Drought, Climate, War, Terrorism, and Syria

It’s routinely claimed that climate-change-induced drought in Syria was a major factor in triggering the Syrian civil war, the Syrian refugee crisis and the rise of ISIS. But are these claims supported by the data? This post investigates this question.

We begin with this quote from a Climate and Security article, which claims that the recent drought in Syria was the worst in Syria’s long history and is not alone in doing so:

From 2006-2011, up to 60% of Syria’s land experienced, in the terms of one expert, “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago” …… This has led to a massive exodus of farmers, herders and agriculturally-dependent rural families from the countryside to the cities. Last January, it was reported that crop failures ….. just in the farming villages around the city of Aleppo, had led 200,000 rural villagers to leave for the cities.

Now look at Figure 1, which shows the GHCNv2 annual rainfall record for Aleppo (data from KNMI Climate Explorer). Average annual rainfall during the 2006-2011 period was only 9% lower than average annual rainfall over the preceding 55 years. The driest year during the period (2011) was only the seventh driest on record and 2006-2011 was only the 13th driest six-year period on record. Clearly the crop failures in the farming villages around Aleppo – which undoubtedly occurred – weren’t caused by a drought of Biblical proportions. In fact there doesn’t seem to have been a drought at Aleppo at all:

Figure 1: GHCN v2 monthly rainfall  record, Aleppo. The graphic is as it appears on  Climate Explorer except for the added shading

But Aleppo is a single data point in a large country. What happened elsewhere?

First we will look at the rainfall data from other stations in Syria to see if there were rainfall deficiencies that could have contributed to crop failures in other areas. Figure 2 shows the locations of the seven stations in Syria with GHCNv2 rainfall records going back to the 1950s relative to the distribution of cropland. They give fairly good country-wide coverage:

Figure 2: Stations with rainfall records in cropland areas

Figure 3 shows the annual rainfall records for the seven stations with the “drought years” highlighted as before. Average rainfall over 2006-2011 was below the pre-2006 average at four stations (Deir Ezzor -31%, Palmyra -22%, Lattakia -17% and Aleppo -9% as already discussed ) but above it at three (Kamishli +3%, Damascus +5% and Hama +15%). The average for all seven stations was 7% below the pre-2006 average, decreasing to 4% when only the five “cropland” stations (Lattakia, Aleppo, Kamishi, Hama and Damascus) are considered:

Figure 3: GHCN v2 rainfall records for Kamishli, Lattakia, Hama, Damascus, 2006-2011 period highlighted in yellow

Decreases of only 4-7% in average annual rainfall clearly don’t qualify as drought conditions, but there is of course more to drought than just rainfall. To get a true indication of drought intensity we must look at the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI), which takes other factors such as soil moisture content and temperature into account, and a paper by Al Riffai et al (2012) provides annual PDSI estimates between 1960 and 2009 for each of the five “agroecolocial” zones shown in Figure 4:

Figure 4: Agroeconomic zones in Syria, Figure 1 of Al Riffai et al, 2012

Comparing this map with Figure 2 shows that crops are grown only in and around Zones 1, 2, 3 and 4 (5 is desert), so if drought caused widespread crop failures it must have affected these four zones. Figure 5 shows Al Riffai et al’s self-calibrating PDSI index for the four zones between 1960 and 2009, with the 2006-2009 period highlighted in yellow. Note that negative values indicate drier conditions:

Figure 5: Drought Index values, agroeconomic zones 1, 2, 3 and 4, modified from Figure 3 of Al Riffai et al, 2012

The post-2006 drought is visible only as abrupt downward spikes in 2008 in Zones 3 and 4 and as a weaker downward spike in the same year in Zone 1. But none of these spikes, reaches the minus 4 “extreme” PDSI drought threshold and none of them are the lowest values since 1960. Moreover, Zone 3 is shown to have recovered from a drought after 2006. These results also lend no support to the claims that Syria suffered severe and widespread drought after 2006.

I am aware of just one piece of observational evidence that allegedly supports the drought claim. In a 2011 paper by Hoerling et al. NOAA presents this map, reproduced here as Figure 6. It shows areas of rainfall deficiency over Syria and other parts of the Mediterranean and is often presented as supporting evidence for the Syrian drought:

Figure 6: Observed cold season precipitation changes for period 1970-2010 minus 1902-1970, from Figure 1 of Hoerling et al 2011.

But what the map shows is the “observed change in cold season precipitation for the period 1971-2000 minus 1902-70”. It tells us nothing about what happened in Syria between 2006 and 2011. It does imply that droughts in and around the Mediterranean are more common than they used to be, and maybe they are. The IPCC, however, gave this no more than a “likely” (66% probability) ranking in the AR5, while at the same time admitting that the Mediterranean is the only place on the planet other than West Africa where any observational evidence for an uptrend in droughts can be detected.

That concludes the presentation of data relating to the Syrian drought, or at least the data I have been able to find in the time available. The results demonstrate that there was no unusually severe drought in Syria between 2006 and 2011 and quite likely no drought at all. This effectively ends the discussion. If there was no drought then the climate change = drought = civil war = ISIS chain of reasoning falls apart.

Nevertheless the fact remains that a substantial proportion of Syria’s crops did fail during the “drought years”, and having demonstrated that it wasn’t drought that caused them to fail it’s desirable to spend a little time addressing the question of what did.

Syria grows a wide range of crops and it’s impossible to review them all, but the main crop is wheat so we will use that as an example. Figure 7 shows Syria’s total annual wheat production and its per-capita wheat production since 1960 (data from FAO). Between 2006 and 2008 wheat production decreased by a factor of two and per-capita production fell back to the lowest level since 1989. This was the largest decrease in Syria’s history, although not the first. Wheat production also fell substantially between 1998 and 1999, in this case at least partly as a result of a drought (see Figure 5).

