Friday, February 01, 2008

Climate Change: The Next Global Security Threat

Speaker: Johan Eliasch (The UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Deforestation and Clean Energy)

Although national security is the very top priority for nations across the globe, not enough emphasis is being put on climate change; what Johan Eliasch calls “the next global security threat”. In his lecture, he discussed our options the first of which was: do nothing.

If we do nothing, he said, temperature will see a global increase of four degrees, we will see an increase in the frequency of hurricanes and in rainfall at high latitudes, and there will be a drying of the subtropics. In addition, he stressed the human tragedy that would result: First, as the Himalayan glaciers melt, 1.3 billion people will lose access to fresh water, which will have a detrimental affect on their food supply. Secondly, we have already seen a spread of diseases including Malaria and the Chikungunya Fever (which although previously present only in Africa has shown up in Italy). Furthermore, he emphasized the threat that the unemployment, widespread poverty, competition for resources and displacement, caused by the effects of climate change, pose to global peace. He pointed to the crisis in Darfur as an example of a conflict that has, at its core, competition for fleeting resources.

If we were to take action, however, we would be able to prevent some of these adverse effects. In addition, stabilizing carbon dioxide emission would have only a 1% impact on global GDP as opposed to the 5-20% loss of GDP that would result if we do nothing. According to Eliasch, the way forward is unilateral leadership and multilateral agreements that offer global consensus on the issue.

To Eliasch, action will come in the form of an anti-deforestation campaign, deforestation being the most unnecessary cause of carbon emission. He believes that “Avoided Deforestation” is deliverable and affordable and has to involve indigenous people, many of whom are responsible for deforestation in the Amazon. According to him, part of the solution is creating a global carbon market that will attract investors to invest capital into buying and monitoring different areas of the rainforest. With the help of his non-governmental organization, CoolEarth, Eliasch hopes to save the rainforest and prevent carbon emissions by making trees more valuable standing than logged.

For more information on Johan Eliasch and his NGO, check out:
Sponsor: The Brookings Institute
Location: Brookings
Date: January 31, 2008
Time: 10:30 am-12:00 pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 150
Intern Attending: Micaela Klein

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