CIWARS CCI News covers climate change, conflict, and infrastructure news focus on water, food, extreme weather, sea level rise, migrants/refugees and destabilizing conflicts. Center for Infrastructural Warfare Studies including cyber infrastructure
40 People Detained During Riots in Paris After Euro 2016 Final
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — A RIA Novosti correspondent earlier reported that clashes in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, where a few scooters and car were burned, continued throughout the match. After the game, thousands of football fans reportedly gathered in the main avenue of Paris — the Champs Elysees – where clashes broke out between the fans and the law enforcement, with police using tear gas and rubber batons on the crowd.
Around 40 arrests have been made tonight in Paris, specifically near the Eiffel Tower, police have confirmed.
— Get French Football (@GFFN)
On Sunday, the Portuguese national team won the Championship for the first time in the history of the tournament, with its player Eder having scored the only goal of the France-Portugal match during extra time. The Portuguese team managed to win despite its captain Cristiano Ronaldo receiving an injury during the game and being replaced by Ricardo Quaresma.
That winning moment! Portugal celebrations at full time in the Paris Fan Zone. #EURO2016#POR
A new passenger terminal at Singapore's Changi airport will be constructed 5.5 metres above mean sea level as a precaution against climate change, the low-lying island state said on Sunday.
Officials say that while 4m above sea level is judged adequate protection from projected rises for other land reclamation projects, Changi's Terminal 5 — to be one of the world's biggest when it opens in a decade — is deemed critical infrastructure so requires even better safeguards.
As a further flood defence measure, the city-state's authorities are upgrading the drainage system serving the terminal and the airport's runways, building canals to divert floodwater and installing CCTV cameras to monitor water levels.
The global threat to transport networks from extreme weather has been in particular focus since 2012, when Hurricane Sandy forced airlines in the US to cancel more than 7,000 flights when three major airports in New York and New Jersey were flooded.
A US government report on climate change in 2014 warned of an increased risk of "temporary and permanent flooding" of airports due to sea level rises coupled with storm surges.
Robert Nicholls, professor of coastal engineering at Southampton University, said that while there were many cities more vulnerable to climate change than Singapore, "it is relatively wealthy and can afford to act … This is about saying 'we're a safe place to invest".
Economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region has boosted demand for air travel, with Changi handling a record 55m passengers last year. The terminal, due to be completed in the 2020s, is part of an expansion projected to bring the airport's capacity to 135m passengers a year.
The raising of the terminal is one of a host of adaptations across the tropical city-state. Climate change is expected to bring higher temperatures to Singapore — already a sweltering country — and sharper contrasts between the monsoon and dry seasons.
Officials are preparing for a sea level rise of between 0.25m and 0.76m in the Strait of Singapore by the final three decades of this century.
To guard against this, the country has created an island-wide network of water-level sensors, including cameras monitoring flood-prone and low-lying areas.
City authorities are constructing a canal to divert floodwater upstream of Orchard Road, the prime retail district, in a measure aimed at preventing flooding that closed shops and sent muddy water washing into the local flagship Hermès store in 2011.
While Singapore recently declared that it had achieved self-reliance in its water supply, officials say climate change will make water more of a priority as the region will experience more intense dry seasons.
The city-state is building more reservoirs and is increasing the number of desalination plants from two to four, while exploring the possibility of a fifth plant.
Washington will have to pay dearly if it breaches JCPOA: Iran nuclear official
Iran's top nuclear official has stressed the Islamic Republic's strong commitment to the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and six world countries in July 2015, warning the United States about the negative repercussions of violating the deal.
"If the JCPOA is discarded, it will harm everyone," said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), in reference to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear agreement.
"We approve of the JCPOA and will not initiate its violation, and we hope they, too, act wisely and don't violate it," he said in an exclusive interview with IRIB news agency on Saturday.
Salehi further pointed out that the successful implementation of the JCOPA will serve the interests of Iran, the West, the Middle East as well as the entire international community, warning that its breach will likewise be to the detriment of everyone.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia — plus Germany started implementing the JCPOA on January 16.
Under the deal, all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union, the Security Council and the US would be lifted. Iran has, in return, put some limitations on its nuclear activities.
However, many large European banks still refrain from engaging in transactions with Iran for fear of US penalties.
"My perception is that the other side will try to keep the JCPOA intact, because it well knows that the violation of the nuclear accord will harm them before harming us," Salehi said.
"The first damage to Americans would be that their political credibility, in the gaining of which they have invested heavily, will be tarnished, and they will have to pay dearly if the world comes to realize they have been so non-commitment," he said.
On June 14, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei pointed to the threats by some US presidential hopefuls to scrap the nuclear agreement, saying the Islamic Republic will strongly respond to any such move.
"We will not violate the JCPOA, but if the opposite side violates it — as US presidential candidates are currently threatening to tear up the JCPOA — if they tear up the JCPOA, we will burn it," the Leader stated.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the US has so far failed to fulfill a major part of its obligations under the JCPOA but Iran has abided by its commitments.
