The campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley sparred late Monday with the Republican National Committee over whether climate change contributed to the rise of the Islamic State in Syria.
O’Malley asserted that it in fact had during an interview that aired Monday on Bloomberg television. The former Maryland governor argued that a prolonged drought in Syria helped create the conditions for the expansion of the extremist organization in the region -- a position that was later mocked by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
"One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation-state of Syria, the rise of ISIS, was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that region, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis,” O’Malley told Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin. “It created the … conditions of extreme poverty that has led now to the rise of ISIL and this extreme violence.”
In a statement, Priebus branded O’Malley’s position “absurd,” adding that “it’s abundantly clear no one in the Democrat Party has the foreign policy vision to keep America safe.”
A senior campaign aide with O’Malley, who is lagging badly behind Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in polls, highlighted Priebus's criticism in an e-mail to reporters Monday night and urged the RNC to “bring it on.”
“If Republicans want to have a debate about either foreign policy or science, we have a message for them: bring it on,” said Lis Smith, an O’Malley deputy campaign manager. “On both topics, they are trapped in the past.”
To back up O’Malley’s claim, his campaign distributed a New York Times story from March on a study that concluded that the extreme drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 was most likely due to climate change and that the drought was a factor in the violent uprising that began there in 2011. The report was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Unlike the Republican Party, [O’Malley] is proud to believe in science,” Smith said.