Want to fix climate change? This is what it’ll take.

Want to fix climate change? This is what it’ll take.

In recent weeks, countries as varied as Canada and the US, Iran, Turkey and Greece have experienced some of the worst heat waves, droughts, and wildfires in decades. Meanwhile, unprecedented torrential rain and floods have hit China and Germany. These climate-related disasters have killed scores of people, left thousands homeless, and cost billions from damaged infrastructure and property.

As Elizabeth Kolbert told us a few months ago, we're screwed unless we all do something about climate right now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change agrees.


The IPCC, which represents the world's top climate scientists and is backed by national governments, published on Monday its first review of climate science since 2013. For the first time, the IPPC now says that climate change is unequivocally caused by humans, and that it's directly linked to the extreme weather events we're seeing recently.

First, some bad news. The latest data show that global surface temperatures have risen faster since 1970 than in any other half century in the past two millennia. And the IPCC warns that some of the damage will be permanent: in two decades it'll be an average 1.5 degrees Celsius hotter than during 1850-1900. We're getting close to various "tipping points" — when the planet undergoes abrupt changes in response to global warming that can't be reversed no matter what we do, like polar ice caps or coral reefs vanishing.

Now some (sort of) good news. The IPCC says that maybe, just maybe, it's not too late to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. For that to happen, though, the world must halve its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, and for all countries to attain "net zero" emissions — taking as much carbon out of the atmosphere as putting into it — by 2050.

So, what'll it take to actually get this done?

Between countries, governments will need to work together a lot more closely than they have in a long time to agree on ways for all nations to do their part — and sustain such efforts over time.

Among the top polluters, to meet the IPCC's 2050 deadline the US and the EU will have to convince China to go "net zero" a decade earlier than Beijing now plans to, and perhaps offer India the cash Delhi has long demanded for poor countries that have polluted far less per capita yet are now being asked to cut emissions by as much as rich industrialized nations. The Chinese and Indians will likely need assurances that Americans and Europeans won't back out later on (like the US having to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate deal signed by Obama but later cancelled by Trump.)

Climate activists like Uganda's Vanessa Nakate say nations in Africa — which is barely responsible for causing climate change but will suffer some of its worst effects — will need incentives from wealthy countries to pursue green growth. So will crucial middle-income economies like Brazil (please stop burning the Amazon) or Indonesia.

Within countries, politicians and citizens will need to find on climate the common ground that's otherwise absent nowadays. That means that French President Emmanuel Macron and the gilet jaunes will have to figure out how to get rid of diesel without unfairly taxing low-wage workers. In the US, some Republicans may have to acknowledge that climate change is real and back a long-term plan that creates green jobs and invests in sustainable infrastructure, although maybe not as much as the Green New Deal.

Even in China, where debate on climate change is less open than in democracies, Xi Jinping knows that he must strike a balance between burning coal to deliver economic prosperity and investing in alternatives to protect Chinese people from a climate dystopia.

Importantly, the private sector must be on board. Governments don't pollute nearly as much as companies, especially those in countries with lax regulations. Businesses must come under intense pressure by both lawmakers and consumers to never put profits over the planet, and that they too must all go "net zero."

What's more, they should share all the technology they develop to curb emissions, particularly carbon capture and storage.

Is such cooperation even possible right now? The urgent tone in the IPCC report raises the stakes for COP26, the global climate summit to be held in Glasgow in November. It may be the last opportunity we get in the narrow window we still have to come up with a global consensus on how to save the planet from... ourselves.

You probably think Visa is a credit card company, huh?

https://ad.doubleclick.net/ddm/trackimp/N6024.4218512GZEROMEDIA/B26379324.311531246;dc_trk_aid=504469522;dc_trk_cid=156468981;ord=[timestamp];dc_lat=;dc_rdid=;tag_for_child_directed_treatment=;tfua=;gdpr=${GDPR};gdpr_consent=${GDPR_CONSENT_755};ltd=?

Visa is well known all over the world, but how well? Many have long misunderstood it as a credit card company, but Visa is actually a network—working behind the scenes, connecting just about everyone to just about everyone else, so more of us can play a part in this commerce thing. Visa helps people and small and big businesses alike move money around the world. And it works to open doors—and change minds about what makes a business, a business. It's a network working for everyone. That's way more than a piece of plastic.

Meet Visa

Germany's historic moment of choice is finally here, and voters will stream to the polls on Sunday for the country's first post-World War II vote without a national leader seeking re-election. They will elect new members of the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats will then try to secure a majority of seats by drawing other parties into a governing partnership. He or she will then replace Angela Merkel as Germany's chancellor.

If the latest opinion polls are right, the center-left Social Democrats will finish first. In coming weeks, they look likely to form a (potentially unwieldy) governing coalition with the Green Party and the pro-business Free Democrats, which would be Germany's first-ever governing alliance of more than two parties.

Change?

Though he's a man of the center-left, Olaf Scholz, current finance minister and most likely next chancellor, wouldn't represent a radical break from Merkel. He's among the more fiscally frugal of Germany's Social Democrats, and after decades in German politics, he's an experienced technocrat and a skilled manager of political alliances.

