Syria: Vision of Mankind’s Future?

February 26, 2014



It is a vision of unimaginable desolation: a crowd of men, women and children stretching as far as the eye can see into the war-devastated landscape of Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus.

A photograph released on Wednesday by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, shows the scene when thousands of desperate Palestinians trapped inside the camp on the edge of the Syrian capital emerged to besiege aid workers attempting to distribute food parcels.

More than 18,000 people are existing under blockade inside Yarmouk, enduring acute shortages of food, medicines and other essentials. Much of the camp has been destroyed by shelling, and attempts to deliver aid to those inside have been hampered by continued fighting in Syria’s three-year-old civil war.


SAN FRANCISCO — Drought was a key factor contributing to unrest and civil war in Syria, and the severity of the drought was probably a result of human-caused climate change, new research presented here Monday (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union suggests.

The study analysis suggests that the drought was too severe to be simply a result of natural variability in precipitation.

“We don’t have any observed evidence to support a 100-year trend in precipitation that we would prescribe as being natural,” said study co-author Colin Kelley, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Santa Barbara. “We can only assume that the trend is anthropogenic.”

Kelley and his colleagues got started on their work because of an op-ed by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman about the Arab Spring uprising in several Middle Eastern countries.

“He was making the case that in each case there was an overlooked environmental stress that was important,” Kelley told LiveScience.

Past reports had suggested that Syria’s breadbasket had experienced a severe three- to five-year drought in the years preceding the Syrian civil war. To assess the drought’s severity, Kelley and his colleagues looked at rainfall patterns for the region going back 100 years. They found that in the years leading up to the civil war, the region had a historically rare three-year drought. From 2002 to 2008, about 1.5 million rural farmers escaping the countryside flooded the cities. [5 Surprising Cultural Facts About Syria]

“There was already considerable water instability even before this drought happened,” Kelley said. “We think of it as the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Human-caused climate change?

The team also used a statistical analysis to see whether the drought could be explained by natural climate variability. The researchers looked at more than 100 years of changes in rainfall and sea level pressure in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea — high air pressure over the body of water is a measure of potential drought because most of Syria’s rainfall comes from that area, and the higher sea level pressure prevents precipitation from forming over the water.

The team found that it was highly unlikely that natural variations in climate could have caused severe drought for so many years in a row, but that human-caused climate change made it much more likely.

If that’s the case, then the Syrian civil war may have at least been partly precipitated by human- caused climate changes (though many other factors contributed as well). And climate models suggest that drought will worsen in the Middle East in the years to come.

US Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review 2010:

Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.

While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas. In some nations, the military is the only institution with the capacity to respond to a large-scale natural disaster.

Los Angeles, in the year 2154, as depicted in the Cli-Fi movie Elysium.

Los Angeles, in the year 2154, as depicted in the Cli-Fi movie Elysium.


52 Responses to “Syria: Vision of Mankind’s Future?”

  1. rayduray Says:

    California Update:

    The skies are about to open up. Round Two of the 2014 Pineapple Express. Dr. Jeff Masters has the details on his blog.

    And for you climate bluffs, here’s a tufa-riffic little video about Mono Lake.

  2. rayduray Says:

    dumboldguy? You der?

    We seem to have run out of “reply” buttons above, so consider this a continuation of some Tea Party bashing we commenced earlier.

    Here’s one of my favorites from the 2008 campaign cycle. Reviewing this I see all the themes that have come about regarding Obama’s genetics and the incapacity of whitey to think. All were on full display the year before the Tea Party phenomenon got kicked off with such top-down appreciation by the likes of Sean Hannity and the other swinish bores who infest “conservative” media.

    Title: “Why Whitey Can’t Vote” (from the final failing days of the McCain-Palin campaign)

    • dumboldguy Says:

      This is great stuff. These people DO exist. I’ve met many and you can see many more in those Left Wing Media Youtube slips I referenced. (Did you go to them and seek out the “big” lady in the lawn chair. A case CAN be made for not letting them vote, although how we’d organize that is hard to see.

      PS The guy to the right in the opening frames is a perfect “poster child”. Talk about the inbred. He also looks like the guy holding the “moran” sign in the iconic pic.

  3. rayduray Says:

    And now…. for your moment of Keystone appreciation.

