Global warming helped trigger Syria’s bloody civil war

[Watch for more of this kind of news in the coming years as anthropogenic climate change leads to more drought, weather disruption and food scarcity…]

by Andrew Freedman

Manmade global warming helped spark the brutal civil war in Syria by doubling to tripling the odds that a crippling drought in the Fertile Crescent would occur shortly before the fighting broke out, according to a groundbreaking new study published on March 2.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to attribute the drought in Syria in large part to global warming.

In doing so, it provides powerful evidence backing up the Pentagon and intelligence community’s assessments that climate change is likely to play the role of a “threat multiplier” in coming decades, pushing countries that are already vulnerable to upheaval over the edge and into open conflict.

Previous studies had shown that the drought, along with other factors such as an influx of refugees from the Iraq War next door, helped prime Syria for conflict by 2011, when the uprising began, before transitioning into an all-out civil war. Today, once-cosmopolitan Syria has been reduced to rubble, with the terrorist group known as ISIS taking over large swaths of territory.

At least 200,000 people are estimated to have died in this conflict so far.

A Syrian refugee woman is seen between a line of tents in a refugee camp near Azaz, north of Aleppo province, Syria, Sunday, Feb 17, 2013.

AP Photo / Manu Brabo

Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan may face an even more tenuous security situation in the coming decades.

The drought, which gripped the country between 2007 and 2010, forced 1.5 million farmers and herders in northeastern Syria to flee their lands and travel to urban areas in search of food and work.

This profound demographic shift helped further destabilize the country, the study says.

The study also found that much of the eastern Mediterranean, including Syria, parts of Turkey, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan — no bastions of stability today — may face an even more tenuous security situation in the coming decades as global warming increases temperatures and reduces rainfall throughout much of the region.

According to this study and others, global warming along with unsustainable water use is causing the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture and animal herding first began 12,000 years ago, to lose its fertility.

“This region is going to continue to get drier and continue to get hotter, so this is only a problem that is going to continue to get worse in that region,” says Colin Kelley, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Although the drought did not directly cause the war and subsequent rise of ISIS, which the U.S. and its allies are combating using military force, it formed a significant part in the cascading series of events that led to the deadly Syrian conflict.

Government policies that encouraged the unsustainable use of water resources and provided inadequate aid to displaced persons, among other factors, also ratcheted up Syria’s vulnerability to conflict around the time of the drought.

“We would not say and did not even attempt to say that the uprising was caused by climate change,” Kelley says. Rather, the drought was one in a chain of events that led to the breakout of hostilities.

“[Syria’s] vulnerability was so acute that all it took was something to push them over the edge,” he said in an interview.

Kelley says the drought set in motion a series of events that wound up sparking one of the deadliest conflicts of the 21st century to date. “A lot of these farming communities abandoned their villages and went to the cities at the same time that Iraqi refugees were coming in,” Kelley says.

“There was a very big population shock to these urban areas.”

Urban areas in Syria saw a population jump of 50% between 2002 to 2010, from 8.9 million to 13.8 million, as a result of refugees fleeing fighting in Iraq as well as those who were abandoning their land in northeastern Syria.

“That’s a tremendous increase in people to these urban areas over this period,” Kelley told Mashable. “It’s not at all surprising that the uprising happened shortly after this.”

Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Laboratory in New York and a co-author of the study, told Mashable that farmers were prepared to cope with a one-to-two-year dry spell, but three years exceeded their ability to cope.

“The length and severity of this drought [that was] made more likely by human climate change was absolutely key in driving the agricultural community toward a threshold where they had no other opportunity but to pick up and leave,” Seager says.

Arctic Methane Release and Global Warming: Is anybody listening?

Excerpts from Methane Release and Global Warming

Global Research, July 30, 2013
… the “release of methane from thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea” would come with an “average global price tag of $60 trillion.” The news should have sent a shock wave through the media. But instead, predictably, the public were encouraged to celebrate—again and again, and again—the birth of the royal son.

Shakhova–Semiletov and Whiteman–Hope–Wadhams Studies

During the 1990s Russian scientist Dr. Natalia Shakhova had done studies of methane release from terrestrial permafrost in Eastern Siberia. In the fall of 2003, Shakhova and her colleague Dr. Igor Semiletov took the study offshore—to the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Every year since then, they conducted annual research trips, mostly on ships during summer, but also one aerial survey in 2006, and one winter expedition on sea ice in April 2007. They published their findings in the 5 March 2010 issue of the journal Science.

