Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military


Syria - Climage Change

Syria was an international pariah when the Paris climate change accord was signed, making Damascus's involvement impractical. Members of President Bashar al-Assads government were subject to European and American sanctions, making limiting there international travel. Ironically, Syria is also the poster-child for how climate change is a security issue, as there is an abundant literature linking recent climate trends with the recent derangement of Syria, the massive outflow of refugees, and so forth.

In climate change scenarios, Syria and most of the Middle East region is expected remain very hot. Climate change may put sever stresses on those areas. The Mesopotamia basin would suffer more desertification (since the area only receives between 150-300 mm of rainfall annually but experiences 1,500-2,500 mm of evaporation per year). The region also experiences extreme temperatures and windstorms.

Since October 2007, Syria had been experiencing a serious drought the worst in four decades. It is estimated that at least one million people or 206,000 household (mainly farmers and herders) have been directly affected. During the 2007/2008 planting season, nearly 75% of these 206,000 households suffered total crop failure. As a coping strategy, herders sold their animals for 60-70% below the average of the original prices. Other coping strategies included reducing food intake, selling essential assets and migration which was 20-30% higher than in previous years.

In addition, health data indicated an increase in the prevalence of anaemia, malnutrition and diarrhea (especially among children less than five years of age and pregnant women) by more than twofold compared to the same period in 2007. A shortage in drinking water also resulted in the rural areas of the northeastern region. On the national level, the average yield of basic crops dropped by 31.6% in irrigated areas and by 78.9% in rain-fed areas. The total national wheat production was at 47.1% of the previous season. This contributed to the increase in food prices in the Syrian market.

To bridge the gap, Syria had to import wheat for the first time; this is considered a serious indicator, since Syria was usually self-sufficient in providing food for its 22 million citizens.

Peter Gleick argues that "The devastating civil war that began in Syria in March 2011 is the result of complex interrelated factors. The focus of the conflict is regime change, but the triggers include a broad set of religious and sociopolitical factors, the erosion of the economic health of the country, a wave of political reform sweeping over the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Levant region, and challenges associated with climate variability and change and the availability and use of freshwater. As described here, water and climatic conditions have played a direct role in the deterioration of Syrias economic conditions. "

Kelley et al argue that "Before the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the most severe drought in the instrumental record. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest. We show that the recent decrease in Syrian precipitation is a combination of natural variability and a long-term drying trend, and the unusual severity of the observed drought is here shown to be highly unlikely without this trend. Precipitation changes in Syria are linked to rising mean sea-level pressure in the Eastern Mediterranean, which also shows a long-term trend. There has been also a long-term warming trend in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding to the drawdown of soil moisture. No natural cause is apparent for these trends, whereas the observed drying and warming are consistent with model studies of the response to increases in greenhouse gases." The climate in Syria is hot and dry in the summer, and mild and rainy in the winter (mainly in the western region). Syria is a middle-income developing country with an economy largely dependent on agriculture, trade and oil production.

Syria experienced a serious drought from 2006 until 2009 the worst in four decades. It is estimated that at least one million people or 206,000 household (mainly farmers and herders) have been directly affected. During the 2007/2008 planting season, nearly 75% of these 206,000 households suffered total crop failure. As a coping strategy, herders sold their animals for 60-70% below the average of the original prices. Other coping strategies included reducing food intake, selling essential assets and migration which was 20-30% higher than in previous years. In addition, health data indicated an increase in the prevalence of anaemia, malnutrition and diarrhea (especially among children less than five years of age and pregnant women) by more than two-fold compared to the same period in 2007.

After disastrously low rainfall levels and crop yields in 2008, the Syrian agricultural sector rebounded somewhat in 2009 and may see a record national wheat crop in 2010. Nonetheless, recovery in severely affected northeast Syria will not happen quickly, as the current lack of food, outmigration of manpower, long-term depletion of groundwater, rise in fuel prices, and collapse of government services present continuing challenges to resuming the cultivation of farmland and normal everyday life.

In climate change scenarios, Syria and most of the Middle East region is expected remain very hot. Climate change may put sever stresses on those areas. The Mesopotamia basin would suffer more desertification (since the area only receives between 150-300 mm of rainfall annually but experiences 1,500-2,500 mm of evaporation per year). The region also experiences extreme temperatures and windstorms.

Syria is an arid and semi-arid country with limited water resources. In fact, about three-fifths of the country has less than 25 centimeters of rain a year. The country has large areas of semi-arid and desert environment. Natural forests cover only 2% of its landscape; and around 10% of its forests cover was lost between 1990 and 1995.

Most of Syria is affected by desertification, particularly over the area between the Badia region in the west and the agricultural lands in the east. This region is suffering from mismanagement and misuse of natural resources, and from the drought that has been affecting the country. In general, climatic limitation, extensive clearance of natural vegetation, excessive grazing, agricultural expansion into the natural habitat, unsuitable irrigation techniques, and soil salinization have contributed to land degradation, reduced water supply, and limited agricultural production in most of Syria.

The number of sandstorms has increased dramatically in the last few years, sometimes happening twice a week in some areas. This increase is due in part to the degradation of green cover in Syria caused by overgrazing, desertification, soil degradation and salinization, unwise agricultural practices and climate change. Sand storms result in numerous respiratory problems, obscured visibility, extensive house cleaning and debris removal, and daily life interruption. They might also cause damage to crops and remove nutrient-rich particles from farming lands.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list