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Grenfell Tower Disaster: Diane Abbott and a Woman called Donna

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Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and shadow Home Secretary, has now come out to say that “Grenfell Tower is not just an accident; Grenfell Tower is not just an unfortunate incident. Those hundreds of people that died are a direct consequence of Tory attitudes in social housing . . . The Tories think people in social housing are second-class citizens. And, as we have seen from Grenfell House, they are offering them second-class standards of safety. So, a direct consequence of that. A direct consequence of outsourcing . . . and a direct consequence of deregulation”.(1) In contrast, the official narrative of the disaster holds that its death toll is limited to 79 . . . As Abbot points out though, “I think we are going to find that the numbers of people that have died will be in triple figures, just because it’s a 23-storey [sic] block”.(2)

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Adding insult to injury, as noted by the Independent‘s Greg Wilford, a “wealthy Kensington resident claimed she would leave her luxury block of flats if victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy were given shelter there, telling a radio host the accommodation ‘shouldn’t be given for free’. The woman, called Donna, asked LBC listeners to ‘stand in my shoes’ as she complained that her council tax bill might increase if people were re-housed in her building, which she said has a £15,500 annual service charge. She told radio host Shelagh Fogart she would be ‘resentful’ if those who lost their homes in the recent fire were allowed to move in because she has worked ‘very hard’ to afford her property”.(3) Trying not to appear like the heartless bitch that she is, the woman called Donna explained that her “service charge bill, and this is a low one this year, is £15,500, and I would feel really resentful if someone got the same thing for free. I feel sorry for those people, but my husband and I work very hard to be able to afford this”.(4)

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In a clear effort to convince the world that even moderately rich people are scum of the earth, the woman called Donna next went to great lenghts explicating her lack of humanity on the radio: “And for someone to get it free . . . I would move. Our council tax bill is very, very high, our service charge bill is very, very high, so why should someone get it for free? I know it sounds harsh, believe me I feel sorry for those people, but I work very, very hard and so does my husband . . . I’m not hard-hearted, but When I’m paying that kind of money and someone else is getting it for free, if you stand in my shoes you can say that because you’re not. It’s like paying a rent to stay in your house, £15,500 a year”.(5)

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(1) Shehab Khan, “‘Hundreds’ died in Grenfell Tower fire, says shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott” The Independent (24 June 2017). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grenfell-tower-fire-diane-abbott-victims-number-hundreds-labour-shadow-home-secretary-a7806106.html.

(2) Shehab Khan, “‘Hundreds’ died in Grenfell Tower fire, says shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott”.

(3) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats” The Independent (24 June 2017). http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-fire-victims-kensington-row-rehoused-lbc-luxury-flats-a7806026.html.

(4) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats”.

(5) Greg Wilford, “Wealthy Kensington resident says Grenfell Tower victims shouldn’t be given shelter in luxury flats”.

Climate Change is a Hoax: World Meteorological Organization Report

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The insurance expert Joe Ryan matter-of-factly declares that “[u]nusually warm weather in the Arctic is helping shift weather patterns this year from North America to the Middle East, after global warming shattered records in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Rising ocean temperatures that are melting polar ice sheets, killing marine life and flooding coastal communities may have increased more than previously reported last year, the WMO said in a report Tuesday [, 21 March 2017]”.i

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The WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016 puts it like this: “Warming continued in 2016, setting a new temperature record of approximately 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, and 0.06 °C above the previous highest value set in 2015. Carbon dioxide (CO2) reached new highs at 400.0 ± 0.1 ppm in the atmosphere at the end of 2015. Global sea-ice extent dropped more than 4 million km2 below average – an unprecedented anomaly – in November. Global sea levels rose strongly during the 2015/2016 El Niño, with the early 2016 values making new records. The powerful 2015/2016 El Niño event exerted a strong influence on the climate and societies against a background of long-term climate change. Severe droughts affected agriculture and yield production in many parts of the world, particularly in southern and eastern Africa and parts of Central America, where several million people experienced food insecurity and hundreds of thousands were displaced internally, according to reports from the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM)”.ii

