Global Flooding Trends

Earlier this year I published my own ‘State of the Climate’ for 2014, looking at the global conditions for a variety of issues, for want of a better word, that have been projected to worsen due to climate change. The issues I previously examined were conflict deaths, overall climate deaths, climate refugees, recent trends in agricultural production, biodiversity (well, polar bear populations) and crude mortality indexes, and a look at trends for the planet’s major ice aggregations, sea level, major storms and drought. (I was unable to get to complete data sets for many of the indicators, showing some U.S. only figures and data for previous years for some categories.)

Before I turn to an examination of flooding trends, the quick summary of those previous posts is that if climate change is going to have an impact on any or all of these factors, it has not shown up yet in the data.

  • Conflict deaths have fallen by two different measures
  • The total number of refugees has risen, but they are pretty clearly conflict refugees, not climate victims
  • Polar bear populations appear to be in rude good health
  • Roger Pielke Jr. is right in saying that there is as yet no discernible climate signal in data regarding storms
  • Sea level is rising at 3 mm / year, (an increase from previous measurements of 2 mm / year. The current rate would amount to one foot of sea level rise this century if maintained
  • Arctic ice is one standard deviation below its 30 year average, while Antarctic sea ice is two standard deviations above.

However, complacency on the part of some due to this flow of encouraging news is perhaps unwarranted, as the most dangerous ‘natural disaster’ seems to be occurring more frequently and taking more lives. The region most affected is Southeast Asia.


So, on to floods. As with drought, I am as yet unable to get data past 2009, so this is actually a review of part of what is called the ‘recent warming period’ that includes 14 of the 15 highest temperature years, all of which came after 2000.

Floods are the leading cause of natural disaster deaths worldwide and were responsible for 6.8 million deaths in the 20th century. Between 1980 and 2009 there were almost 540,000 deaths due to flooding. Part of the increased mortality (but certainly not all) is due to rapid population growth in areas vulnerable to flooding. Pakistan, which had severe flooding a few years ago, has grown in population from 32 million to 187 million when the flood occurred in 2010. Low lying coastal areas in SE Asia are perhaps the most vulnerable areas in the world–and that is precisely where populations have been increasing rapidly.

The Dartmouth Flood Observatory maintains a database that currently holds records for 3,704 significant floods worldwide from 1985 through August of 2010. (The DFO database provides a comprehensive list of flood events recorded by news, governmental, instrumental, and remote sensing sources from 1985 to 2009. Inclusion criteria are: significant damage to structures or agriculture, long intervals since the last similar event, or fatalities. Flooding specifically related to hurricane storm surge and tsunamis were excluded.)

The number of reported floods has increased dramatically. However, much of the increase is a statistical artifact due to increased availability of information–more floods are happening, certainly, but also more floods are being reported. I don’t want this to sound weaselly–floods are more common now than in the early 80s. But I don’t know how much more common.



Looking at impacts for two periods–from 1985 to 2000 and from 1998 to 2009 (which is part of the period that has 14 of the warmest 15 years on record), we see:

Deaths 1985 – 1998 -246,077

Deaths 1999 -2009 – 374,324

The peak year between 1985 and 2009 for the global incidence of major floods was 2003, with 290 reported floods.

1985 – 69

1986 – 46

1987 – 46

1988 – 111

1989 – 111

1990 – 103

1991 – 124

1992 – 110

1993 – 99

1994 – 107

1995 – 110

1996 – 103

1997 – 156

1998 – 184

1999 – 101

2000 – 102

2001 – 170

2002 – 261

2003 – 290

2004 – 200

2005 – 167

2006 – 232

2007 – 244

2008 – 172

2009 – 167


68 responses to “Global Flooding Trends

  1. You state that there has been an increase in flood-related mortality, but the numbers you give don’t seem to support that conclusion. “6.8 million deaths in the 20th century” gives a rate of 680,000 deaths per decade, while 540,000 deaths “between 1980 and 2009” gives a rate of only 180,000 per decade, even though there has been a rapid increase in both total population and “…rapid population growth in areas vulnerable to flooding.”

