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Title: Security Risk, Catastrophic Events and Synchronised Failures
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Security Risk, Catastrophic Events and Synchronised Failures

Political leadership teams and decision-makers face urgent and growing risks to military security. Peter Kingsley explores how exponential rates of technological innovation, geopolitical instability, information asymmetries and global warming are creating extreme systemic risk.

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Title: Finance: driving the green transition?
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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Finance: driving the green transition?

Large-scale, climate finance is critical to cut carbon emissions and regenerate the biosphere. COP26 saw the launch of The Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, a private sector initiative signed by 450 financial institutions. In contrast, global leaders failed to live up to commitments made to provide US$100 million a year in support of the developing world facing the urgent need to adapt to short-term crises. Policymakers and economists have failed to account for ‘natural capital’. Peter Kingsley explores momentum and the invention gap that pervades finance and all sectors.

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Title: China’s Troubled Twenties
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: George Magnus

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China’s Troubled Twenties

Western business remains bullish about China’s economic prospects, confident that the country can maintain its remarkable growth trajectory. This bullishness stands in sharp contrast to the West’s rapidly worsening political relations with China. George Magnus argues that business and politics cannot sing from different hymn books indefinitely. We may escape a new Cold War, but political relations between China and the West will remain fraught. Foreign businesses are not only under-estimating the impact that this will have on their ability to do business in China, but are also ignoring the negative effect of growing authoritarianism and rapid population on Chinese long-term economic prospects.

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Post Fossil Fuel World: endgames

The picture of the post-fossil fuel endgame is emerging, but there are invention gaps that span technologies, primary energy systems, the ‘hard-to abate’ industrial sectors, finance and policy. The pathway to net zero and negative carbon emissions is strewn with geopolitical and strategic barriers.

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Universal Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

The idea of Universal Basic Income has been around for a long time. Might it provide part of the answer to the raft of policy challenges thrown up by the pandemic, technological change, insecurity, and declining social mobility? Governments are increasingly likely to give it a try.

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Pollution: Change in the air?

Air pollution is a global problem causing millions of deaths a year yet has a low profile compared to Covid-19 and climate change. This is starting to change as awareness and activism increase, and new legislation requires companies to anticipate and address risks to the ‘human right’ to clean air.

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The EU and Poland: distrust and the future of Europe

The stand-off between the EU and Poland poses a bigger challenge to the cohesion and functioning of the Union than Brexit. Poland is not about to leave the EU, but is challenging it from within. There are no easy solutions to the stand-off.

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Title: Retreat from Afghanistan, Not the World
Approx. Reading Time: 9 minutes
Author: Mathew Burrows

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Retreat from Afghanistan, Not the World

The chaotic scenes that accompanied the US withdrawal from Afghanistan angered the US foreign policy elite and shocked the American people, who are unaccustomed to seeing their country humiliated.
Mat Burrows argues that the debacle has damaged Joe Biden’s standing, but does not mark a shift to greater US isolationism. Biden has long wanted to reduce US involvement in the Greater Middle East, but is determined to push back against an increasingly assertive China, which is widely seen across the US political spectrum as the greatest test yet of American global leadership and the future of democracy.

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Title: The Invention Gap
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Peter Kingsley

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The Invention Gap

There are many contested narratives on climate action. In ‘we have the solutions’, the challenge is to create policy signals in order to give markets confidence, redirect finance and scale existing technologies. The story goes that innovation and exponential growth will follow.

Peter Kingsley argues that this is critical, but not sufficient. There is an ‘invention gap’ that must be filled to hedge against the extreme scenarios surrounding runaway global heating, policy failures and complacency about steep cuts in emissions. The gap is systemic and strategic, cutting across all industry sectors and spanning global governance, policy, regulation, economics and corporate stewardship.

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Title: A Move to Wartime Footing
Approx. Reading Time: 8 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

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A Move to Wartime Footing

Climate disruption as a result of rising temperatures is already at the outer edge of the worst-case scientific projections. Simon Tilford argues that we could be approaching a ‘tipping point’, when governments will be forced to take urgent action. A wartime scenario is perhaps the closest analogy the kind of environment into which we might be heading. Once on a war footing, governments direct rather than set the rules of the game. In this scenario, the implications for firms and investors would be far-reaching.

