A startling study has claimed that climate change effects have an extent much greater than we can perceive – to the point that climate change can even fuel terrorism.
The report “Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a Warming World” authored by those at Berlin think-tank Adelphi claim that the climate change fuels acts of terrorism and strengthens recruitment efforts by terrorist groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram. These terrorist groups are increasingly using natural resources as weapons of war by controlling access to water as well as other resources thereby compounding and exacerbating resource scarcities.
Authors of the report put before us evidence that terrorists are actually thriving in climate-vulnerable Lake Chad, Guatemala, Syria and Afghanistan. Researchers say that the complex risks that spawn from climate change are effectively contributing to the emergence and growth of terrorist groups, like the Boko Haram and Islamic State (IS). Climate change is effectively multiplying a number of threats and risks like resource scarcity, population growth and urbanisation and they in turn help terrorists.
“Already vulnerable areas could get pulled into a vicious cycle, leading to the rise of terrorist groups who will find it easier to operate, with consequences for us all,” said report author Lukas Rattinger.
The scarcer resources become, the more power is given to those who control them, especially in regions where people are particularly reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods. For example, around Lake Chad in Africa, climate change contributes to resource scarcities that increase local competition for land and water. This competition in turn often fuels social tensions and even violent conflict. At the same time, this resource scarcity erodes the livelihoods of many people, aggravates poverty and unemployment, and leads to population displacement.
Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram gain power in this fragile environment.
As climate change affects food security and the availability of water, and land, affected people will become more vulnerable not only to negative climate impacts but also to recruitment by terrorist groups offering alternative livelihoods and economic incentives.
Sometimes, terrorist groups try to fill the gap left by the state by providing basic services to build support among the local population. As climate impacts worsen, some states will increasingly struggle to provide services and maintain their legitimacy.
The report comes as famine, drought and war threaten millions in the region around Lake Chad.
On March 31, the UN Security Council passed a resolution on the Lake Chad region – home to Boko Haram – outlining their concern about the interplay of factors leading to the crisis there and calling for better collaboration amongst UN armed to deal with the situation.
Adelphi is a leading independent think tank and public policy consultancy on climate, environment and development.
The findings indicate that building resilient communities capable of adapting to the impacts of global warming may be a key tool in minimising the threat from terrorist organisations around the world.