When Obama administration officials claimed man-made global warming played a role in causing the Syrian civil war and rise of the Islamic State, “nothing could be further from the truth,” according to a UK-based professor.
Clionadh Raleigh, a political geography professor at the University of Sussex, recently gave an hour-long talk at Oxford University, where she laid out the reasons why global warming is not causing conflicts to break out in the developing world.
“Cooperation is far more likely in difficult conditions, those that have been exacerbated by climate changes and those that are highly vulnerable to climate change,” she said in her talk, published on Youtube Thursday.
“But cooperation doesn’t make headline news,” Raleigh said, “so we rarely hear about it and instead wars, such as those in Syria, are connected to climatic changes that have been going on for decades within those areas.”
“And very key reasons for why those wars broke out — forty years of oppression and autocracy — are often ignored because the people doing the studies want to forward a climate argument, and they will do so regardless of the other very obvious reasons for a conflict to emerge,” Raleigh said.
Raleigh is responding to studies published in recent years linking global warming to violent conflict around the world. The basic theory is that global warming will drive resource scarcity in vulnerable regions of the world, sparking conflicts.
A 2013 study by U.S.-based academics argued violent conflict in certain parts of the world could increase 50 percent by 2050 as the Earth warms.
A 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences claimed the Syrian drought, “which is implicated in the current conflict, has become more than twice as likely as a consequence of human interference in the climate system.”
Politicians and environmentalists seized on these studies to bolster their calls for action on global warming. Former Vice President Al Gore, for example, blamed global warming for the Syrian civil war and the “Brexit” vote.
Former President Barack Obama claimed global warming contributed to the Syrian civil war, acting through a severe drought that hit the country as the Arab Spring movement swept through the Muslim world.
“There’s already some really interesting work — not definitive, but powerful — showing that the droughts that happened in Syria contributed to the unrest and the Syrian civil war,” Obama said at the South By South Lawn event in 2016.
Raleigh rejects this theory — as do many other military and political science experts.
“It acts as if conflict occurs for natural reasons — people will naturally become violent under conditions of adverse weather conditions, and nothing could be further from the truth,” Raleigh said during her Oxford talk.
“There is very rarely, if any evidence, of a direct relationship between climatic changes and the effects they have on water access, not even on land,” she said.
“The climate link is indirect, if at all,” she said, adding climate is “only one stress of many on developing governments.”
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