Go read this


It’s a clear, simple explanation for why we’re seeing all these refugees erupting out of Syria: a combination of disruptive climate change and tyranny.

syriastressor

Comments

  1. M'thew says

    Hey, Bjørn Lomborg! Did you hear this? Quick, tell us some more about what a scam climate change is. Maybe then the conflict in the Middle East will die down, because it’s not caused by something that you say is not real, and European civilization will be saved from being overrun by those evil Muslims the refugees from Syria.

    That should be worth a Nobel Prize or two! One for sciency things and one for peacy things! Hurry!

  2. karmacat says

    The US military is very much aware of climate change and how it will affect world security. But people are stupidly more worried about Jade Helm

  3. Broken Things says

    @karmacat
    I’m surprised the Republicans haven’t forbidden them from including climate change in their planning.

    Every morning I wake up in a world in which people starve to death, are shot or otherwise butchered, wrongly imprisoned or some other victim of man’s imhumanity to man. And every morning I wake up in a country (and a state, North Carolina) where our putative leaders spend the day denying that these problems exist and simultaneously and actively making them worse. The only emotion I can feel anymore is rage. All other feelings seem inadequate to the problem.

  4. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    @karmacat #4:

    Most of the DOD’s combatant commands are starting to develop plans for how climate change will affect future missions and how it will likely effect future humanitarian crises.

    Unfortunately, peacekeeping has never been the Pentagon’s strong suit. More often then not the goals are vague; the US military views American troops under foreign command as heresy; and local populations, for obvious reasons, rarely welcome foreign combat troops with open arms. Worse, the US has a long history of abandoning groups it was once tasked with helping, sometimes repeatedly.

    A tragic example of this is Somalia, where the US carried out Operation Restore Hope (among others) in the early 1990s as part of a UN task force. The task force was in response to a growing starvation crisis from a combination of drought and an ongoing civil war that was collapsing the country into anarchy. Various warlords and armed groups ruled parts of the country but were never fully disarmed, much less disbanded.

    Americans may know a little of this from Black Hawk Down, because eighteen US troops were killed in October 1993, including some whose bodies were dragged through the streets and broadcast on TV. As tragic as that is, more Pakastani troops were killed, and hundreds of Somalis were likely killed in the same battle. The US responded by drawing down its military presence and eventually leaving the country and seemingly having less interest in Africa militarily for much of the decade. The Rwandan genocide occurred less than a year later and the US intervened belatedly and tepidly (though it has recently been revealed that it already been working on getting out of peacekeeping operations before the Somali battle).

  5. AlexanderZ says

    Broken Things #5

    I’m surprised the Republicans haven’t forbidden them from including climate change in their planning.

    They have:
    House Directs Pentagon To Ignore Climate Change

    The House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill on Thursday that would bar the Department of Defense from using funds to assess climate change and its implications for national security.

    “This amendment will prohibit the costs of the President’s climate change policies being forced on the Department of Defense by the Obama Administration,” wrote McKinley in a memo to House colleagues on Thursday that was obtained by The Huffington Post. “The climate is obviously changing; it has always been changing. With all the unrest around the [world], why should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?”

  6. AlexanderZ says

    Nick Gotts #8

    Do you not understand that most events have complex, interacting causes?

    I do. I’m not sure that PZ understands that*.

    *that – only refers to politics outside of US.

  7. diotima says

    Here’s another point of view on an influential factor in this massive migration. The great migration will be with us for decades.
    The article is in the Daily Telegraph, a British (ex)-quality broadsheet often known as The Torygraph, and I present it only for info, not as necessarily agreeing with its views. This is the link to the organisation producing this study: Center for Global Development.
    I know the USA has many of these organisations, many of them sounding as if they’re reasonable sane people while actually being rabid rightwing homicidal maniacs. I don’t know what kind this organisation is.
    It’s a perspective I haven’t heard mentioned on what passes for news programmes in UK. I do notice that in the last 48 hours the BBC has adopted a very biased, dishonest reporting style, in describing all migrants as refugees when very few of them, so far, have that legal status. On watching the news reports from Hungary, it strikes me that the migrants I’m watching are desperate to live in our liberal democracies, preferably Germany, because we have freedom, which based on the rule of law, the same law for everyone, while being unwilling to submit to the very laws that are the way to asylum, or at least a three-year temporary refuge in Germany. Hungary, at least, is following EU law, it’s pretty clear that Angela Merkel is not; EU law conflicts with elements of Germany’s constitution, and from what I understand from people who know this stuff, EU law has precedence. Germany’s parliament is to weak to say to Chancellor Merkel “You cannot do this arbitrarily”.
    I do think David Cameron’s position. at the time of writing this, is the correct one. This government is destroying the social fabric of my country and many of my friends are thinking as I am – yes, take in genuine refugees, but take account of the resentment it’s naturally going to generate, the long waits for social housing it will make longer, the extra load on an already broken health service, not enough school places for children reaching compulsory schooling age; the early teenage girls I know who come home from school in tears almost every day, who are a minority of three in a class of 30, who do not make friends in their class because the other 27 speak an alien language away from lessons, don’t mix, and don’t go on school trips. I can tell you what they think – they’re scared already and their parents are trying to move away from where they live.
    I just wish he’d show more conviction when speaking about it. Unfortunately, Cameron is known for changing his views as often as he changes his socks, real principles are strangers to him.

