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Earth Government The Military United States Science

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 erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:03PM (#41944171) Homepage

    Now I have to take issue with your sense of what is dangerous. Terrorist attack is dangerous. Lions are dangerous too. We just don't have them in my neighborhood. Tornadoes are dangerous too. Just that they are slightly less rare than lions walking down the street.

    Now if you were to substitute "likely" for "danger" you might be making some sense. But then again, global warming [aka climate change... change we can believe in] already here and things are already changing. Coastal areas should be becoming less valuable. Inland areas, especially plains areas (though not in tornado alley) should be becoming more valuable. It's all about the weather and those beautiful beaches might still be attracting tourism and vacationing, but business would be well advised not to be there where hurricanes can take our your data centers for weeks on end.

    New weather patterns call for new ways of doing things. Some things will be more valuable while others less. Smart people will consider that a bit more.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @03:48PM (#41944559) Homepage Journal

    Well, I don't know about "extremist", but "alarmist" might be better. "Sloppy" might be best of all.

    That climate change has national security implications is kind of a "well, duh" proposition. Of course it has national security implications, through its potentially destabilizing effect on other nations at the very least. Climate change has a huge impact on the military due to its effect on vector borne infectious diseases. Only recently have historians begun to appreciate the huge and possibly decisive impact malaria had on the American Revolution, and to this day the US military has considerable public health efforts to protect the immunologically naive American troops, who grew up in a hygienic temperate environment, deployed in tropical or squalid conditions.

    The executive branch has regulatory and monitoring functions assigned to it by Congress, and considerable leeway in implementing policy within the constraints established by legislation. For example it may be tasked with monitoring the spread of agricultural pests -- a topic closely related in several ways to climate change. Within that function it can draft regulations and propose programs which it then submits budget requests to Congress.

    So the executive branch has considerable influence on how or even whether the US government responds to the prospect of climate change. It's hardly extreme to suggest the executive branch should have a policy stance toward it. It's just wooly-headed to compare it to terrorism, a totally different kind of security concern with different causes, different effects, and very different planning horizons.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @09:44PM (#41946883)
    One thing that is ignored here is that intentionally harmful activities have a tendency to balloon out of control while non-human, insentient sources of disasters, particularly climate doesn't quickly get worse when you don't do anything about it.

    For example, in the mid 19th century, the Comanche Indians of the central US (who lived in the area of currently day northern Texas and Oklahoma) made a habit [] of raiding their neighbors, particularly Texas and Mexico (oddly enough, New Mexico was off limits to raids due to some deals that an old governor of the territory had made with the Comanche).

    Well, it turns out that the northern part of the Mexico just south of the Rio Grande (abutting Texas) was very vulnerable to such raids and a vast amount of cattle and horses were stolen year after year. The Comanche would steal them, ride them up through Texas into Oklahom and then sell their loot to the Comancheros, traders from New Mexico.

    This activity was of such a vast scale that some parts of the trail were over a mile wide, and still visible today.

    If Mexico and Texas had gotten together when it first happened (for example, just paying a few hundred "Texas rangers" to go harass the Comanche), then this could have been nipped in the bud and a hell of a lot of suffering prevented. Similar widespread violence happened on the Scottish/English borders before the unification of the two crowns.

    This is why intentional actions are dealt with more harshly and vigorously than accidental. You don't wait till a hostile power is committing a 9/11 every month or even every week, before you decide to act. You don't wait till they figure out how to make a profit on the activity or put a system in place for doing it cheaply and frequently.

    In comparison, climate change, here, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is not going to get dramatically worse, if we don't do anything about it. For example, they generally forecast the loss of about as much land over the next century from rising water levels (assuming a one meter rise) as are lost each year from desertification due mostly to bad agricultural practices.

    (I've just spent about half an hour fruitlessly trying to find some old posts on the matter. I recall there was a slashdot story estimating how much arable land would be lost from a one meter rise in sea level (which was the research's "worst case" by 2100). That was comparable to the amount of arable land lost each year from desertification.)

    So in summary, there is more value to nipping in the bud deliberately harmful human actions than there is with a slow moving human-induced natural change that just isn't that significant in the first place.

May all your PUSHes be POPped.