Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Holiday Reading

by Michael Levi Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I’m off on vacation for a couple weeks. In the meantime, here are a few books I’ve read over the past year that I’d recommend:

  1. The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World. Dan Yergin’s new history and prognosis for energy is not without its flaws, but on the whole, it’s a great overview of where we’ve been and where we might be going. Besides, it’s a great read, which is something one can’t often say about an energy book.
  2. Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. Robert Kaplan’s book, published late last year, is a fascinating cross between travelogue and analysis of international politics. It’s also not entirely unrelated to where I’ll be over the next couple weeks.
  3. The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers. In a year where social media became a major topic of discussion among people who care about international relations, it’s worth going back to this neat book to understand that we’ve been through something like this before. Like the first two books, this one’s not just good analysis – it’s a great story.
  4. Bounding Power: Republican Security Theory from the Polis to the Global Village. Dan Deudney’s 2006 book isn’t nearly as easy reading as the others I’ve listed here – there’s a lot of jargon and dense political theory. It’s worth the effort, though, to work through this reinterpretation of two thousand years of international relations history and theory that tries to explain the every-expanding scope of international cooperation. I don’t quite buy his predictions for the future, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is probably the most interesting book I read this year.

Incoherent Thinking About an Iranian Oil Embargo

by Michael Levi Monday, December 19, 2011

In the not so distant future – indeed perhaps only months from now – the United States and Europe may enact a mix of sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and Iranian oil exports as part of an effort to stall the Iranian nuclear program. Sanctions against the CBI would leave many current Iranian oil customers without any way to pay for their crude, effectively triggering a partial boycott on Iranian oil exports. Explicit sanctions would, of course, do the same. Read more »

Another Perspective on the Durban Climate Talks

by Michael Levi Friday, December 16, 2011

I argued earlier this week that many were overreacting to the outcome from the Durban climate talks. Trevor Houser, partner at RHG and visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute, posted his own thoughtful take on the talks on the PIIE website. I’m reprinting the last part, which is in part a direct response to my earlier post, with his permission. We’re planning to follow this up with a discussion soon. Read more »

Is It Time to Move Beyond the UN Climate Talks?

by Michael Levi Monday, December 12, 2011

It has become a tradition after the annual United Nations climate negotiations for analysts to lament the dysfunctional nature of the process, and to argue that we’d be better off cutting the talks down to the few countries that really matter. After all, the world’s twenty top greenhouse gas emitters account for north of eighty percent of global emissions. Why bother with all the extra complexity entailed in the UN talks? Read more »

A Misplaced Climate Celebration In Durban

by Michael Levi Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Durban climate talks are over, and many are celebrating. After repeatedly reaching the brink of collapse, the summit produced agreements on several counts. The Associated Press reported that it approved a “landmark deal” that was “meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades”. Christina Figueres, head of the system that oversees the talks, heralded the arrival of a “remarkable new phase in [the] climate regime”. Read more »

How to Waste Money Fighting Climate Change

by Michael Levi Thursday, December 1, 2011

The only concrete development out of the Durban climate talks so far is an announcement that Qatar will host next year’s negotiations. As John Broder points out in the New York Times, Qatar has the distinction of being the largest per capita greenhouse gas emitter on the planet. It’s also home to a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project that’s a textbook study in that system’s often severe flaws. Read more »