IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: THE CLIMATE CHANGE POLITICAL PRESSURE COOKER

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: THE CLIMATE CHANGE POLITICAL PRESSURE COOKER

The US government quietly released its latest deep dive report into the human and economic costs of climate change last week. Despite copious new detail on the dire consequences of global warming, there wasn't much in the legally-required, 1,600-page national climate assessment that we didn't already know: The world is getting warmer. It's due to human activity. The costs are already being felt, and the full economic, human, and ecological toll could be severe if nobody does anything about it.


The Trump administration's decision to publish the report on the Friday after the US Thanksgiving holiday did, however, lead some to speculate that it was trying to bury news it viewed as politically inconvenient. Asked about the report's dire conclusions, President Trump was unequivocal: "I don't believe it."

With all the talk about climate change, here's a look at where the most important players in the US climate debate stand after the recent midterm elections:

President Trump campaigned on a promise to bring coal jobs back to Pennsylvania and other key states. He also pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord early in his presidency, saying the landmark 2015 agreement, in which more than 190 countries agreed to set voluntary emissions caps to limit the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, was a bad deal for the US. With re-election looming in 2020, the president cares more about making good on his campaign promises than a global issue whose worst effects won't be felt for decades.

Congressional Democrats want to stick with the Paris accord and promote clean energy as a source of new jobs and economic growth. But they lack the votes to do much more than hold hearings and make noise. Nancy Pelosi, who's likely to be the next house speaker, has called for the creation of a new select committee on climate change, and some progressive Democrats are pushing a "Green New Deal." But an enlarged Republican Senate majority means there's little chance of climate legislation passing both houses of Congress anytime soon. Even if it did, President Trump would be unlikely to sign it.

Congressional Republicans have little reason to buck the president on this. Republican "Climate Moderates" are a dying breed: around 20 GOP members of the House who expressed an interest in taking government action to prevent climate change lost their seats in the November midterms – leaving behind only about two dozen, according to the Atlantic. Many of the Republicans who held onto their House seats are climate skeptics who won by tacking closer to the President. They have little reason to change course now.

Ordinary Americans: While a solid majority of Americans from both main political parties favor more use of wind and solar power, Republicans and Democrats are sharply divided on the specific problem of man-made climate change. One recent survey found that three-quarters of Democrats or Democratic-leaning voters agreed that global warming was due to human causes, compared with just 26 percent of their Republican counterparts.

As long as these partisan divides persist, scientific consensus will struggle to overcome political inertia when it comes to the US combating climate change.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

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