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Your Thursday Briefing

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Good morning. We’re covering India’s rapidly growing Covid crisis and a major U.S. pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

With new daily coronavirus cases nearing 300,000 on Wednesday, India is surpassing U.S. records from the height of its surge and becoming a global epicenter. It’s the world’s fastest growing Covid-19 crisis.

The health care system is buckling under the strain, with one of the most alarming aspects of India’s second wave being the dwindling oxygen supply. Many hospital officials said they were just hours away from running out, and 22 people died from loss of oxygen in one hospital after an accident.

Hospital beds and vaccines are also running low, as criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis mounts: Worshipers observing the Kumbh Mela holiday are continuing to gather in huge numbers, and critics say Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government did little to prevent the festival from turning into a superspreader event.

Course of action: In a televised address, Mr. Modi urged people to be more careful but said that lockdowns were a last resort. States and cities are increasingly going into lockdown on their own. The second largest state, Maharashtra, was expected to announce a lockdown for 15 days.

Travel restrictions: The outbreak prompted neighboring Sri Lanka to postpone plans for a travel bubble. France said travelers from India would have to complete a 10-day quarantine. Britain also has imposed such restrictions and the U.S. is advising against travel to India.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:


President Biden will pledge Thursday to cut U.S. emissions nearly in half by the end of the decade, a target that would require Americans to transform the way they live.

The target is timed to a closely watched Earth Day summit meeting that Mr. Biden is hosting on Thursday and Friday to show that the U.S. is rejoining international efforts to combat climate change.

President Xi Jinping of China will attend virtually, along with leaders of nearly 40 other countries including Brazil, India and Canada, the only G7 nation whose greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the Paris agreement. Brazil is promising to end illegal deforestation by 2030, but President Jair Bolsonaro wants the international community to pledge billions of dollars to pay for the conservation.

Challenges: Experts said significant actions across the U.S. economy would be required to meet the goal, particularly involving the two biggest sources of emissions: cars and power plants. The new goal nearly doubles the pledge that the Obama administration made to cut emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, although the U.S. would have five more years to achieve it.


President Vladimir Putin warned the West not to cross what he called a “red line” with Russia in his annual state of the union address. He delivered his speech as about 100,000 Russian troops were massed on Ukraine’s border and protesters were taking to the streets.

Russia’s response would be “asymmetric, fast and tough” if forced to defend its interests, Mr. Putin said. He stopped short of announcing any new military or foreign policy moves.

Opponents of Mr. Putin called for protests across Russia on Wednesday in support of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader who is on a hunger strike in a Russian prison. Before the rallies, the authorities arrested dozens of protest leaders in 20 cities.

Tensions: Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on Tuesday warned of a possible war with Russia. In a national address, he said Moscow’s buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border had created “all the preconditions for escalation.” (See pictures from the front line.)

At home: Mr. Navalny said in a letter posted by his team that he was like “a skeleton walking.” He is insisting that he be allowed to be seen by doctors of his choosing.

Flush with cash and burned out by the pandemic, some workers are quitting their jobs to take a chance and move where they’ve always dreamed of living, be closer to family or finally start a pet creative project. Others are switching to jobs that give them more of a work-life balance.

The science of climate change is more solid and widely agreed upon than you might think. Ahead of Earth Day, our climate team put together this guide to the most accurate scientific information. Here’s an excerpt from our definitive answers to big questions about climate change.

How bad are the effects of climate change going to be?

It depends on how aggressively we act to address climate change. If we continue with business as usual, by the end of the century, it will be too hot to go outside during heat waves in the Middle East and South Asia. Droughts will grip Central America, the Mediterranean and southern Africa. And many island nations and low-lying areas, from Texas to Bangladesh, will be overtaken by rising seas. Conversely, climate change could bring welcome warming and extended growing seasons to the upper Midwest, Canada, the Nordic countries and Russia. Farther north, however, the loss of snow, ice and permafrost will upend the traditions of Indigenous peoples and threaten infrastructure.

What will it cost to do something about climate change, versus doing nothing?

One of the most common arguments against taking aggressive action to combat climate change is that doing so will kill jobs and cripple the economy. But this implies that there’s an alternative in which we pay nothing for climate change. And unfortunately, there isn’t. In reality, not tackling climate change will cost a lot, and cause enormous human suffering and ecological damage, while transitioning to a greener economy would benefit many people and ecosystems around the world.


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