Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bernie Sanders Climate Change

Bernie Sanders said in a Democratic debate that
climate change is a worldwide security threat.
He was largely correct on this one, it turns out. 
Presidential candidate and fellow Vermonter Bernie Sanders is in hot water from some quarters because of some hot words about a hot climate he discussed during a Democratic presidential debate this month.

The debate came the day after the horrific Paris terrorist attacks and  CBS moderator asked Sanders whether he still believed in his previous statement that the greatest threat to national security is climate change.

Sanders replied: "Absolutely. In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you're going to see countries all over the world --this is what the CIA says -- they're going to be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops and you're going to see all kinds of international conflict."

The next day, on "Face The Nation, Sanders elaborated, saying when there's more drought, weather extremes and resulting crop losses, you are more likely to get instability, and more people that could be influenced by the propaganda coming from terrorist outfits like al-Qaeda and ISIS.

With those comments, you would have thought Sanders was saying pink giraffes from Mars would give us all free health care, at least if you were listening to right wing media.

Todd Starnes of Fox News said Sanders was nuts, basically. "Icebergs Aren't Blowing Us Up, Sir," was his message to Sanders, via Twitter.

Ben Shapiro of the even more right wing Breitbart News was worse, sarcastically Tweeting, "It's not like the fucking desert has been hot for hundreds of thousands of years."

On the other hand, Sanders had quite a few supporters. In Slate, Eric Holthaus wrote, "Even though the wounds in Paris are still very fresh after Friday's attacks, Sanders appropriately used this moment to highlight the current and future global tragedies that unmitigated climate change will surely cause."

What we miss in the mini-instant sound bites we get in political quotes is that the whole thing about climate change and security is incredibly complex and nuanced, much more so than the he said/she said Jane-You-Ignorant-Slut talk that passes for political discussions these days.

Of course, climate change and unrest are much more convoluted than what Bernie might be telling you.

In the first place, not every weather disaster is caused by climate change.   Plus, not every climate change-induced disaster will cause unrest, war, refugees or things like that.  In any crisis, climate change might be one of many factors that led to the problem.

Brad Plumer in Vox breaks it down for us:

".....climate change is a 'threat multiplier,' and one of the many things that can lay the groundwork for conflict. That doesn't mean more war is guaranteed in a hotter world: Consider that the 2000s were the warmest decade on record, but they also managed to be 'the least conflict ridden decade since the 1970s.' In many places, geographic or political or economic factors will end up mattering more. Still, climate change is one potential driver to take into account."

The bottom line: Climate change won't "cause" conflict. But in certain parts of the world, global warming could make bad stuff more likely, or stress out an area enough to cause bad stuff that otherwise might not have happened.

Which means climate change is indeed a security threat, joining such traditional threats as dictators, corruption, terrorism, rogue states and government mismanagement.

It turns out Bernie Sanders was indeed pretty much correct in his debate comments.

Persian Gulf to hot to inhabit?


[Twitter.com, 11/14/15;Twitter.com, 11/14/15

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