Now on Store Shelves: Breakthrough Journal Releases 2022 Spring Issue “Climate Geopolitics”

Berkeley, CA, May 24, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- For the first time in its decade-long history, the Breakthrough Journal has received a makeover and is now on US and global shelves, including in Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. The new issue, “Climate Geopolitics,” focuses on how global climate action efforts often divorce geopolitical problems from their historical contexts in order to make them fit within the framework of climate change.

The Breakthrough Journal is the Breakthrough Institute's quarterly magazine delivering pragmatic opinion and analysis, grounded in the belief that even our most wicked environmental problems have technological solutions.

Now on shelves in the US, Canada, Europe, and Middle East.
Look for it at Barnes & Noble and other magazine retailers.

Click here for the online edition.

The issue includes 7 essays, 3 responses, and one board game review. Authors include:

  • Ted Nordhaus, Breakthrough’s Founder, and Executive Director;
  • Nils Gilman, VP of Programs at the Berggruen Institute;
  • Vijaya Ramachandran, Director for Energy and Development at Breakthrough;
  • Arthur Baker Associate Director at the University of Chicago’s Development Innovation Lab;
  • Yaqiu Wang, Senior China Researcher at Human Rights Watch;  
  • And more! 

Sneak peak at this issue’s incisive commentary:

Breakthrough executive director Ted Nordhaus opens the issue with “Am I the Mass Murderer?” a searing look at efforts to discredit all but the most apocalyptic visions of the planet’s future. It is far better, he urges, to understand the possible consequences of climate change as a race between two trends: The planet is warming, yes, but greater societal wealth is also increasing our resilience against the very changes warming will bring. The choice, he concludes, is not between survival and extinction, but “rather between marginally better and worse futures—futures that will be shaped by a kaleidoscope of forces, most of them having not so much to do with climate change.”

In “The Guns of Warming,” Berggruen Institute’s Nils Gilman explores the genesis of the idea that climate change will have serious national security implications—an effort, he writes, led by security analysts looking to get the government to take warming seriously. “As time has gone by,” though, “that strategy has become more and more dubious.” Rather than “motivating a Great War on Climate Change,” he argues, “the defense establishment’s focus on climate-related security challenges has instead served as little more than a justification for enriching the military-industrial complex” in support of the same old goals it always had.

In “Beijing’s Green Fist,” Human Rights Watch’s Yaiqu Wang notes that because of the scale of Chinese emissions, many are desperate for China’s cooperation and have applauded its bold commitments to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Before people “get giddy about working with Chinese authorities on climate change,” Wang warns, “they should have a better understanding of the work Chinese authorities actually intend to do, and the human rights abuses built into it.” From recording devices in trash can lids to forced labor in Xinjiang, “it is increasingly clear that the Chinese government has been exploiting environmental causes to consolidate political control and expand its power at the expense of human rights.”

In “Let Them Eat Carbon,” BTI’s Vijaya Ramachandran and University of Chicago’s Arthur Baker find that the World Bank and others are increasingly bowing to pressure to ban loans to the least developed countries for fossil fuels. That makes little sense, though, as either a development strategy or a way to combat climate change, they write in “Let Them Eat Carbon.” “Pressuring low- and lower-middle-income countries to replace plans for gas power with solar or wind energy will have limited climate benefits,” since “those countries’ emissions are drops in the bucket.” Meanwhile, “reducing poverty is not feasible without access to cheap and reliable energy,” and that energy won’t come without investment in existing energy infrastructure.

From the executive editor, Kathryn Salam:

Before I came on as editor of the Breakthrough Journal, I spent years in foreign policy journalism. From that perch, covering the climate always presented a challenge. It was clear that it was important to do, but how to do so both responsibly and in a way that would attract eyeballs was less straightforward.

The stories that did the best were routinely the ones that flouted my sense of best practices. They catastrophized, they decontextualized, they treated climate change as divorced from the big international relations concepts—sovereignty, realpolitik, self-interest—that were more rigorously applied to other topics in global affairs.

In turn, climate became less a subject to examine through existing frameworks and more a framework into which every other topic might be jammed. Coverage looked to the implications of global warming for conflict, democracy, development, international cooperation, and the like, rather than what geopolitics, for example, might mean for dealing with the climate.

I think that’s unhelpful—or at the very least, inadequate. And I hope the pieces collected in this issue offer a corrective.

From security, to development, to human rights, and beyond, these essays show how a big issue in geopolitics came to be wrapped in a climate coating, why that’s harmful to international progress and the climate, and what a more serious approach to both might look like.


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