Monday, June 18, 2007

The UN blames Global Warming for Darfur

Writing on Saturday, the Secretary General of the United Nations illustrated why the United Nations is no longer taken seriously. Ban Ki-moon said that man-made global warming was to blame in Darfur for the deaths of 200,000 or more people. How exactly did global warming spark the fighting between the government and rebels? The Secretary General would have us believe that a decrease in rain over the last two decades has led to the violence we are witnessing today. Please keep in mind that Sudan has been independent for the last 51 years. In that time, civil war has raged for 40 of those years.

How did war start in Sudan? That is a very complicated question. It also depends on which war you are talking about. After spending some time searching for writings on Darfur and Sudan, it is quickly apparent that war has been with this country for some time. The most recent version seems to have started around 2003 because rebel groups felt the government was neglecting certain areas of the country. Many have accused the government of participating in genocide in Darfur. The rebels have accused the government of using Arab militia’s, referred to as “Janjaweed”. The Janjaweed groups attack villages after the government has softened the targets up with air power. Most agree that there are active Arab militias in the country doing whatever they wish. The UN has launched its own investigation and doesn’t believe there is genocide going on in Darfur, but in an interesting play on words, acknowledges that there are those who have the intent to commit genocide.

If we weren’t talking about the deaths of 200,000 to 400,000 people, this might be a joke. If the UN itself was capable of doing anything in Sudan, one might be concerned about the thoughts of the Secretary General. However, for the Secretary General to say this may be caused by global warming is simply one further illustration that the United Nations should be ignored. Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere aren’t causing Muslims to kill each other in huge quantities. Hummers in America aren’t raping women for walking to far from home at night in search of water or firewood. “Big Oil” isn’t ……actually….there is a problem with “Big Oil” in Sudan. However, this big oil comes in the form of China and Russia.

There is a very limited African Union force in Darfur (7,000 to 9,000). Many want to boast that number. However, two of the veto votes on the Security Council (Russia and China) have blocked those attempts because of their own trade contracts in the Sudan. Perhaps instead of citing climate change Mr. Ki-moon should look at the United Nations and seriously consider that it might be part of the problem in Sudan. Instead of the United Nations conjuring phantoms to blame for it’s own incompetence, perhaps the UN should recognize that some of its own members are helping to continue the problem in Darfur.


Incognito said...

Ha! Missed this one. How ridiculous, but you have to consider the source. Pathetic. Yeah let's blame everything on anything other than barbarism.

gary said...

I see Darfur as a symptom of a much larger problem, a dysfunctional United Nations. Until we drastially overhaul the UN, we will have many Darfurs to come.

Here my solution:

It's based on the premise that we trust the concept of democracy.


familyman said...

The situation in Darfur is one of the most horrific things that has happened in our lifetime. I wish our country were doing more to try to solve the problem. Although, come to think of it, maybe it's better if we just wait for the next administration.

But anyway, in my ongoing quest to keep you honest Andy, I have to point out that your paraphrasing of Ban Ki-moon's comments make them seem worse than they were. At least the quote I saw from the Washington Post opinion column. He didn't say that global warming was to blame for the deaths of 200,000 people. What he said was,"The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change." When I read your paraphrasing it sounds like he's a lunatic. When I read the actual quote, it sounds like he's trying to put the conflict in some context.

Any crisis like the situation in Darfur is bound to have a variety of circumstances that converge to ignite the conflict. From that quote it sounds like Ki-moon was simply sighting the climate crisis in the area as the straw that broke the camel's back.

Another point I'll take issue with is your opinion that since there is a problem with the effectiveness of the U.N. and questions about the capability of the U.N. leadership , "that the United Nations should be ignored."

I think that this has been a major failing of U.S. foreign policy during the Bush administration. If we don't like what another country is doing, we won't negotiate with them. If we don't like what the U.N. is doing, then we'll ignore them and do our own thing.

How about instead, if we don't like what the U.N. is saying or doing, then we take the initiative to make it better and more relavent. How about if we work from within the U.N. to make it the unifying force around the world that it could be if the U.S. provided positive support and leadership?

Andy D said...

Before I respond to any other posts, I have to give credit to Incognito. I think she got it right on the money. We have to blame anything but the government of Sudan. I think Gary brings out a valid point as well. I personally believe the UN has functioned as it was suppose to for a long time.

