Global insecurity and refugee crisis linked to climate change - expert

by Thomson Reuters Foundation | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 26 August 2015 04:45 GMT

Syrian refugees from Kobani walk at the port of Kos following a rescue opperation off the Greek island of Kos August 10, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

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Syria's record drought wreaked havoc on farming, spurring exodus of jobless people into urban areas and intensifying anti-Assad sentiment

By Chris Arsenault

TORONTO, Aug 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Climate change is "adding fuel to the fire" of worsening political instability and unrest around the world, an expert told a security forum.

"We are experiencing a surprising uptick in global insecurity... partially due to our inability to manage climate stress," Columbia University professor Marc Levy, who conducts studies for U.S. government agencies, said on Tuesday at the Global Security Initiative, a research body in Arizona.

Ongoing violence in Syria, for example, is connected with climate change, Levy said.

A record drought in Syria from 2006 to 2010 wreaked havoc on agriculture, spurring an exodus of unemployed rural residents into urban areas and intensifying dissatisfaction with the government.

Refugees fleeing conflict and violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan are now streaming into Europe.

"Some of those migrants are fleeing areas that are hard to live in because of climate stress," he said, adding that global warming is just one of many factors contributing to the recent refugee crisis.

Nations grappling with climate change will be "tempted" to pursue policies that benefit themselves in the short term but make others worse off, he said.

Russia banned grain exports following a heat wave in 2010, benefiting domestic consumers, but causing a supply crunch, rising prices and hunger in other regions.

"Countries are buying up long-term access to farmland in sub-Saharan Africa," Levy said. "It's good for their food security, but it's creating problems" for African consumers and small landholders.

(Reporting By Chris Arsenault, editing by Alisa Tang; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

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