Issue 22: from 2-degree terraforming to Chinese bullet trains

Climate alarmism, New START, the dollar empire, worldview diversification and bullet trains

Dear reader,

Welcome to this week’s issue of the Anti-Apocalyptus newsletter. Each week I send you five links about 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.

This week was, again, dominated by the US election. That Biden has finally been sworn in will probably mean some more stability around key themes for this newsletter, nuclear disarmament for one. But at the same time key forces underlying our world will keep moving, irrespective of whether Biden or Trump is inside the White House.

Which is, of course, why I write this newsletter. So without further ado, here’s this week’s links.

New York Magazine - After Alarmism

Must-read essay by journalist David Wallace-Wells about the future of climate change. He charts how we’re at a point where we’ll probably see near-term strong government action against climate change, which, nevertheless, won’t be able to ward off a 2 degree world. This new world will kill a lot of people, and make swathes of the earth hard to inhabit during summer. Wallace-Wells vacillates here between lukewarm optimism and cold pessimism, and ends with a call for terraforming-scale adaption.

DW - Biden seeks extension of START nuclear treaty with Russia

Now that Biden seems to have successfully taken over power in the US, one of his first priorities is to extend the New START treaty with Russia. New START is the only remaining nuclear treaty between Russia and the US, limiting an arms race from spiralling out of control, and which is set to expire on February the 4th. The Trump administration was long opposed to renewing it, but now Biden wants to extend it by five years.

Foreign Policy - The Rise and Fall and Rise (and Fall) of the U.S. Financial Empire

The dollar has been one of the cornerstones of our global financial system for almost a century now, coinciding with the rise of the US on the world stage after World War I. Yet together with the slow fall of the US hegemon from power, calls have been raised to replace the US-centric dollar system. Adam Tooze here charts the history of that system, and the difficulties it has encountered along the way, showing it was never just a simplistic extension of US empire.

80,000 Hours - Ajeya Cotra on worldview diversification and how big the future could be

Interesting podcast from 80,000 hours where they interview a research analyst from Open Philanthropy about longtermism, and all the philosophical issues that come with it. A lot of this seems quite far out, but it underlies our capacity to think about highly important world issues, like existential risks.

Macro Polo - Boon or Boondoggle? The Cost and Benefit of China's Bullet Trains

Fun multimedia project which discusses China’s high speed rail project. It goes into the construction of the system, whether it was worth it in terms of cost-benefit (Macro Polo says it was) and how it stimulated economic development in the country.

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.