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A Scan of Critical World DevelopmentsThe MacroScope
A Scan of Critical World Developments


Climate Disempowerment in Africa

Climate Disempowerment in Africa

The countries most at risk from climate change are often those who bear little responsibility for creating the problem in the first place. The economic downturn in Zambia offers an excellent example. Cheap, plentiful hydroelectricity from the vast Kariba Dam helped make the country an economic success story. Until now....
Industrial Agriculture: Debugging Can Crash the System

Industrial Agriculture: Debugging Can Crash the System

Industrial agriculture may be bad for humans, but it’s catastrophic for the bees, birds, and bats that pollinate our crops. According to a new report by a UN-affiliated research group, pollinators are in big trouble: 16 percent of vertebrate species (mostly birds and bats) and 9 percent of bee and butterfly species are under threat of extinction....
The New Abolitionism: Combating Slavery on the High Seas

The New Abolitionism: Combating Slavery on the High Seas

The unregulated high seas, beyond the 20-mile “economic zones” under state jurisdiction, have long been the scene of human and environmental transgressions. An egregious case is human trafficking in the fishing industry, with thousands of workers captured and forced into inhumane working conditions by illicit ship operators in countries like Myanmar, Thailand, and Indonesia. Recent developments, however, signal an increased international desire to take action....
Trillions in Hidden Treasure

Trillions in Hidden Treasure

The economy is globalizing, but the tax system remains fragmented across two hundred countries, opening ample opportunity for the wealthy to evade paying their fair share. A number of “tax haven” nations welcome foreign-owned assets, keeping depositors’ information confidential and thus making it difficult to determine the magnitude of this shielded wealth....
The Nuclear Elephant Still in the Room

The Nuclear Elephant Still in the Room

Although the issue of nuclear disarmament has largely fallen off the political agenda—save for rare wins like the deal with Iran last year—the threat of nuclear war remains no less severe. The start of the new year saw the purported test of a hydrogen bomb by North Korea, one of four nuclear-armed countries that have not yet acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty...
Sunny Days for Renewable Energy

Sunny Days for Renewable Energy

The renewable energy industry is soaring, despite low coal, natural gas, and oil prices. Installations of wind turbines and solar panels grew rapidly in 2015, and 2016 orders across the globe for are again up sharply. A confluence of factors is at play, including improved technologies and lower costs....
Outsourcing Degradation

Outsourcing Degradation

Can countries grow their way out of excessive resource use? Economists for years have posited a “decoupling” between a country’s economic growth and its environmental pressure, in which economic expansion would outpace resource requirements. But new research shows that, when the environmental impacts of international trade are taken into account, decoupling is a fiction....
We’ll Always Have Paris: A Framework for the Coming Climate Struggle

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Framework for the Coming Climate Struggle

Some good news came out of the Paris climate agreement: the reaffirmation of the goal of keeping global warming below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, the introduction of an aspirational goal of 1.5 °C, and a process for revisiting national emission reduction targets every five years. But to get 196 countries to sign on, the agreement ended up with two serious deficits: national targets are not enforceable, and they are far too weak....
Pivoting after Terror: Which Scenario?

Pivoting after Terror: Which Scenario?

The recent acts of transnational terrorism unleashed in Paris, Beirut, and elsewhere reveal the danger that lurks in an interconnected world of a descent into a Fortress World. The proximate causes of this latest eruption—the Iraq War and the Syrian civil war, the instability caused by climate change-induced droughts, Mideast geopolitics—combine with deeper drivers—fundamentalist resistance to modernity, vast levels of inequality, thwarted ambitions of a generation—to power Daesh’s campaign of barbarity....
Keep It in the Ground

Keep It in the Ground

The US climate movement scored a significant victory in the battle against the fossil fuel industry last week. After a seven-year battle, President Obama formally rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have connected carbon-intensive tar sands from Alberta to export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico. In his speech announcing the decision, Obama sounded the message of climate campaigners: keep fossil fuels in the ground. Some studies have put the “unburnable” percentage of fossil fuel reserves as high as 80%....