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Paige Fusco

Graphic Truth: When it comes to freshwater, Canada is king

Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface, but good ol’ H2O is a much more precious resource than it appears.

Less than 0.8% of Earth’s water is freshwater in lakes, rivers, or underground aquifers. And much of that already tiny fraction has been rendered unusable by pollution or is lost to poor management and inefficient agricultural practices. What’s worse, climate change and overexploitation of existing water resources mean that communities from California to Cambodia are struggling to provide safe water at an affordable price.

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Participants enter the Dubai Exhibition Centre during the COP28, UN Climate Change Conference.

Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Reuters

Can climate activism and AI coexist?

AI is on the lips of climate-policy negotiators gathered for the United Nation’s COP28 conference in Dubai, and for good reason — it presents a high-risk but potentially high-reward scenario.

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Jess Frampton

Who should pay to fix our warming planet?

Global leaders are gathering in Dubai for COP28, the 28th annual United Nations climate summit, starting tomorrow through Dec. 12. But before the meeting even begins, I can already tell you one thing: Just like every COP that came before it, COP28 will fail to resolve the central debate on “solving” climate change.

At the heart of this failure lies a trillion-dollar roadblock: disagreement between developed and developing countries over who’s to blame for the problem – and who should foot the bill to fix it. The US and Europe blame Chinese and Indian coal plants and call for their immediate phase-down. China and developing countries blame the West’s historical emissions and insist on compensation for their mitigation and adaptation efforts. Africans and Indians assert their right to develop their economies as Westerners did. Vulnerable nations demand reparations to cope with the harmful consequences of the global warming that’s already baked in. Neither side wants to make concessions.

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A person walks past a "#COP28" sign in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

Controversies at COP28 and the future of climate change

Global climate talks are kicking off at COP28 on Thursday amid revelations that its host, the United Arab Emirates, is using the event to lobby for fossil fuel production. On the one hand, no one is surprised. Climate activists were already outraged and suspicious that one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers was hosting a meeting meant to move the world away from their production. On the other, as scientists uncover that climate change is progressing faster than expected, are the few global institutions meant to be speeding up our transition to carbon neutrality actually working against it?

For answers, we looked to Eurasia Group Vice Chairman Gerald Butts, who was a part of Canada’s delegation when the Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21 in 2015.

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Tug of war rope between US & Canada over green subsidies and tech workers.

Luisa Vieira

Hard Numbers: Canada snaps up US tech workers, greenhouse gasses surpass grim mark, green hydrogen comes to Quebec, shrimp paste alarm

6,000: Nicely played, Canada. Back in July, as US tech giants were laying off tens of thousands of employees, Canada seized the moment, changing its immigration rules to permit US H-1B visa holders to get work visas in Canada. So far this year, more than 6,000 holders of the US visa have relocated north of the border.

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After a summer from hell, will voters embrace climate action?

Pierre Poilievre, leader of Canada’s Conservative Party, is having a pretty good summer. He’s holding well-attended “Axe the tax” rallies across the country, promising to get rid of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his unpopular carbon tax, which is hitting drivers at the pumps.

This week, though, Poilievre had to postpone rallies in British Columbia and the Yukon because of wildfires that have forced tens of thousands to flee their homes and burned 15 million hectares of bush, leaving an area the size of Illinois in ashes. Since the carbon tax was designed to reduce the emissions that contributed to these catastrophic fires, it was bitterly ironic that Poilievre’s campaign against the tax was interrupted by the fires, but he is not changing course.

In both Canada and the United States, this has been a hellish summer, with so much climate-related extreme weather that it is hard to keep track. The summer started with wildfires and floods in typically temperate Nova Scotia. Heat records have fallen in Arizona. Ocean water the temperature of a hot tub has killed coral in the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys. A deadly fire laid waste to tropical Maui. A hurricane hit L.A.

Have voters been listening?

For decades, climate scientists have been warning these disasters would come if we don’t reduce the emissions that are warming the planet. Now that the disasters have started, will people recognize the urgency of the problem?

“That is the multi-trillion dollar question,” says Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group’s managing director for climate and sustainability, who has been working on climate since the 1990s.

“When I started on climate change, the assumption was that people weren't believing this, but that when people saw the effects, they would start to see it .. Now, I think the question is a little bit different because we're seeing the effects – it's pretty clear. And the question now is, what is going to change these trajectories?”

Climate scientists have done heroic work on a massive scale to understand and describe the processes that are causing extreme weather. But this has failed to convince voters to do what is necessary to bring down the emissions that are causing ecosystems to dissipate heat in ways that threaten human existence.

People are not wising up. The Pew Research Center, which tracks attitudes toward climate around the world, has observed a decline in the number of Americans who consider it a major threat, from 59% in 2018 to 54% in 2022.

The role of disinformation

Canadian pollster Frank Graves, of EKOS Research Associates, observed the same decline in Canada over the last three years, which he attributes to online disinformation. To many people, he says, climate change “is fake news. This is made up. This is a plot by the woke left to collect their useless carbon tax.”

In his most recent poll of Canadians, this month, while wildfires were top of mind, Graves observed that a growing number of people — mostly conservatives — blame arson, not extreme weather, for the blazes. (This is a pattern of misinformation found wherever there are wildfires.) Voters who believe fires are caused by arson, not a warming globe, will not support policies to reduce emissions.

“The patterns of who gets this disinformation are very, very similar in Canada and the United States,” Graves says, “because they are emanating from the same sources. And those sources are now telling people climate change is a hoax, and these forest fires are either just bad luck or, more pointedly, they are being produced by arsonists, saboteurs, activists.”

The issue, in both countries, is divided along partisan lines, with conservatives less willing than liberals to accept the views of climate scientists.

Riley Dunlap, emeritus professor at Oklahoma State University, has been studying American attitudes about environmentalism since the first Earth Day in 1970. He watched as the issue, which used to be of concern across partisan lines, became polarized in the 2000s. Now, he notes, opposing climate policy is an identity issue for Republicans – it’s up there with “God, guns, gays, and abortion.”

He has watched with dismay as opinions got harder, with Trump followers going against anything liberals support. Some 40% of Americans do not believe humans are causing climate change.

Researchers at American universities have found that attitudes about personal experiences of extreme events appear “socially constructed and interpreted through ideological lenses, rather than driven by individuals’ objective experiences of changes in weather and climate.”

Researchers found that hot, dry days — as opposed to sudden, extreme weather events — seem to convince some people that climate change is real.

“So far, actual experience doesn't seem to have had a significant effect,” Dunlap said. “But I'm open to the possibility that personal experiences and media coverage could be really shaking people up.”

If you thought this summer was bad …

Gerald Butts, vice chairman of Eurasia Group, who helped Trudeau implement Canada’s carbon tax, points out that researchers will have more opportunities to carefully study the effect of extreme weather on public opinion.

“This is the hottest summer of your life, but it's going to be one of the coolest of the rest of your life. Sure it's weird that the remnants of a hurricane are flooding the California desert while the northern part of the continent is burning. But we're going to see versions of that in every northern hemisphere summer for the rest of our lives.

“I think the deeper question is — because human beings are nothing if not adaptable — and part of that adaptation mechanism is, how do we tune out the things we don't want to see or hear? I mean, as these things get weirder and weirder, what is the new normal for what people can absorb, or will absorb, and react to?”

The satellite revolution in Low Earth Orbit

Transcript

Listen: In the last twenty-five years, the number of active satellites orbiting the Earth has increased from about 500 to 8,000. “In the first quarter of this year, we deployed nearly 1,000”, says space industry analyst Carissa Bryce Christensen. She adds, “Instead of a smaller number of very large satellites mostly far away, we are seeing many, many small satellites very close in.”

The latest episode of Next Giant Leap, a podcast produced in partnership between GZERO and the Canadian space company MDA, explores the exponential increase in satellites that are being launched into Low Earth orbit (LEO). This is the zone of space between about 100 and 1200 miles above the Earth.

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Ian Bremmer: Biodiversity loss might break the system and businesses aren’t ready
Biodiversity Loss Might Break the System — And Businesses Aren’t Ready | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer: Biodiversity loss might break the system and businesses aren’t ready

When Ian Bremmer turned 50 in 2019, he was shocked to know there was less than half the biodiversity left on the planet than when he was born.

That's depressing, but hopefully it'll soon have a snapback effect on humans and the economy, Eurasia Group's president says during "Time for nature: Turning biodiversity risk into opportunity," a livestream conversation hosted by GZERO in partnership with Suntory.

Businesses, he adds, will suffer if biodiversity loss is not reversed: "Production costs are going to increase. Profitability is going to drop. Prices are going to have to go up for end consumers. Inflation is going to go up."

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