The point is
not that environmental and natural resource issues are dealt with
smoothly and rationally in US, nor that the US behaved more sensibly and
responsibly while building its basic industries than newly
industrializing countries are behaving today. The twin pressures of
population growth and increased economic activity are placing pressures
on natural systems today that were not evident in earlier times. We will
all need to rely more on science and analysis in the future than was
necessary in the past.
of the study here proposed is that the importance of Third World
competence to understand and act upon environmental issues is growing,
and the US institutional capacity to work with them is very limited. Our
science-based Departments, such as Agriculture, Energy, and Health and
Human Services, are oriented to domestic issues. They have no mandate
for strengthening scientific and analytical competencies abroad, even
where the problems they deal with transcend national boundaries.
AID, the agency
typically engaged in assisting developing countries, is limited in its
scientific endeavors by a relatively short time horizon, a largely
non-technical staff, and a mandate to work with the poorer countries of
the world. Many of the countries most rapidly increasing greenhouse-gas
emissions or clearing tropical forests are of low priority for AID
because of their middle-income status.
assumes the need for a generalized strategy for work on global problems
that would involve the major science-based Departments more deeply, and
possibly more directly, in strengthening the capacities of developing
countries to work on these problems. AID's intercultural experience
needs somehow to be combined with the technical expertise of the line
Departments, and the result accorded a significant role in the conduct
of US foreign policy.
are limits to the extent to which it is appropriate for the US to
concern itself with policy-making in other countries, it would be a
serious mistake to mount a program with explicit policy objectives. Our
purpose must be confined to helping to build sound policy-making
capacities, recognizing that we will not always agree with the policies
that result. Although promoting specific policy prescriptions would be
unacceptable to most countries, assistance in building scientific and
analytical capacities would be highly welcome.
Global environment is an area in which the US has evident
superiority in terms of science, technology, and programmatic
experience. We have here an opportunity, and to my mind a
responsibility, to provide constructive leadership in forging the kind
of international environmental regimes which will be needed for dealing
with the complex environmental interdependencies of the future.
The study will
focus on global warming as an illustrative example of a problem where US
concerns extend to actions of developing countries. Industrialized
countries can significantly affect the rate of climate change, and
possibly its magnitude, by curtailing their emission of greenhouse
gases, but without the cooperation of developing countries, the risk of
substantial warming will remain.
activities contributing to global warming, the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) cites energy production and use as by far the most
important. Energy will account for an estimated 57% of the warming that
will occur in the next century; chlorofluorocarbons 17%, agricultural
practices 14%, and land use modifications including deforestation 9%.
Some experts debit deforestation for closer to 20% of the problem.
Deforestation and the increase in energy use will occur
predominantly in countries outside the OECD. The share of commercial
energy used by developing countries has increased from 6% in 1950 to 15%
in 1985, and it is expected to continue to rise throughout the next
century. The US, on the other hand, contributes around 25% of the carbon
dioxide introduced to the atmosphere, but has increased its GNP
substantially over the past 15 years without increasing the amount of
countries in general have great potential for conservation and
increasing energy efficiency in the future; their energy use per unit of
GNP is often extremely high. The technological and analytical capacity
which would enable them to take advantage of more efficient options is,
however, typically at a low level, and they may perceive external
efforts to induce curtailed energy consumption as counter-developmental.
How serious a
concern is global warming? A
study by the US National Academy of Sciences in 1979 concluded that
doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over
preindustrial levels would result in an eventual global warming of
1.5-4.5 degrees Centigrade. Subsequent re-evaluations by the Academy and
by the Department of Energy have reaffirmed this estimate, and other
studies suggest that a warming of 5.5 degrees Centigrade as a result of
C02 doubling is at least as likely as a warming of 1.5 degrees.
Global warming of only a few degrees will produce major changes
in the climate. The total global warming since the peak of the last ice
age, 18,000 years ago, was only about 5 degrees. That change shifted the
Atlantic Coast 100 miles inland and created the Great Lakes.
corrective action were taken in the future, an EPA study suggests that
the time C02 levels would reach double preindustrial levels would be
between 2055, assuming a rapidly changing world, and 2080, assuming a
slowly changing world. (That estimate may be optimistic; others think
doubling may occur in the 2030s). EPA projects that the introduction of
stabilizing policies could reduce the rate of global warming by 60%.
is not produced only by C02 emissions. Other significant greenhouse
gases include methane (CH4), the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and nitrous
oxide (N20). No single activity is the dominant source of greenhouse
gases, so the range of stabilizing policies required is quite broad.
