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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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