Grand Strategy in the Age of Climate Change: A Theory of Emergent Grand Strategy

Earlier this year, The Strategy Bridge asked university and professional military education students to participate in our third annual student writing contest by sending us their thoughts on strategy.

Now, we are pleased to present an essay selected for honorable mention by Charlotte Hulme from Yale University.

More striking than the lack of consensus over how to define grand strategy is that for over a century, scholars, regardless of their definitional approach, have considered grand strategy as the exclusive province of states and national policymakers.[1] For example, Kennedy defines grand strategy in terms of policy, or “the capacity of the nation’s leaders to bring together all of the elements of power, both military and non-military, for the preservation and enhancement of the nation’s long-term…best interests.”[2] On the other hand, Earle treated it as the highest type of strategy, one that “so integrates the policies and armaments of the nation that the resort to war is either rendered unnecessary or is undertaken with the maximum chance of victory.”[3] Brands defines it in terms of ideas, writing that grand strategy is “a purposeful and coherent set of ideas about what a nation seeks to accomplish in the world, and how it should go about doing so.”[4]       

J.F.C. Fuller and B.H. Liddell Hart (Wikimedia)

When thinkers such as B.H. Liddell Hart and J.F.C. Fuller pioneered the concept in the early 20th century, it was logical to define grand strategy in terms of the resources national leaders brought to bear to secure state interests; states had a greater ability to look out for their interests on their own. Additionally, as the major risks in the international system were military in nature, the state was a natural focus for theories of grand strategy. Today, however, not only do non-military, transnational threats—whether climate change, irregular migration, or infectious disease—increasingly define the security landscape, but states cannot secure their interests without the help of others. And these others, depending on the issue, may be not only other states but also the private sector, civil society, and international organizations.

Because scholars remain committed to the state-centric approach, they have not challenged the idea that grand strategy is the special province of national leaders and policymakers, those privileged actors with access to the elements of national power: military, economic, political, and diplomatic. But today, certain non-national actors are sufficiently powerful that they can bring multiple elements to bear and have a sufficient breadth of interests that a systemic approach to deploying their power is necessary, making them, in short, potential grand strategic actors.

Interestingly, some scholars agree that current approaches are outdated but rather than offering new ideas about grand strategy have proposed abandoning “grand strategic narratives” given “contemporary dynamics of global complexity,” or replacing grand strategic thinking with “smart muddling through.”[5] These conclusions not only reflect a missed opportunity to make a positive case for grand strategy in the 21st Century, they also are misguided given that ‘muddling through’ is no match for most risks in the international system today.

In this essay, I advance a new theory of grand strategy that recognizes the existence of grand strategic actors beyond states and offers insight into the process by which these actors can come to reprioritize their interests in the context of non-military transnational threats: climate change is perhaps the preeminent example and this essay’s case study. The strategic studies field has paid scant attention to this threat despite that, as Cirincione puts it, of the national security challenges states confront, “only two threaten destruction on a planetary scale: climate change and nuclear weapons.”[6] Given grand strategy’s concern with advancing overall interests, typically in the context of a significant threat, there is a pressing need for articulating a new sensibility about grand strategy that deals seriously with the climate threat. In particular, as I show in this essay, this new sensibility must account for the possibility of new actors having the capacity as well as the interest to act in a grand strategic fashion and to do so in a way that challenges the conventional wisdom about the centralized, coordinated nature of grand strategic action.

In section one, I lay out my theory of the process of grand strategy, or the process by which grand strategic actors define and reprioritize their interests. Although often overlooked, this process represents the crux of grand strategy, because interests provide the basis for subsequent action to align lines of effort toward an overarching interest. This process also captures how dispersed actors can come to identify a shared interest and how their individual strategies can come to an alignment, despite the absence of a centralized actor behaving as a coordinator, or as a classically imagined grand strategist. Section one also proposes that select non-national actors can participate in the process of grand strategy as grand strategic actors in their own right, as opposed to simply being supporting actors in states’ grand strategies.

Section two explores the plausibility of my ideas by considering initial evidence that non-national actors have come to an effective consensus about the global low-carbon transition—the essence of what we mean when we talk about addressing climate change—through the decentralized process of grand strategy theorized in section one. This consensus signifies an overarching end—decarbonizing the global economy, a grand strategic objective if ever there was one—and is spurring a growing alignment of global resources to advance it. Perhaps most intriguing for the new sensibility about grand strategy that I propose, the consensus emerged, and the growing alignment of individual lines of effort is happening in the context of inadequate climate action—or outright inattention to the threat of climate change—by national leaders and policymakers, the grand strategists of the conventional school. 

