Study: Climate Change and Armed Conflict Link May be Exaggerated

Can climate change explain the conflict in Syria? Prince Charles once famously listed drought as a root cause of the war. Similar arguments have been made by other campaigners like UN climate envoy Mary Robinson, celebrities such as singer Charlotte Church, and even politicians like Bernie Sanders (who claimed "climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism").

Their views are supported by academic research on Syria and elsewhere. But now a new study in the journal PNAS suggests that the link between climate change and armed conflict is overhyped.

This matters because once an entirely preventable conflict is described as a "climate war" it risks being perceived as "natural". But though the climate may be changing, these conflicts aren't inevitable. Calling Syria a climate war, for instance, means ignoring longer-term historical tensions across the region, and lets the humans involved off the hook.

Alessandra Kocman


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