19 Apr

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

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Our Climate Catastrophe The Kids Aren’t Nearly Angry Enough

A Commentary By

The school children who have been protesting to stop climate change every Friday have understood a basic truth: They are being betrayed. By politicians. By business leaders. And by an entire generation of denialists.

Imagine this: You and your partner have a child of primary-school age with a rare hereditary disease. By the time they’re 18, they will begin to experience increasingly severe pain and other unpleasant side effects. Their life expectancy will be severely reduced.

There is, however, a treatment that could potentially hinder the outbreak of this disease. It’s expensive and, because it’s still experimental, it isn’t covered by your health insurance. To pay for it, you’ll have to make some financial sacrifices, like selling your car or not going on any trips abroad for a while.

Would you tell your child that you had thought about it, but they were simply asking too much?

Participants at a Fridays for Future demonstration against climate change in Berlin


Participants at a Fridays for Future demonstration against climate change in Berlin

Would you tell them that the practicality, the sheer experience of driving a car and your family’s annual road trip were, frankly, more important than their well-being? Would you tell them to stop making such a fuss, after all, it’s impossible to know how bad the pain will eventually get and how much shorter their life will be?

Would you, if your child protested, call them spoiled and selfish?

One Day We May Not Have Clouds

At the end of March, the German governmental commission tasked with developing measures for the reduction of street-traffic CO2 emissions “agreed” on so-called targets. But these targets have one minor flaw: They won’t be sufficient to fulfill Germany’s already underwhelmingly moderate climate goals by 2030. This might have something to do with the fact that lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry and the automobile industry’s trade association were on the commission. It was as if Boris Yeltsin and Amy Winehouse were put in charge of reining in alcohol abuse.

It’s now clear that man-made global warming is already having serious consequences. In the near future, these will become catastrophic. Anyone who still struggles to imagine this should read an editorial by David Wallace-Wells, author of the book “The Uninhabitable Earth.”

The consequences will include cities with millions of inhabitants rendered uninhabitable by heat, widespread flooding of coastal regions (in which hundreds of millions of people live), catastrophically long droughts, water shortages, crop failures, gigantic forest and brush fires and, as a result, untold millions of climate refugees. It will happen at all once, and it will only get worse and worse. If we’re very unlucky, one day we may not have clouds.

Today’s Children Will Either Suffer or Die

Each day, I find it harder to fathom how people with children and grandchildren can ignore all this. Their cognitive defense mechanisms must be working at full tilt, devaluing dissonant information or devaluing — often aggressively — the conveyers of such information.

Just read the comments under the Facebook posts of regional newspapers that cover the Fridays4Future/SchoolStrike4Climate protests. Protesting students are told they could use a good “smack upside the head” or “a good thrashing.” At times, sending them to go to “work camps” is considered as a punitive measure. It’s shocking — and revealing — just how much aggression is being targeted not only at Greta Thunberg, but also at others who have been inspired by her.

The metaphorical child from the opening paragraph faces a future in which he or she will suffer terribly and die early. But if they dare complain, the older generation will happily give them a licking. That’s the current state of things for the world’s youth.

And please spare me the retort “but Professor So-and-so said.” The debate around whether mankind is to blame for climate change is over. There is global consensus. The only people who refuse to get onboard are Donald Trump and far-right populists like Germany’s Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. For years, countless lies were told and people were deliberately misled about the climate — by people on the payroll of the very industries that make their shareholders rich with fossil fuels.

The Kids Aren’t Nearly Angry Enough

Between 2011 and 2017 alone, the German federal government spent over 8 billion euros ($9 billion) on coal subsidies, but less than 6 billion euros on research on renewable energies. Since the 1960s, coal has cost taxpayers between 200 and 300 billion euros. We Germans are all helping to finance the catastrophe. Even the automobile industry gets money from us every year.

Think about this every time you hear someone say that renewable energy “isn’t competitive.”

In my opinion, the kids aren’t nearly angry enough.

My suspicion is that the adult climate-change appeasers — let’s not even talk about the deniers anymore — are telling themselves stories to keep themselves calm.

“It won’t be so bad.”

“It will be bad in Africa and Asia, but not here.”

“We will find some kind of technological solution in time.”

“It doesn’t matter what we do, the other countries aren’t participating.”

That is all self-deception. We have another 10 years to change course. Not more.

Imagine a world in which 10 or 20 times as many people are refugees.

To hope for a magical technological solution would be like the parents in the aforementioned example waiting for a miracle. Don’t get me wrong, I hope everything will work out in the end. But there are risks that one simply doesn’t take.

