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Beyond Resource Wars

Beyond Resource Wars: Scarcity, Environmental Degradation, and International Cooperation

Edited by Shlomi Dinar
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Resource Wars
    Book Description:

    Common wisdom holds that the earth's dwindling natural resources and increasing environmental degradation will inevitably lead to inter-state conflict, and possibly even set off "resource wars." Many scholars and policymakers have considered the environmental roots of violent conflict and instability, but little attention has been paid to the idea that scarcity and degradation may actually play a role in fostering inter-state cooperation. Beyond Resource Wars fills this gap, offering a different perspective on the links between environmental problems and inter-state conflict. Although the contributors do not deny that resource scarcity and environmental degradation may become sources of contention, they argue that these conditions also provide the impetus for cooperation, coordination, and negotiation between states. The book examines aspects of environmental conflict and cooperation in detail, across a number of natural resources and issues including oil, water, climate change, ocean pollution, and biodiversity conservation. The contributors argue that increasing scarcity and degradation generally induce cooperation across states, but when conditions worsen (and a problem becomes too costly or a resource becomes too scarce), cooperation becomes more difficult. Similarly, low levels of scarcity may discourage cooperation because problems seem less urgent. With contributions from scholars in international relations, economics, and political science, Beyond Resource Wars offers a comprehensive and robust investigation of the links among scarcity, environmental degradation, cooperation, and conflict.The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-29550-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Nazli Choucri

    A new recognition of profound interconnections between social and natural systems is challenging conventional constructs and the policy predispositions informed by them. Our current intellectual challenge is to develop the analytical and theoretical underpinnings of an understanding of the relationship between the social and the natural systems. Our policy challenge is to identify and implement effective decision-making approaches to managing the global environment.

    The series Global Environmental Accord: Strategies for Sustainability and Institutional Innovation adopts an integrated perspective on national, international, cross-border, and cross-jurisdictional problems, priorities, and purposes. It examines the sources and the consequences of social transactions as these...

  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. I Introduction

    • 1 Resource Scarcity and Environmental Degradation: Analyzing International Conflict and Cooperation
      (pp. 3-22)
      Shlomi Dinar

      The relationship among resource scarcity, degradation, and conflict has received a great deal of attention in both the international relations and environment and security literature. Both theoretical and empirical works have considered, either directly or indirectly, the environmental and natural resource roots of interstate conflict (Myers 1993; Tir and Diehl 1998; Homer-Dixon 1999; Matthew 1999). In its extreme yet rare form, the relationship between conflict and the environment has also been epitomized in the “resource wars” argument (Barnet 1980; Mandel 1988; Bullock and Darwish 1993; Baechler 1998; Klare 2001).

      Past studies, critical of the relationship between resource scarcity, environmental degradation,...

  7. II Scarcity and Degradation of Global Commons

    • 2 Climate Change, Cooperation, and Resource Scarcity
      (pp. 25-42)
      Robert Mendelsohn

      Climate change is certainly one of the most daunting environmental problems facing society because emissions come from all inhabited corners of the planet, the impacts affect the entire world, and the pollution is long lasting. The emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities have led to a steady increase in the concentration of these gases in the atmosphere (IPCC 2007a). Activities as varied as growing rice, clearing forests, producing electricity, or driving a car all contribute to emissions. Because emissions of greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere for long periods of time,...

    • 3 Ozone Depletion: International Cooperation over a Degraded Resource
      (pp. 43-58)
      Elizabeth R. DeSombre

      International cooperation to protect the ozone layer is frequently seen as one of the hallmarks of successful international environmental cooperation. In response to potential future harm to a shared resource, states tried to limit their use of important industrial chemicals—before the extent or causes of the problem were fully understood—and agreed to precedent-setting measures to help developing countries adapt to development without these substances. Although there have been problems with black markets in controlled substances (Clapp 1997) and some degree of noncompliance from states with the timing of emissions reductions, these issues have ultimately been minor (DeSombre 2001,...

    • 4 Biodiversity Protection in International Negotiations: Cooperation and Conflict
      (pp. 59-86)
      G. Kristin Rosendal

      This chapter focuses on the issues of loss and scarcity related to biological diversity and the value of biodiversity. Biological diversity is a broad concept that includes the variability among all species and ecosystems as well as the diversity within species—the genetic diversity.¹ The loss of biodiversity has ramifications for a broad spectrum of ecosystem services, as the issue comprises several levels and sectors (Millennium Ecosystems Assessment 2005). These include conservation and management at the ecosystem level, various forms of protection at the species level (relating to trade or migration), and the controversial issue of access and benefit sharing...

