- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Points of Progress

Spring 2015
Our faculty and fellows are immersed in studying and solving some of the world's toughtest policy challenges. Amid that sobering work, they sometimes spot positive developments. We asked them to share these findings in this new feature.



Breeding new crops using genes from other species has been a source of considerable public controversy and international trade conflicts. New advances in genetic editing of crops could reduce international trade and diplomatic conflicts by breeding crops without the transfer of genes from other species.

–  Calestous Juma Director, Science, Technology, and Globalization Project


Climate Change

On November 12, 2014, in Beijing, the presidents of China and the United States issued a joint announcement in which these countries– the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters– made pledges of their contributions under the forthcoming 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which will succeed the Kyoto Protocol in 2020.  This joint commitment represents some 44 percent of global emissions, and more than 50 percent with Europe already on board, compared with the 14 percent of global emissions currently covered by the Kyoto Protocol.  This was among the most important moments in twenty years of international climate negotiations.

Robert Stavins, director, Harvard Project on Climate Agreements


Chemical Weapons in Syria

The elimination of the WMD chemical stockpiles in Syria represents a remarkable success story: a collaboration between entities that are public adversaries and disagree on most things. Russia, the United States, and Syria each had its own reason for removing and destroying the chemical weapons and materials.  But imagine today a radical ISIS group, which has promised to attack the U.S. and the West, with chemical weapons in their hands.  This joint success has made us all safer.

– Kevin Ryan, director, Defense and Intelligence Project


Nuclear Terrorism

More than half of all the countries in the world that once had potential nuclear bomb material on their soil have eliminated it.  The risk that nuclear material could be stolen from these countries and fall into terrorist hands is now zero.  In particular, the Obama administration helped eliminate all the highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Ukraine, and the Bush administration from Libya, before fighting started in those countries. The HEU in Iraq was long gone when the Islamic State seized major portions of the country.  Imagine what might have happened had those successes not occurred.

Matthew Bunn, professor of practice, Harvard Kennedy School

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Points of Progress.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Spring 2015).