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The Executive summary contiues as follows: “Hurricane Matthew in the North Atlantic led to the most damaging meteorological disaster, with Haiti sustaining the heaviest casualties. There were also major economic losses in the United States and elsewhere in the region. Flooding severely affected eastern and southern Asia with hundreds of lives lost, hundreds of thousands of people displaced and severe economic damage. Wet conditions led to good crop production in many parts of the Sahel, with record yields reported in Mali, Niger and Senegal. Detection and attribution studies have demonstrated that human influence on the climate has been a main driver behind the unequivocal warming of the global climate system observed since the 1950s, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC. Human influence has also led to significant regional temperature increases at the continental and subcontinental levels. Shifts of the temperature distribution to warmer regimes are expected to bring about increases in the frequency and intensity of extremely warm events”.iii

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World Climate Research Program Director David Carlson did not mince his words in a statement: “We are now in truly uncharted territory”.iv For his part, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas added that “[t]his report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system . . . Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year. With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident”.v In contrast, “U.S. President Donald Trump [now] pushes to dismantle programs to combat climate change. Last week, the Republican called for relaxing fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks, which along with other vehicles are the U.S.’s largest source of greenhouse gases. Trump also released a budget with sweeping cuts to climate change research and grants for clean energy development”, as stated by Joe Ryan.vi

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i Joe Ryan, “Higher Arctic Temperatures Likely to Shift Global Weather in 2017: WMO” Insurance Journal (22 March 2017). http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/international/2017/03/22/445278.htm.

ii “Executive summary . WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016” WMO (21 March 2017). http://library.wmo.int/opac/doc_num.php?explnum_id=3414.

iii “Executive summary . WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016” .

iv Joe Ryan, “Higher Arctic Temperatures Likely to Shift Global Weather in 2017: WMO”.

v “Climate breaks multiple records in 2016, with global impacts.” WMO (21 March 2017). https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/climate-breaks-multiple-records-2016-global-impacts.

vi Joe Ryan, “Higher Arctic Temperatures Likely to Shift Global Weather in 2017: WMO”.

Fukushima Today: Scorpion Robot Mission Aborted

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The Associated Press reports that “[r]obot probes sent to one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear reactors have suggested worse-than-anticipated challenges for the plant’s ongoing cleanup. The plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the remote-controlled ‘scorpion’ robot was sent into the Unit 2 reactor’s containment vessel Thursday [, 16 February 2017] to investigate the area around the core that had melted six years ago, but it failed while climbing over highly radioactive debris. The robot, carrying a dosimeter and two small cameras, transmitted some data and visuals but could not locate melted fuel — key information to determine how to remove debris out of the reactor. The robot was abandoned inside the vessel at a location where it won’t block a future robot. Preliminary examinations over the past few weeks have detected structural damage to planned robot routes and higher-than-expected radiation, suggesting the need to revise robot designs and probes. TEPCO is struggling with the plant’s decommissioning, which is expected to last decades, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the meltdown. Tens of thousands of residents had evacuated their homes, many of them still unable to return due to high radiation”.i

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Already in 2015, AP’s Mari Yamaguchi reported that a “new robot that raises its tail like a scorpion is scheduled to survey melted nuclear fuel inside one of the three wrecked reactors at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant. Toshiba Corp., co[-]developer of the device, which was demonstrated on Tuesday [, 30 June 2015], said the robot will venture into reactor 2’s primary containment vessel in August after its operators undergo a month of training”.ii And after long delays, ‘scorpion’ robots have finally started to penetrate the site in the early months of 2017, leading “TEPCO officials [to say] that despite the dangerously high figures, radiation is not leaking outside of the reactor”.iii In a more straightforward manner, though, Japan Today reports that the ‘scorpion’ “robot [finally] sent into a Japanese nuclear reactor to learn about the damage suffered in a tsunami-induced meltdown had its mission aborted after the probe ran into trouble, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said Thursday [, 16 February 2017]”.iv A Japan Today reader employing the pseudonym since1981 penned this telling and insightful comment, even managing to include a swipe at the Drumpf: “6 years on and still investigating damage. But they want the world to believe all is safe and people can return to their homes. Even CNN has a nice ad explaining that all is well. Sad, so sad”.

