TIME

Time for Change on the Climate

Some of hundreds of thousands take part in the People's Climate March through Midtown, New York
Hundreds of thousands of people showed up for a march before a major U.N. summit on climate change in New York City Adrees Latif—Reuters

The public is agitating for action on global warming—but will politicians listen?

The hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched through New York City on Sept. 21 made one thing very clear: climate change is no longer just an environmental issue. The People’s Climate March was an effort to demonstrate that there is popular will to push for action on climate change, for practical reasons that go well beyond just saving the planet. “People are making the argument in the streets,” says Naomi Klein, a Canadian activist and author of the new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.

That argument is finally reaching the ears of some world leaders. At the U.N. climate summit on Sept. 23, more than $200 billion was promised to support clean energy and climate resilience among developing countries. “Our citizens keep marching,” said President Barack Obama in a speech at the summit. “We cannot pretend we don’t hear them.”

There’s just one problem. The country whose actions will do the most to decide the future of the climate is the one country that is the least responsive to public will: China.

If preventing major climate change required only developed nations like the U.S. to cut carbon, we might be fine. Greenhouse-gas emissions in most rich nations have been falling in recent years, the product of slower economic growth and a shift to cleaner sources of energy.

But the vast majority of carbon being emitted over the coming decades will originate in rapidly growing developing nations—and China most of all. Already China is responsible for 28% of global carbon dioxide emissions, more than the U.S. and the European Union combined. Sixty percent of the growth in global emissions since 2002 is due to China. And while the U.S. has still emitted the most carbon historically since the industrial era began, it won’t be long before China takes that title as well. The argument that Beijing has long used—that climate change is the sole responsibility of the West—will no longer hold water.

To its credit, China has made real efforts in recent years to slow the growth of its carbon emissions and clean up its energy supply. China is the largest producer of solar and wind power on the planet, and when you include hydropower, renewables make up 20% of its energy mix—higher than in the U.S.

But that progress is being more than offset by a single trend: growing consumption of coal. Coal-fired power plants are the single biggest contributor to man-made climate change, and in 2012, China consumed nearly 4 billion tons of coal—almost as much as the rest of the world combined. China is projected to add the equivalent of a new 500-MW coal-fired power plant every 10 days for the next decade, at a time when countries like the U.S. are moving to reduce coal consumption. If that happens, the world’s slim chance of averting potentially dangerous global warming will vanish.

So it wasn’t encouraging that Chinese President Xi Jinping chose not to attend the U.N. climate summit, sending Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli to address the international body instead. (The new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—whose country is also on a pace to significantly add to climate change—was also a no-show.) Zhang said that by 2020, China would aim to reduce its emissions of carbon per unit of GDP by 45% compared with 2005 levels, and that the country wanted to have its total emissions peak “as soon as possible.” But that won’t be enough.

Of course, the reality is that no country is truly doing enough to avert warming. Despite the growth of renewable-energy sources like wind and solar, global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped by 2.3% in 2013 to record levels. This summer—the months of June, July and August—was the hottest on record for the globe, and 2014 is on pace to become the hottest year overall. We’re losing the fight.

The protesters who came out to the People’s Climate March in New York—and to the thousands of other events held that day around the world—will keep pushing their leaders to do much more. In China, where something like the climate march could never have happened, citizens won’t have that opportunity. But Chinese leaders should still be listening. Like it or not, they have a growing responsibility to deal with one of the biggest challenges the world faces. As Obama said at the U.N.: “Nobody gets a pass.”

TIME Egypt

After the Revolution: Sitting Down With Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi
President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt in New York City on Sept. 23, 2014 Peter Hapak for TIME

In one of his first interviews with the U.S. press, Egypt's President pushes for a wider war on terror in the Middle East

A shorter version of this interview appeared in the Oct. 6 edition of TIME magazine:

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi won an election in May — but the former army chief has been essentially in charge of the country since ousting Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, last summer. Al-Sisi remains mostly popular at home, where he is pushing reforms to jump-start Egypt’s moribund economy. But he’s been criticized for his crackdowns on Morsi’s Islamist supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood and on journalists and free speech in Egypt.

In one of his first interviews in the U.S., al-Sisi spoke with TIME on Sept. 23 about the America’s war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Egypt’s economy and the influence of Islam in his life.

On U.S. action against ISIS: Imagine what would happen if you leave it without action. We still need more effort — it should not be limited to Iraq and ISIS. This is a threat not just to the Middle East but to the whole world … I want to be clear with you that this ideology constitutes a problem. There’s a fine line between extremism and killing. If we hadn’t saved Egypt, there would have been a major problem created. The U.S. did not pay attention to that.