  4. redskylite Says:

    That photo featured in this article is iconic, monumental and truly moving, the sight of a city in ruins and crowds of people, who just need the basics of life to exist, that is food and shelter.

    The last time I was moved by crowds was at the end of operation desert storm, when the US and allies booted Saddam out of occupied Kuwait. The crowds of Kuwaitis then were happy and cheering, waving national flags, the spirit good at regaining their stolen lands. I was glad that the US came to the rescue and did the right thing and righted a wrong.

    When the US army had left the Arab country I was in, many Humvees suddenly appeared being driven by the wealthier young Arab citizens. I often wonder if Sgt. Bilko had served in that operation ?

    • rayduray Says:


      You wrote: The last time I was moved by crowds was at the end of operation desert storm, when the US and allies booted Saddam out of occupied Kuwait. The crowds of Kuwaitis then were happy and cheering, waving national flags, the spirit good at regaining their stolen lands. I was glad that the US came to the rescue and did the right thing and righted a wrong.

      It wasn’t until I’d retired from business that I had the time to investigate the Gulf War of 1990-1. By that time, around 2001 for me, the story of what actually happened in the battle to take back Kuwait was pretty well analyzed by people who were more interested in the truth than in propagandizing the American public.

      1) Saddam Hussein was stabbed in the back by the U.S. Ambassador, April Glaspie in the weeks preceding his decision to punish Kuwait for stealing oil from the joint Iraq-Kuwait Rumailia Oil Field. Yes, it was well known to George H.W. Bush that the Emir of Kuwait was stealing oil. Hell, we were selling the slant drilling equipment to make it possible. When Hussein asked Glaspie what the U.S. would think of Hussein attempting to put a stop to the theft, Glaspie responded that the U.S. has “no opinion on Arab on Arab conflict”, in effect giving Hussein the green light to take punitive action against the thieving emir. And as soon as Hussein took action, George H.W. Bush betrayed Hussein in a calculated and cold-blooded imperialist show of force.

      2) In order to “sell” the Gulf War to the benighted American public who knew nothing of the slant drilling or the duplicity of Glaspie and Bush, one element was the arrangement of Congressional hearings on “babies being thrown out of incubators” in Kuwait City with the incubators being then taken to Iraq. The only problem with the story was that it was a complete and utter fraud. The candy-stripper who cried her crocodile tears in the Congressional hearings was not a girl working in the hospitals in Kuwait. She was, in fact, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. who had been coached in her fraudulent testimony by the PR firm of Hill & Knowlton.

      3) Those wonderful images that you saw of the victory lap the U.S. military coming through Kuwait City led by the Kuwaiti Army was provided courtesy of the American PR firm of John Rendon & Assoc. It was Rendon who conceived of the hiring of crowds of Kuwaitis who were given American flags to wave. It was Rendon who arranged for the state-of-the-art video to be made available to U.S. corporate media. It was Rendon who conceived of the “slant” of the news. All of it staged for the propaganda effect it would have on nightly news here in the U.S., convincing a naive public that we were the saviors of an innocent victim, i.e. Kuwait. None of this was true.

      In brief, the whole damn thing was a sham, a fraud, a really bitter joke being played on Saddam Hussein, who got suckered by a Washington that was far more devious than he could ever imagine being himself. Hussein should have been more worldly. After all, he was a hired thug for the CIA in 1959 in a failed coup attempt against the King of Iraq. Why Hussein would ever trust Americans to tell the truth puzzles me to this day.

      And why the American public are still so easily deceived by Washington and the Mighty Wurlitzer of media propaganda they are fed every day still has me baffled, flummoxed and grumpy at various times.

      The Mighty Wurlitzer, or Operation Mockingbird was a CIA plot hatched in the 1950s to deceive the American public. It’s never been rescinded or ended, in spite of many attempts to get the damn govmint to stop lying to us.

      Selling the Gulf War:

      Operation Mockingbird:

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Poor grumpy, puzzled, baffled, and flummoxed Ray.

        Hussein may have trusted Americans because we were his best buddies when he was fighting the Iranians, and he was basking in the afterglow?