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Title: The Big Adjustment
Approx. Reading Time: 10 minutes
Author: Simon Tilford

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The Big Adjustment

We do not have 30 years to reach net zero. Committed emissions of carbon dioxide already take us close to 2 degrees. The transition will have to be squeezed into less time and will hence be more disruptive than commonly assumed, argues Simon Tilford. It implies a bigger role for government and less globalisation, especially of capital but also of trade; a retreat into ‘Walled Gardens’.

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Briefing

Rising Corporate Credit Risk?

The current unprecedently low corporate borrowing costs for firms can only be justified by assuming that monetary policy will remain exceptionally favourable and that corporate profits will rise strongly. Both assumptions could prove wrong.

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Britain: a country adrift?

The UK risks creeping authoritarianism and rising corruption; the result of a lack of formal, constitutional checks and balances in its political system and the failure of much of its media to hold government to account. The result could be international isolation and domestic division, raising questions over its governability.

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1970s Redux?

Stubbornly high inflation, supply constraints, labour shortages, soaring energy prices and a weakening economic recovery. Are we heading for a return to 1970s style stagflation; a toxic mix of economic stagnation and high inflation? Global economic prospects are unusually uncertain, but stagflation is unlikely for a number of reasons. The UK might prove an exception.

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Too Many Surprises

Time was when the broad narrative of progress created a sense of base-level psychological security, particularly in the West, even in the face of growing inequalities. The combination of Covid-19, the climate and biosphere crises, financial uncertainty, algorithm-driven social media, the wide assault on institutions and the breakdown of political order, threaten a population-scale crisis in well-being.

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Briefing

US and China to Clash Over Taiwan?

China’s unwavering claims to sovereignty over Taiwan, the increasingly public nature of Taiwanese resistance, and the growing US and allied military presence in the region, have combined to raise speculation of a Sino-US conflict over the island. This remains unlikely, but the possibility of it happening has increased.

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Briefing

Shortages: the good, the bad and the ugly

Some shortages do permanent economic damage. Others are disruptive, but temporary. They can also be positive, as when demand for labour across an economy outstrips the supply, pushing up wages. This can spur investment, productivity and growth. Central bank policy allowing, we could be on the cusp of the latter.

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No Surprises

Peter Kingsley explores how divisions in the US political landscape threaten not only democratic principles, but the stability of the wider world. At a time when confidence in the major powers is critical to address biosphere risks and transform the global economy, little can be taken for granted through to the mid-term elections and beyond. We cannot assume that policy and national interests are necessarily aligned.

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Heading for Walled Gardens

We have long flagged up Walled Gardens as a possible future, but the momentum behind this scenario is building. There are a number of drivers; the climate crisis—and the economic, financial and political implications of an accelerated drive to net zero, and ultimately negative emissions—is the dominant one.

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Carbon Pricing Is No Panacea

Carbon pricing is a powerful tool for reducing emissions where there are existing and comparably priced alternatives. However, it is not the answer to a world faced with an Invention Gap as well as the need to reduce the price of new technologies as rapidly as possible.

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Briefing

Europe After Merkel: exposed and ill-prepared

Angela Merkel leaves behind a Europe highly dependent on globalisation and multilateralism at a time when these are in retreat. Could September’s election be a catalyst for change in Germany, and therefore Europe? Or will it be business-as-usual? If so, Europe will struggle to reinvent itself to meet the challenges of Walled Gardens scenarios, let alone Dark Ages.

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Briefing

Solar Geoengineering: new momentum

In response to what some have referred to as the ‘apocalyptic’ climatic events of 2021 there is growing momentum behind solar geoengineering. Large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate is now a possibility, from refreezing the Arctic to continent-scale ‘weather modification’ in China.

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Briefing

The Limitations of Science

In 2018, we wrote about the risks associated with the IPCC culture of slow, conservative, consensus-based science and why policymakers cannot wait for all evidence before acting. It is now clear that climate models have underestimated the risks of extreme weather.

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