In the wake of the National Climate Assessment released last week in the United States, global warming is, to pardon the pun, one of the hottest topics in the news at the moment, and with extremely good reason.
This phenomenon is now considered to be the most important threat facing mankind, and its effects could be catastrophic within a very short space of time.
Since his wonderful and incredibly prophetic book Nature’s End was published in 1985, and his later collaboration with Art Bell in 1999, The Coming Global Superstorm, Whitley Strieber has been warning the world that the issue of climate change should be taken more seriously, and it seems that governments worldwide are finally taking heed.
The extended impacts of such dramatic changes in world weather have been more difficult to comprehend, but the effects are far-reaching and affect almost every aspect of existence, including, it seems, national defense.
As the National Climate Assessment stated: “The implications of climate change for U.S. national security are significant.” Experts agree that U.S. national security is already being challenged by widespread unrest and humanitarian disasters caused by climate change, and that extreme weather conditions are at the root of many current conflicts across the globe.
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Lee Gunn said that the civil war in Syria was ignited in part by extensive droughts:
“The current Syrian situation is linked in my mind, in part, to a food shortage and drought in the region, which among other things drove people from the farms to the cities,” he explained. “The cities were unprepared in Syria to deliver the services demanded by a rapidly increasing population. Whatever the other stresses were that the Syrian government was undergoing, this had the potential to accelerate that set of conditions.”
Gunn went on to attribute the 2011 Arab Spring, a wave of civil wars and riots extending from North Africa across into the Middle East, to a major winter drought that occurred in China combined with blistering heat waves and flooding in countries such as Russia that supplied wheat to the affected regions.
“There was a drought and a wheat shortage that resulted in an increase in wheat prices and, therefore, a increase bread prices, a staple in North Africa," he said.
Predicting future issues, CNA military advisors have identified potential risks to the rice fields of Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, where it is thought that melting of Himalayan glaciers could raise sea levels which would obliterate the rice-producing zone. Bangladesh could also be affected and displaced communities could retreat to India, undermining their fresh-water resources, a major issue for nuclear-armed nations that need to co-operate and carefully manage their water supplies, said Gunn.
“For DoD, this is a mission reality, not a political debate,” said Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman. “The scientific forecast is for more Arctic ice melt, more sea-level rise, more intense storms, more flooding from storm surge, and more drought.
One of the most serious concerns amongst military strategists is that countries with an already fragile infrastructure could easily be undermined by significant weather events, and if this happened, their governments could easily be overthrown and replaced by terrorists, warned Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy and a retired Navy vice admiral, who said that the risks were being recognised and prepared for by the U.S. government:
“We’re taking sensible measured steps to mitigate the mission risk posed by climate change,” he said. “The last thing in the world these nations need are the severe and more frequent effects of bad weather, including crop failures. Therein is a recipe for the kind of instability that will inevitably involve the United States in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief or, indeed, in a regional conflict.”
Even in the solid and secure refuge of the Western world, it is not difficult to imagine how easily our own infrastructure could be threatened by the steady and unrelenting onset of extreme weather events. Droughts and floods are already placing a strain on various regions of Europe and the United States, both financial and practical, and communities are barely having time to recover from one disaster before the next is upon them. It is encouraging that governments are now recognising the grim severity of the problem, but ultimately climate change is an unprecedented and unfamiliar adversary whose effects will be pervasive, insidious and profound. Let us hope that there is still time for us to act to prevent its escalation; it is a problem of TODAY, and not tomorrow.
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