Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Secretary Kissinger on Climate Change

Last night, the IISS held our "50th Anniversary Dinner." As well as a nice dinner of a rack of lamb, we heard a very interesting discussion about global strategy for the last 50 years, as well as the next 50. Our CEO, John Chipman moderated the discussion between Sir Michael Howard, the IISS' President Emeritus; Shashi Tharoor, former Undersecretary General of the UN; and Henry Kissinger, who needs little introduction.

The discussion centered around statements that each had made at the IISS over the last 50 years, and was very interesting. It even made a small amount of news today, when Dr. Kissinger called the Bush Administration a failed Administration, saying "success is extremely important to the U.S. and the world. We should not have another failed administration."

But that is not what this blog is about. The final question of the night was asked by David Stafford, of Northrup Grumman. He asked how to address Climate Change in the 21st Century, and if they deemed it a problem of global security. In many ways, Dr. Tharoor's response was the classic developing world response, essentially the 'you got develop dirty, why can't we?' mantra that Tom Friedman has talked about in his new book. However, he acknowledged that India and China's position of denying responsibility has become "untenable." He closed by saying that this is a shared problem that must be faced globally.

Most interesting was Kissinger's answer to the question, which he answered in a very professorial manner. He said that it is unlike almost all other questions of international diplomacy, in that there are two areas for negotiations. First, there is the conventional negotiating questions of how to allocate costs and benefits; secondly, however, negotiators have to define the goal. He said that there is 'no intellectual framework' for this exercise. Clearly, scientists at the IPCC are trying to define the goals in terms of carbon presence in the atmosphere, while some politicians are still trying to define the issue as not a problem at all. Its interesting, though, to see the Secretary Kissinger has thought some about the issue.

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