  8. diotima says

    Update: The word ‘migrant’ has returned to the BBC’s reporting this morning instead of calling all migrants ‘refugees’.

  9. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    diotima,

    I consider most of what you have written fearmongering and xenophobic bullshit, but a longer comment about that will have to wait since I’m a bit busy right now and commenting in between bites of lunch.

    Can you answer a question?
    Let’s assume you are right about everything. What do you propose should ne done?
    Cameron is just washing UK’s hands but some EU-wide solution needs to be found. What is your suggestion?

  10. Infophile says

    @11 Diotima:

    I do notice that in the last 48 hours the BBC has adopted a very biased, dishonest reporting style, in describing all migrants as refugees when very few of them, so far, have that legal status.

    “Refugee” isn’t a legal status. It’s a descriptive word for those fleeing a war or crisis that makes their home too dangerous or impossible to live in any longer. There’s a war in Syria, against a very vicious enemy, in case you haven’t noticed. When people flee from it, we don’t need to wait for the government’s rubber stamp to call them refugees.

    To go the metaphor route, a rape survivor still experienced rape even if her rapist is acquitted in court. The government’s proceedings don’t define reality.

  11. diotima says

    Beatrice: Your comment is rude and also shows your ignorance. Getting all hissy and emotional doesn’t solve anything. I know what is going on in my country. Is it yours? I’ve been involved for a long time as a volunteer doing what I can to help those who need it. All our cities have many people sleeping in the streets, of different nationalities and skin colours. I don’t differentiate. We have old people dying in care homes because of neglect, and yet these homes, used by County Councils, the level of government responsible for care of elderly people who cannot care for themselves and have no responsible family, have been deprived of the funding needed to inspect and regulate them to protect their residents. The use of food banks by families in need is expanding exponentially despite the government insisting that these figures are false. A government minister, Iain Duncan Smith, responsible for the pension and welfare budget, has lied to Parliament twice, saying that the rate of fraud in benefit claims is 52%. He has been corrected by one of his junior ministers, and his department’s own figures, the current rate is 0.5%, yet will still not face the facts. Since this government first took office, more than 15,000 disabled people have had their state benefits removed and made to work, and have died trying. This is the kind of opposition those of us fighting for a properly funded and operated welfare safety net, are facing. This is not ‘government’s money’, it’s ours, the taxpayers, we want it spent on what we see happening, which should not be happening in a civilised country. And yes, I am a lifelong taxpayer, running my own business and employing people. I’m willing to pay my share for this. I might well need it one day now that I’m 70 and disabled myself. This government is on a par with the worst of what we read about the American Republican party. There is so much more; even given all that, even those most deprived, most in need, want this country to do much more to help and accommodate refugees.

    All these illegal migrants need to be taken a secure place, probably outside the EU’s borders otherwise the EU are going to go on arguing, where they can be safely housed and their needs met, their children educated, and processed according to the international and EU laws that govern this process. Then we can identify those we have a legal obligation to, and repatriate the others. This will take many millions, possibly billions of pounds, euros, whatever you prefer. We need to do it, we must do it. The EU’s laws are in fact more generous in regard to the treatment of refugees, than international laws that non-EU countries have accepted. International law states that once a person fleeing their own country reaches the first safe country, to be able to seek asylum or claim refugee status, they have to make the responsible authorities aware of their presence, and make a claim for asylum in that country. The EU has set aside this requirement, and allows people who’ve passed through safe countries to still make a claim for asylum in the first EU country they arrive in.

