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Prince Charles: Climate Change Root Cause of Syrian War

Climate

England's Prince Charles told Sky News in an exclusive interview that climate change was a root cause of the civil war in Syria, terrorism and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. Prince Charles, who has been outspoken on the issue of climate change and sustainability for the last four decades, will deliver a keynote address at the COP21 Paris climate talks next week.

Prince Charles, a long-time advocate on climate change, will deliver a keynote address at the upcoming Paris climate talks.
Jamie Roach / Shutterstock.com

"We're seeing a classic case of not dealing with the problem, because, I mean, it sounds awful to say, but some of us were saying 20 years ago that if we didn't tackle these issues, you would see ever greater conflict over scarce resources and ever greater difficulties over drought, and the accumulating effect of climate change, which means that people have to move," he said in the interview, which will air tonight and was filmed three weeks ago, before the Paris attacks. "And, in fact, there's very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria, funnily enough, was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land."

When asked if there was a direct link between climate change, conflict and terrorism, Prince Charles said: "Absolutely ... It's only in the last few years that the Pentagon has actually started to pay attention to this. I mean, it has a huge impact on what is happening."

"We never deal with the underlying root cause which regrettably is what we're doing to our natural environment," he said, noting the gravity of the crisis. "I mean the difficulties in 2008 with the financial crash—that was a banking crisis. But we're now facing a real possibility of nature's bank going bust."

A U.S. military report from last year called climate change a "catalyst for conflict" and a "threat multiplier." President Obama has said repeatedly that "no challenge poses a great threat than climate change, and it's an "immediate risk to our national security."

As Secretary of State, John Kerry has made climate change a major priority not simply because it's a threat to the environment," he said in a recent speech. "It’s because by fueling extreme weather events, undermining our military readiness, exacerbating conflicts around the world, climate change is a threat to the security of the United States and indeed to the security and stability of countries everywhere.”

And most recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders came under fire in the last Democratic primary debate, which took place just a day after the Paris attacks, for saying that "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism." Even after being mocked by conservative media and Democratic operatives alike, Sanders held fast to his claim.

Watch a preview of Prince Charles' interview here:

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

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"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.

NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.

As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.

"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.

The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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