Speaking today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan said that CIA analysts see “climate change” as a “deeper cause” of the instability seen in places like Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Yemen and Libya.
“Mankind’s relationship with the natural world is aggravating these problems and is a potential source of crisis itself,” Brennan said at one point in his speech. “Last year was the warmest on record, and this year is on track to be even warmer.”
“When CIA analysts look for deeper causes of this rising instability, they find nationalistic, sectarian, and technological factors that are eroding the structure of the international system,” he said in another part of his speech. “They also see socioeconomic trends, the impact of climate change, and other elements that are cause for concern.”
Here are key excerpts from Brennan’s speech:
“The impression one might get from the daily headlines is that the world has become more unstable. And indeed, the historical record supports that judgment.
“In the past three years, there have been more outbreaks of instability than at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, matching the rate we saw during decolonization in the 1960s. This has not just been a period of protests and government change, but of violent insurgency and, in particular, of breakdowns in many states’ ability to govern.
“Ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Yemen, Libya, and parts of Africa are clear examples. The human toll is reflected in the UN’s recent announcement that the number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world is the highest it has been since World War II. And of course, all this localized strife gives rise to the persistent threat of international terrorism.
“When CIA analysts look for deeper causes of this rising instability, they find nationalistic, sectarian, and technological factors that are eroding the structure of the international system. They also see socioeconomic trends, the impact of climate change, and other elements that are cause for concern. ….
“In many developing societies, growing pessimism about the prospects for economic advancement is fueling instability. Regions with burgeoning youth populations, such as the Arab world, have been unable to achieve the growth needed to reduce high unemployment rates. Perceptions of growing inequality have resulted in more assertive street politics and populism. At the same time, slower growth has left these nations with fewer resources to devote to economic, humanitarian, and peacekeeping assistance to address these challenges.
“Mankind’s relationship with the natural world is aggravating these problems and is a potential source of crisis itself. Last year was the warmest on record, and this year is on track to be even warmer.
“Extreme weather, along with public policies affecting food and water supplies, can worsen or create humanitarian crises. Of most immediate concern, sharply reduced crop yields in multiple places simultaneously could trigger a shock in food prices with devastating effect, especially in already fragile regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Compromised access to food and water greatly increases the prospect for famine and deadly epidemics.
To read the full transcript of Brennan’s speech posted on the CIA website click here.