Did Warming Play a Role in Deadly South African Floods? Yes, a Study Says. – The New York Times

“The heavy rains that caused catastrophic flooding in South Africa in mid-April were made twice as likely to occur by climate change, scientists said Friday.

An analysis of the flooding, which killed more than 400 people in Durban and surrounding areas in the eastern part of the country, found that the intense two-day storm that caused it had a 1-in-20 chance of occurring in any given year. If the world had not warmed as a result of human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, the study found, the chances would have been half that, 1 in 40.

The study, by a loose-knit group of climate scientists, meteorologists and disaster experts called World Weather Attribution, is the latest in a string of analyses showing that the damaging effects of global warming, once considered a future problem, have already arrived. And extreme events like this one are expected to increase as warming continues.

“We need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a new reality where floods and heat waves are more intense and damaging,” one of the study’s authors, Izidine Pinto, a climate scientist at the University of Cape Town, said in a statement issued by World Weather Attribution.

The flooding and related mudslides caused more than $1.5 billion in damage and were “the biggest tragedy that we have ever seen,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the time. Bridges and roads were destroyed and thousands of homes, many of them in makeshift settlements, were swept away or damaged.

The disaster led to sharp criticism of the government for not fulfilling pledges to improve infrastructure to handle heavy downpours and to tackle a longstanding housing crisis.

Image

Shipping containers that were swept up by floodwaters in Durban, a major port on South Africa’s Indian Ocean coast.
Credit…EPA, via Shutterstock

World Weather Attribution conducts its analyses within days or weeks of an event, while it is still fresh in the public’s mind. This one looked at the two-day storm that hit eastern South Africa beginning on April 11 and produced rainfall totals of nearly 14 inches in some areas, half or more of the area’s annual total. The work has yet to be peer-reviewed or published, but it uses methods that have been reviewed previously.

This includes using observational data and two sets of computer simulations, one that models the world as it is, about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) warmer than it was before widespread emissions began in the late 19th century, and a hypothetical world in which global warming never happened.

The finding that the likelihood of such an extreme rain event has increased with global warming is consistent with many other studies of individual events and broader trends. A major reason for the increase is that as the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture.”

As Waste Rises in Senegal, So Does Plastic Recycling – The New York Times

“DAKAR, Senegal — A crowd of people holding curved metal spikes jumped on trash spilling out of a dump truck in Senegal’s biggest landfill, hacking at the garbage to find valuable plastic.

Nearby, sleeves rolled up, suds up to their elbows, women washed plastic jerrycans in rainbow colors, cut into pieces. Around them, piles of broken toys, plastic mayonnaise jars and hundreds of discarded synthetic wigs stretched as far as the eye could see, all ready to be sold and recycled.

Plastic waste is exploding in Senegal, as in many countries, as populations and incomes grow and with them, demand for packaged, mass-produced products.”

A Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles the Clean Energy Revolution – The New York Times

Dionne SearceyMichael Forsythe and 

“KISANFU, Democratic Republic of Congo — Just up a red dirt road, across an expanse of tall, dew-soaked weeds, bulldozers are hollowing out a yawning new canyon that is central to the world’s urgent race against global warming.

For more than a decade, the vast expanse of untouched land was controlled by an American company. Now a Chinese mining conglomerate has bought it, and is racing to retrieve its buried treasure: millions of tons of cobalt.

At 73, Kyahile Mangi has lived here long enough to predict the path ahead. Once the blasting starts, the walls of mud-brick homes will crack. Chemicals will seep into the river where women do laundry and dishes while worrying about hippo attacks. Soon a manager from the mine will announce that everyone needs to be relocated.

“We know our ground is rich,” said Mr. Mangi, a village chief who also knows residents will share little of the mine’s wealth.”

The Fisherwomen, Chevron and the Leaking Pipe – The New York Times

“GBARAMATU, Nigeria — When the tide rose under the rickety wooden house-on-stilts of Onitsha Joseph, a fisherwoman who lives above the twisting rivers of the Niger Delta in southern Nigeria, it brought a slick of crude oil.

Before long, she saw dead fish floating on oil inches thick, and fishing — her livelihood — became impossible. The fumes were so strong at one point that Ms. Joseph fainted. She was rushed to the hospital on a speedboat.

At first, she had no idea where it was coming from. Then, out with some other fisherwomen one day in February, she said they spotted something bubbling up to the river’s surface. Ms. Joseph steered her oil-blackened canoe closer.

Far below her snaked a pipe. The American oil giant Chevron laid that pipe 46 years before, according to many neighbors of Ms. Joseph who were there at the time, and now, they said, it was leaking.

So began a battle between Chevron and hundreds of fisherwomen in the Niger Delta. Chevron denies that oil was spilling from its pipes. But the women insisted that this was just another instance of oil companies refusing to take responsibility, and decided to take the fight to the oil company’s doors.”

Opinion | France’s Challenge in Africa – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Credit…Michele Cattani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“PARIS — This is a war that escapes most radar screens. The French, whose troops have been fighting in the Sahel for seven years, ask few questions about their involvement. They should. In this crucible where Islamist insurgency, ancient local conflicts, fragile states, European hesitations and a shifting American strategy make an explosive mix, it is a war they may well be losing — or, in the best case, a war they may never win.

