Daily Briefing

Global warming is local tragedy

Alexander Charnicharo fishes at the seafront in Havana as Hurricane Michael passes by western Cuba
Why wait any longer? Source: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini.

My mother-in-law is right now sitting in Tallahassee, Florida, awaiting “Michael”, the latest of this year’s devastating hurricanes. Michael will make landfall later today, and when he does, he will be local to mom over there, and to my family over here in Berlin.

But Michael is also part of the biggest global story of our time: climate change. The local is global and the global is local. So says the new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), part of the United Nations. If you find yourself, say, in the northern German city of Cuxhaven, the report means that your town will in one lifetime be underwater.

“Climate change” sounds so neutral and wonky and boring. The numbers 1.5 and 2 sound so small and nitpicky and dull. But boy, what tragedy and suffering there are hiding behind these terms. The 91 scientists of the IPCC once again reminded us that climate change is the biggest threat we face as a species.

In Paris two years ago, 180 countries agreed to do everything possible to keep global warming well below an increase of 2 degrees Celsius this century. But they’re not living up to those promises. And some, like Donald Trump’s America, have rescinded altogether. So now is the time to renew that effort, the IPCC pleads. The little difference between an increase of 1.5 or 2 degrees determines whether our Arctic will have ice in the summer, whether our oceans will still have coral, whether coastlines will be submerged, whether entire regions become parched and uninhabitable.

Well good luck to us, Homo Sapiens, so very, very sapiens. Even in Germany, formerly the land of do-goody eco-saviors, the energy transition (Energiewende) is running out of steam, because the Germans can’t figure out how to stop using coal. And Germany is just one local speck in this global struggle. By the way, that number of 2 degrees warming? It is not the worst-case scenario. What happens when the increase is larger is — here is another deceptively wonky term — non-linear.

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main 0204699458 imago DeFodi – Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche CFO Bodo Uebber Mercedes-Benz cars trucks Ola Kallenius Kaellenius restructuring holding
Source: Imago.

“Daimler without Bodo is like Starbucks without coffee,” one industry analyst told Handelsblatt. He was referring to Bodo Uebber, who has for 14 years been chief financial officer at Daimler, maker of Mercedes Benz cars and much else, and has earned the trust of investors. But Mr. Uebber is leaving. There is a good reason for this, of course.

It is that Mr. Uebber, aged 59, had once hoped to succeed Dieter Zetsche, also known as Dr. Z, as CEO. But Zetsche preferred the younger Ola Källenius, 49, as his heir apparent, and said so last month. That left Uebber empty-handed and disappointed. “It was not easy for me,” he said yesterday, putting a brave face on the inevitable. “But now is the time for the company to put my responsibilities in younger hands.”

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While we’re at management changes at the top, let’s reflect for a moment on the outgoing and incoming bosses at Airbus, Europe’s answer to Boeing. Going out as CEO (next spring) is Tom Enders, a German. Coming in is Guillaume Faury, a Frenchman. As quid pro quo, a German, Rene Obermann, is expected to take over as chairman in 2020, replacing a Frenchman, Denis Ranque.

What’s wrong with this picture? A lot. Airbus was supposed to demonstrate to Europeans and the world that, well, Europe can do great things together. One day in the future, Europe was to have a common army, a common foreign policy, even a common currency (oh, wait: did that one happen already? How is it going?). But what Airbus really demonstrates is that Europeans can’t ever think of themselves as Europeans, because they’re stuck being Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards and what not. Now watch the fun continue in the wrangling for the top spots at the ECB, Commission, et cetera.

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