Watching and Ignoring

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

Italian contradictions — The populist Five Star Movement and Lega will now form a government after all. As Gabe Lipton wrote for us on Wednesday, they face some very tough choices. Polls indicate that 57 percent of Italians favor both a universal basic income and big tax cuts, promises offered by these two parties. More government spending and less government revenue is a questionable idea for a country with the highest debt-to-GDP ratio of any EU country not named Greece. A new government in Rome doesn’t mean things have gotten any simpler.


Somali pirates — Incidents of piracy off Somalia’s coast jumped from 16 in 2015 to 27 in 2016 and to 54 in 2017, according to an annual report released by an anti-piracy NGO. The main source of the increase appears to be official complacency — fewer patrols and fewer precautions onboard ships.

Fredie Blom’s bad habit — South African Fredie Blom wants to quit smoking. He’s wanted to quit for a long time. We all know cigarettes can cause health problems, and Fredie blames the devil for his addiction. But we shouldn’t worry too much about his repeated failure to kick the habit, because Fredie Blom is 114 years old.​

WHAT WE’RE IGNORING

The Larrea Letter — Billionaire businessman German Larrea published a letterthis week warning Mexico’s business community of the risks of electing a “populist” candidate as Mexico’s president. But a new poll this week showed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the obvious target of this letter, with a 26-point lead on his nearest challenger ahead of the one-round July 1 presidential election. That’s probably because voters are less worried about the fortunes of Mexico’s business elite than about issues like security and corruption on which Lopez Obrador polls well.

The Trump-Kim Summit — President Trump invited Kim Kardashian to the White House on Wednesday to discuss “prison reform,” because… um…

A North Korean Burger Joint? — In a report published this week, CIA analysts argued that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, but agency officials also say Kim Jong-un might open a Western hamburger franchise in Pyongyang as a gesture of goodwill toward President Trump. Even if I found myself unexpectedly in Pyongyang and ravenously hungry, your Friday author wants no part of a North Korean Happy Meal.

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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