Saturday, January 30, 2010

Article by Cleo Paskal in International Affairs Forum: The fallacy of growth

Reprinted from the Winter 2009/2010 issue of International Affairs Forum magazine (to see the issue online, click here).

The fallacy of growth: Climate change policy trade-offs
By Cleo Paskal, Chatham House 

In many areas, the debate around climate change has formed well-trodden pathways, making it increasingly difficult to broaden the discussion. As a result, analysis is sometimes flawed and some viable solutions are being overlooked. A case in point is the dominant assumption that there is a trade-off between economic growth and climate change policies, especially for developing countries. 

Part of the problem is the narrow definitions of climate change policies themselves. Almost invariably, the term connotes a reduction in carbon emission, usually through a reduction in the use of fossil fuels. While there are a range of other areas that produce substantial greenhouse gas emissions, including, for example, the livestock industry, they are rarely included in the discussion. Similarly, there are a range of existing, low-cost ways of absorbing emission, including urban reforestation. While that topic tends to get more attention, it is still underrepresented in the debate. 

Though there are sound reasons to look at energy use, at least part of the reason for the concerted focus is that, to a large degree, much of the discussion around the politics of climate change took shape in the economies where there are existing energy security concerns. Shifts to lower imported energy use dovetails well with established strategic goals. Meanwhile, for example in a U.S. context, lowering the amount of beef consumed (which would also reduce emissions) does little for strategic goals and would carry costs with the agricultural lobby. And planting trees/green roofs might provide some local jobs, but is not perceived as a—pardon the pun—growth industry, especially in comparison with potential carbon capture and storage megaprojects. 

Even though much of the developing world has differently structured economies and needs, it has been pulled into the dominant paradigm through the negotiations process, and now the vast majority of global discussions revolve around carbon emissions, and in particular those related to energy use. As a result, many in the developing world (and beyond) equate countering climate change with lowering fossil fuel use, something that is perceived to negatively affect economic development. This doesn’t take into account two factors. The first is that fossil fuel prices are likely to increase in variability, and possibly rise substantially due to other factors such as the specter of peak oil. That, in itself, can undermine economic development. 

A case in point is the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. Given the nature of its economy, emissions aren’t really an issue. Per capita emissions are minimal and likely to remain so. This nation of just over 100,000 citizens imports almost 100% of its energy in the form of fossil fuels. It was very badly hit during the recent oil price spike. The innovative and forward thinking government of the country immediately decided to convert its energy use to 50% renewables within approximately two years. Once accomplished, its economic development will be substantially buffered from variations in global energy markets, giving it a substantial advantage. This clearly shows that mitigation, even if largely as a by-product of energy security, can be an economic benefit, not cost.

The second factor involves assessing the cost not only of our impact on the environment, but of a changing environment’s impact on us. While the focus is normally on promoting growth, given the disruptive impacts of environmental change, we should also be concerned about limiting loss. 

Much of the world’s critical infrastructure, including the oil and gas installations in the U.S. Gulf Coast, the hydro dams powering large sections of Asia, and industrial powerhouses such as Shanghai, are in regions that are already being affected by a changing climate. Hurricane Katrina (2005) cost the Gulf Coast an estimated $100 billion and triggered spikes in global oil and gas prices. There were similar problems in the Gulf energy sector in 2008 when Ike and Gustav passed though. The increasingly unpredictable river levels in the Himalayas are causing problems with site stability and the ability to generate power. In coastal China, as a result of building in vulnerable areas and increasing climate extremes, during typhoon season there have been evacuations of hundreds of thousands of people almost every year for the past few years. 

The developing world understands how destructive a changing environment can be. And, when doing their assessments, they tend to quite rightly look beyond simple climate change when trying to understand their risks. 