    From this, I draw the conclusion that we are generally doing a whole lot better at preventing flood related deaths world wide. Is there room for improvement? Certainly, but let’s not lose sight of the vast improvement in this metric (almost certainly related to increasing wealth and resources).

    That flooding is *affecting* more people I wouldn’t argue against (after all, there are unarguably more people in flood-prone areas of the world), but even there, I’d think increasing the wealth and resources of the affected populations are probably the most effective means of preventing disasters.

    Another note: earthquakes during the period 1980-2009 caused more than 610,000 deaths world wide (according to the USGS). This puts earthquakes as the largest contributor to natural disaster deaths in that time frame. I would not be surprised if this were a continuing trend as effective earthquake preparedness/defence requires even more wealth and resources than flood defence.

  2. Hi kch,

    My focus is on incidence of floods, but looking at the 10-year period from 1998 – 2009, shows 130,000 more lives lost than the 13-year period that preceded it.

    But as I say, partly because of the confounding affects of population increase and better reporting, I think it wise to just focus on incidence.

    I don’t know what to say about earthquakes.The period you cite includes the mega disaster off the Indonesian coast–I certainly hope that isn’t common. What percentage was that event of the total?

    • I only objected to your seeming emphasis on flooding deaths, which your numbers did not support. It’s certainly more attention-grabbing, but if not correct can diminish the impact of the rest of the post. [Also, I, and I believe you as well, dislike hype-for-effect, which this has the appearance of.] By all means, please continue to look at incidence and overall effects – those are important topics in and of themselves.

      As for earthquakes: true, the number included the Indonesian disaster (~35% of the total in that period), but did not include Haiti 2010 or Fukushima 2011 (another ~335,000 deaths).

      If you look at your flooding graph, you’ll note that the bulk of the deaths occured in three spikes probably related to separate major events (just a guess here, and I’m more than willing to be corrected on this point as I haven’t looked closely at that data). This is much the same pattern as earthquakes, meaning any definitive conclusion as to which is now worse would require long term trend analysis with much adjustment and correction. Not my cup of tea…I’ll let someone else do that work. 🙂

  3. The primary reasons flood deaths may have increased would be due to the opportunity cost of pissing away so much money on climate crisis posturing instead of solving civil engineering challenges and more people in rapidly growing third world areas living where flooding is likely. Blaming what appears to be a basically flat trend on CO2 seems to be at best a reach.

  4. Additionally, we were told AGW was going to cause severe droughts.

  5. hunter, the way I read it the IPCC pretty clearly said that some areas would experience more and more intense droughts and other areas would experience more and more intense precipitation.

    The droughty stuff sure hasn’t happened yet. And I can’t tease out whether or not it’s happened with floods–but it certainly might have.

  6. Flood deaths should decrease as public infrastructure and education improve. Learning how to swim sure helps survivability and flood deaths in the US per capita should be pretty low relative to Pakistan et. al. I assume. Effective flood warnings should reduce death counts in areas with good communication.

    Large death counts from tsunamis are in a different class than others. These should probably be earthquake related deaths. I assume no-one is making a climate link to these….but we all know what happens when one assumes….

    The AGW activists are trying so hard to find themselves a body count to point to that it is getting a bit nutty and looking desperate. The latest Syria linkage is more evidence of this.

  7. At what point in time are you going to have your libel against Al Gore retracted/redacted/corrected on the WUWT website?

    At what point in time are you going to correct the numerous posts on this site that have the same libel/error/mistake?

    I thought you were interested in the truth? Apparently, “To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact” (Charles Darwin)” that adorns your site so prominently are just meaningless words.

  8. Tom, the USA went through a period of flooding at the turn of the last century. It was mostly due to land use which has a much greater effect than temperature. Flooding in the US decreased due more to reforestation and agricultural practice than anything else.

