PrintPrint CiteCite
Style: MLAAPAChicago Close


Protecting U.S. Security Interests from Climate Change [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service]

Speaker: Joshua W. Busby, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin
Presider: Michael A. Levi, Fellow for Science and Technology and author of "On Nuclear Terrorism," The Council on Foreign Relations
December 7, 2007
Council on Foreign Relations


MICHAEL LEVI:  Good morning.  My name is Michael Levi.  I'm a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of our program on energy security and climate change.  And I'm delighted that all of you have been able to join us this morning to talk about the new council special report, "Climate Change and National Security:  An Agenda for Action."

Let me tell you briefly about what these council special reports are.  These are single-authored reports that are supervised -- well, advised, I should say -- by a group of people of diverse backgrounds and views that help inform and shape it.  They are the views of the author; the council doesn't take institutional positions on anything.  But we do have the perfect author for this report.  There have been a slew of studies on the links between climate change and national security over the last year.  This seems to be a new connection, a new subject to many people.

Josh has been looking at this for several years.  Back in 2004 he contributed a paper on climate change and national security to the U.N.'s High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.  And what that let him do is move beyond the assessment of the threat to also look at specific policies and steps that can be taken now to address it.  And that's very important.  And that's what really fundamentally distinguishes this from the string of other reports on this subject that have been coming out over the last several months.

So, Josh, having said that, can you tell us a little bit briefly about the connections?  You have a bit more of a nuanced view than some others have put out there.

JOSHUA BUSBY:  Thanks, Mike.  Delighted to be here as well today.

In my view, the security dimension comes mostly from extreme weather events that scientists believe will be made more severe and more likely by climate change, and what makes these security threats is what made Katrina more than a natural disaster.  These events can be so large and affect so many people that they can exceed civilian capacity to respond, requiring military mobilization to rescue people and to deal with the problem.

Now, I should point out that I'm not saying Katrina was caused by climate change.  Scientists do not attribute single events to climate change.  But Katrina underscored for Americans and people around the world what extreme weather events, like hurricanes, that scientists believe are becoming more severe and perhaps more likely as a result of climate change mean for ordinary people.  The scale of these effects and the speed with which these results can occur may put as many people at risk of death as they would from an armed attack.

But unlike typical threats to national security, climate change lacks human intentionality.  Nonetheless, if the result is significant potential loss of life that surpasses local fire, police and rescue capabilities to respond, then these problems become security issues to restore order and prevent greater instability.

In some circumstances, like MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa Bay, when CENTCOM is located, military assets themselves are directly threatened, and in other areas, like Arctic ice melt, the effects of climate change could alter territorial borders and waters, potentially creating new navigation routes, (siphoned ?) natural resources and potential sources of interstate conflict.

LEVI:  But Josh, beginning with that assessment, you look at what I would say are three different groups of recommendations.  And the first is generally associated with what we would call adaptation, responses to whatever climate change can't be or isn't avoided.  Can you tell us about those?

BUSBY:  Absolutely. 

Some climate change, unfortunately, at this point is inevitable.  The concentration of greenhouse gases is such that even if we were to go to zero net emissions tomorrow -- which would be impossible, of course -- some places would experience climate change from the effects of the gases that have already been emitted.

We are vulnerable here in the United States, and countries in the developing world are even more vulnerable.

Here at home we need to do several things to reduce our vulnerability to climate risk.  First, we need to know what military assets and cities are most vulnerable to damage from extreme weather events and other effects of climate change.  The forthcoming National Intelligence Assessment from the National Intelligence Council ought to give us some purchase on that question, but I recommend some investment in research, specifically on the security dimension of this problem. 

Second, even if climate change proves less severe than feared, which at this point doesn't seem likely, risk reduction and adaptation measures, particularly for vulnerable coastal settlements, would be warranted anyway.  These measures would include coastal defenses, better building codes, emergency and response plans, investments in drought-resistant crops, water conservation, et cetera.

