Kenny Stancil

Oxford study warns of extreme heat and drought impacting 90 percent of Earth's population

As interlinked extreme heat and drought events grow in intensity and frequency amid the ruling class' ongoing failure to adequately slash planet-heating fossil fuel pollution, over 90% of the global population is projected to suffer the consequences in the coming decades, according to peer-reviewed research published Thursday in Nature Sustainability.

Compound drought-heatwave (CDHW) events are "one of the worst climatic stressors for global sustainable development," states the paper, but their "physical mechanisms" and "impacts on socio-ecosystem productivity remain poorly understood."

"Using simulations from a large climate-hydrology model," nine scholars—working at universities in China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan—found that "the frequency of extreme CDHWs is projected to increase by tenfold globally under the highest emissions scenario, along with a disproportionate negative impact on vegetation and socio-economic productivity by the late 21st century."

According to the study: "Terrestrial water storage and temperature are negatively coupled, probably driven by similar atmospheric conditions (for example, water vapor deficit and energy demand). Limits on water availability are likely to play a more important role in constraining the terrestrial carbon sink than temperature extremes."

Put plainly, drought and extreme heat are intertwined. Increasingly arid and hot conditions are undermining the capacity of land-based ecosystems to absorb carbon dioxide, with a lack of water considered even more consequential than higher temperatures.

Not only are CDHWs hurting the ability of biodiverse regions to absorb a key greenhouse gas but these increasingly intense and frequent events also threaten to exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities.

The study estimates that even under the lowest emission scenario, "over 90% of the global population and gross domestic product could be exposed to increasing CDHW risks in the future, with more severe impacts in poorer and more rural areas."

Lead author Jiabo Yin, an associate professor of hydrology at Wuhan University and visiting researcher at Oxford University, explained in a statement that quantifying "the response of ecosystem productivity to heat and water stressors at the global scale" shows that the joint threats of dangerously hot temperatures and drought pose substantially greater risks to society and the environment when assessed together rather than independently.

The effects of rising temperatures and declining terrestrial water storage combine to weaken the capacity of "carbon sinks" to absorb heat-trapping emissions and release oxygen, Yin noted.

Co-author Lousie Slater, associate professor of physical geography at the University of Oxford, said that "understanding compounding hazards in a warming Earth is essential for the implementation of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG13 that aims to combat climate change and its impacts."

"By combining atmospheric dynamics and hydrology, we explore the role of water and energy budgets in causing these extremes," said Slater.

The new research, which is aimed at "assessing and mitigating adverse effects of compound hazards on ecosystems and human well-being," comes in the wake of record-breaking extreme heat and historic droughts around the world in 2022.

The life-threatening impacts of the global climate emergency have only continued to reverberate in 2023, underscoring the need to expedite the clean energy transition, among other necessary transformations.

FBI releases first declassified 9/11 document following Biden executive order

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Saturday night released a previously withheld document related to its probe of the September 11, 2001 attacks and allegations of Saudi government support for the plane hijackers.

The 16-page document, which was written in 2016 and remains heavily redacted, is the first of several classified records expected to be published in the coming months following an executive order issued last week by U.S. President Joe Biden.

CNNreported that the newly declassified document, which summarizes an investigation called Operation ENCORE, "provides details of the FBI's work to investigate the alleged logistical support that a Saudi consular official and a suspected Saudi intelligence agent in Los Angeles provided to at least two of the men who hijacked planes."

"It details multiple connections and witness testimony that prompted FBI suspicion of Omar al-Bayoumi, who was purportedly a Saudi student in Los Angeles but whom the FBI suspected to be a Saudi intelligence agent," CNN noted. "The FBI document describes him as deeply involved in providing 'travel assistance, lodging and financing' to help the two hijackers."

In addition, NPRnoted that while the 9/11 Commission Report released in 2004 "was largely unable to tie the Saudi men to the hijackers, the FBI document describes multiple connections and phone calls."

According to the news outlet:

Years ago, the Commission wrote that when it came to the Saudi diplomat Fahad al-Thumairy, "We have not found evidence that Thumairy provided assistance to the two hijackers." A decade later, it appears FBI agents came to a different conclusion. The report says Thumairy "tasked" an associate to help the hijackers when they arrived in Los Angeles, and told the associate the hijackers were "two very significant people," more than a year before the attacks.

Although the FBI document "outlined contacts between the hijackers and Saudi associates," it supplied "no evidence the government in Riyadh was complicit in the attacks," Reuters reported.

Last week, the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., said in a statement that it "welcomes the release of" the documents, and that "any allegation that Saudi Arabia is complicit in the September 11 attacks is categorically false."

"As past investigations have revealed, including the 9/11 Commission and the release of the so-called '28 Pages,' no evidence has ever emerged to indicate that the Saudi government or its officials had previous knowledge of the terrorist attack or were in any way involved," the embassy added.

Reuters reported:

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. A U.S. government commission found no evidence that Saudi Arabia directly funded al Qaeda, the group given safe haven by the Taliban in Afghanistan at the time. It left open whether individual Saudi officials might have.

The families of roughly 2,500 of those killed, and more than 20,000 people who suffered injuries, businesses and various insurers, have sued Saudi Arabia seeking billions of dollars.

According to NPR, "While the report does not draw any direct links between hijackers and the Saudi Arabian government as a whole, Jim Kreindler, who represents many of the families suing Saudi Arabia, said the report validates the arguments they have made in the case."

"This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how al-Qaeda operated inside the U.S.," he said, "with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government."

In response to public disclosure of the FBI document, 9/11 Families United said in a statement that "this report and other evidence confirms that it was a group of Saudi government officials affiliated with the Kingdom's Ministry of Islamic Affairs, the cradle of Wahhabi extremism within the Saudi government, who came immediately to their aid as they commenced their terrorist preparations."

"Even with the unfortunate number of redactions, the report contains a host of bombshell new revelations, implicating numerous Saudi government officials, in a coordinated effort to mobilize an essential support network for the first arriving 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar," the organization continued. "The range of contacts at critical moments among these Saudi government officials, al-Qaeda, and the hijackers is stunning."

"Now the Saudis' secrets are exposed and it is well past time for the Kingdom to own up to its officials' roles in murdering thousands on American soil," Terry Strada, whose husband Tom was killed in the attack, said on behalf of the group.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, however, "reaffirmed Sunday that his country welcomes the decision by the U.S. to release classified documents relating to its investigation of the attacks, saying the documents 'would completely show that there was no (Saudi) involvement' in the attacks," CNN reported.

Biden's order came a month after nearly 1,800 family members, survivors, and first responders sent a letter (pdf) urging the president to steer clear of memorial events marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11 unless he declassified information that they claimed would reveal how Saudi government officials "materially supported" the hijackers.

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New analysis finds planet heading toward temperature threshold not seen in 34 million years

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Hedge fund $3 billion richer thanks to wager on wildfire insurance claims: 'What stage of capitalism is this?'

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