Dry areas in north Africa and the Middle East are getting hotter and drier, and droughts are becoming more intense and frequent. Syria and Jordan are predicted to lose 30% of their fertile land to desertification if measures are not urgently taken to combat desertification and land degradation. The Arab region as a whole already has the most significant food deficit in the world. While we can by no means downplay the role of armed uprisings, climate change is also contributing to escalating conflict in these fragile states.
This mix of poverty, food insecurity, tremendous water stress and high levels of unemployment has created an environment for extremism and violence to thrive. As long as such conditions prevail, these areas will remain “soft targets” for extremist organisations, more so as climate change makes living conditions harsher.
The long-term solution is clear: give rural people the ability to remain productive and employed in their own settings. We need to recognise this migration crisis as the canary in the mine on climate change.