Is drought that is caused by climate change the ultimate origin of the current unrest and upheaval in the the Middle East? Can the wars in Syria, Iraq and North Africa be blamed on the lack of rain and the consequent famine that causes the unrest, leading to political upheaval, revolution and war? That is the thesis of an excellent prize-winning documentary series entitled “The years of living dangerously” (http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/). It combines very professional documentary film-making and editing with the participation of many well-known journalists, including Thomas Friedman of the NY Times, and Hollywood actors, Matt Damon, Harrison Ford and Don Cheadle. I saw only one of 15 episodes that focused on drought as a result of climate change, that was considered to be the cause of such disparate events as plant closures in Texas, destruction of forests in Indonesia and the Syrian civil war. I must say it was a compelling presentation, yet doubts linger. What about religious, racial and cultural differences as a basis for wars in the Middle East. Can the rise of the Islamic State and the expansionism of the Iranian regime really be blamed on climate change?
There has been a long-term liberal-conservative clash over the question of whether climate change is due to man’s own activities, such as the burning of coal, oil and gas. The vast majority of environmental scientists agree that the evidence is overwhelming that this is the case, that the receding of the ice caps and glaciers (notwithstanding some fudging of data) is due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide as a result of burning of carbon-containing fossil fuels. I am convinced that this is proven, that the cause of global warming is partly due to human intervention. But, once again, the extent to which this is the case is a still a matter of some conjecture and discussion.
Throughout history from prehistoric times to today, there have been cycles of cooling and heating that have caused ice ages and heated periods when the ice caps melted. This has been proven by taking core samples deep into the ice. Certainly we should reduce the burning of fossil fuels, but to what extent this will change the current warming period and whether this would indeed have any effect on human history is unknown. Still, better to be safe than sorry.