Again, Tonga is a good example of this. In recent countrywide consultation sessions, local populations were asked about how their physical environment was changing, what it meant to them, and what their concerns for the future were. This was combined with scientific assessments on vulnerabilities. What emerged was a complex picture of a changing environment that included not only climate change but a range of interrelated factors such as subduction, volcanic activity, changing currents, El Nino, and others. Only when all these factors are combined can an effective defensive strategy be put in place. 

And such a strategy is desperately needed. In both the developed and developing world, if the ‘environmental change proofing’ of infrastructure, industry, urban areas, etc., is not addressed, loss may soon overwhelm growth. 

Increasing energy security and reducing vulnerability to extreme events are both necessary for economic growth. Bluntly put, there is no point putting up a solar power plant in what is now, or may soon become, a flood zone. 

It is not that there is a trade-off between economic growth and climate change policies; it is that without more rounded and sound environmental change policies, there may not be any growth at all. 

Interview (video) with Cleo Paskal by Geoff Dabelko, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program on the vulnerabilities of energy infrastructure to environmental change

Review of Global Warring and Interview with Cleo Paskal by Patrick Lejtenyi of the Montreal Mirror

The Mirror newspaper in Montreal ran a review of Global Warring sprinkled with some quotes from an interview with Cleo Paskal, giving her instant street cred with procrastinating students across the city. An excerpt:

[...] in Paskal’s new book, Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map, the changing world is creating a new playing field in which the Great Powers will struggle for power and influence. A cool, clear-eyed analysis of the emerging geopolitics, Global Warring does not engage in climate change-induced scenario speculation nor does it offer emotional appeals to curbing emissions. It simply explains what the new realities are, and what we can do to adapt to them. 

To read more, click here.

Review of Global Warring in The Rover

Joni Dufour reviews Global Warring for The Rover and describes Cleo Paskal as a "geopolitical actuary" -- Cleo's new favourite self-descriptor. Other highlights from the review:

If you’re looking for a debate on global warming, however, you’ll have to look elsewhere. In Paskal’s analysis, climate change is a given. In fact, she often opts for the term “environmental change,” and prefers to look beyond specific theories of the causes of climate change to focus on its effects and implications on the ground. [...] This experienced journalist shows her academic chops when laying down the historical background of the geo hot spots discussed. She needs little time to make her synopses clear and condensed. 

To read more, click here.

Interview with Cleo Paskal in the Montreal Gazette

Catherine Solyom from Cleo Paskal's hometown paper, the Montreal Gazette, just ran an extensive interview with Cleo, making her parents very proud, and confusing old high school classmates who thought she had died sometime in the mid-1990s on Butaritari atoll (a rumour started after she filed a story on Butaritari for the CBC mentioning how sick she got there -- though the fact she filed the story should have been an indicator that she survived). An excerpt:

In your book, you talk about the developed world's mistaken belief that it won't be significantly affected by climate change. What do you see happening in Quebec?
One question will be what happens with the St. Lawrence Seaway. If we see big reductions in the levels of the Great Lakes, then the St. Lawrence Seaway may reduce in level. That could mean a few things - one, that the big ships can't get up into the Great Lakes anymore and Montreal can become a bigger port, another might be the salt-water front in the St. Lawrence could move and we'd have to push back our water filtration plants. And with more mild winters and increasing winter precipitation, it's possible there will be more ice storms.

You mention the ice storm of 1998 in your book. What are the lessons to be learned from the ice storm here and Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.?
The developed world is heavily reliant on network-provided power, and when that power goes, we lose everything we consider to be normal components of modern life - our communications systems, our banking systems, our refrigeration, our heating, all goes. So what is sustaining the way we live is actually very narrow and potentially very fragile. I was lucky enough to be able to travel with the Canadian military during the ice storm and they did a phenomenal job - that really drove home the importance of having trained professionals who are capable of dealing with emergency situations, something that was visibly lacking in New Orleans.
There we saw that environmental change can create its own problems, but it can exacerbate existing problems. So if you have a society that is already fragmented, where the resources are already stretched, where the emergency services are understaffed and under-equipped, if you have a disruption, everything gets very bad very quickly. It's not just that the environment is changing, it's our reaction to that changing environment that really determines how bad the situation will be.

