Foreign Policy Blogs

Welcome to the FPA on Climate Change

I've got bad news and I've got good news.  The bad news is that we have managed over the past 250 years or so to begin to dangerously overheat our planet, primarily by the burning of fossil fuels:  coal, oil, and natural gas. What's worse is that we have accelerated this process as industrial civilization has grown exponentially and proliferated across the globe from Europe to North America to South America and to East Asia and India. There are other critical influences on climate change, such as forest loss and the production of methane and other gases from agriculture, that we will discuss over the course of the next year as this blog progresses through the many important subjects and themes that pertain.

In a report from the U.K.'s Hadley Centre for Climate Change, we are told that 2007 is likely to be the warmest year on record globally, beating the current record set in 1998.  The Fourth Assessment Report of the UN-mandated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says unequivocally, again, that what we are experiencing is real, it's dangerous, and it's manmade.  One particularly disturbing conclusion from the IPCC is that "Anthropogenic warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries due to the timescales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized."

But you probably already know all this.  You've probably seen "An Inconvenient Truth" aka the "Al Gore movie."  If you haven't seen it, you pretty certainly know that it just won the Oscar for best documentary.  You've also probably seen the now-ubiquitous media coverage of the subject of climate change.  You've perhaps read some of the excellent books that have come out in the past several years.

But then that's the good news.  People, everywhere, in government, the environmental movement, in the media, in the science community, and in the general public now know what time it is.  The parlous state of our planet's health is being addressed, albeit in fits and starts, but the recognition of the terrible problem we've created is deepening and solutions are being actively sought.

We will here look at an array of things, among them the politics of climate change.  In another excellent contribution from Bill McKibben in the "NY Review of Books," he notes:  "After twenty years of inactivity‚ a remarkably successful bipartisan effort to accomplish nothing‚ the first few weeks of the new Congress have witnessed a flurry of activity."  There is going to be a lot of news from Washington. 

There have been many important insights and developments from environmentalists and energy experts, business analysts, architects and engineers.  Hopefully, we are in what Thomas Kuhn would call a "paradigm shift" and there are going to be more and more positive developments in renewable energy and energy conservation, land use, and transportation.  We will be looking at high tech and low tech, lifestyle changes, and one important theme will be activism.  What can you learn?  What can you do?  Who can you reach out to influence?  "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living," said Mother Jones.

Another theme will be that efforts to reverse the global warming trend will at the same time produce other felicitous effects.  Renewable energy, for instance, equals clean energy , for the most part.  (We'll get into nuclear power, but not here and now.)

So, welcome to the Foreign Policy Association's ongoing discussion of climate change.  Let's roll up our sleeves and do some good work together.   

  • Thank you very much for this valuable information. How I wish to translate it into our local dialect and distribute. Mass media fails to deliver in this part of the world.

    We are doing it in the traditional way, in banners, road streamers and in our t-shirt.

    Thank you once again for the information. Pls. keep us posted.

    Respectfully yours,

    Nelson T. Enojo
    Restore Green Movement – Volunteer
    Province of Southern Leyte, Philippines

  • Chris Young

    This is great–excellent topic and good writing. Thanks and congratulations for kicking it off!
    I’d like to see a link provided to the Carbon Tax Center ( and maybe a bit of discussion on tax v. trade in the Business and Economics section. I believe that a carbon tax is more politically feasible, in the sense that while weak cap and trade is widely acceptable a cap that will really make a difference is hard. A carbon tax, on the other hand, may be harder to initiate but easier to “get right” for the long haul. Of course intellegent people disagree on this, which is a great reason for the blog to tackle it.

  • Robert A. McCallister

    Much has been written about climate change but I see little regarding population impact. The United States had a population of about 140 million in 1940 and today about 300 million and such growth is similar throughout the world. This growth has not only has not only caused an increase of energy use but has also led to a clearing of lands and the release of stored carbon to the atmosphere. This growth will continue for some time with about a 50 percent increase in world population before it stablizes. It seems to me that the current discussion about carbon taxes and other control measures pale in comparison to the population problem.

    We are all familiar with the situation regarding the arctic hare and the foxes. Well, perhaps that's where we stand today.

  • I think that one of the biggest worries in all of this is that the two most populous nations in the world, India and China, seem to be increasing their greenhouse gas contributions nearly exponentially. Plus, as noted in my post "The importance of the Montreal Protocol in protecting climate", they are still producing powerful ozone-depleting substances that have been greatly exacerbating global warming. So, yes, population growth and how large developing nations proceed in their resource use is a big concern. You are right to flag it and you will see it addressed here.

  • DamionKutaeff

    Hello everybody, my name is Damion, and I’m glad to join your conmunity,
    and wish to assit as far as possible.


Bill Hewitt
Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change