Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Wesley Clark: Global Warming Is A National Security Threat

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Wes Clark asking his supporters to join him in a virtual march to stop global warming. Here's part of whatthe message:
Global warming and environmental policy are indeed important issues when considering national security policy.

Here's why: Evidence shows that global warming brings with it harsher weather conditions that could lead to drought and food shortages. This could mean that nations may be forced to compete more fiercely for scarcer resources. This pressure could become a destabilizing force that may lead to civil unrest and international conflict.

So, stopping global warming is not just about saving the environment for the hunters, fishermen, hikers and the other outdoor enthusiasts of today and tomorrow. It's about securing America for our children and our children's children, as well.

Shoulder-to-shoulder, let's march together to save what God loaned us, so our children and their children will live in a world we would recognize a hundred years from now.

Join the march to stop global warming now!


No excuses. No apologies. Take the first step today.


Wes Clark
Many people still cling to the idea that we should view environmental degradation separately from national security, but as Gen. Clark points out we cannot. Gen. Zinni also noted, in an article I blogged about last week, the need to understand and deal with the root causes of instability before that instability requires military action.

These generals aren't the only ones concerned about the effects of Global Warming on national security. Last February a report titled An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, which the DoD tried to suppress, was leaked to the Observer UK. The report was commissioned by DoD adviser Andrew Marshall. As the Observer article notes:
Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the Office of Net Assessment. Dubbed 'Yoda' by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of Defense's push on ballistic-missile defense
So what did Yoda's report say?
There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century. Because changes have been gradual so far, and are projected to be similarly gradual in the future, the effects of global warming have the potential to be manageable for most nations. Recent research, however, suggests that there is a possibility that this gradual global warming could lead to a relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean’s thermohaline conveyor, which could lead to harsher winter weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production. With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment.

The research suggests that once temperature rises above some threshold, adverse weather conditions could develop relatively abruptly, with persistent changes in the atmospheric circulation causing drops in some regions of 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit in a single decade. Paleoclimatic evidence suggests that altered climatic patterns could last for as much as a century, as they did when the ocean conveyor collapsed 8,200 years ago, or, at the extreme, could last as long as 1,000 years as they did during the Younger Dryas, which began about 12,700 years ago.
The full report is one of the most complete overviews of the potential threats of global warming and is definitely worth a full reading. As it notes this climate change could have disastrous consequences for U.S. national security and our global interests:
  1. Food shortages due to decreases in net global agricultural production
  2. Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patters, causing more frequent floods and droughts
  3. Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess
As global and local carrying capacities are reduced, tensions could mount around the world, leading to two fundamental strategies: defensive and offensive. Nations with the resources to do so may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves. Less fortunate nations especially those with ancient enmities with their neighbors, may initiate in struggles for access to food, clean water, or energy. Unlikely alliances could be formed as defense priorities shift and the goal is resources for survival rather than religion, ideology, or national honor.
As I noted, President Bush and the DoDs response to this was typical- they tried to suppress the information. However, ignoring this problem is not going to remove the threat that we face as a nation and as a world. Of course we all know that the Bush Administration isn't likely to do a goddamn thing about this looming threat, which is why the opposition party, The Democrats, need to take the mantle of environmental and other non-traditional security threats and use them as a central part of the party platform. In our two party system there is no other way to force these highly urgent topics to get addressed.

I'll be writing more about the subject of non-traditional threats a little later today, in preparation for a piece I'm writing for Music for America, which will look at a few more reasons why non-traditional security should be a central part of what we stand for as Progressives...