The Struggle Against Police Is International. Our Solidarity Must Be Global.

Protesters raise a fist during a march on June 10, 2020, in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Protesters raise a fist during a march on June 10, 2020, in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.YANN SCHREIBER / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The current uprising against racist police violence first erupted in the U.S., but it has now become an international movement.

Thousands of people in more than 40 countries have taken to the streets in a show of solidarity with Black Americans protesting in the U.S. following the vigilante and police murders of Ahmaud ArberyBreonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Since these killings, young communists in Greece marched to the U.S. embassy in Athens to protest Floyd’s murder. In Rome, members of the Migrant Women and Daughters Network stood in front of a war memorial and held signs that said “I Can’t Breathe” and “Black Lives Matter: Justice for George Floyd.” In Amsterdam, thousands packed into Dam Square.

These global expressions of solidarity underscore a long simmering discontent with state violence against Black and Indigenous people, and other communities of color. This global uprising is a descendant of Black and multinational anti-colonial, decolonization and internationalist movements of the 20th century, especially those of the 1960s.

Some reporters and activists draw connections between the current protests and Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. Journalists John Eligon and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura view these protests as an expression of a “leaderless movement,” relying upon decentralized organization and spontaneity. And, similar to Arab Spring, Occupy and the 2014 Black Lives Matter protests, participants are using social media platforms to mobilize large groups of people, to challenge prevailing beliefs about social change and to push the movement’s own narratives. Lebanese activist Sarah Aoun, meanwhile, points to how protesters in Arab nations and in the U.S. are responding to the similar conditions of “systemic inequalities.”

Demonstrators gathering in nations like Syria, Palestine, Canada and Kenya signal a surge of anti-racist internationalism guided by desires to communicate across national borders and amplifying victims’ names and Black Lives Matter slogans.

Corporations Claiming to Love Black Lives Fight Against Living Wages and Unions

People gather together to ask the McDonald’s corporation to raise workers wages to a $15 minimum wage as well as demanding the right to a union on May 23, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

People gather together to ask the McDonald’s corporation to raise workers wages to a $15 minimum wage as well as demanding the right to a union on May 23, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES

Never underestimate the American business community’s capacity for hypocrisy.

That’s one of the lessons to be drawn from the explosive reaction to George Floyd’s murder. As demonstrators began flooding streets, corporate PR departments flew into rapid response mode, issuing a flurry of agonized, apologetic pledges to do more to combat racism and inequality.

Such statements may, on a personal level, be sincere: the depth of righteous pain and anger expressed by African Americans has induced widespread soul-searching, even in executive suites. Yet this high-profile hand-wringing is used to uncouple the outpouring of outrage from capitalist practices that are now, and always have been, at the intertwined roots of racial and economic injustice.

As they nimbly co-opted the language of the protests, moreover, corporate leaders offered up “solutions” to structural racism that won’t diminish managerial control or redistribute power in the workplace, meaning their proposals won’t promote actual structural change of any sort. With a few well-publicized contributions and some new rounds of diversity training, business elites hope to emerge from the present crisis with their privilege, and their profits, intact.

“Tragic, painful and unacceptable,” so Walmart CEO Doug McMillon described George Floyd’s death. “The inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop,” an Amazon tweet proclaimed. “We do not tolerate inequity, injustice or racism,” McDonald’s announced, with
CEO Joe Erlinger insisting
, “when any member of our McFamily hurts, we all hurt.”

Chump Change

To address this “hurt,” McDonald’s announced it will donate $1 million to the NAACP and the National Urban League and promised “tangible goals related to diversity.” Many corporations made similar commitments. Amazon said it will give $10 million to “organizations supporting justice and equity,” and Walmart pledged $100 million over five years to create “a new center on racial equity” aimed at promoting “economic opportunity and healthier living.”

But such contributions, publicized with much fanfare, in fact are chump change to these immensely powerful corporations. For Walmart, $100 million over the next five years represents less than 1/250 of one percent of the nearly $3 trillion in income it expects to rake in during that period. Put another way, its gift would translate to a mere $13 extra a year, for the next five years, to each Walmart employee in the United States.

