Stuart Stevens: Covid a Stress Test, and So Far We’re Failing

Apart from divergence from political principles which a polity might have thought they held for a long time, the key question is what would be the actual, realized long term costs of an extended dalliance with an anti-intellectual, anti-realist movement to the country whose majority swings that way? Are there any?

Failures to prepare for consequences of climate disruption and works to eliminate behaviors and choices involving greenhouse gas emissions are not limited to people who are anti-intellectual. There’s a lot of practical denial of climate disruption simply in people continuing to do and buy as they’ve always have done, even — and some evidence says especially — among the well educated, at least in the United States. So climate may not be a good test at all.

There may be more urgent challenges. A contest with a rising world power may offer one. As world hegemon, the United States prides itself on its military, and upon the technological successes of its recent past. It naturally assumes its military continues to be dominant, and that its technical capacity is unrivaled, and, so, tends to believe up-and-comers cannot seriously threaten it. Improvements in military capability are explained as happening as a result of espionage rather than inherent capability. The trouble with this story is that it leaves the hegemon underestimating the capability of the new power. For as long as technological capability and military prowess merely follows the path with which the hegemon is familiar, all remains predictable, and responses possible. But if a new power knows how to create new technology, hidden in its military establishment, the hegemon no longer has the ability to predict or even counter something which hitherto hasn’t been seen.

When such advances have been brought to military contest in times past, the militaries on both sides adapt only slowly. And measnwhile the casualty counts rise.

That’s a military threat. What about an economic threat?

There is some acknowledgement, for example, that the United States needs to transition its energy supply to zero Carbon sources. This might be seen as a government perspective, associated with Democrats, but there is substantial realization among businesses and business leaders that this is how it needs to happen. (In fact, I can’t seen how Senator Manchin can claim he’s listening to business in his various flavors of opposition. The people who have his ear do not represent anything like a typical cross section of business interests, weighted by wealth.) There are two ways this could be done. One is to purchase the needed technology on open markets, and a good number of those sales might go to China. The other is to build the capability to make them in the United States, despite the acknowledged gap between U.S. manufacturing capability here and that available in the international marketplace. So, does the U.S. wait until it has such manufacturing capability before it rolls anything out to address climate? How does the nascent manufacturing sector get supported and funded? Government grants? That’s not really an open market, and it’s an approach that offers many opportunities for mistakes by government.

So, an anti-China stance may well hurt the United States economically, because it can no longer rely upon international sources for parts, specifically China, for it cannot be seen as cooperating with its new arch rival. The build up of capability can result in delays, products of inferior quality, setbacks in the marketplace.

What would make sense is to buy now, transitioning to domestic sourcing once the industry masters its products and its market. But superpower rivalry seldom results in paths which make sense.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

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About ecoquant

See Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
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