The CIA on Climate Change

Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado notes that the State Department now has a searchable online database of historic documents, and Roger decided to see what a search for “climate change” would cough up. The very first thing is a CIA assessment from August 1974 on the dire consequences of . . . global cooling. Guess what? The world was going to come to an end! We were all going to starve to death! The remedy: more power to the U.S. government, naturally. Funny how that recommendation never seems to change no matter what the problem.

Trying to provide adequate world food supplies will become a problem of over-riding priority in the years and decades immediately ahead — and a key role in any successful effort must fall to the US. Even in the most favorable circumstances predictable, with increased devotion of scarce resources and technical expertise, the outcome will be doubtful; in the event of adverse changes in climate, the outcome can only be grave. . .

The momentum of world population growth, especially in the less developed countries (LDCs), is such that even strong measures taken now to reduce fertility would not stop rapid growth for decades. . .

Demand for food rises inexorably with the growth of population and of affluence. Increases in supply are less certain. Manes age-old concerns about the adequacy of food supplies have resumed with particular urgency since the crop-failures of 1972.

The rich countries need have no fear of hunger, though the relative price of food will probably rise at times. [Actually the real price of food has continued to fall.]

The implications for the world food situation and for US interests would be considerably greater if climatologists who believe a cooling trend is underway prove to be right.

If the trend continues for several decades there would almost certainly be an absolute shortage of food. . .  In the worst case, if climate change caused grave shortages of food despite US exports, the potential risks to the US would also rise. There would be increasingly desperate attempts on the part of powerful but hungry nations to get grain any way they could. Massive migrations, sometimes backed by force, would become a live issue and political and economic instability would be widespread.

As Roger comments, “Lesson: The 1974 memo was wrong on just about all counts. Policy relevant analyses and project are really, really difficult. Effectively policies will be robust to inevitable analytical errors, uncertainties and ignorance.”

Same as it ever was.

JOHN adds: Sounds like that prognosis was written by Agent Malthus.

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