Foreign Policy Blogs

Bits and Bobs

As I've noted before, there is a lot going on!  What follows is another smattering of items like my "Smorgasbord" post below. 

Politics – There is much to be discussed regarding the politics of climate change, internationally, between various stakeholders, and, of course, within countries. Two pieces from "The Economist," for instance, illustrate the intense politics in Britain around climate change:  "Climate change – A hot topic gets hotter" and the Bagehot column, "Brave Dave v Cautious Gordon."  Both are from March 15 and both talk about the jockeying by the parties, Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrats, to be greener and to be seen by the British public as greener.  This, in my opinion, is a good battle to have waging.  To quote from the Bagehot column:  "But for all Mr Blair's pioneering efforts, it is David Cameron who can claim to have done most to make climate change the topic of the moment. It is probably fair to say that without the pressure (and the cover) that has come from Mr Cameron, the government which Mr Brown will soon lead would not be committing itself to the kind of measures called for by this week's draft bill on climate change."  (Go here for these articles and some others but be cautioned that "The Economist" is not free.  You can get a trial subscription in order to see these.  You can also see my post of March 14 below on the British initiatives.)

In the U.S., there are an array of political tensions:  between Republicans and Democrats, of course, but within the parties as well, and between factions within other constitutencies, such as the conservative Christian community.  I will but dip my toe into these waters for the moment, by citing two recent articles.  The first is about the "conversion" of John Dingell, the exceedingly powerful former and once-again chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives.  Go here to see the committee's recent activity on climate change.  Dingell, back 20 years ago when I and many others were engaged in fighting for an acid rain title for the Clean Air Act, was a thorn, to say the least.  (George Bush, pere, it should be noted to his credit, helped break the logjam to bring forth the acid rain legislation in 1990.)  To return to Dingell, he represents a district in Detroit and he's spent his entire career being very protective indeed of the interests of the auto industry.  A recent article, though, "Changed Climate on Warming," from the "Wall St. Journal," reports that:  "Rep. John Dingell once dismissed global warming as a "theory.' Lately, the Democratic lawmaker from Michigan has had a change of heart. "The science on this question,' he said recently, "has been settled.'"  (Sorry to say, again, that this has gone into the pay-for-the-article zone.  You can go here to access it, or get it from the library.)

The other story that I want to flag for you concerns the very public spat between elements of the Evangelical Christian community in the U.S.  One recent focus of the contention has been the very active campaign waged against global warming by Richard Cizik, the vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.  The NAE, for your information, is an umbrella group, with hundreds of organizational members, and represents on the order of 30 million Americans.  See "NAE rebuffs critics, affirming Cizik and a wider agenda" from "The Christian Century."  (Bill McKibben is another featured writer for them.)  The NAE has an active "Creation Care" initiative.  You can hear Cizik talk about that here at NPR.  You might also check out the Evangelical Climate Initiative.  It's being led by some pretty heavy hitters out there, among them Rick Warren, Jim Wallis, Leith Anderson, and former New York City congressman Floyd Flake.

Agriculture , The U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, with a modest annual budget of about $1.6 billion and a staff of over 8,000 employees, is known for some pretty hotshot research.  A recent report from them, Global scale climate,crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming, appeared in the very highly regarded "Environmental Research Letters."  The press release from the LLNL says:  "Warming temperatures since 1981 have caused annual losses of roughly $5 billion for the major cereal crops "   One of the lead authors says:  "A key moving forward is how well cropping systems can adapt to a warmer world.  Investments in this area could potentially save billions of dollars and millions of lives."  Also at the LLNL website is a link to an earlier report on how "Changes in agricultural practices could help slow global warming."

Economic Consequences , Since we've hit on the subject, it might be a good moment to introduce the blockbuster report, from the British government, from October 30 of last year:  the "Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change."  It lays out some stark economic prospects:

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don't act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. 

Discussion and debate erupted all over the world with the publication of the Stern Report.  See this from CNN for just a sliver of the hullabaloo.  Much more about this in future posts.

Global Ecology , Here's an arresting lead:  "A new global warming study predicts that many current climate zones will vanish entirely by the year 2100, replaced by climates unknown in today's world."  The study, discussed in this story from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (my alma mater) was funded by the National Science Foundation and is further reported by them here.  Another understated, nevertheless alarming thought, from the paper itself:  "Climate is a principal influence in species distributions and ecosystem function, and the disappearance of existing climates, or the development of future climates not found at present, could have profound ecological consequences."

And this headline got my attention too:  "Climate change: study maps those at greatest risk from cyclones and rising seas" , This story is from Science Daily and comes from the International Institute for Environment and Development.  Fun fact:  634 million people ‚ one tenth of the global population ‚ live in coastal areas that lie within just ten meters above sea level. 



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