And American CEOs are wealthy almost beyond imagination: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, is worth $150 billion, a figure so much larger than the average median household income of $63,000 that it requires special graphics just to illustrate it.

A Fix Is at Hand

If these companies really want to address inequality and improve opportunities for African Americans, there’s a fix readily at hand: they could simply give more money to their own employees, a substantial percentage of whom are Black and largely concentrated in low-wage occupations. African Americans, in general, earn less than white workers in this country do, and the jobs they hold are more unstable and less likely to offer benefits, all crucial factors that contribute to our persistent racial wealth gap.

Walmart, with a U.S. workforce of one and a half million, is both the nation’s largest employer overall and the largest employer of African Americans; nearly half of Walmart workers are people of color. Yet Walmart, Amazon, and McDonald’s don’t pay livable wages. Benefits, when offered at all, are paltry (the lack of paid sick leave has become especially visible in COVID times). Schedules are unpredictable and job security tenuousWorking conditions are onerous.

How much do Black lives matter to America’s leading corporations? Not enough to put any real money on the table.

They Want a “Dialogue,” not a Union

Also not to be taken seriously: the desire for “dialogue” expressed by these big business titans and all that “listening” they say they’ll do. There is one meaningful and time-honored way to ensure that workers will truly be heard: through a union. Unions democratize workplaces, giving employees the collective voice necessary to put them on a more equal footing with management, to ensure their concerns are heeded.

For people of color, unions are especially valuable, literally. While unions are financially advantageous for all workers, “the gains from union membership in terms of pay, benefits, and stability are more pronounced among nonwhite families than among white families,” one recent study notes. African Americans who are unionized make more money and are more likely to have benefits like health care and employer-supported retirement plans, translating to greater savings and home ownership levels. Union membership, in other words, is critical to narrowing the racial wealth gap.

So unions clearly empower African Americans — yet WalmartAmazon, and McDonald’s are unabashed union-busters. In order to crush organizing efforts (very often led by people of color), these companies invest far more in lawyers, consulting firms, and employee surveillance than they’ll ever dish out to promote “diversity.”

For Bezos, Erlinger, and McMillon, and the other CEOs who follow their lead, genuine “justice and equity” for their workers would come at too high a cost: allowing unions in would require them to relinquish the total control that they now exert over their enterprises.

The Media Fall for It

This particular form of hypocrisy may not be much scrutinized by mainstream media, which are, after all, also corporate enterprises. Much recent coverage of business initiatives to address inequity has omitted issues like fairer compensation or union representation. A lengthy New York Times article—“Corporate America Has Failed Black America” — doesn’t mention unions at all and allots only a few sentences to low-wage workers; the main focus is the dearth of African Americans in top management.

And in a stunning act of appropriation, the New York Stock Exchange observed a moment of silence to honor George Floyd. This took place just as the stock market roared back into full recovery, thus alleviating the real anxieties of the 1%, an irony that drew little notice.

Will corporate executives get away with this sleight-of-hand, purporting to be troubled by the structural racism and economic inequality that they, in fact, perpetuate and benefit from? It’s through this sort of misdirection, and by narrowing the “legitimate” terms of debate, that capitalists, as the early labor historian Selig Perlman once noted, exert their “effective will to power” and “convince other classes that they alone, the capitalists, know how to operate the complex economic apparatus of modern society.”

After George Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter activists and their allies refused to allow business as usual, and through massive protests and direct action achieved the extraordinary: exposing to the world the brutality and racism that define American policing. For the moment, though, it seems that CEOs are maintaining their authority over the “complex economic apparatus of modern society.”

Union supporters must stand up and assert their own “effective will to power,” to ensure that the practitioners of economic oppression are called to account — and forced to make concessions — as well.


The message is clear: Policing in America is broken and must change. But how?

Canada Has Race-Based Police Violence Too. We Don’t Know How Much

It’s not just a US problem. Canada needs a national database for police use of force and deaths.


