World Bank, Pentagon: global warming red alert

Weather of mass destruction bigger threat than terrorism

Feature story - February 22, 2004
A world thrown into turmoil by drought, floods, typhoons. Whole countries rendered uninhabitable. The political capital of the Netherlands submerged. The borders of the US and Australia patrolled by armies firing into waves of starving boat people desperate to find a new home. Fishing boats armed with cannon to drive off competitors. Demands for access to water and farmland backed up with nuclear weapons. Sound like the ravings of doom-saying environmental extremists? It's actually from a report commissioned by the Pentagon on how to ready America for the coming climate Armageddon.

The future of British summer?

Fifteen years ago, some of us were warning of the impacts of fossilfuels on the climate. The science was less conclusive than today, butwe, along with most climatologists, believed that the consequences wereof such magnitude that immediate action was prudent. Today,environmentalists aren't the only ones saying that. The World Bank andthe Pentagon have both commissioned studies which finally admit thatour world is in serious peril, and the biggest threat to our future isnot terrorism, but our own dependence on fossil fuels. In other words,"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

This year, the small circle of remaining climate "skeptics" --scientists and politicians who don't believe that global warming ishappening, or who refuse to accept a human element in its making,narrowed so far that Exxon/Mobil and the President of the United Statesmay soon be the sole, shrill naysayers.

Sir David King, Chief Scientist in Tony Blair's government, has saidthat global warming is a greater threat than terrorism. Hans Blix, whoran the UN weapons inspection programme in Iraq, says the same thing.

And now, two of the most conservative institutions in the world, thePentagon and the World Bank, have received studies recommendingimmediate action to address imminent threats posed by global warming,with the Pentagon's report warning that global warming is a greaterthreat than terrorism.

World bank: "global warming requires immediate action"

Earlier this month the Financial Times revealed that the World Bank was rejecting the recommendations of an independent panelthat they had appointed. The panel's mission was to assess theenvironmental, institutional, poverty, and human rights impacts of theWorld Bank's investments in "extractive industries:" gas, coal, oil,and mining. Their recommendation was to phase out all investments infossil fuels over the next eight years:

"The WBG [World Bank Group] should aggressively increase investmentsin renewable energies by about 20 percent annually. WBG lending shouldconcentrate on promoting the transition to renewable energy..."

The World Bank's current energy lending dedicates 6 percent torenewables, 94 percent to oil. In rejecting the recommendation of theindependent panel, the Bank is targeting $US 300-500 million annuallyin loans promoting development of oil -- and the slow cooking of ourplanet.

Pentagon: "global warming requires immediate action"

The Pentagon's planning scenariosays that global warming "should be elevated beyond a scientific debateto a US national security concern." It declares that "future wars willbe fought over the issue of survival rather than religion, ideology ornational honour."

It envisions the need to turn the US and other rich westerncountries into "fortresses," armed against an angry tide of peopledisplaced by rising sea levels or unable to grow food, and running fortheir lives.

The report doesn't hem and haw the way the White House does. Itdoesn't speak in tortured sentences to suggest that the scientificcommunity isn't convinced. It hasn't been proof-read and edited byExxon/Mobil. It says it plain:

"Rather than decades or even centuries of gradual warming, recentevidence suggests the possibility that a more dire climate scenario mayactually be unfolding."

The report was commissioned "to develop a plausible scenario forabrupt climate change that can be used to explore implications for foodsupply, health and disease, commerce and trade, and their consequencesfor national security."

Here's the "plausible scenario" that the Pentagon envisions:

"By 2005 the climatic impact of the shift is felt more intenselyin certain regions around the world. More severe storms and typhoonsbring about higher storm surges and floods in low-lying islands such asTarawa and Tuvalu (near New Zealand). In 2007, a particularly severestorm causes the ocean to break through levees in the Netherlandsmaking a few key coastal cities such as The Hague unlivable. Failuresof the delta island levees in the Sacramento River region in theCentral Valley of California creates an inland sea and disrupts theaqueduct system transporting water from northern to southern Californiabecause salt water can no longer be kept out of the area during the dryseason... As glacial ice melts, sea levels rise and as wintertime seaextent decreases, ocean waves increase in intensity, damaging coastalcities. Additionally millions of people are put at risk of floodingaround the globe (roughly 4 times 2003 levels), and fisheries aredisrupted as water temperature changes cause fish to migrate to newlocations and habitats, increasing tensions over fishing rights."

The Pentagon foresees fishing wars between Spain and Portugal.Pakistan, India, and China - all armed with nuclear weapons - skirmishat their borders over refugees, access to shared rivers, and arableland. Bangladesh becomes uninhabitable. Drought hits the Americanbreadbasket. Britain's weather begins to resemble Siberia. India, SouthAfrica, and Indonesia are ripped apart by civil war.

And ultimately, the report forecasts a decrease in the planet'shuman carrying capacity, leading to sharp reductions in the world'spopulation due to starvation, disease, and war.

Bush: "the jury is still out on global warming."

But so far, George Bush is sticking to the line that the Kyototreaty was "unscientific," that "the jury is still out" on globalwarming, and that everyone "misunderestimates" him.

Actually, Mr. Bush, the jury's been in for some time, and now even areport commissioned by your own Pentagon is saying you're wrong.Perhaps it's time you focussed on the real terrorist threat to ourplanet: the oil companies like Exxon which continue to fund yourre-election, and whose interests you continue to defend at the expenseof our future.

While you're pursuing policies that accelerate the production ofgreenhouse gases and continuing to deny the existence of a threat, theWorld Bank is being told it has to stop subsidizing Armageddon, and thePentagon is war-gaming ways to survive a catastrophe it's callingplausible.

If you were willing to launch a pre-emptive war on enemies youbelieve may someday think about attacking the US, wouldn't it seemprudent to take pre-emptive action against climate change?

More information

Read the full report.