Pentagon Plans for Rapid Climate Change Event: Fortune Magazine
Climate change effects us all.
Excerpts from the AMJ article below cast a rosy contemplative almost optimistic glow over the future as Quote it says-------
The human species, because of its social organisation and cultural practices, is better buffered against environmental stressors than many other plant and animal species.
Are these people living in Noddy land ??
The Pentagon has other thoughts
Protecting the Planet
Where and when,
therefore, might we see effects on human health? The answer is complex. First,
most health outcomes are multicausal, and inevitably
various non-climate causal factors are also changing over time. Second, climate
change affects local environments differently, according to characteristics of
local geography. Further, the vulnerability of each human population varies as
a function of locality, level of material resources, technological assets and
type of governance. For example, the small
Of course, the health prospects are not all bad. Some impacts would be beneficial. For example, milder winters would reduce the seasonal winter-time mortality peak in temperate countries, and a further increase in temperatures in currently hot regions might impair mosquito survival. Overall, however, scientists have consistently predicted that most effects of climate change on health would be adverse.13 The impacts mostly entail changes in the frequency or severity of familiar health risks — such as the effects of floods, storms and fires; the mortality toll of heatwaves; the range and seasonality of infectious diseases; changes in local agro-ecosystem productivity and its nutritional consequences; the impact on health of changes in fresh water supplies; and the many repercussions of economic dislocation and population displacement.====================================
The human species, because of its social organisation and cultural practices, is better buffered against environmental stressors than many other plant and animal species. Hence, Homo sapiens is likely to be affected less soon and less sensitively than most other species. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is little empirical evidence to date that climate change is already affecting human health. However, invoking the precautionary principle, we can recognise that adverse impacts are both likely and, in many cases, potentially serious. By thinking more ecologically about the large-scale influences on population health and disease, we could apply a more anticipatory approach.3
The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare
The climate could change radically, and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues.
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.
triggered by warming, such change would probably cause cooling in the Northern
Hemisphere, leading to longer, harsher winters in much of the
Climate researchers began getting seriously concerned about it a decade ago, after studying temperature indicators embedded in ancient layers of Arctic ice. The data show that a number of dramatic shifts in average temperature took place in the past with shocking speed -- in some cases, just a few years.
case for angst was buttressed by a theory regarded as the most likely
explanation for the abrupt changes. The eastern
when the climate warms, according to the theory, fresh water from melting
Arctic glaciers flows into the
aren't sure what caused the warming that triggered such collapses in the remote
past. (Clearly it wasn't humans and their factories.) But the data from Arctic
ice and other sources suggest the atmospheric changes that preceded earlier
collapses were dismayingly similar to today's global warming. As the Ice Age
began drawing to a close about 13,000 years ago, for example, temperatures in
Though Mother Nature caused past abrupt climate changes, the one that may be shaping up today probably has more to do with us. In 2001 an international panel of climate experts concluded that there is increasingly strong evidence that most of the global warming observed over the past 50 years is attributable to human activities -- mainly the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which release heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Indicators of the warming include shrinking Arctic ice, melting alpine glaciers, and markedly earlier springs at northerly latitudes. A few years ago such changes seemed signs of possible trouble for our kids or grandkids. Today they seem portents of a cataclysm that may not conveniently wait until we're history.
the spotlight in climate research is shifting from gradual to rapid change. In
2002 the National Academy of Sciences issued a report concluding that human
activities could trigger abrupt change. Last year the World Economic Forum in
jeremiads are beginning to reverberate more widely. Billionaire Gary Comer,
founder of Lands' End, has adopted abrupt climate change as a philanthropic
Fox's flick will doubtless be apocalyptically edifying. But what would abrupt climate change really be like?
generally refuse to say much about that, citing a data deficit. But recently,
renowned Department of Defense planner Andrew
Marshall sponsored a groundbreaking effort to come to grips with the question.
