Study: Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian Civil War

Did Climate Change Help Spark Syrian Civil War?

March 2, 2015

Scientists Link Warming Trend to Record Drought and Later Unrest

In 2006-2010, an unprecedented drought (brown areas) spread across much of Turkey, Syria and Iraq—the so-called Fertile Crescent. In part due to unsustainable farming practices and government mismanagement, Syria was especially vulnerable to its effects. (NASA)

A new study says a record drought that ravaged Syria in 2006-2010 was likely stoked by ongoing manmade climate change, and that the drought may have helped propel the 2011 Syrian uprising. Researchers say the drought, the worst ever recorded in the region, destroyed agriculture in the breadbasket region of northern Syria, driving dispossessed farmers to cities, where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011. The conflict has since evolved into a complex multinational war that has killed at least 200,000 people and displaced millions. The study appears today in the leading journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” said Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who coauthored the study. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

A growing body of research suggests that extreme weather, including high temperatures and droughts, increases the chances of violence, from individual attacks to full-scale wars. Some researchers project that manmade global warming will heighten future conflicts, or argue that it may already be doing so. And recent journalistic accounts and other reports have linked warfare in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in part to environmental issues, especially lack of water. The new study, combining climate, social and economic data, is perhaps the first to look closely and quantitatively at these questions in relation to a current war.

The recent drought affected the so-called Fertile Crescent, spanning parts of Turkey and much of Syria and Iraq, where agriculture and animal herding are believed to have started some 12,000 years ago. The region has always seen natural weather swings. But using existing studies and their own research, the authors showed that since 1900, the area has undergone warming of 1 to 1.2 degrees Centigrade (about 2 degrees Fahrenheit), and about a 10 percent reduction in wet-season precipitation. They showed that the trend matches neatly with models of human-influenced global warming, and thus cannot be attributed to natural variability.

Global warming has had two effects, they say. First, it appears to have indirectly weakened wind patterns that bring rain-laden air from the Mediterranean, reducing precipitation during the usual November-April wet season. Second, higher temperatures have increased evaporation of moisture from soils during the usually hot summers, giving any dry year a one-two punch. The region saw substantial droughts in the 1950s, 1980s and 1990s. However, 2006-10 was easily the worst and longest since reliable recordkeeping began. The researchers concluded that an episode of this severity and length would have been unlikely without the long-term changes.
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I reported on this almost two years ago: The Root Causes Of Violence In Syria



This is what sparked many to move to the cities- which sparked tensions - tensions ignored by the President of Syria, particular in regards to water shortages. Yet, it still is basically being ignored in the media as part of the reporting of violence in this region with the primary emphasis being on politics. Now, due to the proliferation of terror groups like ISIS that sprang from the invasion of Iraq and other factors we will now see little done to address the effects of this human induced drought that is effecting the lives of millions in this region.

It is hard for me to find the words when I write some of these entries because I am simply tired of it all. Tired of the apathy, the lack of caring, humanity and concern for the Earth that is being destroyed by our wanton greed, hatred and ignorance. The Fertile Crescent is said to be the cradle of civilization. The culture here is rich, historical and as precious as the farming which began over 12,000 years ago and it is all being destroyed by hate and indifference... and let's face it outright racism. How many times I have heard people state that all people in Syria are terrorists and should be blown to bits. How will we ever tackle the climate destruction we have unleashed on this Earth without first overcoming our rancid hatred for each other?

Make no mistake, regardless of what you look like on the outside, the effects of thirst and hunger are the same on the inside.

However, we seem as a species to have lost caring for culture, history and the continued sustainability of this region and the world as a whole. This goes beyond politics and religion to the very core of who we are as humans. If the current situation here is any indication of how we are going to address the effects of climate change globally (by invading the land and then sucking out all of the water and gas for global markets which only exacerbates climate destruction, poverty and terrorism) that is simply unacceptable. I always at least tried to be positive in thinking that no matter how bad we allowed it to get we would act in time. It truly is frightening to observe that we seem to be in a freefall as a species.

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