NOTE: Words of Power is published on a bi-weekly basis, and alternates with the GS(3) Intelligence Briefing, also posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. "Words of Power" commentary will explore a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit. The GS(3) Intel Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Global and Cyberspace. Each issue will provide insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net.
Words of Power #7: Global Warming Is A Security Threat to Your Family and Your Business
“About 10,000 environmentalists and officials from around the world gathered in Canada's Montreal on Monday for the first United Nations (UN) climate conference since the Kyoto agreement came into force in February. During the next 10 days, participants from 180 nations will brainstorm on how to slow the effects of greenhouses gases and global warming. The conference is considered the most important gathering on climate change since 140 nations ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which calls on the world's top 35 industrialized countries to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emissions by 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels by 2012. The conference will also focus on what further action to take after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires, although most signatories are already falling far short of their targets. The United States, the world's largest emitter of such gases, has refused to ratify the agreement, saying it would harm the U.S. economy and is flawed by the lack of restrictions on emissions by emerging economic powers such as China and India…As host government, Canada is trying to find a formula which would enable the United States, other industrialized countries and the developing nations to unite under a combined statement on future action. But on the eve of the talks, the US chief negotiator Harlan Watson said he would strongly resist Canada's proposal, saying that it was premature to make any further commitments under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Meanwhile, the European Union appears to be taking the lead, endorsing a plan in June to bring emissions of greenhouses gases down 15 percent to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.” (Xinhuanet, 11-28-05)
“The record-breaking year touched virtually every corner of the nation - from flattened, flooded homes in the Gulf to eye-popping fuel prices at the gasoline pump just about everywhere. Estimates of direct losses from hurricane Katrina alone range from $70 billion to $135 billion…Dennis, then Emily, set records for the most intense hurricane before August. Katrina became the most destructive storm on record with an estimated $50 billion of insured damage, breaking the estimated $25 billion record (in 2005 dollars) set by Andrew in 1992. Wilma became the third Category 5 storm of the season - the first time three Category 5 storms have formed in one year. Alpha became the 22nd named storm of the 2005 season, breaking the record of 21 named storms in 1933.
Beta became the 13th hurricane of the 2005 season, breaking the record of 12 hurricanes in 1969. Epsilon became the 26th named storm of the 2005 season, according to NOAA.” (Christian Science Monitor, 11-25-05)
The timing of the UN conference is poignant. This week marks the end of the 2005 hurricane season, which as predicted, broke numerous records.
Global warming is, indeed, accelerated and aggravated by our activity.
It is too late to thwart the crisis, and perhaps it is even to late to mitigate it (although it is imperative, spiritually and psychologically, that we, as a species, try to mitigate it).
Either way, we must understand and prepare. We must adapt.
Analyzing and articulating the security implications of global warming is one of the most important aspects of our adaptation, but it is being largely ignored.
In this issue of Words of Power, we will explore some of the reasons why all us globally, i.e., parents, officials, business executives, and, especially, security and intelligence professionals, should be considering how global warming and climate change are already impacting the security situation of our organizations, our societies and our personal lives. But, first, a reality-check…
Reality-Based, Not Faith-Based
Three important studies, released in recent days, confirm that profound changes are underway, and two of them provide conclusive evidence concerning the human factor:
“The powerful ocean currents that transport heat around the globe and keep northern Europe's weather relatively mild appear to be weakening, according to a new scientific report…Computer models have long predicted that the warming of the oceans and the "freshening" of the seas with water from melting glaciers and increased precipitation — all linked to the warming of the Earth by greenhouse gases — could slow the currents, but scientists did not expect to see such changes so soon… (Los Angeles Times, 11-30-05)
“Global warming is doubling the rate of sea level rise around the world, but attempts to stop it by cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be futile...The oceans will rise nearly half a metre by the end of the century, forcing coastlines back by hundreds of metres, the researchers claim…By drilling down 500 metres through layers of different sediments and using chemical dating techniques, the scientists were able to work out where beaches and dry land were over the past 100m years. The analysis showed that during the past 5,000 years, sea levels rose at a rate of around 1mm each year, caused largely by the residual melting of icesheets from the previous ice age. But in the past 150 years, data from tide gauges and satellites show sea levels are rising at 2mm a year. (Guardian/UK, 11-25-05)
“An ice core about two miles long — the oldest frozen sample ever drilled from the underbelly of Antarctica — shows that at no time in the last 650,000 years have levels of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane been as high as they are today…The work provides more evidence that human activity since the Industrial Revolution has significantly altered the planet's climate system, scientists said. "This is saying, 'Yeah, we had it right.' We can pound on the table harder and say, 'This is real,' " said Richard Alley, a Penn State University geophysicist and expert on ice cores who was not involved with the analysis. (Los Angeles Times, 11-25-05)
Security Implications of Global Warming
The profound climate change that these and other important studies document confronts us with both direct threats and threat-enhancing factors:
Severe Weather: Hurricanes and typhoons will increase in strength, length of duration and frequency, so will drought, floods and heat waves.
