On today’s Diane Rehm Show, a panel of experts discussed the pending energy policy legislation in the US Congress. Karen Wayland, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Counsel talked about the need to join the concepts of national security and climate change when discussing energy policy (RealAudio).

From her perspective, these two concerns are tied up together and shouldn’t be separated, in part because if you take energy independence and national security alone, you might think that reliance on coal would be the best option.

“If you go down the path of energy independence separate from considering global warming what you get is the possibility that some of the solutions to energy independence, like coal-to-liquids, actually leads you to higher global warming emissions,” says Wayland.

Wayland and the NRDC don’t want to see “is this jumpstarting of a whole new industry for coal, which is the greatest emitter of carbon dioxide.”

The linkage of concerns about climate change to international security policy is a critical part of an emerging narrative of international relations. For instance, new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said of the genocide in Sudan, “The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.” This is the latest in a long series of attributions of blame for global crises coming from leading international figures. Following the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, ecumenical faith leaders blamed the extent of the damage on man-made global warming.

Then, as now, I think that using tragedies and conflicts like the tsunami or the Darfur genocide to advance an ideological agenda, like the fight against global warming, is irresponsible. Ban Ki-moon may indeed be right to point out the ecological roots of the Darfur situation. When necessary commodities are scarce, it is not surprising that conflict often arises.

But to connect that particular situation, directly or indirectly, to man-made climate change (driven in large part by Western economies, most especially America) smacks more of opportunism than legitimate and responsible commentary. And if this kind of narrative becomes the dominant one politically, you can expect there to be talk of environmental economic reparations from the industrialized world to the developing world.

Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a statement about global warming that acknowledges the intimate linkages between global concerns about the environment, peace, and prosperity. According to MSNBC, “The SBC statement frames the global warming debate as a moral issue with profound implications for the poor — but does so through a different lens.”

“Our concern is for the vulnerable communities as well,” said Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research with the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “But we think if the data is being misinterpreted, and policies are being implemented to reduce the human contributions, those policies are bound to drive up the costs of goods and services for poor and underdeveloped parts of the world.”

Increased and growing poverty and environmental devastation do indeed have profound implications for geo-political relations, and particularly so when the blame flows only one way. But against the narratives of Western oppression and victimization of the developing world, we need to better understand and articulate the positive aspects of a globalized, interdependent, and interconnected political and social economy.


  • http://evaneco.com Don Bosch

    Good summary. Couple thoughts:

    The Senate has already included language in this year’s Defense Authorization to study the impacts of climate change on military ops and facilities. [see http://www.evaneco.com/?p=480.

    DoD has to deal with at least three inescapable facts. First, whether human-induced GW is “real” or not is largely irrelevant if enough of our coalition partners believe it is and demand a leadership response from us. The reasonable approach then seems to be recognizing that climate, demographics, socio-political environments and the like are always dynamic, and DoD needs to become more adaptable to stay ahead of things.

    Second, many are using climate as an issue to drive DoD toward alternative energy, something that has real benefits vis a vis not being strategically beholden to the whims of evil petrol barons, and rising fuel/operating costs.

    Third, if IPCC (or even Bush and the G-8) are able to establish an international regulatory framework for controlling greenhouse gas emissions, the Armed Forces will face potentially dramatic impacts on training and readiness. Rather than waiting for some international body to impose this framework, it makes sense to get on board early, determine the impacts, and influence the process.

  • http://nsmithfam.org Nick Smith

    Here are some [url=http://www.ft.com/cms/s/e9df7200-19c7-11dc-99c5-000b5df10621.html]comments on global warming from the president of the Czech Republic[/url].

  • http://nsmithfam.org Nick Smith

    Apparently, links aren’t allowed. Here’s the URL:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/e9df7200-19c7-11dc-99c5-000b5df10621.html

  • http://blog.acton.org/ Jordan

    Links are allowed, but must be in BBCode format instead of HTML. I’ve adjusted the tags in your first comment, which should work now.