Climate change and Syrian war

Marwa Daoudy, a political scientist from Georgetown University, Washington DC, has just published her new book with Cambridge University Press — ‘The Origins of the Syrian Conflict: Climate Change and Human Security‘. Daoudy examines critically the claim that the roots of the Syrian civil war can be traced back to human-caused climate change and finds it wanting. Contributing to scholarship in the fields of critical security, environmental security, human security, and Arab politics, Marwa Daoudy prioritizes non-Western and marginalized perspectives to make sense of Syria’s place in this international debate. Daoudy uses extensive field research and her own personal background as a Syrian scholar to present primary interviews with Syrian government officials and citizens, as well as the research of domestic Syrian experts. She shows the complex weaving together of political, economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities that lead to the 2011 uprising.

So is the popular claim that climate change drives violence, conflict and human migration actually true?

This question is one of 15 that are debated by leading scholars in my new book Contemporary Debates in Climate Change: A Student Primer.  In Chapter 4 of the book, Chinese historians David Zhang and Qing Pei debate the question with political scientists Christiane Fröhlich and Tobias Ide.  Zhang and Pei point to large numbers of quantitative studies which suggest significant correlations between climatic extremes and historical occurrences of violence, conflict and human migration.  The key point, they argue, is that these correlations should be seen as causal when the studies are conducted over macro-scales of time and space.  Fröhlich and Ide challenge these studies, and their relevance for the present-day, emphasising how conflict and migration is always multi-casual and usually driven by historical, social and political factors more important than climate.  At the heart of this debate are questions about the scale of analysis and different interpretations of causality.

Other debates in the book include: whether climate change is the most important challenge of our time, whether carbon markets are essential for addressing climate change, whether climate change is a human rights violation and whether social media make constructive climate policy-making harder.