›November 29, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesMitigating the effects of global climate change will require an integrated approach, says the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) new report, Human Development Report 2007/2008, which focuses on the human dimensions of a warming planet and highlights the challenges vulnerable populations face in adapting to climatic shifts.
According to the report:
Violent conflicts, insufficient resources, lack of coordination and weak policies continue to slow down development progress, particularly in Africa. Nonetheless in many countries there have been real advances…This development progress is increasingly going to be hindered by climate change. So we must see the fight against poverty and the fight against the effects of climate change as interrelated efforts. They must reinforce each other and success must be achieved on both fronts jointly.This report has abundant company: In the last year, studies highlighting the climate-security nexus have been published by the CNA Corporation, the Center for a New American Security, the UN Development Program, and International Alert. These studies advocate bold new policies, enumerate the short-term and long-term costs of inaction, and connect climate change to other salient issues, such as security and poverty.
It is becoming impossible to ignore the growing body of scientific evidence and chorus of voices advocating immediate action on climate change. But global leaders have not reached consensus on the issue, due in large part to the U.S. government’s objections to binding emissions limits. The next UN climate change conference meets in Bali next month, but major revelations and ambitious new policies are unlikely. Although the U.S. government has begun to shift its rhetoric, few expect it to change its policies soon.
According to the UNDP report, developed nations account for 15 percent of the global population, but nearly half of global CO2 emissions. If greenhouse gas emissions are not cut by at least 30 percent in the next 15 years, the UNDP projects the Earth’s average temperature will increase by as much as two degrees Celsius. These projections have sobering consequences, especially in developing nations, where climate change “will undermine efforts to build a more inclusive pattern of globalization, reinforcing the vast disparities between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.”
›November 26, 2007 // By Rachel WeisshaarThe United States and Israel could garner more meaningful engagement from Syria in the Middle East peace process by proposing the creation of a peace park in the disputed Golan Heights area, say University of Vermont Associate Professor Saleem Ali, a recent speaker at the Wilson Center, and Rabbi Michael Cohen of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel in “Salvaging Peace with Syria,” available on the Carnegie Council’s “Policy Innovations” website. Noting that transboundary conservation areas have helped resolve past conflicts—as with the Cordillera del Cóndor Transboundary Protected Area, established between Peru and Ecuador in 1995—the authors argue that a Golan Heights peace park should be on the agenda at tomorrow’s Middle East peace conference in Annapolis.
›November 25, 2007 // By Thomas RenardCan environmental destruction justify military intervention? Robyn Eckersley, a professor of environmental politics at the University of Melbourne, Australia, explores the morality, legality, and legitimacy of such involvement in “Ecological Intervention: Prospects and Limits,” which appears in the latest issue of Ethics and International Affairs.
Eckersley argues that the United Nations—particularly the Security Council—possesses the authority to assume a larger role in protecting the environment. This idea is not original, however: Klaus Töpfer, former head of the UN Environment Programme, and Mikhail Gorbachev have both called for the creation of a “green helmets” force to respond to environmental crises.
Eckersley identifies three categories of environmental harm that could justify an ecological intervention—which she defines as “the threat or use of force by a state or coalition of states within the territory of another state and without the consent of that state in order to prevent grave environmental damage”—or the launch of an ecological defense—which she defines as “the preventive use of force in response to the threat of serious and immediate environmental harm flowing into the territory of a ‘victim’ state.”
- A major environmental emergency with transboundary spillover effects. As an illustration, Eckersley hypothesizes a Chernobyl-like nuclear accident in a country that lacks the capacity to cope with the catastrophe but refuses foreign assistance. She argues that the notion of “territorial integrity” inscribed in the UN Charter can readily be interpreted to include “ecosystem integrity”—and therefore justify an intervention by an affected state. Currently, a country affected by another country’s nuclear accident can only hope for monetary reparations.
- An ecocide—the result of intentional, systematic acts that cause widespread, long-term, and severe damage to the environment—involving serious human rights violations. Saddam Hussein’s decimation of the marsh region that was home to the Madan, or Marsh Arabs, is a case in point. Eckersley’s legal argument here relies on an expansive interpretation of the UN Charter’s notion of “threat to the peace.”
- An ecocide involving no serious harm to human beings. An illustration of this situation would be the deployment of troops in the Great Lakes to protect the mountain gorillas. Contending that biodiversity is a “common concern of humankind,” Eckersley argues that states have a responsibility to other states to protect their environment, as the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development suggests.
Eckersley’s proposition, though interesting, suffers from a number of pitfalls. One major problem is that her argument could open the door to an extremely wide range of military interventions. For instance, her call for interventions to protect endangered species is extremely impractical—if not impossible—given the prediction that climate change will threaten the existences of millions of species will be at risk by 2050. One option—though not without serious problems of its own—would be to establish a list of “indispensable” species.
Another weakness of Eckersley’s article is that it neglects the role of incentives, focusing instead on the use of force, even though governments are often more receptive to the former. The army is probably not the organization best-suited to protecting coral or chimpanzees. Troop deployments are both financially and morally costly: Developing countries might view an increasing number of interventions by the Security Council as a violation of their sovereignty or a new form of colonization. Furthermore, it will take far more than military interventions to ensure the health of the environment.
