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A Recipe for Perpetual Insecurity? The Case of a Syrian Protected Area


By Peter Schwartzstein

As snapshots of Syria’s environmental degradation go, Jebel Abdelaziz, in the northeastern part of the country, is hard to beat. The mountain’s rocky flanks offer little for livestock. The semi-arid surrounding plain offers little for man or beast. Extending over 50km (31 miles) from Hasakah into the lightly populated scrub in the country’s northeast, the Jebel, or mountain – and the villages that border it – are a study in scarcity, hopelessness, and grinding poverty.

“We are the poorest of the poor,” said Abdelaziz Abdelrahman who has lost half his sheep to starvation this year and whose five remaining animals look like they might soon join the others. 

“We have nothing,” echoed Om Mohammed, a mother of seven and resident of Jouran Abyad village, when we met on a field visit in September. Her clothes threadbare and lone field uncultivable, she was barely exaggerating. 

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Climate Change Entails More Than Changing Temperatures: Disease and Security Implications

432px-Floods_in_South_Asia-India

By Leah Emanuel

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Matthew Vollrath, a journalism Master’s student at Stanford, has created a podcast entitled “Life in the Coronaverse.” This five-part series explores the linkages between the coronavirus and climate change, how we respond to both, the partisan divides impacting action, and more. In the third episode, published on May 29, Vollrath spoke with Stanford physician Desiree LaBeaud and Center for Climate and Security’s Senior Strategist Sherri Goodman about the global health and security impacts that climate change can have. (more…)

The Climate Factor in Syrian Instability: A Conversation Worth Continuing

Hoerling et al 2012

Observed change in cold season precipitation for the period 1971–2010 minus 1902–70 (Hoerling et al., 2012).

A recently-released study by Jan Selby and colleagues analyzes existing research on the intersection of climate change and conflict in Syria. The article, published in the Journal of Political Geography, includes a critique of a 2015 study published by the Center for Climate and Security’s (CCS) Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and Troy Sternberg (and a short briefer by CCS from 2012), as well as two other studies by Colin Kelley et al (2015) and Peter Gleick (2014). More research into the climate-conflict nexus in pre-civil war Syria is certainly welcome for better understanding the risks and informing future policies for addressing them. In this study, Selby et al. point to some important gaps in the data on the connection between displaced peoples and social and political unrest, and the possible role of market liberalization in the Syrian conflict. However, the study does nothing to refute the role of climate change in Syrian instability in the years before the war, while muddying the waters on the subject through a few mischaracterizations that are worth addressing at some length. (more…)

Climate Change in the Levant: Further Evidence Strengthens Case for Role in Syrian Instability

Syria migration

Reuters/Rodi Said

By Dr. Colin Kelley, Senior Research Fellow, The Center for Climate and Security

A new study provides the strongest evidence to date that the drying of the eastern Mediterranean Levant region over recent decades is very likely the result of human influence on the Earth’s climate system. This research uses tree-ring data in the Old World Drought Atlas to better characterize year-to-year and decade-to-decade natural rainfall variability over the greater Mediterranean basin. (more…)

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