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  • Author: Benjamin Attia, Shayle Kann, Morgan D. Bazilian
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: The global energy transition has reached an inflection point. In numerous markets, the declining cost of solar photovoltaics (PV) has already beaten the cost of new-build coal and natural gas and is now chasing down operating costs of existing thermal power plants, forcing a growing crowd of thermal generation assets into early retirement. Perfect comparability between dispatchable and non-dispatchable resources invites debate, but the cost declines in solar PV are irrefutable: the global average unit cost of competitively-procured solar electricity declined by 83 percent from 2010 to 2018. This is due in part to module cost reductions of approximately 90 percent, capacity-weighted average construction cost declines of 74 percent, and a global paradigm shift in renewable energy procurement policies in the last six years.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Science and Technology, Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Michael Ruhle
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: NATO Defense College
  • Abstract: Environmental change is increasingly recognized as one of the major factors that will shape the global security environment. According to most experts, rising global temperatures will lead to rising sea levels and cause more extreme weather events, such as storms, flooding, droughts and wildfires. The firestorms that engulfed parts of Australia in late 2019 and early 2020, burning an area the size of Belgium and Denmark combined, and severely decimating that continent's wildlife, were a stark reminder of the force of these changes.
  • Topic: Security, NATO, Climate Change, Environment
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Luca Franza
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Dolphins are being spotted in harbours, canals in Venice have never looked so clean and the temporary ban of corridas has spared the lives of a hundred Spanish bulls. Looking at the bright side of things is an admirable quality, but we should not get too carried away with the idea that COVID-19 is good for the planet. Besides the anecdotal phenomena quoted above, the collapse of mobility and economic activity induced by COVID-19 are generating meaningful short-term consequences for the environment. These include a sharp reduction in Hubei’s and Northern Italy’s air pollution levels and a likely reduction in global CO2 emissions in 2020. Rejoicing over such news rests on a short-sighted view. The interlinkages between COVID-19, energy and climate issues are so complex that we are actually looking at a mixed bag of consequences.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Pollution, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Elizabeth Ferris, Sanjula Weerasinghe
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal on Migration and Human Security
  • Institution: Center for Migration Studies of New York
  • Abstract: In light of the science and evidence on hazards and climate risk, and the scale and breadth of large-scale disasters witnessed around the world, it is time for states and other actors to begin developing national and local frameworks on planned relocation. While planned relocations have had a poor record in terms of their socioeconomic effects, it is precisely for these reasons that proactive action is necessary. Planned relocation has the potential to save lives and assets, and consequently to safeguard or augment the human security of populations living in areas at high risk for disasters and the effects of climate change. Among the challenges hampering better outcomes for people, however, are the lack of national and local frameworks, community-driven decision making, and sufficient lead times to plan and implement appropriate interventions that promote human security. Relocation of populations is referenced in global frameworks on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) because it is a tool that will become increasingly important as a preventive and responsive measure to reduce the risks of disasters and displacement. This article recommends that national and local DRR and CCA strategies and development plans begin to incorporate planned relocation among the options under consideration to protect people and their human security. It argues that planning for relocations is an expression of a government’s responsibility to protect the human security of its people.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Disaster Relief, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Molly Jahn
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: US public investment in agricultural research in the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in unprecedented worldwide production of a few staple crops and the improvement of dozens more. Increased crop yields and animal production have drastically reduced famine compared to previous centuries and supported an overall increase in global affluence. Today, agricultural producers around the world are facing new challenges as global climate changes become increasingly unpredictable. Inconsistent rain, extreme temperatures, droughts, flooding, wildfires, and shifting pest and disease patterns are just a few of the obstacles farmers face as they try to feed their families and produce enough food to feed the world. In spite of these dire challenges, US public agricultural research funding has been decreasing over the past several decades. This has allowed competitors such as China and Brazil to outpace American ingenuity, take over American markets, and put American farmers at a disadvantage. The lack of investment in agricultural research and development is a critical national security concern. Historical US agricultural strength has contributed to US hard and soft power around the world. As the US food system is beset by increasing climate, economic, financial, and security threats, US rural communities have been left behind, undermining US power and domestic well-being. Increasing global food insecurity, which has been amplified by increasing weather extremes, will lead to economic and political instability in many areas of the world, further threatening US national security. Although the private sector plays a crucial role in the development of new agricultural techniques and products, public funding has been the backbone of many agriculture and food system advances. While agricultural research and development has historically focused primarily on increasing yields, this narrow focus does not adequately support the food requirements of today’s growing global population. There must be a revitalization of public investment in agricultural research, American food systems, and international agricultural development that focuses on the challenges of the future. US leadership is vital to ensuring the global research agenda does not leave farmers behind. Opportunities to build upon and enhance existing US agricultural research infrastructure across many diverse government entities abound. The US government should recognize these investment opportunities to address current and future climate challenges.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Climate Change, Environment, Research
