Smart Ideas: What the Climate-Change Report Left Out

Plus, what the administration is getting right in Syria.

AP Photo/Noah Berger
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Oct. 9, 2018, 8 p.m.

Climate report spares politicians the details

Bob Ward, writing for The Guardian

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change paints a dire portrait of the consequences of unchecked global warming: “extreme weather, sea-level rise and ocean acidification, with detrimental effects on wildlife, crops, water availability and human health.” But the summary, provided to politicians and their aides, is still a “relatively conservative assessment of the consequences we might face if global warming does exceed 1.5" degrees celsius. The summary excludes “the potential for human populations to migrate and be displaced as a result, leading to the possibility of war.” It fails to mention that many national security assessments view climate change as a “threat multiplier," which “could increase the chances of political instability and conflict.” The danger of leaving out these facts is that policymakers will assume that “researchers have assessed them to be unimportant or impossible.” In fact, politicians must understand that these threats are real, and that changes to our economies are both “affordable and absolutely necessary” in order to avoid them.

Puerto Rico’s debt crisis calls for pragmatism

Antonio Weiss, Brad W. Setser, and Desmond Lachman writing for Bloomberg Opinion

“By far the most important condition for a successful debt restructuring is a realistic assessment of the economy’s growth potential and its capacity to repay its debtors. Overly optimistic assessments … set up the economy for another debt restructuring.” Unfortunately, the new debt-restructuring agreement for Puerto Rico's sales-tax-backed bonds is far too optimistic, and “saddles Puerto Rico with escalating debt payments for the next 20 years.” The restructuring arrangement initially reduces Puerto Rico’s debt service payments. But those payments “double and then remain at a high level due to the inclusion of an insidious ‘capital appreciation bond,’ which rapidly increases in value while the other bonds are being paid off.” Making matters worse, this bond kicks in when federal investment in the island, artificially boosted by Medicaid spending and disaster-relief funding, is scheduled to dry up. “It is hardly in Puerto Rico’s interest to have a failed debt restructuring agreement that will hobble the island’s economic growth prospects, even as it struggles to restore basic living conditions following the devastation of Hurricanes Maria and Irma and the loss of thousands of American lives.”

Trump’s Syria strategy may be working

Matthew R.J. Brodsky and Bassam Barabandi, writing for National Review

The Trump administration’s diplomatic efforts in Syria are based upon “a forward-leaning military posture,” which provides a strong foundation for future talks. Take Idlib, the besieged rebel enclave home to roughly 3.5 million people. “By leveraging America’s relationship with the Kurds and agreeing to sort out the long list of bilateral issues with [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan on another day, Washington closed ranks in support of Turkey’s Idlib position and chalked up a win for quiet U.S. diplomacy.” To back up that effort, U.S. has deemed “any regime-sponsored military campaign to be a significant and reckless escalation” in Idlib. The U.S. also “fortified positions in Syria’s northeast with both offensive and defensive military assets,” is conducting “week-long live-fire exercises,” and recently shipped F-35B stealth fighter jets to the region—“the first U.S. deployment in the region of its advanced stealth warplane.” This military posture helped prevent a bloodbath in Idlib, and should be a blueprint for future efforts toward an endgame “that works in America’s favor and that of the Syrian people.”

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