        And weren’t you the guy that said “Read Smedley Butler”? The U.S may not have been at the imperialistic screw-the-world-for-profit game as long as the Europeans, but we learned fast.

        And the American Public? As my favorite USMC graffiti from Iraq said, “The USMC is here fighting for America. Where is America? At the Mall. Shopping”.

      • redskylite Says:

        When I move to work with the U.S Corp of Engineers in the Middle East – there were many Iraqis living around the camp, many had fled to avoid conscription and war with Iran, much like some US young moving to Canada during a much earlier conflict. They were afraid/terrified of the regime, they dared not speak, afraid of spies and consequences. They were good people. My view is that Kuwait was a victim of occupation, and the US did a good job and I thank them on behalf of the disposed. I worked with many ethnics in the middle east, Palestinians, Bangladesh, Indians, Chinese, Koreans, British, US, French, Dutch, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Sri Lankans – what I realised is not the difference but how similar we all are, especially under crisis. (scud missiles lobbed at you and the like).

        • redskylite Says:

          dispossessed not disposed – damn this spell checker

        • rayduray Says:


          I’m trying to piece your story together. You were in the Army in the 1980s in the Corps of Engineers? Have I got that right?

          You worked with a lot of labor from a variety of backgrounds. Did it ever grind on your soul that the Dutch engineer could be a $100,000 per year guy while the Bangladeshi with equal intellect could command no more than $1,000 per year?

          I enjoyed my time in the well-remunerated construction industries in Alaska in the 1980s and California in the 1990s. Times were good. Then NAFTA struck and we got screwed. The financiers won. The working people got shafted. NAFTA? We’re here to shaft ya.

          So it goes.

          I’ve been having a sick enjoyment of the PBS series “Super Skyscraper”. The latest episode was about One57, the new super-address on Manhattan Island. (Tawk about $24 beads, oy vey!) The whole series is sort of sickening. At One57 the people who are constructing it are union men (and a few women, oddballs all) and not one of them can live in the building. It costs too much. The developer is ethnic Chinese. The clients are Russian oligarchs, Saudi princes and fast money people from everywhere Real people? Honest people? They need not apply.

          Honest people can’t afford to live in our rich bitch ghettoes.

          What a mess we are creating.

          I’m sure you witnessed the same in Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain. Fly Emirates, mofo!

          • redskylite Says:

            No I was not in the army and I am not a US citizen, I worked as a civilian and lived in a US Army COE, near Hafar Al Batin. I got to know many Iraqis well and believe I have a practical insight to their life in those times. It differs greatly from the stuff you are writing. It is not a story and I do not have to explain myself to you.

  5. climatebob Says:

    There have been a lot of revolutions in the last five years where people who have had tyrannical and unjust regimes have simply got fed up and started a revolt. Civil war is a very divisive thing for any nation and it takes years to get over the turmoil and tragedy but hopefully when the majority get a stable government and can get on with their lives it will lead to a more equitable and fair nation and lifestyle.
    Its not working out for Syria yet but Tunisia, who were the first, is beginning to settle down. If the Ukraine people get to join the EU the next one one the block will be Belarus.

      • rayduray Says:

        Re: “It getting complicated seems Russia have sent troops to the Crimea, looking to get very ugly there:”

        One of the hallmarks of high human intelligence is the ability to understand your enemy’s thinking process.

        For instance, I see Vladimir Putin and the Russian military high command asserting a right to a territory the Russian military conquered when Catherine the Great was on the throne. The year was 1783. That is well over 300 years ago.

        In 1974, in a fit of geo-strategic flightiness, Nikita Khrushchev has a weak moment and deeded Crimea to Ukraine. This was dumb. But, in those times it was a friendly gesture.

        So I ask you, as a U.S. Army fan, what is so ugly about a landlord asserting his rights to territory? You do recall that when a bunch of lunatics tried to bolt and leave the U.S.A. in 1860 that the U.S. Army was called upon to bring those Southern rebels to heel.

        Isn’t what Putin is doing today pretty much exactly what Lincoln, Grant and the U.S. Army did to the South in the 1860s?

        Yes, the American Civil War was ugly. It was the one decade throughout the 19th Century when the Russian Empire outpaced us in territorial acquisitions!

        That’s the ugly truth!

