Climate change

Why the COP26 climate summit will be both crucial and disappointing

Such global gatherings remain the best forum to force change

“The rain it raineth every day,” Feste tells the audience at the end of “Twelfth Night”. 

And the cop it coppeth every year. 

Since 1995 the countries bound by the un Framework Convention on Climate Change (unfccc) have missed only one conference of the parties—when the pandemic struck in 2020. 

These cops can produce action plans (Bali, 2007), mandates (Berlin, 1995), protocols (Kyoto, 1997), platforms (Durban, 2011), acrimonious breakdowns (Copenhagen, 2009) and agreements (Paris, 2015). 

But the rise in the atmosphere’s greenhouse-gas content and the associated warming of the climate continues in spite of them—even when, as so often, they are hyped as the world’s last chance.

As diplomats, scientists, lobbyists, activists, artists, the media, politicians and businesspeople gather in Glasgow for cop26, which begins on October 31st, it is therefore easy to dismiss the entire affair. 

That would be a mistake. The unfccc and its cops, for all their flaws, play a crucial part in a process that is historic and vital: the removal of the fundamental limit on human flourishing imposed by dependence on fossil fuels.

One reason cops matter is that some of them do in fact make a difference. 

Despite rules on consensus, meaning that the pace is set by the least willing, the agreement in Paris committed all parties, rich and poor, to keep the rise in Earth’s temperature since the mid-19th century well below 2°C. 

Glasgow will bring fresh national pledges promising increased efforts towards the Paris temperature targets—though they will not be ambitious enough to make meeting those goals likely.

The main reason the unfccc and cop process matters is that the science, diplomacy, activism and public opinion that support it make up the best mechanism the world currently has to help it come to terms with a fundamental truth. 

The dream of a planet of almost 8bn people all living in material comfort will be unachievable if it is based on an economy powered by coal, oil and natural gas. 

The harms from the cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide would eventually pile up so rapidly that fossil-fuel-fired development would stall.

As our special report in this week’s issue sets out, nowhere is this logic more pressing than in Asia. 

About 1.5bn Asians live in the tropics. 

Hundreds of millions of them live near the coasts. 

For their economies to continue to grow, they will need ever more energy. 

If this comes in the fossil-fuelled manner of past decades they will have to bear the mounting costs of adapting to and living with floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts long before they get rich. 

As the world heats up, they will have to run faster just to stay in the same place. 

Zero-emissions technology could free them from this dismal bind: in principle, they can tap into a supply of development-promoting energy that is, in effect, unlimited.

In the long run, therefore, the only way to keep growing is by leaving fossil fuels behind. 

That requires Asian countries, in most of which emissions are still surging, to forgo much more by way of future emissions than the countries of the developed world, where emissions are already declining. 

India is vocal in pointing to the unfairness of this, so far refusing to embrace carbon neutrality. 

Let others with more responsibility for historical emissions do more, it says.

However just that may be, the problem for India—and for everyone else—is that the daunting cost of limiting emissions is falling on a few generations, most of whose members live in developing countries. 

All of them live in a fractious world where there is a dearth of leadership. 

America’s government is not suddenly a reliable partner just because it has now rejoined the Paris agreement. 

Nor is China, the world’s largest emitter. 

Though its capacity for action is great, its pledges thus far are more about posturing than substance. 

The multilateral institutions created to spread the cost between countries equitably are weak and hostage to procedures based on consensus and unanimity.

For all their disappointments, the unfccc and its repeated cops are the best forum to force change. 

But until the arguments sink in, the wisest response is bold, prompt action from willing countries in Europe and elsewhere that others cannot frustrate.

As so often in climate change, the task is not choosing between options so much as finding how to press ahead with all of them at once. 

A commitment to large, fast reductions in methane emissions is vital. 

More money for developing-country decarbonisation, in which government investment can lower risks for the private sector, must flow alongside increased aid for adaptation. 

Innovation should be encouraged in various ways. America’s 45q tax incentives for carbon capture could be expanded at home and copied by Europe.