    • Hiya Marty. Yes, I know there are a lot of variables that would confound even the most diligent researcher in attributing climate change to changes in flooding, both in the US and elsewhere.

      I have read a little about the subject, and I don’t really see a strong case to be made for such attribution. But, hey–I’m still not a scientist (that’s your job, right?)

  9. It’s been well known for many years that the deaths from flooding in Asia are nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with overpopulation, forcing many of the poorest people to live on areas of land that sane previous generations shunned because they were floodplains susceptible to flooding, and coastal areas which are badly affected by high water levels from typhoons. Deforestation (again a population problem) has also cased greater water run off and soil destabilisation.

    I think if anyone is going to write about this subject, then they should at least do some basic research. I spent 8 years in Asia working on infrastructure projects and have first hand knowledge of the problems the area is experiencing from over population.

    • Then by all means keep writing, jbenton. I’m currently in Asia and see what is happening, but that doesn’t make me an expert.

      • I don’t really have the time to regularly scan the latest global warming scares of the day, but anyone looking for proof of the current problem need only look at the damage done to Tacloban by typhoon Haiyan. It was well known that the area had suffered many flood events in the past due to its topography, which funnelled water into the bay. Previous isolated houses had been destroyed several times but population pressures in the area resulted in over 200,000 people settling there in what was largely a shanty town. It was a disaster simply waiting to happen, and the only surprise is that it took so long. The only reason I had personal experience of this area resulted from a company I was consulting for at the time having been employed by the Philippine government (2008 if I remember)to recommend improvements to the roads and bridges in the area to facilitate faster traffic movement. Needless to say my comments about the likelihood of devastation due to around 80% of Tacloban having been built on the floodplain didn’t make the consultants final report. It wouldn’t have changed a thing anyway, because for most of the families all their wealth was tied up on those shanty houses, and it would have taken a brave person to try to move them.

  10. Tom you write:”Arctic ice is one standard deviation below its 30 year average, while Antarctic sea ice is two standard deviations above.”

    What is the point of this comparison other than to mislead?
    1) The two geographical areas are not comparable – Antarctica is land surrounded by an ocean, the Arctic is ocean surrounded by land.
    2) Antarctic sea ice is high in winter, when insolation is low, and Arctic sea ice is low when insolation is high. The first has little effect on the earth’s energy budget, the second can have very dramatic impact.
    3) Antarctic sea ice is currently 0.62 M km^2 above baseline, but NH sea ice is more than 1 M km^2 below baseline. Using SD as your metric gives the *false* impression that the Antarctic increase more than makes up for the Arctic decrease.
    4) Extent is an inherently poor measure of ice condition since it is only 2-dimensional, whereas ice exists in 3-dimensions. Volume or mass measurements better capture 3-dimensions. Despite sea ice extent increases, Antarctica is losing ice mass – enough so that it is causing changes in the earth’s gravity.

    I don’t think you understand ice very well. But you do a good job of misleading people about it.

    • The silence is deafening. Not even hunter has chimed in with an irrelevant Emily Litella moment.

      You know, I’ve forgotten what the usual denier meme is in response. Please, someone chime in with a stupid argument or I’ll think you have no answer at all.

    • Umm, Kevin,the facts are that Arctic ice is one standard deviation below the norm and Antarctic sea ice is two deviations above the norm. I mean, thanks for the geography lesson and all, but the rest of your comment is essentially a rant. I don’t equate the two masses, nor do I say that because one is growing it’s okay that the other is shrinking. We don’t know.

      I very think that you don’t really know what I understand or don’t understand. And you are becoming quite uncivil, which I don’t appreciate.

  11. Tom, you write: “The total number of refugees has risen, but they are pretty clearly conflict refugees, not climate victims”

    Is that so? The US Military might disagree. They attribute the conflict in Syria in large part to climate change. Drought. Are these climate victims or conflict victims or both? For at least two decades researchers have warned that climate change will lead to more conflict. You offer a false dichotomy. Failed analysis.