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Not as ugly as the Keller “portrait” showing a certain peace activist “posed” outside of the Environmental Center in downtown, Bend, Oregon. I speak of the sculpture, of course, although the “peace activist” will never be mistaken for Paul Newman.

    • rayduray Says:

      Hi bob,

      Re: “There have been a lot of revolutions in the last five years where people who have had tyrannical and unjust regimes have simply got fed up and started a revolt.”

      I’m pretty much a student of revolution. I recall, fondly, actually, being in lecture hall on the University of Wisconsin campus in 1970 where I was listening to the absolutely brilliant Dr. Harvey Goldberg lecturing on Revolution:

      While we were in the lecture hall, our compatriots were getting gassed, getting clubbed and getting the hell kicked out of them by Dane County Sheriff’s Deputies outside our lecture hall. The Madison Police were considered too even-handed by the powers-that-be and the crowd on the street that day was to be made an example of, much like what has happened recently with the Occupy movement.

      The U.S. government lives in absolute fear of a Left uprising in this nation and goes to shocking extremes to make sure the Left is completely impotent in the U.S.

      Which is by way of introduction to my comments on you claim that “there have been a lot of revolutions in the past five years”.

      Bollox. Nonsense. Historical revisionism if you’re a liar, and a damn fool notion if you are an honest man.

      Here’s the scorecard:

      Within the past decade there have been “color revolutions” on Russia’s near abroad and in the Arab world. See:

      What do they all have in common? Funded by right wing corporate forces in the U.S. Aimed at lower standards of living. Generally involving privileged youth who are greedy. Please see who is fomenting a rebellion in Venezuela today. It is the children of the Mercedes-Benz dealers.

      Investigate U.S. NED, the National Endowment for Democracy. It’s a fraud. It’s a conduit for U.S. secret government money to flow into things like the recent feast of food and finance for the crowd who took over Maidan Square in Kiev. The CIA paid for that party, eh? You getting the picture here?

      So, in the past five years.

      Tunisia: Perhaps the most pure and chaste example of a people getting rid of a corrupt Ben Ali family and sharing the country’s pie more evenly. But do not discount the role of French businessmen who have re-established commercial ties that do no good for the people of Tunisia, but which line their own pockets.

      Egypt: The liberal secular Left clearly got the ball rolling and lost control of the game. The military never lost control of the situation, no matter what the media told you. The military is in bed with the Pentagon.

      Libya: Painted as a madman, Muammar Gaddafi wrote the “Green Book”, a sort of Napoleanic constitution by which he created a Great Society (a la LBJ) in Libya from 1969 until he was deposed a couple years ago by extreme right wing, tribal morons who couldn’t write a Constitution if their life depended on it. The country, weak as it is, is now ripe for Anglo-American corporate exploitatino. This is not the description of a Revolution. This is the description of a surreptitious Counter-Revolution.

      Venezuela: The U.S. continues to pour billions into de-stabilizing and fucking up Venezuela in every secret police way they know how. Another Counter-Revolution.

      Ukraine: NATO and the Pentagon have been scheming since the end of WW II how to screw the commies in Russia. The most recent putsch is another Counter-Revolution with many extreme right wing elements conspiring to overthrow a democratically elected government. One element to keep in mind is that Yulia Timoshenko has been released from prison and she is consolidating her support for a run at the Presidency. Timoshenko is the ultimate opportunist and cares not one whit for the welfare of her people. Her record is clear. In the tumultuous 1990s when free-wheeling oligarchs were being created by run-amok capitalism (Forbes Magazine is an example of this insanity), Ms. Timoshenko created a billion dollar fortune for herself out of natural gas trading. While her fellow Ukrainians were starving in the cold, cold dark.

      Ukraine is but another example of a Counter-Revolution funded surreptitiously by the CIA and its evil spawn which has been all to successful among the dullards of this world.

      Revolutions in the past five years that have succeeded? I see zero.

  6. astrostevo Says:

    “Syria: Vision of Mankind’s Future?”

    Ye-non-existent-gods! I really, *really* hope not.

    To the Syrians .. my condolences.

    The world drives me to despair sometimes. Hate to think what it does to those from places like that.

  7. astrostevo Says:

    Ukraine and what’s happening there is a whole ‘nother issue again.

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