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Climate Change Hastened Syria's Civil War


Climate Change Hastened Syria's Civil War

Mark Fischetti

Climate change can make storms stronger, cold spells longer and water supplies drier. But can it cause war? A new study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says drought in Syria, exacerbated to record levels by global warming, pushed social unrest in that nation across a line into an open uprising in 2011.


I haven’t read anything by Fischetti in a while, but it’s always a pleasure to read his articles. I first encountered his work in Scientific American in 2001 in his covering of the weakness of the delta, seafront, and waterways of the City of New Orleans. Between the behaviors of Army Corps of Engineers, the oil companies, and the lack of foresight of the US Interior Department - fools, scoundrels, and destroyers of the natural defenses of the delta - and the natural geography of the city, he meticulously went through the damage that the city would encounter with the next really big hurricane to blow over it. Friends I have in Europe had asked me more than once after reading the article and before 2005 “I’m going to visit the US, what cities should I see?” I told them, besides the usual laundry list of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, “go see New Orleans, a jewel of a city, before it’s gone.” I try to use humor and irony to drive otherwise boring concepts home. Sure enough, 4 years after his predictions, almost every point of his analysis became reality. GW Bush is quoted as saying ‘no one could have known how bad it would get’. Of course he wouldn’t have know, he can’t or refuses to read, especially not Scientific American.

I also use the humor and irony ruse for those who would fall asleep listening to a dissertation on the acidification with H2CO3 of the world’s ocean water brought about by CO2 saturation. My comment there is “I really love oysters and you should try them too before they disappear”, a disappearance that should not be attributed to a Walrus or Carpenter but to Old Mr. Carbonic Acid. A good comment on this can be found at:


Rich: What was most interesting to me about the article is that it appeared at all. I’ve been a reader of SA most of my life and a subscriber for the last several decades. The editorial position of late has unequivocally affirmed the reality of climate change and the human impact in exacerbating it. Also a reader and subscriber of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the periodical of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and they likewise have mirrored the consensus scientific stand concerning climate change. But both have been too timid and too measured in their advocacy, which plays into the hands of the fossil fuel industry financed deniers. Speaking of humor, Steve Mirsky’s monthly installments are usually gems. The other periodical I have subscribed to for over two decades is Funny Times out of Cleveland, Ohio, and if you’re not familiar with it, it’s worth the money. All three periodicals arrive here about the same time and I disappear to read each from cover to cover.