Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 9, 2009

THE OTHER REASON TO DEAL WITH THE CLIMATE CRISIS.... Those who follow the issue are well aware of this, but it was good of the New York Times to highlight the national security implications of global warming. For that matter, it was encouraging to know this issue is gaining prominence in policy circles.

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.

An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. "It gets real complicated real quickly," said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning.

Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command, recently wrote, "We will pay for this one way or another. 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."

The reasons for combating the climate crisis are already overwhelming, but security challenges usually aren't at the forefront. Given the interests of those who prefer to ignore the crisis, perhaps it's time to reframe the debate to consider an angle they care about.

Sen. John Kerry, for example, noted that in Sudan, drought and expansion of deserts has produced horrifying violence and displacement. "That is going to be repeated many times over and on a much larger scale," he said.

Indeed, Kerry has been making this argument for the last several years, but finally has an ally at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The NYT noted, "Although military and intelligence planners have been aware of the challenge posed by climate changes for some years, the Obama administration has made it a central policy focus."

The matter has also crystallized in the Pentagon. Amanda Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning, said she's seen a "sea change" in the military's thinking of late, and will be incorporated into national security strategy moving forward.

Just another angle for wavering lawmakers to consider when the ACES debate begins in earnest in the Senate.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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corporate culture just sees global warming et al. -- including global warming war -- as just splendid business opportunities and the re-arrangement of the market, and customer demographics.

Posted by: neill on August 9, 2009 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Again I say: this issue can't really be addressed without population control, preferably population reduction over the next century via lower birth rates. In all countries. Fewer people = less global warming. Fewer people in industrialized nations = even greater reductions in global warming, since we're the ones using the most fossil fuel. Of course it won't happen because among other things, capitalist consumer economies are dependent upon an ever-expanding consumer base. So we'll do what rats do: overbreed environmental carrying capacity, then turn on each other and kill each other off. After all, looking forward, planning ahead, and doing the responsible thing by voluntarily reducing population would be unChristian.

Posted by: Jennifer on August 9, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Who from the Pentagon gets to tell Sen. Imhofe that he's wrong?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 9, 2009 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Foriegn Policy Mag's Failed States Report has a section titled "The Last Straw" that talks about this too..


Posted by: MikeCee on August 9, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I'm still more worried about a permanent drought in California than any other place. So is Sec. Chu.

Posted by: tomj on August 9, 2009 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

have no fear jennifer, your solution to the problem will win out... the great military-industrial complex will weed out all the excessive rats and save the planet by way of genocide -- uh, i mean population control.

or as randy newman so aptly put it:

Oh, how peaceful it'll be!
We'll set everybody free!
You'll wear a Japanese kimono, baby
And there'll be Italian shoes for me!

Posted by: neill on August 9, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and if John Kerry had had the guts to stick with his 50 cent a gallon gas tax idea back when gas was what- a buck fifty?, instead of disavowing it like the inauthentic pol he either is or let advisers turn him into, we might not have had another 4 years of Bush/Cheney to recover from.

Sigh. What might have been. But gutless is as gutless does.

Posted by: bluewave on August 9, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

A related topic I haven't seen addressed her is the national security issue that comes from increased ship traffic in formerly ice-covered waters. As shipping channels emerge that never existed before, it will be a matter of security for the U.S., not only commercially but militarily as well.

Posted by: ezdeb on August 9, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

From the moment I saw _An Inconvenient Truth_, I knew that Al Gore was sandbagging his numbers, merely counting the folks displaced due directly to rising sea levels. Adding in global crop failures, massive migrations, the disease, the pestilence, famine, and the inevitable wars that come from these. . .this spells out a significant die-off of the human species in the next fifty years or so. Hundreds of millions, maybe a billion people gone. And we'll get to watch.

Posted by: episty on August 9, 2009 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Fortunately, the USA has not spent the last few years bleeding money and resources into the Middle East, so it's well-positioned to deal with this impending crisis...

It would be interesting to see what any remaining historians in the year 2200 have to say about this era.

Posted by: josef on August 9, 2009 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we need to reprogram spending on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other climate change mitigation measures into the Department of Defense's budget. Republicans would never vote against a massive increase in defense.

