Famine Saddles Up
Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the last two fictional entertainments I experienced were "Jurassic World: Dominion" and the new Blake Crouch thriller, "Upgrade," both of which have important subplots about genetically engineered locusts threatening global famine. Given lengthy production and publishing times, it's safe to assume both were written long before the locust-like Vladimir Putin threatened a global famine in real life. But both hint at what could be a depressing zeitgeist of the near future.
Putin is deliberately using the food shortages caused by his unwarranted invasion of Ukraine to hold the rest of the world hostage, notes Hal Brands. Putin assumes Western nations, which at least pretend to be squeamish about the mass slaughter of innocents, will stop supporting Ukraine when they see millions threatened with starvation.
This is not a novel tactic, unfortunately (see "Human History, all of"). But it will be a tool increasingly handy to current and future monsters, as climate change further endangers already tenuous global food supplies. Our non-locust government leaders, it will not surprise you to learn, are not ready for this.
In fact, it turns out the time to prepare for the dire effects of climate change was really about 10 years ago. Extreme heat in Europe is already melting runways and drying up shipping lanes. Frank Wilkinson warns the effect rising seas, monster storms and droughts will have on smooth port functioning could make Covid's supply disruptions seem like a birthday party at the Jurassic Park petting zoo in comparison.
Most Americans, including their government, have checked out on this subject. Maybe they're understandably more worried about the price of gasoline than about the long-term effects of burning it. But those effects aren't so long-term anymore. And Bloomberg's editorial board points out energy security and climate security do not have to be mutually exclusive. If only there were some more entertaining way to get that message across.
Trump Vs. Biden 2: Not-Happening Boogaloo
There is a strong chance the 2024 presidential election will include neither of the people who ran in 2020.
On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump is taking heavy damage from the Jan. 6 hearings, writes Julianna Goldman. Independents and some Republicans are starting to wonder if Trump might be just a serial grifter who cares more about himself than about the republic. Wild, right? Even some Trump die-hards are getting bored of his whining about the 2020 election and long for new material.
On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden's approval rating is so infinitesimal you need the Large Hadron Collider to see it. He too is bleeding support from his own voters, who mostly blame him for failing to get anything they want done. Ramesh Ponnuru suggests their own unrealistic expectations about policy are the real culprit here. To be fair, Democrats also blame Co-President Joe Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for their problems, which Jonathan Bernstein suggests is an unfair judgment, given the wafer-thin margins in the House and Senate. And even those might disappear in 2022.
China has what looks like a short-term financial crisis brewing. It's also cooking up a long-term demographic crisis. Justin Fox points out the huge workforce that powered China's economic boom at the turn of the century will soon tip over and start to crash back to earth, thanks to the One Child policy and the laws of physics.
Coming Even Closer Together
Projected working-age population (15-64), low-fertility scenario
A shrinking population typically means a shrinking GDP, which could make China's leaders desperate, putting the rest of the world in danger — sort of the Thucydides trap in reverse. It also raises the risks for China's own people, who are already suffering from Beijing's Covid desperation. And though China is letting Hong Kong open up to tourists, as Shuli Ren notes, it's also clamping down harshly on any sort of dissent there, as Matthew Brooker writes. These pressures will keep building.
Bonus Changing-China Reading: China finally realizes skyscrapers are wasteful magnets for urban decay. — Adam Minter
OPEC is predicting a jump in oil demand in 2023. We'd better hope the oil cartel is wrong, writes Julian Lee, because it won't be able to meet that demand.
OPEC's spare production capacity is set to fall to a multi-year low in 2023
Despite everybody and their grandmother worrying about a recession, consumer loans were a surprising source of strength for banks in the latest quarter. Corporate loans, on the other hand, yikes, writes Paul J. Davies.
The losses reported by the big six US banks on corporate loans for sale in the second quarter now totals $1.32 billion
Mark Gongloff is a Bloomberg Opinion editor and writer of the Opinion Today newsletter. A former managing editor of Fortune.com, he ran the HuffPost's business and technology coverage and was a reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal. @markgongloff
Disclaimer: This article first appeared on Bloomberg, and is published by special syndication arrangement.