Will politics destroy the planet?

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a happy week to you all. I want to talk about the latest report, a very significant one from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. They release them every few years as sort of the state of the world on climate, on global warming, on sea level rise, on changes, and extreme storms, and droughts, and precipitation levels. And no one should be surprised that this is not a particularly happy piece of news. I mean, of course, so many headlines around major wildfires in California, and Oregon, and Turkey, and Greece, and others around the world and major flooding challenges.


I mean, it's not been a happy situation. But this report, one thing I can say, to start off it, is that it should give us cause for optimism. Is that with over 200 countries participating, you get an overwhelming consensus around where the state of climate change actually is. There's still a lot of uncertainty as to what the longer-term implications will be, particularly variability around things like how much sea level rise will go, to what extent you will end up with complete melting of the Arctic polar cap up, for example.

But over 200 countries, including most of the significant carbon emitters, the fossil fuel producers, and exporters, all participated. They all basically said, "Yeah, this is real." I mean, climate denialism, which you saw in significant pieces of politics, certainly in my own United States and in the Gulf states, in the Middle East, you're not seeing that anymore. There is an understanding and a general consensus that it's real and the level of the impact is no longer something that even the companies that are involved, whose business models are fundamentally dependent on things like oil and gas and coal, they may be making very different arguments on what one needs to prioritize and how one engages in transition. But no one out there is really, they don't believe this is happening. That itself compared to where we were five, 10 years ago is a positive thing.

Another thing I would say is we are now seeing, I mean, in terms of where there is consensus. There's consensus that humans are responsible for a rise in temperature on the planet. On average, over one centigrade degree already, about 1.1, the headline number. Interestingly, this report claims that there is still an opportunity for the world to move to 1.5 degrees centigrade. The 1.5 is already baked in. You can't possibly do less than that. But if you're able to significantly reduce carbon emissions by 2040, functionally net zero, you can keep it at 1.5.

I want to be clear, from our climate practice at Eurasia Group, none of us believe that is going to happen. We think that the most positive realistic scenario is more like 2.5 degrees centigrade of warming. We think we are presently on a trajectory of 3.5 degrees of warming and the calamitous implications of that for the global economy, for human development are very, very real. Actually, this report with the 1.5 degree, it was more optimistic than I expected. I suspect a big part of that is because it is politically very contentious to throw away the 1.5-degree goal that so many countries have been publicly setting and hanging their recommendations on. They want to show politically that we can still get there. Again, I don't think the politics exists for that.

What that means though, even at that level, is that a lot of climate change by 2050, which for most of us is, kind of the foreseeable lifespan outlook that we're thinking about is already locked in, baked in, if you will, in terms of the global average. It means that you will have a foot of sea level rise, irrespective of what is done globally. It means that you will have extraordinary heat waves and climate extremes that will affect every area of the world at the 1.1 degree increase in temperature. That shows that it's not just Sub-Saharan Africa, it's everything. It's Europe, it's Eurasia, it's Asia, it's the North, it's the Southern Hemisphere. Not nearly as much data or certainty in terms of precipitation levels. Not nearly as much certainty about where sea level is going, but a significant amount of certainty as to what this means for temperatures.

I also would mention that one big thing that isn't mentioned at all in this report are the implications of all the die offs from flora and fauna, from animals, the extinctions that we are increasingly seeing at. I mean, truly levels that are unprecedented in millennia. And that is, we don't know. Science is really uncertain about what it means when you take big pieces of the ecosystem out of the equation. What kind of genetic engineering are we going to try to engage in to address those problems? And can we avoid the worst-case scenarios of what could be a breakdown in food chain, for example? A breakdown in sustainability that comes from the life that exists on the planet, as you are engaging in such a short-term dramatic change in the climate environment that they live in.

Another thing I would just mention is one of the reasons why I think that the 2.0, 2.5 degrees are so unlikely and we're more likely to hit 3.5, is because I'm a political scientist, and I'm looking at the differentiated responses of different countries around the world. The United States from a per capita carbon consumption perspective has been decreasing for decades now. And per capita carbon consumption in the United States today is far lower than it was 10, 20 years ago.