‘Where there could be information that would help identify and eliminate racism in law enforcement in Canada, there is only a void.’ Photo by Gabriele Woolever from Vancouver protest on May 31, 2020.

Days after George Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer, Nike released an ad saying, “For once, Don’t Do It. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America.” The video is a blunt demand for Americans to reject systemic racism and police brutality.

Canadian viewers need another version — “Don’t Do It. Don’t pretend that America is the only country with a problem.”

Racism is everywhere, and Canada and Canadian police forces are no exception.

On a regular basis, Canadians see evidence of the racial violence perpetrated by American police officers. Floyd’s death is tragically commonplace. In the United States, Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.

But in this country, there is no official national record of the number of people killed during encounters with police. Police departments do not routinely release detailed statistics about use of force incidents. When they do, it’s not collected based on race, ethnicity or other critical factors.

Where there could be information that would help identify and eliminate racism in law enforcement, there is only a void.

Available statistics are the product of individual reports and studies by researchers, rights organizations and journalists.

And they suggest that Black, Indigenous and other racialized people are also at much greater risk in Canada.

The CBC set out to compile a database of every person who died or was killed during a police intervention from 2000 to the end of 2017. Researchers gathered information on race and ethnicity from a variety of sources and found Black and Indigenous people were severely overrepresented.

In Winnipeg, for example, Indigenous people made up about 10.6 per cent of the city’s population in that period. But more than 60 per cent of the people who died in police encounters were Indigenous. (In April, Winnipeg police officers shot and killed three Indigenous people in10 days.)

In Toronto, Black people accounted for 37 per cent of victims. They make up slightly more than eight per cent of the population.

Other reports have shown similar patterns. In November 2019, the Globe and Mail reported that between 2007 and 2017 more than one-third of people shot to death by the RCMP were Indigenous. Indigenous people make up less than five per cent of the population.

And according to a study by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Black Torontonians are 20 times more likely to be shot by police than the city’s white residents.

Last week Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black woman, died after her mother called Toronto police and asked them to take her daughter to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. During her encounter Korchinski-Paquet fell from a 24th-floor apartment balcony. Korchinski-Paquet’s family members said that before she fell, she was calling to her mother for help. The incident is being investigated by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.

But lethal force is supposed to be a last resort in a life-or-death situation, not a result of racism.

Society entrusts the police with extraordinary power so that they can do their jobs effectively. In exchange for that power, officers should be held to the highest moral standard, with sufficient oversight to prevent abuse. Police forces exist to serve and protect Canadians and if racial bias — conscious or not — causes an officer to fear a person of colour, to make assumptions about that person’s guilt or innocence, or to treat that person more harshly than they would a white suspect, then that officer is unfit to wear a badge.

Police officers can’t serve and protect people that they fear or see as inferior. And Black and Indigenous Canadians should not have to fear mistreatment or death at the hands of people who are supposed to keep them safe.

Racism must be eradicated from law enforcement, but that can’t happen without accountability. And accountability is impossible when Canadian police forces don’t collect and release information on race and ethnicity in their encounters with the public.

Canada needs a national database that tracks instances of use of deadly force by police officers, and that data needs to be broken down by gender, location and race. Police departments and the RCMP need to release use of force statistics.

Racism kills. And America is not the only country with a problem.  [Tyee]


Egregious’ police tactics harming Black and Indigenous people: activist

Sandy Hudson is shown in a handout photo. Hudson, a founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, said videos emerging of violent police encounters are showing that their tactics can do more harm than good. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HOTHE CANADIAN PRESS

Emerging evidence of violent police encounters shows some police tactics are “so egregious” that they’re doing more harm than any possible good, says a Canadian activist.

Sandy Hudson, a founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, says escalating measures are being “used against Black people and Indigenous people.”

“It is not actually keeping us safe and, in some cases, endangering more of us,” says Hudson, also a law student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“A lot of activists across North America are calling for the defunding of police because they often use excessive force that seems so egregious.”

Along with calls to defund law enforcement, there have been demonstrations against police brutality and racism around the world since the death last month of George Floyd. The Black man died when a white Minneapolis officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes.

