The Gambia is in some ways an unusual country, with particular problems. It is a small country in west Africa (in fact the smallest on the continental mainland of Africa), basically a long strip of land on either side of the Gambia river, completely surrounded by Senegal, save for an Atlantic Ocean front about 30-40 miles long. It is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, and by African standards is fairly heavily urbanisedi.

Someone at the Guardian seems to have decided that The Gambia is to be a showcase for its climate change alarmism just now. I think of it as The Gambia Gambit.

Taste this, it’s salty’: how rising seas are ruining the Gambia’s rice farmers

This is the title to an articleii that appeared on the Guardian website on 27th November 2021. The headline usefully summarises the gist of the article, which is very much that rice farming is suffering from increasing salinisation, which in turn is caused by rising sea-levels and reduced water flows in the River Gambia, and that it’s all the fault of climate change. The key paragraph is probably this one:

Here in Kerewan, on the north bank of the Gambia River, they are battling the climate crisis on two fronts. Rising sea levels are pushing saltwater further and further along the river, which snakes its way across the length of the low-lying country, and prolonged dry spells mean less freshwater to flush out the salinity. The result is that the water in the fields that used to produce rice is now too salty, and the [sic] much of the land – more than 30 hectares (74 acres) – has had to be abandoned. For women such as Jamba and Kassamah, that is a disaster.

According to the Guardian, “In the past 10 years, this [a shortened harvest, resulting in rice farmers having to buy rice to eat] has become the norm across the Gambia.”

It’s a very sad story, and it conveniently fits the “climate crisis” narrative. I have no doubt that rice farmers are having a hard time of it in The Gambia, and I’m perfectly prepared to accept that increasing salinisation is, at least in substantial part, behind the problems they are encountering. Unfortunately for the Guardian’s narrative, however, life is rarely that simple, and while – given its “climate crisis” agenda – it might look like a great story with which to fan the flames of alarmism, the reality is that the situation is a little more complex than the Guardian would have us believe. It’s also unfortunate for the Guardian that apparently nobody there bothers to check stories for consistency from one day to the next.

Blowing the house down: life on the frontline of extreme weather in the Gambia

This articleiii, which appeared in the Guardian on 26th November 2021, i.e. the day before the article about problematic rice harvests, is also part of the Guardian Gambia Gambit. The only problem is, it cuts across, and arguably undermines, the argument presented in the other article – rising sea-levels and falling precipitation rates. Reduced rainfall is critical to the argument, as we will see shortly. However, the “Blowing the house down” article not only fails to refer to reduced rainfall, it refers instead to floods:

The windstorm arrived in Jalambang late in the evening, when Binta Bah and her family were enjoying the evening cool outside. “But when we first heard the wind, the kids started to run and go in the house,” she says.

First they went in one room but the roof – a sheet of corrugated iron fixed only by a timber pole – flew off. They ran into another but the roof soon went there too.

As torrential rain followed the wind, the family huddled together in the ruins of their home: they didn’t have anywhere else to go….

…The windstorm and flash flooding that hit parts of the Gambia that night in July killed at least 10 people, injured dozens and affected thousands. …

…“I am 50 years old and since I was born I have never seen such winds. Now every time there is the rainy season there are heavy floods,” she says…

…Had the soil not been depleted of minerals by torrential rains and deforestation, the tomatoes from which she once made a meagre income would probably still be growing.

It seems that floods are an increasing problem over the last few years, rather than drought. This is confirmed by an articleiv which appeared on the Republika website on 28th July 2015, under the heading “Heavy rains with flash floods wreck several villages in Gambia”:

Heavy rains with flash floods have wrecked several villages in Sandu and Wuli in Gambia’s Upper River Region since Sunday night, local disaster management officials told Xinhua on Monday.

The main crossing point connecting Diabuku, Darsilameh Jindeh and Bajonkoto in Sandu is completely cut off, while a similar scenario is also happening from Demba Wandu and Diabuku to Basse….

…The heavy rains are continuously causing family displacements and destruction of farms in the region, the officials said.

More flash floods have been warned in the area this year, and officials fear that other parts of the region may also be at risk….

Significantly, though, these are not isolated events:

The Upper River Region has been plagued by floods and heavy rains in recent years.