The Process of Grand Strategy and the New Grand Strategic Actors

Existing scholarship sheds little light on the relationship between interests and grand strategy despite how important it is to appreciate how grand strategic actors come to prioritize and direct elements of their power. Some scholars, for example, describe grand strategy as providing the linkage between national goals and actions, or the logic “that binds a country’s highest interests to its daily interactions with the world,” implying that grand strategy is a separate concern from pre-existing interests.[7] This misunderstanding likely stems from a failure to appreciate grand strategy as a process and not just a plan for linking separate policy areas into a coherent whole. My argument is that interactions among grand strategic actors constitute the process of grand strategy and this process leads actors to define and prioritize their interests, which ultimately leads to a particular course of action.

One way of thinking about the process of grand strategy is as a level of thought and action by those actors with sufficient power to bring multiple elements to bear and a sufficient scope of interests to necessitate a systemic approach to their advancement. The grand strategic level is a cousin of the operational level of war, which describes the process by which strategic objectives are linked to tactical actions.[8] What is distinct about the process or level of grand strategy, though, is that it represents the realm “that determines final outcomes” and “where the most basic but most consequential decisions are made.”[9] For example, before there could be a U.S. grand strategy of containment—an actual plan for aligning policies from Europe to Africa toward the overarching objective of limiting the spread of Soviet influence—there had to be a process that produced answers to the most basic but most consequential questions, including whether the USSR was just a competitor or an enemy. From that process of grand strategy, U.S. policymakers came to define countering the USSR as an interest.

The process of grand strategy has two defining attributes: its global nature and systemic quality. Grand strategy is global in nature, not only because of the particular kinds of actors and interests with which it is concerned, but also because of how grand strategic actors come to identify certain interests and determine how best to pursue them. Many domestic contributors can provide input to decision-makers as they develop ideas about what they ultimately want to achieve in the world and how.[10] As Martel suggests, grand strategy “arises from a state’s traditions and geopolitical attributes” and “does not depend on one person or a small group of elites.”[11] However, internal theories about a state’s history and purpose must encounter and survive first contact with external realities. This process of external encounter and contact underscores that interaction, and specifically global interaction, is central to the process of grand strategy.

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyoming. (Voice of America)

The importance of interaction points to the systemic quality of the process. To understand outcomes in a system, it is insufficient to add together individual actors’ a priori attributes because systems have properties of emergence, or “second-order properties arising from the interactions of elements.”[12] In this context, this means that interactions among grand strategic actors can produce effects that would not be necessarily be anticipated on the basis of actors’ a priori characteristics: that is, their interactions can produce emergent outcomes. One possible emergent outcome of the interactions that define the process of grand strategy is a reprioritization of interests among actors in the system.

To appreciate this argument, we might imagine the process of grand strategy as a continuous series of meetings of the world’s grand strategic actors. At one particular meeting—concerning climate change, say—most actors attend the first day. Some do not because climate change is such a low priority in their interest sets, or altogether absent, that they do not perceive a need to be in the room. By the second day of the meeting, some of the first day’s attendees have left, but others remain: the discussion continues, and, given who else still is at the table, some actors take a second look at their interest sets and move climate change up slightly higher.

Thinking about the process of grand strategy as an ongoing meeting at which actors define and reprioritize their interests captures how the process is decentralized, diffuse, and discursive—a function of their interactions with other actors and their interest sets. Although these interactions often do not lead to an alignment of interests among actors, a consensus about a shared interest can emerge if actors come to prioritize a particular interest within their respective interest sets in a similar fashion.

Conventional conceptions of grand strategy would hold that only states participate in the process of grand strategy. Although Brands asserts that all states “inevitably engage in grand strategy,” the basis for this claim is weak.[13] Most scholars would agree with Martel’s insight that only states “with a global reach can truly have grand strategies” and Murray’s claim that “grand strategy is the purview of great states and great states alone.”[14] Not all states do grand strategy, because not all states meet the criteria of sufficient power or scope of interests.

Which actors today are the world’s great states? Which actors meet the criteria for doing grand strategy? I argue that select sub-national and private sector actors have greater potential to behave as grand strategic actors than most states, and thus are part of the system of interactions through which grand strategic actors of all stripes can come to redefine and reprioritize their interests.

