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By Andreas Malm.

This academic debate now has a testing ground where the stakes count in millions of human lives: Syria. In the years leading up to the outbreak of the 2011 revolution, that country reeled under an epochal drought. Sustaining the agriculture of the Mediterranean basin since time immemorial, a relatively stable regime of rainfall coming in from the sea between November and April abruptly gave way, in the 1970s, to a trend of ever more fickle precipitation and persistent drying.9 The worst effected corner was the Levant, particularly the area known as the Fertile Crescent, and particularly the part of it located in Syria. 1998 marked another shift toward semi-permanent Syrian drought, the severity of which, tree rings reveal, has no equivalent in the past 900 years.10 Not only have the winter rains failed, but the higher temperatures have also sped up evaporation in summertime, depleting groundwater and streams and parching the soil.11 There is no natural explanation for the trend. It can only be ascribed to the emissions of greenhouse gases.

The Syrian drought reached its highest peak of intensity so far in the years 2006-2010, when the sky stayed blue for longer than anyone could remember. The breadbasket of the northeastern provinces collapsed. Wheat and barley crops more than halved; by February 2010, nearly all livestock herds had been obliterated. In October of that year, the calamity reached the pages of the New York Times, whose reporter described how ‘hundreds of villages have been abandoned as farmlands turn to cracked desert and grazing animals die off. Sandstorms have become far more common, and vast tent cities of dispossessed farmers and their families have risen up around the larger towns and cities of Syria.’12 Estimates range between one and two million displaced farmers and herders. Fleeing the wastelands, they hunkered down on the outskirts of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Hama, joining the ranks of proletarians seeking to find a living from construction work, taxi-driving, or any other, mostly unavailable, job. But they were not alone in feeling the heat. Due to the drought, the marketplaces of the country exhibited one of the central vectors of climatic influence on popular livelihoods: doubling, tripling, uncontrollably spiking food prices.13

full: https://socialistproject.ca/2018/04/revolution-in-a-warming-world/
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