Ignoring link between climate change, poverty and terrorism like driving in reverse on a one-way street
In a Coast Guard commencement address last week, President Barack Obama deliberately traipsed over two controversial minefields, claiming that climate change “constitutes a serious threat to global security…”
This address was made unremarkable by mainstream media, which elected not to cover it. Like the trees in the forest, if no one hears them fall, then they didn’t happen. But the blogosphere is vociferously opposed that there should be a link between extremism and climate change.
I give credits to the blogosphere.
But what of the adage: “A society is only three meals away from anarchy” which implies that hunger leads to extremism.” If this is true, then we can assume climate change’s impact on poverty leads to extremism. Right?
Not so fast. Where are the facts? Is President Obama driving the agenda forward with new thoughts or is he like one of those hapless motorists driving in reverse on a one-way street?
Any debate on the issue draws back to the root cause of climate change. Here let’s agree that we don’t know why it is happening. For example, Republican Jeb Bush remarked that the Earth’s climate is changing but that scientific research does not clearly show how much of the change is due to humans and how much is from natural causes.
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For argument’s sake, let’s ignore the concept of climate change and call this “anomalously extreme weather pattern” characterized by heavy rainfalls or sustained drought.
But President Obama cannot be credited for correlating climate change and conflicts. The military had already identified climate change as a security risk with potential to lead to mass migration.
On October 13, 2014 the NY Times reported on an article titled Pentagon Signals Security Risks of Climate Change, which has been since them taken offline. According to the NY Times:
The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises.
The report is the latest in a series of studies highlighting the national security risks of climate change. But the Pentagon’s characterization of it as a present-day threat demanding immediate action represents a significant shift for the military, which has in the past focused on climate change as a future risk.
But the evidence may not be there to support the correlation. A scholarly paper published in 2003 (click here) shows a lack of connection between poverty or low education, and terrorism. The authors reviewed evidence on hate crimes, which are closely related to terrorism; the occurrence of hate crimes is largely independent of economic conditions. They analyzed data on support for attacks against Israeli targets from public opinion polls conducted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; support for violent attacks does not decrease among those with higher education and higher living standards. The authors concluded:
Although our results are tentative and exploratory, they suggest that neither poverty nor education has a direct, causal impact on terrorism.
President Obama forgot the Crusades, which were motivated by religious beliefs, not economic distress or climate change.
The emergence of this debate is a fundamental question to address that may affect how the United Nations intervenes in future conflicts.
It seems that mainstream media and the White House need to open up the debate so that we can collectively gain a better understanding. Otherwise we’re all at risk of driving in reverse on a one-way street.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>