To appreciate how non-national actors have the potential to behave as grand strategic actors, we might begin by considering how a 2016 Foreign Policy article. The author observed that the “cash that Apple has on hand exceeds the GDPs of two-thirds of the world’s countries” and noted that the Pew Research Center, which regularly asks respondents whether states like China will eclipse the US as a superpower, might consider “widening its scope of research—for corporations are likely to overtake all states in terms of clout.”[15] Indeed, by one study’s count, if the world’s 100 wealthiest entities were attending a forum today, there would be only 31 countries in the room.[16] The remaining entities would be corporations such as Walmart, Volkswagen, and Shell, and subnational actors such as California, which in 2018 pulled ahead of the UK to become the world’s fifth largest economy, and Texas, whose $1.6 trillion economy puts it on par with Russia, just behind Canada and ahead of South Korea.[17] These non-national actors often have not only economic power surpassing most states but also political and diplomatic capital; like grand strategists of the conventional mold, they have multiple elements of power that they can bring to bear.

Select non-national actors have not only the resources but also the scope of interests to behave as grand strategic actors, or as actors seeking to transform the contexts for their different activities into a coherent whole to advance their overarching aims. As a 2016 Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Why Your Company Needs a Foreign Policy,” stated that confronting growing destabilization and unpredictability, multinational companies “cannot assume, in any region of the world, that the strategic status quo will be sustained by neat balances of power or unbreakable promises of foreign policy assistance from superpower states.” In “this new reality, the most successful multinational companies will be those that make expertise in international affairs central to their operations, adopting what can best be described as a corporate foreign policy.”[18]

To consider the best subnational example, California is a truly global actor due to its economic clout; its outsize influence in the U.S. market gives it sway within that system, and its economic and political interests command attention from Germany to India to China. As a Foreign Affairs article entitled, “California’s Foreign Policy” captured in 1993, “California is in many ways not a state, but a nation.”[19] Former Governor Jerry Brown arguably had a de facto climate-focused foreign policy. Indeed, in June 2017, “Chinese President Xi Jinping broke long-standing protocol by meeting one-on-one with Brown, a sitting governor and not a national head of state, to discuss how to cooperate on climate change.”[20]

Jerry Brown and Xi Jinping in 2017 (Twitter)

Thus far I have argued that the process of grand strategy is decentralized and defined by interactions among grand strategic actors, which include not only states but also select non-national actors. This process leads actors to define and reprioritize their interests, which ultimately leads to a particular course of action, including, perhaps, the formulation of a grand strategy itself—an actual plan for aligning discrete policy contexts to advance a particular overarching aim. But I have not yet considered grand strategy in the sense of the actual plan that scholars usually mean when they talk about grand strategy.

Conventional approaches assume that a grand strategy must be, by nature, centrally designed and deliberately devised. My argument is that, just as a consensus about a shared interest, or a grand strategic aim, can emerge through the process of grand strategy, a grand strategy itself can emerge. In the absence of, say, a Henry Kissinger, or a National Security Council—an individual grand strategist or a grand strategy-making body—deliberately formulating an approach to aligning policy contexts toward an overarching objective, there still might be, borrowing from Mintzberg’s concept of emergent strategy, “patterns or consistencies realized despite, or in the absence of, intentions,” yet nonetheless advancing a grand strategic aim.[21] If grand strategic actors, through their interactions with one another, reprioritize a particular interest within their interest sets and direct their elements of power accordingly, they can come to undertake consistent behaviors vis-à-vis that interest. In short, in the absence of a centralized coordinator of the elements of their power, their interactions at the grand strategic level can effectively serve as the missing coordinator.

Mintzberg’s emergent strategy paradigm is typically presented in opposition to grand strategy; where grand strategy seeks “to impose a preferred state of order on the future,” emergent strategy emphasizes reacting to changes in one’s environment.[22] Indeed, Popescu explicitly presents it as a policymaker’s alternative to grand strategy.[23] But the paradigms have more in common than meets the eye. For instance, for all its talk of purposive planning, the grand strategy school also tells us that grand strategies can only be inferred after the fact from patterns of behavior, that we should discount what policymakers say and watch what states do, and that we should be wary of any document claiming to present a grand strategy.[24] Likewise, the emergent strategy paradigm holds that we should focus on patterns of behavior, that stated intentions may be either absent or irrelevant to outcomes, and that we will not find planning documents articulating the strategy that actually gets us from point A to B. Thus, it is not a contradiction in terms to consider emergent grand strategy, predicated both on grand strategy’s emphasis on an overarching end and on emergent strategy’s emphasis on outcomes not being orchestrated but rather stemming from elements’ interactions.[25]

