Friday, October 02, 2015

Syria Re-visited

A couple of years ago, in the summer of 2013, I wrote a series of pieces for my blog investigating the part that climate change had to play in the origins of the civil war.  A great deal has been written on the subject since then that confirms my initial thoughts.  Now someone well known outside climate science community has raised the issue and people are talking about it.  For their various or nefarious reasons some will deny the connection, but they are wrong.

Here's what Charlotte Church had to say, reported in The Huffington Post.

To save folk looking up what I wrote back then, I've gathered the pieces together and re-posted them below:

Is the Syrian conflict a climate war?

The issue of water does not feature much in discussions on Syria but water shortage and a perceived unfairness in water distribution was one of the original triggers to the uprising a couple of years ago, though it's now been overtaken by all sorts piling into the scrum.
It's a fairly arid area with a growing population and growing demand for irrigation. Much of the water is supplied by rivers that start in other countries, Turkey and Lebanon, and flow to other countries, Iraq, Jordon and Israel. Some of the catchment, the Golan Height, has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Groundwater is being abstracted much faster than replenishment. There have been several drought years, particularly in the north and east of Syria. Global warming is likely to cause climate change towards less rainfall in the region and recent droughts may be the start of worse to come.
If there's one place where war will be triggered by water this is it. Or maybe this was it.
Here are a couple of significant articles to start off with: 
Quote from IRIN  (What is IRIN?)
DEIR EZ ZOUR, 17 February 2010 (IRIN) - Drought in eastern and northeastern Syria has driven some 300,000 families to urban settlements such as Aleppo, Damascus and Deir ez Zour in search of work in one of the largest internal displacements in the Middle East in recent years. 
The country’s agriculture sector, which until recently employed 40 percent of Syria’s workforce and accounted for 25 percent of gross domestic product, has been hit badly, but farmers themselves are worst affected, say aid officials.

In some villages, up to 50 percent of the population has left for nearby cities. 

Note the date - 17 February 2010. Mass migration of rural population forced by drought into cities such as Aleppo, scene of the latest atrocities. Without water, unable to grow crops, the cattle dead, uprooted to the city, is it any wonder that folk find scapegoats, religions and causes?
For a recent update see Peter Gleick's piece 
Syria, Water, Climate Change, and Violent Conflict

Part 2


Winter precipitation trends in the Mediterranean region for the period 1902 - 2010.

This is the graph
That shows the drought
That drove the farmers
Away from their fields
And into the cities
Where they looked for scapegoats
And found religion
Took up their weapons
And were killed in number.

We watched in horror
We wrung our hands
We talked of bombs
But not of rain
Nor climate change
Nor carbon emissions
Nor greenhouse gases
Symptoms not causes
Our own complicity
In dreadful slaughter.


Now read Peter Gleick's piece on Science Blogs:
Syria, Water, Climate Change, and Violent Conflict

We need to talk about global warming.

Part 3


Further Reading

In the previous two posts about the Syrian conflict I have suggested that the roots of the disaster lie in climate change.  A key feature of the current coverage of the reporting on the conflict is the absence of consideration of the origins, particularly any reference to global warming. Global policy decisions are being made with reference to symptoms not causes.

It turns out that there is an extensive literature relating what may be the Fertile Crescent's worst drought since the Neolithic to man-made climate change. Importantly, warnings were made of social unrest and military conflict that would be the likely consequences if the effects of the drought were not mitigated.  These warnings were issued in timely manner but, at least to any meaningful extent, were left unheeded, action not taken.

I list below a selection of reading, from short blog-pieces and journalists' reports to academic papers and lengthy reports from international organisations.

Water resources management in Syria
The Fertile Crescent
Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertile_Crescent
26 November 2008
2008 UNDrought Appeal For Syria
US Cable released by Wikileaks
http://www.cablegatesearch.net/cable.php?id=08DAMASCUS847&q=act%20and%20as%20economic%20multiplier%20on%20pressures%20social
18 May 2009
Climate change, water resources, and the politics of adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa
Jeannie Sowers·Avner Vengosh·Erika Weinthal
Climatic Change  DOI 10.1007/s10584-010-9835-4
http://pubpages.unh.edu/~jlu36/CCSowersVengoshWeinthal.pdf
11 August 2009
Syria Drought Response Plan
Report from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
http://reliefweb.int/report/syrian-arab-republic/syria-drought-response-plan
24 November 2009
Syria: Drought response faces funding shortfall
IRIN
http://www.irinnews.org/report/87165/syria-drought-response-faces-funding-shortfall
2009
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions: Climate change and the risk of violent conflict in the Middle East
Oli Brown, Alex Crawford
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD
http://www.iisd.org/publications/pub.aspx?id=1130
16 January 2010
Drought drives Middle Eastern pepper farmers out of business, threatens prized heirloom chiles
Gary Nabhan
http://grist.org/food/2010-01-15-drought-drives-middle-eastern-peppers/
17 February 2010
Syria: Over a million people affected by drought
INRIN
http://www.irinnews.org/report/88139/syria-over-a-million-people-affected-by-drought
25 March 2010
Syria: Why the water shortages?IRIN
http://www.irinnews.org/report/88554/
13 October 2010
Earth Is Parched Where Syrian Farms Thrived
Robert F. Worth, Hwaida Saad
New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/14/world/middleeast/14syria.html
2010
Drought Vulnerability in the Arab Region – Special Case Study: Syria
Wadid Erian. Bassem Katlan & Ouldbdey Babah
http://www.preventionweb.net/english/hyogo/gar/2011/en/bgdocs/Erian_Katlan_&_Babah_2010.pdf
June 2011
Global and Local Economic Impacts of limate Change in Syria and Options for Adaptation
Clemens Breisinger et al.
International Food Policy Research Initiative (IFPRI)
http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ifpridp01091.pdf
27 October 2011
NOAA study: Human-caused climate change a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20111027_drought.html
16 February 2012
Sowing the Seeds of Dissent: Economic Grievances and the Syrian Social Contract’s Unraveling
Suzanne Saleeby
http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/4383/sowing-the-seeds-of-dissent_economic-grievances-an
29 February 2012
Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest
Francesco Femia & Caitlin Werrell
http://climateandsecurity.org/2012/02/29/syria-climate-change-drought-and-social-unrest/
June 2013
Syria, Water, Climate Change, and Violent Conflict
Peter Gleick
ScienceBlogs
http://scienceblogs.com/significantfigures/index.php/2013/06/10/syria-water-climate-change-and-violent-conflict/


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