Remember when 'climate change' was the reason for the Syrian war? Never mind…

I remember laughing to myself when I first read about this in The Guardian. I thought it was junk science then, turns out I was right.

There is a new study from the University of Melbourne, the Georg Eckert Institute and Freie Universität which has found several problems with research related to assessing the propensity for war amid environmental changes due to ‘global warming’.

The paper, just published in Nature Climate Change, demonstrates that much of current research on the topic (such as what was pushed by the Guardian article) suffers from a multitude of flaws and bias. The study points out that making predictions regarding future conflicts must be based on unbiased research efforts, and this is something that has not been done very well so far.

The researchers examined over 100 papers published from 1990 to 2017 claiming a link between global warming and warfare, and they found substantial bias. For example, much of the research was focused on headline-making conflicts rather than small-scale affairs.

They also noted that most of the conflicts occurred in areas where people spoke English, making it easier for the researchers (the low hanging fruit problem), but leaving out many areas that they likely should have studied but did not. They also found that many of the studies focused on areas that were already experiencing conflict, such as Syria and Sudan.

Here’s the kicker; they found that areas of study were often not even those that have been deemed more likely to be affected by global warming in the first place.

This is the second study in the last year debunking claims of the Syrian war being started by climate change, I reported on the first back in Sept, 2017: Sorry alarmists: New research disputes claims that climate change helped spark the Syrian civil war

Here is the new study:

Sampling bias in climate–conflict researchNature Climate Change (2018).


Critics have argued that the evidence of an association between climate change and conflict is flawed because the research relies on a dependent variable sampling strategy. Similarly, it has been hypothesized that convenience of access biases the sample of cases studied (the ‘streetlight effect’). This also gives rise to claims that the climate–conflict literature stigmatizes some places as being more ‘naturally’ violent. Yet there has been no proof of such sampling patterns. Here we test whether climate–conflict research is based on such a biased sample through a systematic review of the literature. We demonstrate that research on climate change and violent conflict suffers from a streetlight effect. Further, studies which focus on a small number of cases in particular are strongly informed by cases where there has been conflict, do not sample on the independent variables (climate impact or risk), and hence tend to find some association between these two variables. These biases mean that research on climate change and conflict primarily focuses on a few accessible regions, overstates the links between both phenomena and cannot explain peaceful outcomes from climate change. This could result in maladaptive responses in those places that are stigmatized as being inherently more prone to climate-induced violence.

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February 13, 2018 7:10 am

The streetlight effect indeed biases all of climate science. Most notably when missing data is homogenized into existence.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
February 13, 2018 8:50 am


Curious George
Reply to  Rob Dawg
February 13, 2018 9:37 am

You’ve made my day.

Komrade Kuma
Reply to  Rob Dawg
February 13, 2018 2:29 pm

Sampling bias = echo chamber = ideology driven results = anti-science

Leo Smith
February 13, 2018 7:15 am

Looking out of the window at the frost covering the windscreen of his car, and the people walking across the village pond, George said “It’s a cold day today”.
“No it isn’t” said his wife Miranda, “It will is warm and sunny due to global warming”
“How do you know that dear?”
“I read it in the Guardian.”

Reply to  Leo Smith
February 13, 2018 10:31 am

Does Miranda sometimes go by the name ivan?

February 13, 2018 7:23 am

“They also noted that most of the conflicts (studied?) occurred in areas where people spoke English,”

Reply to  milwaukeebob
February 13, 2018 7:35 am

Have you ever seen CNN-likes actually interview somebody who doesn’t speak English? Even bad English is OK, but it must be English. And in case it is absolutely impossible to get it in English, some shole will dub the interview with deliberate bad English. Holy cow! What a bias comes from interviewing only English-speakers in remote places!