But in China, which is industrializing, which has a lot more people than the United States, 1.4 billion, they now have well over 2X the total carbon emissions that the United States does. They'll be 3X in relatively short order, in a couple of years. Part of the reason for that is because they need so much more energy to produce for their population. Per capita, much less carbon usage than in the United States, radically less.

But today, almost 60% of energy consumption inside China comes from coal. And a lot of their export too, to even poor countries around the world is coming from fossil fuels. India, less wealthy than China. Same population. Going to outstrip their population in very short order. They want to industrialize too. And the ability of the wealthy countries to convince India, China, to actually start hitting net zero targets is going to require a conversation of equity about the fact that we have done, in the wealthy countries, most of the historical carbon emissions while the Chinese and the Indians are trying to catch up to our living standards today.

Per capita, ours are far higher than those of the Indians, the Chinese and other countries around the world. Don't they matter as people? What kind of an equity conversation are we going to have with them? Given the lack of trust and given the unwillingness of most people to think about, to value the long-term future on the planet for their kids, for their grandkids, the discount variable we all have, the uncertainty around what new technologies might be able to unlock. We know we have a bird in the hand today. That makes these conversations much more challenging.

Even before you get to the G-Zero and the lack of global coordination and the lack of leadership, even in my own country, the partisanship and the inability of a Biden administration that cares a lot more about climate than previous administrations, but still very constrained in what they can actually do. So, for all of these reasons, our orientation is more still towards 3.5, with an upset scenario for the planet at maybe 2.5 degrees centigrade. And this 1.5, is, in my perspective, an overly optimistic take.

We'll be talking a lot more about that in the future. Hope this is worthwhile for everyone and talk to y'all real soon.

The key for small business growth? More digital support.

https://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/trackimp/N6024.4218512GZEROMEDIA/B26379324.311531246;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=?
The key for small business growth? More digital support.

The pandemic ushered in a boom in new businesses, with growth driven largely by entrepreneurs and small businesses in online retail, transportation, and personal services. According to our recent survey, small businesses indicated that to continue to thrive, greater digital support is even more important than more loans or grants. Their top priorities? Better internet connections. More cybersecurity capabilities. Greater digital sales support. Increasing digital payments. Read more about how we can work together on this important issue from the experts at the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute.

Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

More Show less

January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

Kevin Allison, director of geotech at Eurasia Group, is concerned about the rise of very powerful tech companies disrupting centuries of geopolitics led by the nation-state.

More Show less
The problem with China’s Zero COVID strategy: GZERO World with Ian Bremmer - the podcast

Listen: Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low. A wave of lockdowns could disrupt the world's second-largest economy — just a month out from the Beijing Winter Olympics.

That could spell disaster for Beijing, Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. If things get really bad, though, Huang believes China will pivot to living with the virus, especially as the cost of keeping zero COVID in the age of omicron becomes too high.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Kiev, Ukraine

First question, how is the crisis in this part of Europe developing?

Not good. There's been a week of intense diplomacy with talks in Geneva, and Brussels, and Vienna that produced virtually nothing. The Russian, sort of key demands are outrageously unrealistic. They know that is the case. The US is trying to engage them on somewhat different issues. We'll see if there's any prospect there, but it doesn't look too good. I think the likelihood is that we gradually will move into the phase of what the Russians call military technical measures, whatever that is.

More Show less

For Angela Hofmann, practice head for Industrial & Consumer at Eurasia Group, the world's most visible brands are in for a very rocky year.

Navigating culture wars will be very tricky, as well as fighting with competing demands from consumers, employees, and regulators on issues like China, diversity, and voting rights.

More Show less

Political polarization in the US isn’t just a problem within the country, points out former US national security official Fiona Hill. Deep divisions, she says, actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

“Putin loves our disunity," Russian expert Hill tells Ian Bremmer. "It's incredibly useful as a tool to exploit in that toolkit that he has.”

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

An emboldened Putin thrives on American disunity

GZERO World Clips

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal