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French press review 1 November 2012

Today's French newspapers ask: will Hurricane Sandy wake Americans up to global warming? And should François Hollande listen to former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder?

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Le Monde asks whether the ravages of Sandy the storm will finally force Americans to face up to the realities of global warming.

Neither Obama nor Romney has had a word to say about matters climatic. It's the great non-topic of the US presidential campaign.

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But the fact remains that the US is the world's most powerful economy and the second most polluting country on the planet.

Scientists, of course, have to maintain a professional objectivity about the links between human activity and climate change. That means that those who try to present the increasing violence of weather events as directly the result of global warming, itself the direct result of human pollution, find themselves with nothing more convincing than "probabilities".

It is scientifically proven that there is a better than 66 per cent link between the degradation of world weather systems since 1950 and global warming. But that's not sufficiently convincing to force the captains of industry or their fly-swarms of shareholders to start spending the money necessary just to stabilise an already dangerous situation.

Le Monde asks if it is reasonable for leaders to hide behind the scientific uncertainties, currently bolstered by the grim economic atmosphere, and pretend that the problem is a storm in a test tube.

But Le Monde laments that Barack Obama's promised green reforms have never seen the light of day, the Democrats using Republican, big money, opposition as their excuse for sitting on the fence as the waters rise around their knees.

Will Sandy wake up Washington? Probably not is the tragic answer.

Meanwhile, Germany is worried about France.

That's according to the main story on the front page of this morning's right-wing Le Figaro.

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has been warning that current French economic policy is doomed to failure, because certain key policies, like early retirement and the 35-hour working week, are simply not affordable. He says the proposed tax cuts and government savings are too tame to save the French economy and just enough to provoke recession.

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Schröder's criticism will be taken seriously, since he's generally regarded as the father of the German economic miracle, transforming Germany into the continent's powerhouse economy.

Le Figaro, of course, makes no mention of the enormous social costs to some sectors of the German workforce, where there's no minimum wage (except in the construction industry) and where job security is a very tenuous concept.

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