The U.S.'s role in helping poorer countries reduce CO2 emissions + a top congressional district Democrats hope to flip

and some more Covid thoughts

Hi. I hate that we seem headed back to a time where the seriousness of Covid begins to overwhelm all else. I am deeply frustrated about this. I’m frustrated that the CDC director acted surprised that the unvaccinated took off their masks when the CDC eased its mask-wearing guidance in May. I’m frustrated that it’s taken so long to do vaccine mandates, and that the FDA is slow-walking its authorizations.

Anyway, I haven’t yet written anything formal but I’ve been following the school reopening discussions, which are now entering a hard, new kind of chapter. The U.S. is now averaging 124,000 cases a day, up 118% percent over last two weeks, with deaths also doubling in that period. There are states like Florida and Texas that are literally banning school mask mandates, relying on shoddy research and embarrassing “parents’ rights” claims.

While most everyone would prefer to have all children back in the classroom, it’s clear that a lot of families are not going to feel comfortable sending their kids back while vaccination rates remain what they are and while kids under 12 are ineligible for the vaccine.

If you’re reading this and wondering why families might be reticent to send their kids back to school even if kids are much less likely to be hospitalized or die from Covid, you’ll recall that many young children live in homes with seniors and immunocompromised people. There’s been a lot of discussion about how they should be prioritized soon for booster vaccines, and today there was also a concerning article that the Pfizer vaccine may be significantly less effective in protecting against Delta infection than Moderna (though still very effective at preventing serious illness + death).

Parents worry about the health and safety of their children, but they’re also worrying about the health and safety of their own parents, of themselves, their siblings, their co-workers and neighbors. For some families they’ll want to wait until they get those booster shots, or just general vaccination levels go up. We’ll see what happens; I know most districts were very relieved/happy to be done with the exhausting and difficult task of hybrid and/or virtual learning, but I think it could be fairly untenable soon to force unvaccinated students back in areas of high-spread, especially as so many offices are pushing back their reopening plans.

I’m in favor of mandating the vaccines for all school staff and students, and I’m glad more private employers and the federal government has been moving (too slowly, but at last) in that direction. California today came out in favor of requiring vaccines for all teachers or to get regular testing. D.C. where I live came out for it yesterday.

I’m also glad more unions are getting on board. AFT president Randi Weingarten came out in favor of vaccine mandates this past weekend. My old editor Harold Meyerson had some thoughtful pieces on vaccine mandates + unions that I’d recommend.

Other school districts are admirably trying to do all that they can to make a return to school safe.

Chicago announced this last Friday:

And remarkably leaders in school districts in Texas and Florida are vowing to defy their state bans on mask mandates, penalties be damned.

Emily Oster, a high profile economist who emerged as a vocal advocate of the safety of in-person learning, announced on Twitter over the weekend that she’ll be stepping back from the policy conversation around school reopening. (She’s since deleted her tweets but for reference:

I find this tweet and its timing full of chutzpah but we digress :)

Now to share some articles…I have two new stories in The Intercept:

1. First story is on the lacking commitments the Biden administration has put forward so far to help poorer, less-resourced countries adapt to the climate crisis. This was published before the new IPCC report, but needless to say, it’s quite relevant to that, because poorer countries are expected to contribute nearly 90 percent of all emissions growth over the next two decades. Helping them transition to a clean energy is essential, and many of the people who could face the worst effects of a burning planet live in places that have done the least to contribute to the crisis we’re in.

The United States is the largest historical emitter of emissions, and the president talks often of environmental justice and global leadership, but the U.S. is not so far paying its fair share to this worldwide effort. It’s always going to be easier for politicians to sell "more jobs for Americans" as a pitch for climate spending but if we're serious about the climate crisis (and environmental justice) then international climate finance is essential. You can read that story here.

2. Second story is a shorter politics piece, looking at a district in upstate New York that Biden won handily in 2020, and Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and Obama won in 2012, but has elected a Republican to represent them in Congress since 2014. Democrats have had a hard time unseating him (John Katko) but are feeling more optimistic about 2022 to flip the seat. I wrote on the only Democrat in the race so far. You can read that here.

Thanks for reading, for subscribing and for sending me ideas as you come across them!