It’s all a bit of a mystery. Is The Gambia’s “climate crisis” caused by floods or droughts? What lies behind the salinisation of the land adjoining the Gambia River? An academic study might help.

The Impacts of Saline-Water Intrusion on the Lives and Livelihoods of Gambian Rice Growing Farmersv

This is a study by Bagbohouna M’koumfida, Yaffa S and Bah A. I note in passing that the first two of the three authors are from the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), University of the Gambia, while the third is from the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, University of the Gambia. The study was received by the Journal of Ecology and Environmental Sciences on 20th November 2017, accepted on 14th January 2018 and published a week later, so is just four years old, and is therefore reasonably up-to-date and topical.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given where two of the authors are employed, the study puts a lot of weight on climate change and rising sea-levels. In view of the real-world evidence adduced above from both the Republika and Guardian websites about recent flooding events, it is a little surprising to find the study attributing part of the problem (as does one of the Guardian articles) to reduced rainfall levels. I concede, however, that it is possible to have both increased incidences of severe flooding and an overall lower level of rainfall. If there’s less rain, but such rain as does fall occurs in short concentrated bursts, that would fit a narrative of both flood and drought. Most references to flooding in the study are to coastal or tidal flooding, though again I concede that two flooding references might fit the narrative – one to “increased extent and severity of storm flooding” and one to “occasional riverine flooding”.

Nevertheless, two things struck me about the study. The first is that despite 24 references to climate change or climate variability, they are all, so far as I can see, to speculation as to the effects of putative climate change, modelling, and so on, without any hard evidence in support of the claims. From the Abstract, for instance:

Climate change is projected to undermine agricultural production and exert more stress on the livelihood of many farmers, including in The Gambia.

It is noticed that with increased climate change, the tributaries of River Gambia will become more saline.

From the introduction:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change precipitation will decrease in the sub-tropics and extreme events will become more frequent. In addition, sea-level rise is projected to extend areas of salinization of groundwater and estuaries, resulting in a decrease of freshwater availability for humans and ecosystems in coastal areas. Climate change predictions, including sea-level rise suggest further exacerbation of salinity problems in the future. Moreover, anticipated impacts of climate-induced sea-level rise include direct inundation (or submergence) of low-lying wetland and dry land areas, erosion of soft shores by increasing offshore loss of sediment, increasing salinity of estuaries and aquifers, raised water tables and exacerbated coastal flooding, storm intensity and storm damage.

And so on. Thus the study presupposes that climate change is causing problems, rather than proves that it does so – at least that is my reading of it. Nevertheless, it is a serious study, and honesty underlies it. The second point that caught my eye was the paragraph that follows:

Literature indicates that saline-water intrusion is a multi-casual [sic – causal] phenomenon resulting from many factors. Besides low rainfall resulting from climate variability and change which can exacerbate the natural-balanced saline-water intrusion, factors related to groundwater resource abstraction can contribute to incremental salinization of ground water and further to surface waters. It is established that water demand for pump-irrigation in The Gambia accounts for more than 70% of the total demand in water. Taking into account the increase in demand for domestic use, thanks to the population growth, the salt front is possible to move further and prolongs the saline zone for some more kilometres upstream. The dramatic increase in saline intrusion in the dry season at higher abstraction rates is self-evident in the country. Therefore, current and future human activities, especially extensive and unplanned groundwater abstraction will contribute to create depressions in the ground which will be filled by saline water from the Atlantic Ocean. If the rates of groundwater abstraction exceed the recharge capacity of aquifers (through infiltration and percolation), the interface saline-water and freshwater aquifer moves further upstream. This will possibly deteriorate the available groundwater resources and increase saline areas around coastal, delta, estuaries and in inlands.

Perhaps it simply suits me to alight on that explanation, but in a country with a rapidly increasing and urbanising population, it does seem to me that this is a rather more convincing explanation of the increasing salinisation problem, than an explanation based on modelled and putative effects of climate change, especially given that claims of reduced rainfall are at least in part countered by real evidence of increased floods.

And make no mistake, just as is the case in much of Africa, The Gambia’s population is increasingly very rapidly indeed. Around 500,000 people lived there in 1970. Today the population is estimated to be around 2.3 millionvi. Small numbers by the standards of many countries, but then it’s a small country, and that represents significant population density. An almost quintupling of the population in half a century is bound to cause problems.

