Climate Conflicts Will Become More Frequent


As I See It

Bill Sargent, The Daily News of Newburyport, Edition June 22, 2019

“We all know the proximate causes of the war in Syria, the dictatorial power of the Assad regime and the sociopolitical and religious divisions of the Middle Eastern country. But the ultimate cause of the war was water.

“There is a long history of water conflicts in the Middle East. More than 4,000 years ago the king of the city of Lagash cut off the supply of water to Umma to deprive that city of water for irrigation.”

“Herodotus described how Cyrus the Great diverted the Euphrates into the desert and then marched his troops down the dry riverbed to capture Babylon.”

“The area normally experiences natural hydrological variability but now there is a new problem – climate change.”

“From 2006 to 2011, the start of the war, Syria experienced a multi-year, multiseason extreme drought that the researcher Gary Nabhan has described as “the worst long-term drought and most serious crop calamity since agricultural civilization began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago.”

“In 2008, the Syrian minister of agriculture cabled UN officials that the economic and social fallout from the drought was “beyond our capacity as a country to deal with.”

“The drought returned in 2011 affecting between 2 and 3 million people that flooded into Aleppo, Daraa, Hamm, and Homs. It is no coincidence that these cities were where civil unrest led to the war and became ISIS strongholds.”

“ISIS made a point of attacking the water pipeline into Aleppo and the Tisrin dam on the Euphrates River. In February 2013 anti-Assad forces captured the largest dam in the country that supplied most of the electricity to Aleppo.”

“The Assad regime had failed to alleviate the effects of the drought and many of their irrigation measures like over-pumping actually worsened the problems by salinizing farmland.”

“Both strategies were telling and effective in such a water-short region. This all falls in line with the U.S. Defense’s warning about the dangers of wars started by climate change.”

“And the problem is only expected to get worse. The IPCC forecasts that the average temperature in the Middle East will rise 3.5 to 7 degrees by 2070 worsening water scarcity in Turkey and Syria and drying up the Figeh spring system which is one of the largest such systems in the world providing water to over 3 million people And it doesn’t stop there.”

“Eventually downstream countries like Iraq will also suffer from severe drought conditions. Meanwhile, tensions are rising in Iran, which is sweltering under record high temperatures when it is not being covered with floods. Such is the new normal in a world of such rapid climate change.”

Copyright © 2019 The Daily News of Newburyport, Edition 6/22/2019


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