In the next section, I examine the plausibility of the ideas presented thus far in the context of the global response to climate change, which increasingly is defined by non-national, including private sector, action. I consider preliminary evidence, including from original data from interviews with Global Fortune 500 companies, that not only have these actors come to a consensus about the low-carbon transition through the process of grand strategy as theorized in this section, but also that their individual lines of effort are beginning to align with and reflect this consensus.

The Process of Grand Strategy and the Global Response to Climate Change

Although space constraints preclude a detailed discussion of international efforts to address climate change, a summary is sufficient to illustrate states’ failure to adequately respond to this risk and to contextualize non-national actors’ responses. Since 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that climate change represents a major global threat requiring international cooperation. In the two decades that followed, states pursued the Kyoto model of addressing climate change, predicated on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was based on mandatory emissions caps for industrialized countries. The model unraveled and by the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, which produced only a milquetoast statement, it became clear the Kyoto approach was doomed.[26] With the 2015 Paris Agreement, mandatory emissions targets were eliminated in favor of nationally-determined contributions to the goal of limiting additional global warming to 2, if not 1.5, degrees Celsius; unsurprisingly, this model was attractive and the agreement secured 195 countries’ support.

By 2018, however, only seven countries had undertaken actions compatible with the 2 degree Celsius scenario (and of these, only two, Morocco and the Gambia, had adopted behaviors compatible with a 1.5 degree Celsius scenario).[27] As the New York Times reported, “Even if every country did manage to fulfill its individual pledge, the world would still be on pace to heat up well in excess of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels, the threshold that world leaders vowed to stay “well below” in Paris because they deemed it unacceptably risky.”[28] Meanwhile, prospects for climate progress by key governments have worsened since Paris, with Donald Trump’s election in the US, Jair Bolsonaro’s election in Brazil, China still using almost half the world’s coal, and Germany’s Energiewende (energy transition) stumbling over the debate over phasing out coal, which in 2017 still represented 40% of Germany’s electricity generation.[29]

In contrast, non-national actors are investing significant economic and political capital in addressing climate change and supporting the low-carbon transition. For example, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, launched in 2005, now comprises 90 cities worldwide, “representing over 650 million people and one quarter of the global economy,” systematically reducing emissions.[30] As Germany’s parliament stalemates over the coal phase-out, a growing number of its cities are banning diesel and committing to run on 100% renewables; while the US has the most cities and regions (98) aiming for 100% renewable energy, Germany ranks second, with 71.[31] The We Are Still In coalition, launched in 2017, includes 3,500 representatives from U.S. states, cities, and businesses, representing “120 million Americans and $6.2 trillion of the US economy,” which have committed to behave in ways that are compatible with the terms of the Paris Agreement, regardless of the withdrawal announced by the Trump Administration.[32] Initiatives like We Are Still In “suggest that many firms have reaffirmed or increased their emissions reduction commitments in the face of a declining risk of near-term government regulation.”[33]

In the US particularly, powerful private sector actors are increasingly breaking rank with national policymakers and legislators. In 2017, scholars observed a growing number of American corporate emissions reductions initiatives occurring “in the past several years despite the growing recognition that national and international processes will not yield major legislation or new regulations in the United States or, following the Paris agreement, major additional international commitments to reduce emissions for the pre-2025 period.”[34] Indeed, when big business might have been celebrating what Trump’s election implied for the climate agenda, the CEOs of companies like Exxon and Chevron urged his administration not to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.[35] These companies, along with other oil majors like Saudi Aramco and Pemex, now all belong to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a CEO-led group founded in 2014 that recognizes climate change as a major business risk.[36]

The magnitude of companies’ investments indicates that this is not about “looking green.” This is about companies increasingly perceiving that failing to support the low-carbon transition poses real risks, while advancing it presents substantial opportunities. For example, in 2015, Citigroup announced $100B in financing for renewables projects.[37] In 2017, Walmart announced the Project Gigaton initiative, which “aims to reduce CO2 emissions globally by one billion metric tons before 2050,” the “equivalent to taking over 211 million cars off of U.S. roads and highways for a year.”[38] In 2018, one of the titans of conventional (coal-driven) power in India, Tata Power, announced plans to invest $5B in renewable capacity, having already become the country’s largest renewables company through a $1.4B acquisition in 2017.[39]

