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To meet China challenge, the U.S. has to fight climate change

12 9 0

WASHINGTON – The two greatest challenges for American statecraft in the 21st century are becoming more severe — and seemingly pulling the United States in opposing directions.

Relations with China are deteriorating by the day, presaging a prolonged competition over the shape of global order. Meanwhile, the worsening effects of climate change — demonstrated by the shocking melting of ice in Greenland this summer — are invoking the specter of ecological catastrophe. And while dealing with the changing climate will undoubtedly require cooperation between Beijing and Washington — the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases — winning the geopolitical struggle with China will require the U.S. to take a harder-edged, more competitive approach.

Statecraft is the art of reconciling the apparently irreconcilable, and the U.S. need not abandon either its environmental or its geopolitical objectives. But Washington must navigate between two bad strategies to execute the right one.

The need to balance climate-change diplomacy with sharpening geopolitical rivalry is relatively new. After the end of the Cold War, climate-change diplomacy was conducted on the assumption that the geopolitical conflicts of previous eras had receded, easing the inevitable tradeoffs created by a process that required asymmetric economic sacrifices. “Most nations worry about the same global threats,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a few months before the United Nations climate-change summit in Copenhagen in 2009; the U.S. could lead by “uniting diverse partners around common concerns.” Today, by contrast, the zero-sum aspects of the U.S.-China relationship are prominent, forcing thoughtful policymakers to consider how to approach climate-change diplomacy in a more competitive world.

The Trump administration, of course, has largely dodged this challenge, by amping up confrontation with China while essentially abandoning the Paris accords and international climate-change diplomacy. But denying that a problem exists will........

© The Japan Times