Videos that have surfaced recently include one from 2018 in which an Edmonton officer used his knee to pin a Black man’s neck to the ground during an arrest. Police have said the restraint was used for about 40 seconds and noted that such a “high-risk” tactic is not encouraged and not part of training.

This week, Alberta’s police watchdog announced that two Mounties were charged with negligence causing death after shooting at a moving vehicle that ended up in a ditch, also in 2018.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) said RCMP were searching for a witness or possible victim to interview about an earlier shooting.

Officers discovered a man the next day sleeping while parked at a rest stop. During a confrontation, his vehicle was “put into motion” and one officer fired a service pistol while the other discharged a carbine rifle, ASIRT said.

Clayton Crawford, who was 31 and appeared to be white, died from multiple gunshot wounds.

A report by the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum four year ago discussed how certain tactics, such as shooting at moving vehicles, should no longer be used.

Police services throughout Canada have stopped high-speed chases because of risks to public safety.

Shooting at vehicles falls under the RCMP’s discharge of firearms policy. It states that officers may only shoot at a person to protect themselves or another person from “grievous bodily harm or death.”

“The policy notes that discharging a firearm at a motor vehicle is an ineffective method of disabling a vehicle,” says an email from the force.

“The policy further notes that RCMP officers may only discharge a firearm at a person in a vehicle if the vehicle is being used as a weapon and there are no reasonable means of escape.”

Court records for Crawford show a history of violence, including convictions for assault, possession of a dangerous weapon and obstructing and resisting a peace officer. RCMP did not say whether that was a factor in the decision to shoot.

Hudson says far too many lives have been lost at the hands of police when de-escalation tactics could have been used.

“The cost is far too high for us not to look at these things and say, ‘Is this what we really need? Is this providing us safety and security?”‘ she says. “Or is this making a problem much, much worse that should be dealt with in another way?”

Hudson points to the case of Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman killed by police in New Brunswick last week. An officer had gone to her home to perform a wellness check and allegedly encountered a woman with a knife.

Christian Leuprecht, a political science professor at Queen’s University and the Royal Military College, says Canadian police use lethal force far less frequently than their U.S. counterparts.

“We have very different ways of policing, we have different policing cultures, we have very different laws and very different procedures,” says Leuprecht, who has written extensively about police oversight.

“Because of the proliferation of weapons in the United States, it is much more common for members to also discharge their side arm, because there are many more situations where they themselves feel that their life might be in immediate danger.”

He says the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted legislation so that officers in uniform “can do just about anything” while enforcing the law without being held responsible.

“In Canada, we have independent, civilian review every time somebody gets hurt or killed in an interaction with police,” Leuprecht says.

He noted two cases in Canada when police did not use their weapons in violent attacks.

Toronto police arrested Alek Minassian after a cube van barrelled through a busy street, killing 10 people, in April 2018. During a similar van attack in Edmonton in 2017, police apprehended Abdulahi Sharif without firing at him.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2020


CSIS knowledge of multi-hour delay in Meng’s arrest ‘troubling’: lawyers

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home to go to B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou are alleging that Canada’s national spy agency was in on a plan for border officers to detain the Huawei executive for hours before her arrest at Vancouver’s airport and was mindful of the political implications of her arrest.JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS

VANCOUVER — Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou allege Canada’s national spy agency was in on a plan for border officers to detain the Huawei executive for hours before her arrest and was mindful of the case’s political implications.

Meng is wanted on fraud charges in the United States, but she and Huawei have both denied the allegations and say the extradition case should be thrown out.

Lawyers for Meng argue her charter rights were violated when she was held and questioned by border officials who seized her electronics and passwords, which were shared with the RCMP before she was notified of her arrest on Dec. 1, 2018, at Vancouver’s airport.

In a document filed with the Federal Court, Meng’s lawyers say a two-page redacted report shows the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was aware of a planned multi-hour delay because it says her arrest was expected to occur at about 4 p.m. even though her plane landed at 11:30 a.m.

