Monday, August 31, 2009

The Pentagon Ponders Climate Change

By Dave Rochlin - Originally posted on

It seems that over the last few years, more and more science fiction writers include climate change in their future-visions. It's their job to think of the future, and most seem resigned to envisioning the world quite different than it is today.

Now, a new type of futurist - the planners - are also painting a vision of a world altered by global warming. In California, the Natural Resources Agency is encouraging cities and organizations to prepare for rising sea levels and hotter weather. In France, President Sarkozy brought together teams of internationally recognized designers to develop bold visions for the transformation of Paris and its suburbs.

Even the US military may be getting into the act. As the New York Times reports there is growing concern in the Pentagon that the violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics caused by global warming could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions. The article also mentions that the key logistics hub for forces in the Middle East is located on an atoll a few feet above sea level, and touches on the possible military implication of an ice free Arctic.

As Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni said: "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." General Zinni is no lightweight.

Is military pragmatism the right motivation for the US to take a leadership position in climate change? Does it matter? You could argue that this is a selfish rather than altruistic motive. But if this particular way of analyzing the issue creates a more globally focused and active policy, I say "bring 'em on."

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