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The global warming crisis

Global warming, by definition, is an unusual increase in the overall temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. While there are many reasons for why this happens, the factor that contributes to it most is the greenhouse effect

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What is global warming?

Global warming, by definition, is an unusual increase in the overall temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. While there are many reasons for why this happens, the factor that contributes to it most is the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is caused by the accumulation of gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. These gases get trapped inside the atmosphere and keep it from escaping similar to the glass walls of a greenhouse, hence the name. As this is a process that warms the Earth’s surface, the terms ‘global warming’ and ‘greenhouse effect’ are often used interchangeably. 

Energy from sunshine is absorbed by the Earth’s surface, and then radiated back into the atmosphere as heat energy. While most of the heat escapes into space, greenhouse gas molecules trap some of this heat within the atmosphere. As the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increases, the amount of heat trapped in the atmosphere increases as well. 

What causes global warming?

The Earth’s climate has been changing since it formed 4.5 billion years ago, and natural cycles and fluctuations have caused the climate to change several times throughout the Earth’s lifetime. Natural influences include changes such as volcanic eruptions, changes in tectonic plates and the orbit of the Earth. However, since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, the global temperature has risen at a much greater rate, and human activity is hugely responsible for the current period of climate change and global warming. 

To give the problem some context, today, there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any other time during the last 800,000 years. The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased by 40% during the 20th and 21st century. 

Human activity leads to the production of greenhouse gases in various ways. One of these is the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, which results in the production of large amounts of greenhouse gases. Fossil fuels have carbon dioxide ‘locked’ inside them for thousands of years, which is released when they are burned. The largest source of greenhouse gases in the United States is transportation (29%), followed closely by production of electricity (28%) and industrial activity (22%). 

The problem can also be attributed to deforestation. Forests play a huge role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as trees and plants photosynthesise and use carbon dioxide to do so. Cutting down trees means that not only are there less trees to remove carbon dioxide, but the carbon they have stored has also been released. 

Agriculture is another way in which greenhouse gases are released. Rearing animals and planting crops release several greenhouse gases, in particular methane, which is around 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. As well as that, nitrous oxide, which is used for fertilisers is even more potent

So, the question remains, is human activity the leading cause of climate change? All scientific evidence suggests that the answer is yes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated with 95% certainty, that the main cause of climate change and global warming is humans. 

Effects of global warming

The effects of global warming are expected to be long-lasting and, in many cases, devastating for planet Earth. It has already made a significant impact on the planet. A geology and environmental science professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Josef Werne, told Live Science; “We can observe this happening in real time in many places. Ice is melting in both polar ice caps and mountain glaciers. Lakes around the world, including Lake Superior, are warming rapidly — in some cases faster than the surrounding environment. Animals are changing migration patterns and plants are changing the dates of activity.” 

Melting of glaciers and polar ice caps would mean sea levels would rise, and this would translate into more floods, which would force people to move out of their homes due to danger and destruction of crops. 

Global warming can also lead to other extreme weather conditions for example changes in hurricane formations. Although more research needs to be done on this topic, hurricanes are likely to become less frequent globally, but more intense and more frequent in specific areas. 

What can we do to slow global warming?

One of the strategies is switching to renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels, as this will reduce future greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. 

Where possible, using electric vehicles instead of those that burn fossil fuel. Conserving electricity by insulating houses and buildings better and using as well as promoting local businesses that use sustainable products. 

There is not a one size fits all approach when it comes to slowing global warming, but it is important that each single individual, as well as big businesses and corporations do their best and play their part in slowing it down.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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The United Kingdom faces food and labor shortages due to Covid-19

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Around 50,000 new cases are discovered every day in the UK, and a new NHS Test and Trace programme sends out “pings” to those who have been in close contact with an infected individual, prompting the situation to be labelled a “pingdemic.” Around 520,000 people have been notified since 1st July. With new Coronavirus cases approaching 50,000 per day — the highest rate of infection since January — and hundreds of thousands more people being told to isolate by the app, businesses are urging the government to loosen restrictions for fully vaccinated people much sooner than next month.

The app is designed to notify people who have had close contact with infected people and advise them to self-quarantine for 10 days. The government claims it is not compulsory, but it is urging people to comply.

This is directly impacting the food and gas industries. As numbers of individuals increase, a shortage of staff in the food and retail industries is dragging on the economy. Major supermarket chains and other industries are also facing an employment shortage, forcing some to close temporarily.

According to official data released on Thursday, nearly 620,000 people in England and Wales were advised to isolate in the week leading up to 14th July, with the vast majority living in England. This came after just one day after a meat industry body warned that Britain’s food supply chains are “right on the edge of failing”.

BP, a British oil and gas company, declared that it is experiencing fuel shortages and will be temporarily closing a number of sites. The company attributed the fault to the truck drivers shortages caused by workers staying at home due to Covid-19.

The oil industry said that due to a lack of unleaded gasoline and diesel, a “handful” of its UK facilities had to close temporarily. BP stated that the closure of distribution is terminal, due to staff being told to isolate last week. They said: “Our supply chain has been impacted by the industry-wide driver shortages across the UK, and was exacerbated by the temporary closure of our Hemel Hempstead fuel distribution terminal last week because of necessary Covid-19 isolations amongst staff. The terminal is now operating as normal once again.”

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Malaysia plunges into deeper crisis as residents hoist white flag for help

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When the first wave of Covid-19 hit the region, the Malaysian government’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus was lauded on a global scale. But with the advent of the third wave, things began to look bleak, especially for the economically vulnerable population of the country. 

As the entire nation went into the third movement control order (MCO) which later transitioned into a full lockdown in June, several thousand small businesses faced the threat of total shut down. The situation, exacerbated by vague communication from leaders and uncertainty on the vaccine rollout, led to a large group of Malaysians being unofficially declared as ‘Malaysia’s new poor’

Whilst rates of unemployment rose, people found themselves struggling for basic necessities. Most families had exhausted their savings in the first and second MCOs, and were completely unprepared for what was to come. In a state of helplessness, many were forced to put up a white flag outside their homes, signifying a cry for help. 

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2021/07/01/businesses-pledge-support-for-white-flag-campaign 

While help did come, it came from unexpected sources. Locals took it upon themselves to help the ones in need by opening several foodbanks, delivering groceries, purchasing from small, home-based businesses to keep them running. A host of companies, NGOs and welfare organisations soon joined them to mitigate scarcity. The white flag campaign – otherwise known as #BenderaPutih on social media – gained recognition quickly. 

People’s aggravation and frustration has been inflamed by the silence of the government. Although the infection rates are not as high as neighbouring country Indonesia, the repercussions of the slow national vaccination program are far-reaching; the effects mirrored by the constantly rising cases despite stringent control measures.  Malaysia has procured large doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, and is beginning to get its hands on more Sinovac doses as well. But only about 12.4% of the population has been fully vaccinated, as of 16th July 2021.  In this absurd state of affairs, citizens are rightly demanding accountability. 

If the circumstances weren’t dire enough, the political blame game being played by the ruling coalition, Perikatan Nasional (PN) and opposition parties has only fuelled the anger further. Leaders of PN have called the white flag movement  “political propaganda” and have asked Malaysians “not to admit defeat”.  What they fail to realise is that this crisis has already spread far beyond the scope of public understanding and patience. 

The Prime Minister Tan Sri Dato’ Muhyiddin Yassin announced on 27th June – which was supposed to be the end of the full lockdown – that it will be extended for an unspecified amount of time until daily cases fall below 4,000. In addition, he declared provision of funds to help relief measures in low-income households. However, the statement does not dispel the despondency of the people, as the first tranches of monetary aid will not be disbursed until August. 

In an ironic twist, this June the World Bank released its report on the Malaysian economic monitor, declaring that the economy was expected to rise by 4.5% this year. A lot of it attributed to increasing exports which have expanded by 18.2%. This begs the question  –  why was one sector of the economy impacted in such a destructive way while the other continued to thrive during the same period of the pandemic? This disparity sparks controversial opinions about the government’s inability to protect the internal economy. The current condition does not only underscore the existing gaps, but further worsens it for the sector that was already at risk of collapsing before Covid, leaving families distressed, starved and foraging for answers. 

