Middle East Researcher Dismisses the Alleged Climate Link to the “Arab Spring”

Kim Jong-un – by User P388388 on Wikimedia Commons Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37757238
Bashar Al-Assad by Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44370013
Robert Mugabe by Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40102783

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Assistant Professor of Geography at the University of South Carolina and an editor of Middle East Report Jessica Barnes has dismissed efforts to link climate change to the Arab Spring – the wave of unrest which swept the Middle East and Africa in 2010.

Overstating Climate Change in Egypt’s Uprising

by Jessica Barnes |
published October 1, 2018

The possible link between climate change and political upheaval in the Middle East has attracted increasing media attention and is generating a new wave of academic research seeking to demonstrate the link. An influential study that put forward this thesis was the 2013 report The Arab Spring and Climate Change, published by the Center for American Progress in Washington DC.[1] Featuring images of angry protestors, parched fields, and people carrying water, the report asserted that while climate change did not causethe Arab uprisings, it acted as a “threat multiplier,” which exacerbated “environmental, social, economic, and political drivers of unrest.” In other words, human-induced changes in climatic conditions, through their impact on water supplies and agricultural production, can interact with and even accelerate social and political causes of dissent and rebellion.

The case of the Syrian civil war features prominently among many proponents of the view that climate change is acting as a “threat multiplier” in regional unrest. A number of scholars have argued that the severe drought in northeastern Syria in 2007 through 2010, linked in part to climate change but also to natural variability, resulted in crop failures and mass rural-to-urban migration, which contributed to political instability and ultimately helped spark the civil war.[2] In terms that mirror the “threat multiplier” discourse, the contention is that climate change acted as a catalyst, compounding deteriorating socioeconomic conditions and people’s dissatisfaction with the authoritarian state.[3] Politicians such as President Barack Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as attention-grabbing newspaper headlines, have reinforced and helped popularize the belief that climate change was consequential in the Syrian rebellion.

The alleged linkage between climate change and civil war in Syria, however, has been increasingly questioned by a number of scholars. Critics claim that there is no clear and compelling evidence to back up each step in the argument: that climate change was a major factor in the Syrian drought; that the drought actually caused large scale rural-to-urban migration; or that this migration contributed to civil war.[4] Others have highlighted the depoliticizing effect of a narrow focus on the drought itself as the source of unrest rather than on the far more numerous political and economic grievances against the Assad regime articulated by its opponents. Moreover, this narrow focus draws attention away from the mismanagement of natural resources by the Assad regime in agricultural regions, which may have been more of a trigger of unrest than the drought itself.[5] Nevertheless, the Syria case continues to be cited as a supposedly powerful example of the link between climate and conflict in the region.

While climate change is a major global concern, the rush to link climate change with recent upheavals in the Middle East, such as Egypt’s 2011 revolution, is both simplifying and depoliticizing. The link between climate, bread, and protest erases important social, material, and cultural nuances, distorts the allocation of responsibility, and ultimately, obscures more than it illuminates. That bread was a central feature in the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was not only literal but also symbolic—a broader reference to livelihoods, to people’s grievances that their basic social and economic needs were not being met. Climate-related changes may increasingly be an important factor in understanding regional political and social dynamics, but the most important “threat-multipliers” of social unrest continue to be the autocratic rule, poverty, inequality and corruption that were the primary sources of Egyptian anti-government protest in 2011 and remain consequential today.

Read more: https://www.merip.org/mero/mero100118

Dictators like Kim Jong-un, Bashar Al-Assad and Robert Mugabe (deposed) are advocates of global climate agreements, especially the kind of agreements which provide them with largely US supplied climate cash.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
E J Zuiderwijk
October 2, 2018 5:30 am

But there is a link to climate change alarmism.

One of the factors, and probably the most important one, in the explosion of that ME powder keg was the massive price rise of grains on the world markets. They in turn were the result of reduced exports from the US, not caused by climate change, but by misguided biofuel policies of the Bush administration. And that was courtesy pressure by climate change alarmists.