The CSIS report says the RCMP “with likely” assistance from the Canada Border Services Agency would make the arrest. Meng’s lawyers argue this is evidence of collusion because it’s not part of the border service’s mandate to assist the RCMP in gathering evidence.

In an email, CSIS spokesman John Townsend said: “As this matter is before the courts, I’m unable to provide comment on the specifics of the proceedings.”

In the document, the defence says the security agency’s knowledge that Meng would not be arrested until about 4 p.m. “is troubling, since it is consistent with CSIS knowing that the CBSA would first detain, search and interrogate Ms. Meng upon her arrival … at 11:30 a.m., and that there would therefore be a multi-hour delay before Ms. Meng’s eventual arrest by RCMP.”

Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer, is accused of making false statements in 2013 to HSBC, understating Huawei’s relationship with Skycom Tech Co. and putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

CSIS received word from the FBI that an arrest warrant had been issued the day before her arrest, the CSIS report says.

Meng’s lawyers argue that CSIS was conscious of hiding the involvement of the FBI and mindful of the politically sensitive timing of her arrest.

“The author of the CSIS report also was aware that the arrest of Ms. Meng would be a high-profile political event, saying ‘the arrest is likely to send shockwaves around the world,’ ” the defence document says.

It says the CSIS report was also “preoccupied with when the news of Ms. Meng’s arrest might become public,” which it describes as “a point of particular interest” because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was dining with U.S. President Donald Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping at a G20 summit on the evening of Dec. 1, 2018.

The CSIS report does not mention the gathering of world leaders in Argentina, however, it does predict consequences of the arrest. It mentions the 2016 extradition of Su Bin to the U.S. on espionage charges and the subsequent arrest of two Canadians who operated a coffee shop in China.

After Meng’s arrest, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in a move widely seen as retaliation.

The CSIS report “makes plain” that not only was CSIS involved in communicating with the FBI and others regarding the planning of Meng’s arrest but was conscious of obscuring the FBI’s involvement, the defence team alleges.

“The FBI will not be present in an effort to avoid the perception of influence,” the CSIS report says.

Extradition hearings are ongoing in the B.C. Supreme Court after Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes rejected the first set of arguments from Meng’s lawyers that the allegations against her wouldn’t be considered crimes in Canada.

The defence is now seeking access to the full CSIS file from which the report came.

The document is part of an application to the court for the appointment of a so-called friend of the court to participate in proceedings behind closed doors on secret documents, the disclosure of which the attorney general says would hurt international relations, national defence or national security.

The Federal Court agreed on Wednesday to appoint a lawyer with security clearance to make arguments and review redacted documents provided by the attorney general.

While Anil Kapoor will have access to further confidential information the lawyer cannot share the contents with Meng and her team.

The two-page CSIS report was disclosed after the attorney general determined it was also relevant, but it was redacted based on national security concerns.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2020.


CSIS predicted Meng Wanzhou’s arrest would cause ‘shock waves’ and trouble for Canada: court documents

Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers allege CSIS knew of multi-hour delay in her arrest

Revealed: Canada spy report written hours before Meng Wanzhou’s arrest predicted ‘shockwaves around the world’ once Huawei CFO was taken in


Supreme Court sides with B.C.’s francophone school board over education rights

The Supreme Court of Canada has sided with British Columbia’s francophone school board — at least in part — in a dispute over French-language education in the province.

OTTAWA—A Supreme Court of Canada decision delivered Friday is “good news” for minority-language communities across the country who feel shortchanged on services, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

The high court sided with British Columbia’s francophone school board, at least in part, in a dispute over French-language education in the province, saying lower courts interpreted constitutional protections too narrowly.

“We now hope that the provincial governments will step up further in areas that are their exclusive jurisdictions, like education and certain services for minority-language communities,” Trudeau said Friday at his daily media briefing.

The court case began years ago when the board, Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique, and the parents of students alleged the province had breached a Charter of Rights and Freedoms provision guaranteeing minority-language education.

They sought orders requiring the province to change how it funds French-language education, immediately fix problems with inadequate facilities in a number of communities and offer compensation for its failure to provide proper funding.

After a long trial, the school board and parents won a partial victory, including an award for charter damages arising from unpaid transportation costs.