    • Now you are being ridiculous. The US military would blame anything on climate change if it diverted attention from their policy failures in the region. There have always been water shortages in this region, even in biblical times, most of them lasting no longer than a few years. Does no one have any historical context anymore, or do you think the public are all entirely ignorant.

      • Kevin is a troll. He swallows with gusto anything supporting climate catastrophe and ignores any critical thinking on the subject at all. So really he is more like a wannabe troll, I guess.

    • Having served in the military of one country and having been a consultant to the military of two others, I can only say that you citing military intelligence in support of your thesis is not something that increases its credibility.

      • Kevin ONeill


        Is that an argument? C’mon, you can do better than that.

        I too have served in the military. I’ve also worked for defense contractors and performed work for *many* foreign militaries. In fact, much of my work was specifically for military intelligence battalions/groups. That’s neither here nor there – doesn’t make me an expert on military assessments of climate change any moreso than it makes you one.

        And the military is not the only assessments that lead to the same conclusion – so make an argument against the science instead of ad hominems.

      • Kevin ONeill

        BTW, “..electronics specialist normally concerned with radar, communications and crypto..” does not make you an expert on military intelligence.

        Moreover, your ‘remembrances’ of your military duties and witnessed events seems a bit shaky. Just another reason anecdotal ‘evidence’ should be taken with a large grain of salt.

      • Kevin ONeill

        Why be careful? Is something I’ve written untrue?

  12. jbenton – there has been a long history of conflict over water. Not just in Syria. Obviously anything (i.e., climate change) that worsens the water situation will heighten conflict. It’s really not that hard to understand. Rather than vague random name-calling, please back up your views with something a little more scientific.

    I can refer you to Peter H. Gleick, 2014: Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria. Wea. Climate Soc., 6, 331–340.

    Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought, Kelley et al, PNAS Jan 30, 2015, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1421533112

    U.S. Security Implications of International Energy and Climate Policies
    and Issues, Rear Admiral (ret.) David W. Titley, Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 22, 2014,

    Good luck finding anyone willing to say that climate change is going to ameliorate conflict. The one being ridiculous is the person you see in the mirror each day.

    • Notice Kevin’s complete reliance on circular reasoning. Too bad it is not a sport. Kevin could win some prizes.

    • Kevin ONeill –

      Well, this is amusing.

      I recall you chided Tom Fuller for quoting “a disgraced septuagenarian” at:

      Yet here you refer us all to a paper by Peter Gleick, the self-admitted phisher (an actual criminal act) and probable forger of a libelous document. Much worse than anything Dr. Morner seems to have been tarred with. By your previous standard, how could we ever trust him to not have stolen or forged his work?

      I’d have thought from the Morner comment you might have had high standards, but apparently they’re just double standards.

      • Is someone referring to NilsAxel Morner as a disgraced septuagenarian? What’s the disgrace?

      • I guess Morner should have tottered off to the Soylent Green chamber instead of stubbornly insisting on remaining in the public sphere. What a parade it would be! Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaevar, Richard Lindzen, James Lovelock. Oops–also James Hansen–oh, well, he’s had his day, right?

        Kevin, how old are you? Might explain a lot, not just your put-downs of your seniors…

      • Marty –

        I suspect the slag against Morner is two-fold:

        1) his belief in and support for dowsing

        2) the circumstances of the termination of the journal “Pattern Recognition in Physics”, of which he was co-editor-in-chief.

        Note: my source for this is Wikipedia, so I claim no veracity of the information.

      • Well, gee–if O’Neill wants to criticize him for that, let him do so. What does his age have to do with either?

