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20 May

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

Strache’s Defense The Right-Wing Ideology Exposed

© Bernhard Riedmann/ DER SPIEGEL

A Commentary by

An Austrian far-right politician got caught red-handed. Or was he? Not in his worldview, as became clear during his resignation speech. The right-wing worldview holds that if you’re fighting a vast and dangerous enemy, anything goes.

Strache will be Strache.

After the entire world watched as he tried to lay the groundwork for installing a Hungary-esque media landscape in his country with Russian help, he complained in his Saturday press conference of a campaign “from abroad.”

In an attempt to completely distort the situation, he expressed outrage about the hidden cameras that filmed him — without addressing the obvious: That the video would have been of no interest at all if he hadn’t spoken so clearly about his plans for reshaping Austria. The only source for the ignominy is he, himself. He built the boat, and he sank in it.

And yet, his entire statement of resignation was an attempt to share responsibility and assign blame to others.

He named some of them by name, such as the Israeli political consultant Tal Silberstein and the German satirist Jan Böhmermann. Mostly, though, he relied on innuendo. He spoke of networks and groups to ensure that it all sounded sufficiently ominous — a horizon full of storm clouds in which all those who still supported him could see whatever they wanted.

The entire power of the extreme right depends heavily on such projections. A reason must be identified for why the system must be destroyed – and it is simply much easier to do so when playing the role of the victim.

Only after one can prove — by pointing to a hostile power — that the paths hitherto relied on for resolving conflict and finding compromise are unfair and threatening can there be the kind of extralegal state of emergency that justifies the most extreme of measures. Establishing the threat of a covert, omnipotent threat is the best way to mobilize such energies and mitigate scruples.

Following World War I in Germany, this function was fulfilled by the so-called Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth, the idea being that Germany would have won the war if the soldiers hadn’t been betrayed by the leftist press, leftist politicians and Jews back home. For decades afterward, the right wing in Germany saw the Jews, the Communists and the Social Democrats as the agents of what they believed was an underestimated threat. That ultimately gave birth to the irrational hatred that fueled the most enormous crime in the history of humanity: the Holocaust.

Times have changed, as have the political movements. But the strategies used to justify radical positions remain extremely similar.

They do not depend on the exchange of reason and argument; they do not rely on open discourse. Rather, they depend solely on the mechanics of power. And once you get rid of critical journalists, according to this mechanical worldview, you are also freed of criticism. The threat, though, never dissipates. Furthermore, the fact that the right wing has had success at the polls and has been voted into government in many European countries is, according to this logic, by no means proof of the fairness of the system. Just as the failure of right-wing plans, such as Brexit, is no proof of their unsuitability. Everything is linked to larger, hidden powers that must be reacted to. It’s not about shaping a political plan and choosing between political visions. Rather, it is about protection and imperative.

In the video, Strache speaks of the idealism of the political donors who support him — people who “don’t want Austria to be Islamisized.” More than that: “They don’t want their children and grandchildren to be destroyed.” But the reference to a need for protecting children, and the parallel need of protecting women from foreign sex criminals, is not meant as a concrete political goal that could then be solved with a policy of more police or other measures. Rather, it is merely a reference to a threat facing humanity itself and the ongoing battle that leaves the right wing with little choice.

Right-Wing Inferiority Fantasy

That’s why the factually incorrect theory of the “great replacement” — the idea that Europe’s white, Christian population is intentionally being gradually replaced with Arabs and sub-Saharan Africans — espoused by the French right-wing intellectual Renaud Camus is so effective: It places the majority in the position of the minority. And every single dark-skinned person strolling through Paris, every döner kebab bistro and every mosque then becomes proof of this invented invasion. But there is an additional component as well: Every incumbent politician is an accomplice, part of an alleged elite that is gathered in backrooms hammering out deals like the UN’s Global Compact for Migration as part of the effort to replace the current population with Africans. The resulting scenario could hardly be more perfect: The presumed alliance of all people living in Africa with all of those who bear political responsibility in Europe results in the classic, right-wing inferiority fantasy.

