DoD study: climate change will destroy us …in 2020

Summary: In February 2004, headlines in The Guardian and other news media told us of a secret DoD report predicting a climate catastrophe by 2020. Read the study and gain perspective about today’s warnings of a Climate Emergency.

Burning and smoking Earth.
Photo 50590315 © Strahil Dimitrov – Dreamstime.

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us.”

From The Guardian on 21 February 2004.

“Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war. Britain will be ‘Siberian’ in less than 20 years. Threat to the world is greater than terrorism.”

“Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters. A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world. …Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. ‘We don’t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,’ he said. …”

Other journalists gave uncritical coverage to it (e.g., Fortune, Grist). The secret report is now public. Read it and feel the terror!

An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and
Its Implications for United States National Security

By Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Commissioned by DoD’s Office of Net Assessment. Published October 2003.

Schwartz is a “futurist”, co-founder of the Global Business Network consulting firm and big in the “scenario planning” gig (Wikipedia). Randall also worked at GBN.

Excerpt from the Executive Summary.

The research suggests that once temperature rises above some threshold, adverse weather conditions could develop relatively abruptly, with persistent changes in the atmospheric circulation causing drops in some regions of 5-10°F in a single decade. Paleoclimatic evidence suggests that altered climatic patterns could last for as much as a century, as they did when the ocean conveyor collapsed 8,200 years ago, or, at the extreme, could last as long as 1,000 years as they did during the Younger Dryas, which began about 12,700 years ago. {Perhaps caused by an asteroid impact.}

In this report, as an alternative to the scenarios of gradual climatic warming that are so common, we outline an abrupt climate change scenario patterned after the 100-year event that occurred about 8,200 years ago. This abrupt change scenario is characterized by the following conditions.

  • Annual average temperatures drop by up to 5°F over Asia and North America and 6°F in northern Europe.
  • Annual average temperatures increase by up to 4°F in key areas throughout Australia, South America, and southern Africa.
  • Drought persists for most of the decade in critical agricultural regions and in the water resource regions for major population centers in Europe and eastern North America.
  • Winter storms and winds intensify, amplifying the impacts of the changes. Western Europe and the North Pacific experience enhanced winds.

The report explores how such an abrupt climate change scenario could potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even war due to resource constraints such as {these}.

  • Food shortages due to decreases in net global agricultural production.
  • Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patters, causing more frequent floods and droughts.
  •  Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess.

From the body of the report.

By 2005 the climatic impact of the shift is felt more intensely in certain regions around the world. More severe storms and typhoons bring about higher storm surges and floods in low-lying islands such as Tarawa and Tuvalu (near New Zealand).

In 2007, a particularly severe storm causes the ocean to break through levees in the Netherlands making a few key coastal cities such as The Hague unlivable. Failures of the delta island levees in the Sacramento River region in the Central Valley of California creates an inland sea and disrupts the aqueduct system transporting water from northern to southern California because salt water can no longer be kept out of the area during the dry season.

After roughly 60 years of slow freshening, the thermohaline collapse begins in 2010, disrupting the temperate climate of Europe, which is made possible by the warm flows of the Gulf Stream (the North Atlantic arm of the global thermohaline conveyor). Ocean circulation patterns change, bringing less warm water north and causing an immediate shift in the weather in Northern Europe and eastern North America.   {It lists many many more bad things that happen.}

The Weather Report: 2010-2020.

Drought persists for the entire decade in critical agricultural regions and in the areas around major population centers in Europe and eastern North America. Average annual temperatures drop by up to 5°F over Asia and North America and up to 6°F in Europe. Temperatures increase by up to 4°F in key areas throughout Australia, South America, and southern Africa. Winter storms and winds intensify, amplifying the impact of the changes. Western Europe and the North Pacific face enhanced westerly winds. …

2012: Severe drought and cold push Scandinavian populations southward, push back from EU. Flood of refugees to southeast U.S. and Mexico from Caribbean islands.

2015: Conflict within the EU over food and water supply leads to skirmishes and strained diplomatic relations 2018: Russia joins EU, providing energy resources.

2020: Migration from northern countries such as Holland and Germany toward Spain and Italy.