What these developments signify, I argue, is a growing alignment of global resources tending toward an ultimate end—a grand strategic objective—of the global low-carbon transition. They represent a particular course of action grounded in a consensus among powerful actors about a shared interest in this end. How did this consensus come about? Earlier, I argued that through the process of grand strategy—which I proposed is like an ongoing meeting of actors that think and act at the grand strategic level—grand strategic actors, through their interactions, can come to redefine or reprioritize their interests. And if actors begin to reprioritize a particular interest within their respective interest sets in a similar fashion, a consensus about a shared interest can emerge.

Since summer 2018, I have been conducting interviews with some of the world’s largest companies to assess, first, whether these actors believe there is a consensus about the low-carbon transition—which, again, is the crux of what we mean by “addressing climate change”—and if so, what they believe about its origins.[40] The harder for companies to identify a specific actor that forged the consensus, the stronger the evidence that consensus formation happened through the kind of emergent process I have proposed. Second, I am examining how actors understand the low-carbon transition within their own interests sets and the factors to which they attribute their understanding. If actors came to recognize this interest through a decentralized process—in short, one that has not simply been a product of their own governments’ policies and regulations—this would be good preliminary evidence for interest formation occurring at the grand strategic level.

First, initial data collected for this project suggests some of the world’s most powerful companies believe in a global consensus about the low-carbon future. As the former director of strategy and energy policy for a power company put it during our conversation, “If you go back 10 years, there was a variety of views as to where the energy system was going in the long term. And that variety of views was driven by different views on technology, how real the threat of climate change was, and how politicians may or may not react to it. What we’ve seen over that ten years is that diversity of views disappearing.” He observed, “If you talk to almost anyone, they will describe the energy system of the future in very similar terms.” The issue “is not where we’re all going, but when and how.”[41]

This perspective—the idea that the low-carbon future is inevitable and that alternative futures have been foreclosed, even if the specifics of the path forward are not yet clear—was echoed by other interviewees. As the sustainability director of another power company described it, “It’s not whether we decarbonize—it’s the rate we decarbonize and how much we pay for it.”[42] A policy planner for an oil major explained that in her world, people no longer talk about a choice between either decarbonizing or growing the economy. Fundamentally, she told me, there has been a “repositioning” surrounding the low-carbon future, which “positions decarbonization as an opportunity.”[43] The sustainability head of one of Germany’s Big Three automakers told me that, given the economic opportunities afforded by electric vehicles, “what we are strongly pushing for is the energy transition.”[44]

Second, initial evidence suggests that companies have come to reprioritize the low-carbon transition within their interest sets on the basis of their interactions with a range of global actors—and often, they reprioritized this interest despite what their own governments were saying and doing.

One of the best available data sources for approximating whether and why companies have included climate change in their interest sets is the non-profit group CDP, which for a decade has tracked thousands of companies’ perceptions of climate-related risks and opportunities pertaining to categories such as regulation and changing consumer behavior.[45] Interestingly, some of the companies that have invested most in the low-carbon transition have reported the least worry about climate-related risks and the least sense of climate-related opportunity. For example, since Apple began reporting to CDP it has perceived no risks—in the short, medium, or long term—tied to changing consumer behavior, and opportunities only in the long term.[46] Meanwhile, while Apple acknowledged the possibility of climate regulation, each year it has noted that this hypothetical regulation “may result in small energy price increases” that would have but a “minimal effect” on its financial position.[47] Nevertheless, since 2014 it has used 100% renewable energy to power its data centers and in 2018 bought sufficient renewable power to cover the entire company’s energy usage.[48]

When powerful companies invest in the low-carbon transition despite a non-threatening regulatory landscape and a dearth of consumer pressure, we need to look elsewhere to explain their interest—specifically, we need to look at their interactions with other grand strategic actors, including other companies, states, and subnational political entities. As the CEO of an Indian power company explained, discussing the reasons why his business started investing in renewables before there were policy or regulatory pushes from the Indian government: “What we saw was the technology shift that is happening the world over.” His company went into renewables “realizing that though it is expensive, this is the technology of the future,” and indeed felt “a huge amount of pressure globally” on the need to embrace renewables, “and not because it’s a fashion statement. It is a necessity today with the type of climate change challenges which are coming.”[49]

