25 January 2019   Leave a comment

The crisis in Venezuela has produced an interesting divide in world politics:
The US, EU, Canada, and a group of Latin American countries have supported opposition leader Juan Guaido; China, Cuba, Bolivia, Iran, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, and Syria have backed President Nicolas Maduro. There really is no ideological reason for the split, although Cuba and Bolivia have had long-standing ties with the Chavez-Maduro regime. It seems more likely that the divide is best explained by those who see Maduro as a good way to challenge the US role in world affairs. The Venezuelan military officers seem to be supporting Maduro, but the rank and file soldiers seem to be supporting change. There have been reports of violence, but it appears as if the situation is still under control.

Students in Europe and Australia have been engaged in protests against policies that do nothing to stave off climate change, including signing a manifesto that they will not work for companies that are identified as heavy polluters. We are learning more and more about threats to the environment caused by climate change that were not previously understood. One example is the effect of climate change on the availability of groundwater. According to Quartz:

“In a paper published this week in Nature Climate Change, scientists from the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the US used modeling and hydrological data sets to find how devastating climate change could be to aquifers. They found that climate-related changes to rainfall in the next century will make it harder for 44% of the world’s aquifers to recharge, particularly the shallower ones we rely on to fill up faster.

That means within the next 100 years, nearly half the world’s groundwater supply will become less reliable; since humanity’s need for water is certainly not diminishing, the newly deprived aquifers will begin to deplete—or deplete faster than they already are.

The Guardian describes the extreme conditions in Australia:

“Australia has endured a searing summer of drought and extreme heat. Hundreds of feral animals have died of thirst or faced culling as they encroached on properties in search of water. All-time temperature recordshave been broken in South Australia, with Adelaide reaching 46.6C, while Melbourne had its hottest day since the catastrophic 2009 bushfires, and more fires swept through Tasmania.

The European Union climate organization has released dire information about the climate in 2018 which is summarized in The Atlantic:

“But the report contains plenty of records worth noting in their own right. 2018 was the hottest year ever recorded in Antarctica, a finding with worrisome implications for sea-level rise. Twenty-nine countries—including France, Germany, Italy, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates, where temperatures hit 123 degrees Fahrenheit in June—experienced their warmest year ever last year, too.

The report also underscores that climate change has already begun—and that we are running out of time to keep it under control. It finds that Earth was about 1.16 degrees Celsius warmer in 2018 than it was during the late-19th century. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that if global warming exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius—just 0.4 degrees Celsius above where we are now—then widespread environmental upheaval could result. Perhaps as soon as 2040, climate change could leave hundreds of millions of people with scarce food and water.

It remains to be seen whether young people in the US, China, India, Russia, and Brazil will follow the lead of their cohort in Europe and Australia.

The US sent two naval vessels through the Taiwan Strait which separates China from the island of Taiwan. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province and the US acknowledged in 1972 that Taiwan was part of China in the Shanghai Communique signed by US President Richard Nixon. The voyages were intended by the US to represent innocent passages allowed by international law, but China, since it regards Taiwan as part of its national territory, considers the passages provocative. Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech which was described by The Guardian:
“’We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means,’ Xi said, adding that the issue was an internal one and that China would permit ‘no external interference’”. The CHinese newspaper, Global Times, assessed the US military action:

“That US warships and planes keep provoking in China’s coastal areas will obviously increase the possibility of a military clash between the two. The moves by the US military will not only worsen strategic understanding between the two militaries, but also increase the difficulty of the front-line troops of the two countries to stay tactically secure. From a long-term perspective, US war games will become the largest source of risks that will be hard to manage between Beijing and Washington. If the US does not intend to provoke a strategic confrontation with China, or increase the risk of military clashes with China, it should refrain from staging military provocation in China’s coastal areas. The US should take the initiative to reduce its confrontational acts and try its best to manage the risks.” 

Posted January 25, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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