Figure 7: Syria’s total and per-capita wheat production, 1961-2012

And if drought wasn’t the cause what was? There have been two historic contributors. First was Syria’s skyrocketing population, which more than quadrupled from 4.7 million to 22.1 million between 1961 and 2012. Second was Syria’s government, which in an attempt to keep up with population growth encouraged rapid development of irrigated croplands beginning in the 1980s (according to FAO data Syria’s irrigated cropland increased by 70%, from 693,000 to 1,180,000 hectares, between 1990 and 1995 alone, which explains the large increase in wheat production over this period seen in Figure 7). Climate and Security summarizes the problems thus:

Based on short-term assessments during years of relative plenty, the government has heavily subsidized water-intensive wheat and cotton farming, and encouraged inefficient irrigation techniques. In the face of both climate and human-induced water shortages, farmers have sought to increase supply by turning to the country’s groundwater resources, with Syria’s National Agricultural Policy Center reporting an increase in wells tapping aquifers from “just over 135,000 in 1999 to more than 213,000 in 2007.” This pumping “has caused groundwater levels to plummet in many parts of the country, and raised significant concerns about the water quality in remaining aquifer stocks.” On top of this, the over-grazing of land and a rapidly growing population have compounded the land desertification process. As previously fertile lands turn to dust, farmers and herders have had no choice but to move elsewhere, starve, or demand change.

But while these factors undoubtedly contributed the event that probably contributed most to the 2008 crop failures was Bashar Assad’s 2005 “liberalization” of the Syrian economy, which caused a near-tripling of the price of diesel between 2007 and 2008 and made it “nearly impossible for many cultivators to keep their irrigation pumps running, much less to transport produce to the cities” (sources here and here). I haven’t checked any further, but if this is why Syria’s crops failed then Obama, Kerry,  Pope Francis et al. are calling for global action on climate change because Assad hiked diesel prices in Syria eight years ago.

A final question is whether the migration of destitute Syrian farmers to the cities triggered the Syrian uprising. Few actually claim it did. The claim is usually that the migration  contributed to it, and with destitute farmers crowding Syria’s cities it probably did, eventually. But millions of destitute people crowd cities all over the world without rising up, and in all probability there would have been no uprising in Syria either had it not been for the Arab Spring, which provided the trigger. This quote from Timelines Syria makes this clear:

2011 Feb 1, Syrians were reported organizing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter calling for a “day of rage” in Damascus on Feb 4-5, taking inspiration from Egypt and Tunisia in using social networking sites to rally their followers for sweeping political reforms.

The quote also strongly suggests that the destitute farmers, who would have been unlikely to participate in Facebook and Twitter campaigns, were not the instigators of the uprising.

Concluding note

We have established that there was no drought of any unusual significance in Syria between 2006 and 2011, that climate change did not cause the crop failures which resulted in millions of farmers fleeing to the cities or that they triggered the Syrian uprising when they got there. The claim that refugees from Syria are in any way, shape or form “climate refugees” is therefore entirely without foundation, as is the claim that man-made climate change had anything to do with the Syrian civil war or the rise of ISIS.

Yet articles of the sort that recently appeared in the National Observer keep on coming. This particular article begins like this:

This is what a climate refugee looks like

And follows up thus:

A policeman tenderly scoops up the corpse of a small child on a desolate beach and within hours the image is an icon of grief and suffering around the world. The child was three-year old Alan Kurdi, who fled with his family from Syria’s bloody civil war, joining millions of others seeking a new life abroad, victims of war, dictatorship, and a climate disaster that began nearly a decade ago.

Climate alarmists are becoming progressively more strident, unscientific and indecorous in their attempts to get their message across to a largely disinterested public, but this surely marks a new low.

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87 Responses to Drought, Climate, War, Terrorism, and Syria

  1. Some research into this last year: http://pacinst.org/news/water-drought-climate-change-conflict-in-syria/

    Starting in 2006 and lasting through 2011, Syria suffered the worst long-term drought and the most severe set of crop failures in recorded history. The decrease in water availability, water mismanagement, agricultural failures, and related economic deterioration contributed to population dislocations and the migration of rural communities to nearby cities. These factors further contributed to urban unemployment, economic dislocations, food insecurity for more than a million people, and subsequent social unrest.

    • stewgreen says:

      BS on something @MikeRoberts says “Starting in 2006 and lasting through 2011”
      Newspaper reports speak of rain in March 2010 more in June the drought being declared over..and more storms in December 2010 (I’ll post links below)
      Water scarcity is not the same as drought. The other water scarcity factors are mentioned in newspaper reports ..not sure about the rest.

      • Water scarcity is not the same as drought. Exactly right. If your crops depend on irrigation water and your water source dries up you have drought whether it rains or not.

    • John F. Hultquist says:

      mike,
      Your link connects to the site of the renowned …

      Dr. Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute – President and Co-founder

      a self admitted cyber thief, liar, and one of the least ethical beings on Planet Earth.

      But I’ll bet you know that.

      Search using: gleick +fakegate

    • John F. Hultquist says:

      miker,
      Your link connects to the site of the renowned …

      Dr. Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute – President and Co-founder

      a self admitted cyber thief, liar, and one of the least ethical beings on Planet Earth.

      But I’ll bet you know that.

      Search using: gleick +fakegate

  2. I had been working in Syria for 10 months on an EU supported project when the civil war began. In all that time I never heard any Syrian mention anything about climate.

    No Syrian I met knew anything about the climate history of Syria. None had ever heard of the existence of climate skeptics.

  3. edmh says:

    Just another case of “don’t confuse me with the facts”.

    And Charlie boy is a pontificating pie idiot.

  4. Dave Rutledge says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thank you for an informative post. I was unaware of the agricultural history.

    Dave

  5. cafuccio says:

    Did you also envisaged the case for peak oil in this country?
    This would likely explain the Assad move on diesel, don’t you think:
    https://www.iea.org/stats/WebGraphs/SYRIA3.pdf

  6. Joe Public says:

    As you mention, Roger:

    Syria’s National Agricultural Policy Centre reporting an increase in wells tapping aquifers from “just over 135,000 in 1999 to more than 213,000 in 2007.”

    The year-by-year increase in freshwater abstraction for 2000-2007 is illustrated here:

    http://knoema.com/med_en43/freshwater-abstraction-southern-european-neighbourhood?tsId=1000300

  7. Euan Mearns says:

    There’s a lot going on in the time frame 2006 – 2011. We could start with the meteoric rise in oil and energy prices. Throughout MENA, governments subsidise energy consumption and the rise in prices led to economic stress. Then there was the financial crash that squeezed the finances of donor nations.

    And then there was the meteoric rise in food prices (linked to energy prices). One study linked riots to food prices. Syria is in there.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/425019/the-cause-of-riots-and-the-price-of-food/

    Governments also subsidise food and found they could no longer do so. We have a bizarre situation where the EU subsidises the production of expensive food and MENA governments subsidise its consumption.

