Climate change helped fuel Syrian conflict, study finds

March 30, 2015
Researches found Syria's extreme drought worsened water security and agricultural woes.

An unprecedented climate change-fueled drought contributed to the political unrest in Syria, says a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Huffington Post reported on February 3.

The article said the Syrian drought, which began in late 2006, dragged on for three years and was the worst on record.

The Huffington Post reported: “The researchers conclude that the drought worsened existing water security and agricultural woes, and prompted up to 1.5 million rural Syrians to migrate closer to urban areas.

“This migration helped spur demographic changes that fed instability in and around cities. The drought contributed to rising food prices and more nutrition-related diseases in children, which exacerbated the turmoil.”

The researchers conclude that the Syrian drought was made much worse by climate change. The paper found human-caused climate change made it two to three times more likely that a drought of this magnitude would occur compared with natural variation alone.

The civil war began with a democratic uprising against the regime of Bashar Assad, which responded with brutal repression. In the ensuing conflict, hundreds of thousands of people have died.

"We’re not saying the drought caused the war," Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and another co-author of the paper, said in a statement. "We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict."

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