Headline thoughts on climate change, conflict risk and adaptation

It is an increasingly familiar argument that the consequences of climate change will interact with key features of the social, economic and political landscape of countries in such a way that, especially among the poorer countries in the world, the risk of violent conflict will rise significantly. The policy agenda for addressing this problem is a combination of peacebuilding and adaptation to climate change, both of them involving a combination of international support for nationally coordinated action that engages the participation and energy of ordinary people and communities. During the week of 8 to 12 June I was in Washington DC gauging how these issues are viewed there.

Here are some headline thoughts, recorded by the Environmental Change and Security Programe at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in DC in connection with a talk I gave for them: (click here). Go to the New Security Beat web-site (see my log roll on the lower right of this home page) for more.

10 action points for UK Parliament to focus on

British politics is in one hell of a hole because of stupid abuse of a stupid set-up for covering the living expenses of Members of Parliament. The system was meant to augment MPs’ income because successive governments since the 1980s have been too gutless to agree to raise MPs’ pay in line with, for example, doctors.  So the arrangement was always a piece of classic British hypocrisy and now it’s backfired into the fan. As the scandal and ridicule unfolds, though not all MPs are embroiled in it, the body as a whole is naturally obsessed by it and their real business suffers. Here are ten key problems Parliament should be talking about instead of staring up itself.

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Don’t throw up on Ryanair

During this decade the number of routes flown by Ryanair has increased by over 1,000 per cent. It currently carries more international passengers than any other airline. It has outdone the old-fashioned subsidised national airlines. Its disciplined, no-frills approach to the mass market for air travel is a wealth generating emblem of our age. Its boss even welcomes the recession and looks forward to the company being strengthened by it. Just one thing: if you’re flying Ryanair, don’t throw up.  Continue reading

G-20 outcomes and winners

Thursday’s G-20 summit communique was followed by an immediate hailstorm of judgements. The term “new world order” has been used more than once, which in principle is not out of order when the leaders of countries responsible for 90 per cent of world output are gathered together, and you know there is some kind of success when major world leaders queue up to claim the credit. Continue reading

G-20 and the bottle of expectation on economy, climate and conflict

Every significant political moment generates a bottle of expectation. As it looms up and unfolds, the news media and commentators start rushing to judge how far the bottle has been filled by actual achievement. The G-20 – the world’s 19 richest states, plus the EU, the IMF, World Bank and a couple of other financial institutions – meet on Thursday 2 April in London. In full anticipation that the half-full/half-empty metaphor will be used to excess over the next few days, what are reasonable expectations this time? Continue reading

Four issues at (or not at) the G-20 London summit

It looks like there will be some serious demonstrations to welcome the G-20 summiteers to London on 2 April. Protests will reflect anger at the human costs of the recession and a conviction (or hope) that the system has not only failed many ordinary people but is failing full stop. And there will be a lot of sympathy for the protests because it is hard to see the G-20 straightforwardly addressing the big problems. There are four in particular that could do with high-level attention. Continue reading

How green is our valley?

Not outstandingly green by international standards – more a sludgy grey brown. A comparison of  the green content of several governments’ bail-out and stimulus packages shows South Korea devoting 80 per cent of the extra finance to green investment and activity, while China notches up 37 and the UK is at a lowly 6 per cent. Continue reading

The fog of uncertainty in a manic economic depression

In an interview published on 30 August last year, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) Alistair Darling  revealed his view that the economic downturn was “arguably the worst” in 60 years. He was quickly dumped on for talking down the economy and the underlying analysis was gleefully trashed. Grim prospects, The Economist acknowledged, “But the worst outlook in six decades? Nonsense.” Perhaps Darling does not seem so nonsensical today, now that the economic depression is turning manic. Continue reading

Obama in power (2): points from the US President’s speech to Congress

Barack Obama gained several points in opinion polls and a lot of favourable media comment for his speech to Congress on Tuesday 24 February. Its main focus was the economic crisis in the US. He had little to say on foreign policy, nothing new, mostly generalities, with a couple of worthwhile points. But in what he said on responding to crisis, there was much that reflects how the President sees the US place in the world and may therefore be suggestive of his administration’s stance and future actons. Here, without comment, are brief excerpts from the speech with points that I found especially significant on that score. Continue reading