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A drought from 2006 to 2010 was among the triggers for the current uprising in Syria, according to a new study. And climate models and the observational record suggest that the drought was amplified by a century-long, human-forced warming and drying trend. "We are not trying to make the case that global warming, human-induced climate change, sparked the conflict," said study lead author Colin Kelley, a climatologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara. "There was a host of factors that came together … but we think we can make a strong case that in this case the long-term [climate] trends were a contributing factor."
Since 1900, the region has warmed by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit and seen a 10 percent drop in wet-season precipitation, trends that computer models are only able to replicate when they include rising levels of greenhouse gases from human activity. The finding reported Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences fits with earlier studies that show connections between climate change and violent conflict as well as the collapse of civilizations. In this case, the authors note, about 1.5 million refugees from parched farmland flooded Syria's urban centers, which were already strained by millions fleeing war-torn Iraq. Government neglect and other factors created unrest that devolved into war by 2011.
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--- John Roach, NBC News contributor