Investment in fossil fuels has fallen faster than replacements have come on line, aggravating the dramatic recent price rises. 

In the long term it is necessary that fossil fuels become increasingly expensive, but peaks and volatility are destructive. 

Governments need to build more buffers into the current system as well as hasten alternatives. 

When prices fall, those still subsidising fossil fuels will have an excellent opportunity to stop.

Anyone who dreams of a reprieve for fossil fuels must be disabused. 

It suits Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia, and Joe Manchin, a senator from West Virginia, never to speak of an end to the fossil-fuels age. 

But for them to duck the responsibility of planning a transition is rank cowardice. 

True, oil and gas cannot vanish overnight, but their day is closing. And coal’s day must be done.

Then there are the unanswered questions. 

Meeting the Paris targets will require carbon dioxide to be withdrawn from the atmosphere: who will do it? 

And who will pay? 

Some countries may one day seek to ward off disaster with solar geoengineering, which reduces the amount of incoming sunlight. 

Might that help? 

If not, could it be stopped?

Feste laments an unchanging world. 

The climate crisis stems from change which is out of control. 

Yet by responding to it, the world can become a place where long-run prosperity for all becomes possible. 

It is a noble future that the fossil-fuel age, despite its illusory plenty, could never have created. 

The shortage economy

The world economy’s shortage problem

Scarcity has replaced gluts as the biggest impediment to global growth

For a decade after the financial crisis the world economy’s problem was a lack of spending. 

Worried households paid down their debts, governments imposed austerity and wary firms held back investment, especially in physical capacity, while hiring from a seemingly infinite pool of workers. 

Now spending has come roaring back, as governments have stimulated the economy and consumers let rip. 

The surge in demand is so powerful that supply is struggling to keep up. 

Lorry drivers are getting signing bonuses, an armada of container ships is anchored off California waiting for ports to clear and energy prices are spiralling upwards. 

As rising inflation spooks investors, the gluts of the 2010s have given way to a shortage economy.

The immediate cause is covid-19. 

Some $10.4trn of global stimulus has unleashed a furious but lopsided rebound in which consumers are spending more on goods than normal, stretching global supply chains that have been starved of investment. 

Demand for electronic goods has boomed during the pandemic but a shortage of the microchips inside them has struck industrial production in some exporting economies, such as Taiwan. 

The spread of the Delta variant has shut down clothing factories in parts of Asia. 

In the rich world migration is down, stimulus has filled bank accounts and not enough workers fancy shifting from out-of-favour jobs like selling sandwiches in cities to in-demand ones such as warehousing. 

From Brooklyn to Brisbane, employers are in a mad scramble for extra hands.

Yet the shortage economy is also the product of two deeper forces. 

First, decarbonisation. 

The switch from coal to renewable energy has left Europe, and especially Britain, vulnerable to a natural-gas supply panic that at one point this week had sent spot prices up by over 60%. 

A rising carbon price in the European Union’s emissions-trading scheme has made it hard to switch to other dirty forms of energy. 

Swathes of China have faced power cuts as some of its provinces scramble to meet strict environmental targets. 

High prices for shipping and tech components are now triggering increased capital expenditure to expand capacity. 

But when the world is trying to wean itself off dirty forms of energy, the incentive to make long-lived investments in the fossil-fuel industry is weak.

The second force is protectionism. 

As our special report explains, trade policy is no longer written with economic efficiency in mind, but in the pursuit of an array of goals, from imposing labour and environmental standards abroad to punishing geopolitical opponents.

This week Joe Biden’s administration confirmed that it would keep Donald Trump’s tariffs on China, which average 19%, promising only that firms could apply for exemptions (good luck battling the federal bureaucracy). 

Around the world, economic nationalism is contributing to the shortage economy. Britain’s lack of lorry drivers has been exacerbated by Brexit. 

India has a coal shortage in part because of a misguided attempt to cut imports of fuel. 

After years of trade tensions, the flow of cross-border investment by companies has fallen by more than half relative to world gdp since 2015.

All this might seem eerily reminiscent of the 1970s, when many places faced petrol-pump queues, double-digit price rises and sluggish growth. 

