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Are We Ready for the Terror Threat Posed by El Niño?

Erin Sikorsky | This piece was published by The Cipher Brief

OPINION — Imagine the U.S. government had credible information that a terrorist group was planning attacks in multiple cities across the globe. Attacks that could result in the deaths of hundreds of people, the destruction of critical infrastructure, and military installations. Attacks that could disrupt food and water security for millions and require the deployment of thousands of soldiers to respond.

Of course, the United States would do everything in its power to prevent and prepare for such a threat. The issue would immediately rise to the top of the agenda for the National Security Council and the Intelligence Community. Task forces would be created, Presidential briefings given, and resources poured in to analyze, warn about, and address the risk.

Now replace “terrorist group” with “El Niño.” Scientists are urgently warning of ‘a spike’ in global temperatures as the global climate pattern – known as El Niño – arrives and intersects with already rising temperatures driven by climate change. We know from experience that extreme heat can cause mass death, critical infrastructure damage, economic and political strain, and can lead to military deployments.

Last year, (which ranked among the hottest on record) the World Health Organization estimated that Europe saw 15,000 heat related deaths – compared to 6,701 deaths globally from terrorist attacks.

Already this spring, extreme heat waves have hit Asia, the Mediterranean and parts of the Northern Hemisphere, with Vietnam and Laos recording their highest temperature ever and unprecedented early-season wildfires in Canada burning nearly 1 million acres.

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