12 November 2017


                                                               - Maj Gen P K Mallick,VSM (Retd)
As New Delhi is suffering from acute air pollution, two important documents have been published last week regarding Climate Change. These have very significant relevance to India.

The Lancet report

The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most widely cited medical journalshas published a report Lancet Countdown’s 2017. The report states that climate change is already afflicting human health worldwide, exposing tens of millions of elderly people to excess heat while possibly reducing the ability of hundreds of millions of workers to do their jobs. The report examines dozens of statistics from around the planet and finds that the long-predicted effects of climate change have already become a reality in many places. Heat waves now last longer, reaching more people and broiling more territory, than they did in the 1980s and 1990s. In the United States, this spike in warmth is lengthening the allergy season, sometimes by weeks, and helping infectious diseases to spread.

The Lancet report finds that many more older people experience heat waves now than did two or three decades ago. On average, 125 million more older adults are exposed to heat than were in previous decades. The Lancet Countdown tracks progress on health and climate change and provides an independent assessment of the health effects of climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and the health implications of these actions.

The key messages from the 40 indicators in the Lancet Countdown’s 2017 report are summarised below.

The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible—affecting the health of populations around the world today

The impacts of climate change are disproportionately affecting the health of vulnerable populations and people in low-income and middle-income countries. By undermining the social and environmental determinants that underpin good health, climate change exacerbates social, economic, and demographic inequalities, with the impacts eventually felt by all populations.

The delayed response to climate change over the past 25 years has jeopardised human life and livelihoods

The voice of the health profession is essential in driving forward progress on climate change and realising the health benefits of this response.

Although progress has been historically slow, the past 5 years have seen an accelerated response, and in 2017, momentum is building across a number of sectors; the direction of travel is set, with clear and unprecedented opportunities for public health

U.S. Global Change - Research Program Climate Science Special Report

Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization. The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, and the last three years have been the warmest years on record for the globe. These trends are expected to continue over climate timescales.

This assessment concludes, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.

In addition to warming, many other aspects of global climate are changing, primarily in response to human activities. Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented changes in surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; diminishing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; and increasing atmospheric water vapor.

For example, global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half (about 3 inches) of that rise occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. Global sea level rise has already affected the United States; the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf Coast cities.

Global average sea levels are expected to continue to rise—by at least several inches in the next 15 years and by 1–4 feet by 2100. A rise of as much as 8 feet by 2100 cannot be ruled out. 

Changes in the characteristics of extreme events are particularly important for human safety, infrastructure, agriculture, water quality and quantity, and natural ecosystems. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency across the United States and globally and is expected to continue to increase.

Heatwaves have become more frequent in the United States since the 1960s, while extreme cold temperatures and cold waves are less frequent. Annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.8°F (1.0°C) for the period 1901–2016; over the next few decades (2021–2050), annual average temperatures are expected to rise by about 2.5°F for the United States, relative to the recent past (average from 1976–2005), under all plausible future climate scenarios.

The incidence of large forest fires in the western United States and Alaska has increased since the early 1980s and is projected to further increase in those regions as the climate changes, with profound changes to regional ecosystems.

Annual trends toward earlier spring melt and reduced snowpack are already affecting water resources in the western United States and these trends are expected to continue. Under higher scenarios, and assuming no change to current water resources management, chronic, long-duration hydrological drought is increasingly possible before the end of this century.

The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally. Without major reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature relative to preindustrial times could reach 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century. With significant reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature could be limited to 3.6°F (2°C) or less.

The global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has now passed 400 parts per million (ppm), a level that last occurred about 3 million years ago, when both global average temperature and sea level were significantly higher than today. Continued growth in CO2 emissions over this century and beyond would lead to an atmospheric concentration not experienced in tens to hundreds of millions of years. There is broad consensus that the further and the faster the Earth system is pushed towards warming, the greater the risk of unanticipated changes and impacts, some of which are potentially large and irreversible.

The last few years have also seen record-breaking, climate-related weather extremes, the three warmest years on record for the globe, and continued decline in arctic sea ice. These trends are expected to continue in the future over climate timescales. Significant advances have also been made in our understanding of extreme weather events and how they relate to increasing global temperatures and associated climate changes. Since 1980, the cost of extreme events for the United States has exceeded $1.1 trillion; therefore, better understanding of the frequency and severity of these events in the context of a changing climate is warranted.

