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Found 2 results

  1. A study, published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has linked a severe drought that helped fuel the Syrian conflict to climate change. The drought was one of the worst in the country’s modern history and lasted from 2007 to 2010. The Syrian conflict has been ongoing since early 2011 when the regime violently attacked peaceful anti-government protesters. With no end in sight, the Syrian war has left more than 200,000 people dead and about 11 million people have been displaced from their homes. The UN refugee agency UNHCR says Syria is now "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era". “Nobody really expected that we would reach this stage in which we will actually be having this national disaster in Syria,” Marwan Kabalan, a Syrian academic and analyst at Doha Institute, told Al Jazeera as the conflict entered its fifth year this past Sunday. “The heavy-handed approach that was used by the regime against the peaceful protesters was the main reason that this fairly peaceful revolution has turned into the sort of conflict that we are witnessing right now.” The 3-year long drought caused widespread crop failure and a mass migration of people to urban Syrian centres. This alongside of other factors – such as corruption, inequality, poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies – “had a catalytic effect” and contributed to increased political unrest and, ultimately, civil war. Although the region normally experiences periodic dry spells, the study, which is based on meteorological data, determined that the extreme nature of the Syrian drought couldn’t be due to natural changes alone. The study’s authors linked the drought to century-long trends towards hotter and drier conditions in the region – which mirrored computer models of human influences on the climate system, i.e. increases in greenhouse-gas emissions causing climate change. Colin Kelley, a climatologist at the University of California and the study's lead author, told The New York Times that "a drought this severe was two to three times more likely" because of the increased pressure climate change has on the region’s aridity. Francesco Femia, founder and director of the Center for Climate and Security, said that the newly released study "builds on previous work" on the relation between conflicts and climate change. “While there is a very complex array of social, economic and political factors that drive conflict, the study reinforces the fact that climate change and natural resource mismanagement are problems that can exacerbate instability in a country, and potentially make conflict more likely.” “Given continued instability and a forecast of increased drying in the region, this issue should be better integrated into the international security agenda,” Femia said. The war in Syria has caused an unimaginable humanitarian crisis, and this new study adds more weight to the debate surrounding climate change and armed conflicts. Global warming is clearly already sparking unrest around the world.
  2. An escalating conflict between Ukraine and Russia could impact the construction of Chernobyl’s radiation shield. The gigantic $2 billion containment shield – one of the largest moveable structures ever constructed – is designed to keep the still highly unstable nuclear power plant safe from radiation leaks for approximately 100 years. The containment shield was planned to be placed above the leaking reactor by the end of next year. But the economic crisis in Ukraine, following the revolution and the ongoing conflict with Russia, could delay the construction with up to two years. The project is “ecologically vital to the region and should go on regardless of what is currently happening,” said Roksolana Stojko-Lozynskyj, of the Ukrainian Congress Committee. “It’s not only a matter of safety for Ukraine but for Europe as a whole.” The European Union has pledged to cover €250 million of the cost for the Safe Confinement project with the US pledging €182 million, Germany €60 million, the UK €53 million, Russia €15 million and Ireland €8 million. “In our financial analysis we are of course making the working assumption that [the Safe Confinement project] will not receive any money from Ukraine in the near term,” Vince Novak, director of nuclear safety at the EBRD said in a recent interview with Nuclear Engineering magazine. Ukraine was expected to contribute €45 million towards the cost of building the gigantic concrete sarcophagus over the reactor. But Ukraine is currently broke and in the middle of a conflict which could, in the worst case scenario, trigger a war with Russia. Work on the containment shield was halted earlier this month. But the new containment shield is becoming increasingly crucial as the old sarcophagus, which was hastily put in place after the nuclear accident in 1986, is deteriorating rapidly. Just last winter parts of the concrete coating on the old shield collapsed. So the containment new shield is essential to keep the region safe from further radiation leaks. “What can never be forgotten is that the destruction caused by the deadly explosion at Reactor No 4 at Chernobyl was triggered by the release of just 3% of the radioactive material in the plant; the remaining 97% of this enormous ‘ticking timebomb’ of highly unstable nuclear material is still inside the crumbling Chernobyl complex,” said Adi Roche, CEO of the humanitarian aid agency Chernobyl Children International. Roche’s organization has already been forced to suspend its life-saving cardiac surgery programme located in Kharkiv in the east of Ukraine due to the ongoing conflict. It’s estimated that around 6000 children are born with genetic heart diseases and defects in Ukraine each year. Medical experts there say these conditions are linked to radiation leaks from the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident. “Because the situation in Kharkiv is so tense and volatile we felt we had no option but to cancel the operations which the children and their parents had been hoping for”, said Adi Roche. “This is very tragic because there are long waiting lists for these vital life-saving operations”. The work on the containment shield resumed just a couple of days ago. But the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) describe the current timeline, with a deadline in 2015, as “ambitious.” And if the current conflict in Ukraine worsens, the new containment shield could be further delayed.