{And many many more bad things happen around the world. It gets even worse after 2020.}

—————– End of excerpt. —————–

Climate scientists lept into action!

The Schwartz – Randall report is an example of the climate alarmists’ typical exaggeration of scientists’ confidence in unvalidated theories (i.e., theories far out of consensus). So climate scientists responded to misuse of science by condemning it. Just kidding! I cannot find any who condemned it, because alarmists are honorary members of the Climate Science Club – with all sins forgiven.

While climate scientists were MIA, some journalists provided a balanced analysis. Such as this at the NY Times by Andy Revkin.

Notes from the past

A doomster vision of the future was popular back in 1971, just as it is today. On 15 January 1971 Americans watched a TV show by a hot new director, the 24-year old Steven Spielberg: “L.A. 2017.”  We learned that in 46 years pollution would destroy the Earth’s ecology and force the remnants of humanity to live underground.

Before we panic about DoD’s 2003 climate study, remember that they eagerly join every parade that might give them more money. Such as the CIA’s paean to global cooling: “Potential Implications of Trends in Population Growth, Food Production, and Climate“ in August 1974.

“{A} number of climatologists are in agreement that the northern hemisphere, at least, is growing cooler. …According to Hubert Lamb – an outstanding British climatologist – 23 out of 27 forecasting methods predicted a cooling trend through the remainder of this century. …A number of meteorological experts are thinking in terms of a return to a climate like that of the 19th century.”

If you are still calm, remember Peak Oil? DoD’s Office of Force Transformation hired LMI Government Consulting to produce “Transforming the Way the DoD Looks at Energy” (January 2007). Only massive transfusions of cash could save our military from peak oil. The doomsters were ecstatic! To avoid embarrassment, all online copies have been put down the memory hole.


The best guides we have are the reports of the IPCC and major climate agencies. The IPCC’s scientists assign a confidence level to each of their findings. Most are “medium”; few are “very high” (see their recent Special Report) – because we have much to learn about climate dynamics. This is the key fact that alarmists and their journalist enablers conceal from us.

For More Information

Ideas! For your holiday shopping, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a story about our future: “Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

Important: the Climate Emergency is a moral panic.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change. Also, see all posts about uncertainties in climate science, and especially these …

  1. Focusing on worst-case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  2. Roger Pielke Jr.: the politics of unlikely climate scenarios.
  3. A look at the workings of Climate Propaganda Inc.
  4. The Extinction Rebellion’s hysteria vs. climate science.
  5. Listening to climate doomsters makes our situation worse.
  6. See how climate science becomes alarmist propaganda.
  7. The climate crusade marches across America!
  8. Toxic climate propaganda is poisoning US public policy.

Activists don’t want you to read these books

Some unexpected good news about polar bears: The Polar Bear Catastrophe That Never Happened by Susan Crockford (2019).

To learn more about the state of climate change see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters & Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr., professor for the Center for Science and Policy Research at U of CO – Boulder (2018).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.


42 thoughts on “DoD study: climate change will destroy us …in 2020”

  1. Currently reading:

    Twilight Of Abundance: Why Life In The 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish and Short

    By David Archibald

    First chapter scientifically lays waste to the ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ crowd.

    Food scarcity will become real, but it won’t be because the earth is warming, it will be because we are cooling off. The data and honest studies support this. But you can’t make money off a scared populace and ‘drive them’ with scenarios that cannot be changed. How do you make a planet hotter?

    Just like that report, we will look back on the ‘climate change’ alarmists with clucking tongues and shaking heads.

    1. D,

      “The data and honest studies support this.”

      Almost no climate scientists -skeptics, or whatever – believe there is any serious likelihood of the Earth cooling in the 21st century. Unless we get unusual volcanic activity, an asteroid impact, etc.

      1. D,

        “Me thinks you’ll be proven wrong there.”

        You are confused. My statement is a factual one about the present beliefs of climate scientists. You can’t prove it wrong.

        As for the future, perhaps almost every climate scientist is wrong and you are right. I suggest not betting on that.

  2. Almost no climate scientists -skeptics, or whatever – believe there is any serious likelihood of the Earth cooling in the 21st century. Unless we get unusual volcanic activity, an asteroid impact, etc.

