AP Explains: How Madrid talks fell short on climate ambition
In this March 19, 2019 file photo, the
blades of wind turbines catch the breeze at the Saddleback Ridge wind
farm in Carthage, Maine. Scientists say emissions worldwide need to
start falling sharply from next year if there is to be any hope of
achieving the Paris climate accord’s goal of capping global warming at
1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
Aritz Parra & Frank Jordans
Madrid (AP) —
This year’s U.N. climate negotiations in Madrid, the longest in 25
nearly annual such gatherings, ended Sunday with major polluters
resisting calls to ramp up efforts to keep global warming at bay.
Faced with the tough task of
reconciling the demands of scientists, protesters on the streets and
governments back home, the negotiators ended up disappointing many and
leaving for next year’s talks in Glasgow, Scotland, key issues such as
the regulation of global carbon markets.
Here is a look at the main issues
resolved, and the sticking points for future negotiations.
Are bolder targets needed?
While it wasn’t officially on the
agenda, most participants and observers agreed that the U.N. talks
needed to send a strong signal that countries were willing to set bolder
targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
That was far more ambitious than
the goal ultimately set by the so-called “Chile-Madrid Time for Action”
declaration, which merely calls for the “urgent need” to cut
planet-heating greenhouse gases in line with the goals of the landmark
2015 Paris climate accord.
Scientists say global emissions of
carbon dioxide and other pollutants have to start falling rapidly as
soon as possible to meet the Paris goal of keeping global warming by the
end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), and
ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 F).
That accord allowed countries to
set their own emissions-reduction targets — known as nationally
determined contributions, or NDCs — which would be regularly reviewed
and increased if necessary. With current emissions targets putting the
world on course for a 3- to 4-degree Celsius temperature rise by 2100,
scientists say sharper cuts are necessary and should be announced in
advance of next year’s climate conference in Glasgow.
“The global emissions’ curve needs
to bend in 2020, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030, and net zero
emissions need to be a reality by 2050,” said Johan Rockstrom, head of
the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“Achieving this is possible — with
existing technologies and within our current economy,” said the revered
climate scientist. “The window of opportunity is open, but barely.”
How to regulate global carbon markets?
Economists say market mechanisms
can speed up the shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
One way to do this is by putting a price on carbon dioxide, the most
abundant man-made greenhouse gas, and gradually reducing the amount
countries and companies are allowed to emit.
The European Union and some other
jurisdictions around the world already have limited emissions trading
systems for buying and selling carbon credits.
The Paris accord was meant to
establish the rules for carbon trading on a global scale.
But setting the rules for a robust
and environmentally sound market and linking up existing systems is
difficult. So, too, is the question of allocating a percentage of the
revenue to help countries adapt to the effects of warming temperatures.
The main point of resistance lies
in the existence of old carbon credits left over from a now-discredited
system established under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries
such as Brazil insisted during the past two weeks in Madrid on keeping
those emissions credits, while also resisting strict accounting of
The argument that carbon markets
that are not transparent enough and leave loopholes for double counting
can undermine efforts to reduce emissions won at the end, postponing the
decision on the issue for Glasgow.
Aid for the poor
In summit lingo the issue is known
as “loss and damage.” In essence, it was recognized several years ago
that developing nations are much more vulnerable to the negative effects
of climate change, even though they contribute least to the problem.
A tentative agreement was reached
in 2013 that rich countries would help them foot the bill.
But attributing specific weather
disasters such as hurricanes and floods, or slow but irreversible
changes like sea level rise and desertification, to climate change
remains a delicate issue given the potential costs involved.
The United States, in particular,
had opposed any references to possible liability in the summit’s
conclusions, and scored a victory when a decision on it was also
postponed for another year.
Developing countries also demand
that compensation be kept a separate issue from funds to help the
countries adapt and mitigate the effects of a warming planet. The Green
Climate Fund, which was established to that end, is currently far from
reaching the target of $100 billion a year in contributions.
Heat on the street
Chile, which chaired the
conference, chose to give it the slogan “Time for Action.”
That echoed the blunt demands from
protesters, who have been staging mass rallies around the world for the
past year demanding leaders take what they call the “climate emergency”
European Union countries responded
to public pressure this week by agreeing to a long-term goal of cutting
the bloc’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, meaning any that remain
will be offset with carbon reduction measures.
