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Climate Change & Conflict

March 4, 2015

Earth’s changing climate may already be playing a role in today’s conflicts.



Climate change and conflict. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Syria’s three-year drought starting in 2007 was the worst in recorded history. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hydroclimatologist Colin Kelley at the University of California, Santa Barbara reports that climate change has made severe drought in the Middle East two to three times more likely. He says the last drought was a major factor in the unrest that began a year later, as agriculture collapsed and farm families moved en masse into cities.

COLIN KELLEY (University of California, Santa Barbara):

So this was a tremendous population shock to the urban areas in Syria, and it’s not hard to see how that could ultimately culminate in the unrest due to this large demographic shift.


He says climate change will make dry areas dryer and wet areas wetter, and could fuel future unrest both in the Middle East and elsewhere. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.