THREE STORIES IN THE KEY OF: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

THREE STORIES IN THE KEY OF: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Every action has a reaction—sometimes unintended. Here are three stories about the unintended consequences of governments’ actions that caught our attention this week.


Russia’s sanctions windfall: A more confrontational US foreign policy is delivering an unexpected windfall to Moscow—more money in the bank. That’s because Russia has benefited from two simultaneous effects of US sanctions. First, the price of oil, Russia’s main export, has risen steadily in anticipation of the re-imposition of US sanctions against Iran. Second, US measures against Russia itself have caused the value of its currency, the ruble, to fall by 15 percent since mid-August. The combined result is that a barrel of Russian crude, which is typically sold in dollars, is worth around 30 percent more todaythan one sold back in January.

Saudi Arabia’s tech funding: Saudi Arabia’s alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has led a number of high-profile US business people to withdrawfrom an upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, a consequential development for the kingdom as it seeks to attract know-how from abroad. But the next wave of the backlash may wash over Silicon Valley—as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, has directed at least $11 billion in Saudi funds to Silicon Valley since mid-2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. As global elites sour on MBS as a result of the Khashoggi affair, many American tech companies and entrepreneurs could soon find their sources of funds under fresh scrutiny.

US aid to Central America: A migrant caravan of at least 1,500 Hondurans is currently making the more than 3,000-mile overland journey to the United States. Yesterday, members of the caravan were detained by Guatemalan officials for making what they claim was an illegal border crossing. This story hasn’t escaped the attention of President Trump, who threatened in a recent tweet to cut off all aid to Honduras, the second poorest country in Latin America, if the group isn't quickly returned home. But a reduction in US aid to Honduras, which has already been slashed by the Trump administration (see graphic below), may simply exacerbate the factors that led these migrants to flee their country in the first place.

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.

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Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

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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.

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Can "the Quad" constrain China?

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