Good morning, Quartz readers!
This has been a remarkable week for conversations about climate change. It started with an International Panel on Climate Change report warning that anything short of dramatic action could spell food shortages, irreversible harm to the planet, and tens of trillions of dollars in damages to the world economy in just 20 years.
Then, the Nobel Prize in economics went to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer for explaining how climate change and technological progress impact long-term economic growth. Meanwhile, the US and India continue to feel the devastation of Hurricane Michael and Cyclone Titli, respectively. Such extreme weather events are telltale signs (paywall) of global warming.
Part of the solution to climate change, as Nordhaus has shown, is to levy a universal carbon tax. This would punish carbon emitters and incentivize the development of greener technologies. While work is needed to integrate climate change into economic models, many leading economists agree a global price on carbon is the way forward.
Politics gets in the way. In the US, the Trump administration is determined to roll back environmental standards. Even among countries that put a price on carbon, most don’t have a tax high enough to meet climate targets, according to a recent OECD report.
Meaningful action isn’t out of reach. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development now says solar- and wind-power plants are cheaper to build than fossil-fuel plants, almost everywhere in the world. The World Bank has vowed not to fund coal-power projects. Climate activists are going after pension funds that finance fossil-fuel firms (paywall). Insurance companies now hire climatologists to better price the risks the world is facing (paywall).
Even if officials imposed a stiff tax on carbon tomorrow, it wouldn’t mitigate all the harm coming our way. That doesn’t mean we should make perfect the enemy of the good. Human development has been a story of squeezing more output from the same amount of resources. That makes one of the newest Nobel laureates optimistic about our capacity to combat climate change. I tend to agree.—Akshat Rathi
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
China’s “nuclear option” in the US trade war. China has more than $1 trillion in US government debt—which some analysts say gives it major leverage in the trade war. But as Gwynn Guilford explains, “by unloading its Treasuries, China would fell two of Trump’s bigger bugbears: It would cheapen the US dollar against the yuan, which, all else equal, would shrink the US-China trade deficit, and give the Fed a reason to back away from rate hikes.”
A radical Nigerian experiment. Giving poor people cash—no strings attached—is an increasingly popular idea among development economists. But the Nigerian government came up with an even bolder idea: giving cash to entrepreneurs. Between 2012 and 2015, it ran a competition offering grants of $50,000 to aspiring business owners. As Dan Kopf writes, studies show the grant “made a huge difference—not just to the entrepreneurs, but to the people they hired.”
The inside story of a nearly disastrous space launch. This weekend we could be remembering the lives of Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague, who on Oct. 11 were inside the Soyuz space capsule, destined for the International Space Station, when something went awry at launch. As Tim Fernholz writes, they were saved by an escape system that hadn’t been used since 1983—though they were not spared a bone-rattling emergency return to Kazakhstan in “ballistic reentry mode.”
How Chinese cuisine became India’s comfort food. While urbanites in India are now spoiled for choice when it comes to international cuisine—tacos, ramen, French pastries—that’s done nothing to dent the enduring popularity of Chinese restaurants. But as Maria Thomas writes, Indianized Chinese food bears little resemblance to what’s eaten in China. For many, it taps into the nostalgia of growing up at a time when dining out in India was very different.
Because we all could use career advice. Whether you’re searching for new ways to network, need advice about job interviews, are looking for original tips on moving up, or are wondering whether it’s time to move on, Quartz at Work has you covered. To mark the one-year anniversary of our edition covering the modern workplace, we compiled 10 of our favorite stories about managing your career. (You can also check out our best-of lists for topics including office life, management, leadership, and the lives of working parents.)
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
Not-so-do-gooders. Some extraordinary people believe they can single-handedly change the world—and actually try to do it. That’s true of idealist Katie Meyler, founder of the acclaimed American charity More Than Me, who created a school for destitute girls in Monrovia, Liberia. But a damning expose about abuses of power at the school by reporter and lawyer Finlay Young, published by ProPublica and Time, reveals the daunting complexity of best intentions and international development.
A former Tibetan monk on the joy of sex. When Buddhist monk Gendun Chopel renounced his vows in the 1930s, he embraced his newfound sexual life with religious fervor, describing the experience in verse. For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Liesl Schwabe reviews Chopel’s 1938 book A Treatise on Passion, a compilation of 588 four-line poems celebrating feminism, love, equality, and “inexpressible joy”—not only for sex, but for life itself.
Apple’s fight against organized iPhone fraud in China. The world’s most valuable company faces increasingly tough competition from homegrown smartphone makers in China. But it also faces fraudsters who are continually devising ways to deceive the company and its customers with fake—or partially fake—iPhones. For the Information, Wayne Ma interviewed over a dozen former Apple employees about the ever-evolving techniques they witnessed (paywall).
Inside the “Walmart of Heroin.” Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood is known for having the cheapest and purest heroin on the US east coast, attracting “drug tourists” from across the nation—many of whom never leave. For the New York Times magazine, Jennifer Percy profiles addicts she found living there (paywall) and the authorities struggling to cope with drug dens, homeless encampments, and violence in what was once a blue-collar factory neighborhood.
US weapons systems are easy cyberattack targets. Of the weapons that the US Department of Defense tested between 2012 and 2017, nearly all have “mission critical” cyber vulnerabilities, concludes a report released this week by the Government Accountability Office. Even more alarming, as Emily Dreyfuss notes for Wired, is defense officials seeming dismissive of the research, which uncovers basic issues like weak passwords and unencrypted communications.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, joyful ex-monks, and Indian comfort food to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Steve Mollman and Jackie Bischof.