Nor would a change in government radically shift Germany's foreign and trade policies. Its new government, whoever it includes, will keep strong security ties with the United States and NATO and protect opportunities to expand economic relations with China. Germany's dependence on Russian energy will demand a continuation of Merkel's pragmatic approach to Vladimir Putin's government.

Scholz's conviction that a strong and cohesive EU is good for Germany will limit any temptation to get tougher with the governments of Poland and Hungary over their violations of EU rules and principles. And aware that COVID can widen gaps between richer and poorer EU countries, and that anti-EU economic populism remains a potent force in Italy and elsewhere, he's likely to support a generous approach to pandemic recovery in southern Europe.

But climate policy, an area where Merkel concedes she should have done more, will be an important and interesting story to watch. Given its leadership within the EU and its standing as the world's fourth largest economy, the influence of Germany's next government on climate policy will be crucial to global climate strategies. A new German government with Scholz as chancellor will likely push the pace of transition from carbon to renewable energy, at least in part because the Green Party coalition partner will push for this as hard as it can. The Greens must show progress on the climate front to maintain political credibility and popularity. If the Free Democrats are indeed part of the coalition, they'll push hard to limit tax increases to pay for tougher climate action, but they won't blow up the coalition that gives them a seat at Germany's governing table.

Merkel's legacy

Even in a country that values stability and continuity, Angela Merkel's 16-year run is remarkable. More than once she's proved the maxim that it's not the smartest or strongest who survives, but the one most adaptable to change. Merkel is smart and strong, to be sure, but she'll be remembered longest – by both devoted admirers and bitter critics – as the leader who insisted Germany could and should do more to help indebted countries survive Europe's sovereign debt crisis (2010-12) and to manage the surge of migrants that followed unrest in the Middle East (2015-16). Her improvisational talents also led her to change tack on nuclear power (after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan) and on common European debt.

But the main reason Merkel leaves power with an 80 percent approval rating is that, whether she receives more credit than she deserves, she has presided over a period of economic expansion and prosperity in Germany that few other world leaders can match. It's all the more remarkable then that her party looks set to find itself in opposition once a new government is formed. It's Merkel that German voters like, not her political family.

Bottom-line: Whatever he accomplishes as Germany's next chancellor, Olaf Scholz will find Angela Merkel a tough act to follow.

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Is a US government shutdown coming?

Hard to say. Republicans and Democrats generally are in agreement about the need to fund the government. And they generally agree at what level the government should be funded. And they generally agree about the need for supplemental money for Afghanistan and some natural disasters, coming out of hurricanes this season and wildfires. What they're not in agreement about is the federal debt limit, which is the cap on US borrowing that the US hit in early August and needs to be extended by some time in October. Otherwise, the US will have a first-ever default. This would be a very bad outcome with cataclysmic results for the entire world economy.

More Show less

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen a lot during her 16 years in power. She's navigated a global economic recession, multiple wars in the Middle East which sparked an EU refugee crisis, and now a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Often the only woman in the room, Merkel has had to learn to tactfully deal with dozens of idiosyncratic world leaders. Many have come and gone since 2005, but Merkel has won elections again and again. We take a look at who she's dealt with from the top democracies (by economic size) throughout her tenure.

In May 2020, economic historian Adam Tooze told GZERO World he feared 1 in 5 American workers could still be out of job now due to COVID. It didn't happen. Why? Tooze says he failed to anticipate how quickly we'd get highly effective vaccines, and the scale of the economic stimulus the government was willing to put up. During the 2008 financial crisis, he explains, "we were still beginning to flex our muscles with regards to economic policy, and the scale of fiscal and monetary stimulus that we've seen is as unprecedented as the shock of the spring of last year."

Watch Tooze's interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television starting Friday 9/23/21. Check local listings.

Will Evergrande be China's Lehman Bros? Chinese authorities are bracing for the increasingly likely default of Evergrande, the country's most indebted property developer. If Evergrande — a gargantuan corporation with properties in 200 cities across China — stiffs its creditors, that'll send shockwaves throughout the country's financial system, and the wider Chinese economy and society. The possible ripple effects on home buyers and countless companies and individuals that do business with or are owed money by Evergrande have invited comparisons with Lehman Brothers, the US investment bank whose 2008 collapse triggered an American financial crisis that quickly spread to the entire world. Although in principle authoritarian China has ways of containing the fallout, the potential for social unrest is real — and opacity could make it worse. More broadly, the demise of such a big player in the country's once-booming real estate market, which accounts for over 7 percent of GDP, would expose the shaky foundations of China's debt-driven economic growth model, eroding confidence in China both at home and abroad.

More Show less

Betrayal. Treason. Duplicity. These are some of the words used by the French government to describe the US' recent decision to freeze Paris out of a new security pact with the UK and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, which nixed a contract for Australia to buy French submarines.

Macron's subsequent tough stance against one of its oldest and closest allies is unusual, including his decision to briefly recall the French ambassador from Washington, the first time a French president has done so. But this headstrong strategy is also a deliberate diplomatic choice.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal