India’s interest in the South China Sea is getting more attention. Last year, The Times of India reported that India’s offshore Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Videsh would work with Vietnam to jointly explore for oil and natural gas resources in the South China Sea. Despite warnings from China – which has made sovereign claims to the entire South China Sea and its energy resources – India and Vietnam have pressed ahead with joint development, leading to increased tensions between China, India and Vietnam.
Last Friday, Vietnam lodged a complaint with China when two Chinese fishing boats reportedly blocked a Vietnamese seismic survey vessel that caused the ship’s cables to snap. The latest episode is just another in a string of incidents where Chinese fishing boats have blocked attempts by Vietnam and other countries to survey for natural gas and oil deposits. (Track these incidents using the CNAS Flashpoint timeline feature here.) The latest incident also comes on the heels of an announcement from China’s Hainan Province last week warning that provincial police would be permitted to board and search vessels violating China’s territorial waters, including in contested areas.
In response to the most recent attempt by Chinese fishermen to block Vietnam’s seismic surveying, Vietnamese officials said that the government would step up defensive patrols, including deploying marine police, to protect against future Chinese encroachment. India seemed to respond in kind, according to a New York Times report, saying “it would consider sending navy vessels to protect its interests in the South China Sea.”
New climate data published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Sunday show that global carbon emissions hit a record high in 2011 and could increase in 2012 without a concerted international effort to reduce emissions. According to the analysis published by the study’s authors, the prospect for keeping global warming below 2 ⁰C – the threshold above which scientists expect irreversible climate change to take effect – is increasingly dim. “A shift to a 2 °C pathway requires immediate significant and sustained global mitigation, with a probable reliance on net negative emissions in the longer term,” the authors concluded.
The climate data were released as international delegates meet for four final days of negotiations at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of Parties 18 in Doha, Qatar. According to a report from The New York Times on Monday, those negotiations are not expected to result in meaningful international progress: “Their agenda is modest this year, with no new emissions targets and little progress expected on a protocol that is supposed to be concluded in 2015 and take effect in 2020.”
The executive secretary of the UNFCC Christiana Figueres said in an interview that countries need to do more at the domestic level in order to build momentum toward a comprehensive global agreement. “We won’t get an international agreement until enough domestic legislation and action are in place to begin to have an effect,” Figueres said in an interview, according to The New York Times. “Governments have to find ways in which action on the ground can be accelerated and taken to a higher level, because that is absolutely needed.”
On Tuesday, CNAS released its new joint CNAS-German Marshal Fund report on Global Swing States: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Turkey and the Future of International Order, co-authored by CNAS’s Richard Fontaine and GMF’s Daniel Kliman. The report lays out a new framework for how the United States should engage these pivotal powers in order to bolster the current international order, including around issues like maritime security and global maritime governance – an area we follow closely in our natural security work.
CNAS and GMF co-sponsored a launch event on Tuesday featuring Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Robert Hormats, pictured above.
Photo: Courtesy of Sara Conneighton and CNAS.
Last week the Department of Energy (DOE) announced its decision to award the first company to receive government funding in support of commercializing Small Modular Reactors (SMR), a new generation of nuclear power plants. Funds were awarded to a consortium of companies responding to a funding announcement in March 2012; the consortium is led by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel. The Department of Energy established the Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support Program to provide federal support of up to $450 million to expedite the licensing process of SMRs Originally, two projects would receive funding; so far only one has, leaving other initiatives such as Westinghouse, NuScale and the Holtec HI-SMUR out of luck for now.
The SMR initiative is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to have low-carbon nuclear energy play an important part of America’s energy future. SMRs are defined as having power outputs of up to 300 megawatts of electricity, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. They are touted for their compact scalable designs that offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits. According to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, SMRs have the potential to create new export and job opportunities for many Americans as the world is increasingly demanding nuclear energy to fulfill its energy needs, despite recent retreat from nuclear power by some countries. Developing countries that do not have the capacity or expertise are looking for more modular and cost effective power sources and SMRs may be an increasingly attractive option.
