Bill Gates, carbon emissions, climate change, Congress, counter-terrorism spending, France, ISIS, military spending, Obama, Our So-Called Foreign Policy, Paris attacks, Paris Climate Conference, Security Council, terrorism, United Kingdom, United Nations
President Obama has made a pretty good point in arguing that going ahead with the global climate change conference in Paris this week despite the recent terror attacks on that city is an “act of defiance” against ISIS and other extremist groups – Islamic or not. Unfortunately, he and other major world leaders have missed a message they’re inevitably sending to the terrorists with other recent decisions – which signal the absence of anything close to similar resolve to develop a credible military strategy for defeating them.
No one should have any illusions that the Paris talks themselves will produce meaningful progress toward controlling the carbon emissions widely thought to be dangerously warming the planet. In fact, none of its decisions will be legally binding (although there have been some interesting attempts to parse this concept). But not only has the issue been persistently on the international agenda for decades. More than 170 countries – including the largest sources of the problem – have made specific proposals to reduce emissions. In addition, eight of the biggest emitters have collectively promised to double their supplies of renewable energy.
There also seems to be broad agreement on a specific goal – avoiding an average global temperature increase of 3.6 percent more degrees Fahrenheit. Even the private sector is joining in, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ pledge to spend $2 billion of his own money to foster green innovation. This commitment is conditioned on greater government efforts, but other wealthy individuals reportedly are interested in contributing, too.
Contrast these developments – inadequate and flawed as they are – with global efforts so far against ISIS. In the wake of the Paris attacks, President Obama has declared only that the United States will “intensify” its current strategy – and that no major deployments of American ground troops will be made. The leaders of Britain and France have announced their intent to increase defense spending, but early indications are that at least some of the new counter-terrorism funds will come from other defense accounts – even though Europe faces a more aggressive Russia, too. Moreover, these increases come after years of major defense spending decreases and (at least in retrospect) shockingly inadequate budgeting against terrorism in particular.
And although the United Nations has condemned the Paris attacks and the Security Council has authorized military action against ISIS, no member state (as usual) is required to spend a penny or risk a single life to vanquish this “global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security” and no follow-up actions – or even words – appear in the offing. Moreover, let’s not forget that the U.S. Congress has failed even to pass a new authorization to use military force in the region in response to President Obama’s request.
So although it’s encouraging to see a business-as-usual attitude on climate change issues adopted by world leaders in defiance of terrorists, the lack of comparable resolve on the battlefield seems all too likely to overwhelm its intended effects.