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paskal, Cleo. Global Warring. How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map. New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. ISBN-13: 978-0-230-62181-7. Pp. 280. $27.00.
In this ambitious yet highly accessible book, journalist Cleo Paskal examines howcurrent and coming geophysical changes will affect geopolitical and geoeconomic balances and power relations on a global scale. Her straightforward rationale should engage even environmental skeptics: “our environment is the foundation upon which we graft all other infrastructures.” In fact, “our transportation system, cities, defensive capabilities, agriculture, power generation system, water supply”and many others are “all dependent on a stable environment” (10). Accordingly, she sets out to demonstrate that “[e]nvironmental change is a sustained and pervasive attack on the status quo” (238) and that what used to be considered “constants” (notably climate, sea and ground levels, waterways, coastlines, and resources availability) must be recast as “variables” (56) if we are “to minimize thegeopolitical, economic, and security fallout” (11). The core of her case is that environmental “variations” (239), either slow or sudden, do not affect just local situations; they are game changers for the international system. She articulates this broad connection as either principal or secondary causation: at times she sees substantial climate change and other environmental stresses directly“affecting a careful balance and leading to conflict” (12) and other global changes, at others she sees “smaller degree[s] of environmental variations” yielding “larger implications” by exacerbating “existing problems” (14, see also 40).
In chronicling what she considers “the growing influence of Asia in world affairs and the West’s attempts to maintain its current geopolitical position” (18),Paskal is not a neutral observer. She wistfully regrets the West’s, which she understands in turn as the United States or as the Anglosphere with the European Union playing second fiddle, relative decline and lack of long term planning in environmental security, which play into the hands of China. In fact, her alarm at China’s assertive, yet under-the-radar, foreign policy leads her to assertpessimistically that “China seems to be one of the few countries that is actively trying to secure its position at multiple levels over the long term” (211). As she follows “the ups and downs of the environment, as well as the waxing and waning of some major countries and empires” (18), an unarticulated yet potent theory emerges. Her approach of the impact of environmental changes on the internationalsystem is Realist: she sees Great Powers as environmentally selfish entities obsessed with survival and prone to confrontation rather than collaboration; and warns of future conflicts among them. She also construes China as a revisionist power and deplores the U.S. defensive-Realist approach toward Russia in the Northwest Passage or China in the Pacific. She also believes in the spontaneous extensionof democratic peace to an emerging “environmental peace” among liberal democracies faced with mounting geophysical challenges. Consequently, she frequently warns of the looming showdown between liberal democracies and “nationalist capitalistic” countries such as China, the chief villain in her view, Russia, and Venezuela.
Part One (23-62) examines how misgovernance in the West exacerbates theimpact of water damage. It dissects the disastrous federal response to the 2005 hurricane Katrina; it criticizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as it is used by Congress for pork projects and hare- brained schemes, and eviscerates the National Flood Insurance Program, which, by providing public insurance in areas deserted by private companies, effectively “subsidizes development in flood...