Top Senate Republicans on Tuesday slammed presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war 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.
“Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism and if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say, you’re going to see countries all over the world ... struggling over limited amounts of water and land to grow their crops and you’re going to see all kinds of conflict,” Sanders said.
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 CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her 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 JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLiberal group launches campaign urging Republicans to support Biden's agenda Domestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes 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 Anthony BarrassoInterior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Lobbying world A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate 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 Sidney McCainBiden steps onto global stage with high-stakes UN speech Biden falters in pledge to strengthen US alliances 20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance 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.