World Leaders Fiddle With Climate Change While Paris Burns

World Leaders Fiddle With Climate Change While Paris Burns

President Obama and more than 150 world leaders gather in Paris this week to fight a devastating threat: Climate change. What, you thought they care about ISIS?
Megan G. Oprea
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This week, more than 150 world leaders are gathering in Paris to fight what they believe is today’s greatest global threat to peace and prosperity. They hold a common belief that this threat requires immediate and drastic action and that without a coordinated effort no real advances will be made against this enemy. The United Nations climate summit has just begun.

They are not meeting to discuss the radical Islamist terrorist organization ISIS, which has established a caliphate in the ashes of what was Syria and Iraq, and only two and a half weeks ago struck terror into the heart of Paris. No. At a time when France is still under a state of emergency from those attacks, the leaders of 150 countries are coming together to talk about climate change.

Regardless of your opinion on the dangers of a changing climate, what’s causing it, or what can be done about it, this UN summit hits a raw nerve given its proximity to the ISIS attacks in Paris that left 130 dead and over 400 wounded. The attention it’s getting implies a lack of interest in the very real global threat of Islamist terrorism today. It seems the world’s leaders would prefer to put their energy into a topic that garners broad support at home rather than tread into the murky waters of Islamic jihad (or, in Hilary Clinton’s anodyne phrasing, “radical jihadist ideology”).

Only a Weathervane Friend

President Obama is a fine example of this. He and his administration have refused to include any references to Muslims or Islamism when referring to ISIS attacks in Paris and elsewhere. Obama insists, as Clinton does, that it’s generic “extremism” we are fighting, not anything religious, cowing to pressure from American Muslim interest groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, like the Council for American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Student Association.

The irony is thick on this one, with a mounting international feeling that if we don’t do something soon ISIS will become un-containable.

After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, the heads of state from multiple countries marched through the streets of Paris with French President François Hollande, joining in saying “Je suis Charlie.” But Obama didn’t have time for America’s oldest ally. Instead, he put John Kerry in charge of reaching out, and Kerry in turn sent James Taylor to sing, embarrassingly, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Such an empty gesture can’t conceal the United States’s lack of interest in coordinating against ISIS.

Yet when it comes to the global threat of climate change, Obama is front and center. In his speech in Paris on the opening day of the summit, he evoked Martin Luther King Jr. when he warned it is possible to be “too late” to prevent a crisis.

According to Obama, we are approaching that moment with climate change, and he is ready to act. The irony is thick on this one, with a mounting international feeling that if we don’t do something soon ISIS will become un-containable. Its roots will have spread so deep and far that it will become impossible to defend against it, much less dismantle it.

Ignore the Armed Men Behind the Curtain

Obama is more concerned with climate change because this was always going to be a part of his legacy. He’s had his eyes set on this from the beginning—just as he always planned to be the president who got us out of Iraq and shrunk our military presence internationally. Addressing climate change is part and parcel of his leftist agenda, and there’s no way he would let it be drowned out by some “jayvee team” from Iraq and Syria.

Obama doesn’t care about the fragmented and unstable Middle East we will leave future generations.

Although he made a nod toward the Paris attacks by visiting the Bataclan music hall and having a working dinner about ISIS with President Hollande on Monday night, his primary goal is leaving Paris with an actionable and enforceable climate change agreement. This is his top priority.

At the summit, Obama said that we must think about the long term, and put aside our immediate desires regarding industry and energy. Instead, we should think of the world we’ll be leaving our children. But this is exactly what he won’t do as he refuses to acknowledge the threat of violent Islamism.

He is shortsighted concerning ISIS because he only cares about the immediate political backlash at home if he puts more troops in Iraq so soon after ceremoniously—and prematurely—withdrawing them in 2011. He doesn’t care about the fragmented and unstable Middle East we will leave future generations, or the potential that instability could spark another regional or world war.

Money for Anything But Defense

We are not even sure we can affect and control climate change, yet our leaders are willing to commit to huge financial and economic alterations anyway. The United States is pledging to double its R&D budget for clean energy over the next five years. In the meantime, we won’t commit to fighting ISIS with any real conviction, even though we would have a major effect on its demise. And the defense budget continues to shrink.

Obama doesn’t apply the same logic to ISIS that he applies to climate change: if you break it, you buy it.

Obama also acknowledged our role in causing climate change and our particular responsibility to do something about it. How is it that he is not equally capable of acknowledging his own role in creating ISIS? He has no problem finding fault with America going into Iraq in the Bush era and blaming it for the rise of ISIS, but he refuses to admit the premature withdrawal of troops from Iraq that he ordered left the vacuum that allowed ISIS to flourish. He doesn’t apply the same logic to ISIS that he applies to climate change: if you break it, you buy it.

On Monday, Hollande equated the global climate-change threat with the threat of “extremism” (code for Islamist terrorism). Obama went so far as to say that the climate talks are a way to rebuke ISIS. Our president is living in a fantasy world if he thinks that ISIS will feel at all chastened by this summit. The one thing they might feel is relieved. The world doesn’t yet take them seriously enough to do much more than convene a summit on climate change in response to a major terrorist attack.

The world leaders flocking to Paris are worried about being on the “right side of history” on climate change. This is one of Obama’s favorite turns of phrase. But what about being on the right side of history when it concerns homegrown terrorist attacks by Islamist radicals? Or religious genocide in the Middle East? Surely the history books will have something to say about that.

Megan G. Oprea is the managing editor of the Texas National Security Review and a senior contributor to The Federalist. She holds a PhD in French linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her on Twitter.

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