    Infophile: You are factually wrong. ‘Refugee’ is a legal status, assigned after investigation after a person or family’s circumstances. It confers responsibilities on the country where that person is resident, to help them. ‘There’s a war in Syria, against a very vicious enemy, in case you haven’t noticed’. Do you have to work at being that offensive, or does it come naturally? The wish to enter another country simply for economic reasons is not a valid reason to consider someone a refugee, and no country in the world accepts it as so. Research it, you will learn better if you do it for yourself.

    Are either of you American? If so I hope you understand the extent to which the action your government is taking in militarising Africa, is driving this migration. Are you bothered about it? If not, you should be. Are you doing anything about that? No, I thought not.

  12. eeyore says

    Wow. A discussion of Syrian refugees that doesn’t even mention the obvious immediate cause: ISIS and radical Islam. I’m certainly not disputing that climate change bears some of the blame too, but to not even mention Islam is just mind boggling. The Syrian refugees aren’t fleeing climate change; they are fleeing religious nuts who have turned the region into a religious hellhole. Why is it so difficult to say so?

  13. Infophile says

    @15 diotima:

    Let’s see what the dictionary has to say. First stop, Wiktionary:

    1. A person seeking refuge in a foreign country out of fear of political persecution or the prospect of such persecution in his home country, i.e., a person seeking a political asylum.
    2. A person seeking refuge in a foreign country due to poverty and no prospect of overcoming said poverty in his home country, i.e., a person seeking an economic asylum.
    3. A person seeking refuge due to a natural disaster.
    4. A person formally granted a political or economic asylum by a country other than his home country.

    First three definitions state “seeking,” and it’s only the fourth one that states “granted.” So, “refugee” certainly can be used to refer to someone granted such status by a government, but 3/4 of the definitions presented refer to people in the process of seeking refuge.

    If Wiktionary isn’t good enough for you, care to try Cambridge Dictionaries Online?

    a ​person who has ​escaped from ​their own ​country for ​political, ​religious, or ​economic ​reasons or because of a ​war:
    Thousands of refugees ​fled ​across the ​border.

    Got anything that beats those sources?

    Oh, and on your ‘offensive’ accusation… seriously, you’ve seen nothing yet. That was me being snarky. I can show you a deliberate attempt at being offensive if you want to see the difference.

  14. Infophile says

    @16 eeyore: I didn’t drop them by name, but I did refer to ISIS in my comment @14. However, that’s beside the point. The real point is that you’re treating events as if they have a single cause. Just because ISIS is playing a role in the refugee crisis doesn’t mean nothing else is also to blame. Climate change is arguably playing a role as well.

  15. eeyore says

    Infophile, I explicitly said that climate change bore some responsibility. But the question is this: If not for ISIS and radical Islam, would these refugees be refugees? And I think the answer is no. Before ISIS showed up in their towns and villages, they were generally doing fine, or at least well enough to not be forced into refugee status.

    Under a butterfly effect analysis there may be a hundred causes for all those refugees, but there’s only one immediate cause. That one immediate cause is Islam.

  16. unclefrogy says

    I have no problem at all of seeing that it has been the added pressure of climate change that precipitated these events causing this level of mass migration. In countries like Syria which were under much internal pressure caused by the fact that the government was not in the least representative of the people of Syria descended into civil war as the result of increased climate stress that caused the population to leave the rural ares for the urban areas.
    All of this argument over what label we should be given to these human beings who are forced to leave these areas is bull shit and everyone knows it.
    It is nothing more than trying find a way to at best do nothing at worse there is a desire to not really face the reality of other human beings and just close our eyes and let them die some where else. Sadly it is not like it will not happen here because it is in fact just happening there first.
    The population keeps growing and the climate keeps changing.
    I live in earthquake country and have learned to understand it is not if but when the same can be said about these kinds of events. There are political grievances many directly related to human rights and justice issues. While the tension between the different factions may be still tolerable by most with things as they are today there are none that will not become critical as things worsen.
    We get a choice now or later?
    uncle frogy

  17. ibyea says

    @eeyore
    That is extremely reductive considering the cause of the vast majority of civilian deaths is air strikes by the government.

  18. AlexanderZ says

    diotima #15
    The word “migrant” is also a legal status with its own definitions (which vary depending on what type of migrant it is and the local jurisdictions). The correct term for people fleeing Syria is “asylum seekers”. Many asylum seekers are refugees, many are not. Insisting that the Beeb call them “migrants” is incorrect and not helpful in the least.

    All these illegal migrants need to be taken a secure place, probably outside the EU’s borders otherwise the EU are going to go on arguing, where they can be safely housed and their needs met, their children educated, and processed according to the international and EU laws that govern this process.

