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A memo to the next president

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"Sustainable development is the key to peace," Columbia University Earth Institute economist, Jeff Sachs, argued in a "memo" to the next president, who will take office next January. But what does that mean? The U.S. is facing an array of threats, from climate change and soaring oil prices ($100-plus per barrel) to terrorists and the war-torn, poverty-stricken nations without a government (like Somalia) that can harbor them. "The world could spiral into direct resource conflict," he said, where countries vie to control resources such as oil or water. The way to prevent that from happening, according to Sachs: "”End the Iraq War immediately and transfer much of the money that financed it to the U.N. for peacekeeping and economic development in that country; "”Appoint a climate envoy to China, India, Europe and other countries charged with negotiating cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions; "”Triple investment in research and development of cleaner forms of energy, including demonstrating how carbon capture and storage might work, improving power generation from the sun, advancing next-generation vehicles such as plug-in hybrids, improving the safety and efficiency of nuclear power plants and investing in green building design and construction; "”End the subsidy for ethanol, which has been shown to increase rather than decrease environmental problems such as climate change or water pollution as well as affect food availability by raising prices and lowering supplies for the world's poor. Sachs also suggested that the U.S. adopt the Millennium Development Goals, such as halving the number of hungry people by 2015, as its foreign policy focus; create a cabinet-level position designated to deal with climate change, biodiversity and other environmental challenges; and sign the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea and Biological Diversity. Is all of this really possible? Sachs thinks so. What about you?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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