Joe Crawford
Reply to  E J Zuiderwijk
October 2, 2018 6:41 am

+10 :<)

Curious George
Reply to  Joe Crawford
October 2, 2018 8:53 am

In particular, Al Gore helped to establish subsidies for corn ethanol. Ethanol is more expensive than pure gasoline and contains less energy.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Curious George
October 2, 2018 10:41 am

. . . and the ethanol-from-corn subsidy may contribute to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico via agriculture runoff to the Mississippi River.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  E J Zuiderwijk
October 2, 2018 7:24 am


Right on! It is the claims for a link that exploded, not links. It is yet another good example of correlation not being a basis for claims of causation. A claim for causation is not causation. Subtle difference that escapes the maudlin press.

[Maudlin: Tearfully sentimental, esp through drunkenness]

The mismanagement of the watershed of the Aral Sea is clearly an ecological catastrophe, entirely man-made, but it did not create similar chaos. Why? It is a far worse episode of eco-madness than a drought in the Middle East for a few years.

Can you imagine there being a drought in the Middle East? Why ever heard of such a thing!

The authors sound informed and their analysis balanced.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 2, 2018 8:59 am

Crispin, and the Aral Sea was in a socialist country. The environmental organizations and AGW Gestapo seldom criticize countries like China due to their fundamental leftist/ socialists leanings. For example, I am certain they will blame Trump’s “trade war” with China for China not reducing their CO2 emissions.

Virgil Russell
Reply to  E J Zuiderwijk
October 2, 2018 7:47 am

I have thought from the get go that a major cause was the misguided corn based ethanol program.

October 2, 2018 5:30 am

It’s 30 years of politics, not 30 years of weather that causes civil wars.

bit chilly
Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 2, 2018 8:46 am

yep, it doesn’t take a qualified researcher to dismiss the link to climate change in this case. i am surprised anyone even bothered. must be plenty easy funding going around.

Reply to  bit chilly
October 2, 2018 9:31 am

Well, I demand my PhD, as although I can’t be bothered to look for it, I posed something similar on WUWT last year.

I spent decades, er…years…ok, would you believe a few seconds reading a previous report on the matter that said quite clearly that Syria’s issue was, duh, due to a dictator enriching himself, family, friends, tribe and sect by using water for cash crops like cotton, which meant there was (and stay with me here, this is a very obscure and hard to understand and very scientific term) LESS water for food for everyone who wasn’t a family, friend, tribe or sect member.

I’m heading out to buy a frame for my PhD.

October 2, 2018 5:44 am

If there is a link to climate change, then it is due to mandatory blending of corn ethanol into gasoline. The resulting food inflation put extra pressure on welfare programs that already were at the breaking point.

The final drop, was when a street vendor in Tunisia committed suicide. Health inspectors should take notice and consider the consequences of their actions. Does that expired license warrant the unintended consequences?
Will the bombing of your city’s water and sewage plants, increase or decrease the food safety !?!

Reply to  RLu
October 2, 2018 6:27 am

Amen, RLu.

October 2, 2018 5:47 am

The approaching minimum will be a link to political upheaval, but they will miss that.

Bruce Cobb
October 2, 2018 7:27 am

Name any social ill – the opioid epidemic, alcoholism, homelessness, the heartbreak of psoriasis, whatever it is, they can find a “link” to “climate change”. Pretty amazing actually, and all because of a completely beneficial and life-giving, invisible, odorless gas. I’d even bet that without much difficulty, they could “find” a “link” to the election of Trump. With so many “links” to “climate change” then, throwing a couple of them under the bus is nothing. And yet, it makes them look all so very rational and heroic when they do. We’re supposed to thank them for it, I suppose.

Bob Hoye
October 2, 2018 7:37 am

Weather and climate have influenced popular uprisings for thousands of years.
In the 1970s I read a couple of papers by Barbara Bell about dynastic changes in Ancient Egypt. A long series of favourable floods fostered population growth. A long period for declining floods forced hardship. Of course, the governing classes lived and promised well. Eventually ordinary folk threw off predatory government. A few times.
During the Middle Ages there were many local famines, which provoked “peasant bread riots”.
Durant writes that in the late 1500s in what is now Holland, that a typical peasant bread riot turned into an “iconoclastic rebellion” against the dictatorial Spanish Netherlands.
When conditions get bad enough in Venezuela a “bread riot” could initiate reform.
Considering the intensity of the financial boom in North America another recession is inevitable and the public will see that policymakers have spent enormous amounts of taxpayer money to make the bad times go away.
Just plain folks will get $issed with the “experts” and throw them out.
It will be exciting–I’m an optimist.
The modern equivalent of “peasant bread riots” all over the place.

