“I don’t know what you want to call the conflict we’re in with China and Russia, but I’d say we’re at war.”
Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) within the U.S. Department of Defense, declares war rather matter-of-factly. “It’s just not war in the way we typically think,” says the longtime Silicon Valley executive who transitioned into government service in 2016. But when adversaries get to the point of “shutting down pipelines and creating other damage,” he says, you’re seeing the “kinetic effects of cyber.”
When Brown and I chat in August—at a picnic table in a glade of cedar trees behind a tan brick building in Mountain View, California, that houses both the 341st Readiness Division of the U.S. Army and the DIU—news continues to dribble out about the extent of the 2020 SolarWinds hack. The event involved a group reportedly backed by the Russian government that compromised networks of a number of U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration. A couple of weeks earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, along with a coalition of U.S. allies, accused China of engaging in cyber espionage, and the U.S. Department of Justice charged four Chinese nationals with being part of a global hacking campaign targeting companies, government agencies, and universities. Chinese officials vehemently denied the charges.
“For cyber, for electronic warfare, for misinformation,” Brown says, “we need to be shifting more dollars to those domains.”
So if not cases, then what? “We need to come to some sort of agreement as to what it is we’re trying to prevent,” says Céline Gounder, an infectious-disease expert at New York University. “Are we trying to prevent hospitalization? Are we trying to prevent death? Are we trying to prevent transmission?” Different goals would require prioritizing different strategies. The booster-shot rollout has been roiled with confusion for this precise reason: The goal kept shifting. First, the Biden administration floated boosters for everyone to combat breakthroughs, then a CDC advisory panel restricted them to the elderly and immunocompromised most at risk for hospitalizations, then the CDC director overruled the panel to include people with jobs that put them at risk of infection.
On the ground, the U.S. is now running an uncontrolled experiment with every strategy all at once. COVID-19 policies differ wildly by state, county, university, workplace, and school district. And because of polarization, they have also settled into the most illogical pattern possible: The least vaccinated communities have some of the laxest restrictions, while highly vaccinated communities—which is to say those most protected from COVID-19—tend to have some of the most aggressive measures aimed at driving down cases. “We’re sleepwalking into policy because we’re not setting goals,” says Joseph Allen, a Harvard professor of public health. We will never get the risk of COVID-19 down to absolute zero, and we need to define a level of risk we can live with.
More than 100 world leaders have signed a historic pact to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, in a deal that has been hailed by some observers as one of the “first major outcomes” from the COP26 Climate Summit.
The UK, the US, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Canada, and Russia are among the countries to sign the agreement, which is set to be announced at a forest and land use event tomorrow at COP26 by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK government confirmed late last night.
In his address to world leaders at the event, Johnson is expected to hail the new agreement – which reportedly has been signed by governments responsible for the 85 per cent of the world’s forests – as an “unprecedented” step forward for efforts to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.
European Space Agency, ESA via YouTube »
Satellites images from space play a vital role in monitoring the rapid changes taking place in the Arctic. Tracking ice lost from the world’s glaciers, ice sheets and frozen land shows that Earth is losing ice at an accelerating rate. Currently more than a trillion tonnes of ice is lost each year. The sooner Earth’s temperature is stabilized, the more manageable the impacts of ice loss will be.