LONDON (AFP) - A secret report prepared by the Pentagon warns that climate change may lead to global catastrophe costing millions of lives and is a far greater threat than terrorism.
The report was ordered by an influential US Pentagon advisor but was covered up by US defense chiefs for four months, until it was obtained by the British weekly The Observer. The leak promises to draw angry attention to US environmental and military policies, following Washington's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and President George W. Bush's skepticism about global warning, a stance that has stunned scientists worldwide.
The Pentagon report, commissioned by Andrew Marshall, predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies The Observer reported.
The report, quoted in the paper, concluded: "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life... Once again, warfare would define human life."
Its authors -- Peter Schwartz, a CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of Global Business Network based in California -- said climate change should be considered "immediately" as a top political and military issue. It "should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern", they were quoted as saying.
Some examples given of probable scenarios in the dramatic report include:
Randall, one of the authors, called his findings "depressing
stuff" and warned that it might even be too late
to prevent future disasters.
"We don't know exactly where we are in the process. It could start
we would not know for another five years," he told the paper.
Experts familiar with the report told the newspaper that the threat to global stability "vastly eclipses that of terrorism".
Taking environmental pollution and climate change into account in political and military strategy is a new, complicated and necessary challenge for leaders, Randall said.
"It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat," he said.
Coming from the Pentagon, normally a bastion of conservative politics, the report is expected to bring environmental issues to the fore in the US presidential race.
Last week the Union of Concerned Scientists, an influential and non-partisan group that includes 20 Nobel laureates, accused the Bush administration of having deliberately distorted scientific fact to serve its policy agenda and having "misled the public".
Its 38-page report, which it said took over a year to prepare and was not timed to coincide with the campaign season, details how Washington "systematically" skewed government scientific studies, suppressed others, stacked panels with political and unqualified appointees and often refused to seek independent expertise on issues.
Critics of the report quoted by the New York Times denied there was deliberate misrepresentation and called it politically motivated.
The person behind the leaked Pentagon report, Andrew Marshall, cannot be accused of the same partisan politicking. Marshall, 82, has been an advisor for the defense department for decades, and was described by The Observer as the author of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plans for a major transformation of the US military.