Monthly Review
Volume 56, Number 1
May 2004
The Pentagon and Climate Change
by The Editors

Climate Collapse: The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare
-Fortune, February 9, 2004

Now the Pentagon Tells Bush: Climate Change Will Destroy Us
-Observer (London), February 22, 2004

Pentagon-Sponsored Climate Report Sparks Hullabaloo in Europe
-San Francisco Chronicle, February 25, 2004

The Sky is Falling! Say Hollywood and, Yes, the Pentagon
-New York Times, February 29, 2004

Abrupt climate change has been a growing topic of concern for about a decade for climate scientists, who fear that global warming could shut down the ocean conveyer that warms the North Atlantic, plunging Europe and parts of North America into Siberian-like conditions within a few decades or even years. But it was only with the recent appearance of a Pentagon report on the possible social effects-in terms of instability and war-of abrupt climate change that it riveted public attention. As the Observer (February 22) put it, "Climate change over the next 20 years could result in global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters."

Indeed, widespread public alarm, particularly in Europe, was the predictable response to the Pentagon's October 2003 report, An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for United States National Security, once it became available early this year.1 In an attempt to quiet these fears Defense Department officials and the authors of the report quickly came forward to say that the entire exercise was speculative and "intentionally extreme"; that the whole thing had been misconstrued and overblown in certain press accounts.

Was this then simply a "hullabaloo" about nothing, as the San Francisco Chronicle suggested, or are there dangers associated with global warming that have not been sufficiently appreciated thus far? To answer this question it is necessary to approach the issue in stages, by first addressing global warming, then abrupt climate change and its inherent social dangers, and finally how the present system of production constitutes a barrier to any ready solution.