This article is by Norman R. Augustine and Gary Hart. Norman Augustine is a board member of the American Security Project, a nonpartisan public policy and research organization, and has been chairman of the Council of the National Academy of Engineering. Gary Hart is a former senator from Colorado, a member of PSA’s bipartisan advisory board, and is chairman of the American Security Project. This originally appeared in Forbes.
A Challenge to America: Develop Fusion Power Within a Decade
America’s economy and security depend upon reliable sources of power. Over the next few decades, almost all of the power plants in the U.S. will need to be replaced, and America’s dependence on fossil fuels presents serious national security concerns. They sap our economy, exacerbate climate change, and constrict our foreign policy. Our newfound boom in natural gas and oil production will ease but not eliminate these underlying issues.
The only way that we can resolve these challenges, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a timeframe that avoids the worst consequences of climate change, is to develop next-generation sources of clean base load power. In short, America needs to produce energy that is clean, safe, secure and abundant, and to do it now.
The author, Julia Pyper, is a writer for E & E News’s ClimateWire. Reproduced with permission. Copyright 2013, E&E Publishing, LLC www.ClimateWire.net.
NATIONAL SECURITY: Defense experts say costs of climate change could be staggering
The ramifications of climate change pose a serious threat to U.S. security interests and will have devastating effects unless Washington takes immediate action, a bipartisan group of 38 former politicians and retired military officials wrote in a letter released yesterday.
“As a matter of risk management, the United States must work with international partners, public and private, to address this impending crisis,” the letter says. “Potential consequences are undeniable, and the cost of inaction, paid for in lives and valuable U.S. resources, will be staggering.”
This article was written by two Spring 2012 Participants in PSA’s Congressional Partnership Program. All CPP articles are produced by bipartisan groups of Democrat and Republican Hill Staff who were challenged to develop opinion pieces that reach consensus on critical national security and foreign affairs issues.
In 2004 and 2007, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was presented to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and both times the Committee passed the Convention. However, the Convention was never brought to the Senate for a full vote on both occasions. With the United States Navy patrolling every ocean in the world and an American economy struggling with high energy costs, the United States Senate should ratify the Convention as soon as possible.
Bud McFarlane, former national security advisor and PSA Board Member, along with James Woolsey, former director of central intelligence, authored this Op-ed in The New York Times about their new bi-partisan effort, the United States Energy Security Council, encouraging the introduction of flex-fuel cars into the US market to foster better competition and put America on the path to energy independence. The article can also be read here.
OUR country has just gone through a sober national retrospective on the 9/11 attacks. Apart from the heartfelt honoring of those lost — on that day and since — what seemed most striking is our seeming passivity and indifference toward the well from which our enemies draw their political strength and financial power: the strategic importance of oil, which provides the wherewithal for a generational war against us, as we mutter diplomatic niceties.
Oil’s strategic importance stems from its virtual monopoly as a transportation fuel. Today, 97 percent of all air, sea and land transportation systems in the United States have only one option: petroleum-based products. For more than 35 years we have engaged in self-delusion, saying either that we have reserves here at home large enough to meet our needs, or that the OPEC cartel will keep prices affordable out of self-interest. Neither assumption has proved valid. While the Western Hemisphere’s reserves are substantial and growing, they pale in the face of OPEC’s, which are substantial enough to effectively determine global supply and thus the global price.
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut the President’s 2012 Department of Energy (DoE) budget request by $5.9 billion. One particular victim was the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy – better known by its acronym “ARPA-E” – which supports and sustains many high-risk, high reward projects that the private sector cannot or will not fund on its own. It is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the agency that helped develop things like the precursor to the Internet, GPS, and predator drones. Yet the House proposal includes only $100 million for ARPA-E, $450 million less than the President’s request and nearly $80 million less than current funding.
Unfortunately, ARPA-E may now also become known as the acronym for “A Reckless and Paltry Approach Endangers” when it comes to our national security. (more…)
At the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 28, just as the world’s attention was becoming riveted to the pro-democracy protests taking place in Egypt, a pro-democracy leader from another repressive regime, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, sent an audio message to the Forum’s influential and powerful participants. In the course of her message, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate called upon the global community to begin investing in her country with developments in technology, infrastructure and microlending services. While Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi cautioned that, “we also need to pay close attention to the costs and collateral damage of our development, whether environmental or social,” she asserted that responsible investment was necessary to bring 55 million Burmese people into the 21st century.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s message comes at a time when global attention has been fixated on the turmoil in the Middle East, leaving little airtime for vital discussions of reform in other oppressive regimes. Indeed, the only government who seems to have paid serious attention to her Davos remarks has been the Burmese military junta itself. After Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s message on increased development in Burma ignited a debate as to whether this was a call for the West to lift economic sanctions which inhibit Western investment, her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), issued a statement two weeks ago re-iterating its support of “targeted sanctions.” In response, the mouthpiece of the military, the government newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, warned that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD could meet “tragic ends” for publicly supporting sanctions. Instead of discussing new alternatives for Western companies to invest in the Burmese people, the conversation has been diverted right back to where the junta wants it – old arguments over sanctions. (more…)
Since the conclusion of last year’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, doubt surrounding the efficacy of the multilateral negotiating process had been steadily gaining momentum, and the criticism was set to explode in the event of failure in Cancun. Last December, after two years of unrealistically ambitious expectations, the Copenhagen Accord was cobbled together in the eleventh hour by President Obama and a handful of other heads of state, putting an end to a disappointing two weeks of controversy, chaos, and finger-pointing. The New York Times’ Andrew Revkin described watching events play out in Copenhagen to be “like witnessing the derailment of a slow freight train on a curve that could be seen to be too sharp well ahead of time.” By all accounts, the mood at this year’s conference at Cancun’s Moon Palace resort was much more cooperative, and the resulting set of decisions, the Cancun Agreements, is being lauded as a sensible and balanced compromise, albeit an imperfect one. Nevertheless, support for a move away from the UN process in favor of a bottom-up approach based on national policies and bilateral engagement will surely continue, and deservedly so. The Cancun Agreements can serve as the blueprint for an eventual legally-binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol. But there is still much progress to be made – and a wide gap to be bridged between stated commitments and scientifically-recommended action – that will require simultaneous action on several diplomatic tracks.
