Mocking President Obama’s plans to fight climate change, former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee said Saturday that beheadings in eastern Syria by the terrorist group ISIL pose a “greater threat to an American than a sunburn.”
Speaking at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, the potential 2016 presidential candidate drew laughs from the audience when he mentioned President Barack Obama’s recent remarks on climate change during his State of the Union speech last week. In that speech, Obama said that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
“Not to diminish anything about the climate at all,” Huckabee said, “but Mr. President, I believe that most of us would think that a beheading is a far greater threat to an American than a sunburn.”
Interestingly enough, “sunburn” is not generally included on climate scientists’ list of the greatest threats posed by man-made global warming (the World Health Organization says stratospheric ozone depletion, which increases the risk of sunburn, is not directly caused by global climate change, though some interactions between the two have been observed). Instead, scientists from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warn of “irreversible” environmental and economic impacts throughout the world if climate change is not mitigated, including sea level rise, more extreme floods, heat waves, and droughts, and increased violent conflict in the areas most affected.
ISIL is relatively new on the scene when it comes to national security threats, but climate change has long been seen by military and intelligence experts as a pressing defense issue. Just last year, the Pentagon released a report calling climate change a “threat multiplier” that can worsen national security problems such as terrorism and infectious disease spread. The report said the U.S. Department of Defense is “already beginning to see” some of the impacts of global warming, which have the potential to “intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict” and will likely lead to “food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”