Other interviewees pointed to factors as diverse as pressure from investors, Tesla’s progress on battery storage technology, California’s climate agenda, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and changes in the Chinese regulatory landscape, to explain why their companies are reprioritizing the low-carbon transition within their interest sets. Their emphasis on this array of factors, of which national government actors comprised but a fraction, was particularly telling given that many companies reported that the Paris Agreement—which the conventional wisdom maintains sent a decisive signal to the private sector about the world’s trajectory on climate action—has had little if any impact on their behaviors and attitudes.[50]

This evidence, while preliminary, supports the plausibility of my theory of emergent grand strategy. First, powerful private sector actors believe in a global consensus about the low-carbon transition and are increasingly aligning their resources toward this end—often amidst national climate inaction or policy uncertainty. Second, and crucially, the evidence points to this consensus coming about through a process that has been both decentralized, or not imposed or determined by states, and emergent, or defined by actors’ interactions. The concept of emergent grand strategy appears helpful for gaining traction on the puzzle of why and how a growing number of powerful non-national actors are behaving in a way that reflects, essentially, grand strategic action.

These initial findings represent just a first cut at examining the merits of the new sensibility about grand strategy that I have articulated in this essay. But it is my hope that this research will help scholars and practitioners come to a more productive, imaginative understanding of how grand strategy works in a changing world. I hope that my insights into the process of grand strategy, especially the place of unconventional actors, inspire both classic grand strategy’s advocates and skeptics to take another look at what this project means in the 21st Century.

Charlotte Hulme is a Political Science Ph.D. candidate focusing on the character of grand strategy in the 21st Century and non-national responses to transnational threats. I am profoundly grateful to Tom Visel for the immeasurable inspiration and intellectual heft he has lent to this project. My research has been generously funded by the MacMillan Center of Yale University; the International Security Studies department of Yale University; and the Institute for European Integration at the Europa-Kolleg, Hamburg.

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Header Image: The new NASA global data set combines historical measurements with data from climate simulations using the best available computer models to provide forecasts of how global temperature (shown here) and precipitation might change up to 2100 under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. (NASA)


[1] Recent scholarship highlights ongoing attempts to grapple with multiple definitions of and approaches to grand strategy. See Silove, Nina. ‘Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of Grand Strategy.’ Security Studies Vol. 27 (2018): 27-57; and Lissner, Rebecca. ‘What is Grand Strategy? Sweeping a Conceptual Minefield.’ Texas National Security Review Vol. 2 (2018): 53-73. See Liddell Hart, B.H. Strategy, 2nd revised edition. New York: Penguin, 1991. Page 322; Posen, Barry. The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Page 13; Collins, John. Grand Strategy: Principles and Practices. Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press, 1973. Page xix; Martel, William. Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need for an Effective American Foreign Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Page 5; and Biddle, Tami Davis. ‘Strategy and Grand Strategy: What Students and Practitioners Need to Know.’ Carlisle, PA: US Army War College, 2015. Page 14.

[2] Kennedy, Paul. ‘Grand Strategy in War and Peace: Toward a Broader Definition.’ In Grand Strategies in War and Peace, ed. Paul Kennedy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991. Page 5.

[3] Earle, Edward Meade, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1943. Page viii.

[4] Brands, Hal. What Good is Grand Strategy? Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994. Page 3.

[5] Edmunds, Timothy. ‘Complexity, strategy and the national interest.’ International Affairs Vol. 90 (2014), p. 539. Cornish, Paul, and Andrew Dorman. ‘Smart muddling through: rethinking UK national strategy beyond Afghanistan.’ International Affairs Vol. 88 (2012): 213-222.

[6] Cirincione, Joseph. ‘Testimony of Joseph Cirincione.’ Address, Democratic Party 2016 National Convention Platform Committee, Washington, DC, June 9, 2016.

[7] Bassani, J.A. ‘Saving the World for Democracy: An Historical Analysis of America’s Grand Strategy in the 21st Century.’ Master’s thesis. Joint Forces Staff College, 2005. Page 10. (accessed April 21, 2019). Brands, Hal. The Promises and Pitfalls of Grand Strategy. Carlisle, PA: US Army War College, Strategic Studies Institute, 2012. Page 3.

[8]  See Luttwak, Edward. ‘The Operational Level of War.’ International Security Vol. 5 (1980-1981): 61-79.

