Climate change is fueling extremism, raising tempers along with temperatures, and even creating new threats to the planet. At the same time, some of the world’s most influential and respected climate scientists are sounding warnings about the severity of the problem and its long-term consequences. The stakes could not be higher.
One of the most significant and enduring examples of how climate change can lead to conflict is the rise of the militant group Al Qaeda. The group, which seeks to establish a worldwide Islamic state under sharia law, believes that global warming—and the accompanying rise in temperature and sea level—can be used by the group to make this goal possible.
Today, we are still dealing with climate change in the same way it was conceived in the 1960s, when it was still relatively obscure. Our political and economic systems reflect a worldview that accepts the scientific consensus about climate change. The result is that the world, with respect to the environment, is in the midst of a “global consensus”—a non-partisan, ideologically-driven concept of “shared understanding” that promotes the continuation of business-as-usual.
As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris draws to a close, some hope that humanity will have learned from the failure of previous attempts to deal with climate change.
And perhaps we will, though climate change will not be solved by governments. Many other factors will continue to shape the environment, whether it’s the economy, trade, agriculture, water management, forestry and so on. When politicians in Paris reach a final agreement there will be no magic bullet to mitigate climate change—we must solve it together—and we’ll need to develop tools and practices to adapt to future climate change. It may well be that adaptation to climate change will be our biggest challenge for the rest of this century.
But for all the progress that has been made, many people remain concerned about the potential for catastrophic climate change. In that context, the emergence in recent years of a strong belief in climate change as the root of conflict, along with the rise of extremist groups, is concerning.
Climate change has long been associated with higher temperatures and more extreme weather. Now, these factors are being linked with violence and terrorism.
It’s no wonder why the world is worried about climate change. Over the past several years, the planet has been experiencing hotter than normal temperatures. Since the late 1970s, the world has observed an increase in global temperature of about 0