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Energy, Security, and Climate

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

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Solar Power’s Paradoxical 2015 in Three Charts

by Varun Sivaram
President Obama arrives to deliver remarks on clean energy after a tour of a solar power array at Hill Air Force Base (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) President Obama arrives to deliver remarks on clean energy after a tour of a solar power array at Hill Air Force Base (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

This post is co-written with Sagatom Saha, research associate for energy and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In his final State of the Union address, President Obama celebrated the remarkable growth of clean energy, particularly solar power, which in 2015 added 7.4 GW of capacity in the United States and 55 GW globally. However, he also omitted an equally remarkable trend: over the same year, the Global Solar Index, which tracks the overall industry, collapsed, losing nearly half its value from a mid-year high. Read more »

Now Comes the Hard Part: India’s Scope for Emissions Mitigation

by Guest blogger for Varun Sivaram
A private security guard walks between rows of photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village in Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave) A private security guard walks between rows of photovoltaic solar panels inside a solar power plant at Raisan village in Gujarat (Reuters/Amit Dave)

This guest post is co-authored by Joshua Busby, Associate Professor, and Sarang Shidore, Consultant and Visiting Scholar, at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. For further analysis from the blog, see: “How India Could Achieve Its Audacious Solar Ambitions Read more »

Oil Exports Budget Deal? Market, Climate, and Geopolitical Consequences

by Michael Levi
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

News outlets are reporting that a congressional budget deal could end the oil export ban in exchange for extension of the Investment and Production Tax Credits (ITC and PTC) that support solar and wind energy. Here I want to lay out what ending the oil export ban could mean for markets, climate, and geopolitics. (I suspect Varun may weigh in later on the ITC/PTC extensions if and when details emerge.) Short version: Little immediate impact on anything; a possible boost on the order of a few hundred thousand barrels a day to U.S. oil production over the longer run; a factor of perhaps fifty smaller impact on carbon dioxide emissions than the Clean Power Plan and CAFE (fuel economy standards); and a mixed bag for geopolitics and trade talks. Read more »

Two Cheers for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

by Michael Levi
Paris; climate; UN; COP21 REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

LE BOURGET, FRANCE – The Paris climate summit (also known as COP 21) has adopted a new “Paris Agreement”. The agreement has the potential to mark a laudable and historic shift in how the world negotiates cooperation on climate change. It does not justify the over-the-top claims that some are making – that it spells the end of fossil fuels or assures that temperatures will rise no more than two degrees – but those who negotiated it never believed it could. Nor does it deserve to be pilloried (a rarer but still real reaction) for failing to save the planet – an entirely unreasonable expectation. Instead it begins to set up a framework for transparency and review of countries’ nationally driven emissions-cutting efforts and a process for encouraging stronger efforts over time. In doing so it meets the modest but important goals that were sensibly set for the negotiations. Only time will tell, though, whether the full promise of the Paris Agreement is achieved. Read more »

Molina and Zaelke: Cutting Short-Lived Pollutants Can Give Quick Wins on Warming

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi
climate change; emissions; pollution; Paris REUTERS/Bret Hartman

Policymakers should look to reductions in potent, short-lived pollutants to reduce warming faster than cuts to carbon dioxide emissions alone, write Nobel Prize-winner Mario Molina and Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development founder Durwood Zaelke in this guest post. This piece is part of our ongoing guest blog series surrounding the Paris climate talks, which has included posts on China’s political rhetoric, international climate institutions beyond the UN talks, and the links between climate and conflict in northern Nigeria. Read more »

John Campbell: Climate Change and Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Nigeria

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi
Nigeria; climate change; conflict REUTERS/Stringer

Climate change is nothing new in northern Nigeria, writes John Campbell, senior fellow for Africa Studies and former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, and its influence in local conflicts can already be felt. In his contribution to our guest series surrounding the UN climate conference in Paris, Ambassador Campbell notes that the changing climate is, if not the cause, then certainly part of the context of the rise of militant groups like Boko Haram.  Read more »

Stewart Patrick: Combating Climate Change Beyond Paris

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi
REUTERS/Benoit Tessier REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The UN climate talks in Paris are just one part of the international climate policy regime, write Stewart Patrick, director of the Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, and Research Associate Naomi Egel. In this post, part of our ongoing guest series on the Paris summit, they note other institutions contributing to the climate policy process and highlight several climate policy options from CFR’s Global Governance Monitor. Read more »

Yanzhong Huang: China’s New Rhetoric at COP21

by Guest Blogger for Michael Levi
China; Climate Change; COP21 REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

China’s public rhetoric about international climate policy has changed dramatically since the 2009 UN summit in Copenhagen, write Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for Global Health, and Research Associate Ariella Rotenberg. In this piece, part of our series of guest posts on the UN climate summit in Paris, they explain why that is and what it might mean for the ongoing UN summit in Paris. Read more »

TPP: A Small Step in the Right Direction on Climate

by Varun Sivaram
President Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at the ASEAN Summit at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 20, 2012. (White House Photo/Pete Souza) President Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at the ASEAN Summit at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 20, 2012. (White House Photo/Pete Souza)

Yesterday, after five years of negotiations, the Obama administration released the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement between the United States and eleven other countries. Ahead of the text’s unveiling, environmental groups had already voiced their displeasure at what they expected to see—indeed, the Sierra Club warned that “TPP would impose additional limits on the ability of governments to tackle climate change”. Read more »