This article examines some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island.
In the mid 1970s “climate cooling” was the topic of articles in popular magazines such as Newsweek with reports of meteorologists being “almost unanimous” that the trend could lead to catastrophic famines, another little ice age or worse. In 1974 Time magazine published an article titled “Another Ice Age?.” In 1975 the New York Times ran an article titled “Scientists Ponder Why World’s Climate Is Changing; a Major Cooling Widely Considered to Be Inevitable,” while in 1978 they reported that “an international team of specialists has concluded from eight indexes of climate that there is no end in sight to the cooling trend of the last 30 years, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Of course, it may be true that the “newspaper of record” is not the best source for topics that go beyond the pronouncements of official or “off the record” statements from government agents. However, it is instructive that the message changed by the end of the decade, after the March 28, 1979 accident at Three Mile Island which had sounded the death knell for the nuclear power industry that is.
Daniel Yergin writes that by the early 1980s “a notable shift in the climate of climate change research was clear-from cooling to warming.”1 Yergin reports that the Department of Defense’s JASON committee had found “incontrovertible evidence that the atmosphere is indeed changing and that we ourselves contribute to that change,” adding “a wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late.” Political action was now being called for. That action would entail reducing carbon emissions, something which could be achieved through increased reliance on the now unpopular nuclear power industry.
Nuclear weapons programs rely on the existence of large nuclear processing facilities including mining, milling and enrichment of uranium as well as a highly specialized and experienced labor pool. While it is possible to produce nuclear weapons without a nuclear power industry it is far preferable to have a dynamic nuclear industry in place. The nuclear facilities that existed in 1979 would not last forever and the industry was seen as an essential component of the military industrial complex. These factors may well have been over-riding considerations in the DoD JASON committee report.
One of the principle scientists engaged in formulating the AGW theory was Roger Revelle, a US Navy oceanographer who was employed at the Office of Naval Research. The US Navy was actually central to the development of the civilian nuclear power industry in the US due to its reactor designs for nuclear powered submarines and ships.
Another outspoken early proponent of AGW theory was Britain’s Margaret Thatcher who also sought the construction of new nuclear power plants as well as Trident nuclear submarines along with new nuclear weapons. Her Conservative party also sought to crush the coal miner’s unions with which they had intractable disputes. Britain went on to build new nuclear power plants during the 1980s while firing tens of thousands of coal miners.
In the US, the Carter administration sponsored the establishment of the solar energy industry, another carbon free energy source. George Tenet (later named as director of the CIA) became the promotion manager of the Solar Energy Industries Association which included companies such as Grumman, Boeing, General Motors and Exxon. The proposed ‘renewable’ and ‘green’ energy legislation over the decades consistently facilitated the viability of the development of new nuclear power plants. Other ‘alternative’ energy technologies were never seriously expected to become significant sources of electric power generation.
In 2008 another CIA director, James Woolsey, would also become involved in promoting “a Fortress America of tanks and solar panels, plug-in hybrids and nuclear reactors,”2 only in his case the service to the carbon free industry would come after the CIA stint rather than before. Woolsey has recently appeared in an anti-oil print ad for the American Clean Skies Foundation.
The Institute for Policy Studies reports on Woolsey’s focus as an energy security advisor to the John McCain presidential campaign:
A founding member of the Set America Free coalition, a pressure group aimed at highlighting the “security and economic implications of America’s growing dependence on foreign oil,” Woolsey sees himself as helping pioneer a new political coalition that combines his militarist security ideology with green politics. He says, “The combination of 9/11, concern about climate change, and $4 a gallon gasoline has brought a lot of people together. I call it the coalition of the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the cheap hawks, the evangelicals, and the mom and pop drivers. All of those groups have good reasons to be interested in moving away from oil dependence.”3
The Set America Free coalition includes liberal groups such as the Apollo Alliance, the American Council on Renewable Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
There is another significant bloc of support for the low carbon paradigm which has a foreign policy orientation. In promoting the reduction in reliance on Middle Eastern oil imports Woolsey is joined by prominent hawks such as Senator Joseph Lieberman, former Senator Sam Brownback, Representative Eliot Engel, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former national security adviser Robert McFarlane, Thomas Neumann of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum, Frank Gaffney head of the neoconservative Center for Security Policy (CSP), Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), Gary Bauer of American Values and Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute.
An outcome of energy independence would be greater freedom to initiate wars of aggression across the Middle East region that would destroy any potential resistance to the greater Israel project. Woolsey’s positions as an advisor to the neoconservative-led Foundation for the Defense of Democracies; and advisory board member of the Likudnik Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs might shed some light on his aims. The low carbon paradigm serves both the nuclear goals as well as the geo-political goals of the neoconservatives.
Update, May 22, 2013:
The WSJ has distilled the message into just five words: Going Green? Then Go Nuclear
Update, July 11, 2013:
… nuclear energy forms a crucial component of President Obama’s climate action plan.
1Daniel Yergin, The Quest, Penguin Press
2 Jackson West, “R. James Woolsey and the Rise of the Greenocons”
3 Tim Shipman, “John McCain Hires Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey As Green Advisor,” Daily Telegraph, June 21, 2008.