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Independent Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders speaks during a news conference April 28, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) Independent Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders speaks during a news conference April 28, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)  

Sanders: Global warming more dangerous than al-Qaida

Forget al-Qaida. According to the Senate’s only openly socialist member, the country’s main national security threat is global warming.

In fact, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told Playboy magazine that climate change is a bigger threat to the U.S. than al-Qaida. Sanders is an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Sanders blames “hypercapitalism” for the inaction on global warming, due to the fossil fuels industry manipulating the political process to drown out efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

“You have the entire scientific community saying we have to be very aggressive in cutting greenhouse gas emissions,” Sanders said in the interview. “Yet you’re seeing the heads of coal companies and oil companies willing to sacrifice the well-being of the entire planet for their short-term profits. And these folks are funding phony organizations to try to create doubt about the reality of global warming.”

“Big business is willing to destroy the planet for short-term profits. I regard that as just incomprehensible. Incomprehensible. And because of their power over the political process, you hear a deafening silence in the U.S. Congress and in other bodies around the world about the severity of the problem. Global warming is a far more serious problem than Al Qaeda,” Sanders added.

Activists and politicians have often cited national security concerns when pushing for policies aimed at cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. In 2009, then Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, hoped to sway global warming skeptics to support climate legislation by pushing a national security angle on rising global temperatures.

The Obama administration, including Kerry, have continued to push the threats posed by global warming, including rising sea levels, more droughts, and stronger storms.

“Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire,” said Secretary of State John Kerry. “Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate.”

However, military experts have disputed the idea that global warming is a serious national security threat.

“There is no consensus in the scholarly or policy communities as to what factors specifically contribute to, much less cause, conflict,” said William Martel, associate professor of international security studies at Tufts University.

“There are plenty of studies that suggest exactly the opposite connection is true — environmental issues do not necessarily cause conflict,” said Jeff Kueter, president of the Marshall Institute.

Despite scholarly disagreements, Democrats have continued to press for more domestic action to curb carbon emissions.

Earlier this year, Sanders and California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced legislation to tax U.S. carbon emissions and use the funds to support renewable energy development.

The bill failed to garner support from Republicans and some Democrats, and Boxer has abandoned trying to move the bill to a floor vote, instead opting to push a carbon tax through comprehensive tax reform.

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