The Polycrisis is a newsletter and a series of essays and panels exploring intersecting crises with a particular emphasis on the political economy of climate change and global North/South dynamics.

It is edited by Tim Sahay and Kate Mackenzie. Follow The Polycrisis on Twitter here

January 25, 2024

Interviews

Brand New India

An interview with Ravinder Kaur on the BJP’s “India Shining” campaign, Hindu nationalist designs, and globalist visions

With India headed to elections this April, the ruling BJP is rolling out enormous publicity campaigns to promote its record on economic growth and Hindu nationalism. Central to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third bid for reelection is the narrative that…

December 21, 2023

Analysis

A Year in Crises

Trade, war, labor, and South-North dynamics in 2023

When we launched The Polycrisis a year ago, we set out to examine the intersecting crises in the economy, energy system, commodities markets, geopolitics, and climate. Our aim was to break intellectual and political silos to give a fuller picture…

December 15, 2023

Interviews

Governing the Climate

An interview with Navroz Dubash on COP28, the history of international climate diplomacy, and the developmentalist turn in climate politics

An interview with Navroz Dubash on COP28, the history of international climate diplomacy, and the developmentalist turn in climate politics

November 9, 2023

Analysis

October War

An interview with Guy Laron on the Gaza War, failure of the Netanyahu doctrine, and risks of Middle east conflagration

It is now over a month since Hamas launched its attack on Israel, killing an estimated 1,400 Israelis and taking more than 200 people hostage. Israel’s response has, in Netanyahu’s words, sought to “crush and destroy” Hamas, but the main…

October 26, 2023

Interviews

Oil and Politics in the Mid-Transition

A discussion on the geopolitics of a transitioning global energy system

A world with terminally declining oil demand has never been experienced before, but the growth era for fossil fuels is ending, as many producers, investors and forecasters are acknowledging. This does not put climate goals in close reach, as CO2…

October 12, 2023

Analysis

Hot Labor

Labor movements, labor markets, and mining

The energy transition is underway and the global North is putting up the cash. In our series, we have investigated questions about the international hierarchy of money, the distribution of economic power, and trade wars. Today, we turn to labor,…

September 15, 2023

Analysis

Trading Order

Protectionism and interdependence pact?

Export Bans. Sanctions. Investment screens. The liberal trading order has been weaponized; security, not efficiency, is the new watchword. And yet, 2023 has seen an all-time high of goods traded across borders. Even bilateral trade between the warring great powers,…

September 2, 2023

Interviews

Defining Bidenomics

Industrial policy, labor, and the New Cold War

A new American industrial policy—“Bidenomics”—has arrived, consisting of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, and the CHIPS and Science Act. The proclaimed goals of Bidenomics are to propel a green energy transition to confront climate…

August 31, 2023

Analysis

Grievance and Reform

Will the BRICS bargaining chip bear fruit for smaller and lower-income countries?

The precursor of 2022’s energy crisis was 2020–2021’s vaccine apartheid. These shortages were in no way natural but reflected financial and geopolitical hierarchies: those with more power and resources bid up prices and developing countries lost out in the process.…

August 26, 2023

Analysis

The Investment Climate

The limits of private financing

The world urgently needs financing for renewable energy, infrastructure, public transit, land restoration, and much more to face the storm of climate change. But these necessary capital investments in the green transition face real barriers, such as a high cost…

August 17, 2023

Analysis

Hockey Sticks and Crosses

Images that define the globalization debate

Images that define the globalization debate

August 3, 2023

Analysis

Global Boiling

Stocks and flows, action and inaction in the planetary impasse

This July has been the hottest in our recorded history and, most likely, over the last 120,000 years. Four “Heat Domes” across the northern hemisphere—over West Asia, North America, North Africa and Southern Europe—contributed to soaring temperatures, not just breaking…

July 20, 2023

Analysis

Washington-Paris-London Calling

Modi, Mottley, Zelenskyy’s attempts to change the existing world order

On June 22, three leaders of developing countries made expeditions to three different Western capitals to plead their case for greater support from the rich world. Viewed jointly, these demands—largely successful—provide a neat panorama of the escalating global crises of…

June 29, 2023

Analysis

Carbon Budget versus Fiscal Budget

What’s at stake in the fiscal rules debate?

