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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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Five Takeaways on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

by Michael Levi
Solar_panels,-nellis-afb

The final version of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (his carbon dioxide regulations for new and existing power plants) will be released later today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many details are already online. The new rules are an important step forward but certainly not without their flaws. Here are five important things, good and bad, that today’s dueling press releases might not tell you. Read more »

What Matters (And What Doesn’t) in the G7 Climate Declaration

by Michael Levi
Group of 7 climate emissions pledge G7 Reuters/Michael Kappeler

The G7 leaders concluded their annual summit yesterday with a declaration that put climate change front and center. As with all G7 communiqués, most of the content reaffirms steps that the leaders have already promised to take and, in many cases, are already taking. But, as usual, there are some interesting wrinkles. I’m struck in particular the parts that seem to be the most important are different from those that have generated the most headlines. Here are a couple highlights in each category. Read more »

What the Big U.S.-China Climate Announcement Means

by Michael Levi
REUTERS/Carlos Barria REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Barack Obama and Xi Jinping surprised even the closest climate watchers last night when they jointly announced new emissions-cutting goals for the United States and China. This is a serious diplomatic breakthrough after years of unsuccessful efforts to do something big and joint that goes beyond clean energy cooperation and gets to one of the most sensitive parts of climate policy. What it ultimately means for emissions, of course, will be determined over many years. Read more »

The Total Cost of Climate Policy Isn’t What Matters Most

by Michael Levi
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reuters/Lee Jae Won

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is out with its synthesis report and the coverage, beyond warning of the consequences from unfettered emissions, has emphasized that tackling the problem would shave only 0.06 percentage points off annual global growth. That’s almost certainly wrong – realistic models would predict higher figures – but, when it comes to the cost of climate policy, not what really matters. Read more »

A Dispatch from the People’s Climate March

by Michael Levi
People's climate march New York city Climate Change summit My kind of protest sign.

The People’s Climate March, which drew a reported three hundred thousand people to the New York streets on Sunday, deserves much of the applause and attention it’s attracted. No one who attended the march can deny the enthusiasm of the crowd, or the fact that the gathering has helped keep climate change on the front page for a week.  And yet, throughout the day, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d stumbled into an anti-fracking march that also happened to be about climate change.  And I couldn’t escape the conclusion that this focus could end up undermining the very climate change goals that the march was ostensibly about achieving. Read more »

Is Solar Power Making Climate Policy Cheap?

by Michael Levi
Solar power plant clean energy REUTERS/Fabian Andres Cambero

For the second time this year, Paul Krugman has written a column explaining that serious studies consistently conclude that slashing global carbon dioxide emissions doesn’t need to be expensive. Also for the second time, he gives much of the credit to falling costs for renewable energy, particularly solar power. He’s absolutely correct on the broader point – but dead wrong in explaining why the studies come to that conclusion. Read more »

How Will China Clean its Air?

by Michael Levi
Chinese woman struggles with air pollution A woman wearing a mask rides her bicycle along a street on a hazy morning in Beijing, February 28, 2013. REUTERS/China Daily

“I’ve been working my whole life on climate change. And now, because of policies to fight local air pollution, Chinese carbon emissions will peak and begin to decline in less than ten years, and our efforts on climate change will have nothing to do with it.” Read more »