Can History Help Us with Global Warming

It is prudent, both intellectually and practically, to accept that the atmosphere and oceans are indeed warming, as the evidence tells us, and that this trend will accelerate in the decades ahead. While we do not and cannot know just how much warming will occur, nor how fast, we can safely say that the rapidity of warming, now and in all likelihood over the next decades, has few precedents in the history of the Earth and none in the history of civilization. This is true regardless of which of...

National Security and Climate Change in Perspective

Campbell and Christine Parthemore n early 2007 the group responsible for setting the Doomsday Clock, a depiction of the risks of imminent worldwide catastrophe, cited the threat of climate change as one reason for moving its minute hand two minutes closer to midnight.1 Although the nuclear-era clock is perhaps an imperfect depiction of the nature of the challenge posed by climate change the cumulative impact of human activities that affect the environment versus the kind of events that...

Notes

Molly Bentley, Climate Resets 'Doomsday Clock,' BBC News, January 17, 2007. 2. Thomas F. Homer-Dixon, On the Threshold Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict, International Security 16 (Autumn 1991) 84. 3. George F. Kennan,To Prevent a World Wasteland A Proposal, Foreign Affairs 48 (April 1970) 4. Maxwell D. Taylor, The Legitimate Claims of National Security, Foreign Affairs 52 (April 1974) 575-94. 5. Lester Brown, Redefining National Security, Worldwatch paper 14 (Washington...

Signs of Progress

Although the U.S. government has been dragging its feet on addressing climate change, there have been some shifts in U.S. policy in recent months. As one U.S. climate expert put it, The United States is lacing up its running shoes and preparing to join the race.20 Scientific evidence, support from businesses and industry, the promotion of climate-friendly policies as an element of faith, state and local initiatives, and the Democratic majority in Congress are enabling progress on this...

Climate Scenario 3 Catastrophic Climate Change

Between 2040 and 2100 the impacts associated with climate scenario 2 progress and large-scale singular events of abrupt climate change occur. The average global temperature rises to 5.6 C (10.1 F) above 1990 levels, with greater warming over land masses and at higher latitudes. Because of continued acceleration of dynamical polar ice sheet changes, global mean sea level rises 2 meters (6.6 feet) relative to 1990, rendering low-lying coastal regions uninhabitable, including many large coastal...

The Clinton Years

Global warming and environmental issues in general became one of several major policy areas of focus during Bill Clinton's presidency. Vice President Al Gore and the first undersecretary of state for global affairs, Timothy Wirth, who as Senate colleagues had been two of the leading advocates of action on climate change, signified a wave of change within the government. The cold war was over, and environmentalists advocated using an expected peace dividend to halt climate change and ozone...

Shortcomings and Divisions in the EU

Despite Europe's laudable focus on climate change at the regional and national levels, fruitful action has not always followed the rhetoric. France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are on track to meet or even exceed their Kyoto targets for CO2 emissions reduction, but others, including Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, are badly behind.11 Although the ETS carries real symbolic importance, the first phase (2005 to 2007) has witnessed a number of serious shortcomings. At the start of the ETS, many...

Western Hemisphere

Accumulated stresses owing to severe climate change may cause systemic economic and political collapse in Central and Latin America. The collapse of river systems in the western United States, for example, will also have a devastating effect on northern Mexico.5 In Mexico, climate change likely will mean mass migration from central lowlands to higher ground. Immigration from Guatemala and Honduras into southern Mexico (whether for employment in Mexico or passage to the United States) is already...

Indian Subcontinent

On the Indian subcontinent the impact of global warming will be very destabilizing. As glaciers melt, the regions bounding the Indus and Ganges rivers will experience severe flooding. Once the glaciers are gone, the floods will be replaced by profound and protracted drought. The inland backflow of saltwater, caused by higher sea levels, will contaminate low-lying, fertile delta regions. Bangladesh, already famously vulnerable to storm surges, will become more so as sea levels rise. Given the...

The Danger of Desensitization

In the course of the next three decades, the spread and advancement of information and communication technologies will enable people to follow international crises ever more closely, making it increasingly difficult to ignore the disparity between how the world's haves and have-nots are affected by climate change. As noted in a recent report by the UK Ministry of Defense's Development, Concepts, and Doctrine Center, however, the very words and images that at first will catalyze action could...

The Risks of Prediction

Wells predicted that long before the year A.D. 2000, and very probably before 1950, a successful aeroplane will have soared and come home safe and sound and he predicted such a device would become an important weapon in warfare. He also suggested that in the year 2000, cooks would no longer labor with crimsoned faces and blackened arms over open fires, but rather over a neat little range, heated by electricity and provided with thermometers, with absolutely controllable...

North Africa and the Middle East

The northern tier of African countries will face collapse as water problems become unmanageable, particularly in combination with continued population growth. Morocco may be destabilized as a result of drought-induced failure of that country's hydroelectric power system and its irrigation-based agriculture. Those countries that can afford it may follow Libya's lead and attempt to tap major aquifers in a zero-sum struggle for survival. Muammar al-Qaddafi's 20 billion mass irrigation project...

Extreme Weather Events

In general, the IPCC projects an increased incidence of extreme weather events.42 Droughts, flash floods, heat waves, and wildfires are all projected to become more frequent and more intense in regions where such events are already common. Intense tropical and mid-latitude storms with heavier precipitation and higher wind speeds are also projected. There is evidence that many of these events already occur more frequently and have become more intense.43 Projections indicate fewer cold spells and...

Beyond the Cold War Redefining Security

Although traditionally considered to be primarily a domestic policy concern, discussion of the environment and climate change as national security and foreign policy matters trickled through the 1970s and early 1980s. George Kennan wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1970 of the global scale of such issues and suggested the need for an independent international institution to track and coordinate information on what nations, states, and communities did to impact the environment.3 In 1974 General...