Some observers and EU ministers had
hoped this signal from Brussels would boost the talks in Madrid. If
anything, it revealed the vast gap between what countries can agree at
the regional level and what the U.N. process is capable of.
Meet the scholar who diagnosed ‘surveillance capitalism’
Author Shoshana Zuboff.
(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Frank Bajak, AP
A year ago, Shoshana Zuboff dropped
an intellectual bomb on the technology industry. She hasn’t stood still
In a 700-page book, the Harvard
scholar skewered tech giants like Facebook and Google with a damning
phrase: “surveillance capitalism.” The unflattering term evokes how
these companies vacuum up the details of our lives, make billions from
that data and use what they’ve learned to glue our attention more firmly
to their platforms.
A bestseller in Canada and Britain,
“The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” was published in the U.S. in
January, is being translated into 17 languages and has inspired two
small theater productions. Zuboff, meanwhile, has been counseling
politicians, crisscrossing the Atlantic for public forums from Los
Angeles to Rome and hitting the podcast circuit.
She offered input on several
pending U.S. privacy bills and wrote a 34-page policy paper for the
House Judiciary Committee, whose antitrust panel is studying Big Tech’s
potential abuse of its market dominance.
Zuboff has “put the language of
economics around the experience that we all know we’re having,” says
Beeban Kidron, a film director and U.K. House of Lords member who
spearheaded child-protection rules limiting how apps gather data and
tempt kids to linger online. “She’s a rock star.”
Early on, Zuboff realized
researchers had missed the importance of the ambient data that digital
services collect — where we use them, for how long, what we like, what
we linger on and with whom we associate.
They were calling it “digital
But Zuboff saw that this data
wasn’t just an unexpected byproduct, says Chris Hoofnagle, a University
of California-Berkeley privacy expert. “It is the product.”
Tech industry allies denounce
Zuboff’s thesis as conspiracy-minded hyperbole. Consumers willingly
trade their personal data for access to valuable services that don’t
cost them a cent, they argue. Google and Facebook declined to discuss
Zuboff or her book.
But after more than a year of
tech-related privacy scandals, malign election-interference and online
platform-fueled extremism, investigations opened by state attorneys
general and the U.S. government’s first tentative steps toward reining
in its technology titans, it’s become clear that Zuboff helped
crystallize previously vague apprehensions about the tech industry.
Zuboff’s indictment is
straightforward: Tech companies suck up our data trails then use those
insights to steer us toward commercial interactions, develop their next
addictive apps and predict our future behavior — effectively molding
Worse, she says, these invasive
business practices are spreading. “By now this is a virus that has
infected every economic sector,” Zuboff told a meeting of international
parliamentarians in May.
Zuboff traces the origin of
surveillance capitalism to 2001 as Google, then little more than a
search engine, considered going public. Faced with the need to generate
revenue, its founders decided to mine the data Google amasses when
people make searches.
That helped Google improve search
results but also informed it about users’ family lives, religious
beliefs, ethnicity, political or sexual persuasion and more. Google fed
those clues into a personalized advertising machine and became a global
Following Google’s example,
Facebook and other tech companies offered an irresistible bargain.
People could connect to long-lost friends, search the world’s
information and watch endless streams of video at no cost. Before long,
smartphones launched an explosion of “free” apps with a hearty appetite
for your data.
Nowadays, your movements,
conversations, facial expressions and more are snatched by smart TVs,
thermostats, refrigerators, doorbell cameras and connected cars.
Dossiers are compiled on each of us.
Among the first women to earn
tenure at Harvard Business School, Zuboff won plaudits for her early
grasp of how digital technology would transform the business world with
her 1988 book In the Age of the Smart Machine Her next book, “The
Support Economy” — co-written with her late husband James Maxmin —
predicted that out-of-touch corporations would give way to rivals
responsive to the feedback of technology-empowered consumers.
To Zuboff, surveillance capitalism
poses an existential threat whose hidden costs are intentionally
obscured by its practitioners. It is an “antidemocratic and
antiegalitarian juggernaut,” she writes.
In the name of personalization, she
says, “it defiles, ignores, overrides and displaces everything about you
and me that is personal.”
Not everyone agrees, to put it
Vice President Carl Szabo of the
e-commerce trade group NetChoice, whose members include Facebook and
Google, said her book “paints a typical dystopian picture of technology,
dismissing the remarkable benefits of online platforms and data
In response, Zuboff cites consumer
surveys that indicate increasing unease with the prevailing, invasive
She has no illusions about how
difficult it will be to turn things around. Breaking up technology
giants, says Zuboff, would do little to prevent their smaller progeny
from continuing their work.
