The Fat Lady Has Just Sung

In October, ahead of the useless and infuriating spectacle that is the COP 26 meeting in Glasgow, quietly, with little fanfare, and it seems almost reluctantly, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a report titled:

“Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040”

Taken together with articles and studies coming fast and furious regarding the state of the climate since the U.N. declaration of “Code Red for Humanity” last month, the report is both a sobering read and a final and unequivocal rebuke of climate denial as far as the U.S. government is concerned.

One notable omission from the report is the usual recap of the science behind climate change, designed to convince pea-brained, snowball-toting, mega-skeptics like Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

The first sentence states:

“Risks to US national security through 2040 will increase as countries respond to physical effects of climate change. Global temperatures most likely will surpass the Paris agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius by around 2030, and the physical effects are projected to continue intensifying.” (emphasis mine)

Notice, they allowed no room for fudging. No “might be”, or “could be”, no “optimism” a-la CNN that “there is still hope!” or “ but we are not TOO late…”

The US military is planning on a greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures and chaos, by 2030, even if Senator Inhofe thinks snowballs are proof of his scientific discovery that it is all a hoax.

Right below that declaration, is a deceptively bland-looking graphic, with full or half-full orbs denoting the likelihood and the severity of adverse events. The events below are considered “high risk to US national security” by the U.S. intelligence community by 2040, and by extension a risk to your security. That is less than 19 years from now. A newborn today will still be not old enough to buy a Bud in the U.S. but will be able enroll in the military and will have to deal with the risks of…

  • Cross border water tension and conflict,
  • Developing country financial and technology assistance,
  • Petro-states resisting clean energy transition from fossil fuels,
  • Competition with China over key minerals and clean energy technologies,
  • Cross border migration due to climate impacts,
  • The strain on energy and food systems,

to name a few.

In the key findings section we encounter:

“Key Judgment 1Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. The debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay — and how quickly — and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition.”

This, after admitting that the world is not likely (at all) to meet the pledges made at Paris.

It remains a fact the industrial north is responsible for at least 62% of the CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere since 1751. It is also fact, that even after externalizing carbon emission to other countries and relying on shoddy carbon accounting, the North American per capita emissions is 3.5 times the world average, while the average European’s is 1.8. If you compare it to an average African citizen, a person living in North America is responsible for a staggering 13.7 times more carbon emitted annually.

“Countries most likely will wield contentious financial and economic tools to advance climate policies and defend their national economies”

Page 7

Many countries, devoid of the resources to meet the looming crisis, need help but the greedy, be it the feudal, colonial, or the capitalist kind, are loath to admit their undeniable responsibility to humanity, stop polluting, and pay up.

According to the External Affairs Minister of India, by the time of Indian Independence, the British had extracted $45 trillion of wealth from the subcontinent.

Even for allowing the moral escape clause of limiting the counting to start at a time when “international awareness of climate issues” grew, research estimates the environmental liability of the OECD 20 countries at $15 trillion!

However, the countries most responsible for this destruction are yet to make good on their pledge of the paltry $100 billion promised at the Copenhagen climate conference of 2009. Only $10.3 billion has been delivered so far.

The U.N. reports that in 2019, 118 million people in India “suffered the indignity of defecating in fields, forests, bodies of water, or other public spaces due to lack of access to toilets” — after making significant progress since 2015, when the number was over 560 million!

The Queen of England, on the other hand, having been handed sovereignty over the seabed around the British Isles in a breathtaking (pun intended) display of appropriating the commons by the consent of a handful of English gentlemen (The Continental Shelf Act of 1964), is now adding to her considerable ill-gotten gains by leasing the wind that blows over that seabed to the tune of millions of dollars. Apparently, looting of the sub-continent, and most of the planet for that matter, for 200 years wasn’t enough.

What would your demands be, if you were a leader of a country where 118 million people were desperately looking for a place to defecate twice a day while the country and the people that impoverished your country kept getting richer off air?

How would you plan for what would surely be “geopolitical tension” between nuclear-armed, economically challenged countries if you were a Pentagon analyst?

“Key Judgment 2: The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests.”

Through its occupation of the Tibetan plateau, China controls the headwaters of not only the Yangtze and the Yellow rivers essential to feeding its ever-growing, coal-dependent population, but it also controls the headwaters of the Yarlung/Brahmaputra, Indus, Lakong, and Nu rivers, estimated to be home to 46% of the world’s population in several countries. Two of those counties are nuclear powers and so is China.

Turkey sits on top of the Euphrates and Tigris, Ethiopia controls the Nile, Israel (also a nation that possesses nukes) has a death grip on the Jordan River, and Bolsinaro is burning the Amazon.

Flashpoints indeed!

The chart on page 2 of the report makes the point extremely clear even to the snowball-toting skeptics in the US Congress. Just look at the numbers.

Already over 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger according to the UN. Given the enthusiasm for cutbacks on the part of industrialized countries, when the global average temperature reaches 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, that number will explode.

“All societies are three meals away from anarchy.”

Vladimir Lenin

Key Judgment 3Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes. These physical effects will increase the potential for instability and possibly internal conflict in these countries, in some cases creating additional demands on US diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources.

After decades of hegemonic oppression and capitalist exploitation, the weakened states of Central America are finding it impossible to deal with the effects of an increasingly destructive and hostile climate. Caught between hurricanes, droughts, and inept or outright corrupt governments while faced with starvation or becoming collateral damage to criminal elements, they flee, mostly northward.

The U.S., having found itself unable to deal with this mass of humanity to begin with, will soon find itself dealing with large internal population displacements due to the same dynamics, as well as more climate refugees massing its Southern border.

This northward movement of humanity in its hundreds of millions will leave no country unaffected. Along with the human misery of the so-called “caravans”, a flood of humanity, like Napoleon’s Grande Armee marching through Prussia, will devour everything in its path.

Donald Trump will not be the last leader to call for a wall, misguided as that approach is. India already has a wall along 76% of its border with Bangladesh, potentially in a futile attempt to cut off over 100 million future refugees. Backed against a rising sea, starvation, and no way out, they will also swarm that border. What would you do, if you had a child and that was the only way out?

What would you do, if you were a leader of a nuclear-armed country where 118 million people are lacking basic sanitation, let alone have access to air-conditioning needed to cool down in now-common 50 degrees C+ days, or have the electricity needed to run the pumps to drain your aquifers even further because China has reduced your water-flow and your crops are failing?

In a way, attempting to predict the future is futile. Humans are fickle, leaders may change their minds. We have discovered that even quantum particles can’t be counted on to stay put. That’s one reason the reporters and courtesans tell us “but there is hope”, I suppose.

The U.S. Intelligence agencies do not deal in hope. They deal in analysis and risk assessment, although even they can’t help but indulge in magical thinking sometimes. Under “Events that would change their assessment”, they include:

“A successful geoengineering deployment at the scale that results in global cooling without negatively disrupting weather patterns.” Insert miracle here ___

It is a sad day for humanity when even the most clear-eyed assessment of our “predicament” hopes for technological magic to save us, while ignoring one of the most obvious solutions.

Cut the military’s budget that uses the threat of ongoing conflict to bloat its spending, and funnel the money into realistic, fossil-fuel-cutting, emission-reducing solutions. Now. Repeat worldwide.

Sir David Attenborough said it best during his speech at COP 26:

“If working apart we are a force powerful enough to destabilize our planet, surely working together we are powerful enough to save it!”

Sir David Attenborough

I share his passion, but sadly, not his optimism.

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