by Mark Townsend and Paul Harris
in New York
February 22, 2004
- Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
- Britain will be 'Siberian' in less than 20 years
- Threat to the world is greater than terrorism
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 defense 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 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.'
The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which
has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that
they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted
national defense is a priority.
The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon
defense adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking
over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent
review aimed at transforming the American military under Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Climate change 'should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US
national security concern', say the authors, Peter Schwartz,
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.
Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large
body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science
to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like.
Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a
further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate
Senior climatologists, however, believe that their verdicts could prove
the catalyst in forcing Bush to accept climate change as a real and
happening phenomenon. They also hope it will convince the United States
to sign up to global treaties to reduce the rate of climatic change.
A group of eminent UK scientists recently visited the White House to
voice their fears over global warming, part of an intensifying drive to
get the US to treat the issue seriously. Sources have told The Observer
that American officials appeared extremely sensitive about the issue
when faced with complaints that America's public stance appeared
increasingly out of touch.
One even alleged that the White House had written to complain about some
of the comments attributed to Professor Sir David King, Tony Blair's
chief scientific adviser, after he branded the President's position on
the issue as indefensible.
Among those scientists present at the White House talks were
John Schellnhuber, former chief environmental adviser to the German
government and head of the UK's leading group of climate scientists at
the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. He said that the
Pentagon's internal fears should prove the 'tipping point' in persuading
Bush to accept climatic change.
Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the Meteorological Office -
and the first senior figure to liken the threat of climate change to
that of terrorism - said: 'If the Pentagon is sending out that sort of
message, then this is an important document indeed.'
Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon's
dire warnings could no longer be ignored.
'Can Bush ignore the Pentagon?
It's going be hard to blow off this sort
of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush's single highest
priority is national defense. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group,
generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to
national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two
groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the
Pentagon,' added Watson.
'You've got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across
the Potomac river you've got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars. It's
pretty scary when Bush starts to ignore his own government on this issue,'
said Rob Gueterbock of Greenpeace.
Already, according to Randall and Schwartz, the planet is carrying a
higher population than it can sustain.
By 2020 'catastrophic' shortages
of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome,
plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic
conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass
migration of populations that could soon be repeated.
Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid
climate change would create global chaos.
'This is depressing stuff,' he
said. 'It is a national security threat that is unique because there is
no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat.'
Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a
'We don't know exactly where we are in the process.
It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,'
he said. The consequences for some nations of the climate change are
unbelievable. It seems obvious that cutting the use of fossil fuels
would be worthwhile.'
So dramatic are the report's scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove
vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to
accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with
Bush's stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the
report in his campaign.
The fact that Marshall is behind its scathing findings will aid
cause. Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive
think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the
Office of Net Assessment.
Dubbed 'Yoda' by Pentagon insiders who respect
his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of
Defense's push on ballistic-missile defense.
Symons, who left the EPA in protest at political interference, said that
the suppression of the report was a further instance of the White House
trying to bury evidence of climate change. 'It is yet another example of
why this government should stop burying its head in the sand on this
Symons said the Bush administration's close links to high-powered energy
and oil companies was vital in understanding why climate change was
received skeptically in the Oval Office.
'This administration is
ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and
oil companies,' he added.