Decades before Sen. Bernie Sanders warned that global warming was driving terrorism, U.S. intelligence officials warned that global cooling would cause massive crop failures, destabilize government and drive violent conflict.
A Central Intelligence Agency report from 1974 warned Earth’s “climate is returning to that of the neo-boreal era… an era of drought, famine, and political unrest in the western world.” The report cited famines in the Soviet Union, drought in Latin America and flooding in the U.S. as examples of how global cooling was wreaking havoc on countries.
This sounds eerily similar to arguments Sanders made during the Democratic presidential debate Saturday evening, in which he argued man-made global warming made Syria’s drought worse and led to the rise of the Islamic State. It’s an argument increasingly in the mouths of Democrats over the past year.
“In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism,” Sanders said in the debate. “And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you’re gonna see countries all over the world– this is what the C.I.A. says, they’re gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you’re gonna see all kinds of international conflict.”
A lot has changed in science since the 1970s. Scientists, activists and politicians are now concerned human activities are causing global temperatures to rise and making droughts and other extreme weather events more frequent and intense.
The Pentagon has called global warming a “threat multiplier” because “it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism.”
Interestingly enough, the Pentagon has the same concerns about global warming as the C.I.A. did about global cooling in the 1970s.
“The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability,” the Pentagon reported in 2014.
These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-stable governments,” the Pentagon noted. “These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.”
Global cooling would have caused many of the same problems, according to the C.I.A.’s 1974 report.
“The new climatic era brings a promise of famine and starvation to many areas of the world,” the C.I.A. wrote in its report based on a study by the University of Wisconsin predicting a return to the cooler conditions of the “Little Ice Age.”