As Muslims around the world welcome Eid-ul-Adha, for Malaysians, desperation is the predominant flavour this year in this festive celebration. The government’s Covid exit plan that was built on predictions of lowering cases below a significant level by the end of the year looks, at best, improbable if not impossible. The vaccination program is picking up pace, and the ministry of health is doubling up on attempts to restore public faith. How that affects the economic developments in the coming months remains to be seen.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Spy software “Pegasus” accused of targeting world leaders

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Pegasus is software that was developed by the Israeli cyberarms firm, to act as spyware. It was developed by the NSO Group and can be installed on mobile phones, of both iOS and Android. Recently it has been accused of spying on journalists, activists, and even world leaders. Knowing how advanced today’s technology is, it is not that far-fetched of an accusation.

The NSO Group behind this spyware has, however, denied the accusations and claim that they only target extreme terrorists and serious criminals. Spying through a person’s phone is a very easy thing nowadays, and almost every government has the ability to do so. Moreover, Israel has always been a country with a lot of cyber-power and strong surveillance capabilities. This, of course, doesn’t immediately mean that they are spying on everyone, although there has been proof of Pegasus targeting 15 world leaders from around the world. Some of the known targets of this spyware are the French President Emmanuel Macron, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, Imran Khan of Pakistan, Saad Eddine El Othmani of Morocco, and Mustafa Madbouly of Egypt. The world leaders have denied access to their mobile phones for forensic testing to be sure of this breach, but there have been signs of a breach or attempted infection on up to 37 mobile phones.

Secretary General of Amnesty International, Agnes Callamard, stated that “The unprecedented revelation should send a chill down the spine of world leaders”. There could be many lawsuits and potential charges for the NSO Group by many powerful people – such as Facebook for targeting the WhatsApp application if these claims are proved right. The clients with the largest share of information from the NSO Group list includes Mexico and the Middle East. The people that the NSO Group hacked were not all politicians – as even the members of the royal family, human rights activists, and business executives were included. The NSO Group has already been under scrutiny once in 2016, for their incredible spyware technology and, since then, many people have accused Pegasus of targeting mainly journalists and activists from around the world. Although, only recently were these accusations against Pegasus taken seriously.

If the accusations are true, then this is a serious breach of privacy. Not only can anyone be spied upon very easily as we humans are now dependant on mobile phones with all our personal information but this also means that anyone can be a spy with little to no effort. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Lebanon close to trying political figures for Beirut explosion

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In August 2020, an explosion in Beirut killed over 200 individuals and injured over 5,000 more. Hundreds of tonnes of ammonium nitrate explosives were stored in a hazardous manner, causing the explosion. At the time, no one had officially claimed responsibility for the blast or explained how a stockpile of explosives had been left unattended in the Beirut harbour for six years.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab pledged a thorough inquiry, but the case had fallen to a 60-year-old judge, with a low public reputation, Fadi Sawan. As the investigation progressed, Judge Sawan was forced to confront a number of prominent figures, confirming that a handful of officials had been notified about the ammonium nitrate but had failed to have it removed or protected.

The political establishment was outraged by Judge Sawan’s verdict by charging four powerful politicians with criminal neglect causing death. The list of those being tried is as follows: caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, former Public Works Ministers Ghazi Zeiter and Youssef Finianos, and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk.

After a plea from two of the former ministers he charged, Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter, a Lebanese court decided to remove Judge Fadi Sawan from the case as he was getting closer to obtaining justice. This shows that, although being on the correct track, Sawan’s mission to obtain justice was cut short by the higher power.

After Sawan being replaced by Judge Tarek Bitar in this investigation, Bitar requested for the lifting of immunity for numerous political figures and former and current security personnel so that he can prosecute them for criminal negligence and homicide with proven intent in connection with the blast.

A judicial source told Al Jazeera that parliament will most likely vote to transfer the case to the Supreme Council but said that legislators could impede the next step, which would require two-thirds of Parliament to vote for the Supreme Council to summon them.

“It’s clear that this is an attempt to obliterate the investigation,” the source said.

Families of the victims have expressed their indignation at the fact that the case’s result is now determined by the Supreme Council’s vote. “We totally reject and condemn this cover-up of the crime of the century,” Mahdi Zahreldine, 21, whose brother Imad was killed in the blast, told Al Jazeera.

