Authors: Varun Sivaram, Henry J. Snaith, and Samuel D. Stranks Scientific American
An upstart material—perovskite—could finally make solar cells that are cheaper and more efficient than the prevailing silicon technology. Varun Sivaram and co-authors delve into the science behind perovskites and assess the technology’s commercial prospects.
For decades, oil prices have influenced the outlook for alternatives to oil and policies that support those alternatives. Expensive oil makes substitutes more appealing; cheap oil makes the economic case for alternatives that much more difficult. High prices in the 1970s kick-started clean energy, including the first modern electric vehicles, while the oil slump beginning in the 1980s pummeled sources like wind and solar power and undermined the push for more fuel-efficient cars.
Climate talks have largely failed to curb rising temperatures, but bottom-up initiatives featuring subnational actors hold great promise if coordinated effectively. Varun Sivaram and David Livingston argue that California and Germany can “lead from between” to bridge international and subnational climate action.
As China’s global power grows, Beijing is learning that its image matters. For all its economic and military might, the country suffers from a severe shortage of soft power. According to global public opinion surveys, it enjoys a decidedly mixed international image.
Most observers agree that the United States, propelled by its boom in oil and gas production, is becoming increasingly central to global energy. As oil prices have plummeted, American oil producers have taken credit. As U.S. imports have fallen, foreign policy thinkers have suggested that Washington could rely far less on the Middle East.
Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today. To avoid catastrophe, we must dramatically reduce the carbon intensity of our modern energy systems, which have set us on a collision course with our planetary boundaries.
Pope Francis released this document on June 18, 2015. The encyclical states that humans have made "irresponsible use" of the Earth, that climate change affects most people living in poverty, and that all must unite to protect the planet.
After decades of stalled or blocked reforms, China’s environmental protection effort may finally be gaining traction. Elizabeth Economy looks at four barometers for gauging the progress of China’s “war on pollution.”
Alyssa Ayres, CFR's senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, discusses the international and domestic response to the recent earthquakes in Nepal, as part of CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.
Already struggling to meet the needs of its people before its earthquake, the weak government of Nepal faces enormous obstacles in warding off further disaster and harnessing outside aid, writes CFR’s Laurie Garrett.
Ray Takeyh, CFR’s senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies, discusses U.S. policy toward Iran in light of the ongoing nuclear program negotiations and regional security challenges, as part of CFR's Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.
Tesla is planning to scale up production of its lithium-ion batteries, which today power electric vehicles but tomorrow could back up the electricity grid, by building a massive “Gigafactory” in Nevada. Varun Sivaram argues that while positive in the short run, Tesla’s mediocre battery could crowd out more promising, advanced battery technologies in the long run, impeding long-term progress on climate change.
For fifty years, Moore’s Law has governed the startling pace of innovation in the computer chip industry. That Moore’s Law is an extraordinary phenomenon, unique to a single industry, is often forgotten by clean energy commentators who misappropriate it for predicting the progress of technologies like solar panels and batteries. Varun Sivaram argues that this sort of analogy is misleading, and that the clean energy sector should aspire to Moore-esque advances.
The Arctic Council released this Iqaluit Declaration on April 24, 2015. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting and discussed five priorities for cooperation as the United States chairs the council for the year: increased participation in the Arctic Council from indigenous populations, support for the Arctic Economic Council, reduction of emissions, and reduction and response to oil spills.
Nicaragua’s proposed Grand Canal would be one of the world’s largest engineering projects. Its proponents say it could transform the country’s economy, while critics say it could be an environmental catastrophe.
The authors argue that the United States has responded inadequately to the rise of Chinese power and recommend placing less strategic emphasis on the goal of integrating China into the international system and more on balancing China's rise.
Campbell evaluates the implications of the Boko Haram insurgency and recommends that the United States support Nigerian efforts to address the drivers of Boko Haram, such as poverty and corruption, and to foster stronger ties with Nigerian civil society.
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