Negotiations at the Summit for a Global Finance Pact in Paris last week took place between fifty heads of state. They revolved around how poor countries might develop and decarbonize, within the confines of the existing financial system. A common…

June 21, 2023

Analysis

Feasibility Pact?

Systemic reform, debt, and political feasibility at the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in Paris

A brewing sovereign debt crisis threatens to engulf as many as sixty-one countries in debt distress over the coming year. Aid flowing from the global North—which carries the most responsibility for the atmospheric carbon stock—to the global South—which bears the…

June 17, 2023

Interviews

Varieties of Derisking

Industrial policy, macrofinance, and the green transition

In recent years, the debate over climate policy has moved away from the earlier consensus in favor of carbon pricing and towards an investment-focused approach, illustrated by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), along with other similar measures…

June 15, 2023

Analysis

Mottley in Paris, Modi in DC

Prospects for the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact

Next week, a couple of dozen heads of state—from countries including China, Brazil, Indonesia, and almost a dozen African countries, among them Kenya, Zambia, and Senegal—will gather in Paris for the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact. Instigated by…

June 1, 2023

Analysis

Friends With (Metal) Benefits

Australia’s bid for “friendshoring” in the shifting green world order

When Americans ran short on baby food last year, President Joe Biden made use of a Korean War-era authority—the Defense Production Act (DPA)—to airlift goat milk from Australia, despite protectionist howls from American formula companies. Operation Fly Formula funded the…

May 20, 2023

Analysis

Green Industrial Strategy

The scale and scope of Biden’s landmark climate investments

The Inflation Reduction Act is the most significant piece of climate legislation in US history. Alongside its three other major legislative achievements, the Biden administration has passed between $500 billion and $1.2 trillion worth of new climate spending, depending on…

May 18, 2023

Analysis

A New Foreign Policy

To beat China you must become China

Leaders need followers. Last month, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan delivered a speech outlining the Biden administration’s international economic policy at the Brookings Institute in Washington. The “New Washington Consensus” was not directed at citizens but at capitals abroad.…

May 5, 2023

Analysis

The End of the Cold Peace

Can the Asian growth miracle survive?

Watch the Korean Peninsula. It is in South Korea that the New Cold War has most visibly upset the delicate balance between industry, security, and domestic politics. South Korea’s growth miracle has been based on deterrence and detente between China,…

April 20, 2023

Analysis

The Gigantic Austerity Drive Underway

Two billion people are suffering austerity as governments follow IMF diktat

We are quietly witnessing the largest shift to austerity undertaken in this century. Debt-strained developing countries are making further cuts to already ragged budgets, in many cases as they battle to meet punishing new conditions demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which held…

April 19, 2023

Analysis

Testing Loyalties

A year later, the Russia sanctions and an emerging geopolitical order

Pain and resolve: have we reached the beginning of the end of sanctions?

April 6, 2023

Analysis

Mercantilist Deals of the Great Powers

Decoupling from China is an uphill task in both the global North and the global South

This is the twelfth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. The maiden flight of a new cargo route between Shenzhen and São Paulo took off on…

March 23, 2023

Analysis

Stranded Countries and Stranded Assets

Outsourcing the energy transition to the Gulf

This is the eleventh edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. The US routinely flouts its international climate financing commitments, rarely delivering on its promises. Last year, for example,…

March 9, 2023

Analysis

Cash, Cars, Chemicals (and Corn)

Three big decarbonization plots

This is the tenth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. Decarbonization—reducing the output of invisible CO2 molecules into the atmosphere—requires nothing less than remaking the chemical basis of…

February 23, 2023

Analysis

Debt and Power in Pakistan

The subcontinent’s embattled debtor isn’t merely the passive victim of the climate crisis— it is being plundered by its elites

The subcontinent’s embattled debtor isn’t merely the passive victim of the climate crisis—it is being plundered by its elites.

