By: George Kurzom
Is there a relationship between climate change and the armed conflict in Syria
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
In recent years, the climate crisis has become a main topic on the global agenda, and there is a tendency to link it to a variety of economic and social crises, including the violent conflicts that erupted in the wake of the water and food crises.
However, some recent scientific reports and studies describe a more complex reality, in which the climate is just one factor among many factors causing crises, and in the absence of objective scientific commitment to the search for the correct causal relationship, the credibility of data and reports on the climate crisis may become unreliable at the societal level.
Another concern is that exaggerating the issue of climate change in the occurrence of social and economic crises may distract attention from other environmental problems that need to be addressed.
In June 2019, the scientific journal “Nature” published an article on the Climate as a risk factor in violent conflict, the article reviewed the opinion of a team of experts in different fields, who were asked to assess the extent to which there is a causal relationship between armed conflicts within countries and climate change.
The assessment was based on the analysis of the characteristics of the different influences related to climate, the influences that were studied were not only about the causes of the outbreak of conflicts, but also included their duration and intensity.
The experts concluded that the four main causes of conflict are low levels of socio-economic development, lack of governance, social stratification and inequality and the contemporary history of armed conflict. They believe that although climate change has some impact but it is not a major factor.
In the same context, the exploitation of water resources in Turkey has caused major agricultural crisis in its neighbor to the south “Syria”. The result of the crisis was the migration of thousands of Syrians to big cities. This particular conclusion contradicts the claim of many researchers in recent years that the Syrian agricultural crisis is the result of a prolonged drought linked to climate change.
Among the most prominent “scientific” parties that promoted the recent claim regarding the Syrian state in particular, we note here what was published at the time by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) located in Canada, which is studying many aspects related to the issue of climate change, it published very disappointing information. It states that about 160 Syrian villages were abandoned by their residents during the two years 2007 and 2008 due to the continuous drought and water scarcity that the region never experienced before.
The scarcity of water hit the livelihood of the people of these villages, which are located mostly in northern Syria. This forced them to leave and move somewhere else. The report completely ignored the main direct cause of water scarcity, which is the Turkish authorities' appropriation and control of the Euphrates waters, thus starving the Syrian farmers.
The collapse of agriculture and the outbreak of war
The main issue here is that the lack of rainfall during the years preceding the war increased the struggle of the of Syrian farmers that had to deal with the awful Turkish policy. Noting that Syria gets about 60% of its water from the Euphrates River, whose waters flow from Turkey, and for the Turks the river is also an important source of water.
In the same context, we can note the great differences in the state of agricultural crops in Syria and Turkey, which is related to the use of Euphrates water.
Diversion of the Euphrates River and the Fascist Malthusian Theory
In conclusion, climate change actually affects the amount of rainfall in the Levant in general, and in Syria and Turkey in particular. However, studying what happened before the aggressive war on Syria, in which Turkey participated strongly, leads us to the concluding that the abandonment of agriculture in northern Syria occurred due to the diversion of huge quantities of Euphrates water for the benefit of uses in Turkey where Turkey violated the agreement between the two countries on the exploitation of the river's water.
Therefore, we cannot conclude that the political instability in Syria at that time was circumstantially linked to the drought.
However, we can assume that the lack of rainfall in the years preceding the war obstructed the ability of Syrian farmers to deal with Turkish policy. However, the lack of rainfall did not and does not necessarily cause conflicts such as bloody war and social disturbance. We can conclude that the more the climate crisis worsens, the more important its role will be.
Unfortunately, Israel managed, through its Palestinian and Arab friends, to diminish the importance and severity of the water crisis, which is inherent not only in the droughts that hit our region, but mainly in the reality of the Israeli occupation of Arab land and its water and natural resources. For this reason, and as a matter of “demagogy” and falsification of reality and history, they focus on the issue of population inflation, saying that “in the year 2050, about 634 million people will live in the Middle East, more than double the current number, while water sources will become drier, and the amount of precipitation will decrease, global warming will continue!
This reminds us of Thomas Malthus' fascist demographic theory about the increase in population and natural and food resources, which was later adopted by the colonial and Nazi regimes with the aim of justifying the extermination of the peoples they occupied, according to which food resources increase in an arithmetic progression, and therefore cannot cover the needs of all the inhabitants of the earth, who are increasing in a geometric progression. Therefore, in order to restore the balance between population growth, on the one hand, and the growth of natural resources, on the other, external factors such as wars, famines and epidemics must intervene!
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh