Aletho News


Global Warming: the Collapse of a Grand Narrative

By Professor Philip Stott | January 30, 2010

For over a month now, since the farcical conclusion of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, I have been silent, partly through family commitments abroad in the USA, but also because, in this noisy world, in ‘The Clamour Of The Times’, it is on occasion better to be quiet and contemplative, to observe rather than to comment. And, as an independent academic, it has been fascinating to witness the classical collapse of a Grand Narrative, in which social and philosophical theories are being played out before our gaze. It is like watching the Berlin Wall  being torn down, concrete slab by concrete slab, brick by brick, with cracks appearing and widening daily on every face – political, economic, and scientific. Likewise, the bloggers have been swift to cover the crumbling edifice with colourful graffiti, sometimes bitter, at others caustic and witty.

The Political And Economic Collapse

Moreover, the collapse has been quicker than any might have predicted. The humiliating exclusion of Britain and the EU at the end of the Copenhagen débâcle was partially to be expected, but it was brutal in its final execution. The swing of power to the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China) had likewise been signified for some time, but, again, it came with precipitate ease, leaving even the American President, Barack Obama, with no doubts as to where the political agenda on climate change was now heading, namely to the developing world, but especially to the East, and to the Pacific Rim. The dirigiste tropes of  ‘Old Europe’, with its love of meaningless targets and carbon capping, will no longer carry weight, while Obama himself has been straitjacketed  by the voters of Massachusetts, by the rust-belt Democrats, by a truculent Congress, by an increasingly-sceptical and disillusioned American public, but, above all, by the financial crisis. Nothing will now be effected that for a single moment curbs economic development, from China to Connecticut, from Africa to Alaska.

And, as ever, capitalism has read the runes, with carbon-trading posts quietly being shed, ‘Green’ jobs sidelined, and even big insurance companies starting to hedge their own bets against the future of the Global Warming Grand Narrative. These rats are leaving the sinking ship far faster than any politician, many of whom are going to be abandoned, left, still clinging to the masts, as the Good Ship ‘Global Warming’ founders on titanic icebergs in the raging oceans of doubt and delusion.

The Scientific Collapse

And what can one say about ‘the science’? ‘The ‘science’ is already paying dearly for its abuse of freedom of information, for unacceptable cronyism, for unwonted arrogance, and for the disgraceful misuse of data at every level, from temperature measurements to glaciers to the Amazon rain forest. What is worse, the usurping of the scientific method, and of justified scientific scepticism, by political policies and political propaganda could well damage science sensu lato – never mind just climate science – in the public eye for decades. The appalling pre-Copenhagen attacks by the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his climate-change henchman, Ed Miliband, on those who dared to be critical of the science of climate change were some of the most unforgivable I can recall.

It is further salutary that much of the trouble is now emanating from India. Indeed, the nonsense written about the Indian Sub-Continent has been a particular nadir in climate-change science, and it has long been judged so by many experts on the region. My ex-SOAS friend and colleague, Dr. Robert Bradnock, a world authority on the Sub-Continent, has been seething for years over the traducing of data and information relating to this key part of the world. In June, 2008, he wrote:

“However, in my own narrow area of research, I know that many of the claims about the impact of ‘global warming’ in Bangladesh, for example, are completely unfounded. There is no evidence that flooding has increased at all in recent years. Drought and excessive rainfall are the nature of the monsoon system. Agricultural production, far from being decimated by worsening floods over the last twenty years, has nearly doubled. In the early 1990s, Houghton published a map of the purported effects of sea-level rise on Bangladesh. Coming from a Fellow of the Royal Society, former Head of the Met Office and Chair of the IPCC, this was widely accepted, and frequently reproduced. Yet, it shows no understanding of the complex processes that form the Bengal delta, and it is seriously misleading. Moreover, despite the repeated claims of the World Wide Fund, Greenpeace, and, sadly, Christian Aid, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers is of completely marginal significance to the farmers of the plains in China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. One could go on!”

The Media Collapse

One could indeed! But we may not need to do so for much longer. Why? Because the biggest collapse is in the media, the very ‘mechanism’ through which the greedy Global Warming Grand Narrative has promulgated itself during the last ten to twenty years.

