The moving Fingar writes: Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for U.S


While its conclusions won’t surprise Climate Progress readers, this unusually savvy new intelligence forecast reported in today’s Post ought to serve as a wake-up call for the largely clueless “Establishment” (see “Most opinion leaders just don’t get global warming — Part I“):

An intelligence forecast being prepared for the next president on future global risks envisions a steady decline in U.S. dominance in the coming decades, as the world is reshaped by globalization, battered by climate change, and destabilized by regional upheavals over shortages of food, water and energy.

The report, previewed in a speech by Thomas Fingar, the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst, also concludes that the one key area of continued U.S. superiority — military power — will “be the least significant” asset in the increasingly competitive world of the future, because “nobody is going to attack us with massive conventional force.”

Duh. And yet the federal government spends more than $500 billion a year on military security, and maybe one percent of that on climate or energy security. Fingar is a remarkably broad thinking guy, which may well be why he is our top intelligence analyst. He has the kind of reality-based alarmism that inevitably comes from the genuine understanding of the facts of global warming:

The predicted shift toward a less U.S.-centric world will come at a time when the planet is facing a growing environmental crisis, caused largely by climate change, Fingar said. By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

For poorer countries, climate change “could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Fingar said, while the United States will face “Dust Bowl” conditions in the parched Southwest.

[Glad to see somebody serious understands what is coming (see “Sorry, delayers & enablers, Part 2: Climate change means worse droughts for SW and world“)]

He said U.S. intelligence agencies accepted the consensual scientific view of global warming, including the conclusion that it is too late to avert significant disruption over the next two decades. The conclusions are in line with an intelligence assessment produced this summer that characterized global warming as a serious security threat for the coming decades.

Floods and droughts will trigger mass migrations and political upheaval in many parts of the developing world.

In short, the time to act is yesterday. Facing catastrophes of Biblical scale, I make only a small apology to Omar Khayam:

The Moving Fingar writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it

And as long as Fingar has put us in the apocalyptic mood, let’s go back to the source, the Book of Daniel, the ancient — and yet all too modern — story of an empire brought down by its own myopic profligacy, a story that also gave us the all too appropriate phrase, “The Handwriting on the Wall”:

1 Belshaz’zar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.
2 ¶ Belshaz’zar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnez’zar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein.
3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, drank in them.
4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.
5 ¶ In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
6 Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
7 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chalde’ans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.
8 Then came in all the king’s wise men: but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof….

The Queen knew that Daniel was just the guy to interpret this. He was, you might say, the top intelligence analyst of his time. So Daniel came and pointed out that the King had turned away from God and “hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know.” Then Daniel turned to the words of the moving finger and famously explained:

25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHAR’SIN.
26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

Of course, in our case, the handwriting on the wall comes not from a moving finger but from the painful reality of scientific understanding and observation as transcribed and interpreted by our top scientists and the likes of the very moving Mr. Fingar.

Humanity is being weighed in the balances. Let’s all hope we are not found wanting.

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12 Responses to The moving Fingar writes: Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for U.S

  1. Dano says:

    [Glad to see somebody serious understands what is coming (see “Sorry, delayers & enablers, Part 2: Climate change means worse droughts for SW and world“)]

    I went to Uni for a year with a person from a South American country who was there on a fellowship, sent by their country to learn advanced disaster preparedness.

    This person was gone for a week one quarter and they came back from DC and a conference where Colin Powell was the keynote speaker. This person’s stories were all about how the world’s militaries were doing scenario analysis for large disasters, many of them brought about by climate change and the mass migrations inherent in such scenarios.

    Anyway, countries have been preparing for this for years. We’re just not privileged enough to hear about it. Kinda makes you wonder why steps aren’t being taken to mitigate, eh?



  2. Mark Shapiro says:

    ” . . . the federal government spends more than $500 billion a year on military security . . . ”

    Chalmers Johnson, author of The Sorrows of Empire, Blowback, and Nemesis, now estimates our total defense spending this year at $1 trilliion. He adds all DOD (and supplementals for Iraq etc) plus defense spending in Depts. of State and Energy, the VA, etc.

    Read his books at your own risk: they are tough to take.

  3. danny bloom says:

    Forget “Star Wars” — Get Ready for “Climate Wars” in Future!

