Global Climate Change and Landpower
Pardon me for wondering out loud here. Looking through the blog I note that not too much has been said here regarding landpower and global climate change. The subject doesn’t fall into my wheelhouse, and I hesitate to bring it up at all except that I noticed and could not help but be puzzled by the Center for Naval Analysis (CAN) May, 2014 report titled ‘National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change’. As their title suggests, the CAN researchers assert a link between our national security and accelerating risks associated with climate change. I don’t know if the Army has done or contracted any study more-or-less equivalent – please let me know if you are aware of something. The subject of climate change causes me some ambivalence because I think it is always a good idea to advocate improved readiness to operate under extreme climate conditions, whether that supposes cold, hot, wet, dry or whatever. As a land force we do find ourselves in the most miserable places on earth; that’s pretty much an Army cliché. There are awful climates for us to not enjoy regardless of any global changes, however, I now think the general argument warning of the dangers of global climate change (and that we all should attend and assign resources to the problem at an institutional level) is empty. I ask the blog readers to consider what I think I’m seeing in the global climate change arguments and let me know where I’m right or wrong as you see it.
Many people claim there is an urgent need to address global climate change. Their argument goes about as follows: 1. The world is warming, 2. it has been doing so at a dangerously high pace, 3. the change is bad for the US, humans and the world; 4. the chemical culprit of warming is increased CO2 in the atmosphere, 5. the main source of the CO2 increase is emissions from human hydrocarbon energy production, 6. we in the United States are especially responsible, 7. there are solutions available, 8. and there exists a group of people knowledgeable and politically situated who can effect the solution (self-identified as such and often the same people who are ringing the alarm). Toward the beginning of the list, the pieces of the logic string are mostly, supposedly, scientific matters. As the logic unfolds, it seems to take on more political weight. We are very hesitant in my office to enter into anything predominantly political by nature, so I restrain my comments here to the science part and draw a position on the basis of following a small set of blogs (not even doing that thoroughly). They are: Anthony Watts’ wattsupwiththat.com/; Roy Spencer’s drroyspencer.com/my-global-warming-skepticism-for-dummies/, Robert Way, et al’s skepticalscience.com/debunking-climate-consensus-denial.html; Warren Meyer’s climate-skeptic.com/; and Tony Heller’s stevengoddard.wordpress.com/. This may be an unfairly ‘skeptic-prone’ list, so if you have sources you consider more enlightening, don’t hesitate to educate. I want to be transparent about what I really don’t know, which is a lot to be sure. It is hard work to dig into the data itself. Following, however, is the opinion I have formed, in four parts:
1. – Is the world warming? Maybe, probably, as it seems we have been in a post-ice age melt for thousands of years. At what rate and what rhythm are the more important questions. It does not appear (at least according to what I can understand) that the temperature has gone up appreciably in the last fifteen or so years, and it may even be that it has gone down in the last ten or so. Weather is not climate, but there exists an embedded debate about how many years a weather trend might continue before one suspects an issue of climate. I can’t form a worthy opinion on that. Note, however, that the vast majority of the many models should have but did not predict the recent decade or two of weather stability. The reasons for the models’ failure I cannot ascertain, but there may be a suite of logical reasons. Perhaps the model builders assumed a greater environmental sensitivity to increases in CO2 than actually exists; modelers really don’t understand how clouds form (clouds perhaps being a greater influence on atmospheric temperature than CO2); and they may have underestimated other sources of CO2 production, such as volcanic activity.
2. Is climate change happening at a pace and rhythm dangerous to humans and the world, and more particularly to US national security? There is little evidence that global warming is necessarily bad for the world or humans, and especially there is little evidence that it will cause a militarily more dangerous or less stable world, or cause more work or misery for the US Army. At any rate, since recent data do not support the argument of a high rate of change, the lack of data regarding the effect of change is moot. A number of writings (not scientific reports) assert or at least intimate that global warming causes and has caused a greater number and greater intensity of severe weather events like cyclones, tornadoes, tsunamis, fires and the like. Those assertions are not borne out by the data.
3. Is the principle culprit of global climate change carbon dioxide? It seems almost certain that increased carbon dioxide would have some warming effect, but the relative, net degree of that effect is not known. One clear, curious and as yet unexplained trend is the well-measured increase in atmospheric CO2 while atmospheric temperatures have remained steady. One has to ask what overcomes the effect of the CO2 increase. Climate change scientists have not apparently figured that out, and whatever it is, it does not appear to have been adequately included in the models. Again, while the CO2 has lately increased, temperature has not. Anyway, there seem to be many other producers of the stuff besides us. There is little evidence that the predictable level of increase of CO2 is directly harmful. There seems to be as much evidence that it might be a good thing. Increases in carbon dioxide might be a reason for increased global plant growth, for instance.
4. Is global climate change having an appreciable or predictable effect on US national security and is there something special we should and could do about it? This question is the punch line and reason for this tiresome blog post. My answer is no, not from a landpower standpoint. There does not appear to be enough substance to the global climate change warning to, at this time, move any part of our DOTMLPF. Independent of the global climate change argument, it is probably a good idea to get better gas mileage, have uniforms appropriate to difficult climates, vehicles that start and go in the snow or jungle etcetera. However, as far as the direct effect of global climate change on national security, and the wisdom of assigning resources to solving climate change – I am thinking we should hesitate to buy in, that is, should resist any expression of enthusiasm or agreement with the notion that there is a link between global climate change and anything the military institution should do about it. The future of US landpower is not linked to global warming, or at least not according to the current state of the science. Global warming is also not a significant ‘driver’ of pertinent changes in the foreseeable operating environment. Of course there may be exceptions. Maybe we will need a few more snow cats to tromp around in. What do you say?