Archive for the 'Opinion' Category


Wednesday, July 11th, 2007


In an earlier post on this topic, I discussed the security implications of our growing national and global dependence on oil and the relationship between policies to curb oil consumption and policies to mitigate climate change. In this post, I’ll discuss how climate change itself quickly became a national security priority worthy of Congressional attention.


The story begins in February of this year, when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a summary report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability (part of the second volume of the Fourth Assessment Report) in which they concluded “with high confidence that anthropogenic warming over the last three decades has had a discernable influence on many physical and biological systems.” (more…)


Monday, July 9th, 2007


This is the first of a two-part post in which I will revisit the connection between policies to mitigate climate change and policies to enhance national security. In the first post (today), I will consider the security implications of our increasing national and global dependence on oil and will discuss several climate and energy security policies in this context. In a follow-up post later in the week, I will turn to the security implications of climate change itself.


In the U.S., our conflicted relationship with oil is apparent each time we stop at a gas station. Collectively, it’s hard to imagine anything – with the obvious exception of food and water – so essential to our way of life. Yet, with gas prices firmly above three dollars per gallon, income spent on gasoline often does not feel like money well spent.


Add to this the fact that gas prices can be extremely unpredictable – subject to change based on the whims of OPEC, the paths of tropical storms, demand in China, the integrity of pipelines and speculation from Wall Street. Volatility is obviously troubling for individual consumers, but it is also troubling for those worried about the health of the economy as a whole. (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 2. Externalities and Evaluation of Connectivity.

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 2. Externalities and Evaluation of Connectivity.

In the first blog of this series, I posed that addressing the climate change problem required a sustained diligence of management. In setting the foundation for that management, I maintained it was important to embrace a portfolio of approaches to the problems and the development of a portfolio of policies and practices that comprise the “solution” to the problem. There are both short-term and long-term considerations, and policies and practices that are part of the short-term may or may not be sustained in the long term.

The climate change problem does not reside in isolation. Concerns about climate change follow from easy consumption of fossil fuels. The climate change problem is tightly correlated with energy use and, therefore, economic success. Energy demand and energy policy are controversial issues independent of any concerns about climate change. Because the time scales of the energy problem are short and because the economic implications are large and tangible, it is natural for energy issues to take prominence over the climate issues. Alternatively, because many of our approaches to address the energy problem are also beneficial to the climate problem, it is easy to fall into the comfort that the climate problem will be solved as a residue of our addressing the energy problem. Energy policy and energy security sit along with climate change as major national and international issues, and solutions to the energy problem do not necessarily address the climate problem. (more…)


Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

Is climate change a national security threat? A month ago, a panel of retired military leaders said that it was. Two weeks ago, the Congress agreed and asked for a National Intelligence Estimate to be made of the national security implications of climate change. The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, endorsed this suggestion. So have environmentalists. Even Al Gore, when testifying before the Senate on climate change last March, used war analogies to provoke the Senate into action.

Recalling the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia, Congressman Edward Markey, head of the new Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, told the Congress last week:

“Drought caused famine. Famine caused food relief. Food relief caused warlords to fight over it. The warlords’ fighting caused the U.S. to intervene, and 19 U.S. fighting men were killed.” (more…)

Climate Management 101 — 1. A portfolio of approaches and solutions.

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Climate Management 101 — 1. A portfolio of approaches and solutions.

When I worked at NASA most of the scientists had the following statement in their position description, “Solving complex problems with no known solutions.” I’m sure that most of us just looked at this as a set of words contrived in the distance past by human resources. Ultimately I ended up a manager, and by my nature, a student of management. This is first of a series of blogs that consider the “climate change problem” as the management of a complex problem with no known solution.

At the beginning of addressing such a problem, it is important to take an inventory of what you know, and to separate what you know from what you believe and what you think should happen. In the inventory of what you know it is necessary to identify the external factors or communities that are related to or have a vested interest in your problem. For climate change, these externalities would include, for example, energy, public health, and religion. It is also useful to place your problem into the set of similar scale problems, for example, control and treatment of AIDS. This leads to the identification of a system of strongly and weakly interrelated problems, which are each to their own, also complex systems. (more…)

EPA, Massachusetts and Carbon Dioxide

Monday, April 9th, 2007


On Monday, April 2, 2007 the Supreme Court made a decision that impacts what we will do about carbon dioxide. This is from a case called Massachusetts vs EPA, which was brought under the Clean Air Act. Here’s the PDF of the decision. There are a number of important findings from the case. First, the ruling establishes that CO2 is a pollutant – a potentially damaging pollutant. While it does not require that EPA control CO2, it does establish that the EPA has the authority to control CO2 in order to limit damage.

The second important finding from the case is that Massachusetts has established that it will be harmed by climate change, and especially by sea level rise. Once there is the establishment that harm will be done, and that there is a traceable cause of that harm, then there is potentially standing for many plaintiffs to bring suit. (more…)