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On Syrian Refugees and Climate Change: The Risks of Oversimplifying and Underestimating the Connection
It unfortunately took the heart-wrenching image of a dead Syrian child on a Turkish seashore to fully alert the international community to an unfolding disaster: the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. As the crisis ensues, many in the public eye have been asking the question: What is behind this extraordinary exodus? Essentially, what is the proximate cause? The answer to that question is straightforward. A brutal civil war in Syria has left many people with little choice but to flee. Some commentators are asking another question, however, that seeks to illuminate “ultimate” causes of an unstable Syria, and the current crisis. Namely: What were the conditions that led Syria to collapse, and how can we prevent these crises in the future? And in that context, does climate change have anything to do with it? The answer to that is complex, of course. (more…)
On Saturday, July 25, the Center for Climate and Security’s Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia spoke to MSNBC’s Alex Witt about the intersection of climate change, natural resource mismanagement and instability in Syria, as well as the broader national and international security implications of a changing climate. Click on the image below for the full interview.
For more on the Center for Climate and Security’s research on the subject, see:
2012: Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest
2013: The Arab Spring and Climate Change
2015: Did We See it Coming? State Fragility, Climate Vulnerability, and the Uprisings in Syria and Egypt
The SAIS Review of International Affairs has just published an excellent new volume titled: “The Era of Man: Environmental Security on a Changing Planet.” Contributors to the volume include a range of key experts in the climate, environmental security, security studies and foreign policy fields, covering topics that span sectors and the globe.
The Center for Climate and Security’s contribution to the volume includes an article by Werrell, Femia and Sternberg titled “Did We See it Coming? State Fragility, Climate Vulnerability, and the Uprisings in Syria and Egypt,” which builds on reports from 2012 and 2013. The article examines two popular indices, one measuring state fragility and the other measuring climate vulnerability, to assess whether or not deteriorating water and food security dynamics in both countries in the years leading up to the uprisings, were captured in these different tools.
The Center for Climate Security’s Advisory Board member, Dr. David Titley, and his colleague Katarzyna Zysk, also contributed to the volume with: “Signals, Noise, and Swans in Today’s Arctic.” The article looks at ‘the “signals” (ongoing trends), the “noise” (short-term fluctuations) and the “swans” (the wild cards) in the environmental changes in the Arctic and their geopolitical implications.’