The Skywriter

Climate change, the new president and foreign policy


Climate change, the new president and foreign policy

Former Secretaries of State James Baker & Madeleine Albright

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on and America’s image abroad continues to take a beating, it’s clear that foreign policy will once again be front and center during the presidential election. What does this have to do with climate change? As it turns out, quite a lot: Climate change has become one of the most important foreign policy issues the next president will have to tackle.

That’s not just me talking: When such diplomatic luminaries as former Secretaries of State James Baker and Madeleine Albright include global warming in their laundry list of challenges for the next president, you know this issue has arrived on the foreign policy agenda. Albright and Baker (along with former secretary Colin Powell) discussed these foreign policy challenges recently at a forum sponsored by PBS.

Albright, who served under President Clinton, had this to say:

Since the president and the secretaries' of state job is to protect the national security of the United States, it hurts us if we are so disregarded or maligned because we're not able to get the kind of support we need for whatever the issues are, whether they are going into Afghanistan, or dealing with a financial crisis, or dealing with climate change issues. (Emphasis added.)

And so it does matter not whether we're loved. I don't care whether we're loved or not. I think, though, we need to be respected and not necessarily just feared for doing the wrong thing.

And I would hope that one of the first things that the next president would do, would not only close Guantanamo -- and I totally agree on that -- but also make very clear that we will rejoin or lead an effort on climate change, because that's part of what has to happen. (Emphasis added.)

Baker--the top diplomat under President George H. W. Bush—essentially agreed:

…I agree with you completely that the next president should lead an effort among the nations to try and do something about climate change. (Emphasis added.)

A lot of the problems that face the country today are not discrete with respect to specific areas of the world. They are transnational problems, dealing with terrorism and global climate change and trade and economic issues. And that's what the next president -- kind of thing the next president is going to have to deal with.

So it’s clear that when the new president talks about foreign policy, he or she will have to talk about climate change. Then again, climate change is one of those rare issues that spans virtually all major policy areas: health care, economic development, the environment, poverty, energy, rural and urban policy, etc. So if the candidates want to talk about any of these issues, they should have to address climate change as well. It is up to us in the movement, however, to make sure that climate change is front and center in this election.

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