Without mentioning the words “Islam” and “terrorism”, Dion provided his own theory (based on the “best experts”) to the “Arab Spring” (the series of uprisings lead by radical Islamic movements that have been rattling the Muslim world since 2011), the civil war in Syria between the radical Shiite–Alawite Muslim coalition and the radical Sunni Muslim groups, and the civil war in Somalia in which Islamic radical groups took control over large swaths of the country.
“How many people really know [the role of climate change on security]? For most, conflict and unrest have nothing to do with climate change. Yet look at the facts,” said Dion.
The following are excerpts of Dion’s speech (March 29, 2016):
Climate change effects in Egypt:
“Five years ago, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians filled Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring, they were not shouting 'climate change'. They shouted 'down with injustice, corruption and poverty'. But the motto on the square was 'bread, freedom, social equality'.
“Bread. It accounts for almost 40 percent of the Egyptian diet. And food accounts for roughly 40 percent of Egyptians’ household budget. With serious land and water scarcity issues, the country cannot produce enough wheat for domestic demand. Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer.
“In the winter of 2010 and 2011, China—the world’s second-largest wheat producer—was struck by a 'once-in-a-century' drought. At the same time, wheat production in Russia, Ukraine, Australia, Pakistan and Canada also fell dramatically due to drought, wildfires, floods and abnormal weather.
“With global wheat supplies down and protectionist measures up, the Egyptian government failed to balance its massive subsidies, and market prices shot up. At the time of the uprisings in early 2011, food prices had increased by 20 percent, and 40 million Egyptians—about half of the population—were receiving food rations.”
Climate change effects in Syria:
“Look at Syria. The 2007-2010 drought in Syria was the worst drought on record, causing widespread crop failure and a mass migration of farming families to urban centres. A United Nations Development Programme report found that nearly 75 percent of farmers in northeastern Syria experienced total crop failure and herders lost 85 percent of their livestock. Another United Nations report found that more than 800,000 Syrians lost their entire livelihoods as a result of the droughts.
“This environmental disaster and resultant migration put significant strain on Syria’s economically and water-stressed cities. Displaced farmers had to compete for jobs, housing and services.”
Climate change effects in Somalia:
“Somalia is also a case in point. As a result of frequent droughts, civil war and disrupted livelihoods, pastoralist communities in Somalia increasingly turn to charcoal production as an alternative source of income. Charcoal production in Somalia not only causes significant deforestation, environmental degradation and communal conflict, it also provides steady revenues for rebel groups, such as al-Shabaab, which control the distribution of this resource. Yet, at a recent international summit on Somalia that I attended in Istanbul, potential permanent lack of water as a cause of tension was hardly mentioned.”
“Climate change did not cause the Syrian civil war; climate change did not cause the Arab Spring; climate change did not cause the Egyptian uprising. The cause of the political turmoil was multi-faceted, with a democratic deficit playing the leading role. But climate change amplified the risks. It exacerbates droughts and other disruptive natural phenomena. It is undeniable that the food prices spike had a catalytic effect in Egypt, and we know that climate change will render this kind of situation more salient and more frequent.”
Dion failed to explain how his theory reconciles the fact that the minorities (mainly Kurdish and Christian) in all three countries that were mentioned in his speech (Syria, Egypt and Somalia) have suffered the very same effects of climate change, but have not resorted to violence and extremism.
This article originally appeared on CIJ News and is republished with permission