Is it true that global warming led the Taliban to victory?

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Is it true that global warming led the Taliban to victory?
Is it true that global warming led the Taliban to victory?

The American press has finally found the culprit for the recent inglorious fall of Kabul and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan: global warming. It turns out that it ruined the Afghan peasants, which is why they went to the Taliban. However, real data from US government agencies show something quite different. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions have given a strong positive impetus to Afghan agriculture. Nevertheless, in the future, global warming may indeed strengthen the Taliban and a number of other similar movements around the world. Let's try to figure out the details.


US position on climate change has strengthened the Taliban *

What happened in Afghanistan is a heavy blow to the self-awareness of US residents, who are accustomed (and this is a positive habit) to believe that their country should not lose. On July 8, 2021, announcing the withdrawal of American troops from this country, Joe Biden said:

The Taliban * is not the South … [the president made a slip - N. S.] not the North Vietnamese army. They are not - they are not even nearly comparable in terms of capabilities. You won't see people being removed from the roof of the US Embassy in Afghanistan."

Of course, no one expected correct predictions from Joe Biden. But the fact that people began to be removed from the roof of the US Embassy in Kabul a month after his words - no one really expected this. Except, of course, the Taliban and possibly the American military. As they write in the media (and the absence of large-scale American airstrikes against the Taliban indirectly confirms this), the American military agreed not to bomb the former in exchange for the Taliban not interfering with the American evacuation.


It is often said that victory has many fathers, and only defeat is fatherless. Indeed, everyone strives to ascribe victories to themselves, and very few can take responsibility for defeat. Recently, however, this saying can be modified: a victory always has many fathers, and all defeats have only one - global warming.

The American press put him in charge of strengthening al-Qaeda * and the Taliban back in 2009. And she didn’t come up with it herself: “A significant body of US military and intelligence research… describes how anthropogenic climate change plays into the hands of terrorists in many countries - and in particular, exacerbates the war in Afghanistan by strengthening the Taliban * and its al- Kaida "*. And further: “it is an agrarian economy, but unstable, and the lack of water there is destructive. Afghanistan has been in a state of drought for 11 years with no signs of its end in the future. Scientists [note - scientists are wisely not named, N. S.] say this is similar to the effects long predicted for global warming, and it is similar to changes in other mountain systems …"

In a new publication in August 2021, CBS News expands on that picture. The publication notes that 60% of Afghans live from agriculture, and in 2019 this country was ranked sixth in the world in terms of the impact of climate change on the lives of its citizens. "Climate change has made agriculture an increasingly difficult endeavor" in this country, the material says. The reasons are "droughts" and "flood-swept soils".

“When you have lost your crops and land, or the Afghan government doesn’t care about you, then of course the Taliban * come and use it,” says Kamal Alam, a source at the Atlantic Council South Asia Center. Alam notes that it was easier for peasants in difficult conditions to go to the Taliban, where, in his words (alas, they cannot be verified), they pay as much as $ 5-10 per day.

CBS News also notes that earlier melting of snow and mountain glaciers leads to flooding of fields at the beginning of the agricultural year, but also "leads to drought associated with melting snows in winter." We, unfortunately, could not decipher this idea: it is not entirely clear how snow melting in the mountains can occur in winter, as well as the importance of drought in the winter months when agricultural work is not in progress. However, let's not find fault with trifles: perhaps the journalists confused summer and winter, and then this piece may be quite logical.

Another disaster for the country, according to the newspaper, was that some zones faced an increase in the intensity of precipitation in the south of the country - 10-25% over the past 30 years. In the same south, according to the publication, farmers are switching from more water-demanding crops to opium poppy, which requires less water.

The picture is logical and understandable. Global warming makes Afghanistan a lifeless desert, and in such conditions, the collapse of agriculture is inevitable.

And such a collapse in an agrarian country inevitably intensifies the civil war, which objectively plays into the hands of the Taliban. There remains only one question: why in 2009 the American military and intelligence insisted on strengthening the Taliban by global warming, and today they are silent - and only the American press tells us the terrible truth about this process?

Perhaps we have an answer to this question. It boils down to four letters: NASA.

To what extent has anthropogenic impact on the atmosphere destroyed Afghan agriculture?

In a country at war, statistics may be incomplete. Therefore, if we want to understand how deserted it has become due to human influence on the climate, we need to turn to objective data: satellite observations. Of the non-military organizations, the best information of this kind is supplied by NASA. What do their satellite images say?


So, in 2000-2017, most of Afghanistan experienced a 12% increase in leaf area per decade. This is a rather vigorous growth rate, the areas of decrease in leaf area in this country, on the contrary, are very small, and are mainly located in the north - that is, in an area where the Taliban have a minimum of support (there are almost no Pashtuns, the ethnic basis of the movement).

But what if satellite imagery is fooling us? Maybe NASA, which made them, wants to hide the extent of the tragic impact of warming on the Afghan people?


Well, it’s possible. But in this case, the American government organization also entered into an agreement with the UN, whose data in the graph above show that legal agricultural products in Afghanistan have doubled over the past 20 years. Worse, they are all in cahoots with organizations that estimate the illegal part of Afghan agriculture (poppy cultivation) is also growing at a similar rate.


However, an alternative point of view is also possible: Afghanistan, like the vast majority of countries on planet Earth, is experiencing global greening - the process of expanding areas covered with vegetation. This process has been going on all over the planet for more than a hundred years, and it is caused by the fact that plants build their tissue from carbon dioxide, which is more and more in the atmosphere due to anthropogenic emissions.

