For centuries, states have been concerned with matters of security from a realist perspective where the state was the main actor and sovereignty was of upmost importance. However, after World War I countries decided that to protect themselves they must form alliances. So, liberal institutions were created based on a system of interdependence and cooperation, institutionalized in international organization. This model of interdependence has led to the 21st century in regards to issues of climate change as illustrated in the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Montreal Protocol (2000).
Since the 1980’s, scientists have begun to realize that climate change occurs because of greenhouse gases emitted from human activities. Human activities have impacted society negatively which takes a toll on the global economy, natural resources and human health. For the United States and the European Union, the effects of climate change will be devastating as it includes, but is not limited to, threats of extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, heat waves, wildfires, and the disturbance of ecosystems. Therefore, the effects of climate change are increasing and will continue to increase attentively unless something is done.
To mitigate the impacts of climate change, countries must diversify their energy economic policies as it is the only way to curtail the emissions of greenhouse gases. Additionally, countries must create mechanisms to adapt to the effects of climate change due to the consequences posed to human health and safety which includes the basic needs for survival, water and national security. Therefore, it is up to the scientific community, and global governments to create policies and active initiatives to address climate change.
In 2015, leaders from around the world came together to discuss the alarming levels of global emissions and it was realized that tackling climate change had to be a global initiative. So, the United Nations created a convention commonly known as the Paris Agreement in which delegates from around the world came together to discuss strategies to mitigate climate change based on the scientific consensus that there needs to be a 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius (or 2.6- 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit) cap on global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal, the United Nations came up with the plan of using a “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC), in which each country coins its own plan for curbing climate change. The concept of INDC allows each country to play a part in reaching the target goal of below 2 degrees Celsius and therefore, shows that mitigating climate change will only be efficient due to its collaborative nature. INDC usage would require countries to diversify their economies and become less reliant on fossil fuels. The European Union has been a forerunner in diversifying their economies to become less reliant on fossil fuels by transitioning to renewable resources such as wind power, solar energy, thermal power. The use of INDC also alludes to the idea of a positive sum game as everyone wins in that they can choose their contribution thus not infringing on the sovereignty of nation states, concurrently working towards achieving the goal of saving the environment. As global leaders, the United States and the EU need to take charge in combatting climate change, by setting up campaigns, policies and lobbying for climate change. Therefore, diversification of infrastructure with technological innovations will be the only way to mitigate the effects of climate change. International collaboration as another important strategy is impeded by the rise of populist nationalism across the Atlantic.
In recent days, we have seen a resurgence of nationalism, as many countries are reclaiming the ideas of the Peace of Westphalia. For example, in 2016 the United Kingdom passed a referendum to leave the European Union, African Countries have decided to withdraw from some international regimes such as the ICC and countries such as Poland have elected right winged officials who have decided to enact xenophobic policies. The question now becomes what does this mean for climate change?
The Paris Agreement is based on the idea of a Kantian world, where we are all global citizens and it is our duty to protect each other. However, it seems the world is experiencing a paradigm shift and countries will begin to accept the realist approach once again thus creating a world based on competition- Hobbesian state.
The United States and the European Union must continue their transatlantic alliance, as jointly they are the strongest multilateral powers able to mitigate issues of security and climate change. However, this alliance becomes threatened with the rise of right- winged politicians. For example, The United States’ President- elect is a global warming skeptic and he a relationship with Vladimir Putin who is also a skeptic in regards to global warming. Together, these two individuals can gather momentum against the diversification of energy economies as Russia is heavily dependent on oil production for economic success and the United States unfortunately, still runs its economy on fossil fuels. The fact that United Kingdom has left the European Union, also alludes to the idea of the United States gathering another ally as both countries share a special relationship as seen their support of each other in the War on Terror.
The rise of nationalism poses a threat to the Euro-American transatlantic alliance; therefore, the United States under President Trump must re-assure its trade partners that the newly implemented administrative polices will be tailored to that of a global regime and will foster the needs of all parties involved. Therefore, we must at transatlantic relations from a normative perspective, as not what should be but what ought to be.
Therefore, the rise in nationalism creates issues, as countries will become isolationist and so Cold War era practices could arise as the zero-sum game prevails again. Therefore, it is up to the European Union and the United States to ensure transatlantic relations continue as the safety of the world depends on it in regards to national security and climate change.