22 February 2004: “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.”
In 2004, The Guardian reported on a Department of Defense climate-change report that would prove “hugely embarrassing” for President George W. Bush. The report predicted that climate change could be America’s greatest national security threat. Yet these climate-change predictions, like so many others, proved nearly the opposite of the truth. Among other things, the report predicted nuclear war, endemic conflict over resources, and European cities underwater by 2020.
None of these things happened.
“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,” The Guardian reported. The report “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.”
“Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,” the Pentagon report concluded. “Once again, warfare would define human life.”
Among other things, the report predicted: severe drought and cold pushing Scandinavian populations southward in 2012; a “flood of refugees to southeast U.S. and Mexico from Caribbean islands;” conflict in the EU over food and water; Russia entering the EU in 2018; “migration from northern countries such as Holland and Germany toward Spain and Italy.”
By 2027, the report predicted “increasing migration to Mediterranean countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and Israel.”
The decade of the 2010s saw the opposite of many of these predictions. Migrants from the Middle East are flooding into Europe — even Britain and Scandinavia — not the other way around. Britain does not experience a “Siberian” climate. Refugees are flooding to the U.S. through Mexico from South and Central America, not from the Caribbean or from Europe. Germany is dominating Europe economically, while Italy and Spain struggle, and migrants are flocking northward, not southward.
Perhaps most significantly, no nuclear war has taken place, despite the occasional missile launch from North Korea.
While The Guardian emphasized the nuclear war prediction, the DOD report did not specifically predict a full-fledged nuclear conflict. However, it did predict that climate change would make resources scarce. Scarce resources would result in war and nuclear proliferation would result in nuclear war.
The Pentagon report claimed that peace occurs when resources increase or when populations die off. “But such peaceful periods are short-lived because population quickly rises to once again push against carrying capacity, and warfare resumes.” In modern times, the casualties have decreased, but “all of that progressive behavior could collapse if carrying capacities everywhere were suddenly lowered drastically by abrupt climate change.”
As endemic warfare resumes, it will escalate to nuclear war, the report predicted. “In this world of warring states, nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable.”
This doomsday scenario has not come to pass, and is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future. Like so many dire predictions about resource scarcity before it, the report was eclipsed by human ingenuity.