Michael A. Levi

David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies


Climate change; energy policy; weapons of mass destruction; homeland security; arms control and proliferation; technology and foreign policy; science and technology in the Islamic world.


Michael Levi is the David M. Rubenstein senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), director of CFR’s Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, and director of the CFR program on energy security and climate change. He is an expert on energy, climate change, nuclear security, and the interplay of global economics and international politics.

Before joining CFR, Dr. Levi was a nonresident science fellow and a science and technology fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution. Prior to that, he was director of the Federation of American Scientists' Strategic Security Project.

Dr. Levi is author of four books, including most recently The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future (Oxford University Press, 2013), and By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World (with Elizabeth Economy, Oxford University Press, 2014). He is currently working on a book on the global consequences of China’s economic transformation.

Dr. Levi has testified before Congress and presented expert scientific evidence to the National Academy of Sciences on climate change and on nuclear security. His essays have been published in Foreign AffairsForeign PolicyNature, and Scientific American, among others; his op-eds have appeared in the New York TimesWashington PostWall Street Journal, and Financial Times. Dr. Levi previously wrote a monthly online column on science and security for the New Republic, and served as a technical consultant to the critically acclaimed television drama 24. He currently writes a blog on energy, climate, and nuclear issues.

Dr. Levi serves on the mission committee of the Board of Governors of Los Alamos / Lawrence Livermore National Security; the strategic advisory board of NewWorld Capital LLC; and the Advisory Council of Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

Dr. Levi holds a BSc (Hons.) in mathematical physics from Queen's University (Kingston) and an MA in physics from Princeton University. He holds a PhD in war studies from the University of London (King's College), where he was the SSHRC William E. Taylor fellow. He lives in New York.

Energy, Economics, and International Security

Energy has long been intimately connected with the global economy and international relations. But with rapid changes in the energy landscape, the international economy, and world affairs, scholars' and policymakers' understandings of how energy influences the world are increasingly out of date. In 2010, I convened a workshop to identify important research questions in this space, and published a working paper outlining important areas for investigation. Since then, I've led an effort to answer many of those questions (along with others that have emerged) through a mix of my own research, commissioned papers, and intensive workshops. My own recent work has produced, among other products, books on the future of U.S. energy and Chinese resource strategy and papers on natural gas exports, the influence of oil in international diplomacy, and the potential role of oil taxes in fiscal reform. Commissioned papers have addressed matters ranging from oil dependence in the Chinese military to the impact of falling U.S. oil imports on the current account. Future activities will continue to illuminate and clarify the relationships between energy, economics, and international security, with an eye toward insights that can inform pressing policy decisions.

This project is made possible through the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Climate Change and Foreign Policy

Climate change is the ultimate foreign policy problem: meeting the aggressive emissions-cutting goals agreed to by governments will require strong action from every major economy in the world. Effectively tackling climate change will require sustained dialogue and collaboration between the climate change and foreign policy communities, much as effective Cold War arms control required collaboration between specialists in nuclear weapons and in foreign policy. My activities aim to build these dialogues through two main means. I conduct and publish research on connections between energy production and climate change, in policy and scientific journals, and convene dialogues that mix energy producers and people who focus on climate change. Since energy production is a critical part of the international security and foreign policy landscape, this is essential to bridging the two worlds. I also host a series of roundtable discussions that expose foreign policy experts to recent developments in the climate change world. My ongoing activities extend both efforts while deepening a two-way dialogue between the climate policy and foreign policy communities.

International Economics and International Security

The world is economically interdependent like at no time since the outbreak of World War I. Friends and rivals alike are enmeshed in economic relationships that inevitably shape—and are shaped by—their broader foreign policy and international security interactions. Security experts, however, often lack sufficient background to understand the consequences of economic developments, while experts on economics and markets are seldom engaged with security issues beyond their strictly economic implications.  My colleagues and I at the Center for Geoeconomic Studies seek to narrow this divide. We aim to do this through two primary activities: convening workshops of scholars and practitioners from both sides of the gulf between economics/markets and foreign/security policy thinking, and producing analyses of historical and contemporary policy challenges that present and compare interpretations of those challenges from both the economics and security perspectives. Through these efforts, we hope to promote a more integrated approach to foreign policy and to provide policymakers with resources that allow them to more effectively address global security risks.

This project is made possible through the support of Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Featured Publications

All Publications


Two Meetings That Can Shape Oil Markets

Authors: Michael A. Levi and Edward Morse

As climate plays a growing role in energy markets, serious energy analysis can no longer choose to focus only on traditional energy economics and geopolitics, write Michael Levi and Ed Morse. Policymakers, analysts, companies, and investors that deal in traditional energy will need to become much more sophisticated in their understanding of climate policy.

See more in Global; Financial Markets; Energy and Environment

Other Report

Fiscal Breakeven Oil Prices: Uses, Abuses, and Opportunities for Improvement

Authors: Blake Clayton and Michael A. Levi

Fiscal "breakeven" oil prices have become popular among analysts and decision-makers as indicators of oil-producing countries' economic and political stability, but there are limits to the insights that breakeven prices provide. Blake Clayton and Michael A. Levi assess the potential value and most important pitfalls involved in using fiscal breakeven oil prices.


See more in Global; Oil; Economics


By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest Is Changing The World

Authors: Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael A. Levi
All China Review

Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi explore how Chinese demand drive global commodity prices, the broader implications of the Chinese slowdown for the global economy and regional security, and consequences of China’s resource quest for the world’s resource-producing states and industries.

See more in China; Financial Markets; Environmental Policy


Why the Oil Price Drop Matters

Author: Michael A. Levi
World Economic Forum

After three years of unusual stability around $100 a barrel, oil prices fell steeply in the second half of 2014, dropping from $115 a barrel in June to around $60 by December. With oil critical to national economies, international security and climate change, what does the apparent new world of oil mean?

See more in Global; Oil

Other Report

Spillovers From Falling Oil Prices: Risks to Mexico and the United States

Authors: Michael A. Levi, Alexandra Mahler-Haug, and Shannon K. O'Neil

U.S. policymakers who worry about the impact of energy developments on geopolitics typically think of high oil prices as bad news and low prices as an unalloyed good. But a sustained drop in oil prices can be dangerous as well. This paper investigates Mexican vulnerability to falling oil prices—and spillovers to the United States—to show how troublesome such a development might be.

See more in Mexico; Oil; Budget, Debt, and Deficits


Why the World Missed the Oil Price Crash

Author: Michael A. Levi
The Washington Post

The recent oil price crash came as a surprise to many observers due to several critical misconceptions about oil markets, writes Michael Levi. As for prices going forward, “only the reckless would bet with any confidence on one particular outcome.”

See more in Global; Oil


Should the U.S. Take Unilateral Action on Climate Policy?

Authors: Michael A. Levi and Andrew P. Morriss
Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal asks Michael Levi and Andrew P. Morriss whether the U.S. should act unilaterally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Levi answers “yes,” arguing that cutting greenhouse gas emissions now would enhance public health and the international credibility of the United States, and that reasonable action now would reduce long-term costs.

See more in United States; Environmental Policy

Recent Activity from Energy, Security, and Climate


Radio Interview

WNYC: The Power Surge as Weekend Reading

Joe Nocera will be reading The Power Surge by Michael Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "He's a pragmatist. He doesn't buy into the pieties of the right or the pieties of the left. He thinks about practical solutions, what works, what doesn't, what makes sense, and where we're truly headed in terms of energy."