More Syria shamefulness
Sep 7, 2015
Bishop Hill in Climate: Surface, Climate: WG2

The ambulance chasers are still, rather disreputably, hovering around the fringes of the migrant crisis. Today I came across a cartoon that again seeks to link the 2007 Syrian drought to climate change. Entitled Syria's Climate Conflict, it opens with the 2007 drought and then moves on to the displacement of people thereafter, before moving on to the uprising itself, describing its beginnings in the southern city of Daraa and the spread to Damascus before asking whether maybe climate change had something to do with it. A scientivist type is on hand to insinuate that it did.

If you take a look at the cartoon though, you will notice something odd: there is not even a vague insinuation that the climate in Syria has changed. There has been a drought of course, but Syria is nothing if not a country prone to drought. So where is the climate change? It is so transparently an attempt to use a weather event to advance a climate argument that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the authors are not just playing fast and loose with the facts.

This impression is hardly weakened by a look at this paper, which finds almost no changes in Syrian rainfall since 1950 (or since 1900).

There's something else though. Take a look at these graphs of vegetation health in Syria from a UN document (source).

You can see the 2007/8 drought in the bottom left, and you can see it dragging on into the following winter season as well. But 2009/10, the year before the uprising began, was much better. Most noticeably, Daraa, the cradle of the uprising, right at the southern tip of the country, had just had a "very good" winter. Surely it's a bit surprising that a climate-related uprising should begin somewhere that had just experienced the most benign weather for years?

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