Historical climate information

Given that a four-year old study and a current Guardian article both claim that rainfall is reducing in recent years and that this is climate change in action (and the implication is that it’s climate change induced by greenhouse gas emissions, since “climate change” is now universal shorthand for just that), it’s worth looking into the history of rainfall in the region to see if those claims stand up.

An interesting articlevii on the Gambia Standard website, when combined with the information above from the Republika website, suggests that in fact there were drought problems in the 1970s going in to the 1980s, but that since then the situation has reversed, and that if anything, rainfall levels have resumed. It also reinforces the idea that reducing water levels are due to human activity:

During the drought years beginning in the 1970s in The Gambia and elsewhere in the subregion, and the resultant lower flows of the river, salinity front in the estuary moved further upstream. Small-scale community Pump irrigation along the river, introduced by the Taiwanese Agricultural Technical Team in 1966, extracted water from the river, which has accentuated the movement upriver of the salinity front. One result of the change in salinity regime has been that, mangrove swamp rice production has decreased along that portion of the river which has experienced increased salt levels. This situation was presented by the Government of The Gambia at the conference of donors. The unfortunate situation further stimulated officials in The Gambia and OMVG to intensify efforts to find ways to contain the salinity from more nearly to its former position and to capture more of the river’s flow for irrigated farming, specifically rice cultivation.

The tragic irony implied by that paragraph is that water extraction to service rice-growing has caused the very salinity that is now causing problems for rice-growers.

The Britannica also has a sectionviii on The Gambia which reinforces the view that drought was a problem in the 1970s and the 1980s, but less so subsequently:

The production of peanuts has increased with the wider use of fertilizers and ox-drawn equipment and the introduction of better seeds. In order to diversify the economy, the government has encouraged the production of rice. A pilot scheme was begun in the mid-1960s to introduce plantation oil palm production, but this has had little impact on the national economy. Stock farming, always a factor in the Fulani culture, has also received government support, but factors such as insufficient animal husbandry techniques and the scarcity of suitable pasture and water have limited the size of herds. The drought years of the 1970s and ’80s seriously damaged agricultural production, particularly upriver. The country was not as hard hit as other countries in the region, however, and recovery has been steady.

Finally, a water charity websiteix suggests that droughts in the region are nothing new:

Nema village is a community of about 3,000 people located in Kiang Central District along the Trans Gambia Highway. Its inhabitants are the Mandingo tribe “Farabo’’ (traditional leather workers) who migrated from the southern Senegal Cassamance region in the late nineteenth century. According to history, they migrated in search of pasture, water, and arable farmland as Cassamance was in a drought at that time.

Sea-level rise

Well, that’s all very well, I hear the Guardian’s climate-concerned readership say, but that still leaves sea-level rise, and if sea-level rise is accelerating due to climate change, that leaves low-lying countries like The Gambia with a real problem, and surely that explains the increasing salinisation of the rice fields bordering the Gambia River.

Unfortunately I can find no convincing evidence of this either way, but the lack of evidence in favour of the assertion rather undermines it, to my way of thinking. If the case was clear, surely the Guardian (as is its wont) would have provided a link to a study or tidal gauge that proves it? Tidal gauges might answer the question. Unfortunately the nearest one I can find with a recent history is at Dakar in Senegal, not in The Gambia. Still, if sea-level rise is accelerating in The Gambia, one would expect to find evidence of something similar at Dakar, I should have thought. But we don’t. Take a look at the graph end-noted below (from the Permanent Service For Mean Sea Level website)x and see if you can find evidence of accelerating sea-rise. I can’t.

Conclusion

The Gambia Gambit has failed. Quoting climate activists who were part of the Gambian delegation (of 151 representatives – one of the larger delegations) to the COP 26 climate conference (as both Guardian articles do) doesn’t cut the mustard, in the absence of real evidence supporting the claims made.

