Britain's Prince Charles has said that climate change may have been one of the causes of the current bloody civil war in Syria.
Charles has long been a passionate campaigner on environmental issues and linked the conflict which has left hundreds of thousands dead, created millions of refugees and seen the rise of Islamic State (IS), with drought in the Middle Eastern nation.
In the interview with Sky News, to be broadcast tonight but filmed before last week’s deadly Islamist terrorist attack in Paris that left 130 people dead, Charles talks about his belief that there are links between climate change and terrorism.
He also urged governments to adopt green measures despite austerity, saying there was “a real possibility of nature’s bank going bust”.
Charles told the broadcaster: “We’re seeing a classic case of not dealing with the problem, because, I mean, it sounds awful to say, but some of us were saying 20-something years ago that if we didn’t tackle these issues you would see ever greater conflict over scarce resources and ever greater difficulties over drought, and the accumulating effect of climate change, which means that people have to move.
“And, in fact, there’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria, funnily enough was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land.”
Asked if there was a direct link between climate change, conflict and terrorism, he added: “It’s only in the last few years that the Pentagon have actually started to pay attention to this. I mean it has a huge impact on what is happening.
“I mean the difficulty is sometimes to get this point across – that if we just leave it and say, well there are obviously lots of, there are endless problems arising all over the place therefore we deal with them in a short term way, we never deal with the underlying root cause which regrettably is what we’re doing to our natural environment.”
The interview came ahead of Charles travelling to Paris next week to deliver a keynote speech at the November 30 opening ceremony for Cop21, the United Nations conference on climate change which will attempt to reach a new international agreement to help limit global warming to no more than two degrees.
Charles has been a strong advocate of taking action to protect the environment for many years.
In 2007 he set up the Prince’s Rainforest Group to find a solution to save the world’s threatened forests. He addressed a UN international climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009 and the following year he gave a keynote speech to the Oslo Climate and Forest Conference.
Last month he gave a speech at Lancaster House in London he told Environment Secretary Amber Rudd, her French counterpart Segolene Royal, and other guests that tackling deforestation will be central to combating global warming.
Speaking to Sky as part of a day of special programmes, Charles was asked whether we can afford to deal with climate change in a time of austerity.
He said: “The trouble is if we don’t, this is the awful thing, if we don’t it’s going to get so much worse, then life will become very, very complicated indeed, and what we’re experiencing now will be as nothing to the problems.
“I mean the difficulties in 2008 with the financial crash – that was a banking crisis. But we’re now facing a real possibility of nature’s bank going bust. If you see it like that, we’ve been putting so much pressure on the natural systems and all those aspects of nature that we take for granted.”
He added: “Obviously I try to be as optimistic as possible, but sometimes you think that – do we really have to face catastrophes and chaos before we understand that real action needs to be taken? The difficulty with all that, is that by the time you try to take the action, it’s already too late.”