A new study found that prolonged drought conditions (directly associated with warming of the global climate) in Syria for several years preceding the war pushed over a million people to migrate from the northern countryside to cities in the 2007-2011 period, fostering substantially more unrest and instability than usual by the time the Arab Spring sparked protests and an uprising that became the Syrian civil war. While many factors caused the war, this seems to have exacerbated or accelerated it.
“There are various things going on, but you’re talking about 1.5 million people migrating from the rural north to the cities,” said climate scientist Richard Seager at Columbia, a co-author of the study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It was a contributing factor to the social unravelling that occurred that eventually led to the civil war.”
These results are among some of the most definitive so far in proving not just a general environmental/resource stress factor in civil unrest but stress factors specifically connected to global warming.
The study in Syria is also not the first link identified between global warming-related droughts and the upheaval of the Arab Spring. Previously, drought conditions in Ukrainian and Russian export breadbaskets in the summer of 2010 — also thought to be a result of global warming — have been tied to skyrocketing wheat and bread prices in Egypt, which was a major contributing factor in the January 2011 revolution.