What We're Watching: Vicious climate cycles and Merkel's successor in the "ejector seat"

What We're Watching: Vicious climate cycles and Merkel's successor in the "ejector seat"

The burning Arctic Scientists are tracking an "unprecedented" number of fires burning north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland, Russia, Canada, and Alaska after a record summer heatwave. By one estimate, the fires released more carbon dioxide than Sweden's entire annual emissions in June alone. It's the kind of feedback loop that we're likely to see more of as global temperatures continue to rise: a heat wave dries out tundra, then fires release huge amounts of CO2, further warming the planet. This problem increases the risk that politically disruptive effects of climate change – like mass migrations or geopolitical competition for ice-free Arctic sea lanes and undersea resources – will arrive (much) more quickly than expected.

Germany's "ejector seat" – Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel's would-be successor as German chancellor, became the country's defense minister last week. The defense job is one of the most important and highest-profile positions in the German federal government, but it's also nicknamed the "ejector seat" because a succession of German politicians who served in this post later saw their political ambitions go down in flames. Can AKK, who has riled some party stalwarts by tacking to the right as leader of the Christian Democrats, use the position to revitalize her political fortunes? Or will her bid to eventually replace Merkel crash and burn?

What We're Ignoring:

A US migration deal with Guatemala – On Friday, President Trump got Guatemala to agree to a deal that, if implemented, could help reduce the number of Central American migrants seeking refuge in the US: Guatemala will require migrants transiting through the country from Honduras and El Salvador to apply for asylum there first. In return, the US will give more farm worker visas to Guatemalans. There are serious problems with this deal. It might be illegal , for one thing. Guatemala's border force is barely staffed and hasn't processed an asylum case in years, according to Vice. And Guatemala itself has become so violent that it sent more migrants fleeing to the US than either Honduras or El Salvador in 2018.


Boris Johnson's Brexit ad blitz – The new UK prime minister plans to spend £100m printing leaflets, putting up billboards, and airing radio and television ads to prepare the British public in case the UK crashes out of the European Union without a withdrawal agreement. It's part of Johnson's two-track strategy to increase political pressure on EU negotiators to tweak the UK's Brexit deal to make it more palatable to parliament, while also prepping for no-deal just in case. We're ignoring this story, because Brussels already knows exactly what Johnson is up to.

Microsoft announced earlier this year the launch of a new United Nations representation office to deepen their support for the UN's mission and work. Many of the big challenges facing society can only be addressed effectively through multi-stakeholder action. Whether it's public health, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, terrorist content online or the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, Microsoft has found that progress requires two elements - international cooperation among governments and inclusive initiatives that bring in civil society and private sector organizations to collaborate on solutions. Microsoft provided an update on their mission, activities for the 75th UN General Assembly, and the team. To read the announcement from Microsoft's Vice President of UN Affairs, John Frank, visit Microsoft On The Issues.

The coronavirus pandemic has radically accelerated the adoption of digital technology in the global economy, creating an opportunity for millions of new businesses and jobs. However, it has also left millions jobless and exposed yet another vulnerability: hundreds of millions of people lack access to this technology.

To be sure, this divide was already present before COVID-19 struck. But unequal access to the internet and technology is going to make the multiple impacts of the pandemic much worse for offline and unskilled communities, among others. In fact, there is not a single global digital gap, but rather several ones that the coronavirus will likely exacerbate.

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As the UN turns 75, the organization is revealing the results of a global survey of nearly a million people in 193 nations—what matters most to them, and how do they view the need for global cooperation at this time of unprecedented crisis? Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser Fabrizio Hochschild explains the purpose and findings of the report.

The world's largest multilateral organization was born out of the global crisis of World War II. Now, as another crisis rocks the world, the United Nations is facing a challenge of its own—to remain relevant in an increasingly nationalistic geopolitical environment. On the eve of the first virtual UN General Assembly, GZERO World host Ian Bremmer spoke to UN Secretary-General António Guterres about pandemic response, climate action, the US/China schism, and more.

News broke across the United States on Friday evening that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, ending her long and distinguished career as a jurist. Tributes poured in quickly from men and women on both sides of the political spectrum. But just as quickly, her death has sharply raised the stakes for the upcoming US elections for president and the Senate, as well as the longer-term ideological balance of the nation's top court.

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