SMRs also present a unique opportunity for the United States to restore leadership in the global nuclear energy market. As U.S. SMR businesses grow the share of the market, the United States is positioned to play a leading role in future negotiations on nuclear reprocessing and spent fuel. More countries will be eager to reinstate 1-2-3 negotiations and the United States will have subsequently more leverage in these discussions. U.S. leadership in the nuclear energy markets can go a long way in ensuring safeguards can go in place of nuclear stockpiles which are critical to non-proliferation goals.
While SMRs could usher in a new wave of nuclear renaissance, many hurdles still lie ahead. First, the Nuclear Regulation Commission (NRC) still has to approve all of the design certifications before any nuclear reactor becomes operational. The NRC hasn’t issued a license for a full-scale nuclear reactor since 1976, which is in part a reason the U.S. influence in the nuclear energy market has eroded. The NRC has more experience and familiarity with large light water reactors and has thus taken a more cautious role in studying the safety of SMRs. This presents a problem for manufacturers because the uncertainties of NRC regulations make it so they won’t invest in SMR production. Whether the Small Modular Reactor Program established by the DOE will be able to overcome NRC licensing costs is still unclear as negotiations for the exact cost of its partnership with B&W is still being negotiated.
Some have argued that the Department of Defense (DOD) would be a unique testing ground for an SMR demonstration. While this might be true, there does not appear to be enough political will for using the DOD as a site for energy experimentation. A DOD SMR program might also entail high political costs due to the larger defense cut negotiations that are taking place in Congress as part of the fiscal cliff.
The bottom line: the administration’s recent moves are a sign that SMRs are poised to play a large role in any nuclear energy future.
Territorial claims over the South China Sea took an interesting turn last week.
According to a report from Reuters, China’s new passports have raised the eyebrows of several South China Sea claimants: the country’s microchip-equipped passports contain a map of China’s claim over the South China Sea – represented by the country’s disputed nine-dash line.
The Philippines and Vietnam have condemned the Chinese passports, worrying that accepting the documents could legitimize China’s diplomatic claim over the sea. According to Reuters, “The map means countries disputing the Chinese claims will have to stamp microchip-equipped passports of countless visitors, in effect acquiescing to the Chinese point of view.”
"The Philippines strongly protests the inclusion of the nine-dash lines in the e-passport as such image covers an area that is clearly part of the Philippines' territory and maritime domain," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said last week, according to Reuters.
China’s Foreign Ministry responded to questions about the passports, stating, "The passports' maps with their outlines of China are not targeting a specific country. China is willing to actively communicate with the relevant countries and promote the healthy development of Sino-foreign personnel exchanges.”
Annie Snider of Greenwire confirmed on Monday that after more than three years the CIA has closed its Center for Climate Change and National Security, the office responsible for the intelligence agency’s analysis of the national security implications of climate change.
According to the report, the center was closed due to continuing pressure from congressional representatives and dwindling internal support for the work. “Especially since Panetta left, there wasn't a lot of love for this at the CIA," one former defense official told Greenwire.
“The exact timing of the closure and the reasons behind it are not clear. Those close to the center speculate that the move may have been intended to pre-empt cuts from Congress. The total U.S. intelligence budget has declined for the past two years, dipping to $75.4 billion for fiscal 2012 after peaking at $80.1 billion in fiscal 2010,” Greenwire reported.
Nevertheless, the agency has a continued stake in assessing the impact of climate change on U.S. national security interests and will continue the work “under other auspices,” the report said.
On Sunday, the World Bank released a study – Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4⁰C Warmer World Must Be Avoided – that says the world is on a path to increase the average global temperature by 4⁰C by end of the century– that is double what scientists say is safe in order to avoid the most catastrophic climate-related events.
“The world is barreling down a path to heat up by 4 degrees at the end of the century if the global community fails to act on climate change, triggering a cascade of cataclysmic changes that include extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people,” the World Bank described in a press released on Sunday.