E J Zuiderwijk
Reply to  Bob Hoye
October 2, 2018 12:11 pm

The revolt in the Low Countries was triggered by the imposition of a tax of 10%, the ‘tenth penny of (the duke of) Alva’, which effectively increased the tax burden on the population by a factor of ten overnight. It didn’t go down well.

October 2, 2018 7:42 am

You know its a climate religion era when even the act of refuting is handled gingerly with acknowledgement of it in the background while refuting it as the main factor. I’m sure that’s how things went in the Dark Ages and well afterwards. Just knowing how long it takes to be exonerated by the Pope several centuries after the fact puts pause in one’s actions and wording.

October 2, 2018 7:46 am

this narrow focus draws attention away from the mismanagement of natural resources by the “Brown” regime

Tom Abbott
October 2, 2018 8:07 am

From the article: “Critics claim that there is no clear and compelling evidence to back up each step in the argument: that climate change was a major factor in the Syrian drought”

There is no clear and compelling evidence to back up the claim that humans are causing the climate to do something it otherwise would not do.

Before you can prove that human-caused climate change had some effect on a certain region of the world, you first have to prove that human-caused climate change is real. To date, this has not been done. So speculating about what human-caused climate change has done to the Earth is ridiculous. The cart has been put before the horse.

Greg Woods
Reply to  Tom Abbott
October 2, 2018 8:18 am

Let’s see, uhh, I will go with Tom…

October 2, 2018 8:48 am

How timely! Bill McKibben in the Guardian, today.
Bill implies that the Syrian drought was caused by automotive CO2 emissions, from bad Trump policies.

The Trump administration knows the planet is going to boil. It doesn’t care
Trump’s team used last week to sneak in disastrous, linked policies on climate change and child refugee camps

[??? .mod]

Reply to  Cam_S
October 2, 2018 12:19 pm

According to McKibben. Trump changed EPA’s automotive emission standards. And carbon emissions caused the Syrian drought, which then caused the Syrian refugees crisis.

Yes, I put 2 + 2 together. Because I can see what McKibben is trying to imply.

Michael Jankowski
October 2, 2018 9:28 am

Why can’t these “worst evah” droughts in California bring about regime change?

October 2, 2018 9:48 am

An Israely expert ( Dr G. Bechor) predicted this as early as 2007.
He talks about the collapse of the Arab nationality and the returning of tribalism, on which the Arab people are based and in particular the intensification of the animosity between the 2 major Islamic factions : the Sunnis and the Shiites (he nicknamed this ongoing war as the SuShi war 🙂 ).
No need to mobilize climate alarmism here, they do it all by themselves.
This is a religion war, old, bloody and (sadly) with no end in sight.

Reg Nelson
October 2, 2018 10:46 am

The Arab Spring was Obama’s idiotic idea. It destabilized the entire region and lead to the widespread growth of ISIS. Remember he said ISIL (his name re-branding of ISIS) was a JV team and under control. He made these comments just days before the deadly ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris.

Obama also enabled ISIS by allowing them to fund their activities by selling Iraqi oil on the black market.

In less than two years that Trump has been in office, ISIS is now nearly non-existent.

Reply to  Reg Nelson
October 2, 2018 2:15 pm

Evil, yes. Idiotic, no.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Reg Nelson
October 2, 2018 2:59 pm

Obama did nothing while the Islamic Terror Army disrupted the Middle East killing and displacing millions of people, many of whom decided to relocate to Europe.

Trump comes in and takes down the Caliphate in a matter of months with minimal effort.

Obama could have done the same thing because it’s the same U.S. military, but Obama chose to allow the terrorists to run wild and wreak havoc on millions of people.

And then Obama finances the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism and a killer of Americans, the Mad Mullahs of Iran.

