GZERO Media Town Hall: Ending the COVID-19 Pandemic

GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

Lynda Stuart on the politicization of the vaccine race

It's an absolute tragedy. Vaccine hesitancy at the best of times is a growing issue in the US and around the world, and politicizing it just makes it worse. It's remarkable... to see this happen at such a critical moment in history. That is the last thing that we need. The politicians should probably step out of the way and let the scientists and the public health physicians do the work, and the politicians should be taking a back seat and empowering those who are more technical and who do this for a living to really drive this. It's really a great shame.

Rohitesh Dhawan on what happens if China pioneers an effective vaccine, and gives it first to nations already testing it

Producing and getting the vaccines out is a mammoth task. And even though China is a manufacturing superpower, it has had to go out and seek external partners with which to both test and manufacture the vaccine... And the agreements are, of course, to give those countries some portion of the vaccines that are thus developed, but also for China to have access to the spoils of the work... This is a way for countries to exert soft power, and in a GZERO world where the US and China are essentially fighting for privacy geopolitically, this will be a dynamic that we have to live with. [And] types of vaccines which are simple as a handle will naturally be more attractive to countries that have less well-developed healthcare infrastructures [so] we will see natural geopolitical alliances that in some cases reinforce existing alliances, and other cases will create new ones.

Mark Suzman on equitable and speedy vaccine distribution

We've got to realize that this is an unprecedented challenge globally. We've never actually tried to vaccinate most of the entire planet... So it's an unprecedented challenge in terms of manufacturing and distribution. But what we also need is to make sure it's affordable and equitably distributed. That means not just in rich countries alone, where there's the challenge that many rich countries would be buying up vaccine supply. And that's why we and others have been trying to participate in broader efforts to both have a prioritization of who gets the vaccines first — including high risk groups and healthcare workers — and to put a premium on affordability. We need to be manufacturing now multiple vaccine candidates at the same time, so they're ready to distribute as and when we get regulatory approval.

Gayle E. Smith on what the world will look like if we don't get a vaccine soon

There is a real danger that there will be a set of countries that are in a state of, quite frankly, perpetual crisis. [Without] travel corridors, there are countries whose economies will collapse. There is a real, real danger of that kind of crisis and the instability that comes with it. [But] one of the things I think is very positive is that despite all the politics, the geopolitical intrigue, the fight against facts that we have seen tragically as part of this pandemic, we've seen really consistent, robust cooperation among scientists, across borders, across communities. Regardless of what happens, we will see an escalation and deepening of that. And if we don't have a vaccine, it will grow further.

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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