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You are here: Home News 2008 The Age of Consequences

The Age of Consequences

What does global warming mean for National Security? A report from authors including former CIA Director R. James Woolsey; Jay Gulledge, Ph.D., is the senior scientist and program manager for science and impacts at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress outlines three case scenarios and their impacts for national security.
The Age of Consequences

A poignant depiction of the global warming dilemma (from the cover of the report).






 

Excerpted from the report:

Case 1 - Expected Climate Change

An average global temperature increase of 1.3°C by 2040.

National security implications include: heightened internal and cross-border tensions caused by large-scale migrations; conflict sparked by resource scarcity, particularly in the weak and failing states of Africa; increased disease proliferation, which will have economic consequences; and some geopolitical reordering as nations adjust to shifts in resources and prevalence of disease. Across the board, the ways in which societies react to climate change will refract through underlying social, political, and economic factors.

Case 2 - Severe Climate Change

An average increase in global temperature of 2.6°C by 2040

Massive nonlinear events in the global environment give rise to massive nonlinear societal events. Nations around the world will be overwhelmed by the scale of change and pernicious challenges, such as pandemic disease. The internal cohesion of nations will be under great stress, including in the United States, both as a result of a dramatic rise in migration and changes in agricultural patterns and water availability. The flooding of coastal communities around the world, especially in the Netherlands, the United States, South Asia, and China, has the potential to challenge regional and even national identities. Armed conflict between nations over resources, such as the Nile and its tributaries, is likely and nuclear war is possible. The social consequences range from increased religious fervor to outright chaos. In this scenario, climate change provokes a permanent shift in the relationship of humankind to nature.

Case 3 - The Catastrophic Scenario

Average global temperatures increasing by 5.6°C by 2100

This catastrophic scenario would pose almost inconceivable challenges as human society struggled to adapt. It is by far the most difficult future to visualize without straining credulity. The scenario notes that understanding climate change in light of the other great threat of our age, terrorism, can be illuminating. Although distinct in nature, both threats are linked to energy use in the industrialized world, and, indeed, the solutions to both depend on transforming the world’s energy economy—America’s energy economy in particular. The security community must come to grips with these linkages, because dealing with only one of these threats in isolation is likely to exacerbate the other, while dealing with them together can provide important synergies.

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Dr. David Archer:

(Professor in the Department of The Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago)

Regarding the report - "Results from the IPCC are summarized clearly, including regional climate projections, but the point is also made and discussed that climate forecasts tend to be in general conservative. In the arenas in which I have some competence to assess, the judgments the authors have made seem measured and fair to me."

Dr. James Hansen:

(Director, NASA/Goddard Institute of Space Studies)

 

2007 Summary - "The year 2007 tied for second warmest in the period of instrumental data, behind the record warmth of 2005, in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis. 2007 tied 1998, which had leapt a remarkable 0.2°C above the prior record with the help of the “El Nino of the century”. The unusual warmth in 2007 is noteworthy because it occurs at a time when solar irradiance is at a minimum and the equatorial Pacific Ocean is in the cool phase of its natural El Nino – La Nina cycle."

Editors note: If the earth climate system were at a peak of solar irradiance and in the warm phase of the natural El Nino – La Nina cycle, this year would have likely broken the record with room to spare. It is now estimated that the Arctic may be ice free as early as the fall of 2013, only 5 years from now.

National Snow and Ice Data Center

NSIDC Senior Scientist Mark Serreze said, “The sea ice cover is in a downward spiral and may have passed the point of no return. As the years go by, we are losing more and more ice in summer, and growing back less and less ice in winter.”

2007 - Arctic Melt


Data from NASA Earth Observing System Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E).; images from Institute of Environmental Physics at the University of Bremen. Animation credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

 


Center for Strategic & International Studies

The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change

Report - November 2007

Report PDF

Summary Page

Web Site Home

REPORT PARTICIPANTS:

German Advisory Council on Global Change

World in Transition – Climate Change as a Security Risk

(Report - November 2007)

Report PDF

Summary Page

Web Site Home

REPORT PARTICIPANTS:

  • Prof Dr Renate Schubert (chair), Economist: Director of the Institute for Environmental Decisions, ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
  • Prof Dr Hans Joachim Schellnhuber CBE (vice chair), Physicist: Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and visiting professor at Oxford University, UK
  • Prof Dr Nina Buchmann, Ecologist: Professor of Grassland Science, Institute of Plant Sciences, ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
  • Prof Dr Astrid Epiney, Lawyer: Professor of International Law, European Law and Swiss Public Law, Université de Fribourg (Switzerland)
  • Dr Rainer Grießhammer, Chemist Director of the Institute for Applied Ecology, Freiburg/Breisgau
  • Prof Dr Margareta E. Kulessa, Economist: Professor of International Economics, University of Applied Science, Mainz
  • Prof Dr Dirk Messner, Political Scientist: Director of the German Development Institute, Bonn
  • Prof Dr Stefan Rahmstorf, Physicist: Professor for Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University and head of the Climate System Department at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • Prof Dr Jurgen Schmid, Aerospace Engineer: Professor at Kassel University, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Institute for Solar Energy Technology

The Center for Naval Analysis

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change

(Report - April 2007)

Report PDF

Summary Page

Web Site Home

REPORT PARTICIPANTS:

  • General Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.) Chairman, Military Advisory Board
  • Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, USN (Ret.)
  • Lieutenant General Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., USAF (Ret.)
  • Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, USN (Ret.)
  • General Paul J. Kern, USA (Ret.)
  • Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, USN (Ret.)
  • Admiral Donald L. “Don” Pilling, USN (Ret.)
  • Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, USN (Ret.)
  • Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, USN (Ret.)
  • General Charles F. “Chuck” Wald, USAF (Ret.)
  • General Anthony C. “Tony” Zinni, USMC (Ret.)
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