๐ŸŒŽ #275: How Hot is it in India?

Quinn Emmett
May 6, 2022
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Welcome back, Shit Givers.

Today will be a hell of test to see if my e-bike can get me home before the hail begins!

This Week, Summarized:

  • India's heat continues
  • When a surge is not a surge
  • Antibiotics (still) in meat
  • Abortion
  • Email cybersecurity is...lacking

Reminder: You can read this issue on the website, or you can ๐ŸŽง listen to it on the podcast (a little later).

๐Ÿ•› Reading Time: 11 breezy minutes

CLIMATE CHANGE

India heat

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What's a wet bulb temp?

The news: The subcontinent burns.

India and Pakistan, home to 25% of the world's population, have suffered record high temperatures for much of the last month, a situation where:

"The combination of heat and humidity could rise to a threshold where the human body is in fact at risk of cooking itself. That theoretical limit is a โ€œwet bulbโ€ temperature โ€” when a thermometer is wrapped in a wet cloth, accounting for both heat and humidity โ€”of 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit)."

Understand it: This is the part where I stop and encourage you to always think of the various global warming scenarios, from 1.5 and higher, in terms of impact: to people, animals, and ecosystems, crops and oceans, and all the various systems dependent on them (both natural (soil) and man-made (air conditioning)).

When we talk about the 2nd biggest city on the planet suffering through days and days of 110+ degree temps without A/C, we're talking (but not enough) about 20 million people unable to escape the heat.

We're talking not only about mitigation to make these heat waves happen less (like eliminating new coal in China, stopping the money pipeline, building the US's biggest solar plant, and stopping deforestation), but also adaptation to protect ourselves now (like distributed grids, heat pumps, and growing more wheat in less threatened places).

"What India is witnessing now comes as average temperatures there have risen by about 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, since the beginning of the industrial age, according to an analysis by Berkeley Earth."

This is what's already happening with a 1 degree rise. Remember, if every government actually fulfills their current pledges, we're headed towards an increase of 2 degrees.

So what's next?

Some of my favorite climate scientists came together this week to help us better understand the "hot model" problem, which is, sadly, not what you think it is, but instead a situation where (as detailed in CarbonBrief):

"The latest โ€œCMIP6โ€ generation of climate models includes a subset of โ€œhot modelsโ€ that point towards much greater warming than expected...yet multiple lines of evidence based on observations and our understanding of planetary physics suggest we can confidently narrow the range of climate sensitivity and, crucially, give less weight to high-end estimates."

No doubt, it's getting hotter already, and it'll get even hotter.

But not as hot as we thought before, because of the progress we've made already. And probably not as hot as high-end projections, if we tweak the models (projecting impacts) and actually get our shit together (mitigating impacts).

โšก๏ธAction Step: Public "ESG" investing might be in the shitter because of 1) no standards and 2) no regulations, but there's a whole lot of money being poured into climate tech startups. No one covers it better than Kim and Sophie at Climate Tech VC. Subscribe to their free newsletter to keep up and get involved as a founder or investor.

COVID

COVID test at home

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Vaccine equity update: Just 15.8% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, and 34.6% of people worldwide have received zero doses.

When a surge is not a surge

The news: About a month ago, as a larger segment of the west became increasingly vaccinated and we dragged ourselves out of Omicron v1, there was a notable shift from worrying about case counts to focusing on hospitalizations and deaths.

I'm sure you felt the change, whether you're still masking up indoors or not. A lot of people were just done.

Now, with cases growing again in most places, thanks to those increasingly lax social protections (if any) and a new variety of mutations, hospitalizations are growing, too, though slower than in previous "waves" or "surges", and conversely, and thankfully, deaths are falling.

Let's break that down. ย 

Raw case numbers are misleading, now. My (relatively) educated guess is 75% of real cases are testing positive at home (and thus not included in reported totals) or not testing at all -- thus: reported totals are maybe 25% of what's really out there.

Trends matter still, but regardless, most people simply don't care about case numbers anymore, including the government.

Hospitalizations are rising, but not as much as during the Omicron peak. It's all relative, but in truth we've normalized both a higher baseline (one comparable with the worst flu seasons week to week), and a lower goal for vaccines: only 30% of folks in the US have a booster, and the global first shot stats aren't going anywhere (see above).

This higher baseline is acceptable for a lot of folks because the vaccines work so damn well. People who can receive them are far safer than two years ago.

Psychologically, we're exhausted and hell-bent on making something endemic that just isn't there yet. There are variants on variants, most more transmissible than the last, and vulnerable people are still vulnerable. We still don't know how non-hospitalized cases contribute to Long COVID or, I don't know, "significantly altered" microbiota.

We know more about those boosters now, too. One recent study pegged booster effectiveness against hospitalization at a stellar 85% less than 3 months after topping up, but just 55%-ish after the third month. Less bueno.

And now we know more about Paxlavoid, too. Again, it works to reduce severity if taken quickly, but Pfizer said in a press dump this week that the antiviral doesn't prevent transmission, and an undetermined but real percentage of users are experiencing unexplained viral rebounds after finishing the five-day course of treatment.

But hey! Science is hard. So much of this is new. It's really, really, really great that 2000 people aren't still dying every day (in the US) from COVID.

But total deaths are WAY higher than commonly reported, and the vaccines, paid time off, childcare, and antivirals are nowhere near equitably accessible. It's why I truly believe we're only -- if finally -- in the end of the beginning.

โšก๏ธAction Step: Keep an eye on COVID Poops wastewater tracking to understand prevalence in your area, share it with your office, local schools, and city council.

NEW FEATURE!

Have something exciting/interesting/important that you'd like to share with our community and have featured in the INI newsletter? Let me know what you're up to with this form! ย 

*Due to the expected volume of entries, we'll prioritize INI/Members (join us here!)