But the comparison gets you only so far. 

Half a century ago politicians got economic policy badly wrong, fighting inflation with futile measures like price controls and Gerald Ford’s “whip inflation now” campaign, which urged people to grow their own vegetables. 

Today the Federal Reserve is debating how to forecast inflation, but there is a consensus that central banks have the power and the duty to keep it in check.

For now, out-of-control inflation seems unlikely. 

Energy prices should ease after the winter. 

In the next year the spread of vaccines and new treatments for covid-19 should reduce disruptions. 

Consumers may spend more on services. 

Fiscal stimulus will wind down in 2022: Mr Biden is struggling to get his jumbo spending bills through Congress and Britain plans to raise taxes. 

The risk of a housing bust in China means that demand could even fall, restoring the sluggish conditions of the 2010s. 

And an investment boost in some industries will eventually translate into more capacity and higher productivity.

But make no mistake, the deeper forces behind the shortage economy are not going away and politicians could easily end up with dangerously wrong-headed policies. 

One day, technologies such as hydrogen should help make green power more reliable. 

But that will not plug shortages right now. 

As fuel and electricity costs rise, there could be a backlash. 

If governments do not ensure that there are adequate green alternatives to fossil fuels, they may have to meet shortages by relaxing emissions targets and lurching back to dirtier sources of energy. 

Governments will therefore have to plan carefully to cope with the higher energy costs and slower growth that will result from eliminating emissions. 

Pretending that decarbonisation will result in a miraculous economic boom is bound to lead to disappointment.

The shortage economy could also reinforce the appeal of protectionism and state intervention. 

Many voters blame empty shelves and energy crises on the government. 

Politicians can escape responsibility by excoriating fickle foreigners and fragile supply chains, and by talking up the false promise of boosting self-reliance. 

Britain has already bailed out a fertiliser plant to maintain the supply of carbon dioxide, an input for the food industry. 

The government is trying to claim that labour shortages are good, because they will raise economy-wide wages and productivity. 

In reality, putting up barriers to migration and trade will, on average, cause both to fall.

The wrong lessons at the wrong time

Disruptions often lead people to question economic orthodoxies. 

The trauma of the 1970s led to a welcome rejection of big government and crude Keynesianism. 

The risk now is that strains in the economy lead to a repudiation of decarbonisation and globalisation, with devastating long-term consequences. 

That is the real threat posed by the shortage economy.

Beatings at the Border

Europe's Violent Shadow Army Unmasked

Mysterious men wearing balaclavas are beating up refugees at the external EU border or abandoning them at sea. Months of reporting now reveals who is behind the operations.

By Giorgos Christides, Bashar Deeb, Klaas van Dijken, Alexander Epp, Steffen Lüdke, Andrei Popoviciu, Lamia Šabić, Jack Sapoch, Phevos Simeonidis und Nicole Vögele

You can hear the blows before you can see them. 

The noise of blunt objects striking arms, legs and backs filters through the thick shrubbery on the border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

People screaming in pain, gasping and whimpering.

Powerful men in dark uniforms are standing on the Croatian side of the border on this hot June day. 

They are battering Afghans and Pakistanis who have come to Europe to apply for asylum.

All of the men are wearing balaclavas; one of them has also donned black sunglasses. 

Their uniforms bear no insignia to ensure that they are completely unrecognizable. 

They are completely unaware that just a few meters away, hiding behind just a couple of bushes and trees, two reporters are filming their every move.

The videos document how these masked men chase 22 refugees out of the European Union, forcing them back into Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

One of the masked men swings again and again with his club, aiming at the legs of the migrants and making them stumble into the chest-deep border river. 

He then raises his arm in a threatening gesture and yells: "Go! Go to Bosnia!"

Human rights experts refer to such operations as pushbacks, and they are illegal, violating both EU law and the Geneva Refugee Convention. 

The deportation of migrants must not put them in danger and once they have reached European territory, they must be given the opportunity to apply for asylum. 

And beating defenseless people is prohibited anyway.

