Pentagon report's authors fuel Greens' conspiracy theories
Friday 27 February 2004
My Wednesday column accused London's Guardian newspaper of misrepresenting what it claimed was a "leaked" Pentagon report. I wrote that not only wasn't the report leaked, the newspaper's claim that it proved American military planners knew the world was on the verge of a global environmental meltdown was completely mistaken, if not dishonest.
The response was immediate.
Apparently, someone posted my column to an environmentalist website somewhere (I have been unable to determine the source), along with my e-mail address. By Thursday, my Inbox had been inundated.
Greens from around the world sent messages (more than 100 of them) accusing me of everything from lying to "condoning genocide" through my refusal to accept Armageddon-like predictions of climate disaster and give up my "excessive use of the Earth's resources" before it triggers unstoppable and disastrous warming.
My phone rang incessantly, too, as local environmentalists warned me to stop spreading my (in one guy's words) "hateful right-wing propaganda."
By the end of the day I was hoping to discover a telemarketer on the end of the line when I answered, just so I'd have at least one caller who had to be pleasant to me.
Overall, the negative reaction resembled that of a toddler who had been given a bright, shiny new toy, only to have it snatched right back: Surprise, wonderment, thrill, followed immediately by stunned disappointment and rage.
The Greens sensed in the Guardian's "scoop" the one essential bit of information needed to fulfill their dream of embarrassing the U.S. administration of George W. Bush into signing on to the
Kyoto accords and ashamedly slinking back into the international "consensus" on global warming.
My column served as the snatching back of that delight, as it were; the cold shower to their ideological lust.
Naturally, lots of my correspondents and callers accused me of misstating the errors I alleged were contained in the Guardian report. So, lest some of you didn't believe me either, permit me to reproduce here some of the responses of the co-authors of the Pentagon study to the Guardian and to the firestorm of environmental excitement it has generated.
Both authors, Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, work for Global Business Networks in the Bay area of California. Here is GBN's official response to the coverage:
"As is customary in military and defence-related projects, the authors describe a worst-case scenario (not a prediction) for abrupt climate change ... . Contrary to some recent media coverage, the report was not secret, suppressed or predictive." GBN also added, "The report does not purport to be a forecast ... ." In other words, the Schwartz/Randall paper is not a prediction of what will happen, but rather an educated guess at what the U.S. military might face if the worst of all possible climate outcomes occurs -- actually, if the worst of all the several major doomsday climate models occur.
title is entitled [sic] An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security. Its worst-case scenario nature is obvious in its subtitle, Imagining the Unthinkable.
In the introduction, the two futurists admit, "The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable -- to push the boundaries of current research on climate change so we may better understand the potential implications on United States national security." They argue their scenario is "plausible." (If they
didn't believe it was, there would be no point in playing their planning game.) But, they concede, "We have created a climate change scenario that (is) not the most likely."
Schwartz prides himself in GBN's use of "out-of-the-box thinking" to jolt its corporate and government clients into thinking about and preparing for the unpredictable.
Also in their preamble, Schwartz and Randall warn that while their futuristic story is based on interviews with some leading climate-change scientists, those scientists "caution that the scenario depicted is extreme in two fundamental ways. First ... the occurrences we outline would most likely happen in a few regions, rather than globally. Second, they say the magnitude of the event may be considerably smaller."
Perhaps the most damning response came from Schwartz directly. On Tuesday he told American reporters this is "not a suppressed secret report. It is not a prediction of imminent (doom)." The Guardian "got it all wrong."
Andrew Marshall, the highly regarded, 82-year-old internal Pentagon think-tanker who commissioned the original study, called it merely "speculation" about future climate change and decided that, while useful for planning, it was not significant enough to pass up the chain of command to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
Of course none of these denunciations and denials has deterred the hardcore enviros. In fact, it has only fuelled their conspiracy theories more.
The Pentagon, the Greenies are telling one another, is now denying this is its official stance on climate change because to do so would embarrass President Bush. Activists are also claiming GBN is going along with this denial just because it wants more rich consulting contracts in the future.
The initial report was an erroneous overreaction. Face it.
Columnist, Edmonton Journal
Editorial Board Member, National Post
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