What We're Watching: Moscow Streets, Ukraine's Fresh Start, Hong Kong Thugs

What We're Watching: Moscow Streets, Ukraine's Fresh Start, Hong Kong Thugs

Moscow's Streets – More than 20,000 Russians hit the streets of Moscow last weekend to protest the exclusion of opposition candidates from city elections scheduled for September. Organizers say that, unless their candidates are allowed to stand, they'll be back in bigger numbers next Saturday. Russian protests may become an increasingly common occurrence: A recent poll from Moscow's Levada Center finds that more Russians are willing to hit the streets to shake their fists.


Ukraine's Transformation – Next door, Ukraine's political makeover is now complete. In April, 73 percent of voters, the highest turnout in the country's brief democratic history, chose comedian Volodymyr Zelensky as their president. On Sunday, voters gave his party, Servant of the People, a majority of seats in parliament, something no post-Soviet party in Ukraine has ever managed. What's more, nearly three-quarters of Ukraine's lawmakers will be first-time members. The new president and his party have a mandate to change the country. Now all they have to do now is manage relations with a giant and aggressive eastern neighbor, find a way to end a separatist insurgency in the Donbass, and uproot the corruption that bleeds the country's economy, undermines relations with international lenders, and blocks Ukraine's path forward. Onwards!

Gangs of Hong Kong – Gangs of club-wielding men in masks left Hong Kong shaken on Sunday night after they beat up a number of people who were returning from pro-democracy rallies. Reports say the men in white shirts were members of the Triads – a vicious transnational organized crime group. The organized attacks -- and reports that the police stood by and did nothing -- have fanned popular anger. At the same time, protesters took more direct aim at Beijing's control over the territory, vandalizing the mainland's liaison office with independence slogans. All of this will inflame an already tense situation between Hong Kong executive Carrie Lam's government and an increasingly vocal opposition.

What We're Ignoring

Jair Bolsonaro's beef with his own scientists – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lashed out at his country's space agency last Friday, accusing it of "lies" after it published data showing that the pace of Amazon deforestation picked up in May and June. We're ignoring the president's accusation—though never the Amazon—for two reasons: First, the data are hardly a surprise, since Bolsonaro campaigned on reducing protections on the rainforest to make life easier for farmers who clear-cut trees to provide grazing land for livestock. Second, the study by space agency INPE was based on satellite images and has been backed up by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

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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