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
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
Posted: February 23, 2004