|May 9, 2007|
||Weather Of Mass Destruction|
||Go Beyond The Headlines|
||Coffee and Donuts Not Included|
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Last month, the Military Advisory Board, a panel of esteemed retired military officers, issued a report that found “projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security” over the next 30 to 40 years. The report — “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” — warned that there will be wars over water, increased hunger, instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels, and global warming-induced refugees. “The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism,” the report predicted. In an interview with The Progress Report, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said that “if the impact of climate change is going to make regions of violence poorer, then they really provide a level of fertility for inciting disaffection, resentment against the prosperous world. That’s an indirect effect that can create the conditions for terrorism.” (Listen to the full 10-minute interview here.) Raising the ire of the right wing, the House Intelligence Committee took needed action to set aside funds in order to study the adverse impact that climate change may have on global security.
NATIONAL SECURITY EXPERTS ISSUE WARNING ABOUT WARMING: Leading environmental scientists predict that climate change will bring about reduced access to fresh water, impaired food production, more diseases, land loss and displacement of major populations. “While the developed world will be far better equipped to deal with the effects of climate change, some of the poorest regions may be affected most. This gap can potentially provide an avenue for extremist ideologies and create conditions for terrorism.” The military experts said the fallout from global warming — massive migrations, increased border tensions, greater demands for rescue and evacuation efforts, and conflicts over essential resources, including food and water — could lead to direct U.S. military involvement. Ret. General Gordon Sullivan said, “We found that climate instability will lead to instability in geopolitics and impact American military operations around the world.” A “ferocious drought and famine” were the driving forces behind the crisis in Darfur, which is “likely to be seen as the first climate change war.”
CONGRESS RESPONDS TO THE THREAT: On the heels of the warnings from national security experts, the House Intelligence Committee last week voted to include a provision in the Intelligence Authorization bill that would set aside funds to study the impact of global warming on national security. “We’re concerned that global warming might impact our ability to maintain national security,” said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX). “For that reason, intelligence analysts are already reviewing the impact of climate change to our nation’s security. Our bill requires that the review be a formal National Intelligence Estimate and that the estimate be provided to Congress.” Sens. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced a bill in March that would also propose similar action. The Military Advisory Board specifically recommended that the national security consequences of climate change be fully integrated into national defense strategies, and “the intelligence community should incorporate climate consequences into its National Intelligence Estimate.” Because conservatives have blocked action on global warming, notes Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Joseph Romm, “progressives are driven to fund a serious effort by our intelligence agencies to understand the dangerous implications of our do-nothing climate policy.”
DENIAL TAKES NEW FORM: Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni, President Bush’s former Middle East envoy, said, “It’s not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism.” Zinni underestimated the resistance to global warming science by the right wing. Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking member on the intelligence committee, claimed, “There’s no value added by the intelligence community” in assessing global warming’s security impact. Hoekstra has previously said he’s “not convinced” that we need to make “radical changes solely to address the issue of global warming.” A statement from the House Republican Policy Committee said there is a real question “about whether global warming is a legitimate intelligence priority.” The Pentagon disagrees. In 2003, it issued a report stating in clear language, “Because of the potentially dire consequences, the risk of abrupt climate change…should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a U.S. national security concern.”
MITIGATING THE EFFECTS: The Military Advisory Board wrote, “Managing the security impacts of climate change requires two approaches: mitigating the effects we can control and adapting to those we cannot.” Last week, the IPCC issued its third working group report urging immediate action to control climate change. According to the findings, “we have, at most, eight years to freeze and reverse emissions.” Pachauri explained to The Progress Report, “We have to tell the people of the U.S. that this is something intimately connected with their present and their future. The cost of inaction is going to be far higher than action. And the cost of action is really not all that high.” The technology “is available to make immediate change and in others, the capability is expected to develop within decades. Such is the case with advanced carbon capture and storage technology. When it comes to energy efficiency and conservation, it could simply be a matter of policies that give incentive to change.” A recent Center for American Progress poll found that Americans urgently want solutions to curb global warming.
