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The Syrian Crisis: Lessons for the World

Updated on February 10, 2016

Sandstorm in Syria


The photo of a sandstorm in Syria as above, brings some discomforting feelings like watching the scenario that revolved around them in the movie 'Interstellar'. Sandstorms were not always common in the Fertile Crescent.


To Learn or not to Learn...

Scientists are first skeptics. Scientific skepticism is the practice of questioning whether claims can be supported through research in the pursuit of verified knowledge.They prefer beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid as opposed to ones that are comforting or convenient. Scientists apply this reason to any claim, especially, their own. This means sometimes scientific conclusions are uncomfortable. Most of us have become reasonable skeptics and therefore insist upon evidence, discussion of it and support for claims.

This is different from political skepticism which often rewards emotional appeals and manipulation of human passion. Scientific traits are often not important or are ignored in the political process and this is the main reason most of us dislike politics.It is sensational. It is no wonder politics makes us uneasy. Logic and facts are preferable over sensationalism in the pursuit of understanding.

So when scientific studies reveal the underlying and serious issues about what happened in Syria, it should be taken seriously. Even more so if sensational media or politics denies it. As politics is more concerned with keeping you comfortable and confident in that process and the market place. And as leaders, sometimes they do not have confidence in the public to carry the burden of truth. It is then important to take a closer look at the Syrian crisis even if it makes us feel uncomfortable. After all, truth is not always comfortable.


Ancient yet Modern

There are many articles that discuss the political issues in Syria, so I will leave that area for you to explore elsewhere. It should be noted that Syria is an interesting country that was modern as well as metropolitan. They had all the regular amenities of an advanced civilization possessing one of the eldest cities in the world, Damascus. It also had a fertile country side, farmers and fields with some oil and gas development.

Syria is a country comparatively the size of North Dakota in the United States. Geographically it contains a coastal region which is arid, dessert areas, upland areas, a mountain range and a crescent of plains called the fertile region of Al Jazira. This region is watered by two tributaries to the Euphrates river. The area underwent irrigation improvements during the 1960s and 1970s, and it provided substantial cereal, wheat and cotton crops. Oil and natural gas discoveries in the extreme northeastern portion of the Jazira have significantly enhanced the region's economic potential. There has been agriculture and animal herding in the area for over 12,000 years.

Trend of Global Natural Disasters

Note: The graphs for increased trends in natural disasters is the same trend as that for CO2 emissions.
Note: The graphs for increased trends in natural disasters is the same trend as that for CO2 emissions.

Drought and Conflict

Two distinct studies surmise that the 2006-2010 drought was the most serious one on instrumental record in Syria. Scientists describe a Syria that had poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies. Presented evidence concludes that the climate conditions and anomalies were consistent with models of human induced or anthropogenic climate change. It became a catalytic situation.

Syria was already vulnerable to drought. Despite growing water scarcity and frequent droughts, the country's leadership created agricultural policies to increase agriculture, irrigation, quotas and subsidies for diesel to rally support from farmers. Policies endangered land and water resources with no regard for conservation or sustainability. In a time of drought with very little rainfall, they increased ground water consumption and irrigation which depleted reserves. Ground water depletion was confirmed by remote sensor data collected by NASA.

Evidence demonstrates that there were trends of low rainfall with long periods of dryness and a long term warming in the region and in the Mediterranean. They determined that no natural causes were involved and these factors were indeed consistent in climate models of an environmental response to green house gas emissions. In addition the predicted warming trends would continue into the future.

In 2006/7, the crops in the northeastern region of Syria collapsed. In 2008, wheat production failed and only 18% of agriculture remained. Farmers and herders experienced near zero production and nearly all livestock herds were lost. For the first time after two decades, they had to import wheat. Due to drought, food prices more than doubled. Fuel and food subsidies were then cut. Dramatic malnutrition related illnesses increased to where school enrollment was down by 80% in the northeastern region.

This escalating situation lead to a mass migration of rural residents into the already populated urban centers stressed by Iraqi refugees. 1.5 million people were displaced. Population shock strained the cities resources. Overcrowding, illegal settlements, unemployment and crime increased leading to inequalities and unrest with slow response by the government. The situation escalated into revolution and civil war forcing people to migrate even risking their lives to escape it by boats across the ocean.

The studies on Syria conclude that there are clear and statistical links between climate change and conflict. Civilians confirmed that drought and high unemployment pushed people to revolution that lead to civil war and migration. These circumstances were made worse by a human induced warming climate and it is projected this will be more common in our warming world.

Global Temperature Increases


20 Global Warming Projections

Even conservative predictions and incremental temperature increases are proving catalytic causing trends in global drought and water stress.
Even conservative predictions and incremental temperature increases are proving catalytic causing trends in global drought and water stress. | Source

The Clock is Ticking...

In conclusion:

Climate change was being debated as early as the 1940s with notable protests on environmental issues in the 1960s. The future they predicted then is our inherited reality.That climate change future is now in many countries in our world. Countries facing water stress, drought, low rainfall, urban crowding and warming are more common than you may wish to believe. Countries experiencing these effects including high greenhouse emissions include: parts of Asia including China, India, the U.K, western Europe, Australia, the Middle East, parts of Africa, South America, the western United States and western Canada. This too, is scientific fact.


Could the situation in Syria have been prevented? We shall never know.The final lessons are bureaucracies and industry should have listened a long time ago when scientific data presented steady and consistently increasing warming trends since 1880 to the present. Are they finally listening now? Only a 'zero' emissions near future can slow the effects of natural and anthropogenic - human induced climate change.

Twenty years of climate negotiations has not resulted in any significant reduction in global emissions or binding national or international law. It is interesting how bureaucracies insist on regulating most aspects of civilian life with excessive law but refuses to regulate or penalize itself or industry. Funny thing law, it seemingly 'only' works in one direction-upon citizens. If we are held to be totally accountable for every action by law, then where is law upholding governments and industry accountable by enforcement as well? Decades of inaction and negligence in the face of generations of scientific fact are also crimes, are they not? Ask a Syrian.

Industry may never learn and for the public there have been few choices but industrialization. The public must be given choice and can 'force' change through select choices supporting only progressive and social conscious businesses. Money talks. Where we choose as a public to put our voice and choices will tell.

Pressures and criticisms must be upon government to enforce environmental protections with tough emissions reduction and sustainability laws upon industry or we all lose, especially our children. For the public, there is conservation, recycling, boycotting and diverting funds into clean energy investment options. None of the countries listed above can afford another 20 years of bureaucracy. The question is not so much will we agree to change? It is now a matter of when? Will it be in time?


Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Drought in Syria by:
Collin P. Kelley, Shahrzad Mohtadi, Mark A. Cane, Richard Seager and Yochanan Kushnir, Jan. 2015. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America.

Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria by Peter H. Gleick, 2014.


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