That is the somber warning that the chief of staff of the French armed forces, Gen. François Lecointre, delivered on Nov. 27, a day after his troops suffered 13 casualties in a helicopter crash in Mali during combat operations. “We will never achieve final victory,” he told the public radio station France Inter. “Avoiding the worst must provide sufficient satisfaction for a soldier. Today, thanks to our constant action, we are ensuring that the worst is avoided.”

Welcome to the unforgiving, thankless fight against jihadis in the Sahel, an African region south of the Sahara as large as Europe, where 4,500 French troops were deployed in January 2013 to prevent the capital of Mali, Bamako, from falling to Al Qaeda. It is now the epicenter of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist-led insurgency. Two weeks ago, the French government decided to send 600 extra troops to the Sahel. Hardly a surge, but a clear sign that “avoiding the worst” is proving more and more difficult.

Bamako was saved, but since then Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. After killing more than 4,000 people last year and displacing more than a million, these groups are now threatening four coastal West African countries south of Burkina Faso, a state that, as the International Crisis Group warned recently, may provide “a perfect launching pad” for operations in Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast.”

For Thousands of Years, Egypt Controlled the Nile. A New Dam Threatens That. – The New York Times

Ethiopia is staking its hopes on its $4.5 billion hydroelectric dam. Egypt fears it will cut into its water supplies. President Trump is mediating.

“MINYA, Egypt — The Egyptian farmer stood in his dust-blown field, lamenting his fortune. A few years ago, wheat and tomato-filled greenhouses carpeted the land. Now the desert was creeping in.

“Look,” he said, gesturing at the sandy soil and abandoned greenhouses. “Barren.”

The farmer, Hamed Jarallah, attributed his woes to dwindling irrigation from the overtaxed Nile, the fabled river at the heart of Egypt’s very identity. Already, the Nile is under assault from pollution, climate change and Egypt’s growing population, which officially hits 100 million people this month.

And now, Mr. Jarallah added, a fresh calamity loomed.

A colossal hydroelectric dam being built on the Nile 2,000 miles upriver, in the lowlands of Ethiopia, threatens to further constrict Egypt’s water supply — and is scheduled to start filling this summer.

“We’re worried,” he said. “Egypt wouldn’t exist without the Nile. Our livelihood is being destroyed, God help us.” “

Opinion | Forget the Scarf. These Gifts Change Lives. – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Lynsey Addario/Getty Images

” ’Tis the season for giving, when those of us in the rich world hand each other overpriced scarves that no one much wants.

So every fall I offer an alternative holiday gift guide with suggestions for “gifts with meaning” that save or change lives. This year’s recommendations come with something extra: A reader has pledged $1 million so that for each of the next 10 years, a charity I find most worthy will receive $100,000. In addition, $50,000 will be split among three runners-up, thanks to a few other large donations. And judging from the past, readers will send in many more donations to these groups. We’ve made that easier through a new website.

This year’s top prize goes to support the lifesaving hospital of Edna Adan, a Somali midwife who fights for women’s health, trains doctors and empowers women in her native Somaliland. I’ve seen her work on the ground in two visits to Somaliland, and I’m awed by what she does.

In Zimbabwe the Water Taps Run Dry and Worsen ‘a Nightmare’ – The New York Times

By Patrick Kingsley and 

HARARE, Zimbabwe — It had been five days since water had stopped flowing out of the taps at Eneres Kaitano’s bungalow in southern Harare, Zimbabwe’s modern and tidy capital city. Five days since she had done any laundry. Five days since she had forbidden her children from using the toilet more than once a day.

On the sixth day, she again rose at 3 a.m. to fetch water from a communal borehole. By the early afternoon, she was still waiting her turn at the tap with her six buckets and cans.

Much of the city had the same idea. More than half of the 4.5 million residents of Harare’s greater metropolitan area now have running water only once a week, according to the city’s mayor, forcing them to wait in lines at communal wells, streams and boreholes.

“It is causing us serious problems,” said Ms. Kaitano, a 29-year-old jeans wholesaler who was down to her last clean outfit last week. “We have to stop ourselves from going to the toilet.”

Opinion | What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage

“Over the years, thousands of cadets at the United States Military Academy, myself included, have memorized and recited West Point’s Cadet Prayer. “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” the prayer goes, “and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

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 – The New York Times

In Ecuador, cameras across the country send footage to monitoring centers to be examined by police and domestic intelligence. The surveillance system’s origin: China.

By Paul MozurJonah M. Kessel and Melissa Chan


QUITO, Ecuador — The squat gray building in Ecuador’s capital commands a sweeping view of the city’s sparkling sprawl, from the high-rises at the base of the Andean valley to the pastel neighborhoods that spill up its mountainsides.

The police who work inside are looking elsewhere. They spend their days poring over computer screens, watching footage that comes in from 4,300 cameras across the country.

The high-powered cameras send what they see to 16 monitoring centers in Ecuador that employ more than 3,000 people. Armed with joysticks, the police control the cameras and scan the streets for drug deals, muggings and murders. If they spy something, they zoom in.

This voyeur’s paradise is made with technology from what is fast becoming the global capital of surveillance: China.”

Source: Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State – The New York Times