Now, as we discovered to our great dismay with Hurricane Katrina, risk-reduction measures are more cost-effective than waiting for disasters to happen.  In the report I support an infrastructure investment program that Steve Flynn of the council elaborated in his recent book. 

That measure would provide $295 billion a year for five years for all sorts of infrastructure projects, and that amount of money ought to be more than enough to also climate-proof critical infrastructure, but it would also serve other public purposes in the same way that the interstate highway system facilitated the country's economic growth.

But even as we seek to minimize the risks here at home from the adverse effects of climate change, we also know that developing countries with the least capacity to adapt and reduce their risk will be the vulnerable.  A number of countries vulnerable to climate change are also of strategic interest to the United States.  In other words, adverse effects of climate change could constitute national security risks for the United States through natural disasters that lead to humanitarian crises, that undermine national or regional stability or contribute to interstate or intrastate violence, that's cut off or disrupts supplies of critical natural resources, that potentially give rise to state failure and creates ungoverned spaces and hazards for far-flung countries like the United States.

So with that in mind, developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, are going to be vulnerable.  Yet the scale of resources available to them is in the low hundreds of millions when it will likely need to be in the tens of billions.  As I recommend in the report, these investments in risk reduction will likely be much less expensive than what the United States and other rich countries will face if we wait for these severe droughts, storms and floods to put hundreds of thousands and potentially millions on the move as refugees at risk of death from disease, starvation, drowning or violent conflict.

If we wait, we will be called on for humanitarian intervention in the same way that we were after the 2004 tsunami -- again, which wasn't caused by climate change, I should note, but demonstrated the terrible power of nature to put millions in harm's way and require military mobilization to prevent further instability and suffering.

So in the report, I recommend that the U.S. contribute to a risk reduction and adaptation program on par with the $15 billion five-year President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.  As part of this plan for risk reduction and adaptation, I recommend that at least $100 million be dedicated to military environmental security workshops, which the Pentagon previously has organized, and I also recommend that the U.S. use the new Africa Command as an opportunity to develop a more cohesive interagency approach to security, in particular I suggest building on a British model, an African risk reduction pool where the DOD, State and other agencies would work together, drawing resources from a common fund of about $100 million to try to manage emerging security concerns on the continent.

QUESTIONER:  You talk about a lot of different adaptation options like this, and there are many small and large and very interesting ones throughout the report.  But what I also find interesting is that when people have also looked at reducing emissions as a way of minimizing damages, you also look at it as an opportunity and in particular a security opportunity.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?

BUSBY:  Yes.  Unless we significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of this century, the affects on climate change will ultimately exceed the adaptive capacities in most countries and adversely affect even rich countries like the U.S.  So adaptation on its own will not insult us from climate change.

And while the broader portfolio policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are beyond the purview of this report, there are a number of national security implications of mitigation strategies.  There's diplomatic opportunities for breakthroughs through mitigation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  In particular, with Chinese greenhouse gas emissions now exceeding those of the United States, climate change may become another fault line in the relationship between the U.S. and China.  Handled poorly, where the Chinese are blamed for being eco villains, could push the Chinese away from being a status quo power, satisfied with the rules of the international system, and leading them to become more difficult players in the global arena.  India's position as another ambitious rising power with extensive energy needs is similar.

So handled well, though, where both countries are given incentives to embrace cleaner energy technology, could reinforce the willingness by China and India to buy into the international order that the U.S. has supported with Europe since the end of World War II.  And I extend this argument to Indonesia, where I suggest that programs to compensate Indonesia for reduced greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, so-called avoided deforestation programs, could be valuable not only for climate protection, but also as a way of buttressing political stability in that and other countries.

QUESTIONER:  After you go through your variety of specific recommendations, you talk about how to institutionalize some of it.  There are so many different pieces to the puzzle that it's impossible to simply list them all out from one point and have everyone adopt them.  There are a lot of different pieces there.  Can you give us just one or two examples of the sorts of institutional changes that you recommend? 

BUSBY:  Absolutely. 

