With Friday's forecast calling for twenty inches of the white stuff, to be followed shortly thereafter by a chance of Four Horsemen, there was only one thing I could think of that would compliment DC's Snopocalyptic impending doom: attend a presentation on the U.S. Navy's strategic interests and game plan—not being a sports fan myself, that's pretty much the only Superbowl reference you'll get—for the Arctic. The Arctic Roadmap event was hosted by fellow D.C. think tank, the Stimson Center.
Beginning with a short talk by Director of Task Force Climate Change, Rear Admiral David Titley, the event then followed with a panel discussion with Caitlyn Antrim of the Rule of Law Committee for the Oceans (a joint host of the event), John Bellinger, former State Department Legal Adviser, Major General Richard Engel, USAF (ret.), Director, Climate Change and State Stability Program in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Amit Pandya from the Stimson Center.
Here are my main takeaways from Real Admiral Titley's talk:
The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last month received more anticipation and optimism than New Coke, and much like the long forgotten beverage, once it was finally here, disappointment ensued. To assess the Copenhagen aftermath, yesterday the Center for Strategic and International Studies held the first of what they announced would be a series of such events, titled Post Copenhagen Outlook. I attended the event in hopes of learning just what happened, and the implications it has for our country and its foreign relations.
The featured speaker for the event was the State Department’s Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathan Pershing. Pershing wasted no time in making known his three key points:
Pershing described the past and future role that climate change-focused international agreements (like what many had hoped that Copenhagen would generate) have had on diplomacy and development. He compared the refusal by the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the same stance of San Marino (a landlocked country found entirely within the borders of Italy, approximately one-third the size of Washington, DC) as a poor decision which has had real ramifications for U.S. support abroad. As an example, he explained how American green energy scientists find themselves basically blacklisted by some Kyoto signatories. He also highlighted the fact that the states that are currently most susceptible to conflict are often the most exposed to environmental issues such as drought and rising sea levels. Some of the issues which already stoke the flames of conflict and instability may be further exacerbated by climate change.
Yesterday I took a virtual trip to check out the U.S. Institute of Peace event, Natural Resources: Plunder or Peace, via live webcast. The event featured Paul Collier, director of the Centre of African Economies at Oxford University, and Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, and focused primarily on natural resources beneath the ground (or subsoil assets, as they were commonly referred to during the event).
Paul Collier began his discussion with fun question to the audience. According to Collier, an average square kilometer of land in the richest countries in the world was valued to have $120,000 worth of subsoil assets. The statistics game started when he asked the audience whether they thought that the value of subsoil assets beneath an average square kilometer of African land would be more than that average. By a show of hands (save my own, as webcasts are only projected one-way), it seemed most everyone indicated a vote of “yes.” But according to Collier, everyone was wrong; the average in Africa amounts to roughly $23,000. By his assessment, this pointed to one obvious conclusion: we simply haven’t discovered the other assets to make up for the nearly $100,000 disparity. I temporarily accepted this fact and listened on.
Yesterday I made the short walk from the CNAS office to the Woodrow Wilson Center to catch the Environmental Change and Security Program’s most recent event, Water, Conflict, and Cooperation: Practical Concerns for Water Development Projects. The briefing consisted of three main speakers: Jason Gehrig, a consultant and engineer for Catholic Relief Services, and author of the event’s focal piece, Water and Conflict: Incorporating Peacebuilding into Water Development; William E. Hall, a professor in Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program; and S. Tjip Walker, a team leader within the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation unit on Warning and Analysis.
Gehrig began the discussion with a brief outline of Water and Conflict, in which he brought to light the greatest hurdle in resolving water conflicts (complete with catchy alliteration): looking beyond the “tubes and tanks.” To be brief, Gehrig suggested that the international community look beyond the physical structures necessary to provide access to water, and rather examine the social networks that are built up around them.
As I listened to the nearly two hours of dialogue that followed, this idea of seeing past the tangible structures required for access to water proved to be at the core of each speaker’s account. Hall’s short blur of flow charts and bar graphs on the specifics of environmental conflict resolution, for example, boiled down to social constructs which determine who uses a resource, how they use it, and other such governances.
Yesterday morning I took the Red Line up to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies to attend a presentation by the head of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Dr. Richard Newell. The event, “EIA’s Updated Energy Forecasts to 2035,” projected America’s energy profile for the next 25 years. This presentation was a preview of the EIA’s full projection, which should be unveiled in the next few months.
Dr. Newell first laid out the assumptions made by EIA researchers, which are mainly too complex to render here. However, one important example is that the EIA assumes that current laws and regulations will stay the same and that there will be no significant breakthroughs in energy technologies (alternative energy vehicles, or otherwise). With these assumptions in mind, here are some of the highlights from the projection:
All of this may be disheartening for anybody hoping for more renewable energy use in the near-to-mid-term. Still, the EIA predicts that in 2035 that a greater portion of electricity will be produced from domestic sources of natural gas, resulting in a modicum of increased energy security. Also, biofuels and renewable energy production will be growing at steady rates, which could help eventually wean the country off petroleum dependence (but not likely by 2035).
