One Part Drought, One Part Assad

A vital, underreported topic explored by Shahrzad Mohtadi, in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, uncovers how climate change contributed to Syria’s bloody uprising.

From 1900 until 2005, there were six droughts of significance in Syria.

The seventh lasted from 2006 to 2010, an astounding four seasons, writes Mohtadi.

The Syrian drought has displaced more than 1.5 million people; entire families of agricultural workers and small-scale farmers moved from the country’s breadbasket region in the northeast to urban peripheries of the south. The drought tipped the scale of an unbalanced agricultural system that was already feeling the weight of policy mismanagement and unsustainable environmental practices. Decades of poorly planned agricultural policies now haunt Syria’s al-Assad regime.

Mohtadi writes of years of ignored warnings under Bashar Al Assad father, Hafez, and the culmination of a prolonged drought this year.

So, add climate change to the list of regional issues that, post-revolution, have become unbearable for populations across the Middle East and Africa.

Northern Iraq and Jordan suffered from the same drought that struck Syria. Egypt is threatened by rising sea levels in the Delta and use of the Nile by Ethiopia upstream, and Yemen is also in the grip of a severe water shortage, writes Robin Mills in The National.

The solution? Mills offers his point of view:

More stable Middle East governments need to be taking tangible steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and playing a constructive role at this November’s climate conference in Doha.

The region should be investing in climate resilience: research in dry-land agriculture and drought-resistant crops; coordinating transnational water rights; improving irrigation and water storage; reducing water waste and subsidies; alleviating poverty and managing internal migration.

Syria could also get help from water-rich Turkey, which has become a close ally after years of frosty relations.

But it may be too late to save the abandoned dry, cracked villages that millions of people have deserted.

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