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i“Robot probes show Japan reactor cleanup worse than expected” Associated Press on Yahoo (17 Feb 2017). http://associatedpress-yahoopartner.tumblr.com/post/157343800402/robot-probes-show-japan-reactor-cleanup-worse-than.

ii Mari Yamaguchi r, “Toshiba rolls out ‘scorpion’ robot to look inside crippled reactor at Fukushima No. 1” AP (01 July 2015). http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/01/business/tech/toshiba-rolls-scorpion-robot-look-inside-stricken-fukushima-reactor-2/#.WKbXPPnhDIU.

iii “Robot probes show Japan reactor cleanup worse than expected”.

iv“’Scorpion’ robot mission inside Fukushima reactor aborted” Japan Today (17 Feb 2017). https://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/scorpion-robot-mission-inside-fukushima-reactor-aborted.

Gaming 4 Life: When Real World is Not Enough

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‘Escaping harsh reality or relaxing after a hard working day? A guilty pleasure or the only reason to wake up in the morning? Computer games are made for fun, but sometimes they cause one’s real life turning into a slaughterous level which inevitably results in Game Over. For gamers the computer is everything, so much so that they can even earn money through tournaments and sponsorships. Some even meet their future spouses online, but for others games can take up too much of their time and affect family life. Psychiatrists and psychologists argue whether or not the human mind can be negatively affected by games, but for many they instead serve to help bring people together. Published on Sep 25, 2016’.

 

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Last Hours

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‘The film Last Hours is the 2nd film in the Green World Rising Series ( the first one is Carbon that is available on this channel). Last Hours describes a science-based climate scenario where a tipping point to runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has already started to percolate into the open seas and atmosphere from methane hydrate deposits beneath melting arctic ice, from the warming northern-hemisphere tundra, and from worldwide continental-shelf undersea methane pools. Burning fossil fuels release carbon that, principally through greenhouse effect, heat the atmosphere and the seas. This is happening most rapidly at the polar extremes, and this heating has already begun the process of releasing methane. If we do not begin to significantly curtail the use of carbon-based fossil fuels, this freed methane threatens to radically accelerate the speed of global warming, potentially producing a disaster beyond the ability of the human species to adapt. With this film, we hope to awaken people to the fact that the earth has experienced five major extinctions in the deep geologic past – times when more than half of all life on earth vanished – and that we are now entering a sixth extinction. Industrial civilization with its production of greenhouse gases has the potential to trigger a mass extinction on the order of those seen in the deep geological past. In the extreme, it could threaten not just human civilization, but the very existence of human life on this planet. An asset for the climate change movement, Last Hours will be disseminated globally to help inform society about the dangers associated with climate change and to encourage the world community to chart a path forward that greatly reduces green house gas emissions . . . Last Hours is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, presented by Thom Hartmann and directed by Leila Conners. Executive Producers are George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled. Last Hours is produced by Mathew Schmid and was written by Thom Hartmann, Sam Sacks, and Leila Conners. Music is composed and performed by Francesco Lupica. Last Hours is brought to you by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and produced by Tree Media. Published on Sep 19, 2014′.

 

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Men vs Machine: “Human beings are a disease”

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The other day, the China-based AI researcher Hugo De Garis appeared on Sophie & Co. And the ensuing conversation made for some uncomfortable listening, though Miss Shevardnadze at times appeared to take the whole thing as a bit of a joke: ‘Humanity may be wiped out by machines this century – leading AI scientist. It took millions of years of evolution for nature to come up with something that changed the face of the planet forever – the human brain. Now, the new mind is to be born, and the best cyber scientists will be its midwife. Artificial Intelligence is said to be just decades away from creation, and it will probably change life on Earth entirely. Some predict the coming of Utopia, where machines will help humanity fight disease, poverty and even death. But that’s as others see a way more darker future, with machines rising up to eradicate humankind once and for all. So what does the future hold for us? Should research into AI be stopped for our own good, or will banning it leave us with no future at all? We ask one of the brilliant minds behind the development of Artificial Intelligence, assistant director of the Artificial Brains Lab in China’s Xiamen University. Published on May 6, 2016’.

