February 26, 2013

Climate Change and the Arab Spring

On Thursday, our friends Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia of the Center for Climate & Security will be at the Center for American Progress to release a new study on “Climate Change and the Arab Spring” that “outlines the complex pressures exerted by the effects of climate change on the convulsions which swept through the Middle East in 2010 and 2011, exploring the long-term trends in precipitation, agriculture, food prices, and migration which contributed to the social instability and violence which has transformed the region, and offering solutions for progress.”

The study builds off a seminal piece of work that Werrell and Femia published last February on how climate change and drought have influenced the social and political dynamics underpinning the revolution in Syria.

Syria’s current social unrest is, in the most direct sense, a reaction to a brutal and out-of touch regime and a response to the political wave of change that began in Tunisia early last year,” they wrote. “However, that’s not the whole story.”

“The past few years have seen a number of significant social, economic, environmental and climatic changes in Syria that have eroded the social contract between citizen and government in the country, have strengthened the case for the opposition movement, and irreparably damaged the legitimacy of the al-Assad regime,” they wrote in February 2012. “If the international community and future policy-makers in Syria are to address and resolve the drivers of unrest in the country, these changes will have to be better explored and exposed.”

Their study was picked up by The New York Times’ Tom Friedman, who noted in April 2012 that “The Arab awakening was driven not only by political and economic stresses, but, less visibly, by environmental, population and climate stresses as well.

If climate projections stay on their current path, the drought situation in North Africa and the Middle East is going to get progressively worse, and you will end up witnessing cycle after cycle of instability that may be the impetus for future authoritarian responses,” Femia told Friedman.

Friedman will join Werrell and Femia, along with former State Department Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, on Thursday at the Center for American Progress for what is sure to be an informative discussion.

Check out the event details and RSVP here