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March 22, 2015

Week 9: Climate Change

In his second Global Futures lecture at Georgetown on March 18, World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Kim presented a comprehensive and elaborate road map for action on climate change. In the question and answer section, the politics around international and local action was the focus, and in a Georgetown faculty panel later that day the question of what we, at Georgetown University, can and should do came into still sharper focus. This action challenge was the focus of the blog this week.

Highlights from Dr. Kim's Global Futures lecture are captured in an animated video produced by Global Futures Fellow Manny Fassihi. A full recording of the lecture is also available here.

  • Claire Cullen highlights the catastrophic impact of Tropical Storm Pam in the South Pacific as a harbinger of what lies ahead as a result of climate change. She focuses on disaster preparedness and on the potential creativity that poor communities can bring as a complement to new instruments like insurance. Partnerships are a key to future capacity to respond.
  • Guest blogger Rajesh Sampath sees the leading questions emerging from Dr. Kim's lecture as ethical and quite practical: Can the current forces, processes, and competitive pressures driving international relations between powerful nation-states and transnational corporations alter their collective actions? Can they do so in alignment with the World Bank’s vision to see "climate change as a development problem" that focuses on the poor and vulnerable? In short, how realistic are they?
  • Marina Djernaes, executive operations officer at EcoPeace, takes an ambitious project in the Jordan River Valley as an example of how environmental, economic, and peacebuilding issues are intricately linked. EcoPeace works with communities to find common interests in practical solutions, collaborating across borders. This environmental issue, she argues, is far too important to become hostage to endless negotiations towards a final peace agreement. Grassroot movements and environmental peacebuilding can provide a foundation for a future political agreement.
  • Felix Obi also focuses on the enormous political challenges that climate change poses. He takes Dr. Kim's five point action plan and highlights the daunting challenges that each one presents. Universities like Georgetown and think tanks must craft far more effective incentives if the promising ideas on the table are to translate into action.
  • Jemila Abdulai recalls the drama of a water crisis at her school on the eve of exams. Her point is that the aggregate drama of global climate change needs to be understood and felt also at a local level if people are to understand and act. It is the poorest people who in fact have the most direct experience with the changes and shortages that go with climate change, so their voices matter.
  • Noureen Ramzy focuses on the relationship between the growth of cities and the challenges of climate change. Acknowledging the positive aspects of urbanization she nonetheless notes special challenges for poor communities and nations and calls for new focus and new thinking.