At the Democratic Debate Saturday in Des Moines, Bernie Sanders repeated his earlier claims that climate change is the biggest threat we face, and went even further by linking climate change and terrorism, pointing to the CIA to verify his claim.
On Sunday, debate moderator John Dickerson of CBS News had another go at Sanders on Face the Nation. Asked if the Paris attacks had changed his mind, Sanders said no, and pointed this time not only to the CIA but to the Defense Department. Dickerson is allegedly a journalist and Sanders should not have had to repeat himself.
Sanders: “If we are going to see an increase in drought, flood and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that people all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources. If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow your crops, then you’re going to see migrations of people fighting over land that will sustain them, and that will lead to international conflicts.”
Dickerson: “But how does drought connect with attacks by [the Islamic State] in the middle of Paris?”
Sanders: “When you have drought, when people can’t grow their crops, they’re going to migrate into cities, and when people migrate into cities and they don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot more instability, a lot more unemployment and people will be subject to the types of propaganda that al-Qaeda and ISIS are using right now. So where you have discontent, where you have instability, that’s where problems arise, and certainly, without a doubt, climate change will lead to that.”
Was Dickerson being intentionally obtuse? The New York Times last year, at the time the Pentagon released its report, cited Marcus D. King, “an expert on climate change and international affairs at George Washington University as saying,
“Climate change and water shortages may have triggered the drought that cause farmers to relocate to Syrian cities and triggered situations where youth were more susceptible to joining extremist groups.”
And we don’t have to rely on defense or climate analysts. Humanitarian organizations have made no secret of the fact that millions of people in Syria alone have been pushed into poverty by drought. And this should not be news to Dickerson, that there is a well-known connection between radicalization and poverty.
In fact, a Pentagon report already issued points to the link between climate change and terrorism, and Sanders’ aides later pointed helpfully to this. In this report, the Pentagon called the effects of climate change “threat multipliers.” In 2010, a Navy report, the Navy Climate Change Roadmap, concluded that though climate change wasn’t enough by itself to bring about conflict, “it may be a contributing factor.”
The Navy’s Rear Adm. Dave Titley, director of Task Force Climate Change and Oceanographer of the Navy, explained at the time,
“We must ensure our Navy is fully mission-capable and ready to meet national requirements in the future. That responsibility includes anticipating the impact of changing climatic conditions on mission requirements, force structure and infrastructure.”
Yet later on Sunday’s edition of Face the Nation, a completely ignorant columnist, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, a former Reagan speechwriter, claimed that linking climate change and terrorism made Bernie Sanders look “slightly daffy.”
Working against him was — I believe, the fact that last night and more strikingly today on your show — Bernie Sanders essentially said a major problem with all of this ISIS stuff and terrorism and what’s going in the West is climate change and global warming. Which makes him — to many people — look slightly daffy, like someone who doesn’t understand what the real subject is, and is leaning outside to sort of leftist or progressive nostrums that he can talk about. This is about terrorism. It isn’t about climate change and deserts and people migrating because it’s hot.”
A competent journalist would have drawn Noonan’s attention to the Department of Defense’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap – available publicly – in which Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said,
“Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate, minimize its impacts on our missions, and continue to protect our national security.”
Sadly, our mainstream media suffers from an acute lack of competent journalists. They know enough to scare Republicans, but they’re really not up to the task historically assigned the Fourth Estate.
Historians are as aware of the connection as anybody and some of them have concluded that the collapse of the Bronze Age – “the first great international era in world history” – can be, at least in part, traced to climate change’s effects, including the prolonged droughts mocked by Dickerson, Noonan, and others.
Look at what happened starting some 3000 years ago:
- Natural disasters (a 50-year-long series of earthquakes, an “earthquake storm” or “unzipping”);
- Climate change (Mediterranean core samples show a drop in sea temperature, resulting in reduced precipitation on land);
- Drought lasting decades (famine is confirmed by surviving Bronze Age documents and verified by pollen counts of Bronze Age sediment);
- War (including internal rebellions/revolts);
- The interruption of trade through wars and natural disasters (collapse of the international trading system upsetting fragile economies);
- Scarcity of resources (it has been noted that tin was for the Late Bronze Age what oil is for us); and,
- General Systems Collapse (“A systemic failure with both a domino and a multiplier effect.”)
And much of this collapse covered the same region of the world that so concerns us now – Syria.
Jeb Bush was quick to dismiss the threat of climate change when voiced by Sanders back in October, laying on the stupid thick and heavy when he said,
“I don’t think climate change ranks in the top ten list when you consider that we have these asymmetric threats of Islamic terrorism, organized to destroy western civilization.”
So Bush says national security has to be the number 1 threat but the Pentagon is telling us that climate change is a threat to national security.
Obviously, terrorism isn’t driving climate change but climate change is one of the drivers of terrorism, but Bush wouldn’t even put climate change in the top ten. Perhaps Bush should consult with the United States government, which takes the threat quite seriously.
Let’s face it: the world has become too complicated a place for simplistic conservative thinking on almost any subject you care to name, which is why they prefer infomercials to debates.
But then the entire Republican presidential process at this point seems to be degrading into a contest of who can say the most stupid things the fastest, and if anyone sounds daffy in all this, it’s not Bernie Sanders, and it’s not only “slightly.”
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.