Three entire months have elapsed since air strikes began against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Yet, we hear news that the ISIS advance continues: the fate of the key Kurdish town, Kobani, is still very uncertain and Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, remains seriously threatened.

This worrying news comes amidst admissions from the likes of Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, that ‘our campaign alone was not effective to be decisive in turning the tide against ISIS’. He goes on to say that the support of Iraqi ‘ground troops’ is vital too. And so, despite the failure of military action so far, he rigidly sticks to his guns. Along with other Western politicians, Hammond is fixed on violently bringing ISIS to its knees without also considering how to prevent the formation of another equally ‘evil’ group in its place.

More than a few miles behind the armed and rearing politicians, we find your everyday scientists with some rare piece of worthwhile knowledge. In 2006, a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) had drawn on some of their findings to suggest that truly dangerous climate change levels, witnessing a 2°C rise in temperature, would be reached in a decade (2016) if the world did not cut carbon emissions. Two years before our deadline, marchers against climate change, UN resolutions, and businesses are still echoing this message. The Obama Administration’s rhetoric on beating climate change occasionally even parallels their rhetoric on the War against Terror. A White House Action Plan, for instance, talked of a ‘combat’ against this global crisis. But it would take an extremely optimistic Greenpeace supporter to believe that the Obama Administration and indeed, the rest of the international community, are taking the threat of climate change as seriously as the threat of ISIS.

Both can have brutal, profound consequences with long-term after-effects. The four-year drought in Syria (2006-2010) is a case in point. Coupled with the dryness of the surrounding Mediterranean areas, it caused at least 2 to 3 million people to fall into poverty as 60 per cent of the land became affected, including the North Eastern Breadbasket region where 800,000 farmers and herders lost their livelihoods and climate refugees crowded into neighbouring regions.

In addition to other factors, this stirred up more anger against Bashar al-Assad’s Government, as his regime seemed to do nothing to help. Frustration bubbled furiously and boiled over in the form of stands against Assad’s government in 2011. The tension and chaos cooked up the meat of ISIS; it was then seasoned and plated up as the right gap formed on the political platter.

Others have also found that natural disasters – linked to climate change – precede instability and extremism. The CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board termed the effects of ‘climate change’ to be ‘catalysts’ for conflict in volatile regions. Charles B Strozier, in the Huffington Post, cites Bangladesh, a country most threatened by climate change, for having served as proof for this claim. The Bangladesh War of Liberation (1971) was preceded by the Bhola Cyclone of 1970, which took half a million lives.

In these scenarios, climate change was not the only cause of conflict or instability: Bangladesh had also witnessed significant changes and disorder after the partition of India in the 1940s. But environmental factors seem to have been one of the forces that pulled these societies to the end of their tethers.

One way to stop such chaos from reigning and the likes of ISIS from being born is to push on with measures to tackle climate change. If we all understand the importance of understanding climate change and our roles as key stakeholders – those who are the perpetrators and the victims – we should start seeing, as George Marshall does, some of our real enemies. At least for environmental issues, which instigate many of our other problems, ‘the enemy is everyone’. If this notion and the compulsion to work together had been present much earlier on, perhaps there would be less of a fierce opposition to the West in the Middle East and, who knows, we may not even have needed to talk about an ISIS.

What’s more, this forging of relationships for the environment’s sake could have been possible from very early on. Since ancient times, the fact that humans were affecting the climate for the worse was identified by thinkers like Theophrastus, a pupil of Aristotle. He noted that draining marshes increased the chance of that locality freezing; deforestation made an area more susceptible to excessive heat.

Of course, time machines don’t yet exist; there is nothing we can do about the past. But addressing climate change more seriously could serve as a long-term strategy for enabling a population’s welfare, a region’s stability, and the prevention of groups like ISIS in the future. Unlike air strikes, this would help tackle one of the key root problems of the countries we are meant to be aiding.

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