Study: Investment in Creating Climate-Resilient Communities Could Curb Terror Threat

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Building resilient communities capable of adapting to the impacts of global warming is likely to be a key tool in minimising the threat from terrorist organisations around the world.

That is the conclusion of a new analysis released today from Berlin-based think tank Adelphi, which suggests terror groups such as Al Qaida, Boko Haram, and ISIS thrive in climate vulnerable communities where there is intense competition for natural resources.

The paper makes clear climate change does not cause terrorism, but argues it does contribute to the kind of socio-economic conditions that allow such groups to thrive.

For example, climate impacts such as more severe weather events can often lead to increased droughts and flooding, destroying harvests and putting pressure on local food and water supplies.

Such resource scarcity can then lead to fragility and violent conflict which allows terror groups to thrive, explained report author Lukas Rüttinger. “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,” he said in a statement.

The findings echo similar warnings from the US and UK military, which have warned the impacts of climate change have been linked to the Arab Spring, the war in Syria and the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency. However, some critics have attacked any attempt to demonstrate a link between climate and terror risks, arguing other factors play a much bigger role in driving terror groups.

The report was commissioned by the German Department for Foreign Affairs, which stressed the importance of investing in preventative action to tackle violent conflict and the rise of terror groups.

“This report confirms once again that is in all our interest to tackle climate change, and to invest in holistic solutions to conflict, starting now,” Peter Fischer, deputy director general for energy and climate policy at the German Federal Foreign Office, said in a statement. “Instability and turbulence are rising around the world and climate change is helping to drive them. We must pay attention to the early stages of the conflict-cycle, anticipate risks arising from climate change and take preventive measures.”

The Adelphi paper suggests foreign policy makers should “more effectively” link climate change adaptation, development and humanitarian aid with peace-building and conflict prevention.

Potential action areas include strengthening local institutions’ ability to deal with a climate-related crisis, supporting the growth of sustainable, climate resilient practices in vulnerable livelihoods such as fishing and farming, and improving disaster risk reduction to prevent power vacuums emerging after a natural disaster.

“A broader perspective will help to better address the root causes of the rise and growth of non state armed groups,” Rüttinger added.