Global and U.S. Temperatures Continue to Rise

Long-term temperature observations are among the most consistent and widespread evidence of a warming planet. Temperature (and, above all, its local averages and extremes) affects agricultural productivity, energy use, human health, water resources, infrastructure, natural ecosystems, and many other essential aspects of society and the natural environment. Recent data add to the weight of evidence for rapid global-scale warming, the dominance of human causes, and the expected continuation of increasing temperatures, including more record-setting extremes. (Ch. 1)

Changes in Observed and Projected Global Temperature

The global, long-term, and unambiguous warming trend has continued during recent years. Since the last National Climate Assessment was published, 2014 became the warmest year on record globally; 2015 surpassed 2014 by a wide margin; and 2016 surpassed 2015. Sixteen of the warmest years on record for the globe occurred in the last 17 years (1998 was the exception). Global annual average temperature has increased by more than 1.2°F (0.65°C) for the period 1986–2016 relative to 1901–1960; the linear regression change over the entire period from 1901–2016 is 1.8°F (1.0°C) 

(left) Global annual average temperature has increased by more than 1.2°F (0.7°C) for the period 1986–2016 relative to 1901–1960. Red bars show temperatures that were above the 1901–1960 average, and blue bars indicate temperatures below the average. (right) Surface temperature change (in °F) for the period 1986–2016 relative to 1901–1960. Gray indicates missing data. 

How one wishes this type of research and reports are made for Indian conditions.

South Asia’s 4 Competing Jihads

By Muhammad Nawaz Khan

In South Asia, a tussle is underway between Islamic State (ISIS) and like-minded groups, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, which is currently based in Afghanistan), the Afghan Taliban, and al-Qaeda. The jihadi groups seek to establish one of two major competing Islamist political orders – the “Caliphate political order” or the “Amir-ul-Momineen political order.” Collectively, these groups have launched four different jihads with the goal of creating either “Islamic State Khorasan Province,” the “Islamic State of Khorasan,” or the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or Waziristan.”

Osama bin Laden’s secret diary

Clifford D. May

On May 2, 2011, a Navy SEAL team made a brief stop in Abbottabad, Pakistan where they terminated Osama bin Laden’s life and then moved on to their second mission: collecting as much information as possible from within the al Qaeda leader’s compound.

They carried off computers, memoranda, photos, audio files, even a 228-page handwritten diary — “the single largest collection of senior terrorists materials ever,” a Pentagon briefer told reporters five days later.

Over the years since, what have we learned from this treasure trove? Almost nothing. Why not? Because President Obama promptly put almost all of it under lock and key.

Can Russia Piggyback on China’s ‘String of Pearls’?

By Nicholas Trickett

Those lucky enough to visit St. Petersburg in the waning days of the Soviet Union often experienced the curious existence of old, imperial restaurants at the end of empire. Inevitably a waiter would approach with menus running page after page. When the time came to order, however, the waiter would merely ask “meat or fish?” and shatter the decadent illusion of choice. Russia’s strategic menu suffers from a similar duopolistic malaise. Energy and arms are the meat and fish on offer. There aren’t many other options worth much.

The Geography of Chinese Power

By Robert D. Kaplan

The English geographer Sir Halford Mackinder ended his famous 1904 article, "The Geographical Pivot of History," with a disturbing reference to China. After explaining why Eurasia was the geostrategic fulcrum of world power, he posited that the Chinese, should they expand their power well beyond their borders, "might constitute the yellow peril to the world's freedom just because they would add an oceanic frontage to the resources of the great continent, an advantage as yet denied to the Russian tenant of the pivot region." Leaving aside the sentiment's racism, which was common for the era, as well as the hysterics sparked by the rise of a non-Western power at any time, Mackinder had a point: whereas Russia, that other Eurasian giant, basically was, and is still, a land power with an oceanic front blocked by ice, China, owing to a 9,000-mile temperate coastline with many good natural harbors, is both a land power and a sea power. (Mackinder actually feared that China might one day conquer Russia.) China's virtual reach extends from Central Asia, with all its mineral and hydrocarbon wealth, to the main shipping lanes of the Pacific Ocean. Later, in Democratic Ideals and Reality, Mackinder predicted that along with the United States and the United Kingdom, China would eventually guide the world by "building for a quarter of humanity a new civilization, neither quite Eastern nor quite Western."

Why the Indian Ocean Must Not Become Like the South China Sea

Rising Strategic Uncertainty in the Indian Ocean

The pursuit of contesting regional orders by major powers has engendered a strategic environment of uncertainty and mistrust in the Indo-Pacific. As geopolitical developments at land and sea feed off one another, the maritime domain has been marked as the latest theater of war. These dynamics have been most evident in the East and South China Seas, where the complexity of issues at hand is telling. A case in point is China’s construction of military facilities on artificial islands proximate to disputed maritime areas, against a backdrop of contesting interpretations of international law.

