Image source: https://twas.org/science-diplomacy
By: Jackson Vanness, Sophomore Climate Scholar
I had the opportunity to interview and speak with Dr. Saleem Ali on current issues revolving around scientific diplomacy and the sustainable energy potential in the United States. The scientific diplomacy portion revolved around arctic research impacted by the Russian-Ukrainian war. The arctic is a focal point of scientific research on climate change and global warming, and many large arctic countries including the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, and Denmark(Greenland) have put emphasis on collaboration to research it. Yet with the war, the partnership has been shut down indefinitely. So, I asked Dr. Saleem Ali his thoughts on how science diplomacy can be restored with Russia to continue the scientific collaboration that has been in place since the cold war. Many points were made on how science should not be sacrificed over political altercations yet it seems things are too far gone for Russia. Dr. Saleem Ali brought up how, “science is an area that should be depoliticized” and continued to add, “most Russian scientists have not supported the war. They are captive in their country.” This goes to show that politically the collaboration will take a long time to be reinstated, but potentially the citizens of Russia and citizens of other countries will be what opens up doors.
Continuing with the topic of Russia and scientific diplomacy, I asked how Track 2 diplomacy could be implemented. Track two diplomacy is the informal or unofficial contact between individuals (in this case it is researchers and scientists). Dr. Saleem Ali says that if we start by having researchers collaborate with Russian scientists then over time we can build the trust back. The issue at hand is that European countries have shut down all collaboration, which makes the United States and researchers unlikely to go through that process until Europe does. This is due to European countries sending a message to Putin that until things are resolved Russia will be isolated. I continued to ask when a potential time that scientific collaboration in the arctic could return. Dr. Saleem Ali pointed out that if the war had ended within 3-5 months it wouldn’t be unrealistic for things to go back to normal, research-wise, rather quickly. Yet that’s not the case, and he added, “Both sides have lost too much and are entrapped”. While then making a comparison to the United States and Vietnam, this war will be looked upon similarly. Therefore, the time of return for collaboration is indefinite and could be years or decades, and Type 2 diplomacy would be just small progress for a very large issue. Very unfortunate as the research of all of the arctic is critical in climate change and global warming issues.
To finish things off, I asked a question relating to America’s sustainable energy infrastructure. I asked why the U.S. has to import so much of the minerals needed for sustainable energy. We talked about how the U.S. has strict laws and regulations for approving new mines within, and that it could take up to a decade to get a mine started. I was worried by that response because I thought the sustainable energy goals set by the U.S. would be unreachable if that was the case. I followed that by asking if the lack of minerals sourced here is limiting the growth potential of sustainable energy. Dr. Saleem Ali agreed but said that the U.S. is not placing much urgency on sourcing minerals in the U.S. as it’s been a controversy for the last two decades. He pointed out that the U.S. has, “Australia, Canada, and the friendly countries to the U.S. who have minerals to put their attention towards in the upcoming years.” This was relieving to hear as it seems will be supporting our friendly countries while also still having the resources to continue sustainable energy growth.