The break in the ‘Media Wall’ began in the tabloids and in the ‘red tops’, like The Daily Express and the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday, but it is today spreading rapidly – yet once more as theory predicts – to the so-called ‘heavyweights’ and to the BBC. In the past, uncritical and apocalyptic stories and programmes were given the highest prominence, with any sceptical comment confined to the briefest of quotations from some benighted, and often snidely-mentioned, sceptic squeezed in at the very end of the piece (“For balance, you know”). Today, the reverse is becoming true, with the ‘global warming’ faithful firmly forced on to the back foot. Yet, in our post-modern world, it is the journalistic language being employed that is the true indicator of a new media order. Listening to good old Roger Harrabin this morning, reporting on BBC Radio 4’s flagship ‘Today’ programme, was a revelation in this respect; the language, and even the style, had altered radically.

Potential Losers

The collapse is now so precipitate that there will inevitably be some serious losers caught out by it all. The UK Met Office could well be one, with the BBC rightly reviewing its contract with them. At the moment, Met Office spokespersons sound extraordinary, bizarre even. They bleat out ‘global warming’ phrases like programmed robotic sheep, although they are finding it increasingly difficult to pull the wool over our eyes. It is terribly 1984, and rather chilling, so to speak. It is obvious that the organisation is suffering from another classical academic state, namely that known as ‘cognitive dissonance’ [see here and here]. This is experienced when belief in a Grand Narrative persists blindly, even when the facts in the real world begin to contradict what the narrative is saying. Sadly, many of our public and private organisations have allowed themselves to develop far too great a vested interest in ‘global warming’, as have too many politicians and activists. These are increasingly terrified, many having no idea how to react, or how to adjust, to the collapse. It will be particularly interesting to witness how, in the end, the Royal Society plays its cards, especially if competing scientific paradigms, such as the key role played by water vapour in climate change, start to displace the current paradigm in classic fashion.

Certain newspapers, like my own DNOC, The Times, have also been a tad slow to grasp the magnitude of the collapse (although Ben Webster has tried valiantly to counter this with some good pieces); yet, even such outlets at last appear to be fathoming the remarkable changes taking place. Today, for example, The Times carries a brief, but seminal, critique of the ‘science’ from Lord Leach of Fairford.

What Will It Mean?

I have long predicted, and in public too, that the Copenhagen Conference could prove to be the beginning of the end for the Global Warming Grand Narrative. It appears that I may well have been right, and, indeed, I may have considerably underestimated the speed, and the dramatic nature, of the demise.

Where this all leaves our politicians and political parties in the UK; where it leaves climate science, scientists more generally, and the Royal Society; where it leaves energy policy; where it leaves the ‘Green’ movement; and, where it leaves our media will have to be topics for many later comments and analyses.

For the moment, we must not underestimate the magnitude of the collapse. Academically, it is jaw-dropping to observe.

And, the political, economic, and scientific consequences will be profound.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Global Warming: the Collapse of a Grand Narrative

Settler Sewage Ruins Palestinian Crops, Drinking Water

By Mel Frykberg | IPS | April 28, 2010

BEIT UMMAR, West Bank – Residents of this Palestinian village refuse to buy the idea that the flood of raw sewage from the adjacent Israeli settlement of Kfar Etzion, that destroyed vineyards and contaminated their drinking water, was an accident.

The Israeli Civil Administration, which administers the occupied West Bank, claims the spillage was the result of an accidental power malfunction which caused excess settlement sewage to overflow onto Palestinian land.

“This was no mistake,” says a British activist who has been documenting life in the village for several months. “The pipe was deliberately unscrewed by hand so that the sewage would spill over into Beit Ummar. That has nothing to do with an electricity cut,” he told IPS.

Villagers standing near a completely destroyed 70,000 sq m vineyard belonging to the Sabarneh family said they believe it was a deliberate act of sabotage and part of a concerted campaign by the settlers to harass their Palestinian neighbours and vandalise their property.

Beit Ummar has been the target of a number of Israeli military raids at night last month. Activists who have been organising non-violent protests against the expropriation of their land for the settlements have been arrested and the village blockaded.

In a similar incident last week the Palestinian village of Bruqin, in the northern West Bank, was flooded with sewage from the nearby Ariel settlement, causing contamination of underground water and springs and damaging crops.

These incidents are part of a larger problem of scarce water resources where a Palestinian population of 2.5 million survives on 17 percent of the West Bank’s main underground aquifer.

The remaining water is channelled towards the West Bank’s (including East Jerusalem) 500,000 Israeli settlers, and into Israel proper.

The water shortage is compounded by the lack of wastewater treatment plants and inefficient treatment of waste and sewage in the Palestinian territory which fouls its water sources.

Israeli rights group B’tselem released a study last year called ‘Foul Play: Neglect of wastewater treatment in the West Bank’.

