Going it alone?
Anatol Lieven is to be congratulated on having brought out so clearly and cogently that nation states and their actions (or inaction) are a crucial element in dealing with climate change; and also that nation states often focus on quite the wrong security challenges (“The nation and the planet,” May).
But he surely goes too far when he dismisses systems of international solidarity as “utopianism” and “fantasy.” That is to fall into the trap of juxtaposing national and multilateral action as deadly enemies—the Trumpian heresy. We need both. After all, every well-governed, democratic nation state has within it systems for ensuring that burdens are equitably shared and that resources are allocated in such a way as to assist the least well-off. The world is no different.
If we can emerge from the current pandemic with a better understanding of how to combine national and collective action in an effective way, particularly in combatting climate change, then some good will have come out of it. That, after all, was the basis on which the UN, the EU, the WTO, Nato and many other international organisations were originally founded.
David Hannay was UK ambassador to the UN and EU
We will certainly recover
As John Kay and Mervyn King’s analysis demonstrates (“Into the unknown,” May) our responses to the knowns and unknowns associated with unexpected events are clouded by misunderstandings of the differences between risk, probability and uncertainty. But there is one further level of error that has been shown up by recent events. In times of uncertainty we tend to think that everything is uncertain and as a result to fear the worst. There is a tendency to forget what we do know.
For example, Covid-19 has sharply reduced oil demand. With supply already strong, prices fell by 50 per cent in mid-March. But the fall exaggerated the true impact. If, God forbid, the virus kills a million people, the world’s population at the end of December 2020 will still be around 85m higher than it was on 31st December 2019. Most of those people will have the resources to buy commercial energy supplies. At some point the pandemic will end and people will return to work and will once again be free to drive and to fly. The same is true for most other aspects of…