Jan 23, 2019

Climate stress drove wave of Arab Spring refugees - researchers

Syria
by
Megan Rowling
,
Thomson Reuters Foundation
An internally displaced girl carries a scarf as she stands outside tents at a makeshift refugee camp in Sinjar town, in Idlib province, Syria, November 20, 2015. Photo: Ammar Abdullah, Reuters
An internally displaced girl carries a scarf as she stands outside tents at a makeshift refugee camp in Sinjar town, in Idlib province, Syria, November 20, 2015. Photo: Ammar Abdullah, Reuters

Severe droughts made more likely by global warming worsened conflict in Arab Spring countries early this decade, forcing people to flee, researchers said on Wednesday, publishing evidence they said proved the connection for the first time.

The study used data from asylum applications in 157 countries from 2006-2015, together with an index that measures droughts, as well as figures tracking battle-related deaths, to assess the links between climate change, conflict and migration.

The findings, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, showed a particular correlation between climate stresses and conflict in parts of the Middle East and North Africa from 2010–2012, when many countries were undergoing political transformation during the Arab Spring uprisings.

Those countries included Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria, which is still mired in a bloody civil war.

The researchers said they also established a climatic link with conflicts that triggered migration in sub-Saharan Africa over the same three years - but not during other time periods.

...

The research chimes with other analyses of the war in Syria, highlighting record drought conditions that pushed rural farming families into urban centres.