    This is true. But to assess the significance of this fact we have to look at their track record for climate predictions. Its surely not encouraging.

    It may be that our knowledge about the planetary climate is so limited that reliable longer term predictions are not possible for experts or amateurs. The disturbing possibility the track record raises is that Archibald has as much or as chance of being right as the more or less unanimous experts.

    We don’t know what was the cause of the Medieval Warm Period. Or the Little Ice Age. Or the Roman Warm, and subsequent cooling. This suggests that we really do not know what causes climate fluctuations. If that is so we really do not know whether its going to warm or cool over the rest of the century. Just because the consensus of experts is of a certain outcome, if they cannot explain previous fluctuations and their track record on predictions recently is terrible, why should we put any credence in it?

    We should particularly be wary in these circumstances of basing expensive large scale policy initiatives on their current consensus.

    1. henrik,

      “this fact we have to look at their track record for climate predictions. Its surely not encouraging.”

      Absurdly false. The greenhouse effect was identified a century ago. In the 1970s the first predictions of warming were made, and have proved roughly adequate – certainly directionally so (ie, warming vs. cooling).

      The debate is whether current models have the extreme precision need to provide policy guidance, and have they been validated adequately to be used for policy guidance.

      1. Climate models seem to overwhelmingly ignore solar activity. How can you ignore the biggest “heater” around?

        I’ve long suspected the ‘climate scientists’ of being paid to find what’s expected of them. That the famous Mann (of hockey stick game) has not only been wrong, but lost a court case because he would not provide his data.

        Data is data. What’s to hide? Unless you’re dishonest and so is your data.

        Archibald’s arguments align with Martin Armstrong who, while many find incredulous, is far more right than wrong on many many issues.

      2. D,

        “How can you ignore the biggest “heater” around?”

        For a very good reason. Climate models are predicting changes in temperature – not the absolute level of temperature. If the sun’s luminosity were constant, it would have zero effect on changes in Earth’s climate. It does vary, but current estimates are that its variations are too small to have much effect.

        There have been past attempts to build paleoclimate records showing the sun’s effect, but they have been hampered by poor data about changes in the sun’s activity. The recently revised record of sunspots is said to provide a better basis for this analysis (it is quite different than the previous canonical record). Time will tell.

        BTW – if someone gives you a story about scientists’ ignoring basic facts, then you are being lied to. That’s a game both “skeptics” and “alarmists” play. It’s one reason that the public debate has become a cacophony.

      3. If the predictions were so accurate, you wouldn’t need to constantly ‘adjust’ the past records, over and over, always downwards.

      4. Tvlist,

        Despite the confident claims (a pox afflicting both sides in the public debate), there is little evidence of significant net adjustments to the US temperature record. Esp. for data after 2006.

        There are a host of other concerns with the temp data, esp global land. It’s quality is dubious before WW1, more so before WW1 – and esp. for 1800 – 1880 – data bizarrely often used to create a pre-industrial baseline.

        Those concerns are 10x larger for global sea surface temperatures.

  3. There is an appetite for climate studies, the more fear generating the better, especially among our elites. Why?

    —Because it shows their grave concern for humanity?

    — Or because it rationalizes more government control over population and greater security for their wealth and power?

    1. Michael,

      I’ve written what I believe are adequate explanations for that. See the posts about fear.

      Our elites use fear to govern us because it usually works.

      We like scary news because it is fun, and since we’re no longer interested in governing ourselves we need entertainment – not information.

    1. Long ago I told my wife “in all things, follow the money”. When you know who profits, you know why the issue is being pushed.

      1. D,

        That’s wise advice! The Dictionary of Modern Proverbs gives the origin of that adage (although the insight is probably ancient).

        “I would say, ‘Follow the money, Earl, because that’s where it’s going to be.’”
        — Henry Peterson testifying at 1974 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Earl J. Silbert to be United States Attorney.

      2. D,

        Climate doomster-ism is beyond money, it’s a way of life. A place where facts and reason don’t matter and never did.
        All this for 3mm of sea level rise per year for the last 100 or so. Keep an eye on carbon credits, most of us know it’s a tax by any other name.

      3. Ron,

        “Climate doomster-ism is beyond money, it’s a way of life. A place where facts and reason don’t matter and never did.”

