World leaders gathered on Nov. 30 in Le Bourget, a commune in Paris, France, to discuss the emergency of climate change. The Paris conference ( COP21) is an opening to the United Nation’s 21st climate conference. This conference includes different sets of negotiations between leaders aiming “to forge a deal to limit global warming to 2°C.”
Both President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande are urging all participant countries to reduce emissions. They said that developed countries are primarily responsible for global warming. Obama specifically acknowledged the U.S.’s role in “contributing to the climate change crisis.” The U.S. “would take the lead in fighting against it.”
Obama also looks at the conference as a symbolic action—an “act of defiance” against recent terrorist attacks—demonstrating that the world will stand strong and remain undeterred. “Our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge,” Obama said.
The president called for all nations to take definitive actions to stand firm against “those who would tear down our world.”
World leaders are trying, but nothing assures that they will actually keep their promises about reducing their carbon dioxide emissions.
Assistant professor of politics and international relations Michael McKoy compared climate change and ISIS, saying that they are two different types of threats. While ISIS is more of a “direct short-term” threat, he believes that the damage being caused by climate change represents a much greater long term threat. According to McKoy, “We overrate ISIS’s power,” underestimating climate change’s devastating effects.
McKoy is one of many who believes that the long term effects of climate change present a more imminent risk of destruction than the terrorist group ISIS.
Due to climate change effects happening “at such a broad scale and at such a complex system,”Obama believes the media struggles to connect the public to the true danger of climate change because people here in the U.S. are not yet affected.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest later explained the reason behind Obama’s judgment that climate change is a greater threat than terrorism. Earnest said that U.S. citizens on an annual basis are confronting the direct effects of climate change on their lives through “the spread of a disease” more than through terrorism.
When pressed Earnest to answer “yes” or “no” to whether the threat posed by climate change is truly greater than the threat posed by terrorism, Earnest explained that, when looking at the “direct daily impact”on the lives of Americans, more people are and will be directly affected by climate change than by terrorism.
Earnest also mentioned that the Department of Defense “has spoken to the significant threat that climate change poses to our national security interests,” mentioning that the U.S. is unlikely to be affected as much as lesser developed countries who face greater risks.
The Migration Policy Institute says that climate change will worsen existing problems such as “food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty, the spread of disease, rapid urbanization and political instability—in areas of the world that already struggle with some of these issues.” This will encourage heavier influxes of immigration.
Secretary of State John Kerry, attending a conference in August on climate change in the Arctic, said that those who think migration motivated by extremism is a challenge in Europe today should wait to see what happens when there is an absence of basic needs like water and food and local tribes start fighting one another to survive.
Leah Anderson, associate professor and department chair of politics and international relations at Wheaton College, said poverty and inequality will increase worldwide as a result of climate change, creating more political instability and resulting in more violent responses. Conditions other than direct violence challenge “our safety, and we need to think in more complex ways,” Anderson said.
Wheaton professors have contended that overall costs to defeat the effects of climate change will be “a lot more” than costs incurred to defeat ISIS. McKoy called “the devastating effects on human population and civilization” of giving up all the necessary fossil fuels to reverse climate change “profound.”
“There’s no easy solution to the challenges here,” Anderson said, reminding that some of the most important concerns are to avoid repeating past mistakes and to have a perfect knowledge of what “the post-game plan to the conflict” should be.
“We failed in that manner in Iraq and in Afghanistan, but what’s the positive game plan for ISIS?” Anderson said that defeating ISIS does not end the entire problem and that leaders must plan ahead of what might be coming next.
McKoy called on all students to learn more about climate change and “what one must give up or change to reverse the negative effects.” When it comes to ISIS, McKoy said that the the U.S., alongside other nations, possesses all the means to defeat the terrorist group militarily and ideologically. “ISIS wants us to hate them, that’s their victory,” McKoy said. ISIS will be defeated ideologically “by trusting in the teaching of Jesus Christ which says love thy enemies.We can defeat them on the battle by loving them.”
Featured image credit The Huffington Post