    A safe place? Where? In Turkey, where there already are over 1.5m asylum seekers and where Syrian Kurds face real threats to their lives? North African countries, which currently are trying to stop a flood of Africans of various nationalities (some their own citizens) from reaching Europe and which are known for their human rights abuse? Where is that magical place which will agree to house millions of people no questions asked?
    I know you’re British, but shipping people across the sea has never been a good answer to anything (see: Australia).

    International law states that once a person fleeing their own country reaches the first safe country, to be able to seek asylum or claim refugee status, they have to make the responsible authorities aware of their presence, and make a claim for asylum in that country.

    Correct. The best way to do it is from a secure country where the asylum seekers know they won’t be robbed, raped or killed, which means Western countries. Besides, new people, when treated right, contribute a lot to their local economy and should be a real boon to a depressed country like UK. Not to mention that such hospitality would also prevent radicalization within asylum seeking groups.
    ___________

    eeyore #16,19

    If not for ISIS and radical Islam, would these refugees be refugees?

    Yes.

    And I think the answer is no

    Based on what?

    Before ISIS showed up in their towns and villages, they were generally doing fine

    No. There weren’t doing alright. Syria had uprisings for all of its history: A military coup in 1949, then in 1954, another in 1961, yet another in 1963 and finally the consolidation of the (secular) Baathist rule in 1966.
    Which worked perfectly until the distant future of the 1976 when new revolts were being carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood. Those were famously broken in 1982 during the Hama massacre.
    Things were peaceful since (by which I mean, Syria was engaged in constant war in Lebanon, which it was occupiying at the time, and the fighting often spilled across the border) until the ethnic clashes between Kurds and Arabs in 2004, and the rioting in 2005. After that the great drought of 2006 started (see PZ’s post).
    Things finally exploded in the 2011 revolution. In 2011, two years before ISIS moved into Syria, there were already tens of thousands of Syrian refugees outside of Syria. By the end of 2012, a year before ISIS set foot in the country, that number reached hundreds of thousands.

    Clearly Syria was a heaven of stability before those damn ISIS troops showed up.

    P.S.
    My answer to eeyore may contain some sarcasm. Viewer discretion is advised.

  19. eeyore says

    Ibyea, I’m not sure if you mean strikes by the US government or by the Syrian government or both, but the lion’s share of deaths in the Middle East are Muslim on Muslim and mostly over which sect of Islam is going to wield political power. It’s not the government that keeps sending suicide bombers into crowded marketplaces.

    Alexander, this may be a difficult concept to grasp, but I’ll try: Just because there have been other causes for refugees at other times and places does not mean that ISIS is not the cause of these specific refugees at this particular time and place. You do understand that, right? It’s fairly compelling evidence that these people became refugees immediately after ISIS got there. Doesn’t mean there might not be other factors too, But these specific refugees are mostly ISIS’s doing.

    The mental gymnastics some people go through to exculpate Islam continues to astound me. If we were talking about the Crusades, you’d have no problem seeing that the fault lies with Christianity. Try applying the same cause and effect analysis here.

  20. unclefrogy says

    I can’t speak for anyone else but I am not trying to relieve anyone of guilt ISIS or Islam or anyone else there is plenty to go around and besides it makes absolutely no difference what ever who was the last straw people are dying on the fuckin “road to freedom”. What I understand is the conditions were bad and had been bad for a long long time and it has been listed for us above this kind of thing has happened often. Yes ISIS has taken advantage of the situation and added their own brand of chaos and death to the already terrible conflict.
    Religion is a factor no denying it but not the sole factor, poverty and tyranny which, even without the drought driving desperate people off the land into already crowded cities, we can lay some responsibility for at the feet of Assad. What started out as a revolution now we see clearly or as clearly as is possible seem to have a 3 way civil war in a country in the middle of that ancient troubled region .
    too many people,
    too much poverty
    little opportunity for advancement
    lack of human rights
    despotic government
    drought (exaggerated by climate change)
    economic down tern
    religious animosity.
    those are just the obvious basic ones the historical are another thing

    uncle frogy

  21. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    eeyore seems to focus on only “the straw”, that “broke the camels back” while disregarding the tonnes of other factors that resulted in the flood of refugees.

  22. eeyore says

    Far from being the straw that broke the camel’s back, for the past 1500 years Islam has been a major player in creating the problems in that region because of the world view that Islam creates. Sure, there have been different groups and sects over the years using different names, just as there are probably a thousand different kinds of Christians, but it’s the Islamic world view itself that’s a huge problem.

    Doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors too. Western colonialism shares some of the blame, but that region was plenty fucked up long before the West arrived.

    That said, I go back to my original question: Why the insistence on not placing blame on Islam? The left tends to treat Islam with tender kid gloves in a way that it does no other religion. If Christianity is fucking up a region (say, Uganda, for instance), we have no problem with laying the blame squarely on the religion itself that’s causing the problems. Why the double standard for Islam?

  23. AlexanderZ says

    unclefrogy #24
    If you ask me (you don’t, but I’ll pretend that you do), the real problem was, is and will be the Sykes–Picot Agreement that divided the region into artificial countries with hostile population. For example, the Sunnis in both Iraq and Syria have made it very clear since the very founding of those countries that they don’t consider those countries to be legitimate and would rather live in a country of their own. Unsurprisingly, ISIS controls most of the Sunni areas, and just the Sunni areas (with the exception of tiny minorities that don’t have a military presence) in those countries. For all of ISIS’ original advance, it had made no gains in the last two years at all.
    ______________

    eeyore #23,26

    The mental gymnastics some people go through to exculpate Islam continues to astound me.

    Mental gymnastics indeed, and I think you’ve pulled a muscles.

    You do understand that, right? It’s fairly compelling evidence that these people became refugees immediately after ISIS got there.

    No, I don’t. If the evidence is so compelling how about providing some. Because your statement above is patently false for the reasons explained both in the OP and in my previous comment: There were already millions of internal refugees 6 years before ISIS entered Syria. There were hundreds of thousands of external refugees, coming in an accelerating rate, a year before ISIS entered Syria. If you want to argue otherwise you have to put a minimal amount of effort.

    If Christianity is fucking up a region (say, Uganda, for instance), we have no problem with laying the blame squarely on the religion itself that’s causing the problems.

    Says who? The Lord’s Resistance Army is a hodge-podge of ideas, most of which are entirely unrelated to Christianity, and most of which aren’t practiced by the group. If anything, it’s a personality cult for Joseph Kony and is based on ethnic divisions and war atrocities in that region.

    You’re like a parody of an atheist – someone who thinks that all of Northern Ireland’s problems can be solved if only people stopped attending churches.

  24. Kreator says

    eeyore #26

    for the past 1500 years Islam has been a major player in creating the problems in that region because of the world view that Islam creates

    This is so objectively false it hurts; any history book worth its weight can attest to the fact that we owe a lot to Islamic scholars and that, in some aspects, they were even more civilized than Europeans during the Middle Ages. Islamic fundamentalism as we see today is more recent than we think, just like the current batch of Christian fundamentalism in the US. You will have to substract several centuries to that amount of yours.

    Cracked has a very good summary (and links) here: http://www.cracked.com/article_18911_5-ridiculous-things-you-probably-believe-about-islam_p2.html

    This link in particular is especially relevant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_Golden_Age

  25. eeyore says

    Kreator, yes, there were Muslim scholars during the Middle Ages who contributed to math and science, and during that same period the Christian church madegreat contributions to art, literature, mathematics and preserving classical languages. Does any of that atone for all the nasty stuff done by both religions? I don’t think so. And my simple point is please apply the same standard to Islam that you apply to Christianity.

    Alexander, I wasn’t thinking of the LRA so much as the kill the gays bill, which clearly is on the Christian church. And I would not say that all problems in the middle East would disappear if Islam went away, but a large chunk of them would. Can we at least agree on that?

  26. numerobis says

    I just calculated that the number of Syrians displaced by the drought is only a bit more per capita than the number of American citizens displaced by the dust bowl: about 4% of the population rather than about 3%.

    Both were huge displacements caused by drought, but only one led to a terrible war. What a difference governance makes.

  27. AlexanderZ says

    eeyore #29

    the kill the gays bill, which clearly is on the Christian church

    You’re right. It’s a despicable bill and it comes from religious intolerance (or more specifically, monotheistic intolerance).
    i would add that the same is true for various Muslim anti-LGBT laws, and nobody gives them a pass just because the perpetrators are Muslim (recall Ahmadinejad’s reception in NY).

    I would not say that all problems in the middle East would disappear if Islam went away, but a large chunk of them would. Can we at least agree on that?

    Agreed.

  28. richardh says

    Refugee or migrant?

    Maybe the 1951 Geneva Convention is a better source than argumentum ad dictionarium:

    “The 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees describes a refugee as any person “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/08/refugees-terminology-matters-150831091756282.html

    http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html