The World Today for October 29, 2021

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Recently, Larry Fink, the chief executive of Black Rock, one of the world’s biggest asset managers, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times with a surprising call to arms. To curb climate change, he wrote, the richest countries in the world are going to have to spend loads of money to make sure the poorest are able to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Fink is not necessarily being altruistic, CNBC noted. He expects that people like him will earn fat returns from investing in countries that must make great strides in modernizing their economies and developing renewable energy infrastructures.

But Fink’s general thrust captures the sentiments of the moment. South African Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, for example, intends to negotiate for larger financial transfers from the developed world to developing nations when she attends the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties, a United Nations-sponsored climate summit referred to as COP26 that will take place in Glasgow between Oct. 31 and Nov. 12, Reuters noted.

South Africa, for example, uses coal to generate more than 75 percent of its electricity. It’s the world’s 12th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and the fourth-most carbon-intensive economy on the planet. Changing that system will take billions if not trillions of dollars.

The problem is that rich countries have already promised to step up to stop climate change but have failed to live up to their promises. At the UN climate summit in Copenhagen 12 years ago, the world’s most affluent countries pledged to spend $100 billion a year to help poorer countries by 2020 to transition away from fossil fuels as part of an international agreement to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial norms.

As Nature wrote, the rich countries fell short by at least $20 billion or by as much as $80 billion depending on which accounting methods one uses. South Africa’s Creecy, meanwhile, estimates that rich countries need to increase their giving target to $750 billion annually after 2025.

As a result, a sense of pessimism has set in among environmental activists and officials preparing for COP26, according to the Washington Post. Violent storms, droughts, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, ecological destruction and human displacement are likely to increase in the near future. Officials and investors aren’t prepared to spend the amounts necessary to avert or mitigate disasters, though.

Writing in an op-ed in the Guardian, activist Greta Thunberg, who is 18 years old, lamented how no heroes have emerged with grand plans to save humanity. All she hears from politicians, she wrote, is, “blah blah blah.”

In other words, short-term gains appear to have overwritten the primordial urge among adults to make the world a better place for their children.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

The Cartoon and the Fury

PAKISTAN

At least four police officers died and more than 250 were injured in Pakistan’s northeastern city of Lahore during clashes between security forces and a hardline Islamist group over a French newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The violence began when protests led by the banned Islamist group, Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan, began to march to the capital, Islamabad, Wednesday. Authorities said members of the hardline group were carrying automatic weapons and fired directly at police officers attempting to tame the crowd.

The deadly clashes are the latest in a series of violent protests organized by Tehrik-e-Labbaik since French President Emmanuel Macron honored a schoolteacher who was beheaded in France last year after he showed his class some cartoons of the prophet – previously published in the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. The depiction of the Muslim prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam.

Macron’s comments, including a call for “reform” of Islam, sparked demonstrations across the Muslim world: In Pakistan, many protesters demanded the expulsion of the French ambassador to the country.

Meanwhile, the group’s demonstration last week also resulted in the death of three other police officers, prompting authorities to deploy paramilitary rangers.

Despite the heightened security, the Islamist group remains undeterred and said it will continue its march to Islamabad, more than 200 miles from Lahore.

Hello, ‘Green Jesus’

CANADA

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a “radical” environmentalist as the country’s environment and climate minister this week, a decision that set off worry and fury in Canada’s oil-rich west, the Hill reported.

Former Greenpeace activist Steven Guilbeault will join Trudeau’s cabinet as part of a post-election overhaul. Guilbeault has worked in environmental advocacy for more than a decade and is known as the “Green Jesus of Montreal.”

The former activist made headlines in 2001 when he and a fellow Greenpeace member scaled Toronto’s CN Tower to hang a banner denouncing Canada and then-President George W. Bush as “climate killers.”

The appointment marks a significant shift from Trudeau’s earlier stance on climate action: In 2015, he had publicly backed the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

However, Alberta’s leader Jason Kenney criticized Guilbeault’s appointment, saying it would send a “very problematic” message to the oil- and gas-producing province.

Analysts noted that the prime minister’s pick highlights his government’s “commitment to action on climate change and energy transition.”

Canada has pledged to cut carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. Nevertheless, the country remains the world’s fourth-largest oil and gas producer and is expected to miss its 2020 target even with industrial activity slowing down because of the pandemic.

Small, Dusty and Beloved

FRANCE

French lawmakers passed a law this month that would protect the country’s independent bookstores from being undercut by e-commerce giant Amazon over book delivery fees because they are part of French culture, Reuters reported.

The law – yet to be implemented – will set a minimum price for book delivery fees. It follows a 2014 legislation that forbade online booksellers from providing discounts or free deliveries.

Typically, local bookstores charge about $6 to $10 for delivery. Amazon, however, found a loophole by only charging one Euro cent for shipping a book. The new legislation, however, will close that loophole, according to Public Radio International.

The move comes as the market shares of France’s 3,300 independent bookstores have been declining due to competition from online retailers, such as Amazon, Fnac and Leclerc.

The government is still deciding on the minimum delivery fee. The legislation is expected to take effect early next year.

Local bookstore owners welcomed the move and hope the law will encourage more people to visit bookstores. Even so, Amazon warned that the fee “threatens customers’ equal access to books,” particularly “lower-income readers living in small towns and rural areas.”

In France, bookstores are deeply valued and during the pandemic, they were exempted from closure rules during the lockdown because they were considered an essential business.

At the same time, protecting independent bookstores has long been seen in France as protecting French culture.

DISCOVERIES

Bacchus‘ Empire

Archaeologists uncovered evidence of large-scale wine production in Israel during the Byzantine period, NBC News reported.

The discovery of a wine factory in the city of Yavne, located south of Tel Aviv, suggested that wine was produced at a near-industrial scale about 1,500 years ago.

Researchers said the large wine complex housed four warehouses and five wine presses capable of making nearly two million liters of wine: The workers would crush the grapes barefoot, collect the juices and then place them in octagonal vats to ferment them.

The wine was then aged in clay jugs and later exported throughout the Mediterranean via ports in Ashkelon and Gaza.

“This was a semi-chance discovery,” said Jon Seligman, who directed the excavation. “We didn’t set out to find winepresses, but that was what was in the area when we were doing the excavations.”

Seligman’s team also came across older winepresses dating back to the Persian period around 2,300 years ago.

Seligman noted that the area was long-known to have a thriving wine industry, adding that the Byzantine factory could have been operated either by a local large estate owner or the city of Yavne.

“It shows that winemaking was a traditional industry in this area, it has early origins, and reached its apex in the Byzantine period,” he said.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 245,566,134

Total Deaths Worldwide: 4,982,198

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 6,947,883,074

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 45,826,141 (+0.27%)
  2. India: 34,246,157 (+0.04%)
  3. Brazil: 21,781,436 (+0.07%)
  4. UK: 8,978,444 (+0.44%)
  5. Russia: 8,260,045 (+0.48%)
  6. Turkey: 7,961,505 (+0.32%)
  7. France: 7,248,285 (+0.08%)
  8. Iran: 5,899,509 (+0.19%)
  9. Argentina: 5,286,074 (+0.03%)
  10. Spain: 5,008,887 (+0.04%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

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