Climate Change is a threat multiplier, and when you have an already stressed situation as you had in Syria, and then you add the extra stress caused by climate change, in this case the very prolonged drought that drove about a million and half people out of the rural areas in Syria into the cities, then you multiply that stress, and in this case it multiplied it to breaking point.
One of the things that Assad failed to do, as the drought got longer, was one, to manage his water resources effectively, and two, deal with the fact that it reduced food security for people, and as we saw in the Arab Spring, once people really feel their food security is threatened then life becomes very unstable indeed, which is what we have seen in Syria. So it’s not that climate change was the cause, but it was part of the build up of stresses that created the instability that Assad has been threatened by.
The existing stresses had been there for a very long time, the Assad regime had been managing to cope with and keep the lid on all the dissent inside Syria, right up until the point where the fourth year of drought drove millions of refugees into the cities, and led to the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Climate change is probably the most significant driver of massive migrations around the world, creating lots of tension particularly in places like the border between India and Bangladesh, where climate change and rising sea levels are already driving people out of Bangladesh and into India, in large numbers.
Population growth is beginning to peak, we are beginning to see a slow down, so it’s not now really the major driver of climate change. The really important driver is, that as people are becoming more affluent and using more energy, they are accelerating the pace at which the climate is changing, because energy is currently dominated by fossil fuels. So we need to get out of fossil fuels, as fast as we can, to slow down this process. If what we are seeing is in a sense the prelude to what a much warmer world would be like, if you don’t like this movie then you certainly won’t like the sequel.
I think we are beginning to go around a curve in which the level of political momentum has built up, the political risk of failing to act is growing, but the political risk of acting is reducing as the cost of renewable and of low-carbon alternatives goes down. We are beginning to see a change in the political equation. I think what Paris will do is accelerate us around that curve.