    Climate change could be the impetus for future “world war”

    by Danny Bloom (not published yet)

    Jurgen Scheffran, a research scientist in the Program in Arms Control,
    Disarmament and International Security and the Center for Advanced
    BioEnergy Research at the University of Ilinois, is among scientists
    and military analysts worldwide raising concerns about possible links
    between global warming and the frequency and severity of hurricanes,
    heat waves and other extreme weather events.
    He is also among international-security experts who have started
    discussions about how climate change-related damage to global
    ecosystems and the resulting competition for natural resources may
    increasingly serve as “triggers” for wars and other conflicts in the

    The world of 2121 or 2323 might look a lot different from the
    relatively peaceful world of today.

    Scheffran, in a survey of recent research published earlier this
    summer in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, concluded that “the
    impact of climate change on human and global security could extend far
    beyond the limited scope the world has seen thus far.” Not a pretty

    In a press release from his university in the American midwest,
    Scheffran’s review also included a critical analysis of four trends
    identified in a report by the German Advisory Council on Global Change
    as among those most possibly destabilizing populations and
    governments: degradation of freshwater resources, food insecurity,
    natural disasters and environmental migration.

    In his analysis, Scheffran noted that the number of world regions
    vulnerable to drought was expected to rise. Water supplies stored in
    glaciers and snow cover in major mountain ranges such as the Andes and
    Himalayas also are expected to decrease, he said in a press release.

    “Most critical for human survival are water and food, which are
    sensitive to changing climatic conditions,” Scheffran added.

    The degradation of these critical resources, combined with threats to
    populations caused by natural disasters, disease and crumbling
    economic and ecosystems, he said, could ultimately have “cascading

    “Environmental changes caused by global warming will not only affect
    human living conditions but may also generate larger societal effects,
    by threatening the infrastructures of society or by inducing social
    responses that aggravate the problem,” he says. “The associated
    socio-economic and political stress can undermine the functioning of
    communities, the effectiveness of institutions, and the stability of
    societal structures. These degraded conditions could contribute to
    civil strife, and, worse, armed conflict.”

    “Large areas of Africa are suffering from scarcity of food and fresh
    water resources, making them more vulnerable to conflict. An example
    is Sudan’s Darfur province where an ongoing conflict was aggravated
    since droughts forced Arab herders to move into areas of African

    Other regions of the world – including the Middle East, Central Asia
    and South America – also are being affected, he said.

    With so much at stake, Scheffran recommends multiple strategies for
    forestalling otherwise insurmountable consequences. Among the most
    critical, he said, is for governments to incorporate measures for
    addressing climate change within national policy. Beyond that, he
    advocates a cooperative, international approach to addressing

    “Although climate change bears a significant conflict potential, it
    can also transform the international system toward more cooperation if
    it is seen as a common threat that requires joint action,” he said.

    One of the more hopeful, recent signs on that front, he said, was the
    2007 Bali climate summit that brought together more than 10,000
    representatives from throughout the world to draft a climate plan.

    “The Bali Roadmap has many good ideas, but was criticized as being too
    vague to induce a major policy shift,” Scheffran said. “Nevertheless,
    the seeming conflict between environment and the economy will be best
    overcome with the recognition that protecting the climate in the best
    interest of the economy.”

    In addition to global cooperation, Scheffran believes that people
    living today can learn a lot about the future by studying the past.

    “History has shown how dependent our culture is on a narrow window of
    climatic conditions for average temperature and precipitation,” he
    said. “The great human civilizations began to flourish after the last
    ice age, and some disappeared due to droughts and other adverse shifts
    in the climate. The so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ in the northern
    hemisphere a few hundred years ago was caused by an average drop in
    temperature of less than a degree Celsius.

    “The consequences were quite severe in parts of Europe, associated
    with loss of harvest and population decline,” Scheffran said. “Riots
    and military conflicts became more likely, as a recent empirical study
    has suggested.”

    However, as history has demonstrated, humans are quite capable of
    adapting to changing climate conditions as long as those changes are

    “The challenge is to slow down the dynamics and stabilize the climate
    system at levels which are not dangerous,” Scheffran said.

    He remains optimistic that this is still possible – in large part,
    because public awareness and educational efforts taking place today
    are making concerns about climate change a priority.

    “Global warming receives now more public and political attention than
    a few years ago,” Scheffran said.

  4. paulm says:

    Well 9/11 was probably the threshold to the peak of US dominance.

    It is inevitable as history shows us.

    The US will probably go down from the inside rather than from an external enemy.

