Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oxfam’s and ActionAid’s Climate Smart Agriculture policies will accentuate global hunger, not mitigate it! Part 1


Climate Change is dead, Long Live Global Hunger

In May this year, Oxfam published their new report “Growing Better Future" and five months later ActionAid, their “On the Brink” report. Their key message was one and the same: We are hurling towards mass starvation on account of the synergistic impact of accelerating climate change; degradation of natural resources and untameable food price inflation on an over-populated planet. In the process, these NGOs elevated Malthus's reputation as a prognosticator to the Delphic levels of a Nostradamus. 

This is Part I of this paper - the introduction.  International NGOs have changed the labels of their hysteria - from Global Warming to Global Hunger with the philosophical underpinnings of their programmes unchanged. Part II critique the claim that “climate change” being responsible for high food prices and global hunger and concludes that at best these claims are  based on shoddy research and at worst cloaks a Machiavellian agenda. Part III explains how the advocacy of Climate Smart Agriculture and Renewable Energy furthers the eco-imperialistic agenda. Part 4 of this article deals with the attempt of Western countries to finance such a programme by a Global Green Fund and carbon market at the on-going Climate Summit at Durban. However a huge section of African NGOs are  so upset about this funding linked to carbon trading that they signed an open letter to the leaders not to adopt this programme.

Copenhagen, December 2009.  A public art exhibition was put up as a sidelight to the Climate Summit. Seen in the photograph is the 'Survival of the Fattest', sculpted by artist Jens Galschiot (2004) The sculpture is accompanied by text, reading in part: 
I’m sitting on the back of a man.
He is sinking under the burden.
I would do anything to help him.
Except stepping down from his back.

The website goes on to explain: 'The sculpture ’Survival of the Fattest’ is a symbol of the rich worlds (i.e. the fat woman, ‘Justitia’) self-complacent ‘righteousness’. With a pair of scales in her hand she sits on the back of starved African man (i.e. the third world), while pretending to do what is best for him.”

The sculpture however was first exhibited in London, 2004 G7 meeting. On that occasion, it apparently was to symbolize the evils of globalization and free trade. In Copenhagen, 2009, it morphed into a new message about climate change with apparently little need to change anything except the captions. So the Justitia sculpture lends itself to whatever we want it to be. So in 2011, I use differently the sculpture changing nothing but the caption again. The text below reads:

'The New Eco-imperialistic Strategy: Under the guise of eliminating hunger in developing countries, they actually conspire to accentuate it.'

In May this year, Oxfam launched their Growing Better Future Report with this apocalyptic warning:

“New research commissioned for this report paints a grim picture of what a future of worsening climate change and increasing resource scarcity holds for hunger. It predicts international price rises of key staples in the region of 120 to 180 percent by 2030. This will prove disastrous for food importing poor countries, and raises the prospect of a wholesale reversal in human development.” 

Six months later, ActionAid followed suit by releasing a report entitled “On the Brink” with similar doomsday narratives about rising populations, environmental disaster and declining yields among small farms:

“As the global population hits 7 billion this month, ActionAid has today warned that a triple crisis of climate change, desolated natural resources and rocketing food prices, could dwarf the world’s ability to feed them all."
Though both reports had South Asia and India had a relatively de facto focus, ActionAid went a step higher to even ranked India among the ten most vulnerable countries to what they call as the triple crisis:

"Based on new research in 28 poor countries, ActionAid’s report ‘7 Billion on the Brink ‘ reveals which poor nations are most prepared for this triple crisis and which are burying their head in the sand. The 10 countries ranked most vulnerable – DRC, Burundi, South Africa, Haiti, Bangladesh, Zambia, India, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Rwanda - account for a quarter of the world’s population.”  

It’s must be one helluva of a coincidence that two UK based charities, through 'new research” of their in-house team, working in parallel, arrived at a singular message - the Malthusian demographic bomb is about to explode and we need to act now to defuse it! 

It has become fashionable for NGOs these days, at their drop of their hats, to warn the world of dangers, real or false, and to tell the rest of us what should be done and how we should live our lives. In a democracy it is certainly within their right to do so, that is if they chose to do so. But so it is the right of others to not only critique these claims but to question the legitimacy and accountability of those making these claims. This paper sets off to exactly do the latter.

Climate Change is dead, Long Live Global Hunger

The timing of the ActionAid report was significant, being launched to coincide with landmark of global population crossing the 7 billion mark last month. Hence it comes as no surprise that this theme sets the philosophical undertone to their whole report.
When Oxfam in May published a similar sounding report, we briefly critiqued it in our blog: CLICK: OXFAM morphs into a Paul Ehrlich clone: Claims world faces mass starvation! But with Oxfam and ActionAid taking to Global Hunger as their new generation global scare, it suggests that a pattern emerging whereby we could see many more NGOs and environment groups jumping into the bandwagon. Hence the need for a more detailed critique.
The proof of the pudding that NGOs created genuine impact is when they make themselves redundant by solving the problem they say they are attempting. But ironically, the more they fail, the more they confer themselves continued relevance. Only continuing crises can ensure continued fund flows. This existential dilemma of NGOs perhaps explains why despite all their publicly self-congratulatory claims of impact or success, global poverty and hunger levels, instead of declining, have actually spiked to dangerous levels, as admitted by Oxfam and ActionAid themselves.
Perverse as it sounds, to clock even more rapid organizational growth rates, NGOs and environmental organizations sometimes stoop to manufacturing crises where none exists.  Climate change and its related themes were one of these creations that was so lucrative that it accounts for more than one-fifth of all income earned by international charities such as Oxfam and ActionAid.
Unfortunately climate alarmism itself is dying a slow and painful death, and now grasping for its last breath. With the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol by the end of 2012; we can expect the formal pronouncement of its death. For NGOs and environmental groups who opportunistically jumped into its gravy train; they now need to latch on to an alternate alarm to ensure that their good times continue unabated. 
For some time, NGOs and environmentalists toyed with biodiversity and mass extinction as an alternate hysteria but found that this scare did not evoke the same degree of public response as did climate change. Biodiversity was found too abstract and further too divorced from the day-to-day reality of the common man to touch a chord.

This was where climate change had an unique advantage.  Climate could be readily confused with weather and extreme events and lend itself to easily exploit the scientific illiteracy of much of the public and their susceptibility to the substitution of repetition for truth. But the scam has run its course, done in through a combination of errors exposed in the IPCC report; Climategate where hackers made public the emails of IPCC scientists, that showed them conspiring and manipulating data; the growing divergence between alarmist predictions and real world observations and sheer public fatigue of their climate hysteria routines.

On the other hand, the present increasing trend of global food inflation and starvation, like climate change is something that the general public can easily relate to as their day-to-day reality.  'In the scope of its consequences for life on planet earth and the immense size of its remedies, global warming dwarfs all the environmental scares of our time put together ’ (Wildavsky 1992, p. xv).  Consequently, global warming remains the mother of environmental scams and it is difficult for NGOs and environmental organizations to even think of giving up its agenda. So what best they can do within the circumstances? Just like the Justitia sculpture, they simply changed the caption. Global Warming is now replaced with Global Hunger but their ideological underpinnings remain unchanged.

So we find  ActionAid study says:Accelerating climate change, growing population and rising food prices pose a triple crisis that could lead to a collapse in global food systems.“ Oxfam says the same things though nuanced and marketed a little differently.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Breaking: On the eve of Durban, Climategate 2.0: 5,000 hacked emails now on the net

Fresh round of hacked climate science emails leaked online
Courtesy: The Guardian

A fresh tranche of private emails exchanged between leading climate scientists throughout the last decade was released online on Tuesday. The unauthorised publication is an apparent attempt to repeat the impact of a similar release of emails on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit in late 2009.

The initial email dump was apparently timed to disrupt the Copenhagen climate talks. It prompted three official inquiries in the UK and two in the US into the working practices of climate scientists. Although these were critical of the scientists' handling of Freedom of Information Act requests and lack of openness they did not find fault with the climate change science they had produced.

Norfolk police have said the new set of emails is "of interest" to their investigation to find the perpetrator of the initial email release who has not yet been identified.

The emails appear to be genuine, but the University of East Anglia said the "sheer volume of material" meant it was not yet able to confirm that they were. One of the emailers, the climate scientist Prof Michael Mann, has confirmed that he believes they are his messages. The lack of any emails post-dating the 2009 release suggests that they were obtained at the same time, but held back. Their release now suggests they are intended to cause maximum impact before the upcoming climate summit in Durban which starts on Monday.

In the new release a 173MB zip file called "FOIA2011" containing more than 5,000 new emails, was made available to download on a Russian server called today. An anonymous entity calling themselves "FOIA" then posted a link to the file on at least four blogs popular with climate sceptics – Watts Up With That, Climate Audit, TallBloke and The Air Vent.  
The same tactic was used in 2009 when the first 160MB batch of emails were released after being obtained – possibly illegally – from servers based at the University of East Anglia, where a number of the climate scientists involved were based.
One marked difference from the original 2009 release is that the person or persons responsible has included a message headed "background and context" which, for the first time, gives an insight into their motivations. Following some bullet-pointed quotes such as "Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day" and, "Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels," the message states:
"Today's decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on hiding the decline. This archive contains some 5.000 emails picked from keyword searches. A few remarks and redactions are marked with triple brackets. The rest, some 220.000, are encrypted for various reasons. We are not planning to publicly release the passphrase. We could not read every one, but tried to cover the most relevant topics."
The use of points instead of commas to mark the thousands when writing a number – highly unusual in both the UK or US – is sure to lead to speculation about the nationality of those responsible.

The message then includes a sample of cherry-picked quotes selected from a small handful of the emails focusing on apparent disagreements between the scientists, the workings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and attempts to block climate sceptics from securing documents from the scientists via freedom of information requests. Many of the same issues were highlighted in the 2009 release.

One of the most damaging claims in 2009 was that Prof Phil Jones, the head of the UEA's Climatic Research Institute had deleted emails to avoid FOI request. One of the reviews into the content of the emails, conducted by Sir Muir Russell, concluded that "emails might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request be made for them" - something that Jones has denied. At the time CRU was coming under sustained pressure by an organised campaign to release information, which the scientists saw as distracting from their work.

The new emails include similar statements apparently made by the scientists about avoiding requests for information. In one email, which has not yet been specifically confirmed as genuine, Jones writes:
"I've been told that IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 [the IPCC's fifth Assessment Report] would be to delete all emails at the end of the process".
In a statement, the University of East Anglia said:
"While we have had only a limited opportunity to look at this latest post of 5,000 emails, we have no evidence of a recent breach of our systems. If genuine, (the sheer volume of material makes it impossible to confirm at present that they are all genuine) these emails have the appearance of having been held back after the theft of data and emails in 2009 to be released at a time designed to cause maximum disruption to the imminent international climate talks."
It continued:
"As in 2009, extracts from emails have been taken completely out of context. Following the previous release of emails scientists highlighted by the controversy have been vindicated by independent review, and claims that their science cannot or should not be trusted are entirely unsupported. They, the university and the wider research community have stood by the science throughout, and continue to do so."
Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Penn State University, who is quoted in the batch of released emails described the release as "truly pathetic".

When asked if they were genuine, he said:
"Well, they look like mine but I hardly see anything that appears damning at all, despite them having been taken out of context. I guess they had very little left to work with, having culled in the first round the emails that could most easily be taken out of context to try to make me look bad."
He said, the people behind the release were
"agents doing the dirty bidding of the fossil fuel industry know they can't contest the fundamental science of human-caused climate change. So they have instead turned to smear, innuendo, criminal hacking of websites, and leaking out-of-context snippets of personal emails in their effort to try to confuse the public about the science and thereby forestall any action to combat this critical threat. Its right out of the tried-and-true playbook of climate change denial."
An ongoing investigation by Norfolk Police into the 2009 release of emails has so far failed to result in any charges or arrests. A spokesperson said:
"We are aware of the release of the document cache. The contents will be of interest to our investigation which is ongoing."

Monday, November 21, 2011

River Indus re-enters India

Indus re-enters India after two centuries, feeds Little Rann, Nal Sarovar
Courtesy: India Today

The Indus or Sindhu, a major river flowing through Pakistan around which the great Indus Valley Civilisation flourished, may have shifted course after an earthquake in 1819, but recent satellite images show the river has re-entered India feeding a lake near Ahmedabad known as Nal Sarovar.

The discovery has been made by Rohan Thakkar, a postgraduate student of climate change working on the water bodies of Gujarat.

The development will hugely benefit the water-starved Kutch region as well as the Bhal region adjoining Ahmedabad district.

Speaking to Mail Today, Rohan said he spoke to his father about it after detecting that water from a river in Pakistan was flowing into the Rann of Kutch. Further examination of the satellite images showed the water was flowing from the Indus.

Rohan's father Dr P. S. Thakkar, who is a satellite archaeologist with the Indian Space Research Organisation, said the river started flowing into India last year when the Indus river basin was heavily flooded.
"Heavy rains had left the river basin along with the Mancher, Hemal and Kalri lakes inundated and people breached several canal heads," Thakkar said.

Sindhu changes course

In about four days, water entered the Great Rann of Kutch.
"Same thing happened this year too. In September, water from the river reached the Great Rann of Kutch," Thakkar said.
After inundating the Great Rann, water reached the Little Rann and then Viramgam near Ahmedabad on September 19.
"The water entered India near Vighokot in the Great Rann of Kutch and also through the old Naraka course, through which the Indus used to flow into the Great Rann of Kutch before the 1819 earthquake," Thakkar said.
According to the archaeologist, the volume of water was so much that it inundated both the Great Rann and Little Rann, and travelled nearly 500km to Viramgam this year.
"We do have evidence that there were habitations in the Rann of Kutch and the Indus flowed in this area but majorly shifted its course westwards after the great earthquake in 1819," Thakkar said.

While these are signs that the river is steadily shifting its course, siltation in the Indus river basin too could be responsible for the change in course," Rohan said.
Dr Y. T. Jasrai, programme coordinator of the climate control department at Gujarat University, said the phenomenon had been taking place for some time.
"But the actual development came to light when this project was undertaken by Rohan and we realised water from the Indus is actually flowing into the Rann of Kutch," he remarked.

"We have found several Harappan sites, including Lothal, along the Gulf of Kutch dating back to 3700 BC. It is generally believed the Saurashtra and Kutch areas were islands separated by the Gulf of Kutch,"
Dr Y. S. Ravat, director of archaeology, said.
"At that time, one of the major branches of the Indus was emptying its water into the Great Rann of Kutch," he added.

"However, after the 1819 quake, the Allahbund came up in the northwest of Bhuj as a natural bund and stopped the water from flowing into the Great Rann of Kutch and the area gradually dried up. Successively, the river too changed its course," Ravat added.
"There is nothing surprising if the river now starts shifting eastwards," he said.