Climate security concerns, as I see it, do not have the attention they deserve in the U.S. government, in part because there are few to no champions in place to raise them.  That must change.  And part of the solution is in the Department of Defense, where I recommend that a new position of deputy undersecretary for Defense, for Environmental Security, under the policy office of the Pentagon be created, tasked to oversee the risk reduction tool that I spoke of, the workshops I proposed, and to ensure that environmental security concerns are incorporated in the planning documents, like the Quadrennial Defense Review and theater security cooperation plans. 

But too often we think of security in terms of what the military can do.  And the discussion of risk reduction and adaptation that I talked about earlier only underscores how much the problem will only be successfully dealt with if we invest in preventive measures and non-military instruments.  And to that end, we need other senior posts to have this agenda as their mission. 

And namely I recommend the creation of senior directors of the National Security Council, tasked to have this issue, climate change, as their mandate, and potentially a deputy national security advisor for sustainable development with a broader mandate, not just about climate change but also global health.  I also believe that a special adviser to the president on climate change would give the issue the high-level attention and access the issue merits, to drive interagency collaboration on the broader problem. 

Now, finally on the congressional side, Speaker Pelosi has experimented with a new committee on energy independence and climate change.  That is set to expire by October 2008.  And if it produces results before then, Congress might consider extending its mandate more permanently and with it, an explicit concern with the security dimensions of climate change. 

LEVI:  Thanks, Josh. 

Can you tell us very, very quickly how all this fits in with the meeting that's going on at Bali this week and next?  And then I'll turn it over to questions from everyone on the call. 

BUSBY:  Absolutely. 

This report provides yet another reason why the world, and why the U.S. in particular, needs to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, as scientists have said will be necessary.  So on one level, this report buttresses the Bali negotiations that are beginning the discussion about the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, for 2013 and beyond.  But this report also takes up two other central climate security themes that are being discussed in Bali.  Those are one, risk reduction and adaptation measures and two, avoiding deforestation. 

Now, I talked a bit about both in my podcast on the CFR website earlier this week.  And I think what I'll do is, I'm happy to talk in more detail about what I think will happen on risk reduction and adaptation and avoiding deforestation at Bali.  But I'll leave that, depending on the interest of the audience, of what everyone would like to talk about.  I'm happy to expand on that in the Q&A. 

LEVI:  Excellent. 

Let's turn over now to people on the line for questions. 

STAFF:  Thank you. 

At this point, if you would like to ask a question, please press the star key, followed by the one key, on your touchtone phone now.  Questions will be taken in the order which they are received.  Anytime you would like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, please press star-two.  Again if you have a question, please press star-one.  And the first comes from Avery Palmer with Congressional Quarterly. 

QUESTIONER:  I wanted to ask you about the adaptation measures that could be necessary here in the United States.  It seems like most of the adaptation activities would ultimately be on the local level, because it would be individual cities and states that would be affected.  So do you think there should be some kind of a national coordination or strategy or funding for adaptation?  Or should it be more of a local responsibility? 

BUSBY:  I think, in the end, it will probably need to be a mix.  Probably many localities won't have sufficient resources or capacity to do all that needs to be done to protect that region from the adverse affects of climate change.  And it would be in the national interest to ensure that those localities have sufficient resources from outside if need be.  Because as we saw with the situation in Katrina, waiting and depending on a locality to do it on its own is problematic.  And so I think that it does not necessarily all have to be federally funded, and certainly a collaborative approach between state and local municipalities would be on order.  But I do think the federal government will need to buttress a number of communities' local efforts as well. 

STAFF:  Thank you.  The next question comes from Jim Dingman with INN World Report.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah.  Hi.  Can you hear me?

LEVI:  We can.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah.  I was curious about the actual political process -- well, two questions -- the actual political process here in the United States.  As you know, there was a tremendous amount of criticism raised after Katrina about what the Corps of Engineers had actually done down in New Orleans to defend New Orleans over the, you know, decades from what happened, and we still remain bogged down in a debate about this.  And I wanted to get your sense of how the institutions that would actually implement any kind of infrastructure defense and buildup should actually perform.