On ousting Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood: You dealt with the developments in Egypt as a movement by the military. But the military was not thinking of making a coup. It was the Egyptian people who demanded that change of identity … A country like Egypt caught in a vicious cycle of extremism would be a threat to the whole world. The U.S. would have felt the need to destroy Egypt.

We have been fighting terrorism in the Sinai [Peninsula] for a year and four months. If the Muslim Brotherhood had been in office for another year, Sinai would have become something like Tora Bora [in Afghanistan]. It would have been civil war in Egypt. Egyptians wouldn’t have stood still, [and] on the other side, the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were ready to fight.

On Egypt’s domestic challenges: Egypt has not faced problems of this scale for over 40 years. [We have] striking poverty, unemployment, idleness of the young people. This is fertile soil for problems. Our population growth is 2.6 million people a year. In 10 years time, we expect to have 30 million people more. This is a reason for the revolution in Egypt. They want change and to move forward to a brighter future. Unfortunately, Morsi did not deal with the magnitude of the problems. The government alone in Egypt won’t be able to tackle all of the problems, [but] Egypt cannot afford to fail. Two revolutions is more than enough.

On the future of the Muslim Brotherhood: Our first elections were free and fair. The result of that free choice was the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood was accepted. But I say that in any election to be held [in the future] the Muslim Brotherhood will not be fortunate to have a share.

On the risks of foreign jihadists in the battle against terrorism: Watch out for your citizens who join jihad. When they come back to their communities, they will pursue the same practices. This is why we can’t just limit the effort to the military. The actions taken over the past year are not enough to terminate this … No one country is immune to this ideology. The foreign fighters will come back to your country. I’m afraid it will be disastrous.

On the role of Islam in his life: I simply represent moderate Islam. I’m concerned about the challenges of poverty and ignorance in the Muslim world. I can’t be against Islam — I consider myself a devout Muslim — but the reality poses a challenge.

TIME Environment

See the Worst Place to Breathe in America

It's not Los Angeles

If you think about smog, you’re probably picturing a major city like Los Angeles, where in the 1960s and ’70s the air was so bad that smog alerts telling people to avoid outdoor activity were regular occurrences. The air has improved in L.A. and other big cities in recent years, thanks to cleaner cars and air-pollution regulation.

But the real capital of air pollution in the U.S. is a farming city that sits to the northwest of L.A.: Bakersfield.

Bakersfield is in the San Joaquin Valley, a major agricultural area that stretches through much of California. The San Joaquin Valley contains some of the richest, most productive agricultural land in the country. But its geography — the valley is surrounded on all sides by mountains — creates a bowl that traps air pollution. Levels of soot and ozone — which in warm weather, which the valley has much of the year, can create smog — are some of the highest in the country. And while air in much of the U.S. has improved, in Bakersfield and other towns in the southern San Joaquin Valley, the air quality is as bad as ever — if not worse.

How bad? School officials in Bakersfield have used colored flags to indicate air quality: green for good, yellow for moderate, orange for unhealthy for sensitive groups and red for unhealthy for all groups. But this winter, the air became so bad that officials had to use a new color on the worst days: purple, even worse than red. Because of high levels of air pollution, asthma is prominent throughout the region, and the bad air can also raise levels of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Photographer Lexey Swall grew up in Bakersfield, and in this collection of photographs, she shows the human cost of living in one of the most polluted cities in the country. For Bakersfield residents, there’s simply no room to breathe.

TIME Travel

Tokyo: What to See and What to Skip

There's nowhere else quite like Tokyo, so here's what you need to know to plan your visit

Aerial view of Tokyo and its Tower from the World Trade Center Building. April 2014 Frederic Soltan—Corbis

What is it about Tokyo that can make visitors feel as if the city belongs not in another country, but on another planet? Perhaps it’s the schizophrenia at the heart of what was once Edo—stately, tree-lined Omotesando giving way to the pinball frenzy of Shibuya, Tomorrowland Shinjunku meeting the timeless Meiji Jingu shrine. Tokyo contains multitudes, which we mean literally—the metro are is home to more than 35 million people, and on a muggy day in August you can feel nearly every one of them. Forget about navigating above ground—even the taxi drivers are dependent on GPS. But there is truly no other place on Earth—or elsewhere—like it, and those who can endure the over-stimulus will find themselves drawn back again and again.