What is your analysis of what's happening in Haiti?
What's happening in Haiti is heartbreaking and tragic. There's not much that can be said. But what's interesting is that many of the houses were built to withstand hurricanes so they had concrete roofs that became a death trap in an earthquake. So when we're looking at how to build resilience, it's important to take into account the range of threats. The other thing is to see who is good at responding to these disasters. Which nations have been able to get people in in order to help quickly? It will take a few weeks to figure out who's done it successfully. But I would hope that the countries that didn't would take a look at their emergency services and see how they can be bolstered. Because unfortunately we will be dealing with many more national disasters in the years to come.
To read more, click here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review of Global Warring by Martin Walker on UPI

Martin Walker, UPI Editor Emeritus and Senior Director of A. T. Kearney's Global Business Policy Council, wrote a great review of Global Warring for UPI that brings to the fore some of the books key points. In it he also writes:

Paskal, a Canadian who is a fellow of London's prestigious Chatham House think tank and a consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy, has been a pioneering scholar of the new terrain where climate change confronts national security, where geopolitics, geoeconomics and global warming all collide.

To read more, click here.

Review of Global Warring by Tom Spencer in EurActiv

Tom Spencer, the former President of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and Defence Policy, and current Executive Director of the European Centre for Public Affairs, just wrote a feature on Europe that includes a review of Global Warring. An excerpt:

Europe's foreign policy elites might like to pick up Cleo Paskal's 'Global Warring: How Environmental Economic and Political Crises will redraw the world map'. Cleo is a Canadian academic and journalist, based at Chatham House in London, married to a Dane, who spends a substantial time each year in India. She writes with the power of a journalist underpinned by the research habits of an academic.
She has for years contributed learned articles on how rising sea levels may change international borders with major implications. Her latest book arrives with the clarity and importance of the crack of doom. Her first message, that I would want every European policymaker to understand, undercuts the comfortable belief that disasters caused by environmental change happen to poor people, in poor countries far away and that our main involvement is to offer gracious aid to the under-privileged.
She shows conclusively that the reality for the developed world is closer to Katrina on steroids. Our obsession with short-term profit and technological complexity means that we are going to be there in the front line when the yoghurt hits the fan. Katrina was a man-made disaster brought about by the corruption of the relationship between the US Army Corps of Engineers and Congress ever keen to create pork-barrel employment projects, regardless of their environmental consequences.
She points out that the great heat wave of 2003 killed 30,000 people in Europe. Many of the oil and natural gas pipelines on which Europe depends run across Russian permafrost which is melting. We persist in building long-term infrastructure without regard to climate change. The French now regularly have to turn off their nuclear power stations in hot weather for lack of cooling water.
Europe is only beginning to come to terms with the amount of infrastructure re-design that will be necessary to keep its civilisation habitable. In essence her message is that climate change, as a sub-set of environmental change, has the whole of humanity wrapped in its coils.
She is equally good on the real implications for the developing world. Forced environmental migration is going to be a South-South problem, not one that can be realistically framed in terms of the West's historic responsibility. If forty million Bangladeshis flee from cataclysmic flooding in their homeland, they are going to be a problem for India and Burma. There is no way that Europe, America or Japan are going to accept that number of refugees. The same logic applies to environmental migration from Africa or the Middle East.
Cleo and I agree on the significance of climate change and the military, particularly in the context of the melting of the Himalayan glaciers which could end up with the loss of glacial summer melt water in the great rivers of Asia simultaneously destabilising Pakistan, India and China. Some issues are so big that nobody wants to talk about them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Article By Cleo Paskal and Scott Savitt: Copenhagen Consequences for the U.S., China and India

In this commentary for UPI, Cleo Paskal and Scott Savitt analyze what really happened at Copenhagen and why it was a potentially groundbreaking moment in geopolitics.

