“Six Threats Bigger Than Climate Change” – Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2014

US Secretary of State John Kerry is concerned about climate change and rightfully so. The habits of people across the world have managed to impact our climate, causing large fluctuations in temperatures and more natural disasters, which significantly hit the world’s poorest nations and damage the global food supply. But yes, there are, as Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso points out, foreign policy issues that are just as important, or more important, than climate change.

Barrasso cites the following international issues that pose greater challenges to America than climate change: ISIS in Iraq; pulling out troops in Afghanistan and the subsequent terrorism; relations with Russia; Iran’s nuclear program; US assistance in Syria; and North Korea’s nuclear program.

While we concede that these are all very substantial concerns, Barrasso frames his argument as one or the other. We shouldn’t be concerned with climate change and new climate policy; we should completely focus our efforts on foreign policy and helping the world. Maybe Kerry made a lapse in judgement by stating that climate change is “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now,” but climate change is indeed a huge problem that can affect, and is affecting, our world.

Obama’s efforts to be diplomatic in regards US foreign policy seem to be a more long-term approach to the issues rather than making swift, rash decisions that could end badly. Conversely, Obama is able to make such swift political and economic issues in the US — such as using his power of executive order to push through new climate policy — because this is his home turf. Barrasso’s points are valid, but they seem to miss a key point — what change is Obama bringing to his own country, and why doesn’t change in America come first?

Though the US has lost a bit of its credibility recently, we have always been seen as the world’s savior and we’re always expected to lend a hand. That is an admirable trait and part of our identity as America, but perhaps it’s time that we — simultaneously, not exclusively — take care of our own for a bit. After all, juggling multiple goals and objectives is the President’s modus operandi.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 2, 2014

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