Posts Tagged ‘climate’

Fast-melting Arctic sign of bad global warming

August 14, 2017



WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the coldest places on Earth is so hot it’s melting.

Glaciers, sea ice and a massive ice sheet in the Arctic are thawing from toasty air above and warm water below. The northern polar region is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the planet and that’s setting off alarm bells.

“The melting of the Arctic will come to haunt us all,” said German climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf.

While global leaders set a goal of preventing 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) of man-made warming since pre-industrial times, the Arctic has already hit that dangerous mark. Last year, the Arctic Circle was about 3.6 degrees (6.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal.


Earth is getting hotter because of the buildup of heat-trapping gases spewed into the air by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, according to decades of peer-reviewed research. Scientists have long predicted the Arctic would warm first and faster than the rest of the globe. Real-time measurements are proving them right.

The Arctic is mostly ocean covered with a layer of ice; changes from ice to water often kick in a cycle that contributes to global warming.

An AP animation shows how sea ice coverage has dropped an average of 34,000 square miles per year.

Sea ice is white and it reflects the sun’s heat back into space. But when it melts, it’s replaced with dark ocean that strongly absorbs it, said former NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati, who heads the environmental research program at the University of Colorado.

That heat gets transferred back up to the atmosphere in the fall and winter. As that happens, water vapor — a greenhouse gas — hangs around, trapping more heat. More clouds form around that time, also acting as a blanket, said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.


Winter is crucial. Three times in the past two cold seasons, air temperatures near the North Pole were near or even a shade above freezing. That’s about 50 degrees warmer than it should be. From last November through February, Barrow, Alaska — the northernmost U.S. city — was 7 degrees Celsius (13 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 20th century average, and much of the Atlantic Arctic off Norway and Greenland was as hot.

Warm winters weaken sea ice, which floats on the ocean surface. It’s supposed to recover, spread more across the Arctic and get thicker in the winter so it can withstand the warmth of the summer. But a warmer winter means less protection when the heat hits.

In September 2016, the time of year the spread of ice across the Arctic is at its lowest, Arctic sea ice was the second lowest day on record, about 40 percent below the lowest day measured in 1979 when satellite records started. Between those two days 37 years apart, the Arctic lost enough sea ice to cover Alaska, Texas and California combined.

Then it didn’t grow back that much this winter, setting record low amounts from November through March, when sea ice reaches its peak spread.


Of all the global warming warning signs in the Arctic, “it is the sea ice that is screaming the loudest,” Serreze said.

That’s a problem because a growing body of studies connects dwindling sea ice to wild weather. The reduced winter sea ice interacts with warmer oceans to change conditions in the air that then triggers a potent noticeable shift in the jet stream, the giant atmospheric river that controls much of our weather, said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. This theory is still debated by scientists, but increasingly more researchers are agreeing with Francis.

It’s not just sea ice on the decline. Glaciers in the Arctic are shrinking. And the massive Greenland ice sheet is slowly but steadily melting and that can add a big dose to sea level rise. Since 2002, it has lost 4,400 billion tons (4,000 billion metric tons) of ice.

Then there’s the Arctic carbon bomb. Carbon dioxide and methane — which traps even more heat — are stuck in the permafrost in places like Alaska and Siberia.

“Roast the Arctic and you create a mess everywhere on Earth,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears. His work can be found here .


This Associated Press series was produced in partnership with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


Al Gore: I’ve given up on climate ‘catastrophe’ Trump

July 28, 2017


© AFP / by Frankie TAGGART | A decade after his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” sent shockwaves around the world with its dire warnings of environmental disaster, former US vice president Al Gore is sounding the alarm on climate change again

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – He once gave Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt, but mention the US president to Al Gore these days and you’ll get a withering frown.

“He’s a catastrophe, of course, but he has effectively isolated himself,” the former US vice president says, his nostrils dilating a few millimeters past scorn but stopping short of open contempt.

A decade after his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” sent shockwaves around the world with its dire warnings of environmental disaster, Gore is sounding the alarm on climate change again.

“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” released by Paramount on Friday, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival a day before the January 20 inauguration.

Since then, the new US president has sent out a former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil to represent America on the world stage and appointed an anti-climate litigator to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

He has moved to loosen restrictions on coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions, slashed EPA funding, and reversed his predecessor Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

And then of course there was that announcement of withdrawal from the 196-nation 2016 Paris agreement on climate change.

