Africa's military coups and a greener airline fuel

in November 26th, 2021

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Africa’s historic rise in government takeovers

Thu Nov 4

Africa is experiencing the continent's highest number of military coups in over 50 years. Last month — after successful takeovers in Egypt, Guinea, Chad, Mali, and (most recently) Sudan — the U.N. Secretary General deemed the trend an “epidemic of coups.”

What’s leading to these illegal government takeovers? In the 1970s, most coups followed independence in African countries. Although today’s coups have less to do with the fight against colonialism, the underlying causes are the same: struggling economies, growing security challenges, and corrupt governance. Like everything, the pandemic only strained the region further. For example in Sudan, inflation reached nearly 400% while 45 million people faced severe shortages of food and basic necessities.

And the disorganized response from other countries has only made it easier…

  • In absence of a coordinated global response, coup leaders stay in power longer. The global stage matters, for instance, when faced with drastic cuts in military aid in 1999 and 2010, coup leaders in Niger caved in.
  • Many countries are also willing to work with these new leaders, even if they came to power as the result of a coup. China, for instance, has a “no interference” policy and Russia has even been helping the Central African Republic.
  • That said, some countries have threatened financial resources, such as the U.S. and France. Biden even froze Sudan’s $700 million aid package following the coup last month.

The bigger concern is what these coups mean for democracy around the world. Corrupt governance has led many to lose faith in the election process. A 2020 study across 19 African countries found that just four in 10 respondents believe voting works for electing promising leaders. For now, the U.S. and Europe are hoping to defuse the crisis in Sudan by appointing a new civilian prime minister.

A plant that could finally reduce aircraft emissions?

Thu Nov 4

Pre-pandemic, the aviation sector’s global emissions was more than twice that of the entire U.K. economy. Aviation overall is one of the hardest industries to decarbonize, especially as demand for air travel grows. In fact, just one percent of the global population generates half of the world’s aviation emissions.

So what can be done? As lawmakers discuss limiting airport expansion and introducing carbon taxes at the U.N. Climate Change Conference, scientists in Switzerland have introduced a novel concept: solar kerosene.

The Zurich-based scientists have built a plant that can extract as much carbon dioxide in production of solar kerosene as the fuel releases in use, reducing net emissions to nearly zero. The plant produces solar kerosene from sunlight and air, and at an industrial scale would not only cost just two dollars per liter, but avoid the big pitfall of biofuels — aka competing with food production over suitable crop land to produce the fuel materials.

Problem is, getting to that cost-efficient scale requires initial investment and support from lawmakers. As it stands, most governments remain more committed to ensuring affordable flights over achieving net zero aviation.

Below the Fold Bytes


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🎬 Action of the Week

Ask yourself: Would knowing emission information, alongside price and duration, influence your flight purchasing? A new study from U.C. Davis looked into how consumer transparency could lead to greener aviation. It’s worth checking out as you consider it yourself.

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ASCII-ing About The News

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Dear sun, I’d be in the dark without you! Love, airplanes

Art Credit: Joan G. Stark

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