What everyone gets wrong about the link between climate change and violence – Updated by Brad Plumer on November 15, 2015, 10:20 a.m. ET


During the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday night, CBS moderator John Dickerson brought up the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and then asked Bernie Sanders if he still believes climate change is our greatest national security threat. (Sanders had said as much in a previous debate.)

(John Cantlie/AFP/Getty Images)

During the Democratic presidential debate on Saturday night, CBS moderator John Dickerson brought up the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and then asked Bernie Sanders if he still believes climate change is our greatest national security threat. (Sanders had said as much in a previous debate.)

Sanders didn‘t back down:

Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. 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.

Much snickering ensued on Twitter, especially over that bolded sentence, with the prevailing sentiment that Sanders’ argument was self-evidently silly.

I’d say Sanders’ reply was a little off-base — but the outraged reaction was absurd. The truth about climate change and conflict is far more complex and nuanced than a short soundbite can allow, but it’s foolish to dismiss the entire topic out of hand.

Sanders was going too far when he said that climate change is “directly related” to the growth of terrorism. It’s hard to find any climate or security experts who would make that strong or straightforward of a causal link.

But it’s fine to raise the broader issue. What experts will often say — and what the Pentagon has been saying — is that global warming has the potential to aggravate existing tensions and security problems, by, for instance, making droughts or water shortages more likely in some regions. That doesn’t mean war or terrorism will be inevitable in a hotter world. Climate will typically be just one of many factors involved. Still, climate change could increase the risk of violence, which is why many military officials now take it seriously.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/11/15/9738342/climate-change-conflict-terrorism

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