“We’re going meet the US commitments regardless of what Donald Trump says,” 69-year-old Gore tells AFP during an interview in Beverly Hills to promote his film.

“There’s a law of physics that sometimes works in politics: for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.

– Uprising –

“It’s as if the rest of the world is saying, ‘We’ll show you, Donald Trump. Now there is a progressive uprising to organize in ways I haven’t seen since the Vietnam War.”

In one of the most intriguing scenes towards the end of the 100-minute “An Inconvenient Sequel” Gore is seen heading for a meeting with the then president-elect at Trump Tower in New York.

He voiced cautious optimism at the time that the environmental movement might be able to do business with the incoming president, but Gore has since given up hope.

“Where he’s concerned — absent some unforeseeable circumstances — I’m not going to waste any more time trying to convince him because he’s surrounded himself with this rogue’s gallery of climate deniers,” Gore says.

“Even though I have protected the privacy of those conversations, I will tell you that I had reason to believe that there was a chance that he would come to his senses. But I was wrong.”

“An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) re-energized the international environmental movement on its way to winning two Oscars and taking $50 million at the box office.

Despite worries over the potential environmental damage of a Trump administration, the follow-up actually has a more hopeful message than its predecessor.

It follows Gore, who has trained an army of some 10,000 organizers to spread his environmental gospel, as he delivers rousing workshops around the world.

– ‘We have the solutions’ –

“There have been two huge changes since the last movie. Number one, the climate-related extreme weather events have become far more numerous and more destructive. That’s true all over the world,” Gore tells AFP.

“Number two, we have the solutions now. That’s a hopeful message people need to be more aware of. The fact that these renewable energy technologies, batteries in electric cars and so many others, have come down in cost with such dizzying speed, is truly miraculous.”

Born in Washington, Gore shuttled between his home in Tennessee and a hotel in the capital while his father served in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate.

Gore would himself go on to serve as a Congressman for three terms and was a two-time senator before becoming vice president under Bill Clinton during one of the country’s greatest economic booms.

Gore narrowly lost the presidential election to George W. Bush in 2000 and reinvented himself as a seer on climate change after his White House dreams were blown away, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

His opponents over the years have accused him of being a fantasist and even a fraud, but he says his years in politics have given him a thick skin.

Gore describes himself as a “recovering politician,” however, and is adamant that he has no plans for a comeback for the 2020 presidential election.

“The longer I go without a relapse, the less likely one becomes,” he tells AFP.

by Frankie TAGGART

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres: We need the U.S. not to reject its leadership role

June 21, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Trump administration on Tuesday that if the United States disengages from many issues confronting the international community it will be replaced — and that won’t be good for America or for the world.

Guterres made clear to reporters at his first press conference here since taking the reins of the United Nations on Jan. 1 that proposed cuts in U.S. funding for the U.N. would be disastrous and create “an unsolvable problem to the management of the U.N.”

But the U.N. chief stressed that he is not afraid to stand up to President Donald Trump, citing his vocal opposition to the U.S. leader’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. He said the mobilization of U.S. business and civil society in support or the climate deal is “a signal of hope that we very much encourage.”

Looking at the array of global crises, Guterres expressed concern that there could be a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia over Syria and urged a de-escalation of the dispute between Washington and Moscow over the U.S. downing of a Syrian jet.

This is very important, he said, “because these kind of incidents can be very dangerous in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors, and in which the situation is so complex on the ground.”

“So, indeed, I am concerned, and I hope that this will not lead to any escalation of the conflict that is already as dramatic as it is,” Guterres said.

The U.N. chief said he has been actively involved in trying to promote “effective mediation” in a large number of global conflicts including South Sudan, Congo, Central African Republic, Syria, Libya and more recently Afghanistan and Cyprus.

“That doesn’t mean that problems are easy to be solved,” he said. “In a world where power relations are unclear and where impunity and unpredictability tend to prevail, what we see is that the capacity of prevention and conflict resolution of the international community as a whole, but also of the U.N. in particular, are today severely limited.

Nonetheless, Guterres said: “I intend to go on very actively engaged in these kind of contacts.”

He reiterated, however, that he thought the most likely successful mediation of the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries should be regional like the current effort led by Kuwait.

But he said if the United States gets involved in mediation, “that, of course, will be welcome if they are able to do so in an effective way.”

He also said the U.N. has not taken any initiative in mediation of the North Korean nuclear dispute, leaving the effort at the moment to the Security Council.

