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Policymakers and emergency managers tend to build a conceptual wall between natural hazards and terrorism. The causes of—and remedies for—these two kinds of disasters are seen as separate and distinct. But, in the era of climate change, the wall between the two is crumbling.
As climate and weather patterns shift, the resulting environmental crisis is being leveraged as a tool for terror and political violence. Around the world, environmental stress due to unpredictable weather catalyzes political violence, further undermining weak governments. And in the United States, the environmental crisis is a “threat multiplier” that could enable terrorism, overwhelm response capabilities, and threaten populations and critical infrastructure. (more…)
On April 16, the PBS News Hour ran a story called “In Niger, rising temperatures mean barren fields — but fertile ground for terrorism.” The story addresses climate change and its impact on food security in the country, as well as how some organizations, like U.S. Africa Command, the World Food Program, and CARE, approach the problem.
General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) – head of all American military forces in Africa – was interviewed for the story. He stated:
The climate and environment challenges on the continent really do start to contribute to security challenges…Some of the [terrorist] groups in the Northern Mali-Niger area there, they leverage these challenges to recruit, because they really are after influence. And they want to maintain their livelihood.
Welcome back to The Climate and Security Podcast!
In this episode, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty talks to Dr. Marcus King, Senior Fellow and Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security, and Director of the Master of Arts in International Affairs Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Sweta asks Marcus to define environmental security, which he describes as the study of conflicts related to a lack or abundance of natural resources, particularly as it relates to impacts associated with climate change. Droughts and water scarcity impacts are especially salient on the world stage, and Marcus highlights his case studies in increasingly vulnerable places in the Middle East and North Africa (e.g., Syria, Nigeria, Yemen) which are experiencing and are ripe for future humanitarian crises, interstate conflicts, and mass migrations. Listen to Marcus describe the nuances between environmental migrants versus climate refugees and how these already vulnerable populations are prime recruitment targets for terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. This is an eye-opening episode! (more…)
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Marine General Thomas D. Walhauser, Commander of U.S. Africa Command (head of all U.S. forces on the African continent, barring Egypt), fielded a question from Sen. Gillibrand regarding the links between climate change, food insecurity and terrorism, and their impacts on AFRICOM’s mission and posture. General Waldhauser noted, in particular, the role of climate change in desertification, stating: “I would say from the climate perspective, is that we have seen the Sahel – the grasslands of the Sahel – recede and become desert almost a mile per year in the last decade or so. This has a significant impact on the herders who have to fight, if you will, for grasslands and water holes and the like.”
Below is General Waldhauser’s full statement on the subject: (more…)