Among the policies suggested for consideration are a 100% phaseout of
CFCs by 2003, reforestation, improved transportation and other energy
use efficiency, promotion of natural gases, solar energy and nuclear
power, emission controls and fees, and improved agricultural practices
and cement-making technologies.
Global warming as a topic for this study thus has the advantages
of being already of widespread concern, its dimensions and remedies have
yet to be clearly defined, and the actions of developing countries over
the next half century will have a major impact on the outcome. The
disadvantages of the topic include the ominous fact that there is at
this point no physical evidence that warming will occur of the
magnitude expected, but by the time a warming trend can be convincingly
demonstrated, it will be too late to do much about it.
warming as the primary example, I would first seek to establish the
potential ramifications of the problem: its importance to the US, the
relative contributions of developing countries to greenhouse-gas
emissions, and the opinions of experts about desirable remedial or
preventive actions in the US and abroad. For this I would rely upon the
literature, and interviews with knowledgeable people in Cambridge and
Then I would examine the activities and plans of the major
Government agencies with a stake in the issue, including EPA, DOE, DOA
(especially the Forest Service), NSF, and AID, to gauge the official
response to the problem. This examination would again involve reliance
primarily upon secondary sources, supplemented by interviews with agency
officials to determine their perspective on the problem and constraints
on their actions. I would also seek to identify interagency coordinating
mechanisms to determine the division of responsibility within the
Government for dealing with the international dimensions of the problem.
Resource allocations could then be compared with unofficial
estimates of the sources of global warming, the urgency of action, and
opportunities for intervention as developed in the first phase of the
A third strand of the study would examine the development of
scientific research and policy analysis on global warming issues in
selected developing countries. Brazil, Thailand, and Nigeria would be
logical choices of countries to study:
Brazil is large and important in terms of energy production and
deforestation, and because it is not an AID recipient due to its level
of per capita income and the fact that the country is deemed to be in
violation of Congressional resolutions concerning debt repayments and
Thailand is an AID recipient, largely due to its proximity to
Indochina. The Mission there has given strong support to scientific
research, and Thai scientists typically win about a third of all
competitive research awards offered under AID-sponsored programs,
including one administered by the National Academy of Sciences. The
Government of Thailand places a high value on the development of an
indigenous scientific capability.
Nigeria is the largest sub-Saharan African nation, and has
perhaps the largest scientific establishment in black Africa. The US
ambassador, Princeton Lyman, is a former AID official who once was
engaged in planning for the Institute for Scientific and Technological
Cooperation (ISTC), a Carter administration initiative. His
understanding of the history of US scientific relationships with
developing countries, combined with his familiarity with Nigerian
institutions, would be invaluable.
country, the study would attempt to ascertain the allocations from
government sources for research as a fraction of national income, the
channels of communication between the science establishment and policy
makers, international linkages between scientists or scientific
institutions and counterparts abroad, and the perception of scientists
and policy makers of priority requirements for strengthening their
research and analysis capabilities. Their perceptions of the importance
of global warming and other environmental issues will also be gained.
strand would entail a review of existing mechanisms for scientific
cooperation and collaboration between US institutions and institutions
in developing countries, particularly those concerned with global
warming issues and those involving the third world countries selected.
(I conducted a preliminary study of this sort as International Fellow of
the Kettering Foundation in 1981, resulting in a manuscript entitled
"US Science and the Third World."
This could be updated, but a section on the participation of the
US in UN agencies and their role in addressing global warming issues
would need to be added.)
On the basis of these explorations, it should become clear that
our present policies and organizations for handling US scientific
relationships with developing countries are seriously inadequate. I
would hope to be able to recommend reforms enabling us to contribute
more effectively to strengthening third world capacity for research and
analysis. I would try to generalize from the example to suggest a
strategy for cooperation applicable to a number of other fields, such as
health research, forestry, and food production.
alternatives, such as the Science and Technology Bureau of AID, the ISTC
concept, the NSF, and international offices in the major agencies would
be assessed. One hopes that a course of action with clear advantages
over the alternatives will emerge. But whether or not a firm
prescription for action comes out of the study, the case for increased
US efforts to strengthen the capacities of third world countries for
engaging responsibly in global environmental negotiations should be