“We know that there are important talks taking place by different countries that have leverage and influence in relation to the countries in the region,” Guterres said.

The secretary-general, who served as U.N. high commissioner for refugees for 10 years, chose World Refugee Day for the press conference and appealed to all U.N. member states not to refuse entry to those seeking asylum and deserving protection.

He also urged rich countries to do much more to support the 80 percent of the world’s refugees living in the developing world — and to increase the number of refugees they will give new homes to.

The United States is “by far the largest resettlement country in the world” with a “very generous and positive policy,” Guterres said.

But Trump is moving to significantly reduce the number of refugees allowed to enter the United States, even as his bid to temporarily suspend admissions is stalled in the courts. His budget proposal calls for a 25 percent cut in funds for resettling refugees on American soil.

Guterres said he has strongly encouraged the United States “to come back to the levels of resettlement that we witnessed until two or three years ago.”

The secretary-general announced that he plans to visit Washington soon to engage “positively and constructively” with members of Congress on the need for the United States as the largest contributor to U.N. budgets to maintain support for the 193-member world organization.

Asked about a new world order sparked by the Trump administration’s actions, Guterres said: “I believe that if the United States disengages in relation of many aspects of foreign policy and many of international relations, it will be unavoidable that other actors will occupy that space.”

“And I don’t think this is good for the United States and I don’t think this is good for the world,” he said.

– See more at:


U.N. Chief Warns U.S. of Risks of Rejecting Leadership Role

Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires

June 19, 2017


© AFP / by Laurence COUSTAL | Heat waves have become more frequent in Portugal, say experts

PARIS (AFP) – Highly exposed to global warming’s climate-altering impacts, Portugal is likely to see more massive forest fires such as the one — still raging — that has killed at least 60 people this weekend, experts say.- Why Portugal, why now? –

The Iberian peninsula encompassing Portugal and Spain is experiencing a warmer, drier June than usual, explains Thomas Curt, a researcher at France’s Irstea climate and agriculture research institute.

Added to that, the country has vast expanses of highly inflammable plants, including forests of pine and eucalyptus trees.

“Hotter air is synonymous with drier and more inflammable vegetation,” said Curt. “The more the mercury climbs, so does the risk of fires and their intensity.”

Temperatures in the region have warmed by more than the global average over the past half century, according to a 2014 review of climate change impacts on Portugal.

Heat waves have become more frequent, and annual rainfall slightly less, said the review published in the journal WIREs Climate Change.

More frequent and pronounced heat waves are expected in future, accompanied by a “substantial increase” in fire risk — “both in severity and in length of the fire season,” it said.

– Does global warming boost forest fire risk? –

“It is certain — we are experiencing a rise in temperatures,” said Curt.

The Northern hemisphere summer has lengthened over the past 50 years from July-to-August, to June-to-October now — meaning a longer fire risk season.

There has been an increase in major fires of more than 100 hectares, and so-called “megafires” of more than 1,000 hectares, the researcher added.

“It is truly a growing problem everywhere in the world, and notably in Mediterranean Europe.”

These mega blazes remain rare — only about 2-3 percent of all fires — but are responsible for about three-quarters of all surface burnt.

“Many analyses of climate change show that these major fires will become more and more likely,” said Curt.

– What to do? –

In the short term, reinforce firefighting capacity, deploy patrols, set up watchtowers to raise the alarm, and ban fire-making everywhere.

Over the longer term, human settlements and green areas will need to be substantially redesigned, experts say.

Some forest will have to be cut back, undergrowth cleared, and residential areas moved further from scrubland and forest borders, to reduce the risk to life and property.

“The focus of efforts should shift from combating forest fires as they arise to preventing them from existing, through responsible long-term forest management,” green group WWF said.

“Responsible forest management is more effective and financially more efficient than financing the giant firefighting mechanisms that are employed every year.”

In the yet longer term, added Curt, “of course, we need to curtail global warming itself.”

by Laurence COUSTAL

Don’t Count on China as Next Climate Crusader — Plus China Looks to Capitalize on Clean Energy as U.S. Retreats

June 6, 2017

After the U.S. cajoled Beijing for years to go green, roles have reversed—up to a point

Chinese women wear air-pollution masks in a Beijing park. China has pledged to abide by the Paris accord on climate change as the U.S. prepares to exit.

Chinese women wear air-pollution masks in a Beijing park. China has pledged to abide by the Paris accord on climate change as the U.S. prepares to exit. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS


June 6, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET

BEIJING—For years, a wide spectrum of groups in the U.S. lectured, cajoled and entreated China to go green.

