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Obama’s Plan to Save the World
Posted on Mar 24, 2009
By Scott Ritter
The goals and expectations that individual nations bring to these assemblies, whether it is Obama’s Global Energy Forum or the UNFCCC, differ greatly. As a developed nation, the United States has flexibility in internal operations that nations conducting major development programs, such as China and India, do not. Negotiating viable greenhouse emissions caps with China, India and other major developing nations is essential to defining a realistic emission cap in the United States. Without such a global agreement, U.S. industries may be compelled, because of simple economics, to flee a constrictive American domestic environment for more permissive locations abroad. Such flight would be counterproductive to the Obama economic stimulus plan, which hinges on industries, and their associated jobs, remaining in the U.S. It would also hamper the overall goal of reducing global emissions to make the homeland more secure.
Another problem is the issue of projecting caps in a fair and equitable manner. While the United States and Europe can project with some confidence energy consumption models for the foreseeable future, the same cannot be said of many developing nations. A cap level for the U.S. and Europe projected over a 50-year period is viable. However, for developing nations, population changes alone will radically alter their energy consumption requirements, as well as their population-related infrastructures. Caps using present-day criteria would rapidly become unrealistic, and consequently would be subject to violation. However, adjusting U.S. and European caps based upon such projections would place an even greater burden on the industrial bases of these nations. Managing the issue would be a major challenge for the Obama administration and the rest of the world.
The linkage between global climate change, national security and energy consumption models is not one of normal association. Today, however, the potential impact on global social, political and economic systems simply cannot be ignored. This impact would be not only iterative, but would cumulatively have an effect that is several orders of magnitude greater than what normally would be projected. Preventing, or at least containing and mitigating, the potential dire consequences of global climate change will require sweeping reform which will affect existing global energy consumption models. How this reform is framed, and the manner in which it is implemented, will likewise heavily influence the economic, political and physical aspects of the world energy markets, making global climate change perhaps the most critical issue when it comes to the future of energy security, and national security.
Given the paramount role played by the United States in world affairs today, the energy policies implemented by the Obama administration will have an influence unmatched by any other nation or group of nations. While the Obama energy plan is complex, a major indicator of whether or not the plan is unfolding as expected will be the issue of cap and trade. The success or failure of the cap-and-trade initiative will impact the overall viability of Obama’s clean energy initiatives, domestically and internationally, and as such should be closely monitored by all parties with a vested interest in energy and related security matters. And given the inherent problems confronting the successful implementation of the cap-and-trade initiative, it is imperative that the Obama administration develop alternative plans and courses of action. There might not be enough time to do so if “cap and trade” fails.
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