Ten years ago, the Pentagon paid for a climate study that put forth many scary scenarios.
Consultants told the military that, by now, California would be flooded by inland seas, The Hague would be unlivable, polar ice would be mostly gone in summer, and global temperatures would rise at an accelerated rate as high as 0.5 degrees a year.
None of that has happened.
Yet the 2003 report, “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security,” is credited with kick-starting the movement that, to this day and perhaps with more vigor than ever, links climate change to national security.
The report also became gospel to climate change doomsayers, who predicted pervasive and more intense hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts.
“The release of this report is what likely sparked the ‘modern era’ of security interest in climate affairs,” said Jeff Kueter, president of the George C. Marshall Institute, a nonprofit that examines scientific issues that affect public policy.
“It was widely publicized and very much a tool of the political battles over climate raging at the time,” said Mr. Kueter, who sees as “tenuous” a link between U.S. security and climate change.
Doug Randall, who co-authored the Pentagon report, said, “Even I’m surprised at how often it’s referred to.
“I think it did have an impact, for sure, in getting people talking and seeing the connection, which at that time was harder for some people than it is today,” said Mr. Randall, who heads the consulting firm Monitor 360.
Some critics say such alarmist reports are causing the Pentagon to shift money that could be used for weapons and readiness. It is making big investments in biofuels, for example, and is working climate change into high-level strategic planning.
There is no exact budget line for climate change. The Government Accountability Office in 2011 documented a big increase in federal spending, from $4.6 billion in 2003 to nearly $9 billion in 2010.
Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Armed Services, has been the chief congressional critic of the Pentagon’s financial commitment to climate change. He said biofuel projects should be left to the Energy Department.
“The president’s misguided priorities with our national security can be seen in the $1 trillion defense cuts he has put into motion since taking office and then using the limited defense budget to support his green agenda,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement to The Washington Times. “His green spending in the defense budget is based on the belief that climate change is the ‘new weapon of mass destruction.’ In the meantime the president has loosened sanctions on Iran, [which] has maintained their resources to develop and launch a nuclear weapon — the real weapon of mass destruction.”
Predictions vs. reality
The 2003 report was produced by a consulting firm, then called the Global Business Network, for the Pentagon’s office of net assessment. It is a driving force to allocate money to counter global threats — in this case, climate change.