Is Bernie Sanders right to connect climate change and terrorism?

Is Bernie Sanders right to connect climate change and terrorism? November 14, 2015

Senator Sanders says climate change has a direct impact on the rise of global terrorism.

Bernie Sanders / Campaign Media Kit
Bernie Sanders / Campaign Media Kit

In Saturday night’s Democratic debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders remarked that climate change is still the number one foreign policy facing the nation, and when asked about terrorism he said the two are very well connected.

“Climate change is directly related to the rise of global terrorism,” Sanders said, saying it would cause nations to start “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.”

Sanders’ evidence for this claim was simply saying that “the CIA says,” this is most likely a reference to a report issued in July from the U.S. Department of Defense finding that “global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.”

The ongoing conflict in Syria can be traced back to climate change and a severe drought that caused farmers and their families to flee the countryside and migrate into more urban areas. With the growing instability of the nation, the massive influx of more citizens furthered the unrest.

The New York Times reports on the Syrian conflict and climate change:

Francesco Femia, founder and director of the Center for Climate and Security, a research group in Washington that has long argued that the Syrian drought had a climate-change component, said the new study “builds on previous work looking at the impact of drought on agricultural and pastoral livelihoods.”

“There’s no question that the drought had a role to play in the mass displacement of people,” he said.

So while it should be obvious that climate change is not the only factor, and likely not even the leading factor in terrorism, Sanders is not wrong in claiming that climate change is a huge, if not the biggest, foreign policy issue we face.

This would be because it not only threatens the lives of billions of people and animals, but it threatens their lives and on top of that contributes to terrorism around the world.

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