Energy & Environment

Climate change tied to Syrian conflict, scientists say

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A new study links the impacts of climate change to the unraveling of the conflict in Syria. 

Record drought that ravaged Syria from 2006 to 2010 appears to have played a critical role in leading up to the 2011 Syrian uprising, scientists say in a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences on Monday. 

“We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who coauthored the study, said in a statement.

“We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region,” Seager added. 

The climate impacts in the Fertile Crescent, which caused the “worst doubt in the instrumental record” and massive crop failure along with migration, directly contributed to the conflict, the study states. 

The drought, coupled by the rapidly growing population in Syria, which led to 1.5 million people fleeing the countryside to reach water and food, strained nearby cities. 

Findings from Monday’s report represent the first official scientific study to link climate change to increased conflict in vulnerable regions. 

Pentagon officials and Secretary of State John Kerry have said multiple times that increased storms, drought, wildfires and other climate change impacts are more likely to spark civil and political unrest in certain regions, which can result in conflicts. 

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