Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.
One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.
Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."
The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.
The US and Europe, as always, are issuing statements. As Navalny's condition worsened over the weekend, the White House warned that "there will be consequences" if Navalny dies on Russia's watch. The European Union demanded he get immediate access to independent medical professionals. The Kremlin, meanwhile, insisted that Navalny will not be allowed to die behind bars, but it also called him a "hooligan" for refusing to eat while sick.
The bigger question is what those consequences will be, and whether they really hurt Moscow in such a way that compels Putin to change his ways.
Until now, there has been little appetite in the West for tougher sanctions on Russia that could really choke the country's economy or ruling elites. Cutting off access to Russian sovereign debt would starve Russia of money, but also impact US and European investors. Sanctioning its oil or natural gas exports would have a crippling effect, but wreak havoc with global energy markets and potentially leave Europe — Moscow's main gas customer — in the cold.
What about inside Russia? Navalny isn't quite as popular domestically as he sometimes seems in the Western media. According to a recent poll, only 19 percent of Russians approve of his activities since he returned to the country. Compare that to Putin's own approval ratings, which have dipped a bit in recent months but still hover in the low sixties.
Still, Navalny's support is strongest among young, mostly urban Russians who braved subzero temperatures to come out in his support in January. They were the largest protests in Russia in years, even if they were quickly beaten back by a ferocious police crackdown. Navalny supporters now plan a much bigger rally on Wednesday, which will coincide with Putin's annual address to the nation. How many people will turn up?
Navalny is not the only contentious issue between the West and Russia nowadays. Over the weekend, the Czech Republic, a member of NATO, linked two Russian military intelligence agents to an explosion at a Czech arms depot in 2014. It just so happens that the two spooks in question are the same ones accused of the high-profile poisoning of a Russian dissident in the UK three years ago.
What's more, NATO is increasingly worried about the recent build-up of Russian soldiers at the border with eastern Ukraine. As fighting between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces flares, there is concern that the Kremlin may muscle in with its own forces.
So, what may we expect? If Navalny dies, Western governments will surely respond in some way. They could place Russian officials or oligarchs on sanctions lists related to human rights violations. But at a moment when the Kremlin seems to be testing the West's resolve yet again, are Brussels and Washington willing to go any further?
Putin is watching this at least as closely as we are.
How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.
Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?
Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."
Ian and Bill agreed that Biden's decision to fulfill his promise to take US troops out of Afghanistan is an admirable achievement and a sound strategic move. "We have the ability to send in special forces, we have intelligence. If what you're trying to do is stop terrorism, you don't need to be on the ground," Ian explained. "And what you're trying to do is improve the lives of Afghan people. We're going to be the world's leading vaccine exporter in a few months. We can help them."
Ian Bremmer Discusses US Afghanistan Withdrawal with Bill Maher on Real Time youtu.be
As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?
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.
The importance of Teitiota
In 2013, Ioane Teitiota applied for asylum in New Zealand. His home on the Pacific island nation of Kiribati, he argued, would be underwater within 15 years. (He had scientific studies to back him up.) Isn't it my right as a human being to live on land, he asked, and why wait until the flood waters come?
New Zealand, unwilling to open the door to an unknown number of other asylum seekers, said no, and Teitiota then asked the United Nations to grant him the status of climate refugee. Last year, the UN Committee on Human Rights ruled that there was still time to organize the relocation of all Kiribati's people and refused his request.
But… the UN ruling did accept the principle that governments cannot return people to countries where their lives might be threatened by climate change. That argument establishes a basis for refugee rights.
Six feet above sea level
Kiribati, Teitiota's home, a string of 33 islands with a population of about 100,000 and an average elevation of less than six feet above sea level, will become the first "climate refugee nation" when rising seas submerge much of its territory, drop salt into groundwater, and destroy the coral reefs that provide natural barriers against storm surges.
Faced with the inevitable, Kiribati's government has plans to move its entire population hundreds of miles across open ocean to land it has purchased in Fiji. They will no longer be Kiribatians. They will become subject to the laws of their new country, and their rights remain vaguely defined. It's not clear how these tens of thousands of people will support themselves, because the forested hillsides they'll live on won't allow them to grow anything, though China has promised "technical assistance" in developing the land, and they won't have fishing rights.
Now, multiply that problem by tens of millions of people. More than 45 million of Bangladesh's 161 million live in coastal areas prone to flooding. Studies estimate that rising seas alone will force as many as 18 million of them from their homes as their country loses 11 percent of its land over the next 30 years. The number and intensity of tropical storms that drench these people is already rising.
Where will those people go? Will they be welcome somewhere else? Will their human rights be respected?
The bottom line. This is not a Pacific problem or a South Asian problem. This drama will play out everywhere that seas are rising and weather patterns are changing. In other words, everywhere.The world's wealthiest countries, those most responsible for the carbon emissions that created this storm, better have a plan for this.
What We're Watching: Deadly clashes in Pakistan, Xi Jinping's calendar app, Parisian courts vs Macron
Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.
Xi Jinping's calendar app: After three days of talks between US climate czar John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, the two sides agreed to cooperate on tackling climate change "with urgency." Urgency is a good thing, given that China is the world's largest polluter, followed by the US. If there's any hope of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, the US and China will have to work together to get there. But the US and China climate dialogue will need to move quickly from diplomatic goodwill to observable action. On that score, one big thing to keep an eye on is whether Chinese president Xi Jinping himself decides to attend the online global climate summit that US President Joe Biden is hosting later this week. Amid growing tensions between the US and China on a range of human rights, technological, and strategic issues, Xi's decision will send an early signal about how important Beijing thinks it is to work with Washington on climate specifically.
Parisian court won't try anti-Semitic attacker: Four years after the brutal murder of a Jewish woman in Paris, France's top court has ruled that the alleged attacker cannot face trial because he was in a cannabis-induced "delirious fit" (in lay terms: he had smoked a lot of pot). Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman living alone, was brutally attacked by a young Muslim man in 2017, who engaged in an anti-semitic rant while aggressively beating the woman before throwing her off a balcony. The French Jewish community, the largest in Europe, expressed outrage at the judge's decision to uphold a lower court ruling that the aggressor could not be held accountable for his actions because of his drug use. The high-profile crime came as French Jews have been reeling from a series of anti-Semitic attacks in recent years, prompting thousands to flee the country in fear. Before the verdict, President Emmanuel Macron came under fire for saying that he hopes the case goes to trial, with critics saying he should stay inside his (executive) lane. In response to the case, dozens of French senators are now calling for legislative reform so that a disturbed mental state because of drug use cannot be cause for exoneration, which Macron says he also supports.