Starting in 2006, Syria suffered its worst drought in 900 years; it ruined farms, forced as many as 1.5 million rural denizens to crowd into cities alongside Iraqi refugees and decimated the country’s livestock. Water became scarce and food expensive. The suffering and social chaos caused by the drought were important drivers of the initial unrest. Climate scientists have argued that global warming very likely exacerbated the historic drought, thanks to potentially permanent changes to wind and rainfall patterns. Thus, even if negotiators do reach a resolution, the underlying strains in the region may be here to stay. In fact, almost half of the countries most at risk of water shortages in the coming decades are in the Middle East or North Africa. The sad reality is that supply disruptions are increasingly likely at the same time as the world is facing rising demand for water. The toxic combination of population increases and water-intensive lifestyles, driven by affluence, may lead to devastating price spikes. Expect water wars in the decades ahead.

Added: June 13, 2019, 2:33 p.m. Last change: June 13, 2019, 2:33 p.m.

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