"Going in to Copenhagen, the “Rashomon” narratives of the conference varied more than many realized. The West primarily thought it was negotiating a trade deal – as evidenced by the drop in EU carbon trading prices after the talks failed to deliver a climate market deal. China was negotiating for a trade deal, but kept options open for larger strategic advantages. And India wanted to drive home big geopolitical points.

"Coming out of Copenhagen, the narrative is clearer: This was geopolitics pure and simple."

Click here to read more....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Profile in the National Post

From animated TV to ecological geography; Cleo Paskal
Farquharson, Vanessa. National Post [Don Mills, Ont] 14 Jan 2010: AL.4.

She's allergic to alcohol and her television is broken, so it goes without saying that Cleo Paskal gets a lot of work done in life -- whether it's a BBCRadio documentary series on the world's smallest countries or her latest book, Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map.
For the book, Paskal opted to approach the subject of climate change from a new angle, investigating the connections between politics and the environment.
"There's that old expression, 'Geography makes history,' but now it seems that environmental change is remaking geography," she says. "I wanted to look at what happens to the geo-strategic potential of a country when it disappears or when its borders are affected by a natural disaster."
During the research process, Paskal inter vie wed everyone from glaciologists in India to agricultural experts in Winnipeg.
Of course, the irony of flying around the world, emitting thousands of tonnes of CO2, in order to write about global warming isn't lost on Paskal. The author admits to having mixed feelings about how the current environmental debate is transpiring, particularly in the case of carbon.
"I think climate change is more complicated," she says. "I may fly a lot, but I'm also vegetarian and don't have any children -- so how do you calculate all that?"
Paskal herself has a more nuanced background and career history than your average current affairs writer.
Born and raised in the Laurentians, she initially took an interest in broadcast media and was hired, at just 13 years old, to be a correspondent for the CBC-Radio show Anybody Home? A child actor, she also played the role of Cleo in the Oscar-nominated film Lies My Father Told Me and did voice work for the animated TV series Adventures of the Little Koala.
In her late teens, she studied history at McGill and cofounded the satirical student magazine The Red Herring, then some years later ended up at the BBC in London hosting a show about the smallest countries in the world.
A few twists and turns later, she became a travel writer for the National Post before leaving to freelance and contribute work to publications ranging from The Economist to the Weekly World News. Paskal also used her writing talents to help create a 13-part reality series about the Cirque du Soleil, which beat Da Ali G Show for an Emmy in 2003.
Now, she still writes travel columns but is also an associate fellow for a think tank in London called Chatham House, a consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy and an adjunct professor at two universities in India.
"I live in a very cheap place in Montreal," Paskal says, "so I have the luxury of deciding what interests me and figuring out how to get somebody to pay me to look into it. I wanted to go visit Tonga, for instance, and no think tank was interested in that place, but travel editors are, so I pitched a story and went."
Most recently, she was in Copenhagen for the second week of the climate negotiations, speaking on a panel about climate change and security alongside a Bangladeshi general and a policy planner from NATO.
"The actual negotiations weren't a critical element for me," she says. "What happened at the end of the conference was a tectonic shift in this area -- I mean, if India, China, Brazil and South Africa stick together, that's a whole new ball game."

- Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map is published by Key Porter ($32.95). Paskal will appear at an event this Saturday called "Copenhagen Hangover" at the Rivoli in Toronto. She also speaks at the University of Waterloo today.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Interview with Cleo on Zocalo Public Square

Swati Pandey from interviewed Cleo on the interrelation of the three major shifts happening in the world today: geopolitical, geoeconomic and geophysical. Sample Q&A:

Q. What are the effects now and what are the effects in the future?

A. A lot depends on what the reactions of the different players will be. For example, in the U.S., over 50% of the population lives in areas that are considered coastal. Unless there is a great understanding of what rising sea levels, increasing storm surges, and things like that will do to those areas, it’s going to become increasingly costly, and could have quite a series effect not only on economic development but also on social stability. China has a very serious water supply problem and it also has major infrastructure and industrial areas right on the coast, in a typhoon zone, such as in Shanghai. There are different regions that have different vulnerabilities. What will happen will depend very much on how much of an effort is made to integrate those changes into future planning, and to try to counter the detrimental effects.