        True. But after so many years, we can describe it much more precisely: the Climate Emergency is a moral panic. Without that insight, it makes little sense.

        “All this for 3mm of sea level rise per year for the last 100 or so”

        That’s a bizarrely false way to describe the debate. If you cannot accurately state what the other side is saying, then you don’t understand the debate. Or you’re being dishonest, which I’m confident isn’t the case here.

        “Keep an eye on carbon credits”

        Money is a key in every public policy debate. It should be like reminding people to keep breathing. But people still forget this.

      4. Larry,

        “That’s a bizarrely false way to describe the debate. If you cannot accurately state what the other side is saying, then you don’t understand the debate”

        Bizarre perhaps but not when the alarmists talk in feet instead of inches/meters instead of millimeters.
        I think I understand the debate and side with the skeptics. I’m all for clean air and reasonable energy policies that are market driven. Not by the whims of the party in power at any given moment.
        Thanks for the link, I’ll look it over again.

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  5. Great catch. The reporting on that “study” was as deceptive as the study itself was wrong.
    Happy New Year wishes to you and yours.

    1. Hunter,

      The authors did a great job by the only criteria that consultants value (I speak as a long-time consultant): they delivered what the client wanted. As bonuses, the check cleared and they got good ink in the media.

  6. Alastair McIntosh

    The report is in no way a prediction. It is a speculative extreme scenario of an unlikely event. Presumably the military does some planning for extreme circumstances although I doubt that they would spend much time on this scenario.
    My scenario (just as valid as the scenario you have called a prediction) is that a slowing thermohaline conveyor will cause a slight cooling which will offset the predicted warming.
    Even the IPCC does not make predictions. They publish scenarios of warming based on different assumptions of fossil fuel consumption use.

    1. Alastair,

      “The report is in no way a prediction.”

      That’s hilarious! Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. Of course it was a prediction (“an estimate that a specified thing will happen in the future”). It left wiggle-room by using conditionals (“would”, “could”), since few things in this world are certain.

      The Guardian correctly reported it as a prediction. There is no record that the authors, NASA, or DoD complained that The Guardian misrepresented the report.

      “My scenario …”

      Are you are a climate scientist, a famous futurist, or someone paid to make forecasts by NASA or DoD? That’s why the Schwartz-Randall report got big-time attention – with some expecting it to affect US national policy and the next elections. If “no” to all of these, why do we care about your scenario?

  7. Doom always sells because it plays to our innate existential paranoia, which is ever on the lookout for a threat. Is that rustling in the brush a hedgehog or a tiger? Assume the former and you’ll likely be right 95 times out of hundred and dead the other five. Assume the latter and live to pass on your DNA.

    Doomsayers have taken a short-term trend, run it out to infinity, and assumed the worst, ignoring history and common sense, both of which say, loud and clear, that climate is cyclical. Goes up, goes down; repeat.There have been roughly forty glacial outbreaks since the Pleistocene began 2.5 MYA. There are scattered indicators that the Holocene is starting to wind down. So soon, geologically speaking, the forty-first glacial episode will descend on us, and it’s back to ice age conditions for the next 120,000 years or so. Our distant descendants, if any, will look back on our balmy epoch with envy.

    Odd that purveyors of doom are undeterred by serial failure.

    1. Scott,

      “Doom always sells because it plays to our innate existential paranoia”

      I believe that you are assuming that our current fearful state is the norm in history. It isn’t. Look at the American and English popular literature in the 19th and 20th centuries. From stories like Jane Austin’s to the high science fiction (HG Wells, Jules Verne) to the mid-20th C’s pulps (science fiction, westerns, mysteries). Quite optimistic. There were always morality tales, in which bad men and women had bad ends – but those were seen as optimistic in a different sense.

      Our love of doomster stories reflects a change in us. I’ve written scores of posts documenting this.

      Why doomster stories are so popular: we want to believe America is doomed.

      We love scary stories. The reason why reveals a secret about America.

      So many of our hit films show dystopias. This shows how we’ve changed.

      1. D –

        (1) Why is this worth a read? You didn’t know that cold snaps create fatalities? Next up: home fires kill!

