It’s already begun … The Alberta government on Tuesday declared an early start to the 2024 wildfire season as firefighters there prepare for a hot, dry year ahead. Across Canada, authorities are bracing for a difficult year of fires after a record-setting year in 2023, which sent smoke plumes to population centers across the continent.
A warming climate is making forests drier and more susceptible to big, dangerous fires. More than 100 “zombie fires” (dormant in winter) are still smoldering in Western Canada, where they pose a threat when the weather warms up again.
“It's not something I've seen in any of the data sets,” Wilfrid Laurier University biology professor Jennifer Baltzer told CBC. “What we don't know is how many of these will actually translate to reignition in the spring.”The continental United States was largely spared last year, and so far the projections look good for 2024 but worrying for the long term.
Hard Numbers: Migratory species face extinction, Dutch court halts shipments of F-35 parts to Israel, RFK’s Super Bowl ad debacle, Suspected separatist attack in Cameroon
22: A new report from the UN warns that over a fifth (22%) of the world’s migratory species are at risk of extinction due to climate change and human encroachment. The report, which focuses on 1,189 kinds of animals, emphasized that 44% have already declined in number.
7: An appeals court in the Netherlands on Monday ruled the government must halt shipments of F-35 jet components to Israel within seven days, citing concerns that they could be used to commit war crimes in Gaza. The Netherlands is home to a large warehouse of F-35 parts that are exported to countries that operate the US-made jet. The Dutch government said it will comply with the ruling but that it has appealed because these exports are a matter of foreign policy, which is up to the state.
7,000,000:Robert Kennedy Jr., who is running for US president in 2024 as an independent, on Monday apologized to family members for a campaign ad that ran during the Super Bowl. The commercial drew from a 1960 campaign ad for Kennedy’s assassinated uncle, President John F. Kennedy, and cost an estimated $7 million. Kennedy tweeted the ad was created by a Super Pac without his involvement or approval — but the 30-second commercial was simultaneously pinned to his profile on Monday.
1: At least one person was killed and dozens more injured by an explosion at a children’s Youth Day celebration in Cameroon on Sunday, as the Central African country continues to contend with separatist violence in its English-speaking regions. The unrest is linked to longtime Anglophone grievances alleging discrimination by the Francophone majority.
Critics of the Biden administration have had a field day with its decision to pause the expansion of America’s liquified natural gas exports, while it looks at the effect of exports on the environment, energy security, and energy costs.
Commentator David Bahnsen, managing director of the Bahnsen Group, told Fox Business the move will help one person: Vladimir Putin. He said more LNG exports would undermine Putin while pausing new approvals is a “foreign policy own-goal” that will drive prices higher.
The move has some policy analysts scratching their heads since Biden has hailed the delivery of US LNG to Europe and Asia as a geopolitical victory.
Conversely, the move is being hailed in Canada, where Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he is “really happy” that the US Administration is looking to reduce the carbon intensity of LNG. Judging by his comments, it doesn’t sound like Canada will follow suit. “My hope is that what we will see coming from this are policies that actually look a lot like what we’ve already done,” he said.
The Canadian environmental approval process for projects has been notoriously prolonged over the past eight years, but there are now two projects under construction. One – the Shell-led LNG Canada’s facility in Kitimat, British Columbia – is 90% built and has all the approvals it needs to start exporting next year. There are others in the pipeline, including the Ksi Lisim floating facility, north of Prince Rupert, B.C., which is partly Indigenous-owned through the Nisga’a Nation.
Biden’s move has pleased environmental groups but upset proponents of an industry that has gone from one billion cubic feet of production a day to 14bcf at seven LNG terminals in less than a decade.
Former US Vice President Al Gore is known to many as the Paul Revere of climate change, alerting the world to the dangers of a warming planet and other "inconvenient truths" at a time when only 2/5 Americans were onboard with his message. It earned him a Nobel Peace Prize.
But today, Al Gore has good news to share. In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Gore is clear-eyed but optimistic about our climate future.
"If we get to true net zero and stop incrementally adding to the amount of heat-trapping gas that's there, the temperatures will stop going up almost immediately with a lag of as little as three to five years. Now, that's new science. It's well-confirmed now. They used to believe that it would keep going even after we reach net zero, but no, it will not. The even better news is that if we stay at true net zero, then half of all the human-caused CO2 and methane will fall out of the atmosphere in as little as a quarter of a century."