However, as a source said, “Judge Tarek Bitar will not stay silent about this.” There is still hope that justice will be served.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Spyware used to monitor thousands of phones, including Khashoggi’s wife

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An investigation into a major data breach has led to a discovery of authoritarian governments targeting high profile individuals such as human rights activists, politicians, journalists and the wife of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It is done using a hacking software which has been created and sold by none other than the NSO spy group of the Israeli government. 

Pegasus is known to be the most dangerous military grade spyware ever developed. It has been licenced to several governments across the globe to track terrorists and criminals. Further, it was namely successful in hacking 37 smartphones from a list of 50,000 numbers, amongst which Hanan Elatr, the wife of Jamal Khashoggi was included. 

Throughout the time period in which Elatr and Khashoggi were speaking and meeting up at various locations, it is determined that Pegasus was keeping track of all their movements. In an interview with the Washington Post, Elatr mentioned regarding Pegasus that “It makes me believe they are aware of everything that happened to Jamal through me.”

The Washington Post confirms that over 1,000 people on the list were identified “spanning more than 50 countries through research and interviews on four continents: several Arab royal family members, at least 65 business executives, 85 human rights activists, 189 journalists, and more than 600 politicians and government officials — including cabinet ministers, diplomats, and military and security officers. The numbers of several heads of state and prime ministers also appeared on the list.”

There is no way of being able to identify who created this list, who added these numbers to the list and why. However, this Pegasus can be installed into Android and iOS remotely. ”Pegasus infections can be achieved through so-called “zero-click” attacks, which do not require any interaction from the phone’s owner in order to succeed.” This malware can convert your phone into a real time surveillance device which can retrieve copies of all your communication (emails, text messages, etc.), it can retrieve your images and record your calls. This software is able to turn your mobile device’ camera on and record you discreetly and/or activate the microphone and listen in on your conversations. It can also pick up on all activities that you do in a day, your current location and past locations. It is also able to pick up on any data on your device including contact information, credit/debit cards, passwords and other personal information.

The amount of effort, money and intelligent minds that were used to create Pegasus had made the software sophisticated enough that if the phone turns down, there is no trace of Pegasus found. The biggest threat that Pegasus poses to high profile individuals is that is can be used to exploit vulnerabilities, hence even the most cautious individuals cannot prevent Pegasus from taking over their phones. 

Unfortunately, there is really no way to prevent anyone from installing Pegasus into your device because zero-click attacks are not visibly detected and there is no knowledge of data packets.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Largest active US wildfire burns through more than 340,000 acres of land

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83 Wildfires currently burn in the US. Among them, the Oregon Bootleg fire. It is currently the largest wildfire in the US, having burned through an area greater than the city of Los Angeles. 

The Bootleg fire, has only been 30% contained and has destroyed more than 160 homes and caused at least 2,000 people to evacuate. 

A few weeks back, I saw one of these wildfires up close in Arizona, US. It was a sight that is hard to describe. Thick smoke engulfed the sky, even at night you could see a black cloud in the sky — the raging fires, like lava. The fumes are powerful, making it hard to breathe.  

These wildfires are becoming more common as the country continues to battles hot and dry weather intensified by climate change. 

“A skyline enshrouded – complete with a sickening acrid smell – from fires induced by our abuse of the planet,” wrote Keith Olbermann in a tweet. “Like the climate disaster it portends, it’s here now.”

Statistics from The National Centers for Environmental Information show that at least 792,074 acres have been burnt in the US by these wildfires this year. 

Western Canada has also been dealing with its own set of fires, leading the officials there to declare a state of emergency. The Biritish Columbia Government said that the move was a “response to the increasingly severe wildfire situation in BC. It’s all-hands-on-deck to support communities, and we’ll continue using all available resources to protect people.” 

The air quality continues to suffer, even thousands of miles away from the actual fire. In New York City, the air quality soared to 170, a level that is considered to be dangerous for anyone, even those that are considered otherwise healthy. 

Areas of Boston and Hartford, Connecticut had levels in the 150 range and officials in those areas recommended that people wear face masks to protect themselves from the pollution. 

The affects of wildfire pollution are vast. The intensity and heat of the fires are also being known to cause its own severe weather patterns, including lightning. 

“The bootleg fire is now producing lightning with its explosive procumulus cloud,” the National Weather Service Boise said. “As the fire creates its own weather, the volatile nature makes it extremely dangerous for firefighters.” 

Sources: 

Reuters 

CNN

The Guardian

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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