The challenges of linking climate change, conflict and migration
New research supports the impact of drought on triggering the Syrian war, but the full picture is more complicated.
Published on 20 February 2019.
By: Sedeer el-Showk
A new study supports the notion of a link between drought, the Syrian war and the subsequent wave of refugees, demonstrating how climate change can force migration. But research into the links between climate change, conflict, and migration is challenging and contentious, and experts caution against accepting simple, straightforward explanations.
The idea that climate change causes violent conflicts emerged as a policy concern and research topic in the late 1980s, particularly following the 1987 publication of Our Common Future by the World Commission on Environment and Development. Though the three decades since have seen an outpouring of research on the topic, consensus has remained elusive. “That’s not least because there are various research agendas in the mix and they’re not all compatible,” says Simon Dalby, an environmental security researcher at Canada’s Balsillie School of International Affairs. “However, most of the research does suggest that while climate is clearly a problem for many people, it’s the social situation in particular places that shapes whether responses are violent.”
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