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Showing posts from December, 2021

Chile — Gabriel Boric, the new president, promises to bury neoliberalism

Will Gabriel Boric, a millennial socialist, be as good as his word? A decade ago Gabriel Boric was a student leader rallying together one of Chile’s biggest protest movements. He will now become, at 35, the country’s youngest head of state. Rather than win the presidential election by a small margin, as the polls predicted, he got a whopping 56% of votes while his rival, the far-right candidate José Antonio Kast, picked up 44%. Mr Kast, who ran on a law-and-order platform that identified migrants, terrorists and narco-traffickers as the source of many of the country’s ills, had won the first round of the competition in November. A big increase in participation appears to have reversed the right-winger’s fortunes. More than a million extra voters showed up, bringing turnout to 56%, the highest since voting was made voluntary in 2012. The result suggests just how much Chile, once considered one of the more stable countries in Latin America, has changed after years of protests and the c

Libya — Elections delayed amid a climate of repression

The postponement of first-ever Libyan presidential elections originally scheduled for 24 December should be used as an opportunity by the internationally recognized Government of National Unity (GNU) and those with de facto control of Libyan territory to urgently address barriers to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and participation in public affairs, Amnesty International said. In the run up to the now postponed elections, militias and armed groups across the country ramped up their repression on dissenting voices, restricted civic space and attacked elections officials and infrastructure, amid the failure of the GNU and those with de facto control of territory to guarantee the right to participation in public affairs and protect all those involved in elections from violence, coercion and threats. In March 2021, the GNU was sworn in with the mandate of preparing for elections. These preparations have been taking place against the back

Climate — We should ban all new oil and gas fields

As a professor of geophysics, I have spent 36 years training young geologists destined to work in the fossil fuel industry how to look for oil and gas. But now I believe it’s time to stop fossil-fuel exploration and halt the development of all new oil and gas fields. We cannot safely set fire to all the fuel we’ve already found, so why look for more? BP’s annual energy review for 2021 estimates that the world has discovered 1.7 trillion barrels of oil, 188 trillion cubic metres of gas and nearly three trillion tonnes of coal that are commercially extractable – but that has not yet been actually extracted. My calculations, based on the typical carbon contents of these fuels and the expected effects of emissions on temperatures, suggest that emissions from using those barrels of oil alone would raise global temperatures by almost 0.6°C. Using the natural gas would add another 0.2°C. And as for the coal, burning it all would raise temperatures by a further 2°C. The conclusion seems clear:

How water arrived on Earth? Look in outer space!

Tiny grains from an asteroid provide clues to the details. Earth—the quintessential blue planet—has not always been covered by water. Around 4.6bn years ago, in the solar system’s early years, the energetic young sun’s radiation meant the zone immediately surrounding it was hot and dry. Earth, then coalescing from dust and gas in this region, thus began as a desiccated rock. How it subsequently acquired its oceans has long puzzled planetary scientists. One possible source of Earth’s water is carbonaceous (c-type) asteroids, the most common variety. But it cannot be the sole source, because water in chunks of these that have landed as meteorites does not match the isotopic fingerprint of terrestrial water. This fingerprint is the ratio of normal water (H2O, made from hydrogen and oxygen) to heavy water (D2O and HDO, which both include deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen that has a neutron in its nucleus alongside the proton characteristic of every hydrogen atom). Water from c-type asteroi