A record drought in Syria, intensified by the impact of global warming, has been linked to the worsening violence in the region. Scientists have recently conducted a study that shows man made climate change can directly affect violence in the region.
Researchers from Columbia University in New York City and University of California in Santa Barbara have found that the impact of drought on human violence is very strong. They also found that the drought in Syria resulted in unsuccessful farming and the displacement of millions of farmers to surrounding cities. The migrations led to poverty and civil unrest, ultimately intensifying the violence in the region.
Syria’s drought has lasted over three years however; specific dates are hard to come by due to the difficulty of keeping weather records in wartime. A climate research analyst from Columbia University, Richard Seager, said that the mass migration of civilians and farmers moving from rural areas to urban areas was a definite contributing factor to the “social unraveling” in the region. Other scientists and researchers have agreed with Seager, finding in their data that the drought in Syria had a strong influence on violence.
It needs to be clear however, that these scientists do not at all believe the drought caused the Syrian civil war. There are many more factors contributing to the war; the causes are much more complicated then just one major drought. The Assad’s regime’s oppression, the large influx of Iraqi refugees, and the drought all play their part in worsening the violence of the war.
Seager also elaborated by saying that data has been found showing clear causes and effects supporting the claim that the drought has had a strong impact on the region’s violence. There have been many events over the past four decades leading up to today’s civil war, and the human caused climate changes have been proven to be a major event.
An expert in Syrian conflict, Robert Danin, has warned scientists to not take this link to far. He agrees that the drought was one factor increasing the civil unrest in the area, but that it should not be over extended to the point that it is expressed as the leading factor. However, both Danin and leading experts agree that now and in coming years, climate change will further threaten human security and harmony.
Leading Stanford scientists published a paper recently discussing California’s recent drought. They say that despite the damage caused by America’s drought, because it is a wealthy country it can bounce back much more easily then a struggling country like Syria can.
Droughts and other causes of man made climate change can leave civilians without lifelines, such as farming, and induce mass displacement and even panic. Crop failures can worsen poverty in the region, which further increases the chance of violence and civilian fighting.
Leading climate scientists in the United States have linked the violence in Syria to a recent drought in the area. Although the civil war has many factors causing it, climate change has been proven to cause unrest and ultimately increase violence.
Written by Audrey Madden
Photo by – United Nations – Creative Commons License