Foreign Policy Blogs

That Was The Week That Was*

There were a number of developments this past week worth noting. Here’s a rundown:

U.N. Security Council – On Tuesday, Britain, holding the rotating presidency of the Security Council, brought the issue of climate change forward. (See this from “The International Herald Tribune” and this from the BBC.) The U.K.’s Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, for five years her country’s lead climate change negotiator, said: “There are few greater potential threats to our economies, too, but also to peace and security itself.” (See the Stern Report for further background on her reference to the world’s economies.) Beckett gave a speech the night before to the Foreign Policy Association and its partners titled “Climate Change – The Gathering Storm.” She concluded by saying: “Now it is time for us to rise to our newest and biggest challenge: to fight the first great war of interdependence, the struggle for climate security.”

At the Security Council on Tuesday, there was a considerable push back by developing nations. China’s delegate didn’t quite see it the way that Beckett did. Ambassador Liu Zhenmin asserted, “Developing countries believe that neither has the Security Council the professional competence, nor is it the right decision making place for extensive participation leading up to widely acceptable proposals.” The “Times of India” reported:  “Indian ambassador to the UN Nirupam Sen rubbished the idea that climate change presented any kind of imminent security issue that the Security Council should deal with.” Ouch.

UNSG Ban Ki-Moon playing conciliator, as is appropriate, had this to say:  “We must focus more clearly on the benefits of early action. The resources of civil society and the private sector must be brought in. And this Council has a role to play in working with other competent intergovernmental bodies to address the possible root causes of conflict discussed today.”

For some more perspectives from journalists from China, Brazil, India, Indonesia and elsewhere, go to PostGlobal.

U.S. Security Concerns – Last Monday, the non-profit CNA Corporation, issued a report called “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.” The report was prepared by some serious former American military top brass. The website says:  “Global climate change presents a serious national security threat which could impact Americans at home, impact United States military operations and heighten global tensions ” That’s unequivocal. General Gordon Sullivan, Chairman of CNAC’s Military Advisory Board, followed up with a release applauding the Security Council’s activity on the subject (see item above) and then testified before the “Select Committee On Energy Independence And Global Warming” in the House Of Representatives. (Their website is pending.) He testified:  “After listening to leaders of the scientific, business, and governmental communities both I and my colleagues came to agree that Global Climate Change is and will be a significant threat to our National Security and in a larger sense to life on earth as we know it to be.” One more radical leftist tree hugger on record. (See my post “If You Don’t Like Al Gore, Then )  A “NY Times” editorial from yesterday included this zinger:  “In an alliance of denial, China and the United States are using each other’s inaction as an excuse to do nothing.”

On the subject of climate change and conflict, I want to refer you to the excellent work of the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. They’ve been at this work since 1994. As a student of the etiology of conflict, I can tell you that this is a critical area of inquiry. See also the seminal work of Thomas Homer-Dixon, the director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Toronto. Finally, my colleague, Bonnie Boyd, the blogger on Central Asia, has been writing a series of important articles on environmental issues and impacts. Start here:  Central Asia & Climate change: Overview.

IPCC – On North American Climate – As a follow-up to the IPCC report from April 6 – see my post “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” – regional briefings have been given all over the world. The one for North America was given in Washington on Monday. See this coverage from “ABC News” for example , “Global Warming May Put U.S. in Hot Water.” Another news organization, McClatchy Newspapers, reported here:  “More droughts, floods, heat waves, infectious diseases and extinctions are possible for two of the most prosperous countries on the planet ” One of the lead authors, Michael Oppenheimer, put it this way:  “Water at large is the central (global warming) problem for the U.S.” (The North American section of the report has not yet been posted at the IPCC website but should appear here when it does, soon one presumes.)  Another of the lead authors, Cynthia Rosenzweig, talked to WNYC radio last week:  “Ground Water: Climate Change Could Flood Subways.” This sort of flooding, not incidentally, was the theme of the event I attended last Saturday, the Sea of People , part of the national Step It Up campaign. (See my post on it below.)

How Green is Your City? – This is a new book from SustainLane, “the first internet and media company dedicated to empowering consumers, businesses and government to go green.” Their 2006 US City Sustainability rankings are contained in a new book. You can find a great teaser for the book here. #1 sustainable city?  Portland, Oregon. No surprise there.

How’d my home town, New York City perform? #6 on the list! Mayor Bloomberg is going to have a big speech for tomorrow, Earth Day, on how we are going forward in all this. One of the newsiest components for his speech is on his embrace of congestion pricing. London’s certainly had great success. You go, Mike!  (I’ve been saying this for years and years, before the term congestion pricing was even coined.)

The new Governor of New York State, Eliot Spitzer, put out his comprehensive plan for energy and the environment, on April 19. The reviews from environmentalists were enthusiastic. NRDC energy expert Ashok Gupta said: “Governor Spitzer’s commitment to energy efficiency will make New York the benchmark against which all other states will be measured.”

Media Notes

Not Incidentally, Comments –  Dear Reader, you are cordially invited to make comment at this website on this or any of the posts. One of the principal reasons the Foreign Policy Association has created this blog and its seven sister blogs is to provide not only some ongoing information on the subject at hand but also to engage you in a dialogue. We really do want to hear what you have to say. Feel free.


* “That Was The Week That Was” or TW3 as it was more affectionately known, was a British television satire from the early 1960’s, with an American spin-off a little later.



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