Map of the Day: Climate Change Probably a Factor in Syrian Civil War

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Brad Plumer interviews Francesco Femia of the Center for Climate and Security, who points out that Syria has not only suffered a serious drought for the past five years, but that this has been no ordinary drought:

We found it very interesting that right up to the day before the revolt began in Daraa, many international security analysts were essentially predicting that Syria was immune to the Arab Spring. They concluded it was generally a stable country. What they had missed was that a massive internal migration was happening, mainly on the periphery, from farmers and herders who had lost their livelihoods completely.

….In 2011 [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] released a report showing that a prolonged period of drying in the Mediterranean and the Middle East was linked to climate change. It was in line with previous projections. And on their map, Syria was colored bright red, meaning it had experienced the worst drying in the region. That really told us we needed to look at these dynamics.

The interview is full of the usual caveats, and you should read it. In particular, no one thinks drought directly caused the Syrian civil war, which might have been inevitable at some point thanks to the fault lines in Syrian society that mirror those in many other Middle Eastern countries. However, the stresses caused by extended drought might very well have affected the timing.

Climate scientists have been warning for over a decade that global warming is going to produce environmental stresses and severe weather patterns that will have devastating impacts on countries that are none too stable to begin with. As always, there will never be proof that any particular war is due solely or even primarily to climate change, just as no particular hurricane is ever solely the product of climate change. But the evidence is striking—and getting more striking all the time—that climate change very likely plays a role.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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