NGOs, like the Border Violence Monitoring Network, and several media outlets, including DER SPIEGEL, have collected the testimony of hundreds of refugees and assembled evidence of violence committed on the EU’s external border. 

The incidents are not limited to the regular beatings of asylum seekers committed on the Croatian border. 

In the Aegean, according to witness testimony, masked men have repeatedly pulled refugees out to sea and abandoned them on inflatable rafts.

Who are these mysterious men who abuse people on the EU’s external borders? 

And from where did they get their orders to reject would-be asylum seekers with such brutality?

DER SPIEGEL has spent more than eight months reporting on the EU’s external border in Croatia and Greece together with several other European media outlets, including Lighthouse Reports, Swiss broadcaster SRF, the German public broadcaster ARD, the French daily Libération, the Serbian paper Novosti, the Croatian broadcaster RTL and the Dutch outlet Pointer. 

The reporters disguised themselves as fishermen to get closer, they flew drones over the border region, examined satellite images and analyzed hundreds of videos that were sent to them. 

They spoke with more than a dozen sources in various security agencies and followed the digital tracks left by the men, who posed with their balaclavas and clubs on Instagram and Facebook.

The reporting reveals a system. 

Special units from Croatia and Greece, trained to go after hooligans and drug dealers, have been deployed to force asylum seekers out of the EU. 

They mostly operate in the shadows – and are paid by the citizens of Europe.

Because of the secrecy surrounding these units, there has been almost no public debate about their activities, nor has any political justification been presented. 

The governments in Zagreb and Athens act as though the violence is merely a figment of journalists’ imaginations and claim there is no proof – and certainly no evidence of state involvement. 

But that evidence has now been found.

Nazila and her brother Farzin: "If you tell them that you refuse to go back to Bosnia, they get furious." Foto: DER SPIEGEL / Lighthouse Reports

Croatia: Operation Koridor

Nazila has been seeking a safe place to live for almost her entire life. 

The 16-year-old was born in Afghanistan and lived for several years with her family in Iran. 

Three years ago, she reached the notorious Camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, before her family finally decided to risk the Balkan Route. 

Now, she is sitting in the grass on the Bosnian side of the border with her little brother Farzin. 

Her hair parted down the middle, Nazila is wearing a loose white T-shirt. 

She says that if she ever finds a new home, she would like to become an actress.

As she talks, Nazila fiddles with her ring. 

Her most recent encounter with the masked men at the border was just two days previous. 

Thus far, Nazila says, the men have always managed to intercept the family when they have tried to cross the border. 

The men, she says, have kicked her brother and taken their money and mobile phones. 

"If you tell them that you refuse to go back to Bosnia, they get furious," says Nazila. 

The family, she says, has not yet been allowed to apply for asylum.

The journalists involved in this story managed to film parts of the pushback of Nazila and her family. 

Drone images show two white vans at one of the most notorious pushback spots. 

Asylum seekers call the place "Three Rivers," since it is where the Korana River, which demarcates the border here, divides into three arms. 

The images show six men in uniform unloading the intercepted refugees like cattle from one of the vans. 

At least one of the men pulls on a mask. 

They then escort the refugees toward Bosnia.

Croatian officials claim that the refugees are just acting. 

That they smear themselves with cherry syrup to make it look like they are bleeding. 

And that they are sometimes beaten by violent gangs on the Bosnian side of the border. 

But our reporters were able to film 11 illegal pushbacks. 

All of them took place away from the official border crossings.

The reporting shows that at least some of the pushbacks are performed by officers from the Croatian Intervention Police, a state unit that is under the command of the Interior Ministry.

Evidence for that conclusion comes first from a forensic analysis of the video material. 

The masked men are wearing dark blue uniforms during the pushbacks. 

The quilted jackets worn by the men can clearly be seen in video footage, and they are identical to the model worn by the Intervention Police: a diamond-shaped quilt pattern along with sealed, vertical zippers. 

The clubs carried by the men – so-called Tonfa – have a characteristic T-handle. 

The truncheons are part of the official equipment issued to the force.

Second, six of the Croatian officers we interviewed were convinced after looking at the images that the masked men belonged to the Intervention Police. 