Multinationals and nonprofits teamed up with Chinese environmental groups to promote eco-friendly causes; Coca-Cola restored forests in the upper Yangtze. U.S. labs offered scientific support. Academics collaborated on research. The former Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, championed China’s disappearing wetlands, a haven for migratory birds.

The well-funded effort amplified voices within China demanding the government take action. It was, says Orville Schell, a longtime China watcher and environmentalist, “the most effective missionary work in the past couple hundred years.”

So it’s an irony of historic proportions how the roles have reversed: China, the world’s worst polluter by far, is now a convert on climate change while the White House under Donald Trump has turned apostate.

In pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate-change agreement, Mr. Trump has repudiated a signal accomplishment of the Obama presidency: persuading Beijing to become a partner in the effort to prevent the planet from heating up to the point of no return. Without China’s support, the Paris deal might have fallen apart.

Mr. Paulson issued a statement saying he was dismayed and disappointed. “We have left a void for others to fill,” he said.

Can China step in?

When it comes to the environment, China is still torn by conflicting priorities. It has installed more solar and wind capacity than any other nation—and plans to invest another $360 billion in renewable energy between now and 2020.

The economy is rebalancing away from heavy industry and manufacturing toward much cleaner services and consumption.

Coal consumption has declined for three straight years. On current trends, many scientists expect that China will reach peak carbon emissions well before its target date of 2030 under the Paris accord.

Yet Beijing remains committed to rapid growth. And coal is still king.

Just ask the residents of Beijing. Whenever economic policy makers set out to boost growth, spending flows to new real-estate and infrastructure projects, the steel mills around the capital fire up their coal furnaces—and commuters reach for their face masks.

This winter was particularly hard on the lungs. A spending splurge meant that Beijing’s average pollution levels last year were double the national standard set by the State Council.

America’s absence from the Paris accord weakens the global fight against climate change, while strengthening China’s position in clean technologies of the future. No doubt, the Chinese heavy-industry lobby—dominated by state enterprises and their growth-hungry local government sponsors—will put pressure on the government to relax green targets. But Beijing seems eager to seize the moral high ground. President Xi Jinping has vowed to “protect” the climate-change agreement.

Li Shuo, a climate and green-energy campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia, thinks that “China will just carry on” with its cleanup measures. In his judgment, it’s not a question of whether Chinese leaders will take the U.S. withdrawal as an excuse to backslide but “how far they will overachieve.”

By 2020, every Chinese coal-fired power station will be required to achieve an efficiency standard so high that not a single U.S. plant could meet it today, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump has scrapped the Obama-era Clean Power Plan to curb power plant emissions.

The divergence on climate change represents a remarkable moment. For much of the past four decades China has pursued go-for-broke industrialization, heedless of the cost in human health. U.S. critics who lamented the damage to the planet often were told off for their imperialist attitudes. One commentator compared Western pressure on poor countries over climate change to the “guns, cannons and warships” of a previous era.

Then Beijing’s political calculus shifted. Urban residents rebelled at the smog, and when protests threatened social stability the government began to embrace a green agenda.

That said, among Communist Party leaders the fear of environmental protests is matched by apprehension about the consequences of slower, more planet-friendly development. They have staked their credibility on China catching up to, and overtaking, America.

President Xi proclaims “supply-side reform,” by which he means shutting down overcapacity in heavily polluting state industries.

On the other hand, his monumentally ambitious Silk Road plan to build trading infrastructure from Asia to Europe via the Middle East and Africa will prolong the life of some of the heaviest emitters making steel, glass, aluminum and cement—and export the country’s carbon problem.

Much of the $62 billion that China has pledged to invest in Pakistan is for relatively inefficient coal-fired power plants.

China may be going green, but it’s not there yet. On the environment as in trade, another area where Mr. Trump seems determined to abandon America’s global leadership, don’t look to China to supply the crusading zeal.

Write to Andrew Browne at


Opinion: Angela Merkel — Immature, Impractical and Slightly Threatening

May 30, 2017

Even if she can’t stand Trump, German leader should have made things work

Analysis In painfully blunt speech, Merkel fills global leadership void created by Trump
Germany still committed to strong U.S. ties despite G7 climate setback, says Merkel spokesman

Dafna Maor
May 30, 2017 10:09 AM

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and suit


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump at a bilateral meeting at the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7, Sicily, May 26, 2017. GUIDO BERGMANN/AFP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended her trip to the Group of Seven summit disappointed. At a political event in Munich on Sunday, Merkel said, in a declaration that should shake all of us, that Germany can no longer count on its non-European allies.
“The times when we could fully rely on others are to some extent over – I experienced that in the last few days,” she said at the event. “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands.” The European Union needs to plan for Britain’s withdrawal, she added. “Of course we need to have friendly relations with the U.S. and with the U.K. and with other neighbors, including Russia,” she said. Even so, Merkel asserted, “We have to fight for our own future ourselves.”

For the international community, old allies and the rest of the world, the message sounds immature, impractical, uninspiring and somewhat threatening – as if Merkel were saying, We’re tired of being the responsible adult and making peace among everyone, manage on your own, you’ve annoyed me.

The simplest, most immediate message in Merkel’s statement is of isolationism. Merkel’s former fellow Western leaders were a bleeding-heart professor who dreamed of peace, and a proper British gentleman. They’ve been replaced by a tactless lawbreaker who disregards the holy ideals of freedom and equality, and a gray Englishwoman with no regard for European unity, and who may be more unforgiving than the chancellor herself.

You could say that Merkel is being swept along with the isolationist wave sweeping the world. As one who held high the miracle of European unity, opened her country to refugees without quotas, and was a symbol of moderation, Merkel’s new message for her major allies signals a new direction.

You could also interpret her statements as an expression of the German approach led by Merkel herself, one that has intensified since the start of the European debt crisis. Germans – or at least their leaders – want everyone else to behave like them, think like them, and work toward the same goals.

Within Europe, Merkel wants the Greek to be hard-working like the German, and she bit into their flesh with austerity when they didn’t comply. Let other southern European states take note.

Merkel’s inconsistentk, unconstitutional refugee policy brought Britain to its Brexit, as millions of working-class Brits began to fear for their future as waves of immigrants, many of them not even refugees, landed on European shores.

To the northeast, Vladimir Putin’s Russia is threatening Europe with its imperial ambitions, and to the southeast, Turkey is growing more and more theocratic under the increasingly isolated leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This is the worst possible time for Europeans to get a U.S. president who doesn’t play by the rules – not the formalities and manners necessitated by European diplomacy, and not fairness.

He is shaking the allies’ feeling of security, the sense that peace in the West is permanent, and, of course, the comfort that comes with economic success, primarily that of the European elites, and specifically the Germans, who are better off than any other nation in the European Union. Merkel simply can’t understand how Trump can do anything except what seems to her as logical.

It’s hard to blame Merkel for her disappointment. The leaders of NATO and the G-7 underwent a bit of trauma, perhaps a bit of hazing, at Trump’s hands. Instead of a leader, they were handed the class troublemaker, and he assaulted them, literally.

And yet, Merkel’s message itself is disappointing. It takes on added meaning because she is the strongest, most important leader in the European Union, and because she aspires to generate a spirit of solidarity and unity. Her words are a rejection of the responsibility, consistency and strength that leaders must show in times of difficulty.

Trump isn’t merely the class troublemaker. He’s the leader of the world’s strongest, richest country. Even if Merkel can’t stand his behavior or his policy, everyone would have been better off had she bitten her tongue and made things work, in view of the troubles with Russia, Turkey and ISIS, and also because Trump has shown he’s not a consistently bad leader, but rather one capable of flexibility and of changing his positions. Despite the good reasons European and American liberals have for disliking Trump, he still hasn’t turned the United States into the dystopian dictatorship liberals fear. You can find a common language even with less than ideal partners, as shown by Theresa May, who didn’t look for a soulmate in Trump, but rather someone who could help her citizens’ economic future.

It’s possible that Merkel’s statements were intended for German ears, as the country prepares for elections in the fall, and weren’t spoken at a Munich beer hall by chance. But she knew they would echo around the world, and if this was election rhetoric, now was not the time for it.

Dafna Maor
read more:


Trump, Macron and election: what prompted Merkel’s blunt Munich speech — “We must know that we need to fight for our future ourselves, as Europeans, for our destiny.”

May 29, 2017


Mon May 29, 2017 | 1:57pm EDT

By Noah Barkin | BERLIN

For German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who often pulls her rhetorical punches, her weekend message signaling a shift in the post-war order was uncharacteristically blunt.

But growing frustration with U.S. President Donald Trump, a determination to reform Europe with France’s incoming leader and political considerations closer to home convinced Merkel to take a stand, senior German and European officials said.