Iran to discard JCPOA if bans re-imposed: Parliament speaker
Iranian Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani says the Islamic Republic will discard a nuclear deal it has struck with six world powers if Western countries attempt to re-apply economic pressure on Iran under new pretexts.
Speaking on Thursday, Larijani said Iran can see no change in the behavior of the countries with which it has struck the nuclear deal, which is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"We keep zooming in on their behavior and we see no kind of compromise or conciliatory behavior," he said, emphasizing, however, that the sides to the JCPOA have no intention of doing away with the nuclear agreement.
The deal was reached in July 2015 and started being implemented by all sides six months later. Under the deal, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program and provide enhanced access to international atomic monitors in return for the termination of all nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union (EU) against the country.
Larijani said that the Western countries have "concerns" on other issues and seek to re-impose the sanctions against Iran under such allegations as Iranian involvement in terrorism and the status of human rights in the country.
"We have already told the Westerners," the Iranian Parliament speaker said, "that if they engage in looking for pretexts so they can re-impose the sanctions under new excuses, we will discard the nuclear deal."
Larijani said one of the Western objectives in trying to apply pressure to Iran with new bans is to "reduce Iranian influence in the region."
"Iran pursues a transparent policy in the region and does not get itself involved in childish and cheap rivalries," he said. "If Iran supports Palestine and the Islamic current in the region, it is because the country deems it its inherent and religious duty."
He said Western countries brandish the so-called Iranian threat and sell weapons to the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf.
"That is why we believe that the behavior of the Westerners has not changed following the JCPOA and that their tactics have rather shifted."
Larijani said Iran is located in an unsafe region and "there is the likelihood that the insecurity may spread to Iran."
"That is why we have an active role in the region and adopt preemptive policies to maintain our own stability and security," he explained.
Iran has been offering the Iraqi and Syrian governments — both of which face militant campaigns — advisory military help.
Forces of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) have killed two more outlaws affiliated with counter-revolutionary groups in the country's western province of Kordestan.
In an interview with Fars news agency released on Thursday, Brigadier General Mohammad Hossein Rajabi, commander of the IRGC's Kordestan wing, said the two were killed in the same operations that left another 11 members of the same terrorist network dead in the city of Sarvabad in the past week.
Rajabi said after the successful operations, locals tipped IRGC forces off that up to three of the terrorists linked to the same counter-revolutionary groups were still alive.
As a result, the IRGC designed another offensive and began work to find the remaining terrorists, he added.
"Finally, at 02:30 p.m. on Tuesday, we encircled these people around the village of Buridar in the Sarvabad county and killed both of them," Rajabi said.
The military official further thanked locals for their cooperation with IRGC forces, noting, "People in Kordestan Province would under no circumstances allow the entry of counter-revolutionary elements" into the country.
According to the commander, the head of the group had confessed in his diary that the activities of outlaws in Iran is "ineffective," and that they enjoyed no public support in the area.
Rajabi further warned the Islamic Republic's regional and trans-regional enemies of the consequences of acting as a mercenary for Saudi Arabia that is itself a mercenary of the US and Israel.
"They (the enemies) had sent these 13 people in the form of a team to conduct an operation in our soil, but … all of them were slain because we, as IRGC forces, consider security in the province and the entire country as our red line," the commander emphasized.
On June 28, General Rajabi said the operation also led to the killings of three IRGC members, adding that the 11 outlaws killed were tied to an anti-Iran Kurdish terror outfit.
Iranian forces have recently engaged in clashes with terror groups, thwarting their terrorist activities on the frontier and within the country, arresting several of them and confiscating large amounts of explosives and bomb-making materials.
More revelations on Venezuela's "drought" and the Guri Dam
Just when I thought my recent post on the Venezuela drought was dead and buried a comment appeared. It was posted by Miguel Octavio, a physicist by training who lives in Miami but who visits Venezuela frequently, and it linked to a follow-up post on Miguel's blog that contained a lot of local rainfall and stream flow data that weren't available to me but which prove beyond any doubt that there is no drought at or around the El Guri dam. This post presents Miguel's post in its entirety and adds two other items as footnotes:
The title of this post may seem strange to some, when you look, for example, at the pictures in this Reuters report, it certainly seems like there is a drought in Guri, except that if the pictures were of the bottom of the now half -dry lake that forms the dam, it is obvious that it will look dead and drought-like in the pictures.
When I was in Caracas, someone told me that they had gone fishing in one of the tributaries of the river Caroni and the water level was quite high, something that was later confirmed by another friend who went fishing in the La Paragua river and saw the water level rise by a meter in a few days.
Despite this, the dam level keeps going down, so, what gives?
Both of my friends deduced from this, that the problem was not drought, but the managing of the Guri dam.
I stored this information in the back of my mind and did not look into this for a couple of weeks, but all of a sudden, this blog post by Roger Andrews came out. While Andrews is not an expert in this particular field, he seems to be someone that likes charts and numbers and understanding problems. What Andrews showed, and I will come back to it, is that this has not been an anomalous year in terms of rainfall in Guri and that the problem with the water level was simply overuse of the dam to generate electricity.
