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Many Syrias To Come

Global warming destabilizing our world

A reader posted a powerfully executed graphic story explaining Syria’s collapse as primarily (but not entirely) as a result of global warming. How did that happen? From 2006 to 2011, Syria experienced a catastrophic drought, an event so off-the-charts that it can’t be explained by normal climate variations. The drought forced farmers and rural folks off of their land and into the cities, which put a tremendous strain on infrastructure, as well as water and food supplies. Eventually that resulted in protest against the Assad regime. You know the rest.

Many people on the American right don’t believe in global warming. The Pentagon is not among them. In July of this year, those crazy liberals at the Defense Department submitted to Congress a report outlining the primary ways it expects global warming to affect the global security environment. Excerpt:

  • Persistently recurring conditions such as flooding, drought, and higher temperatures increase the strain on fragile states and vulnerable populations by dampening economic activity and burdening public health through loss of agriculture and electricity production, the change in known infectious disease patterns and the rise of new ones, and increases in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. This could result in increased intra- and inter-state migration, and generate other negative effects on human security. For example, from 2006-2011, a severe multi-year drought affected Syria and contributed to massive agriculture failures and population displacements. Large movements of rural dwellers to city centers coincided with the presence of large numbers of Iraqi refugees in Syrian cities, effectively overwhelming institutional capacity to respond constructively to the changing service demands. These kinds of impacts in regions around the world could necessitate greater DoD involvement in the provision of humanitarian assistance and other aid.
  • More frequent and/or more severe extreme weather events that may require substantial involvement of DoD units, personnel, and assets in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) abroad and in Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) at home. Massive flooding in Pakistan in 2010 was the country’s worst in recorded history, killing more than 2,000 people and affecting 18 million; DoD delivered humanitarian relief to otherwise inaccessible areas.

Read the whole thing.


Syria is not a one-off thing, and it’s not something that can be blamed entirely on radical Islam, on Assad’s dictatorship, on US meddling, and on Iran — though all of those play a part. In 2006, long after Iraq was falling apart, I interviewed one of the world’s top experts on Syria, who explained why, for various reasons, the same thing would not happen to Syria.

That was the year the drought started in Syria. And now look. If you take a look at this page, and click on the “overall vulnerability” button, it will show you a global, color-coded map indicating which countries are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change — in terms of extreme weather, sea level rise, and loss of agricultural productivity. The most imperiled nations are those of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, including China and the Indian subcontinent — that is, the parts of the world where most of the population lives.

If I were Vladimir Putin, I would worry far less about Ukraine, and far more about defending the Russian Far East from Chinese climate refugees later this century.

How is Europe going to defend itself against mass migration from Africa and Asia caused by famine and wars sparked by famine? Like, say, the Syrian war?

This is just the beginning of the troubles.