A spate of new scientific research starkly lays out the choice humankind faces in coming decades:
By 2050, we could retain high levels of GDP, at the price of a world wracked by minerals and materials shortages, catastrophic climate change, and a stuttering clean energy transition —paving the way for a slowly crumbling civilization.
Or, we could ditch the GDP fetish and enter a world of abundance, with energy consumption safely contained within planetary boundaries, and high-tech economies that support jobs, health and education for everyone without costing the earth.
On the first option, scientists backed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program have concluded that capitalism-as-we-know-it cannot support a successful clean energy transition.
Not only that, but capitalism is on track to lead the world into mineral shortages and supply bottlenecks that could cut short efforts to decarbonize transport systems, guaranteeing dangerous climate change.
The new study published in the journal Energy Strategy Reviews finds that electrifying our cars, trucks and trains so that they run on renewable energy is only viable if we reduce the endlessly growing levels of consumption in industrial societies. That, effectively, means fundamentally transforming the very sinews of capitalism.
The good news is that separate research published in September proves that such an economic transformation is perfectly feasible while still maintaining a good quality of life for people all over the world.
The transportation study is based on a highly sophisticated ‘integrated assessment model’ (IAM) that brings together a vast amount of empirical data. Known as the MEDEAS-World model, it incorporates feedback relations between global and regional economies; renewable, fossil fuel energy flows and energy infrastructure; technology developments and costs; minerals and land requirements; climate change and water; and many other sectors.
Earlier this year in February, the EU-team released a detailed explanation of how the model works in Energy & Environmental Science, a journal published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK. The model points to a perfect storm of converging problems.
The model reveals that fossil fuel energy sources are approaching “biophysical constraints” related to “Energy Return on Investment” (EROI)—an efficiency ratio based on the quantity of energy needed to extract a certain amount of energy from any given resource.
Oil, gas and coal, including unconventional sources, are experiencing a combination of increasing costs and declining returns, indicating an overall decline in EROI. This in turn could reach a point where their continued extraction becomes too costly to sustain. Unfortunately, the MEDEAS model shows that renewable energies do not necessarily solve this problem, due to several limitations.
These include issues like the intermittency issue: wind energy only works in areas where the wind blows, and depending on seasons, for instance. Renewables also require more land to produce equivalent quantities of energy compared to fossil fuels; and they are still dependent on a large supply of minerals and materials to produce renewable power plants and related infrastructure.
An EV revolution to avert energy and climate disaster
In their new paper, the team behind the MEDEAS model apply this framework specifically to the analysis of transportation, which relies overwhelmingly on liquid fuels largely derived from oil.
The scientists argue that although not widely recognized, “Most global oil extraction forecasts predict stagnation in the 2020s decade.” This is due to the stagnation of conventional oil production since around 2006, and the ensuing reliance on more expensive unconventional fuels which are also likely to decline within coming decades.
Therefore, transitioning to renewable energy systems will be essential not just to combat climate change, but to evade an energy crisis.
In particular, the study confirms the importance of shifting to battery electric vehicles for private and public transport, describing it as “the best option” for energy savings and potential greenhouse gas emission reductions.
But there is a problem: if we continue growing our economies at current rates, it will require a level of minerals and materials that the Earth will not be able to provide. This is the case even if heavy materials are replaced with light alternatives.
For instance, the automobile industry is replacing steel components of the electric motor, battery and vehicle body with wrought aluminum, magnesium and titanium, or other composite materials such as carbon fibre reinforced plastic. Yet “these materials tend to require more energy and have a higher global warming potential in the production stage than the heavier materials they replace.”
Endless growth will generate minerals scarcity within decades
The EV transition is, in short, a massive industrial project. Electrification of roads and rail will require upgraded smart grids, complex routes connected to high power lines, and regular battery-swap stations. The paper explores several scenarios to explore how such a transition would take place.
In a continuing GDP growth scenario, the authors note that the economy begins to stagnate “due to peak oil limits at around 2025-2040,” but GDP is able to continue growing thanks to the EV transition. This shows that the reduction in liquid fuels in transportation can play a powerful role in avoiding “energy shortages in the economy as a whole.”
But then the economy hits the limits of mineral and material production to sustain this electric transition—in just three decades. And this is even with high levels of minerals recycling.
By 2050, in this scenario, the EV transition will “require higher amounts of copper, lithium and manganese than current reserves. For the cases of copper and manganese the depletion is mainly due to the demand from the rest of the economy,” but most lithium demand “is for EV batteries,” and this alone “depletes its estimated global reserves.”
Mineral depletion takes place even with “a very high increase in recycling rates” in a continuing GDP growth scenario.
In one such scenario, the authors apply what they consider to be realistic upper level recycling rates of 57 percent, 30 percent and 74 percent to copper, lithium and manganese respectively. These are based on extremely optimistic projections of recycling capabilities relative to their costs.
But still they find that even these high recycling rates wouldn’t prevent depletion of all current estimated reserves by 2050. The conclusion corroborates findings of other studies, estimating an expected bottleneck for lithium by 2042-2045 and for manganese by 2038-2050.
Actual bottlenecks could come even earlier because existing studies—including the MEDEAS model—don’t account for material requirements needed for internal wiring, the EV motor, EV chargers, building and maintaining the grid to connect and charge EV batteries, the catenaries to electrify the railways, as well as inherent difficulties in recycling metals.
