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Whether the weather: comments on ‘An abrupt climate change scenario and its implications for United States national security’

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2004.10.020
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Political Science


Abstract In February 2004, the Department of Defense released ‘An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.’ Written by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall of consulting firm Global Business Network, the study outlined a possible future with climatic conditions similar to those 8200 years ago and speculated on implications related to the subsequent availability of food, water, and energy. As a result of media coverage about the report, which notably included misconceptions about the study's intents, the document may have become too politically controversial for defense planners to engage at the present time and it has apparently not been widely distributed within the administration's national security personnel. Regardless of the document's status within the Pentagon, it is of interest to many who are actively involved in discussions about the future. Broadly, as with any scenario-based undertaking, there are questions about how the vision of the future has been crafted and, subsequently, how it may best be used to inform a decision-making process. More narrowly, this particular scenario is also significant for on-going debates about the role of environmental factors in matters of national security. This paper distinguishes between natural events and human actions to consider some strengths and weaknesses of Schwartz and Randall's text. It also makes recommendations to improve future efforts to understand the relationships between climate change and national security.

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