30 September 2010

The Real ClimateGate, Part 2: Why the IPCC stands stronger than ever

In Part 1, we showed that the University of East Anglia climate emails scandal was nothing but a colossal waste of time that proved only the hysterical idiocy of fossil-fuel financed climate ‘scepticism’. Continuing to be amply funded by their fossil-fuel benefactors, the leading climate ‘sceptic’ front groups weren’t ready to give up. Not surprising given the degree to which their views are given such media prominence.

One reprehensible example of ridiculous media coverage of climate non-issues was in early 2010, and squarely targeted the IPCC’s famous ‘hockey-stick’ graph. The graph depicts global average temperatures over the last millennium, and shows that the temperature rise of the twentieth century is “likely” to be “unprecedented”. This time, the mainstream media outlet was the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ claimed that the IPCC’s ‘hockey-stick’ graph – and others like it – were based on the questionable “tree-ring techniques” used by scientist Keith Briffa, as well as on data gathered from these techniques – an issue which emerged in relation to the climate email fiasco we reviewed in Part 1. Yet as one of the climate scientists who contributed to the ‘hockey-stick’ graph study, Michael Mann, points out: “Neither the multiple proxy-based ‘Hockey Stick’ reconstruction of Mann et al nor the multiple-proxy based Jones et al reconstruction used ‘Mr. Briffa’s tree-ring techniques’ let alone their data.”

In fact, the IPCC ‘hockey-stick’ graph has been corroborated and reinforced by numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies. In 2008, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences extended the multi-proxy reconstruction of global average temperatures back nearly 2,000 years. The study was explicitly non-reliant on tree-ring data, and found that: “Our results extend previous conclusions that recent Northern Hemisphere surface temperature increases are likely anomalous in a long-term context. Recent warmth appears anomalous for at least the past 1,300 years whether or not tree-ring data are used.” With tree-ring data, this conclusion can be extended back 1,700 years.


Michael Mann, a lead author of the paper, told the National Geographic: “You can go back nearly 2,000 years and the conclusion still holds – the current warmth is anomalous. The burst of warming over the past one to two decades takes us out of the envelope of natural variability."

With Mann himself completely exonerated from 'sceptic'-fuelled allegations of misconduct and fraud by an official university inquiry, and with the scientific validity of the 'hockey-stick' graph vindicated years ago by a detailed peer-reviewed synthesis report by the US National Academy of Scientists, the 'sceptics' have nothing left to stand on.

Self-styled ‘sceptics’ have tried to counter the compelling evidence encapsulated in the ‘hockey-stick’ graph by claiming it ignores events like the Medieval Warm Period (950–1250). But this again illustrates the dire lack of understanding of very simple elements of climate science. The higher temperatures associated with the Medieval Warm Period were only regional, and did not represent the global average temperatures illustrated in the graph. While warmer temperatures were concentrated in certain regions, other regions were even colder than during the lower regional temperatures during the ensuing Little Ice Age (1300–1850). Again, the MWP issue is dealt with in the peer-reviewed literature.

‘Sceptics’ were also overjoyed when it emerged that the IPCC had promulgated the following major error within its 3,000 pages: that the Himalayan glaciers could “completely disappear” by 2035 and “perhaps sooner” at current rates of warming. The IPCC later conceded that this was an unjustifiable statement which relied not on the peer-reviewed scientific literature, but on a single media interview with a scientist in 1999.

Although widely claimed as a victory of climate ‘scepticism’, the error was not discovered by any ‘sceptic’, but by glacier expert Georg Kaser, himself a lead author of Volume 1, Chapter 4 of the IPCC report.

The way 'sceptics' jumped on this mistake, one would think it disproves the whole of climate science. Unfortunately for the planet, it doesn't - painstaking scientific research repeatedly confirms that the rate of glacier melt is accelerating due to global warming. There is no doubt that Himalayan glaciers fall into this trend of an increasing rate of melt over the last decades. And earlier this year, new peer-reviewed research in Nature Geoscience showed that 75 per cent of ice loss in the Greenland glaciers is due to ocean warmth due to climate change.

Nevertheless, for certain ‘sceptic’ commentators – such as the Telegraph’s Christopher Booker – this was only one out of several alarmist declarations in the IPCC’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report which were “based, not on hard evidence, but on scare stories, derived not from proper scientists but from environmental activists”:

“Those glaciers are not vanishing; the damage to the rainforest is not from climate change but logging and agriculture; African crop yields are more likely to increase than diminish; the modest rise in sea levels is slowing not accelerating; hurricane activity is lower than it was 60 years ago; droughts were more frequent in the past; there has been no increase in floods or heatwaves.”

Booker’s alarmism about the problem of ‘global warming alarmism’, it should be noted, has involved such journalistic wonders as claiming that the threat to human health from white asbestos is “non-existent”, and that passive smoking does not cause cancer. No wonder then that all he had really done was repeat parrot-fashion the equally shoddy journalism of Jonathan Leake, science and environment editor at the Sunday Times, in an article whose research was done by Richard North. It is no coincidence, of course, that Richard North is Christopher Booker’s co-author of a well-known anti-science screed, Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming – a book resoundingly lambasted by both left and right. The Guardian describes it as replete with “egregious errors that would shame a junior reporter” (including “reporting a non-existent interview”), while Richard D. North writing for the Social Affairs Unit slams it for being “strikingly wrong in important respects”. Together, the work of Leake and North, backed up by intellectually-challenged pundits like Booker and James Delingpole, fed into a cycle of news-regurgitation fueled by climate ‘sceptic’ groups, propelling the ‘meme’ of the IPCC’s discrediting worldwide.

The fact of the matter is that all the IPCC’s statements about African crop yields, the intensification of natural disasters and erratic weather, and the potential deforestation of the Amazon are entirely accurate and corroborated by the peer-reviewed literature.

The IPCC’s statement that “yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%” by 2020 refer to a paper by climate expert Professor Ali Agoumi. ‘Sceptics’ shouted that the claim is discredited because the paper is not peer-reviewed. Although technically correct, the paper was a report published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Climate Change Knowledge Network. It constituted “a summary of technical studies and research”, much of which is peer-reviewed, “conducted to inform Initial National Communications from three countries (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” and was therefore “a perfectly legitimate IPCC reference.” In fact, the IPCC’s specific projection on the potentially devastating impact of climate change on African crop yields is supported by a whole series of peer-reviewed scientific studies from 1994 to 2007.

What about the IPCC’s statements about the link between climate change and natural disasters? Also accurate. The source cited and highlighted by ‘sceptics’ as problematic was a Risk Management Solutions paper by Dr Robert Muir-Wood, a former Earth Sciences Research Fellow at Cambridge University. The full paper is entirely credible, and “was peer reviewed and accepted for publication in November 2006”, a few weeks after “the cut-off date for the IPCC 4th Assessment Report in October” – explaining why an earlier draft version of the report was referenced by the IPCC. The latter was “aware of the full report and that it had been accepted for publication.” Dr. Muir-Wood himself has publicly confirmed that the IPCC did not misrepresent his conclusions. It’s worth remembering that the link between climate change and the increased risk of natural disasters, including dangerous weather, is widely acknowledged and explored in the peer-reviewed literature.

The other main issue targeted by ‘sceptics’ was the IPCC’s assertion that up to 40 per cent of Amazon rainforests “could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation.” The statement was based on an activist report written by a layman, and published by environmental lobby group, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

In fact, the statement was entirely true. The WWF report sourced a peer-reviewed 1999 paper in the journal Nature by Yale University tropical forest scientist Daniel Nepstad, which categorically confirmed the IPCC’s warning. Nepstad himself responded to the ‘sceptic’ media reports, noting “The IPCC statement on the Amazon is correct”, and citing further peer-reviewed papers written by himself and others corroborating the same conclusion.

We should not forget the 'sceptic' claim that the IPCC's warnings about sea-level rise were false. An independent peer-reviewed 2009 study in Nature Geoscience corroborated the IPCC's sea-level projections due to global warming, warning that levels will rise by between 7 and 82 cm.

Finally, what of claims of financial corruption? Even IPCC chairman Dr. Raj Pachauri did not escape unscathed, being accused of exploiting his position to secure fabulously huge research grants with which he enriched himself. Not only have the allegations been proven to be “untrue” by an independent KPMG audit of all his financial relationships, but Dr. Pachauri has further been found to be “scrupulous to the point of self-denial.”

The degree to which Dr. Pachauri, and other climate scientists – as well as climate science itself – have been subjected to smearing and demonization despite facts being plain for journalists and editors to see if they really cared to is shocking, but illustrative of the extent to which vested special interests want to muddy the waters to stall meaningful political action.

All this goes to prove a single point. The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report has not been discredited as a signifier of the scientific consensus that global warming is anthropogenic. The IPCC itself has not been discredited. The University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit has not been discredited - there was no ‘email scandal’.

So let’s cut the bullshit and get over the anti-global warming alarmists.

29 September 2010

The Real ClimateGate, Part 1: Getting over the non-existent 'climate email' fiasco

Over the last few weeks, in the run-up to the official UK release of my new book A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization on 4th October, I’ve been inundated with angry and often exasperated claims that one of the key crises I address in the book – human-induced climate change – is merely a myth, lacks serious scientific evidence, and/or is the sinister result of deliberate ‘scare-mongering.’

My experience is that public opinion is now seriously confused about the science of climate change, and that increasingly people either feel they fall into an agnostic camp, or categorize themselves as wholesale ‘sceptics’. Recent polls of American public opinion in August found that as much as 45 per cent of people believe that global warming “is caused by long-term planetary trends”, while only 40 per cent are convinced that “human activity is the main contributor.” In the UK, the number of people who believe climate change is “definitely” a reality dropped by a massive 30 per cent over the preceding year, from 44 to 31 per cent.

There’s no doubt that this has been a direct result of a series of scandalous stories which received worldwide press coverage, starting with the leaked emails from the climate science unit at the University of East Anglia, and finishing with a whole range of claims attempting to discredit the IPCC’s landmark Fourth Assessment Report published in early 2007, which confirmed a 90 per cent certainty that current global warming was due to human-induced fossil fuel emissions.

One of the purposes of writing my book was precisely to explore the so-called ‘sceptic-alarmist’ debates – across a whole range of global crises, not just climate change – to get at the truth of the matter. The sheer repetitive nature of the misconceptions has led me to decide to deal with them systematically here.

One of the earliest and loudest self-styled ‘sceptics’ of anthropogenic global warming is Senator James Inhofe, the ranking minority member of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. In late 2007, Inhofe released a list of over 400 “prominent scientists” who “disputed man-made global warming claims.” By 2009, Inhofe had expanded his list to just under 700 people. The Inhofe list has been regularly cited by climate sceptics as evidence that there is no scientific consensus on climate change, and that most scientists actually challenge the idea that global warming is human-induced.

I discuss Inhofe’s fraudulent list at some length in the book, but it suffices here to note that a thorough study of the curiously ever-expanding Inhofe list was completed in summer 2009 by the Center for Inquiry in the US. Among other things, the study found that fewer than 10 per cent of the people on Inhofe’s list could be identified as climate scientists; that a further 4 per cent actually favoured the IPCC consensus on anthropogenic global warming; and that 80 per cent of the list had no peer-reviewed publications related to climate science.

The Inhofe list was widely publicized by the media – even though, as of the end of 2009, Senator Inhofe has received at least a million dollars in campaign contributions from individuals and companies linked to the US oil and gas industry. This should not come as a surprise.

In the period from January 2009 to June 2010, the world’s top 35 companies and trade associations linked to fossil fuels, mining and electric utility companies invested more than $500 million “in lobbying and campaign contributions... to defeat clean energy legislation”, successfully convincing enough US senators to oppose energy reforms. The lobbyists included the usual ‘special interest’ players: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, BP, Koch Industries and Shell. This is nothing new. Oil tycoons at Koch gave a total of $50 million to climate ‘sceptic’ front groups from 1998 to 2007. ExxonMobil gave $16 million to similar groups in around the same period to support their activities, and have been exposed again this July, giving $1 million this year to “organisations that campaign against controls on greenhouse gas emissions” – including several groups which led attacks on climate scientists at the University of East Anglia. These are all simply isolated cases that are part of a wider ongoing campaign by the fossil fuel industries to promulgate disinformation and confusion about climate change, so as to consolidate their own control over the global political economy.

It is not a surprise then that Inhofe himself was among the first to jump on the 2009 climate email ‘scandal’ bandwagon, when thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit from a period of more than ten years were obtained by hackers. One of the emails most cited by ‘sceptics’, by the head of the unit, Professor Phil Jones, reads: “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline”.

Inhofe’s press blog commented that the email “appears to show several scientists eager to present a particular viewpoint – that anthropogenic emissions are largely responsible for global warming – even when the data showed something different”.

But the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), analyzing this and other leaked emails, explained the language and scientific context in detail:

“Jones is talking about how scientists compare temperature data from thermometers with temperature data derived from tree rings. Comparing that data allows scientists to derive past temperature data for several centuries before accurate thermometer measurements were available. The global average surface temperature since 1880 is based on thermometer and satellite temperature measurements...

In some parts of the world, tree rings are a good substitute for temperature record. Trees form a ring of new growth every growing season. Generally, warmer temperatures produce thicker tree rings, while colder temperatures produce thinner ones. Other factors, such as precipitation, soil properties, and the tree’s age also can affect tree ring growth.

The ‘trick,’ which was used in a paper published in 1998 in the science journal Nature, is to combine the older tree ring data with thermometer data. Combining the two data sets can be difficult, and scientists are always interested in new ways to make temperature records more accurate.

Tree rings are a largely consistent source of data for the past 2,000 years. But since the 1960s, scientists have noticed there are a handful of tree species in certain areas that appear to indicate temperatures that are warmer or colder than we actually know they are from direct thermometer measurement at weather stations.

‘Hiding the decline’ in this email refers to omitting data from some Siberian trees after 1960. This omission was openly discussed in the latest climate science update in 2007 from the IPCC, so it is not ‘hidden’ at all.

Why Siberian trees? In the Yamal region of Siberia, there is a small set of trees with rings that are thinner than expected after 1960 when compared with actual thermometer measurements there. Scientists are still trying to figure out why these trees are outliers. Some analyses have left out the data from these trees after 1960 and have used thermometer temperatures instead. Techniques like this help scientists reconstruct past climate temperature records based on the best available data.”

Another email from scientist Kevin Trenberth laments that “we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment”, describing this as a “travesty” due to the fact that “Our observing system is inadequate”.

UCS points out that he is talking about short-term internal climate variability, in particular the year 2008 “which was cooler than scientists expected, but still among the 10 warmest years on record.”

Yet another email by Jones, construed by ‘sceptics’ as evidence of scientists manipulating peer review to squeeze out legitimate climate dissenters, objects to a paper on solar variability in the climate published in Climate Research, and calls for scientists to boycott the journal until it effects a change in editorship. Yet as UCS clarifies:

“Half of the editorial board of Climate Research resigned in protest against what they felt was a failure of the peer review process. The paper, which argued that current warming was unexceptional, was disputed by scientists whose work was cited in the paper. Many subsequent publications set the record straight, which demonstrates how the peer review process over time tends to correct such lapses. Scientists later discovered that the paper was funded by the American Petroleum Institute.”

Thus, UCS rightly concluded that whoever stole the emails “could only produce a handful of messages that, when taken out of context, might seem suspicious to people who are not familiar with the intimate details of climate science.”

The idea that these emails constitute evidence of a ‘scientific conspiracy’ to engineer evidence to support a fraudulent theory of man-made global warming is, in this context, preposterous.

No wonder then that three separate independent inquiries into the whole University of East Anglia email fiasco have unequivocally and thoroughly cleared the climate scientists of any wrong-doing or deception, vindicated the integrity of the scientific methods and evidence they used, and re-instated them back into their jobs. The parliamentary science and technology select committee, a university-commissioned independent inquiry by Lord Oxburgh (a former chair of that committee), and finally a comprehensive six-month Independent Review chaired by Sir Muir Russell, all concluded that the so-called ‘scandal’ was a non-entity, and confirmed the “rigour and honesty” of the scientists involved. Pretty much the most they criticized the scientists for was for being “unhelpful and defensive” in communication with people requesting information.

About the only people who insisted on questioning these findings as part of a ‘whitewash’ were Lord Nigel Lawson and friends from the fossil fuel industry-connected Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). Lawson himself chairs and holds shares in the Central European Trust, whose clients include oil and gas lobby giants like BP Amaco, the Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Texaco. Of course, the fact that the GWPF shares offices with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, which in turn shares employees from BP, is nothing more than a coincidence.

So please, dear ‘sceptics’. Stop regurgitating dead ‘news’, which we now know to be false.

27 September 2010

Prospect Magazine on my new book - 'Is the end of the world such a bad thing?'

Marianne Brown from Prospect Magazine has just posted a blog at the Prospect website reviewing the fantastic and disturbing new play by Steve Bloomer, 'Boiling Frogs', currently showing at Southwark Playhouse. Last Thursday I was invited to speak at the post-show discussion, where I talked about some of the findings of my new book, A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save it, and clarified the implications of global systemic crises for understanding the rise of 'police-state politics' - all of which takes up a whole chapter in the book itself.

Steve's play is well-worth watching, capturing the moral complexities of the ongoing debate about liberty vs security, but offering an overall hard-hitting portrayal of what the erosion of the former in the name of the latter has meant, and could mean, for our societies.

Here are the key excerpts about my book:


Politicial scientist Dr Nafeez Ahmed makes a similar connection between denial and complicity in his book A user’s guide to the crisis of civilization. In a post-play discussion at the theatre, Ahmed outlined why he thinks different global phenomena, particularly climate change, are contributing to the making of a police state. The crisis, Ahmed argues, is systematic, but our tendency to ‘otherise’ cultures means we do not look into ourselves for the source of the problem. Rather, we reinforce our society by belittling these ‘others’ we define against ourselves as inferior. Underpinning this is the belief that governments are there to protect us.

Civilisation in its current form won’t exist beyond the 21st century, he argues, because oil exploitation will have reached its peak (something he suggests may have happened already), whilst rising global temperatures and overpopulation in developing countries could threaten the security of developed nations. What’s more, attempting to “democratise” threatening states has not tackled the problem. What we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan hasn’t made the world a safer place.

A “business as usual” attitude doesn’t address the issue, he says, because change is inevitable. Only 500 generations ago, humans were just beginning to evolve from hunter-gatherers to crop cultivators. Ahmed’s monologue was met by some disdain from the audience who questioned his outlook as unnecessarily pessimistic and scaremongering. It doesn’t have to be pessimistic, he replied, but the model has to be changed.


Read the rest here

21 September 2010

Sliding toward Climate Catastrophe - Danger of Gulf Stream Collapse

Various abridged versions of this piece have been published in Le Monde diplomatique, Daily News Egypt and Pakistan Observer.

Unprecedented heatwave in Russia, leading to uncontrollable wildfires. Floods in Pakistan the like of which have not been seen in centuries. The breaking up of the Greenland ice-sheet. The coincidence and severity of such natural disasters in recent months has prompted renewed debate about the role of global warming, and whether such crises are merely a foretaste of things to come.

Scientists emphasise that there is no hard data directly linking these recent disasters to specific changes in the earth’s climate due to human interference. But they also warn that such crises fit unnervingly well into scientific projections that higher global average temperatures will increase the frequency of extreme weather events worldwide.

So while we cannot be absolutely certain that recent events are due solely or mostly to global warming, we can be sure that if we continue our relentless dependence on fossil fuels, these sorts of extreme weather events will become more frequent, more intense, and more disruptive.

Already, global warming has exacerbated droughts and led to declines in agricultural productivity over the last decade, including a 10-20 per cent drop in rice yields. The percentage of land stricken by drought doubled from 15 to 30 per cent between 1975 and 2000. If trends continue, by 2025, 1.8 billion people would be living in regions of water-scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress. By 2050, scientists project that world crop yields could fall as much as 20-40 per cent.

Unfortunately, our window of opportunity to turn things around is closing fast. Global average temperatures have already risen by 0.7C in the last 130 years. In 2007, the UN Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told the world that at current rates of increase of fossil fuel emissions, we were heading toward a rise in global average temperatures of around 6C by the end of this century – leading to “mass extinctions” on a virtually uninhabitable planet.

But things are getting worse, even faster than we had previously imagined. Currently, governments talk about stabilising global average temperatures below 2C, at an atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million (ppm). But according to Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the upper limit for a safe climate is far lower, at around 350 parts per million (ppm). If we go beyond this for a prolonged period, we would trigger a global average temperature rise of over 1C, whose results, says Hansen, would be “guaranteed disaster.”

The problem is that even the 350 ppm limit could be far too conservative. Professor John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and a coordinating lead author for the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, warns that a safe level of emissions is well below 330 ppm – more likely between 280 and 300 ppm.

With the earth already beyond 300 ppm, we are now heading for a minimum rise of 2C this century, if not worse. Many scientists concede that without drastic emissions reductions, we are on the path toward a 4C rise as early as mid-century, with catastrophic consequences. Worse, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley now project that at current rates of fossil fuel emissions, we are on course to reach global temperatures of up to 8C within 90 years – even worse than the IPCC’s worst-scale apocalyptic scenario.

They account for the effects of ‘positive-feedbacks’ not factored in to previous studies – that is, the fact that the collapse of any one of these ecosystem hotspots could have a domino effect on the whole earth climate system. Global warming impacts in one ecosystem could feedback into other ecosystems, with the danger of tipping the climate over into a process of exponential, runaway warming. These ‘positive-feedbacks’ mean that as temperatures rise, the capacity of the earth to naturally absorb human fossil emissions increases, multiplying the warming effect.

Thus, without drastically dropping carbon emissions to zero by 2020, we are in danger of triggering dangerous climatic changes that could lead to the irreversible collapses of key interdependent ecosystems, including the loss of the world’s coral reefs; the disappearance of major mountain glaciers; the total loss of the Arctic summer sea-ice, most of the Greenland ice-sheet and the break-up of West Antarctica; acidification and overheating of the oceans; the collapse of the Amazon rainforest; and the loss of Arctic permafrost; to name just a few.

For instance, global warming has already accelerated the melt of Arctic permafrost, releasing methane into the atmosphere. Methane is twenty times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Above 1C, this process of melting and methane release would be further accelerated, raising temperatures higher, thus releasing more methane, and so on, in an escalating cycle. According to former US Energy Department geologist John Atcheson, “Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren’t talking about. If we trigger this runaway release of methane, there’s no turning back. No do-overs. Once it starts, it’s likely to play out all the way.”

Other examples abound. At higher temperatures, plant matter in the soil breaks down faster, releasing stores of carbon into the atmosphere, again multiplying warming, and so on. There is some 300 times as much carbon trapped in the soils as is released each year from burning fossil fuels. Warming is also endangering the tropical forests of the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo, due to decreased rainfall. This is already leading to the collapse of trees, causing them to release their stored carbon. The Amazon alone contains 90 billion tonnes of carbon, enough to increase the rate of warming by 50 per cent. Scientist Daniel Nepstad projects that the combination of warming, deforestation, logging and fires could reduce the Amazon by 55 per cent by 2030, which alone could raise temperatures by another 1.5C.

One of the most disturbing developments is in the Arctic, where summer sea-ice is rapidly disappearing year-on-year. Among other effects, freshwater from the ice-melt as well as increased regional rain and snow (as ice cover retreats, more moisture from the ocean surface evaporates) could dump enough freshwater into the North Atlantic to interfere with – and perhaps even stop – the Gulf Stream, a strong ocean current which brings warmth to Western Europe. Scientists have warned that the Arctic could see an ice-free summer as early as 2012.

The slow-down or collapse of the Gulf Stream would kick-start abrupt, dangerous and irreversible climate changes, leading to drastic cooling in North America and Western Europe, and frequent droughts in food-basket regions. According to Michael Schlesinger, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Absent any climate policy, scientists have found a 70 percent chance of shutting down the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean over the next 200 years, with a 45 percent probability of this occurring in this century.”

Most disturbingly, the environmental disaster stoked by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have amplified this probability. Dr. Gianluigi Zangari, a theoretical physicist at the Frascati National Laboratory (LNF) in Italy, has analysed satellite data-maps from May-June, which confirm “for the first time direct evidence of the rapid breaking of the Loop Current, a warm ocean current, crucial part of the Gulf Stream”, in an area adjacent to BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform. Zangari concludes that it is “plausible to correlate the breaking of the Loop Current with the biochemical and physical action of the BP Oil Spill on the Gulf Stream”, which may “generate a chain reaction of unpredictable critical phenomena and instabilities” in the global climate.

The instability in the Gulf Stream – whose pathway directly affects weather and climate patterns over the whole northern hemisphere and indeed the world – may well be linked to the erratic behaviour of the polar jet stream, whose blocking appears to be partially responsible for the extreme weather in Russia, Pakistan and elsewhere, including forest fires in Portugal, flooding in China, and a heatwave in the US Midwest.

In summary, the window of opportunity to prevent disaster is closing fast. Conventional discourse on climate change tends to underestimate the gravity of what current trends actually imply – not merely an inconvenient and growing disruption to our lives, but at worst, a permanent rupture between humankind and the natural world, which threatens not only the continuity of industrial civilization as we know it, but also the survival of our species.

Climate change is already affecting some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people – in a cruel irony those who contributed least to global warming are suffering first and worst. International agency Oxfam estimates that by 2015 the average number of people affected each year by climate-related disasters could increase by over 50 percent to 375 million. The recent floods in Pakistan show the potential for human suffering that lurks behind the statistics.

The scale of the potential catastrophe round the corner – not to mention the scale of our seeming systemic inability or unwillingness to respond to it proportionally – indicates that the climate crisis cannot be dealt with merely by tweaking the global system here and there to do things in a slightly more ‘green’ fashion. There is something deeply wrong with our global political economy, given its obsessive compulsion to ‘grow’ and accumulate without recognition of natural or social limits; with our values, which privilege money-maximization and consumerism to the degree that we are exhausting the earth’s resources beyond repair; and with our understanding of human nature, when the wealthiest societies are simultaneously the most unequal and unhappy.

If we are to overcome this crisis, we will need not only to act preventively and adapt strategically, but to transform the regressive political, economic and social structures that continue to accelerate ecological collapse. This process can only truly begin when a critical mass of people recognize that imminent climate catastrophe is symptomatic of deep-seated problems in the way industrial civilization is currently organized.

15 September 2010

Understanding Islamophobia - in the context of global systemic crisis

New Left Project (NLP), the innovative new website which above all aims to lift the level of progressive discourse and analysis, has just published the transcript of my lengthy interview with NLP's Samia Aziz on the nature, causes and future of Islamophobia in the UK and the world.

The conversation was quite wide-ranging, and included a detailed discussion of key issues such as the disproportionate marginalization of Muslim communities from mainstream social, cultural, economic, and political structures; questions surrounding immigration; anti-terror laws and securitization; and the wider systemic context of Islamophobia, including the global economic recession, the unequalizing structure of neoliberal capitalism, as well as the convergence of ecological and energy crises of which the recession is ultimately merely an early warning sign. We also discussed some of the counterproductive responses internal to Muslim communities themselves.

Overall, the interview sets out one of the key arguments of my new book, that the so-called 'Clash of Civilizations' is not an objective condition of international relations - rather, it is a construct, an ideological framework, projected precisely in response to the acceleration of the protracted, systemic collapse of the neoliberal global political economy that is now well underway. And the danger is that as this process of acceleration continues, we may see an increasing legitimization of far-right politics, 'Otherization' and political violence which already contains logics that appear tendentially genocidal.


The term ‘Islamophobia’ has only become part of common political vocabulary in the last two decades. First of all, can you tell us what this word means?

Islamaphobia refers to a state of mind or a set of beliefs which characterise Muslims in a regressive and derogatory way, resulting in them being discriminated against. That’s putting it very simply. First of all, it’s the targeting of Muslims as a specific group. Furthermore, it’s a set of ideas about them, which are usually mistaken, inaccurate and can be harmful. These then lead to forms of behaviour which are discriminatory in the social, political, economic and cultural realms, manifesting itself in a number of ways.

In what ways does Islamophobia manifest itself?

Islamophobia can manifest itself in lots of ways. Firstly, there are latent, institutional ways, which are sometimes difficult to detect. These can be seen in economic statistics about the conditions of Muslims. Approximately 69% of South Asian Muslims live in poverty in Britain, which is undoubtedly an extraordinary figure. It is the result of inequitable social structures, which don’t just affect Muslims, but affect a number of communities, such as the white working class, and asylum seekers. This significant figure is not something that can be put down to conspiracy. In Western societies particular ethnic communities tend to face the brunt of these inequitable structures, and are thus marginalized. It is commonly referred to as institutional discrimination. Even though as a society we have renounced racism, we still find large sections of the ethnic minority populations being socially excluded as they lack access to the same goods and services that other members of society do.

Read the rest here.

9 September 2010

Pakistan and America: costs of militarism

As published in OpenDemocracy.net

Pakistan is in the eye of many storms. It lies at the heart of the United States’s almost decade-long “war on terror”, with an ever-ambiguous position (in Washington’s view) as an unreliable and perhaps even renegade ally. It is a society riven by enormous social inequalities and deep political, religious and ethnic divisions. It is frequently hit by acts of pitiless violence, from the targeting by religious extremists of members of rival faiths to “drone attacks” by US forceswhich kill innocent civilians.

Now, it is now battered by catastrophic floods which have destroyed the livelihoods of millions of the country’s people, threatening even greater humanitarian disasters to come. The United Nations reported on 7 September 2010 that as many as 10 million people have been living entirely without shelter for six weeks. And even in sport there is no release, for players in the national cricket team are charged with taking money in return for aiding a betting-scam by altering their on-field behaviour.

This mix of political crisis, natural tragedy and everyday corruption is itself an indication of how intractable Pakistan’s problems are. What is also clear is that the most serious of these problems go to the very top, and relate to the nature of the state and its institutions (not least its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] agency). If there is a way forward for Pakistan, a path beyond violence and extremism, it surely lies in addressing how these institutions operate - in particular, how the years of war in Afghanistan and its spillover effects in Pakistan have entrenched militarism and strengthened those forces in Pakistan most beyond democratic control.

To read more visit OpenDemocracy.net

8 September 2010

Abiogenesis Oil Myth Still Inexplicably Hanging Around

One of the issues I dealt with in my new book, A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization, was the abiogenesis oil theory, which has often been used by critics of 'peak oil' arguments to suggest (I'm oversimplifying now) that oil is mineral in origin, and is continuously self-replenishing.

The truth is that the way self-styled 'peak oil' sceptics use abiogenesis theory is actually quite far apart from the way its main proponents, such as Thomas Gold, did so - who implicitly acknowledged that even if the theory were true, it wouldn't really avert peak oil in practicality. Putting it simply, we would all be swimming in oil if the 'strong' proponents of abiogenesis were right - that oil self-replenished on such a massive continuous scale, it would be enough to avert peak oil. As that's not the case, the theory is simply irrelevant.

I just came across this ridiculous, hysterical article at the misnamed "Climate Realists" regurgitating much of the same absurdities about abiogenesis oil theory. There are many decent websites which show how the peer-reviewed scientific literature refutes the claims made on sites like these. One I'd recommend is Skeptical Science, which is basically an excellent resource, and came in handy when tracking down some of the most prominent 'sceptic' arguments that I systematically refuted in my book.

The article's stale argument is that Russia is experiencing a massive oil bonanza because they're the only ones that recognize the deep 'truth' of abiogenesis oil generation and therefore have been able to exploit this special knowledge that our own Western oil industries "sinisterly" deny.

This is the comment I posted in response:

"Yes, the Russians have thousands of so-called peer-reviewed papers all proving that peak oil is a myth.

That's why Russian oil production peaked in 2008 according to Leonid Fedun, vice-president of LUKOIL, Russia's largest independent oil company.

That's also why Viktor Khristenko, Russia's energy minister admits that the future of Russian production looks like "plateau, stagnation."

The idea of "realism" on this website clearly equates to neurotic naval-gazing."

I really don't have time for this sort of thing, but I just couldn't help myself. If you want to have a more detailed analysis, do check out the book.

6 September 2010

The End of the World As We Know it? ... and the rise of the Post-Carbon era ...

Published in Ceasefire Magazine:

Only 500 generations ago, hunter-gatherers began cultivating crops and forming their tiny communities into social hierarchies. Around 15 to 20 generations ago, industrial capitalism erupted on a global scale.

In the last generation, the entire human species, along with virtually all other species and indeed the entire planet, have been thrown into a series of crises, which many believe threaten to converge in global catastrophe: global warming spiraling out of control; oil prices fluctuating wildly; food riots breaking out in the South; banks collapsing worldwide; the spectre of terror bombings in major cities; and the promise of ‘endless war’ to fight ‘violent extremists’ at home and abroad.

We are running out of time. Without urgent mitigating, preventive and transformative action, these global crises are likely to converge and mutually accelerate over the coming decades. By 2018, converging food, water and energy shortages could magnify the probability of conflict between major powers, civil wars, and cross-border conflicts. After 2020, this could result in political and economic catastrophes that would undermine state control and national infrastructures, potentially leading to social collapse.

Anthropogenic global warming alone illustrates the gravity of our predicament. Global average temperatures have already risen by 0.7C in the last 130 years. In 2007, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told the world that at current rates of increase of fossil fuel emissions, we were heading toward a rise in global average temperatures of around 6C by the end of this century, leading to mass extinctions on a virtually uninhabitable planet. The Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences has reported that current fossil fuel emissions are exceeding this worst-case scenario.

Many scientists concede that without drastic emissions reductions by 2020, we are on the path toward a 4C rise as early as mid-century, with catastrophic consequences, including the loss of the world’s coral reefs; the disappearance of major mountain glaciers; the total loss of the Arctic summer sea-ice, most of the Greenland ice-sheet and the break-up of West Antarctica; acidification and overheating of the oceans; the collapse of the Amazon rainforest; and the loss of Arctic permafrost; to name just a few. Each of these ecosystem collapses could trigger an out-of-control runaway warming process. Worse, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley now project that we are actually on course to reach global temperatures of up to 8C within 90 years.

But our over-dependence on fossil fuels is also counterproductive even on its own terms. Increasing evidence demonstrates that peak oil is at hand. This is when world oil production reaches its maximum level at the point when half the world’s reserves of cheap oil have been depleted, after which it becomes geophysically increasingly difficult to extract it. This means that passed the half-way point, world production can never reach its maximum level again, and thus continuously declines until reserves are depleted. Until 2004, world oil production had risen continuously but thereafter underwent a plateau all the way through to 2008. Then from July to August 2008, world oil production fell by almost one million barrels per day. It’s still decreasing, even according to BP’s Statistical Review 2010 (which every year pretends that peak oil won’t happen for another 40 years) – in 2009 world oil production was 2.6 percent below that in 2008, and is now below 2004 levels.

Oil price volatility due to peak oil was a major factor that induced the 2008 economic recession. The collapse of the mortgage house of cards was triggered by the post-peak oil price shocks, which escalated costs of living and led to a cascade of debt-defaults. A study by US economist James Hamilton confirmed there would have been no recession without the oil price shocks. While the recession slumped demand, allowing oil prices to reduce, experts now warn of a coming oil supply crunch by around 2014. As climate change intensifies natural disasters – such as droughts in food-basket regions, floods in South Asia and the heatwave in Russia – and as the full impact of peak oil eventually hits, costs to national economies will rocket, while world food production declines.

Already, global warming has exacerbated droughts and led to declines in agricultural productivity over the last decade, including a 10-20 per cent drop in rice yields. The percentage of land stricken by drought doubled from 15 to 30 per cent between 1975 and 2000. If trends continue, by 2025, 1.8 billion people would be living in regions of water-scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be subject to water stress. By 2050, scientists project that world crop yields could fall as much as 20-40 per cent.

Maps released by scientists at the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE), University of Wisconsin-Madison, show that the earth is “rapidly running out of fertile land” for further agricultural development. No wonder, then, that world agricultural land productivity between 1990 and 2007 was 1.2 per cent per year, nearly half compared to 1950-90 levels of 2.1 per cent. Similarly, world grain consumption exceeded production for seven of eight years prior to 2008.

Apart from climate change, the ecological cost of industrial methods is fast eroding the soil – in the US, for instance, 30 times faster than the natural rate. Former prairie lands have lost one half of their top soil over about a 100 years of farming – but it takes 500 years to replace just one-inch. Erosion is now reducing productivity by up to 65 per cent a year. The dependence of industrial agriculture on hydrocarbon energy sources – with ten calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce just one calorie of food – means that the impact of peak oil after 2014 will hugely constrain future world agricultural production.

But oil is not the only problem. Numerous studies show that hydrocarbon resources will become increasingly depleted by mid-century, and by the end of this century will be so scarce as to be useless – although we do have enough to potentially tip us over into irreversible runaway global warming.

Former TOTAL geologist Jean Laharrere projects that world natural gas production will peak by around 2025. New technologies mean that unconventional forms of natural gas in the US might prolong this some decades, but only if future demand doesn’t increase. The independent Energy Watch Group (EGW) in Berlin projects that world coal production will also peak in 2025, but the journal Science finds that this could occur “close to the year 2011.” EGW also argues that world production of uranium for nuclear energy will peak in 2035. According to the Hydrocarbon Depletion Study Group at Uppsala University, unconventional oil – such as oil shale and tar sands –will be incapable of averting peak oil. Greater attention has turned to thorium, which certainly holds greater promise than uranium, but as pointed out by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Washington DC, thorium still requires uranium to “kick-start” a nuclear chain reaction, and as yet no viable commercial reactors have been built despite decades of research.

The exponential expansion of modern industrial civilization over the last couple of centuries, and the liberal ideology of ‘unlimited growth’ that has accompanied it, has been tied indelibly to 1) the seemingly unlimited supply of energy provided by nature’s fossil fuel reserves and 2) humankind’s willingness to over-exploit our environment with no recognition of boundaries or constraints. But the 21st century is the age of irreversible hydrocarbon energy depletion – the implication being that industrial civilization, in its current form, cannot last beyond this century.

This means that this century signals not only the end of the carbon age, but the beginning of a new post-carbon era. Therefore, this century should be understood as an age of civilizational transition – the preceding crises are interlocking symptoms of a global political economy, ideology and value-system which is no longer sustainable, which is crumbling under its own weight, and which over the next few decades will be recognized as obsolete. The question that remains, of course, is what will take its place?

While we may not be able to stop various catastrophes and collapse-processes from occurring, we still retain an unprecedented opportunity to envisage an alternative vision for a new, sustainable and equitable form of post-carbon civilization. The imperative now is for communities, activists, scholars and policymakers to initiate dialogue on the contours of this vision, and pathways to it. Any vision for ‘another world’, if it is to overcome the deep-rooted structural failures of our current business-as-usual model, will need to explore how we can develop new social, political and economic structures which encourage the following:

  1. Widespread distribution of ownership of productive resources so that all members of society have a stake in agricultural, industrial and commercial productive enterprises, rather than a tiny minority monopolising resources for their own interests
  2. More decentralised politico-economic participation through self-managerial producer and consumer councils to facilitate participatory decision-making in economic enterprises
  3. Re-defining the meaning of economic growth to focus less on materially-focused GDP, and more on the capacity to deliver values such as health, education, well-being, longevity, political and cultural freedom
  4. Fostering a new, distributed renewable energy infrastructure based on successful models such as that of the borough of Woking in Surrey, UK
  5. Structural reform of the monetary, banking and financial system including abolition of interest, in particular the cessation of money-creation through government borrowing on compound interest
  6. Elimination of unrestricted lending system based on faulty quantitative risk-assessment models, with mechanisms to facilitate greater regulation of lending practices by bank depositors themselves
  7. Development of parallel grassroots participatory political structures that are both transnational and community-oriented, by which to facilitate community governance as well as greater popular involvement in mainstream political institutions
  8. Development of parallel grassroots participatory economic institutions that are both transnational and community-oriented, to facilitate emergence of alternative equitable media of exchange and loans between North and South
  9. Emergence of a ‘post-materialist’ scientific paradigm and worldview which recognizes that the cutting-edge insights of physics and biology undermine traditional, mechanistic conceptions of the natural order, pointing to a more holistic understanding of life and nature
  10. Emergence of a ‘post-materialist’ ethic recognizing that progressive values and ideals such as justice, compassion, and generosity are more conducive to the survival of the human species, and thus more in harmony with the natural order, than the conventional ‘materialistic’ behaviours associated with neoliberal consumerism

What the Pakistan Floods Mean for the 'War on Terror' - and why military solutions are bring their own defeat

Published in Tehran Times:

The monsoon flooding in Pakistan is an unprecedented humanitarian disaster larger in scale than previous disasters such as Katrina or the Asian Tsunami. No wonder then that it has perhaps rightly eclipsed the import of the WikiLeaks disclosure of classified US military intelligence on operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those 90,000 pages released in July were merely the latest in a series of reports alleging the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) ongoing support for Islamist militant networks.

Also forgotten is British Prime Minister David Cameron’s pre-flood condemnation of Pakistan’s “export of terror”. But then, this is not entirely surprising given that only a month earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague had praised Pakistani Army chief General Kayani’s efforts to combat extremism, emphasising the significance of Britain’s long-term strategic and economic relationship with Pakistan.

The danger is that while the humanitarian catastrophe in Pakistan grabs the world’s attention, the long-term consequences for regional security have been largely overlooked. Zardari’s visit to the UK to confront Cameron’s allegations in the early stages of the flooding – despite 4 million Pakistanis affected at the time – was heavily criticised for exemplifying a lack of genuine concern for the plight of his people, compared to his greater willingness to engage in international PR. Now up to 20 million people are suffering from the impact of the floods, little has changed.

To this day, Zardari’s administration has provided virtually no effective support to the flood victims, while Taliban-affiliated militants have rushed to set-up relief camps. State inaction fuels already rampant socio-political grievances. But the floods have only exacerbated an already dire situation, in which the Pakistani government’s unwillingness or inability to cater for the needs of its people has fuelled grassroots resentment that, in turn, has ramped up support for Islamist groups. Government corruption, rife under Musharraf and growing under Zardari, has for long meant that impoverished Pakistanis frequently have little choice but to turn to Islamist groups who set up madrassas for free, establish medical camps and even provide generators. In summary, the militants are filling the social vacuum left by an ineffective and corrupt state – and the floods, as Zardari himself has recently conceded, are making it worse.

A similar process is underway in Afghanistan under NATO-tutelage, where the focus on military solutions at the expense of infrastructure-development fuels the insurgency. In the summer 2009 edition of Military Review, Afghan war veteran and senior NATO official Lt. Col. Thomas Brouns warned that “the possibility of strategic defeat looms” as “violent incidents” increase in direct proportion to the NATO troop surge. This is compounded by the failure of many investments to reach poverty-stricken rural areas, further encouraging insurgent recruitment. Afghans “need to see delivery on promises of improved security” as well as improvements in their personal situation, for lasting stability to be achieved.

In this context, the WikiLeaks revelations confirm that NATO’s unconditional military support for Pakistan has almost certainly subsidized the 90 percent increase in violence in Afghanistan over the past year. Although the US response has been quite different to the British - with Vice President Joe Biden vehemently insisting that the leaks predate the current administration’s policy – official disclaimers were contradicted early on by anonymous US officials interviewed by the New York Times, who confirmed that the portrayal of the ISI’s “collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.” The documents show that the ISI has “acted as both ally and enemy”, appeasing certain American demands for cooperation while exerting influence in Afghanistan.

More disturbing is that the WikiLeaks ‘revelations’ offer nothing new – US military intelligence has been fully cognizant of Pakistan’s sponsorship of Islamist extremist networks for several decades. This is revealed by two declassified US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reports, dated two weeks after 9/11, released in September 2003, which observed that bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network was “able to expand under the safe sanctuary extended by Taliban following Pakistan directives” and funded by the ISI.

Confidential NATO reports and US intelligence assessments circulated to White House officials in 2008 documented consistent ISI support for Taliban insurgents. As head of the ISI from 2004–2007, Gen. Kayani presided over Taliban training camps in Balochistan and provided over 2,000 rocket-propelled grenades and 400,000 rounds of ammunition. In 2008, US intelligence intercepted Kayani’s description of senior insurgent leader, Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, as a “strategic asset” in the insurgency around Kabul and eastern Afghanistan.

The British have never been in the dark either. In 2006, a leaked report by the Ministry of Defence-run think-tank, the Defence Academy, spelled out the ISI’s “dual role in combating terrorism” while simultaneously “supporting the Taliban [and] supporting terrorism and extremism.”

The evidence is hardly commensurate with the official position (that ISI support for the Taliban is a rogue operation by isolated ‘elements’), instead implicating the highest levels of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies – including Kayani. Yet last August Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued that Kayani was committed to purging the ISI to end its support for militant networks. He and other Obama officials persuaded US Congress to commit to an unconditional five-year package of $6 billion in military and economic assistance to Pakistan. As long as Pakistan’s security mandarins believe that NATO is dependent on them to win the war in Afghanistan, they will expand regional strategic influence through exploitation and diversion of aid to militant groups, who continue to operate with impunity.

The contradictory nature of US-UK policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan has created speculation that US regional war aims obscure the wider geopolitical objectives of the ‘War on Terror’. Ola Tunander of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, in a confidential report to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, argued that the US strategy in Afghanistan is to deliberately “support both sides” in order to “calibrate the level of violence.” The broader agenda is to mobilize other governments to support US global policy, thus legitimizing the US-dominated unipolar order. The perpetuation of a state of permanent global warfare is not merely directed against a local insurgent or anti-American ruler, but against “the economic-political multipolar power structure” that would give Europe, China and Japan a significant world standing.

Whatever the case, David Cameron’s pre-flood outburst – albeit an interesting departure from Britain’s past record of ignoring ISI duplicity – achieves little, as does the Obama administration’s growing willingness to talk to the Taliban. Negotiations should not be off the table, but they are not the solution, particularly if diplomacy is seen as a last resort adopted to avoid a prospective military failure in Afghanistan. President Obama should recall that a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban was also previously explored by the preceding Bush administration in hopes of establishing sufficient stability for a trans-Afghan gas pipeline. At that time, the Taliban rejected the federal proposal – but if it accepted now, would this not provide militants an unprecedented platform of legitimacy to operate with regional impunity?

NATO should not jettison diplomacy, but far more is needed – namely, serious joint US-UK action to make military and economic aid to Pakistan conditional on the cessation of support to Islamist insurgent networks, undercutting their principal source of financial and logistical support in Pakistan; and a draw-down of NATO forces in Afghanistan to reverse the direct correlation between the troop surge and the escalation of insurgent violence.

Does this mean that humanitarian and development aid to Pakistan should be stopped? Not by any means. On the contrary, it is clear that the lack of sufficient official support to disenfranchised communities has been deeply counterproductive. NATO allies need to focus on the root causes by which militants have been able to recruit from these communities. This requires diverting aid from military to humanitarian, development and infrastructure projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly by supporting the work of credible independent NGOs in the region. Such efforts must be re-doubled in the wake of the accelerating flood devastation, which could empower militants unless we act now. Such a strategic shift focusing on welfare at the grassroots level would strike a decisive blow against Taliban recruitment efforts without firing a single bullet – signalling to the ISI that the game has truly changed.

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