Gas prices are above $4 a gallon; global food prices surged 39% last year; and an environmental disaster looms as carbon emissions continue to spiral upward. The global economy appears on the verge of a TKO, a triple whammy from energy, agriculture, and climate-change trends. Right now you may be grumbling about the extra bucks you’re shelling out at the pump and the grocery store; but, unless policymakers begin to address all three of these trends as one major crisis, it could get a whole lot worse. Just ask the North Koreans.
The American people have expressed themselves clearly on the Iraq War itself for quite a while now. By large majorities hovering around 70 percent, they want it to end. Fulfilling this expressed will of the people is our most urgent foreign policy priority, one that can’t be forgotten, ignored or deferred. But there is other, related, unfinished business to which we as a people need to attend. The worst foreign policy disaster in U. S. history may actually have an upside of sorts: that the war has served as a tryout for a number of policy innovations. “Thanks” to the war, we know enough now to cross them permanently off our list.
A new looming threat has caught the military’s attention, namely the security implications of climate change. As early as 1997, the CIA set up an Environmental Center that examined the degradation of land and water as a major source of armed conflict around the world. Such niche efforts within the U.S. security establishment have now gone mainstream.
First the biotech industry promised that its genetically engineered seeds would clean up the environment. Then they told us biotech crops would feed the world. Neither came to pass. Soon we’ll hear that genetically engineered climate-hardy seeds are the essential adaptation strategy for crops to withstand drought, heat, cold, saline soils and more.
This whole week, beginning March 31, the United Nations Ad Hoc Working Groups on climate change are meeting in Bangkok in the critical first round of negotiations to follow up on the resolutions of the climate talks in Bali in December.
The Bush Administration’s fixation on security and the “war on terror” is already escalating the militarization of U.S. policy in Africa in 2008. In his last year in office, President George W. Bush will no doubt duplicitously continue to promote economic policies that exacerbate inequalities while seeking to salvage his legacy as a compassionate conservative with rhetorical support for addressing human rights challenges including conflict in Sudan and continued promotion of his unilateral HIV/AIDS initiative. The third prong of U.S.-Africa policy in 2008 will be the continued and relentless pursuit of African resources, especially oil, with clear implications for U.S. military and economic policy.
Accepting his Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore called on the nations of the world to mobilize to avert climate disaster “with a sense of urgency and shared resolve that has previously been seen only when nations have mobilized for war.”
This report measures in fiscal terms how far our own nation has to go to reach that goal.
For many Democrat voters, John McCain represents the least bad Republican presidential candidate on the ballot. Democrats not wanting the Bible in the White House are disinclined toward southern Baptist Mike Huckabee, and those not wanting a doubled-in-size Guantanamo or an immigrant-free America find Mitt Romney completely unlikable. McCain seems to be the most willing to build bipartisan coalitions, the most willing to give detainees legal representation, and the most willing to tackle global warming Â all of which makes many Democrat voters fonder of McCain than any other Republican candidate.
Following two weeks of climate talks in Bali that brought together nearly 190 countries and more than 10,000 delegates, observers and activists, it looks like there’s very little to show for negotiations that were less about urgent climate action than business as usual.
A day after the dramatic ending of the Bali climate talks, many are wondering if the result was indeed the best outcome possible given the circumstances.
The United States was brought back to the fold, but at the cost of excising from the final document — the so-called Bali Roadmap — any reference to the need for a 25-40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Such reductions are necessary to keep the mean global temperature increase in the 21st century to 2.0-2.4 degrees Celsius. This lack of mandatory cuts prompted one civil society participant to remark that “The Bali roadmap is a roadmap to anywhere.”