ADMINISTRATION — WHITE HOUSE HAS TROUBLE FILLING SENIOR POSITIONS: “The Bush administration is facing growing difficulties in filling a rising number of high-level vacancies following a recent spate of senior departures. In the last 10 days alone Mr Bush has lost four senior officials and more resignations are expected to follow.” Recent administration officials who have left include J.D. Crouch, deputy head of the national security council; Randall Tobias, who left after it was revealed he used call-girl services; Dinah Habib Powell, the administration’s senior-most Arab-American; and Timothy Adams, a top Treasury Department official. Today, Johnnie Burton of the Interior Department, “who was roundly attacked by Democrats and Republicans in Congress for not aggressively pursuing billions of dollars in royalties from oil and gas companies from their operations in the Gulf,” also resigned. The series of resignations is creating problems for the White House in filling these new vacancies, seen, for example, in the difficulty Bush has had in finding a “war czar” to oversee operations in Iraq, spurring questions as to the popularity of his Iraq policies within his own inner circles. “Republican allies of the president, who are growing increasingly jittery about the rising number of American deaths in Iraq without signs that Washington’s ‘new way forward’ is working, have publicly questioned the rationale for such a job.” Privately, President Bush has expressed concerns about the growing number of vacancies. “The real concern is that the Bush administration is losing its ability to control Iraq policy,” said David Frum, a former White House speech writer.
EDUCATION — EDUCATION DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL RESIGNS IN STUDENT LOAN SCANDAL: The Education Department announced yesterday that Theresa S. Shaw, the head of the office of federal student aid, has resigned. The announcement comes two days before Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is set to testify before a congressional committee, where she “is expected to face tough questions about the oversight of lenders’ practices and her department’s enforcement of policies against conflicts of interest.” The $85 billion student loan industry, which provides loans to students that are usually at a lower rate and issued by the government, has been split by scandal under Shaw’s watch. In March, ABC News reported that “some of the nation’s top colleges and student loan lenders have come under investigation for questionable business practices and potential conflicts of interest ranging from misleading students; kickbacks to colleges; and even junkets to Caribbean resorts for their financial aide officers.” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the chairman of the Senate education committee, has also criticized access that student loan companies formally had to a national database that holds confidential information on tens of millions of students. Critics have warned that the Education Department “has been too cozy with lenders, choosing not to provide guidelines on permissible inducements to university officials. The department is also being scrutinized by Congress for its failure to crack down on hundreds of millions in dollars in questionable subsidies that loan companies have collected.” Before being appointed by former Education Secretary Rod Paige in 2002, Shaw spent “22 years in [the] industry, mostly at Sallie Mae, the largest student lender.” Another official in her office, Matteo Fontana, “was put on paid leave after the disclosure that he had held at least $100,000 in stock in a loan company while at his job. He, too, had worked at Sallie Mae.”
The Pentagon’s announcement yesterday that 35,000 soldiers in 10 Army combat brigades will begin deploying to Iraq in August as replacements makes it “possible to sustain the increase of U.S. troops there until at least the end of this year.”
“Partial data on attacks gathered from five U.S. brigades operating in Baghdad” show that total attacks since the escalation began in February “were either steady or increasing. In some cases, certain kinds of attacks dipped as the U.S. troop increase began, only to begin rising again in recent weeks. Overall, ‘the number of attacks has stayed relatively constant’ in Baghdad, said one U.S. officer.”
“The government’s methods for deciding compensation for emotionally disturbed veterans have little basis in science, are applied unevenly and may even create disincentives for veterans to get better, an influential scientific advisory group said yesterday.”
“Led by California, 31 states representing more than 70% of the U.S. population announced Tuesday that they would measure and jointly track greenhouse gas emissions by major industries.” The new Climate Registry is seen as a “crucial precursor” to regulating global warming pollution.
“Christians are fleeing in droves from the southern Baghdad district of Dora after Sunni insurgents told them they would be killed unless they converted to Islam or left,” marking “the first apparent attempt to empty an entire Baghdad neighborhood of Christians, the Christians say.”
“Sen. Kit Bond’s staff, worried about a potential scandal over Missouri’s fee offices, suggested two years ago that the Bush administration should consider replacing then-U.S. Attorney Todd Graves.” Graves eventually resigned in March 2006, roughly one year after Bond’s office communicated its concerns, and was replaced by Bradley Schlozman.
“Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) on Tuesday said he won’t veto a bill that would block state officials from following his order” requiring mandatory vaccinations against HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer.
Six Muslim men “were charged Tuesday with plotting to attack Fort Dix” in New Jersey “with automatic weapons and possibly even rocket-propelled grenades.” The men were not connected to an international terrorist group and their plot “was alternately ambitious and clumsy.”
And finally: “What’s a four-letter word for ‘words in some kvetching?’ According to former President Clinton, it’s ‘veys.'” Clinton supplied the clues to a crossword puzzle on the website of the New York Times magazine this week, as part of a special on baby boomers. “Boomer’s update of a song from 1951’s ‘Show Boat?’ That would be ‘Ol Man Liver.’“