Carbon dioxide's high concentration in our atmosphere is responsible for the climate change that threatens our planet. But what if there were methods for capturing CO2 to store or reuse it?
Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."
That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.
But the world of work has changed, and that could be bad news for still-emerging countries like India, Indonesia, and Africa's largest economies. Manufacturing, central to China's boom over the past few decades, is now often performed by smart machines. New jobs for people often demand digital-age education and training that relatively few workers in poorer countries have access to.
There is also now less outsourcing of work from wealthier countries because production there depends less than in the past on low-wage workers and more on machines that don't need salaries, lunch breaks, vacation time, safety protections, pensions, and health insurance. Nor do they go on strike or test positive for COVID-19.
In short, the new world of work doesn't create as many opportunities for people with little education and training to escape poverty through hard work alone. And yet, populations of young people in many poor countries are still growing. Where will they work and how will they live?
How will the next wave of poor countries become more prosperous? Their governments and companies need to prepare young people for a new economy by investing more time, money, and energy in education, and in the training and retraining of workers for the 21st century workplace. They also need safety-net protections to help workers make this difficult transition and to protect those who fail. They also need to create many more opportunities for girls and women, because no nation will succeed while sidelining half its population.
Beyond these basics, challenges differ from country to country.
India's government knows it must do more to prepare children for the future. This is a country that produces state-of-the-art engineers and digital entrepreneurs, but India's new National Education Policy is designed to solve the problem that half of rural students in grade 5 can't read at a grade 2 level, and less than one-third can do basic division. India produces more than its share of stars; it needs entire generations of well-educated kids.
In Indonesia, already the world's fourth most populous country, the state is working to ease future demand for jobs and social services by lowering the birth rate. Its government is investing in education and tech development and training, but it's also actively promoting later marriages, family planning and contraception to flatten population growth by 2025. Success will depend not just on smart policy but on the willingness of people to live with fewer children.
The governments of Africa's 54 countries will have varying rates of success in meeting these challenges, but population growth is a shared problem. The United Nations predicts that the rate of global population growth will slow sharply over the rest of this century — but that Africa's population will surge from 1.34 billion to 4.28 billion.
Major security threats in large states like Nigeria and Ethiopia, chronic youth unemployment in South Africa, and political instability in a number of other countries undercut the ability of governments to invest in the future. They are also the kinds of problems that spill across borders into neighboring countries.
And beyond the humanitarian desire to see others succeed, it's this cross-border flow of trouble that makes this everybody's problem. A surge of young people who can't work can create the kind of turmoil that can spill from one country or region to another. Many poorer countries were already burdened with heavy debt before COVID made matters much worse. If the world's wealthier countries expect these governments to invest in the future of their young people — they'd better be prepared to collectively invest in their success.
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Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:
This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.
Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?
And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.
How does the EU's proposed regulation on AI technology differ from other countries, like China and the US?
Well, the brand-new EU AI regulation proposed this week takes a values, but also a risk-based approach, and essentially is the first continent to move with a comprehensive strategy for ensuring that AI does not cause death, or ends due process, destroys privacy, or creates unprecedented powerful corporate manipulators. So, all eyes are now out for what the European Parliament and the governments of EU member states will say in response to this proposal by the European Commission. Because together these three institutions will negotiate and ultimately vote before we can actually speak of a law that has entered into effect.
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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.
"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.
Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?
April 22, 2021
Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.
Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.
To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.
Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.
What are some arguments for a waiver?
It's the humane thing to do. To date, only 0.2 percent of all COVID vaccine doses have been administered in low-income countries. The virus is still spreading like wildfire in many places, and hospitalization and deaths are soaring in countries like India and Brazil. Relaxing rules on patents would mean more people would get vaccinated more quickly, saving scores of lives. The cost-benefit analysis is simple, argue advocates of waivers to IP rights like US Senator Bernie Sanders.
The economics of it all. In order for the global economy to return to sustained growth, equitable access to vaccines is crucial. Patents only serve the specific commercial interests of big pharma companies (Pfizer is making a 25-30 percent profit off its vaccine sales, making it one of the most "lucrative drugs" in the world.) The global economic bounce-back is dependent on a speedy global vaccination drive, and relaxing IP rules will fuel a surge in production.
Empowering lower-income states. Without a waiver, poorer countries will remain at the mercy of the US, the UK and the EU, which is itself mired in a complicated vaccine fiasco. Dependency on the "charity" of wealthy countries — and their multi-billionaire pharma industries — that could take years to deliver, is not a sustainable solution as countries race to prevent the spread of new more contagious variants. (Consider that Africa currently imports 99 percent of its vaccines for a population of 1.3 billion.)
What are some arguments against a waiver?
It would discourage innovation. Waiving IP rules for COVID-19 vaccines will disincentivize big pharmaceutical companies from investing time and money in complicated research and development required to produce safe and effective drugs. Taking away such a massive incentive for innovation would stunt developments needed to address future pressing health crises.
Quality control. Unlike medications, which are basic compounds that can be easily reproduced by trained chemists, new age vaccines are complicated biologics that use basic ingredients (sugar, gelatin, proteins) as well as modified viruses (viral vectors) and genetic technology (mRNA). To safely and effectively copy a vaccine, manufacturers need to have access to and understand the formula, and need the originator's full assistance to get such a complex operation off the ground. Failure to ensure this by hastily lifting IP rights could result in millions of potentially unsafe doses at a time when vaccine hesitancy remains high in many countries. Amid recent negotiations with Pfizer, the Australian government said that setting up the required tech to safely produce Pfizer's (mRNA) vaccine locally would take at least one year.
Think outside the box. Removing IP protections is not the only — nor the best — way to address the problem. One vaccine specialist has suggested that companies should license their IP rights to third parties in a "technology transfer" arrangement, resulting in more companies manufacturing doses (this could also happen through rich countries investing in infrastructure). Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the new WTO chief who has lobbied against "vaccine nationalism," has pointed to the licensing deal between UK-based AstraZeneca and India's Serum Institute as a model. Partnerships are also happening in the US, where the Biden administration brokered a deal between Merck and Johnson & Johnson, rival pharmaceutical companies, to boost production.
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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:
What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?
We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.
What's happening in the politics of Germany?
Well, in the politics of Germany, you have drama. You had the drama inside the CDU/CSU coalition on nominating a candidate for the chancellorship. They managed to sort that out with taking the candidate who is the least popular, according to public opinion. And then the Greens, of course, launched their candidate, a 40-year-old lady, no prior experience. But she's well in the opinion polls at the moment. So stay tuned. The politics of Germany is going to be interesting and important. We are talking about the third largest industrial economy of the world.
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What We’re Watching: Australia cancels China deals, Zuma without lawyers, US to recognize Armenian genocide
April 22, 2021
Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.
Zuma's lawyers quit: Jacob Zuma's entire legal team has thrown in the towel just a month before the former South African president's high-stakes corruption trial. The lawyers have yet to explain why they've dropped Zuma, but regardless it will make it much harder for him to prove he is innocent of 16 charges of racketeering, fraud, corruption and money laundering related to a $2 billion arms deal from the 1990s. Zuma — who was forced to step down in 2018 over this corruption scandal — has long decried the trial as a political witch hunt, stonewalling all requests for evidence and often not showing up when he was due in court. But the process is a major test for South Africa's judiciary to demonstrate it can actually hold people in power to account for corruption. Zuma's successor and former ally, President Cyril Ramaphosa, will be watching very closely.US to recognize Armenian genocide: A hundred years after the Ottomans tried to exterminate the empire's Armenian population, US President Joe Biden will officially recognize the campaign as a genocide on Saturday. Biden's decision, first sniffed out last month by our very own Ian Bremmer — makes him the first sitting US president to make the designation, joining nearly 30 other countries that have already done so. Although the move is purely symbolic, it risks hurting relations with Turkey, modern successor to the Ottoman Empire and which for decades has denied that as many as 1.5 million Armenians were intentionally massacred or marched to their deaths during and after World War I. With ties between the US and Turkey, a NATO ally, already strained over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasing authoritarianism and his defense dalliances with Russia, expect some fireworks between Washington and Ankara in the coming days.
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