Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Unlike the Bush administration, which is doing everything in its power to downplay, if not outright deny, global warming, the US military is taking the threat it poses seriously. So much so, according to an article in Le Monde (French language), that it's developing new strategic approaches based on projections of climate change's impact.
Some of the scenarios they're considering include competition for water resources in the Indian sub-continent, a scramble to secure shipping lanes opened up by melting arctic ice shelves, aggravated climate-related instability in the oil-rich African continent, and massive population migrations.
As for adjustments, the military foresees three fundamental changes in strategic planning, according to Thomas Morehouse of the Institute for Defense Analysis:
"Prepare for a greater number of humanitarian operations and peacekeeping missions; adapt coastal infrastructures; elaborate a more efficient energy policy."
This last point is not insignificant: the American army is the world's biggest energy consumer, on which it spends almost $11 billion per year. Something that limits its flexibility:
"On the battlefield, 70% of the tonnage transported is fuel." (Translated from the French.)
Or as John Ackerman of the Air Force Staff College put it, "We'll have to slide from the War on Terror towards the new concept of Sustainable Security."
The good news is that as far as the military's concerned, the crises provoked by climate change do not necessarily mean heightened conflict. They could lead to cooperative efforts as various regional actors join together to confront common threats. The determining factor? What approach to energy policy we decide to take.