“The Syrian crisis is simply a dress rehearsal for an immense climate-fuelled disaster, which will begin to be felt within the next decade”
How Global Warming Helped Cause the Syrian War and create millions of refugees.
The bloody conflict in Syria —which enters its fifth year this month—has killed almost 200,000 people, created 3.2 million refugees, and given rise to the murderous extremist group known as the Islamic State. The roots of the civil war extend deep into Syria’s political and socioeconomic structures. But another cause turns out to be global warming.
When violence erupted in Syria during the Arab Spring in 2011, the country had been mired in a three-year drought—its worst in recorded history. Government agricultural policies had led to an overreliance on rain, so desperate farmers had to turn to well water—and they ended up sucking most of the country’s groundwater reserves dry. What happened next upended the country. “A lot of these farmers picked up their families, abandoned their villages, and went en masse to urban areas,” says Colin Kelley, a climate scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of a new paper on the conflict. Add 1.5 million refugees fleeing the US-led invasion of Iraq, and the population of Syrian cities grew by 50 percent between 2002 and 2010.
The influx led to illegal settlements, rampant unemployment, and inequality. But the government hardly did anything in response (corruption didn’t help, nor did the fact that the hardest-hit areas were populated by Kurdish minorities, who have long been discriminated against and ignored). Soon, frustrations boiled over.
Then civil war, huge squalid refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon. And then the millions trying to find some kind of normal life in Europe.
But that's just a part of it. There are thousands fleeing Africa, risking death to get to Europe. Social disorder is another symptom of global warming as drought and diminishing resources create the desperate need to migrate.
[E]vidence of the impacts of climate change was plain to see: “You need only to fly over some of the areas that are being affected—like the Naga Hills on the border of India and Burma, or vast areas of the Ganges delta—to see clearly what’s happening.”
Tahmima Anam, a Bangladeshi writer and novelist, says that 50,000 people migrate every month to Dhaka, the capital city, because rising sea levels are making their villages uninhabitable and their arable land impossible to cultivate.The hundreds of thousands of refugees we now see fleeing every month is just the beginning.