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New Research in Context: Syria, Climate Change and Conflict

Digging_irrigation_channels,_Palmyra,_SyriaA new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Kelley et al. finds that the extreme drought preceding the conflict in Syria was 2-3 times more likely due to climate change. The study provides an important data point that reinforces the strength of climate model projections for the Middle East, including Syria. While more research is needed to disentangle the complex web of underlying factors behind the conflict, this study strengthens the connection between  climate change and the 2007-2010 drought – a possibility we suggested in our 2012 analysis on the topic, Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest.

The journal article can be accessed here: Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications for the recent Syrian drought.

CCS Co-Directors Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia state:

“The extreme drought in Syria from 2007-2010, coupled with natural resource mismanagement by the Assad regime, contributed to the displacement of around 1.5 million farmers and herders in the country before the conflict broke out. This study builds on our own research from 2012 by presenting strong evidence that the drought was 2-3 times more likely because of climate change. While there is a very complex array of social, economic and political factors that drive conflict, the study reinforces the fact that climate change and natural resource mismanagement are problems that can exacerbate instability in a country, and potentially make conflict more likely. Given continued instability and a forecast of increased drying in the region, this issue should be better integrated into the international security agenda.”

For background, here is our report on Syria from 2012, and an update with extended analysis of the broader region here.

Also see media coverage of the new study below (the articles are better than the headlines):
Andrew Freedman – Mashable – Global Warming helped trigger Syria’s civil war.
Tim McDonnell – Mother Jones – The Science of Why Republicans Are Dead Wrong About Climate Change and Security
Henry Fountain – New York Times – Study Links Syria Conflict to Drought Caused by Climate Change


1 Comment

  1. Vlad Fomin says:

    Sorry, please: not stated in the topic.
    I have no doubt that C&S is preparing for the summer summit in Paris, France. I am convinced that the results of this summit will have a decisive influence on the fate of mankind, as a very great chance of making wrong decisions and as a consequence – the loss of an irreplaceable resource – time. So, I ask you to pay minimal attention to the content of the Kyoto Protocol and the mention of the “greenhouse effect” of carbon dioxide and so on. Hope for success.

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