O'Malley links ISIS to climate change

O'Malley links ISIS to climate change
© Getty Images

The GOP is criticizing Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley for saying that climate change helped the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria gain power.

In an interview with Bloomberg television that aired Monday, the former Maryland governor said that Syria’s prolonged drought — exacerbated by climate change — led to conditions that enabled the extremist group’s rise.

ADVERTISEMENT
“One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation-state of Syria, the rise of ISIS, was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that region, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis,” O’Malley said.

“It created the ... conditions of extreme poverty that has led now to the rise of ISIL and this extreme violence," he added using an alternate name for the group.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, immediately mocked O’Malley’s comparison, calling it “absurd.”

“Whether it’s the weak Clinton-Obama nuclear deal that paves the way for Iran to obtain an atomic bomb or Martin O’Malley’s absurd claim that climate change is responsible for ISIS, it’s abundantly clear no one in the Democrat Party has the foreign policy vision to keep America safe,” he said in a statement.

Lis Smith, O’Malley’s deputy campaign manager, used the occasion to call out Republicans for their records on both national security and climate.

“If Republicans want to have a debate about either foreign policy or science, we have a message for them: bring it on. On both topics they are trapped in the past,” she said in a statement.

“Martin O’Malley isn’t running to repeat the mistakes of the past — he's offering bold, new, and progressive leadership. And unlike the Republican Party, he is proud to believe in science.”

O’Malley’s link has some scientific backing to it.

In a March study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers linked Syria’s 2006-2009 drought to climate change and further linked the drought conditions to a violent uprising and extremism.

The Obama administration’s military and homeland security leaders have warned that climate change and the natural disasters it causes could lead to various security threats, including the rise of extremist groups.

Citing the risks of climate change, O’Malley said he would push for the United States to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050.

This story was updated at 2:03 p.m.