All of the police interviewed asked that their names not be used in order to protect their safety. 

But additional images from pushbacks conducted in May support their conclusion. 

The images show a police officer in action – on this occasion with no mask on. 

On his back are the easily identifiable words: "Interventna Policija," 

Intervention Police.

Border guards during a pushback: "Interventna Policija" Foto: DER SPIEGEL / Lighthouse Reports / SRF / Medienpartner

Normally, the unit is responsible for keeping hooligans in check and conducts raids. Members receive special training, during which they are taught how to wield a truncheon. 

Many of the unit’s leaders are war veterans who spent the 1990s fighting against Serbian troops. 

Some of the men can be seen on Instagram and Facebook with right-wing extremist and fascist symbols, while others pose with their weapons and masks at the border.

For their participation in the special operations against the migrants at the border, the member of the Intervention Police receive bonus payments, say several Croatian officers, usually amounting to several hundred euros per month. 

While in the field, they are put up in hotels in places like the resort town of Topusko. 

At the border, they work together with additional Croatian police units who have better knowledge of the terrain. 

According to the officers, the operations are conducted under the command of high-ranking police officials in the capital of Zagreb, within the Interior Ministry’s authority. 

Its codename: "Koridor."

Goran Novak, whose name has been changed for this article at his request, is part of operation Koridor. 

He says his unit regularly uses physical force against asylum seekers. 

"When we find migrants in the woods, they usually lie down on the ground in fear," Novak says. 

One of the officers in his unit, he says, often walks past them and bashes their legs with his truncheon. 

Headquarters in Zagreb decides whether pushbacks will then be carried out. 

Another police officer is even more straightforward: Of course the pushbacks are illegal, he says, every policeman knows that. 

But the orders come from way up the command chain, out of the Interior Ministry.

Charred trash on the border: "Not the decision of an individual police officer." Foto: DER SPIEGEL / Lighthouse Reports / ARD / Medienpartner

DER SPIEGEL and its partners have confronted the Croatian Interior Ministry with the accusations and the video material. 

In response, the ministry announced that it intends to investigate the incidents on film. 

A spokeswoman said they would quickly send a team of experts to the sites on the border where the events were filmed. 

Should it turn out that Croatian officers were involved, she said, they would be held accountable.

NGOs that have spent years working in the border region are certain, however, that the Croatian government completely supports the practices. 

NGO employees hear horror stories on a regular basis: of dog bites, for example, and electric shocks. 

Refugees have said in interviews that women have been groped and men have had branches inserted in their anuses. 

Ana Ćuća, from the Center for Peace Studies in Zagreb, says: "Pushbacks are systematic and not the decision of an individual police officer. 

It is the policy of the Croatian government."

There is plenty of evidence indicating that Croatian officials have built up a complete infrastructure for conducting the pushbacks. 

Satellite images show that several new dirt roads have been established in recent years. 

They lead from Croatian territory to the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina, where they come to an abrupt end. 

Torn backpacks, baby clothes and sleeping bags are lying around, bearing witness to what regularly takes place at these dead ends.

New dirt road towards Bosnia and Herzegovina. Satellite image: Maxar Technologies

Among Bosnian police officers, the violence visited upon the refugees by Croatian units is an open secret. 

One Bosnian border guard says that on countless occasions, he has encountered injured and bleeding people who had been beaten on the Croatian side of the border. 

He is certain, he says, that the Intervention Police are responsible. 

"There have been cases where they have beaten up groups so badly that each of them ended up in the hospital." 

In winter, he says, he sometimes finds people sitting freezing in the snow. 

Essentially, the border guard says, it’s torture.

Greece: "Nobody Gets Through"

When the Greek coast guard took off, Junior Amba was expecting the worst. 

He and his pregnant wife, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, were left sitting in an orange life raft at night, in the dark waters of the Aegean. 

Masked men had dragged them out to sea, he says, recalling the story months later.

Hours prior, as dawn broke on April 21, the two had arrived on the Greek island of Samos. 

Photos and witness reports confirm this part of their story. 