Watch the full GZERO World episode: Al Gore on US elections & climate change
Catch GZERO World with Ian Bremmer every week at http://gzeromedia.com/gzeroworld or on US public television. Check local listings.
Ian reports from the 54th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the theme this year is “Rebuilding Trust in a Fractured World.” And for sure, confidence in major institutions like governments, churches, and the media is at historic lows. Add to that equation a year that will test democracy like none we’ve seen—as many as 70 elections will take place around the world in 2024. None will be more watched—whether in Davos or Des Moines—than the US presidential election.
Al Gore is no stranger to contested elections, and shares his take on the current state of American politics and some positive news about the progress of climate action. The conversation touches on the most pressing topics at Davos: artificial intelligence, climate change, and deep concerns about the 2024 US election and American democracy.
Catch GZERO World with Ian Bremmer every week at gzeromedia.com/gzeroworld or on US public television. Check local listings.
Listen: In this episode of GZERO World podcast, Ian Bremmer sits down with former US Vice President Al Gore on the sidelines of Davos in Switzerland. Gore, an individual well-versed in navigating contested elections, shared his perspectives on the current landscape of American politics and, naturally, his renowned contributions to climate action.
While the mainstage discussions at the World Economic Forum throughout the week delved into topics such as artificial intelligence, conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, and climate change, behind the scenes, much of the discourse was centered on profound concerns about the upcoming 2024 US election and the state of American democracy. The US presidential election presents substantial risks, particularly with Donald Trump on the path to securing the GOP nomination.
- Podcast: Can the US get its act together? Susan Glasser & Peter Baker on "the world’s greatest geopolitical crisis" ›
- America vs itself: Political scientist Francis Fukuyama on the state of democracy ›
- Divided we fall: Democracy at risk in the US ›
- Francis Fukuyama: Americans should be very worried about failing democracy ›
- Al Gore: "Artificial insanity" threatens democracy ›
- Ian Bremmer: How AI may destroy democracy ›
- Trump's immunity claim: US democracy in crisis ›
The Africa Cup of Nations is underway in Ivory Coast, with the gut-churning knockout stage set to begin on Saturday. The month-long continental soccer tournament happens every two years and recently expanded to accommodate 24 national teams – all of which began the competition hoping to prove they’re the best squad on a continent of 1.4 billion people. We have compiled a list of what you should know about this tournament, including the political backdrop of the event.
1. From the pitch to peace
Argentina's Roberto Ayala and Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba during the World Cup in Hamburg, Germany, on June 10, 2006.
Soccer has played an important role in Ivory Coast’s recent history. In 2005, the country’s national team – particularly international superstar Didier Drogba – helped stop a bloody civil war that began in the West African country three years earlier. Right after Les Éléphants defeated Sudan and qualified for the World Cup for the first time, Drogba issued an emotional call for the warring parties to lay down their weapons for the sake of the country. Drogba’s speech was blasted across the airwaves and ultimately helped lead to a cease-fire.
2. China’s stadium diplomacy
Security forces officers stand guard in front of the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium of Ebimpe in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on July 11, 2023
Three out of six stadiums used for the tournament across Ivory Coast were either built or designed by China, highlighting Beijing’s efforts to expand its influence in Africa through infrastructure projects tied to its Belt and Road Initiative. The Stade Alassane Ouattara Ebimpe, where the final of the tournament will be played on Feb. 11, was built by the Chinese state-owned Beijing Construction Engineering Group.
3. Eyes on the prize money
Senegal's national team celebrates after winning AFCON in Feb. 2022.
The winners of AFCON will receive a $7 million prize, which is a 40% increase from what Senegal received when it won the cup two years ago. But it’s still far below what was raked in by the victors of other recent major tournaments. Argentina, for example, received a $42 million prize for winning the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. And all of the teams playing in this year’s UEFA European Championship get over $9 million each – just for taking part.
4. Near-empty stadiums, full-on scandal
Cameroon during the TotalEnergies Caf Africa Cup of Nations Afcon 2023 match between Gambia and Cameroon at Stade De La Paix on January 23, 2024 in Bouake, Cote d Ivoire.
