09 September 2017

The climate factor in Syrian instability

by Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, first posted at the Center for Climate and Security

Observed change in cold season precipitation
for the period 1971–2010 minus 1902–70
(Hoerling et al., 2012).
A recently-released study by Jan Selby and colleagues analyzes existing research on the intersection of climate change and conflict in Syria. The article, published in the Journal of Political Geography, includes a critique of a 2015 study published by the Center for Climate and Security’s (CCS) Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and Troy Sternberg (and a short briefer by CCS from 2012), as well as two other studies by Colin Kelly et al (2015) and Peter Gleick (2014). More research into the climate-conflict nexus in pre-civil war Syria is certainly welcome for better understanding the risks and informing future policies for addressing them. In this study, Selby et al. point to some important gaps in the data on the connection between displaced peoples and social and political unrest, and the possible role of market liberalization in the Syrian conflict. However, the study does nothing to refute the role of climate change in Syrian instability in the years before the war, while muddying the waters on the subject through a few mischaracterizations that are worth addressing at some length.

07 September 2017

What lies beneath? The scientific understatement of climate risks

By David Spratt and Ian Dunlop
This blog is the Introduction to What Lies Beneath: The scientific understatement of climate risks, published today by Breakthrough, the National Centre for Climate Restoration.
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Three decades ago, when serious debate on human-induced climate change began at the global level, a great deal of statesmanship was on display. There was a preparedness to recognise that this was an issue transcending nation states, ideologies and political parties which had to be addressed proactively in the long-term interests of humanity as a whole, even if the existential nature of the risk it posed was far less clear cut than it is today. 

As global institutions were established to take up this challenge, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and the extent of change this would demand of the fossil-fuel-dominated world order became clearer, the forces of resistance began to mobilise. Today, as a consequence, and despite the diplomatic triumph of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the debate around climate change policy has never been more dysfunctional, indeed Orwellian.