They had crossed from the nearby Turkish coast on an inflatable raft.

At first, Amba says, they hid from the police in the hills. 

But he says the security forces quickly found them and brought them back to the sea, together with 26 other asylum-seekers. 

Amba says he had feared for his life on the wobbly life raft with no motor, adding that the men hadn’t even given them life vests. 

Only hours later were the asylum seekers rescued by Turkish border guards.

Junior Amba with his wife a child: Abandoned on the dark waters of the Aegean

Junior Amba with his wife a child: Abandoned on the dark waters of the Aegean Foto: Julian Busch / DER SPIEGEL

Amba and his wife managed to make it to Samos in a further attempt and were able to register at the refugee camp. 

Amba now has a new goal: He wants to bring to court the men he claims pushed them out to sea. 

A Greek lawyer has filed a lawsuit on the couple's behalf. 

One of the accusations: "torture."

In recent months, the Aegean has become a battleground. 

Fifteen video recordings made by asylum-seekers and the Turkish coast guard show how the violence is escalating. 

Men wearing balaclavas stab into refugee boats with hooks and fire warning shots into the water. 

The coast guard pulls refugees on orange life rafts towards Turkey and leaves them at sea, as Amba reported. 

It is an especially dangerous and perfidious form of pushback. 

A new low point in European migration policy.

DER SPIEGEL and its research partners have been reporting on the actions for about a year. 

There is no longer any doubt that the pushbacks are being conducted from Greek coast guard ships, even if the government claims otherwise. 

But who exactly are these men who, as in Croatia, frequently cover their faces? 

And who ordered them to do what they are doing?

One of those who should know is sitting in a taverna in a port city on a sunny spring day. 

We’ll call him Yannis Alexiou. 

Until recently he worked in a high-ranking position for the Greek coast guard and asked that his real name not be published.

Pushbacks used to be isolated incidents, Alexiou claims. 

He says the Turkish coast guard would intercept most of the boats as a part of the deal that the European Union signed with Turkey. 

But in March of 2020, Turkey briefly stopped intercepting refugees. 

Alexiou says that for this reason, the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis adopted a tougher line.

Since then, he says, special units and other security forces have been charged with pulling the asylum-seekers back out to sea and abandoning them on life rafts. 

In the videos shown to him by DER SPIEGEL, he is able to definitively identify the special units.

The units he’s talking about are called MYA and KEA, the coast guard’s elite. 

The officers wear balaclavas so that nobody can recognize them. 

Normally they deal with drug dealers, but now they are also pushing refugees back into the sea. 

"Orders are always oral in these operations," Alexiou says, so there is no paper trail and plausible deniability can be maintained. 

"The instructions come from way up top, from politicians. 

These are criminal acts."

Two additional coast guard officers, one of whom is on active duty, have corroborated Alexiou’s claims. 

And they, too, believe the special units are responsible for the pushbacks. 

"The order is: Nobody gets through," says one of the officers.

The Greek government has thus far not provided a response to a detailed list of questions sent by DER SPIEGEL. 

In the past, Athens has always denied the practice.

The presence of the elite units on the Aegean, at least, has been documented on video. 

In June, refugees and the Turkish coast guard filmed as Greek authorities stopped a group of asylum seekers just off the island of Kos. 

The letters OEA are visible on at least three of the men.

The acronym stands for one of the groups of the elite KEA unit. 

Turkish coast guards had to later rescue the refugees.

Brussels: Taxpayer Money for Pushbacks

Ylva Johansson has been responsible for migration policy at the European Commission since 2019.

A Social Democrat from Sweden, she often emphasizes in her speeches that EU member states have the right to protect their borders, but that they still need to abide by EU law.

Thus far, Johansson’s appeals have been largely ignored. 

In addition to the cases in Greece and Croatia, there have also been reports of pushbacks at the Romanian, Italian and Austrian borders. 

The Lithuanian government, meanwhile, is pushing to legalize the practice. 

And in recent weeks, Poland has preferred to let asylum-seekers trapped in the Belarusian border region go hungry rather than allow them to enter.