She does think the EU’s year-old
data protection rule and California’s new data privacy law, which takes
effect in January, are a good start.
And she’s heartened by a recent
flurry of regulatory energy in Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s the very early stages
of a sea change.”
Still on top: Cyber Monday
sales on track to hit record
Feb. 9, 2018, file photo packages move down a conveyor system were they
are directed to the proper shipping area at the new Amazon Fulfillment
Center in Sacramento, Calif. “Cyber Monday” is still holding up as the
biggest online shopping day of the year, even though the same deals have
been available online for weeks and the name harks back to the days of
dial-up modems. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
New York (AP) —
Cyber Monday is still holding up as the biggest online shopping day of
the year, even though many of the same deals have been available online
for weeks and the name harks back to the days of dial-up modems.
Shoppers are expected to spend a
record $9.4 billion on purchases made on their phones and computers
Monday, up about 19% from last year’s Cyber Monday, according to Adobe
Analytics, which tracks transactions at 80 of the top 100 U.S. online
The busiest time is expected to be
in the hour before midnight, as people race to take advantage of
discounts before they disappear.
Cyber Monday was created by
retailers in 2005 to get people to shop online at a time when high-speed
internet was rare and the iPhone didn’t exist. The idea was to encourage
people to shop at work, where faster connections made it easier to
browse, when they returned from the Thanksgiving break.
“It’s somewhat antiquated,” said
Rob Graf, vice president of strategy and insights at cloud computing
company Salesforce, which tracks shopping behavior of the online stores
that use its platform. “But retailers are still using it as a big
milestone and driving heavy discounts.”
At least one brand played up Cyber
Monday’s origins: Bonobos, the men’s clothing seller owned by Walmart
Inc., photographed models posing with clunky computers and
black-and-white TVs for its site.
“Boot up the dial-up,” one of its
Cyber Monday ads said.
On average, retailers offered 30%
off on Monday, the steepest discounts of the year, according to
Some have been offering deals for
days. Amazon started offering Cyber Monday deals on Saturday, calling
the three-day extravaganza “Cyber Monday Weekend.”
Walmart kicked off online discounts
for the holidays a week before Halloween. It was a way to combat the
shortened holiday shopping season.
Thanksgiving is always celebrated
on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, that was Nov. 28, cutting
the typical time between Thanksgiving and Christmas by nearly a week,
making it the shortest stretch between the two holidays since 2013.
Adobe said the bestselling toys on
Cyber Monday were those related to the “Frozen 2” movie, “Paw Patrol”
show and the LOL Surprise brand. TVs from Samsung and laptops by Apple
were also hot sellers. And Amazon’s devices, such as its voice activated
Echo, did well, too.
Not all online shopping ended with
a box being delivered. Despite frightful weather in parts of the U.S.
this weekend, buying online and picking up in a store has become a
popular option, growing 43% so far from last year.
“These services are breathing new
life into physical stores,” Adobe said. “And we expect growth to climb
as we get closer to Christmas.”
Facebook tests tool
to move photos
to Google, other rivals
London (AP) —
Facebook started testing a tool on Monday that lets users move their
images more easily to other online services, as it faces pressure from
regulators to loosen its grip on data.
The social network’s new tool will
allow people to transfer their photos and videos directly to competing
platforms, starting with Google Photos.
The company said it will first be
available to people in Ireland and will be refined based on user
The tool will then be rolled out
worldwide in the first half of 2020.
U.S. and European regulators have
been examining Facebook’s control of personal data such as images as
they look into whether the tech giant’s dominance is stifling
competition and limiting choice for consumers. Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerberg has reacted by calling for new rules to address “data
portability” and other issues.
Facebook said that as it worked on
a new set of data portability tools, it had discussions with
policymakers, regulators, and academics in the U.K., Germany, Brazil and
Singapore to learn about which data should be portable and how to
The company is developing products
that “take into account the feedback we’ve received and will help drive
data portability policies forward by giving people and experts a tool to
assess,” Steve Satterfield, director of privacy and public policy, said
in a blog post.