Another point that is important for Afghanistan with its traditionally arid climate: the stomata of plant leaves can receive more CO2 with a lesser degree of openness. And the smaller the area of open stomata, the less the plant loses water vapor - that is, the less it needs water. In other words, due to anthropogenic emissions of CO2 the situation in Afghan agriculture should have improved, not worsened. For it is extremely difficult to imagine a situation when plants require less water and they grow better, and agriculture suffers from this.

Apparently, NASA satellite images are available to the public not only in Russia, but also in the United States. It is possible that this explains the reactions of American social networks to the CBS News material about the Taliban's strengthening from warming. For example, such:

“Can someone give me hope and say that American journalism hit rock bottom with this publication? Please?"

Another American social media user goes even further and claims: "Journalism is dead." Perhaps, in the place of the American military and intelligence officers, it is really better not to try to repeat the same stories on your own behalf.

Perhaps global warming did help the Taliban, but in a different way?

The question arises. It is clear that agriculture in Afghanistan has been on the rise for twenty years of the US-Afghan war. Could this rise have strengthened the Taliban *?

Theoretically, yes. Opium poppy is also a plant, and its yield from CO emissions2should also grow. True, on satellite images in the southern part of the country, where it is mainly grown, there is no growth in leaf area. But one must understand that leaf area is such a measure of plant success, which inevitably forces these successes to be underestimated. The point is that leaves are a kind of photochemical reactors. In them, six molecules of carbon dioxide and six molecules of water create one molecule of glucose (the simplest carbohydrate).

How many carbohydrates they create for plants from CO2 and water depends not only on the number of reactors, but also on how intensely carbon dioxide and water enter them. The area of the leaves begins to grow significantly only if the plant has the ability (the right amount of water and some trace elements) in order not only to accelerate the course of photosynthesis in existing leaves, but also to grow new ones. Scientists did not find out yesterday: due to anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and global warming, the intensity of photosynthesis on the planet has increased by 40%. However, only a small fraction of this impressive growth is due to increased leaf area. The rest is due to an increase in the rate of photosynthesis due to an increase in the concentration of CO2.


In other words, it is difficult to rule out a situation in which a noticeable increase in opium poppy yields, caused by anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, increased the income of the Taliban *. It is known that he controls at least part of the financial flows from the export of these products abroad. Heroin is made from this poppy, that is, we are talking about quite noticeable means.

Finally, it is well known that the Taliban are popular among the peasants. For all 20 years of occupation by Western states, the forces of the latter have not been able to take control of rural Afghanistan, controlling mainly their own military bases and large cities. The general improvement in the state of affairs in agriculture, therefore, could be associated with the Taliban by local peasants, further increasing their support.

Unfortunately, however, we have not been able to obtain a sufficiently complete financial picture of the Taliban's situation * to be able to confidently state: yes, anthropogenic global warming has really strengthened this movement. The fact is that a significant part of the budget of this organization was filled with rich, but anonymous (at least formally) donors from the Persian Gulf countries and some other Muslim countries. It is possible that against the background of these cash flows, the profit from the export of raw opium was not so serious.

Due to this kind of uncertainty, we conclude: some strengthening of the Taliban due to global greening is not excluded. But it is rather difficult to reliably reveal the significance of such an amplification without sources within the movement.

It is more likely that the underlying cause of the Taliban's * victories was something else. To quote The New York Times, another mainstream American publication:

“The point was not that our allies in Afghanistan did not know how to fight. It was always a matter of their will to fight for the corrupt pro-American and pro-Western governments that we supported in Kabul. Smaller Taliban forces had a stronger will and were perceived as fighting over the basic tenets of Afghan nationalism: independence from foreigners and the preservation of fundamentalist Islam as a base in the spheres of religion, culture, law and politics.”

Perhaps this is the most likely answer to the question of why the Taliban won. Much more likely than global gardening, which could only be a minor force here.

What is the coming century preparing for us?

It should be understood that the process of global greening is very far from completion. From scientific experiments in the FACE series, as well as from experience with growing plants in greenhouses, it is known that the optimal concentration of CO2for most crops it is 800 parts per million, and in modern air there is only 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide. This concentration is growing by about 2 parts per million per year and will continue to grow until the middle of this century. As long as it grows, global greening will continue to come.


For forces like the Taliban and other semi-recognized and unrecognized states with a radical ideology, this is more a plus than a minus. After all, the Taliban and the like are far from at the forefront of scientific and technological progress. Yes, their fundamentalism and conservatism helps them gain popularity among Afghan peasants. But it also makes it difficult for them to widely attract scientists, new varieties of agricultural plants, and even significant imports of pesticides and fertilizers. All this means that the agrarian Afghanistan under their rule is largely isolated from progress in agriculture.

In the territories controlled by the Taliban, the only noticeable sign of the use of new technologies is, perhaps, only the purchase of solar panels by the peasants in order to use electricity from them to pump water for the fields. The import of such technologies is simple, but the import of selection seeds (and the peasants themselves cannot grow them) is a completely different matter, and it is far from a fact that Afghanistan under the Taliban will be able to afford it.

All of this means that global greening can, in principle, raise the chances of such regimes for long-term existence. Already today, a rise in yields due to an increase in CO concentration2in the industrial period - at least 10%. In the next tens of years, this value should increase. And countries with technologically non-progressive agriculture will undoubtedly benefit from this.

However, such gains cannot last forever. The population of Afghanistan, unlike most countries on our planet, is growing rapidly. Sooner or later, urbanization will begin here, and coping with the challenges of an urbanized society is much more difficult than seizing power in agrarian Afghanistan of 2021.

* Terrorist organization banned in Russia.

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