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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.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

Afghanistan frustrated nineteenth-century British imperialists for 40 years, and ejected the Soviet army in 1989 after a bloody decade there. And though American and NATO forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001 over its support for al-Qaeda, there's no good reason for confidence that nearly 20 years of occupation have brought lasting results for security and development across the country.

But… could China succeed where other outsiders have failed – and without a costly and risky military presence? Is the promise of lucrative trade and investment enough to ensure a power-sharing deal among Afghanistan's warring factions?

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Stockholm on Europe In 60 Seconds:

Is there a military coup ongoing in Armenia?

Well, it isn't a military coup as of yet, but it's not far from it either. This is the turmoil that is resulting from the war with Azerbaijan, which Armenia took a large death loss. What happened was that the head of the armed forces asked for the prime minister to resign. That was not quite a coup, but not very far from it. Now, the prime minister sacked the head of the armed forces, there's considerable uncertainty. Watch the space.

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In the fall of 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic would change the world, Ian Bremmer asked Dr. Fauci what kept him up at night and he described a "a pandemic-like respiratory infection." Fast-forward to late February 2021 and Dr. Fauci tells Ian, "I think we are living through much of that worst nightmare." Dr. Fauci returns to GZERO World to take stock of the nightmare year and to paint a picture of what the end of the pandemic could look like—and when it could finally arrive.

Catch the full episode of GZERO World, where Dr. Fauci discusses the latest in vaccine roll out, schools re-openings, and plenty more, on US public television stations nationwide, beginning Friday, February 26. Check local listings.

Egypt and Sudan want some dam help: Cairo and Khartoum have called on the US, EU, and UN to intervene in their ongoing dispute with neighboring Ethiopia over that country's construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Nile. Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream of Ethiopia and worry about their farmers losing water, want binding targets and dispute resolution mechanisms, while Ethiopia, which sees the dam as a critical piece of its economic future, wants more flexibility and has given little ground in talks. Efforts by the African Union to mediate have failed as Ethiopia presses ahead with filling the dam even after being sanctioned by the Trump administration last year for doing so. The dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as it is called, has threatened to spill into military conflict at several points in recent years. Can the "international community" turn things around?

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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