Endnotes

i https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/gambia/overview#1

ii https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/27/taste-this-its-salty-how-rising-seas-are-ruining-the-gambias-rice-farmers

iii https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/26/blowing-the-house-down-life-on-the-frontline-of-extreme-weather-in-the-gambia

iv https://www.republika.co.id/berita/en/international/15/07/28/ns7dt0317-heavy-rains-with-flash-floods-wreck-several-villages-in-gambia

v https://www.rroij.com/open-access/the-impacts-of-salinewater-intrusion-on-the-lives-and-livelihoods-of-gambian-ricegrowingfarmers.php?aid=86662

vi https://tradingeconomics.com/gambia/population

vii https://standard.gm/the-gambia-river-bridge-barrage-the-undiluted-story/

viii https://www.britannica.com/place/The-Gambia/Demographic-trends

ix https://watercharity.com/book/nema-health-center-and-nursery-school-water-project-the-gambia-2/

x https://psmsl.org/data/obtaining/rlr.monthly.plots/1816_high.png

20 Comments

  1. Is there no part of the world where people are not suffering mightily from the adverse effects of climate change? Is there nowhere where a changing climate has been beneficial?

    Surrounded by Senegal the river must gain most of its water from there. If climate change is occurring in this tropical region one might expect it to be evident over this much wider area.

    Even as long ago as the 1980s Banjul (the capital) and the coastal strip (with its numerous tourist hotels) were suffering water shortages but this (I believe) was the result of demands of Westerners for this precious resource. However, all of the country’s foreign reserves came from satisfying their demands.

    What stands out in my memory of the country was the contrast between the miserably poor of river villages and Banjul. Also the lack of any resources other than agricultural and the prevalence of malaria.

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  2. Once again people seem surprised to find there is a ~60-year climate cycle.

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  3. Over at the Observer/Guardian website, the Gambia Gambit continues, for some reason:

    “Can the Gambia turn the tide to save its shrinking beaches?”

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/28/can-the-gambia-turn-the-tide-to-save-its-shrinking-beaches

    “In a developing country reliant on its tourist industry, the rapidly eroding ‘smiling coast’ shows the urgent need for action on climate change”

    The article provides a story of rising sea-levels, but nowhere does it refer to or justify any claims of accelerating sea-level rise. If (as seems to be the case from the tidal gauge up the coast at Dakar) sea level is rising at the same steady rate that it has for decades, then it’s climate, but not climate CHANGE. No links are offered to try to make a scientific case for the scare story.

    By the way, as I mentioned in “Making The News” this is cut & paste journalism. I just made an internet search for the main character in the article (Saikou Demba”), and the same article appeared in identical form on at least 4 websites. It’s not journalism, it’s not news, it’s a press release.

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  4. Shame on me for not carrying out more research before writing the piece. It seems the Gambia Gambit has been running for rather longer than I thought:

    “Floods, sewage and crocodiles: the crisis of the Gambia’s sinking city” (15th November 2021).

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/15/climate-crisis-cop26-failure-will-sink-gambian-capital-banjul-as-sea-levels-rise

    The whole article focuses on climate change, yet this one worries about floods (remember the first article I quoted said LESS rainfall was the climate change problem), and acknowledges that human agency (action or failure) is a big problem:

    “But residents say human-made failures have made its future even more perilous.”

    “When he was a boy, he says, “on a daily basis, we would see cleaners going down into the gutters. They were so clean that we as kids used to play in [them] … Sometimes you could even see live fish in the gutters, the water was so clean.”

    Now, gutters and drains in Banjul are clogged with waste, so when the rains come, there is nowhere for water to flow safely.

    Sillah says the solutions range from the prosaic – better waste collection and gutter cleaning – to the ambitious, such as building stronger, more elevated housing, rather than the slum-like homes of Bah and her neighbours. The drainage canal should be given concrete sides to enable it to withstand greater rainfall, he says. Construction on the wetlands just beyond Tobacco Road should stop immediately.”

    Well, make your minds up, which is it – less rainfall or greater rainfall?

    Then there’s this:

    “Hit $100bn target or poor countries face climate disaster, the Gambia tells Cop26
    West African nation’s environment minister says richer countries must finally honour funding commitment made at Cop15 in 2009” (8th November 2021):

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/08/hit-100bn-target-or-poor-countries-face-climate-disaster-the-gambia-tells-cop26

    “…Coastal and low-lying, the Gambia has been suffering the impact of climate change for years. Its farmers have seen crop yields decrease due to irregular rainfall; its tourist industry is grappling with beach erosion; and many residents, particularly the poorest, face regular flooding and other natural disasters….”.

