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Climate change, food security and the refugee crisis: connecting the dots to avoid future tragedy

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Oct 27, 2015 by Bruce Campbell (CCAFS) and Lisa Goddard (IRI)

New research indicates that the Syrian refugee crisis has roots within climate change. How can we ensure that history does not repeat itself in the coming decades of climate turmoil?

It is widely held that climate change will have negative impacts on agricultural communities. Now, research is supporting the theory that climate impacts will catalyze tragedy among vulnerable populations. In a new paper, 'Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought', Kelley et al. argue that “human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict,” and man-made climate change was a likely contributor to the severe drought that gripped Syria from 2007 to 2010. The drought led to crop failure and worsened rural poverty, which helped drive mass migration from rural to urban areas. The authors describe how this process put pressures on Syria’s big cities, which were already experiencing rapid population growth rates and an influx of over one 1.5 million Iraqi refugees. The Syrian government’s failure to address the overcrowding, unemployment, lack of infrastructure and other troublesome elements fueled the fire of unrest among the population.

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