Additional flaws in Eckersley’s argument include her attempt to build the case for ecological interventions on that of still-controversial humanitarian interventions, and her wish to saddle the United Nations with additional responsibilities.
Ecological intervention and ecological defense are interesting concepts, anticipating the future importance of the environment in foreign policy. However, Eckersley’s argument goes too far. Few countries would send troops into hostile territory solely to protect the local environment or wildlife. The necessary intermediate step is to continue studying the links between conflict and the environment, biodiversity, and climate change. That research will make possible the development of pragmatic, environment-centered conflict-prevention and conflict-resolution strategies.
›November 19, 2007 // By Miles BrundageLast week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) hosted “Agriculture, Land Use, and Climate: Implications for African Development,” a panel discussion on agriculture’s essential current and future role in Africa’s development. As panelist Martin Bwyala of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) noted at the beginning of the discussion, 60 to 70 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa depends on agriculture or another form of direct land use for their livelihoods. “Africa’s foundation for sustainable growth lies in enhancing the productivity and sustainable use of its natural resources,” said Bwyala. The panel highlighted the adverse effects of unsustainable land use and climate change on Africans’ livelihoods, and examined the merits of potential solutions.
The panelists emphasized that governments and NGOs are better positioned to aid Africa today than ever before, and that the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) provides an important opportunity to do so. A joint venture by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and NEPAD, with the support of other agencies, CAADP is “a manifestation of African governments’ commitment to address issues of growth in the agricultural sector, rural development and food security,” FAO’s website explains. [w1] The panelists’ overwhelming consensus was that NGOs and governments can and should collaborate to pursue CAADP’s goals, which include: achieving an annual agricultural production growth rate of 6 percent; strengthening domestic and international markets for African agricultural products; spending at least 10 percent of annual public expenditure on agricultural investment; and expanding sustainable management of land and water resources.
Elaborating on CAADP’s goals, Arati Belle of the World Bank explained precisely what is at stake in increasing the sustainability of African agriculture. 485 million Africans are adversely affected by land degradation, which is not surprising, she said, considering that 30 percent of Africa’s GDP and 70 percent of its employment come from the agricultural sector. The goal of the TerrAfrica initiative, launched at the CAADP Partnership Forum, is to “scale up the effectiveness and efficiency of sustainable land management in sub-Saharan Africa.” The need for sustainable land management couldn’t be more urgent: On average, soil and nutrient loss cause a 3 percent annual reduction in African countries’ GDP, said Belle. Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Belle warned that unless sustainable and adaptive solutions are implemented, declining crop productivity and increasing variability in precipitation over the course of this century are likely to exacerbate the agricultural sector’s woes.
Continuing this line of reasoning, WWF’s David Reed argued that agencies, governments, and companies involved in Africa “have to change the very base case of their investments, calculations, and thinking, particularly in the agricultural sector.” When thinking about the future of African agriculture, it is crucial to incorporate the impacts of the continent’s massive population growth, said Reed, because the 15 million sub-Saharan Africans who enter the labor market each year are likely to move predominantly into agriculture. It is important that NGOs help African countries take advantage of this influx of labor, Reed said, by promoting agro-forestry best practices, working with agricultural ministries, and encouraging more diverse production systems at the household and community levels.
The final panelist was Angel Elias-Daka of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), who used statistics—as well as anecdotes from his 20 years working in the wetlands of Zambia and Malawi—to shed light land degradation in Africa. Elias-Daka’s field experiences showed him that millions of people depend heavily on wetlands that—due to climate change and unsustainable use—are drying up and losing their biodiversity. He explained the link between COMESA’s work in the region and Africa’s agricultural production as follows: “If you promote trade and investment and people are able to trade their agricultural products, you are also going to promote agricultural production because people know they can trade their agricultural products easily.” Sustainable agricultural development will serve both the economic and the environmental needs of the continent, said Elias-Daka.
›November 16, 2007 // By Sean Peoples
The Center for Global Development (CGD) recently launched a new interactive website highlighting the highest CO2-emitting power plants in the world. Carbon Monitoring for Action—CARMA for short—is a project of CGD’s Confronting Climate Change Initiative. The project also highlights clean power producers, reveals the largest power-producing plants, and hosts a blog. Some of the downloadable content is temporarily disabled, likely due to heavy web traffic. Nevertheless, a visit to CARMA is worth your time for the interactive map alone.
›November 16, 2007 // By Rachel WeisshaarThe unearthing of significant oil reserves in 100-mile long Lake Albert—shared by Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—has already led to violence, and the conflict could easily escalate further. Tullow Oil and Heritage Oil Corporation, which have drilled wells in the lake, recently estimated that it contains at least 1 billion barrels of oil. Uganda and the DRC both want the lion’s share of this treasure, and their competing ambitions have ignited violence in parts of the disputed Uganda-DRC border.