It is useful before we discuss this, to show you an overall map of the area of Guri:
On the left, you can see the overall area in the Southeast of Venezuela down to Brazil and Guyana. In the blow up on the right, you can see the Caroni river and all its tributaries, which is the area that feeds the dam. What matters in the end, is what rainfall is doing there, not in Caracas or Maracaibo or even Ciudad Bolívar, far from the dam, not in the basin of the Caroní river.
What Andrews did, was to look at the data in five rain stations in Bolivar and Amazonas and see if rain was particularly light in the last few years. Here I show two of them: Tumeremo, to the right of the dam, and Santa Elena to the South and which is in the Caroni basin:
As you can see, rainfall in Tumeremo was in 2015 about the same as any other year and in the case of Santa Elena, rainfall levels were at 200 mm per month level, not exactly low given the long term record.
This graph shows the maximum rainfall at the Kavanayen Station (black), the average (blue) and the lowest level (red) from 1969 to 1998 (Funny, there is no data after Chávez was elected)
As you can see 200 mm. is way above the lowest level ever measured.
Just to make sure, Andrews blew out the data and I will show what is seen for Santa Elena:
As you can see, last year was not too different than any of the past five years, when there was no "El Niño" to blame the supposed drought on.
At this point I wished I had current data for the stations with a long term record to compare. But then, a person I follow in Tweeter (@meteovenezuela) posted the following recent rainfall map:
This is a map of the Caroni river basin above Guri, showing the accumulated rain from March 15th. to April 13th at a number of stations. What is interesting is that we have two stations that we can compared to the long term record: Kavanyen and Uriman. At Kavanayen, the rainfall was 229.1 mm for this almost one month period. This number is way above the average rainfall for April 1st. from 1969 to 1998 in the graph above, which was of the order of 150 mm per month, and we are talking about comparing to the average! Not to the lows…
We can do the same thing for the Uriman station, close to the dam as seen above above, where the rainfall was 151.7 mm in the same almost one month period.
Below is the long term record for this station:
I have placed a red dot on the curve with the data for this year, as you can see, it is right on the historical average, far from being an anomalously low value, as the presence of a severe drought would require.
Despite this, the Guri dam level continues to go down…
And to increase the mystery, I found this plot of the water volume in the Caroni river tweeted by @800GWHMWH:
Clearly, the volume of the river is at levels which are historically high, not low.
I am no expert, I just enjoy looking at data and graphs, I have looked for as much new data to complement Andrews' and I must say, everything that I have found confirms what he concludes. I do hope one or many of the readers of this blog can help me in getting more information and data and debunking the Government's claim that this El Niño-induced drought has been anomalously strong, because it certainly does not look like it.
In closing, I show a plot of the peak power demand in Venezuela in the last few years:
Clearly, despite the billions that were invested in order to increase power generation, we are now back to 2007 levels, indicating that something has been going downhill in the grid and I would bet, this has to do with the overuse of Guri, to compensate the decline of the whole network.
—- End of post ——
Footnote 1: The El Guri rockfill dam
In comments to Miguel's post Eugene Weixel posted this video (commentary in English). It purports to show how excavation at the toe of a rockfill dam threatens to undermine the dam and to place cities and towns downstream in danger of flooding. The video is, however, dated 1980. Anyone with additional information on this subject is encouraged to provide it.
Footnote 2: Twitter exchange between Miguel and the Venezuelan Minister of Electricity and Energy:
(Translation by RA, vetted by MO)
Miguel: Here it is, an analysis by an expert who says there is no anomaly (followed by a link to the Energy Matters post)
Minister: Of course you can demonstrate it …. everyone who follows you will know that you get precipitation data from the web.
Miguel: Precipitation data show that rainfall hasn't been abnormal
Minister: Miguel, go to the internet and search for rainfall data. It's what I'm telling you. Don't deceive! Don't manipulate!
Miguel: Can you demonstrate that it's rained less? The problem isn't that they have generated more electricity?
Minister: You can check it in the Hydrological Bulletin …. It's not necessary for me to prove it to you.
South Sudan: 'Riek Machar forces under fire' in Juba
Forces loyal to the vice-president of South Sudan say their positions in the capital, Juba, have been attacked by government troops.
UN representatives reported heavy exchanges of gunfire near their headquarters in the suburb of Jebel.
The clashes follow days of fighting between supporters of President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar.
The violence has raised fears of renewed instability, with a 2015 peace deal failing to quell unrest.
Heavy gunfire was reported on Sunday in the Gudele and Jebel suburbs of Juba, near a military barracks occupied by troops loyal to Mr Machar.
"For about 30 to 40 minutes we heard sounds of heavy artillery in the direction of Jebel area," an aid worker based in Juba told Reuters.
Huge distrust - Mary Harper, BBC World Service Africa Editor
The situation in South Sudan has echoes of the days before the civil war began, in December 2013, when skirmishes between troops loyal to Salva Kiir and Riek Machar escalated into a national bloodbath, killing tens of thousands and displacing two million.
As artillery fire rings out in the capital Juba and a helicopter gunship buzzes overhead, desperate work is under way to try to calm the situation and to prevent the clashes from spreading.
But huge distrust remains between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar and between their forces. The leaders may even be struggling to control their own troops. A number of peace deals have been signed - so far, none has led to lasting stability.
Sunday's clashes are first since Friday, when a half-hour gun battle with heavy weapons and artillery killed more than 100 people.
A South Sudanese journalist told the BBC that reporters counted at least 100 bodies on Saturday, inside and outside the presidential palace's compound.
Some estimates have put the total death toll in the recent violence at more than 250.
Friday's exchanges were apparently sparked by a shootout between Mr Kiir's and Mr Machar's bodyguards. The two men met at the presidential palace on Friday, and issued a call for calm.
South Sudan, the world's newest country, marked its fifth anniversary of independence from neighbouring Sudan on Saturday in lockdown.
The country is so short of money that no official anniversary events were planned.
Tens of thousands died and millions were displaced in the civil war that ended with the division of Sudan five years ago.
Five years of South Sudan
Key dates in South Sudan's history
July 2011 - South Sudan becomes an independent country, after more than 20 years of guerrilla warfare, which claimed the lives of at least 1.5 million people and displaced more than four million.
December 2013 - Civil war breaks out after President Salva Kiir sacks the cabinet and accuses Vice-President Riek Machar of planning a coup. Over 2.2 million people are displaced by the fighting and severe famine puts the lives of thousands at risk. Mr Machar flees the country.
August 2015 - President Kiir signs a peace deal with rebels after a threat of sanctions from the UN.
April 2016 - Riek Machar returns to South Sudan to take up his job as first vice president in a new unity government led by President Salva Kiir.
Heavy fighting in South Sudan sparks fears of return to civil war
Fighting involving heavy weapons and helicopter gunships raged for more than seven hours near the main UN compound in South Sudan's capital Juba on Sunday, as fears mounted that the country was sliding back into civil war after a recently ended 30-month conflict that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
There was no word of casualties or what triggered the clashes between soldiers supporting President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his first vice-president, Riek Machar.
But at least 150 people were reportedly killed when the two sides fought on Friday evening near the presidential palace while both men were meeting inside.
That battle followed an outbreak of fighting in another part of Juba on Thursday evening when at least five government soldiers died.
The two leaders called for peace at a joint press conference on Friday evening but their appeal appeared to have little effect.
Neighbours Kenya and Sudan were among the governments who on Sunday called on both leaders to stop the fighting. Kenya announced that regional foreign ministers and representatives of the international troika for South Sudan — the UK, US and Norway — would hold an emergency meeting on Monday on "the deteriorating situation and [to] chart the way forward".
Several international organisations, including the IMF, have evacuated staff from the country, which marked its fifth anniversary of independence on Saturday. The EU withdrew its head of delegation and the UK pulled out all but "essential staff".
Kenya Airways announced on Sunday it was suspending all flights to Juba as fighting raged near the airport. Other flight operators said their services were disrupted and one airline, Fly540, said the international airport would be closed for two days.
The UN mission to South Sudan said it was "outraged by the resumption of violence". It tweeted that Sunday's fighting, which was also near a military base belonging to Machar loyalists, involved "heavy ground assault weaponry". Hundreds of terrified civilians fled to UN bases.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the fighting in the afternoon was so "fierce" its teams were "not able to work".
Mr Kiir and Mr Machar formed a transitional government of national unity in the world's youngest nation after the latter's return in April from two years in an exile where he had been leading his forces against Mr Kiir. However, there has been little progress since then towards creating the conditions for lasting peace and many people in Juba expect the situation to deteriorate.
James Gatdet Dak, a spokesman for Mr Machar, said the military base was attacked by Kiir loyalists using helicopter gunships and tanks. Mr Gatdet Dak said the attack was "repulsed" and three tanks and other equipment captured.
However, local media quoted Michael Makuei, the information minister, as saying Machar loyalists were responsible for the "unfortunate incident" but that they had been "scattered" by troops loyal to Mr Kiir. Neither report could be corroborated.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, on Sunday condemned the "senseless violence". He said after Friday's clash that the renewed fighting was "yet another illustration of the parties' lack of serious commitment to the peace process". He added: "[It] represents a new betrayal of the people of South Sudan, who have suffered from unfathomable atrocities since [the outbreak of the civil war in] December 2013."
The government was meant to build a united military command and start integrating the two sides' forces into a single army. But that has not happened and there are thousands of heavily armed soldiers in Juba who are deeply suspicious of each other.
There have been intermittent clashes between the two sides, and the dozen other armed groups in the country, since Mr Machar returned. However, the capital had been largely peaceful until last week.
Mike Brand, policy director of the US-based Jewish World Watch, which seeks to halt mass atrocities, said he feared this was "just a small example of what's to come", adding: "I'm surprised this didn't happen sooner with so much hate, anger and angst in such a confined space."
Aid agencies estimate more than one-third of the country's 12m population is dependent on humanitarian assistance and more than 2m people have fled their homes since the war started in 2013.
The economy, which is dependent on oil, is close to collapse. Little oil is being produced and inflation is slightly less than 300 per cent.
Zlatko Gegic, the South Sudan director for aid agency Oxfam, said he was unaware of credible attempts to defuse the tension. "There are some talks in corridors but even if South Sudan had a stable government and institutions in place, recovery would still take years and we don't have this so it's likely going to get worse before it gets better," he said.
France was among the worst-affected countries, with 15,000 deaths in August alone. In the UK, the summer saw more than 2,000 heat-related fatalities.
A new first-of-a-kind study works out how many of the deaths in Paris and London are down to the heatwave being intensified by human-caused climate change.
The findings suggest that 506 of the 735 summer fatalities in Paris in 2003, and 64 of the 315 in London, were a result of human influence on the climate.
The European summer heatwave of 2003 has been something of a focal point for scientists looking at if and how human-caused climate change influences extreme weather events.
In 2004, the heatwave was the subject of the first ever attribution study, which found that climate warming from human activity had at least doubled the likelihood of such an event. In 2014, another study found that a similar "extremely hot" summer in Europe has become 10 times more likely over the last 10-15 years because of climate change.
Taking this a step further, the new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, attributes the number of deaths during the 2003 heatwave to our warming climate.
The study makes use of the weather@home project, where members of the public offer spare capacity on their home computers for scientists to run model simulations.
The researchers ran thousands of simulations of European weather in 2003. One set of model runs simulated the weather according to the climate as it was – i.e. in a world warmed by past greenhouse gas emissions. The second set simulated the weather in a hypothetical world with no human influences on climate.
The researchers then compared the heat and humidity between the hypothetical world and the one better matched to reality to see how they affect the number of premature deaths in the summer of the same year. Lead author Dr Daniel Mitchell, a researcher in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, explains to Carbon Brief:
"We have a statistical relationship between the number of additional deaths per degree of warming. This is specific to a certain city, and changes a lot between cities. We use climate simulations to calculate the heat in 2003, and in 2003 without human influences. Then we compare the simulations, along with the observations."
The authors' comparison shows that human-induced climate change was responsible for 70% of heat-related deaths in central Paris, and 20% in Greater London.
This means, of the 735 heat-related deaths in Paris during the summer of 2003, 506 were due to human-caused climate change. For London, it was 64 out of 315.
The charts below highlight the impact of the 2003 heatwave on London (upper chart) and Paris (lower chart). They show the estimated heat-related deaths per day during the summer for 2003 (thick line) and the 10 preceding years, which didn't have major heatwave events (thin lines). You can see the peaks in heat-deaths in mid-July and mid-August.
Between June and August 2003, the total rate of heat-related deaths was 4.5 per 100,000 people for London and 34 per 100,000 for Paris, the paper says. Note, these figures differ from those in the charts below because they're totals for the whole summer, rather than the heat-deaths per day, which the charts show.
Daily time series of estimated heat-related deaths (per 100,000 of population) during the summer for London (upper chart) and Paris (lower chart). The charts show number of deaths in 2003 (thick lines) and for each year of 1993-2002 (thin lines). Source: Mitchell et al. (2016)
As the study looked at just two affected cities, the total number of deaths due to the influence of climate change on the heatwave will be much higher, the paper notes:
"London and Paris are just two of a large number of cities that were impacted by the 2003 heatwave, therefore the total European-wide mortality count attributable to anthropogenic climate change is likely to be orders of magnitude larger than this."
The study is the first to apply a standard attribution methodology to look at mortality during a specific extreme weather event, says Dr Nikos Christidis from the Met Office, who wasn't involved in this study, but authored another about European heatwaves. He tells Carbon Brief about the benefits of using this approach:
"An obvious one is that the study analyses mortality – i.e. a direct impact measure – rather than temperature – an indirect impact measure, which might be more useful to some decision makers."
On the other hand, a drawback is that linking mortalities into climate means adding another level of uncertainty into the analysis, Christidis says. This can be an issue if scientists don't have long and reliable health datasets to use in their analysis.
Looking ahead, the paper notes that the next task is to assess the potential risks of future heatwaves as the climate warms further. But this is tricky, notes Mitchell, as there are social factors involved, such as population growth:
"We suggest that mortality rates will, in general, rise in future heatwaves as they become larger in magnitude."
Main image: View of City of London's high rise architecture at sunset. Credit: _ultraforma_/Getty Images.
Mitchell, D. et al. (2016) Attributing human mortality during extreme heatwaves to anthropogenic climate change, Environmental Research Letters, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/7/074006
South China Sea: What to look out for in the UN tribunal ruling
A UN tribunal is expected on Tuesday to rule on a controversial case brought by the Philippines that questions some of China's claims in the South China Sea. Here are things to watch out for in the much-anticipated ruling.
Why is the case important?
This is a rare occasion when a highly technical decision by an obscure UN body based in the Netherlands could be of enormous geopolitical significance. It has both the potential to clarify several issues that are at the heart of the fierce territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but also to provoke increased tensions between China and the US.
What is the background?
In 2013, the Philippines brought its case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at The Hague. It submitted 15 different items where it says China's claims and activity in the South China Sea were contrary to international law.
China has refused to take part in the case and has challenged the court's authority, but last year the tribunal said it had jurisdiction on at least seven of the claims and was still making up its mind on the other eight. Many experts expect the court to rule against China on a number of the cases.
What are the legal implications?
It is important to emphasise that the tribunal in The Hague is not adjudicating on the competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, only on the maritime rights attached to those claims.
One of the main planks of the Philippines' case is to question the legal validity of China's "Nine-Dash Line" — the dotted boundary on a map that claims as much as 90 per cent of the South China Sea. Experts say the court could declare the Nine-Dash Line as effectively illegal or could question it in ways that would oblige China to clarify the legal basis of the line — something China has been reluctant to do.
Other aspects of the case are more esoteric. The court will decide whether several land features — some of which China has already turned into man-made islands — are to be treated as "low-tide elevations", which enjoy no territorial waters, "rocks", which have a 12-mile territorial sea or "islands" which enjoy a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Many experts believe the court will say that some of China's man-made islands have no legal claim on the surrounding waters.
What does that mean in practice?
The UN tribunal has no powers of enforcement. It cannot oblige China to do anything, and Beijing will not withdraw from any of its new artificial islands. But if the ruling favours the Philippines, China risks more reputational damage and regional isolation if it ignores the court and continues to pursue its claims. Other claimants such as Vietnam could also decide to introduce similar claims. The Obama administration is already framing the ruling as a test of whether China respects international law.
How will China respond?
As well as rejecting the tribunal's authority, China has been trying to rally international support for its view that the tribunal ruling is illegitimate. Beijing claims it already has 60 supporters, but the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank, says that only eight governments have declared their backing in public — including landlocked nations such as Lesotho and Afghanistan. If the ruling goes against it, China could seek ways to punish the Philippines, perhaps by informally limiting tourists or imports.
Ahead of the ruling, China has intensified its international public relations campaign. Dai Bingguo, who used to be the country's senior foreign policy official, told a conference in Washington last week that the ruling "amounts to nothing more than a piece of paper". He also warned the US not to step up its military presence in the region. "We in China would not be intimidated by US actions," he said. "Not even if the US sent all 10 aircraft carriers to the South China Sea."
And the Philippines?
Days before the ruling, a new president took office in the Philippines — Rodrigo Duterte, a tough-talking former mayor who has sometimes been compared to Donald Trump.
At times Mr Duterte has made confrontational comments about China and the territorial disputes. However, at his first cabinet meeting, he adopted a conciliatory tone, saying his country might be willing to enter new talks with Beijing after the ruling.
What about the US?
The biggest risk is that China lashes out at a negative ruling and decides to escalate its military ambitions in the South China Sea, either by declaring control over the airspace in the region or by seeking to build an artificial island on Scarborough Shoal — another land feature also claimed by the Philippines.
In anticipation of a more aggressive Chinese reaction, the US has sent significant military assets to the region, including a visit by an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea and fighter jets to the Philippines. The message to Beijing has been that any move on Scarborough Shoal will be met with a substantial US response. However, these military preparations underline the potential for the South China Sea to generate much sharper competition between the US and China.
Insurers' pledge to help developing countries on climate change
When powerful earthquakes rocked New Zealand and Haiti in 2010, each measuring 7.0 magnitude, very different dramas unfolded: New Zealand, though hit hard, was able to start recovering relatively quickly; Haiti, meanwhile, was brought to its knees.
One major reason for the difference was the role insurance played in the two island nations' recoveries. Whereas most of New Zealand's earthquake-related damages were covered by insurance, very few of Haiti's were.
The lack of insurance for emerging economies is becoming more of a problem as the costs of natural disasters increase. Exacerbating this risk are the effects of climate change.
Yet there appears to be a growing sense of urgency among policymakers and insurers to address the problem. Last year the G7 nations said they would aim to increase the number of people in the developing world insured against the negative impact of climate change. Since then, December's Paris agreement to combat climate change was signed by nearly 200 countries.
Another initiative is the Insurance Development Forum, a collaboration of insurers, the World Bank and the United Nations. The IDF aims to help emerging economies understand and assess the risks they face, while increasing their access to insurance.
"For years the insurance industry has been very poor at describing the value proposition of insurance," says Stephen Catlin, executive chairman of the IDF and deputy chairman at XL Catlin, the insurer. But now the UN and other agencies "are starting to understand what we can do for them", he adds.
Number of additional people in the developing world that the G7 hopes to insure against climate change risk by 2020
One measure of success for the group would be for "more people to be covered against more perils", says Michael Morrissey, president and chief executive of the International Insurance Society, which supports the IDF.
The IDF's mission, which it is drawing up, is expected to include helping many of the V20, or vulnerable 20 countries. The members of this group — which officially formed last October at a meeting in Lima, Peru, and which now includes 43 countries — consider themselves among the most susceptible to the effects of climate change.
"The aims [of the IDF and the V20] are fairly well aligned," says Matthew McKinnon, project manager at the United Nations Development Programme, which is supporting the V20. "Everyone recognises that huge gaps in insurance coverage are a problem. And they're getting worse each year."
Finance ministers of the V20 said in a recent statement that the group is aiming to expand access among its members to risk-pooling mechanisms, which allow groups to share the burden of catastrophic risks such as earthquakes and flooding.
Several V20 countries already pool risk with each other, including Haiti, which is a member of a so-called risk pool of 16 Caribbean nations. Haiti received a $7.5m payout from the pool following the 2010 earthquake. Yet insurance payouts overall covered less than 1 per cent of Haiti's earthquake-related economic losses, which were $8.5bn, according to research by Swiss Re. Meanwhile, damages in New Zealand from its 2010 earthquake and two more in 2011 totalled $31bn, of which insurance covered around 80 per cent.
This gap between economic and insured losses — called the protection gap — is a major determining factor of how well a country recovers from a natural disaster. The gap is much wider among emerging economies where insurance penetration is low.
According to Swiss Re, so-called insurance penetration — a measure of premiums as a proportion of GDP — in Europe was 6.8 per cent in 2014, compared to 3.8 per cent in Africa. In Nigeria this number was just 0.3 per cent.
Natural disasters have become riskier for these countries as their populations and economic development have increased. "When things hit, they're hitting a higher concentration of value," says Martyn Parker, chairman of the global partnerships unit at Swiss Re.
For years the insurance industry has been very poor at describing the value proposition of insurance
Changing weather patterns and rising sea levels due to climate change are only making matters worse.
Swiss Re, whose incoming chief executive Christian Mumenthaler is a member of the IDF steering committee, has been working with governments to address the low insurance penetration among emerging economies for several years. The company helped create the Caribbean risk pooling scheme as well as similar schemes in Africa and among Pacific Island nations.
Drawing on this experience, Mr Parker says initiatives such as the IDF could face several hurdles, including a lack of awareness in emerging economies about what the insurance industry can do or even regulatory restrictions against purchasing insurance. But the prospect of opening up new markets will probably be enough to motivate insurers to continue their efforts.
"I'm not going to pretend for one second that the industry's not looking for growth," says Mr Catlin, adding that governments and development agencies increasingly acknowledge that the industry can find new business opportunities while at the same time "delivering a societal need more cheaply than a government can".
Iran says Saudis back terrorism after senior prince attends rebel rally
Iran on Sunday accused Saudi Arabia of backing terrorism after a senior Saudi prince, a former intelligence chief, addressed a Paris rally held by exiled Iranian rebels and told them he wanted the Iranian government to fall.
Shi'ite Muslim power Iran and Saudi Arabia, bastion of Sunni Islam, are longstanding religious and political arch rivals. Relations are fraught as they back each other's foes in regional wars such as in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.
"The Saudis are resorting to well-known terrorists ... as they have also done in Iraq, Yemen and Syria. This shows that they use terrorism and terrorists to further their aims against regional Islamic countries," an unnamed Iranian Foreign Ministry source was quoted by Iran's state news agency IRNA as saying.
The rally addressed by Prince Turki al-Faisal on Saturday was held by the political wing of the exiled People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which seeks the overthrow of Iran's clerical leadership established by the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Saudi media gave top coverage to the speech. The rally was also attended by a number of Western political figures, including former U.S. House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich.
Also known by its Persian name Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organisation (MKO), the group sided with Saddam Hussein during Iraq's war with Iran in the 1980s but fell out of favour with Baghdad after he was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
PMOI once had a presence in the United States and maintains offices in Europe. Critics have described it as a cult.
Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting Islamic State and other militant groups, which Riyadh denies. The Saudis say Iran is fomenting sectarian violence in the Middle East and has aspirations to dominate the region.
"Your legitimate struggle against the (Iranian) regime will achieve its goal, sooner or later," Prince Turki, also an ex-ambassador to Washington and London, had said in his speech.
"I, too, want the fall of the regime," he added.
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian police said they had arrested several more suspects with links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, as the authorities intensify efforts to curb the spread of its radical ideology, particularly in universities, The Star reported yesterday.
More arrests are expected in the next few days, Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told the newspaper.
"We are still on the manhunt for the two suspects involved in the Puchong grenade attack," he said on Thursday at the Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house of Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali.
"They have gone into hiding but we are confident of tracking them down in due course."
Tan Sri Khalid said police were monitoring closely social websites and deploying more personnel to keep watch on "sensitive areas".
He also reminded the media not to publicise the activities or any new threats issued by the militants that could be detrimental to the country's peace and security.
"Let's not give them space and the avenue to project themselves. We are aware that several of them are aiming to be the cell leader by planning more dastardly acts," he said, adding that the police had their own strategy of checking and countering the movement.
Mr Khalid said that so far, no other personnel from within the force had been influenced by the movement except for two rank- and-file members who had already been detained for questioning.
It has been learnt that three Malaysians were competing to become the ISIS chapter's head in the country, according to The Star.
A nationwide manhunt has been launched to track down Md Saifuddin Muji, 28, and Jasanizam Rosni, 33, for their alleged role in the bombing in Puchong last week.
Apart from social media, the authorities are also keeping a close watch on local universities where the ISIS influence may be strong, said the Deputy Prime Minister on Wednesday.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said such monitoring of universities was being carried out not just in Malaysia. Other countries were doing the same thing at their universities.
Two of the seven ISIS attackers who killed 20 people at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, last week were reported to have previously studied at Monash University in Selangor, The Star said.
Dr Zahid said the government would enlist the assistance of former terrorists who had repented to help counter the spread of extremist ideology in the country. They will be asked to speak at universities to boost awareness about the dangers of extremism.
In Kuala Lumpur, Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist P. Sundramoorthy said the appeal of ISIS has become so diverse that it transcends socio-economic demographics.
He cited the former Monash students in the Dhaka attack as an example. They were reportedly popular, came from well-to-do families and were well educated.
Consultant psychiatrist Andrew Mohanraj Chandrasekaran said ISIS was slyly portraying itself on social media as fighters battling against injustice and oppression.
He said its recruitment campaign offers a cause similar to the type that many university students typically gravitate towards.
"Traditionally, universities encourage idealism. University students are sensitive to injustice and political, social or religious movements, which makes them easy to radicalise," he said.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has appealed to the people to cooperate in the country's fight against the militant threat.
"First and foremost, we must reject extremism and militancy. Use awareness, moderation as the basis," he said in a live broadcast from the Hari Raya open house he hosted at Seri Perdana on Wednesday.
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysian police nab more ISIS-linked suspects'. Print Edition | Subscribe
Islamic buildings and mosques in north London are on high alert after they have been threatened and received packages containing white powder.
Counter-terrorism police are investigating the packages sent to mosques and Islamic centers in Tottenham, Leyton and Finsbury Park on Thursday.
There have been reports of similar deliveries across the capital, sparking security alerts and causing parts of the parliamentary estate to be closed when peer Lord Ahmed, a Muslim, was among the recipients.
Police have been called to Noor Ul Islam in Leyton High Road, Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park, and the Masjid Ayesha Islamic community centre in Clyde Road in Tottenham.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said, "There were exactly the same circumstances at all three mosques. Officers were stood down when it was discovered the powder was not noxious.
"The investigation is being conducted by the north-east London counter-terrorism unit."
The powder was found to be non-toxic and according to a worshipper, it was chalk. However, it caused a member of staff to feel "itchy" at Masjid Ayesha.
A worshipper in Tottenham said the package has a crossed-out drawing of a mosque, an offensive term, and the word "filth".
"A committee member from the mosque called the police after his dad felt itchy from the white powder. The police then called a bomb squad to examine the crime scene," Areeb Ul, the worshiper, wrote.
"Islamophobia is real. We cannot afford to be afraid of speaking out when someone clearly wants us to do the opposite," he added.
On June 27, Tell MAMA, an anti-Muslim hate monitoring group based in London, said in its annual report that Islamphobic incidents in the UK increased by 326 percent last year, rising from 146 to 437 cases.
The survey also found that British Muslim women who wear hijab are now in such grave danger that they fear to conduct "day to day activities."
The report showed that 61 percent of victims in the cases investigated by the organization were women, of whom at least 75 percent were identified as Muslim.
KUALA LUMPUR: In what is seen as a desperate attempt to increase their wavering manpower, Malaysian terrorists in the Philippines, who have before openly renounced their citizenships, have established a new battalion to continue their extremist struggles.
The new battalion, called the Katibah Al-Muhajir or Battalion of Migrants, was created to persuade supporters and sympathisers to join the Islamic State cause.
This was revealed by terrorism expert Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of Singapore's Nanyang Technological University's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.
"Now we have seen that in the Philippines, IS has created Katibah Al-Muhajir, the Battalion of Migrants. They are (made up of) Malaysians and Indonesians," he told the New Straits Times.
He said the battalion was created in response to the failure of recruits from Southeast Asia to travel to the Middle East to join IS.
The announcement, said Rohan, was made by IS in a propaganda video last month.
"IS said that those (intending to join IS) from Southeast Asia need not (go) to Syria and Iraq if it is difficult, that (it is better) for them to go to the Philippines," he said.
Malaysian police, in particular the Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division operatives, are checking the veracity of the claims and the propaganda video.
In response to a question, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told the NST that police were investigating the matter.
Rohan said intelligence showed that the battalion had recruited a number of Malaysians.
"There are about 10 Malaysians (there now)," he said.
The centre of operation for the new battalion, Rohan said, was in Basilan, an island province of the Philippines within the autonomous region in Muslim-majority Mindanao.
The Sulu archipelago, which is known as the home of Philippine militancy, was chosen following a declaration that it was the "soil of the caliphate", he said.
Rohan said militants and radicals in Southeast Asia were already heading to the new rally point, shifting their direction from Syria and Iraq.
"We have seen, since the last few weeks, one or two people (who) were going from Southeast Asia to Syria and Iraq are instead going to the Philippines.
"The Philippines can be a very important launching pad to reach Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore because southern Philippines is very centrally located."