We do know certain things are going to become increasingly problematic. Energy supplies will be increasingly compromised by environmental change. The offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are very likely to face more shut downs due to increasing storm activity or intensity. Hydroelectric installations are designed for very special operating parameters — certain amounts of rainfall, particular river levels, glacier melts. All of that is in flux now. Nuclear stations require an enormous amount of water for cooling. In France, for example, increasingly high temperatures have made it difficult for plants to operate at maximum capacity in the summer. So energy sector disruptions are happening already, and are very likely to accelerate. It’s like putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We can see certain critical areas being affected but it’s hard to see what the whole picture will be, because so many of the pieces of the puzzle are changing as our reaction to these events changes.

Interview with Cleo on the Huffington Post

Jerry Cope writes in the Huffington Post about climate change and security in Copenhagen, and interviews Cleo on some specifics. Sample Q&A:

Jerry Cope: You seem to be quit clear that the concerns should be domestic as well as international.

Cleo: It's not a complete assessment and if anything contains the words climate change as opposed to environment change you know it's not a complete assessment. Climate change will feed into other environmental changes. If you are assessing climate change but not what the US Army Corps of Engineers is doing to your coastline you are not getting a complete picture.

Click here to

Article By Cleo Paskal and Scott Savitt: New Security Beat blog post: The Real Take Home Message From Copenhagen Is Not What You Think

"A fascinating and potentially game-changing geopolitical pas-de-deux unfolded in Copenhagen. The international media and punditocracy christened the U.S. and China the new G2 in reference to the expected preeminent leadership roles the two hold among their respective developed and developing country contingents. What increasingly became clear, however, was that a different G2 was influencing the agenda:China and India."

Article in Croatian?

There seems to be an article in Croatian mentioning Cleo's work. Translation anyone? It starts:

Klimatske promjene opasnije za globalnu sigurnost od terorizma

Više nije dovoljno samo procijeniti koliko mi utječemo na promjene okoliša. Sad je kucnuo čas da procijenimo koliko će promjene okoliša utjecati na nas, poručila je Cleo Paskal iz Londona, kao da je naslućivala fijasko na summitu UN-a u Kopenhagenu

And it has a cool graphic.

Interview (video) with Cleo Paskal by Geoff Dabelko of the Woodrow WIlson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program on Global Warring, Vulnerability, and Climate Change

Global Warring review in The Varsity

"Cleo Paskal's Global Warring explains how climate change will alter the geopolitical landscape..."

Interview with Cleo on Central Asia

Cleo was interviewed by Kyrgyz journalist Gulnura Toralieva on Central Asia. Sample quote:

"When the Soviet Union fell apart it left Central Asia with three legacies, with three different problems which made unification or regional stability a little difficult. One is that the physical infrastructure was designed for a whole not just for a regional whole but a pan soviet whole. So the actual physical infrastructure was designed to be able to enforce cooperation even if it really doesn’t make sense. Second, the legacy of the legal infrastructure has a similar problem. The most obvious example is the borders, which divide tribes and language groups. Also, this inherited legal infrastructure can cause problem with, for example, water and power sharing agreements. Third is that Central Asian countries are starting to experience cultural polarisation and social fragmentation which makes resolving the first two issues more difficult."

Faroe Islands tv interview with Cleo, mostly on the Arctic

Cleo explains, surprisingly convincingly, that the Faroe Islands are more geostrategic than one might think...

To see the interview (done on a bad hair day) click here... It starts around 3/5 the way in. And yes, It's in English.

