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NRC Report Links Climate Change To National Security 242

WOOFYGOOFY writes "The NY Times and Voice Of America are reporting on a study by the U.S. National Research Council (PDF) which was released Friday linking global climate change to national security. The report, which was developed at the request of the C.I.A., characterizes the threats posed by climate change as 'similar to and in many cases greater than those posed by terrorist attacks. 'Climate-driven crises could lead to internal instability or international conflict and might force the United States to provide humanitarian assistance or, in some cases, military force to protect vital energy, economic or other interests, the study said.' If the effect of unaddressed climate change is the functional equivalent of terrorist attacks on the nation, does the Executive Branch, as a matter of national security, have a duty and a right to begin to act unilaterally against climate change irrespective of what Congress currently believes?"
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NRC Report Links Climate Change To National Security

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:38PM (#41943951)

    So, basically, climate change is no threat at all?

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:41PM (#41943969)

    The report, which was developed at the request of the C.I.A., characterizes the threats posed by climate change as 'similar to and in many cases greater than those posed by terrorist attacks'

    That's because almost anything that comes to one's mind is more dangerous that terrorist attacks (e.g.: cars, coal power plant emissions, nicotin, alcohol...) Well, I guess alien invasion is slightly less risky. I'm willing to admit as much as that.

  • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:43PM (#41943995)
    The thing is you have to weigh up the possibilities of people starving in a century against the probability that a group of muzzies will bomb the subway next week. Whereas ideally you should counter both it is a lot easier for the government to get praise for finding another bomb factory than to carry out actions that might show effects in 20 years time.
  • by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:51PM (#41944059) Journal

    After years of horrible persecution of scientists and accusing them of crimes for the results of their research and voicing their opinion, taking us back to the middle ages, perhaps now they will gain a bit more respect. But we're still far from paying them anything near what they deserve, anywhere in the world.

  • Why did it take... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @02:52PM (#41944071)

    ...over 20 years to conclude that which was obvious. If you were humble enough to trust experts, the impact of AGW was clear for a long time -- the drastic products of AGW are easy to estimate. If 7BN people can't do well right now, it only makes sense that environmental instability would push many into desperation and chaos.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:30PM (#41944407) Journal

    I suspect that, for the 'national security' types, the bigger issue is not so much the changing value of real estate, or even the cost of mopping up a few more hurricanes per decade; but the sort of really wacky social dysfunction that can be reasonably expected in the large areas of the world where people enjoy limited mobility, paltry incomes, and a somewhat tenuous record of liking us.

    Even modest price shocks in the cost of essential food items cause the bottom billion or two to get(quite understandably) jumpy. Shifts in climate and precipitation are, of course, ideal causes for serious disruptions in agriculture, and likely a certain amount of mayhem, migration of desperate people to slightly less screwed places that really don't want them coming in(if you think nativist sentiment in Greece is on the rise now...), and so forth.

    As an incumbent major power, that's the sort of thing that is unlikely to be fatal; but entirely likely to make dealings with large areas of the planet just that much messier, bloodier, and more expensive...

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:35PM (#41944451)

    I was talking about deaths per year caused by the respective issues.

    I recently studied how many birds die annually by "hand of man" - as in, if we weren't here with the whole of our civilization, they wouldn't die. I wanted to know because of some people's arguments against wind energy because of the occasional bird deaths, and it turned out that one of the leading causes of man-caused bird deaths - in the US at least - are window panes. Specifically, window panes kill something like four to five orders of magnitude as many birds as wind turbines. Similar numbers apply to agriculture (fertilizers, pesticides), open air power lines, automobiles, and - of course - domestic and feral cats. Even if you take the wind power market expansion into account, it's not likely that wind turbines will ever be worthy mentioning to anyone actually caring about birds. And now, show me people willing to giving up windows on account of birds.

    I suspect that the situation with humans is very much like this. There are many more deaths from other causes than terrorism on the US soil that could be prevented at a much more modest cost. The problem is that these deaths are not as flashy as airplanes driven into buildings, and therefore unlikely to attract the attention of an average citizen and voter.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:20PM (#41944811)

    Such a conclusion could be taken to mean that the govt (exec branch, never mind Congress or courts) would be allowed to flounder around and do anything it pleases so long as it can come up with some connection with a theory of global warming. (Such things generally can be reversed if they screw up.)
    If this were limited to thinking about geo-engineering to lower the temps a bit it might have some merit, but the actions of 0.3billion out of 7 billion people otherwise might not have such an impact, even if that 0.3 bil use lots of energy. The US is very far from alone, nor is it the greatest contributor to the currently blamed activities, but a blank check to "do something" sounds like a terrible idea to me.
    The problems of people building on sand near the beach and lowlying areas have been well known for many years. That there have been no big storms before
    since about 1962 has led to a lot of this, ignoring the fact that there is a multidecade oscillation of the Atlantic that eventually restarts the hurricanes hitting
    this area. It is perfectly reasonable to figure that yes, it might be a good idea to build fewer such buildings there, rebuild on higher ground, maybe just fix it so
    the subways in lowlying areas on Manhattan don't have airvents all over the place, and fix them so maybe they could stand a few hours of waves. Heck: part of that
    area used to be swamps. If the storms to be expected are a bit bigger than they might otherwise have been, a "normal" hurricane blowing in off the ocean can do this kind of thing, cold front or not. Read some of the history of the storms of 1878-79 along the east coast sometime: they were described as "tidal waves" because they created such enormous floods along the Delaware Bay, wiping out some of the then communities. The current crop of storms is not that unique. NYC just got a jackpot due to the configuration of the land, which acted as a funnel to catch the wind/water. In the 1950s-60s nobody moaned about global warming causing the hurricanes. They just bemoaned the damages (and fixed things up) but people gradually got greedy for beach property and forgot that there were good reasons why those areas didn't have buildings on them in the first place.

    (BTW there are still a few ruins visible from the 1978-79 storms in odd corners, which is how I happened to look that up.)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:27PM (#41944871)



    I always was curious as to how you climate change denialists imagine this ever dark-and-sinister "green agenda." Do you just imagine some dimly-lit, raspy figure tenting his fingers and intoning in a rattling hiss: "Yessss, yessss, just a few parts per cubic inch fewer of carbon dioxide and then they will all payyyyy. Evvvvery time I hear the lamentful wail of a businessssssssman who must adhere to my lunatic whimsssss, I am set upon with a mighty erectionnnnnn. Yessssss..."

    Seriously dude, running your car with a slightly lower-volume engine and not being allowed to straight-up vomit toxic gas into the air without paying a fine isn't exactly the same as unlawful search and seizure. I can kind of appreciate the notion that using the specter of global warming as a threat is bothersome to people who don't "believe" in global warming, but lower pollution is pretty well agreed-upon as better for the environment and, you know, people.

    If you really think I'm being glib, please tell me what the awful, unthinkable measures you, your family, your friends, or even your employers have undergone that have just torn their lives asunder so as to condemn this apparently-fabricated-by-the-majority-of-the-scientific-community "agenda."

  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:52PM (#41945015)
    Like switching to energy sources not derived from fossil fuels? How is that draconian? We have to do it at some point anyway because fossil fuels will last only the next few centuries. We might as well switch to alternatives before supply goes down and energy prices go way up. Oh, wait, too late for that. Well, let's switch ASAP before energy prices go sky high.
  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:52PM (#41945017)

    What happens if man's efforts consuming 10% of the productive output of the nations of the world produce no effective change?

    So you wouldn't have gone to the moon?

    What happens if the national effort causes the US to go into a depression that causes a population die off & collapse of average incomes?

    Wars do far more damage. This is called investment and is the single best way to stimulate an economy. All that gov't spending? pays people who then buy things thus increasing demand. Is gov't spending the solution to everthing? of course not. But when big big things need to be done, the private sector simply isn't going to do them.

    How long will it take to make significant change?

    Sometimes you don't know the answers before you start. And waiting makes it worse. Did JFK know we could get to the moon in under a decade? Of course not, he just picked a date based on some basic assumptions and we went to work.

    Can the developed nations change and overcome the effect of underdeveloped nations?

    If we can invent more efficient and less harmful technologies...we can sell them that stuff

    What happens when the United Nations tries to tell every country what to do? Does everyone lose their national sovereignty?

    If you can come up with a better plan than the UN for dealing with international issues, by all means. Lots of people have tried.

  • by kenorland ( 2691677 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @04:57PM (#41945047)

    but the sort of really wacky social dysfunction that can be reasonably expected in the large areas of the world where people enjoy limited mobility, paltry incomes, and a somewhat tenuous record of liking us.

