The Pentagon is downplaying the significance of a report it commissioned on the potentially devastating impact of global climate change.
The report prepared by two private analysts paints a bleak future if there is significant global warming in the 21st century. It predicts widespread military confrontations over dwindling natural resources such as energy, water and food. It says "warfare would define human life."
The study also foresees famine, disease and weather-related disasters, creating what it terms "a sense of desperation."
The 21 page document says the United States and Australia are likely to build defensive fortresses around their countries because they have the resources and reserves to achieve self-sufficiency, even in the face of shortened growing cycles and harsher weather.
But the report warns of what it describes as "inevitable" nuclear arms proliferation in a world of warring states.
The document states clearly that its views are those of the two authors and not the Pentagon's. It also makes clear that "the purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable."
However an article published last Sunday in The London Observer heightened interest in the study, characterizing it as a "secret report, suppressed by U.S. defense chiefs."
The Pentagon denies suppressing anything and has made the report available to reporters asking for copies. But it has also issued a statement emphasizing the report is speculative and asserting defense officials routinely study possible future world scenarios.
In the case of global climate change, the Pentagon says the reasons for commissioning such a study include a desire to anticipate possible climatic conditions U.S. forces might encounter as well the need to know what countries might suffer or benefit from climate change.