Speaking in a packed beer tent in Munich on Sunday, after a Group of Seven summit in Sicily and a NATO meeting in Brussels – both dominated by tensions with Trump – Merkel spoke with surprising frankness.

“The times when we could fully count on others are over to a certain extent. I have experienced this in the last few days,” Merkel said.

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pose during a family phto at the Greek Theatre during a G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands, of course in friendship with the United States, in friendship with Great Britain, with other neighbors wherever possible, also with Russia,” she continued.

“But we must know that we need to fight for our future ourselves, as Europeans, for our destiny.”

The fact that Merkel reiterated many of her points on Monday showed it was no accident.

Below are some of the factors which may have prompted Merkel to make her remarks. They are based on conversations with German and European officials, who declined to be named.


Merkel’s conservatives have built up a comfortable double-digit lead over their main rivals, the Social Democrats (SPD), in opinion polls ahead of a German election on Sept. 24.

But there are increasing signs that her opponents could be tempted to run an anti-Trump campaign that paints Merkel as being too soft on the president.

The SPD have made clear they will resist pressure from Trump for Germany to ramp up defense spending, another issue that resonates well with German voters. Merkel has supported higher spending despite the political risks.

By making clear that Germany may have to distance itself from Trump, she is protecting her domestic flank and reframing the defense spending issue: no longer is it about fulfilling Trump’s wishes, but about building a European defense capacity independent of the United States.

Merkel hosts a G20 summit in Hamburg in early July. Until now, her approach has been to try to shepherd the Trump administration towards a consensus on major issues like free trade, climate change and migration.

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor and head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Angela Merkel toasts during the Trudering festival in Munich, Germany, May 28, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

But the G7 summit showed that this strategy may not work.

By shifting rhetoric now, she is effectively acknowledging that she can’t guarantee a positive outcome in Hamburg, and by singling out America, reduces the risk of being blamed for a G20 failure two months before the German vote.


Merkel would not have made her remarks before Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French election earlier this month, German officials said.

A like-minded pro-European and multilateralist, Macron gives Merkel a reliable partner with whom she can move forward in Europe on issues like defense and security cooperation, migration and euro zone reform.

German officials described the dynamic between the two at the G7 summit as excellent.

Merkel is also signaling to conservatives in her party who are deeply skeptical about some of Macron’s bolder ideas for the euro zone that they must be prepared to compromise.

“She is using the Trump moment to articulate a more pro-European policy,” one German official said. “She is testing the waters for a more forthcoming policy towards France.”

Her message was also directed at Britain. Berlin fears the British government still has unrealistic expectations about Brexit.


Merkel’s message in Munich was the product of rising frustration with Trump, whose first visit to Europe was deeply disturbing to the Germans, according to several officials.

The frustrations began in Brussels when Trump renewed his attack on Germany’s trade surplus and car exports in a private meeting with EU officials.

They grew at NATO when Trump repeated statements about members of the alliance owing vast amounts of money. His failure to voice clear support for NATO’s mutual defense doctrine, Article 5, and to evoke Russia as NATO’s prime threat also irked Berlin and other allies.

At the G7 summit, the six other nations were at odds with Trump on climate change and migration. Beyond policy issues, his shoving of the Montenegrin prime minister and macho handshakes with Macron deepened the scepticism.

“Trump may have listened, but what the trip showed is that he may not be capable of learning,” a second German official said.

Merkel described the climate discussion in Sicily as “very dissatisfying”.

Trump’s refusal to give allies any indication of whether he would stay in the Paris climate agreement left a bad taste.

As he left Sicily, he sent a tweet saying he would make a decision on the Paris accord this week.

Merkel’s speech in Munich could be seen as a reminder to Trump that the decision will have real implications for his relationship with Berlin and other partners, officials said.

(Writing by Noah Barkin; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

Germany’s Angela Merkel Says US, Britain Are No Longer Reliable Partners

May 28, 2017


© AFP | German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Europe must fight for its own destiny in a western alliance divided by Brexit and the presidency of Donald Trump, with whom she did not see eye to eye at the “six against one” G7 summit


Europe “must take its fate into its own hands” faced with a western alliance divided by Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Merkel told a crowd at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany.

“We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands,” she added.

While Germany and Europe would strive to remain on good terms with America and Britain, “we have to fight for our own destiny,” Merkel went on.

Special emphasis was needed on warm relations between Berlin and newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, she said.