China tests Mars lander in
international cooperation push
lander is lifted during a test of hovering, obstacle avoidance and
deceleration capabilities at a facility in Huailai in China’s Hebei
province, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Huailai, China (AP) —
China showed off its Mars spacecraft during a landing test Thursday as
the country pushes for inclusion in more global space projects.
The demonstration of hovering,
obstacle avoidance and deceleration capabilities was conducted at a site
outside Beijing simulating conditions on the red planet, where the pull
of gravity is about one-third that of Earth.
China plans to launch a lander and
rover to Mars next year to explore parts of the planet, one of four
scheduled missions. The U.S. and Europe are also sending rovers to Mars
next year, and the United Arab Emirates plans to launch an orbiter.
China’s burgeoning space program
achieved a lunar milestone earlier this year by landing a spacecraft on
the mysterious far side of the moon.
It has developed rapidly,
especially since it conducted its first crewed mission in 2003, and has
sought cooperation with space agencies from Europe and elsewhere.
The U.S., however, has banned most
space cooperation with China out of national security concerns, keeping
China from participating in the International Space Station.
Despite that, China’s ambitions
continue to grow as it seeks to rival the U.S., Russia and Europe in
space and cement its position as a regional and global power. It is
gradually constructing its own larger, more permanent space station in
which it has invited foreign participation.
The lander on Thursday successfully
avoided ground obstacles during a simulated low-gravity descent,
according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the
Chinese space program’s main contractor.
The refrigerator-sized craft was
lowered gently on 36 cables through the air for about a minute and used
onboard jets spraying rust-colored fumes to alter its downward course.
“After the probe is launched, it
will take about seven months to reach Mars, and the final procedure of
landing will only last about seven minutes, which is the most difficult
and the most risky part of the whole mission,” said the Mars mission’s
chief designer, Zhang Rongqiao, standing before the 140-meter (460-foot)
-tall testing facility.
Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched
by the U.S., Russia and other countries have been lost or destroyed over
the years. Only the U.S. has pulled it off and has made eight successful
The remote test site lies an hour
north of the Great Wall from Beijing.
Guests at Thursday’s event came
from 19 countries and included the ambassadors of Brazil, France and
“This event is the first public
appearance of China’s Mars exploration mission, also an important
measure for China to pragmatically carry out space international
exchanges and cooperation,” the China National Space Administration said
in a statement.
Yahoo Japan, Line to merge business to form online giant
Kita/Kyodo News via AP)
Tokyo (AP) —
Online services Yahoo Japan and Line Corp. have announced they are merging.
Z Holdings Corp., which owns SoftBank
Corp. that operates Yahoo Japan, and Naver Corp. of South Korea, which owns
a majority stake in Line, said Monday they are aiming for a final agreement
by next month.
The combination in a joint venture
through a tender offer will form an online giant with retail services,
advertising and other mobile services such as messaging.
The combined sales would be the largest
among Japanese online business operators, surpassing Rakuten Inc., according
to Kyodo News service.
The companies said combining forces
will allow them to stay competitive in a drastically changing market,
including expansions into robotics and other new areas.
The integration will be carried out
equally, according to the companies, but the price is expected to be decided
Discussions had been ongoing between
Naver and Z Holdings since June, they said. After a deal is completed, Line
will get delisted.
The new company will primarily focus on
the Japanese market, seeking to answer to Japan’s social needs such as a
shrinking worker population and natural disasters, SoftBank said in a
“Social and industrial conditions
surrounding us are changing drastically and daily on a global basis,” it
said, adding that Japan needs to catch up, and coming together might help.
“Particularly in the internet market,
overseas companies, especially those based in the United States and China,
are overwhelmingly dominant.”
The chief executives of both companies
later appeared together at a Tokyo hotel, wearing ties with the other
company’s colors — green for Line and red for Yahoo.
They said the companies not only shared
similar values but also the same sense of crisis of being dwarfed by
American and Chinese rivals, even after the two companies come together, by
size in terms of sales, research investment amount and number of employees.
“We both felt we needed to act now to
prepare for the future,” said Line Chief Executive Takeshi Idezawa.
The merger is planned to be completed
by October next year, with the new entity having 10 board members, three
from each company and four outside members, they said.
They said the companies are a good
match because they both operate online content and financial services, but
can complement each other. Line, for instance, is stronger in messaging and
Yahoo in online commerce, they said.
“Yahoo values surprising its users, and
Line values wowing its users, and so by coming together we hope to excite
our users around the world,” said Kentaro Kawabe, chief executive of Z