And secondly, you know, we've had this whole debate also politically, that may be resolved as a result of Katrina, but on the very question of global climate change to start with.  And I wonder what your thoughts are about where we move from that, because we still have people who argue that it doesn't exist, et cetera, and this has impeded any kind of clear-sighted policy vision coming out of Congress or others to actually be implemented.  So I wondered what your thoughts are of how we move on that front.

BUSBY:  Let me pick up the second part of that question first and then move on to the issue of infrastructure defense.  I think there are a few climate naysayers out there still.  Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma, for example, has issued statements in relation to the recent Lieberman-Warner bill on climate change that suggest his continued opposition.  But the country's changed.  The political environment is different.  I think events over the last few years, proliferation of studies have reinforced the broader consensus across political parties and in the business community, in the religious community, across regions, that the problem is real and that something needs to be done.  So I feel like, you know, even though there is still broader disagreement on the exact policy approach that needs to be taken, I feel like the naysayers are certainly on the losing end of the argument.

Now, with respect to infrastructure defense, certainly there are a number of problems that we have yet to come to grips with in terms of implementation coming out of Katrina and the problems that happened there.  I think ultimately a new president will have to sit down in their early days in office after the 2008 elections and reevaluate our capability to do this kind of work.

 And so the ability for us to have a fresh start and to ensure that the highest quality and competent people are in place to administer these programs is the first priority for the new president.  And then the ability for us to ensure that this implementation actually takes place beyond that requires the sustained attention of a president on a weekly and monthly basis.  And I don't think we've had that. 

I think we've had, you know, a number of understandable distractions in the international arena, but the absence of these senior officials tasked to have climate concerns and climate security concerns as their job on a daily basis means that issues like this, in terms of homeland defense and infrastructure defense, just don't have any consistent champions in the government to ensure that the implementation remains on tap. 

So I have no doubt that if they got a clear and consistent message from on top, that the engineers and local agencies do have the capacity to actually perform these functions; the problem is we don't have the high-level attention on top to make sure that we focus on it and sustain the attention on results.

LEVI:  Do we have the next question?

STAFF:  Yes.  The next question comes from Jim with Bloomberg News.

QUESTIONER:  Hi, how are you.  It's Jim Ifstoffia (ph) with Bloomberg News.  Just two quick questions, if I can.  Does the report assess the price or the cost of these various risk-reduction measures that you're proposing?

I mean, you're saying that they're obviously less than the cost of waiting for disasters to happen.  Do we have a number there that -- apart from, you know, the costs of dealing with carbon reduction on that side?  And you know, I'd like you to, if you can, expand a little bit about the avoided deforestation question in Bali, that'd be great.

BUSBY:  Right.  One of the difficulties is that there's so little information at this point.  There have been very few comprehensive -- very few studies, let alone comprehensive studies, about the cost and benefit of risk reduction.  We know, in general, that from past experience it's much cheaper than waiting for disasters to strike, but part of the challenge for us is to actually conduct a comprehensive risk assessment, and so that is one of the measures that I proposed.  There's picking up a -- there's a proposal from -- in the House to appropriate $50 million for an innovative two-year commission on climate change, adaptation and mitigation for fiscal year 2008, and I think that authorization of studies will help get some purchase on understanding on the totality of the problem.

Now, you know, I included as the price tag the $295 billion per year for five years for the entire infrastructure program, which Steve Flynn recommended based on recommendations he developed in his book that were based on the American Society of Civil Engineers project, but that wasn't just for climate change.  That was for all sorts of other infrastructure problems that the U.S. needs to deal with -- bridges, among many, many others -- and I think a small portion of that could be sufficient to insult us from problems with climate change.

But at this stage, it's premature to have that sort of cost-benefit calculus at a national level because those studies simply haven't been done, but they need to be done.  This report provides support for that -- at least that down payment, that $50 million, in 2008 for this new research capacity.

