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Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a Warming Climate

"In our new report “Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a Warming Climate”, we try to specifically answer the question ‘What are the links between non-state armed groups like Boko Haram and Islamic State and climate change?’ We look at the whole spectrum of different kinds of actors: we look at Boko Haram around Lake Chad, we look at Islamic State in Syria, we also analyse the Taliban in Afghanistan, and we look at organised crime in Guatemala.

What we found is that climate change does not create terrorists or criminals. But in a changing climate, the context within which these groups operate changes significantly. What we are seeing is that climate change creates a context within which these groups can proliferate, grow and rise.

There are two main mechanisms or relationships between climate change and how it affects the contexts within which these groups operate. One mechanism is that climate change helps or contributes to create fragility. And within fragile environments or contexts, these groups can operate more freely and they can grow and rise. The second mechanism is that climate change increasingly negatively impacts the livelihoods of local populations, for example if they depend on agriculture. And that makes them more vulnerable not only to climate change but also the recruitment by these groups.

In the political realm, there is tendency to define and understand non-state armed groups primarily within the global ‘war on terrorism’. However, in reality, those actors are much more complex and we need to broaden our perspective. We need to understand the complex nature. We need to understand the context within which they thrive. Only if we broaden our perspective, if we understand the complex interaction between political, economic, environmental and social factors, we are able to respond to the security threat."