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 Affairs, Foreign Policy, Nature, and Scientific American, among others; his op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall 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.
China's pursuit of natural resources is restructuring markets, pushing up commodity prices, and transforming resource-rich economies. Elizabeth C. Economy and Michael Levi explore the unrivaled expansion of the Chinese economy and the global effects of its meteoric growth.
See more in China; Energy and Environment; Globalization
A groundbreaking analysis of what the changes in American energy mean for the economy, national security, and the environment, authored by one of America's most prominent experts on energy's role in the world.
See more in Energy Policy; Oil; United States
Can the United States improve its energy security in a clean, affordable, and efficient way? Five experts offer solutions to the daunting energy challenges facing the United States.
See more in United States; Energy Policy; Oil
The worst oil spill in U.S. history, still growing in the Gulf of Mexico, has intensified debate about alternative fuel options. Here, four experts discuss how to reduce U.S. oil consumption.
See more in Oil; United States
With some findings of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in question, four experts debate how much the premier climate science review panel may need to make changes.
See more in Climate Change; Global
President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address focused heavily, as expected, on domestic economic recovery and reasserting U.S. competitiveness. Six CFR experts noted different aspects of the challenges facing Obama.
See more in United States; Competitiveness; Financial Crises
Six experts weigh in on the consequences for the U.S. economy if Congress creates a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade system.
See more in United States; Climate Change
The United States has made real strides against nuclear terrorism, but efforts to secure nuclear materials are incomplete and will require continued commitment, says CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Weapons of Mass Destruction; United States; 9/11 Impact
On the anniversary of the largest oil spill in U.S. history, CFR's Michael Levi says the most surprising thing is how marginal its impact on the energy debate has been.
See more in United States; Disasters; Oil
President Obama's new tack on boosting oil and gas production marks a welcome strategy shift but he still must flesh out details while facing obstacles from the left and right, says CFR's Michael A. Levi.
See more in Energy Policy; United States; Oil
U.S. nuclear power faces renewed scrutiny amid Japan's crisis, but it is far too early to gauge the damage suffered by Japan's industry and the effect on U.S. atomic energy's future, says CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Japan; Nuclear Energy
The UN climate meeting in Cancun took modest but important steps on a wide range of challenges. But the road ahead is still rocky, writes CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Climate Change; Treaties and Agreements
The Senate leadership's decision to shelve a cap-and-trade bill will weaken the U.S. bargaining position in world climate diplomacy, says CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Climate Change; United States; Diplomacy and Statecraft
President Obama's address on the oil spill rightly focused on the immediate challenge in the Gulf, but was a missed opportunity to set a new bar for oil policy, says CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Oil; Energy Policy; United States
The nuclear fuel-swap agreement announced in Tehran put the United States in a bind. Contrary to its sponsors' intentions, it will not improve confidence between the United States and Iran, writes CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Proliferation; Brazil; Iran; Turkey
President Barack Obama's move to expand oil and gas drilling in U.S. coastal waters aims mainly to build political support for his energy agenda, but will have limited impact on oil markets, writes CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in United States; Oil
The UN nuclear agency's new concerns about Iranian nuclear weaponization bolster the move toward sanctions but may do little to halt Tehran's activities, writes CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Proliferation; Iran
CFR's Michael Levi says the Copenhagen climate deal is a meaningful step forward but that its ultimate value remains to be determined.
See more in Climate Change; International Organizations and Alliances
As countries prepare to sign the landmark Paris climate accord, the work to reduce global carbon emissions is only beginning, says CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Global; Climate Change; Energy Policy
While the UN climate summit will not deliver binding commitments to cut carbon emissions, real action on climate policy is occurring on the domestic front, says CFR's Michael Levi.
See more in Global; Climate Change
This week's latest round of Iran talks seems to have done little to reconcile the two sides on the country's nuclear position, says CFR's Michael A. Levi.
See more in Weapons of Mass Destruction; Iran; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament
Heads of fifty nations are discussing how to improve safeguards for nuclear weapons and materials. CFR's Michael Levi says these summits serve as reminders of the dangers beyond the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs.
See more in North Korea; Energy Policy; Iran