‘America first’ means addressing climate change, by Josephine Van Zanten (Le Monde diplomatique – English edition, June 2017)

by Josephine Van Zanten (Le Monde diplomatique – English edition, June 2017) //

During his inaugural speech, President Trump announced that from that point it would be, and only be, America first. His policy for the next four years is to focus on making America big, strong and safe again. However, his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement of November 2016, designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and signed by 194 states, will place American national security at risk.

The effects of climate change on conflict and instability are becoming increasingly evident. Although it is impossible to claim that climate change is the sole source of conflict, researchers agree that it is a crucial factor.

The war in Syria is a prime example. Before the war, Syria experienced extreme drought between 2007 and 2011. Research by Richard Seager at Columbia University shows that a drought that severe is two to three times more likely to be caused by anthropogenic influences than by natural variability. Similarly, a survey conducted by NASA shows that the period 1998-2012 in Syria was 10-20% drier than the previous driest period in the past 900 years. The research also showed that the severity of the drought was attributed to human interference.

During this drought, the harvests of many farmers failed and rural populations began migrating into the cities, mainly to Damascus, Deraa, Homs and Aleppo – more than one and a half million Syrians in all, including families, but mostly young Syrian men. Such a large migration flow has huge destabilising effects. Together with high unemployment among migrant populations and a government that did not adequately respond to the problem, the path was paved for rebellion against the Assad regime; and the drought contributed to the conflict.

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Zanten (Le Monde diplomatique – English edition, June 2017)

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