Before the tournament, the African soccer governing body CAF announced staggering numbers of ticket sales to whet the appetites of fans and to show sponsors how viable their flagship product was. But when the tournament kicked off and games were played in almost empty stadiums, people started questioning those numbers. Fans found tickets hard to purchase, and allegations of black market activities swirled across social media — a claim the scandal-plagued CAF has since denied. It attributed the setback to a “printing issue” due to a spike in orders at the last minute.
5. Broadcast battle
Algeria during the Africa Cup of Nations match between Mauritania and Algeria at Stade De La Paix on January 23, 2024 in Bouake, Cote d Ivoire.
Just before the tournament began, fans faced the possibility they might miss the highly anticipated event altogether. Africa's largest pay-TV company, MultiChoice, withdrew from an agreement to broadcast the competition to over 20 million subscribers. New World TV, a relatively unknown broadcaster headquartered in Togo, initially outbid the South African company for the rights. They subsequently managed licensing for other broadcasters but couldn’t reach a deal with their South African counterpart. Ultimately, all parties involved hurried to secure a MultiChoice deal just three days before the opening game.
6. Give or take a year
January 13, 2024. AFCON 2023, Ibrahim Sangare, Ivory Coast vs Guinea Bissau, at the Stade Olympique Alhassane Ouattara, Abidjan, Cote D Ivoire
Why is it called AFCON 2023 when it’s 2024? Since 2019, the competition has been planned for the summer to ease scheduling conflicts with the European soccer calendar, where Africa’s biggest stars ply their trades. Planned for the 2023 summer, the competition was postponed in July 2022 due to concerns about weather in Ivory Coast, which promised a torrent of downpours during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer — which even the newly designed Chinese stadiums couldn’t handle. Rather than change its name to AFCON 2024, the initial iteration was maintained for sponsorship purposes. This was also the case with the previous edition, AFCON 2021, which was held in 2022 in Cameroon.
7. Chaos undoes predictions
January 22, 2024. AFCON 2023, Pablo Ganet celebrates his goal in the final round of group stage match between Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast, Stade Olympique Alhassane Ouattara, Abidjan, Cote D Ivoire.
The AFCON defies logic. It is pure chaos. Once the competition commences, most pre-tournament punditry/projections become irrelevant. Ivory Coast, an African football heavyweight and the tournament host, faced the prospect of an early exit after being humiliated by Equatorial Guinea, a country led by a 34-year-old who plays in Spain’s lower league. Ghana is out. Tournament record winner Egypt pulled out all the stops to progress to the knockout stage. 2019 champs Algeria finished bottom of its group after a string of embarrassing results, compounded by a loss to Mauritania — which had never won a game at the competition and is ranked 105th best soccer team in the world. True to tradition, the tournament continues to humble giants.
8. White Elephant project?
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara during the AFCON opening ceremony.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara seems to have borrowed from the African dictator's playbook: hosting a big, popular sporting event to try to launder his undemocratic image. Ouattara, who is winding down a controversial third-term presidency, knows a thing or two about being autocratic, though it is unclear whether the 82-year-old will try to tighten his grip on power in 2025. But at least through CAF, he’s given Ivorians palpable joy and pride in exchange for popularity. He even grabbed Washington’s attention: Sec. of State Antony Blinken attended one of the games this week as America’s top diplomat was touring the region to hawk America’s soft power.
9. Questionably ‘energizing’ soccer
The Africa Cup of Nations match between Cape Verde and Egypt at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny on January 22, 2024 in Abidjan, Cote d Ivore.
Global brands are also notorious for using huge sporting events to whitewash their images, and the AFCON is no different. French oil and gas giant TotalEnergies, controversial for its dealing on the continent, has been the title sponsor of CAF’s flagship competition (and its other tournaments) since 2016.
Interestingly, it still retains this position even as African leaders are increasingly taking a prominent role in the global climate conversation, an issue with severe implications for the continent's 1.4 billion people. What a time to have a global oil giant dominate pitch-side advertising boards and maintain a ubiquitous presence across its endless social media posts to millions of fans.