Tag Archive: Russia

It was USSR which had humiliated defeat at the hands of Afghan Mujahideen leading to its break-up. These Afghans were aided and supported by Pakistan and the US. In effect, USSR was fighting USA in Afghanistan. But as they say there is no permanent enemies and no permanent friends in international relations. The validity of this statement has been proved by Russia, the successor of the former USSR. Russia has come to rescue the US in its predicament of having a risky supply route to its forces in Afghanistan. According to The Moscow Times, Russia’s State Duma ratified an agreement Friday to allow the United States to ferry troops and supplies across Russian territory for military operations in Afghanistan.

The Duma voted 347-95 in favor of the 2009 deal, which has already been implemented pending ratification. Communists, who opposed the ratification, denounced the agreement with the United States as a “unilateral concession.”

The U.S.-Russian transit agreement was drawn up during a trip by U.S. President Barack Obama to Moscow in 2009 in an effort to “reset” relations that had been damaged by a 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. Currently, about 80 percent of NATO’s supplies cross through Pakistan. But NATO has been trying to reduce its dependence on convoy routes through Pakistan, where they are prey to Islamist militant attacks. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Duma on Friday that there have been 780 U.S. flights over Russia — carrying 115,000 U.S. troops and more than 19,000 metric tons of cargo to and from Afghanistan — since September 2009.

Ryabkov said the air route has accounted for 16 percent of all U.S. military shipments to and from the country. He said the agreement has helped improve ties with the United States and NATO and protects Russia’s interests in other areas. Moscow said last year that the deal could also be expanded to allow vehicles in need of repair and refurbishment to be sent back to NATO countries. But the transit deal stops short of opening the Russian route for weapons for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, where Moscow fought a disastrous 1979-89 war that killed 15,000 Soviet troops. Russia has struck similar deals with Germany, France and Spain and has touted them as a key contribution to international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Pakistan had unprecedented hot summer this year giving a clear indication of the catastrophe that was to follow. Climate law says that rising temperatures always help hasten the melting of water sources like the Himalayas, north of Pakistan, that are the world’s third largest repository of snow and ice. South Asia is among the climate change hotspots, and floods and droughts had been predicted by international experts. Not only that, the Indus basin has always been prone to floods. The floods, therefore, were not a sudden phenomenon; it was very much in the air. It was, therefore, incorrect to say that Pakistan was caught unprepared leading to record devastations.

According to a report in the Guardian this summer has been one of weather-related extremes in Russia, Pakistan, China, Europe, the Arctic. For weeks, central Russia has been in the grips of its worst-ever heat-wave, which has caused probably thousands of fatalities. As a result of drought and heat, more than 500 wildfires have raged out of control, smothering Moscow in smoke and threatening several nuclear facilities. Russia’s government has banned wheat exports, sending world grain prices soaring.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is struggling with unprecedented flooding that has killed more than a thousand people and affected millions more. In China, flash floods have so far killed more than a thousand people and destroyed more than a million homes. On a smaller scale, European countries like Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic have also suffered serious flooding.

Meanwhile, global temperatures in recent months have been at their highest levels in records that go back 130 years. Arctic sea-ice cover reached its lowest ever recorded average level for the month of June. In Greenland two huge chunks of ice broke off in July and August.

Are these events connected? Looking only at individual extreme events will not reveal their cause, just like watching a few scenes from a movie does not reveal the plot. But, viewed in a broader context, and using the logic of physics, important parts of the plot can be understood.

This decade has been marked by a number of extremes. In 2003, the most severe heatwave in living memory broke temperature records by a large margin and caused 70,000 deaths in Europe. In 2005, the most severe hurricane season ever witnessed in the Atlantic devastated New Orleans and broke records in terms of the number and intensity of storms.

In 2007, unprecedented wildfires raged across Greece, nearly destroying the ancient site of Olympia. And the Northwest Passage in the Arctic became ice-free for the first time in living memory. Last year, more than a hundred people were killed in bush fires in Australia, following drought and record-breaking heat.

This cluster of record-breaking events could be merely a streak of bad luck. But that is extremely unlikely. This is far more likely to be the result of a warming climate – a consequence of this decade being, worldwide, the hottest for a thousand years.

All weather is driven by energy, and the sun ultimately provides this energy. But the biggest change in Earth’s energy budget by far over the past hundred years is due to the accumulation in our atmosphere of greenhouse gases, which limit the exit of heat into space. Owing to fossil-fuel emissions, there is now one-third more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any time in at least a million years, as the latest ice drilling in Antarctica has revealed.

The changes in the planet’s energy budget caused by solar variations are at least ten times smaller in comparison. And they go in the wrong direction: in recent years, the sun has been at its dimmest since satellite measurements began in the 1970’s. So, when unprecedented extreme weather events occur, the prime suspect is naturally the biggest atmospheric change that has happened over the past hundred years – one that has been caused by human emissions.

The fact that heatwaves like the one in Russia become more frequent and extreme in a warmer world is easy to understand. Extreme rainfall events will also become more frequent and intense in a warmer climate, owing to another simple fact of physics: warm air can hold more moisture. For each degree celsius of warming, 7% more water is available to rain down from saturated air masses. Drought risk also increases with warming: even where rainfall does not decline, increased evaporation dries out the soils.

The carbon-dioxide effect can also change the preferred patterns of atmospheric circulation, which can exacerbate extremes of heat, drought, or rainfall in some regions, while reducing them in others. The problem is that a reduction in those extremes to which we are already well-adapted provides only modest benefits, whereas the new extremes to which we are not adapted can be devastating, as recent events in Pakistan show.

The events of this summer show how vulnerable our societies are to weather-related extremes. But what we see now is happening after only 0.8C of global warming. With swift and decisive action, we can still limit global warming to a total of 2C or a bit less. Even that much warming would require a massive effort to adapt to weather extremes and rising sea levels, which needs to start now.

With weak action, like that promised by governments in Copenhagen last December, we will be on course for 3-4C of global warming. This is bound to outstrip the ability of many societies and ecosystems to adapt. And, with no action at all, the planet could even heat up by 5-7C by the end of this century – and more thereafter. Knowingly marching down that road would be insane.

We must face the facts: our emissions of greenhouse gases probably are at least partly to blame for this summer of extremes. Clinging to the hope that it is all chance, and all natural, seems naive. Let us hope that this summer of extremes is a last-minute wake-up call to policy makers, the corporate world, and citizens alike.

Pakistan’s claim to fame is its being 7th largest wheat and rice producing country in the world. It has the capacity to become number one if it introduces some farming sector reforms including an end to large, unviable and unmanageable land holdings. It has probably, in this time and age, the biggest and oldest feudal system kept alive in the honor of colonial era when these lands were granted in return for loyalty. Yet, its masses are forced to buy wheat and flour at Rs. 28-31 per kg from the market. This wheat is homegrown and is expensive at this scale. Imagine what would happen if the wheat were to be imported?

Nothing… The wheat would have been much cheaper if it were to be imported. Bloomberg has reported that Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, bought 120,000 metric tons of Russian wheat at a tender today, the country’s General Authority for Supply Commodities Vice Chairman Nomani Nomani said in Cairo. The authority, also known as GASC, bought 60,000 metric tons from Venus at $165 per ton and another 60,000 metric tons from Aston at the same price. This come to Rs. 14 per kg as against Rs. 31 being sold in the domestic market. Then why not import the wheat?

Consider another question…if our farmers were to export their wheat, what would they get? Certainly not as much as they are getting from the domestic customers. The best thing would be to export the wheat and then see the prices. They would certainly come down as the exporters would not get what they are getting in the local market.