White House Joins the Rest of Us in Worrying About Climate Change Tipping Points

From the Guardian:

New research suggests that the Arctic summer sea ice loss is linked to extreme weather. Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francispoints to the phenomenon of "Arctic amplification", where:

"The loss of Arctic summer sea ice and the rapid warming of the Far North are altering the jet stream over North America, Europe, and Russia. Scientists are now just beginning to understand how these profound shifts may be increasing the likelihood of more persistent and extreme weather."

Extreme weather events over the last few years apparently driven by the accelerating Arctic melt process - including unprecedented heatwaves and droughts in the US and Russia, along with snowstorms and cold weather in northern Europe – have undermined harvests, dramatically impacting global food production and contributing to civil unrest.

US national security officials have taken an increasing interest in the destabilising impact of climate change. In February this year, the US Department of Defense (DoD) released its new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, which noted that global warming will have:

"... significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to greater competition for more limited and critical life-sustaining resources like food and water."


The words "it is about freakin' time" come to mind.  The costs of climate change - both economic and other, are likely to be so great that this should have been at the front of the national agenda.  Sadly, they weren't when it would have been most useful, and the crisis we're facing is vastly more serious than it had to be.  But isn't that the truth about all the crises we're facing?

Better late than never.

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Hate to tell you, Sharon, but DOD has been studying climate change realities and likely national security impacts for many years. Unfortunately, there's little relationship between those realistic assessments and what the White House or other policy-setting branches of government actually do! In Canada here, we face the same disconnect: a government who is crushing science and debate about climate change and positioning itself squarely on the side of the fossil fuel industry, while ALSO working hard to establish Canadian sovereignty in a rapidly melting north! The mind boggles.

By Toni @ backyardfeast (not verified) on 06 May 2013 #permalink

Agreed with Toni here. DOD has been on the case since at least partway through the Bush Administration. Their most recent 5-year look ahead goes into it in much detail. The doc is unclassified and can be found with a web search. Basically DOD sees a very nasty unstable world as a result of AGW, with regional wars, new flashpoints, and increased terrorism as direct outcomes. They face this stuff squarely because it's their business to be prepared to deal with it on the ground (and in the air and at sea).

Also I don't see where the White House has made any new statements about AGW recently. Seems to me that Obama is doing his usual strategy by trying to gently nudge the public debate right up to a tipping point, where he can then give it the push that gets it done. Personally I wish he'd just straight-up declare a national state of emergency, use Bush-era executive power to shut down every coal-fired power plant in the nation, and use Iraq-like budget measures to kickstart enough nuclear & renewables to replace all that coal. But he's a smarter man than I, and his strategy worked for marriage equality, so here's to hoping it works for dealing with AGW.

Toni, you are right that the DOD has been making reports - what's interesting about this is that the White House appears to actually be reading them this time ;-).

The really scary part of this comes when you start looking up methane hydrate runaway papers. That **** will keep you awake at night.

By Calum McFarlane (not verified) on 20 May 2013 #permalink