  • Political Geography: China, Brazil, North America, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Anna Kosovac, Keith Hartley, Michele Acuto, Darcy Gunning
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: Conducting City Diplomacy: A Survey of International Engagement in 47 Cities OCTOBER 7, 2020 By: Anna Kosovac, Research Fellow, International Urban Policy, University of Melbourne’s Connected Cities Lab; Kris Hartley, Nonresident Fellow, Global Cities; Michele Acuto, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Cities; Darcy Gunning, Research Assistant, University of Melbourne’s Connected Cities Lab Executive Summary The impact of global challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic manifests most acutely in urban settings, rendering cities essential players on the global stage. In the 2018 report Toward City Diplomacy, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs presented findings from a survey of 27 cities on the capacity of local governments around the world to network internationally—and the perceived barriers to that engagement. The report found that cities “need to invest in resources, expertise, and capacity to manage their relationships and responsibilities to conduct city diplomacy effectively.” In our new survey of 47 cities, we find that advice to still ring true. City officials broadly recognize the importance of engaging internationally but lack the necessary formal diplomacy training and resources for conducting that engagement to maximum effect. Nevertheless, cities maintain a strong commitment to global agendas, and international frameworks are increasingly influential in municipal affairs. For example, more than half of survey respondents said they track their city’s performance against the metrics of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Furthermore, we found that cities and their leaders are confident in their capacity to tackle global challenges. For instance, the majority of survey respondents said that city governments have greater potential for impact on climate change mitigation than their national government counterparts do, especially when acting collaboratively through city networks and multilateral urban programs. The individual stories of five cities whose officials participated in the study offer lessons for a variety of challenges and approaches to city diplomacy. Based on the survey results, we discuss the three primary obstacles cities must overcome in order to strengthen the role of city diplomacy globally: inadequate funding and resources for international engagement, insufficient training in city diplomacy, and the failure of national and multilateral bodies to fully recognize and formalize city engagement in diplomacy. We conclude with a framework for ensuring that city-diplomacy efforts are systematic and institutionalized rather than reliant on the personalities and connections of powerful city leaders. This capacity-building strategy can help cities leverage international coordination, information sharing, and intersectoral collaboration to address the complex and interconnected problems that will characterize the 21st century.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Diplomacy, Sustainable Development Goals, Urban, Cities, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Louise Van Schaik, Camilla Born, Elizabeth Sellwood, Sophie de Bruin
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Clingendael Netherlands Institute of International Relations
  • Abstract: Climate change poses risks to poor and rich communities alike, although impacts on the availability and distribution of essential resources such as water, food, energy and land will differ. These changes, combined with other social, political and economic stresses and shocks, can increase tensions within and between states, which, if unmanaged, can lead to violence. Climate-related changes to transboundary waters, food security and trade patterns, sea levels, and Arctic ice, as well as the transition to a low-carbon economy, have profound geopolitical implications. Largescale climate-related migration may also affect the stability of states, and relations between states. Climate action itself may prove destabilizing: (mal)adaptation can disrupt economic and social relations, particularly if implemented without appropriate political economy analysis and risk assessments. In response to analyses linking climate change to security, peace and security actors increasingly realize that interventions to promote peace and stability are more likely to be effective if they incorporate such analyses. At the United Nations, member states have agreed to shift towards a “preventive” approach to conflict risks, grounded in sustainable development. The UN leadership is adjusting institutional structures to better understand and respond to climate-related security risks at all levels, including a newly established climate security mechanism in New York. Many regional intergovernmental institutions have also recognized the links between climate change, peace and security. Some, such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development in East Africa and the European Union, have incorporated climate-related factors into their conflict early-warning mechanisms. We are only just beginning to understand the realities of adapting to unprecedented climate change, however. Climate-related factors will need to be incorporated systematically into political analysis, risk assessment, and early warning, accompanied by deeper integration of climate-security risk assessment into planning and political engagement in the field. Similarly, more consistent analysis of climate-related security risks must contribute to politically informed, conflict-sensitive adaptation strategies.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, Climate Change, International Political Economy, Peace, Sustainability
