What We're Watching & What We 're Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Joseph Kabila's Intentions – The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) says he will leave office after elections on 23 December. Kabila has been in power since 2001, when he took over after his father's murder. He was supposed to step down in 2016 but has repeatedly postponed holding a presidential election.


The upcoming vote pits Kabila's former interior minister, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is currently under EU sanctions for human rights abuses, against opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi and businessman Martin Faulu Madidi. The sprawling resource-rich country has not had a peaceful transition of power since winning independence from Belgium in 1960. Mr. Kabila has left open the possibility of returning to power in 2023, which the constitution permits.

Shops that sell construction clothing in Cairo – As the seventh anniversary of the Tahrir Square revolution approaches, the Egyptian government has quietly cracked down on the sale of reflective yellow vests. Why? The authorities are worried about the potential for copycat protests inspired by the "gilets jaunes" movement in France. It's been decades since people thought of Cairo's belle epoque downtown district as "Paris Along the Nile" – and after the recent surge of violent protests in the French capital, Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sissi would just as soon keep it that way.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Russian bombers in Venezuela – On Monday, a pair of Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons landed at an airbase outside of Caracas. The US, which just last week made a rare reconnaissance flight over Ukraine in a direct dig at Russia, won't like the display of force on its proverbial doorstep in the Caribbean. This looks like a simple tit-for-tat by Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at shoring up a struggling ally. Maduro walked away from a trip to Moscow last week claiming to have secured $6 billion of financial assistance for Venezuela's struggling economy and 600,000 tons of food aid. Whether those promises materialize is a much more important issue for Venezuela than a temporary flyby.

British MPs behaving badly – A Labour MP was kicked out of the UK's House of Commons on Monday after he grabbed the ceremonial mace symbolizing the royal authority required for Parliament to meet and pass laws during a heated debate over Brexit. We're ignoring this for two reasons: first, it's been done before. Second, because the MP in question handed it back without a real fight. If you're going to make a spectacle of yourself by stealing a 400-year-old ceremonial club, you should at least give it a symbolic swing or two to make things interesting.

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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