Dr. Newell noted that interested energy-heads can poke around the EIA’s website to check previous projections against the actual energy numbers that were consumed. He also noted—when asked directly—that the EIA has historically fared better in predicting quantities of energy consumed than it has in predicting prices of individual energy sources. It will be interesting to check the site in 2036 to see how well this projection predicted the future.
Michael McCarthy reports from the New America Foundation event on Minding the Gap: Where Will President Obama's Energy and Climate Policies Take Us in Four to Eight Years?
Yesterday I attended an event at the New America Foundation on Minding the Gap: Where Will President Obama's Energy and Climate Policies Take Us in Four to Eight Years? The format was a series of remarks by energy consultants and Department of Energy representatives, moderated by Lisa Margonelli, director of New America’s Energy Policy Initiative. A keynote speech from Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) capped the event in which he advocated for his revenue-neutral alternative to the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation. Here are a few highlights from yesterday’s event:
All in all there were some interesting ideas floating through the New America offices yesterday. While only one participant made the argument that climate change legislation is good for U.S. security, he was also the participant with the most direct political influence, and he is clearly concerned about the issue. In recent weeks we’ve seen explicit links between climate change and national security being discussed in the Senate, and it’s encouraging to see that similar ideas may be brewing in the House as well.
Amanda Hahnel reports from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report launch of World Energy Outlook 2009
Yesterday I ventured over to CSIS to attend the launch of the World Energy Outlook 2009 report, an annual report put on by the International Energy Agency. Dr. Fatih Barol, the chief economist on the project, briefed us on the key takeaways, some of which I’ve captured below:
It was a great event that provided some of the best energy data analyses available. As Dr. Barol admitted, a lot of the information is updated from what we already know, but the continuation of information collection and study is important. If you’re in need of a great collection of energy-related data, check out their report for more in-depth findings.
It has been a long week already, after a marathon reception Tuesday evening and a full day yesterday, as we had the honor of supporting the Defense Attachés Association (DAA) in their annual conference, “Strategic Resources and New Global Security Trends.” We are a bit tired and out covering some events and hearings today, so for today’s post we are providing a few take-aways from the DAA event. It was held under Chatham House rules, so these will be general and not attributed, but hopefully still a bit insightful:
Here in the blog, we get deep into the details a lot, and it was great to have the opportunity to pull back up to the big picture level and make the case as to why natural resources are inseparable from security, and the linkages that are important to understanding the issues we cover here. A few of the speakers may allow us to post transcripts, and we will certainly let you know if we do!
Yesterday the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program hosted the Army Environmental Policy Institute’s 31st sustainability lecture on the Department of Defense’s (DoD) strategic energy opportunities and challenges. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health Tad Davis introduced keynote speaker Dr. Amory Lovins who sits on the Defense Science Board’s Task Force on DoD Energy Strategy and helped advise the 2008 DSB report, More Fight – Less Fuel.
According to Lovins, DoD’s long energy logistics tail is putting the Department’s core mission at risk and it is paying for it in “blood, treasure, and lost combat effectiveness.” Fuel and fuel logistics are what has become largely understood as the “soft underbelly” of the Department of Defense. As Lovins pointed out, 1/2 of DoD personnel and 1/3 of its budget are dedicated to logistics. When the Defense Science Board was conducting its study several years ago it concluded that 1/2 of in-theater causalities were associated with convoys as well (though Lovins noted that this number does not reflect today’s total). Lovins also pointed out that of the military’s top 10 most fuel-intensive platforms, 8 are noncombat systems. “It’s an odd way to fight a war when the water heater uses more fuel than a helicopter,” Lovins said.
I sat down last night preparing for 3+ hours of panel and PowerPoint presentations. While this came to fruition, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the diversity of my colleagues at the dinner table. Although I enjoy a good lecture, having it commentated by a nuclear physicist, energy consultant, and Senate staffer added immensely to my experience.
To get right down to the nuts and bolts of it, I attended part of a lecture series called “The Energy Conversation.” This is a great program that aims to “foster and showcase the unprecedented collaboration between government, industry, and non profits” in order to “successfully build a sustainable energy future.” The specific lecture I attended was even more interesting: “U.S. Military Energy Strategies.” The panel represented some of the finest in our armed forces working on energy issues, including members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Office of the Secretary of Defense. I highly suggest checking out their biographies and getting acquainted with their programs.
Yesterday, I headed down to the Hall of the States near Capitol Hill to attend a conference entitled “Toward a New Climate Network: Transatlantic Solutions for a Low Carbon Economy.” This conference was put on by the Heinrich Böll Foundation to celebrate the release of a new report on climate change cooperation between the United States and Europe.
Although the focus was on climate change legislation and economics, some panelists spoke to security concerns without identifying them as such. For example, a member of the North Carolina General Assembly noted that her state has many miles of coastline and low-lying coastal areas that are threatened by future sea level rises. As she put it bluntly, “We're staring at a disaster.” Still, security should arguably have been a greater concern to the conference attendees.