CLIMATE CHANGE IS CHANGING POLITICS

This week, diplomats from around the world have gathered in the southern Polish city of Katowice in an effort to put the 2015 Paris climate accord into practice.


Even as high-level efforts to stave off environmental catastrophe rumble on, climate change is already re-shaping domestic politics in countries around the world. Here are three recent examples.

Smoke on the horizon in France: The yellow vest riots that have gripped France in recent days started as a protest against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to hike taxes on fuel. Mr. Macron billed the taxes as a part of a broader effort to reduce France's carbon footprint. Middle-class voters view them as another hit to their pocketbook during an already tough time economically. Committing to reduce emissions is one thing; getting buy-in from the public, particularly from working-class voters who are disproportionately affected by higher energy prices, will be much harder.

A Green New Deal in the US: There's one way to make the green revolution more palatable to the masses: make it about jobs. Spying an opportunity, a group of incoming House Democrats are pushing for a bipartisan committee to draft legislation that would move the US to 100 percent renewable energy in a decade and create new employment opportunities along the way. Similar proposals have been pooh-poohed as unrealistic in the past, given the massive investments that would be required. But the surprising momentum behind this latest push means support for a Green New Deal could well become a litmus test for Democratic presidential contenders in 2020.

A lot of hot air in Brazil? Brazil's president-elect Jair Bolsonaro is taking the opposite tack. The right-wing firebrand recently withdrew an offer for Brazil to host the next round of global climate talks in 2019, saying "environmental politics can't muddle with Brazil's development." Like President Trump, he has also threatened to withdraw from the Paris accord. That could just be bluster – in part because Brazil's Congress might try to stop him, but also because the move may do less for him politically than simply restraining local environmental regulators' ability to impose fines on big agricultural businesses – a key base of his political support.

Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

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The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.

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In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday: Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. After 18 months, Gantz will take over as prime minister, but many doubt that will ever happen.

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With large parts of the American economy shuttered because of coronavirus-related lockdowns, the number of people filing jobless claims in the US last week exceeded 3.2 million, by far the highest number on record. Here's a look at the historical context. The surge in jobless claims, which may be an undercount, is sure to cause a spike in the unemployment rate (which tells you the percent of work-ready people who are looking for a job). At last reading in February, unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. Economists warn that it could reach 5.5 percent in the near term. Even that would be far lower than the jobless rates recorded during previous economic crises such as the Great Depression or the Great Recession. Have a look.