On the issue of avoided deforestation, there has been incredible interest because what you saw is that parties to the Kyoto Protocol could be compensated for destroying forests after they've been cut down, but not for preventing them from cut down in the first place.  And that's a problem, and -- (audio break) -- agreement to the Kyoto Protocol needs to recognize that heavily forested countries should be compensated for reducing deforestation and from reducing the rate of deforestation.

So basically, what you have happening in Bali is an effort to try and iron out what a compensation mechanism might look like.  You know, deforestation contributes about 20 percent of the annual total of greenhouse gases.  And so in Bali people are trying to work out the modalities for how this can be done, and there are a lot of complex technical issues about how it should happen.

But I think Bob Zoellick at the World Bank has announced that he has enough commitment for funding to proceed on the pilot program; perhaps not the full $250 million that the bank wanted to get started, but this should be a way to test out what the appropriate way to handle accounting procedures for how to track emissions reductions from avoided deforestation, how to compensate heavily forested countries -- should it go to governments, will it go to local communities, could this possibly be captured by large commercial interests.  And then what is the appropriate way to manage this?  Should it be a fund, should it be managed through market mechanisms?

So all of these things have to be ironed out, but I think what we can expect out of Bali is at least a negotiating mandate, which will be a paragraph that suggests any success or agreement to the Kyoto Protocol should recognize that heavily forested countries should be compensated for reduced emissions from deforestation.  And so that's what we should be seeing come out of Bali, and then this effort to implement the pilot program.

QUESTIONER:  And of course, emissions from deforestation, Indonesia, if I recall correctly, are the greatest of any country in the world.  Is that correct?

BUSBY:  Yeah, your burning forests and deforestation in Indonesia make it the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and you have a country that is a fragile democracy emerging out of the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, but also a very painful political process of transition.  And (it faced ?) separatist movements, a number of them in heavily forested parts of the country and on a number of the islands. 

And you have this situation now in which potentially support for avoiding deforestation, competition mechanisms, could help buttress the country's stability, provide it with important sources of funding that would also tamp down the desire of separatists to pick up their guns again.  And there's some evidence that suggests that that -- that this avoided-deforestation scheme could play a helpful role in that process. 

LEVI:  Do we have a next question on the line? 

STAFF:  Yes, our next question comes from Deborah Zabarenko with Reuters. 

QUESTIONER:  Hi, Josh.  This is Deborah. 

I realize this is not a technical question, but it's one that I think may come into play.  And that is the you-first, no-you-first problem.  The United States has said for years that yes, everybody needs to be involved -- (inaudible) -- fast-growing China and India -- (inaudible).  How does that factor into risk reduction as you see it? 

BUSBY:  Well, I don't feel like the risk reduction problem is as subject to the sorts of chicken-and-egg issues, where each country's waiting for another to do something first about it.  I think countries will independently feel the imperative to insulate themselves from the worst effects of climate change, to the extent they can afford it.  Poor countries are going to have trouble, and they'll do what they can.  And so the problem for a number of them will just be absences of capacity and insufficient resources to protect themselves. 

But you know, countries like Bangladesh, faced with, you know, storm surges and floods, which already happen quite frequently, that are expected to be made much worse with climate change, do what they can to try and protect themselves.  Because it's a matter of urgency to them anyway.  So I feel like the sort of collective action problems, of who does what to deal with sort of the broader issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are subject to that sort of who-should-move-first problem.  Because people want a free ride and wait for others to act.  But in the case of these very specific problems on adaptation, where localities are endangered and people know that, then I think that problem is less severe. 

QUESTIONER:  Okay, thank you very much. 

STAFF:  Thank you. 

Once again, if you'd like to ask a question, hit star-one.  And the next comes from Megan Rowling with Reuters. 

QUESTIONER:  (Inaudible) -- Reuters AlertNet, which is the humanitarian news website backed by Reuters Foundation. 

I'm interested from a humanitarian point of view in your suggestion for a multiagency African risk reduction pool under AFRICOM.  Now, AFRICOM has been obviously quite controversial already in terms of getting it established.  To what extent do you think that you could see similar problems if you were trying to manage an aid or a humanitarian-related initiative under a kind of military strategy?  And how would that intersect with, say, humanitarian and/or development aid, in your view? 