Endless growth cannot avoid dangerous climate change
The continuing GDP growth scenario also guarantees that the world fails to meet the Paris Agreement targets for a safe limit of global average temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The model shows that although dependence on fossil fuels is greatly reduced in the transportation sector, the drive for continuing GDP growth means that other economic sectors continue to intensify their dependence on oil, gas and coal consumption.
Therefore, while greenhouse gas emissions go down in the transportation sector, “the shortage of liquid fuels is delayed for some years and the economy grows more” in other sectors:
“The final result is that in total, GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions do not decrease as intended by the transport decarbonization policies, and even could increase in absolute terms… Since GDP tends to grow because the current economic system is based on this objective, a constant increase in energy demand is almost impossible to avoid.”
This means that global average temperatures would continue to rise well over 1.5C, tipping over into the danger zone that guarantees catastrophic impacts such as the destruction of most of the world’s coral reefs, increased crop failures, accelerating destructive extreme weather events, and so on.
Letting go of growth
On the other hand, the authors find that the only scenario in which the world is able to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in the transportation sector by 2050 involves “a radical shift towards light electric vehicles, shift of road freight to electric train, ambitious recycling mineral levels, drastic reductions in the demand for transportation (especially for those more polluting such as aviation) and a significant decrease in overall economic activity.”
All this will require what the authors describe as “a profound change in the dominant economic paradigm”—namely, capitalism.
In other words, the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change is by shifting to a new social and economic framework called “degrowth”—that is, where current “growth-oriented economies evolve towards a new system that fulfills human needs without the necessity for continuous growth.”
While these would meet ambitious decarbonization targets in line with the 1.5–2°C limit, the authors point out that unfortunately these policy options generally fall “outside the political and economic options of the moment.”
Indeed, the new paper has its detractors. Auke Hoekstra, a researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, argued in a Twitter thread that the study wrongly assumes a battery size 10 times higher than they need to be for electric trucks, citing the Tesla Semi as an example. This results in overestimating the extent of projected mineral requirements, he explained.
But according to study co-author Iñigo Capellán Pérez—an industrial engineer at the Group for Energy, Economics, and System Dynamics of the University of Valladolid, Spain— Hoekstra’s criticism is too “simplistic” as he assumes levels of technical performance “which have not been reached” and which rely on “very specific wheels and an aerodynamic tractor unit that is not allowed in the EU.”
Pérez also told me that Tesla’s claims about the technical performance of its electric trucks do not stand up to independent analysis.
In fact, after the exchange with Hoekstra, Pérez’s team began plugging in some of the alternative figures into the MEDEAS model to see if the overall verdict still stood up. So far, he told me, the results were “not so far” from the initial findings.
He pointed out that their modelling approach is focused on assessing technologies based on current knowledge of technical performance and their anticipated limits. Technological developments which are too uncertain and unlikely to hold much promise are therefore excluded.
The model also looks at potential costs. If viable technologies have “huge costs, how can we think that these can be spread over the world, where let’s not forget still hundreds of millions of people do not have access to electricity—where are these trucks going to even recharge?”
Quibbling over these uncertainties raises important data points, but doesn’t invalidate the model’s overall policy implications, he said.
The biggest policy implication, it seems, is that to successfully decarbonize our transportation systems, we will need to shift to a new sustainable economic model quite different to the current form of capitalism which requires continuous growth just to avoid economic collapse.
And that will mean prioritizing meeting human needs and well-being with a much lower material footprint on the planet than we currently have in place today.
A major new study by scientists at the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment, University of Lausanne Faculty of Geosciences (Switzerland), Yale School of Environment, and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, proves unequivocally that such a post-capitalist transition is entirely workable.
The paper published in the Global Environmental Change journal concludes that by 2050— when the MEDEAS model sees capitalist endless growth generating multiple mineral scarcities—global energy consumption could be reduced to less than 40 percent of current levels of global energy consumption: while still providing a decent standard of living for as many as 10 billion people.
This is roughly the same level of energy consumption as in the 1960s when the human population was just three billion people.
The study compared current levels of energy consumption across 119 countries to the estimates of how much energy we need for decent living. It found that the vast majority of countries actually have too much energy, far more than they need. In some of the world’s richest countries with the highest per-capita consumers, it’s possible to cut energy consumption by much as 95 percent while still providing decent living standards to all.
This standard of living, which the authors describe as “sufficiency,” provides a compelling response to “the clichéd populist objection that environmentalists are proposing that we return to living in caves.”
The study shows that under a transformed economic system, everyone in the world could receive highly efficient facilities for cooking, storing food and washing clothes; an ample supply of clean water for drinking and bathing; the maintenance of a constant comfortable air temperature of around 20°C throughout the year, irrespective of geography; computer access and a global internet infrastructure; extensive transport networks including up to 15,000km of mobility per person per year; universal healthcare; universal education for children and young people; and a reduction in necessary working hours—and all by more than halving current levels of energy consumption.
“While government official are leveling charges that environmental activists ‘threaten our way of life’ it is worth re-examining what that way of life should entail,” said study co-author Professor Julia Steinberger who leads the Living Well Within Limits project at the University of Leeds. “There has been a tendency to simplify the idea of a good life into the notion that more is better. It is clearly within our grasp to provide a decent life for everyone while still protecting our climate and ecosystems.”
Altogether, these studies suggest that doing away with endless-growth-capitalism is not just necessary to avoid catastrophic materials shortages and dangerous climate change destabilizing our societies within a few decades, but could pave the way for a far more equitable economic system which protects the planet while sustaining prosperity for all.
All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.
Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
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