Methane release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation.

Their research, for the first time, brought attention to the East Siberian Arctic Shelf as a key reservoir of Arctic methane that “encompasses more than 2 million square kilometers of seafloor in the Arctic Ocean,” and is “more than three times as large as the nearby Siberian wetlands” that was previously “considered the primary Northern Hemisphere source of atmospheric methane.” Their findings showed that the “permafrost under the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, long thought to be an impermeable barrier sealing in methane, is perforated and is starting to leak large amounts of methane into the atmosphere.” Shakhova pointed out that the current average methane concentrations in the Arctic is “about 1.85 parts per million, the highest in 400,000 years.”

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf is shallow, only about 164 feet in depth, which means that the methane that is getting released there, most of it is escaping into the atmosphere rather than getting absorbed into the water, which would have been the case if it was a deep seabed. Shakhova had warned at the time that the release of “even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”

Shakhova and Semiletov now hold joint appointments with the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the Pacific Oceanological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Their research is ongoing, and Shakhova is the lead scientist for the Russia–US Methane Study.

I pointed out earlier that the rapid loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is a key contributor to—thawing of terrestrial permafrost. It is also a key contributor to—thawing of the subsea permafrost in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

With all these background information, I’m finally ready to discuss the Whiteman–Hope–Wadhams study.

Arctic nations, including US, Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, as well as some non–Arctic nations, including China and India—are eyeing on the Arctic Economic Prize: “oil and gas” underneath the Arctic seabed. It is estimated that the Arctic Ocean contains 13 percent of undiscovered oil and 30 percent of undiscovered gas. These nations are also working to open up the Arctic sea route for moving all that crude around. It’s a great irony that the rapid melting of the summer sea ice is making the Arctic Ocean accessible for extraction and shipping.

Whiteman, Hope, and Wadhams point out that this frenzy for short–term profit is ignoring the long–term huge “economic impacts of a warming Arctic.” By using modeling they tried to understand the global economic impact of methane release from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

Referring to the Shakhova–Semiletov study, Whiteman, Hope, and Wadhams write: “A 50–gigatonne (Gt) reservoir of methane, stored in the form of hydrates, exists on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. It is likely to be emitted as the seabed warms, either steadily over 50 years or suddenly.” They use “a decade–long pulse of 50 Gt of methane, released into the atmosphere between 2015 and 2025” as input to the PAGE09 economic model. They took into account “sea–level changes, economic and non–economic sectors and discontinuities such as the melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets.” They ran the model 10,000 times under two emissions scenarios: low–emissions and business–as–usual emissions. The result is a shocker: a $60 trillion price tag for the global economy.

That’s just the beginning, because there is much more methane in the Arctic than what is in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Furthermore, Whiteman, Hope, and Wadhams write, “The full impacts of a warming Arctic, including, for example, ocean acidification and altered ocean and atmospheric circulation, will be much greater than our cost estimate for methane release alone.”

“The economic consequences will be distributed around the globe, but the modeling shows that about 80 percent of them will occur in the poorer economies of Africa, Asia and South America,” Whiteman, Hope, and Wadhams write. The $60 trillion number is astounding, beyond the comprehension of most human minds. It has the capacity to cripple the economy of many small nations, that are already stressed from global economic crises. This is what I’d call—economic dystopia. …

Florida Reinstates Bear Hunting Season

To Curb Bear Population, Florida Reinstates Hunting Season

February 28, 2015

For the first time in two decades, Florida officials have scheduled a bear hunting season. It’s a response to a rise in bear attacks — but it has some environmentalists upset.

Experts say there’s plenty of room for humans and black bears to co-exist, but the smell of food is pulling the animals out of the woods and into neighborhoods.

If you want to understand the situation, take a trip to Franklin County, in the pandhandle. A few months ago, a bear attacked a teenager there while she walked her dog near a convenience store.


Kaitlin Goode, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, explains that garbage — strewn through the woods and across the road at a recycling center for appliances — is part of the problem. She says bears can’t help but drag tasty things back into the woods.

“These communities are backed right up to the forest, and it’s just a bear pump,” Goode says. The bears are flourishing in the woods, she says, “and they smell this. They might be in the middle of the woods, but they can smell this.”

