Can Climate Change Spawn Another ISIL?
In the midst of grappling with security threats ranging from ISIL to Ebola, the Pentagon has identified a new “immediate risk” to national security. On Monday, The Department of Defense released a 20-page "2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap," in which it classified climate change as no longer a future security risk, but now, as a present day threat.
According to the report, the changing climate will have serious implications for military operations, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, supply chain activity, and the maintenance of training and equipment installations. Yet, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stressed that the crisis’s implications are even wider in scope. At the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Peru earlier this week, he characterized climate change as a “threat multiplier.” In his speech he cautioned that climate change has the potential to intensify many of the challenges U.S. defense strategy is forced to confront today, including the rise of armed insurgencies.
The DoD’s report sheds light on how the effects of climate change can contribute to political unrest, especially within developing nations: "These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources." The report goes on to describe how competition for resources is often ground zero for “extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.”
As the New York Times points out, the Islamic State has capitalized on the scarcity of certain resources, including food and water, in order to seize political power. The increasing demand for these already scarce resources allows groups like ISIS to tighten their grip on the people they are subjugating. In the past, resource scarcity has bred conflict in places like Sierra Leone, Haiti and Angola. However, as climate change continues to intensify, not only will it help spark new political conflicts, but it will also help to fuel ones that are already occurring. With the climate crisis continuing to unfold, resource competition will inevitably surge, and so too will political unrest – leaving the Department of Defense to prepare itself against whatever threats next present themselves.
- Konstantine Tettonis