The Energy-Climate Dilemma and US Defense Policy


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In Project 1, you will address yourself to the complicated dilemma of energy resource rivalry and the prospects for changes in the world’s energy system. The world’s seemingly ceaseless search for and use of energy, particularly from fossil fuel resources, has created a significant risk to the earth’s energy balance and overall climate system. It is somewhat paradoxical that global warming and melting in the Arctic have facilitated energy exploration in the high north by the same actors who are arguably most responsible for the cumulative amount of greenhouse gases emitted since the oil-fired industrial period truly accelerated around World War I. Among the many actors that have contributed to the climate change phenomenon, the US emerges as central, both because of its leading role in the global oil world and because of its longstanding leadership of the fossil fuel consuming world economy. 

There is an energy–climate policy dilemma, a specific social policy problem—one needs energy to power an economy and propel one’s military forces, but fossil fuels, which are still over 80 percent of the global energy mix, release heat trapping and climate altering greenhouse gases. Drawing on your reading across the first three modules of the course, you are to write an essay addressing aspects of this complex dilemma. In analyzing this dilemma, you are to write an essay that addresses the specific questions below and seriously considers the tradeoffs that attach to the question of balance among energy use, transition to non-fossil forms of “greener” energy, economic development and military utility. For example, the energy industry argues that to transition away from coal and oil anytime soon is “misguided and anti-poor (Links to an external site.),” in the words of one coal executive, because, arguably, it leaves the world’s poor no recourse but to have less energy to grow their economies and improve their quality of life. 

  • Which energy types (eg., coal, oil etc.) and specific actors are most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and their cumulative concentrations in the upper atmosphere and oceans?
  • The US defense community has long played a role as an agent of social and economic change, building some whole industries from scratch and racially integrating American society after World War II. Is the US military leading an energy transition to greener energy sources, helping to push this across American society and perhaps the rest of the world too? In your considered assessment, if it were able to do so, should it do so? Be sure to consider potential downsides to asking Americans and much of the rest of the world to do with less coal-fired electricity and oil-fired transportation, as well as potential upsides to lessening geopolitical rivalry in places like the Arctic and Middle East.

To successfully complete this assignment, you will need to organize your responses to these questions and then craft a formatted essay that includes each of the following:

  • A title page;
  • Well-developed introductory paragraph explaining the purpose of the essay and briefly referencing some of the main points/contentions offered in the essay;
  • The body of the essay should consist of your effort to best answer the primary questions from the assignment prompt and should consist of at least 1,250 words of text (approximately 5 pages of double-spaced, 12 point font text). Though the method by which this is done is largely up to you, it is essential that the responses to the questions in the prompt be based upon scholarly readings and should remain at all times defensible (in an academic sense). You have a great deal of information to draw from in creating your essay, including the assigned readings and hyperlinked sources in the module notes. Presenting any unsubstantiated or illogical/indefensible positions will have an adverse effect on the final grade. Please direct any questions regarding these expectations to the instructor;
  • A concise concluding paragraph that briefly restates both the purpose of the essay as well as some of the primary argument offered by you, the essay’s author. Be sure the concluding paragraph does not introduce new information;
  • A list of all sources consulted in the preparation of the essay. The essay should be formatted according to APA-style documentation.  (Links to an external site.)This includes the format of the list of references.

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