Wealthy nations will need to do more to support low income countries to adapt to and tackle the effects of climate change if they want to curb food insecurity, mass migration and possible civil unrest scenarios like Syria, the head of a Swedish research group said Wednesday.
According to Dan Smith, the head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, climate change needs to be taken more seriously as a causal factor in mass migration and uprisings.
Revolutions in countries like Syria and Egypt were preceded by years of drought and hikes in food prices, Smith finds.
"For four years, before the civil war in Syria, there was a drought. Something like a million people were forced off the land and into cities in a country where the regime was basically either unable or unwilling ... to look after them properly,” Smith told Reuters. "As a result of climate change, water supply changes fundamentally. That affects food security and livelihood security. Therefore people move."
A report published in August similarly found that climate change makes global food shortages three times more likely, resulting in the potential for civil unrest in low-income countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.
Smith raised concerns about the upcoming U.N. climate talks in Paris, saying wealthy countries need to do much more than just curbing greenhouse emissions, but also make sure low-income countries are provided the necessary infrastructure and technology to cope with the effects of climate change.
"The problem is (emissions control) is necessary but not sufficient for dealing with the climate change issue today," Smith said. "My worry would be that there will be a big kind of exclamation breath and a sigh-relief and a 'thank God, we don't have to take care of climate for another 20 years,’" he added.