    The world has many centuries of experience with famine, natural disaster, and disease, and victims of those calamities rarely if ever turn into terrorists. Terrorism is based on ideology and inferiority complexes, not rational behavior, and you can't combat it by taking rational action. If people want to blame the US, they will blame the US regardless of whether the US is actually responsible (objectively, it is still Europe, not the US, who is responsible for the largest part of global warming).

    Furthermore, the policies advocated for combating global warming are going to perpetuate suffering and poverty across the world. If you want to minimize the social consequences of global warming, forget about trying to stop the unstoppable, and instead invest in economic development across the world. For developed nations, even the worst case predictions for global warming amount to little more than a rounding error in the GNP; the more nations we help to develop rapidly economically (mainly through free trade and open markets), the fewer people will suffer significant consequences from global warming.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @05:34PM (#41945311) Homepage Journal

    I'm not really a fan of the executive acting unilaterally, but with an obstructionist House whose committee on science, space, and technology includes a member who claims that evolution and the big bang theory are "all lies straight from the pit of hell" and another that claims that women can't get pregnant from "legitimate rape", I can understand the temptation.

  • no spin zone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @05:36PM (#41945331)

    Let's be clear. The people equating statistically improbable disasters - asteroids, aliens all that- to the absolute certain fact that global warming will, if left unchecked for too long, deconstruct civilization are engaging in a type of self soothing via fuzzy thinking. This is what denial is.

    The people denying that the threat is imminent and reasoning that it is therefore amenable to current political processes are doing something a little more subtle.

    They are creating an imaginary causal linkage between three phenomena which are, in reality, causally unlinked. This is therefore a type of magical thinking.

    The first phenomena is the pace at which global warming will proceed. No one knows with certainty how quickly it will proceed or what effects each step of the progression will have on factors effecting national security. What we do know is it's worse than we thought, proceeding faster than we projected.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2009/02/23/203730/mit-doubles-global-warming-projections/ [thinkprogress.org]

    That pace is in no way related to the second phenomena , the ability of a (gerrymandered) minority of politicians to block urgently needed action at the federal level. Funded by and beholden to the now-classifiable-as-genocidal gas and oil industries, scientifically ignorant and proud of it, the pace of warming is in no way effected by their continued inaction, and nothing about their inaction obliges global warming to back off for our collective sake.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2009/03/17/203822/media-copenhagen-global-warming-impacts-worst-case-ipcc/?mobile=nc [thinkprogress.org]

    The third phenomena is what level of ecological disaster is going to serve as the trigger point at which the denier population capitulates to reality and assents to urgent, sweeping federal action. Because that level of ecological disaster both exists and will be realized sooner or later.

    But that point is in no way causally related to that other point in time, the point of no return, where given our then-current or achievable level of technology, we'll still be able to limit the effects of global warming in order to preserve the habitability of the planet.

    There's nothing to say that deniers won't come around too late. There's no guarantee that the level of ecological disaster sufficient to finally get through to deniers will appear on a schedule sufficient for us to solve the problem.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=349 [skepticalscience.com]

    To think vague things like- eventually everyone will come around and then the political process will kick in in time for us to save ourselves- is magical thinking. The forces controlling the pace of, and political resistance to, global warming are unrelated with respect to the time frame needed to act.

    The original question is rhetorical but only in the way opposite to that asserted by the deniers here. It IS a fact that the threat posed by global warming falls under the purview of the executive branch who WILL be empowered and in fact have a duty to act unilaterally, without Congressional oversight or approval, in order to preserve the national security of the United States. The only question is when will that time come and how will we know it? Is it now? A little while from now? When it's too late to do any good?

    We just squeaked by an election in which one of the parties' candidates was threatening to pipeline in tar sands from Canada and light them on fire. We already know that, if we light on fire all the oil we current have already drilled and sitting waiting to be sold, it's game over for the environment and ourselves. Drilling for more, spending money to obtain yet more and dirtier oil and th

  • For developed nations, even the worst case predictions for global warming amount to little more than a rounding error in the GNP

    You, sir, are on the bad drugs.

    The worst-case predictions for global warming include the long-period flooding of all coastal cities. You think that's going to be little more than a rounding error if it happens?

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