Monday, November 12, 2012

USA military on climate change

It has been my experience that there is literally no group more institutionally insensitive to environmental concerns than the military.  There are exceptions, of course, but when you have an organization designed as its primary function to kill and destroy, you tend not to attract too many circle-of-life types.  The military locates its bases to meet its mission needs—not at avoid disrupting some fragile habitat.  If the choppers need a solvent to keep flying, no one is especially concerned what happens when those solvents get into the water supply. Weapons production sites like Hanford Washington are notorious for their toxic brews that have seeped into surrounding soils and waters. Etc.

But because the military has access to big money budgets, an intimate working knowledge of some of the most serious environmental problems, and long-standing relationships with highly skilled scientists, it has long seemed to me that they are the ones who would be best qualified to address some of the biggest environmental dilemmas.  And why not?  After all, if an enemy had inflicted the damage to this country that the military has done by doing nothing more than its routine operations, we would consider it an act of war.  Bingo!  We should give the task of saving the planet to our armed forces.

Right!  When Elegant Technology was first published in Finland, word got back to me that many reviewers found my book to be funny.  Truth be told, I was sort of insulted by this because except for a couple of sentences, everything was written to be as serious as a heart attack.  Finally one reporter who had written a LONG review tried to answer why folks may have found it funny.  The best example she could think of was my suggestion that the armed forces should be tasked with environmental clean-up.

With this in mind, try to understand my amused reaction to the following story.  It has taken a generation but it seems there are folks in the military who now believe they should at least understand threats to the environment.  They are still a long way from beating their swords into plowshares, but its a start.

US military warned to prepare for consequences of climate change

National Academy of Sciences recommends crash course for analysts on preparing for rise in sea level and food shortages
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, 9 November 2012

The Pentagon was warned on Friday to stand guard against "climate surprises" which could throw off its efforts to secure America's future.

An expert report, prepared for the intelligence community by the National Academy of Sciences, warns that the security establishment is going to have start planning for natural disasters, sea-level rise, drought, epidemics and the other consequences of climate change.

The Pentagon already ranks climate change as a national security threat, putting US troops in danger around the world and adding fuel to existing conflicts. More than 30 US bases are threatened by sea level rise.

It has also identified potential new danger zones, such as sub-Saharan Africa.

The military is also working to cut back on its fuel costs in an age of budget austerity, by installing solar arrays and wind turbines, and monitoring electricity use.

But Friday's report suggests strategic planners are going to have make sweeping adjustments to their planning to take account of climate change over the next decade and beyond.

Current scenarios could be thrown completely askew by "climate surprises", the report said. These could be a single catastrophic event – such as a food price shock – or a cascade of reactions that could ultimately put America at risk. "It makes sense for the intelligence community to apply a scenario approach in thinking about potentially disruptive events," the report said. "It may make sense to consider the security implications of two or three more plausible trends as a way to anticipate risks."

The study also recommends a crash course for intelligence analysts on the potential threat posed by sea-level rise, drought, food shortages and other consequences of climate change. "It is essential for the intelligence community to understand adaptation and changes in vulnerability to climate events," it said. more

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