    So we have 1) a population that quadrupled in 50 years, 2) sky rocketing energy and food prices, 3) unsustainable agricultural practice 4) most of Syria is already desert 5) a dry spell linked to natural climatic cycles leading to partial crop failure 6) Al-Qaeda was mounting random terror attacks 7) the USA + others had just bombed the f*k out of Iraq 8) Sadam killed in 2006 and the notion of regime change takes root in the mind of western governments and so on…..

    I would rank the contribution of man made emissions linked climate change as zero and am increasingly alarmed at how the media swallows this dross. Last night I had to listen to Jon Snow on Ch4 news reporting of sea level rise in Bangladesh. The report even included the correct technical fact that Bangladesh is sinking under the weight of sediment deposited by the Brahmaputra, but that did not deter him from concluding that climate change was to blame for the periodic flooding of this delta.

    WWIII is gathering pace and the UK is itching to get involved. Turkey has just shot down a Russian jet.

    • Willem Post says:

      Euan,

      Apparently, Turkey had a number of F-16s circling in Turkish air space, ready to pounce, in case of a “violation” of Turkish air space.

      According to a US source, the US-satellite-recorded heat flash showed the Russian plane was hit in Syrian airspace, after crossing a 2-kilometer-wide, Turkish land tongue.
      Note: At 600 mph = 960 km/h, it takes 7.5 seconds to travel 2 km.

      According to the published Turkish tracking data:

      – The Turkish F-16 was circling in Turkish airspace, saw the Russian bomber (which had already dropped its bombs, i.e., no threat to Turkey) about to cross the land tongue;
      – F-16 headed for the land tongue, which took some seconds;
      – F-16 positioned, aimed and fired, which took some seconds;
      – When the missile hit the Russian plane (it took a few seconds to get to the Russian plane), the Russian plane was in Syrian airspace, about 1 km from the Turkish border (per US source);
      – When the Russian plane hit the ground, it was 4 km from the Turkish border.

      The son of the president of Turkey, and others, are actively involved in buying low-cost oil from Northern Syrian oil fields captured by ISIS, thereby financing ISIS.

      Russia destroyed nearly all off the 1000 trucks used to transport the oil to Turkey; the US destroyed about 150, after the Paris attack, as a gesture to France.

      No wonder the president of Turkey is angry at Putin for bombing oil supply routes, oil storage tanks, and refineries in Northern Syria.

      Putin will continue bombing them, and other targets, until nothing is left to prevent ISIS from getting money to make more mischief.

      • Indeed, and I would note that there has been little mention of the flood of arms and militants into Syria via Turkey – as well as the not-so-well concealed fingerprints of Qatar and Saudi Arabian funding into the Arab Spring overall and Syria in particular.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Good points. I have to admit that I do not understand at all the sectarian (religious), tribal, political, historical, and socio-economic divides. But things are clearly totally f*d up. And bombing so far has solved nothing, and more bombing will continue to solve nothing.

          A simple point. The USA has had sanctions against Syria for a long time. They have helped starve the people. Had they found a way to send help to the people may things have worked out differently?

        • webstaa says:

          Qatar and Saudi Arabia have arguably opposite agendas in funding the “Arab Spring” and have been competing for influence in Syria among rebel groups. Yes, it is truly f**ked up.

  8. Tony Noerpel says:

    You may want to reference this PNAS paper. Climate change is real but only one of many factors. US invasion of Iraq displacing 1.4 million Iraqi refugees into Syria; rising Syrian population and increase use of irrigation were all factors. But global warming is relentless, monotonic and getting worse. Physics is physics.

    Colin P. Kelleya, Shahrzad Mohtadi, Mark A. Cane, Richard Seager, and Yochanan Kushnir, Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought, PNAS | March 17, 2015, vol. 112, no. 11, http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1421533112
    http://www.pnas.org/content/112/11/3241.full.pdf?with-ds=yes

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Thanks for the links. Here’s the main chart. A few comments. 1) panel A is not zero scaled. Zero scale this and the trend becomes more of a flat line. 2) no doubt the Middle East has been getting hotter, but one does need to ask to what extent a 4 fold increase in population and the associated land surface changes play a role. For example irrigation puts water vapour into what is supposed to be dry air. 3) I’m curious about what year the time series end. The paper says the regression are 1931 to 2008. Why would a paper from 2015 not include the most recent data?

      I’v had a quick read. Its not all bad. But it seems to me the authors have set out with the idea that CO2 related climate change contributed to the civil war and are simply looking for evidence to support this. For example:

      Atieh El Hindi, the director of the Syrian National Agricultural Policy Center, has stated that between 2007 and 2008, drought was a main factor in the unprecedented rise in Syrian food prices; in this single year, wheat, rice, and feed prices more than doubled (17, 18).

      Do they grow rice in Syria?

      Despite growing water scarcity and frequent droughts, the government of President Hafez al-Assad (1971−2000) initiated policies to further increase agricultural production, including land redistribution and irrigation projects, quota systems, and subsidies for diesel fuel to garner the support of rural constituents (5–9). These policies endangered Syria’s water security by exploiting limited land and water resources without regard for sustainability (10).

      While the policies are misguided with the benefit of hindsight, is it just possible that Assad wanted to feed his people?

      • Euan: The graphs you show cover the entire “fertile crescent”, an enormous area. The graph below plots the UCAR PDSI index between 35 and 37.5N and 35 and 42.5E, an area which covers the northern part of Syria and includes maybe 80% of Syria’s cropland:

        There’s no evidence for an “unprecedented” 2006-2011 drought and no sign of any significant change since 1923 that I can see.

    • Fred from Canuckistan says:

      Climate is supposed to change. Our climate is a dynamic, chaotic, close coupled energy distribution system. Change is inherent in its being.

      Using the currently populate phrase “Climate Change” is as ridiculous as talking about Water Wet.

    • A C Osborn says:

      How can anyone talk about “Climate Change” aka Man Made Global Warming using historic data going back to only 1950.
      Where is the perspective for the last 10Million, 1Million, 100,000, 10,000 1,000 years?

    • Which bit of physics says that Syria will get more high pressure systems?

  9. garethbeer says:

    Turkey was retaliating for Ruskis destroying their (Ally) IS oil supply line…

    Wait, a vote for Corbyn will cause even more Climate change!!!

    TV is almost unwatchable now for the embedded BS it deficates on us masses!

  10. garethbeer says:

    Good post Roger, linked from Bishop Hill!

