Future of violent conflict

Security Studies since the early 90’s have been looking at the connection between the environment and violent conflicts.  Looking back we can see a history of violent conflicts in certain countries, many of which of LDC (Least Developed countries).  The security community has come to agreement that environment factors are rarely causes of conflict but rather catalysts and drivers. But what about the future? There is now a new field of study beginning, climate change and violent conflict.  A new review of 55 research papers shows that there is an increase in violent conflict related to climate change.  The National Bureau of Economic Research http://envirocivil.com/climate/climate-change-supplementing-violence-women/ conducted this review and has a working paper that is also saying that these two factors are linked.  Although most people can agree that with a changing climate may cause stress on certain systems that we need to survive, and will there fore cause some sort of violent reaction.  However what is really interesting is that environment issues as drivers and catalysts change in these predictions of climate change caused violent conflict.  This new form of conflict would be the cause, driver, and catalyst of violence. In past conflicts, environmental stresses help to exacerbate conflict, but do not usually act as the core reason.  However, if climate threats increase enough they will become the sole cause of conflict.  If there is simply not enough water for everyone, there will be conflict.  Furthermore this shifts the priorities of the Security community, placing climate change threats as the top.  If there is not enough water for people to survive it doesn’t really matter what the economic or political climate is.

A bottom up approach with comprehensive stringency policies

The year 2015 marks when people are hoping to have a new grand proposal on emissions reductions and climate change mitigation processes.  When looking at the various designs in which this proposal can take, a bottom-up approach, with emphasis on comprehensive evolutionary stringency policies would allow for strong participation at the onset, flexible requirements early on and a longevity of commitment.

The first key to any policy is to get a lot of participants.  Historically a bottom-up approach achieves this.  Bodansky uses the UNFCCC as an example of a bottom up approach.  The UNFCCC is one of the largest international regimes ever and they accomplished this by having very minimal stringency policies to be more appealing to Nation-states (Bodansky 2).  Climate change is a global issue, and although Nation states come to the negotiation table already knowing what their individual positions are, they are never the less engaged in negotiations and talking to each other.  This in turn helps to create more cooperation and interdependency. If a country reduces emissions in league with other countries, that country will theoretically also receive the benefits of other nations reducing emissions (Bodansky 2).   This can be supported by Peter Wilson’s definition of idealism international relation theory stating it “will empower world public opinion, and make it a powerful force that no government can resist…(Wilson 1).  Oppositely a top-down approach will not do this, because of the low participation aspect of countries.  However, even though a select few could successfully draft a proposal and use their sway to get in accepted a top-down approach does not include the vast majority of the nations.  In order for Climate change to be successfully combated, especially in the long term, all nations need to be a part of the negotiations and have equal stake.

A traditional bottom-up approach would not be feasible in this situation, because of its lack in stringency.  Bodansky explains that for a bottom-up approach to work stringency has to be: “part of an evolutionary framework that leads to greater action later (Bodansky 2).”  The first step is to have low commitments with high participation.  Next there must be a comprehensive timeline of commitment increases up-front.  One of the drawbacks of the Kyoto protocol is possibly that the second commitment period was to steep. Countries, like Canada ratified the protocol and participated but then dropped out as they realized that the emission reductions were to steep.  Similarly Japan and Russia are thinking of doing something very similar.  The stringency policies should be smaller incremental increases, over a longer period of time.  This way, more countries are engaged over longer periods of time, which would lead to lower emissions in the long-term.  Bodansky talks about a variable geometry structure in which countries can pick and choose which instruments to be a part of.  This would work well in conjunction with optional protocols (Bodansky 3).  For example, the MARPOL (International Convention on the Prevention of Pollutants from Ships) has mandatory protocols that deal with higher risk aspects like oil and noxious liquid, while less risk aspects are deemed as optional protocols (Bodansky 4).  If a bottom up approach were created in which, certain emission reductions were considered mandatory, while others were optional, more countries would participate and hopefully stay involved because of the flexibility aspect.


Wilson, Peter  Idealism in international relations: Originally published in Dowding, K., Encyclopedia of power. Thousand Oaks, USA: SAGE Publications, 2011, pp. 332-333.

Bodansky, Daniel and O’Connor, Sandra Day. “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement.” December 2012. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. Web.


The mistakes of the Industrial Revolution

After reading Spencer R. Wearts book “The Discovery of Climate Change” I realize that the science behind global warming is extremely simple.  As early as the 19th century scientists had already figured out what greenhouse gases were and identified CO2 as a threat.  The logic behind it is also extremely simple, without carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the earth would freeze.  Not only were greenhouse gases identified but by the time the industrial revolution was in full swing, scientists already knew that human created machines emitted large quantities of carbon dioxide.  I immediately thought, what were we [they] thinking?  I then began to think about pre-industrial life to a post industrial standard, and I became clear that the idea of machinery and higher standards of living blew environmental preservation right out of the water.  It is simply human nature.  As humans we seek constantly seek to better our lot in life.  As history has shown, long term issues are rarely considered when confronted with short term problems.  That sounds pretty bleak and slightly putting down the entire human race.  While continuing to read, and kept pondering the same question:  “if people knew, why didn’t they try and change then?”  Early industrialization led to machinery that could mass produce items as well as agricultural advances.  At this point, coal smoke was the primary emission of these early machines.  Coal was one of the only viable fuel sources at the time, so of course it was used.  Still this doesn’t explain why people didn’t try and rectify it early on.  I think it is actually pretty clear, and possibly another by product of human nature.  People back then did understand greenhouse gases, but couldn’t begin to comprehend the advances of technology or the true effects of CO2 emissions, in short they couldn’t predict what was to come.