A Pentagon legend,
scientists' work on abrupt climate change popped onto his radar screen,
The result is an unclassified report, completed late last year, that the Pentagon has agreed to share with FORTUNE. It doesn't pretend to be a forecast. Rather, it sketches a dramatic but plausible scenario to help planners think about coping strategies. Here is an abridged version:
total shutdown of the ocean conveyor might lead to a big chill like the Younger
Dryas, when icebergs appeared as far south as the
For planning purposes, it makes sense to focus on a midrange case of abrupt change. A century of cold, dry, windy weather across the Northern Hemisphere that suddenly came on 8,200 years ago fits the bill_its severity fell between that of the Younger Dryas and the Little Ice Age. The event is thought to have been triggered by a conveyor collapse after a time of rising temperatures not unlike today's global warming. Suppose it recurred, beginning in 2010. Here are some of the things that might happen by 2020:
first the changes are easily mistaken for normal weather variation_allowing
skeptics to dismiss them as a "blip" of
little importance and leaving policymakers and the public paralyzed
with uncertainty. But by 2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is
happening. The average temperature has fallen by up to five degrees Fahrenheit in
some regions of
storms are increasingly common as the conveyor becomes wobbly on its way to
collapse. A particularly severe storm causes the ocean to break through levees
Megadroughts afflict the
the decade progresses, pressures to act become irresistible --history shows
that whenever humans have faced a choice between starving or
raiding, they raid. Imagine Eastern European countries, struggling to feed
their populations, invading
tensions engender novel alliances.
arms proliferation is inevitable. Oil supplies are stretched thin as climate
cooling drives up demand. Many countries seek to shore up their energy supplies
with nuclear energy, accelerating nuclear proliferation.
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.
As the planet's carrying capacity shrinks, an ancient pattern reemerges: the eruption of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies. As Harvard archeologist Steven LeBlanc has noted, wars over resources were the norm until about three centuries ago. When such conflicts broke out, 25% of a population's adult males usually died. As abrupt climate change hits home, warfare may again come to define human life.
Over the past decade, data have accumulated suggesting that the plausibility of abrupt climate change is higher than most of the scientific community, and perhaps all of the political community, are prepared to accept. In light of such findings, we should be asking when abrupt change will happen, what the impacts will be, and how we can prepare -- not whether it will really happen. In fact, the climate record suggests that abrupt change is inevitable at some point, regardless of human activity. Among other things, we should:
" Speed research on the forces that can trigger abrupt climate change, how it unfolds, and how we'll know it's occurring.
" Sponsor studies on the scenarios that might play out, including ecological, social, economic, and political fallout on key food-producing regions.
" Identify "no regrets" strategies to ensure reliable access to food and water and to ensure our national security.
" Form teams to prepare responses to possible massive migration, and food and water shortages.
" Explore ways to offset abrupt cooling_today it appears easier to warm than to cool the climate via human activities, so there may be "geo-engineering" options available to prevent a catastrophic temperature drop.
In sum, the risk of abrupt climate change remains uncertain, and it is quite possibly small. But given its dire consequences, it should be elevated beyond a scientific debate. Action now matters, because we may be able to reduce its likelihood of happening, and we can certainly be better prepared if it does. It is time to recognize it as a national security concern.
The Pentagon's reaction to this sobering report isn't known -- in keeping with his reputation for reticence, Andy Marshall declined to be interviewed. But the fact that he's concerned may signal a sea change in the debate about global warming. At least some federal thought leaders may be starting to perceive climate change less as a political annoyance and more as an issue demanding action.
If so, the case for acting now to address climate change, long a hard sell in Washington, may be gaining influential support, if only behind the scenes. Policymakers may even be emboldened to take steps such as tightening fuel-economy standards for new passenger vehicles, a measure that would simultaneously lower emissions of greenhouse gases, reduce America's perilous reliance on OPEC oil, cut its trade deficit, and put money in consumers' pockets. Oh, yes --and give the Pentagon's fretful Yoda a little less to worry about.
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