Climate Security Confusion Abounds

Posted on Thu 06/13/2019 by

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By David Wojick, Ph.D. ~

The news media has been reporting what looks like a conflict within the Trump Administration, over the national security implications of climate change. Supposedly the conflict is between military and intelligence reports describing serious security implications and the Administrations position that climate change is not a serious threat.

There may in fact be no conflict. Here is how I see it. Hypothetical security vulnerability is the big confusion!

The military has a practice called “vulnerability analysis” in which a facility, region or system is assessed via a hypothetical thought experiment. The hypothesis can be extreme and often is. I have done a few that were completely unrealistic, but these analyses can still be useful.

These climate alarmist military and intelligence reports are just this sort of vulnerability analysis. They are all of this logical form:

Suppose an extreme case of climate change happens, what adverse security effects might it cause?

Approached in this way it is no surprise that many facilities, regions and systems are classified as vulnerable to some form of hypothetical extreme climate change or other (there being so many).

There are certainly regions that would be hard hit by extreme droughts, naval bases unprepared for fantastic sea level rise, airfields that would be damaged by catastrophic floods, etc. in the endless list of hypothetical extreme climate change impacts it might be hard to find one that had no security implications.

The point is that these hypothetical vulnerability analyses are in no sense realistic threat assessments. Not if these myriad extreme climate changes are not going to occur, and there is no reason to think that they will.

This is the Trump Administration’s position. Actionable national security threat assessments are based on what is actually happening or very likely to happen. They are never based on speculation, worst case scenarios, etc.

That these are not threat assessments calling for actual action needs to be made clear. As extreme hypothesis vulnerability analyses they might be okay.

The difference between a real threat assessment and a hypothetical vulnerability assessment is a huge confusion. (Confusion is my field.)

Note that we have pretty much the same deep confusion with the National Climate Assessment. The authors were specifically instructed to look at worst case scenarios, which are not a basis for action. Unfortunately these hypothetical scenarios were reported as real predictions, in part because some people actually believe them.

In the case of the IPCC’s October 2018 report that has generated the “climate crisis” or “climate emergency” scare, the confusion is different. The Paris Accord has targets that range from 2 degrees C of warming down to 1.5 degrees. The IPCC was tasked with saying what that difference looked like as far as the computer models were concerned.

Predictably the IPCC reported that there would be more damage with 2 degrees than with 1.5 degrees. But the differences were relatively small, certainly not catastrophic, which is why 2 degrees is still the target. They also said that hitting the 1.5 degree target would be very difficult.

In the “climate crisis” scare these small differences have morphed into 1.5 degrees of warming being the threshold to catastrophe. There is no basis for this whatever in the IPCC report, but the political stampede is on, led by the Green New Deal.

In short, climate change policy is a sea of confusion, especially with regard to national security.

David Wojick contributes Posts at the CFACT site. He is a journalist and policy analyst working at the intersection of science, technology and policy.

Read more excellent articles at CFACT  http://www.cfact.org/

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