[9] Luttwak, Edward. Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, revised edition. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2001. Page 90. Warden, John. Cited in Milevski, Lukas. The Evolution of Modern Grand Strategic Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Page 115.

[10] For example, the interests and ideas of America’s corporate elite represent a ‘key domestic source… of American grand strategy.’ van Apeldoorn, Bastiaan, and Naná de Graaff. American Grand Strategy and Corporate Elite Networks: The Open Door since the end of the Cold War. New York: Routledge, 2016. Page 13. See also Narizny, Kevin. The Political Economy of Grand Strategy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2007; and Rosecrance, Richard, and Arthur Stein. The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993.

[11] Martel, William. Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need for an Effective American Foreign Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Page 15.

[12] Le Prestre, Philippe. Global Ecopolitics Revisited: Toward a Complex Governance of Global Environmental Problems. New York: Routledge, 2017. Page 143.

[13] Brands. The Promises and Pitfalls of Grand Strategy. Page 6.

[14] Martel. Grand Strategy in Theory and Practice: The Need for an Effective American Foreign Policy. Page 34. Williamson Murray. ‘Thoughts on Grand Strategy and the United States in the Twenty-first Century,’ Journal of Military and Strategic Studies Vol. 13 (2010): 1.

[15] Khanna, Parag. ‘These 25 Companies Are More Powerful Than Many Countries.’ Foreign Policy. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[16] Inman, Phillip. ‘Study: big corporations dominate list of world’s top economic entities.’ The Guardian, September 12, 2016. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[17] Egel, Benjy. ‘California now world’s fifth-largest economy, bigger than Britain.’ The Sacramento Bee, May 4, 2018. (accessed April 20, 2019). Stebbins, Samuel, and Grant Suneson. ‘Does Texas or Russia have the larger GDP? Here’s how US states compare to other countries.’ USA Today, April 17, 2019. (accessed April 20, 2019); and Bajpai, Prableen. ‘The World’s Top 20 Economies.’ Investopedia. Updated April 12, 2019. (accessed April 22, 2019).

[18] Chipman, John. ‘Why Your Company Needs a Foreign Policy.’ Harvard Business Review (2016): 36-43.

[19] Goldsborough, James. ‘California’s Foreign Policy.’ Foreign Affairs (1993). (accessed April 20, 2019).

[20] Gardels, Nathan. ‘Jerry Brown’s next role as elder statesman on climate.’ Washington Post, September 10, 2018. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[21] Mintzberg, Henry, and James Waters. ‘Of strategies, deliberate and emergent.’ Strategic Management Journal Vol. 6 (1985): 257.

[22] Layton, Peter. ‘The Idea of Grand Strategy,’ The RUSI Journal Vol. 157 (2012): 59.

[23] Popescu, Ionut. Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy: How American Presidents Succeed in Foreign Policy. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.

[24] Walter Russell Mead, for example, argues that U.S. grand strategy cannot be read in documents or speeches, ‘even those emanating from senior officials,’ and that the ‘grand strategy of the United States is something that we fundamentally have to infer from the record of what we have done in the past.’ Mead, Walter Russell. Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America’s Grand Strategy in a World At Risk. New York: Knopf, 2004. Page 19.

[25] As Ablowitz put it in an early work on emergence, something that is emergent ‘results from the structural relation of its component parts.’ Ablowitz, Reuben. ‘The theory of emergence.’ Philosophy of Science Vol. 6 (1939): 3.  Layton appears to appreciate the conceptual overlap between grand strategy and emergent strategy, observing that in ‘a conceptual sense grand strategy is a system: a set of interdependent elements where change in some elements…produces change across the system, and the entire system exhibits properties and behaviours different from the constituent parts.’ Layton 13. 

[26] The Kyoto approach failed for a number of reasons, including that the US never ratified the Kyoto Protocol and that China was excluded from emissions caps given that it was classified as a developing country under the protocol’s division of countries into ‘Annex I’ (developed) and ‘non-Annex I’ (developing) countries.

