The author does political affairs analysis for AER. This piece was published in the Yellow Pad column of Business World, 14 June 2004 edition.
Somebody told me how frightening it was how much topsoil we are losing
each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got
scared. – Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy
Scientists don’t scare anybody. Nobody was frightened when a scientist
announced the discovery of a giant hole in the earth’s ozone layer and
warned that the incidence of skin cancer, among many other nasty
things, would rise. People simply bought sunblock lotion with higher
SPF (sun protection factor) ratings.
Movies do a better job of scaring us out of our wits. “The Day After
Tomorrow” is frightening, although no one really believes the effects
of global warming will come in such a dramatic fashion. Nature is much
more subtle than Hollywood, so people will not pay attention to global
warming until it’s too late.
Several months ago, a secret Pentagon study on the effects of global
warming was leaked to the press. The study is called “An Abrupt Climate
Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National
The study, according to the British newspaper, The Observer, was
commissioned by Andrew Marshall “a Pentagon legend who heads a
secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security
called the Office of Net Assessment.”
The Pentagon’s findings are terrifying because all the events it
forecasts will happen within the next 15 years. The Observer summarized
the Pentagon’s forecasts as follows:
- By 2007 violent storms smash coastal barriers rendering large
parts of the Netherlands uninhabitable. Cities like The Hague are
abandoned. In California, the delta island levees in the Sacramento
river area are breached, disrupting the aqueduct system transporting
water from north to south. By 2010, the US and Europe will experience a
third more days with peak temperatures above 90F. Climate becomes an
“economic nuisance” as storms, droughts and hot spells create havoc for
- Between 2010 and 2020…climate in Britain becomes colder and drier as weather patterns begin to resemble Siberia.
- Access to water becomes a major battleground. The Nile, Danube and Amazon are all mentioned as being high-risk.
- More than 400m people in subtropical regions [are] at grave risk.
- Mega-droughts affect the world’s major breadbaskets, including America’s Midwest, where strong winds bring soil loss.
- A “significant drop” in the planet’s ability to sustain its present population will become apparent over the next 20 years.
- China’s huge population and food demand make it particularly
vulnerable. Bangladesh becomes nearly uninhabitable because of a rising
sea level, which contaminates the inland water supplies.
- Rich areas like the US and Europe would become “virtual
fortresses” to prevent millions of migrants from entering after being
forced from land drowned by sea-level rise or no longer able to grow
crops. Waves of boat people pose significant problems.
- Europe will face huge internal struggles as it copes with massive
numbers of migrants washing up on its shores. Immigrants from
Scandinavia seek warmer climes to the south. Southern Europe is
beleaguered by refugees from hard-hit countries in Africa.
- Nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable. Japan, mSouth Korea,
and Germany develop nuclear-weapons ncapabilities, as do Iran, Egypt
and North Korea. Israel, China, India and Pakistan also are poised to
use the bomb.
- Future wars will be fought over the issue of survival rather than religion, ideology or national honor.
- Deaths from war and famine run into the millions until the
planet’s population is reduced to such an extent so that the Earth can
The coming scenario was not created by “tree-huggers.” It must be taken seriously.
The Pentagon, being what it is, will deal with the coming catastrophe
from a US- national-security perspective. It will arm itself to the
teeth while demanding disarmament of everyone else.
George Bush, being what he is, will exploit his newly acquired Iraqi
oilfields. He will not upset his oil industry cronies. He will respond
to the Pentagon study by echoing its call for more arms and make even
more friends in the military-industrial complex.
America will not be “benevolent” in this crisis. America will arm
itself to the teeth and hoard as much food as it can to feed her
people. For this reason, it would be insane for Third World leaders who
rely on “American benevolence” to think that they can factor foreign
aid with whatever plans they have for dealing with the coming crisis.
Today, the Philippines cannot produce enough food to feed itself.
Tomorrow, the effects of global warming will begin to be felt and food
production will become even more difficult. What preparations have our
leaders undertaken to ensure that we will live to see the day after