to go out of my way anymore to provide one link in each category each week.

That format provided some clarity, but also introduced distortions. Some weeks I might have two great climate change stories, but only one mediocre weapons of mass destruction one. Hence I regularly had to scrap great stories, and replace them with mediocre ones just to fulfil the format. So from now on I’ll still send five links, about the same subjects, but I’m not going to bind myself to the one in each category rule.

So without further ado, let’s get into the links. In case you missed it: at the end of last year I published an interview with CSER’s Clarissa Rios Rojas, feel free to check it out.

The Nation - Biden’s China Problem: Resisting a New Cold War in Asia

Jeet Heer discusses some of the progressive debates on China in the run-up to the Biden presidency, which will (if everything goes alright) start after the inauguration on the 20th (this Wednesday). Heer comes at this from a more ‘dovish’, less anti-China perspective than many in the US. But it’s interesting to project how Biden will approach China, and whether he will inch us closer to war in the Pacific. At the same time, the China question is a profoundly domestic one, with some progressives seeing anti-China sentiment as the glue with which they can legitimate larger government spending.

The Guardian - Nuclear stand-off: can Joe Biden avert a new arms race?

Good overview of the nuclear issues facing Biden after the inauguration, from renewing New Start, to opening up negotiations with Iran and even lowering the importance of ICBM’s in the US’ “nuclear triad” of land-based rockets, nuclear submarines and bombers. It mostly got lost in the turmoil of US politics, but this is probably one of the more high-impact areas of the next US presidency, and one to look out for.

UnHerd - Superforecasting the end of Covid

Interesting article about forecasting, and how Covid will evolve. Superforecasting is a range of techniques that evolved from the research of Philip E. Tetlock, who concluded that many pundits and experts are very bad at predicting what’s going to happen in the future. Certain non-experts using specific methods and mindsets, called superforecasters, however, manage to do much better. The author is one of them, and together with a group of his peers looks at how the virus will evolve in the UK.

Our World in Data - Do we only have 60 harvests left?

The claim that we only have 60 harvests left because of soil erosion is one that often returns in the press, being repeated by, among others, UN officials and even the UK Environment Secretary. Yet it turns out nobody really knows where the claim came from. This post goes into how many harvests are really still left for us. As it turns out, it’s a lot more than 60. Nevertheless erosion is a big problem, and interventions to conserve soil should be urgently taken.

Carbon Brief - State of the climate: 2020 ties as warmest year on record

If you want a sobering post-mortem on 2020, and the climate change statistics it produced, this is the article for you. It goes into everything from surface warming to sea levels and greenhouse gas concentrations. A slightly depressing, but also necessary start to 2021.

I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Feel free to send me comments or remarks by responding to this email. If you haven’t done so yet, please subscribe at the link below, hit the heart button or forward this email to anyone who could be interested.