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  5. The Gambia has many problems, acute and grinding poverty being high on the list. Climate change is the least of its worries. Looking at The Gambia’s INDC, however, even though (with a largely unindustrialised population of only c. 2.3M people) it contributes a vanishingly small proportion of the world’s human-caused GHG emissions, is a rather more serious piece of work than those of many other countries. Inevitably, perhaps, it seeks money to comply with the conditional emissions reduction target set out in it.

    I think it’s fair to say that The Gambia’s government has recognised that climate alarmism and the Paris Agreement represent a golden opportunity to extract funds from the western world, with a view to trying to ease its relentless poverty. Fair play to them for that, and I don’t mind the Guardian supporting the cause, even if its reporting does leave rather a lot to be desired. It makes a pleasant change from them being Xi and Modi’s useful idiots.

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  6. It seems that the Guardian has moved on from The Gambia to South Sudan (though maybe it’s not the Guardian so much as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who seem to be behind this eries of articles):

    “The rising cost of the climate crisis in flooded South Sudan – in pictures
    Families facing severe hunger are wading through crocodile-infested waters in search of water lilies to eat. Susan Martinez and photographer Peter Caton return with Action Against Hunger to find that the dire situation they reported on in March has only worsened”

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/30/the-rising-cost-of-the-climate-crisis-in-flooded-south-sudan-in-pictures

    “Desperate families in flood-ravaged villages in South Sudan are spending hours searching for water lilies to eat after another summer of intense rainfall worsened an already dire situation.

    People have no food and no land to cultivate after three years of floods. Fields are submerged in last year’s flood water and higher ground is overcrowded with hungry people, in what is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis.

    Fangak, one of the worst affected of the 31 counties devastated by the floods, continues to lose ground to the rising water. But the communities displaced along the banks of the White Nile River have nowhere to go to escape the high waters.”

    Inevitably we get this:

    “South Sudan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate breakdown, according to the Global Climate Index. Food insecurity, conflict, diminished human rights and financial problems aggravated by Covid-19 have eroded its capacity to cope with recurring extreme weather events such as flooding. The heavy rainfall that caused three consecutive floods will only get worse in South Sudan and the wider region if global temperatures continue to rise, a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted.”

    Yet it was the work of seconds to find this:

    “Flood frequency and impacts at Khartoum since the early nineteenth century”

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/3059609

    I can’t cut and paste from the paper, so it’s worth a read in its own right. Suffice to say, though the report was from 1994 (so doesn’t cover recent floods) this is probably the key sentence:

    “The 1998 floods were minor in comparison to the 1946 flood and several in the late nineteenth century, when flooding was particularly frequent and severe.”

    Even this article devoted to claiming that South Sudan is at risk from climate change:

    https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/a-climate-crisis-in-africa-the-case-of-south-sudan/

    includes this:

    “Four major floods in the nineteenth century in the Upper Nile region were all associated with conflicts between the Dinka and Nuer. Interviews I have conducted with the communities in the greater Bahr Al-Ghazal region in South Sudan revealed that communities clash over pastures, water points, fishing grounds, and lands, among others, following a climate disaster that make these resources scarce.”

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  7. “Literature indicates that saline-water intrusion is a multi-casual [sic – causal] phenomenon resulting from many factors. Besides low rainfall resulting from climate variability and change which can exacerbate the natural-balanced saline-water intrusion,…………”

    I like the way they start off implicating climate change with no evidence and then go on for the rest of the paragraph pointing out that is excessive use of groundwater with an expanding population that is the real cause of the saline intrusion. The “Climate Change Excuse” has become endemic throughout the world especially in relation to water supply. Rather than plan ahead for population growth and develop additional water sources at a cost to the users, it is much easier for water managers to use the Climate Change Excuse and then look for a hand-out to solve the problem. The same applies to system maintenance. Why bother maintaining a water supply system properly when shortages can be blamed on climate change. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card. They can get complete absolution and not take any responsibility. By the way this does not only apply to the developing world. I have come across it in wealthy countries as well.

