The Blame Game

Whenever there is an extreme weather event or natural disaster, then it is not very long until someone mentions anthropocentric climate change. Conflicts, such as the ongoing war in Syria, are also being attributed to climate change, or at least to natural events exacerbated by climate change.

The standard theory, usually based on oft-cited research in the US Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, is that the climate change caused to a drought the years running up to the 2011 Arab Spring. The drought led to mass migration from rural to urban areas in Syria as people searched for food; the protests of 2011 were directly caused by overcrowding in urban areas. It sounds like a reasonable and simple explanation.

The truth may be more complicated. Yes, the effects of climate change on the environment may have played its part. But, in an article published recently by, Nives Dolsak and Aseem Prakash have pointed out that the policy “failures” – or decisions – of the Syrian governmental infrastructure as well as the ongoing Shiite-Sunni struggle in Islam had a more significant impact.

It is not the first time that the effect of climate change has been overegged in relation to the Syrian conflicts. Last year, Guardian journalists Jan Selby and Mike Hulme, upon reviewing the evidence, found that that the connection came from government-commissioned reports, NGOs (as opposed to academics), activists such as George Monbiot and military-led, rather than science-led, attempts to emphasise the problem of climate change. That’s not to say there isn’t any scientific evidence, but there just is nowhere yet a scientific consensus.




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