        (2) Please, no more nonsense about Armstrong. He is a crank about climate, about which he appears to know nothing. His market predictions are like those of astrologers – some right, some wrong. His fans remember the former and forget the latter. Anyone with the record he pretends to have would have more money than God, and not be selling subscriptions.

        I’m moderating f

      2. Yes, but. There’s always a part of us humans, the lizard brain as some call it, that is susceptible to fearmongering. This part is energized in times of uncertainty. It seems to be easier to alarm people than it is to fill them with confidence. Alarmed people are more easily manipulated. Powerful forces with agendas use this to their advantage, as you have pointed out. It’s becoming SOP, and this is a problem.

        Objectively, we have a plenitude of reasons to be optimistic, not to mention thankful. It’s amazing how resistant many people are to this idea though.

        How to break the pernicious cycle of fear?

    1. Hans,

      “this is a global cooling alarmist scenario.”

      Hence the strategic brilliance of re-branding the crusade as “Climate Change.” No matter what the future, we have to give the Left the gift of power to prevent it!

      The film version of this scenario is The Day After Tomorrow, directed by Roland Emmerich (2004).

  8. Pingback: DoD study: climate change will destroy us …in 2020 – Weather Brat Weather around the world plus

  9. IPCC Third Assessment Report, Chapter 14, Section – Last paragraph:

    “In sum, a strategy must recognize what is possible. In climate research and modelling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

    This information was not included in the Summary Report for Policymakers given to the press and public.

    If the climate is indeed a coupled non-linear chaotic system (who can doubt the IPCC) then there is no rational or scientific basis to make a definitive statement about a future state of the climate.

    At this point the coupled non-linear chaotic nature of the climate makes scientific observations academically interesting but individually they have no relevance in predicting the future state of the climate. The climate is a system which means the relationships among these observations are what is important not the observations themselves.

    All the public discourse regarding the future state of the climate has been based on the false premise that the current climate models are predicting the future state of the climate when in fact the models are merely projecting these states.

    Predictions are the purview of science. Model projections can only agree with predictions when the models duplicate the real world which the IPCC states is impossible to do.

    To base public policy on an unknowable future state of a system defies common sense. However, too much money and political power is at stake for the Central Planners to do otherwise.

    I would argue that the Climate Model True Believers are the ones taking an unscientific approach to the subject.

    In January 1961 President Eisenhower in his Farewell Address identified the situation in which we find ourselves today:

    “Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    “Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

    “It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

    Other relevant publications from Eric Hoffer are: “The True Believer” and “The Temper of Our Times”

    From “The Temper of Our Times”: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    1. Jim,

      The IPCC’s reports discuss current research, not eternal truths. The Third Assessment Report was published in 2001, based on research before 2000. That’s 20 years ago. In science and tech, that’s an eon.

      As for your beliefs about models, current use of models shows that you are wrong. Like this, which shows a gross misunderstanding of how models work:

      “Model projections can only agree with predictions when the models duplicate the real world which the IPCC states is impossible to do.”

      1. The “New” models did not predict the recent pause in temperature the planet experienced. If the climate is a coupled nonlinear chaotic system the mathematics used to analyze the system has not changed since 2001.

      2. Jim,

        The warming is not a smooth process. Asking the models to predict not just the long trends, but the swings along the way is a bit much. It smacks of desperation.

      1. The cause of the 20 year warming hiatus is obviously not addressed in the current models. How does anyone know what other climate variables are not included in the models.

        For instance the variables that caused the ice accumulated during the previous ice ages to disappear in a relatively short period of time.

        The IPCC statement that the future state of a coupled non linear chaotic system is simply a mathematical fact and does not have anything to do with the variables within the system. Even if all the variables were included with scientific accuracy the long term state of the system would still be unknowable.

      2. Jim,

        If models move from accurate predictions over 10 to 20 years, that will be considered useful validation. If the models are tested using the well-established validation protocols, that too will provide useful input to policy-makers.

        It’s nice that you have an opinion about models. Just as many people insisted that man could not fly and that rockets couldn’t work in space. But, as they say, “the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.”

  10. you obviously are not a systems engineer and know nothing about the concept of a coupled nonlinear chaotic system analysis. I suggest you contact the IPCC author. He may bring you up speed on the subject.

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