The Pentagon and Greenpeace - in bed together at last

Those of us trying to raise the alarm on perils of climate change got some help from a very strange quarter recently: the Pentagon.

It seems the US military is worried about their increased workload when the global climate becomes unhinged. Last fall the Pentagon commissioned a secret report called “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security”, which lays out a possible scenario of rapid climate change, leading to widespread global war, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, mass starvation, and (incidentally) the end of Canada.

When this shocking document was leaked to the press last month, the largest war machine in the world inadvertently joined the ranks of Greenpeace in warning of the frightening consequences of ignoring our addiction to fossil fuels.

And nobody says doomsday quite like the Pentagon…

“Abrupt climate change is likely to stretch (the Earth’s ecological) carrying capacity well beyond its already precarious limits...aggressive wars are likely to be fought over food, water, and energy. Deaths from war as well as starvation and disease will decrease population size, which overtime, will re-balance with carrying capacity.”

In other words as the global ecosystem falls apart, several of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will saddle-up and go for a little ride.

Among other calamities, this remarkable document predicts that millions could die in wars over diminishing resources, much of Europe may have the climate of Siberia by 2020 and mega-droughts and famine could be widespread in large parts of Asia. Cities such as The Hague could be made uninhabitable as early as 2007 due to fierce storms that destroy coastal levees.

The authors further intone: “nations with the resources to do so may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves…disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life”.

Canada with our abundant supply of water and energy would potentially be included within this fortress-America and cease to exist altogether. Rick Mercer would be amused to know that the demise of Canada garners one single line from the Pentagon: “the United States and Canada may become one, simplifying border controls.”

Thanks for letting us know.

The impetus for this study is the growing realization that climate change may happen far faster than we ever imagined. Conventional wisdom has been that it will be slow and if unpleasant, at least manageable. However there is an alternate and much more drastic scenario that climate change will instead happen very rapidly, and in parts of the world such as Europe, it will lead to rapid and catastrophic cooling.

Important parts of the Earth’s thermostat are only now becoming understood. For instance Northern Europe is the happy beneficiary of the Gulf Stream – an enormous ocean current that carries warm water north from the Caribbean and across the North Atlantic. Without it, Europe would have a climate much like Labrador, which shares the same latitude.

Recent troubling evidence from the geologic record shows that the Gulf Stream is not something we should take for granted. There have been episodes in the not-so-distant past where the forces driving this current crossed an unknown point of equilibrium and it simply stopped flowing within a matter of years. The fear now is that due to steady build-up of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere we are now very close to the same the tipping point. Not good.

The optics of this doomsday scenario certainly raise some awkward contradictions for George Bush and his boss Dick Cheney. The White House has all but dismissed climate change as some kind of liberal hoax. Their attentions are instead largely focused on foreign policy adventures such as the military intervention in Iraq - seen by many as a thin-veiled effort to secure foreign oil reserves. Meanwhile the pinkos over at the Pentagon are warning that long-term consequences of burning fossil fuels could pose a far graver threat to national security than terrorism. No irony in any of that.

The good news from all this is sooner we are able to dismiss the specious arguments of climate change deniers, the quicker that we can start getting serious about doing something about it. Having the Pentagon lay out a worst case scenario will carry far more weight in some circles than having environmentalists say the same thing. At the end of the day, we are all in this together.

We can still carve out a very different future than the grim predictions of famine and war. Ending our addiction to fossil fuels will not be easy, but it won’t be all hard either. Smog, childhood asthma and gridlock are all something that we could do without. We humans are enormously resourceful and there seems nothing we can’t do if really want to. Now that both Greenpeace and the Pentagon agree on something, lets get on with it.

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer living in Vancouver. This piece ran nowhere.

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