Reply to  milwaukeebob
February 13, 2018 2:17 pm

Being a Scotsman, this does not surprise me…

Mark from the Midwest
February 13, 2018 7:26 am

“I’ll never have to look out the window again” …
a quote from Marge Simpson after Lisa tells her about the Weather Channel App

joe - the non climate scientist
February 13, 2018 7:28 am

Victor Hansen has an excellent book on world war II. The first two chapters of the book deal with the geo political influences that have been the root cause of most every war since the 5th century BC.
Its as if the warmists have zero sense of history – or that everything is natural until 1850 when everything suddenly switch to being caused by Man (MANN).
Skeptical science has pushed this meme relentlessly – that wars will be caused by climate change in the future. Pointing out the real history gets you banned as anti science.
As a side note – labels skeptical science as solid science based while Wattsupwiththat is labeled as pseudo based/quackery – I guess pointing out Sci-Fi at a supposedly science based website is pseudo science

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
February 13, 2018 8:25 am

I believe you mean Victor Hanson, the farmer/Stanford History Prof

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  flogage
February 13, 2018 8:48 am

yes Victor Hanson – (my bad on the typo)
btw – very good book – heavy focus on the geo political influences in the war vs the tactical events/battles, even broader overhead view of the strategic events. Very different perspective of WW2.
A few tidbits from the book –
The survival rate of tank crews on both sides of the eastern front was around 20%
Few germans objected to becoming guards at the death camps, possibly because the survival rate on the eastern front was so dismal.
MacArthur liberating the Philipines was a near complete waste since the philipines had near zero strategic value – it only got a lot of american gi’s and filipino civilians killed. It did chew up a large chuck on the remaining japenese fleet at leyte gulf.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  flogage
February 13, 2018 9:28 am

Liberating the Philippines may have been a distraction, but only in hindsight. Without the atomic bomb, the US and allies were going to have to invade Japan. The only place where you could muster that kind of offense would have been the Philippines.

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
February 13, 2018 9:50 am

The philipines were too far to be a staging ground, think about the staging ground for overlord. Formosa – was a lot closer, and a lot more suitable.
I agree with the use of fat man and little boy, (with hindsight, it was helpful with the russian situation. )
That being said, absent the russian issue, the course of the war was on a trajectory such japan would have had virtually no ability to defend itself after nov/dec 1945, limited food supply, no oil, no military production.

Bob boder
Reply to  flogage
February 13, 2018 1:34 pm

Okinawa even closer

Reply to  flogage
February 14, 2018 8:08 am

Victor Davis Hansen

February 13, 2018 7:29 am

Sadly it doesn’t matter because now we have a sourced ‘fact’ telling the Syrian war was caused by carbon emissions. Some topics of Wikipedia, like global warming ‘art,’, are full of this shit.

Reply to  Hugs
February 13, 2018 7:40 am

You have that right, once the narrative has been established no matter how credible or incredible, it cannot be erased. It’s persistent, like an incurable disease.

February 13, 2018 7:33 am

The tribal wars continuing in Sub-Saharan Africa (remember those tens of thousands killed by machetes and AK-47’s) in just a few years past ?
Thought so – We forget those because those deaths were not politically “correct” for the national US and EU media to continually publicize.)
“Climate refugees” began as a “problem” back in the final years of the Roman Republic/early years of the Roman Empire as the world cooled from the Roman Warming Period. Huns, Goths, Magyars, Visagoths, Vandals, Franks …. They all moved south into Italy, Spain, even North Africa as tribal nations seeking to leave the increasingly cold nothern Europe homelands they previously survived in.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
February 13, 2018 8:13 am

No need to appeal to climate to explain why people would rather move (with weapons, if need be) to Gaul (current France + Belgium + Northern Italy ) than stay anywhere else in Europe (or even pretty much the whole world, it can be argued).
And they have been doing this for millennia whether the Earth was cooling or warming. Just for instance:
During MWP, Northmen didn’t just settled to Greenland, they also settled in … part of the old Gaul. Part of France is still named form them (“Nor-man-dy” = North-men-ia)
In RWP, Cesar himself used some Helvetic move into Gaul as excuse to do the very same; be aware that HE was the barbarian, here.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
February 13, 2018 10:03 am

