"Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall were drafted for an unclassified, worst-case look at climate change. But the echo chamber of Internet news and opinion transformed their thought exercise into a top military secret or the ultimate comeuppance for a fossil-fueled executive or a Bush conspiracy to hide the WMDs of the natural world.
"There's nothing secret about it, there's nothing Pentagon about it and there's no prediction in it," Randall said.
It's full of predictions, actually, but all start from a premise of abrupt climate change that is highly uncertain and outside the consensus of mainstream scientists.
Climate is inherently complex, and many climate scientists are dismayed that the Bush administration has sought refuge in that uncertainty rather than grappling with greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning. Yet climate models in general show gradual warming, not abrupt change on a global scale.
GBN's report warns that its scenario is "not the most likely," "not implausible" and "extreme."
"We were playing a little bit with where science ends and speculation begins," Randall said.
Yet most of the report's recommendations are a study in moderation. It calls for improving climate-prediction models, deciding which countries are most vulnerable to climate change, exercising teams for dealing with water or food shortages and identifying "no-regrets" strategies, such as more robust water supplies.
"This report was done not to scare people but to make people think more broadly about the possible consequences of climate change," said Peter Gleick, president of the Oakland-based Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security.
"It may not be a likely scenario, but it's certainly a plausible one. As somebody who buys insurance against really bad things happening, it's something I really think we should pay attention to." "