China Will Surpass U.S. In Artificial Intelligence Capabilities Around 2025 Google’s Eric Schmidt Says — And Erase A Key U.S. Strategic Advantage If In Fact That Occurs — AI & The Future Of War

Patrick Tucker had a thought-provoking article he posted on the November 1, 2017 online edition of DefenseOne.com, on Google Founder Eric Schmidt’s outlook on the future of artificial intelligence (AI). Mr. Tucker begins by noting that in April this year, “Eric Schmidt watched a computer program defeat China’s top Go Player, in a ground-breaking match” in the Chinese city of Wuzhen. Mr. Schmidt was struck less by the considerable innovations displayed by humans and machine — than by the audience,” Mr. Tucker wrote. “To me, the more interesting thing [was that] all the top computer science people in China had shown up,” Mr. Schmidt remarked.



The Nazis knew secret communication was the key to world domination. Their prize technology was the electromechanical Enigma machine, an encryption device that allowed German tank divisions, embassies and even submarines to send scrambled radio messages to the Reich during World War II. They believed their system was unbreakable. It was—until a young British mathematician named Alan Turing realized that the signal could be unscrambled if he could create a machine to systematically try thousands of key combinations that would eventually hit upon an intelligible message.

China Opens First Overseas Military Base

BEIJING — Troops serving at China’s first overseas military base, in the Horn of Africa country of Djibouti, should help promote peace and stability, President Xi Jinping told them in a video chat, encouraging them to promote a good image.

China formally opened the base in August on the same day as the People’s Liberation Army marked its 90th birthday. It is China’s first overseas naval base, although Beijing officially describes it as a logistics facility.

A Chinese naval base and U.S. base Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti

Xi's China Dreams Will Not Age Well

By John Dale Grover

On October 18, President Xi Jinping gave a speech to the Congress of the Communist Party of China, outlining policies on everything from the economy to the military. There was fanfare as Chinese media hailed Xi's plans to reduce pollution, fight inequality, and stand against corruption. Westerners noted Xi is now the most powerful ruler of China since Mao and raised eyebrows at the assertion of a “China solution” as an alternative to Western political and economic systems. Yet almost none of the media noticed that Xi provided no answers to China’s crushing demographic crisis in his speech.

Securing North Korean nuclear sites would require a ground invasion, Pentagon says

By Dan Lamothe and Carol Morello 

The only way to locate and secure all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites “with complete certainty” is through an invasion of ground forces, and in the event of conflict, Pyongyang could use biological and chemical weapons, the Pentagon told lawmakers in a new, blunt assessment of what war on the Korean Peninsula might look like. 

The Pentagon, in a letter to lawmakers, said that a full discussion of U.S. capabilities to “counter North Korea’s ability to respond with a nuclear weapon and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons located in deeply buried, underground facilities” is best suited for a classified briefing. 

As Russian Support for Ukrainian War Ebbs, Kremlin Mulling New ‘Hybrid’ Tactics

By: Paul Goble

Vladimir Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea gave him a big political boost, and Russians still overwhelmingly support the annexation of that Ukrainian peninsula. But support for Russian forces and their clients in Donbas is declining, with ever more Russians against backing these breakaway groups and expressing fears that the conflict there could grow into a major war with the West (Levada.ru, October 30). These attitudes, especially on the eve of presidential elections, have prompted Putin to adopt what one Russian commentator calls “a fake demilitarization.” Specifically, the Kremlin suggests it will do what it can to end Russian military losses and risks abroad (Rosbalt, Windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com, October 30).

When Foreign Fighters Come Home And Bring Terrorism With Them

The threat posed by foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately. Indeed, my news feed has been full of media reports about the danger to country X, country Y or the world in general. Some good studies have been produced on the topic, such as the one recently released by Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group.

But the concern about foreign fighters is not new. Indeed, in April 2014 I wrote a piece assessing the danger, and it has aged pretty well. Like then, I believe that returning foreign fighters pose a real threat, but it is being mitigated by several factors - the most significant of which is the fact that the world has become aware of them. But other elements can also help lessen the threat.

Russia and Saudi Arabia: A New Oil Bromance?

At the end of October 2017, the OPEC/non-OPEC agreement to cut oil production finally achieved its purported objective of raising oil prices to a level of $60 per barrel. The apparent success in steering the oil market toward a rebalance and bolstering prices is built largely on Saudi Arabia’s overcompliance and Russia’s recent compliance to agreed production cuts, while the rest of OPEC exceeds its combined quotas and negligible contributions come from other non-OPEC producers. Although historical precedents indicate that Russia has preferred to free ride on OPEC production cuts, there are several recent developments that suggest that they may be more committed to cooperating with the Saudis this time around.

Israel’s National Security since the Yom Kippur War

Joshua Krasna

Israeli troops during the Arab-Israeli War. From the booklet “President Nixon and the Role of Intelligence in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.”

For the Jewish people, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (which fell this year on September 30), is the holiest day of the year. It is a day for solemn retrospection and repentance. In Israel, Yom Kippur is a phenomenon: it is the one day of the year when Israel’s borders and airspace are closed; while no law forbids it, only emergency vehicles are on the road in Jewish cities and neighborhoods; all shops are closed. Sixty percent of Jewish Israelis report that they fast on Yom Kippur.

Does Japan Really Want to Go Nuclear?

By Richard A Bitzinge for S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

What would it take for Japan to create a nuclear weapons program? More specifically, is such an endeavor feasible? To answer this question, Richard Bitzinger outlines and explores the necessary infrastructure requirements, economic investments and political maneuvers that would underpin the creation of a Japanese nuclear program. While Japan might be able to fund a nuclear program, Bitzinger maintains that management of the inevitable public resistance to the project would constitute a significant hurdle.


The Consequences of America’s Unrestrained Foreign Policy

Will American foreign policy have the discipline to harness realism to pursue its goals? Can the United States remain strong enough to bring prosperity to its people and preserve the world order it created after World War II, while also deploying enough restraint to keep from going overboard?

The topic of realism and restraint in American foreign policy was discussed by journalists, scholars, and politicians at a conference organized by The American Conservative, a magazine that promotes realism in foreign policy, at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. last Friday (full disclosure: The author is an editorial assistant at The American Conservative). While all the panelists agreed that ideally the United States should embrace realism and restraint, The American Conservative’s editor, Robert Merry, summarized succinctly the reality that, even in the Trump era, “there is no realism and restraint in… American foreign policy.”



Days before the 2016 presidential election, Dmitri Alperovitch stood on a stage in Washington, D.C. and delivered a speech he called “how to win elections.” 

Several months earlier, the Soviet-born Alperovitch had shot to fame as the first person to accuse Russia of being behind the cyber hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that uncovered emails that proved embarrassing to the Hillary Clinton campaign. 

His speech went well beyond just hacking, arguing that Russia had sowed the seeds of distrust in the election ahead of President Donald Trump’s victory.

Hacking Power Grids: New Tactic of War or Wave of the Future?

Nadiya Kostyuk

According to U.S. cybersecurity company Symantec, a hacking campaign dubbed Dragonfly 2.0 successfully infiltratedU.S. power plants over the past two years. The latest spate of incidents has been particularly alarming because the hackers appear to have accessed control systems at a handful of U.S. facilities. Symantec’s report speculates about the hack’s “potential for sabotage” and “disruptive purposes,” but doesn’t identify the hackers’ origins, saying only that they are “clearly an accomplished attack group.” Other researchers believe the culprits are linked to the Russian government, dovetailing with Ukraine’s allegations that Moscow was behind hacks against its power grids in 2015 and again in 2016. 

Enemy Cyber Campaigns Target Private Sector

David M. Katz

To say that the planning of the D-Day invasion by U.S., British, and other Allied forces was a complex endeavor would be an understatement, to say the least.

A U.S. army pamphlet on the Normandy invasion sketches the results of the planning succinctly: “A great invasion force stood off the Normandy coast of France as dawn broke on 6 June 1944: 9 battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers, and 71 large landing craft of various descriptions as well as troop transports, mine sweepers, and merchantmen — in all, nearly 5,000 ships of every type, the largest armada ever assembled.”

Amid a Cyber Cold War, is the Cyber Mission Force prepared?

In recent years, cyber intrusions have compromised both personal privacy and national security in the United States. Recent hacks of financial, government personnel, and political party systems—as well as Russian influence operations through US social media—illustrate grave threats to the nation’s values and institutions. But oddly, news of compromised defense systems and critical infrastructure has failed to raise widespread alarm. Between 2009 and 2013, intruders stole design information for the F-35 fighter aircraft and a variety of other military systems. Between May and July of this year, intrusions were detected into at least a dozen nuclear power plants. (A UK-based company has been offering a course in infrastructure hacking for at least three years.) Hackers, by compromising defense systems, have gained information about military designs that cost US taxpayers trillions of dollars to develop—and meanwhile, hacking of industrial control systems could result in calamity for civilian populations. It is clear that the United States is now in a Cyber Cold War against multiple capable adversaries. As during the original Cold War, the Defense Department is organizing, posturing, and maneuvering to gain and retain the initiative.


Figure 1: Major cyber intrusions in the United States, 2009–2017