Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Is There a Plan B for Cancun?

by Michael Levi Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The United States framed the agenda for the Cancun climate talks last month when it called for a “balanced” outcome from the negotiations. By that, it meant that it wanted to see progress on all key elements of the Copenhagen Accord. Most countries accepted that as a guiding principle for the talks, even if they were skeptical of its wisdom. But after eight days, with tensions remaining over transparency rules and the future of the Kyoto protocol, it is unclear whether a balanced outcome is possible. The official line from most negotiators remains unchanged, and optimism has picked up in the past day, but in the background, there is an inevitable question: if a balanced outcome proves impossible, is there any alternative? Read more »

What do Julian Assange and (Some) Climate Activists Have in Common?

by Michael Levi Sunday, December 5, 2010

Answer: Both don’t seem to understand that effective diplomacy requires some secrecy. Here’s what I mean.

Assange, the man behind WikiLeaks, seems to think that indiscriminately publishing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables will somehow improve the world. I’m as opposed to counterproductive secrecy as much as the next guy, but by making private diplomacy much more difficult, WikiLeaks is undercutting efforts aimed at peaceful conflict resolution. As my former FAS colleague Steve Aftergood, a leading anti-secrecy crusader, wrote last week, “If [WikiLeaks] were anti-war, it would safeguard, not disrupt, the conduct of diplomatic communications.” Read more »

The Climategate Dud

by Michael Levi Friday, December 3, 2010

Like most other climate change observers, I’ve been pretty convinced that “Climategate” – the publication of stolen e-mails from the University of East Anglia that showed climate scientists in an ugly light – has been a big contributor to American doubts about climate change. And those doubts are big: In a post earlier today, my colleague Jim Lindsay (bookmark his new blog on the domestic politics of U.S. foreign policy) flags an October Pew poll that showed only 59% of Americans believing that the earth is warming, and only 34% believing that warming is due to human activity. That’s down from 77% and 47%, respectively, in January 2007. Read more »

Misunderstanding High-Tech Trade

by Michael Levi Thursday, December 2, 2010

While the climate talks continue in Cancun, the most important developments in climate policy are still happening at the national level.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gave a speech on Monday arguing that the United States is at risk of losing to China in a clean energy race. The most striking graph — and Chu emphasized it in his presentation — came near the start of his talk: Read more »