What We're Watching: Mistake in Bolivia, missed call in Korea, and will US troops ditch Germany?

What We're Watching: Mistake in Bolivia, missed call in Korea, and will US troops ditch Germany?

Oops! Maybe there wasn't fraud in Bolivia's election: In October 2018, thousands of Bolivians flocked to the streets to protest irregularities in the re-election of long-serving leftwing President Evo Morales, the nation's first president of indigenous origin. After the independent Organization of American States (OAS) supported those claims, Morales was pushed out of office by the military, and fled to Mexico. But now, Latin America experts at the University of Pennsylvania say that their own research into the contentious ballot fails to support the OAS' findings. The allegation that Morales' cronies interfered with the vote counts and rigged ballots was based on incorrect data and flawed statistical modeling, the researchers say. The new findings do not, importantly, prove that Bolivia's elections were held in a manner that would be considered "free and fair." Still, the OAS blunder, if true, is a big deal: since Morales left the country, a rightwing caretaker government, led by Jeanine Áñez, has cracked down on Morales supporters and postponed fresh elections. Bolivia's parliament recently passed a law compelling Áñez to hold a new vote by August. Morales, for his part, said he will not run in the do-over election, but his handpicked successor is leading in the polls.


Pyongyang and Seoul's missed call: Amid increasing tensions between North and South Korea, Pyongyang initially refused to answer a daily call from the South Monday, the first time this has happened since the calls were set up two years ago by the inter-Korean liaison office. That office was created after a watershed Korean summit in April 2018, with the aim of facilitating cross-border contact and keeping tensions in check across one of the world's most heavily militarized borders. Pyongyang's rebuff comes just days after the North threatened to abrogate the joint liaison office altogether, in response to a flurry of anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent into the North by South Korea-based defectors. At a meeting of the ruling Workers Party Monday, Kim Jong-un emphasized the North's economic independence, in what was seen as an attempt to flex a little muscle for viewers south of the DMZ. Reports say that the two capitals did connect later in the day, but the signal Pyongyang sent by just letting the phone ring at first is a worrying one.

Will US troops walk out on Germany? Media reports last Friday said President Trump has ordered that 9,500 of the 34,500 US troops now stationed in Germany will leave that country by September. We're still awaiting more details, but if true, this decision highlights a question at the heart of Trump's challenge to the US foreign-policy status quo. Critics will say the move would weaken the US military by reducing its presence in the heart of Europe, undermining confidence in NATO and emboldening Russia's Vladimir Putin. Trump's supporters, however, will ask why the US should be responsible for the security of Germany, one of the world's richest countries, 30 years after the Cold War's end. They will remind Trump's critics that, while NATO allies have agreed to spend the equivalent of 2% of their GDP on defense to ensure burdens are shared fairly throughout the alliance, Germany spent less than 1.4% in 2019, and its government says it won't reach 2% until 2031.

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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