When Great Power Conflict and Climate Action Collide
The global decarbonization effort is colliding headfirst with the realities of great power politics. China currently controls more than 75 percent of the world’s electric vehicle battery and solar photovoltaic manufacturing supply chains. It also processes the bulk of the so-called critical minerals, like lithium, cobalt and graphite, that are essential to building out clean energy technologies. There is no clean energy revolution without China.
What would happen if China decided to weaponize its clean energy resources in the same way Russia recently weaponized its oil and gas? Is it possible for the U.S. to end its energy dependency on China by investing in clean energy at home? What does this geopolitical reality mean for the prospect of meeting the world’s climate goals?
Over the past few years, Jason Bordoff and Meghan O’Sullivan have been at the forefront of mapping out the ways decarbonization will upend the world’s economic and geopolitical order. Bordoff is the founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a former senior director for energy and climate change for the National Security Council under Barack Obama. O’Sullivan is the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.
In Bordoff and O’Sullivan’s view, decarbonization won’t just affect what kinds of cars we drive or how we power our homes. It will transform everything from the nature of international markets and trade relations to the global balance of military and diplomatic power. And it will create new economic superpowers, new alliances and new sources of geopolitical conflict in the process.
This conversation explores the contours of this transformation and what it will mean for the future of the climate and world politics.
“The Age of Energy Insecurity” by Jason Bordoff and Meghan L. O’Sullivan
“A Critical Minerals Policy for the United States” by Meghan L. O’Sullivan and Jason Bordoff
“Biden’s Historic Climate Bill Needs Smart Foreign Policy” by Jason Bordoff
“The Nuances of Energy Transition Investments” by Columbia Energy Exchange, with Larry Fink
The Prize by Daniel Yergin
Silent Spring Revolution by Douglas Brinkley
The Avoidable War by Kevin Rudd
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates
This episode is guest-hosted by Rogé Karma, the senior editor for “The Ezra Klein Show.” Rogé has been with the show since July 2019, when it was based at Vox. At Vox, he also wrote and conducted interviews on topics ranging from policing and racial justice to democracy reform and the coronavirus pandemic.
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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.
This episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” was produced by Rogé Karma. Fact checking by Michelle Harris, with Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Our senior engineer is Jeff Geld. Our senior editor is Rogé Karma. The show’s production team also includes Emefa Agawu, Rollin Hu and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Kristina Samulewski and Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. Special thanks to Sonia Herrero.