And I've also heard about an initiative called Golden Spear, which is a disaster risk reduction initiative already taking place in Africa, I think, with some input from the military.  Could you elaborate on that if you have any more information on it?  Thanks. 

BUSBY:  Sure, let me take the first issue. 

You know, I think, what I stress in this report is, particularly with respect to Africa, there's a concern that AFRICOM, the Africa Command, will become simply about going after terrorists, capturing and killing bad guys, a highly militarized approach.  And I think that's problematic, doesn't necessarily address local causes of insecurity, which could include environmental factors.  And so, you know, what we need is a broader response to security that is less militarized, that brings in other agencies, but isn't purely a militarized response.  And so the British model, with their pooled approach that's interagency, strikes me as a way to blunt the perception that all the U.S. cares about, with respect to Africa, is whether or not we can capture or kill terrorists.  And so I think that -- I would hope that this broader approach with a risk-reduction pool that brings in other agencies would diminish people's fears that it was purely a -- purely a military response. 

Now the downside of that is that perhaps by bringing in the other agencies, the other agencies are then perceived as coming under the military umbrella.  And I think through the appointments process, the deputy of Africa Command is supposed to be someone from the State Department, that I -- you know, if it's not seen as purely a military operation, then one would hope that those concerns could be blunted.  So, you know, that may not fully address local communities' concerns if humanitarian response somehow seems as a part and parcel of the military, but this means that there's at least more coherent programming on the ground so that the military isn't doing one thing and the State Department doing another and they're not coordinated and there's that duplication of people working at cross-purposes. 

I don't have additional information about Golden Spear that can be helpful here, but I'm happy to follow up with you individually about that.

QUESTIONER:  Do you have any of the basic information about it to share with the rest of the people on the call?  Can you explain the basics of it?

BUSBY:  Yeah, that I don't have at my fingertips right just yet.


LEVI:  Another question?

LEVI:  Thank you.  Once again, if you'd like to ask a question, it's star/1.  And the next comes from Jim Dingman with INN World Report.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah, hi.  I was just curious what your thoughts are of what kind of architecture should be coming out of Bali, in a general sense, that could begin to address some of the problems that you raise in your report.  And secondly, what thoughts do you have on sort of the contradictions one sees in how India and China will raise with the West the justifiable argument -- well, look at how you all consumed all these resources over several centuries, and now it's our turn to develop.  How do we work, in your mind, that kind of contradiction out, which seems not only a national security problem looming but an international security problem looming?

BUSBY:  Absolutely.  Thank you much for that question. 

In terms of the architecture, people are looking for commitments for binding emissions reduction beyond the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol -- so that's going to end in 2012.  But I don't feel like Bali's going to get us very far there.  You know, the Bush administration has remained implacably opposed to binding emissions reduction.  So I feel like that part of the Bali mandate is going to be left underspecified.  There'll be probably efforts to try and make overtures in that direction, but I don't think there's going to be any innovation on that front with respect to the international architecture. 

But what you will see is an effort, as I suggested on the -- (inaudible) -- station, to create a space for that in the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.  But on adaptation, the interesting architectural transformation is, there's a new adaptation fund that is funded with a portion of the proceeds from one of the Kyoto Protocol's flexibility mechanisms and the clean development mechanism. 

But until now, there hasn't been a clarification of what implementing agency will be charged with administering those funds, which are going to be on the order of a billion dollars between 2008 and 2012.  The Global Environment Facility, which is under the World Bank, wants these funds.  They already administer something on the order of $200 million worth of money for adaptation.  But developing countries want a new fund to be created that is seen as less of an instrument of the great powers and a new fund like the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria to be created that is separate from the World Bank.

And so I think that part of the architecture, there may be a breakthrough, and I would expect that the Global Environment Facility, or the GEF, actually gets control of this fund.  And that, I think, is a potential breakthrough.  The GEF may get control of the fund in exchange for more people from the developing world being on their board of directors and more clarification of the rules for how developing countries can tap those funds.