The systematic pushbacks don’t just endanger the continued existence of the Geneva Convention on Refugees, it is also calling into question the European Union’s claims of adhering to the rule of law. 

For this reason, Johansson has been pushing for months for a so-called independent monitoring mechanism. 

According to this plan, organizations from civil society are to monitor the national officials at the EU’s external borders.

European Commissioner Ylva Johansson: "Serious concerns" Foto: Olivier Matthys / REUTERS

Such a monitoring mechanism is already in place in Croatia. 

Johansson’s team negotiated for several months before it was implemented. 

But the mechanism falls short of true independence. 

The Croatian organizations that are responsible for the monitoring are usually only allowed to perform surveillance if they provide prior notification. 

Furthermore, at least two of the five authorized organizations receive money from the Croatian government.

When contacted, the European Commission said that the Croatian government is responsible for selecting the organizations that take part in the monitoring mechanism. 

The implementation of the mechanism in practice, the Commission said in a statement, is extremely important and will be closely monitored. 

The Commission, according to the statement, is strongly opposed to pushbacks and is "deeply concerned" about the "persistent and increasing reports." 

The Commission says that it has continuously and clearly expressed that concern to the national agencies and demanded that all allegations be investigated.

The Greek government is far away from conducting any kind of serious investigation. 

Athens isn’t even interested in implementing Johansson’s monitoring mechanism. Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi says he sees absolutely no reason to do so. 

When it comes to border protection, he says, there is no need for advice from NGOs.

If the European Commission really wants to put an end to the pushbacks, they could significantly cut funding currently provided to countries like Greece and Croatia for border protection. 

Thus far, though, it hasn’t managed to do so. 

In recent years, Brussels has sent more than 422 million euros to Athens and more than 110 million euros to Zagreb for the purpose. 

The German government has provided infrared cameras and all-terrain vehicles to Croatia. 

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has noted that he has "absolutely nothing critical to say" about the work done by Croatia.

And European taxpayers also provide funding for the pushbacks. 

According to publicly available documents, the EU is paying for the lodging of the officers involved in operation Koridor at "Top-Terme Topusko." 

Brussels is also covering overtime for border officials along with per diems. 

Even the quilted jackets worn by the Intervention Police may have been purchased with EU money. 

There is, at least, a tender for such jackets on the official EU portal. 

Brussels paid the equivalent of 380,000 euros for them.

Life rafts from the Greek company Lalizas: Crimes at the border, paid for by European citizens Foto: Emrah Gurel / AP / dpa

The European Commission says it is unaware of legal violations having taken place using equipment financed by Brussels. 

Should that happen, the Commission says, the payments could be suspended and penalties imposed.

Were that to happen, Greece could also be affected. Many of the orange life rafts used by the Greek special forces to push refugees back out to sea were paid for by the European Union. The Greek company Lalizas won a tender for the rafts back in 2016. 

According to that tender, each pushback using such a life raft costs European taxpayers 1,590 euros. 

But the true price is far higher. 

domingo, octubre 31, 2021



The Hinge of History

The dangers of treating extinction risk as humanity’s overriding concern should be obvious. Viewing current problems through the lens of existential risk to our species can shrink those problems to almost nothing, while justifying almost anything that increases our odds of surviving long enough to spread beyond Earth.

Peter Singer

MELBOURNE – Twelve years ago, during the International Year of Astronomy that marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of a telescope, I wrote “The Value of a Pale Blue Dot” – a reflection on how astronomy has revealed a vast universe filled with an unimaginable number of stars, thus shrinking the significance of our sun and our planet. 

The “pale blue dot” refers to how the Earth appears in a 1990 photograph taken by the Voyager spacecraft as it reached the outer limits of our solar system. 

The essay suggests that the knowledge gained from astronomy “forces us to acknowledge that our place in the universe is not particularly significant.”

A recent blog post by Holden Karnofsky has led me to reconsider that thought. 

Karnofsky is co-CEO of Open Philanthropy, a foundation that researches the best opportunities for philanthropic grant-making, and publishes the reasons for its decisions. 

