Top Senate Republicans on Tuesday slammed presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders: Trump budget ‘must be defeated’ The Hill's 12:30 Report Sanders will 'absolutely' work with Trump to lower prescription drug costs MORE’s weekend statement that climate change is contributing to global terrorism.
During the Democratic presidential debate Saturday night, the Vermont senator repeated his assertion that climate change is the greatest threat to the United States. He said it will lead to more terrorism because extreme weather events will destabilize regions around the world.
His reasoning landed flat with Republicans.
“I get disappointed when people see momentum around an issue and try to attach an unrelated issue to it,” Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerSenate takes up NATO membership for Montenegro GOP lawmaker: Time to work with Dems on healthcare GOP senator: I'm ready to work with Trump, Dems on healthcare MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee, said.
“I sat with a member of the European Union recently who said the same thing. Obviously people are very concerned about terrorism, as people should be. Though climate change policy advocates are trying to attach their issue to that, but it’s somewhat disingenuous.”
Sen. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day GOP targets Baldwin over Wisconsin VA scandal The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-Wis.) the chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, agreed: “I would view that assertion as pretty absurd.”
“From my standpoint, I don’t think climate change is the greatest threat facing our nation,” he said. “I think things like ISIS and Iran potentially becoming a nuclear power and North Korea and Russia’s aggression, they’re far greater threats that are more immediate than climate change.”
Sanders is not alone in his belief. Fellow presidential candidate Martin O’Malley (D) has said climate change led to the rise of the Islamic State. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that extreme weather events such as droughts could exacerbate tensions and lead to more conflict in the Middle East and around the world.
“The prospect of a hotter, drier climate throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia will place even more strain on the most precious and essential resource of all — fresh water,” he said in a speech at Old Dominion University.
“There have been books written about war over water. Pressures and demands will steadily increase, and the future may look very different from the past.”
President Obama, too, has said climate change is one of the biggest threats facing the world today, a point Republicans have long ridiculed.
“It is concerning when the president has, for over a year, said the greatest threat to the United States is climate change and then during the presidential debates, the Democrat debate Saturday night, one of the presidential candidates said actually that climate change is the cause of increased global terrorism,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn BarrassoHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation Making water infrastructure a priority Overnight Energy: Trump's Keystone XL approval coming soon MORE (R-Wyo.) told reporters on Tuesday.
Barrasso vowed that Congress will have a say over any climate deal officials may reach at a climate change conference in Paris next month. Obama will attend those talks, as will many major world leaders.
“The president ought to be focused not on the upcoming Paris climate talks two weeks from now but on the attacks that happened in Paris last week,” Barrasso said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn McCainGraham: Nunes should reveal surveillance source Intel Dem on Nunes: ‘This is what a cover-up to a crime looks like’ McCain: Nunes has 'a lot of explaining to do' MORE (R-Ariz.) joked that Sanders’s view is so ridiculous, it could have come from legalized marijuana.
“There is a ballot initiative in Arizona concerning the substance that he must have been consuming,” McCain said.