Importance of Natural Resources

Climate Change and the Syrian Civil War (ECC Factbook Conflict Analysis)

Climate Change and the Syrian Civil War:
a presentation based on the ECC Factbook More than 220,000 people dead, countless
more wounded and no end in sight. The situation in Syria is dire. Since protests started in March 2011 the conflict has intensified to become one of the worst
in recent decades. Until today it has caused almost half of the population
to flee their homes. The direct causes of the Syrian crisis relate to popular
discontent with the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Yet, a number of
experts highlight the roles of climate change, drought and poor resource
management as additional factors behind the Syrian crisis. In fact, the Syrian case offers important insights into how environmental factors can feed into popular grievances and in combination with other social factors produce
widespread violence and suffering. The following analysis is based on a
conceptual model identifying possible links between the conflict in Syria and
climate change. Over the past decades the Mediterranean littoral zone and the
Middle East have warmed up considerably, leading to an intensification of drought
cycles. Of the 12 driest winters hitting the region since 1902, 10 have occurred
in just the last 20 years. According to a study from the US National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration NOAA this change towards drier conditions cannot be
explained by natural variability alone. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases and
aerosol forcing, as well as increases in sea surface temperature, are major
contributing factors as well. A particularly serious drought hit the
region between 2006 and 2010. In Syria the consequences were disastrous.
Especially in the northeastern part of the country. As a consequence of crop
failures and plummeting livestock numbers an estimated two to three
million people were driven into extreme poverty. Te impact of drought was
compounded by the unsustainable water policies that the Baath Party government
has implemented for years. To win public support, it pursued over ambitious agricultural
projects, provided subsidies for water intensive crops and inefficient
irrigation methods and turned a blind eye to unsustainable patterns of water
consumption including thousands of unlicensed blackwells. As a consequence,
local aquifers have been decreasing at an alarming rate. The Syrian government’s actions and omissions thus played a significant role in increasing water scarcity. These
environmental and social causes had several direct effects. Droughts and water
scarcity caused a loss of livelihoods and a scarcity in survival resources. By 2011
the droughts had left an estimated one million Syrian civilians in extreme food
insecurity. This resulted in a large exodus of farmers and herders to urban
areas thereby increasing competition for housing, jobs and access to services. A
shock in food prices stirred nationwide unrest. People became increasingly upset
with the government which did little to address their desperate situation.
Besides the rift between the people and their government, the situation also
brought about grievances between different societal groups. These dynamics
played out in a particularly volatile political context. Before 2011 many
Syrians already held strong grievances against the Assad regime relating to
political oppression and corruption; and the example of revolutions in other Arab
countries was obviously important in triggering the original protests in
Syria. These grievances largely resulted from biased agricultural policies. From 2000 on
the Assad regime had favoured the expansion of private agribusinesses
helped by a small group of elite supporters and had lifted important subsidies for
smallholders. Furthermore when drought conditions hit the country in 2006, the
government was quite reluctant in assisting the drought-stricken population and even
in acknowledging the gravity of the situation, which strongly contributed to
popular discontent. In fact, the droughts played a proximate role in exacerbating
structural political problems without which the Syrian crisis would probably
not have reached its actual proportions The international community repeatedly attempted to
negotiate peace. Yet, these efforts have so far failed in the face of seemingly
incompatible positions by the warring parties and some of their outside backers.
Several donors provide funds to UN humanitarian operations in order to
address the basic needs of the population however these remain
underfunded although this may improve as the European Union seeks to stem the
tide of Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe to resolve the environmental
dimension in Syrian civil war many other conflict resolution measures will be
necessary most of these can only be initiated once
the violence of the conflict abates. One crucial element will be the
diversification the Syrian economy with a view to lessening the importance of
the agricultural sector, combined with stronger social safeguards. Likewise,
improving the water infrastructure and water management will be an essential
factor. All measures would need to be accompanied by a stronger legal framework,
increased cooperation, the cessation of violence and a general increase in state
capacity Overall, the situation has dramatically
deteriorated since 2011. The emergence of ISIS has further complicated the
conflict, as has the increasingly direct intervention of regional and great
powers. Millions of refugees and migrants represent a major challenge for
countries neighboring Syria and beyond. And there is no end in sight for the
suffering of the Syrian population. Much is yet to be done to resolve the
conflict. This analysis, as well as all graphs and data shown are available at The ECC Factbook is an online tool, designed to
inform both policymakers and the general public about conflicts with an
environmental dimension. It provides case studies, infographics, analysis and data
on over a hundred environmental conflicts worldwide

Reader Comments

  1. As this data become more widely known and studied, wars caused by climate change will be better understood and anticipated. This is just the beginning or a more massive problem that will affect all countries. North Africa, Russia, Western USA, are already severely affected. There is already a 300% increase in immigration from south to north. These data are confirmed, global warming is here.

  2. Rubbish. Everyone understands the history of Al Qaeda – ISIS , who supports them and why they were used to wage war in Libya and then Syria.

  3. Climate Engineering link:
    This documentary includes civilian reports about the terrifying
    environmental warfare that currently taking place worldwide but
    relatively few are aware of it. Nowadays there is a vast amount of chemicals have been dumped on us from the aircrafts worldwide.

  4. After compiling the rainfall numbers over the past 10 years from several sites, mind you their disparity was +/- 50%. Syria's population density is 306 per square mile, as California's is 220. Their yearly rainfall averages float between 15"-22". So basically, I bet the Kardashians alone use more water than 10% of Syria's population. I'm not sure what their blatant ignorance of the facts is accomplishing, except to give excuses for a violent culture. Also in the midst making water the new oil.

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