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Climate Change is dead, all hail the Changing Climate

Climate skeptic, image by

Climate skeptic, image by

Hated the Carbon Tax?  Overjoyed that Flannery idiot has been given the boot?  Tired of hearing urban hipsters blaming you for melting the polar icecaps? Maybe you proudly deny global warming, or climate change, or whatever they are calling it this week.

Well, I have a new phrase for you:  Threat Multiplier.

The same way that a force multiplier like GPS can allow a military unit to have a larger impact, to punch above its weight, a threat multiplier increases and enhances threats.

In the last five years military white papers from Russia, China, USA, and NATO have all named climate change as either a national security threat or as a major consideration for future strategic deployment.  Is this our worst fears come true? Mean greenies with guns?

Pragmatism is a military commanders calling, and for them it boils down to a couple of things: availability and vulnerability of resources, and hazards to operational personnel.  No general wants to lose troops for no good reason.

Both Napoleon and Hitler were defeated in Russia principally by the weather that first bogged them down in mud, and then froze them to death.  Climate and logistics had a similar impact on American forces in Afghanistan. Front line troops needed fuel for generators and water.  The US Marines lost 10% of their troops on the convoys delivering supplies, and the US Army calculated it was losing 1 soldier for every 24 fuel convoys. Massive changes have followed as a result, including huge surge in uptake of solar and recycled water technology.  With conflicts heating up across the globe, and extreme weather events on the rise, military forces are listening to the science and responding to the changing climate conditions.


Climate science opposition usually takes the form of demands for certainty.  Absolute Certainty is not a luxury enjoyed by science; which is why we still have a theory of gravity.

Connecting conflict directly to climate change is a tough task, but then many didn’t connect sub-prime mortgage collapse with the 2008 GFC until it was too late.

Climate change is not a smoking gun.  It amplifies existing tensions to trigger conflict; and a recent trigger can be found with the 2011 civil insurrection in Egypt. Like many uprisings before it, notably in 1977 and 2008, the Egyptian ‘spring’ was in large part due to poverty, discontent, and bread.

In lands of plenty like Australia it can be hard to understand why bread is important, particularly to the gluten-intolerant.  However in many poor countries bread is a primary food source.

In 2010 China’s wheat harvest failed, within six months wheat doubled from $157/ton to $326/ton.  This made bread almost unaffordable.  In Australian terms your $250 grocery bill is now $500.  Reason enough to take to the streets.


Rising seas levels cause a lot of fuss, but Bondi Beach is not concerned.  While having the beach a bit closer is probably not something our Pacific island neighbours are that keen on, losing a few meters to the ocean won’t change our borders… will it?

68% of the developing world’s population is on our doorstep in the Asia-Pacific region.  More than 60% of these rely on agriculture for their economy.  Countries like India, Bangladesh and China are already feeling the impact of rising seas levels through increased salinity in water aquifers, heavy erosion, erratic and sometimes devastating weather events.

The net result is Forced Migration, which according to the Red Cross saw over 70 million people permanently displaced in 2012.  Our Pacific cousins aside, most of these refugees are currently being shuffled around in the northern hemisphere; but as the capacity for Europe, Russia and Asia to absorb them weakens, the overflow will spill over the equator to our door.


No one likes being sick, but another threat amplified by turning up the heat just a little is disease.  This has prompted ongoing studies by the American Centre for Disease Control into the effects of changing climate on human health.  In Africa increases in temperature have allowed Malaria to return to areas where it had not been documented for 50 years.  The same increases in temperature and humidity have brought Dengue fever to Florida and allowed the West Nile virus to spread further south in Australia.


Plants are also suffering as a result of warmer weather, with pests and diseases increasing in range.  2010 saw the decimation of the wheat crop in Africa by Wheat rust, an infectious disease that is now spreading into food bowls in Asia.  This spread of plant pathogens are of great concern in the scientific and agribusiness communities, and as seen in the example of Egypt the consequences can be far reaching.  Not going to Africa? Ask an Irishman about the Potato Famine to get an idea of upheaval and death resulting from plant disease.


OK so diseases are icky, but we have drugs and pesticides for that, and we’ve already established you don’t eat wheat.  So how do melting ice-caps impact resource & food security?  We don’t eat seals or penguins, and Orcas can always find something else to eat… like sea otters.

Food, Water, Energy and who controls the land that produces them are at the core of resources security.  Developing economies such as India and China are burning increasing amounts of gas and oil for power and transport.  Growing populations demand more food, more water, and more energy.  Even without climate impacts, there is already increasing friction over control of the fields that produce these resources.

With Australian farming land selling fast, ownership is also a serious issue.  Future access to resources and food production are seen as such a good investment that there are even consulting companies specialising in selling Australia.  What happens when foreign ownership trumps local demand, amplifying prices or even drying up supply?

Given that the Abbott government is likely to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which will allow foreign multinationals to sue farmers for preventing CSG fracking projects, or sue governments for passing legislation, as seen in Quebec, this is not a frivolous question.

Maybe you’re not convinced by any of this. You’re a market libertarian, “let the market decide” you say.  Consider then that Monsanto just purchased a climate science company for US$930 million. Or the American defence contractor that is redeveloping its business to take advantage of opportunities presented by climate change.  With the Pentagon and university studies pointing to increased conflict over resources and amplified civil unrest, it certainly makes business sense to provide the products that military and police forces are going to need.

