A scenario:

War is imminent.  At least the Generals think so – nine out of the ten of them – and they’re insisting it’s time to prepare.  Yes, it’s possible history may take another course, but it would be irresponsible to assume a continuation of the status quo .  The future of the nation is at stake, and the stakes are unlimited.

Consequently they want their budgets increased, quickly and massively, in the limited time available.   Speed is of the essence.

The politicians are unhappy.  Tax hikes are involved.  Resources will be diverted.  Perhaps a draft will be required.  No one can say with absolute assurance, of course, that the Generals are correct – and it is certainly possible that a change in circumstances could save us.  It has in the past – and it could in the future, negating the need to mobilize.

So the politicians question the General’s competence.  They claim their scenario looks too much like opportunism – a chance to use current events to divert budgetary allocations at the expense of the economy as a whole and the quality of life of the taxpayers.

So they say no.  No more resources, no mobilization.

And they go further.  They demand the Generals make no mention of the possibility of war, issue no public statements without the authorization of the public-affairs office.   And they cut the budgets of the General’s support staff, particularly Strategic Operations.

When the war comes, they are unprepared, and the nation is lost.

Here’s the question: Having been given the best advice of their experts, being informed of the risk and advised of the consequences, was the political leadership’s refusal to act – and to suppress knowledge of the risk – a dereliction of the fundamental duty of a leader?  Or something worse?

And if so, is this:

A typical year in this country features three or four weather disasters whose costs exceed $1 billion each. But this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tallied a dozen such events, including wildfires in the Southwest, floods in multiple regions of the country and a deadly spring tornado season. And the agency has not finished counting. The final costs are certain to exceed $50 billion.

“I’ve been a meteorologist 30 years and never seen a year that comes close to matching 2011 for the number of astounding, extreme weather events,” Jeffrey Masters, a co-founder of the popular Web site Weather Underground, said last month. “Looking back in the historical record, which goes back to the late 1800s, I can’t find anything that compares, either.”

Here’s the kicker:

Yet Washington is essentially frozen on the subject of climate change.

This year, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried to push through a reorganization that would have provided better climate forecasts to businesses, citizens and local governments, Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked it. The idea had originated in the Bush administration, was strongly endorsed by an outside review panel and would have cost no extra money. But the House Republicans, many of whom reject the overwhelming scientific consensus about the causes of global warming, labeled the plan an attempt by the Obama administration to start a “propaganda” arm on climate.

Or this:

Environment Canada is planning to axe a monitoring network that is key to assessing Earth’s protective ozone layer, according to a report in a leading science journal.

The British journal Nature says scientists and research institutes around the world have been informally told the Canadian network will be shut down as early as this winter putting an end to continuous ozone measurements that go back 45 years.

“People are gob smacked by this decision,” Thomas Duck, an atmospheric researcher at Dalhousie University, said in an interview with Postmedia News.

So here’s the scenario-casting game for 2012 and beyond: As the risk of climate change increases – particularly as it becomes more evident in the actual environment (see the list above) – what scenario will likely unfold, and what will be the political consequences of inaction?

 More here: Dave Roberts on the brutal logic of climate change (and the follow-on piece).

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