The Prince of Wales has long been outspoken on the measures that need to be taken to fight climate change. Since the issue often becomes a political one, it speaks for the new grandfather’s passion for the cause, that he is willing to potentially polarize those who disagree on the matter. The Royal Family generally take impartial positions on controversial subjects.
The heir to the British throne broached the subject again on Tuesday during an address at the World Islamic Economic Forum in London, and predictably not everyone was happy about it.
While speaking to those gathered at the forum, Prince Charles claimed that the Syrian conflict could partially be blamed on the recent destructive and long-lasting drought in the area and the rural community’s mismanagement of local natural resources and economy. The Prince recognized that the changing climate is not only a scientific issue but a social issue as well. “We are now grappling with all sorts of social and economic challenges that have their roots in a problem not acknowledged, which has contributed to so many of the conflicts around the world in recent times,” he said.
Climate scientists stand by the fact that singular weather events cannot provide enough long-term data to discern whether or not anthropogenic global warming is to blame. However one of the main concerns of climate change is the increased frequency of extreme weather events for which communities are unprepared, leaving devastation in their wake. Charles examined the need for preventing such destruction in his speech, promoting sustainable use of natural resources: “And that is the way nature’s capital reserves have been depleted; things we take utterly for granted like water and soils. If these deteriorate and are not managed on a sustainable basis, this can cause direct impact on food and energy security.”
The future King was met with disagreements when he alluded to this lack of sustainability being partially to blame for the civil war by saying “The tragic conflict in Syria provides a terrifyingly graphic example, where a severe drought for the last seven years has decimated Syria’s rural economy, driving many farmers off their fields into the cities where, already, food was in short supply. This depletion of natural capital, inexplicably little reported in the media, was a significant contributor to the social tension that exploded with such desperate results.”
Charles gave examples of solutions that could prevent such conflicts, citing international financial system cooperation to promote clean energy and natural resource preservation. He stated that protecting the planet is a shared responsibility, and that the lead up to the conflict is only an example. This, however, did not sit well with those who felt that the Prince was placing unsupported blame.
Member of Parliament Peter Bone was one of those who spoke out in disapproval of the speech, telling the Daily Mail “Prince Charles has always been known for his blue-sky thinking, but I don’t go along with that analysis of the Syrian conflict. I think it’s quite clear from the Arab Spring what caused it, and it is that these people wanted to be free of dictatorship. I’m not sure the environment is a contributory factor at all.”
One of the Prince’s aides defended the speech and the Prince’s blame of rural mismanagement to the Daily Mail, saying “The prince was making a point within the wider context of his speech about finance and certainly not claiming that this was the only contributing factor to the Syrian conflict.”
While this is far from the first time the Prince of Wales has spoken out about the human race’s responsibility to the environment, these may be his most controversial statements to date. Previously Prince Charles has publicly expressed tips for daily habits that are beneficial to the environment, such as recycling and reducing energy usage. He also has been involved in wildlife conservation, a cause which his eldest son Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, has also recently championed while working to protect endangered species in Africa. However this week showed a shift which had Prince Charles addressing his causes on an international political platform, a very risky move for a future Head of State who will be required to remain politically neutral.