America First and American Sovereignty

I have cited President Trump’s withdrawal speech a lot in my previous two blogs so I will restrict myself to the directly relevant paragraphs. Below is the part of his speech on American sovereignty:

At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens, and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore.  And they won’t be. They won’t be.

There are serious legal and constitutional issues as well. Foreign leaders in Europe, Asia, and across the world should not have more to say with respect to the U.S. economy than our own citizens and their elected representatives. Thus, our withdrawal from the agreement represents a reassertion of America’s sovereignty. (Applause) Our Constitution is unique among all the nations of the world, and it is my highest obligation and greatest honor to protect it. And I will.

As president, I have one obligation, and that obligation is to the American people. The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risks, and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world. It is time to exit the Paris accord — (Applause) — and time to pursue a new deal that protects the environment, our companies, our citizens, and our country.

It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — along with many, many other locations within our great country — before Paris, France. It is time to make America great again. (Applause) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Of course, some of the countries are laughing at America but that is in part a reaction to Trump’s decision. The first one to mock us is (perhaps unsurprisingly) North Korea. 🙁

Now, in what is easily one of the strangest stories of 2017, they’re taking the piss out of America for pulling out of it. North Korea has, for the first time in eons, the moral high ground.

Responding to the Rose Garden announcement, an unnamed North Korean official from their Foreign Ministry released a statement declaring the President’s decision to be “the height of egotism and moral vacuum seeking only their own well-being at the cost of the entire planet.”

“Whoever chooses to blindly follow the Trump administration overpowered by its bravado should be fully aware that the judgment of history shall take them all as one,” they added.

In an attempt to explain President Trump’s “America First” emphasis, two of the four so-called “adults” in his administration – his National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and his and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn – tried to put an intellectual spin on the concept:

“a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage”

Gary Cohn is essentially describing the planet as an exchange forum – a concept he probably brought with him from his background at Goldman Sachs. Well – the “global community” is not comprised solely of heads of state trying gain home advantages; it also includes 7.4 billion people and the unique, fragile physical environment that can sustain them.

Meanwhile, security does not only mean military hardware or building high walls to isolate our country from the world (June 13th blog). President Trump is more than ready to spend large amounts on exactly that sort of military hardware and to twist the arms of our allies to do the same. Historically, though, a much more effective approach is to directly address the root causes of the danger.

Here is what the US intelligence community’s two most recent Global Trends documents (May 23rd blog) say about current and future causes of global insecurity:

Global Trends – 2030:

Food and water shortage:

Demand for food, water, and energy will grow by approximately 35, 40, and 50 percent respectively owing to an increase in the global population and the consumption patterns of an expanding middle class. Climate change will worsen the outlook for the availability of these critical resources. Climate change analysis suggests that the severity of existing weather patterns will intensify, with wet areas getting wetter and dry and arid areas becoming more so. Much of the decline in precipitation will occur in the Middle East and northern Africa as well as western Central Asia, southern Europe, southern Africa, and the US Southwest.

We are not necessarily headed into a world of scarcities, but policymakers and their private sector partners will need to be proactive to avoid such a future. Many countries probably won’t have the wherewithal to avoid food and water shortages without massive help from outside. Tackling problems pertaining to one commodity won’t be possible without affecting supply and demand for the others.

A New Age of Migration:

The first globalization of the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a massive movement of people within the European continent and from Europe to the New World. We will not see the same high proportion of migrants as in the first industrial revolution, but international migration is set to grow even faster than it did in the past quarter-century. The factors promoting cross-border migration are likely to remain strong or intensify. These factors are globalization, disparate age structures across richer and poorer countries, income inequalities across regions and countries, and the presence of migrant networks linking sending and receiving countries.

Migration—unlike trade and other central features of increased globalization—is relatively unregulated by international agreements or cooperation. Immigration and border security is still largely—with the exception of the Schengen area in continental Europe—seen as coming under the purview of the country and not a subject for more international cooperation by most states in both the developing and developed worlds.

Global Trends – 2035:

The nature of conflict is changing. The risk of conflict will increase due to diverging interests among major powers, an expanding terror threat, continued instability in weak states, and the spread of lethal, disruptive technologies. Disrupting societies will become more common, with long-range precision weapons, cyber, and robotic systems to target infrastructure from afar, and more accessible technology to create weapons of mass destruction.

Climate change, environment, and health issues will demand attention. A range of global hazards pose imminent and longer-term threats that will require collective action to address—even as cooperation becomes harder. More extreme weather, water and soil stress, and food insecurity will disrupt societies. Sea-level rise, ocean acidification, glacial melt, and pollution will change living patterns. Tensions over climate change will grow. Increased travel and poor health infrastructure will make infectious diseases harder to manage.

The Global Trends 2035 publication provides the following as a likely scenario:

Imagining a surprise news headline in 2033 . . . Bangladesh Climate Geoengineering Sparks Protests April 4, 2033 – Dhaka Bangladesh became the first country to try to slow climate change by releasing a metric ton of sulfate aerosol into the upper atmosphere from a modified Boeing 797 airplane in the first of six planned flights to reduce the warming effects of solar radiation. The unprecedented move provoked diplomatic warnings by 25 countries and violent public protests at several Bangladeshi Embassies, but government officials in Dhaka claimed its action was “critical to self-defense” after a spate of devastating hurricanes, despite scientists’ warnings of major unintended consequences, such as intensified acid rain and depletion of the ozone layer.

The intelligence community wrote a separate document dedicated entirely to the implications of climate change on our national security:

The national security establishment needs to prepare for a series of global crises sparked by climate change, a group of experts wrote in a report released today.

The analysis by the Center for Climate and Security identifies 12 “epicenters” where climate change could stress global security, possibly igniting conflicts around the world.

American diplomats and military planners have already started grappling with some of these problems—but the links between them do not get enough attention, the experts said. And it is an open question whether the Trump administration confronts those challenges or tries to ignore them.

Many of the risk epicenters stem from resource shortages and dislocated populations, but the experts also consider an increased likelihood of nuclear war, more pandemics and tensions in the Arctic.

Any one of those factors is enough to cause serious problems, but together they threaten to undermine the international order, said Francesco Femia, one of the authors of the report, titled “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene.”

It is crucial that we find a way to heed these warnings. Once again, I emphasize the importance of grassroots movements given the current administration’s hubris.

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About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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