Infrastructure Failures: Most national infrastructures are already under duress. As extremes of heat and cold impact densely populated regions, massive blackouts (such as those that plunged 50 million North Americans and 50 million Italians into prolonged darkness in 2003) and other forms of infrastructure failure, will increase.
Food Security: Unmitigated climate change due to global warming will significantly impact grain yields, particularly in developing countries and low-latitude regions. Lower yield will result in tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) more hungry human beings, as well as escalating food prices globally. These factors will aggravate the chasm between rich and poor countries (as well as the chasm between rich and poor within the rich countries) and also impact globalization by decimating emerging trading partners. (NOTE: The World Bank defines “Food Security” as Food security as "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.”)
Collapse of Governments and Disintegration of Societies: Climate change will stress some governments and societies to the breaking point. Several African nations and Afghanistan offer painful examples of what happens when governments collapse and societies disintegrate. The security threats that arise in such chaos not only subsume all life within the borders of the self-immolated country, but can also reach far beyond the borders, inflicting suffering on many human beings, both near and far.
Migrations: Societies, which are either not directly impacted, or only marginally impacted, in the early stages of global climate change could nevertheless encounter serious difficulties in coping with mass influxes of human beings fleeing drought, famine, rising sea levels, mega-storms that will snuff out the life of whole cities (New Orleans was the first of how many?) or the anarchy that any combination of these factors could cause.
Energy Security: The issues of global warming and renewable energy resources are inextricably intertwined. But not simply because human burning of fossil fuels is accelerating and aggravating global warming. They are also interconnected because ironically this next two decades, in which human burning of fossil fuels is cooking our atmosphere, is also marked by both a voracious and ever-spiraling demand for more energy and the end of peak oil production. The twin stresses of climate change due to global warming and a drop-off in global oil production will create unprecedented geopolitical and economic tensions. The irony is a bitter one. The solution to both of this great problem is the same: the political will to commit nations and the community of nations as a whole to the technological development and industrial adaptation of renewable energy resources.
Economic Security: The economic impact of coping with climate change, in regard to food security, energy security, disaster recovery and relief, etc., will itself become a powerful threat-enhancing factor.
Diseases and Pests: Climate change is both increasing the threat from tropical diseases (e.g. dengue fever and malaria) at lower latitudes and spreading them to higher latitudes. Pests that threaten human agriculture, the planet’s forests and whole animal species are growing stronger.
Travel Security: Both business travel and holiday travel will be profoundly impacted both by the deteriorating security situation and environmental conditions in many countries. Traveling to, and operating in, some countries that already pose a heightened security risk will almost certainly become even more problematical. And, indeed, one aspect of climate change that, at least to my knowledge, has not been explored publicly at all is the impact on the overall safety of air travel, e.g., will established flight paths have to be reconsidered due to new or increased turbulence?
Submersion of Islands: In the long-term, the fates of whole nations (for example, the Seychelles and the Maldives) hang in the balance, as well as the fates of great cities, in particular London and New York.
Pentagon Study Highlights Global Warming As A Profound Security Issue
While the Bush administration played its ludicrous game of pretend, acting as if the consensus of scientific opinion was still undecided on global warming, the Pentagon was studying what global warming meant to national security.
“Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.. A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents. 'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.'…Climate change 'should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern', say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network. An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is 'plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately', they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.” (The Observer, 2-22-04)
How does one resolve the contradiction between the White House position and the Pentagon study? Well, perhaps there is no contradiction. It may not be as simple as seeing only what you want to see, as with the cherry-picking and “sexing up” of pre-war intelligence about Iraq; it may be that after gaming it out, the Neo-Cons have concluded, in their warped view, that global climate change crisis is one that may, at least in the initial decades, favor the North American continent, or more perhaps more importantly, their own economic and military agendas. Remember, the Neo-Con world-view leads them to welcome instability in the Middle East as a transformative factor, discern a silver-lining in the destruction of New Orleans (rebuilding contracts, real estate, electoral college edge, etc.) and even caused them to wax poetically (pre-9/11) of their need for “a new Pearl Harbor” to promote their “Plan for A New American Century.”
Abdication of Responsibility by US News Media and Political Opposition
But the Bush administration, with its Neo-Con world-view, is not solely to blame for the U.S.’s abdication of responsibility on this most crucial global security issue.
Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (F.A.I.R.) performed an analysis of the U.S. mainstream news media and found its approach misleading and contrived:
Consider a study done by Fairness & Accuracy In Media (F.A.I.R.).