This idea, albeit in slightly watered-down form, has long since become part of parliamentary debates in Europe. Alice Weidel, floor leader for the right-wing Alternative for Germany party in the German parliament, for example, warned in a speech marking the anniversary of the country’s constitution that the ongoing migration crisis would “result in the long-lasting and dramatic transformation of the sovereign and of the people.” The subtext is clear: How is it possible to speak of a fair system when even the state itself is being modified by the migrant-tolerant elite?

Such a standpoint leaves those who hold it with no choice. The self-described minority is faced with such dominant powers and constraints that conforming to the conventional practice of politics and obeying the rules seems naïve, if not traitorous. And that is why no proof is needed for such ideas. Indeed, the entire process of seeking truth in an open society is seen as a secret pillar of evil powers. The media, in this reading, are just the covert agent of their owners or some other power. There are, in fact, no people, only powers.

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Children join Extinction Rebellion weedkiller protest – in pictures

Experts agree that global heating of 4C by 2100 is a real possibility. The effects of such a rise will be extreme and require a drastic shift in the way we live

Crosses topple in the cemetery at Quinhagak in the Yukon delta, Alaska. Permafrost in the region is thawing. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Drowned cities; stagnant seas; intolerable heatwaves; entire nations uninhabitable… and more than 11 billion humans. A four-degree-warmer world is the stuff of nightmares and yet that’s where we’re heading in just decades.

While governments mull various carbon targets aimed at keeping human-induced global heating within safe levels – including new ambitions to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – it’s worth looking ahead pragmatically at what happens if we fail. After all, many scientists think it’s highly unlikely that we will stay below 2C (above pre-industrial levels) by the end of the century, let alone 1.5C. Most countries are not making anywhere near enough progress to meet these internationally agreed targets.

Climate models predict we’re currently on track for a heating of somewhere between 3C and 4C for 2100, although bear in mind that these are global average temperatures – at the poles and over land (where people live), the increase may be double that. Predictions are tricky, however, as temperatures depend on how sensitive the climate is to carbon dioxide (CO2). Most models assume that it is not very sensitive – that’s where the lower 3C comes from – but a whole new set of models to be published in 2021 finds much greater sensitivity. They put heating at around 5C by the end of the century, meaning people could be experiencing as much as 10C of heating over land.

Such uncertainty isn’t ideal, but for our purposes let’s plump for an entirely feasible planetary heating of 4C by the end of the century. If that seems a long time away, consider that plenty of people you know will be around then. My children will be in their 80s, perhaps with middle-aged children and grandchildren. We are making their world and it will be a very different place.

Four degrees may not sound like much – after all, it is less than a typical temperature change between night and day. It might even sound pleasant, like retiring from the UK to southern Spain. However, an average heating of the entire globe by 4C would render the planet unrecognisable from anything humans have ever experienced. The last time the world was this hot was 15m years ago during the miocene, when intense volcanic eruptions in western North America emitted vast quantities of CO2. Sea levels rose some 40 metres higher than today and lush forests grew in Antarctica and the Arctic. However, that global heating took place over many thousands of years. Even at its most rapid, the rise in CO2 emissions occurred at a rate 1,000 times slower than ours has since the start of the Industrial Revolution. That gave animals and plants time to adapt to new conditions and, crucially, ecosystems had not been degraded by humans.