It’s Time to Fight Back

And if Germany, a high-tech nation, can’t reach its own goals, then how — and why — should a developing nation try to do it? If we followed the argument “but all the others are doing it,” we might as well start dealing heroin, state-sponsored.

The generation of people that are currently under the age of 25 will suffer the worst from the catastrophe. That makes it surprising that the world’s entire university student population hasn’t been starting to take to the streets on Friday as well. But I suspect that will change.

There are currently a lot of vivid examples of older people consciously making decisions against the interests of the younger generation, out of dogmatism, greed or recklessness — or a mixture of all three.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that this betrayed generation won’t allow this to go on for much longer. That they will use their deep knowledge of the digital public sphere for their own purposes, and the examples are already there: U.S. gun laws, EU copyright law reform, Brexit and climate policy. The young have started fighting back.

And they shouldn’t stop.

Swedish 16-year-old, who is taking campaign to parliament, keen to be part of Extinction Rebellion action

Greta Thunberg in Rome, Italy, before heading to London

Greta Thunberg has been in Rome this week, and is due to arrive in London on Sunday. Photograph: Valerio Portelli/LaPresse via Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old founder of the school strikes for action against climate change, has said she hopes to join the Extinction Rebellion protests when she visits London next week.

The Swedish activist will also take the campaign to the UK parliament, where she will speak to dozens of MPs including the Green party MP Caroline Lucas, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove.

Her arrival on Sunday coincides with a surge of concern about the climate. On Thursday the BBC screened a documentary about the crisis, narrated by David Attenborough. In recent days, the governor of the Bank of England, groups of scientists and members of the clergy have added their voices to the call for more ambitious cuts to emissions.

Thousands of Extinction Rebellion campaigners have blocked four areas in central London since the start of the week, and youth activists are staging a demonstration at Heathrow on Friday. Police have made more than 500 arrests but organisers have vowed to continue for another week. There have also been demonstrations by the group in New York, Paris, The Hague and dozens of other cities.

Thunberg, whose strike sparked a global movement of more than a million students in less than a year, was also one of the signatories of the declaration that launched Extinction Rebellion in October. She had previously arranged to be in London after Easter to speak in parliament at the invitation of Lucas, meet student activists in the UK and to talk at a public event co-hosted by the Guardian.

Before her visit, she said she was keen to join the campaigners on the streets. “I would love to participate in their protests while in London if there is time and if they are still protesting. I think it’s one of the most important and hopeful movements of our time. Civil disobedience is necessary to create attention to the ongoing climate and ecological crisis.”

Extinction Rebellion plans to ramp up its protest over the weekend, when it hopes more people will join because of the bank holiday and the warmer weather. More actions, including a picnic on a motorway, are planned for Monday, Earth Day. Organisers say the protests will continue for another week, bolstered by Thunberg’s support.

“She is abso-bloody-lutely important. I thank her from my heart,” said Ronan McNern, a spokesman for the group. “It’s not Extinction Rebellion that people should watch out for. It’s the School Strike 4 Climate, it’s the youth. This is their moment.”

Thunberg has become a global figurehead for the climate movement in the past year. During her Easter holidays, she has been on a European speaking tour and has, so far, met Pope Francis and addressed the European parliament. MEPs gave her speech, which harangued them for spending too long on Brexit and not enough time on climate, a standing ovation.

Greta Thunberg’s emotional speech to EU leaders – video

In the UK parliament next week, she will meet the Speaker of the House of Commons and talk to several dozen MPs.

“Greta is coming to the UK at a time of unprecedented public awareness and action around climate change – and will deliver a powerful message to politicians that they cannot ignore either the rising seas or the rising citizens’ movements demanding action,” said Lucas.

“It’s especially significant given the divisiveness around Brexit and how vital it is that we put aside any political or other differences we might have to respond to the climate emergency.

“All the main opposition parties have agreed to sit down and listen to her and the UK climate strikers she has inspired, and I think this could be a defining moment for how the UK responds to the climate and wider environmental crises.”

World Politics

United States

Jerry Nadler issues subpoena for Robert Mueller’s full report and the underlying documents ‘to make informed decisions’

House judiciary chairman, Jerry Nadler, on Friday issued a subpoena for the full, unredacted report by special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 US election and the Trump campaign.

The subpoena seeks not only the “complete and unredacted” report, but also all of the underlying documents referenced in it including grand jury evidence. The New York Democrat said on Good Morning America that the information was necessary “to make informed decisions” on what happens next.

