Climate Change Could be as Dangerous to Syria as Bashar al-Assad

climate change, war, environment, middle east, Bashar al-Assad, water scarcity, rivers, agriculture, Euphrates River, Jordan River, Fertile CrescentFive thousand Syrians have died since the uprising started but climate change could kill many more in this dry country.

Approximately 5,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March last year, according to UN estimates, and an additional 600 detainees and political prisoners have died under torture. And yet there is a force at work that is just as sinister as President Bashar al-Assad, who calmly told ABC’s Barbara Walters that he was unaware of the torture taking place in his country. It’s name? Climate change. 

The dangers of climate change

The National Project Director of the Initial National Communication of the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr. Yousef Meslmani wrote an op-ed for Syria Today of the dangers that climate change poses to the country.

At the end of December, Syria launched its first “water-scarcity” park to highlight the dangers of desertification and water mismanagement. Meslmani notes that climate change will exacerbate existing problems and cites the following disturbing statistics.

“New studies show it [climate change] has already led to significant regional crop reductions: of 30 percent for rice, 47 percent for corn and 20 percent for wheat,” he wrote, adding that “the very shape of the Fertile Crescent, of which Syria is a part, will change, and that it might even vanish completely.”

The famous springs of Damascus are dry

According to Meslmani, the Euphrates and Jordan Rivers will lose up to 70% of their annual flow as a result of low rainfall, making sustainable development even harder to attain. Without water and food, the risk of famines (like the one experienced in the Horn of Africa) is likely to increase.

Already 500,000 residents of the country’s dry northeastern region have fled their homes because of water scarcity, 1.3 million more have been impacted by serious droughts, and the famed springs of Damascus have dried up.

By 2100, a combination of diminishing rainfall and high temperatures will render this country borderline unlivable if serious measures to combat climate change and fix water management issues are not taken. This in turn will worsen the country’s already fractious political situation. Meslmani writes,

Climate change will affect land use patterns, accelerate the pace of land degradation, and increase the risks of drought, heat waves and dust storms. Indeed, these have already become a reality for people living in the eastern parts of the country. Low-level areas of the Syrian coast are also expected to be flooded by seawater.

Climate change may not have weapons of war. Climate change may not have a torture chamber. But this phenomenon causes by accelerated levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere could be just as ruthless as any dictator.

:: Syria Today

More on climate change in the Middle East:

Wintertime Droughts Increase Because of Climate Change

The Horn of Africa Famine: A Cautionary Tale for MENA

500,000 Syrians Flee Drought-Stricken Zone

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  1. I visited this gorgeous Crusader castle when I traveled to Syria. It’s about 1,000 years old and in magnificent shape.

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