  11. Pingback: Reality Check: Drought, Climate, War, Terrorism, and Syria | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

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  13. Euan Mearns says:

    Got to assume that hydro capacity has not changed. 2009 certainly looks like a dry year. 2002 / 03 also dry. 2006 looks rather wet. 2010, 11 and 12 look like BAU for the hydro dams. These dams are probably on the Euphrates and therefore reflect rainfall to the N in Turkey.

  14. jbenton2013 says:

    Eco bed wetters like Charlie are not interested in science and data. All I can say is God save the Queen and may she have al very, very long life.

  15. A C Osborn says:

    Let us not forget the Food price rises due to the green “Ethanol” fiasco.
    The “Palm Oil” fiasco also helped.
    When you take food out of the system for whatever reason it is the Poor who suffer.

    • manicbeancounter says:

      For the last few decades food prices have been largely independent of droughts due to international trade. In the early 1970s the price of potatoes went through the roof in the UK due to a poor harvest. Now we would not notice.
      On the other hand it is human interventions that affect prices. In Russia food prices have risen steeply this year due to sanctions, to the benefit of farmers at the expense of consumers. Due to Russia being a net importer from the EU, some food prices in have fallen in Britain to the benefit of consumers at the expense of farmers.
      But there is one food that is not affected by sanctions, but has fallen sharply this year – sugar. In January most in supermarkets it was 85p for a kilo bag. Now it is 39-59p. The other use for sugar in Brazil and other places is ethanol. When oil prices went up so did ethanol, though it was always slightly cheaper. Back in 2004 for instance, I the cheapest ethanol was 20p a litre, whilst gasoline (with a proportion of ethanol) was 35p. When the oil price went up, ethanol tracked it.

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  17. stewgreen says:

    “Drought caused ISIS” – seems a “too good to be true answer”
    #1 You don’t get Islamic terrorism without Islam,
    but you do get Islamic Terrorism without droughts being the cause e.g. Taliban, Islamic Jihad IJO, and Boko Haram etc.
    wacky groups in Algeria, and Libya etc.
    #2 You do get droughts without people turning to terrorism

    BTW terrorism and gangsterism probably get a bit mixed up at times
    #3 Yep there was a big drought in Syria 2007-2010.
    Yep that probably changes social factors like farmers going to live in cities, but lots of things change social factors like the discovery of oil, which they had in Syria or a mining boom , or the internet or world recession etc.

    #4 If the West and Obama had got their asses and put enough resources into cleaning up Assad in the same way they cleaned up Sierra Leone then there might have been a sucessful Free Syria and no IS

    I thinks you’ll benefit from searching on old newspaper reports using Google and fixing the date range ..whilst searching on terms like : “harves”t and “food riots” – brought nothing
    but for “drought” – a lot of news stories prior to the 2010 rains about the 3 year super-drought which ended in June 2010* that’s 8 months before the uprising.And then extra rains in Decmber

    So it wasn’t like there was a drought right before the first demos. Yes that rain was too late for that first 2010 harvest and many farmers had already moved to cities so I guess the argument would be that the 2007-2010 drought caused social change which eventually at the end of the tunnel caused ISIS..No BS on that see #3 above

    Drought ? #1 A lack of water and drought are NOT the same thing !
    #2 Neither does rain mean water problems are over, as rain today only benefits the NEXT seasons harvest
    one news article points out that water shortages are part of the culture even before the drought
    “the water crisis in the country predates the current cycle of drought, ” ..”The loss of aquifers such as the Golan Heights and the depletion of” the rivers.

    * June 2010 27 June 2010 (IRIN) – More rain has signalled the end of three years of a devastating drought in Syria’s north-eastern region but it is not falling consistently enough to benefit this year’s harvests, UN agencies have warned.

    Green Magic technology had already been introduced.

    ** Drought caused Social problems ? March 25th 2011 Time “One-third of the population lives on $2 a day or less. Unemployment is rampant, and four years of drought have reduced Syria’s eastern countryside to a wasteland of dusty and destitute towns and cities like Dara’a.”
    – The Syrian uprising first began in Daraa with anti-gov demos in Daraa on March 9th 2011, drought would be a factor, but probably not the main one as Tunisian and Egyption regimes had already fallen by then.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Here’s how I see things. Syria’s first and main problem is that it is mainly a desert state with peripheral Mediterranean zones that get just enough rainfall to support a human society. Such areas marginal to deserts are always prone to slight shifts in climatic patterns. The edge of the desert moves into your croplands and you are in big trouble. The second big problem is population size and growth. Going from 5 to over 20 million in 50 years must inevitably create strain on resources.

      Poverty then must figure as the third big problem, though I’m unsure how poor Syrians are (not had time to check the GDP figures). Syria lacks the oil wealth of neighbours Iraq and Saudi. It has a little oil, but not enough to create oil wealth – which in itself is viewed by many as a curse. Fourth is governance but this is a debatable point. These medieval Arab states constructed after WWI struggle to configure themselves in the modern world. I’d be interested to know how many Libyans would give a right arm to turn the clock back.

      These factors conspire to lead the Syrians into an unsustainable agricultural venture, dependent on irrigation in a land of unreliable water supplies. Their hand is forced by high energy and food prices and a hostile international political climate. The country is in over shoot, trying to perform a balancing act to sustain itself but highly sensitive to the vagaries of climate and weather. Irrigating from saline aquifers quickly kills fertile soils.

      And so it seems that one or two years with below average rainfall created partial crop failure at a time when over-population and high food prices throughout the whole region underpinned the Arab Winter leading to uprisings across the region.

      Wholly misguided OECD and UN foreign policies do nothing to help but make the whole situation worse. And now the inept morons that pretend to rule us blub about climate change. To be fair, the few articles I’ve read today do at least try to bring balance to the causes. The big culprit is the idiot media that simply picks the climate headline.

      • When I was living in Tucson I received a circular from the local water department telling me that the Tucson’s groundwater would last only 50 years at then-current rates of consumption. Knowing the immense size of the alluvial basin under Tucson I thought “that can’t possibly be right”. So I made my own estimate of how much water was left – and came up with 50 years.

        And that was 25 years ago.

        I sometimes think we should spend a little more time worrying about peak water and a little less worrying about peak oil.

        • Willem Post says:

          Roger,
          Lance Armstrong, the famous bike rider, had a mansion built in Texas that used 250,000 gallons of water PER MONTH for watering it.

          After some media attention which he did not need, he ripped out the garden and replaced it with a gravel, cacti, etc., more suitable for the desert.

