A Scan of Critical World Developments
The Heat of Conflict
The ongoing crisis in Syria offers tragic confirmation of the long-feared link between climate volatility and social volatility. Syria has never experienced a drought as severe as the one that ravaged the country from 2006 to 2010. According to a new study, global climate change disrupted long-term precipitation, temperature, and storm formation patterns, increasing the likelihood of extreme droughts threefold. When the drought came, agricultural production fell by a third, livestock herds were decimated, grain prices doubled, and malnutrition-related diseases among children rose sharply. As many as 1.5 million people fled from the countryside to the peripheries of cities, which were already strained by an influx of refugees from Iraq. The resultant toxic blend of poverty, dislocation, and government mismanagement helped trigger the outbreak of unrest in the spring of 2011, which spawned the civil war and fueled the upsurge of ISIS. The interplay between climate and security reminds us that climate action is not just about saving the planet, but about saving ourselves.