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  8. Potentilla, thank you – that is one of the main points I have been trying to make, in my own limited way. So long as anything and everything can be blamed on climate change, it means that those in positions of authority can get away with abject failure and walk away from the mess without any mud sticking to them – “Don’t blame us, it’s climate change”. That’s the first problem – people tasked with objectives failing with impunity. The second – associated – problem is that real problems aren’t addressed, and so get worse, because it’s just to easy to pretend that it’s climate change that’s the problem, so there’s nothing that can be done, unless we control GHG emissions. Climate alarmism is a dangerous distraction from solving real-life problems.

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  9. Potentilla, Mark, whilst not wishing to disagree with your many valid points, the argument, in my view, needs to be a little more nuanced. Because climate change is definitely occurring and will, in sensitive places, have some effect, both negative and positive. This is perhaps best known and illustrated by the northward expansion of vineyards in the U.K., although the growing of more cold tolerant varieties of grape play its part.
    Perhaps difficulties of identifying similar good news stories results from a desire of climate crisis advocates to identify or broadcast good news stories to climate change.

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  10. Should of course be “…results from a desire of climate crisis advocates NOT to identify or broadcast good news stories to climate change.” Did you catch the “deliberate mistake “?

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  11. I did, Alan. I agree with your assertion that nuance is often missing – on both sides – in the debate around climate change. I accept that climate change is happening, that humankind is contributing to it, and that in places it will bring about adverse consequences.

    Still, I remain frustrated at the determination in some quarters to blame pretty much everything on climate change, and I remain confident in my belief that this fixation is causing a lot of harm, both directly and indirectly.

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  12. Commonly when you read about dire climate threats that are affecting or will affect distant or exotic places they are not accompanied by any relevant data. Thus sea-level rise affecting saline intrusion or beach stability in The Gambia is identified as the cause but when you look for data upon past rates of sea-level rise, movement upriver of saline waters, decrease in river flow rates, changes in storm severity and frequency it doesn’t get quoted. Look for neighbouring locations (like Dakar in Senegal) and you find detailed evaluations of what parts of the city will become submerged, but again no usable data.
    Either the data does not exist, or it doesn’t support the horror stories and so is not used.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The recent flooding in British Columbia has been disastrous. In 1990, I was commissioned by the BC Government to analyze a Nooksack River overflow event in Washington State The overflow significantly increased the discharge in the Sumas River resulting in flood damages in Sumas Prairie in BC I estimated that the event had about a 1 in 35 return period and that a 1 in 50 year event would result in overtopping the Sumas River dikes and cause catastrophic flooding in the rich farming area of Sumas Lake Bottom. The estimated return periods were based on flow records of rivers in the area which, of course, represented the climate prior to 1990. Since 1990 there have been other studies and reports that essentially came to the same conclusion. The problem for the government was that upgrading the flood control works would be very costly as there are some complex hydraulic issues to resolve. So for thirty years nothing was done.

    The 2021 Nooksack River overflow was certainly greater than a 1 in 50 year event and the dikes, as predicted, overtopped and failed. And as predicted on these pages, it was climate change wot done it. I suppose this partially absolves the government inaction and distributes some blame to all the gas guzzling SUV drivers. But not me as I drive a Tesla!

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  14. “Climate change ‘not cause’ of Madagascar food crisis”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science_and_environment

    at 5.10am today (not surprisingly it doesn’t get a separate write-up and a separate link, since it contradicts the narrative):

    “A new study has found that Madagascar’s current food crisis has been caused mainly by factors other than global warming – contradicting a recent UN report which blamed it on climate change.

    The report – by a group of international scientists, published by World Weather Attribution – blamed poverty and weather conditions that were only minimally affected by global warming.

    It said in two consecutive seasons in southern Madagascar, rainfall had been 40% below average, causing severe drought and crop failures.

    Last month the UN World Food Programme declared that Madagascar was the first country experiencing famine-like conditions as result of climate change.

    More than 90% of people in southern Madagascar live in poverty and farmers rely on each season’s rain.”

    Having endeavoured to debunk the claimed climate change link a few weeks ago on Open Mic, I think I can smugly say “I told you so”

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  15. The Guardian does have the story”

    “Poverty, not climate breakdown, caused Madagascar’s food crisis, finds study”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/01/poverty-not-climate-breakdown-caused-madagascars-food-crisis-finds-study

    It doesn’t stop them sort of drawing the wrong conclusion in their sub-headline:

    “But scientists say ‘moral imperative’ remains to prepare vulnerable populations for increasingly extreme weather”

    While adaptation to changing weather makes a lot more sense than wasting a lot of money on trying and failing to mitigate against it, the best thing we can do for poor people in poor countries is to help them out of their poverty, not to waste money making “big green” corporations ever richer at everyone else’s expense.