By the early 1900’s some people had begin to predict future issues, which fell largely on deaf ears as the developed world was facing many other more”pressing” issues.  Part of me thinks there is blame to be placed on early industry but in reality, there wasn’t many other fuel options.  Only in the last part of the 20th century has technology surpassed fossil fuels.  Now renewable resources and processes for harnessing them are extremely viable.  Maybe there was no other way to industrialize than with fossil fuel, but in todays time, there is certainly enough technology and initiative to rectify those mistakes, and turn from a fossil fuel society to one based on renewables.

Disinformation at its finest

Merchants of Doubt paints a bleak picture of the state of affairs, from climate change to general rampant miss information.  In regards to climate change it almost seems that Climate Change has never had a time to shine.  In 1965 Roger Revelle made a prediction that by the year 2000, we would see physical changes in temperature due to increased CO2 in the atmosphere.  Lyndon Johnson took the report to congress where it was essentially swept under the rug.  Oreskes and conway explain that it was because of timing, there were more pressing concerns.  It is clear that until very recent years there has been a generally downward spiral in the state of the world climate.  In fact environmental issues as a whole always seem to fall low on the “pressing” scale.  It would seem that because many environmental issues are “it will get bad in the future” kind of issues that they rarely seem to be dealt with “now”.  Governmental policies, historically have not seemed to address and project what unchecked issues could potentially have in the future.  Only recently when the current state of the environment has become blatantly apparent have there been more active movements towards preventing future issues.

Apart from the obvious issues presented in Merchants of Doubt, there seems to be one issues that contributes to the others.  The issue of the modern age of communication.  As expressed in the conclusion the right to freedom of the press is a double-edged sword.  As they say everyone has an opinion, and with the advent of the internet, now you can share yours with everyone: “Opinions sometimes express ill-informed beliefs, not reliable knowledge.”  Whats worse is that scientific fact has become harder for people to believe.  By its nature the scientific process is designed to be proven wrong, and change.  experiments are done, data is recorded and a consensus is met, yet with additional research that consensus can change easily and dramatically.  Internet opinion, is organic in that it also changes constantly.  I believe that people have been conditioned to not believe things that change often, that appear “wishy washy”.  Because of this, scientific reasoning appears similar to internet information, and people are less likely to believe.  In the example of climate change science, the addition of nay sayers only reinforces peoples belief that it can not be true.

With the ability of the internet, the words of Alexis de Tocqueville become very prevalent:

“A confused clamor rises on every side, and a thousand voices are heard at once”

Turn Right at Machu Picchu, should we?

“Turn Right at Machu Picchu” will make anyone excited to travel to Peru.  Mark Adams retraces the steps of Hiram Bigham, the “rediscover” of Machu Picchu.  Throughout the book, he explores various Inca ruins, treks through cloud forests and has hilarious interactions with the locals.  As someone who has been to Peru, and explored some of the same mountain regions and Inca sites as Mark Adams, there are two points to be taken away from his book.  The first has to do with the Inca people as a whole.  The Inca were arguably the most powerful and advanced civilization in the New World, prior to the arrival of the Europeans.  Like many earlier civilizations, their relationship with the natural world ran extremely deep within the culture of the Inca.  Inca architecture is an incredible feat of early engineering.  In Cusco, some buildings are still built upon the foundations of Inca structures.  Another aspect of Incan architecture is its incorporation of the natural world.  For instance, at Machu Picchu, the finely crafted walls of Inca cities are regularly broken by boulders and trees.  The Inca did not destroy natural features, but incorporated them into the cities, and respected these features.  Another example of this is that Inca towns were built in the shape of animals.  Ollantaytambo, for instance, the last stronghold of the Inca against the spaniards, is built in the shape of a Llama.  This all shows that the Inca had a great appreciation for the natural world, and Mark Adams makes you wonder, what if the Inca had prevailed over the European settlers?    Mark Adams, intentionally or not, teaches a very important lesson about adventures.  The age old saying “its about the journey, not the destination” rings especially true for Mark or anyone else who has trekked to Inca sites in Peru.  At the onset of his expedition, Mark believes Machu Picchu to be his final destination and the most spectacular aspect of his journey, yet he is ultimately disappointed when he finally gets there.  Throughout his travels with John, Mark is exposed to the raw power of the Peruvian landscape, and gets to see Inca ruins that are largely untouched, yet when he gets to Machu Picchu he is presented with a completely different site.  In part he is disappointed by the state of Machu Picchu, the big entrance gate, large number of people, and switchback bus road up the mountain have a spoiling effect on the place.  Now, Mark adams is not diminishing the wonder of the site, rather calling in to question peoples impact there.  Is it right for people to so exploit Machu Picchu?  Does the heavy traffic and tourist style buildings take away from what the place is?  I believe Mark Adams would say yes, that the mystic wonder, the unseen substance that floats around a place like Machu Picchu is pushed back by the level of human impact there.  Mark Adams felt it, and I felt it to when I went, so that begs the question, are people right to explore and exploit Machu Picchu?