Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Climate Doctrine of the Russian Federation

This is a guest post from IISS-US intern, Jonah Friedman

Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting last week to investigate ways in which his country can reduce its emissions by 25% by the year 2020. He drew attention to the Climate Doctrine of the Russian Federation, produced in December 2009, which noted the potentially negative results which climate change may have on Russia. A US National Intelligence Council report from April 2009 detailed several of the ways in which Russian lives will be negatively affected. These range from economic problems as a result of crop failures to deepening political and socioeconomic tensions.

Despite these and other reports, however, there are many in Russia who believe that climate change can only be to Russia’s benefit. They argue that warmer weather will both extend the growing season for crops as well as provide easier access to the country’s vast natural resources, which are often located in frozen tundra. Russia’s arctic flag-plating escapade in 2007 shows how eagerly some Russians are awaiting the melting of the polar ice caps.

It seems unlikely that President Medvedev’s reduction goals can be met unless these perspectives can be bridged. Russia is now the world’s third [or fourth (depending on how you count)] biggest polluter and its willingness to commit itself to reducing its emissions will have a major impact on the success of global efforts to combat climate change.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Senator Hagel on Climate Change and Security

Yesterday, former Senator Chuck Hagel spoke at Georgetown on "Climate Change After Copenhagen."

The event was a very interesting format: much more interactive than many.  The Senator gave a clear and coherent view of where he thinks climate change legislation is going in the Senate (not very far) and what the future of international efforts to deal with climate change will be. 

He clearly talked about how climate change should be treated as a threat to national security.  In fact, it was his legislation -- along with Senator Durbin -- in 2007 that began the push towards asking the Intelligence Community to produce a National Intellegence Assessment of the threat of climate change. 

Audio of the event can be heard here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More Security Agencies Calling Climate Change a Threat

Earlier this week, I discussed the US Department of Defense's writing about climate security in its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), where it said "climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked."

I've seen two more examples of major security agencies give in-depth analyses of how climate change will affect security.  Yesterday and today, the US Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair (and former IISS-US Council Member), has given Congress the annual threat assessment of the US Intelligence Community.  In the testimony, he says: "Climate change will have wide ranging implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years." Here is a link to his statement for the record. Although news articles about this testimony focused almost exclusively on al Qaeda, DNI Blair's statement for the record gave significant analysis to how climate change will affect national security, going out to 2030.  Last year, he made a similar statement, which I blogged about, but this year's included significantly more regional analysis, including expected impacts on Russia, China, India, Southeast Asia, and Central America.  I'll give a more detailed explanation of the climate section tomorrow. 

Also new today, is the UK Ministry of Defense's (MoD) report, "Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2040"This is a comprehensive report that goes through a litany of real threats to the UK over the next 30 years.  The report devotes significant space to the impacts of climate change, as well as other issues of environmental degradation.  Like I was discussing in yesterday's post about Bin Laden, the report calls grievances about global inequality a significant threat.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bin Laden and Climate Change

Late last week, Osama Bin Laden came out with a new audiotape accusing the US for causing climate change.  He says: "Speaking about climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury - the phenomenon is an actual fact." The following statement could as easily have been spoken by Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, or other anti-capatalists:
One of the themes that ran through the Copenhagen Conference was the global divide between rich and poor, north and south.  As many studies have borne out, climate change will do greater harm to the poorest countries.  Because these countries also have the least responsibility for historical emissions, they feel they yet again being harmed by forces beyond their control.  This theme links climate change to a series of other grievances that the poor world holds against the rich, like agricultural protectionism, globalization, colonialism, and others. 
"However, George Bush junior, preceded by [the US] congress, dismissed the [Kyoto] agreement to placate giant corporations. And they are themselves standing behind speculation, monopoly and soaring living costs. They are also behind 'globalisation and its tragic implications'. And whenever the perpetrators are found guilty, the heads of state rush to rescue them using public money."

Taken to its extreme, this leads to a sort-of conspiracy theory of climate change, whereby the emissions of the US and the rich world has purposefully doomed the poor world to an unending series of disasters.  Any attempts by the US to push binding emissions targets on poor countries (even China) is said to be a conspiracy to keep the developing world poor in an effort to pre-empt competition.  We saw this argument used at the end of Copenhagen by the Sudanese negotiator Lumumba Stanislas Di-Aping when he said:
“It is asking Africa to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact in order to maintain the economic dependence of a few countries, tt is a solution based on values that funneled six million people in Europe into furnaces.”

For the last several years, when analysts have discussed the security threats of climate change, we've talked about it “as an accelerant of instability or conflict” or as a new competition over scarce energy, water, or food resources.  Perhaps we should now begin to look at it as a new area of grievance between the rich and the poor.  If droughts in Sudan are blamed on global warming, and Sudanese blame the US for the emissions that caused global warming, then a logical next step would be for the Sudanese to engage in action that would cause the US to stop emitting.  Potential actions could include taking oil company workers hostage or even direct acts of terrorism.  A good way to defuse this animosity would be for the rich world to fully engage in a global climate treaty that is seen as fair, equitable, and just around the world.  
But -- we shouldn't wait for Osama to then throw down his weapons if the Copenhagen Accord turns out to work: he'll just find something else.

Monday, February 1, 2010

US Department of Defense: Climate Change is "an accelerant of instability or conflict"

Today, the Defense Department released its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).  The QDR lays out the anticipated policies and priorities of the Department of Defense for the next four years.  It is a strategic document, that paints broad strokes about future plans, force structures, and anticipated global threats.  This is in contrast to the annual budget (also released today), that gives hard numbers and entails real spending.    Under legislation authored in 2008 by then Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Warner (R-VA), the QDR was mandated to look at how climate change will impact the military.  The QDR states:
Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment. Although they produce distinct types of challenges, climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked. The actions that the Department takes now can prepare us to respond effectively to these challenges in the near term and in the future.
According to the QDR, climate change will affects the military in several ways: first, the effects of global warming (espeically sea level increases and more sever weather) will directly threaten military bases and deployed forces, second, it will  it will “act as an accelerant of instability or conflict” that could cause the military to fight and deploy in more unstable areas around the world, and third, the Arctic will emerge as a new theater of operations.

After the jump, a clip of Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy talking about how the QDR addresses climate change.