Now, that may be a bit in the weeds.  Let me broaden out in terms of this issue of India and China.  You know, I think with respect to those countries, basically their energy demands are increasing so quickly that it's going to be very difficult to sort of coerce them into changing their behavior.  They need incentives to embrace clean energy technology.  And so the real challenge is -- and this is part of the discussion that's happening at Bali -- is how to create mechanisms that compensate these countries for adopting cleaner energy technologies faster than they otherwise would have and at the same time trying to create market opportunities for companies in advanced industrialized countries to get funds and technology there faster.

And I don't think we're fully there.  Bali is beginning that discussion, but I really think U.S. leadership on this question could help break the impasse.  If we can identify strategies to incentivize the Chinese and the Indians to adopt cleaner energy technology, including particularly cleaner-burning coal power plants, that they buy from us, that this will be an opportunity to blunt the concern that the U.S. -- the difficulty here in the U.S. to act without the Chinese and the Indians acting.  If we can put together a program that compensates our companies and compensates the Indians and the Chinese, then I think that we'll break through some of the political problems we've had here historically.

Q    Well, I was in -- just another foreign question.  I was in  Nigeria about a month ago, and I mentioned Africa Command to some of the people I was with, and most of whom had not heard of it.  But I must admit that the response I got was not exactly overwhelmingly positive.  (Laughs.)  They were quite negative, quite apprehensive, and suspicious of such an entity being created.  And I was wondering how you deal with that, because, for example, they just brought up, well, what are they going to do?  Are they going to sit there and monitor the fighting in the Niger Delta? 

LEVI:  Josh, what's your take on this?

BUSBY:  I think that, you know, people's suspicions may ease after the 2008 elections, that there may be, you know, an opportunity for us to -- with sort of a fresh face on the U.S. scene -- to -- whoever it is -- that some of the concerns may be evanescent, they may go away after -- they won't entirely disappear, but I think that people may look at it and see it with new eyes. 

And so I think, you know, we may want to suspend judgment. I think public opinion and elite opinion in a number of African countries may be malleable.  And so I think those concerns are real about what the mission is.  But if we get the mission part right and have a broader mandate than just sort of capturing and killing bad guys, then I think that plus the 2008 elections may minimize the concerns that a number of African publics and leaders have about this.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you, Josh. 

LEVI:  Let me just add a small point on China and India.  It seems important to distinguish between the two because there are quite different dynamics with each of them.  On the one hand, quantitatively China in the near term is much more important, and at the same time, China appears to be more willing to do pragmatic deals.  India seems to get held up a bit more by ideological concerns.  We've seen this with the U.S.-India nuclear deal, for example.

  Do we have any more questions on the line right now?

STAFF:  Once again, if you'd like to ask a question, please press star/1.  And we are currently holding for questions.

QUESTIONER:  Josh, tell us, in the Lieberman-Warner legislation, one of the interesting innovations is that there is actual adaptation money domestically set aside, if I remember correctly.

BUSBY:  I think that's right, yeah.

QUESTIONER:  Can you tell us a little bit about that?  Is that the kind of money that could be used to address some of these concerns that you're talking about?

BUSBY:  I think -- yeah, I'm pretty agnostic on where the resources come from from adaptation, and so, you know, any -- as we have new costs of transactions in a carbon constraint, that any portion of the proceeds of that should be dedicated to adaptation measures.  So we should ensure that when we're creating new opportunities to fund a climate program, such as from the cap-and-trade program, that a portion be set aside for adaptation.

So I think, importantly, legislation like Lieberman-Warner does this, and that's an important innovation, because we're not going to have necessarily multiple cuts that's a problem, where we can set aside tax dollars on top of this kind of legislation.  So we have to think comprehensively, as they have done, that a portion of the proceeds can finance necessary risk reduction measures here at home.  And so I applaud that.

LEVI:  Do we have any holding on the line?

