The Pentagon Report on climate change carried out by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall in 2003 claimed that “significant global warming will occur during the 21st century” and that this could lead to: “harsher weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production.” And concluded: “With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment.”
As a result of this lack of the world’s capacity to carry us there would be:
i) Food shortages.
ii) Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patterns causing more frequent floods and droughts (these phenomena are already apparent).
iii) Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess.
iv) These climatic aberrations would in turn force human migrations from severely affected areas to less affected ones, or ones who, though also severely affected, had a technological development that mitigated the disastrous affects.
v) The affect of this would be that nations with the resources would build virtual fortresses around themselves.
vi) Wars related to food, clean water or energy would take place.
In the Pentagon Report abrupt climate change is elevated beyond scientific debate to a US National Security concern.
Basically they are announcing to the US military that they could come under attack from the climate. And in fact several attacks on the USA have occurred since: Hurricane Katrina; the tremendous tornados of 2011; bitter winters, etc..
The report bases its abrupt climate change scenario on the collapse of Thermohaline Circulation in the Atlantic Ocean. The probability of this taking place is a very real scenario and tests have shown that a certain collapse has already begun in the polar regions.
As the Pentagon Report states:
“Is this merely a blip of little importance or a fundamental change in the Earth’s climate, requiring an urgent massive human response?”[i]
It is hard to imagine an “urgent massive human response” occurring until the disaster hits. Politically the Liberal-Democratic world is divided on this reality between believers, sceptics and non-believers with different levels of extremism in each camp. To generate the human response necessary, to justify the changes that will have to be implemented like population control and energy consumption restrictions, to adjust humanity to a revolutionary re-technologising of our civilisation toward eco-friendly systems before the Apocalypse happens – there will need to be a massive conversion of sceptics and non-believers, and such a conversion would have to take place in record time. In short… we have to pray for a miracle.
And even if the political parties suddenly formed a radical consensus to impose the bullying changes that are required and set about creating a new world, the people would demand a more gentle transition. But, the longer we put it off the more severe the bullying will have to be.
The drastic change that is needed will be painful. Deep down we probably all sense the extremism of the decisions ahead of us, and that if we don’t change, change will be forced upon us, by climate change or the extinction of the resources our complex way of life has grown so dependent on. We are not going to just be redecorating our house, we are ill and will need a visit to the dentist, and the surgeon as well. This is not just an aesthetic question it is our health that is being effected. It is a question of life or death. But even so… How many of us put off painting the house even though it is so obviously necessary? How many have postponed the visit to the dentist until the molar starts to ache? How many cancer patients have perished because they could not be bothered to subject themselves to preventive examinations?
We have to change, but are we capable of making such a truly radical switch? We are creatures of habit, aren’t we?
Creatures of habit: we keep telling ourselves this and yet we are changing our habits continually with each new object we buy. No – it would be more accurate to say that we are creatures of adaptation, adapting to a “surplus” environment. Adapting very often to the novelties of lifestyles we do not need, lifestyles that have been sold to us. But our next adaptation has to be more radical and purposeful if we are to survive. We are talking about NECESSARY ADAPTATION and this is such a radical concept for we who have been adapting to the power of the absolutely unnecessary all our lives.
The will-to-want-more is a will-to-want-that-which-we-do-not-need.
In order to get ourselves on to the track of what we do need to do in order to correct the mess we are making, we have to change the fabric of our perception of the world; to change what the Lacanian Žižek calls our ‘symbolic fictions’. He says that is in the realm of ‘symbolic fictions’ where we can adapt ourselves to ever new situations, and radically change our self-perception.[ii] And radically change our self-perception is exactly what we NEED to do. The new symbolic fictions we need to create would be subservient to a new Master Signifier opposed to the surplus necessity which is the Will-to-want-more of capitalism. Necessity is now to be defined as: the benevolent enemy of the surplus-waste of capitalist consumerism. Consumerism with all its propaganda and symbolic fictions, and which is itself perpetuated through the Master Signifier of the need to improve my life. Necessity would replace the myth of a “better life” with the uncomfortable truth of the need to create a better-life-in-the-world.
Instead of living in-the-world and against-the-world, we must learn to live in-the-world-and-for-it.
Human existence could thus be distracted from its irrational fixation on the great Master Signifier of surplus-improvement[iii] and learn through a new symbolic mythology to take its common interests into the common hands of everyone concerned – for the optimistic side of this disaster is that, as in the case of all disasters, the tragedy effects us all. At last we can say to the rest of mankind, without exclusion, we are all in the same leaking boat. And the only way we are going to get home alive is if we all pull our weight and row together.
THE PENTAGON REPORT SOLUTIONS
To combat the effects of climate change the Pentagon Report on “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario” suggested these steps:
1) Improve predictive climate models to estimate better how and where climate change would occur….
Climate of course is a far too abstract enemy for the military, and here it really is being treated as the enemy. As if we must predict when an attack will occur. What they should be asking is: How can we predict when and how our actions will screw things up enough to bring about an abrupt climate change so that we won’t screw things up? But the screwing up is taken for granted. Should we assume that perhaps it’s even desired. Isn’t there a longing for an enemy in any military institution? If not, what would be there reason for being?
2) Improve projections of how climate could influence food, water and energy.
Here they are saying: we know the climate change that we are causing can affect food, water and energy – but we want to know in exactly what way.
Again, what they are failing to see is what really matters: that we are influencing climate in a negative and dangerous way and we should stop.
3) Create measures to anticipate which countries are most vulnerable, and therefore could contribute materially to an increasingly disorderly and potentially violent world.
Does this mean that countries will be monitored carefully and even brought to their knees just because they are vulnerable to climate change? Locate the enemy even before they know they are our enemy.
4) Identify no-regrets strategies such as enhancing capabilities for water management.
5) Rehearse adaptive responses.
Does this mean rehearsing how to adapt to the Apocalypse?
The feeling is one of surrender. We cannot fight this enemy, the best thing to do is lie down and let the survival of the fittest do its work to create a new race of men.
6) Explore local implications.
Perhaps it won’t be so bad at all for us.
7) Explore geo-engineering options that control climate.
Scientific positivism: we can always invent a machine to clean up the mess caused by all the other machines we have invented.
Never underestimate the military’s capability of turning science fiction into reality. Nevertheless what would Hollywood sci-fi do with the idea of a weather controlling machine? They have already touched on a similar issue in the film The Core. That deals with a so called Project Destiny: a military weapon that creates earthquakes to defeat its enemies. In the core the military experiments cause the Earth’s core to stop rotating. This in turn threatens the destruction of all life on Earth. Other scenarios are easily imagined. The idea of playing God and getting it all so wrong. Chaos mathematics – the Butterfly Effect.
This optimistic idea may well be more dangerous than what it hopes to remedy.
[i] Schwartz and Randall, An abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for the United States National Security, October, 2003. http://www.edf.org/documents/3566_AbruptClimateChange.pdf
[ii] Slavoj Žižec, THE PLAGUE OF FANTASIES p. 119
[iii] “What characterises human existente is thus the irrational fixation on some symbolic cause, materialised in a Master-Signifier to whom we stick regardless of the consequences, disregarding even our most elementary interests, survival itself…” Ibid, p. 120