“A 4 degree warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2 degrees,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim stated in a press release. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”
Sea-level rise is among the many consequences described in the report. According to the study’s climate projections, .5 meter to 1 meter sea-level rise is likely by 2100, with higher levels in specific regions. Present-day sea-level dynamic topography could put developing countries in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast and East Asia at most risk, areas that already experience above-average sea level rise. While there is no definitive link “between present-day dynamic topography and the future sea-level rise under climate warming,” those regions are experiencing greater coastal and urban migrations, which could make them more vulnerable to future sea-level rise. “Highly vulnerable cities are to be found in Mozambique, Madagascar, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam,” the study found.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta traveled to the Asia Pacific this week ahead of President Obama, who will travel to the region tomorrow to visit Thailand, Burma and Cambodia. On Thursday, Secretary Panetta and Thai Defense Minister Sukampol Suwannathat reaffirmed the U.S.-Thai military alliance. “Today the minister and I moved this alliance into the 21st Century by signing a joint vision statement that will help pave the way for even stronger military to military ties as we adapt to the shared threats and challenges that we will face together in this region and in the future,” Panetta said. “As we focus on these areas of cooperation, I want to convey that the United States remains committed to helping the Thai military further develop its already impressive capabilities so that it can assume even greater security responsibilities in this region, particularly in maritime security and in humanitarian relief and in peacekeeping operations.”
Photo: Secretary Panetta toured the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Thursday. Courtesy of Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo and the Department of Defense.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) published its new World Energy Outlook on Monday, projecting the United States to become the world’s largest oil producer as early as 2020, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia for the top spot. According to the IEA’s analysis, the United States may even become a net exporter of oil by 2035. The American energy revolution is driven in part by technological developments that have bolstered shale gas and tight oil production, as well as decreased demand for oil due to higher fuel efficiency standards in U.S. vehicles, according to the IEA.
The analysis should be taken with a grain of salt, as it is difficult to project as far forward as 2035 with any meaningful amount of certainty. For example, some of the tight oil projects in the United States may depend on a global price of $70 a barrel in order to remain economically viable. Some analysts are projecting prices to fall as low as $50 a barrel, which could drive developers away from investing in projects that require $70 a barrel to breakeven, upsetting some of the oil production estimates.
Nevertheless, it is possible to make some reasonable assumptions about what the American energy revolution could mean for U.S. policymakers charged with navigating this complex and ever-changing landscape. Here are a couple of things to watch for, in no particular order:
The pace of tight oil production will continue to be dynamic. U.S. tight oil production may speed up or slow down depending on the U.S. energy market. There is some reason to believe that tight oil production is moving faster in the United States than some expected because of depressed natural gas prices. Low natural gas prices have contributed to poor returns on investment for some shale gas producers, with some producers choosing to develop tight oil deposits instead of expanding shale gas production in order to earn a profit. If natural gas prices rebound in the near term though, tight oil production could slow down as development shifts back to a more profitable natural gas sector.
New York National Guard soldiers and airmen continue to play an important role in helping victims in the northeast recover in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a reminder that the National Guard is critical to homeland resilience. In this photo, members of the New York National Guard distribute fuel to areas suffering from shortages. Elsewhere, the Department of Defense set up mobile fuel stations to provide free gas (10-gallon limit per person) to individuals in the New York metropolitan area.
Photo: Courtesy of SFC Jon Soucy and the U.S. Army.
The ballots have been cast, the votes are in and the pundits are exhausted. While the world consumes the election results, we’ll take a break from our normal post today to highlight some natural security news items that may have been missed in the wake of the presidential election.
Bloomberg News reported this morning that the Department of Defense (DOD) is taking a more active role in assessing its supply chain vulnerability for heavy rare earth elements, those rare earths that are less abundant than others in the 17-element rare earths group. According to the report, DOD may be setting a demand signal to help foster a non-Chinese supply of rare earths, particularly from mines in North America. China, today, produces approximately 95 percent of rare earth minerals, but only has 50 percent of known global reserves.
According to Reuters, Laos has started construction on a $3.5 billion hydroelectric dam on the Mekong River that could have cascading effects on downstream countries like Vietnam that rely on the river for fish and fresh water. Laos hopes to become the hydroelectric battery of Southeast Asia, exporting hydropower to countries like Thailand.
