It’s the end of the world as we know it

February 22nd, 2004 – 3:13 pm
Tagged as: Uncategorized

Apparently the Pentagon doesn’t agree with the Bush administration’s casual dismissal of the dangers of global climate change.

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

‘Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,’ concludes the Pentagon analysis. ‘Once again, warfare would define human life.’

It’s a pretty scary article, and, of course, some people have already dismissed it as sensationalism on the part of the Guardian (despite it being based on a Pentagon report). Which is why it should be sobering that even Fortune, hardly a left-wing rag, is reporting basically the same thing, though they’re a bit less alarmist about it.

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.

The threat that has riveted their attention is this: Global warming, rather than causing gradual, centuries-spanning change, may be pushing the climate to a tipping point. Growing evidence suggests the ocean-atmosphere system that controls the world’s climate can lurch from one state to another in less than a decade—like a canoe that’s gradually tilted until suddenly it flips over. Scientists don’t know how close the system is to a critical threshold. But abrupt climate change may well occur in the not-too-distant future. If it does, the need to rapidly adapt may overwhelm many societies—thereby upsetting the geopolitical balance of power.

The point of all this is that it’s time for those people who seem to be able to casually dismiss the suffering of future generations (as long as it means they get to keep driving their gas-guzzling SUVs) to realize that climate change can cause very bad things to start happening in their lifetimes. This isn’t a problem that can just be ignored.

UPDATE: Here’s what is apparently the best story to be found on this [via Boing Boing], as it’s neither alarmist nor dismissive.

In a dire look at a hypothetical hothouse world, consultants for the Pentagon see nations warring over water, food and whom to blame for greenhouse warming. (Hint: It’s you and your sport utility vehicle.)

“Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,” two Emeryville-based futurists concluded in a report late last year for the Defense Department’s Office of Net Assessment.

Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall were drafted for an unclassified, worst-case look at climate change. But the echo chamber of Internet news and opinion transformed their thought exercise into a top military secret or the ultimate comeuppance for a fossil-fueled executive or a Bush conspiracy to hide the WMDs of the natural world.

As if the report itself wasn’t fantastic enough.

Go and read it.

1 Comment

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  1. 1

    Wow…it sounds like science fiction. But you’ve never been one to post spurious items. Besides, too much of science fiction has become prophecy. Even with these dire predictions, though, I have to admit that I think people are far too singularly selfish to see the big picture, even if it’s not just going to have an effect on the children they should protect, but on their own immediate future. Perhaps I’m overly cynical when it comes to faith in my fellow human beings, but I think it would take a miracle to cause the scales to fall from people’s eyes in a general sense. Special interest groups just aren’t going to be enough if this is proven to be an accurate forecast.

    Comment made by Jennifer on February 22, 2004 @ 4:15 pm

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