Obama Science Chief: Shoot at Global Warming, not ICBMs

Marc Sheppard
Can you imagine anyone proposing more decisive action against climate change than incoming nuclear missiles?  Particularly when the action proposed to combat the speculative former is, itself, wildly hypothetical while both the threat of and the countermeasures for the latter are quite real? 

That’s exactly what President Obama’s new science adviser did Wednesday when he declared that totally theoretical geoengineering technology should be used to combat unproven anthropogenic global warming but missile defense technology must be 100% proven before deployment against proven missile threats.  

John Holdren told the Associated Press that America must be prepared to shoot sulfur particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the Sun’s rays should the United States and other nations not slow global warming fast enough to avoid reaching the dreaded “tipping points” of climate change. Yet in another mind-boggling display of inverted liberal priorities, Holdren also said the “U.S. anti-ballistic missile program is not ready to work and shouldn't be used unless it is 100 percent effective.” 

Holdren’s stratospheric sulfur injection plan was the brainchild of Prof. Paul Crutzen, who published a 2006 article [PDF] on the subject in the scientific journal Climatic Change.  The theory was that such action would mimic the sun-blocking aerosol dispersion seen after mammoth volcanic eruptions and thereby slow global warming.  At the time, most considered such human tinkering with the atmosphere as dangerously kooky science fiction, among them Holdren himself.  Then president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he derided its “combination of high costs, low leverage and a high likelihood of serious side effects.” 

Both Crutzen and Holdren agree those “side effects” might include “eating away a large chunk of the ozone layer above the poles.”  Nasty business indeed, as environmentalists will be the first to warn that Earth’s ozone layer shields us from most of the Sun’s skin cancer-causing high frequency ultraviolet light.

So beyond being totally unnecessary in this in-fact cooling world where mankind’s effect on the climate is speculative at best, the process is both unproven and dangerous – and therefore -- far from perfect. 

And yet, it is our missile defense program, according to Holdren, which "needs to be essentially perfect" prior to any use.

Imagine that.  Iran, North Korea, or any of a number of rogue-states or terrorist organizations, launches a nuclear-tipped missile at the US or one of its allies.  But, as none of our three phases of missile interception -- boost (upon detected launch), mid-course (in space) and terminal (between reentry and impact) -- are yet 100% perfect, we should sit back and witness perhaps millions of agonizing deaths rather than launch a single one of them.   

Okay, perhaps it’s not all that surprising coming from an administration that just
announced its plan to cut the Missile Defense Agency budget by $1.4 billion, despite North Korea’s recent missile test and Iran's continuing efforts to develop long-range missiles.  But it’s madness nonetheless.

It would appear that in Holdren’s world, the wholly hypothetical dangers of melting sea-ice and inches of sea-level rise merit “last resort” response while all-too-real nuclear-armed ICBMs headed for America do not.

Madness, indeed.


Can you imagine anyone proposing more decisive action against climate change than incoming nuclear missiles?  Particularly when the action proposed to combat the speculative former is, itself, wildly hypothetical while both the threat of and the countermeasures for the latter are quite real? 

That’s exactly what President Obama’s new science adviser did Wednesday when he declared that totally theoretical geoengineering technology should be used to combat unproven anthropogenic global warming but missile defense technology must be 100% proven before deployment against proven missile threats.  

John Holdren told the Associated Press that America must be prepared to shoot sulfur particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the Sun’s rays should the United States and other nations not slow global warming fast enough to avoid reaching the dreaded “tipping points” of climate change. Yet in another mind-boggling display of inverted liberal priorities, Holdren also said the “U.S. anti-ballistic missile program is not ready to work and shouldn't be used unless it is 100 percent effective.” 

Holdren’s stratospheric sulfur injection plan was the brainchild of Prof. Paul Crutzen, who published a 2006 article [PDF] on the subject in the scientific journal Climatic Change.  The theory was that such action would mimic the sun-blocking aerosol dispersion seen after mammoth volcanic eruptions and thereby slow global warming.  At the time, most considered such human tinkering with the atmosphere as dangerously kooky science fiction, among them Holdren himself.  Then president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he derided its “combination of high costs, low leverage and a high likelihood of serious side effects.” 

Both Crutzen and Holdren agree those “side effects” might include “eating away a large chunk of the ozone layer above the poles.”  Nasty business indeed, as environmentalists will be the first to warn that Earth’s ozone layer shields us from most of the Sun’s skin cancer-causing high frequency ultraviolet light.

So beyond being totally unnecessary in this in-fact cooling world where mankind’s effect on the climate is speculative at best, the process is both unproven and dangerous – and therefore -- far from perfect. 

And yet, it is our missile defense program, according to Holdren, which "needs to be essentially perfect" prior to any use.

Imagine that.  Iran, North Korea, or any of a number of rogue-states or terrorist organizations, launches a nuclear-tipped missile at the US or one of its allies.  But, as none of our three phases of missile interception -- boost (upon detected launch), mid-course (in space) and terminal (between reentry and impact) -- are yet 100% perfect, we should sit back and witness perhaps millions of agonizing deaths rather than launch a single one of them.   

Okay, perhaps it’s not all that surprising coming from an administration that just
announced its plan to cut the Missile Defense Agency budget by $1.4 billion, despite North Korea’s recent missile test and Iran's continuing efforts to develop long-range missiles.  But it’s madness nonetheless.

It would appear that in Holdren’s world, the wholly hypothetical dangers of melting sea-ice and inches of sea-level rise merit “last resort” response while all-too-real nuclear-armed ICBMs headed for America do not.

Madness, indeed.