Call it a double whammy for the planet or simply irony with a capital "I." As the invaluable Michael Klare, author of The Race for What's Left, points out today in "21st-Century Energy Wars," if you scan the planet for conflict, what you'll find from Syria and Iraq to the South China Sea are a series of energy wars -- fossil-fuel conflicts to be exact. At present, despite some hopeful signs, this crazed planet of ours is still a ravenous beast that only fossil fuels can sate.
No question that conflicts and wars are terrible things. Just consider the million new refugees being generated by the disintegration of Iraq in a blaze of warfare and sectarian killings. But oil wars add a grim twist to the mix, because when they're settled, however miserably or bloodily, the winners take to the oil rigs and the refineries and pump out yet more of the stuff that puts carbon dioxide and methane, both greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere and, as in the Middle East today, creates the basis for yet more conflict.
That region has been going through a period of heightened dryness and drought that researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believe to be caused, at least in part, by global warming. This winter, the driest in decades, Syria and Iraq in particular have experienced a severe lack of rainfall in what should be the wettest part of the year and record heat as well. These are factors the Pentagon lists in its recent Quadrennial Defense Review as "threat multipliers."
According to meteorologist Eric Holthaus,
"As in neighboring Syria, it's increasingly clear that Iraq is drying out, an effect that's long been predicted as a result of the human-caused build up of heat-trapping gases like CO2. Since 1973... parts of Iraq and Syria have seen 'some of the most dramatic precipitation declines in the world.' Citing projected stark declines in rainfall and continued population pressure and upstream dam building, a study released earlier this year made the case that the Tigris and Euphrates rivers may no longer reach the sea by 2040."
The weather destabilization of Syria and the rise of ISIS seem to be connected. In the Mobius Strip of life, the more desperate you are -- thank you, global warming -- the more you're likely to fight over what resources, from water to oil, you can command, and then when you're done, you'll use those resources to heat the planet further. It's a closed system, a simple formula for the production of violent emotions, dead bodies, and a particularly nasty world.