Climate Change and the Syrian Conflict

The growing body of climate and conflict literature just got a major new study courtesy of C+S alum Colin Kelley (C+S ’08). The research, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looks how climate change influenced the ongoing Syrian conflict that’s given rise to the Islamic State.

Kelley, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara, worked with C+S founder Mark Cane on the expansive study that shows climate change made the drought that preceded Syria’s unrest up to three times more likely. The work also traces a history of agricultural policy missteps, unrest in other countries, migration and more, showing the deep and complex connections between climate and society.


Timeline adapted from Kelley, et al. (2015) via Climate Central

Perhaps not surprisingly, the groundbreaking research made quite a splash in the media, even making the New York Times. We’re partial to pieces in a few other outlets, though.

That’s because three of our very own alumni wrote stories on the findings. Andrew Freedman (C+S ’09) wrote a longform piece with some stunning visuals for Mashable, Eric Holthaus (C+S ’06) reported on the research for Slate and Brian Kahn (C+S ’09) covered it over on Climate Central. We don’t play favorites so you should just go read all three of their pieces.

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