Close this search box.

Climate Claim: Trump’s Travel Bans Shows We Need More Global Governance

One of Oxford University’s Famous Feasts. Oxford Trinity College High Table. By Winky from Oxford, UK (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to Oxford Lecturer Kate Guy, President Trump “blindsiding” allies with Coronavirus travel bans and his focus on taking care of the USA proves we are not ready for the coming climate disaster – but we could “rebound” with “more solid” global security and cooperation.

Coronavirus shows we are not at all prepared for the security threat of climate change

April 16, 2020 12.28am AEST
Kate Guy, PhD Candidate and Lecturer in International Relations, University of Oxford

How might a single threat, even one deemed unlikely, spiral into an evolving global crisis which challenges the foundations of global security, economic stability and democratic governance, all in the matter of a few weeks?

My research on threats to national security, governance and geopolitics has focused on exactly this question, albeit with a focus on the disruptive potential of climate change, rather than a novel coronavirus. In recent work alongside intelligence and defence experts at the think-tank Center for Climate and Security, I analysed how future warming scenarios could disrupt security and governance worldwide throughout the 21st century. Our culminating report, A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change, was launched in Washington just as the first coronavirus cases were spreading undetected across the US.

An uncoordinated response

While traditionally a great power like the US might step forward to direct a collective international response, instead the Trump administration has repeatedly chosen to blindside its allies with the introduction of new limitations on trade and movement of peoples. This mismanagement has led to each nation going on its own, despite the fact that working together would net greater gains for all. As the New York Times’s Mark Landler put it, the voices of world leaders are forming “less a choir than a cacophony”, leading to mixed global messages, undetected spread, and ongoing fights over limited resources.

We can treat the current global crisis as a sort of “stress test” on these institutions, exposing their vulnerabilities but also providing the urgent impetus to build new resilience. In that light, we could successfully rebound from this moment with more solid global security and cooperation than we knew going into it. Decision-makers should take a hard look at their current responses, problem-solving methods, and institutional design with future climate forecasts like our Threat Assessment in mind.

Read more:

What are they teaching in universities these days?

There is nothing wrong with different countries implementing varied responses to the Chinese Coronavirus, or any other global crisis.

Imagine if the world had embraced a completely unified response, and granted the incompetent United Nations World Health Organisation had been granted absolute power for the duration of the crisis. The WHO wanted open borders and free movement long after Trump closed the US border. And talk about lack of focus; a senior WHO advisor wants recovery money to be spent on renewables.

A variety of disconnected responses to Covid-19 means multiple opportunities to get things right, instead of putting all the eggs in one basket. Nobody knows what the right response is, but with a variety of different responses, everyone can observe what is working in other countries, and what mistakes they made, and copy the best of what other people are doing.