On January 10, 2012, CNAS will formally release its new report Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea at an event featuring Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert, CNAS Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program Patrick Cronin, CNAS Senior Fellow Robert Kaplan, former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, and Ambassador Chan Heng Chee, Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore to the United States.
RSVP today for what is sure to be a standing-room only event. The report will be available at the event.
As a special note to our Natural Security audience, the report includes a chapter on the role of natural resources in the South China Sea that focuses on more than just the region’s energy resources. It includes an examination of the broad resource and environmental trends affecting the region, from energy to fisheries, from minerals to climate change.
As we approach the end of the year, it is interesting to reflect on what issues and topics have been the most popular on the blog. Here are the top 5 blog posts of 2011 that our readers were drawn to.
Christine Parthemore kicked off our weekly series on smart grid and cyber security by dispelling some of the myths about smart grid technology and its cyber vulnerabilities, and gives a brief overview of some of the U.S. government efforts to mitigate and manage the risks that exist.
In this blog post, I discuss how American interests can be strengthened by ratifying the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, particularly because ratifying UNCLOS would help protect U.S. economic interests and strengthen America’s international role in managing emerging challenges such as territorial disputes in the Arctic and the South China Sea.
Former CNAS intern Bailey Culp discusses China’s growing interests in Africa and cautions that Chinese development in Africa could have future diplomatic and economic implications for the United States.
Christine Parthemore writes about the role of food prices and other natural resources in Egypt’s Arab Spring uprising and ousting of Hosni Mubarak in February.
In this post, I examine the role that water, fuel and food prices play in exacerbating Yemen’s political turmoil, noting that whatever one’s analytical scope is for assessing Yemen’s political crisis, resource challenges cannot be ignored.
Yesterday, I took in an event hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program on “New Research on Climate and Conflict Links.” There was a lot of great discussion that I found particularly relevant to the policy community. Below are just a few quick takeaways that I found instructive.
Marc Levy of Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Earth Institute made a great point about the relevance of some of the questions being asked by the policy community. The question that gets asked quite often is could climate change contribute to a greater risk of conflict? The answer, according to Levy, is almost certainly, with the important caveat that we are talking about the risk of conflict, not the actual occurrence. The risk of conflict will go up relative to a hypothetical world of no climate change, Levy noted. Climate adaptation efforts could reduce the potential for actual occurrence if conducted appropriately.
But the point I found particularly important was that we (researchers, practitioners and policymakers alike) need to get passed this first-order question and begin taking the implications more seriously by asking when, where, how much and what types of conflicts are at greater risk of occurring in a world of climate change? This is where the current research effort is moving toward, albeit with some roadblocks.
China is considering lifting a vegetable distribution tax to avoid higher food prices, according to The Wall Street Journal.
China Daily reports that China is promoting greater economic cooperation in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has granted ConocoPhillips a permit to develop an oil well in the Alaskan National Petroleum Reserve, The Wall Street Journal reports.
United Press International reports the findings of a new study on plants’ responses to drought and the potential implications for engineering drought-resistant crops.
NASA reports that climate change could lead to large ecosystem shifts, according to Science Daily.
News broke late last night that longtime North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died on Saturday, leaving his son, Kim Jong-un, as the chosen successor. This is a significant event and experts around the world are still reacting to the news in order to try to determine how Kim Jong-il’s death will shape North Korea moving forward. But as experts ask ‘What’s next for North Korea?” they should be sure to incorporate the state’s perennial challenges with natural resources into their assessment, which will likely play a role in shaping the North Korean state in the years ahead.
Last year, Bailey Culp wrote a timely blog post here describing the litany of resource challenges that the country is grappling with. Her assessment is as relevant as ever:
By Bailey Culp, former CNAS Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Research Intern
Just beyond the tranquil picturesque landscape of the demilitarized zone on the Korean Peninsula lies modern day North Korea, a bizarre and mysterious world unto itself. The country is shrouded in uncertainty and most of what the outside world knows comes through accounts from defectors, rumors printed by the South Korean press and North Korean state-run media announcements. Case in point: at a recent U.S. Senate Hearing examining the current security situation on the Korean Peninsula, Senator John McCain asked Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (and CNAS co-founder), if Kim Jong-un was the “likely successor” to his father Kim Jong-il, who has ruled since 1994. Secretary Campbell succinctly replied, “Your guess is as good as ours, sir.”
The regime of Kim Jong-Il consistently draws the attention of the international community due to its ominous chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons capabilities and often erratic behavior. Furthermore, the humanitarian situation is extremely dire, with 8.7 million people in need of food assistance, 1 in 3 children under the age of 5 malnourished, and twenty-seven percent of the population at or below the absolute poverty level, living on less than 1 dollar a day.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced an end to the U.S. military mission in Iraq yesterday in Baghdad. As the U.S. military withdraws, U.S. State Department and other civilian officials that remain behind will need to stay cognizant of the water, energy and other resource challenges the country continues to face.
Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense.
The U.S. military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq today. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, speaking in Baghdad, said that Iraq has shown remarkable progress in the past nine years. However, as with many countries transitioning to democracy, “Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Secretary Panetta said. Beyond the sectarian violence and a potentially aggressive Iran on its border, the Iraqi government will continue to face many of the perennial challenges it has been grappling with for the last nine years: reliable access to electricity, water and other basic services that the government is working to provide.
Despite U.S. and other government investments in Iraq since 2003, basic services are still largely unreliable. According to Al Jazeera, “Power cuts are routine, and millions of Iraqis lack regular access to clean water, proper hospitals, or basic infrastructure.” These challenges could hamstring Iraq’s economy, especially as the country looks to draw in foreign businesses to promote economic development. “Unemployment officially stands at around 16 per cent,” Al Jazeera reported. “Many Iraqis say the real number is nearly twice that high, especially among young Iraqis. The only reliable employer is the government, which provides jobs for nearly 40 per cent of the workforce.” Bloomberg reports that the government is trying to attract foreign business, including from U.S. hotel operators and developers. However, “A possible lack of fresh water, electricity and communications systems also can be obstacles to doing business in the country.”
Al Jazeera reports that uncertainty looms in Iraq due to in part to economic and resource issues.
Farmers in China clash with officials due to land-use inequities, including seizures of farmland to transform into industrial parks, according to The New York Times.
The New York Times reports that U.S. and North Korea are discussing humanitarian aid, including possible resuming food aid to combat malnutrition.
United Press International reports that a low-sulfur jet fuel could contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The question of whether climate change could affect a country’s efforts to become more energy secure is thought provoking, and, as I suspect, less abstract than not. Many of the renewable energy technologies that countries are investing in interact, in some way, with the natural environment. Hydroelectric power, for example, requires a strong, steady stream of water to rotate turbines to produce electricity. Many nuclear power stations are generally co-located near water sources because of the amount of water that must be used in their cooling systems. One wonders then how climate-induced drought may affect these renewable energy technologies.
In China, for example, drought is already affecting the countries hydroelectric energy production. In October The Wall Street Journal reported that China is facing a 30 to 40 percent decline in hydroelectric output this winter due to perennial drought. It is unclear exactly how climate change could affect drought in China, but if climate change exacerbates existing trends – as many scientists expect it may – then drought could become more problematic in the future. To compensate for declines in hydroelectric output, China may be compelled to make up the energy shortfall with greater use of coal and other carbon-intensive energy sources, which could contribute to a dangerous and negative climate feedback loop.
The New York Times reports that China is considering an offer for its naval ships to resupply in the Indian Ocean archipelago Seychelles, which could help China secure its sea lines of communication and its energy resources.
Efforts to unlock natural gas from shale rock could be contributing to earthquakes in the American Midwest, according to The New York Times.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the outlook for global commodities prices will depend on China’s voracious appetite for oil, copper and other products.
A new survey details Japan’s radiation hazard, according to The Wall Street Journal.
United Press International reports that ocean fish are threatened by C02 levels.
The Navy’s investment in algae biofuel is having a significant impact on the cost of alternative fuels. Earlier this year, the Navy announced a request for 450,000 gallons of algae biofuel, the largest demand for advanced biofuel to date. At a Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable in August 2011, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said that with the Navy’s modest demand alone, the price of algae biofuel fuel was cut in half last year and is projected to be cut in half again this year.
Last week, Secretary Mabus announced that the Navy will spend $12 million to buy the requested 450,000 gallons of alternative biofuel for continued testing and evaluation in the Navy’s aircraft, ships and remote piloted vehicles. The cost, according to Mabus, comes to about $26 a gallon. Granted, that’s still a steep price to pay for fuel. But, Secretary Mabus, said, “This is still R&D.” He added, “As the market develops, you will see the cost come down.” Moreover, the new purchase is about 94 percent cheaper than what the Navy paid for its first batch of alternative fuel in 2009: $424 a gallon for 20,055 gallons of biofuel.
The price difference in just two short years aptly demonstrates that significant impact that Navy’s demand signal is having on the cost of alternative fuels, just in the research and development phase alone.
Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol, but said it will honor a separate agreements reach in Durban, South Africa that would enforce emissions reductions on the world’s largest emitters, including India and China, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that the EU’s carbon market will require additional action to boost prices and restore the system’s effectiveness in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Washington Post reports that China may take the Seychelles up on its offer to host Chinese naval ships in the Indian Ocean.
Also from The Washington Post, the Philippines new military chief says the country will focus on bolstering external defenses so it can respond to incidents in the South China Sea.
