US President says Chinese Communist Party May Not Survive Dam Burst Scandal

No, Obama didn’t just wade into the controversy over whether the disastrous 2008 Sichuan earthquake was triggered by Zipingpu Dam. The headline above is based on a future scenario described in the US National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.”

The NIC imagines the US President writing in his diary on October 1, 2020 about a series of recent catastrophes caused by climate change. She (or maybe he) relates that 100,000 people “perished in the recent dam disaster” in China. The President believes that this may be “the straw that breaks the [Chinese Communist Party’s] legitimacy coming as it does on the heels of those corruption allegations against high party officials.” S/he explains that the Chinese people were already angry at the environmental devastation caused by hell-bent economic growth.

The fictional diary entry is an effort to imagine the consequences if the international community fails to get its act together to deal with climate change. It imagines an “October Surprise” of a hurricane hitting Manhattan: “Those images of the US aircraft carriers and transport ships evacuating thousands in the wake of the flooding still stick in my mind.” The damage is so severe that the Administration is considering abandoning Wall Street and relocating the stock exchange to New Jersey.

"Global Trends 2025" was published in November 2008 by the NIC, the US government’s “center of strategic thinking.” As it was therefore written under the Bush Administration it is perhaps not surprising that one of the fictional President’s main concerns was not the suffering caused by the hurricane but the embarrassment of the disaster happening during the UN General Assembly meeting and being witnessed by half the world’s leaders, who had to be airlifted out.

At least the leaders all get to have a reception on the aircraft carrier they are helicoptered to. But it doesn’t sound like a fun party, with the President musing over the “cumulation of disasters, needed cleanups, permafrost melting, lower agricultural yields, growing health problems, and the like [which are] taking a horrible toll . . .”

"Global Trends 2025" is the fourth in a series which attempts “to identify key drivers and developments likely to shape world events a decade or more in the future.” It forecasts a “global multipolar system” where the US remains the single most powerful country, but is no longer dominant among states; and where states themselves have ceded some of their power to nonstate actors, NGOs as well as businesses, tribes, religious organizations and criminal networks.

The report is not exactly gripping reading but it is noteworthy as an effort by the intelligence community to move beyond a simplistic focus on “national security” as defined solely by geopolitical interests and terrorism, and to put environmental constraints such as climate change and shortages of water and cropland onto the agenda of the securocrats.