Things look considerably bleaker for our 2100 world. Over the past decade, scientists have been able to produce a far more nuanced picture of how temperature rise affects the complexities of cloud cover and atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns and ecology. We’re looking at vast dead zones in the oceans as nutrients from fertiliser runoff combine with warmer waters to produce an explosion in algae that starve marine life of oxygen. This will be exacerbated by the acidity from dissolved CO2, which will cause a mass die-off, particularly of shellfish, plankton and coral. “We will have lost all the reefs decades before 2100 – at somewhere between 2C and 4C,” says Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

Sea levels will be perhaps two metres higher and, more worryingly, we will be well on our way to an ice-free world, having passed the tipping points for the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets, committing us to at least 10 metres of sea-level rise in coming centuries. That’s because as ice sheets melt, their surface drops to a lower altitude where it is warmer, speeding up melting in a runaway feedback loop. Eventually, dark, heat-absorbing land is exposed, speeding the melting process even more. By 2100, we will also have lost most low-latitude glaciers, including two-thirds of the so called third pole of the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan mountains and Tibetan plateau that feeds many of Asia’s important rivers.

However, most rivers, especially in Asia, will flood more often, according to research by Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, because the hotter atmosphere will produce more intense monsoons, violent storms and extreme rainfall. His studies predict a wide equatorial belt of high humidity that will cause intolerable heat stress across most of tropical Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas, rendering them uninhabitable for much of the year. Tropical forests of heat-tolerant species may well thrive in this wet zone with the high CO2 concentrations, especially with the disappearance of human infrastructure and agriculture, although the conditions will probably favour lianas (vines) over slower-growing trees, Betts says. To the south and north of this humid zone, bands of expansive desert will also rule out agriculture and human habitation. Some models predict that desert conditions will stretch from the Sahara right up through south and central Europe, drying rivers including the Danube and the Rhine.

Our best hope lies in cooperating as never before: decoupling the political map from geography

In South America, the picture is more complicated: increased precipitation could enhance the Amazon rainforest, leading to mightier river flow. Other models predict a weakening of the easterlies over the Atlantic, drying the Amazon, increasing fires and turning it from forest to grassland. The tipping point for the Amazon could well be triggered by deforestation; while the intact forest could cope with some drought because it generates and maintains its own moist ecosystem, areas that have been opened up through degradation allow moisture to escape. “A combination of climate change and deforestation could push it into a savannah state,” Rockström says.

All of nature will be affected by the change in climate, ecosystems and hydrology and there will be plenty of extinctions as species struggle to migrate and adapt to an utterly changed world. Daniel Rothman, co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center, calculates that 2100 will herald the beginning of Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. But what about us? This is undoubtedly a more hostile, dangerous world for humanity, which by 2100 will number around 11 billion, all of whom will need food, water, power and somewhere to live. It will be, in a giant understatement, problematic.

The good news is that humans won’t become extinct – the species can survive with just a few hundred individuals; the bad news is, we risk great loss of life and perhaps the end of our civilisations. Many of the places where people live and grow food will no longer be suitable for either. Higher sea levels will make today’s low-lying islands and many coastal regions, where nearly half the global population live, uninhabitable, generating an estimated 2 billion refugees by 2100. Bangladesh alone will lose one-third of its land area, including its main breadbasket.

From 2030, more than half the population will live in the tropics, an area that makes up a third of the planet and already struggles with climate impacts. Yet by 2100, most of the low and mid latitudes will be uninhabitable because of heat stress or drought; despite stronger precipitation, the hotter soils will lead to faster evaporation and most populations will struggle for fresh water. We will have to live on a smaller land surface with a larger population.

Indeed, the consequences of a 4C warmer world are so terrifying that most scientists would rather not contemplate them, let alone work out a survival strategy.

Rockström doesn’t like our chances. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” he says. “There will be a rich minority of people who survive with modern lifestyles, no doubt, but it will be a turbulent, conflict-ridden world.”

Children paddle rafts through the streets in Kurigram District, Bangladesh, September 2015.

Children paddle rafts through the streets in Kurigram District, Bangladesh, September 2015. Photograph: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/Barc

He points out that we already use nearly half the world’s ice-free surface to produce food for 7 billion people and thinks meeting the needs of 11 billion in such hostile conditions would be impossible. “The reason is primarily making enough food, but also we would have lost the biodiversity we’re dependent on and be facing a cocktail of negative shocks all the time, from fires to droughts.”

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