The New York Times reported late yesterday that the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa ended on Sunday with a promise for countries to work toward a new climate treaty, extending the Kyoto Protocol until countries can reach an agreement. According to The Hill’s Energy and Environment Blog, “The agreement requires countries to develop a new treaty by 2015 that would go into effect by 2020.” According to The New York Times, the agreement also “begins a process for replacing the Kyoto agreement with something that treats all countries — including the economic powerhouses China, India and Brazil — equally,” a perennial sticking point between developed and developing countries, and largely the reason why the United States refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
Beyond the agreement to work towards a new climate treaty, international delegates did agree to establish a Green Climate Fund, which The New York Times reports will “help mobilize a promised $100 billion a year in public and private financing by 2020 to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change and converting to clean energy sources.” The fund could play a significant role in helping vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning them away from total reliance on carbon-intensive energy sources.
Opinions appeared to be mixed about the outcome of the Durban climate talks. Observers lamented that “the actions taken at the meeting, while sufficient to keep the negotiating process alive, would not have a significant impact on climate change,” The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, The Hill reports that “Climate advocates were pleased that the Durban deal paves the way for big developing nations including China, now the world’s largest emitter, to face binding commitments.” Others noted that countries now more than ever need to take action back at home, especially given recent warnings from the International Energy Agency and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization that the world could be just a few years away from a dangerous climate tipping point.
The Navy will conduct its final alternative fuel demonstration for the year this morning in Panama City, Florida. The Navy will test a Landing Craft Air Cushion operating on a 50-50 blend of hydro-processed algal oil and conventional petroleum.
U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern seems to shift stance on timetable for new talks, according to The New York Times.
The Wall Street Journal reports that discussion about a climate change fund is making progress at the UN conference in Durban, South Africa.
MaritimeProfessional.com reports that the Navy is conducting its final alternative fuel demo with a Landing Craft Air Cushion today.
China will cooperate with a firm created by Bill Gates to develop a fourth-generation nuclear reactor, according to United Press International.
The Sacramento Bee reports that plug-in vehicles are essential to developing a U.S. energy security strategy.
Yesterday, U.S. and Chinese officials met in Beijing for their annual military review, known as the Defense Consultative Talks. The meeting between the countries’ senior defense officials comes on the heels of President Obama’s trip to the Asia-Pacific where he emphasized a greater U.S. military presence (including in Australia), and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement that the United States will pivot from the Middle East to Asia as it draws down from its conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the talks, Chinese General Ma Xiaotian urged the United States and China “to enhance communication, to expand common ground, to promote mutual understanding.” Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy said she hoped the two militaries could “agree on issues and interests that the two sides share.”
As policymakers look for opportunities to strengthen military ties, they should consider environmental cooperation, in particular humanitarian and disaster response and climate adaptation, which may facilitate better cooperation between the two countries, serving as a means for confidence building and increasing transparency that could help defuse tensions over the expanding U.S. and Chinese naval presence in the Western Pacific, including the South China Sea.
The New York Times reports that China may be prepared to accept binding cuts on greenhouse gas emissions, but outlines certain conditions that must be met first.
U.S. defense officials seek to reassure China on its policy in Asia, especially against the backdrop of growing anxieties in the South China Sea, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Washington Post reports that a bomb has struck an oil pipeline in the Syrian city of Homs.
A new study suggests that solar power is much cheaper than most analysts realize, according to United Press International.
At a briefing yesterday before the Defense Energy Security Caucus, Admiral Philip Cullom, director of the Navy’s Energy and Environmental Readiness Division, spoke to the Navy’s energy security efforts as enhancing the Navy’s war fighting capabilities. And really, that’s what the Navy’s and the other services’ efforts are all about – increasing operational effectiveness through energy efficiency, conservation and innovation. It’s important to remember this point because the choices the services are making in their energy security strategies reflect new technologies and requirements that bolster, not detract from, mission effectiveness. The Navy, for example, would not support the development of alternative liquid fuels that compromise the performance of its air or ship fleet. The choices they make must serve their war fighting capability.
In his remarks yesterday, Admiral Cullom reminded the audience that the Navy has a history of doing this very well. In April 1942, several months after the attacks against Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle orchestrated a counterattack against Tokyo using a fleet of B-25s launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier Hornet. But the Navy had never done this before, and didn’t know if it could: the carrier runways were too short for the heavy B-25s to takeoff, and it was unclear if they could carry enough fuel for the aviators to reach allied forces in China safely. So, as Admiral Cullom reminded the audience, Doolittle stripped the B-25s of every non-essential piece in the aircraft, making the B-25 lighter and thus more fuel efficient, extending its range several hundred miles so that the aviators could hit their targets and fly to China. It was a successful war-time demonstration of how making air platforms more efficient could enhance the military’s war fighting capability in ways that in the months before seemed impossible.