New investigations see a completely different reason for the migration of peoples at the time 300 before Christ and 400 a.D., especially of the Germanic and Slavic tribes. It was not the climate that drove them to the west, but the developments in the Mongolian-Asian region. During this period, Asian equestrian cultures arose there, which were able to invade Germanic and Slavic villages within a wide area. Some raids carried over 3,000 kilometers. Also, the armament was far superior to the resident, as these horsemen armies took over early Chinese weapon technology developments and even perfected them. While the local tribes were largely peaceful farmers and did not know anything like an “army,” a rider army certainly did not. The Teutons developed “armies” only in contact with the Romans, Greeks and Carthaginians from which they also looked up some weapons technology. If it had been the climate, it would have been completely pointless that Germans and Slavs from the northern Black Sea region moved to northern Europe and northern Russia. The Finno-Ugrians (Finland) and Hungarians as mixed-Germanic tribes also fled from successive purely Mongolian equestrian armies. Attila (Hun, Hungary) later made it to France, where he was defeated by late Roman and Frankish armies, thanks to Roman military art.

Bob boder
Reply to  Hans-Georg
February 13, 2018 1:40 pm

Ya because the waves of Mongolians didn’t have anything to do with climate, the warm periods cause massive population growth on the the central Asian plains forcing people’s both east and west. When the cooling periods came those people migrated south out necessity in to the more civilized and populated regions of Europe, middle Asia and China. The pattern is there over and over again.

February 13, 2018 7:40 am

Caused by the “Arab Spring”, youth dissatisfied with government rule and economic future. HMMM, where have we heard that before, or now…………..

February 13, 2018 7:43 am

” This also gives rise to claims that the climate–conflict literature stigmatizes some places as being more ‘naturally’ violent”….
Maybe…but what they are really saying is some places are so backward and primitive….a 1/2 degree change in temperature pushes them over the edge

February 13, 2018 7:53 am

Another crack in the CAGW foundations. The interesting thing is not that this meta analysis got published, but where. Nature Climate Change is as warmunist as it gets.

Reply to  ristvan
February 13, 2018 8:09 am

you think it’s the Trump effect?…kicking them in that old revenue stream

February 13, 2018 7:54 am

When has the Guardian ever got anything correct?

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  Graemethecat
February 13, 2018 8:55 am

MediaBias / Fact check comment on the Guardian –
LEFT-CENTER BIAS These media sources have a slight to moderate liberal bias. They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to […]
Slight to moderate bias
often publish factual information

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
February 13, 2018 1:57 pm

That just goes to show the heavy leftist bias in most “fact checkers”.

February 13, 2018 7:58 am

Anyone that gave that claim any credibility in the first place is an idiot or a liar.

Reply to  RAH
February 13, 2018 1:23 pm

Prince Charles did…which kind of proves your point.

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  RAH
February 13, 2018 1:35 pm

RAH – Anyone that gave that claim any credibility in the first place is an idiot or a liar.
Skeptical science repeatedly makes that claim and similar claims. –
I have pointed out the absurdity of such claims over at skeptical Science – but it got me banned – I must be anti Science

February 13, 2018 7:59 am

Kudos to “Nature Climate Change” journal for publishing this. Many such journals ignore contrary articles.

Gary Pearse
February 13, 2018 8:04 am

Trump, Trump, Trump….There were no precedents for the Global Warming stalwarts to criticize even the most ridiculous papers that supported the meme before now. This has been the strongest evidence of agenda science. How often has it been asked, where are the the critical voices among the Team when such a laughable paper is published. I thought this when wacky Wadhams was making impossibly early predictions of ice free Arctic that simple calorimetry would yell at
you its deranged. Later Wadhams tipped his hand further by his paranoyic belief that sceptics were about to do him in, when I’m sure his own side were more likely to do so.
The critiques have been growing since November 2016. The number of these papers is growing, in part because the sceptic side has been empowered, but more important, it is that the stress of the long Pause (and signs of its imminent return), the widening disagreement between forecasts and observarions and the shock of the election of Trump and the drying up of funds has made it prudent to temper and reverse position on Global Warming from CO2 increases.
Most know the battle has been lost since Climategate and the Pause, but many of the previously strident promoters feel captive. They want to get out. Their gradual swing and more reluctant genuflections toward the meme are obvious. Soon throwing each other under the bus will be next.

February 13, 2018 8:06 am

This is all a political exercise by people who fully udnerstand the point of what they are doing.
As Matt Ridley has so eloquently and persuasively argued, the near term effects of Climate Change are net beneficial, with the change to net detrimental many decades away, even under the science the IPCC, Met Office etc believe. But that “truth” simply would not work in terms of getting everybody/anybody to act now. So what is needed is (i) near term, serious problems caused by Climate Change and (ii) Tipping Points that mean that we cannot wait to see what happens.
Both push immediate action and both are not in any way supported by the IPCC science or any evidence whatsoever. These are political claims, made for the clear purpose of ensuring governments act now rather than in the future. Now whether that is because the people pushing these claims sincerely believe we have to act now, or worry that if we don’t act and adopt a wait-and-see approach, they may be wrong, I don’t know.

February 13, 2018 8:10 am

“This could result in maladaptive responses”
Applies to politicized climate science in general.

February 13, 2018 8:19 am

One thing is becoming clear, human caused global warming is causing research to dig holes and then fill them in. The policy influences on the digging exercise needs to be examined next.

February 13, 2018 8:33 am

You could also simply turn all this around and claim that many conflicts were avoided because the temps rose a degree (!!) – this because the would-be combatants didn’t have AC and got lethargic and too unenergetic to start throwing spears, etc.

February 13, 2018 8:58 am

There seem to be an awful lot of Emily Litella moments in the climate biz.

Mike Maguire
February 13, 2018 8:59 am

Human caused climate change enhances all bad things…………human conflict/wars, viruses, bacteria, ticks, fleas, weeds, rats, maybe it even provides a more favorable environment for demons from hell that thrive in the heat (-:
However, all the good forms of life preferred it 1 deg. C colder with dangerously low levels of atmospheric CO2 around 300 parts per million at the beginning of the Industrial revolution. Polar Bears, bunny rabbits, butterflies, humans, weather systems, crops, ocean life/coral reefs……….despite the planet greening up since then, along with the bin busting, record crop yields and most life flourishing.
Computer models used by really smart scientists that can represent the world with precision, using mathematical equations and science that is settled to project it for the next 100 years should get most of the weighting.
…………….and the assumption that CO2 is carbon pollution, along with warmer is bad.

February 13, 2018 9:09 am

Skeptical Science disseminates such delusional arguments about impact of global warming on the refugee crisis.

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  aleks
February 13, 2018 9:23 am

Compare and contrast media bias fact check dot com rating of skeptical Science vs Watts up with that.
– Skeptical science is “science based”
– Watts up with that is pseudo science and & Quackery
Watts up with that can greatly improve their rating if they quit mocking the pseudo science/ Sci-Fi and just compliment the hard work of creating Sci-fi

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
February 13, 2018 10:24 am

That ass hat Richard Shermer is a status quo state apologist. There is nothing scientific nor skeptical about that rag. Anyone who has even the slightest logical capacity can see right through these fact check sites obvious neo Marxist ideology. It would be comical if it weren’t so devastating to the human condition. That stuff is poison and the new age millennials eat it up. After all that’s what they were trained to do.
So when some neo-Marxist crap rag makes any claim it’s sure to be saturated in falsehoods, since truth is relative to them. They just make up reality.
Sheesh. This next generation is really setting up right into these globalist klepto-technocrats plans.
You folks would be amazed at the lack of hard working youth. I was in the field for some years as a master irrigator and then a glazier. Small business is hemorrhaging talent. I left to go back to banking because I like the cushy lifestyle and federal paid holidays (without having to work for the state). So even I’m guilty I suppose but I’m smarter than wasting away in the field.
However, some folks are really great in the labor sector. Either way, I outworked kids ten years younger.
They want robots to do everything, think government fixes problems instead of creating them, mandatory living pay for no work, seriously they want paid to play, think production is only possible if centralized, and equality of outcome, of what else? Gender isn’t biological.. The list is endless.
I don’t know how I’m going to raise my son to not fall for their schemes

Reply to  joe - the non climate scientist
February 13, 2018 10:35 am

Leftists have always rated reality based on how well it conforms to the myth they are pushing today.
Truth is relative after all.

joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  aleks
February 15, 2018 7:40 am

See comment #4 “wars most often caused by america…”
Cant separate the hate for freedom and democracy with love of strict adherence with a backward cult pretending to be a religion.

February 13, 2018 9:27 am

That theory confused cause and effect. The Syrian war was a social justice adventure, ostensibly derivative of the so-called “Arab Spring” a la Libya, Egypt, Yemen, etc. Its progression follows from premature evacuation of our security (stabilizing) forces from Iraq, weapons transfer from Libya (e.g. Benghazi), and the ensuing aftermath (e.g. Islamic State). Those adventures, not limited to the Middle East and Africa, were first-order forcings of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change and Catastrophic Anthropogenic Immigration Reform (a.k.a. “refugee crisis”, trail of tears).

February 13, 2018 9:42 am

You can be 100% right on one fact.
The “Guardian” won’t be publishing a correction, or update, to their story anytime soon.

February 13, 2018 9:43 am

USA has been arming and training rebels in Syria since 2011
Donald J. Trump tweeted:
This will be a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!
4:46 AM · Feb 12, 2018
But like all politicians, watch what he does and ignore what he says.

Reply to  Albert
February 13, 2018 1:08 pm

According to reports, the US has just killed around 200 Russians in Syria. Nothing has changed.

Reply to  icisil
February 13, 2018 1:48 pm

Looks to be propaganda about “Wagner Mercenaries” in Syria from Russian fifth column trying to discredit Putin.
Nevertheless, the US (in the country illegally) did kill about 61 Syrians. Nothing has changed.

February 13, 2018 11:03 am
explains it all, grew from 4 million population in 1955, peaked out at 21 million in 2010 when Syrian “birth control” took effect. 5 times more people, 0 times more arable land. Throw in religion and voila, Conflict!

Reply to  rigelsys
February 13, 2018 6:00 pm
February 13, 2018 11:30 am

That’s actually pretty hilarious. Take one of the archetypal inherently unpredictable nonlinear dynamical systems – the climate – and use it to make predictions in the other archetypal inherently unpredictable nonlinear dynamical system – geopolitics. Genius!

February 13, 2018 11:47 am

I think that it’s funny how climate change is supposed to start wars, when it is the DISCUSSIONS about climate change that “start wars” — verbally. (^_^)
What do you call a luke warmer? A “denier”.
Okay, then what do you call a greenhouse disbeliever? A “demon” ?
There needs to be some distinction, as there now appear to be three, rather than two, sides “fighting”.

February 13, 2018 12:35 pm

Blair’s Law: “the ongoing process by which the world’s multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force.”

Kaiser Derden
February 13, 2018 1:33 pm

can’t they just use reference data from 1,000 miles away instead of actually going to the war zone and studying it ? that how the rest of climate science is done 🙂

February 13, 2018 1:38 pm

You are correct – since 2011 US and allies (Saudi and Qatar) have been supporting “rebels”. If some “rebels” turned to ISIS then they are an unfortunate stepchild of the efforts to support the rebellion in Syria. Unofficially I have heard from reliable Lebanese that Weapons came through Cyprus and passed through Tripoli Lebanon presumably on the way to is an awful mess. And now the Kurds who welcomed 2.3 million Syrian refugees find themselves under attack from Turkey and the US seems to have forgotten about their Kurdish allies who fought against ISIS. Just a complete mess. So sad – many women and children caught up in this. Blaming climate change is just completely ridiculous – there are a multitude of mistakes, interventions by various parties including Iran and US good intentions gone very wrong.