Let’s see how long it takes Trump to bring the Mad Mullahs to heel. I would bet it is before the end of his second term.

I hear rumors that China is getting ready to make some compromises with Trump over trade. Everyone is doing deals with Trump. Pretty soon the Mad Mullahs are going to have to deal or go down with their radical Islamic ship.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
October 2, 2018 3:08 pm

Tom says: “Trump comes in and takes down the Caliphate in a matter of months.” Unfortunately, a large part of the ISIS Caliphate was located in Syria, against which Trump did nothing. Russia was much more responsible for taking down ISIS than Trump.

Reply to  Reg Nelson
October 3, 2018 7:24 am

Obama singlehandedly caused the Arab Spring? Yes, i’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that millions of people were fed up with poverty and with their corrupt leaders. I know conservatives aren’t big fans of Obama (and me neither), but claiming that he singlehandedly mind controlled millions of people to rebel or something, is pretty ridiculous. Sometimes it’s hard to have conservative opinions when your fellow conservatives are just stupid.

October 2, 2018 2:08 pm

NYTimes article title, 2011:
U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings

“A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and…”

Now notice, the National Democratic Institute (NDI, who has many well known democrat politicians in it, see here: https://www.ndi.org/board-directors) is a member of Socialist International (SI, scroll to bottom of page):

It gets better: I have a few SI pages where they mention people that played a role in some of the uprisings. What comes to mind for example, is a guy named Morosi who briefly was leader of I think, Egypt. And some bloggers that had a role in I think Libya. I should have the links if anybody cares to see them.

Even better, George Soros used to belong (may still, not sure) to the crisisgroup.org where they monitored world ‘events’. At the time I found this out, I checked the bios of a number of people at that organization and 6 of them were SI members. There could have been more, I didn’t check all of them.

My suspicion is that Socialist International is behind many of these coups, wars, etc., and they are putting in socialist governments. They do state on their website that they want nothing less than world government.

Does anybody know that after we got rid of Saddam, Iraq ‘elected’ Jalal Talabani who just happens to be a VP in socialist international? (How could the Bush admin let them do this after sacrificing US servicemen and servicewomen lives to ‘liberate’ Iraq?) There’s a few speeches of him on the page where he starts out with Dear or Fellow “comrades”.

I think they are going to win and get their global socialist utopia in the near future. Any chance they’d misuse all of the electronic surveillance tools and info they have on us? I don’t know but I did have a dream about a year ago where I was on the back of a military truck with a bunch of other civilians with two armed guards ‘guarding us” driving in the woods. We were one truck of many and the last thing I remember from that dream, a few armed guards up ahead were signaling the trucks to turn into a dirt road.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  kramer
October 2, 2018 3:05 pm

“(How could the Bush admin let them do this after sacrificing US servicemen and servicewomen lives to ‘liberate’ Iraq?)”

That’s a good question.

Another good question is why did Obama allow the Mad Mullahs of Iran to have such influence in Iraq? Did we win the war to turn it over to the Mad Mullahs of Iran?

October 2, 2018 2:40 pm

In 1968 the population of Syria was about six million, in 2012 it reached 22 million. In a country with mostly desert land apart from the coastal strip, this was disastrous. In addition the rise in food prices caused by the ethanol adventure, the inherent unstable political nature of Islamic States and a religious-political revolt against Assad’s regime created the present disaster. With all that going on the last thing that people would have noticed was a change in the weather.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
October 2, 2018 3:02 pm

The “ethanol adventure” did not impact food prices in Syria. Arabs generally do not use corn as a staple. The price of wheat is more relevant to the diet of the Syrian population.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
October 3, 2018 11:29 am

Also the oil price increase made subsidies on the diesel used to run farmers water pumps became too expensive for the government so they cut it. So no cheap diesel, no artesian water pumped and so no crops grown.

October 3, 2018 4:14 am

The Arab Spring was caused by the Muslim Brotherhood with the strong backing of elements within the Obama administration, the UK’s Tory government, and successive French governments.

Johann Wundersamer
October 5, 2018 1:35 am

wars can destroy empires.

At the same place new, better planned states emerge.

Only nature can destroy imperia in such a way that nothing remains of its culture.


%d bloggers like this: