CFR Presents

Energy, Security, and Climate

CFR experts examine the science and foreign policy surrounding climate change, energy, and nuclear security.

The Iranian Nuclear Program: Some Observations from Israel

by Michael Levi Thursday, September 23, 2010

I spent the first part of this week in Israel talking to people about the Iranian nuclear program. I thought I’d share a few observations. (While I’m writing about travel: I’ll be in Shanghai and Hong Kong next week to talk about climate and clean energy technology. If you read this blog and live in either of those cities, drop me a line.) Read more »

Do The Oil Sands Have a “Carbon Opportunity Cost”?

by Michael Levi Monday, September 20, 2010

Joe Romm attacks Lindsey Graham in a post yesterday for Senator Graham’s comments about the Canadian oil/tar sands. Set aside Romm’s broader critique – like him, I find Graham’s claim that oil sands extraction “really blends in with the natural habitat” a touch ridiculous – and focus on his bottom-line technical point: Read more »

The UN Doesn’t Understand Climate Change

by Michael Levi Friday, September 17, 2010

A set of background papers (PDF) written for a high-level UN off-site in August was posted last week by Fox News (hat tip: Colum Lynch). Among them is one (prepared by the Climate Change Support Team in the Office of the Secretary-General) that explores the challenge facing the UN in addressing climate change.* That document largely speaks in “we” terms – how should “we”, the United Nations, solve the climate problem? Only once, and briefly, does it talk about the other institutions in play: Read more »

The Problem With Chinese Clean Energy Subsidies

by Michael Levi Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I wrote last week about how Chinese gains in solar energy could help, rather than hurt, U.S. businesses. My argument was that if China focused on those parts of the value chain where it had a natural edge, and the United States focused on those parts where it was most suited, they could together bring down the cost of solar. That would increase the market for solar, and they would both win. In particular, I argued that Chinese strength in the later stages of solar manufacturing wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Read more »

The Downside to Made in the USA

by Michael Levi Thursday, September 9, 2010

Keith Bradsher has a largely excellent article in Wednesday’s Times that’s focused on the (possibly illegal) advantages that the Chinese government is providing its clean energy firms. In reporting the piece, though, he falls prey to a deceptive story about the success of Chinese solar at the expense of U.S. industry. Since it’s a story that regularly shows up in one form or another, it’s important to understand why there’s less than meets the eye. (I’ll have more to say on the broader trade issues in several upcoming articles and posts.) Read more »

Does Climate Change Cause Civil War?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I’m back after a few weeks mostly away from New York. That means it’s time to get back to blogging.

A  relationship between climate change and armed confict is frequently invoked in policy debates. But does it exist? A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published last October claimed to have found an empirical relationship between climate change (specifically temperature and precipitation) and civil conflict in sub-Saharan Africa. A new paper, published online today in the same journal, hits back hard, arguing that the original result was an artifact of sloppy modeling. It argues, in particular, that the original paper used an inappropriate definition for civil war, and failed to control for standard variables like ethno-political exclusion, macroeconomic fundamentals, and the collapse of the Cold War security system. (Nature has more on the debate between the authors.) Read more »