By Laura Barron-Lopez - 06/09/14 10:17 AM EDT
President Obama says climate change increases the likelihood of war and terrorism.
In an interview with The New York Times's Thomas Friedman, which will be featured in the final episode of Showtime's climate series "Years of Living Dangerously" on Monday, Obama voiced grave concern over how global warming can be a national security issue for the United States.
"They don’t have a lot of margin for error, and that has national security implications. When people are hungry, when people are displaced, when there are a lot of young people, particularly young men, who are drifting without prospects for the future, the fertility of the soil for terrorism ends up being significant," Obama said, "and it can have an impact on us."
He also said that climate change can lead to wars by fostering conflict over resources.
"Entire countries can be finding themselves unable to feed themselves, and the potential incidence of conflict that arises out of that — that gets your attention," Obama said. "It’s not just the actual disasters that might arise, it is the accumulating stresses that are placed on a lot of different countries and the possibility of war, conflict, refugees, displacement that arise from a changing climate.”
When Friedman noted the four-year drought in Syria, which spurred the uprising there, Obama said it is a sign of what happens when countries "are just barely hanging on."
Obama also said climate change is leading to drought in California, and hurricanes and floods along coastlines. These are "bread-and-butter issues that touch on American families," Obama said.
As for trying to sell his climate change agenda at home, Obama admitted it's not easy.
"One of the hardest things in politics is getting a democracy to deal with something now where the payoff is long term or the price of inaction is decades away," Obama said. "What we’ve tried to do is continually find ways in which we can make progress, recognizing that we’re not immediately going to get people to abandon the old gas guzzler [because] they can’t afford an electric car.”
The White House is touting new climate change rules limiting emissions on existing power plants as a public health issue.
That's a change in strategy from previous efforts that have focused more on the science behind climate change.
The new regulations are expected to prevent 150,000 asthma attacks in its first year alone, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. But the majority of the benefits won't be seen until 2030.
— This story was updated at 11:16 a.m.