Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Bernie Sanders Was Right to Link Climate Change to National Security

Bernie Sanders makes a point during a Democratic presidential primary debate, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) Click to Enlarge.
Friday’s terrorist attacks have made the Paris climate talks “even more” important now, according to Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

And on Sunday, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders elaborated on why climate change remains “the biggest national security threat facing the United States,” after remarks he made in Saturday’s Democratic debate were criticized by people who apparently don’t understand the existential nature the climate threat poses to this country and the world.

Dust-bowlified AmericaWhat kind of security will Americans have if the Paris climate talks fail and we turn much of the U.S., Mexico and Central America into a near-permanent Dust Bowl, as NASA warned in February?

“Sorry, conservatives: when President Obama describes climate change as the greatest threat we face, he’s exactly right,” as Paul Krugman explains in his latest New York Times op-ed.  “Terrorism can’t and won’t destroy our civilization, but global warming could and might.”

Both the UN and France have made clear that Friday’s despicable terrorist attacks won’t deter the big Paris climate talks that start in two weeks, as we’ve reported.  Security will be much tighter. Ancillary marches and festivities will be pared back.  And that means the focus will be on the global negotiations, which offer the world the first serious chance at getting off a path of unrestricted carbon pollution that would indeed destroy modern civilization as we know it.

The civilized world stands in solidarity with the French after this senseless slaughter, much as it did after the Charlie Hebdo shootings earlier this year.  Success at COP21 (the 21st Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC) is thus even more important for the world, as Figueres tweeted Sunday.

The nations of the world must work together to address the biggest threat to our security.  Yes, terrorism and the Islamic State (ISIS) are grave threats.  But if COP21 were to fail, then conflicts like the Syrian civil war will become more common, along with disasters that war helped spawn, including ISIS and the refugee crisis.

“In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism,” Bernie Sanders said during Saturday’s debate.  “And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you’re going to see countries all over the world — this is what the CIA says — they’re going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops.  And you’re going to see all kinds of international conflict.”

Since the overwhelming majority of pundits and policymakers don’t understand the existential threat climate change poses, Sanders remarks were criticized, much as fellow presidential candidate Martin O’Malley’s were back in July.  Yet for over three years, leading security and climate experts — and Syrians themselves — have made the connection between climate change and the Syrian civil war.  Indeed, when a major peer-reviewed study came out on in March making this very case, Retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley said it identifies “a pretty convincing climate fingerprint” for the Syrian drought.

Read more at Why Bernie Sanders Was Right to Link Climate Change to National Security

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