The Bin Laden Papers: Like Obama, al Qaeda Worried About Climate Change

By Susan Jones | May 21, 2015 | 10:05 AM EDT

Pakistani men walking down a flood-ravaged street in August 2010. (AP File Photo)

( - On the same day President Obama told graduating Coast Guard cadets that climate change poses “a serious threat to global security” and “an immediate risk to our national security,” his administration released some of the documents found in Osama bin Laden's Pakistan hideout, showing that al Qaeda leaders also worried about the effects of climate change, particularly on the Muslim world.

One of the many declassified documents from "Bin Laden's Bookshelf" (as released by the Director of National Intelligence) is a four-page letter, addressed to "My Islamic Nation," discussing the "effects associated with the enormous climate changes."

The letter writer -- it's not clear if it is bin Laden himself -- says "traditional relief efforts are insufficient" to address the "great suffering the natural disasters are leaving behind."

"Although the provision of tents, food and medicine will always be crucial, the afflictions are taking a larger shape and volume; hence, the quality, method and timing of aid must be equally improved."

It warns that people "victimized by the current climate change is a very large number, expected to rise."

The letter -- written in the month of Ramadan, no year specified -- mentions drought in Africa and flooding in Pakistan, where "the calamity is considerable and beyond description." But then the writer goes on to describe the Pakistan flooding, likely referring to the events of 2010:

A Pakistani mother carries her children through floodwater in Muzaffargarh, Pakistan in 2010. (AP File Photo)

"You have seen one of your Muslim brothers in Pakistan, covered in water up to his chest while trying with both hands to hold two of his five- or six-year-old children above water. So, have you wondered what might have happened to the rest of his children, or haven't you heard about the women who are imploring you by Allah, the Glorious and Almighty, divine right to come to their rescue. It is incumbent, upon everyone who is capable, to aid the Muslims in Pakistan and demonstrate concern towards their precious being.  

"Millions of children are left in the open, without a suitable living environment, including good drinking water, which has exposed them to dehydration, dangerous diseases and higher death rates. I pray to Allah Almighty to grant them both relief and mercy."

Given the "high frequency of such disasters caused by climate changes," the letter urges the establishment of "a distinct relief organization" with the ability to effectively deal with "more frequent, diverse and massive consequences of climate changes."

Such an organization would research housing built along the banks of rivers and valleys in the Islamic World to prevent future flooding disasters; revise dam and bridge safety regulations; address famine, improve irrigation, and encourage merchants and their families to "devote some of their sons to relief and agricultural work"; and increase Muslim awareness about depleting underground water supplies that are not "renewable."

Likewise, in his speech to cadets, President Obama focused on the "urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change," which he described as a "peril that can affect generations."

"Cadets, the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core of your service," Obama said, as he mentioned melting glaciers and rising sea levels.

"Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I'm here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act -- and we need to act now."

Obama said climate change is "often at the top of our agenda" when he meets with world leaders. And he told the cadets they are the first generation of officers to begin serving in a world "where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us."

He also gave specific examples:

"Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict. Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes. Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well. Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees. And I guarantee you the Coast Guard will have to respond. Elsewhere, more intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions," Obama said.

"Around the world, climate change will mean more extreme storms. No single weather event can be blamed solely on climate change. But Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines gave us a possible glimpse of things to come," including more humanitarian missions.

"The only way the world is going to prevent the worst effects of climate change is to slow down the warming of the planet."

Obama talked about harmful emissions, renewable energy and said he is committed to "doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution."

"And it will not be easy," he promised. "It will require sacrifice, and the politics will be tough. But there is no other way," He insisted. "We have to make our homes and buildings more efficient. We have to invest in more energy research and renewable technologies. We have to move ahead with standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution in our power plants. And working with other nations, we have to achieve a strong global agreement this year to start reducing the total global emission -- because every nation must do its part. Every nation."

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