Our Cyberpunk Future

PART 1

Climate change: It’s bad. Really, really bad

Pro-Publica recently did an excellent analysis of climate migration models with great visualizations.

What do we do? There’s not a lack of ideas…

Grey, yellow and red countries are not doing enough to meet their climate goals. Green countries are doing great. No countries are green.

Adapting to climate change

“Well, if that happens, forget it. There’s just no way [we] could deal with that. […] But let’s say it’s not that severe. What adaptation are we talking about? Adaptation in 2020? Adaptation in 2040? Adaptation in 2060? Because the way the models project this, as global warming gets going, once you’ve adapted to one decade, you’re going to have to change everything the next decade.

PART 2

Sclerosis — A Government unable to effect change

I’ve covered Congress for almost 20 years. The place is littered with proposals to construct universal pre-K and reimagine the health system, to decarbonize the US economy and incentivize drug development through prizes and solve the housing crisis. They just don’t pass. It’s become a running joke in Washington that every week is “infrastructure week.” But we’re not rebuilding American infrastructure.”

The institutions through which Americans build have become biased against action rather than toward it. They’ve become, in political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s term, “vetocracies,” in which too many actors have veto rights over what gets built. That’s true in the federal government. It’s true in state and local governments. It’s even true in the private sector.” (Emphasis added)

“… for most of our political history, two unusual conditions held. First, the parties were ideologically mixed, which made compromise easier. Second, one party was usually electorally dominant, which gave the party in the minority a reason to compromise: If you can’t win, you may as well deal”

“You can see this if you attend a planning meeting in San Francisco and watch the line of people who assemble to oppose even the most modest development. You can see it in California’s inability to build high-speed rail, despite tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies, because the state got so trapped in its own vetocracy it couldn’t just build the damn thing in a straight line. You can see it in the inability of American cities to build public transit at cost and quality levels that simply rival that of poorer, older European cities, to say nothing of leapfrogging the new development in Asia.”

“But the problem isn’t just progressives who grew afraid of what would happen if government power could be wielded too easily. The problem is also conservatives who want government to work poorly when it’s needed most.”

China GDP per capita current US$ — World Bank

Pace Layering — Why this time is different

PART 3

The Paths Ahead

We should build institutions biased toward action and ambition, rather than inaction and incrementalism.
“At the federal level, I’d get rid of the filibuster, simplify the committee system, democratize elections, and make sure majorities could implement their agendas once elected. As I’ve argued for years, we should prefer the problems of a system where elected majorities can fulfill the promises that got them elected to one where elected majorities cannot deliver on the promises that the American people voted for. The latter system, which is the one Americans live in now, drives frustration and dysfunction.

This is Nov 20, 2020. It was not until December 10th that the vaccines were officially approved.

Conclusion

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San Francisco | @gasca on Twitter

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