Familyman, I think the way I paraphrased the Secretary General is exactly what he sounded like. I believe his comments were insane at best. He may very well have meant that the decreased rain was the straw that broke the camels back. However, I don’t think it holds true. Without going into a complete history of Dafur, I believe Mr. Ki-moons comments don’t ring true. Violence in Darfur has had many different sources, and has been going on for longer than the time span Mr. Ki-moon attributes to global warming. Now on to your comments about the UN.

The United Nations is flawed because it sets all nations as equal. That is simply not the case. Nations that allow their citizens to be free and have a voice in their governments are better than petty dictators. For all their flaws, the Britians, Austriallians, and Canada’s are far superior to the Cuba’s, Venezula’s, and Iran’s of the world. Of all of these, the United States is the greatest. There will be people who read this that think I am being way to “American Pie”. I truly believe we are the greatest nation on the planet. Whether you agree or not, the UN is still flawed. Any forum that sets tyrants and democracies on the same footing, and gives them and equal voice is flawed. We and other democracies will always be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to the UN.

Mark Steyn illustrates how anti-US the United Nations is in his book America Alone. In 2003, Mark Steyn says there were 85 votes in the General Assembly. Of those Steyn shows that the Arab League, the ASEAN members, the Islamic Conference, the African members, and the Non-Aligned members each voted against the American position over 80% of the time. The exact percentages are 88.7%, 84.5%, 84.1%, 83.8%, and 82.7% of the time respectively. Our “allies” the European Union voted against the US position 54.5% of the time. Even if we work from within the UN to change things, should we be striving for 75% of the time against us? The United States may have trouble, but I doubt we are on the wrong side that often.

Anonymous said...

Once again, it appears that Andy has no idea what he's talking about concerning climate change. The near-disappearance of Lake Chad has been cited by nearly everyone--including the U.S. government--as being one among a number of factors fueling increased tension and violence in Darfur. Many people have depended on massive Lake Chad for livelihood, though though it has now shrunk to something near the vanishing point, which makes for a simple equation: many people + shrinking pool of resources = tension. Those tensions have caused population migrations, upheavals, and violence. Of course Darfur is complicated. But climate change makes it worse. Here is the *Voice of America* reporting on this phenomenon.

Anonymous said...

Andy wrote: "Nations that allow their citizens to be free and have a voice in their governments are better..."

So what about countries that allow their citizens *more* freedom (e.g. habeas corpus) than the United States? Are they "better" than the U.S.? Your logic says "yes" and, as much as I love this country, on this count, I actually might agree with you.

familyman said...


Do you have any sources that layout what exactly the United States' voting record at the UN has been, beyond just percentages? I'm having trouble finding a source on-line that will tell me specifically what issues have been voted on at the UN and how the US voted.

And to Anonymous, you should register for an account and get a user name. It's be nice to have another registered user on here agreeing with me. :)

Simmons said...

Global warming did contribute to the conflict in Darfur, but didn't cause it. You said that the 2003 era of the war began because "rebel groups felt the government was neglecting certain areas of the country." What was one of the reasons they felt neglected? Lack of basic needs, such as water.

Andy D said...

Thanks for all the comments, especially to those who haven’t commented before.

Familyman, I pulled the stats from Mark Steyn’s America Alone. I am reading the book right now and plan on putting a review for it on here after I am finished with it. He quotes from the 2003 votes made at the UN. It is located on page 163. I haven’t checked, but I would imagine the UN has some sort of voting search engine.

Matt, er Anonymous, and Simon. Let’s put aside our debate on global warming for the time being. We can all agree that there is a vast desert in this area of Africa. The reason I think it is irresponsible of the United Nations to blame any environmental factor is that it excuses the actions of the individuals. The environment didn’t pick up a gun and shoot anyone. The environment didn’t rape anyone. People, making conscious choices did.

On the freedom issue, there are no countries better than this one. If I honestly thought there were, I would move there. This country is great for a number of reasons, including the amount of freedom we allow our people. It is also great because of the people themselves. Our culture is something we should cherish and teach in school.

Anonymous said...

After getting *called out* on being *wrong* on global warming in a post with *Global Warming* in the title, Andy wrote: "Let's put aside our debate on global warming." Maybe the debate could be put aside if he retracts the original post.

Andy wrote a revealing sentence, though: "The reason I think it is irresponsible of the United Nations to blame any environmental factor is that it excuses the actions of the individuals."

This is the problem with the current right wing mindset. Ask any psychologist: when you view the world as a great violent struggle between right and wrong, then most everything you see will probably be seen in black/white and right/wrong. In this case, Andy commendably wants to keep humans responsible for their murderous, genocidal actions, but the additional layers of complexity on the ground can't quite be squeezed into his right/wrong frame. (E.g. How could fossil fuel consumption--or even simply a drought--*also* be a cause of genocide? How would we have a clear villain if *something else* is contributing to the evil actions?)

The difficult task we face is to keep holding people appropriately responsible for their actions (yes, Andy!) and at the same time to acknowledge that we are also creating situations that predispose people to commit acts they might otherwise not do--a reality that we all have responsibility for. (Yes, Ban Ki-Moon!)

Example. There's more domestic violence in the U.S. on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year. Making that claim doesn't mean we excuse wife-beaters from responsibility, but it should make us curious about what is going on culturally that *contributes to* domestic violence. Also, even after accounting for differences in income and culture, etc, the more trees a person can see from their windows, the less likely they are to experience violence from someone in their household. Trees and the Super Bowl: nothing there to excuse wife beaters, but they are an interesting part of the equation for those interested in solving problems--along with other efforts that hold individuals responsible for their actions and help them change their ways.

Ethical complexity: can the right wing handle it?

Andy D said...

Anonymous, I have noticed you have a special place in your heart for global warming. That is fine. I truly don’t mind at all. Many people believe in all sorts of conspiracy theories. I would encourage you to read the same book I challenged Familyman to read, Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. I noticed after I mentioned it last time, you tried to use Crichton’s name as an insult. I don’t know that you could call me a fan of his. I like some of his books, and one in particular I hated. I think he brings out some very interesting points in State of Fear. It might help you in this debate to read his book.

By saying “let’s put aside our debate on global warming” I meant we had just spent 30 some odd comments discussing it. Surely you don’t want to rehash all of those comments again? I am sure you still believe Global Warming is a coming catastrophe. I assure you I still believe there isn’t enough science to back it up. So, let’s look at the bigger problem here…

You say that by holding people accountable for their own actions I am illustrating the “problem with the current right wing mindset”. You may be right. However, I think it is a bigger problem when we search society and the environment for excuses for people’s actions. Is the world complex? Yes. Are there many things that go into making you who you are? You betcha. But no matter how you want to dress it up, at the end of the day, we are each responsible for our own actions. I am sorry, but there are no mitigating circumstances that excuse the violence in Darfur.

You imply that I am not up to an ethically complex issue. I believe you aren’t up to shedding your “moral equivalence” attitude. What do you believe in? Do you feel the United States is at a disadvantage in the UN? Do you believe governments like that in Sudan or Iran or Cuba should carry the same weight as the United States?

Andy D said...


A friend of mine is going to lend me the Al Gore movie. I haven't forgotten my end of the deal.

Anonymous said...

RELATIVISM: Andy, once again, you either haven't read my post carefully or you are being willfully ignorant. I applauded you for wanting to hold people responsible for their actions. I offer no "excuse" to people who commit genocide or any other crime. Commit genocide? You should be held responsible according to law. I'm no moral relativist. It is stupid, though, not to take a look at other contributing factors (eg. the disappearance of Lake Chad, global warming, etc) that also contribute to the likelihood of such crimes being committed. If those things contribute to the problem, it is stupid to keep causing them. That's not moral relativism. That's common sense.

U.N. and the LAW: I believe in the rule of law--and therefore I have been outraged by the Bush administration's (and its apologist's) contempt for the rule of law. E.g. habeas corpus, torture, etc. Yes, like you, I believe the U.N. should indeed sanction members that do not respect international law, including countries like Iran, North Korea, Sudan, *and* the United States.

You're fond of citing statistics about the U.N. Check out how often (and when) the U.S. actually votes alongside Iran, China, Libya, etc--and *against* the rest of the world.

CRICHTON: You take *any* climate scientist at *any* accredited Atlanta University (your choice) out for coffee and talk climate science with them, and I'll sit down and read Crichton's book. (I've read the reviews scientists have written of the book and it sounds pretty dumb, but I'll read it if you sit down with a dumb scientist.) Deal?

familyman said...

Hey Andy,

I'll give you another option. If you really don't want to watch Al Gore. Since I can kind of guess what your reaction to an Inconvenient Truth will be.

