Oil company CEOs and Canadian, U.S. and British government officials attending the Global Business Forum in Banff last week heard a chilling forecast of military clashes if there is an environmental meltdown due to climate change.
The world's military leaders have been secretly studying the geo-strategic implications of climate change to prepare for possible outcomes, said noted author, broadcaster and military affairs journalist Gwynne Dyer. He interviewed 100 generals at the Pentagon and throughout Europe and his research has led to columns in 175 newspapers in 45 countries, a CBC series and book called "Climate Wars".
Worse than imagined
"I reached conclusions in my research that I never anticipated," he said. "There is panic among many scientists, who were part of the UN's Inter-government Panel on Climate Change in 2005, that the problem has accelerated in the past four or five years more than was estimated."
He said that governments have agreed, in a protocol, that a two-degree Celsius increase in worldwide warming must be avoided. This increase is the "point of no return", and would destroy food production worldwide and trigger consequences such as ice and glacial melts that would release tons of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, he projected.
Dyer is a persuasive and capable speaker but his conclusions about the environment were not shared by all attendees. One oil tycoon called him a "quack" off the record after his presentation.
And in a panel following his speech, Lawrence Solomon, a founder of Energy Probe in Toronto said there are many scientists who don't agree with the UN's findings. He said some believe that climate warming is minimal and merely the world coming out of an Ice Age.
Denial is not an option
"Whether you believe the science or not, the train has left the station," said Dr. Janet Peace with U.S. think tank the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Washington and others are not looking at the science any longer. For Obama, the environment is a signature issue and Congress will be dealing with what to do."
In December, the United Nations' conference on climate change in Copenhagen will focus on reaching some agreement on emissions and other environmental problems.
Dyer, Dr. Peach, Solomon and others were skeptical that the world's governments could reach any binding agreement there due to the complexities and dislocations involved.
But Dyer's research adds an urgency: The Pentagon and others are looking at readiness strategies because an environmental catastrophe will cause starvation, mass refugee flight, failed states and wars.
Drought already started in Australia
"We could see a large collapse in global grain markets in a decade [due to droughts]," said Dyer. "In 10 to 15 years, the U.S. army may have to close its southern border to Mexico and Latin America to stop the flood of refugees."
Europe faces a sea border problem with the Middle East and North Africa as well as internal issues as agriculture in Spain, Italy, and Greece collapses.
"The politics are too difficult. The only stopgap, not a solution, is something called geo-engineering," said Dyer. "That could buy us two decades."
This involves techniques, such as seeding clouds, in order to block sunlight and reduce temperatures.
"We don't know what unexpected outcomes would happen from such a scheme," said TransCanada PipeLines' CEO Hal Kvisle in a panel at the conference.
He said dramatic conservation, research, alternatives to fossil fuels for transportation and power plus lifestyle changes to reduce usage will help, said Kvisle.
In my view, the only solution this December will be if governments impose and enforce a one-child per family policy to stop population growth, which is the root of the problem.