    “Poverty and a heavy reliance on annual rains are the key factors behind the devastating food crisis in southern Madagascar not climate breakdown, a new study finds.

    A million people in the region are struggling for food following the worst drought in 30 years. But the scientific analysis did not show a convincing link to global heating, despite the World Food Programme describing it as the “world’s first climate-induced famine”.

    The researchers said their work nonetheless highlighted the “moral imperative” to reduce poverty and improve infrastructure in places that would suffer increasingly extreme weather as global heating mounted.”

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  16. It’s funny that the Guardian didn’t mention any of this when trying to persuade us that The Gambia’s biggest problems are all connected with climate change:

    “The Gambia to vote for first time since Jammeh forced into exile
    Poll takes place as human rights groups express fears over record of successor Adama Barrow”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/04/the-gambia-to-vote-for-first-time-since-jammeh-forced-into-exile

    “Gambians are heading to the polls on Saturday for the first time since the former president Yahya Jammeh was forced into exile after 22 years in power.

    Jammeh, whose rule was marred by allegations of torture, extrajudicial killings and rape, fled to Equatorial Guinea in 2017 when United Nations-backed regional coalition forces staged a military intervention after his refusal to concede electoral defeat.

    Now some fear the man who beat him in the 2016 election, Adama Barrow, a former property developer, is tightening his own grip on power.

    The 56-year-old one-time security guard promised sweeping democratic reforms and launched a truth, reconciliation and reparations commission to investigate human rights violations under Jammeh’s rule. But he has since broken a key election promise to serve only three years as a transitional leader, opting instead to serve out a full five-year term and run for re-election.

    That led to widespread protests in late 2019 and early 2020, which security forces dispersed with teargas and rubber bullets. Police closed down two radio stations that reported on the demonstrations.”

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  17. The Guardian has moved on from The Gambia to Ghana:

    “‘We have to use a boat to commute’: coastal Ghana hit by climate crisis
    As the sea claims more of the west African shoreline, those left homeless by floods are losing hope that the government will act”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/09/coastal-ghana-hit-by-climate-crisis

    As we all know, sea levels have been rising for centuries. It becomes an issue of climate change only if the rate of rise changes, and in the context of claims about flooding and a “climate crisis” if it is accelerating. Nowhere in the article does it claim that sea level rise is accelerating, presumably because it isn’t. Unfortunately the only two records from tidal gauges in Ghana that I can find are not up to date. However, FWIW I don’t see any suggestion in either of them of accelerating sea level rise:

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  18. It’s Bangladesh now:

    “‘We faced so many cyclones’: how people in Bangladesh are rebuilding after climate catastrophe”

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/dec/12/cyclones-people-bangladesh-climate-catastrophe-guardian-observer-charity-appeal

    There’s just one problem, – Bangladesh has been hit by serious cyclones, causing death and destruction, probably for ever, but certainly for close to 500 years worth of oral and written history:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bangladesh_tropical_cyclones

    “Present day Bangladesh, due to its unique geographic location, suffers from devastating tropical cyclones frequently. The funnel-shaped northern portion of the Bay of Bengal amplifies the storm surge of landfalling tropical cyclones, affecting thousands of people. Some of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history with high casualties were tropical cyclones that hit the region now comprising present-day Bangladesh. Among them, the 1970 Bhola cyclone alone claimed approximately 300,000 to 500,000 lives, making it the deadliest tropical cyclone on record.

    Tropical cyclones affecting Bangladesh have killed about 1.54 million people in the Bengal region.”

    It may seem to be getting worse for two reasons – firstly, the human population of the area has increased massively in recent decades and continues to do so. Secondly, with modern 24/7 news media and smart phones etc, absolutely no event escapes notice today, whereas in all probability we are unaware of many events in the past.

    It may be fair enough to call Bangladesh’s cyclone problems a “climate catastrophe”. I very much doubt that it’s anything to d with climate change. Which, after all, is the Guardian’s message:

    “Everywhere in Shyamnagar, there are signs of people refusing to just accept that climate change will force them to move.”

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