February 15, 2023

Analysis

Securitizing the Transition

The logic of privatization in climate finance

In the eyes of the IMF, a G20 panel, and, lately, the US Treasury Secretary, the time has come for multilateral development banks to adapt their development mandates to the logic of derisking. This tactic—lauded as a solution for “mobilizing”…

February 11, 2023

Analysis

The Carbon Triangle

China’s real estate bubble and global emissions

China has ended zero-Covid. The resultant viral tsunami is crashing through China’s cities and countryside, causing hundreds of millions of infections and untold numbers of deaths. The reversal followed widespread protests against lockdown measures. But the protests were not the…

February 9, 2023

Analysis

The EU and the IRA

Supply and demand in the great powers’ decarbonization race

This is the eighth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. At Davos last month, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced Brussels’ “Green Deal Industrial…

January 26, 2023

Analysis

Don’t Say “Scramble for Africa”

Debt and diplomacy on the African continent

Debt, diplomacy, and the risks of a new Cold War.

January 25, 2023

Analysis

Militarized Adaptation

War, energy, and NATO’s new climate framework

This essay first appeared in GREEN, a journal from Groupe d’études géopolitiques. When NATO held its two-day summit in Madrid in June 2022, the Spanish government deployed ten thousand police officers to cordon off entire parts of the city, including…

January 14, 2023

Analysis

The Dollar and Climate

How US dollar hegemony fuels the climate crisis

The climate crisis offers a new angle from which to evaluate US dollar hegemony, since carbon emissions are tied to economic activity.

January 12, 2023

Analysis

Inflation and Energy

Can clean energy reduce inflationary pressures?

This is the sixth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. There has been little research into the inflationary implications of either climate change itself, or of responses to climate…

January 12, 2023

Interviews

Emergency Prices

An interview with Isabella Weber

In How China Escaped Shock Therapy (2021), Isabella Weber analyzes how China applied market reforms selectively, avoiding the broad agenda of liberalization advocated for in the West. Retaining oversight of prices for critical goods was key to this strategy.  Recently,…

December 22, 2022

Analysis

Facts on the Ground

Uncertainty and information in the global energy system

Assessing the crisis The energy system that underpins contemporary life is marked with blindspots. Take the fossil fuel sector. Facing simultaneous existential and geopolitical vulnerability—due to Russia invading Ukraine, advances in renewable energy, and the climate imperative—there is profound uncertainty…

December 15, 2022

Analysis

Europe’s “Leap Into the Future”

Do exceptional crisis-fighting policies signal the arrival of an interventionist Europe? 

This is the fifth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. In 2020, as demand for liquefied natural gas boomed in Asia, the shippable fuel was an afterthought in…

December 8, 2022

Analysis

Money and the Climate Crisis

COP27 and financing the green transition

The conclusion of COP27 reflected persisting uncertainties around coordinated global action towards decarbonization. Major agreements—including the establishment of a loss and damage fund—were reached, but the burden of mounting debt among global South countries continued to limit climate ambition. The…

December 2, 2022

Analysis

Development Bank Self-Sabotage

What’s stopping MDBs?

This is the fourth edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. When the World Bank and IMF make radical noises, the US is typically the voice of restraint. So…

November 18, 2022

Analysis

Collective Action and Climate Finance

Can the COP move markets?

This is the third edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. At UN climate summits, the items that appear on the agenda are usually those that advocates have fought…

November 9, 2022

Analysis

A New Non-Alignment

How developing countries are flouting Western Sanctions and playing the great powers off each other

This essay first appeared in GREEN, a journal from Groupe d’études géopolitiques. In March of this year, as Russia’s war in Ukraine intensified, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a trip to New Delhi to speak with his Indian counterpart…

November 3, 2022

Analysis

Domestic Politics & Planetary Change

Will a Lula victory be better for the climate than anything that happens at COP27?

Will a Lula victory be better for the climate than anything that happens at COP27?

October 20, 2022

Analysis

An Introduction

An introduction to The Polycrisis

This is the first edition of The Polycrisis newsletter, written by Kate Mackenzie and Tim Sahay. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox. What crisis? A year ago, one might be forgiven for thinking there was a moment of relative calm…

October 13, 2022

Interviews

The Geopolitics of Stuff

A discussion on supply chains, commodities, and climate

The material economy is back. Economists and commentators in recent decades had heralded (or lamented) the arrival of an automated, redundant, frictionless system of international commerce. But over the past two years, multiple global crises have exposed the fragile physical…