Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team

Compared to the 2008 financial collapse, what’s the biggest difference in how the world has handled Covid-19? As Fareed writes in his latest Washington Post column, there are several—no one’s talking about fiscal austerity this time, and governments have learned to go big on stimulus in the face of economic disaster—but unfortunately, a lack of global coordination seems to be the most significant change.

In the wake of 2008, “[c]ountries cooperated, central banks worked together and a downward spiral was averted,” Fareed writes, citing the analysis of Daniel Drezner and his book “The System Worked.” This time, not so much—and the world could pay a price for it.

“Unless we push hard to vaccinate the whole planet, this pandemic will linger and morph and perhaps even widen,” Fareed writes. “[T]he best way to prepare for future crises—whether they involve pandemics, extreme weather, or cybercrime—is collectively. This is not dewy-eyed idealism. The system worked a decade ago; it can again.”

The Summer of Weather

Depending on which record-keeping authority you trust, a world record for the hottest reliably measured temperature may have been set last week in Death Valley, California, at 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4 degrees Celsius). It’s by no means the only weather outlier of the northern hemisphere’s 2021 summer: In the US and Canada, the typically cool Pacific Northwest suffered its own deadly heat wave, and now floods have left more than 120 dead in Europe, as torrential rains have devastated Germany in particular.

Scientists appear to have little doubt about what’s to blame—and what’s to come. “By all accounts, the climate crisis is already here,” Sofia Andrade writes for Slate. NASA climate scientist Peter Kalmus tells her: “It’s already worse than what I imagined. I feel like the heat dome event in the Pacific Northwest moved up my sense of where we are at by about a decade, or even more … I think a lot of my colleagues probably feel the same.”

Some scientists expect heat deaths to rise in coming decades, Bob Berwyn, James Bruggers, and Liza Gross wrote this month for Inside Climate News, while Brian K. Sullivan and Dave Merrill of Bloomberg point to the effect a hotter Earth can have on violent weather: “The culprit behind these events is increasingly clear and obvious: climate change. In the case of a tornado that ripped across the Czech Republic last week, for instance, a cold and wet spring followed by record June heat transferred latent energy into the atmosphere, which resulted in the extreme weather. Scientists at Austria’s Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics said hotter temperatures caused by climate change were to blame. The cyclone left five dead.”

As Withdrawal Approaches, Concerns Rise for Afghans, NATO Allies

As US and NATO troops prepare for their final exit from Afghanistan, many worry about the country’s fate—including what the future may hold for a generation of young Afghans who grew up with Western troops supporting the Kabul government and whose ways of living are “anathema” to an advancing Taliban, Andrew North writes for Nikkei Asia.

As some Afghans reportedly weigh leaving the country, Elisabeth Braw writes for Foreign Policy that America’s NATO allies will be left holding the bag, if US President Joe Biden’s withdrawal decision prompts droves of Afghans to seek asylum in Europe.

What Can the West Really Do About Hong Kong?

Not as much as it might think, former US Consul General and Chief of Mission in Hong Kong and Macau Kurt Tong writes for Foreign Affairs.

Despite an outcry over China’s expanding control over the formerly British-controlled city, Tong writes that “outside powers lack leverage to influence Chinese policy,” particularly as that going wild with sanctions would likely undercut a broad interest in keeping multinational businesses operating in Hong Kong. “The uncomfortable truth is that Hong Kong, despite the hollowing out of its democratic system, remains tremendously useful to the United States and other Western powers, and its continued success as a financial market and economic gateway to China remains important for the global economy.”

The Delta Divide

An early study by Public Health England suggested the Delta variant of Covid-19 could be more than 60% more transmissible than even the Alpha variant (first discovered in the UK), already known for its enhanced transmissibility; “it’s a superspreader strain if there ever was one,” doctor, scientist, and author Eric Topol tells Scientific American’s Tanya Lewis. In the US, it’s exposing a divide between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, with vaccination willingness differing along partisan lines, Jessica Glenza writes for The Guardian. Even in countries that fared well through the first waves, Delta appears to be a significant factor in how the pandemic is playing out: As CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee reports, Goldman Sachs has slashed its economic-growth projections for Southeast Asia, given newfound, Delta-fueled concerns.

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