      • Tom – You really have to get in the spirit of the thing: who needs a reason for an ad hominem attack? 🙂

      • I wish someone would go back and read Pattern Recognition in Physics. It was one of the best collections of climate papers in years. I referenced one in my last paper which actually got a good reception.
        Patterns was lynched. They didn’t do anything that any other journal disn;t do for a special edition.
        His position on dowsing was taken out of context and repeated ad naseum in the blogosphere.

    • I had not previously been aware of this site until a few days ago and therefore not familiar with its denizens. However, Kevin, I don’t intend to spend any of what’s left of my time on this earth debating climate change with someone who uses as his reference point the work of a self confessed criminal, Peter Gleick. I prefer my sources to be trustworthy.

      I’m truly sorry you have reached the point in your life where climate change must present you with daily anxiety.

      • Kevin ONeill

        I offered 3 references. You ignore the other two. This is a typical ClimateBall move. If you don’t like the science, find a reason to throw it all out based on something *other* than science.

        As has been pointed out in many places, Soon’s arguments aren’t dismissed because of dubious funding or ethical lapses – they are dismissed because the science is wrong.

        People do stupid things. It may call into question other actions or work they’ve done, but it is not prima facie evidence that all their work should be immediately dismissed.

        The righteous outrage is also a ClimateBall move. Hey, whatever rocks your boat 🙂

    • Kevin ONeill-

      I just saw this timely post at WUWT:

      You might want to go discuss the question with Beisner, as he seems much more informed and involved than I’m likely to be. Let me know if you do, as otherwise I’ll miss it. I generally don’t bother with the comment threads there – too much noise, not enough signal – but for this I’d make an exception.

      • Kevin ONeill

        Beisner? Since when \is he an authority? He has a PhD in Scottish history. Cripes man, he wrote, “…At most, human activity has contributed only a fraction of the global warming observed over the last 30, 50, 100, or 150 years…” That is in direct contrast to the IPCC reports. Most of the recent attribution reports list >100% of the warming due to humans. I.e., without us the globe would actually be cooling.

        Moreover, He seems to want to blame Syria’s problems on overpopulation, but the Cornwall Alliance says, ““Some unfounded or undue concerns include fears of destructive manmade global warming, overpopulation, and rampant species loss.” Apparently it’s only unfounded until you need it as an excuse 🙂

        You might as well just cite any random person walking down the street — they have as much training in the subject as Beisner – and far less bias.

      • And since when are you an authority? You come off as yet another blowhard appealing to authority on the internet, which tells me exactly nothing of your qualifications.

        So you appealed to your authorites – presumably to edify the unwashed masses here – and I pointed to someone who felt different and suggested you take it up with him. I’d much rather watch a debate between two knowedgeable people than argue with a possibly ignorant stranger on a subject I don’t know well. I can’t really imagine wasting much time on that. I don’t know why you would, either.

        Also, attacking Beisner for lack of your desired qualifications? Come on, get real – Gore was a politician, Pachuri was a railroad engineer, Suziki was a geneticist, etc, etc. We can both play that game, but it gets us nowhere – argue with him at that site, don’t give stupid dismissals to me at this site.

      • kch,
        Kevin has found a prayer book he likes and so anyone who disagrees is a wicked denier.
        Since the net changes increased the current heating and decreased the historic record, we can just leave you to wallow in your ignorant hate-fest.
        Now you are just another internet self-declared expert echoing some line of bs that makes you feel good.

      • Kevin ONeill

        I see that Edward Nelson is another who doesn’t understand that the net effect of all the adjustments to the global land/sea temperature data is to *REDUCE* the warming trend.

        Tom, do you want to disabuse him of his error?

      • Umm, Kevin… The Syrian population in 1990 was 12 million. Before the current conflict sent people fleeing it had reached 24 million.

  13. Yes, hunter, it’s pretty obvious. ‘It’ of course being your lack of anything resembling logic, evidence to present, or perceivable skills of any manner.

    • Kevin, I think kch is entitled to 1.5 ‘gotchas’ for catching your hypocrisy.

