Varun Sivaram

Energy, Security, and Climate

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

Hurricane Sandy: Is There Anything We Can Do About Climate Change Soon?

by Michael Levi Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The East Coast is slowly returning to normal life after Hurricane Sandy – and pundits, scientists, and journalists are quickly diving into a debate over what the storm says about climate change. I have nothing useful to add on that matter. But I do wanted to shed light on an important related question that has come up: is it even possible to change the course of climate change over the next fifty or so years? Read more »

The Continuing Threat of Nuclear Terrorism

by Michael Levi Monday, October 29, 2012

Micah Zenko and I have an op-ed on nuclear terrorism today in USA Today. The opening paragraph captures the theme pretty well:

“President George W. Bush called it his ‘ultimate nightmare.’ Sen. John Kerry, running for president in 2004, said that it was ‘the greatest threat that we face.’ They were both talking about the terrifying possibility that a terrorist group could acquire a nuclear weapon and attack the United States. Yet this year, over the course of three presidential debates, the issue barely surfaced. That is dangerous: Nuclear terrorism remains one of the very few vital risks to America, and the next president, whoever he is, will need to work vigilantly to prevent it.” Read more »

Would Cap and Trade Have Increased U.S. Emissions?

by Michael Levi Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill collapsed a few year back, advocates of aggressive action on climate change despaired. But a fascinating and provocative new analysis from Dallas Butraw and Matt Woerman at Resources for the Future suggests that people might want to revisit that judgment: by 2020, they write, domestic emissions will “probably [be] less than would have occurred if the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade proposal had become law”. Whether you believe that depends on some important details. Read more »

Five Reasons to Talk Energy and Climate at the Foreign Policy Debate

by Michael Levi Monday, October 22, 2012

The moderator of tonight’s foreign policy debate has released a list of the topics he will focus on, and neither energy nor climate are there. This has, not surprisingly, not gone unnoticed. Indeed one need look no further than Hilary Clinton’s sweeping speech last Thursday on “Energy Diplomacy in the 21st Century” to confirm that energy and foreign policy are deeply intertwined. Here are five reasons that energy and climate should be part of tonight’s debate: Read more »

Lessons from Energy History

by Michael Levi Monday, October 15, 2012

Today the State Department released  the thirty-seventh volume of its history of U.S. foreign relations. It’s one that many readers of this blog will find fascinating. “Energy Crisis: 1974-1980” runs 1,004 pages, consisting mostly of previously classified meeting records and memos that give a window into a tumultuous time in U.S. energy history, and one in which many of the roots of our ongoing energy debates were first established. Read more »

Revisiting a Major Methane Study

by Michael Levi Friday, October 12, 2012

The ongoing fight over whether shale gas operations are leaking dangerous amounts of methane – a question that many have called critical to determining whether shale gas is good or bad – has suffered from a paucity of data. That’s why a much talked about study, authored by thirty scientists (mostly from NOAA) and published in early February, made such big waves: it was the first (and remains the only) study to estimate shockingly high emissions based on actual observations in the field (data was collected in Colorado in 2008). Read more »

The Real Reason Energy Traders Are Losing Sleep

by Blake Clayton Friday, October 5, 2012

What’s roiling the oil market right now? The old familiar source of instability—unrest in the Middle East—is far from the whole story, though it still tends to be the first place Western pundits look when the world’s most important commodity is in turmoil. But this paradigmatic hangover from the 1970s has become less and less adequate. Read more »

How Can We Cope With Deep Climate Uncertainty?

by Michael Levi Friday, October 5, 2012

When you’re faced with a lot of uncertainty that’s difficult or impossible to quantify, your best bet is usually to develop a strategy that’s robust to unknowns, rather than one that tries to optimize outcomes. David Roberts had a great post last week explaining this. (It’s usually the most important frame that I use to think about public policy.) A focus on robustness, though, often runs into its own special challenges. In this post, I want to walk through one of those that’s particularly important in the context of climate change. Read more »

Romney Channels Reagan on Energy

by Michael Levi Thursday, October 4, 2012

There was a lot of talk about energy in last night’s presidential debate. Mitt Romney in particular frequently injected energy issues into the proceedings. It’s tough to see, though, how most viewers could have understood much of what the candidates were talking about. As they did in many other parts of the debate, both candidates frequently went deep into the weeds, throwing around numbers and programs that most viewers probably couldn’t follow. Read more »