          Apparently, Crimea with 2 million people, uses 2 billion CUBIC METER per year, 1000 m2/capita/y (264200 gal/capita/y) of which an estimated 25% is leakage due to old pipes.

          Some future water posts on this site?

  18. Euan Mearns says:

    This is Jerusalem. What strikes me is huge inter-annual variability and what appears to be a 100 year cycle.

    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1931/5173

    • tikilgs says:

      http://www.pnas.org/content/112/11/3241.abstract
      There is evidence that the 2007−2010 drought contributed to the conflict in Syria. It was the worst drought in the instrumental record, causing widespread crop failure and a mass migration of farming families to urban centers. Century-long observed trends in precipitation, temperature, and sea-level pressure, supported by climate model results, strongly suggest that anthropogenic forcing has increased the probability of severe and persistent droughts in this region, and made the occurrence of a 3-year drought as severe as that of 2007−2010 2 to 3 times more likely than by natural variability alone. We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict.

      Standard Study complying to GIEC pressure on academics

  19. I’ve been doing some web searches to find out how the Syrian drought-climate change-civil war-ISIS connection came about. Here’s the timeline:

    2006: Syrian “drought” begins:
    2006-11: Scattered web articles claiming that climate change causes drought but hardly any reference to Syria.

    2012: Syrian civil war begins:
    2012-13: Numerous web articles claiming that climate change caused the Syrian drought which caused the Syrian civil war

    2014: ISIS declares the Islamic State:
    2014-15: Numerous web articles claiming that climate change caused the Syrian drought which caused the Syrian civil war which led to the rise of ISIS

    Clearly everything bad that happens in Syria immediately gets blamed on climate change. We don’t have to carry this tortured logic much further before we find that the Russian jet Turkey just shot down was a victim of climate change too.

    • stewgreen says:

      to be fair yesterday I did find some green sites that back in 2010 said “theres a drought ..oh they’ll be a war etc” like Treehugger.com,,but they say a billion things hoping that one of them will be right

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  21. manicbeancounter says:

    For drought to tip over into civil unrest there must be some adverse human consequences. The mere fact of a drought – which Roger Andrews shows did not exist – is not necessarily going to cause the degree of human suffering that could trigger civil war. An example of where this did happen was in Eritrea in 1984. But the extent of the famine was vastly exacerbated by the policies of the Ethiopian Government who were busily collectivizing the farms, and then expropriating most of the crops to feed the capital.
    On the other hand, you do not need a drought (or other major cause of crop failure) to cause a famine. Indian born economist Amartya Sen showed that the Bengal Famine of 1943 was not due to a drop in food production, but due to human factors. In the case of Bengal food prices were driven up by the British Army buying up the food to feed the troops in Burma, and a ban on trade between the Indian States.
    For drought to have been a cause of conflict, it is necessary to show that there were human consequences. Where was the rise in food prices? Where was the hunger in a middle income country? Where were the food riots, or protests by farmers, erupting into civil war?

  22. Jim Pollard says:

    Lèse-majesté-in-waiting?

  23. Outstanding analysis! Thanks.

  24. Ed says:

    Nowhere do I read about a happy outcome for this mess in Syria. When a population increases from 4 million to 20 million in 50 years fuelled primarily by the finite resources of fossil energy then there can be no other outcome other than disaster. Demographics alone will mean a population increase to over 30 million is already inevitable in the coming decades.

    There’s a challenge for someone reading this. Paint for me happy ending for Syria in 30 years time.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I see no prospect of a settlement in Syria for the foreseeable future and suspect that trouble in Yemen, Egypt and Iraq will get steadily worse as populations grow and resources (per capita) become steadily more scarce.

      Our governments seem to have zero interest in actually understanding what the root causes of the problems are. It is easy to blame Assad or CC. I do not believe that Assad will be able to re-establish his authority since everyone now has guns and RPGs.

      And it is depressing to observe that NATO tactics have not changed since Libya. Simply put, bomb the shit out of as many different groups as you can and leave total mayhem behind.

      The Russian approach at least appears to be more coherent, and that is to use Syrian army boots on the ground to stabilise some of the territory. Russia and Assad quite simply see all anti-government groups as terrorists. ISIS after all appeared out of thin air from these rebel groups.

      We have reached a point of over shoot in MENA where there is no prospect of the people accessing enough water or food without international aid or oil wealth flowing. It is hard to comprehend how bad this situation is – millions of refugees, terrorism on the streets of Europe, Turkey shooting down a Russian jet (and the Turks have admitted it was over Syria when it was hit having spent just 17 secs over Turkey) and so on. And the only response from France is to send an aircraft carrier and the UK can’t wait to join in the bombing too.

    • A C Osborn says:

      The sort of happy ending you are talking about relies on “Investment in Infrastructure”.
      That means ploughing back money earnt by the country, not putting it in a few peoples bank accounts and building lavish Palaces and Homes.
      How many countries can you name where that has been done when you have a very strong Ruler and very little real democracy?

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  26. Javier says:

    in the terms of one expert, “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago”

    One expert in what? Disinformation? Big lies?

    The worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago is known to have taken place 4200 years before present, in what is known as the 4.2 kyr event. It was a drought period thought to have lasted 300 years that ended the Akkadian empire at its height and put an end to the Harappan Urban Period in the Indus Valley.

    There had been a lot of periods with terrible droughts, like 3200 years before present, when a climate change probably precipitated the Sea Peoples invasion of the Oriental Mediterranean causing the Late Bronze Collapse in what is without doubt the worst disaster in human history that we know about. Every major city between Southern Greece and Palestine was burnt, and most were never rebuilt.

    It only takes 5 minutes to find all this in internet. Expert my arse. Climate science is full of fraudsters.

  27. stewgreen says:

    “The drought caused ISIS” meme falls into some kind of fallacy rule that humans will latch onto simple explanations and run with them rather that go into complex dissection or arguments that takes hours an hours.
    It’s maybe some an illusionist like Derren Brown would use knowing that humans will just believe something which has a hint of plausibility in it, rather than do full analysis.

    Some terrorism expert might be able to explain the factors behind the birth and sustaining of terrorism. Like the main thing being the breakdown of law an order. if the law systems work. You don’t get people going into terrorism no bad how much the economy is.
    It’s a bit much at the end of a tunnel of complexity to see some crazy guy chopping peoples heads off today and say “oh drought in 2010 caused that”.

