Climate Change Warnings -- Again
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
The Pentagon has warned that global warming is a serious threat to our country's national security.
Dryly entitled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for U.S. National Security" (October 2003), the Pentagon report first appeared in the British press, Fortune magazine, a small number of American newspapers and then began circulating on the Internet.
Andrew Marshall, a highly respected 82-year-old defense adviser in the Department of Defense, commissioned the Pentagon study. He also led the sweeping review of the military ordered by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and runs a little-known Pentagon think tank, the Office of Net Assessment, which has evaluated risks to national security for four presidents.
The authors of the study -- Peter Schwartz, a CIA consultant, and Doug Randall of the Global Business Network in California, are tough-minded analysts, not your stereotypical tree-hugging environmentalists.
Their report, however, reads like the script for a horror flick. "The purpose of this report," they begin, "is to imagine the unthinkable." To accomplish this goal, they "interviewed leading climate-change scientists."
Extrapolating from the present, they predict that dramatic climate changes may lead to rising seas, mega-droughts and famine within 20 years. Some European coastal cities, such as The Hague, could sink under the ocean, Britain could be plunged into a semi-Siberian climate, Bangladesh could become uninhabitable and drought could destroy the American breadbasket.
California would be especially hard hit. "Failures of the delta-island levees in the Sacramento River region in the Central Valley of California" could create an inland sea that would "disrupt the aqueduct system that transports water from Northern to Southern California because saltwater can no longer be kept out of the area during the dry season . . ."
In response to such catastrophic changes, the authors argue, some regions or countries will defend dwindling supplies of water, food and energy with all kinds of military strategies, including nuclear weapons. Widespread rioting and regional conflict could even push some areas of the planet to the edge of anarchy.
Global warming, they conclude, must "therefore be viewed as a serious threat to global stability and should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern."
So far, the reframing of global warming as a national security threat has fallen on deaf ears at the White House.
But what would you expect? The Bush administration, after all, has said that "the jury is still out on global warming," suppressed scientific data on global warming in a 2002 annual report on the state of air pollution and published a 2003 "comprehensive" report on the environment without including any information at all about climate change.
Jeremy Symons, a whistle-blower at the Environmental Protection Agency, told the British newspaper the Observer, that "This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies."
Symons's desire for scientific impartiality is shared by many respected scientists who have protested the Bush administration's manipulation or suppression of scientific evidence.
Robert Watson, now chief scientist for the World Bank, has also warned that the Bush administration must not ignore the Pentagon's dire warnings.
For decades, human-rights proponents have been advocating an expanded definition of national security -- one that includes the health and welfare of citizens. With both the World Bank and the Pentagon worried about global warming, President Bush now has an opportunity to broaden his militaristic view of national security and include climate change as well.
The Pentagon's report is already breathing new life into the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act that was narrowly defeated last year. A staff member of Sen. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, says that he plans to hold hearings on global warming and the national security.
The Bush administration says it was shocked when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred. Now, the Pentagon is predicting an eventual environmental Armageddon.
Don't say we weren't warned.