On December 1, 2011, the Government Accountability Office released a new report on the Coast Guard’s Arctic capability that is worth reading in full. The report cautions that “the most significant issue facing the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet is the growing obsolescence of these vessels and the resulting capability gap caused by their increasingly limited operations.”
It is particularly interesting to read the report in the context of the budget debate taking place on Capitol Hill. The authors of the report rightly acknowledge that expanding the capability necessary to accomplish the Coast Guard’s Arctic missions is particularly challenged by budget constraints and uncertainty about how much the Department of Homeland Security’s budget may decrease. According to the study:
Senior Coast Guard officials, based in Alaska, reported that resources for Arctic operations had already been reduced and were inadequate to meet existing mission requirements in Alaska, let alone expanded Arctic operations. These officials also reported a more than 50 percent year-to-year reduction between 2005 and 2009 in the number of large cutters available for operations in their region. Officials also expressed concern that the replacement of the 12 older high-endurance cutters with 8 new cutters may exacerbate this challenge. Given the reductions that have already taken place, as well as the anticipated decrease in DHS’s annual budget, the long-term budget outlook for Coast Guard Arctic operations is uncertain. The challenge of addressing Arctic resource requirements in a flat or declining budget environment is further underscored by recent budget requests that have identified the Coast Guard’s top priority as the recapitalization of cutters, aircraft, communications, and infrastructure—particularly with regard to its Deepwater program. Recent budget requests also have not included funding for Arctic priorities, aside from the annual operating costs associated with existing icebreakers.
The New York Times reports that domestic pressure in China is growing due to concerns about air pollution that is affecting economic and social progress.
Also from The New York Times, Japan has a tough road ahead in its efforts to clean up radiation in its northeast.
The New York Times also reports that South Korea is requesting a lift on a ban that prevents the country from enriching uranium or reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, in part as an effort to meet its goal to produce 60 percent of its energy from nuclear power by 2030.
Informationweek.com examines the challenges facing smart grid technology.
The Washington Post reports that China is trying to mediate an oil impasse between Sudan and South Sudan.
This morning, The Wall Street Journal rightly reported that the United States faces considerable costs with fueling its forces in Afghanistan, both in blood and treasure. The military is vulnerable to attacks against supply convoys that cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan, for example. The Department of Defense recently estimated that attacks against fuel convoys have caused thousands of causalities in Iraq and Afghanistan, including service members, contractors and civilians; exact figures are difficult to come by. Meanwhile, every one dollar increase in the price per barrel of oil costs the Department of Defense about an additional $130 million dollars on its energy bill.
Having a conversation about the critical energy security challenges the military faces is important, especially in this fiscal environment where potential cuts could be made to programs that bolster the military’s ability to redress its energy vulnerability. But it is important to get the facts straight, if for nothing else because we need an accurate baseline to measure progress against.
The Wall Street Journal reported this morning – in its headline and body copy – that fueling the force “costs a lot of money – up to $400 a gallon, by military estimates.” This “$400 a gallon” figure is thrown around quite often when DOD energy security comes up, and I understand why: it’s a striking amount to pay for fuel and it is illustrative. But in my conversations with DOD energy experts, this price is rarely paid and more or less reflects the worst case scenarios; situations, for example, where fuel bladders have to be flown by helicopter or a C-130 to remote outpost that have to be refueled in flight in order to make their delivery. And even this example may not accurately convey the worst case scenarios that defense logisticians are dealing with when the price of fuel grows this high.
As international delegates kickoff the second week of annual climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, The New York Times reported on Sunday that global carbon emissions demonstrated the largest jump in recorded history in 2010, despite a still sluggish global economy that contributed to a remarkable drop in emissions in 2009, “upending the notion that the brief decline during the recession might persist through the recovery.”
The analysis found that the majority of global carbon emissions (57 percent) came from developing countries and that “the combustion of coal represented more than half of the growth in emissions.” The analysis suggests that some developing countries increased their share of coal use – long considered one of the cheapest forms of conventional fossil fuel sources – in part as an effort to generate the energy necessary to improve economic growth. China, for example, is the world’s number one consumer of coal, consuming about 16 percent more coal in 2010 than 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
Delegates met this week in Durban, South Africa for the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to discuss, among others things, what to do once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
Despite low expectations about an agreement on Kyoto, some reports pointed to potentially meaningful progress, particularly with respect to climate finance for developing countries – that is, a new multilateral Green Climate Fund that would provide cash-flows to countries to develop climate-related projects, including renewable energy technologies and climate adaptation projects that can help dampen the impacts from climate change.
Delegates will meet through next week, December 9, and we’ll continue to track the progress through our friends at the Adopt a Negotiator Project.
Photo: The main conference hall in Durban, South Africa. Courtesy of the Adopt a Negotiator Project.