Crank of the Week - August 22, 2010 - Hillary Clinton

It was only a matter of time before American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton managed to say something so preposterous that she would win the coveted Crank of the Week award. That day has come with her conflation of the tragic floods in Pakistan and global warming. In a move that aligns the Obama administration with the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Secretary, using typical bureaucratic doublespeak, managed to say that the disastrous floods in Pakistan cannot be blamed on global warming while at the same time hinting that climate change was to blame. “You can’t point to any particular disaster and say, ‘it was caused by,’ but we are changing the climate of the world,” she said, in remarks labeled “nutty” by critics.

Clinton, in an interview with Pakistan’s Dawn TV, said that on top of the Pakistan floods, which have forced millions out of their homes, the forest fires in Russia are another example. After stating that there is no “direct link” between the disasters in Pakistan and Russia, Clinton did a verbal flip-flop, saying “when you have the changes in climate that affect weather that we’re now seeing, I think the predictions of more natural disasters are unfortunately being played out.”

Hillary is not the only government official to find linkage between global warming and natural disasters. The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has reportedly blamed the flooding in Pakistan on “global warming,” even though scientists are generally wary of linking any single or series of weather events to climate change. The organization of 56 Islamic states issued the statement at an emergency meeting in Saudi Arabia. The meeting was called to consider setting up an emergency fund to respond to future disasters like the floods now ravaging Pakistan.

Pakistan's worst floods in recorded history began more than two weeks ago in the mountainous northwest and have spread throughout the country. “We have to act instantly and decide on the best way forward to support Pakistan which has been struck by the effects of global warming and climate change,” said OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, clearly attributing the flooding to climate change. “Indeed, the Islamic world is paying a heavy price resulting from the negative repercussions of climate change.”

OIC head Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, (left) welcomes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US envoy Rashad Hussainin (right), to the conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon pronounced the flooding in Pakistan the worst disaster he has ever seen, and urged foreign donors to speed up assistance to the up to 20 million people affected. Both the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reiterated that there is no direct link between climate change and the Pakistan floods. WMO climate data chief Omar Baddour was quoted saying it's “too early to point to a human fingerprint” behind the recent disasters but climate change may be “exacerbating the intensity” of them.

It is easy to blame that all purpose boogieman, anthropogenic global warming (AGW), for the flooding, but is that the true story? Consider this explanation by Medha Bisht from the Institute for Defense Studies & Analysis:

What caused floods in Pakistan? While some hold monsoon patterns and heavy rainfall responsible for flash floods, others consider climate change, dams and deforestation as playing the trigger for the floods. Between these vying explanations the facts available on the existing timber mafia in Pakistan are the most telling. According to a story featured in Al Jazeera English (August 8, 2010), the provincial head of the National Disaster Management Authority has been quoted as saying that denudation is one of the main reasons for aggravating the floods as only 5.2 per cent of land in Pakistan is covered by forests. A local organisation, Sarhad Awami Forestry Ittehad (SAFI), has claimed that in parts of Malakand Agency, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, “more than 70 percent of forests were illegally cut down between 2007 and 2009, when Pakistani Taliban controlled the region.” Another report in The Guardian (August 12, 2010) claims that the flooding has been intense in areas where the timber mafia is active. It states that the felled trees stacked in ravines for the purpose of smuggling were dislodged by the force of water, thus sweeping away bridges, people and weakening the dam walls along its way. In fact, according to reports, the timber filled the Tarbela dam reservoir, thus blocking any storage space.

It seems that political memories are short—just four years ago the same region suffered from extensive flooding, and for the same reasons. According to NASA's Earth Observatory the 2006 flooding was because of unusually heavy monsoon rains: “Even as the summer monsoon season was drawing to a close, the rivers of eastern Pakistan flooded once again in early September 2006. Unusually heavy monsoon rains starting in May triggered floods throughout southern Asia during the summer of 2006, and India and Pakistan were among the hardest hit.”

Despite evidence to the contrary, and even cautious waffling by the climate science clique, politicians have been quick to blame anthropogenic global warming for the natural disasters besieging their countries. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, said that his country's flooding “reconfirms our extreme vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change.” Evidently Mrs Clinton is on board with that assessment. Perhaps her statements are a gambit, signaling renewed efforts to pass the Obama administration's moribund Tax & Trade legislation.

As tragic as the conditions in Pakistan are, it is extraordinarily irresponsible for any government official to blame the unproven theory of anthropogenic global warming for destructive acts of nature. Of course, people are always looking for a scapegoat for what ever misery befalls them and political leaders are always anxious to direct the blame away from themselves. For the past several decades, global warming, and by extension the rich industrial nations of the world, have served as the whipping boy for politicians, activists and societal parasites of all kinds. So, for feeding the AGW frenzy by uttering uninformed and breathtakingly stupid statements, this Crank of the Week is yours: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

We at The Resilient Earth website do not in any way wish to dismiss or diminish the magnitude of the human tragedy taking place in Pakistan due to the recent flooding. We urge anyone who can make a donation to do so through their local Red Cross, Red Crescent or other aid agency.

Going with the flow

Politicians are not noted for their keen intellects or original thought. In this, the ugsome Secretary Clinton fits right in. She was attending a meeting of similarly intellectually vacuous political types and her remarks reflected the local concensus. She was just going with the flow and, as Sarah Palin has said, "the only thing that goes with the flow is a dead fish" (being both an Alaskan and a fellow politician, Palin should know).