Even if the Cancun conference had not produced such an unexpectedly favorable result, the UN process deserves to be preserved. The all-inclusive forum is likely the best means of addressing certain issues affecting many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries, particularly adaptation, clean energy technology transfer, and deforestation. Furthermore, the perception that success hinges on the adoption of a legally-binding treaty is false. It is important not to downplay the ability of “soft law” political agreements to produce tangible results. Besides, without the political will in the U.S. Senate, any internationally-binding treaty would be irrelevant, and the woes of New START should shed any lingering hope that a climate change treaty stands a chance of Senate ratification in the foreseeable future. And even in the absence of legislation, the U.S. has the capacity, through federal regulation and aggressive state and local initiatives, to come very close to meeting its short-term emissions reduction commitments (17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020). At that point, it is not unreasonable to envision the emergence of the political will for strong legislative action, especially if successful state or regional efforts present a sound model for a national initiative. (more…)
Another milestone in humanity’s quest for water will soon be conquered! A Canadian entrepreneur, Ron Stamp, is set to sail for a fjord in Greenland and harvest massive chunks of pure iceberg. His hope is to eventually sell the converted ice as bottled water for up to $10 per unit. Crazy? Maybe, but Mr. Stamp’s actions represent both an increasing trend of resource extraction and the creativity needed to sustain a better future.
Entrepreneurs like Mr. Stamp exhibit a valuable frontier mentality. They expand the boundaries of human activity, helping to open new geographic markets and take advantage of previously untapped resources. For centuries such entrepreneurs have been the drivers of our economic growth and prosperity.
Yet this frontier mentality is a double-edged sword when applied to scarce water resources. The world’s access to a sustainable freshwater supply is already at a tipping point. 800 million people, particularly in politically unstable Middle Eastern and North African countries, currently lack access to safe water. By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will live under water-stressed conditions. Unless we act quickly, we could all potentially have to pay $10 for a glass of regular tap water, let alone iceberg water. (more…)
Saturday, Iran celebrated their great victory over the “arrogant powers” by opening their first nuclear power plant at Bushehr. The opening coincided with dynamic conversation on Jeff Goldberg’s recent article in The Atlantic painting a picture of military action as a foregone conclusion, and prominent foreign policy leaders such as former UN Ambassador John Bolton fanned the flames by renewing calls for a preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Dangerously, the discussion on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program has moved away from the case for bombing Iran to who and when, ignoring the painful lessons learned from depicting military action as a clean and straightforward solution. We are still reeling from the burdensome commitments of Iraq and Afghanistan: a military response by either the United States or Israel will take much more than just bombs and have major potential consequences beyond Iran, realities noticeably absent from much of the conversation.
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Days before the Senate dispersed for its August recess, Harry Reid announced that a vote would not be held on a “bare minimum” energy-only bill, just weeks after the Senate gave up on comprehensive climate and energy legislation. The inability of the Senate to gain any traction on even the most modest of energy bills in the wake of one of the most devastating environmental disasters in history is a clear indicator that there is still a long road ahead toward a strong U.S. climate change policy. There is no better time to reexamine the debate, and the debate begins with the science.
The science of climate change is sound but complex. Climate change will affect different parts of the planet in very different ways, and it is impossible to precisely quantify the physical impacts on Earth’s surface, let alone the social, political, and economic implications of those physical impacts. But ‘uncertainty’ in climate models – the expected variability in data – is too often mistaken for uncertainty about the science itself, and the well-funded lobbyists wishing to cast doubt on the science have made an almost effortless practice of manipulating the statistics and skewing the facts. Still, much of the public’s misunderstanding about climate change persists because of serious flaws in messaging by the science community to counter the misinformation. In many ways, the purpose of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is to bridge this communication gap with the public. But with recent polling suggesting that the U.S. public increasingly perceives climate change as a very low-priority issue, the IPCC – and the science community as a whole – needs to overhaul its communication strategy. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.