by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
After ostensibly trying to separate global warming from national security concerns, Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley Monday jumped on the bandwagon of those claiming global warming created the conditions necessary for Islamic State to grow.
“One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation-state of Syria and the rise of ISIS was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that region, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis that created the symptoms — or rather the conditions of extreme poverty — that has now led to the rise of ISIL and this extreme violence,” O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, told Bloomberg news in a question about foreign policy.
O’Malley’s comments echo those of the Obama administration and environmentalists who are trying to paint global warming as not just an environmental issue, but also a national security problem. …
… Now it seems O’Malley is playing up the national security side of global warming, joining a chorus of scientists and environmental activists claiming the war in Syria is a prime example of how a warming Earth will cause violent conflicts.
For years, reports have been trickling out attempting to link the beginnings of Syria’s deadly civil war and the rise of Islamic State to global warming. Most recently, a study out of the University of California, Berkeley argued that man-made global warming made Syria’s 2006 to 2010 drought worse, therefore driving political discontent and civil war.
Though the study’s authors are careful not claim that the drought directly caused the rise of ISIS, liberal media outlets were quick to make the jump.
So, is global warming responsible for the rise of Islamic State? Not likely.
Even if a drought did exacerbate tensions in Syria, research shows environmental factors are rarely the cause of violent conflict. Other researchers have postulated it was the Bashar Assad regime’s response to the drought that sparked tensions, not the drought itself. Syrians are no strangers to prolonged, vicious droughts. People there have weathered their way through low rainfall.
In terms of the climate science behind the claim: there’s not much evidence of a man-made fingerprint on the climatic backdrop of the conflict.