MAC: Mines and Communities

Two degrees too many

Published by MAC on 2009-12-22
Source: Huffington Post, Pambakuza News (2009-12-06)

Africa faces "deaths of millions"

African delegates walked out of the Climate Change summit last Monday, as the conflab entered its final week.

They were outraged at the abject failure of rich-world participants to take steps in mitigating the impacts of global warming on the "lesser-developing" world.

But, when the international press began assessing the conference's outcomes last weekend, it paid little heed to African opinions.

Sudanese diplomat, Lumumba Kaw D-Aping, spokesperson for the G-77 group of states, no doubt spoke for many when condemning  Friday's "deal" as threatening poverty for millions.

However, other Africans must have wondered exactly what their leaders had been doing behind the Copenhagen scenes.

In the lead-up to the summit, one of the continent's worst dictators,  Meles Zenawi from Ethiopia, had already been dubbed "Africa's voice" at the summit and courted by presidents Sarkozy and Obama.

This was allegedly in order to broker an agreed "2% limit" to Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

But, even to verge on that "limit" would "bring death to millions", according to Mithika Mwenda of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliances.

Echoing this judgment, Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, predicted that a two-degree ceiling would bring about "the complete destruction of at least four low-lying island states."

In a splenetic opinion piece, published by the Huffington Post on December 6th 2009, professor Alemayehu G. Mariam railed against Africa's continuing domination by corrupt leaders - citing Zenawi in particular.

Mariam argued that African dictators "are using global warming as their preferred ideology behind which they can hide and continue their practice of corruption." They present "a far more perilous threat to the survival of Africans than climate change," he declared.

"What they have done with the international aid money and loans...over the decades, provides compelling extrapolative evidence of what they will do with any windfall of carbon blood money.

"Handing over carbon blood money to African dictators is like increasing industrial emissions to cut back on global warming. It is the wrong thing to do."

According to a new study, the impacts of adverse climate change are also likely to lead to increasing levels of conflict across Africa.

Using data gathered between 1981 and 2002, the study suggests that a one degree celsius increase in temperature already "represents a remarkable 49 per cent increase in the incidence of [African] civil war.”

And an analysis by Climate Interactive, using a software model developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that our planet may see temperature increases of 3.9 degrees and a CO2 concentration of 770 ppm by the year 2100. [See: “Leaked UN Report: Climate Pledges Too Weak to Stop Catastrophic Warming”, ENS, Denmark, 17 December 2009].

In fact, depending on where one lives, temperatures could rise even further - and this is especially true for parts of Africa.

But, when the fraudulent "Copenhagen Accord" was issued last Saturday, both South Africa and Ethiopia had signed up to what might be the final betrayal of their fellow Africans citizens.

Sarkozy, Obama, pressure Ethiopia's Zenawi to betray Africa's future at Climate Talks

Huffington Post

6 December 2009

NGOs and civil society groupings are reacting with anger and disappointment to a joint appeal by France and "Ethiopia, representing Africa" for a so-called ‘Copenhagen Accord' to result from the current COP15 negotiations being held in the Danish capital. The French / Ethiopian proposal appeared on the French Presidency's website today

The proposed accord, which would be binding on all parties immediately on signature and lead to a ‘legal international instrument' to be agreed ‘as early as possible in 2010' ignores the latest science, fails to put forward greenhouse gas concentration targets that will be sufficient to prevent dangerous global warming, and makes a mockery of calls for sufficient funding for climate adaptation and mitigation.

In what looks more like conspiracy than coincidence, the announcement by President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Zenawi of Ethiopia comes on the same day the White House is reporting that President Obama called Zenawi to discuss the UN climate talks: "He expressed his appreciation for the leadership role the Prime Minister was playing in work with African countries on climate change, and urged him to help reach agreement at the Leaders summit later this week in Copenhagen."

"The ugly and overt pressure on developing countries to sign an agreement that will put their very survival in jeopardy has begun," said 350.org founder Bill McKibben. "It's very tough to stand up to the Americans, especially Barack Obama. But even the U.S. president can't protect nations against rising waters, withering droughts, and dried-up glaciers. This is the moment for Africa, for island nations, for the developing world to insist on a future."

By calling for an upper limit of temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius, the Zenawi and Sarkozy proposal ignores the threat that this level represents to Africa: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report says that should the average temperature of the globe rise by 2 degrees C, Africa's "median temperature increase would be between 3°C and 4°C, roughly 1.5 times the global mean response" - an extremely dangerous rise. (Source: Contribution of Working Group I to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Chapter 11, Regional Climate Projections, at page 866-867)

"The IPCC science is clear - 2 degrees is 3.5 degrees in Africa - this is death to millions of Africans" said Mithika Mwenda of Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance.

The proposal also makes a mockery of calls for sufficient funding for climate adaptation and mitigation to flow form rich to poor countries. The proposed "fast start" fund, which would pay out $10 billion over the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, is wholly insufficient to address the needs of African countries, many of whom are already suffering massive losses due to climate change. Although it calls for larger and more sustained financing to flow to climate-vulnerable countries from 2013 onwards (paid for by a possible tax on financial transactions and sea and air transport) this call will not be a binding part of the French / Ethiopian proposal. If details do emerge on the finance piece of the deal, there could be a silver lining to this announcement, but as of yet,we aren't seeing or hearing any real figures. One can only hope that Zenawi is still pushing hard for a real financial commitment from developed countries.

"If Prime Minister Meles wants to sell out the lives and hopes of Africans for a pittance - he is welcome to - but that is not Africa's position" Mithika Mwenda.

"Every other African country has committed to policy based on the science. That means at least 45% cuts by rich countries by 2020 and it means $400 billion fast-track finance not $10 billion" said Augustine Njamnshi of Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance. "You cannot say you are proposing a 'solution' to climate change if your solution will see millions of Africans die and if the poor not the polluters keep paying for climate change."


Dictatorship more dangerous than climate change

By Alemayehu G. Mariam

The Huffington Post

6 December 2009

The inconvenient truth about Africa today is that dictatorship presents a far more perilous threat to the survival of Africans than climate change. The devastation African dictators have wreaked upon the social fabric and ecosystem of African societies is incalculable. Over the past several decades, bloodthirsty dictators like Uganda's Idi Amin, Zaire's (The Congo) Mobutu Sese Seko, Central African Republic's Jean Bedel Bokassa, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, Chad's Hissiene Habre, and the political fraternal twins Mengistu Haile Mariam and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia have been responsible for untold deaths on the continent.

Millions of Africans have starved to death because of the criminal negligence, depraved indifference and gross incompetence of African dictators, not climate change. Millions more suffer today in abject poverty because corrupt African dictators have systematically siphoned off international aid, pilfered loans provided by the international banks and plundered the tax coffers. Africans face extreme privation and mass starvation not because of climate change but because of the rapacity of power-hungry dictators. The continent today suffers from a terminal case of metastasised cancer of dictatorships, not the blight of global warming.

The fact that greenhouse gas emissions (global warming) from human activities are responsible for a dangerous elevation of the global temperature is accepted by most climatologists in the world. Only clueless flat-earther troglodytes like US Senator James Inhofe believe that climate change is a conspiracy hatched by 'the media, Hollywood and our pop culture.' The general scientific understanding is that the planet is facing ruin from an unprecedented combination of extreme weather patterns, floods, droughts, heat waves and epidemics.

The developed countries are primarily blamed for the rise in temperatures caused by excess industrial carbon emissions. This is evident in the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans. Africa has contributed virtually nothing to global warming. For instance, Africa produces an average of one metric ton of carbon dioxide per person per year compared to 16 metric tons for e very American.

For Africa, climate change paints a doomsday scenario:

· Global warming will severely aggravate the atmospheric circulation and precipitation in the African monsoonal system resulting in severe shortages in agricultural output.

· Millions of Africans will die from famine, and the continent's agriculture will be crippled. Deforestation and overgrazing will cause further increases in global temperatures through emission of greenhouse gases.

· Africa's subsistence farmers who already operate in marginal environments will face catastrophic consequences in terms of decreased tillable and pastoral lands.

· Competition for water, agricultural and grazing land and other resources will inevitably result in conflicts and wars.

· Vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, trypanosomiasis and others will spread rapidly causing large scale deaths in Africa.

The climate change debate has been honey in the mouths of forked-tongue, African dictators. It has provided them the perfect foil to avoid detection and accountability for their corruption and mismanagement of their societies, and a convenient opportunity to divert attention from their criminal state enterprises. Global warming has proven to be the perfect substitute for the old Bogeymen of Africa - colonialism, imperialism, neo-colonialism and poverty.

Why is Africa reduced to becoming the 'beggar continent of the planet'? Global warming! Why are millions starving (euphemistically referred to as 'severe food shortages' by officials) to death in Ethiopia? Climate change. African dictators are using global warming as their new preferred ideology behind which they can hide and ply their trade of corruption while expanding their thriving kleptocracies.

The global warming debate has also offered African dictators a historic opportunity to guilt-trip the industrialised countries and rob them blind. Beginning on 7 December, a phalanx of African climate change negotiators will swarm Copenhagen to attend the UN Conference on Climate Change. For Africa, the outcome of the negotiations is foreshadowed by pronouncements of comic bravado.

Zenawi: master of the zero-sum game

On 3 September 2009, the patriarch of African dictators and head of the 'single African negotiating team' on climate change, Meles Zenawi, huffed and puffed about what he and his sidekicks will do if the industrialised countries refuse to comply with his imperial ultimatum. Zenawi roared, 'We will use our numbers to de-legitimise any agreement that is not consistent with our minimal position... We are prepared to walk out of any negotiations that threatens to be another rape of our continent.' (Whether African dictators or the industrialised countries are raping the continent is an open question. Witnesses say it is a gang rape situation.)

It was vintage Zenawi with his trademark zero-sum game strategy writ large to the world: 'My way or the highway!' It does appear rather preposterous and irrational for the master of the zero-sum game to open negotiations with his long-time benefactors by sticking an ultimatum in their faces. Obviously, the strategic negotiating bottom line is to shakedown the industrialised countries and strong-arm them into forking over billions in carbon blood money; and Zenawi did not mince words: 'The key thing for me is that Africa be compensated for the damage caused by global warming. Many institutions have tried to quantify that and they have come up with different figures. The sort of median figure would be in the range of US$40 billion a year.'

Curiously, we could ask what Zenawi and his brotherhood of dictators would do with the windfall of billions, if they could get it? It is reasonable to assume that they will use it to expand their kleptocracies and cling to power like ticks on a milk cow. They will certainly not use it to meet the needs of their peop le. What they have done with the international aid money and loans they have received over the decades provides compelling extrapolative evidence of what they will do with any windfall of carbon blood money.

As Dambisa Moyo and others have shown, in the last fifty years the West has poured more than a trillion dollars of aid into Africa. Today, over 350 million Africans live on less than US$1. Real per-capita income in Africa is lower today than it was four decades ago. Aid money and international bank loans have been stolen by African dictators and their henchmen to line their pockets and maintain their huge kleptocracies.

In 2002, an African Union study estimated the loss of US$150 billion a year to corruption in Africa, and not without the complicity of the donor countries. Compare this to the US$22 billion the developed countries gave to all of sub-Saharan Africa in 2008. In 2006, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who faced impeachme nt for corruption and ineptitude, declared at an African civic groups meeting in Addis Ababa that African leaders 'have stolen at least US$140 billion from their people in the decades since independence.'

Ghanaian economist George Ayittey citing UN data argues, 'These are gross underestimates... US$200 billion or 90 per cent of the sub-Saharan part of the continent's gross domestic product was shipped to foreign banks in 1991 alone. Civil wars in Africa cost at least US$15 billion annually in lost output, wreckage of infrastructure, and refugee crises... In Zimbabwe, foreign investors have fled the region and more than four million Zimbabweans have left the country along with 60,000 physicians and other professionals...' Is it any wonder that Africa today is worse off than it was 50 years ago?

The question is not whether global warming could impact Africa disproportionately, or Africa is entitled to assistance to overcome the effects of greenhouse emissions caused by the industrialised countries. The question is whether African dictators have the moral credibility and standing to make a demand for compensation and what they will do with such compensation if they were to get it. Certainly, the 'capo' African negotiator has as much credibility to demand compensation in Copenhagen as a bank robber has from the bank owners. It has been a notorious fact for at least two decades that Ethiopia is facing environmental disaster. Ethiopia's forest coverage by the turn of the last century was 40 per cent.

By 1987, under the military government, it went down to 5.5 per cent. In 2003, it dropped down to 0.2 per cent. The Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute says Ethiopia loses up to 200,000 hectares of forest every year. Between 1990 and 2005, Ethiopia lost 14.0 per cent of its forest cover (2,114,000 hectares) and 3.6 per cent of its forest and woodland habitat. If the trend continues, it is expected that Ethiopia could lose all of its forest resources in 11 years, by the year 2020. What has Zenawi's regime done to reverse the problem of deforestation in Ethiopia? They have sold what little arable land is left to the Saudis, the Shiekdoms, the Indians, the South Korea and others with crisp dollar bills looking for fire sales on African lands.

There has been a lot of environmental window dressing and grandstanding in various parts of Africa. In Ethiopia, lofty proclamations have been issued to 'improve and enhance the health and quality of life of all Ethiopians', 'control pollution' and facilitate 'environmental impact' studies. The 'nations, nationalities and peoples' are granted environmental self-determination. There is an Environmental Protection Council which 'oversees activities of sectoral agencies and environmental units with respect to environmental all regional states.' The Environmental Protection Agency is 'accountable to the Prime Minister.' What have these make-believe bureau cracies done to save Lake Koka, just outside the capital, and the 17,000 people who drink its toxic water daily?

Burning down in the firest of dictatorships

Zenawi and his minions will show up looking for a pot of gold at the end of the Copenhagen rainbow. It does not appear that a bonanza of riches will be awaiting them. If the advance Barcelona negotiations held last month are any indication, a deal does not appear possible in Copenhagen. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Barcelona summit that 'global climate negotiations would inevitably drag out after the meeting in Copenhagen ends on 19 December.' African dictators deserve our grudging admiration for their sheer tenacity and brazen audacity. After sucking their people dry, they are now moving camp to the greener pastures of climate change to continue their vampiric trade.

The fact of the matter is that while the rest of the world toasts from global warming, Africa is burning down in the fires of dictatorship. While Europeans are fretting about their carbon footprint, Africans are gasping to breathe free under the bootprints of dictators. While Americans are worried about carbon emission trapped in the atmosphere, Africans find themselves trapped in minefields of dictatorship. Handing over carbon blood money to African dictators is like increasing industrial emissions to cut back on global warming. It is the wrong thing to do.

Africa faces an ecological collapse not because of climate change but because of lack of regime change. It is humorously ironic that African dictators who panhandle the industrialised countries for over two-thirds of their budgets should threaten to walk out on them. We know the bravado is nothing more than the 'chatter of a beggar's teeth'. As the bank robber will not walk out of the bank empty handed because of moral outrage over the small amount of money sitting in the vault, we do not expect the band of African negotiators to walk out Copenhagen because they are offered les s than what they are asking. We expect to see them making a beeline to the conference door for handouts for there is no such thing as a choosy beggar. We wish them well. Go on, take the money and run.

*Alemayehu G. Mariam is professor of political science at California State
University, San Bernardino.


Climate change could increase conflict in Africa

by Cyril Mychalejko

Pambakuza News #460

4 December 2009

The effects of climate change are likely to lead to increased levels of conflict across Africa, a new study has suggested. The author examines responses to the conclusions of a study, "Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa," published online by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Using data from between 1981 and2002, the study suggests that a 1 degree celsius increase in temperature already "represents a remarkable 49 per cent increase in the incidence of civil war."

Yet, as the Copenhagen climate change summit neared its conclusion last week, it looked likely that the best deal on offer would be an attempt to limit further temperature increases to double this amount.

Darfur just may be the tip of the melting iceberg. A new study suggests that, if world leaders fail to reach a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen to curb climate change, Africa will be ravaged by more wars and corpses in the coming decades. ‘If the sub-Saharan climate continues to warm and little is done to help its countries better adapt to high temperatures, the human costs are likely to be staggering,' said UC-Berkeley's Marshall Burke, the study's lead author.

The study, Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa, published online last week by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), states that there are ‘strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war.' Using climate model projections it estimates a ‘roughly 54 per cent increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars.' The study, which uses data between 1981-2002, shows that a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature ‘represents a remarkable 49 per cent increase in the incidence of civil war.'

‘We were definitely surprised that the linkages between temperature and recent conflict were so strong,' said co-author Edward Miguel, professor of economics at UC-Berkeley and faculty director of UC-Berkeley's Center for Evaluation for Global Action. ‘But the result makes sense. The large majority of the poor in most African countries depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and their crops are quite sensitive to small changes in temperature. So when temperatures rise, the livelihoods of many in Africa suffer greatly, and the disadvantaged become more likely to take up arms.'

The study comes on the heels of statements by scientists from the Global Carbon Project that, if we don't drastically reduce our carbon emissions, the world is on course for a 6 degrees Celsius increase in temperature by the end of the century. Of course, if this doomsday scenario comes to fruition, we won't have to worry about wars in Africa - the human race, along with all other forms of life, will be nearly wiped off the face of the earth.

While the study focused solely on temperature change, experts have argued that other climate change factors, such as changes in precipitation levels, water scarcity, lack of arable land, and migration are also contributing to conflicts. The Los Angeles Times published an article appropriately asking: ‘Have the climate wars of Africa begun?'.

The article examines recent tribal fighting in Kenya over water and pastures which the UN believes is responsible for at least 400 deaths this year. Libya, another war torn country, is dealing with longer rainy seasons, rising sea levels, and increases in flooding. Climate change is also believed to be a contributing factor in the escalation of violence in Darfur. Writing in The Washington Post, Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, noted that ‘amid the diverse social and political causes, the Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change.'

Another recent study conducted by a group of military experts contracted by the Institute for Environmental Security in The Hague supports the US researchers´claims linking climate change to war. ‘Failure to recognise the conflict and instability implications of climate change and to invest in a range of preventive and adaptive actions will be very costly in terms of destabilising nations, causing human suffering, retarding development, and providing the required military response,' retired Indian air marshal, A. K. Singh, who chairs the institute's military council, told South Africa´s Mail & Guardian Online.

Nana Poku, professor of African Studies at the UK's Bradford University, told the BBC that the US-based study makes the case for ‘climate debt', that rich countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate crisis.' This idea is growing in popularity around the world.

‘I think it strengthens the argument for ensuring we compensate the developing world for climate change, especially Africa, and begin to look at how we link environmental issues to governance,' said Poku.

‘If the argument is that the trend towards rising temperatures will increase conflict, then yes we need to do something around climate change; but more fundamentally we need to resolve the conflicts in the first place.'

*This article first appeared on the website, Toward Freedom.

*Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at: www.UpsideDownWorld.org, an online magazine
covering politics and activism in Latin America. He also serves on the board of
the Canary Institute.

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