February 13, 2018 2:00 pm

The best way to counter this sort of Climate Alarmism is to keep on laughing at it as that has the effect of driving the Warmistas and Greenies into a self-righteous frenzy and damages their equilibrium.

Reply to  ntesdorf
February 13, 2018 2:28 pm

Alas, when there is zero sensitivity to idiocy, the equilibrium stands to stay put in a self-sustaining feedback loop — a rather sad closed system that will just have to dissipate in its own good time — many more decades, perhaps, unless a rapid-onset ice age comes, but even then this likely could be spun into a consequence of the preceding warming that was OUR fault.
The argument is sound, you see: In order for things to cool down, there must be a reference of warming up from which to judge the cool down, and vise versa — in order for things to heat up, there must be a reference cooling down from which to judge the warm up. Cooling, thus, “causes” warming, and warming, thus, “causes” cooling, and if humans are anywhere at all in the picture, then its OUR actions at the heart of EITHER cause. There’s no way to remove human actions as an evil behind the “cause”, in the minds of those who need to believe this, at the time they need to believe it.

February 13, 2018 3:35 pm
joe - the non climate scientist
Reply to  David Middleton
February 13, 2018 3:53 pm

“Syria has been drying out since 1500 AD…”
From 1500 AD to 1950 AD it was natural – after 1950 it was due to man,
Good thing humankind took over when mother nature got tired and couldn’t keep up

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  David Middleton
February 13, 2018 7:49 pm

There was a climate shift in that region in 1868. Some places show evidence of it. Is there anything visible for Syria?
The winds shifted in 1868, basically reversing. Perhaps that was an expansion of the Hadley cell. No idea really, but the prevailing wind in southern Lebanon changed from westerly to easterly.
Is anything visible in the rainfall pattern?

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
February 13, 2018 8:07 pm

There was a climate shift in that region in 1868. Some places show evidence of it. Is there anything visible for Syria?
Crispin in Waterloo
The winds shifted in 1868, basically reversing. Perhaps that was an expansion of the Hadley cell. No idea really, but the prevailing wind in southern Lebanon changed from westerly to easterly.

Well, the credible “end” of the little Ice Age was 1860-1870 – midway between the depths of the LIA in 1650 and today’s MWP (Modern Warming Period) maximum (??) of 2000-2010-2020. So, a cycle that began warming in 1650, and if that cycle behaves differently at the maximum than at the minimum temperature point s, might see circulation changes at the mid-point of the cycle.

Michael S. Kelly
February 13, 2018 4:39 pm

Street lights are where one finds practitioners of the world’s oldest profession…particularly at the corner of Toidy Toid and Toid. Coincidence? I don’t think sol

Another Ian
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
February 14, 2018 12:01 am

Via an agriculture lecture a long time ago. Louis Bromfield quote in reply to a letter from a military fan
“Agriculture is the oldest profession. Even older than the one you’re thinking of”

Michael Jankowski
February 13, 2018 4:39 pm

War and the end of Dynasties has been tied to climate change in China…happens during abnormally cold periods.

Jim Steele
February 13, 2018 4:41 pm

In 2014 I critiqued the show “Years of Living Dangerously” which tried to exploit human misery and blame climate change, featuring the Texas droughts and the Syrian war.
Anyone knowing the history of either region would laugh at such climate fear mongering, so its good to see alarmists claims continue to be refuted!

February 13, 2018 7:47 pm

it is worth pointing out that the paper in question does not invalidate any of the studies relating climate
change to conflict. And it certainly does prove that the Syrian crisis was not caused by climate change.
What the paper does is caution against drawing trends from such papers since in total they do not properly
sample conflicts around the world.

February 14, 2018 9:59 am

There is no evidence of human-caused catastrophic global warming/climate change (CAGW), so it is ridiculous to claim there is evidence that CAGW is currently causing wars and refugees.

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