Opinion

The Great Debate

from The Great Debate UK:

John Reid on climate change and global security

johnreid- John Reid MP, formerly UK Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Defence, is the Chairman of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Barack Obama’s announcement that there will be no all-encompassing protocol agreed at Copenhagen underlines that climate change is perhaps the most complex issue facing the world today.  In part, this is because it involves long-term thinking and modeling which our existing political, financial and economic institutions and governance frameworks are ill-designed and configured to grapple with and resolve.

With uncertainty building over what, if anything, the Copenhagen Summit can still achieve, now is therefore the time to remind ourselves about some of the larger stakes in play next month at what has been billed by some as the most important environmental summit in world history.

We know already that climate change will impact upon our quality of life and have potentially profound consequences for future generations through, for instance, the impact of rising sea levels, and more extreme weather.  In the medium-term, the Stern Review estimates the overall impact on GDP could be 5 to 20 percent from 2050.

This alone should alarm us all.

Moreover, while all will be affected, it is the most vulnerable countries and populations which will suffer earliest and most -- even though they have contributed least to the causes of the problem.  This is injustice on a truly global scale and should, in itself, be sufficient reason for all sides to move closer at Copenhagen so that a comprehensive climate change deal can be agreed in 2010 or 2011.

from The Great Debate UK:

Getting to grips with the post-Cold War security threat

johnreid -John Reid, formerly the UK Defence Secretary and Home Secretary, is MP for Airdrie and Shotts, and Chairman of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The fall of the Berlin Wall, on November 9, 1989, was one of history’s truly epochal moments. During what became a revolutionary wave sweeping across the former Eastern Bloc countries, the announcement by the then-East German Government that its citizens could visit West Germany set in train a series of events that led, ultimately, to the demise of the Soviet Union itself.

Twenty years on, what is most striking to me are the massive, enduring ramifications of the events of November 1989. Only several decades ago, the Cold War meant that the borders of the Eastern Bloc were largely inviolate; extremist religious groups and ethnic tensions were suppressed, there was no internet (at least as we know it today) and travel between East and West was difficult. The two great Glaciers of the Cold War produced a frozen hinterland characterised by immobility.

Today’s world is a vastly different place. When one of the great Glaciers - the former Soviet Union – melted it helped unleash a potential torrent of security problems. We now live in an era characterised by huge mobility and instability, in which issues such as mass migration, international crime and international terrorism have a much higher prominence.

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