by Larry Powell
Many of us would be surprised to hear that climate change actually played a role in the civil war in Syria, that disastrous conflict that has dragged on for five weary years now. But that’s precisely what the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in the US concluded in a report last year. A terrible drought ravaged that country for at least four years before the war began. It wiped out crops, forcing farm families into urban centres in a mass migration that greatly increased internal tensions. Keep in mind, Syria was already a country rife with poor governance and unsustainable farming and environmental policies.
Now, using evidence from tree rings covering the past thousand years, the Earth Institute at Columbia University has added some new perspectives. In a study just published in the “Journal of Geophysical Research,” it concludes with confidence, not only was this drought aggravated by our burning of fossil fuels, it was likely the worst in 900 years.