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Threat Multiplier

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Risk assessments, security links, and causal connections


U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel: “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict,” he said. “They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

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At the November 14, 2015 Democratic presidential debate, Bernie Sanders was asked if he still thought that climate change was “the most important threat for US security,” as the candidate had recently said. The day before, of course, Paris had been bloodied by terrorist attacks of unprecedented brutality in France, which seemed to relegate the urgency of the “climate emergency” for a lower level.

Sanders answered that he “absolutely” maintained his opinion. “Climate change is indeed directly related to the raised terrorist threat,” he said. “If we do not listen to what the scientists tell us, we will see countries around the world — that’s what the CIA says — fighting for access to water, to arable land, and we would see all sorts of conflicts arising.”

Drawing a link between security and climate change inspired mockery from some quarters. But this link is a certainty, and a sufficiently unpleasant one that we systematically forget it, only to see it raise its ugly head over and over again.

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