CNBC reports that Iran has increased its naval activity in the Gulf of Persia near the Strait of Hormuz in order to strengthen its authority over disputed islands in the gulf that both Iran and the UAE have made claims to.
Geothermal energy systems may present climate mitigate and adaptation opportunities to building developers, according to The New York Times. Indeed, geothermal energy may be an increasingly attractive option for developers in areas prone to storms that can devastate above-ground infrastructure. These systems offer a way to harness the earth’s energy to heat and cool buildings relying on less-vulnerable underground infrastructure while reducing the building’s greenhouse gas footprint.
More than 2.5 million are still without power in the northeast, just one of the many enduring impacts of Hurricane Sandy.
On Thursday, the Department of Defense launched a “significant airlift event” to assist in recovery efforts, including dispatching airlift equipment from the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command to deliver electric utility vehicles to the distressed region. The Air Mobility Command deployed 12 C-17 Globemasters and five C-5 Galaxy aircraft to transport personnel and equipment from Southern California Edison Utility Company to New York City, according to American Forces Press Service.
The Department of Defense also dispatched about 60 fuel trucks carrying 200,000 gallons of fuel to the northeast to assist first responders that are also vulnerable to the fuel shortages plaguing recovery efforts in the region.
Photo: U.S. Air Force crew offload Southern California Edison power repair equipment from a C-5 Galaxy on Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, NY on November 1, 2012. Courtesy of Master Sgt. Corine Lombardo and the U.S. Army.
Yesterday, Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told an audience at the World Energy Forum in Dubai that the Iranian government would halt all of its oil exports if the United States and other western powers strengthened their antinuclear sanctions against Tehran. “If you continue to add to the sanctions, we will stop our oil exports to the world,” Qasemi told a news conference, according to Bloomberg News, adding, “The lack of Iranian oil in the market would drastically add to the price.”
In the past, that kind of announcement might have made oil traders nervous, raising global prices. But since the international sanctions have been in place, Iranian oil exports have shrunk considerably, from 2.2 million barrels a day in 2011 to 860,000 barrels a day in September 2012. Iran’s shrinking share of the global oil market – and rising production in places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United States that is offsetting supply shortages – has weakened Tehran’s ability to wreak havoc in the global oil market. That’s why oil prices fell to a three-month low, according to The New York Times: “On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the price of the benchmark grade fell $1.98 a barrel or 2.3 percent to $86.67, the lowest closing price since July 12.”
Most experts agree that Iran is unlikely to halt its oil shipments to those countries that currently have exemptions to the oil embargo, like India. The sanctions have already taken a toll on the economy. Iran’s currency has lost 40 percent of its value and sanctions against the country’s central bank prevent it from shoring up its currency with foreign reserves. Iran cannot afford to stop exporting its oil without further weakening its economy.
But even while Iran may not have as much direct influence in the global oil market, there is always the possibility that Tehran will try to indirectly raise global oil prices through more brazen efforts, like threatening or actually attempting to close the Strait of Hormuz through which 20 percent of the world's oil is shipped, which would raise global oil prices by as much as 50 percent in a few days. In that sense, Iran can still wreak havoc in the global oil market and onlookers should keep a watchful eye towards Tehran’s behavior.
Tonight is the third and final presidential debate, and it will focus exclusively on foreign policy. Viewers can expect to see significant attention given to Afghanistan, China, Iran and Libya. CNAS published a “National Security Guide to the 2012 Presidential Election” earlier this month that lays out some of the key decision points on a range of issues, such as the defense budget, cyber security and Afghanistan.
One issue that has received very little attention in the debates so far is climate change, which is disappointing when one considers that some of the most important decisions regarding U.S. policy on climate change will need to be made in the next administration in order to avoid potential climate tipping points that scientists say could “lead to increasingly rapid and irreversible destruction of the global environment.” Indeed, the International Energy Agency has already warned that – even with the recent global recession – global carbon emissions continue to rise, pushing the world closer to irreversible damage to the environment. The IEA added last year that unless serious efforts are taken in the next five years to curb global greenhouse gas emissions the world may be unable to avoid “dangerous climate change” and its attendant consequences, including more frequent and severe drought like the kind witnessed today in the American midwest.
