Coronavirus Politics Daily: India lags, Cali closes, Silver linings

Coronavirus Politics Daily: India lags, Cali closes, Silver linings

Read our roundup of COVID-19 themes and stories from around the globe.

India is way behind on testing – With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassing 250,000 globally, the World Health Organization has sent a clear message to countries around the world: "test, test, test." But to date, only 14,000 of the 1.4 billion people living in India have been tested, one of the lowest rates in the world. The government's official position is that the disease hasn't yet spread communally – but how can they know without testing? Medical experts say India is worried that its feeble healthcare infrastructure would collapse under the strain of on-demand testing. The country spends just 1.28 percent of GDP on healthcare, has only eight doctors per 10,000 people, and has few ventilators. Partial lockdowns in many Indian cities have already begun, but without broader measures and better testing, virologists warn that India, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, is about two weeks behind the infection rates in Italy and Spain.


The world's fifth largest economy is closed – Late yesterday, the world's fifth largest economy closed for business, ordering some 40 million people to go into lockdown. We're not talking about Germany or Japan here, but California, America's most populous state, with an economy bigger than India's and 50 percent larger than Italy's. All non-essential businesses in the state are now closed, and residents can leave their homes only for essential purposes like going to the grocery store or seeing a doctor. California is one of the world's biggest economies to implement a lockdown of this kind, and with up to 80,000 Californians now applying for unemployment every day, the move could hasten the United States' slide into recession. Meanwhile, New York State – no slouch with an economy the size of Canada's – implemented a similar directive today, as the state's caseload steadily creeps towards 8,000, making it the country's coronavirus epicentre.

One silver (greenish) lining for all of this – No, dolphins and swans have not suddenly re-appeared in the canals of Venice. If you saw that story and shared it, you – like us at first – were duped by another vector of misinformation that has gone viral about coronavirus. But what is true is that the increasingly polluted (and rising) waters of Venice are a lot cleaner now, because Italy's lockdown is keeping the city's boats docked. And it's not just Venice. Coronavirus-related economic shutdowns are reducing air pollution across the globe. NASA satellites have captured a visible decrease in air pollution over Wuhan, China, and northern Italy in recent weeks. In New York City, meanwhile, carbon monoxide emissions appear to have fallen by 50 percent in recent days. Global emissions also fell significantly during the global financial crisis ten years ago, only to rocket back up once the economy started humming again. But in the decade since, climate change has emerged as a much more urgent political issue. Will the COVID-19 scourge create an opportunity to change course on global warming? Or will the perceived economic trade-offs of capping emissions seem even more daunting given the economic wreckage that the pandemic is certain to leave behind?

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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A Castro-less Cuba: Raúl Castro, younger brother of the late Fidel, is expected to retire on Friday as secretary-general of Cuba's ruling communist party. When he does, it'll mark the first time since the 1959 revolution that none of Cuba's leaders is named Castro. The development is largely symbolic since Castro, 89, handed over day-to-day affairs to President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2018. It's worth noting that US sanctions laws do specify that one of the conditions for normalizing ties with Cuba is that any transitional government there cannot include either of the Castro brothers. So that's one less box to tick in case there is a future rapprochement across the Straits of Florida. But more immediately, we're watching to see whether a new generation of leaders headed by Díaz-Canel will bring any serious reforms to Cuba. COVID has killed the tourism industry, plunging the island into an economic crisis that's brought back food shortages and dollar stores reminiscent of the early 1990s.

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16: Brazil's new plan to save the Amazon promises to curb deforestation, but not too much. Although it would reduce annual forest loss to the average recorded over the past five years, next year's target is still 16 percent higher than the Amazon's total deforestation in 2018, the year before President Jair Bolsonaro — who favors economic development of the rainforest — took office.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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