In the course of the conversation De Garis himself appeared to veer between hyper-enthusiasm and paranoid fearfulness . . . as the prospect of self-evolving machines is indeed a frightening reality to contemplate. The one thing that was not mentioned yet appears of vital importance was money and the political willingness to spend it. As De Garis indicated, the U.S. Defense Department is at the moment heavily investing in the construction and development of autonomous war-machines. As a result, the means and the military will are already in place, and given that political masters more often than not all but follow the suggestions made by their majors and generals, it seems a fair bet that the political will is here already . . . and thus, the future of humanity would indeed appear to be bleak. Let me just repeat some of the words spoken by De Garis: “once these ‘artilects’, artificial intellects, artificial brain, once they reach human level of intelligence, and I predict that’s probably just a matter of few decades away from now. Once they achieve it, then they would start modifying themselves, because they can do a better job of it, than human beings, artificial brain designers, can do, because they are so much smarter and think so much faster. Once they start designing themselves, God knows what direction they will go in, because they’re the boss, and if they decide that human beings are pest and decide to wipe us out – then for human beings, not only it will be the last thing we invent, it’s the last thing we do, and that’s scary”.

final inventionThough it is a nice phraseology, De Garis is not the only one saying it. The documentary filmmaker James Barrat even wrote a book about the very same theme. In the book, the author quotes the Distinguished Professor of Statistics I. J. Good’s 1965 paper “Speculations Concerning the First Ultra-intelligent Machine” and the quote goes like this: “Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make . . .”.[1] And now we know that the phraseology has been around since at least 1965.

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Irving John “Jack” Good (1916-2009), a “statistician and mathematical genius”, was “born Isidore Jacob Gudak to Polish-Jewish parents in London. His father was a watchmaker. He was educated at the Haberdashers’ Aske’s boys’ school then in Hampstead, north London, where he effortlessly outpaced the mathematics teaching curriculum. In 1938 he graduated with first-class honours in mathematics from Jesus College, Cambridge and stayed on to work for his PhD”, according to the obituary written by Dan van der Vat.[2] From thence he moved to Bletchley Park where he, in conjunction with the legendary Alan Turing, made “crucial contributions to the successful assault on German codes and ciphers at Bletchley Park during the second world war”. In the post-war period, Good successfully pursued an academic career: “In 1947 [Max] Newman [,British mathematician and codebreaker] invited Good to join him and Turing at Manchester University. There for three years he lectured in mathematics and researched computers – including the Manchester Mark 1. Then, in 1948, he was recruited by the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the successor to Bletchley Park, where he stayed until 1959. This did not prevent him from taking up a brief associate professorship at Princeton University and a short consultancy with IBM. From 1959 until he moved to the US in 1967 he held various government-funded posts and a senior research fellowship at Trinity College, Oxford. He was made a doctor of science at Cambridge in 1963 and at Oxford in 1964. Three years later he was appointed professor of statistics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University”.[3] And that is where he authored “such treatises as Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine and Logic of Man and Machine (both 1965)”.[4]

 

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In spite of the above-quoted dire warning, Good’s Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine begins with the following seemingly optimistic sentence: “[t]he survival of man depends on the early construction of an ultraintelligent machine”.[5] In the further course of the treatise, Good develops the notion of an “intelligence explosion”, as mentioned above, but adds the following disclaimer: “provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control”.[6] But De Garis and Barrat clearly are currently not that optimistic about the intentions of future artilects or ultraintelligent machines . . . even Good, in later life, stopped being so sanguine about the docility of future machines, as attested by a passage in an autobiographical text he penned in 1998, speaking about himself in the third person: ‘[The paper] “Speculations Concerning the First Ultra-intelligent Machine” (1965) . . . began: “The survival of man depends on the early construction of an ultra-intelligent machine.” Those were his [Good’s] words during the Cold War, and he now suspects that “survival” should be replaced by “extinction.” He thinks that, because of international competition, we cannot prevent the machines from taking over. He thinks we are lemmings. He said also that “probably Man will construct the deus ex machina in his own image”’.[7]

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It seems that expert opinion is prone to hold the view that humanity is doomed” “[t]he extinction of man depends on the early construction of an ultraintelligent machine”, as Professor Irving John Good would have said in 1998. Taken in conjunction with the likely disastrous future effects of climate change and the looming water and food crises, it seems that the artilects will have little choice but to cure the global disease known only as humanity: “Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet”.

