Climate change is driving conflict and terrorism

Climate change is fueling extremism, raising tempers along with temperatures

Climate change is bringing conflict on many fronts and, as a result, is contributing to terrorism, conflict management and violence, according to a growing body of evidence.

“Everywhere you look in the Middle East and the rest of the world climate change is having a massive impact on the lives of countless people,” said former US ambassador Robert Ford. “Climate change is directly related to the rise of extremism. Climate change is going to have a direct impact on how societies function and how people live their lives.”

The findings come from a report led by the World Bank and released at the London climate summit in September. It is a first and wide-ranging attempt to synthesise a body of evidence suggesting that climate change is linked to a myriad of problems.

The research reveals, for example, that:

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa that were least likely to hold national climate change policies in 2016 had the highest number of violent extremist incidents across 2016 and 2017.

Climate change is driving conflict by increasing competition for water, food and pastureland.

Global temperatures have been rising at an accelerating rate that, together with population growth and changing patterns of land use, has created new opportunities for conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.

As people migrate to find jobs and better lives, climate and migration can exacerbate conflict along political and social fault lines.

These findings challenge the orthodox view that the threat of climate change is no longer real and that the only question for governments is how best to deal with the problem.

In reality, the report shows, almost two-thirds of countries – 64 – are unprepared for the effects of climate change. In nearly half of these countries, more than a quarter of the population are at risk of conflict, violence or hunger. This rises to almost a fourth of the Arab world and a third of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The report, which has been endorsed by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, is an outgrowth of the United Nations’ Special Report on the Human Environment, which was triggered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, released in 2014.

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