    Think about it there was no drought in Iraq, but there was a power vacuum, and different factions, different races and that caused and sustained nutcase terrorism. Oh hang-on ..are we falling for a meme that ISIS was born in Syria ..wasn’t it actually born in Iraq ?
    wasn’t their a previous meme that “George Bush created ISIS” ?
    BBC say “Under its former name Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), it was formed in April 2013, growing out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).” Looking at the map on that page ISIS seems much more an Iraq thing than Syrian

    BTW I don’t think your weather analysis did the job some claimed that by proving there wasn’t a severe drought and that CC therefore didn’t cause ISIS

    Don’t agree with meme that Syria has no oil wealth .. Whilst living over the border in Turkey, I was surprised at the wealth of many of the refugees. (skewed by the fact that those with the wealth to get out, got out and left the poorest behind)

    • Ed says:

      An interesting observation: Many of this first tranche of Syrian refugees are amongst the wealthiest of their population. I wonder if this is true for all migrations in general or just specific to Syria.

      I suspect it is generally true for all migrations.

  28. I too was in Syria just before the problems started in Daraa.

    What has happened to Syria is a disgrace to the Western world: it was precipitated by USA sanctions for years before the “Arab spring” then the west’s belief that regime changes could work and “democracy” follow.

    As Euan notes, Syria is mainly desert and has a small portion of good land and has had rapid population growth that is part of the problem., of course population growth is a hot-potato (religion and politics) so climate change is convenient for the clown prince to hang his hat on.

    The USA now seem determined to hold Russia and prevent growth there citing the “Putin bogeyman” in a similar manner to climate change. Does not look good.

  29. Euan Mearns says:

    Roger, you have made it on to Breitbart 🙂

    http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/11/25/syrian-drought-created-isis-urban-myth/

    But while these factors undoubtedly contributed the event that probably contributed most to the 2008 crop failures was Bashar Assad’s 2005 “liberalization” of the Syrian economy, which caused a near-tripling of the price of diesel between 2007 and 2008 and made it “nearly impossible for many cultivators to keep their irrigation pumps running, much less to transport produce to the cities” (sources here and here). I haven’t checked any further, but if this is why Syria’s crops failed then Obama, Kerry, Pope Francis et al. are calling for global action on climate change because Assad hiked diesel prices in Syria eight years ago.

    Not sure if this passage was in the original draft I read? If it was then it didn’t register properly. This from one of the sources you link to:

    On February 17, Syrian Minister of Oil Muhammad al-Lahham warned Parliament that the price of fuel would have to increase. This announcement came just one month after the government raised the official price of diesel by more than 50 percent to 125 Syrian pounds (70 cents) per liter, the largest single hike since the uprising of 2011 and an eightfold increase since May of that year. As economic conditions continue to deteriorate for Syrians in government-held territory, the regime risks popular backlash by abandoning its long-standing guarantee of cheap energy — one of the last traces of the old Baathist populist commitment to Syrians’ economic welfare.

    The Syrian regime faces simultaneous fiscal and energy crises.

    This has really got my blood up. This is the very kind of FF subsidy that the UN and Greens want to abolish. Syria has basically followed UN bidding. Is it possible that following UN policy caused water shortages in Syria leading to food shortages social unrest, rebellion and ISIS?

  30. Euan Mearns says:

    Been trying to work out more of the details about what exactly is going on in Syria re drought and food production. Came across these USDA reports that are good reading and I think clear of propaganda. Couldn’t find them all.

    http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2008/05/syria_may2008.htm
    http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2009/05/Syria/
    http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2010/05/Syria/
    http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2011/05/Middle%20East/
    http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2012/06/Syria/
    http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2015/07/Syria/Index.htm

    The chart is modified from the 2015 report. I have added a few more drought years. During drought years wheat production can fall by 50%. Could easily add more pre-1972. The bottom line is that Syria periodically experiences drought that impacts wheat production. I see little evidence of this getting worse with time. Somewhat surprisingly 2015 looks like a “bumper harvest” – not sure what to make of that.

    I thought this was interesting from the 2012 report:

    Syria’s economy is under extreme pressure owing to coordinated international sanctions (U.S., European, Japan, and Arab-Turkish) which include an embargo on oil exports, seizure of foreign-held Syrian assets, and severe restrictions on trade, financial transactions, and investment. The net result of international actions has been to trigger a major depreciation in the Syrian currency (50%), dramatically increase domestic inflation, significantly deplete government financial reserves, and seriously restrict trade. Though current sanctions do not officially target food or agricultural commodities, restrictions imposed on Syrian banks and trading firms have somewhat impeded the country’s ability to finance needed imports. According to the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) the nation’s inflation rate stood at 21.0 percent in February 2012, which was sharply higher than last year owing to escalating food and fuel prices. The CBS also reported that monthly food price inflation reached 25.8 percent in February, compared to an average of 8 percent in 2011. Wheat is the most important staple food commodity in the country and is consumed primarily as bread. It is also the country’s only strategic food security commodity, and is treated accordingly. The government controls the pricing of wheat, flour, and bread throughout the entire public and private sector marketing chain. Wheat production is heavily subsidized through the government’s payment of premium (above international market) prices to growers, while bread consumption is also heavily subsidized through government imposed price controls (averaging 20% below the cost of production). The majority of national flour milling capacity and bakeries producing standard bread products are also in the hands of government-run enterprises, so there is strict official control over the supply of this staple food product. Local sources inside Syria currently indicate that with the exception of areas experiencing active conflict, the bread supply is near normal, with subsidized bread selling for roughly 8 Syrian Pounds per kg (11 U.S. cents).

    So it seems that the people are dependent upon the government for subsidised food and OECD sanctions have crippled the government.

    • Ed says:

      Syria was a thorn in the side of the US/Western world order for decades. While they were a oil exporter there was little that could be done. However once the oil production to oil consumption gap started to narrow they became vulnerable to “full spectrum” regime change measures.

      Geopolitics is so interesting. Why is Russia supporting Assad? My take is that they know that they will be next in line if Assad was to fall. If Assad was to fall, does Russia have the FF resources to resist full spectrum regime change measures themselves? Then there is the wild card of China. Did the planners of Syrian regime change anticipate the refugee destabilisation of Europe?

      • Willem Post says:

        Ed,
        “My take is that they know that they will be next in line if Assad was to fall.”

        Really?

        Putin is helping Assad stay in power, partially as pay back for the US-supported coup in Kiev, that illegally ousted a democratically elected president (who had to flee for his life) in 2014.