Posted by: meander on August 9, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

The pentagon came to this conclusion back in 2004 and no doubt earlier than that. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2004/feb/22/usnews.theobserver. They've only finally found an audience unwilling to suppress the report. This will require something like a Marshall plan or Manhattan project involving most likely cooperating countries. Given what we're experiencing just trying to come to an agreement regarding health care I don't know if we'll find the political will to do what is right.

And I agree with Jennifer. Birth control will be key. Something this country has grown even less able to discuss without rancor.

Posted by: lianne16 on August 9, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Another Voice of Reason addressed the National Security issue of climate change this AM- General (Ret.) Jones. Who happens to BE the National Security Advisor. . .

And, of course, jennifer is right, but she speaks an Inconvenient Truth. And runs smack up against Organized Religion.

After all, it was God, the ultimate mathematician, who said, "Go forth, and multiply."

Posted by: DAY on August 9, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sen. John Kerry, for example, noted that in Sudan, drought and expansion of deserts has produced horrifying violence and displacement. "That is going to be repeated many times over and on a much larger scale," he said.

Steve, you've got to do better than that. That's just some already loosing black dudes who's gonna loose even more, like complete fail.

Who gives a shit? We don't care now, why on earth should we care then, tell me!

Don't get me wrong, I'm completely on your side here, I've been trying to push this meme aggressively here in Denmark from my own (very small) blog porch. The reaction from the Danish equivalent to the guys you're trying to reach - not even as a caricature?

Who gives a fuck? Denmark stands to win from global warming, we'll have a nice southern France like climate, we can harvest twice a year and tourists are gonna swarm us. More power to global warming!!11!! Start that V8 and let it idle for Christs sake. And those poor Africans? Just shoot them already when they try to cross the Mediterranean.

And theses guys are Danes. Peaceful and such.


Posted by: Ole on August 9, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

one things for sure, as Alabama and Mississippi become the Sahara desert and North Dakota becomes America's "bread basket", I'd recommend Americans being a little nicer to Canadians, knocking off all the condescension and denigrating jokes.

Posted by: zoot on August 9, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

National security implications of climate change are tertiary concerns. Worrying about the effect of a billion people starving on USAmerica's security is pretty effing ghoulish and shallow, unless of course you're angling for increased defensed spending....

As someone notes above, this isn't about climate change anyway; the bottom line is that the planet is overpopulated, and the herd is going to be thinned -- with or without our assistance.

Posted by: Disputo on August 9, 2009 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

How many times a day, week, month, year, decade do you hear a rightwinger say something like "jeez, in the face of the facts I'll have to change my opinion"? Or "your logic is irrefutable, I guess I'll have to rethink my position on that".

Posted by: mickster on August 9, 2009 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

This ultimately is what makes the Bush/Cheney years so insane.

Global warming is real. Global warming is a national security threat. And scientists and many government officials have been aware of this for over a decade. But the Bush/Cheney administration did absolutely nothing to address this national security threat.

Instead, they wasted U.S. taxpayer money on an unnecessary war in Iraq, started on lies. They wasted taxpayer money by bypassing federal bidding requirements so that they could award no-bid contracts to their crony Republican pals. They muzzled government scientists trying to raise the alarm about global warming being a national security threat. They wasted taxpayer money in bailing out Wall Street corporate crooks who caused the latest financial meltdown. They blocked any health care reform. They blocked any attempts to wean us off foreign oil dependency.

The Bush/Cheney years represent eight lost years, years that could have been spent protecting U.S. citizens by addressing issues essential to our nation's survival in the future...making the stealing of the 2000 election from Al Gore that much worse...for our nation, our nation's families, our nation's children and grand-children.

Posted by: The Oracle on August 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Who cares what the generals think, or the scientists either. Rush Limbaugh has spoken -- global warming is a vast worldwide hoax perpetrated by the national scientific academies of every nation on Earth, in collaboration with Evil Liberals and General Electric, to destroy capitalism and crush the American Way Of Life under the jackboot of Al Gore's Liberal One-World Government.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on August 10, 2009 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Travis on March 10, 2010 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK



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