According to the organisation, more than 90 percent of Palestinian wastewater is not treated while only 20 percent of Palestinian homes, primarily in towns and cities, are connected to sewerage systems.

Furthermore, only 81 of 121 illegal Israeli settlements are connected to wastewater treatment facilities. Over half of the settlements’ treatment plants are too small to treat waste effectively and are ill-equipped to handle the burgeoning settler population.

The result is continual technical breakdowns and sewage overflow. Most of the settlements are situated on ridges and hilltops so sewage flows down towards the Palestinian villages and towns in the valleys below, contaminating their drinking water supplies and destroying their crops.

The Israeli settlers are not affected by this as they are connected to Israel’s water supply.

The planning and building authorities in the settlements and Israeli industrial areas also ignore Jordanian building and planning laws which govern how wastewater is to be treated in the West Bank.

The B’tselem report further outlines the neglect of the territory’s water treatment plants by the Israeli Civil Administration during the decades of occupation and the current difficulties faced by Palestinian Authority (PA) water officials in trying to build new wastewater treatment plants or repair the old ones.

There is currently only one wastewater treatment plant operating in the West Bank in Ramallah. Three others have ceased to function and the PA has been unable to repair them or build new ones.

The West Bank is divided into Area A, which is under Palestinian control, Area B under joint Palestinian and Israeli control, and Area C which is under full Israeli control.

Area C comprises 60 percent of the West Bank. Areas A and B are mostly built up with little free land available.

However, in order to move around or build new wastewater treatment plants in Area C Palestinian officials from the PA Environment Authority require building permits from the Israeli Civil Administration.

B’tselem and PA officials complain of the delays these officials face in getting building approval if they get them at all.

“There is an enormous amount of red tape and bureaucracy that Palestinian officials have to overcome before they get the permits,” says Eyal Hareuveni, the author of the B’tselem report.

“The Israeli Civil Administration says that the Palestinians don’t provide the necessary detailed building plans as they have been instructed but I think the administration is being deliberately difficult,” Hareuveni told IPS.

Issa Moussa from the PA’s Environmental Authority denied that the PA provided insufficient details.

“We have the case of wanting to build a new wastewater treatment plant in Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. We provided absolutely everything requested but we were still waiting for a permit,” Moussa told IPS.xxxxx

Other difficulties facing the more efficient handling of wastewater are the restrictions placed on Palestinian movement in the West Bank by the Israeli military. This has led to increased costs for donors who support wastewater projects and who in turn have cut down on their expenditure.

A Joint Water Committee between Israel and the PA was established following the Oslo Peace Accord of 1993, to address water issues.

One of the disputes between the sides is the Israeli insistence that settlement sewage be connected to future Palestinian wastewater treatment plants.

The Palestinians reject this as this implies that the settlements are permanent and say their refusal to approve this condition is one of the reasons for approval being withheld on the construction of wastewater plants.

With no higher authority to settle the disagreement the situation will only worsen in the future.

“Neither side seems to be making the urgent issue of water and waste treatment a priority,” Hareuveni told IPS.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 2 Comments

War-Zone Medical Aid Doubly Endangered

By Paul Virgo | IPS | April 26, 2010

ROME – The case of the three Italians arrested this month on suspicion of trying to assassinate a southern Afghan governor concluded with a happy ending of sorts and a sure fire certainty – an uncompromising attitude that makes war-zone medical aid doubly dangerous.

The members of Milan-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) ‘Emergency’, inlcuding surgeon Marco Garatti, nurse Matteo Dell’Aira and logistical technician Matteo Pagani, flew back to Italy on Wednesday after being detained on Apr. 10 when their hospital in conflict-torn Helmand province was closed down after arms and explosives were found there.

But at least one of the NGO’s local staff remained in custody at the time of writing and there was no certainty about whether the hospital at Lashkar Gah would reopen and, if so, whether it would still be run by Emergency.

The accusation that members of a pacifist charity who had given up European comforts to save lives in Afghanistan were involved in a plot to kill Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal had sounded outlandish as soon as it was aired. The NGO said the bombs had been planted at the hospital, with its founder Gino Strada adding that the trio’s release showed the “attempt to discredit us has failed”.

But it was no surprise that Emergency had come under the Afghan authorities’ scrutiny. Like other medical charities such as the Red Cross, it treats wounded regardless of whose side they are on, which means Taliban fighters are among those who benefit from their care.

But unlike other NGOs in the field, it has accompanied its work in Helmand with sharp criticism of the number of civilian victims of the southern offensive against the Taliban and allegations that the United States-led international coalition was preventing the injured from reaching their hospital.

“It’s probably right to say what happened, happened because we told the story of the war,” Dell’Aira told a news conference on Friday. “This annoyed people because we told all the stories of our wounded, 40 percent of whom are children.”

Another factor that may have contributed to the NGO being targeted is that the lack of vetting of their local staff led to suspicions that their clinic served as a safe haven for insurgents.

The fact that Emergency has twice acted as a go-between for the Italian government in negotiations to release kidnapped Italian journalists also suggested that it had some form of contact with the insurgency, further raising distrust in some quarters.

“Emergency are on the radar because they’ve highlighted themselves as trouble-makers by criticising the Afghan authorities and the international alliance,” Luca La Bella, an Asia expert with the Rome-based Centro Studi Internazionali (Ce.S.I – International Studies Centre), told IPS.

“That’s not a wise thing to do. Becoming an enemy of the government is bound to endanger your operations sooner or later.”

However, the affair probably reveals more about the state of play in Afghanistan than it does about the NGO’s relations with the Afghan authorities, especially given that its operations in the rest of the country do not appear to be at threat.

The episode comes at a time when relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his international backers are regularly on the rocks.

Karzai has torn into the West recently saying, among other things, that its diplomats orchestrated the notorious election debacle last year that saw the Electoral Complaints Commission, the then foreign-led electoral fraud panel, throw out a third of his votes, badly hitting his standing.

During a stand-off over appointments to the panel Karzai passed a decree in February giving him the power to name all five members, angering donors. A compromise was later reached under which two foreigners were to be included with veto powers.

La Bella believes the Emergency episode is the fruit of Karzai’s desire to prove he is not a puppet of his international backers and project himself as a true national leader ahead of attempts to make peace with the insurgents.

“After being forced to back down over nominations to the Electoral Complaints Commission, Karzai had to hit back and he did so by taking things out on Emergency,” La Bella said.

“He is doing this because he needs to establish himself among Afghans, who are so proud of their independence, as a leader capable of defending national sovereignty from the overlording powers in order to find reconciliation with the insurgents. He knows he can’t have both (legitimacy at home and abroad).

“He wants to engage with the insurgents while the U.S. wants to fight on to weaken them further (before talking), by taking a stand in the south and showing the Taliban can be beaten. Karzai would rather get on with the reconciliation process now.”

Some experts also see the fact that the British military helped the Afghans seal off Emergency’s hospital as a sign that all is not well within the international alliance.

“One of my field researchers who’s just returned from Helmand said that many people he interacted with were of the opinion that the mentioned incident was a result of the internal bickering within the international community, Italian and British forces in this case,” Idrees Zaman, a researcher with Afghan research think-tank Cooperation for Peace and Unity, told IPS.

“Generally speaking, in southern Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand, lack of coordination and internal rivalries between the coalition forces is a major issue these days,’’ Zaman added.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Deception | Comments Off on War-Zone Medical Aid Doubly Endangered

Hezbollah slams US over arms claims

Press TV – April 28, 2010

Hezbollah has sharply rejected US allegations about the Lebanese movement’s missiles, vowing to continue armed resistance against Israeli aggression.

Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah in an article published on Wednesday scoffed at recent comments by US Defense Minister Robert Gates that Hezbollah’s arms exceeded those held by many states in the world, saying Hezbollah’s arms did not compare to the “armament” and “crimes” of the United States and its ally Israel.

The Lebanese official recalled “the level of armament of the United States, which it used in its crimes against peoples around the world, from Hiroshima to the more than 100,000 killed in Iraq and the tens of thousands killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan,” the Arabic-language newspaper As-Safir quoted him on Wednesday.

“There is a difference between arms which only serve invasions, occupations and aggressions, such as those of the United States and its ally Israel … and the arms of a resistance which defends, protects, and liberates,” he said.

“Our choice was and remains to secure all the arms of resistance that we can,” he added.

In a joint news conference with Israeli Defense Minster Ehud Barak in Washington, Gates on Tuesday accused Syria and Iran of arming Hezbollah with increasingly sophisticated rockets and missiles.

Gates’ claims came amid tensions in the Middle East intensified by Israel’s earlier accusations against Syria of providing Scud ballistic missiles for Hezbollah.

Israel views Hezbollah a major enemy, especially after the summer conflict of 2006 where the resistance forces repelled a 33-day Israeli offensive on southern Lebanon.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Aletho News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 2 Comments