He tapped his fingers with impatience. The current briefer was some mid level researcher with a Ph.D, receding hairline, and a nervous habit of pushing up his glasses over the large Roman nose in the midst of his homely face.
"The population density of the top energy consumers is quickly reaching unsustainable levels, and without a change to the current world population we will be unable to maintain world order. The technology to move beyond fossil fuels has not matured according to the proposed schedule as of 1995 and without a drastic reduction in demand for oil we will not be able to grow the world economy. As the economy stagnates it will cause the decline and breakdown of various complex systems one by one until we enter the modern equivalent of the 'Dark Ages'. Unfortunately the depletion of easily attainable surface minerals, including fossil fuels, means that this would be a much longer period than that caused by the fall of the Roman and Byzantine Empires." The Ph.D pushed up his glasses and gave a half smile toward the silent audience.
The briefer continued. "We have developed several plans to deal with the current situation."
"Plan One, using FEMA emergency powers to ration energy and resources. The justification could be 'global warming' or 'peak oil' or a 'terrorist attack'. By careful rationing the predicted lengthening of the current level of technology and government could continue for an estimated 80 years by which technology is expected to advance to the point where rationing could be disctontinued. The difficulties in this plan come from the current cultural and legal tradition in the US"
"Plan Two, a massive die off in world population. While the US consumes a huge amount of energy eliminating the equivalent of Europe, India, and China would allows for a current standard of living with no rationing past 2230 given the current rate of population growth in the US. The large difficulty here is that in order to reduce the world population by 50% there will be collateral damage to the population of the US. There is no current or projected method of selective targeting that can reduce US casualties to below 25%."
"Plan Three, a combination of plans one and two. Using a pandemic to reduce the world population as the reason for suspending the Constitution and implementing FEMA control." A nervous finger shoved the glasses up the nose. "This plan has the highest probability of favorable outcome for the longterm success in maintaining civilization through the next three hundred years."
The President drummed his fingers in impatience for the second time. The briefer stammered on at a slightly faster case.
"Current trials for Avian Flu vaccines look promising unfortunately the H5N1 virus has had no success as a biological weapon to date. A much more successful strategy would be to release the Variola virus and "
"Variola Virus" the President interrupted.
"Smallpox Mr. President" the Ph.D. half smiled and pushed up his glasses. "It would be relatively easy to blame terrorists by using a Russian strain of the virus, after all public opinion of Russian security would back our claim." A thin smile spread across his face without touching his eyes. "The manner in which several of your predecessors used the disinformation campaign about DDT to increase the human toll due to malaria die off has already given us an estimated 60 years of prosperity but we cannot expect any more benefit from that program."
"But getting back to the Variola, ahem, smallpox virus it is estimated that we could achieve up to 30% mortality, which could offset any shortcomings of an influenza pandemic. While reducing the world population by 50% is an optimistic number it isn't beyond reality especially since there has been no effective vaccination program for smallpox since the early 1980's and there are no vaccines for H5N1."
A quick nod to the agent by the doorway caused the lights to brighten and the projection screen to retract up into the ceiling. The floor was open for a brief period of questions.
The man to the President's left asked, "What would be the military effects of a dual pandemic for the foreseeable future?"
"A measurable reduction in our current military capability due to the influenza, but no effect from the smallpox. Other nations that do not use the vaccinia inoculation would see a drastic drop in military power. The long term affect is that our pending war with China would be pushed further into the future, without 30 million unattached men their plans for expansion would have to be curbed."
A period of peaceful silence lasted until the President spoke, "Thank you Doctor, your briefing was most helpful."