What We're Watching: Netherlands election, US election meddling, Taiwan's vaccine diplomacy effort

What We're Watching: Netherlands election, US election meddling, Taiwan's vaccine diplomacy effort

Netherlands votes: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is slated to win a fourth term in office as polls show his People's Party for Freedom and Democracy on track to win a clear victory. While Rutte has been caught up in a political maelstrom in recent months — his government was forced to resign in January amid a scandal over childcare benefits, while the Netherlands has also been rocked by sometimes violent anti-lockdown protests — polls showed that he was set to win around 36-40 seats (76 are needed for a majority), an even bigger win than he saw in 2017. But forming a coalition could be trickier. Rutte says he will not work with Geert Wilders and his anti-Islam and anti-immigrant Freedom party, the second largest force in parliament. As a result, Rutte will likely need to join forces with three other parties — drawing from the Christian Democrats (left wing), D66 (progressive liberal), Labour, Green Left and the Socialist party — to form a government, a process that could take many weeks given the ideological diversity of the political blocs.


Taiwan's vaccine diplomacy: Taiwan has offered Paraguay, the only country in South America that recognizes its independence from China, assistance to procure COVID vaccines. This comes as nations in the region become increasingly reliant on Chinese-made jabs, and as Paraguay itself has seen mass street protests and growing calls to impeach President Mario Abdo over his handling of the pandemic and slow vaccine rollout. Paraguay is now in a tough spot: it wants to maintain warm ties with Tapiei and desperately needs more jabs, but has also increasingly struggled to counter growing political pressure at home to drop its recognition of Taiwan and instead establish bilateral ties with the People's Republic of China in exchange for Chinese economic assistance (the lower house of parliament approved it last year, but senators voted against the move). We're watching to see how this all pans out, and if Taiwan can help Paraguay find enough vaccines to prevent China from coming in to save the day and conquering its last holdout in South America through its vaccine diplomacy.

Foreign meddling in US 2020 election: US intelligence believes that Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the US election in 2020, hoping to lock in another win for Donald Trump. A new US government report also notes that Iran sought to help Joe Biden get over the finish line — who has said he wants to reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — and that China considered meddling in the vote but ultimately decided not to interfere to avoid "blowback." While neither the Russians' nor the Iranians' actions were sufficient to affect the result, according to US intelligence, there's still a lot to be concerned about. First, it's clear that foreign attempts at meddling in US elections are here to stay. Additionally, it's also apparent that Russia now views the benefits of stoking the flames of US political division by trying to influence American voters as outweighing the risk of more US sanctions. Moving forward, the onus is now on the Biden administration and US Congress to safeguard future elections knowing that foreign powers will surely again try to sway American voters.

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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