Thinking about the long-term significance of today’s philanthropic decisions is therefore part of Karnofsky’s role. 

He is thinking very long term indeed.

Karnofsky points out that we could be living “at the very beginning of the tiny sliver of time during which the galaxy goes from nearly lifeless to largely populated.” 

That “tiny sliver of time” began, we might say, with the first use of tools by our ancestors, around three million years ago. 

It will end when our descendants – who might be digital minds, rather than biological organisms – inhabit the entire galaxy, perhaps ushering in a civilization consisting of an enormous number of conscious beings that would last for tens of billions of years. 

There is a good chance, Karnofsky argues, that this process of populating the galaxy will begin during this century. 

By 2100, we could develop the technology to construct self-sufficient settlements on other planets.

This thought echoes one expressed in 2011 by the late philosopher Derek Parfit, who wrote, near the end of the second volume of On What Matters: “We live during the hinge of history.” 

Like Karnofsky, Parfit was thinking of the arrival of technologies that, if used wisely, would enable our species to survive “its most dangerous and decisive period,” and our descendants to spread through our galaxy. 

Parfit refers to “the next few centuries,” rather than just this one, as the time it may take before humans can live independently on other planets, but even that will be only be a sliver of time compared to what is to come. 

Our most significant contribution to this development would be to ensure the survival of intelligent life on our planet.

Perhaps, though, the idea that we are essential to this process is merely the latest version of the self-important delusion that humans are the center of existence. 

Surely, in this vast universe, there must be other forms of intelligent life, and if we don’t populate the Milky Way galaxy, someone else will.

Yet, as the physicist Enrico Fermi once asked fellow scientists over lunch at Los Alamos National Laboratory, “Where is everybody?” 

He wasn’t commenting on empty tables in the lab’s dining room, but on the absence of any evidence of the existence of extraterrestrials. 

The thought behind that question is now known as the Fermi Paradox: if the universe is so stupendous, and has existed for 13.7 billion years, why haven’t other intelligent forms of life made contact?

Karnofsky draws on a 2018 paper by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute to suggest that the most likely answer is that intelligent life is extremely rare. 

It is so rare that that we may be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy, and perhaps in the much larger Virgo supercluster to which our galaxy belongs.

This is what Karnofsky means when he says that the future of humanity is “wild.” 

The idea that we, the inhabitants of this pale blue dot at this particular moment, are making choices that will determine whether billions of stars are populated, for billions of years, does seem wild. 

But it could be true. 

Granting that, however, what should we do about it?

Karnofsky does not draw any ethical conclusions from his speculations, other than advocating “seriousness about the enormous potential stakes.” 

But, as Phil Torres has pointed out, viewing current problems – other than our species’ extinction – through the lens of “longtermism” and “existential risk” can shrink those problems to almost nothing, while providing a rationale for doing almost anything to increase our odds of surviving long enough to spread beyond Earth. 

Marx’s vision of communism as the goal of all human history provided Lenin and Stalin with a justification for their crimes, and the goal of a “Thousand-Year Reich” was, in the eyes of the Nazis, sufficient reason for exterminating or enslaving those deemed racially inferior.

I am not suggesting that any present exponents of the hinge of history idea would countenance atrocities. 

But then, Marx, too, never contemplated that a regime governing in his name would terrorize its people. 

When taking steps to reduce the risk that we will become extinct, we should focus on means that also further the interests of present and near-future people. 

If we are at the hinge of history, enabling people to escape poverty and get an education is as likely to move things in the right direction as almost anything else we might do; and if we are not at that critical point, it will have been a good thing to do anyway.

Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, is Founder of the non-profit organization The Life You Can Save. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Ethics of What We Eat (with Jim Mason), Rethinking Life and Death, The Point of View of the Universe, co-authored with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek, The Most Good You Can Do, Famine, Affluence, and Morality, One World Now, Ethics in the Real World, Why Vegan?, and Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction, also with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek. In April, W.W. Norton published his new edition of Apuleius’s The Golden Ass. In 2013, he was named the world's third "most influential contemporary thinker" by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute.