Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019


The Syrian crisis, both domestic and international in scope, may well be the defining geopolitical challenge of the generation. Climate change may be the single greatest challenge to face humanity in the entirety of our species’ life history. The dramatic effects of climate change can be seen in the origins of the Syrian crisis when one looks to humanity’s single most critical resource: water. We take the word critical to have two meanings in this context: first, that water is essential to human survival and second that water is a resource in critical condition. Syria’s water crisis pre-dates the civil war in which the nation is embroiled and the subsequent refugee crisis that has sent shockwaves to nearly every corner of the Earth.

To what extent has climate change driven the crisis to its current point and how does it continue to drive it today? This study seeks to explain the global crisis in terms of climatically affected resources with particular emphasis on water. The analysis of shifting climate conditions and human migrations proposes that the crisis cannot be brought to true resolution without a conscious and targeted effort to remedy the root cause­: the unprecedented depletion of the Earth’s water reservoir. The international implications of the horrors that have gripped Syria go beyond concern over an overflow of refugees or conflict spilling across geopolitical lines; water is a common resource which no technological advance can free humanity from dependence. The lessons learned by the global community through the Syrian crisis will define the next generation of global politics and lead humanity for better or worse, into an uncertain twenty-second century.