However, they appealed the ruling on various points, but mainly the conclusion they were not entitled to millions of dollars in educational capital projects they had requested.

The B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed the challenge and allowed the province’s cross-appeal, saying the trial judge should not have awarded the transportation costs given the traditional principle of government immunity.



Canada Supreme Court orders British Columbia to pay French-language school board $7.1 million

The Guardian view on a green new deal: save jobs and the planet

The pandemic is an opportunity to tackle the climate emergency by creating productive green jobs for those made redundant by the crisis

‘The UK has yet to announce an policy that deals with the environmental emergency and the spectre of mass unemployment.’ Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Britain needs a green job-filled recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Unlike Germany and South Korea, it is far from clear that we will get one. While Berlin and Seoul are retooling their fossil fuel-reliant economies to be greener and cleaner, the UK has yet to announce a policy that deals with the environmental emergency and the spectre of mass unemployment.

Unless a vaccine for coronavirus is found soon, Britain faces a surge in joblessness at the end of October, when all forms of wage support stop. The size of this spike in unemployment will determine how long it is before we may return to normal. Currently, 12 million people are covered by the job retention scheme for furloughed workers and its equivalent for the self-employed. There are few takers for the idea that there will be a sharp bounce-back to business as usual.

Torsten Bell, who worked in the Treasury when the financial crash struck in 2008 and now runs the Resolution Foundation thinktank, told MPs on the Treasury select committee that if unemployment hits 10%, which is about what the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates, it would take at least seven years to return to where we were before the pandemic struck. If none of the workers being supported by wage subsidies get their jobs back, it could take decades to return to normal.

Sustained unemployment imposes significant economic, personal and social costs: joblessness leads to ill health and reduced life expectancy, and to the undermining of human relations and family life. The state has been playing the role of “insurer of last resort” to keep the economy running, so that it can be restarted once the emergency has passed. A physically distanced economy will be different to the carefree one we were used to. The furlough scheme has helped lower-paid and part-time staff, and it is hard to see all of these workers returning to their roles in the leisure, travel and hospitality sectors.

Yet Boris Johnson was wrong to suggest earlier this month that “many, many job losses” were inevitable. This will only happen if policy choices do not change. The answer to large-scale layoffs is for the public sector to create jobs, especially in those regions where there will be no or few openings, and for such a scheme to be designed to recast the economy in an environmentally sustainable way. Large public spending could transform the economy with an industrial base that would be net zero in carbon emissions.

The harm from climate change is not as immediately obvious as that of the pandemic, but it is bigger and longer-lasting. There are encouraging reports that the Treasury is looking at a “green industrial revolution” to create jobs for those made redundant through the economic fallout from the pandemic. But where’s the beef? Leaving lockdown will not be inherently climate-friendly. Mr Johnson must make it so by decoupling future economic activity from carbon emissions and ecological destruction.


Climate worst-case scenarios may not go far enough, cloud data shows

Modelling suggests climate is considerably more sensitive to carbon emissions than thought

Experts say the projections have the potential to be ‘incredibly alarming’. Photograph: Alamy

Worst-case global heating scenarios may need to be revised upwards in light of a better understanding of the role of clouds, scientists have said.

Recent modelling data suggests the climate is considerably more sensitive to carbon emissions than previously believed, and experts said the projections had the potential to be “incredibly alarming”, though they stressed further research would be needed to validate the new numbers.

Modelling results from more than 20 institutions are being compiled for the sixth assessment by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is due to be released next year.

“That is a very deep concern,” Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said. “Climate sensitivity is the holy grail of climate science. It is the prime indicator of climate risk. For 40 years, it has been around 3C. Now, we are suddenly starting to see big climate models on the best supercomputers showing things could be worse than we thought.”

He said climate sensitivity above 5C would reduce the scope for human action to reduce the worst impacts of global heating. “We would have no more space for a soft landing of 1.5C [above preindustrial levels]. The best we could aim for is 2C,” he said.

Worst-case projections in excess of 5C have been generated by several of the world’s leading climate research bodies, including the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre and the EU’s Community Earth System Model.

