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The Geopolitics of Climate Change

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJuly 30, 2010 9:07 PM


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The New Security Beat continues to distinguish itself as a forum for razor sharp ideas and perspectives on the environment/security nexus. Last week, I meant to flag this perceptive analysis on the crosscurrents roiling Yemen, by Schuyler Null. (If you've been following the international news on Yemen and neighboring Somalia this past year, you'll know why it's important to pay closer attention to east Africa.)

Earlier this week, the blog (which is run out of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change & Security program), carried a short but very interesting interview with Cleo Paskal, a scholar at Chatham House, a UK think tank. Because the focus of the climate debate is soon to shift to the international stage, I think it's worth highlighting something Paskal said in the interview:

"I think [Copenhagen] was a bit of a litmus test for how geopolitics stand currently, and what's clear is that unless India is treated more as an equal strategic, long-term partner of the West, it will find other alliances that are more conducive to what it perceives as state security and its national interests," said Paskal. She argued that India's future steps will also heavily influence Brazil and South Africa, and may impact the ability of the West to act unilaterally.

Paskal is the author of Global Warring, which I reviewed for Nature earlier this year. In that book, she draws attention to the strategic alliances China has struck with an eye towards a warming world. This all makes for some very complex geopolitical climate politics when you consider the equally influential role India plays, which is what I interpret Pakal saying of late. And climate change advocates in the U.S. thought that it was tricky enough navigating the swampy corridors of Capitol Hill. Heh. There's a whole other chess board that this game is played on as well. (Here's the latest move, by the U.S.) Except on this board, climate change takes a backseat to fossil fuels.

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