Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Maybe a bunch of military hot shots can get the attention of the Commander in Chief with a report that says global warming will lead to some big national security problems.

Probably not though.

Anyway, for the second time in a month, private consultants to the American government are warning that human-driven warming of the climate poses risks to the national security of the United States.

The report, called "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change," was commissioned by the Center for Naval Analyses, a government-financed research group, and written by a group of retired generals and admirals called the Military Advisory Board.

In March, a report from the Global Business Network, which advises intelligence agencies and the Pentagon on occasion, concluded, among other things, that rising seas and more powerful storms could eventually generate unrest as such crowded regions as Bangladesh's sinking delta become less habitable.

In addition, last month, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced bipartisan legislation that would require a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to assess the security challenges presented by the world's changing climate. NIEs are the federal government's most authoritative written judgments concerning national security issues and are developed to address the most serious of threats. They contain the coordinated judgments of all U.S. intelligence agencies regarding the likely course of future events.

Durbin and Hagel's bill, the Global Climate Change Security Oversight Act, asks the intelligence community to provide a strategic estimate of the risks posed by global climate change for countries or regions that are of particular economic or military significance to the United States or that are at serious risk of humanitarian suffering. This National Intelligence Estimate will assess the political, social, agricultural, and economic challenges for countries and their likely impact.

In 2003, Pentagon analysts Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall released a report that explored how an abrupt climate change scenario could potentially destabilise the geopolitical environment, leading to skirmishes, battles and even war due to resource constraints.

The study suggested that as tensions mount around resource shortages, nations with the resources to do so may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving their resources while other nations will engage in struggles for access to food, clean water or energy.

One wonders how many reports saying exactly the same thing we need before some real action is taken.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch President Bush looks forward to retiring in the next couple of years and spend his days cleaning brush.

In what may be a first for the Oread Daily, the following article is taken from the Army Times.

Report: Climate change a major military issue

Sweltering flight deck crews couldn’t launch Navy jets for extended periods of time. U.S. ground troops would find themselves splitting time between humanitarian relief operations and fighting insurgents bent on winning over desperate third-world peoples. Low-lying logistics hub Diego Garcia would be swallowed up by the Indian Ocean.

Global warming isn’t often thought of as a matter of interest for the U.S. military. But it should be, an advisory board of 11 retired flag officers concluded in a report issued Monday under the auspices of the Center for Naval Analyses, a non-profit national security analysis group. Climate change is happening, the blue-ribbon panel concluded, and is a “serious national security threat.”

Extreme weather would be disruptive to the military in and of itself, more frequently driving Navy ships to sea to skirt hurricanes or blinding combat units preparing to attack somewhere overseas. But the board found that climate change “acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.” Projected climate changes will “add to tensions even in stable regions.”

For instance, global warming will worsen third-world living conditions, with the problems ranging from drought as well as flooding to the spread of infectious diseases. This, the report concludes, would lead to “widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states.” Internal conflict and extremism could easily follow.

The U.S., the report said, could subsequently be drawn in to help provide aid and stability, such as after the 2004 Asian tsunami, or to defend its overseas interests. Drought and food shortages in Latin and South America, for instance, could lead to large numbers of refugees and increased missions for “our already stretched military, including our Guard and Reserve forces,” the report stated.

“The stresses that climate change will put on our national security will be different than any we’ve dealt with in the past,” said retired Vice Adm. Richard H. Truly, a former NASA administrator and shuttle astronaut. “For one thing, unlike the challenges that we are used to dealing with, these will come upon us extremely slowly, but come they will, and they will be grinding and inexorable.

“But maybe more challenging is that they will affect every nation, and all simultaneously,” Truly said. “This is why we need to study this issue now, so that we’ll be prepared and not overwhelmed by the required scope of our response when the time comes.”

The board acknowledged the debate over whether global warming is a natural, cyclical event or is caused or exacerbated by mankind. But it sidestepped arguing over the causes, instead agreeing with the broad scientific consensus that the Earth’s temperature is slowly rising.

“The trends are clear,” the board said in its introductory letter. “The nature and pace of climate changes being observed today and the consequences projected by the consensus scientific opinion are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security.”

“We never have 100 percent certainty,” said retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, former Army chief of staff. “If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield. That’s something we know. You have to act with incomplete information. You have to act based on the trend line. You have to act on your intuition sometimes.”

The report contains some daunting conclusions. By 2050, rising oceans would swamp much of the world’s population. Nearly 40 percent of Asia’s 4 billion people live within 45 miles of the coast, for instance. Water from melting glaciers would also cause flooding near mountain areas, yet later leave hundreds of millions of people without sufficient water to drink or irrigate crops.

Closer to home, a rise in sea level would flood U.S. coastal areas and inundate close-to-shore military bases, particularly those of the Navy and Marines. Norfolk, Va., for instance, is only about 10 to 12 feet above sea level.

In addition, the panel found, climate change, national security and energy dependence “are a related set of global challenges.” Dependence on foreign oil leaves the U.S. more vulnerable to hostile regimes and terrorists, the report cites President Bush as saying in his most recent State of the Union address. That, and climate change itself, underline the need for energy alternatives and energy independence, the report concludes.

“The military should be interested in fuel economy on the battlefield,” said retired Lt. Gen. Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., former Air Force deputy chief of staff for plans and programs. “It’s a readiness issue. If you can move your men and materiel more quickly, if you have less tonnage but the same level of protection and firepower, you’re more efficient on the battlefield. That’s a life and death issue.”

The intensity of global temperature change can be mitigated somewhat if the U.S. begins leading the way in reducing global carbon emissions, said retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command.

“We will pay for this one way or another,” Zinni said. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.

“There is no way out of this that does not have real costs attached to it,” Zinni said. “That has to hit home.”

The panel suggested a number of recommendations:

• The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies.

• The U.S. should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.

• The U.S. should commit to global partnerships that help less-developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

• The Defense Department should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved U.S. combat power through energy efficiency.

• DoD should conduct an assessment of the impact on U.S. military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other possible climate change impacts over the next 30 to 40 years.

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