By Elizabeth Hale
Syrian refugees may be driven out of their native land mostly by war, but few people realize weather patterns also contribute to the exodus.
This was one of the takeaways from a Texas Tech’s Climate Science Center event held last week to raise awareness of global climate change. The Center provides research and information linking current weather conditions to future climate projections.
Loss of agriculture and rising sea levels have contributed to the migration of “climate” refugees, said Cristina Bradatan, an associate professor of sociology and director of the Texas Tech Population Center.
While drought is common in Syria, corruption and weather shifts are making a bad situation worse, added Katharine Hayhoe, an associate professor of political science and director of the Climate Science Center. Syrian droughts are now two to three times more frequent than in the past
“Climate change is interacting with and exacerbating the stresses that already exist,” Hayhoe said.
One of the ways in which people can help and support Syrian refugees is to be more conscious of climate change, Hayhoe said, which may decrease the need for refugees to leave their homes in the first place.
“We know that things are getting worse,” Hayhoe said. “We know that they are going to impact the people that already lack basic necessities in life. This is the point at which we as a society can make choices to invest in their futures so that they can stay where they want to be.”
A study conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication suggests not all Texans are aware of climate change, with 63 percent believing it is happening and 49 percent believing it results mostly from human activities.
Matt Kovalski, a senior chemical engineering major and one of the founders of Tech’s chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, said there are many reasons why people may not believe in climate change.
“I think a big factor is the matter of education,” Kovalski said. “Because I think once you really look at the data and the consensus of scientists in the field, the evidence starts to look really compelling.”