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What if the Pentagon is Right?

by Lorenzo Hagerty, March 5, 2004

     When the story about possible catastrophic climate change first appeared in Fortune magazine early this year, it became obvious that climate change has now moved beyond the realm of people who are environmentally conscious and into America's corporate board rooms as well. To my knowledge, this is the first time that the US Pentagon has warned corporate America that an environmental catastrophe of monumental proportions may take place in our lifetimes. "Catastrophic" is the word they used, and this is a powerful word when used by our nation's military planners. Generally, this word is reserved for use when speaking of Weapons of Mass Destruction. We are talking here about something with the power to be civilization-changing.

     As is often the case these days, several different scientific disciplines have intersected, experienced synergy, and illuminated truths about our planet that would have seemed outrageous only 100 years ago. Thanks to current science, we now have a much better view of the processes involved in heating the North Atlantic land masses. It has long been known that ocean currents, like the well-known Gulf Stream, are responsible for the warm air along the east coast of North America and along European coasts.

     What is new, however, is the discovery that the direction in which these currents flow can reverse in a very short period of time, which in turn would cause a catastrophic change in global weather. In fact, should these warming currents change direction today, within 2 - 3 years most of Europe and eastern North America will begin to experience very long and severe winters and soon become uninhabitable. Here is how author Thom Hartmann described the situation:

"The worst-case scenario would be a full-blown return of the last ice age -- in a period as short as 2 to 3 years from its onset . . . a delicately balanced teeter-totter, which can exist in one state or the other, but transits through the middle stage almost overnight. . . . If the Great Conveyor Belt, which includes the Gulf Stream, were to stop flowing today, the result would be sudden and dramatic. Winter would set in for the eastern half of North America and all of Europe and Siberia, and never go away. Within three years, those regions would become uninhabitable and nearly two billion humans would starve, freeze to death, or have to relocate. Civilization as we know it probably couldn't withstand the impact of such a crushing blow."

      Now I'm not saying that this will begin tomorrow, or even in our lifetimes. What I am saying is that if the Pentagon's top strategic planners are so concerned about this issue that they leaked it to the US business press, then maybe the rest of us should play "what if?" too. The following is a small part of my own such list. (You may find it illuminating to create a What If list of your own.)

  • What if the scientists are correct about how the warming currents work and how fragile their balance is?
  • What if these currents change direction and cease warming the North Atlantic in my lifetime?
  • What if I'm living in one of the areas the Pentagon says may experience a weather-related catastrophe in the near-term? (These areas include the entire eastern half of Canada and the USA and all of Europe.)
  • What if I am forced to evacuate and permanently leave my home area at the same time 2 billion other humans are also on the move?
  • What will it mean to the world economy if 2 billion people have to relocate in just a few years' time?
  • What if there is still time enough left for us to prevent this possible catastrophe?

     I certainly hope, and fervently believe, that enough time remains for us to pull back from the brink of an environmental catastrophe that is so immense we cannot even imagine it. Just think, within our own lifetimes all of the great cities of Europe could be buried under mountains of snow. We simply cannot let this happen.

     The moment has finally arrived for concerned humans everywhere to stand up and be counted on the issue of global warming. The Pentagon/Fortune crowd have now made it OK to talk about these issues in public. No longer must environmentally-aware people remain circumspect around their friends, families, neighbors, and business associates. It is time drop our shields and get everyone on this planet talking about what us humans are doing to our life support systems here on Earth. What if we did that every day at work, at school, at church, and everywhere else we go. What if we asked every store clerk we deal with what they think about the Pentagon's report? What if everyone finally gets it? … And what if we don't?

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