Cruel, Cruel Summer

Cruel, Cruel Summer

As the temperature rose this summer (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) many world leaders started to feel the heat. Here’s a look at five presidents and prime ministers who have seen their approval ratings fall significantly over the past several months.


Vladimir Putin, President of Russia: The world’s shrewdest strongman saw his approval rating plummet 12 points between May and July after his government proposed raising the retirement age and slashing pension benefits. More than 80 percent of Russians opposed the move, prompting the largest one-month polling tailspin in the history of Putin’s tenure. While his current rating of 67 percent is nothing to sneeze at, it’s his lowest since February 2014, just before he launched the wildly popular invasion of Ukraine.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France: The stirring triumph of Les Bleus in the 2018 World Cup did little to buoy President Macron’s popularity back home. After a scandal-plagued summer that saw the release of video footage showing Macron’s former chief bodyguard beating two protesters during the country’s May Day celebrations, France’s political wunderkind faces the biggest test of his presidency so far. Over the past three months, Macron’s approval rating has fallen by 16 points to a record low 27 percent.

Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina: Elected in 2014 in part to clean up years of his predecessors’ economic mismanagement, Macri’s gradualist approach has pleased no one: his reforms have been painful enough to put people on the streets, but not far-reaching enough to spur a fresh investment boom or economic surge. The outside world isn’t helping: higher US interest rates, economic slowdowns in Brazil and China (Argentina’s key partners) and a broader run on emerging market currencies have helped push the Argentine peso down more than 40 percent against the dollar this year, and Macri’s approval has fallen 14 points since June.

Moon Jae-in, President of South Korea: President Moon’s approval rating soared above 80 percent after his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this spring, but it’s fallen steadily since then – in part because of a mishandled minimum wage increase (too fast for employers, too slow for workers) and a summer heat-wave that boosted electricity bills. Still, let’s be serious: 58 percent is the envy of most democratically elected leaders these days, and maybe his planned upcoming visit with Kim Jong-un can give him a fresh boost.

Malcolm Turnbull, (former) Prime Minister of Australia: Ousted last Friday after a political knife fight within his own party, one major reason for the 9-point fall in Turnbull’s approval rating that culminated in his ouster was a botched plan to impose tighter emissions regulations. But there’s also a deeper structural crisis at play in Australia, where political squabbles have paralyzed government for years, and Turnbull’s own governing party is split between a faction drawn rightward by the rise of anti-immigrant populist politics and a more centrist faction that Turnbull represented. If you’re counting, Australia has gone through 6 changes of prime minister in the past ten years.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

More Show less

When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

More Show less

A Castro-less Cuba: Raúl Castro, younger brother of the late Fidel, is expected to retire on Friday as secretary-general of Cuba's ruling communist party. When he does, it'll mark the first time since the 1959 revolution that none of Cuba's leaders is named Castro. The development is largely symbolic since Castro, 89, handed over day-to-day affairs to President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2018. It's worth noting that US sanctions laws do specify that one of the conditions for normalizing ties with Cuba is that any transitional government there cannot include either of the Castro brothers. So that's one less box to tick in case there is a future rapprochement across the Straits of Florida. But more immediately, we're watching to see whether a new generation of leaders headed by Díaz-Canel will bring any serious reforms to Cuba. COVID has killed the tourism industry, plunging the island into an economic crisis that's brought back food shortages and dollar stores reminiscent of the early 1990s.

More Show less

16: Brazil's new plan to save the Amazon promises to curb deforestation, but not too much. Although it would reduce annual forest loss to the average recorded over the past five years, next year's target is still 16 percent higher than the Amazon's total deforestation in 2018, the year before President Jair Bolsonaro — who favors economic development of the rainforest — took office.

More Show less

Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal