The Effect of Climate Change on Agriculture in Syria and Iraq: Regional Productivity, Resiliency and Adaptation

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Harvey Weiss
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This paper will use an interdisciplinary analysis to answer the following two questions: What will the effect of climate change be on agriculture in Syria and Iraq? And what are the implications? Without adaptation, results show that agricultural production will suffer significantly. Rain-fed agricultural land and production will likely decrease significantly because of shorter growing seasons and less precipitation. As a result there will be an increased demand on irrigation agriculture, in turn increasing regional demand for the already scarce water resources. Irrigation agriculture will also suffer from higher evapotranspiration rates resulting in more water intensive harvests. Implications for Iraq and Syria include major losses of agricultural revenue, increased tension over shared water resources with Iran and Turkey, regional abandonment by farmers subsisting in rain-fed regions, and a significant increase in regional conflict. Adaptation measures such as crop-switching, crop development, forecasting, market access, and water policy will be necessary in order to lessen the impact on Iraqi and Syrian societies. Given the political environment in both countries it seems unlikely that significant publicly-driven adaptation will take place. Correspondingly, the region will rely on global private-sector innovations. In the event sufficient adaptation does not take place, the implication is an increase in regional violence and conflict.