Uganda and the DRC deployed troops in the area once the discovery of oil was reported, and on August 3, 2007, Congolese soldiers attacked one of Heritage Oil’s exploratory oil barges, killing a British contractor working for the company. The Ugandan army retaliated, killing a Congolese soldier. Following the incident, Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met in Tanzania and agreed to pull back their troops. But later in September, an incident between the two sides resulted in the deaths of six civilians.
The discovery of oil is causing outright violence in the region, but it is also harming local communities’ health and livelihoods. Rukwanzi Island, located in Lake Albert and claimed by both countries, was partially evacuated earlier this week by DRC authorities due to a cholera outbreak. Oil-related security concerns prevented health workers from treating patients effectively, so DRC police evacuated children and the elderly—two particularly vulnerable populations.
Congolese and Ugandan fishermen who depend on Lake Albert for their livelihoods have been caught up in the hostilities. A Ugandan fisherman told Reuters, “Congolese soldiers have started arresting us, saying we are in their waters. It’s not safe to fish anymore.” Congolese soldiers arrest Ugandan fishermen, and Ugandan police retaliate by arresting Congolese fishermen, making fishing a dangerous and less-profitable enterprise.
The discovery of oil—and the destabilization it can bring—could also involve other Great Lakes countries. Vangold Resources Ltd. recently signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to conduct an extensive geophysical study of a portion of Rwanda’s East Kivu Graben basin, which, structurally, is the southern extension of the Albertine basin. The survey will be completed—and its results released—within 18 months.
Africa’s Great Lakes region—particularly the DRC—has a history of natural resource-driven conflict. Trade out of the DRC in gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, coltan (used in cell phones), and timber has contributed to devastating internal violence, corruption, and poverty, as well as conflict with other countries. We can only hope that the discovery of oil in Lake Albert does not follow the same path.
›November 16, 2007 // By Thomas RenardThe November issue of International Affairs focuses on security issues in Africa, with several articles investigating the links among environment, population, and security.
Chatham House’s Nicholas Shaxson explores poverty and bad governance in oil-rich countries in the Gulf of Guinea. “Oil, corruption and the resource curse” builds on the author’s extensive research into the politics of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, including interviews with numerous key players.
“Climate change as the ‘new’ security threat: implications for Africa,” by Oli Brown, Anne Hammill, and Robert McLeman, reviews the linkages between climate change and security in Africa. Climate change could precipitate socio-economic and political collapse, the authors say. However, good adaptation policies could help prevent environmental stresses from triggering conflict.
In “Human security and development in Africa,” Nana K. Poku, Neil Renwick, and Joao Gomes Porto note that Africa is unlikely to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal by the target year of 2015. Arguing that security and development are closely intertwined, they identify four critical developmental security issues: ensuring peace and security; fostering good governance; fighting HIV/ AIDS; and managing the debt crisis.
Finally, David Styan of Birkbeck College, London, examines the relationship between international migration and African economic security in his article “The security of Africans beyond borders: migration, remittances and London’s transnational entrepreneurs.”
›November 14, 2007 // By Thomas RenardFor years, some experts have predicted that the depletion of global oil reserves—and the resulting rising price of oil—would make U.S. dependence on foreign oil economically untenable. Calls to address American energy consumption are nothing new. Yet technology has expanded the industry’s ability to find and extract oil: The National Petroleum Council estimates the total proven reserves at 1.2 trillion barrels—38 years of supply at current rates of consumption. It is likely that another trillion barrels of undiscovered oil exist, as well as 1.5 trillion barrels of “unconventional” reserves of heavy oil, according to the federally chartered advisory committee. As Vijay Vaitheeswaran argues in Foreign Policy magazine, “the world is simply not running out of oil. It is running into it.”
Recently, then, many advocates of oil independence have shifted from an economic argument, which has become hard to sustain at a time when governments are paying $98 a barrel for oil, to a security argument—although this is not to say that national security was not a concern at all previously. Besides the failure of alarmist predictions, two factors explain the shift from an economic to a security discourse: climate change and terrorism. The growing awareness of the causes and extent of climate change has tarnished the image of fossil fuels. According to a BBC poll, 50 percent of the world population favors higher taxes on fossil fuels.
Even more than climate change, however, it is the links between oil and terrorism that cause concern among policymakers. At a conference at the Brookings Institution, former CIA director James Woolsey argued that oil revenue often flows to Islamist regimes that finance madrassas, which educate the next generation of terrorists. Oil can be a source terrorism, but it can also be a target. Oil convoys are one of the main concerns of U.S. troops in Iraq, as they are frequently attacked by terrorists. In addition, the oil fields of the Niger Delta are often attacked by rebel groups.
In his book Freedom from Oil, David Sandalow, an expert on energy policy and climate change, explores what could happen if the next president prioritized oil independence– which he defines as reducing U.S. oil consumption to the point that imports are minimal. [For Sandalow's response, read comments below.] He believes the transportation complex should be the target of future policies, and that biofuels and plug-in cars are part of the solution. Indeed, as Vaitheeswaran notes, “this year, two-thirds of U.S. oil consumption—and half of global oil consumption—will be sucked up by cars and trucks. Reinventing the car is the only serious way to wean the world off oil.”
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