Review: Beyond Resource Wars: Scarcity, Environmental Degradation, and International Cooperation

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Review: Beyond Resource Wars: Scarcity, Environmental Degradation, and International Cooperation Dinar, Shlomi (Ed.). Beyond Resource Wars: Scarcity, Environmental Degradation, and International Cooperation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2011. 335pp. ISBN 9780262515580. US $25.00/£17.95, paperback. Alkaline paper.

This book can be recommended to readers wanting to go beyond the alarmist view of resource scarcity and environmental degradation as a catalyst of interstate conflicts. It admits that they may well constitute sources of conflict, political dispute, and mismanagement between states. For example, in chapter 10, Shields and Solar list as much as five alternative forms of scarcity (physical, situational, locational, political and social) that can lead to conflicts. The main message is that scarcity may also be the impetus for cooperation, coordination, and negotiation between states.

The book itself is a product of a workshop held at the end of 2006. This makes some of the articles somewhat outdated, while others have stood the time better, or have been updated enough to take into account the changing world. For example, after the failure in Copenhagen in 2009, and the meager outcomes of the following two major climate conferences, an article presenting merely excuses why the United States rejected the Kyoto Protocol does not provide much new insight. Personally, I do not buy Robert Mendelsohn's argument that the reduction targets would have been much harder to meet for the U.S. than for Europe as the U.S. emissions grew 25 percent from 1990 to 2010, and European emissions by only 7 percent. That is undoubtedly true, but it is as well true that the energy-related CO2 emissions per capita in the U.S. are more or less double that of the European Union, that are again double that of China or the world in general. Thus, there are enormous possibilities for efficiency gains available for the U.S. Indeed Charles Weiss and William B. Bonvillian argued in their book Structuring an Energy Technology Revolution, which I had the privilege to review in EGJ 1(29), that the U. …