I came across an article at Vice the other day that is enough to give anybody a nightmare: U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says.
I did not read the report, the article was thorough enough I didn’t think I needed the details. My imagination ran with it.
The report, Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army, was created by U.S. Army War College in partnership with NASA. It was commissioned by General Mark Milley when he was the Army’s Chief of Staff, before President Trump appointed him chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The report has apparently been publicly available since August.
I can understand why no one is talking about it because the implications are horrific. The report mainly focuses on two scenarios: the risk of a collapse of the power grid within “the next 20 years,” and the danger of disease epidemics, both of which could be triggered by climate change.
The potential for catastrophe is especially high in Bangladesh (a high population country that sits at sea level) and could bring about global instability. But, the report notes, there are over 600 million people who live at sea level. Think about that. The seas are already rising. Every time there is a super high tide in Miami, the city’s streets flood.
It is expected that the U.S. military will need to respond to catastrophes and to civil unrest abroad and at home (domestically it would be natural disasters and containment of disease outbreaks which could also lead to civil unrest). Should this happen, the army foresees failed missions and the probable collapse of the entire U.S. military.
That alone is chilling. But now consider the power grid in the U.S., which the report assesses as unprepared. It is currently not hard to imagine the power grid breaking down, we just have to look at what is going on in California. That is our future. It may not be due to fires in your area, it could be floods or hurricanes or high winds, ice or heavy snow.
Couple power grid failure with other infrastructure failures due to climate related disasters–water shipping, roads, air travel–and we could see food and water scarcity too.
Lest we think this is far in the future, the report timeline looks at risk in the next 20 years. Reporting on climate change gives us a false sense of security, as though the worst effects are years from now–2050 or 2100. The media makes it seem like everything will be fine until 2050 when the oceans will suddenly rise up and the heatwaves will increase and all the other terrible things. It lets us think that if we fix things by 2030 or some other deadline, everything will be ok. Well, no. Because the effects of climate change are not like a light switch. It’s more like the story of the frog in the pot of water that keeps getting hotter and hotter and the frog is boiled before it realizes there is a problem. We are the frog my friends.
The report is not a crystal ball. The things in it might not happen, or if they do there might be some mitigating factors. However, the risk for global instability and collapse are there. If we keep on as we are, the things the report details will surely be our future. I don’t want that future and I am going to go out on a limb and say you don’t want that future either.
So what do we do to make sure it doesn’t happen? What do we do to create a different future?
As Colin Beavan says in No Impact Man, “We cannot wait for the system to change. We individuals are the system.”