But policymakers don’t need to wait five years or more to see how climate change may take its toll on U.S. security and foreign policy interests. One need only look to the Arctic – which recorded record low sea ice this summer – to see where climate change is already complicating U.S. foreign policy. The opening of the Arctic is placing increased pressure on U.S. policymakers to assess U.S. interests in the region and to navigate potential international challenges that could manifest from increased activity in the High North.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a speech at Georgetown University on “Energy Diplomacy in the 21st Century” where she outlined three pillars of America’s energy foreign policy strategy: energy diplomacy; energy transformation; and energy poverty. (See the details of those three pillars at the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources.)
In her speech, Secretary Clinton made explicit ties between energy and climate change:
“[E]nergy is essential to how we will power our economy and manage our environment in the 21st century,” Secretary Clinton said. “We therefore have an interest in promoting new technologies and sources of energy – especially including renewables – to reduce pollution, to diversify the global energy supply, to create jobs, and to address the very real threat of climate change.”
Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers a speech on “Energy Diplomacy in the 21st Century” at Georgetown University on October 18, 2012. Courtesy of the U.S. State Department.
One of the knocks against advanced algae biofuels is that they are not cost competitive with conventional petroleum – which is true. But science may eventually offer a way around this particular challenge.
Writing recently in Yale Environment 360, Marc Gunther lays out the potential for science to revolutionize the biofuels business. “By far the biggest opportunity to reduce the costs of algal fuels lies within the algae,” Gunther writes. “Just as crop scientists have bred corn and wheat to improve yields, with spectacular results, the algae companies are using conventional breeding and genetic modification to develop strains of algae to grow faster, yield more oil, and repel pests.”
The biggest opportunity may come from synthetic genomics, a relatively nascent field that enables scientists to build living organisms with special characteristics from scratch. By closely studying strains of algae, scientists can map entire genetic sequences and identify the genes tied to specific physical properties like growth and oil yield. Using the building blocks of the genome – DNA nucleotides – scientists can then build from scratch the most efficient algae strain for producing oils that can be refined into gasoline and jet fuel, lowering the costs for producers.
In an interview with Scientific American in November 2011, J. Craig Venter, the man behind mapping the human genome, described the effort this way:
Everybody is looking for a naturally occurring algae that is going to be a miracle cell to save the world and, after a century of looking, people still haven't found it. We hope we're different. The [genetic] tools give us a new approach: being able to rewrite the genetic code and get cells to do what we want them to do.
By using synthetic genomics to create novel strains of algae, engineers can focus not just on making the algae more efficient oil producers, but also making them resistant to viruses that destroy whole ponds of algae and can drive up production costs. “The same genetic engineering and genome engineering we have, we can make cells that are resistant to viruses,” Venter told Scientific American. “Getting algae that are really robust and can withstand true industrial conditions on a commercial basis. You can't afford to shut down a plant for contamination. Most algae growers have to do that at a fairly frequent pace.”
On Sunday, Afghanistan’s Mining Minister Wahidullah Shahrani took steps to improve transparency in the country’s extractive resources industry by disclosing roughly 200 mining contracts that had previously been kept secret.
According to The New York Times, the move is “likely to please his supporters in the West, including the United States, who made greater openness in the Afghan government’s financial dealings a condition of billions of dollars in development assistance and aid money pledged earlier this year.”
Just two years ago, Afghanistan’s mineral wealth – estimated to be worth potentially a trillion dollars –promised hope to a torpid economy plagued by generations of war. “The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world,” The New York Times reported in June 2010.
But corruption and a lack of transparency has plagued the country’s mining industry. Reports say that there are ongoing disputes within the government over contracts to Afghans with ties to the Karzai family, including accusations that the government is steering lucrative deals to companies with ties to the Karzai family to develop the countries oil and natural gas reserves. Last month, The New York Times claimed that the country’s mineral sector had been “increasingly imperiled by corruption, violence and intrigue, and has put the Afghan government’s vulnerabilities on display,” and may even be helping fund Afghan insurgents. “A recent Defense Department analysis said criminal mining syndicates were smuggling chromite over the border, paying protection money to the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani insurgent network,” The New York Times reported.