        A US-selected clique was installed, which is more militarist than John McCain.

        The people in East Ukraine are Russian, are Russian Orthodox, speak Russian, almost all have family members in Russia.

        This has been that way for at least 500 years. They do not want their lives run by the Kiev clique. Neither do the people in Crimea.

        Also, if Assad goes and a US lackey is installed (as with the Shah of Iran), Russia is sure to loose its air force base and navy base in Syria, which it has had for at least 40 years.

        The US, etc., would be pleased. It would add to its successes in Vietnam, Libya, and Iraq.

        NOTE: Russia was about to loose its navy base in Crimea due to the Kiev coup. That was prevented by a very quick election by the people of Crimea in favor of being annexed by Russia.

        NOTE: Russia, after several wars with Turkey, then Ottoman Empire, which Turkey lost, gained Crimea in 1793, under Catherine the Great; Potemkin, her lover and Chief of Staff stationed the Russian navy there in 1793.

        Russia has many Muslims in its population and in surrounding states.

        Having ISIS-inspired troubles would destabilize Russia, etc., which would please the US.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Willem, you make a number of important and interesting points. Do you have some sources to back up claims of oil trading between ISIS and Erdogan’s son and on the military strikes to take out the trucks.

          One correction, it is the UK and France that get the credit for democratising and modernising Libya.

          • Willem post says:

            Euan,

            Google Russia-Insider.com, go to article
            In the fight against ISIS, Russia Ain’t Taking No Prisoners, go to the comment section, find Daesh’s smuggled oil exported to Turkey by BMZ, a shipping company controlled by Bilal, son of President Erdogan.

            Putin alluded to it in his press conference.

            This has been going on for some time. The reason the US did not bomb the trucks, so it could use an air base in Turkey.

            Russia destroyed almost 1000 trailer trucks in five days.

            After Paris, the US finally got around to destroying about 150, as a gesture to France.

            Long live the Internet. We would have never found out otherwise.

          • Willem Post says:

            Euan,
            Here is the URL

            https://www.rt.com/op-edge/322613-russia-isis-anti-terrorism-operation-syria/

            “Turkish Socialist party member Gursel Tekin has established that Daesh’s smuggled oil is exported to Turkey by BMZ, a shipping company controlled by none other than Bilal Erdogan, son of “Sultan” Erdogan.

            At a minimum, this violates UN Security Council resolution 2170.

            Under the light of Putin’s message of going after anyone or any entity engaged in facilitating Daesh’s operations, Erdogan’s clan better come up with some really good excuses.”

        • Ed says:

          Yep, sure. Russia was also protecting their air base in Syria as they did in Crimea. Get that and agree with you. Everything else you wrote seems to agree with my original statement.. That Russia would be / are the next target for regime change. Do they know it? Definitely, very acutely.

          • Willem post says:

            Ed,
            Russia being the next target, are you looking forward to it?

            We know the US lleadership is looking forward to it, and working to achieve it.

            However, the Russian leadership is onto it, will do whatever it takes to prevent it.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        If Assad was to fall, does Russia have the FF resources to resist full spectrum regime change measures themselves?

        What are you smokin Ed? Russia has among the largest oil, gas and coal resources in the world. I think it is the largest gas exporter, second largest oil exporter and is up there as one of the largest coal exporters.

        Syria never was a large oil producer and I wasn’t aware that they exported at all. Something to check out.

        Turkey has no oil or conventional gas but there is much interest in shale gas in turkey.

        • Ed says:

          “What are you smokin Ed?” 🙂 Love it !

          I was merely posing a rhetorical question. I totally 100% agree with you, Euan.

    • Euan: Here’s an excerpt from Vladimir Putin’s UN speech of September 28th. I find it hard to disagree with him:

      It seemed, however, that far from learning from others’ mistakes, everyone just keeps repeating them, and so the export of revolutions, this time of so-called democratic ones, continues. It would suffice to look at the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, as has been mentioned by previous speakers. Certainly political and social problems in this region have been piling up for a long time, and people there wish for changes naturally. But how did it actually turn out? Rather than bringing about reforms, an aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and the lifestyle itself. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster. Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life. I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you’ve done? But I am afraid no one is going to answer that. Indeed, policies based on self-conceit and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.

      • Ed says:

        An exceptional speech.

        Europe is being torn apart by this refugee crisis. Cracks are beginning to show in the US lead coalition against Assad and Russia amongst many European leaders and there has definitely been a slight change in tone in the BBC coverage here in Britain since the Paris massacre. Russia needs to keep her cool, be patient, not lets Turkey provoke her and let the refugee pressure on Europe mount. Exactly as Putin is doing. Eventually Europe will give up on regime change in Syria, get a political solution that allows refugees to come home and welcome Russia back into the European fold. That is my hope in any case. I’m not sure how the US will react to this re-alignment. I guess they could still cause a lot of mischief in Ukraine.

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  34. John Ford says:

    A great deal of research went into the article except the most useful which would have been to ask local farmers the reasons for crop failure.

  35. tallbloke says:

    Hugo Rifkind pointed me to this BBC article from 2010
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11114261
    I note one of the early comments above says it started raining soon after.

  36. FalloutMonkey says:

    I am sure there have been a mutitude of reasons that contributed to the uprising in Syria, but looking at all the material published between 2006 and 2010 I have little doubt that some sort of drought was one of them.

    Drought in Iraq
    One of the worst droughts in the past decade settled heavily over the Fertile Crescent region of Iraq and Syria in the winter of 2007-2008.
    http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=8797

    FAO’S ROLE IN THE SYRIA DROUGHT RESPONSE PLAN 2009
    August 11, 2009
    The Syrian Arab Republic is facing its third consecutive year of severe drought. In the northeast and the Badia region, the failed rains of this year have compounded devastating losses from 2007/08 – during the country’s worst drought spell in over four decades. The crisis has negatively impacted the food security of 1.3 million people, of which over 800 000 are severely affected.
    http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/emergencies/docs/app_syriadrought2009.pdf

    SYRIA: Drought driving farmers to the cities
    September 2, 2009
    Blamed on a combination of climate change, man-made desertification and lack of irrigation, up to 60 percent of Syria’s land and 1.3 million people (of a population of 22 million) are affected, according to the UN. Just over 800,000 people have lost their entire livelihood, according to the UN and IFRC.
    http://www.irinnews.org/report/85963/syria-drought-driving-farmers-to-the-cities

