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Climate change and ISIS: Prince Charles debunked

Prince Charles’ proposed link between climate change and ISIS has been sharply criticised by Sussex’s Prof. Jan Selby, who told The Badger the evidence backing Charles’ assertion is “close to non-existent”.

In an exclusive thirty-minute interview with Sky News, the Prince of Wales blamed the Syrian Civil War, from which ISIS emerged, on climate change: “There is very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people had to leave the land.

“Increasingly, they came into the city, already full of Iraqi refugees from that horror and that crisis. This combined to create a very difficult situation”.

However Jan Selby, Professor of International Relations at Sussex, told The Badger: “The scientific study which is always cited in support of the claim that climate change was a contributory factor in the start of Syrian civil war (Kelley et al in PNAS, 2015) was a climatological study which argued that the drought in the Eastern Mediterranean which preceded the civil war was made 2-3 times more likely by anthropogenic climate change”.

He went on: “I think this finding is itself suspect, but we can put that to one side. The far bigger problem is that the article didn’t contain any serious analysis of the links between the drought and the civil war: it simply cited a few existing and highly questionable secondary sources.

“The one and only piece of evidence in the study that substantiates the claim that drought migrants contributed to the start of the civil war are the words of a single Syrian farmer. In short, the evidence behind all the assertions is close to non-existent”.

The conflict in Syria began in March 2011, when protesters in the city of Daraa were shot dead by Bashar al-Assad’s army. It soon became a proxy war when the oil-rich Gulf States, on the side of the rebels, and Iran, on the side of Assad, sent resources.

Amid the fighting, an especially violent group emerged: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS exploited the chaos to gouge out a piece of territory in the east of Syria, from which it then staged an invasion of Iraq. Today, its de facto state stretches from Aleppo in Syria to the province of Diyala in Iraq.

 

Mark Tovey

Image: Victoria Johnson

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