In a speech last night aboard the USS Intrepid in New York, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned a meeting of Business Executives for National Security about the cyber challenges the United States faces.
“A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11,” Panetta said. “Such a destructive cyber terrorist attack could paralyze the nation.”
Panetta recalled a recent attack against the Saudi Arabian state oil company ARAMCO caused by a computer virus known as “Shamoon” that he described as “probably the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date.” In that attack, Secretary Panetta said, the virus self-executed itself and “replaced crucial system files with an image of a burning U.S. flag. It also put additional ‘garbage’ data that overwrote all the real data on the machine. The more than 30,000 computers it infected were rendered useless, and had to be replaced.”
The challenges create a “profound new sense of vulnerability,” Panetta noted. “An aggressor nation or extremist group could gain control of critical switches and derail passenger trains, or trains loaded with lethal chemicals,” he said. “They could contaminate the water supply in major cities, or shut down the power grid across large parts of the country.”
To learn more about America’s cyber challenges, check out CNAS’s Election 2012 National Security Guide to the Presidential Election.
Over the summer, Nancy Brune and I contributed to the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030 blog, a forum to discuss a range of issues ahead of the NIC’s forthcoming Global Trends 2030 study, to be released after the presidential election this fall.
What is interesting about the NIC’s study is that it focuses on emerging trends and their implications for the security and geopolitical environments. But rather than explore these trends in isolation of each other, the NIC examines different scenarios, and how trends engage one another. Urbanization and climate change are among the trends that the NIC has looked at closely. In separate posts, Nancy and I both examined the security implications of urbanization and climate change for the NIC’s blog.
Urbanization – the shift of populations from rural to urban communities – presents challenges and opportunities for policymakers in developed and developing countries. As I wrote in July:
On the one hand, urban cities have the potential to serve as engines of change, driving economic growth in some of the world’s least developed countries and pulling more people out of poverty than at any other time in history. On the other hand, climate change could undercut all of this by exacerbating resource scarcity and putting vulnerable communities at risk from sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms.
But of course, climate change is not the only other trend that touches urbanization. A range of trends, such as globalization and emerging diseases, combine with urbanization to present dilemmas for policymakers.
Last week, Yale Environment 360 published a piece that explored the challenges that could manifest from urbanization, globalization and emerging diseases coming together in novel ways. See: “The Next Pandemic: Why It Will Come from Wildlife.”
We are still on holiday and won’t be posting any new content to the blog today.
But we did want to remind our readers that on Wednesday, October 10, CNAS will hold its final Election 2012 event from 1 PM to 2:30 PM at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.
CNAS, wtih the New America Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, will host a debate between top-level surrogates of the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns. Dov S. Zakheim, Special Advisor on Foreign Policy and National Security for the Romney campaign, will join Rich Verma, member of the National Security Advisory Committee for the Obama campaign, to discuss the defense and foreign policy agendas of the two candidates.
Also, before the Vice Presidential debate on foreign policy this Thursday, don’t forget to check out our new National Security Guide to the 2012 Presidential Election and learn a bit more about the foreign policy and national security issues that the next administration faces.
With the continuing dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea, don’t forget to tune into CNAS’s Flashpoints page, an online web portal for those studying security in the East and South China Seas. Flashpoints not only has the latest developments from the region, but offers insights into the rich history surrounding the ongoing territorial disputes in the Asia Pacific.
Photo: Courtesy of CNAS.org.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participated in a roundtable on water security while visiting the United Nations in New York, raising the security profile of water among delegates at the UN General Assembly meeting.
In a speech in March honoring World Water Day, Secretary Clinton said that water is “an essential ingredient of global peace, stability, and security.” She added: “We think it actually is our duty and responsibility to make sure that this water issue stays at the very top of America’s foreign policy and national security agenda.”
Secretary Clinton’s remarks earlier this year coincided with the release of the intelligence community’s Global Water Security report, a study commissioned by the State Department to analyze the effect of water on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. “This assessment is a landmark document that puts water security in its rightful place as part of national security,” Secretary Clinton said of the report.
Yesterday, Secretary Clinton reiterated her clarion call for action to address the growing global water crisis, drawing on the intelligence community's findings to frame water as a security issue.
“Now, this year alone in the United States, we’ve experienced extreme drought conditions in some parts of our country and devastating floods in others. We are well aware that Europe, Asia, and Africa have all experienced similar challenges. Now, you’ve already heard about our Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security, and I hope that you will have if you didn’t today have a chance to really study it, because water scarcity could have profound implications for security,” Secretary Clinton said yesterday.
“The report found that dwindling supplies and poor management of water resources will certainly affect millions of people as food and crops grow scarcer and access to water more difficult to obtain. In fact, in some places, the water tables are already more depleted than we thought and wells are drying up.”
Read Secretary Clinton’s full remarks here.
The Washington Post published a must-read report this morning on the decline of Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned natural gas company.
Gazprom has long been Moscow’s instrument of choice for exerting influence over former Soviet bloc states in Eastern Europe, like the Urkaine, that have been moving too close to the West. But that could all be changing as a result of major structural shifts in global natural gas production, with hydraulic fracking jumping from the United States to Eastern Europe.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Central and Eastern European energy companies are exploring joint ventures with Western companies in order to develop the region’s potential shale gas resources. The move by these Central and Eastern European countries is in part driven by the need to diversify their own natural gas supply so that they are not as easily held hostage to Russian influence. In recent years, for example, Russia has used disputes over transit fees with countries like the Ukraine as the basis for cutting of gas supply during peak winter months.
While the United States should make better use of space technologies to advance U.S. interests (particularly for improving U.S. disaster warning and response, as I argued this week in a new policy brief Sentries in the Sky: Using Space Technologies for Disaster Response), ground-based sensors will continue to be important for providing a holistic view of environmental, climate change and other important global trends that can affect U.S. security. The U.S. government needs a suite of tools that include ground- and space-based remote sensing technologies, not one or the other.
In this photo taken on September 4, 2012, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute prepares to launch its research vessel with these buoys that will help scientists measure saline concentrations at sea. According to NASA, “The NASA-sponsored expedition will sail to the North Atlantic's saltiest spot to get a detailed, 3-D picture of how salt content fluctuates in the ocean's upper layers and how these variations are related to shifts in rainfall patterns around the planet.”
This type of expedition can help advance scientists’ understanding of ocean chemistry, which may help improve climate modeling that can provide security practitioners more actionable data about the impact of global climate change on particular regions.
Photo: Courtesy of Bill Ingalls and NASA.
Yesterday, CNAS released a new policy brief exploring how the United States can make better use of space technologies to improve disaster warning and response.
Sentries in the Sky: Using Space Technologies for Disaster Response explores some of the challenges with sustaining America’s disaster warning and response services by relying solely on ground-bases sensors to collect information about natural disasters and other events that could threaten U.S. communities. Alternatively, space technologies – which have not yet reached their full potential in disaster warning and response services – can complement existing ground-based sensors by combining new modes of data collection and delivery from space to improve the ability of first responders and others charged with protecting the United States to respond to natural and man-made disasters.
The policy brief focuses specifically on advancing tsunami detection through space-based services as just one of many ways that space technologies can advance disaster warning and response capabilities. But despite this narrow focus on tsunami detection, the policy brief is intended to encourage policymakers and others to think more creatively about ways to leverage space technologies to enhance U.S. national security missions, particularly unconventional (but increasingly important) missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The policy brief builds on a broader body of work at the center on the role of Earth monitoring satellites in national security and foreign policy making. In August 2011, Christine Parthemore and I published Blinded: The Decline of U.S. Earth Monitoring Capabilities and Its Consequences for National Security. More to come from us in this research area.
Photo: An artist concept of the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason 2 Earth satellite. Courtesy of NASA.