Nadler’s committee, which has the power to launch impeachment proceedings, voted in early April to authorize the subpoena for the report after attorney general William Barr outlined the categories he intended to shield.

The subpoena came as Democrats vowed to continue investigating Donald Trump a day after the report was made public, revealing striking new details about the president’s effort to thwart a federal inquiry he believed threatened his presidency.

Shortly after a redacted version of the exhaustive report was released to the public on Thursday, Nadler said it outlined “disturbing evidence that President Trump engaged in obstruction of justice” and the “responsibility now falls to Congress to hold the president accountable for his actions.”

The 448-page summary of Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation concluded without reaching a verdict on whether the president illegally obstructed justice. But the report catalogues nearly a dozen instances in which Trump attempts to stop the investigation, narrow its scope or influence witnesses involved in the inquiry. Mueller cited legal constraints which prevent the justice department from charging a sitting president with obstruction of justice – and suggested a final say on the matter may lie with Congress.

In a letter to colleagues, Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi cited the passage and declared: “Congress will not be silent.”

Republicans viscerally disagreed with the assessment that Congress should pick up where Mueller left off.

“Democrats want to keep searching for imaginary evidence that supports their claims, but it is simply not there,” said House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. “It is time to move on.”

But far from turning the page on the investigation, Democrats are opening a new, bitterly partisan chapter. Facing them now is an issue that has already sharply divided the party along ideological and generation lines: impeachment.

Democratic leaders see more risk than reward in initiating an impeachment inquiry, especially after Mueller said he found “insufficient evidence” to conclude that Trump conspired with Russia to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Without that support, Republicans are unlikely to break with the president, as they did with Richard Nixon after Watergate.

“Unless [there’s] a bipartisan conclusion, an impeachment would be doomed to failure,” the House intelligence committee chairman, Adam Schiff, said on CNN. “I continue to think that a failed impeachment is not in the national interest.”

A partisan endeavor could risk repeating what Democrats widely view as a historic overreach by Republicans, when they pursued impeachment against Bill Clinton in the late 1990s. Democrats fear that a divisive and unpopular impeachment battle would galvanize Trump’s supporters – as it did for Clinton 21 years ago – and would swamp the party’s policy agenda that they believe is crucial to unseating Trump in the 2020 election and holding onto their majority in the House of Representatives.

Still, if the House did move forward with articles of impeachment, every Senate Democrat and 20 Senate Republicans would have to vote to remove Trump from office – an unlikely scenario at this stage.

The House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, told CNN that impeachment was “not worthwhile” with a presidential election 18 months away. Nadler said that impeachment hearings were “one possibility” but that it was “too early” to discuss it.

“We will have to go follow the evidence where it leads,” he said. “And I don’t know exactly where it will lead.”

But in a sign that the issue is far from settled, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most vocal and high-profile members of Congress, said she would sign on to an impeachment proposal offered by her fellow freshman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“While I understand the political reality of the Senate + election considerations, upon reading this DoJ report, which explicitly names Congress in determining obstruction, I cannot see a reason for us to abdicate from our constitutionally mandated responsibility to investigate,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a series of tweets explaining her decision.

Though there are few signs Democrats are preparing to move forward with impeachment, the report did open several potential avenues for congressional inquiry that are all but certain to consume Washington for at least the next several months.

Nadler said he will issue a subpoena to compel the attorney general, William Barr, to release the full, un-redacted version of the report and the underlying evidence, and called on Mueller to testify before Congress “as soon as possible”.

Barr said he was required by law to redact certain pieces of information, including evidence collected as part of a grand jury investigation. He has offered to meet with a select group of congressional leaders from both parties to review a less redacted version of the report.

Still, Democrats have excoriated Barr for his handling of the release of the Mueller report, accusing him of “deliberately” distorting its findings to protect Trump.

Ahead of the public release of the report, Barr held a press conference to assert that Trump’s actions did not meet the legal threshold for obstruction of justice. He repeatedly invoked Trump’s own language – including “no collusion” – to defend him. His performance led some Democrats to call for his resignation.

“OUR Attorney General acts as Trump’s defense attorney. He can’t represent both. Barr must resign,” California congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Eric Swalwell tweeted.

“Special Counsel Mueller’s report paints a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him,” Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, said in a joint statement.

“But if you hadn’t read the report and listened only to Mr Barr, you wouldn’t have known any of that because Mr Barr has been so misleading.”

Nadler says Mueller report shows ‘disturbing evidence’ of obstruction of justice – video

Trump claims ‘game over’ on Mueller report as Democrats say game on

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