As the planet warms, there will be many significant global impacts, from the dwindling of fresh water supplies as glaciers melt, to the collapse of fisheries as reefs die. But the droughts and famines induced by this will also lead to the uprising of more incredibly serious global security concerns.
A new report, compiled by the Berlin-based think tank Adelphi, argues that the projected increase in resource scarcity and societal insecurity will fuel terrorist and armed groups in regions of the world where climate change will hit hardest. They suggest that as climate change contributes to the fragility of regions, it increases conflict surrounding natural resources. This, in turn, makes populations more vulnerable to negative effects of climate change, and thus recruitment by terrorist organizations.
Not only that, but the report has also found that terrorist organizations are also increasingly using natural resources as a weapon. In fragile environments and regions in which resources such as water and food are scarce, groups are impeding access to these items and then using this as leverage. This creates a cycle in which the resources become scarcer, and is a practice that is further exacerbated by climate change as it continues to alter and limit these resources.
“Looking at the interplay between climate change, fragility and [non-state armed groups],” the authors write, “there is a risk that the feedback loops and complex interactions create vicious cycles of increasing climate impacts, vulnerability, violence, conflict, and fragility.”
It is thought that climate change has already been a significant contributor to the uprising of armed groups around the world. The dramatic instability that gave rise to the Arab Spring in the Middle East during 2011 is thought to be, at least in part, connected to the impact that climate change had on food prices in the region during that time. While the revolutions that spread through the region were likely to have occurred at some point anyway, the food shortages added an additional stressor that sparked the tinder box.
This has led to the rise of many armed groups in the region, including that of ISIS, which has become a major security threat not only locally, but on a global level too. In West Africa, another major terrorist group, Boko Haram, is also thought to owe its origins, again in part, to the regional drought that has gripped the northeast of Nigeria. This forced groups of people and farmers into ever shrinking pockets, providing a perfect recruiting ground for the organization, which has gone on to be a major threat to the government and region as a whole.
The authors do stress, though, that climate change is not causing terrorism, but providing the conditions in which it can thrive.