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Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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What to expect in 2021

This year brings important political decisions as well as the potential for catastrophe

2020 brought with it major historical events. The year started off with a near war between Iran and America. The assasination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was then followed up with a retaliatory missile strike on an American base. Australian bushfires burned millions of acres and killed billions of animals. The escalation of COVID led to worldwide lockdowns, an international disruption to everyday life and tragedy throughout the world. Additionally, protests for racial justice, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict and many other important incidents occurred.

2021 now presents events that range from worsening humanitarian crises to international and U.S. policies that will have profound impacts for the future. Here is what I think you should expect from 2021:

Famine

In addition to COVID, one of the most devastating humanitarian crises may be imminent. As a result of the pandemic, there could be a huge spike in famine across the globe.

David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, claims in a UN press release that, “famine is literally on the horizon and we are talking about the next few months.” A spike from 135 million to 270 million people affected by starvation is predicted; Beasley says “2021 risks becoming the worst humanitarian crisis year since the founding of the United Nations”. There will need to be greater relief funding, more natural farms and a closer cooperation between world powers in order to mitigate this problem in 2021.

Climate change

As economies rebuild from the COVID pandemic, many governments will have the opportunity to invest in renewable energy. For example, the European Commission plans to spend 30% of its economic restoration plan on fighting climate change. But if governments don’t take advantage of this opportunity and continue on their current trajectory, climate change will cause 250,000 deaths per year during 2030-2050 according to a report by the World Health Organization.

In an attempt to prevent this, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26), will take place in November 2021. The main goal of COP26 is to urge governments that are a part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change, to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions and orient themselves towards renewable energy. The European Union is aiming to be climate neutral by 2050. Climate neutrality is achieved when there is a net zero amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. This goal aligns with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s requirement to limit the average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

In an article written by Catherine Brahic, environment editor for The Economist, she mentions China and India’s continued reliance on, “coal-power development which is entirely inconsistent with the Paris targets,” despite China pledging to be carbon neutral by 2060. Additionally only a few smaller governments have presented plans to actually cut CO2 emissions.

With the U.S. rejoining the Paris agreement, it is necessary to lay the foundations of Biden's net-zero emissions by 2050 target this year.

Forgeign policy

According to his campaign page, U.S. President-Elect Joseph Biden’s initial goals are to confront, “a pandemic, an economic crisis, calls for racial justice and climate change.” 

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Biden’s plans for fighting the pandemic include instituting a national mask mandate, increasing the availability of COVID testing and the establishment of a U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps to hire 100,000 Americans for COVID mitigation efforts.

To restore the economy, the Biden Administration plans to heavily invest in American manufacturing and infrastructure with an emphasis on “an equitable, clean energy future”.

One of the primary ways Biden plans to strive for greater racial equity is to increase investments for small businesses owned by Black, Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native-Americans. By stimulating minority-owned small businesses, there could be a greater flow of money in these communities as well as more job opportunities.

In attempts to tackle climate change, Biden will, “recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change.” Additionally, his presidency may be marked by investments in sustainable infrastructure, electric transportation and clean energy.

COVID vaccine distribution

A pressing challenge of 2020 was the development of a COVID vaccine. Now that vaccines have been created, the daunting task of distributing them awaits. A battle between countries over who should receive vaccines first is coming. Additionally, there arises the possibility of people refusing vaccines.

In the coming months of 2021, we will see companies releasing new vaccines. This implies that, “by the end of 2021, vaccines should be available in sufficient quantities to mean that the spread of covid-19 can be slowed substantially,” according to an interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, by The Harvard Gazette. If we get about, “75 percent, 80 percent of the population vaccinated, efficiently enough, by the time we get to the end of summer, the third quarter, we may actually have enough herd immunity protecting our society that as we get to the end of 2021, we can approach very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before.”

The rate at which things return to normal is dependent on how efficiently governments can distribute vaccines as well as how many people choose to take them. In a poll released by the Pew Research Center this month, “60% of Americans say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine for the coronavirus.” 

U.S. - China relations

By culturally erasing Uyghur/Turkic muslims, annihilating democracy in Hong Kong, harvesting prisoners’ organs and repressively controlling thought, the Chinese government establisheds itself as a violator of human rights and perpetrator of crimes against humanity. 

The Biden administration is not in a rush to undo tariffs and sanctions imposed on China from the previous administration. Unlike Trump, however, Biden is poised to mend relations with foreign allies and unify them in an ideological war against the Chinese Communist Party. In an interview with The Newyorker, John Pomfret, former Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post, claims, “If the Americans can combine some of the more jaundiced views of China with a policy that brings our allies along with us, or unites with our allies, then the Chinese are going to be in a difficult position.”

The opinion desk can be reached at opinion@ubspectrum.com. 

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