    • Kevin, enough with the personality stuff. If you want to hang around here, talk about climate science not the people you’re having the conversation with. Clear?

      • Kevin ONeill

        Tom, you are the one who writes this blog and you’re FULL of ad hominens, libels, and crap like that. What’s the deal? What’s good for the goose and his goslings isn’t good for the gander?

        I respond in kind to the posts I read. When you start off calling scientists charlatans and worse you can hardly expect to be taken seriously or responded to with civility.

        Let’s look at your ‘sciencey’ writing:

        Umm, Kevin,the facts are that Arctic ice is one standard deviation below the norm and Antarctic sea ice is two deviations above the norm. I mean, thanks for the geography lesson and all, but the rest of your comment is essentially a rant. I don’t equate the two masses, nor do I say that because one is growing it’s okay that the other is shrinking. We don’t know.

        I very think that you don’t really know what I understand or don’t understand. And you are becoming quite uncivil, which I don’t appreciate.”

        You *don’t* equate the two. Sure looks like you’ve put them in opposition to each other. And yes we *do know* that the *impact* of the two are completely different due to the seasonal timing of albedo changes in concert with insolation changes. That’s science. That’s supposedly what you want to discuss. So discuss it. Don’t claim we don’t know when it’s simple math to figure out the effects of albedo and insolation.

        And *why* use SD except to mislead? The volume of ice concerned is an order of magnitude smaller in the Antarctic. An order of *magnitude* – and Antarctica is losing ice mass. That’s the sciency part. And again – you just repeat the ClimateBall phrase you’ve learned – but, but, but the SDs.

        Good grief man.

        Oh, as if it’s of any relevance, I was born in the 50s.

      • Just for future reference, your language and tone in this comment is perfectly fine–I don’t agree with any of it (literally, not one bit of it) but I have no problem at all with what you say or how you say it. It’s when you start calling people names or saying they don’t understand things without any investigation that you get close to my (admittedly idiosyncratic) lines.

        Stefan Lewandowsky is a charlatan–check the definition and check his paper. Peter Gleick is a thief and a forger (or just possibly a republisher of material he knew to be forged). Facts are stubborn things.

        I think before I respond to what you wrote about ice I’ll give you the chance to look at it again. I think you were writing hastily.

  14. Tom, yes, I noticed that after I posted. So strike it. But only in ClimateBall does one then not have to still answer the point being made – which is what you, and kch, have done.

    It does not obscure the fact that climate change is directly tied in to conflict, contrary to what you wrote. You offer a false dichotomy. You can play ClimateBall or stick to the thrust of the argument. So far I see ClimateBall.

    • Well, Kevin, leading off with Gleick is like leading with your chin. I read Titley when his testimony came out and I must say I don’t find him convincing at all. It very much felt as though his team had been ordered to include climate change in the risk assessment mix and hey presto–climate change is a threat.

      I don’t agree with the broad thrust of Soon’s research. But if his arguments were so easily dismissed your tribe probably wouldn’t be working so hard and so sleazily to trash him with 10-year old claims.

      Unless you really are so cynical that you’re just going after Soon to get Rajendra Pachauri off the front page.

      • Kevin ONeill

        Tom you write: “It very much felt as though his [Titley’s] team had been ordered to include climate change in the risk assessment mix and hey presto–climate change is a threat.”

        I’m sorry, you’re wrong. Titley believes this as well — judging by his recent comments (March3, 2015) concerning the PNAS paper I cited:

        “David Titley, a Pennsylvania State University scientist and retired Navy admiral, said the paper does a good job linking climate change and drought to “varsity-level instability.”

        “Reading this paper is like reading the analysis of an airline crash,” Titley wrote in an email. “There is a chain of events stretching back over 40 years that has led to the present calamitous conditions. The change in climate, forced by greenhouse gases, was one of the key events in this tragic story.””

        So your attempt to downplay Titley’s testimony is a fail.

      • Kevin ONeill

        The Moncton, Soon, Legates, Briggs paper is not 10 years old. It’s only a few months old. That is the cause of the recent brouhaha. Please update your scandal tracker.

      • Kevin ONeill – You really should get in the habit of responding to what was actually said. At no point did Tom say that the MSLB paper is 10 years old. He did say that Soon has been attacked with 10 year old claims. Rather a different thing.

        I’m not sure that he’s quite correct (the first major attacks came in 2003, so 12 years would seem to be the number), but I am sure that you are entirely wrong with your interpretation of what he said.

      • Kevin ONeill

        kch – the claim is that Soon did not disclose funding sources in the recent Monckton, Soon, Legates, Briggs paper. The claim cannot be more than a few months old since the paper is only a few months old.

        Other claims from ten years ago may or may not be similar, but these claims are quite obviously new.

      • Kevin ONeill –

        Sure, that’s the current tactic, but it has been built upon an ever increasing wave of hysteria about his funding. Look at the articles on Soon in Wikipedia, Source Watch and the Climate Denier List, or note that posts at RealClimate seem unable to attack his science without first mentioning his funding.

        It’s apparent that the current claims are just extensions of the same old crap – the only thing new is the current tactic. Pretending otherwise is kind of silly.

    • Kevin ONeill-

      Why would you think I didn’t look at your references? You seem very quick to make unwarranted assumptions. There can be lots of reasons – entirely aside from conceding or ignoring a point – that a person doesn’t respond to your every thought.

      [As an aside here, I will note that you stopped replying to my comments in the Brigati Verde thread. Shall I assume that you were – and are – merely playing ClimateBall? Or do you feel – like me – that not everything requires a response?]

      Anyway, for your edification, I’ll explain my comment above.

      First, I was struck by and amused with your double standard. I will happily take note that you are withdrawing the reference to Gleick, even while defending him by invoking the defence of Soon’s work. I actually agree with you on this, but do feel that you would have made a better impression if you had also withdrawn the unwarranted slag of Morner made in the previous thread. Still, baby steps…

      As for the references, I hate to disappoint you but I did indeed check them out.

      Sadly, the first two were behind paywalls so I was only able to read the abstracts. [I have no means of free access, and generally don’t pay for articles recommended by strangers on the internet. I’m sure you understand.] Both of the abstracts mention that the Syrian conflict has numerous roots, with the AGW-driven drought being only one of many. How much the papers actually attribute to that as opposed to land use changes, regional water shortages due to rising population, governmental incompetence, corruption, and sectarian differences I’ll have to dig out if I ever get the chance to read the papers. From the abstracts, it certainly doesn’t seem like a slam dunk that AGW is the major cause of the problem.

      As for the testimony, it struck me as a fairly typical partisan laundry list designed to elicit a particular policy response. Some of it is immediately obvious, some of it seems to me to be wrong and some might be interesting if there were references to check out. Without those it really wasn’t worth discussing, especially as the only Syrian conflict reference does not emphasize the place of drought as one of many factors.

      • Kevin ONeill

        kch – Tom wrote that most refugees are victims of conflict – not climate.

        I wrote this is wrong because climate change exacerbates conflict.

        The testimony and the papers I cited all say the same thing I was saying. Are you on record then as saying climate change will not increase conflict?

        I’m a bit surprised you’d go down that road. Seems pretty indefensible to claim that climate change will not increase conflict.

        I realize you have no science to support that position, and you simply deny that the science that has been written is correct.

        But then that’s why deniers get the name deniers.

      • Sigh.

        You really need to work on your reading comprehension, or at least take more time in considering your responses. If nothing else, you might refrain from ascribing to me arguments I did not make. I grow weary of the need to be correcting your misaprehensions.

