Nearly every statement conjecturing how nuclear materials will first be used by terrorists points fingers at Osama bin Laden, reputed to have been seeking nuclear materials, or Iran, reputed to be trying to build a bomb. And many analysts are persuaded that religiously motivated extremists are most likely to be willing to use nuclear materials, and to inflict maximum damage. Yet a study released recently points to environmental extremists, especially those concerned with global warming, as those most likely to seek out nuclear weapons or materials for attacks. The conclusion upends nearly every mainstream thought about terrorism trends.
According to a Reuters report of the study conducted by the EastWest Institute, a global security think tank:
The threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons is real ... moreover, the likelihood of terrorists acquiring such weapons is growing as more states aggressively pursue their own nuclear ambitions …"
It [the study] said the first nuclear terrorist may turn out to be an American or European, reflecting a likely evolution in security threats over the next 10-15 years and a possible shift away from al Qaeda-style Islamist militancy toward eco-terrorism.
Ken Berry, author of the EastWest Institute report, said the rise of environmental militants would bring "an even bigger prospect that scientific personnel from the richest countries will aid eco-terrorist use of nuclear weapons or materials."
Some security analysts believe the effects of global warming will exacerbate the world's rich-poor divide, intensify conflicts over land, water and other resources and help to radicalize populations and fan terrorism.
Although environmental degradation is more likely to be poor countries' problem, environmental activism is at present headquartered in richer nations—thus Berry's claim that nuclear armed 'eco-terrorists' may hail from wealthy countries. And environmental events such as global warming are, of course, global.
Berry's report suggests not simply the need for more stringent efforts toward global disarmament, but points to the need for a genuinely new framework for security and terrorism issues. Global interdependence is a fact for all of us, and the so is the interdependence of the environment, economies and global security. There are no walls, no border technologies, and no id systems smart enough to undo our inextricable global web. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way, but I know it means we don't have a second to waste before reframing national security as synonymous with global security. We must come to grips with the fact the greater the conflict between communities, societies or states, the more—not less—mutually dependent they are on each other for survival.
Of related interest:Ecoterrorism" | Nuclear Terrorism | Animal Liberation Front (ALF): Liberators or Terrorists? | U.S. Steps to Counter Nuclear Terrorism Threat