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Holland in National Journal: What Syria Can Teach Us About War in the 21st Century

Holland in National Journal: What Syria Can Teach Us About War in the 21st Century

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I am featured on National Journal’s Energy Experts blog, a regular feature, curated by Amy Harder, that brings many of Washington’s leading voices on energy together to discuss energy and environmental issues.

In my post, I talk about how drought was an early, proximate cause of the Syrian civil war, saying:

There is convincing evidence that warmer temperatures in the Western Mediterranean region, caused by global climate change, made the drought worse and drove hundreds of thousands of people off their farms and into urban centers. When revolts elsewhere in the Arab world erupted in early 2011, Syria was already a tinderbox waiting for a spark.

Syria MapI go on to note that the Syrian civil war may be an unfortunate signifier of what war in the 21st Century may look like. I note that the 2008 National Intelligence Assessment of the impacts of climate change predicted many of the stressors that led to the Syrian civil war. However, our military and politicians are unable to have a rational debate about climate risk assessment because of the political debate about climate change, saying:

Political paralysis on climate policy in Congress and the government has poisoned any rational debate about the threats that climate change poses. So long as a large portion of our political system refuses to acknowledge the very existence of what could become an existential threat to security, we will not be able to debate rational risk-analysis. In the short-run, our military and intelligence community can do their best to prepare for and prevent the threats from climate change. In the long-run, however, Congress and the government will have to acknowledge that climate change is a threat to global stability (as we’re seeing in Syria) and hence to America’s national security, and we must address it head-on.


Read the whole piece, “What Syria Can Teach Us About War in the 21st Century” on the Energy Experts Blog. You can read more about climate security in our Climate Security Report.

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