Global Warring review from Quill & Quire

"As climate change increasingly becomes part of our everyday concerns, a need has emerged for international experts to help make sense of its potential consequences. In Global Warring, journalist Cleo Paskal does exactly that. Unlike so many other books on the subject, Paskal doesn’t limit her scope to the catastrophic environmental damage that climate change could wreak. Instead, she expands her scope to provide a thorough and detailed explanation of how this looming environmental crisis will impact global security and the geopolitical status quo.


"Global Warring is a pleasure to read, even though its message is distressing. It is neither a sabre-rattling activist’s rant nor a dreary policy tome, although it contains the most significant aspects of each. It is a book that makes the reader sit up and take notice and, with luck, take action."

Click to

CBC radio's The Current interview with Cleo from Copenhagen

Linden MacIntyre interviewed Cleo in Copenhagen on CBC radio's The Current on December 18, 2009.

You can hear it here.

By Cleo: New Security Beat blog post: Geopolitics of Copenhagen

"The Copenhagen COP-15 was not a stand-alone event. It was a product of years of ongoing work around the globe, from the trenches of climate research laboratories to the highest levels of government. As a result, apart from anything else, it gave valuable insight into the current state of two of the most dynamic and overarching issues of the coming decades: the science of environmental change (and in particular the potential impacts) and dynamics of shifting geopolitics."

By Cleo: Big lessons from little Tonga (Toronto Star)

"While the world is focused on Copenhagen, the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga is getting on with saving with world – by showing what incredible things can be done if only you try."

Al Jazeera Writes about the Geopolitics of Copenhagen

From the article:

"Climate change has become part of global politics," Paskal says. "There was a very high expectation from the West that a deal would be pushed through. But what's happened is a real wake-up call to how geopolitics has changed."

CalicutNet Interview with Cleo

One of the questions:

Rajesh Kumar Edacheri: Do you think climate change will worsen poverty, political instability and regional conflicts?

Cleo: It can, but it is not inevitable. With thought, effort and will we can get through this. We have to.

Think of a factory on the coast of Kerala. If it continues as usual, it might first have problems with erosion affecting its foundation; then power lines down the coast might fall over, affecting its electrical supply; then the building itself may flood. And flood again. It will face problem after problem until it is too much and it collapses.

Alternatively, it can defend itself, perhaps with anti-erosion techniques; can put in its own renewable energy supply, covering the cost of installation by selling off the excess energy it generates; and then become highly profitable as it develops and sells a new water purification system.

Business usual is not going to work anymore. But we all are in a position to turn that challenge into an opportunity and to create more stability and security for ourselves, our neighbors, our communities and our countries, and the world. We have to. The cost of failure is unimaginable.

Click to read more....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cleo quotes galore... (New York Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Bloomberg, BBC)

Over the last few months, Cleo has been busy. She has been quoted in a range of articles. 

In an article on Bangladesh, the New York Times, wrote: 

Paskal, of the Royal Institute, said Bangladesh, by pouring money and research into new ways to deal with climate change, is actually protecting the world from conflict.
"We need a stable India, and [climate migration] has the potential to destabilize India," she said. "If we try to put pressure on India to take in refugees, we're undermining our credibility in India's eyes."
But, Paskal said, Bangladesh "is a nation of serious, hard-working people. It is their adaptive capacity that is cushioning us from some of the worst impacts."


In an article about the Arctic, Bloomberg quotes Cleo:

``The situation is changing very quickly because of climate change,'' Paskal said. ``There's unquestionably going to be dramatically increased traffic through the Arctic.''


Another article about the Arctic, this time in The Telegraph, also quotes Cleo. You can read that one here.


If you click here, you can read The Guardian's report on Cleo's work on maritime boundaries and the potential for countries to legally disappear.

And in the lead-up to Copenhagen, the BBC's The World Tonight presented a panel to discuss the significance of metting. Host Robin Lustig was joined by Professor Steve Rayner of Oxford University, Mike Hulme Professor of Climate Change at the University of East Anglia, Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Climate and Energy, the Labour MP Elliot Morley and, yes, Cleo.

You can hear it by clicking here.