Editor’s Note: For nearly a quarter-century, the debate over potential negative impacts from global climate change has involved scientists and a smaller handful of politicians who have made it an issue of concern. However, Pentagon planner Andrew Marshall, who heads up the DoD Office of Net Assessment and has been an “out of the box” theoretician for the department since 1973, last year ordered up a long-range forecast of how a rapid onset of global warming could affect the security of the United States and its allies.
The study, written by analysts Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, provides a dire scenario of potential catastrophic impacts from global warming on the natural resources, political and economic systems and day-to-day life not only of the United States but the entire world. This is an abridged version originally published by Fortune magazine with the Pentagon’s permission.
– Ed Offley
Scenario of Rapid Global Warming
A total shutdown of the [Gulf Stream current] might lead to a big chill like the “Younger Dryas,” [a 1,300-year ice age that occurred 13,000 years ago] when icebergs appeared as far south as the coast of Portugal. Or the [current] might only temporarily slow down, potentially causing an era like the “Little Ice Age,” a time of hard winters, violent storms, and droughts between 1300 and 1850. That period’s weather extremes caused horrific famines, but it was mild compared with the Younger Dryas.
For planning purposes, it makes sense to focus on a midrange case of abrupt change. A century of cold, dry, windy weather across the Northern Hemisphere that suddenly came on 8,200 years ago fits the bill – its severity fell between that of the Younger Dryas and the Little Ice Age. The event is thought to have been triggered by a conveyor collapse after a time of rising temperatures not unlike today’s global warming. Suppose it recurred, beginning in 2010. Here are some of the things that might happen by 2020:
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