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THE INDEX — October 23, 2009

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GCLS UPDATE: Appetite for Reduction

PANEL: Global Commodity Crunch: Food, Water, Oil, Energy, Trade? Master of Ceremonies: John Authers, Investment Editor, Financial Times Panelists: Badr Jafar, Executive Director, Crescent Petroleum Group Josh Margolis, Co-Chief Executive Director, CantorCO2e Henk-Jan Brinkman, Senior Adviser for Economic Policy, World Food Programme Zachary Karabell, President, River Twice Research Panel summary by Mary Kate Nevin, World Policy Journal After Financial Times journalist John Authers introduced the panel, Badr Jafar examined the issue of oil shortages from an industry perspective, explaining that the "roller coaster" of oil prices in 2008 was precipitated both by oil speculation and the depletion of reserves. As demand for oil steadily increases in China and elsewhere in Asia, the threat of a serious shortage continues to loom portentously. Going forward, investments to increase capacity must come from public-private partnerships, too little of which currently exist, he says. "The next 10 years is going to be crucial in seeing whether we move more towards partnership or more towards conflict." He then addressed carbon emissions, presenting several practical ways to move toward their reduction. The most important thing the world can do is rid itself of its dependence on coal; "by displacing coal with natural gas worldwide," he said, "we can reduce carbon emissions by over 70 percent." He also called attention to rainforest degradation, imploring us to appreciate rainforests' natural carbon capture and storage capabilities and to take action to protect them. Josh Margolis of CantorCO2e, a business focused on environmental rights, also emphasized the urgency of cutting carbon emissions. The United States emits dozens more tons of carbon per person than places like India and China, but that these developing economies strive to someday consume like Americans "keeps [him] up at night." But he was optimistic about the global potential to address the issue, citing America's pending cap-and-trade bill that seeks to cut emissions by 8 billion to 1 billion tons by 2050. "We should never waste an opportunity presented by an acute crisis," he said, and the opportunity is there "if we accept that we really have to solve the problem."

Micah Albert: Reporter’s Notebook — The First Taste of Yemen

I arrived in Yemen yesterday ruminating on somewhat contradictory mental snapshots of the country. It’s the place where Noah’s Ark was launched and Osama bin Laden’s father was born. It is a country where Westerners are kidnapped by tribesmen (but rarely harmed), where suicide bombers struck the USS Cole in 2000, where young women lower the blinds and cast off their abayas to dance and chew qat [a mild stimulant derived from a shrub] with their friends.

Inhabited almost since the dawn of humanity, Yemen is, in many ways, the birthplace of all our lives. The sons of Noah knew it as the land of milk and honey, Gilgamesh came here to search for the secret of eternal life, wise men gathered frankincense and myrrh from its mountains and, most famously, a woman known simply as the Queen of Sheba said Yemen was her home.

I have come to Yemen to report on many things, but the overarching, pressing story is food security. Though the global food crisis dropped from the front pages of newspapers a year ago, the reality of food shortages and alarming malnutrition rates has not subsided—in fact, it has worsened.

I hope to shed light back on this urgent issue and potentially return some media attention to this topic while traveling as a photojournalist with the World Food Programme (WFP) as they begin a $30 million emergency food operation to assist 600,000 people here.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and trouble is brewing for this Gulf nation. The oil sector provides 90 percent of export earnings but what little oil they have is running out. Meanwhile, Yemen seems headed for a multifaceted crisis; it is grappling with high levels of poverty, rising unemployment, catastrophic nationwide water shortages, and the fertility rate is booming. As to the link between poverty and food security, the following statistic highlights the depth of the problem:in Yemen, the average family spends 65 percent of their yearly income on food. In the United States, it's less than 9.5 percent.

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