Meanwhile consortiums are buying up water rights, the WWF is pitching ‘Driving Profits through Carbon Reduction’, Americans are investing in solar power for the US military and Wall Street is going to be protected by $20 million dollars worth of flood banks & levies while it speculates on the mineral wealth being revealed by the melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica.

Changing climate multiplies existing threats, and actually increases uncertainty about the future.  The military appreciates uncertainty and the potential loss of life it presents.  So if Generals and Admirals are doing something about climate change to protect their troops, shouldn’t our government do something about it to protect us?

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  1. mikestasse

    Great article……. however the civil unrest in Egypt isn’t caused by CC, it’s caused by Limits to Growth.

    Of course, CC will up the ante with respect to Limits to Growth…… How people (like Hockey..!) can be blind to the shitstorm coming is beyond me. The four horsemen of the apocalypse are coming: Climate Change, Peak Oil, Peak Debt, and the End of Growth.

  2. mikestasse

    I’m sure that the people who live in the Blue Mountains think “CLIMATE change has done more good than harm so far and is likely to continue doing so for most of this century………”

    You’re right about the vomit Dan…….

  3. randalstella

    Murdoch is like the weather. There’s a lot of talk; but no one does anything about it.

  4. mikestasse

    and now this………

    Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dismissed a UN assessment that the New South Wales fires are linked to climate change, accusing a senior UN official of “talking through her hat”.

    Earlier this week, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, said the fires proved the world is “already paying the price of carbon”.

    She also criticised the Abbott Government’s direct action plan to tackle climate change as being potentially “much more expensive” than the carbon pricing scheme that it is moving to dump.

    But Mr Abbott argues that “fire is a part of the Australian experience” and not linked to climate change.

  5. mikestasse

    And anyway………. WHAT would a woman know……

  6. Bacchus

    “talking through her hat”

    That plays well to the dopiest part of the constituency he appeals to mikestasse 🙄

  7. Dan Rowden

    Actually, she was careful not to claim a direct link between the bushfires and CC, and she was absolutely right to be careful:

    “The World Meteorological Organisation has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change yet, but what is absolutely clear is that the science is telling us there are increasing heatwaves in Asia, Europe and Australia,” she told CNN.

    Her statements were made in the broader context of extreme weather events and the modeling that predicts an increase in general. As for Abbott, apart from the “hat” comment, most of what he said was reasonable. He is not, however, entitled to say that the current fire and weather situation is not a function of Climate Change because we don’t know that (we don’t know either way). What the modeling does tell us is that this sort of stuff is very likely to get worse from a global perspective. Localised predictions are far more problematic.

    Edit: Having looked again at the interview with Neil Mitchell I don’t think Abbott has any clue of what was actually said. He probably turned up to the interview with the wrong paperwork.

  8. Anomander

    We all know Tony talks through his arse!

  9. DC

    Well said Brian. To think that so many of our ANZAC heroes willfully died to protect the freedoms they enjoyed for all future Australians but now apparently most voters in 2013 can’t pay an extra $10 a week to assist the growth of renewable energy. I know that many for what ever stupid reason just don’t believe in the science but seriously not even $10 a week as a risk management expense in case the 97% of climate scientists happen to be right? This is your children’s future we are talking about

    Of course it hasn’t helped us at all that for the last few years the Liberals have aimed to appeal to the selfishness of our modern society and shaped the debates around our current costs of living. And labor have been too soft to differentiate themselves from this attitude too. Unfortunately many people think the same way as Abbott but I suspect that most just don’t know what the Liberals were offering as they have switched off from politics, hence why the 3 word slogans worked so well.

  10. Brian

    Prudence should dictate that we hope for the best but prepare for the worst. These LNP clowns are presuming the best and disregarding any evidence to the contrary. Were they military types they would at the least be subject to charges of incompetence and a wilful disregard of a potentially catastrophic threat. As for our weekend fireman; as he’s said himself, he’s no tech head and he sure as shit isn’t a scientist.

  11. DC

    This UN shela might have the backing of 116 years of scientific research on the relationship between human CO2 emissions and Global Heat trapping that has long predicted an increase in the frequency of fires globally but ahhh look ahhhhhh she just aint from Straya and she aint a good bloke like ahhh Tony Abbott who is an Aussie bloke and he fight fires too (just ask his good bloke mate Bazza O’Farrel)
    . What whould this UN shela know eh Tony! Shes talking out of her hat if she comments on Straya! Tony!Tony! Oi Oi Oi

  12. Kaye Lee

    “Fire is a part of the Australian experience,” Mr Abbott told Melbourne radio listeners. “It has been since humans were on this continent…. Climate change is real as I have often said and we should take strong action against it but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change. They are a function of life in Australia.”

    In making his statement, Mr Abbott has dismissed out of hand the work of scientists going back more than 25 years showing that as temperatures and carbon dioxide emissions go up, so do the risks of bushfires. Christiana Figueres’ hat is stuffed with evidence.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Not only is climate change dead – so is democracy and parliamentary process

    “Tony Abbott’s much-criticised ”direct action” carbon abatement policy can be introduced without legislation, meaning it will not have to run the gauntlet of a hostile Senate, it has been revealed.

    Environment Minister Greg Hunt has indicated that the government has been advised that it can introduce the controversial replacement program for Labor’s carbon price through regulation rather than direct legislation.”

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