  8. III Scarcity and Degradation in a Regional Context

    • 5 Transboundary Cooperation to Address Acid Rain: Europe, North America, and East Asia Compared
      (pp. 89-116)
      Miranda A. Schreurs

      Acid rain is a serious challenge afflicting many parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and East Asia. Acid rain, the popular term used to describe the deposition of acidic compounds, can result in considerable ecological destruction and affect human health as well. It can raise the acidity levels of soil and water, thereby adversely impacting plant and animal life. Not only can acid rain damage trees, agricultural crops, and aquatic life but it can slowly corrode buildings and damage equipment. It stems from air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds, that can be deposited...

    • 6 Conflict and Cooperation in the Mediterranean: MAP from 1975 to Today
      (pp. 117-138)
      Gabriela Kütting

      The Mediterranean region combines many challenges, both politically and environmentally. The Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP), designed for all riparian states, was instituted to enable the Mediterranean states to come together to address environmental concerns pertaining to the Mediterranean Sea.¹ Yet it has been of limited effectiveness in bringing about policy-relevant results. It is a highly applicable case study for this volume because of its unusual pattern of cooperation, which has changed substantially throughout the history of the agreement.

      When academics talk about the effectiveness of MAP, it is often assumed that MAP is a model of cooperation in a region...

  9. IV Scarcity and Degradation of Renewable and Nonrenewable Resources

    • 7 Degradation and Cooperation on the High Seas: The Case of International Fisheries Management
      (pp. 141-164)
      J. Samuel Barkin

      High seas fisheries were once seen as essentially limitless resources. Fishing in the open ocean, thousands of miles from home, was hard and dangerous work, but the risks did not include stock depletion. Modern fishing technologies, however, have created a condition of scarcity on the high seas. A focused effort by one of the world’s many large fishing fleets can deplete a species in a matter of years, and it is often not clear that the species is being overfished until there is a precipitous drop in its population. This puts a particular burden on international cooperation to manage these...

    • 8 Conflict and Cooperation along International Rivers: Scarcity, Bargaining Strategies, and Negotiation
      (pp. 165-200)
      Shlomi Dinar

      Predictions of water wars, such as the one above, continue to resonate today, largely in the popular media.² On a whole, scholars have distanced themselves from extreme predictions of water wars, yet ultimately have found themselves hypothesizing similar violent scenarios (Homer-Dixon 1999; Klare 2001).³

      While it is true that water disputes have taken a military turn on at least seventeen occasions during the period 1900–2001, the last all-out war over water took place forty-five hundred years ago—between the city-states of Lagash and Umma (Hensel, Mitchell, and Sowers 2006, 407; Wolf and Hamner 2000, 66).⁴ In comparison, thousands of...

    • 9 Is Oil Worth Fighting For? Evidence from Three Cases
      (pp. 201-238)
      Christopher J. Fettweis

      At some point in the twenty-first century, the world will begin to run low on oil. Demand around the world is skyrocketing for the nonrenewable resource, far outpacing the growth of the supply, and most projections indicate that the pace will continue. While oil will not likely ever run out in the literal sense, geologists warn that in the not-so-distant future oil may well be a relatively scarce commodity. The pressure on states to secure a stable supply will increase; instability and even conflict could be the result.

      Since the end of the Cold War, a number of scholars have...

    • 10 Responses to Alternative Forms of Mineral Scarcity: Conflict and Cooperation
      (pp. 239-286)
      Deborah J. Shields and Slavko V. Šolar

      Humans have used mineral resources since prehistoric times. People with access to flint were more successful hunters. People who could build sturdy shelters were protected from the elements and potentially from enemies as well. Those with stores of precious metals had an advantage in trade. Over time, the technologies of mineral exploration, extraction, processing, and use have advanced. Both the variety of resources exploited and the applications to which they are put have expanded dramatically.

      Today, minerals are essential inputs to economic systems, the driving force for some local, regional, and national economies, and the basis of the built environment....

  10. V Conclusion

    • 11 Resource Scarcity and Environmental Degradation: Implications for the Development of International Cooperation
      (pp. 289-306)
      Shlomi Dinar

      This volume has sought to investigate how resource scarcity and environmental degradation motivate interstate cooperation. As Paul Diehl and Nils Petter Gleditsch (2001, 4) have commented, “the environmental security field remains handicapped in its theoretical focus on only one side of the conflict-cooperation coin…. That is, almost all the claims focus on the environment’s conflict generating capacity and ignore the cooperative elements that might be present.” Similar assertions have been echoed by other scholars (Deudney 1999; Barnett 2000). In short, this volume contends that although environmental change may generally be a catalyst for interstate conflict (Tir and Diehl 1998; Hensel,...

  11. Index
    (pp. 307-336)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 337-338)