Bears are making a comeback in the panhandle — where it’s mostly forest — and in the rest of Florida. In 2002 when the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, did its last population count, there were about 3,000 bears. Now they’re counting again.

Thomas Eason, the state director of Habitat Species Coordination at the FWC, says he expects the population to have grown significantly because of increased bear sightings.

“As you get more bears, particularly with more people, you start having more and more negative interactions,” he says. “And so, finding that balance point that we call cultural carrying capacity is important.”

To reduce human-bear conflicts, FWC wants new feeding rules and more bear-proof trash cans. Hunting is part of the plan, too.

The state hunt isn’t finalized and won’t be until the fall, but environmentalists are still upset. Kate MacFall of the Humane Society of the United States, says there’s no evidence a hunt will help.

“It’s a recreational activity that a small percentage of the population wants to do,” she says. “But in terms of decreasing human-bear conflicts, there is no science that supports that.”

MacFall says if wildlife officials want to reduce bear attacks, they need to focus on getting people to stop feeding bears — whether through intentional feeding or letting the animals go through the trash.

If none of these solutions work, the bears could be moved.

Caster is a 20-year-old black bear who lives at the Tallahassee Museum. During the fall, the bear needs to consume more than 15,000 calories daily. Mike Jones, an animal curator at the museum, says that drive for food is what landed Caster there.

“He started going to everybody’s houses and going in garages,” he says. “So the Fish and Wildlife Service relocated him and moved him about 150 miles away into a big swamp area.”

But Caster couldn’t stay away from people so officials moved him to a zoo.

He’s lucky. Last year, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials had to kill almost 50 bears that had started to associate humans with food.


Michigan DNR appeals ruling that put grey wolves back on federal endangered species list

Featured Image -- 7624

By Jonathan Oosting

LANSING, MI — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Friday announced that it is appealing a recent federal ruling that returned the state’s grey wolves to the endangered species list.

The ruling, issued by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in December, reinstated federal protections for wolves in Michigan and other Great Lakes states that had been removed in 2012, effectively blocking local control efforts.

“Returning wolf management to wildlife professionals in the state of Michigan is critical to retaining a recovered, healthy, and socially-accepted wolf population in our state,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh said in a statement.

“Michigan residents who live with wolves deserve to have a full range of tools available to sustainably manage that population.”

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to slightly more than 600 wolves, up from just six in the 1970s. The DNR has advocated for stronger management and backed the state’s first ever wolf hunt in 2013 as a means to reduce conflicts with livestock and comfort levels around humans.

Michigan’s grey wolf population has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, with the state’s Republican-led Legislature approving two separate hunting laws that were rejected by voters. But a third wolf hunt law, initiated by a petition drive and approved by lawmakers, cannot be overturned via referendum.

Animal rights groups, energized by the December ruling that reinstated federal protections, argue that hunting seasons in Michigan and other Great Lakes states have jeopardized the wolf recovery.

Jill Fritz, state director of the Humane Society of the United States and the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected coalition, said she was not surprised by the DNR’s appeal but “baffled” by the logic.

“I’m curious how having a wolf hunt — and that’s exactly what they want to do — would help retain a quote ‘recovered, healthy, and socially-accepted wolf population,'” she said. “I cannot make any sense of any part of that sentence.”

HSUS and allies have asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “downlist” Great Lakes wolves, reclassifying them as a threatened species rather than an endangered one, which would give the state flexibility to kill or remove nuisance wolves.

Livestock attacks have been an issue for some farmers in the U.P. As MLive previously reported, there were 35 wolf attacks on livestock or dogs in Michigan last year, up from 20 in 2013 but lower than the 41 in 2012.

DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason, in a statement, called Michigan’s wolf recovery a “great success story” but said the endangered status “leaves farmers and others with no immediate recourse when their animals are being attacked and killed.”

Horrific Photograph Shows True Nature of Wisconsin “Sportsmen”

Originally posted on Our Wisconsin, Our Wildlife:

There is a new photograph making the rounds on the internet showing a Wisconsin wolf killer posing with a dead wolf and a live one in a trap in the background. I was forwarded this today along with the caption apparently written by the wolf killer on one of the wildlife snuff sites.

The true Wisconsin "sportsmen." The true Wisconsin “sportsman.”