FOOD & WATER

Cow

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Let's not put a label on things

The news: The USDA has a strict set of labels for meat "raised without antibiotics." The problem, as it turns out, is that the USDA doesn't actually require "empirical antibiotic testing" to validate their use.

Which is fun.

Understand it: If you still eat meat, which many of you do, you've probably tried to buy local meat, or grass-fed meat, or both, and probably meat raised without antibiotics.

You may know then of the regulation limiting drugs to fuel animal growth -- but everything else around antibiotics, such as "disease prevention", is voluntary.

Not surprisingly, then, a new study claims upwards of 15% of beef cattle labeled "without antibiotics" are not that.

And because we give 80% of our antibiotics to animals, those drugs bleed into our water and food chain, and -- because they're basically as old as time and will outlast us -- some bacteria inevitably survive those antibiotics and evolve, and become resistant. Sometimes in as quickly as 11 fucking days, killing at bare minimum 35,000 Americans a year.

So yes, massive policy reform is required here, but in the meantime, as usual, there's more than one way to come at this systemic issue (if anything's systemic, it's bacteria).

The implications of eating less meat aren't just about out-thinking ancient one-cell organisms -- but slowing massive, devastation deforestation, too. To the tune of 10 soccer fields every minute. Eating just one-fifth less meat might halve deforestation, so -- let's do it all.

โšก๏ธAction Step: Check out the NRDC's beef scorecard, and then use their tool to tell Wendy's to stop fucking around.

HEALTH & BIO

Supreme Court

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What happen with abortions

The news: (inhales) The nine United States Supreme Court justices --

  • All of whom have lifetime appointments
  • Three of whom were appointed by a president who's been accused of sexual violence by 18 women, who lost the popular vote, who was impeached, who wanted to shoot 1) missiles into Mexico and then pretend it wasn't us, and 2) Black protestors, and who later, attempted a coup and fueled an insurrection, during which his vice-president was to be hanged
  • Those same three justices who most recently swore under oath that Roe vs Wade was "settled" and were then confirmed by minority rule
  • One of those three justices was himself accused of sexual assault
  • And a fourth is married to a conspiracy theorist who took part in that earlier insurrection

-- anyways, they provisionally voted to the score of at least 5-3, and possibly 6-3, in favor of overruling both Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The final vote, coming in the next couple months, will end constitutional protection of abortion rights in the United States, and hand duties back to those states.

Many of the states have laws in place to immediately ban abortion at some point early in pregnancy, no matter the cause of said pregnancy, consensual or forced.

And all in all, the leaked brief reveals this specific vote is probably just phase one of dialing the United States back to pre-1967.

But that's just in isolation, because:

(These are those countries, and most of them don't do forced birth, either.)

Loyal readers may be aware that American public health is in shambles. Pre-COVID, we weren't ready for a mass disabling event. Post-COVID, and post-Roe, we're not ready for quite a few more women and babies suffering poor mental health, going poor, hungry, and/or dying, especially as natural disasters mount, where women are even more vulnerable.

Keep in mind, pregnancy is about 14x as lethal as a legal abortion, because #America.

Look for medicinal abortions to rise, and a very complicated telehealth landscape.

Look for data privacy in period and pregnancy apps to become more fraught than they already are. Already, Reddit has become a "pseudo-underground gathering space aimed to facilitate abortions in an age of diminishing access".

Look for state and local races to become even more important than they already are.

Americans will help one another. Just because 6 justices and 51 senators are "pro-life", the majority of Americans polled just this week -- 58% --- do not want Roe overturned.

โšก๏ธAction Step: Here's three Action Steps, in order.

  1. Donate in one place to a swath of abortion access funds in states where abortion is severely restricted or will be banned if Roe is overturned.
  2. Read this (or send to someone who needs it) and decide whether or not to delete your period app
  3. If your corporation has spoken up about the vote, tell Judd

BEEP BOOP

Cybercrime

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Don't click that email (just this one)

The news: The costs of cyberattacks are mounting, with business email compromise alone (where hackers/phishers/assholes impersonate someone you trust) costing $43,312,749,946 from 2016-2019.

Everyone from hospital administrators to corporate hiring managers (watch those resumes) are under attack, with ransoms becoming an expected piece of P&L.

What the hell are we gonna do about this?

It's disaster management. The best we can do is mitigate and prepare for the worst. Start with 2FA. Turn it on everywhere for yourself, and your family.

The FIDO alliance (aka "fast identity online", sadly, not a dog rescue shelter) gained three big members this week: Apple, Google, and Microsoft, jumpstarting an effort to move on from passwords to (hopefully secure, on-device) biometrics.

Wider: Connecticut became just the fifth state with a data privacy law, while President Biden has asked everyone to get ready for quantum computers that blow up cryptography entirely, and farmers with preciously few profits (and thus pressure to pay up) are under attack, too.

โšก๏ธAction Step: The RAND corporation put together a primer on preparing for cyberattacks and ransomware, starting at the local level.

10 THINGS FROM MY NOTEBOOK

  • What's lost when we talk about "ESG" vs "sustainability"
  • Telehealth in trouble: Cerebral under investigation and Adderall's on the block
  • We've got to find a better way to track methane leaks
  • E-bike sales outpacing electric cars (yay!)
  • Fossil fuel profits are through the roof
  • Texas is the new earthquake capital of the US (thanks to drilling)
  • Are we getting closer to solving multiple sclerosis?
  • Las Vegas has outlawed grass
  • If batteries are still getting cheaper, why aren't EV's?
  • From our friends at The 19th: Jane Fonda's got a new climate PAC (of course she does)

What a week. Get some outside time this weekend, take some deep breaths, recalibrate.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for giving a shit.

-- Quinn

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