Thursday, September 5, 2013

How climate change warmed Syria up for war

Brian Merchant at Motherboard: ...As was the case with many of the nations touched by the Arab Spring, a large swath of Syria's citizenry wasn't just poor, oppressed, and disenfranchised by an authoritarian regime—they were starving, too. And they were starving because Syria had been stricken by a five year drought believed to be exacerbated by climate change. There was eventually too little rain to even grow crops or to feed livestock.

William Polk, an ex-US State Department advisor, has written a meticulously detailed account of the genesis of the conflict over at The Atlantic. As Digby writes at Alternet, "It is the most cogent recitation and analysis of the Syrian crisis that I've seen."

It is also an exceptionally detailed case study of how, exactly, climate change can directly influence—even precipitate—a violent conflict. Considering Syria's path to war, step-by-step, provides a powerful breakdown of what might continue to happen in the future, so as long as the globe continues to warm, the food system continues to be in thrall to commodity traders and market swings, and vast swaths of the global population remain impoverished.

"Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance," Polk writes. "Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011. Rainfall in most of the country fell below eight inches (20 cm) a year, the absolute minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming. Desperate for water, farmers began to tap aquifers with tens of thousands of new well.  But, as they did, the water table quickly dropped to a level below which their pumps could lift it."...

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