“Cought (it wouldn’t be a wolf hater without poor grammar) these two yesterday just in time
Before the wolf quota was filled. I believe it was
The mother and her pup but I’m not positive.
I missed two wolves the day before at this same location
So I re arranged where I place the lure, urine and stepping
Sticks and it paid off. “

This is your “sportsman” Wisconsin. Be proud. Remind you of anyone?

Idaho wolf killer Josh Bransford in 2012. Idaho wolf killer Josh Bransford in 2012.

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Protect WA Cougars from Trophy Hunters

A terrible bill has been introduced that will allow for the expanded hound hunting of cougars. This cruel and unsporting practice was rightfully outlawed by voters in 1996.

Under this proposal, counties can authorize a hound hunt based on public safety complaints of cougar sightings. The existing law already allows for citizens to protect themselves if they feel threatened by a cougar. Despite the fact that seeing a cougar does not constitute a threat and cougar kittens are extremely vulnerable to attacks by packs of dogs, proponents of the bill want to bring back the trophy hunting of cougars with hounds. This program was in place from 2004 until 2011, and resulted in widespread, guided recreational hound hunts offered by hunting clubs throughout eastern Washington.

Please call your state senator today to stop this dangerous proposal. Look up your legislator’s phone number. You can say: “I am a constituent, and I am calling to ask you to please oppose SB 5940.”

After making your call (please do not skip that crucial step!), fill in and submit the form below to send a follow-up message. Legislators receive a lot of email; be sure to edit your message so it stands out. 

Coast Guard Cutter Alert rescues sea turtles

February 26, 2015

Alert’s rescue diver, Seaman Brandon Groshens, cuts away the netting to free the sea turtles.

The second sea turtle swims away unharmed after being freed from the netting by SN Brandon Groshens.



The Alert, a Coast Guard cutter homeported in Astoria, encountered the struggling turtles while on patrol Feb. 10 in the eastern Pacific

Two sea turtles caught in fishing net were freed earlier this month by a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

The Alert, a Coast Guard cutter homeported in Astoria, encountered the struggling turtles while on patrol Feb. 10 in the eastern Pacific, according to a statement from the guard.

The cutter’s bridge watch team flagged plastic containers used as buoys floating in the water and then saw the two entangled turtles.

“Jumping into the ocean to free a couple of sea turtles is not something you wake up in the morning expecting to do” Seaman Brandon Groshens, Pendleton, said in a statement. “It was a really great feeling as they swam away, knowing that we just saved their lives.”

Commander Brian Anderson, the Alert’s commanding officer, said he was “especially proud of my diligent watch standers, and how the crew quickly came together in performing their good deed for the day.”

Killing Echo: The “Mistaken Identity” Excuse, Part One

Originally posted on Howling For Justice:

Echo Grand-Canyon NPS

Echo (Courtesy NPS)

February 27, 2015

It’s been a little over two months since Echo was shot dead by a coyote “hunter”. Her identity was confirmed by DNA analysis of her recovered scat, since she evaded all attempts of capture, making her one smart little wolf. I think Echo should have been called Miracle because it certainly was a miracle she managed to traverse the kill zone of the Northern Rockies and make it to the Grandest of all Canyons. She was the first wolf to set paw there in 70 years. Unfortunately she was not able to evade a bullet and so what could have been a new chapter in wolf recovery turned out to be a sad tale of loss. And the loss was huge. Echo defied the odds. She defied the USFWS who repeatedly said, no gray wolves in  Grand Canyon National Park. But Echo made it…

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50 Renowned Scientists Send Letter To Congress Urging “LEAVE WOLVES ALONE”

Originally posted on Howling For Justice:

Wolf Puppy Wayne Pacelle Stock Photo

“Increasingly, Americans recognize the wide range of economic and ecological benefits that wolves bring.Photo: Stockphoto”


Pack of Scientists Urges Congress to Leave Wolves, ESA Alone

February 18, 2015

A Humane Nation

Wayne Pacele’s Blog

Today, more than 50 world-renowned wildlife biologists and scientists, many of whom have devoted their entire professional careers toward understanding the social and biological issues surrounding wolves in North America, sent a letter to Congress urging members to oppose any efforts to strip federal protections for wolves in the contiguous 48 states. If Congress were to take this adverse action, according to these scientists, it would upend two recent federal court rulings, which criticized the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for distorting the “plain meaning” of the standards of the Endangered Species Act and admonished several state wildlife agencies for conducting overreaching and dangerous trophy hunting and trapping programs upon federal delisting.

The scientists…

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