Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yikes this is scary!

If not at all plausible.

An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security

By Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall
October 2003
As famine, disease, and weather-related disasters strike due to the abrupt climate change, many countries' needs will exceed their carrying capacity. This will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression in order to reclaim balance. Imagine eastern European countries, struggling to feed theirpopulations with a falling supply of food, water, and energy, eyeing Russia, whose population is already in decline, for access to its grain, minerals, and energy supply. Or, picture Japan, suffering from flooding along its coastal cities and contamination of its fresh water supply, eying Russia's Sakhalin Island oil and gas reserves as an energy source to power desalination plants and energy-intensive agricultural processes. Envision Pakistan, India, and China – all armed with nuclear weapons –skirmishing at their borders over refugees, access to shared rivers, and arable land. Spanish and Portuguese fishermen might fight over fishing rights – leading to conflicts at sea.

Imagine giant hyperpneumatic Edo Period octopi, with eyes as big as Nissan truck headlights, cavorting with female divers in ways that cannot possibly be posted to a family-oriented blog

(Wow, is that image ever not worksafe ...but oooh, it is ooh sooo very bakumatsu! And it's Katsushika Hokusai, which means it is Art with a capital "A")

Or, getting back to imagining the unthinkable, as the authors suggest, imagine awesome sabertoothed turtle-orca-venus flytrap hybrids with frickin' lasers on their heads!

Seriously, not even I can "picture Japan...eying Russia's Sakhalin Island oil and gas reserves as an energy source to power desalination plants and energy-intensive agricultural processes."

Energy-intensive agricultucal processes? What energy-intensive agricultural processes?

What are you talking about you strange little men?

"Time to pull out the old Karafuto maps boys; there's some serious desalination that needs getting done here!"

Ah c'mon, contamination of Japan's water sources? From where? From what? This is an bloody island chain you numbats! Our water comes to us in the form of rain, the condensation of water vapor created in the most part by the evaporation of seawater off the surface of the Eastern Pacific.

If anything, global warming will increase Japan's supply of freshwater, make the winters milder and the summers cooler and wetter.

Sakhalin's gas reserves don't enter into the equation.

I do not know what is worse about this:

1) that President Vice-President Cheney and his fellow travelers established a special branch inside the U.S. Pentagon to hand out contracts to "professional futurists" to write this kind of crap, when there are 1,000 climatologists around who could have done a better job.

2) that the "picture Japan..." segment was the preface to UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron's op-ed in my morning's Financial Times*.

Global warming is real. It is serious.

Even if the President of the United States cannot get himself to say the words "global warming".

Possibly (probably) it is too late to avoid catastrophe.

But Japanese lusting after the energy resources of Sakhalin as a consequence of global warming?

Look, if anyone will find an techno-architectonic wonder solution to coastal flooding resulting from global warning using a massive quantity of concrete and a cussed unwillingness to do the smart thing and move to higher ground, it will be a country that puts a 10 meter wall around an island to guard against tsunami after a tsunami has already leveled the island's one town, or one that excavates giant tunnels to reroute and even more giant holes to store the waters of flooding creeks.

All kidding aside, the Edogawa Underground Flood Control Project is probably the least-celebrated of the manmade wonders of the world. Here is an explanation on how to arrange a guided tour.

* Just to make it clear, the prefacing of the Op-Ed with the ridiculous Japan scenario is in no way the FT's fault. It is entirely the fault of the credulous Cameron.

1 comment:

Jun Okumura said...

Wattaya know. I'd just written a second email on climate change to an acquaintance. Synchronicity.

Actually, the Schwartz-Randall report uses a global cooling scenario. Crop will fail around the world. And Japan will be cooler too. So Japan having a need for more "energy-intensive" greenhouse/hydroponic agriculture is not out of the question. As long as the Pacific Ocean and Japan Sea don't dry up, we'll have water on the archipelago, but there will very likely be less of it if the climate cools down. Who knows, you could probably make some assumptions, then do some calculations and figure out at what point a water deficit would kick in that would be sufficient to require substantial desalination.

In any case, the report says we'll have a "[s]trategic agreement between Japan and Russia for Siberia and Sakhalin energy resources" in 2015. So, what, me worry? (Which reminds me of a question I wanted to ask you, which head of state when he smiles most resembles Alfred E. Newman?) Actually, we will have a problem because in 2030, there will be "[t]ension growing between China and Japan over Russian energy”. In which case, the "projection capability" we begin developing in 2012 in the face of "regional instability".

So, we're the good guys, the Chinese are the bad guys, so building up Japanese military capabilities is a good thing, as a sort of no-regrets policy for global cooling. Nice. Perhaps unintentionally, the report overlooks the obvious point that we, and even more the Chinese, indeed the whole planet, would feel much less reluctant to burn coal. Which would spoil the entire scenario. In fact, the word "coal" appears not once in this entire report. Senator Byrd (D), Senator Rockefeller (D) will be disappointed.

This must have been fun. Did they actually get paid to write this report? How do I get in on this racket?

Seriously, an abrupt global cooling process is a plausible event, so somebody should be thinking about it. But perhaps the more significant message of this report from the administration's point of view could be the following reiteration of a fairly well-regarded outlook on the regional effects of global warming:

"Climatically, the gradual change view of the future assumes that agriculture will continue to thrive and growing seasons will lengthen. Northern Europe, Russia, and North America will prosper agriculturally while southern Europe, Africa, and Central and South America will suffer from increased dryness, heat, water shortages, and reduced production. Overall, global food production under many typical climate scenarios increases."

Gives you guys ideas, don't it?