POLITICS
07/21/2015 02:23 pm ET Updated Jul 21, 2015

Republicans Are Upset That Martin O'Malley Cited Actual Science On Climate Change And Conflict

The candidate links climate change to Syrian conflict. Republicans deem it "absurd."

WASHINGTON -- Republicans are outraged that Democratic presidential contender Martin O'Malley cited actual scientific research in comments about how climate change has contributed to internal conflicts in Syria.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, O'Malley discussed the national security implications of climate change. "One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation state of Syria and the rise of ISIS, was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that nation, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis that created the symptoms -- or rather, the conditions -- of extreme poverty that has now led to the rise of ISIS and this extreme violence," he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called O'Malley's comments "absurd." 

"Whether it's the weak Obama-Clinton nuclear deal that paves the way for Iran to obtain an atomic bomb or Martin O'Malley's absurd claim that climate change is responsible for ISIS, it’s abundantly clear no one in the Democratic Party has the foreign policy vision to keep America safe," he said in a statement, via Fox News.

And conservative media outlets are apparently really mad that reporters, including me, haven't covered O'Malley's comments. But here I am, covering them.  

The thing is, O'Malley's comments reflect actual scientific findings published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper, from researchers at Columbia University, found that an extended, severe drought in Syria -- a drought whose severity was made two to three times more likely due to climate change as it would have been otherwise -- worsened existing water security and agricultural woes and forced approximately 1.5 million more people into urban areas. This helped create internal conflict and the conditions that facilitated the growth of extremist like the Islamic State, or ISIS.

The report doesn’t say the drought caused the war, one of the lead authors told The Huffington Post when it was released, but does outline how it worsened conditions for people in the country.

"We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict," said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a co-author of the paper.

Which is almost exactly the point O'Malley made in the Bloomberg interview.

The O'Malley campaign responded to critics on Tuesday.

"If Republicans want to have a debate about either foreign policy or science, we have a message for them: bring it on. On both topics they are trapped in the past," said O’Malley for President Deputy Campaign Manager Lis Smith in a statement. "Martin O'Malley isn't running to repeat the mistakes of the past -- he's offering bold, new, and progressive leadership. And unlike the Republican Party, he is proud to believe in science."

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