The chancellor had just returned from a G7 summit which wound up Saturday without a deal between the US and the other six major advanced nations on upholding the 2015 Paris climate accords.

Merkel on Saturday labelled the result of the “six against one” discussion “very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory”.

The US president tweeted that he would reveal whether or not the US would stick to the global emissions deal — which he pledged to jettison on the campaign trail — only next week.

On a previous leg of his first trip abroad as president, Trump had repeated past criticism of NATO allies for failing to meet the defensive alliance’s military spending commitment of 2.0 percent of GDP.

Trump also reportedly described German trade practices as “bad, very bad,” in Brussels talks last week, complaining that Europe’s largest economy sells too many cars to the US.

Sunday’s event saw Merkel renew bonds with the Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavarian sister party to her own centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), ahead of a parliamentary vote in September.

Polls show the chancellor, in power since 2005, on course to be re-elected for a fourth term.

California prepares for war with Trump over environment

March 29, 2017


© AFP/File / by Veronique DUPONT | California is one of the most progressive US states on climate issues
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – California, one of the most progressive in the US on climate issues, is heading toward a legal showdown with the Trump administration over its environmental policies.The battle is shaping up as President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday rolling back key Obama-era measures to combat climate change.

Trump insists the order will benefit American workers, notably coal miners.

But the measure has environmental groups and officials in California — which has led the fight to curb climate change and has the largest automobile market in the country — up in arms and vowing a showdown.

“Gutting #CPP is a colossal mistake and defies science itself,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in a tweet, referring to the Clean Power Plan aimed at curbing global warming.

“Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else,” he added.

Brown has led California’s climate change crusade, which saw the state in the last decade significantly slash its yearly climate-warming emissions by about 35 million metric tons.

It has pledged to cut them even further by 2020, with other states looking to follow suit.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Brown in saying on Tuesday that Trump would meet with fierce resistance over his new directive.

“No matter what happens in Washington, we will work to meet our Sustainable City Plan goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, move toward zero emissions transportation, and pursue our vision of a 100 percent clean energy future,” the mayor said.

Although the federal government sets emission standards for cars in the United States, that is not the case in car-crazy California. In 1970, the state struck an agreement to adopt stricter air quality rules to combat the smog that plagues the vast Los Angeles metropolitan area.

– Scientific evidence best proof –

While the auto industry initially pushed back at the stricter measures, today the state has more than half of the plug-in electric cars in the country.

But there are fears that this could change, should Trump — who has called global warming a hoax — direct the Environmental Protection Agency to roll back on the state’s special waiver for tougher emissions rules.

California leaders have already said that they would not go down without a fight and have vowed to push forth with even stricter measures.

Experts say Trump could very well rescind the waiver — which would lead to fierce legal battles — or adopt new federal regulations without challenging those of California and 13 other states that have adopted the same stringent clean air standards as California.

“The third option is to go to Congress to revoke the Clean Air Act and that’s what we fear the most,” said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.

Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA, said that while it is impossible to predict the outcome of a showdown between California and the Trump administration, the state’s track record in combatting pollution was a plus.

“My sense is that California has a long history of aggressively regulating pollution and getting these waivers,” she said.

As to the new EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s declared skepticism about climate change, experts say that in the end, scientific data will prove the best defense.

“The fact that he denies it doesn’t change the science or the law,” Young said.

He added that nonetheless Pruitt may prove a savvy adversary given his legal background in suing the EPA repeatedly as attorney general of Oklahoma.

“He knows exactly how the agency works and what you can do to do the most damage,” Young said. “We thought he was going to use a hammer and instead he chose to use a scalpel.”

by Veronique DUPONT

Nations React to Inauguration With Mix of Good Will, Uncertainty

January 21, 2017

Leaders emphasize need to work together as Donald Trump vows ‘America first’

People watch the U.S. inauguration at a gathering of Trump supporters in Moscow on Friday.

People watch the U.S. inauguration at a gathering of Trump supporters in Moscow on Friday. PHOTO: IVAN SEKRETAREV/ASSOCIATED PRESS


Updated Jan. 20, 2017 10:59 p.m. ET

Global leaders responded to the inauguration of President Donald Trump with wishes for good, and in some cases improved, relations with the U.S.—amid concerns amplified by his inaugural pledge that, “from this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.”

Mr. Trump had indicated before Friday’s ceremony that he would rewrite many long-established U.S. policy positions, and a common thread in official reactions from around the world was a hope for healthy ties.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he looked forward to working with the new president. Mr. Trump criticized Japan on the campaign trail, but a meeting with Mr. Abe after the election appeared to calm things down.

