End the Deadlock on Governance of Geoengineering Research
“Geoengineering may be needed to limit severe future risks, so informed policy judgments require research on its efficacy and risks,” writes David Keith in “End the Deadlock on Governance of Geoengineering Research.” “If research is blocked, then in some stark future situation where geoengineering is needed, only unrefined, untested, and excessively risky approaches will be available. To avoid this policy train wreck, progress on research governance is needed that advances four aims: letting low-risk scientifically valuable research proceed; giving scientists guidance on the design of socially acceptable research; addressing legitimate public concern about reckless interventions or a thoughtless slide from small research to planetary manipulation; and ending the current legal void that facilitates rogue projects. Although full specification of a governance regime will take time and broad consultation, we propose specific first steps.”
Will Iran Get a Bomb—or Be Bombed Itself—This Year?
“There can be no question whatsoever that in 2013 Iran could get a bomb; there is also no question that Iran could be bombed," writes Graham Allison in an essay focusing on the technical and geopolitical issues at play in Iran’s possible acquisition of a nuclear weapon. “But my best judgement is that in 2013 Iran will not get a bomb, and Iran will not be bombed. To be precise, I am prepared to bet $51 of my money against $49 of those who want to bet that by December 31, 2013, Iran will either have a nuclear weapon or have been the target of a major bombing attack. My conclusion is not meant as a counsel of complacency. Anyone who believes that there is a 20 percent chance that Iran could either get a bomb or be bombed within the next year should recognize that the consequences of either outcome drive this issue to the top of the foreign policy agenda, not only for Israel but for the United States.”
Political Science Research Offers Better Democracy
Robert Putnam was one of 12 recipients of a National Humanities Medal this past summer, in part in recognition of research that he had begun more than 40 years ago on civil society and democracy. But recent calls for restricting millions of dollars in political science research funding by the National Science Foundation, would mean research like Putnam’s might now never get off the ground. “For a fledgling assistant professor with no coastal connections, and only a glimmer of an idea and a promising research design, the NSF was the only plausible supporter for my initial work,” Putnam writes. “Forty years ago, it was impossible to foresee the far-reaching results of the research…But my disciplinary peers carefully scrutinized the theoretical framework and the scientific methodology of the proposed work, just as they did with scores of other proposals that year. Fortunately for me, they concluded that the scientific promise of the work merited some modest—but indispensable—support.”
The 21st century began with the United States as the world’s only superpower, writes Joseph Nye in “Do Presidents Really Steer Foreign Policy?” “Americans seemed to like this situation. In the 2012 presidential campaign, both major-party candidates insisted that American power was not in decline, and vowed that they would maintain American primacy. But how much are such promises within the ability of presidents to keep? Was presidential leadership ever essential to the establishment of American primacy, or was that primacy an accident of history that would have occurred regardless of who occupied the Oval Office?” Nye asks. “The problem of America’s role in the 21st century is not the country’s supposed decline, but its need to develop the contextual intelligence to understand that even the most powerful nation cannot achieve the outcomes it wants without the help of others. Educating the public to both understand the global information age and operate successfully in it will be the real task for presidential leadership.”