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The Heat is On: Biggest schism yet appears in military/industrial complex
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
February 22, 2004

Imagine if a report appeared in some magazine that warned flat out that global warming would destroy us. Suppose the report said that major change would come as early as 2007, when storms and rising waters would mean abandoning The Hague and Sacramento, and that by 2020, just sixteen years from now, Britain would have a Siberian climate, and that millions would die from famine and war as humans fought over rapidly-dwindling food supplies, and the threat of nuclear war would increase sharply as the planet's ability to feed our six billion people collapsed.

If you were a right winger, you would dismiss such a report as being the paranoid fantasy of some dope-smoking, left-wing, anti-American and anti-capitalism outfit. Sierra Club, maybe, or Greenpeace. Or even Earth First!, which really likes to go for extreme rhetoric and extreme scenarios.

There is such a report, and it is, naturally, being ignored by nearly all the corporate media in America. It was first published about two weeks ago. But it isn't some fringe group with an axe to grind that's behind the report. The dope-smoking anti-American outfit that generated the report was the Pentagon, and the left-wing anti-capitalist magazine that printed it was Fortune magazine.

The report, unclassified and released by the Pentagon, appeared in Fortune with the following lead: "Global warming may be bad news for future generations, but let's face it, most of us spend as little time worrying about it as we did about al Qaeda before 9/11. Like the terrorists, though, the seemingly remote climate risk may hit home sooner and harder than we ever imagined. In fact, the prospect has become so real that the Pentagon's strategic planners are grappling with it."

What got the Pentagon's attention was that a lot of scientists are afraid that rather than a gradual process spread out over decades or even centuries, global warming might represent a sudden "flip" in weather patterns, increasing pressure on those patterns until sudden and dramatic change occurs. Fortune described it as "like a canoe that's gradually tilted until suddenly it flips over."

The term used is "critical threshold" and for England and Europe, it may already be here. Cold, fresh water run-off from the rapidly-melting Greenland icecap is showing signs of diverting the Gulf Stream away from northern Europe, and without that constant flow of warm water, the climate in Britain and Northern Europe will return to what you might expect for places that are at fifty-five degrees north, places like Edmonton, or Moscow. Places not noted for their gentle winters.

London is chill and damp, but it doesn't drop below zero there, and snow is a relative rarity. They aren't equipped for weeks of minus forty temperatures, like most cities at such a latitude get.

Fortune Magazine's readership belongs to a demographic - the well-heeled industrialists - who have devoted considerable time and energy to deflecting any suggestions that global warming might exist, let alone that it was caused by human agency. Fortune, to their credit, doesn't try to soften their analysis: "Though Mother Nature caused past abrupt climate changes, the one that may be shaping up today probably has more to do with us." They go on to note that two major studies in 2001 and 2002 support the notion that climate change might be abrupt, rather than gradual.

The effects aren't limited to Britain. Models of climate change include flooding of low-lying areas, such as Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Louisiana and Florida. Shifting patterns bring droughts to areas that had previously been moist, while unexpected amounts of water create tremendous erosion problems in previously dry areas. "Bread baskets" become deserts, and while deserts eventually bloom, the key word there is "eventually." There will be a gap of at least several years before agriculture can adapt to sudden changes, and in those "gap" years, it's going to get awfully HUNGRY.

Since the only people who believe there is no such thing as "global warming" are petroleum industry flacks, people who get their news from Newsmax, and the White House, the Pentagon decided a closer look was in order. It's their job to do threat assessments on any set of conditions that might bring about abrupt changes in political stability, and things like drought and famine tend to do that quite well.

Thus their report isn't a prediction, but is rather a threat assessment. Their approach is, "IF the models are accurate, THEN..." certain events are more likely to take place that have military ramifications.

One of those events is nuclear war. Pakistan, India, Russia, France and America might all be hard hit by global warming, and find themselves facing famine (especially severe in those areas that already have problems feeding themselves). As Fortune notes, "[H]istory shows that whenever humans have faced a choice between starving or raiding, they raid." All five areas mentioned here are nuclear powers, and will be looking for sources of food. Wars of dire necessity have a way of escalating more rapidly and dramatically than do wars staged for political purposes.

The Pentagon report cites well-known consequences of global warming, such as the flooding of low-lying areas and bigger and more frequent storms. Much of Asia is dependent on monsoonal flows, which are now relatively stable. (Although megadeaths from drought and flooding still occur with depressing frequency). If the monsoonal flow becomes more erratic, as seems likely, then Asia could stand to lose a large percentage of its population. Did I mention that China is a nuclear power, too?

The Pentagon notes that countries with higher stresses caused by cultural diversity, such as China and Indonesia, are less likely to absorb the stresses caused by global warming compared to more homogenous cultures, such as Japan or Australia. Translated, climate change will make civil wars more likely in areas where the possibility exists to begin with. Unfortunately, America has, in the past two decades, become a nation divided.

The Fortune description of the Pentagon report is bleak: "The changes relentlessly hammer the world's 'carrying capacity'--the natural resources, social organizations, and economic networks that support the population. Technological progress and market forces, which have long helped boost Earth's carrying capacity, can do little to offset the crisis--it is too widespread and unfolds too fast." Which in turn leads to "the eruption of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies."

Despite the generally grim tone, and the obvious dangers involved, the Pentagon has little to offer in the way of advice beyond proposing more reports and studies of the various factors and ramifications of global warming.

And that might be the most disconcerting thing in the report. They may be making such ineffectual proposals for remedies because it's now too late to try anything else.

But the report might lead to one big step that can be taken to at least address the issue; it will increase the political pressure to get this administration and their energy-industry cronies out of power, so the government can at least ADMIT that the problem exists.

Posted: February 23, 2004


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