Sunday, June 17, 2018

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Antarctic ice loss not a cozy trend
Antarctica has lost a staggering three trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, as per a consortium of 84 scientists reported in the journal “Nature,” and this is a loud wake-up call for naysayers who keep expressing doubts about the continent's shrinking ice mass.
The scientists’ warning should be taken seriously because they insist that the frozen continent could redraw earth's coastlines if global warming continues unchecked.
The matter is so serious that low-lying coastal cities and communities home to hundreds of millions of people face existential threat.
Up to now, scientists have struggled in determining whether Antarctica has accumulated more mass through snowfall than it loses in meltwater run-off and ice flows into the ocean. But more than two decades of satellite data — the new findings draw from 24 separate space-based surveys — have finally yielded a more complete picture.
West Antarctica has proven far more vulnerable to global warming, especially the Antarctic Peninsula, where more than 6,500 square kilometres of ice shelves have sheared off into the sea since 1995.
Already floating, ice shelves breaking off into icebergs do not add to sea level. But massive glaciers on West Antarctica slowly gliding seaward hold enough water to push oceans up by 3.5 metres.
Climate change is a matter that affects each and every living organism on earth. Without rapid cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement.
Weather-related disasters caused some $320 billion in economic damage, making 2017 the costliest year ever for such losses.
In social as well as economic terms, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was devastating, washing away decades of development in an instant.
In South Asia, major monsoon floods affected 41 million people.
In Africa, severe drought drove nearly 900,000 people from their homes.
Wildfires caused destruction across the world.
Climate change is moving much faster than anticipated. Ice loss of 2.7 trillion tonnes since 1992 added about eight millimetres to sea level.
It will be irresponsible for the present generation to leave an inhospitable planet for the future generations to inherit.
The observation by the scientists on Antarctic ice melting is another ringing alarm for action to slow the warming of our planet. Any lethargy on this front could prove too expensive for humanity.
Tariff war is not
good for world
At a time when everyone thought the world would be spared a dreaded tariff war, US President Donald Trump has struck again.
Weeks of back and forth between Washington and Beijing that have veered in tone from conciliatory to hostile had left observers bemused, but Friday saw Trump unveiling hefty tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports, prompting China to announce equal levies on US goods.
Raising tensions between the world's two largest economies are certainly not pleasing news. What is worrisome is that such actions could shake investor confidence and bruise global growth.
China has swiftly retaliated by imposing "equal" tariffs on US products. "We will immediately launch tax measures of equal scale and equal strength," the commerce ministry said in a statement on its web site which also called on other countries to "take collective action" against this "outdated and backwards behaviour."
Beijing has also made it clear that it will negate agreements it had reached with the US during previous consultations over the penalties.
Washington’s warning of "additional tariffs" should China hit back with tit-for-tat duties on American goods and services exports merely ignites the row further.
Trump has riled key allies by pursuing protectionist trade policies, including the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
He stunned his counterparts by backing out of a joint communique agreed by Group of Seven leaders in Canada last weekend that mentioned the importance of free, fair and mutually beneficial trade.
Already, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has hinted at a new front in the trade row with the United States, warning that Europe's strategic interests rode on the future of Europe's car industry and hinting at competition probes of US Internet giants.
Trump has repeatedly criticised Europe, and Germany in particular, for running large trade surpluses over the United States.
Trump should heed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warning that his new import tariffs threaten to undermine the global trading system, prompt retaliation by other countries and damage the US economy.
As per IMF Director Christine Lagarde, the tariffs will have a larger economic toll if they prompt retaliation from trading partners like Canada and Germany.
Moving the globe further away from an open, fair and rules-based trade system cannot be termed sensible at a time when the world is hugely inter-connected. One only hopes good sense prevails.
World should stand by
people of determination
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is one of the most widely-ratified international human rights treaties, which reaffirms that people with disabilities are entitled to the same treatment as everybody else.
Cementing and protecting the rights of around 1.5 billion people around the world in accordance with the Convention is a moral imperative, as rightly pointed out by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
Mere signing and ratifying the Convention is not enough. Vigorous implementation holds the key.
Countries should robustly apply the Convention to their development policies, investments and legal systems so as to fulfil the central pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: to leave no one behind.
Talking on the subject, the UAE deserves praise for always remaining in the forefront when it comes to the welfare and empowerment of the people of determination.
Continuing a slew of measures aimed at empowerment, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum last year launched the National Strategy for Empowering People with Special Needs.
The policy revolves around 6 pillars including health and rehabilitation, education, vocational rehabilitation and employment, mobility, social protection and family empowerment, and public life and sports.
Importantly, Sheikh Mohammed declared that people with special needs will be referred to as “people of determination” to recognise their achievements in different fields.
The creation of the People of determination Advisory Council is a huge step to empower this segment and enables them to play an important part in the country’s development.
The UAE’s Federal Law No.29 of 2006 protects the rights of people of determination and guarantees them the right to live with dignity.
Sheikh Mohammed has always maintained that people of determination represent an integral component of UAE’s society and have the right to enjoy a happy and dignified life like other community groups.
As per UN officials, every minute, more than 30 women are seriously injured or disabled during childbirth. Women and girls with disabilities face multiple barriers to accessing education, health services and jobs.
Across the world, people of determination still often face overt discrimination, stereotyping and lack of respect for their basic human rights – with women and girls disproportionately affected.
Other countries can take a cue from the UAE and initiate intense efforts so that people of determination can fully participate in society.
UN vote a victory for
Palestinians, justice
The backing for a resolution by as many as 120 countries at the UN General Assembly calling for greater protection for Palestinians and deploring the use of excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians, particularly in Gaza, sends a powerful warning message to the occupation forces and is an unambiguous victory for Palestinian human rights and justice.
There is no justification for the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces against civilian protesters, including children, as well as medical personnel and journalists.
Israel has for long been emboldened by the unstinted and blind support extended by Washington and the stunning helplessness of the world community, which has remained silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations systematically perpetrated against the Palestinian people by Israeli forces.
Israel stands exposed as not a single Israeli has been fatally attacked, but at least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during peaceful protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March.
The largest number of deaths occurred on May 14, the day the United States moved its embassy in Israel to occupied Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s allegation that Arab countries are trying to score political points at home through the resolution makes absolutely no sense in view of such merciless killings of innocent Palestinians.
It may be recalled that in December, 128 countries defied US President Donald Trump and voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
The General Assembly had then largely ignored Trump's threats to cut off aid to any country that went against the US and voted 128-9 to denounce the president's action.
The UN’s position is that occupied Jerusalem is a final status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties.
The international community should be more vigilant now and see to it that the Israeli occupation forces fully abide by legal obligations and responsibilities under the fourth Geneva Convention on protecting civilians.
All that the peace-loving people across the world ask for is the protection of Palestinian civilian population.
Israel should realise that it has crossed all limits. The world will not tolerate any more atrocities by its forces and the backing of such a large number of countries for the UN resolution is an indication of that view.