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  • Author: Michael Levi
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: This December, diplomats from nearly 200 countries will gather in Copenhagen to negotiate a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which for the first time bound wealthy countries to specific cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions come from burning fossil fuels -- coal, oil, and natural gas -- for energy, from deforestation, and from the agricultural sector. They must be cut deeply in the coming decades if the world is to control the risks of dangerous climate change. Most of those devoted to slashing the world's greenhouse gas emissions have placed enormous weight on the Copenhagen conference. Speaking earlier this year about the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was emphatic: "We must harness the necessary political will to seal the deal on an ambitious new climate agreement in December here in Copenhagen. . . . If we get it wrong we face catastrophic damage to people, to the planet." Hopes are higher than ever for a breakthrough climate deal. For the past eight years, many argued that developing nations reluctant to commit to a new global climate-change deal -- particularly China and India -- were simply hiding behind the United States, whose enthusiastic engagement was all that was needed for a breakthrough. Now the long-awaited shift in U.S. policy has arrived. The Obama administration is taking ambitious steps to limit carbon dioxide emissions at home, and Congress is considering important cap-and-trade and clean-energy legislation. The road to a global treaty that contains the climate problem now appears to be clear. But it is not so simple. The odds of signing a comprehensive treaty in December are vanishingly small. And even reaching such a deal the following year would be an extraordinary challenge, given the domestic political constraints in Washington and in other capitals that make such an agreement difficult to negotiate and ratify. The many government officials and activists seeking to solve the climate problem therefore need to fundamentally rethink their strategy and expectations for the Copenhagen conference.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington
  • Author: Jessica Seddon Wallack, Veerabhadran Ramanathan
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: At last, world leaders have recognized that climate change is a threat. And to slow or reverse it, they are launching initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for about half of global warming to date. Significantly reducing emissions of carbon dioxide is essential, as they will likely become an even greater cause of global warming by the end of this century. But it is a daunting task: carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries, and it is difficult to get governments to agree on reducing emissions because whereas the benefits of doing so are shared globally, the costs are borne by individual countries. As a result, no government is moving fast enough to offset the impact of past and present emissions. Even if current emissions were cut in half by 2050 -- one of the targets discussed at the 2008 UN Climate Change Conference -- by then, humans' total contribution to the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would still have increased by a third since the beginning of this century. Meanwhile, little attention has been given to a low-risk, cost-effective, and high-reward option: reducing emissions of light-absorbing carbon particles (known as "black carbon") and of the gases that form ozone. Together, these pollutants' warming effect is around 40-70 percent of that of carbon dioxide. Limiting their presence in the atmosphere is an easier, cheaper, and more politically feasible proposition than the most popular proposals for slowing climate change -- and it would have a more immediate effect. Time is running out. Humans have already warmed the planet by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius since the nineteenth century and produced enough greenhouse gases to make it a total of 2.4 degrees Celsius warmer by the end of this century. If the levels of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere continue to increase at current rates and if the climate proves more sensitive to greenhouse gases than predicted, the earth's temperature could rise by as much as five degrees b+efore the century ends.
  • Topic: Climate Change, United Nations
  • Author: Joel Kurtzman
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The global economic crisis has battered the free market's reputation, but the market nevertheless remains a powerful tool both for allocating capital and for effecting social change. Nowhere is this truer than with the challenge of confronting and reversing climate change. Of all the market-based tools available for addressing this problem, the most potent are cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions. In their most basic form, cap-and-trade systems work by making it expensive to emit greenhouse gases. As a result, the owners of an emissions source are motivated to replace it with something less damaging to the environment. If they are unable to, the trading provisions allow them to purchase permits to continue emitting until they are ready to invest in new technology. Over time, as the amount of carbon allowed into the atmosphere is reduced, the price of a permit is expected to increase. In existing cap-and-trade mechanisms, such as the European Union's Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme, governments cap the total amount of emissions allowed, and the amount of emissions permitted declines over time. Organizations such as utilities, factories, cement plants, municipalities, steel mills, and waste sites are given or sold permits that allow them to emit a certain portion of the relevant region's total greenhouse gases. If an organization emits less than its allotment, it can sell the unused permits to entities that plan on exceeding their limits. Under cap-and-trade systems, companies can trade permits with one another through brokers or in organized local or global markets.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Markets
  • Author: Charles Tripp
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The notion of political Islam may be a more complicated bargain than many realize, and Muslims who seek to shape the world according to their religious values often confront an obdurate reality.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics
  • Author: Stephen Kotkin
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Chinese-Russian relationship is more opportunistic than strategic, Bobo Lo argues. The United States is stuck watching from the sidelines and may be pushing Moscow further into Beijing's pocket.
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Beijing, Moscow
  • Author: Timothy Samuel Shah
  • Publication Date: 09-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Religion and modernity were never expected to go hand in hand, and for centuries they coexisted uncomfortably. But thanks to the entrepreneurial model of American evangelicals, argue two journalists at The Economist, God is back.
  • Topic: Economics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: Wesley K. Clark, Peter L. Levin
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Cyberwarfare is not an abstract future threat. The United States' electronic defenses are vulnerable and Washington must act quickly to secure computer networks, software, and hardware before it is too late.
  • Topic: Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington
  • Author: Mitchel B. Wallerstein
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Since the early days of the Cold War, the United States has restricted the export of certain advanced technologies and the sharing of sensitive scientific and technical information with foreign nationals. Initially, these restrictions were justified on the grounds that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies were engaged -- through fronts, third parties, and outright espionage -- in a systematic effort to buy or steal information, technology, and equipment developed in the West that they could then use in their own military systems. Because Soviet industry could not design or produce certain high-tech products, such as personal computers or sophisticated machine tools, the Soviets were forced to obtain them by other means. By successfully denying technology to the Soviet Union, the United States enabled NATO to maintain a strategic and tactical advantage without having to match the Warsaw Pact nations' troop strength in the field. Yet 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and long after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the same system of export controls remains in place. It has only become more arcane and ineffective with time. U.S. export controls have survived largely because of outdated "fortress America" thinking -- the view that the United States is the primary source of most militarily useful scientific ideas and products and that it can continue to deny technology to potential adversaries without seriously damaging the global competitiveness of U.S. companies or, in the end, jeopardizing national security. In an earlier era, when the United States was far more economically and technologically dominant, the costs associated with a technology-denial strategy were easier to absorb. But in today's highly competitive world, the business lost due to export controls poses a threat to the well-being of key U.S. industries; estimated losses range as high as $9 billion per year.
  • Topic: NATO, Cold War
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Soviet Union
  • Author: C. Fred Bergsten
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The global economic crisis has revealed the folly of large U.S. budget and trade deficits, as well as of the strong dollar that makes them possible. If it is serious about recovery, the United States must balance the budget, stimulate private saving, and embrace a declining dollar.
  • Topic: Economics, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Keir A. Lieber, Daryl G. Press
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The Obama administration is right that the United States can safely cut some of its nuclear arsenal, but it must retain the right capabilities. Otherwise, the United States' adversaries might conclude -- perhaps correctly -- that Washington's nuclear strategy rests largely on a bluff.
  • Topic: Cold War
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe