Type: Public event

Climate Change and Crisis in the Middle East

A comparative panel to discuss the contemporary drought, climate change, and conflict/revolution in the Middle East

Date & time

Mar 11, 2016, 1:00-5:30 pm EST


Annenberg Auditorium, 1120 Weill Hall
735 South State Street Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48105

Free and open to the public.

Light refreshments will be served. 

Presentations and discussion will address causality, methodological issues and current politics. We will explore the histories of climate change and conflict in Middle East & North Africa, featuring political scientists specializing on the contribution of drought and climate change to the current crises in the Middle East. Further exploration of the cultural histories of claims that climate has caused social conflict. 

The symposium will feature two paper presentations (each followed by a brief Q&A) and a round table with three panelists followed by an open floor discussion


Conference Welcome: 

Juan ColeRichard P. Mitchell Professor of History, Director of Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies (CMENAS), University of Michigan


Session I (~1:20 pm –2:25 pm): “Climate Change and State Deconstruction in the Middle East and North Africa"

Jeannie Sowers, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of New Hampshire


Session II (~ 2:40 pm – 3:45 pm): “Climate Change and Internal Conflicts in the Middle East”

Hannu Juusola, Professor, Department of World Cultures, University of Helsinki


Session III: Round Table (~4:10 pm – 5:30 pm): “How to Think about Hot Spots: Historical, Climatological, and Policy Perspectives on Climate and Conflict”

Abstract: The round table will engage the arguments of the two papers, but its purpose is to broaden the conversation to address fundamental problems related to interdisciplinary research methods, policy implications, moral responsibility, and political strategy. In particular, it will seek to illuminate the relationship between local crisis and global warming. How can historical analogs and narratives make sense of current drought-associated conflicts, and help prepare for a hotter future? What is the most productive way to think about the connection between extreme weather events and anthropogenic climate change? Simple models of environmental determinism are clearly untenable, but then how are we to theorize causal chains connecting climate and conflict? How can and should climate expertise be integrated into policy making? What are the risks and rewards of framing climate change as a security problem? If global warming contributes to conflict in the Middle East, what are the implications for institutions at local, national, and international scales? Do we need new models and methods for performing multidisciplinary research that truly make the earth sciences social sciences?

Chair: Perrin Selcer, Assistant Professor, History Department, University of Michigan


Rosina Bierbaum, Professor, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Michigan

Rosina’s research interests lie at the interface of science and policy--principally on issues related to climate change adaptation and mitigation at the national and international levels. She teaches courses on Climate Policy. She has been named the new Chair of the Global Environment Facility’s Science and Technical Advisory Panel, and serves on President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).  Rosina is an Adaptation Fellow at the World Bank, leads the Adaptation Chapter for the Congressionally-mandated U.S. National Climate assessment, and is review editor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. She serves on the boards of several foundations and NGOs and has lectured on every continent. Bierbaum served in both the executive and legislative branches of government for two decades--as the Senate-confirmed director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Environment Division, and in multiple capacities at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. Rosina was Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan from 2001-2011, during which time she oversaw the creation of a new undergraduate Program in the Environment, five new dual Master’s degrees across campus, and tripled interdisciplinary research.

Richard B. Rood, Professor, Climate and Space Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

Rood teaches dynamical meteorology and physical climate. In 2006 he initiated a crossdiscipline graduate course on climate change, which addresses critical analysis and complex problem solving. This course has attracted students from many colleges and departments at the University. In 2014, with Paul Edwards, he started a course on climate informatics. As a member of the Senior Executive Service at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Rood received recognition for his ability to lead both scientific and high performance computing activities. His scientific research includes investigations of the interaction of atmospheric dynamics and chemistry, computational fluid dynamics, climate and chemical data assimilation, and process-based analysis of models and observations. Rood’s present research includes gridscale processes in numerical models, object-based model analysis, problems at the interface of computational and natural science, and improving the usability of climate projections in adaptation and preparedness planning. He is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a winner of the World Meteorological Organization Norbert Gerbier Award. He writes an expert blog on climate change for the Weather Underground.

Sam White, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Ohio State University

Professor White has taught in many areas of environmental history including both global and American surveys as well as "big history" and topical courses on food, animals, and climate. His research focuses on past climate changes and extreme weather, combining scientific data and historical sources to better reconstruct these episodes and understand their influence on human history. His first book, The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2011), explores the far-reaching effects of severe cold and drought in the Middle East during the "Little Ice Age" of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It won the Middle East Studies Association Albert Hourani award, the Turkish Studies Association Fuat Köprülü award, and the British-Kuwaiti Friendship Society prize for the best book in Middle East and Turkish studies. He has also published various chapters and articles on world history, and climate, disease, and animals in history, including "From Globalized Pigs to Capitalist Pigs: A Study in Animals Cultures and Evolutionary History," Environmental History 16 (2011), which won the American Society for Environmental History Leopold-Hildy Prize and the Agricultural History Association Wayne D. Rasmussen Award. His current research, recently supported by fellowships at the John Carter Brown and Huntington libraries, examines the role of climate in the early exploration and settlement of North America. It compares English, Spanish, and French efforts to grapple with a new and unfamiliar climate and with Little Ice Age cold and drought, leading up to the contemporaneous colonies of Jamestown, Santa Fe, and Quebec. White is also the co-founder and website administrator of climatehistorynetwork.com and vice-president of a new International Society for Historical Climatology and Climate History.

This event is hosted by the International Policy Center at the Ford School of Public Policy, and sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies; with additional support from the International Institute, International Policy Center @Ford, Department of History, and Environmental History Interest Group.