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[1] George Dvorsky, “Why a superintelligent machine may be the last thing we ever invent” io9 (02 Oct 2013). http://io9.gizmodo.com/why-a-superintelligent-machine-may-be-the-last-thing-we-1440091472.

[2] Dan van der Vat, “Jack Good” The Guardian (29 April 2009). https://www.theguardian.com/science/2009/apr/29/jack-good-codebreaker-obituary.

[3] Dan van der Vat, “Jack Good”.

[4] Dan van der Vat, “Jack Good”.

[5] I. J. Good, Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine (1965). p. 31.

[6] I. J. Good, Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine (1965). p. 33.

[7] George Dvorsky, “Why a superintelligent machine may be the last thing we ever invent”.

Climate Change and Migration Patterns: Hitting the Fan

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The journal Climate Change recently published a joint article entitled “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century”.[1] The collective of authors consists of the specialists Jos Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis and G. Zittis. And their conclusions are dire indeed, as summarized by the journalist Matt Atherton: “Up to 500 million people living in the Middle East and North Africa [MENA] could be forced to leave their homes because of extreme heat predicted in the near future, researchers have said. A study has found that these regions will become uninhabitable by the end of the century, when temperatures of up to 50C will become the norm during the summer months”.[2] Or, if you like a more scientific wording: “We conclude that the MENA is a climate change hotspot that could turn into a scorching area in summer. There is general consent that heat extremes impact human health, contribute to the spreading of food- and water borne diseases, and that more intense heat waves increase premature mortality. In the past, climate assessments of social and economic impacts due to changing weather extremes, including consequences for human security and migration, have often focused on storms, floods, droughts and sea level rise. It is increasingly recognized that hot weather extremes cause a loss of work capacity and aggravate societal stresses, especially for disadvantaged people and vulnerable populations (IPCC 2014). We anticipate that climate change and increasing hot weather extremes in the MENA, a region subject to economic recession, political turbulence and upheaval, may exacerbate humanitarian hardship and contribute to migration”.[3]

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Jos Lelieveld, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and co-author of the above-quoted study,  said that “[i]n future, the climate in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa could change in such a manner that the very existence of its inhabitants is in jeopardy . . . Climate change will significantly worsen the living conditions in the Middle East and in North Africa. Prolonged heat waves and desert dust storms can render some regions uninhabitable, which will surely contribute to the pressure to migrate”.[4] Or, if you will, the present migration crisis in Europe is but the beginning of the real crisis that will surely happen as the century moves along into the near future . . . And at this juncture, the World Bank has also just released another report: “Water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could cost some regions up to 6% of their GDP by 2050, spur migration, and spark conflict, according to a new World Bank report High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy. The combined effects of growing populations, rising incomes, and expanding cities will see demand for water rising exponentially, while supply becomes more erratic and uncertain, the report finds, with these effects expected to be most pronounced in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia”.

 

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[1] J. Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis & G. Zittis, “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century” Climate Change (25 March 2016). http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-016-1665-6.

[2] Matt Atherton, “Climate change: Middle East and North Africa to become uninhabitable forcing mass migration” IBT (03 MAy 2016). http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/climate-change-middle-east-north-africa-become-uninhabitable-forcing-mass-migration-1558023.

[3] J. Lelieveld, Y. Proestos, P. Hadjinicolaou, M. Tanarhte, E. Tyrlis & G. Zittis, “Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century”, p. 13.

[4] Matt Atherton, “Climate change: Middle East and North Africa to become uninhabitable forcing mass migration”.