Timothy Palmer, a professor in climate physics at Oxford University and a member of the Met Office’s advisory board, said the high figure initially made scientists nervous. “It was way outside previous estimates. People asked whether there was a bug in the code,” he said. “But it boiled down to relatively small changes in the way clouds are represented in the models.”

The role of clouds is one of the most uncertain areas in climate science because they are hard to measure and, depending on altitude, droplet temperature and other factors, can play either a warming or a cooling role. For decades, this has been the focus of fierce academic disputes.

Previous IPCC reports tended to assume that clouds would have a neutral impact because the warming and cooling feedbacks would cancel each other out. But in the past year and a half, a body of evidence has been growing showing that the net effect will be warming. This is based on finer resolution computer models and advanced cloud microphysics.

“Clouds will determine humanity’s fate – whether climate is an existential threat or an inconvenience that we will learn to live with,” said Palmer. “Most recent models suggest clouds will make matters worse.”

In a recent paper in the journal Nature, Palmer explains how the new Hadley Centre model that produced the 5+C figure on climate sensitivity was tested by assessing its accuracy in forecasting short-term weather. This testing technique had exposed flaws in previous models, but in the latest case, the results reinforced the estimates. “The results are not reassuring – they support the estimates,” he wrote. He is calling for other models to be tested in a similar way.

“It’s really important. The message to the government and public is, you have to take this high climate sensitivity seriously. [We] must get emissions down as quickly as we can,” he said.

The IPCC is expected to include the 5+C climate sensitivity figure in its next report on the range of possible outcomes. Scientists caution that this is a work in progress and that doubts remain because such a high figure does not fit with historical records.

Catherine Senior, head of understanding climate change at the Met Office Hadley Centre, said more studies and more data were needed to fully understand the role of clouds and aerosols.

“This figure has the potential to be incredibly alarming if it is right,” she said. “But as a scientist, my first response is: why has the model done that? We are still in the stage of evaluating the processes driving the different response.”

While acknowledging the continued uncertainty, Rockström said climate models might still be underestimating the problem because they did not fully take into account tipping points in the biosphere.

“The more we learn, the more fragile the Earth system seems to be and the faster we need to move,” he said. “It gives even stronger argument to step out of this Covid-19 crisis and move full speed towards decarbonising the economy.”


The Right Perspective: How Republican Youth May Be the Key to Enacting Climate Action in the US

Featured Image: “Change is Coming,” by Mary Crandall is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

It is not surprising to learn that most climate change deniers in the United States identify as Republican, or have a right-wing political ideology. But why is that? Though it is easy to categorize Republicans as merely science-elusive, the politics of climate change play into the Republican identity more than is evident on the surface level.

While climate change is significant in the political sphere, the current partisan ideological clash lends to an awkward stalemate wherein existing climate policies are too progressive for the Right and not progressive enough for the left. With climate change and environmental protection coming under fire, the solution may come from an unexpected group: young Republican voters. These younger Republicans walk a middle ground between left-wing and right-wing values, which may be the key to establishing achievable legislation.

The left and right: a political divide

Climate change is a critical debate revealing this ideological divide between Republicans and Democrats. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that, although many Americans believe the government is not doing enough to prioritize climate change mitigation, most climate concerned individuals are Democrats or Democrat leaning. In one study, Republican respondents agreed with statements containing non-scientific language like “protecting the environment” at a higher rate than statements with terms such as “climate change” or “global warming.” However, several sources show that the partisan split regarding climate change is a recent phenomenon. In the 1990s, Republicans and Democrats were in ideologically similar positions, with 48 per cent of Republicans and 52 per cent of Democrats saying that the effects of global warming had already begun.

These partisan perspectives reflect identity and ideology. Naomi Klein, a prominent climate change writer, describes the anti-climate change view as “intimately tied to triumphant capitalism,” belonging to those with “politically conservative or ‘hierarchical’ views.” [1] Accordingly, many left leaning activists frame climate action as a necessary and patriotic way to protect the “American way of life” to attract more Republican support. [2]

Pew Research Center

One quarter of conservative Republicans say climate change policies do more good than harm for the environment, while about half (47%) say such policies make no difference for the environment and 26% think such policies do more harm than good. 

