The dry lands

Is drought contributing to conflict? the environmentalist investigates

When Prince Charles told Sky News in an interview at the end of last year that climate change was partly responsible for the civil war in Syria, which was fuelling mass migration into Europe, some in the media condemned his comments.

‘There’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria … was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people had to leave the land but increasingly they came into the cities,’ the heir to the throne said.

Despite the press ridicule, which had also been heaped on singer Charlotte Church when she made a similar observation, there is evidence that the drought was a contributory factor in the uprising against President Assad – alongside escalating prices for basic commodities and the regime’s cancellation in 2009 of subsidies to farmers for diesel and fertiliser, which prompted mass migration to Syria’s already over-stretched cities and towns. With climate change likely to make drought and other extreme weather events more common in many parts of the world will it help fuel conflict elsewhere?

Corroborative evidence

Around 1.5 million people fled north-east Syria due to the effects of ...

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