Amid security concerns in the Asia-Pacific region, Mr. Abe said, “I would like to further strengthen the unwavering tie between Japan and the United States based on the relationship of trust between us the two leaders.”

In Germany, a spokesman for Angela Merkel said the chancellor would study the inaugural speech—and that close cooperation with Mr. Trump and his team would begin in the coming days.

Yet Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel tweeted words of warning: “Dear USA, stay the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Some German politicians reacted to Mr. Trump’s address with concern. “Closing borders, America first, and the blood of a patriot. I am very cold,” Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-head in the German parliament of the left-of-center Greens, wrote on Twitter.

Pope Francis sent Mr. Trump a message from the Vatican: “I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation’s commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom world-wide.”

The two sparred in February 2016 after the pope criticized Mr. Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants. Mr. Trump called the pope “disgraceful.”

A protester holds a placard during a rally in front of the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Friday.

A protester holds a placard during a rally in front of the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Friday.PHOTO: FRANCIS R. MALASIG/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

There also were notes of caution from Asia. In an opinion piece Saturday in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, an influential English-language newspaper owned by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, columnist Andrew Sheng suggested that Asians would need to be more self-sufficient under a potentially unpredictable U.S. president willing to shake up the status quo, even with America’s staunchest allies in the region.

“As America moves to a new…junction, the choice is not between left or right, but between a great America or a small-minded America. Time for Asians to think and act for themselves,” Mr. Sheng wrote.

South Korea’s center-right newspaper Joongang Ilbo, one of the country’s biggest-circulation dailies, said in an editorial Saturday that “our relations with the U.S. will face a challenge as Trump will most likely call for us to assume a bigger share in the cost of U.S. forces here and a renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.” But the editorial also praised Mr. Trump for taking a hard-line on North Korea’s nuclear-development program.

The Hangook Ilbo, another Seoul daily, was blunt: “Now, everything becomes uncertain,” the headline read, with a close-up photo of Mr. Trump blanketing most of the front page.

Officials in countries that have had frosty ties with the U.S. signaled hope that they could work with the new administration.

Russia’s embassy in Washington tweeted: “It is possible to solve many problems if Russia, U.S. focus on a pragmatic search for shared interests” and attached a photo of an invitation to the inauguration festivities.

In Moscow, more than 100 Russians from the nationalist-leaning sectors of society gathered in a Soviet-era telegraph office, where they drank champagne and toasted the new U.S. president.

Members of the pro-Kremlin art collective “White Star” attended the event. “We didn’t hack the election!” said member Mikhail Kovalyov, wearing a Trump and Pence baseball cap.

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales, a critic of the U.S. who expelled the American ambassador nearly a decade ago, said on Twitter that he hoped to improve ties with Mr. Trump’s administration by exchanging ambassadors.

He said he hoped Mr. Trump reduces foreign interventions and the expansion of military bases “to guarantee peace with social justice.”

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisisaid he expects “a new momentum in the trajectory of Egyptian-American relations” under Mr. Trump’s administration.

In Mexico, which has had strong relations with the U.S., officials and business owners are watching the start of the presidency with concern and caution. Since Mr. Trump’s victory, the Mexican peso has plunged to historic lows against the dollar, while new investment has dried up—victims of Mr. Trump’s pledge to renegotiate or rescind the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“For the whole world a period of turbulence is beginning, without direction, in which there appears nothing good will happen, at least not in the short and medium term,” wrote former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda.

A man reads a newspaper ahead of the U.S. inauguration in New Delhi on Friday.

A man reads a newspaper ahead of the U.S. inauguration in New Delhi on Friday. PHOTO: CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS

Hillary Clinton outperformed Mr. Trump in global popularity polls during the 2016 campaign, and anti-Trump protests sprung up in several foreign cities Friday, including Brussels and Berlin.

In Manila, protesters gathered near the U.S. Embassy to warn their country’s leader not to get too close to Mr. Trump. Holding placards and chanting “Dump Trump,” they said they wanted to send a message that Mr. Trump’s presidency could endanger the status of Filipino immigrants living in the U.S. They also protested against U.S. access to Philippine military bases and complained that Mr. Trump’s election set back the cause of women’s rights.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at


John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last 'a year, two years'

John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last ‘a year, two years’ — AFP photo

 (NATO leader agrees with Trump)