Climate Wars

November 25, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Evan Craig for bringing this PBS WBEZ Worldview program to my attention. Listen to the program at:

Program Excerpt

About 2 years ago I noticed that the military in various countries, and especially in the Pentagon, were beginning to take climate change seriously. Now, it’s the business of the military to find new security threats. It’s also in their own self-interest, since they need a constant supply of threats in order to justify their demands on the taxpayers’ money, so you should always take the new threats that the soldiers discover with a grain of salt. You know, never ask the barber whether you need a haircut.

But I did start to look into this idea that global warming could lead to wars. It turned into a year-long trek talking to scientists, soldiers and politicians in a dozen different countries. I have come back from that trip seriously worried, and there are four things I learned that I think you ought to know.

The first is that a lot of the scientists who study climate change are in a state of suppressed panic these days. Things seem to be moving much faster than their models predicted.

The second thing is that the military strategists are right. Global warming is going to cause wars, because some countries will suffer a lot more than others. That will make dealing with the global problem of climate change a lot harder.

The third is that we are probably not going to meet the deadlines. The world’s countries will probably not cut their greenhouse gas emissions enough, in time, to keep the warming from going past 2 degrees Celsius. That is very serious.

And the fourth thing is that it may be possible to cheat on the deadlines. I think we will need a way to cheat, at least for a while, in order to avoid a global disaster.

That’s what this series is going to deal with, and we’ll be lucky if we get through it all in 3 episodes. But I’m going to start by giving you an example of what that global disaster might look like, and the best way to do that is with a scenario. This is NOT a prediction of what the future will look like, because there are far too many variables and sheer unknowns to predict the world of, say, 2046. It’s just a plausible example of what 2046 could look like if we get it wrong over the next ten or fifteen years.

– Gwynne Dyer

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