    UNICEF and the Embassy of Denmark launch refurbished water plant in drought affected central Syria
    December 2, 2009
    Syria is experiencing a severe drought that is jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of families. After a second straight year of poor rainfall, this country in the heart of the fertile crescent is, in places, becoming barren.
    http://www.unicef.org/wash/syria_51973.html

    SYRIA: Drought pushing millions into poverty
    September 9, 2010
    A top UN official warns that Syria’s drought is affecting food security and has pushed 2-3 million people into “extreme poverty”.
    http://www.irinnews.org/report/90442/syria-drought-pushing-millions-into-poverty

    Environmental disaster hits eastern Syria
    November 15, 2010
    The ancient Inezi tribe of Syria reared camels in the sandswept lands north of the Euphrates river from the time of the Prophet Mohammad. Now water shortages have consigned that way of life to distant memory. Drought in the past five years has also killed 85 percent of livestock in eastern Syria, the Inezis’ ancestral land.
    Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2010/11/15/us-climate-syria-idUSTRE6AE2BT20101115#E8EU3EL7cJeCuvwb.99
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/11/15/us-climate-syria-idUSTRE6AE2BT20101115#HFkzkiWQSADUmzw7.97

    Interview With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
    January 31, 2011
    When I became president it was the economy because wherever you go you have poverty and the situation is getting worse day by day and we have five years of drought and this is the fifth year where we do not have enough water. So, we will have less wheat; we used to export wheat and cotton every year but this year we have problems. We will have immigration. This year, three million Syrians out of 22 million Syrians will be affected by the drought. So, this is our priority now.
    http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703833204576114712441122894

    • FalloutMonkey: Thanks for taking the time to put that list together. After reading reports like this people naturally come away with the impression that there was a major drought in Syria in 2006-11. But according to the rainfall and PDSI records the 2009-11 drought was mild by Syrian standards, if indeed it can be characterized as a drought at all. The 1999 drought, which no one gets to read about, was worse:

      8 September 1999: In the Near East, the worst recorded drought in decades has hit Syria hard. A recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Syria paints a grim picture of the country’s food situation and reports that the outlook is particularly grave for nomadic pastoralist families …. The Mission found that rainfall in the country’s key agricultural areas was 25 to nearly 70 percent below normal. With only a quarter of Syria’s agricultural land under irrigation, this lack of rainfall has had a devastating effect on food and livestock production.

      http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/global/GW9916-e.htm

      The fact of the matter is that drought in Syria is a normal condition. As the Al Riffai study linked to in the text says: “Droughts in Syria have occurred during almost every second year over the past half century”. The reason for this is simply that Syria doesn’t get enough rain to grow crops without irrigation. According to the Kamishli, Aleppo, Hama and Damascus records annual rainfall in Syria’s croplands has averaged only 322mm, or about 13 inches, over the last 50 years, and you can’t grow much with that.

      • “The fact of the matter is that drought in Syria is a normal condition. ” Exactly. So, usual rainfall in Syria is not enough for agriculture needs. From the other side, “Since 1975, Turkey’s extensive dam and hydropower construction has reportedly reduced water flows into Iraq and Syria by approximately 80 per cent and 40 per cent respectively”(1)

        Besides, increasing population, decreasing oil production and its influence on GDP-consumption-irrigation “About three-quarters of the wells use fuel as primary energy and only the remaining quarter use electricity (2)”, unsustainable agriculture practices, underground water tables levels decreasing, overgrazing, overusing bushes for firewood, minority religion group President, sanctions, wrong subsidies policy, government mismanagement, conflicts of the big players, influence of regional big players, food prices increase, people migration to the cities, and who-knows-what-else maybe are not enough to start the war (separately), but so many factors simultaneously could be quite enough.

        (1) http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publications/food-and-water-crises/678-water-shortage-crisis-escalating-in-the-tigris-euphrates-basin.html
        (2) http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/y4890e/y4890e0u.htm

  37. stewgreen says:

    “little doubt that some sort of drought was one of them.” But certainly not the key one, by a long long measure
    All the arguments on this page say that drought contributed , but it seems the evidence shows that the other factors were much much larger. There was a 4 year drought, but it was about 6 months finished before the revolution began, but both the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes had fallen.
    It’s interesting that you are able to quote Assad speaking of drought in early 2011 , when we know there were heavy rains in December 2010. And news reports reporting the end of “3 years of drought”
    Even then Assad says it will affect 3 out of 22 million. That’s different from when the whole population is in drought crisis
    “This year, three million Syrians out of 22 million Syrians will be affected by the drought. So, this is our priority now.

    • FalloutMonkey says:

      Of course it wasn’t the main reason, but millions of people living in “extreme poverty” due to climatic and other inconveniences makes it that much easier for outside forces to recruit the necessary amount of people to cause serious trouble. Had certain countries hostile to the Syrian government not supported the rebels early on I am sure the revolution would have petered out within a couple of weeks, hundreds of thousands would still be alive and millions would not have lost their homes.

      As former French foreign minister Roland Dumas said during a talk show on French television: “L’Angleterre préparait l’invasion des rebelles en Syrie.”

      So, there you have your main reason for the Syrian uprising.

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  39. Tom says:

    According to Euan’s graphic about drought in each of the 7 regions, the Kamishli area, one of the five agricultural areas, had almost no rain in 2007. The other 4 agricultural regions were reasonably OK in that year. So perhaps many to most of the those leaving farmlands in 2007/8 might have been from that region? I wonder how much of Syria’s agricultural production came from Kamishli?

  40. stewgreen says:

    2:36am Radio BBCr5 Prof behind the reports sounds more like an activist than a scientist.
    Mark Cane prof of Earth and Climate Sciences at Columbia U, NYC

    … worst 3 year drought for 80 years, plus gov practicing unsustainable water management in agriculture.
    Can’t say absolutely that climate change caused the conflict..
    but can say under present trends drought was 2-3 times more likely”Climate models show there will be a drying in the middle east” (Now I won’t be surprised if years of big rains come )

    “The presumption that shifting over to renewables will be harmful….”
    (What a weird thing to say. Is he an expert on drought or renewables ?)
    ..then he goes off on saying how Reagan and Thatcher were wrong.NYC

  41. stewgreen says:

    The strong Debunk of the meme was by Mike Hulme in the Guardian (where Gdn commenters said stuff like who is the is denier ? and sought to prove the Tyndall Centre is a denier thinktank)

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