STAFF:  Again, star one if you would like to ask a question, and we're still holding for more questions from the callers.

QUESTIONER:  Josh, you talk about a number of different connections between climate and national security, and we've also seen a wide range of other studies out on this recently.  Are there places where you think any of the other studies go too far in drawing connections?

BUSBY:  Well, without identifying --

QUESTIONER:  Of course.

BUSBY:  -- a (specific ?) report, you know, there have been efforts over the past few years to talk about abrupt climate change, for example, or rising sea levels.  In my own words, when I look at what the scientists are saying about abrupt climate change and sea level rise, most of it suggests that we simply don't have enough information at this stage, that these may be important problems, but they are problems, you know, in the 22nd century or at the tail end of this century.  And given the short time horizons and most policymakers, for that reason I focused on effects that scientists already think are likely in the coming decade, and for that reason, I focus on extreme weather events, in particular.  But these efforts suggest that, you know, we're going to have a 20-foot sea level rise; you know, most of the studies suggest that's highly unlikely until the end of this century at best and contingent on a number of other processes in the Arctic and Antarctic that we just don't understand very well.  And I feel like, you know, it's a hard effort to convince people that climate change actually has national security implications, and so overstating the case can be counterproductive.  And for that reason, I've bounded by concerns more narrowly, and I hope that having done so it's actually more convincing than other efforts.

LEVI:  Do we have questions waiting on the line?

STAFF:  There are no questions in the queue at this time.  Just a moment.  We have just joined Meg Rowling with Reuters Alert.  Go ahead, please.

QUESTIONER:  Well, yeah, I just wanted to pick up on another aspect that we haven't talked about much, which is that you paint the problem in the sense that addressing the environmental security, the risks could actually lead to positive developments in terms of military relations, for example, holding workshops and this kind of thing.  And you've said that it doesn't really matter whether or not, you know, there's climate change, which actually comes across in the sense that it could do some good anyway in terms of improving relations.

Is this -- could you be a bit more expressive about that, and is this an argument that you feel has been already won within the kind of security establishment?

BUSBY:  Well, a number of the people involved in the military-to-military environmental security workshops historically have suggested that ones in Central Asia created the kind of good will that made it possible for the U.S. to be able to rapidly respond to the attacks of September 11th.  And so by creating that good will between the U.S. military and militaries in the region, this facilitated a faster response to the problems caused by the Taliban and al Qaeda. 

And so the sort of -- former Secretary of State George Shultz once referred to this kind of work as diplomatic gardening, and it's the creating of sites of cooperation on other matters that may have spillover effects in the broader national security environment.  And I think that is justification on its own, but you know, as one concerned about the specific climate security impact, you know, I think it's substantively important for us to do these environmental security workshops.  But for people who maybe are less preoccupied by environmental security, these other reasons in terms of creating good will, ought to be sufficient justification to set aside even a small portion of money, $100 million, to let these workshops go forward. 

LEVI:  If we don't have others on the line, I think we'll wrap up the call now.  I'd just encourage all of you to go and read through the full report, which is available on the council's website, as well as a podcast with Josh and a variety of other resources on climate change, and particularly on the Bali conference, at

Josh, thank you so much for this informative and important report and for joining us this morning.

BUSBY:  Absolutely.  And if any of you would want to follow up with me individually, feel free to e-mail me at the University of Texas, and I'd be happy to follow up any questions that you might have offline.

Thank you.

LEVI:  Thank you.










More on This Topic


Bittersweet Achievement on Climate

Authors: Michael A. Levi and Jason Bordoff
New York Times

Michael Levi and Jason Bordoff commend President Obama's new plan to mitigate climate change, but they warn that Congressional inaction poses...


Rising Sea Levels and the Threat to U.S. Coastal Areas

Speaker: Virginia Burkett
Speaker: James C. Cason
Speaker: Merdith W.B. "Bo" Temple
Presider: Sherri Goodman

As sea levels rise around the world, experts discuss the adaptation policies for U.S. coastal cities and the budgetary and national security...