Notes, May 16th

In The Beginning

Der Speigel has an investigation into the early days of C19, attempting to figure out who knew what when. While it’s clear the Wuhan/Hubei authorities downplayed the severity so as not to affect their People’s Congress and also tried to hide information from Beijing, at this stage it’s less clear which delays originated in Beijing with the intent of keeping the world in the dark.

The most important political events of the year, after all, were imminent. On Jan. 6, a session of the city parliament was set to begin, and the People’s Congress for the Hubei province was to convene on Jan. 11. And it was now that the provincial government also issued an order that entries into the national disease tracking system be made “cautiously.” Entries were to be coordinated not just with the local health authorities, but also with the city and provincial governments.

The authorities were doing all they could to keep both the public and the central government in the dark about the true extent of the epidemic – likely to prevent the disruption of the two parliamentary sessions. It could, however, also have been because they simply didn’t want to spread bad news – especially not to Beijing.

Wasting Time

ABC News reports on the fact that the US Intelligence community was reporting on what became C19 as early as late November, almost a month before the first patient showed up in a Wuhan hospital.

The report was the result of analysis of wire and computer intercepts, coupled with satellite images. It raised alarms because an out-of-control disease would pose a serious threat to U.S. forces in Asia – forces that depend on the NCMI’s work. And it paints a picture of an American government that could have ramped up mitigation and containment efforts far earlier to prepare for a crisis poised to come home.

Despite Trump’s efforts to blame China for everything, it’s pretty clear that he was aware of a potential issue for almost three months before he bothered pretending to do anything about it.

Velociraptors

Jurassic Park is reopening, despite the velociraptors still being loose… ;-)

Now, I understand why some people might be skeptical about reopening an amusement park when there are still blindingly fast, 180-pound predators roaming around. But the fact of the matter is, velociraptors are intelligent, shifty creatures that are not going to be contained any time soon, so we might as well just start getting used to them killing a few people every now and then. Some might argue that we should follow the example of other parks that have successfully dealt with velociraptor escapes. But here at Jurassic Park, we’ve never been ones to listen to the recommendations of scientists, or safety experts, or bioethicists, so why would we start now?

Notes, May 7th

US Liberties

When you’ve fully bought in to the neoliberal “there’s no such thing as society” mantra, it’s not a great surprise that a good chunk of your population insist on doing whatever they like regardless of the consequences for others.

“We keep losing 1,000 to 2,000 a day to coronavirus. People get used to it. We get less vigilant as it very slowly spreads. By December we’re close to normal, but still losing 1,500 a day, and as we tick past 300,000 dead, most people aren’t concerned.”

China Ascendant

With the US response to C19 being a complete shambles on its own soil, and non-existent internationally, China is making the most of the vacuum to enhance its global power.

Are we witnessing a shift in global power relations? Beijing is seizing the moment to increase its influence, particularly in the South China Sea, where China – to the annoyance of the U.S. and many neighboring countries – is becoming increasingly bold and cementing its territorial claims. A confidential situation report from the German Defense Ministry states: “The U.S. Navy assumes the Chinese navy will make use of the, albeit temporary, COVID-19-related absence of all U.S. aircraft carriers in the Pacific to deliberately increase military pressure on countries in the entire region.” The report is apparently referring to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has experienced an outbreak of the coronavirus infecting nearly 1,000 crew members.

The fact that China is finally managing to become a superpower – not just economically, but also geopolitically – during the tenure of U.S. President Donald Trump is not without irony. After all, it was Trump who promised during the election campaign that he would put China in its place.

Carbon Emissions Drop

Despite the World’s economies going into a semi-coordinated hibernation, CO2 emissions have only dropped around 8%. Sounds great, but, if we’re to stay under 1.5C, our emissions need to drop by that amount every year (plus, stay down!) So, where are all the emissions coming from?

So where are all those emissions coming from? For one thing, utilities are still generating roughly the same amount of electricity — even if more of it’s going to houses instead of workplaces. Electricity and heating combined account for over 40 percent of global emissions. Many people around the world rely on wood, coal, and natural gas to keep their homes warm and cook their food — and in most places, electricity isn’t so green either.

Even with a bigger proportion of the world working from home, people still need the grid to keep the lights on and connect to the internet. “There’s a shift from offices to homes, but the power hasn’t been turned off, and that power is still being generated largely by fossil fuels,” Schmidt said. In the United States, 60 percent of electricity generation still comes from coal, oil, and natural gas.

When All You Have Is a Hammer...

Australia has some of the biggest natural gas reserves in the world, so when looking around for something to juice the post-C19 economy, what better solution than to push gas as the best option, despite the fact that it’s not a climate friendly as people think.

Both Woodside and Santos have resisted the push, and argued that gas is a “clean” fuel and part of the climate solution. Like Taylor, they claim Australian gas exports are an environmental good as they reduce coal in Asia. Neither the government nor industry have provided evidence to back this up, and officials have acknowledged the competition in Japan – still Australia’s biggest gas market – is increasingly with zero emissions nuclear and renewable generation.

Andrew Grant, head of oil, gas and mining with London-based financial thinktank Carbon Tracker, says the global view of gas has flipped from it being seen as a cleaner fuel than coal, to it being the second-least desirable source of electricity.

Apparently it’s the future, though that’s not supported by any evidence - it’s just a useful way of trying to force fracking upon the states against their populations’ will.

Local Insects

A grasshopper on my garden fence.

That dot above they second set of legs is its tympanum - basically its ear.

Grasshopper

Local Insects

A Hibiscus Harlequin Bug apparently. Landed on my finger at Wilsons Outlook Reserve last weekend.

Hibiscus Harlequin Bug