[27] Erickson, Amanda. ‘Few countries are meeting the Paris climate goals. Here are the ones that are.’ Washington Post, October 11, 2018. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[28] Plumer, Brad, and Nadja Popvich. ‘The World Still Isn’t Meeting Its Climate Goals.’ New York Times, December 7 2018. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[29] As of December 2018, the Trump Administration had, by one count, repealed or threatened to repeal 78 regulations related to climate change and environmental issues more broadly. Popovich, Nadja, Livia Albeck-Ripka, and Kendra Pierre-Louis. ‘78 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.’ New York Times, December 28, 2018. (accessed April 20, 2019). President Bolsonaro, a critic of the Paris Agreement, has announced that Brazil ‘does not owe the world anything’ in terms of environmental protection. France 24. ‘Bolsonaro says Brazil owes world nothing on environment.’ France 24. (accessed April 20, 2019). Sengupta, Somini. ‘The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard? New York Times, November 24, 2018. (accessed April 20, 2019). Lewis, Mark. ‘German energy policy is making headlines, but the real news happened in 2007.’ BNP Paribas. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[30] C40 Cities. ’About.’ (accessed April 20, 2019).

[31] Amelang, Sören. ‘Germany and US top list of countries with most regions and cities aiming for 100 percent renewable energy - IRENA.’ Clean Energy Wire. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[32] We Are Still In. ‘About,’ (accessed April 20, 2019).

[33]  Vandenbergh, Michael, and Jonathan Gilligan. Beyond Politics: The Private Governance Response to Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019. Page 150.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Horowitz, Julia, and Jethro Mullen. ‘Top CEOs Tell the CEO President: You’re wrong on Paris.’ CNN Money. (accessed April 20, 2019).

[36] Coelho, Viviana. ‘OGCI at Work.’ In At Work: Committed to Climate Action. OGCI, 2018. Page 13.

[37] Srinivas, Siri. ‘Citigroup to invest $100bn in tackling climate change.’ The Guardian, February 18, 2015. (accessed April 21, 2019).

[38] Project Gigaton was launched in partnership with the Environmental Defense Fund. McLaughlin, Kathleen, and Diane Regas. ‘Walmart’s “a-ha” moment on climate change.’ CNBC. June 6, 2017. (accessed April 21, 2019).

[39] Shrivastava, Bhuma. ‘India’s Tata Power Plans $5BN Push to Boost Renewables.’ Renewable Energy World. May 14, 2018. (accessed April 21, 2019). Mondal, Debapriya. ‘Tata Power becomes India’s largest renewable company with 3,060 MW operating capacity.’ Economic Times Energy World. January 17, 2017. (accessed April 21, 2019).

[40] Thus far I have conducted interviews in India, Germany, France, and the UK; US interviewees are planned. In this essay, all interviewees cited represent companies ranked either on the Global Fortune 500 or, in the case of India, on India’s Fortune 500.

[41] All companies quoted here are ranked either on the Global Fortune 500 list or, in India’s case, on the list of India’s 50 largest companies in terms of revenue. This interviewee’s former company was German. Interviewee name withheld by request. Interview by author. London, November 11, 2018.

[42] This interviewee works for a French power company. Interviewee name withheld by request. Interview by author. London, November 12, 2018.

[43] Interviewee name withheld by request. Interview by author. London, November 11, 2018.

[44] Interviewee name withheld by request. Interview by author. Copenhagen, November 25, 2018.

[45] Formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project.

[46] Apple’s reporting first appears in the 2014 CDP dataset, which covers January-December 2013.

[47] CDP datasets (2010-2018) available at From these datasets I have compiled information for all Fortune 500 companies, including Apple, for all years for which companies have submitted responses to CDP. For additional information on this compilation and coding process please contact the author.

[48] Yurieff, Kaya. ‘Apple is now completely powered by clean energy.’ CNN. April 10, 2018. (accessed April 21, 2019). Moseman, Andrew. ‘What Apple Means When It Says It’s Now 100 Percent Renewable.’ Popular Mechanics. April 11, 2018. (accessed April 21, 2019).

[49] Interviewee name withheld by request. Interview by author. Mumbai, August 14, 2018.

[50] See for example UN News. ‘Paris Agreement “decisive” turning point on climate change, says new UN senior adviser. United Nations. January 29, 2016. (accessed April 21, 2019). See also ‘Experts React to Historic Paris Climate Agreement.’ (accessed April 21, 2019). Interviewees in India, for instance, almost unanimously rejected the idea that the Paris Agreement has had the kind of impact that the conventional wisdom suggests. Their perspectives were captured by one Indian who works on energy and climate advising for PriceWaterHouseCoopers. During our meeting, he said, ‘I’ll be frank on this. I don’t think any private sector company has the Paris Agreement in mind when they try to implement renewable energy.’ Interviewee name withheld on request. Interview by author. New Delhi. August 1, 2018.