Fast Forward

Ethics and Politics in the Age of Global Warming

William Antholis,

Fast Forward: Ethics and Politics in the Age of Global Warming
Just as war is too important to leave in the hands of generals, global climate is tooimportant to leave solely in the hands of politicians who are being pulled in amillion directions. This pithy yet compelling book makes abundantly clear whatwe know and don’t know about global warming; why those uncertainties merit prudentbut urgent action; how those actions, both at home and abroad, may amount to themost difficult political transaction in the history of mankind; and why “politics asusual”—both in the U.S. and in global negotiations—simply will not get the job done.In a fast-paced narrative that is both a history lesson and an analytical argument,William Antholis and Strobe Talbott bring the reader through a quarter decadeof global negotiations on climate change, clearly illustrating the economic fearsand political constituencies that shape such discussions. Their behind-the-scenescoverage includes Barack Obama’s spontaneous “drop by” meeting with the leadersof China, India, Brazil, and South Africa in Copenhagen, helping to break a logjamthat nearly rendered the conference a disheartening waste of time.Diplomatic and procedural changes are clearly needed. Climate change will notwait for incrementalist plodding or partisan knife fights. In the words of the authors,“Those changes should entail, first and foremost, shifting from reliance on thecumbersome UN-led pursuit of a legally binding global treaty, which has been onslow forward for twenty years, to a less formal process by which the United States,the European Union, China, and India form the core of an expanding circle ofcountries that will develop their energy policies and regulate their emissions in anincreasingly coordinated fashion.”Moreover, a whole new mindset is needed. It is a matter of individual ethics as muchas politics or economics. While we need to focus on what can immediately be accomplished by public officials on the grand stage of diplomacy, we also must stay true to our long-term personal and ethical responsibilities to future generations. The worldwe leave to our children and their children is more than an abstraction—it is ourlegacy. And our responsibility.“Strobe Talbott and Bill Antholis have made an admirable and important effort to move beyond the recent political rancor in Washington. They have a plan for leaders who want to be serious about energy and climate. Instead of starting from entrenched ideological base camps, they concentrate on identifying common goals . . . on which Republicans and Democrats alike can agree.”—Richard G. Lugar, U.S. Senator

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