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Pandemic Policies Leave Societies Divided

Source: Pew Research Center

Over sixty percent of the publics surveyed feel their countries are more divided now than prior to the pandemic. Among 17 advanced economies, more people in the U.S. (88%) felt increased division compared to any other country, followed by the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. Only 34% of countries surveyed feel more united this year, according to Pew Research Center.

Those with negative views of the economy are more likely to report societal division. Attitudes about COVID-related restrictions also affect the public’s sense of division: Those who believe there should have been fewer restrictions are more likely to agree that society has grown more divided. 

As economies recover this summer and vaccine distributions continue, 75% of respondents have confidence that their health care system can handle future global health emergencies, but a median of 65% continue to feel the day-to-day impact of COVID-19 a great deal.

Electricity Demand Could Drive Record CO2 Emissions

Source: International Energy Agency

Carbon emissions produced by the energy sector will grow by 3.5% this year and by 2.5% in 2022, taking emissions to record levels. Almost half of this increase in electricity demand will come from fossil fuels that could push carbon dioxide emissions in the energy sector to record levels in the next two years. 

Coal is expected to increase by almost 5% this year and an additional 3% in 2022, according to the IEA. Although renewable energy is expected to grow by 8% this year and 6% in 2022, IEA states that, “renewables will only be able to meet around half the projected increase in global electricity demand over those two years.”

In 2020, electricity demand fell by 1% due to less social and economic activity and extreme weather-related outages. Electricity demand is expected to rise by 5% this year and 4% in 2022, driven in part by global economic recovery. To improve the energy sector’s resilience, IEA states that “power systems need not only to maintain system adequacy but also to be flexible enough to balance supply and demand at all times.”

Majority of US Employees Support Employer Vaccine Mandates

Source: Morning Consult

Fifty-eight percent of American employees support employer vaccine mandates. A June survey shows that baby boomers, millennials and men express the most support in companies requiring vaccines.   

Over 40% of respondents say they already have an in-person workplace structure, but 12% of workers say they would prefer to never physically return to the office. Women and Generation X were the largest groups to express a lack of interest in an in-person workplace. Many women have had to reprioritize their time since early 2020 to care for children or help guide them through remote education, ultimately setting them back in the job market.

Although employee uncertainty around returning to work appears to be declining, Morning Consult found that most employees want to have a say in the outcome. Forty-six percent expressed that if they are unhappy or feel unsafe about their company’s plan, they would consider quitting. A hybrid workplace is the favorable option for most — 75% plan to continue working remotely one to four days per week.

Dangerous Air Quality: 5 Asian Countries That Surpass the WHO’s Limit

Source: World Bank

Five Central Asian countries far exceed the WHO’s recommended exposure to air pollution — 10 micograms per cubic meter on average each year. Bishkek, in the Kyrgyz Republic, recorded the highest level of pollution in the world last year. 

At an international level, the cost associated with the damage to health, driven by poor air quality, is estimated to be $5.7 trillion — around 4.8% of global GDP. Asia accounts for 53% of global emissions, ranking as the largest contributor to global emissions. With immediate action, Central Asia could contribute to GHG emissions reductions goals by 2030 while simultaneously improving people’s health and achieving billions in economic gains.

The World Bank identifies five actions that Central Asia could take for more sustainable air quality, including improving the precision of air quality monitoring, as well as investing in cleaner fuels and technologies. The World Bank also recommends overhauling industry permits and offering incentives to encourage behavior change. All actions would “require a formal commitment from governments, financial investments, capacity building, and the deployment of new technology.”

Vaccine Hesitancy Is Highest in the US and Russia

Source: Morning Consult

The Russian population has the highest percentage of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy — at 29% — compared to the 14 additional countries surveyed. Experts believe that skepticism specific to this country’s population comes from the relationship between the Russian government and the public. The United States ranks second in vaccine hesitancy at nearly 20%, according to the Morning Consult. 

Concerns over potential side effects and whether the approval process was rushed through clinical trials are the two main drivers for vaccine skepticism across the world. Income, race and education levels also seem to impact the decision-making process. Compared to mid-April, however, the share of vaccine skeptics dropped by an average of 10 points in the 15 countries surveyed. 

Some countries, including Russia and the U.S., recently announced vaccine-related incentive programs, such as lotteries and other cash prizes. U.S. public officials are already seeing positive results from these programs, yet experts warned that this method may not bring reassurance to those with safety concerns around the vaccine. Instead, the World Economic Forum suggests that local leaders to prioritize reaching out and educating the public on misinformation circulating around COVID-19 vaccine risks.

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