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Bruegel
  • Abstract: The annual report includes an overview of Bruegel’s research, governance and financial statements, and takes stock of Bruegel’s accomplishments and impact during 2019. Bruegel will continue to work to develop a proactive European strategy to deal with all the challenges ahead, providing free and open access to its research.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy
  • Political Geography: Europe, Global Focus
  • Author: Weronika Michalak, Dr hab. Zbigniew Karaczun
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Warsaw East European Review (WEER)
  • Institution: Centre for East European Studies, University of Warsaw
  • Abstract: The phenomenon of climate change, observed for years and constantly intensifying, has had a negative impact on health, significantly deteriorating the quality of life of people in many regions of the world, including Poland. Already now we are dealing with increasingly frequent extreme weather phenomena; hurricanes, storms and increasingly longer heat waves no longer surprise us. Unfortunately, this is merely the beginning of the negative effects of climate change. Others will come before long. In the coming years, many other new threats will be observed, such as flooding of ocean islands, desertification of areas exposed to water scarcity or serious loss of biodiversity, which will translate into food security. Unfortunately, it does not end there.1 The greenhouse effect is a process by which radiation from the Earth’s atmosphere warms the planet’s surface to a temperature above what it would be without this atmosphere. We can differentiate short-term solar radiation (0.15-4.0 nm) and long-term radiation. Thermal radiation escapes into the cosmic sphere and heat radiation returns to the ground, being stopped by a layer of GHG – greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, SF6, water vapor etc.), which warm up Earth’s athmosphere to a dangerous level – even a 1°C degree increase (in comparison to pre-industrial level, when emissions stared to rise) in the average world temperature can be detrimental to human health and change the conditions of life on this planet (Figure 1). However, we currently face a risk of global warming even up to 3°C degrees, unless GHG emissions are significantly reduced. Any further rise of the global temperature will have deteriorating impact on people and whole humanity, as well as staying at the current level of emissions.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Health, Food, Food Security
  • Political Geography: Europe, Poland, Global Focus
  • Author: Edmund Downie
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center on Global Energy Policy
  • Abstract: China’s Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) initiative presents a transformational vision for meeting the world’s growing power demand with a globally interconnected electricity grid. The concept involves ultra-high-voltage transmission lines strung across vast distances and smart grid technology tapping large-scale renewable power sources. Chinese President Xi Jinping first touted GEI’s goal to “facilitate efforts to meet the global power demand with clean and green alternatives” at the UN General Assembly in 2015. The ambition of the GEI vision is enormous, especially since there is very little cross-border trade in electricity around the world today. Regional electricity integration initiatives championed by development banks and multilateral organizations have largely struggled against the formidable political, economic and technical complications that accompany interstate electricity trade. China has seen these challenges firsthand in its participation in the Asian Development Bank’s Greater Mekong Subregion electricity trade endeavor, which has progressed fitfully since the 1990s amid regional infrastructure gaps and uneven political support from member states. This report, prepared as part of the Belt and Road Initiative series published by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, uses a case study of power trade in the Greater Mekong Subregion to assess the prospects for GEI in catalyzing energy integration around the world. It discusses why Greater Mekong Subregion integration has been slow, how GEI might help accelerate interconnection in the area, and what lessons the region offers for understanding the overall outlook for GEI. Based on this study, the author finds the following: Establishing a GEI-style global energy grid backbone by 2070 would require overcoming an extraordinary set of political challenges. The global grid outlined by GEI for the coming decades serves more as a demonstration of technical potential than a strict blueprint to be implemented. The limited scale attained thus far by the Greater Mekong Subregion project for grid integration and cross-border electricity trading demonstrates the headwinds such multinational efforts can face. Weak internal power sector development in recent decades has left some member states without the generation surpluses and robust power grids necessary to support meaningful levels of trade. In addition, power trade requires a strong degree of interstate political trust, motivated engagement by national utilities, and support from civil society players for the specific generation and transmission projects involved. Integration backers have historically struggled to build consensus across this diverse array of stakeholders. While enormous generation and transmission infrastructure projects are core components of the GEI vision and dovetail with the interests of China’s domestic proponents, considerable debate persists about their merits for fostering the renewables transition. Ultra-high-voltage transmission, a specialty of Chinese utilities, is a particular flashpoint. State interest in cross-border trade has been increasing across many regions in recent years, and more gradual gains in power trade around the world that can aid the renewable transition and bolster regional solidarity are possible. China can contribute greatly to this process: as an investor and contractor in grid projects abroad, as a member state of integration initiatives in Asia, and as an advocate of grid integration in international fora. GEI’s ultimate impact will depend in part on how advocates within China reconcile tensions between strengthening cross-border power trade and promoting domestic priorities, such as advancing the country’s own industrial policy objectives.
  • Topic: Climate Change, United Nations, Infrastructure, Green Technology, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Global Focus