The United Nations Security Council meets, New York, Nov. 9, 2021 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Editor’s note: Guest columnists Richard Gowan and Pyotr Kurzin are filling in for Stewart Patrick this week. The United Nations Security Council may be about to pass its first-ever resolution on the implications of climate change for peace and security. The council has talked about climate security since 2007, and it has acknowledged that environmental challenges such as droughts and degradation of farming land can fuel conflicts in regions like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. But it has not laid out a systematic approach to assessing these risks or responding to them. This could be about to change, as Niger […]

John Kerry, the U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, speaks with Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 summit, during a stock-taking plenary session at the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 13, 2021 (AP photo Alberto Pezzali).

As former U.S. President Barack Obama once mused, there are times in global diplomacy, as in baseball, when “hitting singles” is adequate. This month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow was not one of those moments. With the fate of the planet on the line, world leaders should have been swinging for the fences. Instead, they played small ball, chalking up only incremental gains rather than the historic breakthrough the occasion demanded.  Going into the Glasgow summit, the United Nations Environment Program had delivered some blunt news: The world’s emissions reduction pledges before COP26 accounted for only one-seventh of the reduction actually needed to […]

Saudi Arabian Minster of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud speaks at the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit, Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Alberto Pezzali).

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow that wrapped up Saturday was intended to draw the world’s attention to the slow-burning emergency of global warming, as well as create policies for mitigating and adapting to its worst effects. Above all, however, the international gathering illustrated the problems of timing and collective action that frustrate efforts to stop climate change.  At the summit, world leaders, scientists and activists called for urgent action to reduce emissions and slow the rise in average global temperatures before the world crosses a threshold into an unlivable future. Instead, the conference delegates drafted what amounts to […]

A desolate, semi-arid landscape surrounds the Sahel village of Ndiawagne Fall in Kebemer, Senegal, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Leo Correa).

At the recently concluded COP26 Climate Change conference in Glasgow, African countries—led by leaders of major continental states including South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya—made the case for firmer commitments on climate funding from rich, more industrialized nations and a longer timeline on the transition away from coal and other fossil fuels.  One of the major announcements to come out of the summit was South Africa’s “watershed” finance agreement with several Western powers to transition off of coal-burning power plants. But despite the triumphalism surrounding that deal, African delegates generally left the Glasgow summit disappointed that their […]

Climate protesters demonstrate outside the local government legislature’s offices in Johannesburg, South Africa, Sept. 20, 2019 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

The standard, “flirting with apocalypse” narrative that dominates U.S. media coverage and political debates regarding climate change goes something like this: China, which is the world’s biggest carbon emitter, and India, which is lightly industrialized and still quite substantially poor, currently represent the biggest threats to saving the environment. The supposedly more altruistic West, by contrast, is prepared to make huge investments to forestall disaster. People who cling to this all-too-easy framing correctly say that if the world’s two most-populous countries do not radically constrain their carbon output, nothing the United States or Europe can do, including rapidly attaining net-zero […]

President Joe Biden leaves after speaking to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Va., July 27, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Every day, the gargantuan U.S. intelligence community, with its budget of $84 billion, scans the world looking for threats to the United States. In a landmark report released last month, the National Intelligence Council identified a big one: climate change. The world’s failure to curb greenhouse gas emissions and the brutal impacts of climate change, the assessment warns, are now poised to upend geopolitics over the next two decades as global warming exacerbates diplomatic tensions, cross-border competition and instability in heat-stressed countries. It is hard to overstate the importance of this new report, which is the latest National Intelligence Estimate, the intelligence […]

Young climate campaigners take part in a protest to coincide with the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, in central London, Nov. 5, 2021 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

There is still a week to go before the scheduled conclusion of COP26, but that has not stopped climate change activist Greta Thunberg from declaring this year’s U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, “a failure.” Thunberg castigated the world’s wealthy countries for “giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets,” while refusing to take the kind of drastic action that scientists agree is necessary to avert a global catastrophe. Earlier this week, WPR’s Elliot Waldman sat down with Stewart Patrick, a WPR columnist and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, to discuss some of this week’s developments from Glasgow, […]

Climate activists hold up illuminated placards outside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum as the COP26 U.N. Climate Summit takes place in Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Alastair Grant).

The annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, known this year as COP26, is underway in Glasgow, Scotland. High-profile figures from the private sector and philanthropic organizations, as well as national political leaders, have all gathered to discuss ways to reduce emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases—all while the scientific community warns that the window to avert a global catastrophe is rapidly closing. Today on Trend Lines, Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a weekly columnist for WPR, joins Elliot Waldman to discuss the latest developments from Glasgow and the sticking points that are preventing more […]

Demonstrators stand behind five people who are on a hunger strike for climate solutions, near the White House, Washington, Oct. 22, 2021 (photo by Allison Bailey for NurPhoto via AP).

Since Oct. 20, five young climate activists have been on a hunger strike in Lafayette Square in Washington. Their protest started the day after news emerged that U.S. President Joe Biden planned to downsize his $3.5 trillion domestic spending bill, including by cutting a $150 billion clean electricity program. The activists say that they are “sick and tired of broken promises” and will continue to starve themselves until their leaders deliver “bold and transformative climate action.”  A few days into the protest, the young activists resorted to sitting in wheelchairs, and one of them, 26-year-old Kidus Girma, was hospitalized overnight for nausea, dizziness […]