Fast Forward

Fast Forward: Ethics and Politics in the Age of Global Warming

William Antholis
Strobe Talbott
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Fast Forward
    Book Description:

    "Those of us alive today are the first generation to know that we live in the Age of Global Warming. We may also be the last generation to have any chance of doing something about it. Our forebears had the excuse of ignorance. Our descendants will have the excuse of helplessness. We have no excuse." -From Chapter One

    Fast Forwardis equal parts science primer, history lesson, policy prescription, and ethical treatise. This pithy and compelling book makes clear what we know and don't know about global warming; why the threat demands prudent and urgent action; why the transition to a low-carbon economy will be the most difficult political and economic transaction in history; and how it requires nothing less than a revolution in our sense of civic responsibility.

    William Antholis and Strobe Talbott guide the reader through two decades of climate change diplomacy, explaining the national and international factors that have influenced and often impeded the negotiations. Their brisk narrative includes behind-the-scenes coverage of Barack Obama's impromptu meeting with key leaders in Copenhagen that broke a logjam and salvaged an agreement. The near-disaster of that summit demonstrated how the United Nations cannot move forward fast enough to produce a global deal. Instead, the "Big Four" of the United States, the European Union, China, and India must drive the next stage of the process. Antholis and Talbott also recommend a new international mechanism modeled on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that would monitor national commitments and create incentives for other countries to coordinate their efforts to cut emissions.

    Antholis and Talbott put their recommendations for immediate congressional and diplomatic action into the larger context of our obligation to future generations. They note that this theme is stressed by a diverse coalition of religious leaders who are calling for ambitious political action on climate change. The world we leave to our children and grandchildren is not an abstraction, or even just a legacy; we must think about what kind of world that will be in deciding how live -and act -today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0475-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    FOR TENS OF THOUSANDS OF YEARS, we and our ancestors have treated the earth as a laboratory in which we have tinkered with the forces of nature. From taming fire and harnessing wind to developing antibiotics, the results have often advanced civilization. Yet for the past two centuries, we have been conducting what could be the most momentous and dangerous of all experiments: warming the globe.

    We started the experiment without meaning to, and, until recently, we did not even know it was under way. Now it may be out of control, threatening to ruin our planet as a home...

    (pp. 13-23)

    IN THE SECOND HALF of the twentieth century, it took tens of trillions of dollars in military expenditures, a sustained combination of toughness and prudence as well as the indispensable element of luck to hold at bay the specter of a thermonuclear holocaust. The planet survived because the leaders responsible for the danger acted responsibly and effectively in preventing it. They understood that a scientific advance left them no choice but to think in a radically different way about national interests and the conduct of international relations.

    The result was a new ethical and political logic appropriate to the Nuclear...

    (pp. 24-45)

    SO WHAT IS THE SMARTEST thing we can do to mitigate climate change? The answer is easy: slow, stop, and then reverse the rate at which we—all 6.8 billion of us—are emitting greenhouse gases. What sort of deal will it take to accomplish that goal, and who should broker it? For twenty years, the answer has been a legally binding treaty that is to be negotiated through a process, run by the United Nations, that will commit all the major emitters to a strict schedule of deep reductions. The trouble is, that process is not working. The greater...

    (pp. 46-57)

    UNTIL NEAR THE END of his long run for the presidency, Barack Obama put energy and climate at the top of his list of domestic priorities, above health care and education. He promised to implement a comprehensive (or “economywide”) cap-and-trade program, reduce greenhouse gas emissions 83 percent by 2050, and return the United States to world leadership on climate change.

    In the final weeks of the campaign, the nation and the world were hit by the worst crisis in the financial system since the Great Depression. The collapse had a profound and somewhat paradoxical effect on the politics of global...

    (pp. 58-75)

    AS ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS LOOKED AHEAD to the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (“COP 15”), some optimists among them called the Danish capital “Hopenhagen.”* After the meeting was over, the city had a new nickname: “Brokenhagen.”³⁹

    What actually happened in Copenhagen during the twelve days in the second and third weeks of December 2009 was a potential turning point. In dashing unrealistic hopes, the conference provided an incentive to fix, or at least improve, a diplomatic process that was, if not already hopelessly broken, then moving much too slowly to keep pace with...

    (pp. 76-94)

    THE INNER CIRCLE FOR THE NEXT PHASE of climate diplomacy already exists. It is made up of the United States, the European Union, China, and India. They account for nearly half the world’s population (3.3 billion out of 6.8 billion), 63 percent of the global GDP, and two-thirds of all civilian nuclear reactors. The four are also the world’s top four emitters of carbon dioxide, accounting for about 60 percent of the total.

    Moreover, the Big Four bridge the divide consecrated by the Berlin Mandate. The United States and the European Union clearly lead the developed world, with a combined...

    (pp. 95-118)

    BEFORE PRESIDENT OBAMA CAN SUCCEED as a world leader on the issue of global warming, he has to succeed as a national leader. That means working with both parties in both houses of Congress to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation. For that domestic effort to have maximum benefit diplomatically, legislation should be signed into law this year, before the Cancun climate change summit in November and December.

    As Obama throws himself into that task, none of his political skills will be more important than his ability to use words as a political tool. His strength in this respect was...

    (pp. 119-124)
    W.J.A. and S.T.
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 125-136)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 137-144)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 145-146)