        For example, I gave no opinion at all on the correctness of Tom’s claim. I also gave no opinion on your counter claim. Why then do you suggest that I should be on record with anything? Why would you think that I am going down any road with anything? Given that I’ve taken no position on this – as yet, anyway – why do you think I’m denying anything?

        In general, what exactly do you think I’m denying?

        If you really want to know my position and thoughts on climate and conflict, please ask. I’d be happy to share them, and then you would have something other than your preconceived notions to address. I can’t imagine it would add anything to the general debate, and strikes me as a colossal waste of everyone’s time, but, still, we both might learn something.

      • O’Neill: Assad is dropping barrel bombs on me. And ooh, it’s 0.5 degrees warmer! guess I’d better get out of this hot climate….

        For those of you who really think drought in Syria caused 3.5 million to flee their homes, my question is: why didn’t they flee before the war? Why did they wait for a war? Isn’t it easier and more practical to move during peacetime?

      • Tom –

        The thesis here seems to be that the drought *before* the war broke out caused a large migration (the number 2 million comes to mind) from farms to cities, where there was nothing to occupy the new inhabitants. As a result of the disaffection this caused, war broke out and so now millions have been displaced as refugees.

        There is something to this argument, though it can imho be said to be too simplistic. Governmental indifference, corruption and incompetence also would have played a large part in starting the violence, especially when combined with pre-existing sectarian differences, regional instability and poor resource management. Hapless foreign policy on the part of the US and others can’t have helped, either. Not to mention the rise of social media, in my opinion an underrated confounding factor.

        My impression is that what we have here is a problem of the type “if you only have a hammer everything looks like a nail.” Gleick and the others seem to view everything through the lens of their biggest fear – climate change. They might not be entirely right, but they’re also not entirely wrong.

      • Syria and neighboring countries have always experienced intense droughts–in 1870-1871 there was a two year period with zero precipitation. However, the success and actual survival of those areas was dictated not by drought–the ability to switch to different areas and combine pastoralism with farming meant they could cope with difficult climate conditions. In ancient Syria, a period of cold dry weather lasted three hundred years starting in 2200 B.C.

        The key factors throughout the history of the region since the advent of pastoralism and agriculture have been population size, social organization and conflict. The climate was not bad in the Middle Ages there–at least no worse than normal. But repeated invasions from Central Europe caused population decline and mass migration. Crusaders, Mongols and Turks all were far more savage than the climate.

        The decline of wood resources was a big factor as exhaustion of lumber made many parts of life more difficult. People now look at Easter Island and wonder why–I guess it’s easier than looking at the Middle East. Deforestation, combined with overgrazing led to the loss of topsoil–they had their own Dust Bowls–repeatedly.

        The population of Syria grew from 12 million to 24 million (shortly before the current civil war). The Alamite leadership is brutal and oppressive.

        As Francesca de Chatel wrote in Middle East Studies, “I will argue that it was not the drought per se, but rather the government’s failure to respond to the ensuing humanitarian crisis that formed one of the triggers of the uprising, feeding a discontent that had long been simmering in rural areas. …“While climate change may have contributed to worsening the effects of the drought, overstating its importance is an unhelpful distraction that diverts attention away from the core problem: the long-term mismanagement of natural resources. Furthermore, an exaggerated focus on climate change shifts the burden of responsibility for the devastation of Syria’s natural resources away from the successive Syrian governments since the 1950s and allows the Assad regime to blame external factors for its own failures.”

      • Does drought exacerbate problems? Of course. It has for thousands of years.

        Is this drought worse than previous droughts? No.

        Is this drought worsened by climate change? Show me some evidence that it would have been less severe absent the current warming period.

        Proving a hypothetical is not easy.

    • ??? What are you going on about, O’Neill?

  15. So the climate obsessed argument is that a drought in Syria is what triggered the civil war. And that *this* drought was caused by CO2. Ignoring the literally thousands of years of history showing the area to be drought prone.
    I sincerely wish I could stomach developing and marketing to such gullible ignorant simple minded people.

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