View image on Twitter

The politicization of climate change: the EPA under Trump

The left and right divide is not the only indicator of climate change becoming a partisan, rather than collective, issue — by examining the shifting nature of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), one can come to the same conclusion. Under the Trump administration,  which consistently denies climate change, it is not  surprising that “scientific censorship” occurs in independent regulatory agencies. Changes to the EPA’s website exemplify the encroachment of partisan agendas on climate research, with anthropogenic climate change, international climate agreements, greenhouse gases, and global warming being replaced by  other non-specific, non-scientific euphemisms. The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative cites countless cases of tampering by the government, including the discontinuation of updates, restricted access to certain pages, and the removal of plans and treaties on governmental environment webpages. The removal of the term “science” from the EPA’s website illustrates the declining credibility of environmental protection circles under the current Republican government. This begs the question of how climate action can move forward in the future. In other words, what can be done, and who can do it?

Young Republicans: our surprising saviours?

There is currently a great deal of speculation as to how climate action can best be advanced. Some suggest a centralized action plan; others believe that absorptive, remedial measures are sufficient to mitigate the effects of climate change. Still, others argue that the answer lies in populist movements. Klein suggests that the majority of populist movements have a common thread: by “draw[ing] from the left and the right,” we can strengthen communitarian values. [3]

Despite having failed numerous times over the decades, this marriage of ideas might be achievable thanks to a group of unlikely heroes: young Republicans. Young people have been a leading voice in climate action, with Millennials and Generation Zers reporting greater concern about climate change than any other age group. Intergenerational divides between Millennials and Boomers have become increasingly apparent with regard to topics like the environment. On the left, prominent youth led organizations like the Sunrise Movement — a progressive climate action organization supported by various Democratic politicians — have earned young progressives the title of the “third party.” However, young Republicans are becoming increasingly central to achieving a political middle ground between left-wing and right-wing Americans. They may even prove to be game changers in pushing for a new brand of achievable climate action.

Polls show that 78 per cent of Republican Millennials (and younger) view alternative energy development as a major energy priority in the United States compared to only 53 per cent of Republican Boomers (and older), suggesting that younger Republicans lean more moderate or liberal when it comes to renewable energy. Hence, this younger demographic could act as an ideological bridge between the 90 per cent of Democrats and 62 per cent of Republicans who believe that alternate energy development should be prioritized.

Younger Republicans present a different kind of climate action: a “slower, gentler” approach. In response to the left’s proposed Green New Deal, the American Conservation Coalition, an organization of conservative youth concerned with climate change, unveiled the American Climate Contract as an alternative to the climate proposals made by House Republicans in January. The American Climate Contract presents a different brand of Republican climate action that embraces the inclusion of scientific data and contains strict suggestions for emissions reductionData also shows that young Republicans are more “confident they can influence decision-makers” and are more willing to make a political statement by joining a climate action campaign. But, the question becomes: will their gentler approach be enough to alter the course of climate change?

Pew Research Center

New this week for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day: How Americans see climate change and the environment in 7 charts 

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Climate change is a polarizing topic in the United States, and recent events like the COVID-19 outbreak have exacerbated these existing ideological fault lines. But as economic losses, political extremism, and public health concerns rage on, the need for a middle ground on climate change is more important than ever — especially if Republicans plan to take back the House anytime soon. Because of their more moderate or liberal attitudes toward accepting scientific data, young Republicans could be the key to achieving legislative action on climate change. Granted, the “slower, gentler” approach espoused by many young Republicans may prove inefficient or too weak to properly address the ongoing climate crisis. Nonetheless, their efforts point to the growing wave of youth led, science oriented climate action strategies that have the potential to change the world.


Edited by Emma Frattasio 


[1] Klein, N. (2014). The Right is Right: The Revolutionary Power of Climate Change. In This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (pp. 95-98). Simon & Schuster.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.