Hurricanes Came Just in the Nick of Time

It’s a good thing for the climatistas that this extraordinary hurricane season has come along to provide more signs and wonders to point to as proof that the world will be four degrees hotter a century from now unless we give over our car keys to Al Gore, because one of their previous favorite talking points—that climate change caused the Syrian civil war—has gone poof.

From the University of Sussex in the UK:

New research disputes claims that climate change helped spark the Syrian civil war

A new study, published today in the journal Political Geography, shows that there is no sound evidence that global climate change was a factor in causing the Syrian civil war.

Claims that a major drought caused by anthropogenic climate change was a key factor in starting the Syrian civil war have gained considerable traction since 2015 and have become an accepted narrative in the press, most recently repeated by former US vice president Al Gore in relation to Brexit. This study, led by Professor Jan Selby at the University of Sussex, takes a fresh look at the existing evidence for these claims as well as conducting new research into Syrian rainfall data and the experiences of Syrian refugees.

Professor Jan Selby, Director of the Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research at the University of Sussex, says: “Our paper finds that there is no sound evidence that global climate change was a factor in sparking the Syrian civil war. Indeed, it is extraordinary that this claim has become so widely accepted when the scientific evidence for it is so thin.”

Worth looking at some of the complete study:

In the view of many Western policymakers and commentators, the Syrian civil war was caused, in part, by anthropogenic climate change. Former US President Barack Obama claimed that climate change-related drought ‘helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war’ (Obama, 2015); former Secretary of State John Kerry argued that ‘it’s not a coincidence that immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record’ (Kerry, 2015); erstwhile Democratic presidential candidates Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have claimed similarly (Democracy Now, 2015 ;  Schulman, 2015); and in the UK, Prince Charles has maintained that ‘there is very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria was a drought that lasted for five or six years’ (Mills, 2015). . .

For all this, there is good reason for caution about the Syria-climate change thesis. Until a few years ago, the 2003–05 war in Darfur was widely identified by Western commentators and policymakers as climate change-related – and even as the ‘first climate war’ (e.g. Mazo, 2010: pp. 73–86; Welzer, 2012: pp. 61–5) – with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon going so far as to claim that ‘the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising in part from climate change’ (Ki Moon, 2007). But such claims have since been discredited, with critics finding among other things that Darfur’s war neither occurred during nor was directly preceded by drought (Kevane & Gray, 2008); that there existed no solid evidence linking the Sahelian drought to anthropogenic climate change, in fact possibly the opposite (Dong & Sutton, 2015); and that claims like those of the UN Secretary General misrepresented the political and economic causes, and the essentially counter-insurgency character, of the Darfur war (Verhoeven, 2011; Selby and Hoffmann, 2014a). More broadly, there is no consensus within the growing field of climate-conflict studies on whether violence and civil conflict are in any way related to climatic variables. Although some studies have identified such linkages (e.g. Hendrix and Salehyan, 2012 ;  Hsiang et al., 2011), others have concluded to the contrary (e.g. Buhaug, 2010 ;  Theisen et al., 2011/12) – as scientific reviews of the field have repeatedly shown (see esp. Field et al., 2014: ch. 12; Gleditsch & Nordås, 2014; also Selby, 2014). Historically, moreover, public and policy discourse on the security and geopolitical implications of climate change has been well ahead of, and often at variance with, the available scientific evidence (Nordås & Gleditsch, 2007; Selby and Hoffmann, 2014b). Given this background, it cannot be just assumed that the Syria-climate conflict story is valid: further critical scrutiny is required.

It will be interesting to see whether this study gets any coverage in the mainstream media.



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