Davos Newbies Home

Solow on globalisation 

Brad DeLong points to an interview with economist Bob Solow and an interesting range of topics, and offers his own commentary. Worth a read for those interested in globalisation and its effects.

Cold and colder 

Robert Gagosian, head of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, has some more bad news on climate change.

“Average winter temperatures could drop by 5 degrees Fahrenheit over much of the United States, and by 10 degrees in the northeastern United States and in Europe. ThatÂ’s enough to send mountain glaciers advancing down from the Alps. To freeze rivers and harbors and bind North Atlantic shipping lanes in ice. To disrupt the operation of ground and air transportation. To cause energy needs to soar exponentially. To force wholesale changes in agricultural practices and fisheries. To change the way we feed our populations.”

There has been some discussion of this scenario in Britain over the last few years. Look where London is: at latitude 51.5 degrees north, we’re as far north as Edmonton, which has famously brutal winters. The only thing that makes most of Britain and northern Europe habitable is the Gulf Stream current, which brings warmer waters to the seas around us, producing a general atmospheric warming. Divert the Gulf Stream and we’ll need more than a few woolly jumpers.

Different risks 

Geopolitical risks used to be easy to judge. They came from conventional sources of instability — shaky governments, rogue states, reckless militaries. We still face all of these, but there are new elements in the equation.

According to the CIA, the rise of Aids in five major countries presents a major security threat in the future. China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Russia have 40% of the world’s population, and the CIA reckons by 2010 they will between 50 million and 75 million HIV-positive people.

The increasing incidence of HIV “could harm the economic, social, political and military structure in each of the five countries”.

The CIA’s record of spotting what’s important is pretty poor (it missed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the capabilities of Osama bin Laden, for example), but there are clearly some people within the agency thinking intelligently. The CIA report was given to the governments of the five countries two weeks ago, apparently. Whether they do anything about it in time to stave off the worst is very much in doubt.

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