  • What to see:

    -Meiji Jingu (1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku. Meijijingu.or.jp): Tokyo doesn’t have many green spaces, which is a serious problem for a recreational runner. So you can imagine my pleasure on one of my first days there when I found a shady green park not far from where I was staying in Shibuya. Just one problem: the park housed Meiji Jingu, one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, and the white-gloved Japanese policeman who began whistling furiously at me was not happy to see a sweaty gaijin lumbering into a sacred space. Provided you’re not working out, however, Meiji Jingu is a rare oasis of tranquility amid the constant buzz of Tokyo.

    Edo-Tokyo Museum
    Edo-Tokyo Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Angelo Hornak—Corbis

    -Edo-Tokyo Museum (1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku; edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp): Today Tokyo is the center of Japan, home to about a quarter of the country’s population, but that reign is relatively recent. The city was founded in the 1600s as Edo, the seat of the shoguns (as opposed to the emperor, who reigned in Kyoto to the southwest). This museum details ordinary life in the city from the time of the shoguns through the firebombing during WWII to today, giving a sense of history to a city that sometimes seems to live in a perpetual present. As a bonus, the museum is located in the Ryogoku neighborhood, home to the main sumo-wrestling arena.

    -Tokyo Skytree (1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku; www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en): Visitors who believe Tokyo is a vertically-aligned, Blade Runner-esque city of skyscrapers are surprised to find that most of the capital is made up of squat buildings rarely more than a few stories high. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t towers, and at 2,080 ft., the new Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding tower in the world. While the top-viewing level is only 1,480 ft. above the ground, that’s more than enough height to get a view of Tokyo’s endless sprawl.

  • What not to see:

    J
    Pedestrians walk past a show window of a clothing store at Harajuku shopping district in Tokyo February 28, 2014. Yuya Shino—Reuters/Corbis

    -Harajuku: The origin point of Japan’s youthquake, the Harajuku neighborhood was played out back when Gwen Stefani appropriated Japanese girl street style for her 2004 song “Harajuku Girls.” You can still check out the pedestrian-only Takeshita Dori if you want to find an overpriced designer T-shirt, but you’d be better off strolling nearby Omotesando, one of the few tree-lined boulevards in Tokyo.

     

  • Where to eat and drink:

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    Detail of sushi at Sushi Dai, Tsukiji Fish Market. Greg Elms—Getty Images

    -Sushi Dai (5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo): It may be clichéd, but you can’t go to Tokyo without stopping by the Tsukiji fish market, where the daily catch that will find its way to sushi plates around the city is auctioned off early in the morning. Get the freshest of the fresh at nearby Sushi Dai, where you’ll discover that raw fish makes for a surprisingly good breakfast.

    -Gonpachi (1-13-11 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku): If the cavernous Gonpachi looks familiar, that’s because it is said to have inspired the Tokyo restaurant where Uma Thurman slices through the Crazy-88s at the end of the first Kill Bill. But Gonpachi isn’t just about the scenery—it serves dressed up izakaya food, popular in Japanese pubs, and was good enough for former President George W. Bush when he visited Japan in 2002.

    -New York Bar (Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku): Tokyo is a barfly’s delight, with drinking establishments that range from back-alley beer joints to cocktail lounges where your whiskey comes with perfectly spherical balls of ice. The New York Bar is more the latter—you’ll recognize it from the 2003 film Lost in Translation—and it’s not cheap. But you can’t put a price on the view from the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel.

  • Where not to eat or drink:

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    A bar in the Roppongi district, Tokyo. Greg Elms—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

    -Roppongi: This seedy district has been the foreigner’s first stop in Tokyo since American occupiers set up shop there after World War II. Roppongi has its own kind of charm, if your thing is loud bars, expensive drinks and nights that end after sunrise. It’s not as dangerous as it’s often made out to be—though there are occasional reports of spiked drinks and inflated bar tabs—and the sheer frenzy of the neighborhood makes it worth visiting once. But only once.

  • Where to stay:

    The Park Hyatt Hotel, location of the film Lost in Translation, and busy traffic at night, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, Asia
    The Park Hyatt Hotel, location of the film Lost in Translation, in Tokyo, Japan. Christian Kober—Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

    -Park Hyatt Hotel (Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku): If you’re coming for the New York Bar, why not cut down the commute and stay a night? Possibly the price—even the least expensive rooms cost nearly $500 a day. But the Park Hyatt is the rare landmark in Tokyo—a city that has been lacking in great international hotels—that has stood the test of time, even before it was immortalized in film. And if you can swim, don’t miss a dip in the sky pool, on the 47th floor of the hotel, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city.

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