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Climate Change's Role in Syria Crisis

Last year, the media started joining the dots between the crisis in Syria and climate change. But they only got half the story right. They badly misrepresented the role of social movements in Syria; and they painted Syrian migrants as a source of violence and chaos. Most reporting ignored the complex relationship between climate, drought, migration and conflict. Research by the Climate and Migration Coalition reveals a disconnect between what the media claimed and what actually happened.

The case I’m making here is not that climate change was irrelevant to the start of the conflict in Syria. In fact, there is strong evidence that a powerful climate-driven drought played an important role.

In 2015, research emerged linking Syria’s drought to rapid and massive internal migration. The drought badly affected Syria’s agriculture, which in turn destroyed livelihoods and forced rural Syrians to seek work in cities. This is a common pattern across the world, but it usually happens peacefully. This rural-to-urban movement often becomes a key survival strategy for millions of people.


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