Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

Patrick assesses the future of world order, state sovereignty, and multilateral cooperation.

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Showing posts for "Resource Scarcity"

Environmental Security Goes Mainstream: Natural Resources and National Interests

by Stewart M. Patrick
The Nile and the Sinai Peninsula are pictured in this handout photo courtesy of Col. Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, who is photographing Earth from the International Space Station. (Chris Hadfield/Courtesy Reuters)

Not long ago, concerns about environmental degradation were marginal in U.S. national security deliberations. What a difference climate change has made. Foreign policy officials and experts are starting to recognize profound linkages between planetary health, economic prosperity, and international security. These connections were on full view Wednesday, when the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) teamed up with Conservation International (CI) to convene a symposim,“Global Resources, the U.S. Economy, and National Security.” The livestreamed event (available here) assembled intelligence officials, development economists, defense experts, conservation biologists, and corporate executives to discuss the rapid degradation of the earth’s natural endowments and its dire implications for long term prosperity and stability. The provocative conversation ranged far beyond global warming to assess the implications of deforestation and desertification, collapsing fisheries, habitat destruction, and water scarcity.  That these topics were broached at CFR—an august institution traditionally concerned with issues like Middle East peace, nuclear proliferation, or China’s rise—shows how central the subject of sustainability has become for foreign policy professionals. Read more »

Technological Change and the Frontiers of Global Governance

by Stewart M. Patrick
An agricultural aircraft flies over Prachuab Khirikhan in a bid to seed clouds to provide Thailand with rain during the height of summer. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters)

The history of global governance is in many respects the story of international adapation to new technologies. As breakthroughs emerge, sovereign governments have tried to craft common standards and rules to facilitate cooperation and mitigate conflict. Consider the phenomenon known as standard time. We now take for granted the world’s division into twenty-four separate hourly zones, with Greenwich Mean Time as the baseline. But in the middle of the nineteenth century, there were 144 local time zones in the United States alone. It was only with the global spread of railroad lines in the late nineteenth century—and the need to standardized train schedules both nationally and internationally—that major countries convened in Washington and agreed to synchronize time within each zone, rather than continue to allow localities to calculate time according to local meridians or solar time. Read more »

Through the Glass Darkly: What U.S. Intelligence Predicts for 2030

by Stewart M. Patrick
The NIC suggests that urbanization is the one of the key future global trends. (Courtesy Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

Mathew Burrows, counselor to the National Intelligence Council, may have the most fascinating job in Washington. Every four to five years he coordinates the U.S. intelligence community’s crystal-ball gazing exercise, which imagines what the future will bring fifteen to twenty years hence. The sixth and most recent installment, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, offers an eye-opening  glimpse into the turbulent world we will inherit as middle classes grow, power shifts to developing countries, demographics change, and humanity confronts daunting ecological constraints. Read more »

Not a Drop to Drink: The Global Water Crisis

by Stewart M. Patrick
Geovani Santos collects water from a weir which has nearly dried up as a consequence of the drought in Maracas at Bahia state, northeast Brazil May 4, 2012. (Ricardo Moraes/Courtesy Reuters)

The recent UN alert that drought in the Sahel threatens 15 million lives is a harbinger of things to come.

In the next twenty years, global demand for fresh water will vastly outstrip reliable supply in many parts of the world. Thanks to population growth and agricultural intensification, humanity is drawing more heavily than ever on shared river basins and underground aquifers. Meanwhile, global warming is projected to exacerbate shortages in already water-stressed regions, even as it accelerates the rapid melting of glaciers and snow cover upon which a billion people depend for their ultimate source of water. Read more »