The world’s other problems have not disappeared while we struggle with coronavirus. Here is a sample. There are lots more.
Climate Change: The big item pre-pandemic and possibly bigger post-pandemic. Clear skies, uncongested roads, a drop in petrol prices, fresh air and birdsong are prompting a quality of life re-think. Many countries are planning increased facilities for cyclists and the French are considering banning domestic air flights. But can this environmental impetus survive the desperate need to return to work when the lockdown ends?
Locusts: Almost totally absent from the news headlines have been successive locust plagues in East Africa—the worst in 70 years. This is a human and economic disaster for an estimated 300 million which will have a knock-on effect for many more.
Globalisation: The concept of an increasingly interconnected world was under attack before the pandemic by nationalist leaders fighting the exportation of jobs. Climate change and health fears and concern about national economic security have added a new level of opposition. Set against that is lower prices, and improved global stability that comes through economic interdependence.
Arms Control: The last remaining major Cold War Treaty—START or the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty—expires in February 2021. If it is to be renewed then talks need to be held now. There is little sign of that happening. The Russians want it renewed. Trump says no unless China is included and Beijing is showing a distinct lack of interest. Failure means a new arms race with a new generation of deadlier weapons.
Brexit: The EU wants to postpone the end of the year deadline because of coronavirus. Boris says no. Talks are taking place virtually. The EU negotiator Michel Barnier says Brussels and London are miles apart on a whole range of issues. We could be heading for a December no-deal Brexit and WTO rules on top of a massive COVID-created contraction in the British economy.
Israel: Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party is finally in government. But he has had to pay the price of allowing Benjamin Netanyahu to remain as PM for another 18 months and go ahead with his annexation of a big chunk of the West Bank, despite international law. EU sanctions have been discussed. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently flew to Jerusalem to urge caution.
Iran: Pompeo’s trip to Israel was focused as much on Iran as on the West Bank. US-Iranian relations remain on a knife-edge and on the 18th of October UN sanctions against Tehran come up renewal. Iran has threatened “grave consequences” if they are renewed. Trump—ironically– is pushing for the Iranians to recommit to the Nuclear Accord which he pulled out of. The Russians have indicated that they will veto any US attempt to renew sanctions.
International Debt: Our children, grandchildren and possibly great-grandchildren will be paying the muti-trillion dollar debt that the world’s nations are accumulating to fight the coronavirus pandemic and support infrastructures. This inevitably means more and higher taxes. It could also involve a major shake-up of world financial institutions.
The list goes on and on. It could for instance easily include the impact of the drop in oil prices, the continued war in Yemen, economic and political problems in China, American presidential elections, the growing rift in Sino-American relations, mounting problems within the EU….
Tom Arms is a regular contributor