Instead, read the book
Where Have All the Leaders Gone?
By Lee Iacocca

I'm about half way through it. I'd love to hear what you'd have to say about it. I'll read Michael Crichton’s State of Fear as soon as I'm done with it.

Anonymous said...

Since Andy didn't link to Ban Ki-Moon's actual (and reasonable, insightful) column, you can read it here. Notice that he's not offering any "excuse" for anybody's actions. He's simply being smart and realistic about long term solutions to complex problems.

Andy D said...

First off, sorry in the delay on moderating and posting comments. I have been fairly busy over the last 24 hours and simply haven’t been able to work on my blog. I have a lot to respond to, so here I go:

First, familyman: I will look into the book and let you know what I think. I was planning on watching the movie and writing a review of it on here, so I might stick with that. I also think “Anonymous” might appreciate it if I sat down and watched the movie.


I am glad you linked the speech. I did some searches for it when the article first broke and couldn’t find it. And while Mr. Ki-moon’s arguments appear to be well thought out and respectful, I have some concerns with them:

1) Mr. Ki-moon opens the letter discussing the “breakthrough” on climate change. The 50% reduction by 2050 that he talks about is a modification of the Kyoto treaty. Most, if not all, of the current signers of the treaty are missing their reduction limits set in the original treaty. By pushing the date back to 2050, it gives everyone more time. IF man-made global warming has caused such damage over the last century, does it sound like a victory to push the dates for Kyoto back 43 years from now? IF you believe in man-made global warming, why would you celebrate another 43 years of continued damage to the environment?

2) As I have discussed earlier, the Secretary General is blaming man-made global warming for having a role in Darfur. I would encourage any readers to check out the link Anonymous provided. In his letter, Mr. Ki-moon cites chanes that began happening in Darfur two decades ago. The reason I think it irresponsible to associate global warming with Darfur is because violence in Darfur has been going on for longer than twenty years. If global warming played a role in what is happening today, why did it occur after the violence started? I pulled my stats for the original post from the BBC, Reuters, and the Weekly Standard. While I will be the first to admit the Weekly Standard is a conservative magazine, I didn’t use much of their material for a reason I will discuss in the next point. The other sources can hardly be called right wing. So, why did the violence start before Mr. Ki-moon said global warming impacted the region?

3) If I had read Mr. Ki-moon’s letter before I wrote this article I would be more outraged. He says:

“For the first time in memory, there was no longer enough food and water for all. Fighting broke out. By 2003, it evolved into the full-fledged tragedy we witness today.”

The reason I didn’t use much of the Weekly Standard material is that it is dated from 1999. At that point, there was a huge humanitarian outcry. Already, some of the same estimates we use today for casualties were used in 1999. US Congressmen and Senators were visiting Darfur to get a handle on what was going on. The violence that was occurring at that point had a definite religious component. Most sources say that was a very different issue from what is happening today. Therefore, I decided not to include that material in my article. The Secretary General seems to be dismissing some of this and attempting to paint a different picture.

All of these issues taken together combined with some smaller complaints with his article lead me to believe that the Secretary General would like to whitewash over some of the larger components of the problem. While the environment definitely plays a role in everything that happens in that part of the world, I believe there are much larger issues that need to be address. Many of those issues seem to revolve around the government that is in place right now. The Secretary General isn’t really in a position to criticize that government, so he is trying to attack it from a different point of view.

As for your criticisms of Crichton’s book, I should probably take some time to reveal a few facts to you. I have a four year engineering degree. When I got that degree, I also obtained a minor in geophysics. I studied primarily plate techtonics in order to get that degree. I worked with the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences department and was familiar with many of the major professors within that university at the time I was in college. I would say many of them would point out that Crichton’s book does have some very valid points. I also need to warn you that I am about to write a blog from a University professor that warms of “Global Cooling”. In addition, don’t be so sure about your assertion that every academic shares your opinion of global warming. There are many successful academics on the record who question, or out and out oppose the theory of “man-made global warming”.

Anonymous said...

Your original post seems now to be left without a coherent point: 1) If you are claiming that climate change (and/or the near-disappearance of Lake Chad) has nothing to do with Darfur, I don’t think your argument holds up. People are unquestionably fighting and killing each other (among other complex reasons) over Lake Chad’s dwindling resources. 2) If you grant that at least some of the fuel for the fire in Darfur is the near-disappearance of Lake Chad, then why are so upset at Ban Ki-Moon for pointing that out? It is clear he’s not trying to excuse the guilty or “whitewash” anything (that’s disingenuous of you to claim that)—-but he's rather trying to solve some long-term causes of violence.

In either case, you’re left without a substantial point.

I think the G8 agreement was preposterously weak. But that’s because of U.S. foot-dragging. Everybody else was ready to move forward. However, it doesn’t sound like you know what you’re talking about concerning Kyoto. Basically (and roughly) Kyoto involved a commitment by industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels, effective during 2008-2012. The G8 hope for a 50% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050 is not simply a "modification" of Kyoto, as you claim, but is, of course, ten times more far-reaching than Kyoto. But, indeed, a 90% reduction would be much better.

If you’re going to do “global cooling” theories (Easterbrook, perhaps?), you might want to check with the Inuit, who are now abandoning villages they’ve inhabited for over 1000 years, because the permafrost is melting below them and the villages are sinking into the ground.

And the offer still stands, regardless of your undergrad degree: talk climate science over coffee with any climate scientist at any accredited Atlanta University and I’ll read Crichton’s novel.

But since you're trotting out your science background, I dare you to answer this question on this blog: when is the last time atmospheric CO2 levels were as high as they are now?

Andy D said...

Even after reading Ki-moons original statement, it sure sounds to me like he wishes to focus in on global warming. I didn’t see any criticism of the government or any of the other cuases of the violence in Darfur.

If you know so much about Kyoto, care to explain the cost to the United States (both in dollars and population)?

I have qutoed on this site previous CO2 levels that were higher than our current levels. Every time I point out facts, you dismiss them.
If you had been paying attention, you would remember that I have cited articles (by a University of California team) showing CO2 levels as high as 2,000 ppm. The highest estimate I have heard for current levels is mid 300's.

Anonymous said...

Are you afraid of the dare? This is the dare. Fill in the blank: "The last time atmospheric CO2 levels were as high as they are now was _____ years ago."

Andy wrote: "If you know so much about Kyoto, care to explain the cost to the United States (both in dollars and population)?"

OK. Appropriate carbon mitigation (well beyond what Kyoto called for) is estimated to cost about 1% of GDP. That's a bargain compared to the costs we'll endure if we ignore the threat and have to deal with the full brunt of the kind of climate change that would be caused by business as usual. The cost of inaction is estimated to be at least 20-30 times as much as preventive action taken now, perhaps much more than that. Numbers to back it up here.

The economics are clear enough, but dollars alone don't account for the misery and death that catastrophic climate change would bring.

Andy D said...

I haven’t been taking your dare because it is silly. No one knows for sure when the last time CO2 levels were this high. We simply have best guess estimates. I did some looking over the weekend into your “dare”. Depending on who you believe, the answer to your question is anywhere from 60,000 years ago to around 5 million years ago. The next question is, what does this illustrate? It illustrates two things. The first is just how little we know about the environment. 60,000 to 5 million years ago is a pretty large gap for a movement that is predicting the destruction of the planet based on a 1 degree temperature increase over 100 years. The second thing the answer illustrates is something I have talked about before: CO2 levels have been as high as they are now (and higher) without any help from man.

You talked about the dollar cost with Kyoto. While your answer is the lowest estimate I have seen anywhere, you haven’t talked about the cost on technology and life. Most estimates (including from those who would have us sign Kyoto) say that in order to comply with Kyoto, we would have to return our technology, transportation, and population back to a 1950’s equivalent. Some groups that support Kyoto have even argued that we should have population centers in the US no greater than 20,000 people with large expanses of wilderness separating these settlements. Is that really what you would argue for?

Anonymous said...

It is not silly to make it clear that CO2 levels have not been as high as they are now for over 600,000 years. (Humans have been around for less than 200,000 years.) And we know where all that extra CO2 came from: burning oil, coal, gas, and trees.

And the temperature keeps rising while Andy debates a question that scientists have already answered.

We already have the technological advances to solve the climate emergency. It's about stepping into a clean-energy future. Our outdated policies, power plants and engines are the problems--that's what's stuck in the 1950s.

So I'm outta here. More "debate" about a solvable problem is morally irresponsible. If want to read a real scientific conversation, go here.

Andy D said...

But you would agree that CO2 levels have been as high as they are now without any interference from man.

Some scientist agrees with global warming, some don’t. And you are absolutely wrong when you say we have the technological advances to solve this problem. No one knows for sure if we can solve global warming. It is even more speculative than the global warming debate.