  5. Cliff Figallo says:

    Just the fact that someone like Sarah Palin now stands a good chance of being the VP, not to mention the President, of this country, is a pretty good indication of how this country has lost the ability to recognize the situation we’re in. I’ve got a very bad feeling about the future.

  6. David B. Benson says:

    I only need about %670 billion of that $1 trillion to stabilize CO2 and eventually drop the concentration to something satisfactory such as 280 CO2e.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    $670 — Keystroke problems today.

  8. red says:

    Here’s a small group from the military that’s promoting space-based solar power:

    “Why is the DoD interested in this?”

    “Immediate military tactical and operational needs:

    1. Dramatically reduce the energy logistics train to forward operating bases and reduce the need to secure massive energy convoys and stores in:

    1. Disaster relief efforts
    2. Nation building efforts
    3. Combat zones

    2. Beam power directly to vehicles in all operating media for the following reasons

    1. Reduce weight of carrying fuel
    2. Increase range and loiter time
    3. Eliminate need for refueling and reduce the need for refueling vehicles
    4. Reduce the need for consuming local energy supplies
    5. Reduce size and signature

    3. Use SSP for liquifaction of carbon-neutral fuels for current generation of liquid-fueled systems

    1. Continue to exploit current liquid fuel infrastructure, using carbon neutral fuels
    2. Gain independence from foreign liquid fuel providers

    Urgent national security strategic goals:

    1. Assist in achieving national energy independence from current liquid fuel providers

    1. Reduce level of national interest in unstable regions
    2. Reduce national dependence on unfriendly foreign governments
    3. Reduce the risk of energy competition wars in the 21st Century

    2. Assist allies in achieving their national energy independence

    1. Develop and strengthen broad international partnerships
    2. Participate in international energy consortia and alliances

    3. Economic: Become an energy exporter

    1. Increase national ability to influence or avoid geopolitical events
    2. Increase GNP, wealth of the nation, and increase tax revenue
    3. Use energy earnings to pay off national debt

    4. Environmental: Dramatically reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere

    1. Prevent food wars which might happen if global warming continues
    2. Enhance soft power and green credibility around the world
    3. Lead the international clean energy movement by example”

    They do realize their part of the solution is not ready for prime time:

    “Several major challenges will need to be overcome to make SBSP a reality, including the creation of low-cost space access and a supporting infrastructure system on Earth and in space. … Because DoD would not want to own SBSP satellites, but rather just purchase the delivered energy as it currently does via traditional terrestrial utilities, a repeated review finding is that the commercial sector will need Government to accomplish three major tasks to catalyze SBSP development. The first is to retire a major portion of the early technical risks. … The second challenge is to facilitate the policy, regulatory, legal, and organizational instruments … The final Government contribution is to become a direct early adopter and to incentivize other early adopters much as is accomplished on a regular basis with other renewable energy systems coming on-line today.”

    Personally I find the challenges they’d need to solve (like low-cost space access) to be staggeringly difficult (not so much in technical areas, but in political, regulatory, and financial ones) but the point is that they see they problems in a similar light, even if their solution isn’t on the shelf.

  9. jorleh says:

    Very curious that intelligent people too can be blind to facts, like science. And believe in some religion, for example.

    If these people would take science seriously they would of course notice the coming climate catastrophe as a fact. Looks like intelligence alone is not necesserily able to build coherent frames for understanding complex questions.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    jorleh — “Military intelligence” is an oxymoron.

  11. shop says:

    An intelligence forecast being prepared for the next president on future global risks envisions

  12. Leland Palmer says:

    Such strange, demented apparent priorities from our financial elites.

    Trillions spent on war to invade the Middle East, but energy research in this country gets next to nothing, comparatively.

    I’m old enough to remember when David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget cutting guru, cutting Jimmy Carter’s alternative energy research budget by 90 percent, to save a couple of billion dollars per year. That same administration then went on to spend a trillion 1980’s dollars on Star Wars, and half a trillion on the Savings and Loan Crisis.

    I still get the feeling that our financial elites actually believe the climate modeling from a few years ago, and are actually adding up winners and losers from climate change.

    Certainly, our financial elites are willing to continue pouring trillions down the Middle East rathole, but continue to resist any substantive action on climate change.

    But, there won’t be any winners in the long run, as most of us here reading this blog already know.

    The only things we have to look forward to are an escalating series of vicious circle positive feedbacks that ends up destroying the biosphere, unless we stop them from doing so, in my opinion.