Wednesday, February 04, 2004

It is just me, or is it warm in here? refers us to an important article in the January 26 issue of Fortune magazine. There Andrew Marshall, founding director of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, released the findings of an unclassified report written for ONA by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall of the Global Business Network. The report is titled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security."

Simply put, Marshall shows how Schwatrz and Randall present a plausible scenario for climate change that doesn't develop gradually over the next 50-100 years (not that that isn't dramatic enough) but makes a rapid and severe shift that could come within the next two decades.

The scenario (they take pains to note it's not a prediction) is based on a well-known pattern of ocean currents that carry warmer water from the tropics up to northern regions, moderating what would otherwise be much colder weather. That pattern is why, for example, palm trees can survive on the south coast of England and a typical winter temperature in London is in the 30s or 40s when by latitude it's weather should be similar to Labrador.

What drives the current is the difference in temperature and salinity between the waters of the Arctic and the tropics, the latter of which is turn is affected by the fact that a fair amount of nonsalt water is locked up in the ice. The colder, saltier water of the north is denser, so it sinks under the warmer, less salty water coming from the tropics. It moves south where it is warmed, rises to the surface, and the cycle continues. Warm the climate, the ice melts, the difference in salinity drops, the temperature differential decreases, eventually the current shuts down - and temperatures in northern Europe plummet.

Similar currents in the Pacific would mean similar effects on Asia and western North America. The temperate zones of the north would see massive disruptions in weather, food production, transportation, energy use, the list goes on.

What makes this article significant is that it casts "global warming" - more properly called "global climate change" because, as is here obvious, not everywhere will get warmer - not as something to be dealt with sometime, not even as a scientific or environmental issue, but as a national security issue in the here and now.

Let's see if any of the "I'll protect our security better than he will!" honchos running for office will do anything with this.

I'm just feverish with anticipation.

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