Israel and Syria once again Negotiating over Golan Heights

In intro to IR on Wednesday we addressed global environmental issues and we went over this chart outlining Thomas Homer-Dixon’s overview regarding the link between environmental scarcity and security. According to Homer-Dixon, environmental degradation is not only an important economic, social, and health issue, it is crucially an issue of importance for global security.

We see the important link between increased environmental scarcity and social effects (like ethnic conflicts, deprivation conflicts and coups d’etat), facilitated indirectly at times by the conditions of weakened states.

Homer-Dixon argues that these environmentally-driven conflicts will increase the more the environment degrades. Moreover, it is just those places in the world that have the least capacity to deal with the potentially negative effects of environmental degradation whose environments will be most likely to suffer.

In the far left column is “unequal resource access”. One of the most important resources to humankind is water. The conflict between Syria and Israel over the Golan Heights is crucially linked to water. As we learn from the New York Times:

JERUSALEM — Peace overtures between Israel and Syria moved up a gear on Wednesday when a Syrian cabinet minister said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel had sent a message to President Bashar al-Assad to the effect that Israel would be willing to withdraw from all the Golan Heights in return for peace with Syria.

The Syrian expatriate affairs minister, Buthaina Shaaban, told Al Jazeera television, “Olmert is ready for peace with Syria on the grounds of international conditions; on the grounds of the return of the Golan Heights in full to Syria.” She said that Turkey had conveyed the message.

Israeli officials did not deny the statement from Damascus but would not confirm it either, offering a more general, positive reaction. “Israel wants peace with Syria; we are interested in a negotiated process,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Mr. Olmert. “The Syrians know well our expectations, and we know well their expectations…”

“…Withdrawal from the Golan Heights is a contentious issue in Israel. The territory is a strategic plateau that overlooks a large swath of northern Israel. Israel has objected to past Syrian demands for access to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a main water source for Israel.

Yehuda Raizner/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An Indian member of the United Nations force in the Golan Heights, a strategic

plateau that overlooks a swath of northern Israel.

CO2 Emissions in China Increasing Faster than Previously Believed

In intro to comparative, we have generally compared spatially across countries (or states). There is a lot of explanatory power, however, that can be achieved by modeling and comparing political phenomena at the sub-national level. Maximilian Auffhammer and Richard Carson–two economists–have done this by modeling the rise in Chinese CO2 emissions, using a panel data set at the provincial level in China. Their data set includes 30 provincial-level entities (or provinces) analyzed between 1985 and 2004. See a post I made on China’s pollution problems and economic growth here. I’ve reproduced a slide show from the post below. Here’s a snippet from their paper, which can be accessed here:

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The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has long been seen as the key future participant to an effective agreement limiting the adverse impacts of climate change. It is currently the number two emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) and is about to overtake the United States, who has held this position since 1890, as the leading emitter. Further, the United States has long preconditioned its adherence to any international agreement such as the Kyoto Protocol on China’s formal concurrence that it would also undertake substantial CO2 reductions. Efforts to reach such an agreement failed in the late 1990’s during the Clinton administration and the Bush administration decided not to pursue policies that would allow it to sign the treaty and have it rati¯ed by the U.S. Senate.

This paper presents econometric forecasts that strongly suggest that the short to medium term path of Chinese CO2 emissions has increased by a factor of two or more since that time. Our best forecast has China’s CO2 emissions surpassing the United States before the year 2010 rather than 2020 as previously anticipated (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2000; Siddiqi, Streets, Wu and He, 1994; Panayotou, Sachs and Zwane, 2002). Our focus in this paper is on exploring alternative econometric specifications for forecasting China’s CO2 emissions using a rich new panel dataset from 1985 to 2004 at the provincial level. The prediction of a dramatic recent increase in the predicted path of China’s CO2 emissions over the short to medium term horizon is shown to be robust to a wide range of alternative specifications. We show, however, that it is possible to strongly reject both the standard engineering specifications that appear in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2000), and the recent Stern Report (2006) as well as the popular environmental Kuznets curve specification. All of the “best” models are dynamic in nature employing some type of lag structure, which is consistent with the nature of an installed durable capital stock.

Human Effects on the World’s Oceans

Here is a map that is unlike any of the maps of the world that I’ve posted previously. The obvious difference is that the whole of the world’s land mass is an undifferentiated white. What this map shows is the impact of human beings on (the destruction of) the world’s oceans and seas. From Science Now

ocean_impact_map.jpgFour years in the making, a groundbreaking new map of the state of the world’s oceans was released today, and its message is stark: Human activity has left a mark on nearly every square kilometer of sea, severely compromising ecosystems in more than 40% of waters.

The map, presented here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of ScienceNOW)–and published tomorrow in Science–combines 17 anthropogenic stressors, including coastal runoff and pollution, warming water temperature due to human-induced climate change, oil rigs that damage the sea floor, and five different kinds of fishing. Hundreds of experts worked to weigh and compare the stressors, overlaying them on top of maps that the scientists built of various ecosystems, with data obtained from shipping maps, satellite imagery, and scientific buoys. Then marine scientists modeled how different ecosystems would be affected by the stressors, mapping so-called impact scores onto square-kilometer-sized parcels worldwide. The scores correspond to colored pixels on the new map.