“Despite the consistent assertions of the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that human activities have had a "discernible" influence on the global climate and that global warming is a serious problem that must be addressed immediately, "he said/she said" reporting has allowed a small group of global warming skeptics to have their views greatly amplified…Using the search term "global warming," we collected articles from this time period and focused on what is considered "hard news," excluding editorials, opinion columns, letters to the editor and book reviews. Approximately 41 percent of articles came from the New York Times, 29 percent from the Washington Post, 25 percent from the Los Angeles Times, and 5 percent from the Wall Street Journal. From a total of 3,543 articles, we examined a random sample of 636 articles. Our results showed that the majority of these stories were, in fact, structured on the journalistic norm of balanced reporting, giving the impression that the scientific community was embroiled in a rip-roaring debate on whether or not humans were contributing to global warming...Through statistical analyses, we found that coverage significantly diverged from the IPCC consensus on human contributions to global warming from 1990 through 2002. In other words, through adherence to the norm of balance, the U.S. press systematically proliferated an informational bias.” (Journalistic Balance as Global Warming Bias: Creating controversy where science finds consensus, F.A.I.R., November/December 2004)
During the 2004 U.S. presidential election campaign, the opposition candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) had an opportunity to make the looming global warming crisis, and the Pentagon study, into a major national security issue in his campaign:
“If he's smart enough to use it, the Democratic nominee may have just been handed the perfect cudgel with which to pummel President Bush - and cripple Karl Rove's attempts to position his man as America's go-to guy on national security. The weapon in question is a new report on the grave and gathering threat posed by global climate change - and the potentially cataclysmic consequences of the Bush administration's obstinately ignorant approach to global warming…Dryly entitled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security," the report reads like the plot summary of the upcoming Dennis Quaid doomsday flick, "The Day After Tomorrow," in which global warming pushes the planet to the edge of anarchy and annihilation. But this scenario is not science fiction. According to the Pentagon study, the question is not if abrupt climate change will happen, but when. It could be, according to the report's authors, as soon as the next three years, with the most devastating fallout potentially occurring between 2010 and 2020. At that point, we could find ourselves in the midst of a new ice age in which mega-droughts devastate the world's food supply, drinkable water becomes a luxury worth going nuclear over, 400 million people are forced to migrate from uninhabitable areas, and riots and wars for survival become commonplace…One of the defining traits of leadership is the ability to see not just the crisis right in front of you, but the one lurking around the next corner. Bush's steadfast refusal to act upon the potential desolation that awaits us if we do nothing to confront global warming makes him a major national security liability.” (Ariana Huffington, www.commondreams.org, 2-25-04)
But, sadly, the leaders of the Democratic Party, with the noble exception of former Vice President Al Gore, even now, fail to prioritize their national agenda to adequately reflect the gravity of the global crisis that climate change and the end of peak oil is bringing upon us all. Why do the US mainstream news media and the political opposition do little more than pay lip surface to the greatest global security threat of all? Well, complicity with the energy lobby is one element, and the other is cowardice. Remember, messengers who bring bad news sometimes don’t survive the telling of it.
What Does This Threat Mean to Your Family and Your Business
Here are some recommendations for both organizations and individuals, culled from recent GS(3) Intelligence Briefings.
Organizations, in all regions, should already be factoring the security and crisis management implications of global warming and climate change into their programs.
For example, in the near-term, the impact of severe weather conditions (e.g., major storms, serious flooding, prolonged, intense heat waves, etc.) on already inadequate and out-dated power grids in Europe and North America will be significant. Likewise, the security situations in already marginal social structures in Africa will deteriorate even further as climate conditions grow extreme.
Your organization should implement security programs, including business continuity and crisis management plans, for all facilities and all information systems. If your organization already has such plans, they should be revised to address short-term, near-term and long-term security implications of global warming and climate change. In particular, organizations should regularly review, revise and test business continuity and disaster recovery plans. If your organization does not already have such a plan, it is imperative that you develop one and implement it ASAP.
Your organization should also perform a risk analysis, concerning the potential impact of global warming and climate change, including its security implications. This risk analysis should incorporate the threat and threat-enhancing factors we have enumerated, and be tailored to the regions in which you operate and the nature of your operations.
Your organization should incorporate relevant information and suggestions about climate change, in general, and specific regional issues (e.g., floods or fires), in particular, into existing security awareness and education programs for its workforce. If your organization does not already have a security awareness and education program, you should develop or acquire one ASAP, and incorporate common sense security recommendations for the home as well as the office.
On the personal level, all families and circles of friends should have their own disaster preparedness plans. If you do not already have such a plan in place, GS(3) recommends starting with practical answers to three simple, but sweeping questions:
What would you do if you had to leave your home in 15 minutes?
What would you do if you had to stay inside your home, without utilities, for five days?
How would you communicate with your loved ones if your day-to-day forms of communication, e.g. cell phones, instant messaging, etc., were inaccessible?
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc.
You can reach Richard Power via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net.